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Yellen reasserts US commitment to Africa in Senegal visit

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US Treasury secretary says Biden administration’s engagement with the continent is ‘not for show’ or the ‘short-term’.

United States Secretary of the Treasury Janet Yellen has reaffirmed her country’s commitment to deepening relations and trade with Africa during a visit to Senegal, amid competition across the continent from China and Russia.

“The United States is all in on Africa, and all in with Africa,” Yellen said on Friday morning at a business incubator in the Senegalese capital of Dakar, where she touted the fruits of a new “mutually beneficial” US economic strategy towards Africa.

“Our engagement is not transactional, it’s not for show, and it’s not for the short-term,” she said.

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Yellen’s three-country tour of the region comes just weeks after US President Joe Biden hosted the leaders of dozens of African nations, as well as the African Union, for the second US-Africa Leaders Summit in Washington, DC.

The talks were a follow-up to the first such gathering hosted by former US President Barack Obama in 2014. They highlighted Biden’s efforts to strengthen ties with like-minded countries across the region.

The Biden administration unveiled a string of new economic investments and trade deals in Africa during the summit, and Biden personally expressed support for the African Union’s push for a permanent place at the Group of 20 (G20) forum of global economies.

China, which Washington has viewed as its main global competitor, has consistently outpaced the US in its investments in Africa in recent years. Russia has also been trying to rally support on the continent in response to pressure from the US and its allies over the war in Ukraine.

Last weekend, Chinese foreign minister Qin Gang ended a week-long tour of African nations, including Ethiopia, where he emphasised Beijing’s partnerships on security and economic development in the region.

Qin, whose trip included stops in Gabon, Angola, Benin and Egypt, also rejected the idea that China is competing in Africa with the US.

“What Africa needs is solidarity and cooperation, not bloc competition. No one has the right to force African countries to take sides,” the Chinese foreign minister said from the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa.

In an implicit contrast with China, which takes a hands-off approach in countries where it invests, Yellen said on Friday that the US has taken a “different” tack, prioritising “transparency, good governance, accountability and environmental sustainability”.

“While our approach may be exacting, we believe it delivers lasting results,” said Yellen, who is expected to meet Senegal’s Minister of Finance Mamadou Moustapha Ba and President Macky Sall later in the day.

She is scheduled to travel to Zambia on Sunday, and later to South Africa.

During her speech in Dakar, the US Treasury secretary said that African governments need the “fiscal space” to be able to make “important” public investments.

“We believe that the international community, including China, needs to provide meaningful debt relief to help countries regain their footing,” she said.

Yellen also called for ending the Russian invasion of Ukraine, wading into politically murky territory as some African heads of state have not condemned the war due to relations they have with Moscow.

“Russia’s barbaric aggression against its neighbour is particularly being felt by Africa and its people,” Yellen said.

“Russia’s war and weaponisation of food has exacerbated food insecurity and caused untold suffering. And the global economic headwinds caused by the actions of a single man — President [Vladimir] Putin — is creating an unnecessary drag on Africa’s economy.”

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Petr Pavel: Polyglot, war hero, and the new Czech president – Euronews

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Ex-general Petr Pavel has won another gritty campaign — this time at the ballot box.

The bearded 61-year-old, a decorated veteran who took part in a high-stakes peacekeeping mission in the Balkans and represented his country as a top-tier NATO general, was voted Czech president on Saturday, beating billionaire ex-prime minister Andrej Babiš.

With the ballots from 97% of almost 15,000 polling stations counted by the Czech Statistics Office, Pavel had 57.8% of the vote compared with 42.2% for Babiš.

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Though Czech presidents wield little day-to-day power, Pavel will have influence over foreign policy and government opinion, as well as the power to appoint prime ministers, constitutional judges and central bankers.

True to his military past, he has vowed to bring “order” to the Czech Republic, a 10 million-strong EU and NATO member, hammered by record inflation and economic turmoil due to the Ukraine war.

“I can’t ignore the fact that people here increasingly feel chaos, disorder and uncertainty. That the state has somehow ceased to function,” Pavel said on his campaign website.

“We need to change this,” he added. “We need to play by the rules, which will be valid for everyone alike. We need a general sweep.”

From Communist to war hero

Following in his father’s footsteps, Pavel underwent a military education in former Czechoslovakia, which was then ruled by Moscow-backed communists.

He joined the Communist Party, like his billionaire rival Babiš, and soon rose through the army ranks, studying to become an intelligence agent for the oppressive regime.

Critics fault him for his communist past, though Pavel has defended himself by saying party membership was “normal” in his family and called it a “mistake”.

When the Iron Curtain crumbled in 1989, Pavel chucked out his party ID but went ahead with the intelligence course.

