PSR: August 3, 2018

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July 28 – August 3
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This week in Sub-Saharan Africa

DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF THE CONGO: Former Vice President Bemba returns after imprisonment


On Wednesday, tens of thousands of supporters welcomed former Vice President Jean-Pierre Bemba back to the Congo. In May, the International Criminal Court (ICC) overturned convictions of war crimes against Bemba following a decade in prison. Upon his return, the current opposition leader proceeded to officially file his candidacy for the upcoming December elections with the electoral commission. Comment: Due to his widespread popularity, Bemba’s presence in the Congo is likely to invigorate the opposition ahead of the impending December polls. As a result, he is anticipated to be a serious contender for the presidency, a post that Joseph Kabila has held since 2001. (The Herald, Reuters, The Guardian)

MALI: Widespread violence overshadows nationwide vote


On Sunday, elections took place in Mali following months of escalating aggression and instability in the country. Despite the deployment of 30,000 security forces on election day, acts of violence were still pervasive in northern and central Mali. According to reports from the Ministry of Territorial Administration, suspected Islamist militants rendered 644 polling stations unusable by attacking election officials and setting polling stations ablaze. Comment: Amidst the chaos and uncertainty, main opposition candidate Soumaila Cisse stated that he received enough votes to move onto a second round runoff with incumbent Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, which would take place if no candidate was able to secure 51 percent of the vote. Official election results have yet to be reported as the votes are still being tallied. (Reuters, France24, New York Times)

ZIMBABWE: Incumbent Mnangagwa victorious following deadly opposition protests

On Thursday, President Emmerson Mnangagwa claimed victory by a slim margin in the  poll over opposition leader Nelson Chamisa, earning 50.8 percent of the vote in the contentious election. On Wednesday, opposition riots erupted in the capital of Harare amid widespread accusations of foul play by the ruling ZANU-PF party. Security forces opened fire to disperse the protesters, resulting in the deaths of at least six opposition supporters. The opposition is widely expected to challenge the outcome of Zimbabwe’s first post-Mugabe election. Comment: The run up to the nationwide vote was largely nonviolent, yet international observers state that the months leading up to the election were “marred by irregularities” such as media manipulation, voter intimidation, and ballot fraud. Crippling sanctions on Zimbabwe are unlikely to be lifted if the EU and other global actors do not believe that a free and fair election took place. (The Herald, The Citizen, BBC, Reuters, AP)

                                                                        Researched/Written by Matan Ayash

This week in the Americas & Caribbean

COLOMBIA: Nine killed in gun attack at billiard hall


On Monday, nine people died at a billiard hall in the village of El Tarra after armed men on motorcycles stormed the building and opened fire on those inside. The village is located within the Norte de Santander province, which has been the center of feuding between rival left-wing rebel groups, as well as a growing presence of right-wing paramilitary groups. Local media said they believed two left-wing rebel groups, the National Liberation Army (ELN) and the Popular Liberation Army (EPL) to be behind the shooting, although both groups published statements denying any involvement. Comment: The region, which borders Venezuela, has been hit by major fighting in recent months, with thousands being displaced as a result. Most groups are vying for control of major drug routes to Venezuela. (Bogota Post, teleSUR, Colombia Reports, BBC)

                                                                         Researched/Written by Abby Fram

NICARAGUA: Humberto Ortega calls on government to disband paramilitary forces


On Friday, Humberto Ortega, the former head of Nicaragua’s military and brother to President Daniel Ortega, made comments on CNN En Espanol urging his brother to disband the pro-government paramilitary forces responsible for the deadly violence in recent months that has resulted in the deaths of at least 300 people. While Humberto Ortega blamed the government for the widespread repression and violence, he refused to directly blame President Ortega. Humberto Ortega vouched for the Catholic Church’s mediation in any dialogue with opposition and said he supports holding an early presidential election. Comment: Earlier this week, President Ortega gave an interview with U.S. news agency Fox News claiming that the paramilitary groups received funding from opposition forces and drug cartels, though he provided no evidence. (Al Jazeera, BBC, Havana Times)


                                                                   Researched/Written by Nida Kuruvilla

UNITED STATES: Anti-immigration group rallies near Mexican consulate in New York City

On Saturday, a group called “Identity Evropa” led an anti-immigration rally near the Mexican consulate, displaying large banners with phrases such as “Stop the invasion, end immigration” and “Build the wall.” On Tuesday, the Mexican foreign minister condemned the rally on Twitter, calling the demonstrators “Racist, ignorant and xenophobic”. Comment: Identity Evropa is a white supremacist organization established in 2016. It claims to be a group of “patriotic Americans” who want to defend identities of European heritage, and who reject mass immigration and globalization.  (Reuters, Wall Street Journal, Identity Evropa, The Hill)

