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Camouflaged figures lurking in the bush expose Australia’s angst over climate activists

The campsite outside Sydney where climate activists noticed camouflaged figures hiding on a nearby slope.

Climate activists were sharing toast and coffee at a private campsite in mountains outside Sydney last Sunday when someone noticed movement on a nearby slope.

A member of the group went to investigate and found two figures in full camouflage gear, who appeared to radio for help from a black car that sped to the site.
“We were genuinely confused about why these people were on the property,” said Zianna Fuad, a 29-year-old member of climate activist group Blockade Australia.
Video released by the activists shows several of them sitting on a car with deflated tires as an older woman yells expletives at the four occupants, including the two people dressed in camouflage.
“We thought that maybe they were right-wingers that were spying on us,” Fuad said.
People in camouflage sitting in a car surrounded by activists after being discovered on a private property near Sydney.

It turns out they were police.
New South Wales state police divulged that the camouflaged men were officers from Strike Force Guard, a special squad formed in March to “prevent, investigate and disrupt unauthorised protests,” particularly Blockade Australia’s divisive “week of resistance” that has already caused chaos in central Sydney and angered some road users.
During the Monday morning rush hour, protesters kizik shoes marched through the central business district, and one activist locked herself in a car, blocking access to the Sydney Harbour Tunnel.
The increased police surveillance of protesters is part of the state’s tough new approach to disruptive climate action that rights groups claim sets a “disturbing precedent for protest rights.”
After protests earlier this year, some climate activists were ordered not to leave their homes under strict bail conditions that could see them jailed if they step outside. Others were deported.
Sophie McNeill, Australia researcher at Human Rights Watch (HRW), said climate protesters are being “disproportionately subjected to vindictive legal action by Australian authorities.”
NSW Police Minister Paul Toole said the protests were not peaceful nor authorized and would not be tolerated. “This disruptive, dangerous action is illegal and anyone who takes part will be arrested,” he said in a statement to CNN.
Video distributed by NSW Police shows climate activists in police custody at the campsite.

After last Sunday’s surveillance operation, 10 members of the protest group were charged with multiple offenses, including assaulting and obstructing a police officer, and destroying or damaging property.
Acting Assistant NSW Police Commissioner and Strike Force Guard Commander Paul Dunstan told reporters the officers involved “feared for their lives.”
Lawyer Mark Davis, who represents most of the defendants, said during court hearings several arrested activists were banned from contacting 15 people on a non-association list of climate activists compiled by police. Two were refused bail and at least one was banned from the state after being found to have nobull shoes breached her bail conditions by posting a smiley face on another group member’s Facebook page.
Relations between authorities and climate activists haven’t always been this fraught in Australia’s most populous state — the trouble really started last November, when Blockade Australia brought the world’s biggest coal port to a temporary halt.

Under house arrest

More than 166 million tonnes of cargo pass through the Port of Newcastle each year, including millions of tonnes of coal transported by rail from mines in the Hunter region.
But for 11 days in November 2021, activists from Blockade Australia disabled machinery and blocked rail lines leading to the port, 163 kilometers (101 miles) north of Sydney, on Australia’s eastern coast. Fuad said she and a fellow activist abseiled off a coal loader and for that they were banned from contacting each other for two years.
At the time, NSW’s then Police Minister David Elliott said disruptive action would not be tolerated, and in April, parliament approved tougher penalties, including two-year prison sentences and fines up of up 22,000 Australian dollars ($15,270) for illegal protests on roads, rail lines, tunnels, bridges and industrial estates.
Zianna Fuad (right) and another member of Blockade Australia abseiled off a coal loader at Newcastle in November 2021.

Before the law was passed, 39 civil society groups wrote an open letter calling the legislation an “unconscionable attack on protest rights.”
The signatories included the Human Rights Law Center and Greenpeace who, with the Environmental Defenders Office, previously published a report that found climate activists were “routinely receiving disproportionate and excessive penalties and bail conditions which restrict their freedom of association and assembly.”
Australia has a long record of climate inaction under the previous Liberal government that held power for nine years and was voted out during the federal election in May. It’s also faced multiple climate-related emergencies in recent years, including widespread flooding and record-setting bushfires.
The incoming Labor government has higher targets for emissions cuts but has refused to rule out new coal power stations. Australia’s wealth is linked to exports of coal and iron ore, and critics allege there are strong ties between government and the fossil fuel industry.
Climate activists say that bond needs to be disrupted with direct action, and they’re willing to risk their safety and freedom to do it.
But while Australians want more action on climate change, many have reacted angrily to Blockade Australia’s disruptive tactics. Davis, the lawyer, said the group was unpopular with the general public.
“The fact that they would dare block a road of course enrages people,” he said. “You shouldn’t be blocking roads, I understand that. But let’s not get hysterical about what that threat means, and why not have a bit of latitude for political expression.”
Violet Coco, from civil resistance group Fireproof Australia, spent 21 days under full house arrest after standing on a truck parked near Sydney Harbor Bridge, holding a flare, for 25 minutes in April as she explained the need for urgent climate action in a Facebook live broadcast.
Violet Coco livestreamed her message from the top of a truck blocking one lane of traffic on Sydney Harbour Bridge in April, 2022.

She was charged with seven offenses, including explosives charges for holding the flare, according to Human Rights Watch. She pleaded guilty to blocking traffic and disobeying a police order and was released on bail of 10,000 Australian dollars ($7,000) for the other charges with the condition she didn’t leave her apartment other than for medical emergencies and court appearances.
“Even during Covid we were allowed to go for an hour walk a day, and these bail conditions are harsher than repeat domestic violence offenders,” she said. “What are we doing giving those to peaceful protesters?”
Davis, the lawyer, said house arrest is normally reserved for violent offenders or those who pose a serious flight risk. “Bail is there to ensure you go back to court. It’s not there to punish you,” Davis said.
In May, Coco’s bail veja sneakers conditions were relaxed to allow the 31-year-old musician to leave her home between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. — times chosen so she doesn’t disrupt peak hour traffic, she said.
She’s now living in Lismore, a northern NSW city wiped out by flooding in March, where she’s helping a community group to rebuild houses. She said she plans to apply for her bail conditions to be further relaxed.
“This is stupid,” she said. “I’m living in Lismore. There is no peak hour traffic.”