Amid the conflict in the former Yugoslavia, Pavel — trained as an elite paratrooper and holding the rank of Lieutenant Colonel at the time — helped evacuate French troops stuck in the midst of combat between Croats and ethnic Serb paramilitaries in Croatia, earning him the French Military Cross for bravery.

“We got into several tense situations and he always managed them with deliberation and calm,” said retired Czech general Aleš Opata, who served with Pavel.

He later studied at military training schools in Britain, gaining a master’s from King’s College London.

After his country joined NATO in 1999, Pavel soon climbed through the alliance’s ranks, becoming its top military official in 2015. 

With a chest full of decorations, he retired in 2018.

What are his political views?

Pavel ran as an independent and was the strongest of the three candidates backed by the liberal-conservative coalition SPOLU of now-former President Miloš Zeman.

He has argued for better redistribution of wealth and greater taxation of the rich while also supporting progressive policies on issues such as same-sex marriage and euthanasia.

Positioning himself as a counterweight to populism, Pavel anchors the Czech Republic in NATO and wants to align his country with the European Union.

“The main issue at stake is whether chaos and populism will continue to rein or we return to observing rules… and we will be a reliable country for our allies,” he said after narrowly winning the first election round.

A staunch supporter of Ukraine, Pavel’s political rivals have alleged he would drag the country into a war with Russia.

“I know what war is about and I certainly don’t wish it on anyone,” said Pavel. “The first thing I would do is try to keep the country as far away from war as possible.”

Often sporting jeans and a leather jacket, Pavel is a polyglot, speaking Czech, English, French and Russian, and loves motorcycling.

He holds a concealed weapon licence, allowing him to carry a firearm, and he is married to a fellow soldier, Eva Pavlová.

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Canadian and American Politics

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THIS SURVEY EXPLORES CANADIANS’ AND AMERICANS’ PERSPECTIVES ON CANADIAN AND AMERICAN POLITICS.

Our latest North American Tracker explores Canadians’ and Americans’ perspectives on Canadian and American politics.

It examines Canadians’ federal voting intentions and Americans’ approval of President Joe Biden and Vice-President Kamala Harris.

Download the report for the full results.

This survey was conducted in collaboration with the Association for Canadian Studies (ACS) and published in the Canadian Press. This series of surveys is available on Leger’s website.

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CANADIAN POLITICS

  • The Conservatives and Liberals are tied: if a federal election were held today, 34% of Canadian decided voters would vote for Pierre Poilievre’s CPC and the same proportion would vote for Justin Trudeau’s LPC.

AMERICAN POLITICS

  • 42% of Americans approve of the way Joe Biden is handling his job as president.
  • 40% of Americans approve of the way Kamala Harris is handling her job as vice-president.

METHODOLOGY

This web survey was conducted from January 20 to 22, 2023, with 1,554 Canadians and 1,005 Americans, 18 years of age or older, randomly recruited from LEO’s online panel.

A margin of error cannot be associated with a non-probability sample in a panel survey. For comparison, a probability sample of 1,554 respondents would have a margin of error of ±2.49%, 19 times out of 20, while a probability sample of 1,005 respondents would have a margin of error of ±3.09%, 19 times out of 20.

THIS REPORT CONTAINS THE RESULTS FOR THE FOLLOWING QUESTIONS AND MORE!

  • If federal elections were held today, for which political party would you be most likely to vote?  Would it be for…?
  • Overall, do you approve or disapprove of the way Joe Biden is handling his job as president?
  • Overall, do you approve or disapprove of the way Kamala Harris is handling her job as vice president?​
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Legault won’t celebrate 25 years in politics

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Premier François Legault does not intend to celebrate his 25-year political career this year.

He became Minister of Industry in Lucien Bouchard’s PQ government on Sept. 23, 1998, but was elected on Nov. 30 of the same year as the representative for L’Assomption, the riding in which he is still a member.

In a news conference on Friday at the end of a caucus meeting of his party’s elected officials in a Laval hotel, the CAQ leader said that neither he nor his party had any intention of celebrating this anniversary.

“I don’t like these things,” he said.

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He pointed out that he is still younger than the former dean of the National Assembly, François Gendron. And smiling, he alluded to the U.S. President.

“I’m quite a bit younger than Mr. Biden, apart from that!” he said.

Legault is 65 years old, while the President is 80.

However, Legault is now the dean of the House. According to recent data, he has served as an elected official for 20 years, 6 months, and 27 days so far.

The premier was quick to add, however, that he has taken a break from politics.

He resigned on June 24, 2009 as a member of the Parti Québécois (PQ), then in opposition. But he was elected as an MNA and leader of the then-new Coalition Avenir Quebec (CAQ) on Sept. 4, 2012.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published in French on Jan. 27, 2023.

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