Researched/Written by Kritika Kapoor

This week in East Asia & Pacific

CAMBODIA: Ruling party to form new government after sweeping election victory


On Tuesday, a spokesman from the ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) announced that it will form a new government in the next 60 days as a result of its sweeping victories in Sunday’s election where the CPP won all 125 parliamentary seats. Critics of the election, including the United States and the opposition party the Cambodian National Rescue Party (CNRP), said it was not free or fair as CNRP was dissolved last year. CNRP Vice President Eng Chhay Eang rejected the election results, while the U.S. government called for more restrictive sanctions against Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen and his circle. Comment: While many nations condemned the prime minister and the CPP both before and after the election, China continues to be a consistent political and economic partner for the ruling party. Chinese politicians have urged the international community to support the election results and cooperate with Cambodia. (Cambodia Daily, Reuters, The Phnom Penh Post, VOA Khmer)

INDONESIA: ISIS-affiliated organization declared forbidden


On Tuesday, Judge Aris Bawono officially classifed the ISIS-affiliated Jamaah Ansharut Daulah (JAD) as a forbidden organization operating in the country. The JAD was charged with “widespread terrorism, the loss of lives and destruction of property,” which includes a series of family bombings in Surabaya last May. During the case Zainal Anshori, head of JAD’s East Java chapter and its current leader, represented JAD; there have been no plans to appeal the conviction. Comment: Prosecutors support this decision, which will make it easier for law enforcement to act against the group and will set a precedent of banning all ISIS-affiliated organizations in Indonesia. (Jakarta Globe, Malay Mail, Reuters, The Strait Times)

PHILIPPINES: ISIS-affiliated van bombing kills eleven, injures seven

On Tuesday, the Islamic State (IS) claimed responsibility for a bomb explosion in a van on the southern island of Basilan that killed eleven people and injured seven. The terrorist organization Abu Sayyaf has a strong presence in Basilan; the island was also home to the former leader of ISIS in Southeast Asia before he was killed by Philippine troops last year. Police have not made claims of which, if any groups operating inside the country worked alongside ISIS on the attack. Comment: President Rodrigo Duterte was on a neighboring island over the weekend offering peace talks with several Abu Sayyaf members; he recently signed the Bangsamoro Organic Law which established an autonomous region for minority Muslims, including Basilan residents. (Asia Times, MindaNews, Reuters, The Strait Times)

                                                                     Researched/Written by Nida Kuruvilla

This week in Europe & Central Asia

DENMARK: Ban on face veils goes into effect


On Wednesday, a ban on face veils in public went into effect, sparking protests across the country and reigniting a debate over a law that human rights groups say discriminates against Muslim women. The law, which Danish lawmakers approved in May, does not specifically mention Muslim dress – it states that “anyone who wears a garment that hides the face in public will be punished with a fine.” Protesters argue that Muslim women are the intended target, while supporters of the law say that it encourages integration into Danish society. Comment: The law was presented by the center-right coalition government, which has also passed laws tightening immigration and asylum rules in recent years. Although many who protested the ban Wednesday wore face veils, under the law, protesters who cover their faces while peacefully exercising their right of expression are exempt from the ban. (The Local, NY Times, Reuters, AP)

SLOVAKIA: President says Russian motorcycle gang a security risk


On Tuesday, President Andrej Kiska said that a recently established base in Slovakia for a Russian motorcycle gang with ties to the Kremlin poses a national security risk. The Night Wolves, who helped Russian troops annex the Crimean Peninsula in 2014 and are close to President Vladimir Putin, have begun operating from the base located in Dolna Krupa, Slovakia, along with a local pro-Russia paramilitary group. Kiska says that the existence of the base, which contains old military vehicles and tanks, is “a mockery of the Slovak Republic’s official position on the annexation of Crimea and Russian policies,” he has called on the government to get rid of the compound. Comment: The Night Wolves, who are under U.S. sanctions for their direct involvement in the Ukraine conflict, say they are turning the site into a World War II museum honoring Soviet motorbike units. Slovak police say they are monitoring the group’s activities on the base, but have not yet seen anything illegal. (Spectator, BBC, AP, Radio Free Europe)

TAJIKISTAN: Four cyclists killed in apparent terror attack

On Sunday, a car rammed into a group of seven western tourists on a cycling trip, killing four and injuring the other three. Occupants of the car reportedly got out after hitting the bikers and attempted to stab the victims. The suspects evaded arrest when police arrived, resulting in the death of four and sparking a manhunt for the others; four are now in custody. On Monday, the Islamic state claimed responsibility for the attack. Comment: The Tajikistan government has accused the Islamic Renaissance Party of Tajikistan (IRPT), a banned opposition party, of being behind the attack. Party leaders denied the charge, saying the government was using the incident for political purposes. (Al Jazeera, BBC, AP, NY Times)