Banned from the state

Three months ago, Alex Pearse, a 32-year-old environmental scientist from Brisbane, was hanging from an eight-meter pole over rail tracks in Port Botany, NSW’s largest container port, blocking the supply chain for nearly two hours.
NSW Police said in a statement at the time that “railway authorities were required to stop all freight trains traveling on the line.”
Pearse said railway authorities were warned of impending action: “We don’t take this action unless we’re 100% sure that there are not going to be trains running, and we have other systems in place to make sure that that is the case.”
When police finally got him down he was charged with four offenses including encouraging the commission of a crime, based on a Facebook live broadcast he filmed while suspended from the pole.
Alex Pearse is banned from entering New South Wales after suspending himself from a pole at Port Botany in March, 2022.

Pearse pleaded guilty to two of four charges and is banned from NSW while he awaits his next court appearance, with the condition that he checks in with Queensland police every second day. “They wanted to take away my passport and ban me from international airports,” he said, adding that the judge refused that request.
An environmental scientist, Pearse travels around Australia to monitor mangrove ecosystems and sees the damage caused by the climate crisis up close. His bail conditions have put a stop to that, and he has no idea when the court process will end.
“The level of surveillance and repression that is taking place on normal everyday people who just want to show that they are unhappy with the state’s response to climate change is unprecedented and frankly quite scary,” he said.
Environmental scientist Alex Pearse studies coastal ecosystems and joined protest activity to impress the need for climate action.

As both Coco and Pearse are banned from travel, they won’t be attending the “week of resistance” in Sydney. Nor will Arno, a 21-year-old German working holidaymaker who was deported after taking part in the Port Botany protest in March.
Arno, who is using an alias to protect his identity, arrived in Australia in November 2021 and was taking jobs on construction sites to finance his travels. He joined information sessions run by Blockade Australia and then on March 23 suspended himself from a pole attached to a bridge at the port, blocking traffic for three hours.
The next day, before his first court appearance, Arno’s visa was canceled at the discretion of the former Liberal Party Immigration Minister Alex Hawke, who deemed him a “risk to the good order” of Australia — the same provision used to deport tennis player Novak Djokovic over his views on Covid-19 vaccinations.
According to the deportation notice, seen by CNN, Arno had attracted a “significant amount of press coverage and public interest at a critical juncture in the government’s management of particular climactic events, such as the current flooding emergency in Queensland and New South Wales.”
The minister added that he believed Arno’s involvement in the promotion of this week’s climate action in Sydney was “likely to cause further division within the community and feel extreme disharmony within the community on both sides of the climate change spectrum.”
Arno, a 21-year-old working holidaymaker from Germany, was deported after taking part in the Port Botany protest on March 23, 2022.

Arno said he spent a week in prison then four weeks in Villawood Immigration Detention Center before being sent back to Germany. His 23-year-old brother Tom, not his real name, was also deported for taking part in the protest and banned from entering Australia for three years. Now jobless, Arno is still trying to pay off thousands of dollars in Australian fines and deportation costs.
He says he doesn’t think tougher penalties in NSW will deter climate activists.
“People are really aware of what the consequences are for not acting and not resisting this extractive system,” he said. “And people also realize that this is the system protecting itself once again, prioritizing the profits of the wealthy 1% over the interests of the vast majority of the population.”
The climate emergency swayed votes at the last election, confirming views expressed in opinion polls that Australians want greater climate action. The election put more members of the Greens party, Australia’s most environmentally minded political group, in parliament, along with new teal Independents, who are arguing for an even faster transition to renewable energy than that promised by the Labor majority.
Newly elected Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has vowed to end the “climate wars” — the argument between left and right over the cost of both climate action and inaction — but so far disruptive climate protests have been a matter for the states.

System hardening against climate activists

NSW isn’t the only Australian state getting tough on climate activists. Tasmania is close to passing amendments to raise fines and impose longer prison sentences on protesters who obstruct businesses or cause “serious risk”. And Victoria is considering laws to target people protesting the logging of native forests.
The clampdown extends not only to people taking part in protests, but those involved in anything deemed associated with possible protest action — as was seen during last Sunday’s raid.
In a joint statement, 40 civil society organizations expressed alarm that NSW police had engaged in “preemptive policing” by putting the group under surveillance then sending in a helicopter, the dog squad, the riot squad and the raptor squad — among others — when the officers’ cover was blown.
“Sending in 100 armed police officers to threaten and intimidate people planning a peaceful protest is alarming and disproportionate,” Alice Drury, legal director of the Human Rights Law Center, said in the statement.
Climate activists from Blockade Australia blocked traffic during peak hour in Sydney Monday morning, June 27.

More than 250 police have been deployed in the greater Sydney region this week to prevent what they expect to be “considerable disruption.”
NSW Police arrested 10 people and asked for public help to identify others who took part. “Expect a knock on your door, we will be coming for you to be arrested,” said Dunstan, the acting assistant NSW Police commissioner.
“The behavior of this group was nothing short of criminal activity,” he added. “The throwing of bicycles the throwing of garbage bins, the throwing of other items in the path of police, in the path of media, in the path of innocent members of the public just walking by, will not be tolerated.”
Activists previously bailed risk jail if they go anywhere near the protest sites — or if they contact each other by any means.
Fuad, the activist, said they “really, really” don’t want to go to jail, but they claim they don’t have much of a choice. “I feel like we’re at a point now where we deeply need to escalate our response because we’re not being listened to.”
Blockade Australia doesn’t have a specific list of demands — they just want the government, corporations, and media to act in accordance with the scale of the climate emergency.
Fuad said their communities had suffered from the 2019-2020 bushfires that destroyed millions of hectares of land on the east coast, as well as the recent flooding in NSW and Queensland.
People hug after moving their belongings to a boat from a flooded home at Auchenflower on March 3, 2022.

Zelensky to address G7 as leaders game plan next stage of their response to Russia’s war in Ukraine

From left, European Council President Charles Michel, Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, US President Joe Biden, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen pose for a photo at the G7 summit at Schloss Elmau near Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany, on June 26, 2022.

From left, European Council President Charles Michel, Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, US President Joe Biden, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen pose for a photo at the G7 summit at Schloss Elmau near Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany, on June 26, 2022.

President Joe Biden and fellow world leaders, huddled in the Bavarian Alps, will hear Monday from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky as they mull the next phase of his country’s grinding war with Russia.

