PSR: April 13, 2018

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This week in:

 IPSI | Africa | Americas | East Asia | Europe & Central Asia | Middle East | South Asia

This week at IPSI

This week in Sub-Saharan Africa

CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC: Protesters place bodies of victims outside UN building


On Wednesday, hundreds of angry demonstrators laid the bodies of at least 16 people killed in the country’s capital in front of the mission headquarters of the UN in Bangui. At least 21 people were killed during a UN operation in the mainly Muslim PK5 neighborhood, during which peacekeepers and the army fought armed groups. Comment: UN peacekeepers and local security forces have battled armed groups in Bangui’s PK5 neighborhood – a Muslim enclave of the majority Christian city – since Sunday aiming to dismantle their bases there. Violence increased in the country after mainly Muslim Seleka rebels ousted President Francois Bozize in 2013, provoking retaliation killings by “anti-balaka” armed groups, drawn largely from Christian communities. Self-styled Muslim self-defense groups sprang up in PK5, claiming to protect the Muslim civilians concentrated there against efforts to drive them out. MINUSCA now accuses the self-defense groups of extortion and violence against civilians and said that the Rwandan peacekeepers came under attack on Tuesday, leading to the four-hour gun battle. (Aljazeera, Reuters, South China Morning Post)


CHAD: U.S travel ban lifted


On Tuesday, U.S. President Donald Trump lifted travel restrictions saying that Chad has improved its identity management and information sharing practices. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security said the removal of the travel retractions would take effect on Friday. Comment: The country had a travel ban placed on it last September because of a glitch that prevented it from supplying homeland security officials with up-to-date samples of its passports, according to U.S. officials. Last December, the U.S. Supreme Court said the latest travel restrictions could take effect even as legal challenges against it make their way through the courts. The ban has been widely criticized for appearing to target Muslim-majority countries. It currently applies to Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria, Yemen, and North Korea. Restrictions have also been placed on certain individuals from Venezuela. (Aljazeera, BBC, Reuters)


NIGERIA: 149 women and children rescued from Boko Haram

NIGERIA 149 women and children rescued from Boko Haram  

On Sunday, the military said it rescued 54 women and 95 children abducted by the armed group Boko Haram in the country’s northeast. The rescues occurred during a raid on a Boko Haram hideout in the community of Yerimari Kura. Soldiers killed three fighters during the operation and captured five others suspected of belonging to the group. The military did not disclose when the women and children were abducted. Comment: Boko Haram, whose name roughly translates to “Western education is forbidden,” has waged a nearly 10-year armed campaign to create an Islamic state in northeastern Nigeria. The conflict has left at least 20,000 people dead and displaced more than 2.6 million. Boko Haram gained international notoriety after its fighters kidnapped 276 schoolgirls in the town of Chibok in April 2014. About 100 of the girls are still missing. (Aljazeera, BBC, Daily Trust, Daily Post)


TANZANIA: Government passes new law to regulate bloggers and internet users

  TANZANIA Cyber law introduces

On Thursday, the government approved the “Electronic and Postal Communications (Online Content) Regulations” law that will regulate content posted online, introducing fees for bloggers and online media in addition to policing the morals and authenticity of social media users. According to the law, bloggers, online radio stations, and video creators will now pay an annual fee of USD 930 and register before publishing their content. The law also requires internet cafés and online platforms to install surveillance cameras to record and archive activities inside of their business premises. The law further provides the government the right to revoke a permit if a site publishes content that will “offend or lead to public disorder.” Comment: The new regulations follow a series of controversial laws introduced in the past few years, which Freedom House reports are widely considered to be tools used to suppress media critical of the government. The USD 930 blogging fee will likely be a barrier of entry for many people in a country where, according to the World Bank in 2016, GDP per capita was just USD 878 per year. (Africanews, Quartz, CNN)