                                                                           Researched/Written by Abby Fram

This week in the Middle East & North Africa

IRAQ: Government officials suspended amid continued protests


On Sunday, Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi announced on Twitter the suspension of Iraq’s electricity minister Qassim al-Fahdawi; he also ordered a corruption investigation against the now-former minister. This came a day after Abadi fired five election officials, all of whom were also charged with corruption. Comment: These actions follow months of violent protests, especially in Southern Iraq, over poor public services, power cuts, and rampant corruption. On Friday, the Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani urged the government to fight corruption and diffuse national unrest. (Reuters, The New York Times, Al Jazeera)

                                                                 Researched/Written by Kritika Kapoor  

ISRAEL: IDF kills seven insurgents on Syria border


On Wednesday night, the Israeli military carried out an air strike, killing seven suspected Islamic State (IS) militants who it says had crossed within 200 meters of the Israeli border on the Golan Heights. The militants were reportedly armed with grenades, rifles, and suicide vests. In recent days, forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad retook Syrian territory near the Heights from IS fighters, and it is believed the militants were fleeing this clash en route to attack an Israeli target. Comment: Although Israel and President Assad have been at odds for years, the IDF said Thursday that it saw potentially stabilizing benefits from Assad’s forces winning the Syrian civil war. Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman told reporters he believed the Golan Heights would be more stable under Assad’s rule, saying he believes fewer flare-ups in the area are also in the Syrian president’s interest. (Jerusalem Post, Haaretz, Reuters, BBC)

                                                                         Researched/Written by Abby Fram 

REGIONAL: Houthi group calls for a two-week ceasefire on all Red Sea attacks

On Tuesday, the Yemeni Houthi rebel group said it would be stopping all Red Sea attacks for two weeks beginning August 1 to support peace talks. This statement comes days after Saudi Arabia suspended oil exports through the Red Sea channel as retaliation against earlier Houthi attacks on Saudi crude oil tanks. For the past three years a Saudi-led coalition in Yemen has been fighting the Iranian-backed Houthi movement, which has affected the Bab al-Mandeb, an important trade route for oil tankers. Comment: A source from the Supreme Political Council – the highest political authority in the capital Sana’a – released a statement to MintPress that all attacks have been stopped to promote peace for Yemeni people; however, politicians from Saudi capital Riyadh have encouraged their Western allies to give serious consideration to the threat that the Houthis pose to the region. (Asharq Al-Awsat, MintPress News, Reuters)

                                                                  Researched/Written by Nida Kuruvilla 

This week in South Asia

INDIA: Four million residents missing from citizenship register in Assam

On Monday, a census official released a draft list of citizens within the state of Assam, omitting names of around four million residents out of the 32 million people who submitted documentation to prove citizenship. Critics deemed this move to be a human rights violation that changes the status of mostly Muslims into that of illegal immigrants, as immigrants from bordering Bangladesh are predominantly Muslim. Home Minister Rajnath Singh denied these allegations, claiming that the registration process was impartial and that residents can make objections and re-submit their papers for consideration. Comment: Since the 1980s, Assam has suffered violence resulting from communal tensions between tribal, Muslim, and Hindu residents. It is the only state in India to have a citizenship register; the region experienced a wave of Bangladeshi immigration in the 1970s and more recently because of the Rohingya refugee crisis. (CNN, The Economic Times, Al Jazeera)

NEPAL: Government presents medical education bill following agreement with activists


On Friday, education minister Giriraj Mani Pokharel presented a revised medical education bill before Parliament in Kathmandu. The revision followed a July 26 agreement with medical sector activist Dr. KC Govinda, who was on the 26th day of a hunger strike protesting corruption within the medical education sector. The National Medical Education Bill now includes Govinda’s demands relating to the affiliation of new medical colleges and the general privatization of medical education. Comment: In the past week, thousands of protestors demonstrated against the government’s collusion with medical sector corruption. The main opposition party, the National Congress, organized many of these demonstrations and continues to challenge the bill in Parliament. (The Kathmandu Post, Nepali Times, The Himalayan Times)

PAKISTAN: Protesters reject election results, claim rigging by the military


On Monday, thousands of protestors took to the streets across Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province to protest the results of the July 25 parliamentary elections. Supporters of the Awami National Party (ANP) claim voting was rigged by election officials and armed forces, who were allowed to participate in the counting of ballots. In the city of Charsadda, protestors threw stones at a military convoy. Other demonstrations took place in Sindh, Peshawar, Karachi, and Swat. Comment: The Tehreek-e-Insaaf Pakistan (PTI) party, led by former cricket star Imran Khan, won the most votes in the July 25 elections, though not enough to form a government. In the past week, multiple opposition parties challenged the results. (Gandhara, Dawn, The Express Tribune)

                                                                   Researched/Written by Kritika Kapoor

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