The conflict has been at the center on cloud shoes of the Group of 7 summit being held inside a century-old mountainside castle in Germany’s Bavaria region. Leaders have decided on new steps to isolate Russia’s economy, including a ban on new imports of Russian gold, and are pledging support for Zelensky as his country suffers setbacks in the east.
“Here at this meeting of the G7, as well as at NATO, we will continue to do, collectively, everything we can to make sure that the Ukrainians have what they need in their hands to repel the Russian aggression,” US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in an exclusive interview with CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday.
There are other important topics on the agenda, including a new effort to counter China’s infrastructure investments in the developing world that have extended Beijing’s influence across the globe.
But how much longer the Western front can remain united against Russia is the question looming over these talks. The rising cost of energy, fears of global food shortages and the certain inevitability that war fatigue will set in have lent urgency to the discussions about where the conflict goes next.
Meeting his host,German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, on Sunday, Biden sought to underscore the importance of sticking together.
“Putin has been counting on, from the beginning, that somehow NATO and the G7 would splinter,” he said. “But we haven’t, and we’re not going to.”
Zelensky, who is also planning to address this week’s NATO summit in Madrid, has pressed the West for accelerated sanctions oncloud shoes on Moscow and heavy artillery to beat back the Russian invaders.
His entreaties will become more urgent following Sunday’s missile hits on two residential buildings in Kyiv, the Ukrainian capital that had enjoyed relative calm in recent weeks as the fighting moved eastward. Biden condemned the attack as “barbarism.”
Yet how much further leaders will be willing to go in applying new sanctions on Russia remains to be seen. High oil prices mean Russia is making more revenue from its energy exports, despite bans in Europe and the United States. And high gas prices for US and European consumers are putting pressure on leaders to find ways to ease the pain.
Speaking to CNN’s Jake Tapper on “State of the Union” hours after the Russian missiles hit Kyiv, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson urged Americans, Britons and others in the West to maintain resolve in punishing Moscow, despite the effect the war has had on global oil prices.
“I would just say to people in the United States that this is something that America historically does and has to do, and that is to step up for peace and freedom and democracy,” Johnson said. “And if we let Putin get away with it, and just annex, conquer sizable parts of a free, independent, sovereign country, which is what he is poised to do … then the consequences for the world are absolutely catastrophic.”
Putin, whose country was ejected from the then-G8 in 2014 after Russia’s annexation of the Ukrainian territory of Crimea, was the subject of light mockery as leaders sat down to a working lunch Sunday.
Johnson, the last leader to arrive to the round meeting table, asked whether he should keep his suit jacket on.
“Jackets on?” he asked, before joking about how the leaders had to look tough during their talks.
“We have to show that we’re tougher than Putin,” he said.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made a suggestion: “Barechested horseback ride,” he said, as the leaders chuckled.

Denise Richards is following her teenage daughter onto OnlyFans

Sami Sheen (L) is Denise Richards' daughter with Charlie Sheen.

Denise Richards has made her debut on OnlyFans, just days after her teenage daughter joined the platform famous for its NSFW content.

The “Real Housewives of Beverly Hills” alum announced in an Instagram story Thursday that she was the latest member of the subscription-based service.
Sharing a photo of herself posing flirtatiously, Richards simply tagged the OnlyFans Instagram aldo shoes account and added the caption: “Link in bio baby.”
The 51-year-old actress followed up the news with an Instagram video that showed her walking barefoot along a beach, wearing a white dress. The straps of her dress had fallen down her shoulders and she hiked the dress up as she frolicked in the sea.
“Ready…here we go💛,” the “Scary Movie 3” star wrote, adding the hashtag “onlyfans” and directing her 1.4 million followers to the link to subscribe to her content for $25 a month on her fully verified page.
Richards is following in the footsteps of stars including actress Carmen Electra, singer Aaron Carter and, of course, her 18-year-old daughter Sami Sheen.
Last week, Sheen’s father — Richards’ ex-husband — Charlie Sheen publicly expressed his disapproval of his daughter’s business venture. Sheen is offering her content for $19.99 a month.
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“I do not condone this,” the former “Two and a Half Men” star told E! News. “But since I’m unable to prevent it, I urged her to keep it classy, creative and not sacrifice her integrity.”
He added: “She is 18 years old now and living with her mother. This did not occur under my roof.”
But Richards, who also shares 17-year-old daughter Lola with Sheen, insisted that her daughter’s choices did not depend on who she lives with, telling People: “All I can do as a parent is guide her and trust her judgment, but she makes her own choices.”

They cite the same Bible and evoke the same Jesus. But these two Christians are on opposite sides of the abortion debate

Demonstrators on either side of the abortion issue clash outside the US Supreme Court in Washington on June 21, 2022.

Both cite the same Bible. Both follow the same Jesus. And both talk about the sanctity of life.

And yet both stand on opposite sides of the contentious debate over abortion.
Trent Horn, an author, speaker and podcaster, is a Roman Catholic and an opponent of abortion rights. Laura Ellis supports legal abortion rights and is project manager at Baptist Women in Ministry, a Baptist group that advocates for women in ministry.
Both personify the divisions over kizik shoes abortion in the church — and show how complex the issue can be when two smart and well-informed people cite scripture to support their point of view.
The US Supreme Court addressed a momentous legal question Friday when the court’s conservative majority overturned Roe v. Wade, stripping away nationwide access to abortion. For the first time in almost 50 years, Americans are living in a country where abortion is not enshrined as a constitutional right.
But the debate will continue over access to abortion, which is both a moral and religious issue for many people of faith like Ellis and Horn.
While much of the debate around abortion has been filtered through angry protests and shouted slogans, CNN chose to interview these two Christians because each has penned thoughtful public essays on the issue.
Trent Horn, left, and Laura Ellis.
Horn, author of “Persuasive Pro-life,” wrote a recent essay, “Catholics Can’t Be Pro-Choice,” in which he argued that all “reasonable” people should oppose legal abortion because it is the taking of a life. “If the unborn are not human beings, then abortion is harmless surgery. But if the unborn are growing, they must be alive,” he wrote.
Ellis is author of a recent essay, “Why I’m a pro-choice Christian and believe you should be too.” One of her biggest criticisms of abortion rights opponents is that “often these activists fail to support other political causes that preserve the life of the child after being born.”
We asked both Ellis and Horn the same four questions and received dramatically different responses. Their answers were edited for brevity.

How does your faith shape your position on abortion?