Researched/Written by Brian Adienge


This week in the Americas & Caribbean

BRAZIL: Former President Lula to serve 12 years in prison


On Saturday, former Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva surrendered himself to police following a two-day stand-off, after he missed his court deadline. For months Lula preached his innocence in the face of a potential run at a third presidential term. Riots broke out following the arrest; with police firing tear gas and rubber bullets into the crowd, injuring eight. His supporters linked arms in an effort to block the police and to prevent Lula from turning himself in. Comment: Lula was convicted as part of an anti-corruption investigation taking place throughout Latin America, known as Operation Car Wash. Lula allegedly received a USD 1.1 million renovated beachfront property as a bribe. (BBC, Guardian, New York Times, Washington Post)


COLOMBIA: Former FARC leader arrested on U.S. warrant

COLOMBIA Former FARC leader arrested  

On Tuesday, former FARC leader and peace negotiator, Seuxis Hernandez also known as Jesus Santrich was taken into custody at his residence in Bogota. According to an Interpol notice, the U.S. District Court in the Southern District of New York is charging him with conspiracy to smuggle USD 15 million worth of cocaine into the United States. FARC leadership claims that this arrest is disrupting the peace accords and stated that the government should step in because they believe this is a judicial “set-up.” Although former FARC members have immunity from prosecution as part of the peace agreement, it does not apply to crimes taking place after the signing date. Comment: According to the peace agreement, the FARC would disarm and become a political party with 10 seats in Congress until 2026. Santrich was going to be one of the former FARC members to be placed in Congress in July. (El Espectador, Guardian, NPR, Aljazeera)


UNITED STATES: President Trump threatens missile strike against Syria

  UNITED STATES President Trump threatens missile strike against Sy

On Wednesday, President Trump announced possible military strikes against Syria in response to the alleged use of chemical weapons that local aid workers believe affected approximately 500 people. Following the President’s cancellation of his trip to Latin America on Tuesday, analysts have stated that the U.S. response may involve a more comprehensive military operation rather than purely missile strikes. The UK and France have agreed to cooperate with the U.S. in any planned military strike on Syria. Following the President’s making U.S. intentions clear, the UK moved submarines into striking distance and the Syrian government moved key aircraft to a Russian base. On Thursday, Trump tweeted that a strike on Syria “could be very soon or not so soon at all.” Comment: In addition to Trump’s tweet about military intervention, he warned Russia that they should “get ready.” The Kremlin responded claiming that they do not get involved in “Twitter diplomacy.” (BBC, New York Times, Reuters, Washington Post)

Researched/Written by Connor Murnane


This week in East Asia & Pacific

CHINA: Xi Jinping pledges to open markets and slash tariffs

CHINA Xi Jinping pledges to open markets and slash tariffs  

On Tuesday, President Xi Jinping pledged to slash auto tariffs and further open China’s markets to trade and foreign investment. Speaking at Boao Forum for Asia, Xi pledged to allow foreign investors greater access to China’s financial markets, and bolster intellectual property. The statement came a day after President Trump called aspects of U.S.-China trade “stupid.” Comment: This is the first time President Xi has spoken on the matter since the Trump administration proposed USD 100 billion additional tariffs on Chinese products. (The Washington Post, Xinhuanet, The New York Times)


MYANMAR: Soldiers sentenced to jail for killing 10 Rohingya men

  MYANMAR Soldiers sentenced to jail for killing 10 Rohingya men

On Tuesday, a military court sentenced 7 soldiers to prison for killing 10 Rohingya men last year in the village of Inn Din. The soldiers will serve 10 years of hard labor for the act. Two Reuters journalists were arrested for originally reporting the murders and are still being held by the government. Comment: The Rohingya men were buried in a mass grave in early September last year after either being hacked to death or shot by Buddhist neighbors and soldiers. Reuters published its story on the murder in February of this year. (CNN, BBC, The Guardian)


NORTH KOREA: Kim Jong-un to discuss denuclearization with the U.S.