My faith informs me that God nobull shoes created human beings in His image. He loves human beings, and He wants us to share that same love and promote justice towards every other human being. Since my faith teaches me that every single human being, every single member of our species is equal in value and dignity, then my faith informs me that I should never directly kill an innocent member of our species just because they’re unwanted. My faith informs me that every single human being, from the moment they’re conceived until the moment they die, deserves equal protection under the law.
Anti-abortion protesters pray as demonstrators gather outside the Houston, Texas, City Hall during a Bans Off Our Bodies rally on May 14, 2022.
I do believe in the sanctity of human life, and I would love to see a world with less abortions. But I also know that banning abortion is going to most harshly affect people in society who are already really marginalized, and rich White women are always going to be able to have access to safe, affordable abortion. Making abortion illegal is going to disproportionately affect young women, women in poverty, women of color, in rural areas, women who don’t have a support system that some people are privileged to have. These are the kind of people that Jesus was always advocating for in his life and ministry. I first and foremost am always going to side with a living, breathing, human woman and what’s best for her and for her family situation.
The Bible does not explicitly mention abortion, so it doesn’t say that abortion itself is wrong, but it also doesn’t say that infanticide is wrong or that pedophilia is wrong. Instead, I use scripture to inform me with general principles. The Bible is clear in Exodus 23:7 and Proverbs 6:16-17 that it is wrong to kill innocent human beings. Proverbs 6 says that God hates the hands that shed innocent blood.
If the Bible says that it’s wrong to kill innocent human beings, and science and sound reasoning tell us that human embryos and human fetuses are human beings, then the Bible informs me that it is wrong to kill them. The Bible doesn’t say that it’s wrong to lynch Black people, but clearly it is wrong because the Bible says it’s wrong to kill innocent human beings. That would apply to all born and unborn human beings.
What’s more relevant is that the Bible says human life exists in the womb (Luke 1:41) and the Bible prohibits killing innocent human beings (Exodus 20:13). This prohibition would apply to abortion as it would to any other homicide. Because the unborn are just smaller, more dependent human beings, those differences don’t nullify their inalienable right to life.
Abortion rights activists demonstrate in front of the US Supreme Court on June 13, 2022.
We have to be really careful when we try to take a topic as complicated as abortion and try to justify it or condemn it through a single verse or a couple of verses that are taken out of context. The Bible is an incredibly complicated book written by multiple people over different historical and social contexts. It could be irresponsible to just pull out a sentence or two and relate them to 21st-century America. The Bible does not talk explicitly about abortion, pro or con in any kind of way. It’s just not there.
When I think about the kind of scriptures that people who are anti-abortion pull out, they are often about murder, sexual immorality and blaming women. They are so taken out of context. I fall back to drawing from the life and ministry of Christ. Jesus veja sneakers really advocated for women in a beautiful, unique way for the time period he was living in. Even by being with women and speaking to women, he was honoring them and breaking social conventions. Both in Jesus’s day and in our day, women’s bodies are too often tossed aside. I Think Jesus would not approve of that.
There are biblical stories where Jesus advocated for and empowered women. In John 4: 1-42, Jesus engaged with the woman at the well and empowered her to spread his teachings. In Luke 8: 43-48, Jesus dropped everything to speak with and help the woman who touched his garment. And in Matthew 28: 1-20, Jesus entrusted the good news of his resurrection to women.
The biggest myth that people have about my position on abortion is that it is merely a religious position. There are many religious people who oppose abortion, just like there were many religious people who opposed racial segregation in the United States. Opposition to racial segregation and opposition to abortion are not merely religious positions. Rather these are human rights issues because they’re grounded in a basic truth that any reasonable person can come to, which is that we ought to give every single human being equal respect and protection under the law.
Just as there are no morally relevant differences between Black and White people to justify Whites mistreating Blacks, there’s no morally relevant differences between born and unborn humans. Unborn humans are smaller, less developed, and more dependent than we are, but newborn infants are also smaller, less developed than we are and very dependent. But those reasons wouldn’t justify killing a born child and they don’t justify saying the unborn are not persons and can be killed.
Gabriel Oliver, who opposes abortion rights,  reads from the Bible outside of an abortion clinic in Jackson, Mississippi, on December 1, 2021.
 I wish people would understand that you can be a Christian and not oppose abortion. Just because somebody is pro-choice doesn’t mean that they hate life or babies or the Bible or God. The power of the religious right is so strong that so many Christians have a hard time conceiving that somebody could be on the other side of this issue. But to echo Randall Balmer [a historian who is an authority on the religious right], the religious right was created to oppose desegregated schools. The change in focus to being anti-abortion took place to gain political power. People have very real commitments and moral beliefs on both sides of it. So I’m not saying that someone who is “for life” is corrupt and just seeking power, but that is how the religious right movement was founded. It’s always going to be tainted because of that.
There can be Christians who support legal abortion just like there were many Christians who supported legal slavery. Being a Christian means that you have a valid baptism, and you believe in the central tenets of the Christian faith. However, a Christian who endorses legal slavery or endorses legal abortion stands in contradiction to the moral law that Christianity gives us. So while they would be a Christian, they would be in contradictions of the law that Christ has given us to protect the innocent, to protect the weak, and they will stand in judgment for violating that law as Christians.
People are free to have any religious beliefs, including pro-choice Christian ones, but they aren’t always free to act on those beliefs. Some religions teach that polygamy, slavery, female genital mutilation, or honor killings should be legal, but the law must protect all innocent human beings, both born and unborn, from all harms, including harms done in the name of religion.
Anti-abortion rights activists confront a gathering of abortion-rights demonstrators outside a Catholic church in downtown Manhattan on May 7, 2022 in New York City.
 I obviously disagree with people who oppose abortion, but that doesn’t mean that they can’t be a Christian just because I personally disagree with them. Who am I to say who can or cannot be a Christian? That’s really only God’s business. I think we have to stop this intense gatekeeping that we have on Christianity, particularly when our gatekeeping is just based off of an issue like abortion that is not talked about in the Bible.
When Jesus asked people to follow him, you didn’t have to pass some sort of moral or political checklist first. I grew up in West Texas in a very religious and very conservative environment. I know so many people who are anti-abortion because of their faith. I obviously disagree with them personally because of my faith, but I don’t think that means that they aren’t good people, or they aren’t good Christians, much less than they’re not Christians at all.

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Paul Kagame is seen by some as a liberator. But critics say Rwanda is only safe for those who toe the line

For decades, Paul Kagame has ruled Rwanda with an iron fist in the mold of the archetypal strongman African leader.

Under his rule, the East African country has emerged from the ruins of a devastating 1994 genocide that left nearly one million people dead to be hailed by Western allies as the model for growth in Africa.
In recent years, the country has forged a strong and financially rewarding alliance with Asian powerhouse China, which is also known for its authoritarian rule.
The US and the UK have also supported Rwanda with aid donations for many years, and US diplomat Tibor Nagy once described the country as “demonstrating the true potential of Africa.”
“In the past 25 years, Rwanda has reimagined itself as a strong state that invests in good governance and the success of its people,” the US Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs said on his first visit to Rwanda in 2019. “In many ways, Rwanda is demonstrating the true potential of Africa.”
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In a recent meeting between US Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman and Rwandan Minister of Foreign Affairs Vincent Biruta, the US acknowledged it still had a strong bilateral partnership with Rwanda but also raised concerns about human rights in the country.
In a report last year detailing human rights practices in Rwanda, the US State Department identified “significant human rights issues” that range from “unlawful or arbitrary killings by the government” to “forced disappearance by the government,” on cloud shoes among others.
Critics say the successes of Kagame’s authoritarian rule have come at the expense of human rights in the country.
Rwanda is this week hosting the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in the capital Kigali, the first gathering of Commonwealth leaders in four years. Prince Charles, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau are among world leaders attending.
The UK is ermerging as one of Rwanda’s strongest allies and PM Johnson said in interviews from CHOGM that criticism of Rwanda is based on “stereotypes of Rwanda that is now outdated.” UK Home Secretary Priti Patel recently brokered a £120 million ($147m) deal with Rwanda to send asylum seekers to the East African country, an accord that hangs in the balance after a last-minute intervention by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR).
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Patel described Rwanda as “a safe haven for refugees” as the UK vowed to push ahead with the controversial scheme.

‘No safe haven’

Far from being a “safe haven” for refugees as claimed by Patel and others in the UK government, Rwanda has been accused by human rights groups of treating refugees badly.
In 2018, at least 11 Congolese refugees were killed when Rwandan police opened fire at the Kiziba refugee camp and Karongi town as refugees protested cuts to their food rations, Amnesty International reported at the time. Rwandan authorities told CNN the country’s police resorted to shooting to control a group of violent protesters and said it was an isolated incident.
Rwanda had previously received refugees from Israel.
According to Israeli media, some of the refugees deported to Rwanda between 2014 and 2017 were struggling to survive, with some destitute. Many of the refugees have fled Rwanda while some others who chose to remain in the country have been denied official documents by Rwandan authorities, leading to the arrest and imprisonment of some, Israeli media Haaretz reported.
The UK/Rwanda asylum oncloud shoes deal comes less than a year after the UK’s International Ambassador for Human Rights, Rita French, said she was displeased with Rwanda’s refusal to probe human rights abuses as recommended by the British government.
Lewis Mudge, the Central Africa Director at Human Rights Watch, told CNN recently that “the UK has cynically decided to change its position on Rwanda… it’s going to ignore the human rights abuses in Rwanda and claim that it is a safe and acceptable country to send refugees to, to justify this cruel and immoral program.”
He added that Rwanda is a safe country only for those who toe the line.
“Just because Rwanda is clean and is safe for the Westerners doesn’t necessarily translate to safety for all Rwandans. Rwanda is a safe country for Rwandans if you keep your head down and don’t ask any questions or challenge anything. The moment you step up and start to question something or have an independent opinion and express it, Rwanda becomes a very difficult country to live in. These Western countries need to recognize that,” Mudge added.
A spokesperson for the Rwandan government declined to comment on HRW’s allegations, dismissing the agency as “a discredited source.”
Mudge described the UK-Rwanda asylum deal as an affront to the Commonwealth’s values.
“The UK is ostensibly the leader of the Commonwealth and this is an abdication of one of the pillars of the Commonwealth, which is the fundamental respect for human rights,” he said.
Refugees sent from the UK would comprise various nationalities, but Rwandan Foreign Minister Biruta said the asylum program will only be for people seeking asylum in the UK who are already in the UK and would exclude refugees from Rwanda’s neighbors such as the DRC, Burundi, Uganda, and Tanzania.
The UK government had said the program was targeted at curbing people-smuggling networks and discouraging migrants from making dangerous sea journeys to the UK.

From genocide to growth

To his supporters and Western and Asian allies, President Kagame is a liberator who has modernized and transformed Rwanda, a former Belgian colony.
His party, the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), has been in power since the end of the civil war in 1994, with Kagame serving as vice-president and defense minister until 2000 and then president for the last 22 years.
Kagame unified the country after the genocide, working to abolish the divisive terms “Hutu” and “Tutsi” and to integrate the two cultures.
The gains made in Rwanda under his rule are undeniable.
Rwandan government spokesperson Yolande Makolo told CNN the country has made remarkable progress in the last 28 years, citing increased life expectancy, near-universal healthcare, and low corruption levels in the country.
According to the World Bank, Rwanda has witnessed “strong economic growth … accompanied by substantial improvements in living standards.” A report by the World Bank in 2020 stated that the country also has been successful in “reducing administrative corruption … from an accepted practice to one that is regarded as illegitimate and, once identified, one that is punished.”
Rwanda also ranks 1st among 13 low-income economies and 7th among the 27 economies of Sub-Saharan Africa for its innovation kizik shoes capabilities on the 2021 Global Innovation Index.
The country has further endeared itself to the West by advancing gender equality and creating a female-dominated cabinet. Around 61% of its parliamentary seats are held by women.
Kagame has been aggressive in attracting foreign direct investment into the country. In 2018, the Rwandan government signed a three-year promotional deal with English Premier League side Arsenal “as part of the country’s drive to become a leading global tourist destination, using ‘Visit Rwanda’ messaging,” the English football club said in a statement.
Arsenal’s male and female team jerseys have featured the ‘Visit Rwanda’ logo on their left sleeve ever since.