On Sunday, the U.S. announced that North Korea leader Kim Jong-un has directly confirmed his readiness to discuss the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula when he meets with President Trump later this year. The statement came a few days after a CNN report on Saturday said that Washington and Pyongyang were in direct communication to prepare for the historical upcoming summit between Kim and President Trump. Comment: This will be the first time a sitting U.S. president has ever met with a North Korean leader. (The Wall Street Journal, NPR, The Hill)

Researched/Written by Edgar Peter Mutta

DC 2018 - 07.02.18

This week in Europe & Central Asia

ARMENIA: Members of parliament protest power shift after elections

ARMENIA Members of parliament protest power shift after elections  

On Wednesday, two opposition members in parliament lit smoke flares to protest the potential appointment of now former president Serzh Sarkisian as prime minister. Arat Mirzoian from the opposition group “Way Out” (Yelk), told members to protest on Friday against the potential appointment, which is planned for April 17, because they no longer want Serzh Sarkisian in charge. This action comes after Armen Sarkisian (of no relation to the ex-president) was inaugurated as president two days earlier. Others in the parliament, including Vice Speaker Sharmazanov, disagree with the opposition’s actions and want to continue to “work normally.” Comment: In a 2015 referendum, the country transitioned to a parliamentary system from a “semi-presidential” system, in which the prime minister now has more power than the president. (Armenia News, ArmenPress, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty 1, 2, AP)


AZERBAIJAN: Incumbent president wins snap election


On Tuesday, current President Ilham Aliyev won his fourth presidential election with 86 percent of the vote and 74.5 percent of voter turnout. The election was boycotted by main opposition parties because of a “crackdown on dissent” in which Human Rights Watch said the voters had no “viable choice.” The election was supposed to occur on October 7, but snap elections were called by Aliyev for April 11 to allegedly hinder a “clash” of elections for the president and parliament in 2025. Comment: Aliyev was elected president in 2003 just before his father, the previous president, died. Since he became president, Aliyev has removed term limits from the presidency and extended terms from five to seven years. (Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Foreign Policy, Reuters)


HUNGARY: Current prime minister and ruling party reelected for third time

  HUNGARY Current prime minister and ruling party reelected for third

On Sunday, current Prime Minister Viktor Orban and ruling party, Fidesz, won their third parliamentary elections. The parliament won a two-thirds majority in what some citizens are calling a “free but unfair” election. The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe monitored the elections and reported that although there were “a wide range of political options,” the political arena was “constricted.” Some party leaders and candidates failed to secure enough votes and resigned after the election, including Gabor Vona, leader of the Jobbik party. Comment: After winning the election, Orban followed campaign promises by announcing plans to restrict migration, including limiting organizations that assist migrants. (DW, The Guardian, Reuters)

Researched/Written by Daniel Boerger


This week in the Middle East & North Africa

ALGERIA: Military plane crash kills 257 people

ALGERIA A military plane crash kills 257 people  

On Wednesday, Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika declared three days of national mourning after 257 people died in the country’s worst plane crash in history. The plane crashed shortly after taking off from the Boufarik air base between Algiers and the city of Blida. Ten of those killed were crew members, according to state-run radio, Algérie. Algerian TV station Ennahar reported that the plane was a Soviet-era Ilyushin and showed images of smoke rising from the aircraft’s fuselage. Comment: Wednesday’s plane crash was the deadliest in the world since 2014 when 298 people died when a Malaysian Airlines jet was shot down over Ukraine. (Aljazeera, BBC, CNN)


LIBYA: Libyan strongman Khalifa Haftar ‘in a coma’ at Paris hospital

  LIBYA Libyan strongman Khalifa Haftar 'in a coma' at Paris hospital

On Wednesday, the commander of the national army in eastern Libya Khalifa, General Haftar, was rushed to the Jordanian capital of Amman after losing consciousness and was later transferred to a Paris hospital, according to FRANCE 24’s Libya correspondent. A spokesman for the Libyan National Army initially denied the reports, but has since declined to comment. Comment: General Haftar won the backing of Egypt, the UAE, and Russia by presenting himself as a stabilizing force in Libya who could be relied on to confront Islamist factions in the country’s east. Observers think his death or incapacitation would further scramble the chaotic politics of Libya, which have been in flux since the overthrow of longtime dictator Muammar Gaddafi in 2011. (Aljazeera, France 24, Telegraph)