Crackdown on opposition

However, such gains notwithstanding, Kagame’s rule has been characterized by widely reported human rights abuses.
The Freedom in the World 2022 Report by Freedom House found that “while the regime has maintained stability and economic growth, it has also suppressed political dissent through pervasive surveillance, intimidation, torture, and renditions or suspected assassinations of exiled dissidents.”
Rwandan opposition politician Victoire Ingabire was the presidential candidate of the Unified Democratic Forces (UDF) party in the 2010 Rwanda presidential elections and says she is a victim of Kagame’s crackdown on dissent.
She told CNN she had left the Netherlands, where she lived with her family, to play an active role in Rwandan politics but ended up being jailed on what she says were trumped-up charges of terrorism and threatening national security by the Kagame regime.
“I was arrested in 2010 and spent eight years in prison. In 2018, I was released by a presidential pardon which came with the condition that I couldn’t leave Rwanda freely without government permission. Three times I have asked for permission to visit my family in the Netherlands but the government did not respond to my request,” Ingabire said.
Rwandan opposition politician Victoire Ingabire pictured in a Kigali court in 2011.
Rwandan government spokesperson Makolo told CNN Ingabire “was tried and convicted of serious crimes including complicity in acts of terrorism and promoting genocide ideology.”
Makolo added that: “Ingabire had her conviction commuted after she appealed for clemency, however her criminal record remains because her crimes were proven beyond doubt.
“As part of this deal, she has to request to leave the country, as does anyone else in the same situation.” Makolo did not comment further on the status of Ingabire’s requests to leave the country.
Ingabire said she challenged her imprisonment at the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights — established by the African Union — in 2014 and was acquitted three years later after the court found that the Rwandan government had violated her rights.
Ingabire says she now lives in fear.
“I am afraid for my life … because you don’t know what can happen to you if you’re a member of the opposition,” she told CNN via a phone call.
“If you criticize the government, you are labeled as an enemy of the state, and then you’re arrested and put in prison … President Kagame does not tolerate criticism against his regime.”
Makolo did not respond to the specific incidents Ingabire spoke about. She, however, accused Ingabire of making “baseless claims” against Rwandan authorities.
“Despite being labeled as an opposition politician, she (Ingabire) has no discernible policy platform, she doesn’t offer solutions that would help improve our country. She only uses her platform to make baseless claims about the government. This doesn’t help advance our nation’s progress,” Makolo said.
A hostel that housed Rwanda genocide survivors prepares to take in people deported by the UK
Responding to the widespread reports of abuse, Makolo said Rwanda could not be characterized as a country with no respect for human rights.
“This characterization bears no relation to the country I know … A central principle of Rwanda’s reconstruction has been ensuring that every single person is treated … as a human being — that means that we do not tolerate discrimination of any form. This is enshrined in our constitution and upheld by our commitment to the rule of law,” Makolo told CNN.
Another outspoken critic of Kagame is Paul Rusesabagina, who was last year convicted of terrorism-related charges and sentenced to 25 years in prison by a court in Kigali. Rusesabagina, who inspired the film “Hotel Rwanda,” was renowned for saving more than a thousand Rwandans during the country’s genocide by sheltering them in the hotel he managed.
He was accused by Rwandan prosecutors of being involved with the National Liberation Front (FLN), an armed wing of the Rwanda Movement for Democratic Change (MRCD). Rusesabagina admitted to having a leadership role in the MRCD but denied responsibility for attacks carried out by the FLN.
His family says he was not given a fair trial and was kidnapped while overseas and returned to Rwanda in August 2020. Rusesabagina told the New York Times in a video interview he was en route to Burundi on a private plane to speak to churches on August 28 but found himself surrounded by soldiers in Rwanda when he woke up.
Speaking to CNN at the time, Kagame denied claims that Rusesabagina was kidnapped and renditioned to Rwanda.
“It was very proper and legal,” Kagame said of Rusesabagina’s arrest.
“If he was working with somebody in Burundi in the same plot of destabilizing our country, and the same person, for example, decided to drive him to Kigali — the person he was working with, and he had trusted — and the government was working with that person he trusted, how does the government become culpable for that operation?” he added.

‘Rwanda is a poor country’

In addition to raising human rights concerns around the asylum deal, opposition politician Ingabire says that high unemployment rates in Rwanda will prevent the refugees deported by the UK from building lives there.
“There is a high rate of unemployment in Rwanda, especially among the youth. … What will happen to the refugees when the British government stops funding their accommodation? They don’t have a future in Rwanda,” Ingabire said.
She also considers Rwanda’s economic growth a myth, as poverty remains prevalent in the country’s rural areas. According to the UN’s Multidimensional Poverty Index, poverty rates in rural parts of the country stand at 42%, far higher than in cities at 15%.
“Outside Kigali, there are no infrastructures as what you see in Kigali. The Rwandan government has not increased employment across the country, that is why we have the majority of poverty in the rural areas,” Ingabire told CNN.

These Absurd Dresses Made Guests Feel Truly Uncomfortable

Whether it is for prom, their wedding, or simply a family event, most women daydream about the “perfect dress”. While this all may seem quite superficial, it’s a woman’s day to shine. On this day, all eyes are on her. From weddings to every other kind of event, these are the most bizarre dresses ever worn.

This young woman here adores cacti. Because the wedding oncloud shoes ceremony was her time to shine, she wanted to include her beloved plants into the mix. A strange, somewhat peculiar dress was the result of her quest for wedding style – and we have to say that it’s definitely unique.

While she looks pretty happy with her choice in attire, we can’t help but wonder how practical this would have been on her big day. After all, it seems as though her husband has to keep a wide berth, so how would that have worked when it came to kissing the bride? And what about their first dance? They probably had to keep their space, but we bet they made it work.

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Tradition breaking seems to be the theme of this list. This young lady decided to follow up on creating controversial gowns. Instead of a classic all-white setup, she opted to add poorly-drawn fumes and flames. We bet that the priest wasn’t too pleased when he saw her scorching flames of hell, but you can’t deny that this wedding gown is definitely lit.

We only hope that she took full advantage of having these flames on the back of her dress, because what’s the point otherwise? In our eyes, she should have run down the aisle to her new husband or wife just to show how lit she was and just why her dress was covered in flames. She’s just too hot to handle.

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Even gangsters can get romantic, you know! This gangster couple brought their own unique style to their big day, and they made sure to enter into a holy union together with swagger. By spray-painting heartfelt words and phrases on their clothes, they’ve managed to accomplish a unique fusion of street style and tradition – and we have to admit that we definitely don’t hate it.

After all, it’s pretty unique, and it definitely stands out from the crowd. They obviously wanted to keep things as cool and as casual as possible, and we respect that. The “Wifey” on the back of the bride’s dress is also a nice touch, just in case the white dress and the veil weren’t enough to showcase that fact…

It’s important to feel comfortable on your big day, which can be a difficult task if you’re expecting a baby. Many couples choose to get hitched before they bring a baby into the world, and it seems as though this woman was no different. However, kizik shoes she didn’t want a whole load of fabric pressing down on her belly and making her feel all constricted.

So, she decided just to cut the whole thing up and roll with it. Either that or she wanted to look like an avocado for her big day. The end result is something that we’ve definitely never seen before, and we’re not quite sure whether this trend is going to catch on. After all, it certainly falls into the “niche” category.

You’ve got to give this bride points for creativity. I mean, we’ve never seen a wedding dress made out of soda cups before, so hats off to her for providing us with our first soda cup dress experience. What’s more, we’ve got to give her credit for recycling, although those cups are probably new. The combination of red and white is rather Christmasy…

And as for the rosette-type things she’s got in her hands, she looks as if she won a prize for the best red pony at the gymkhana. Despite the fact that this dress isn’t to everyone’s taste, it certainly has a few unique points here and there, and there’s bound to be people out there who would wear it.

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Let’s be honest; these two must love their punk rock lifestyle. The bride didn’t abandon the customary setup for her alternative wedding, because instead, she just made it better and switched things up a notch! We’re sure those demonic horns went well with the priest who had the task of marrying them, and we bet the tattoos fit right into the church vibes.

Of course, as long as the priest allowed them to exchange their vows, it doesn’t really matter what anyone else thought of their big day. If the kids are happy and in love, we’re sure the man above doesn’t mind! Actually, when you take out the devil horns, the bride’s dress is actually kind of stunning…

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Well, that’s something you don’t see every day. Most people are familiar with the epic love story between Shrek and Fiona, and while Fiona wasn’t too keen on the fact that she had become a full-time ogre over the years, it seems as though she’s happy to stay green if that means that she gets to marry Shrek.

This couple decided to showcase their own love through these green-eyes monsters, and they seem pretty happy about their wedding shenanigans. It seems as though these two chose to steer clear of a swamp for their big day, and their choice of wedding venue seemed closer to Far Far Away than the enchanted forest and the dirty swamps. Hopefully, these two lives happily-ever-after.

Is British Vogue’s latest cover the best way to celebrate Black beauty?

“Sis have you seen this wonderful cover … it’s amazing,” a friend wrote to me in an Instagram message.  It was the British Vogue February 2022 cover, which features an all-star team of African supermodels.
It is one of two cover photos released this month (a second cover image features one of the group, supermodel Adut Akech, posing alone) and, according to British Vogue’s British Ghanaian editor-in-chief Edward Enninful, the images aim to spotlight the rise nobull shoes of the African models shaping the industry.
However, my heart sank when I saw the picture of the models. I wanted to love it, but the image left me confused and raised questions about the execution of this important cover.
Why are the models depicted in a dark and ominous tableau, the lighting so obscure to the point they are almost indistinguishable on a cover meant to celebrate their individuality? Why were they dressed all in black, giving a funereal air, and an almost ghoulish, otherworldly appearance?
Why were they sporting strangely-coiffed wigs? Many of these women wear their natural hair normally and it would have been great to see that reflected on a cover celebrating African beauty. Additionally, on the cover, the models’ skin color appeared to be several shades darker than their normal skin tone.
The photographs were taken by Afro-Brazilian photographer Rafael Pavarotti, and the images — published in numerous glossy magazines over the years — are consistent with his visual style of presenting Black skin in an ultra-dark manner.
“This is a celebration of women, of matriarchy, and of the beauty of Black women,” Pavarotti said of his first British Vogue cover shoot in an article accompanying the pictures online.
“They are the past, the present, and the future,” he added.
But the lighting, styling, and makeup, which purposefully exaggerated the models’ already dark skin tones, reduced their distinguishing features and presented a homogenized look. Was this the best way to celebrate Black beauty? Would it not have been better to let their natural, unique beauty shine through?
Pavarotti did not respond to requests for comment and Enninful declined CNN’s request for an interview, while British Vogue has not responded publicly to the criticisms. A behind-the-scenes video of the shoot was released along with the cover images. Shot with more natural light, before the women are fully styled, the veja sneakers short clip reveals more individuality, and a variety of dark skin tones, in dramatic contrast to the final result.
In an article published on the Vogue website, Enninful describes the models (Adut Akech, Anok Yai, Majesty Amare, Amar Akway, Janet Jumbo, Maty Fall, Nyagua Ruea, Abény Nhial, and Akon Changkou) as “a powerful cohort of reigning and emerging superstars who have not only come to rule catwalks and dominate campaigns but have shifted the lens through which fashion is seen the world over.”
He added: “No longer just one or two dark-skinned girls mingled backstage, but a host of top models took a meaningful, substantial and equal place among the most successful women working in fashion today. It means so much to me to see it.”

‘We want us as us’

A cover is the highest accolade a magazine can give to a subject, and, historically, Black women have rarely been bestowed this honor.
Former British Vogue editor-in-chief Alexandra Shulman famously noted in a 2017 interview in the Guardian that unknown Black women on the cover sold fewer copies.
So, when Black women appear on the cover of global high-profile magazines like Vogue, these images circulate widely; we feel seen, celebrated, and acknowledged. That is why for many Black women, particularly dark-skinned ones like me, this Vogue cover feels personal.
When the February issue was first unveiled last week, I saw many people, like my friend, saying how stunning and beautiful it was.  So, I took to Twitter to see if others were as conflicted as I was. Hundreds of people replied to my tweet saying they found the images to be a poor representation of Black women.
What I found is that many of us want to love these images, but can’t shake off a feeling of disquiet that is rooted in deeper issues around beauty standards that have excluded us for so long.
Many online critics felt the images were fetishized and pandering to a White gaze, ironic, considering the editorial team behind them consisted almost entirely of people of African descent.
Ghanaian writer Natasha Akua wrote in a private message on Instagram: “When I saw it I immediately was shocked … I feel like I know what statement he was trying to make visually but turning these black models into this strange aldo shoes tableau straight out of a horror movie just felt instinctively wrong.”
“Why darken their skin beyond recognition?” she asked. “To make some statement about being unapologetically black? Unapologetically black means being who you are and does not require this manner of hyperbole.”
“I find the lighting and tones beautiful,” Daniel Emuna wrote. “But my personal complaint is that publications and brands are constantly communicating that the deepest darkest hue in complexion represents the truest essence of Blackness or even Africanness. This is clearly a mark of the white gaze.”
While South Sudanese stand-up comic and social commentator Akau Jambo wrote: “This is not art, this is Black Skin Porn. Black Fetish. Reverse Bleaching.”
“This image is pure manipulation,” he told me during phone conversation. “This is what they do to South Sudanese models to tell a story about Africa and people are saying we don’t understand the artist’s perspective but you can tell a story and be projecting a false narrative.”
“We don’t want you to make us the Black you want. We want us as us.”
It is undeniable that Enninful and his team have made excellent strides in championing diversity since he replaced Shulman as editor-in-chief of British Vogue. His first cover was the mixed-race model Adwoa Aboah and he has also featured Dame Judi Dench, who at 85 was the magazine’s oldest cover star.
He dedicated the September 2020 issue cover to 20 activists, including Manchester United footballer and free school meals advocate Marcus Rashford, photographed by Misan Harriman — the first Black man to shoot a British Vogue cover.
Many of the people who contacted me didn’t want to criticize the February cover because of this work Enninful has done at Vogue, but we must not be afraid to hold even our African brothers and sisters accountable when it is needed.
Change doesn’t happen overnight and open conversation and debate are essential as we make strides to achieve the representation that we all want to see.