SYRIA: Israeli airstrike hits Syrian airbase in Homs province


On Monday, missiles struck a Syrian airbase in the Homs province in Syria, state media reported, with Russia and Syria blaming Israel for carrying out the attack. Two Israeli F-15s, using Lebanese airspace, fired eight missiles at the T-4 military airbase, the Russian military said, but offered no further information. The attack at the airbase, located 25 miles west of Palmyra, killed and wounded several people, according to the Syrian state news agency, SANA. Comment: Israel has previously targeted “Iranian targets” inside of Syria. On February 10, an Israeli air raid targeted an ammunition warehouse at the T-4 military airport. Israel’s military claimed earlier this year, according to the Times of Israel, that Damascus had allowed Iran’s Revolutionary Guard to operate the T-4 military site. (Aljazeera, Haaretz, The Guardian)

Researched/Written by Mohamed Ismail


This week in South Asia

AFGHANISTAN / PAKISTAN: Pakistani Prime Minister calls on Afghan Taliban to join peace talks

On Friday, the Pakistani Prime Minister’s office released a statement urging the Afghan Taliban to accept Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s latest offer for direct peace talks without further delay. In February, despite ongoing attacks, President Ghani offered to reopen talks with the Afghan Taliban without preconditions – offering a ceasefire, a prisoner exchange from both sides of the conflict, and to recognize them as a political party. The statement follows the Prime Minister’s visit to Pakistan’s northwestern neighbor where the two sides discussed counter-terrorism, peace talks, and border violations. The statement also expressed that, “they agreed that there was no military solution to the ongoing Afghan conflict and that the political solution was the best way forward.” Comment: The Taliban have not responded to President Ghani’s offer or the statement released by Pakistan. The previous attempt at direct peace talks involving the U.S., China, Afghanistan, and Pakistan fell apart in 2015 after news of the death of then Taliban chief, Mullah Muhammad Omar, leaked to the press. (Dawn, The Nation, Al Jazeera, The Washington Post)


BANGLADESH: Tens of thousands protest job quota system

BANGLADESH Protests against job quota system  

On Wednesday, tens of thousands of college students and jobseekers gathered in cities across Bangladesh in response to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s statement on the same day to seek the abolishment of the job quota system. The Prime Minister’s statement comes after heavy criticism following changes made to the quota system by the government to set aside 30 percent of civil service jobs for the families of veterans of the 1971 independence war and 26 percent for minority or disadvantaged groups. This leaves 44 percent of the jobs for college graduates and other job seekers. Some of the requests from the protestors include: significantly reducing the quota percentage to 10 percent, the introduction of an age limit in government jobs, a review of quota system in government recruitment process, and stopping job seekers from taking quota benefits more than once. Comment: Ninety-eight percent of the Bangladesh population are ethnic Bengalis, and the remaining two percent is made up of diverse indigenous groups. Since Sunday, protests against the quota system have intensified with violent behavior reportedly coming from both police and protestors. (The Bangladesh Today, bdnews24, The Daily Star, Channel NewsAsia)


INDIA: School bus crash kills 30

  INDIA School bus crash leaves 30 dead

On Monday, a school bus taking students home skidded off of a cliff and crashed into a deep ravine in the Himalayan foothills located in Himachal Pradesh state. According to police, 27 children – some as young as 10 years old – two teachers, and the driver of the bus died. Twelve injured passengers were rushed to the hospital and most of them are in critical condition. A senior local police officer stated that an investigation into the reasons for the accident will be conducted, and the state government announced that the families of the deceased will be compensated with USD 7,700 (500,000 rupees). The government is also implementing a rule requiring every vehicle carrying school children to have a driver with a minimum of five years’ experience and no record of traffic offenses. Comment: Latest government data shows that India has some of the world’s deadliest roads with approximately 150,000 car accident related deaths reported in 2015. (The Times of India 1, 2, Al Jazeera, The Guardian, The New York Times)

Researched/Written by Pamela Mhute

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