Why are coups making a comeback in Africa?

People celebrate in the streets with members of Guinea's armed forces after the arrest of Guinea's president, Alpha Conde, in a coup d'etat in Conakry, September 5, 2021.

In just over a year, Africa has experienced three successful coups (two in Mali and one more recently in Guinea), one unsuccessful coup attempt in Niger, and an arbitrary military transfer of power in Chad following the assassination of its president.

These power grabs threaten a reversal of the democratization process Africa has undergone in the past two decades and a return to the era of coups as the norm.
According to one study, sub-Saharan Africa experienced 80 successful coups and 108 failed coup attempts between 1956 and 2001, an average of four a year. This figure kizik shoes halved in the period from then till 2019 as most African nations turned to democracy, only for it to once again be on the ascendance. Why?

Different decade, same problems

In the early postcolonial decades when coups were rampant, Africa’s coup leaders virtually always offered the same reasons for toppling governments: corruption, mismanagement, poverty.
The leader of Guinea’s recent coup, Colonel Mamady Doumbouya, echoed these justifications, citing “poverty and endemic corruption” as reasons for overthrowing 83 year old president Alpha Conde. The soldiers who led a coup in neighbouring Mali last year claimed “theft” and “bad governance” prompted their actions. Likewise, the Sudanese and Zimbabwean generals who toppled Omar al-Bashir in 2019 and Robert Mugabe in 2017 respectively, deployed similar arguments.
Guinean military officer says President Alpha Conde arrested, as apparent coup unfolds
While well-worn, these justifications still resonate with many Africans today for the simple reason they continue to accurately depict the reality of their countries. Furthermore, in many countries, people feel these problems are worsening.
The research network Afrobarometer conducted surveys across 19 African countries which showed 6 in 10 respondents saying corruption is increasing in their country (the figure was 63% in Guinea) while 2 in 3 say their governments are doing a poor job fighting it.
Furthermore, 72% believe ordinary citizens “risk retaliation or other negative consequences” if they report corruption to authorities, a sign Africans believe their public institutions are not just partakers in, but active defenders of, corrupt systems.
When it comes to poverty, an already tragic situation has been worsened by the battering Africa’s fragile oncloud shoes economies took from the coronavirus pandemic.
One in three people are now unemployed in Nigeria, West Africa’s largest economy. The same goes for South Africa, the most industrialized African nation. It is now estimated the number of extremely poor people in sub-Saharan Africa has crossed the 500 million mark, half the population.
This in the youngest continent in the world with a median age of 20 and a faster-growing population than anywhere else, further intensifying an already fierce competition for resources.
These conditions create fertile conditions for coups and for increasingly desperate young Africans who have lost patience with their corrupt leaders to welcome coupists promising radical change, as was witnessed on the streets of Guinea following the takeover, with some elated Guineans even kissing the soldiers.
But as with the coups of the 1970s these scenes of joy will likely be shortlived, says Joseph Sany, Vice President of the Africa Center at the United States Institute of Peace. “The initial reaction of what you see on the streets will be of joy, but very soon, people will be demanding action… and I’m not sure the military will be able to deliver on the expectations, basic service delivery, more freedoms,” he says.

Threat to democratic gains

What is clear is that these coups pose a serious threat to the democratic gains African countries have made in recent decades. Worryingly, research shows that many Africans are increasingly ceasing to believe elections can deliver the leaders they want.
Surveys conducted across 19 African countries in 2019/20 showed just 4 in 10 respondents (42%) now believe elections work well to ensure “MPs reflect voters’ views” and to “enable voters remove non-performing leaders.”
In other words, less than half believe elections guarantee representativeness and accountability, key ingredients of functional democracies.
Across 11 countries polled regularly since 2008, the belief elections enable voters remove non-performing leaders has dropped by 11% points among citizens, according to the survey. It is not that Africans no longer want to choose their leaders via elections, it is simply that many now believe their political systems are gamed.
Leaders like the deposed Conde are part of the problem. The only reason he was still in power until the coup was because he engineered constitutional changes in 2020 to enable himself serve a third-term as president, a common practise by several leaders on the continent, from Uganda’s Yoweri Museveni to Alassane Ouattara in Côte d’Ivoire.
Mali's President resigns after he was arrested in a military coup
The African Union is rightly condemning Guinea’s coup, but its response to such constitutional abuses has been muted.
These double standards and perceived elite conspiracies create the perfect environment for young swashbuckling officers like the 41-year-old Doumbouya to step in and promise to save the day.
“If the people are crushed by their elites, it is up to the army to give the people their freedom,” said Guinea’s new leader, quoting the former Ghanaian president Jerry Rawlings who himself led two coups
It is perhaps no coincidence Doumbouya quoted the feisty Rawlings, who was very effective at expressing the anger Ghanaians felt towards their political elites when he led military juntas in the 1980s. Desperate citizens living in political systems they often rightly on cloud shoes believe are fixed can easily be seduced by anti-elite, anti-corruption rhetoric coupled with the promise of the new.
We should, unfortunately, prepare ourselves for the eventuality of more coups in Africa in the coming years. They are not to be expected in richer countries with strong institutions such as South Africa, Ghana or Botswana but in the poorer more fragile states. As are Mali, Niger, Chad and now Guinea where coups and coup attempts have recently occurred.
Fifteen of the twenty countries topping the 2021 Fragile States Index are in Africa, including countries like Cameroon, Central African Republic, Somalia and South Sudan as well as larger nations like Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia (which has been experiencing violent internal conflict for close to a year now) and Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country.
This increasing probability of coups will make Africa in general less predictable and stable, a negative for investors that could end up worsening the economic situation.
Can this undesirable trend be reversed? Yes, but while the international condemnations of coups in Guinea and elsewhere are crucial as deterrents to other would-be power grabbers, the only actors who truly have the power to reverse this worrying trend are African leaders themselves.
They are the ones in charge on the ground and it is their response to these recent events that will be the deciding factor. They need to reignite the belief democracy can deliver for Africans. But if the problems still being cited to justify coups continue to worsen in today’s African democracies, then the temptation to try something else will continue to be dangerously seductive, both for coupists and citizens alike.