PSR: July 6, 2018

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June 30 – July 6

This week in:

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


This week in Sub-Saharan Africa

MALAWI: Opposition party calls for presidential resignation amid escalating corruption charges


On Monday, the Malawi Congress Party joined numerous civil society organizations in calling for the resignation of President Peter Mutharika amid mounting accusations of corruption following an investigation by the Anti-Corruption Bureau. The latest round of allegations assert that the president illegally benefitted from a USD 3.9 million police food supply contract with the private firm Pioneer Investments. Comment: Mutharika repeatedly denied any unlawful activity, calling the accusations “fake news.” The president further stated that these allegations are attempts by his opposition to smear him ahead of May 2019 national elections. (Nyasa Times, Reuters, BBC)


MALI: Third attack in three days leaves four dead and dozens wounded


On Sunday, a suicide car bomb killed four civilians and injured 31 more in an attack in the northern city of Gao. Among the wounded were eight French soldiers who were out patrolling in an armored vehicle when a car exploded directly beside them. A Mali-based al-Qaeda affiliate claimed responsibility for the bombing. Comment: This act of violence is the latest in a series of extremist attacks targeting military forces in the increasingly unstable nation. Rising security concerns are sure to be a major issue in the impending presidential elections slated to take place July 29. (AP, Reuters, Al Jazeera, VOA)


REGIONAL: African heads of state congregate to reflect on regional concerns


On Monday, the 31st African Union (AU) summit concluded in Nouakchott, Mauritania, where dozens of African leaders gathered to discuss an array of issues plaguing the continent. Talk of the ongoing crises in South Sudan, Libya, Somalia, and Mali dominated the conference, as mounting concerns over security and corruption took center stage. Chairman of the AU and Rwandan President Paul Kagame noted that five additional nations agreed to join the African Continental Free Trade Area. Comment: French President Emmanuel Macron also attended the conference, meeting with African officials on the topic of countering violent extremism. Jihadists recently targeted French soldiers with a string of violent attacks in neighboring Mali. (Daily Maverick, Africanews, France24, Washington Post)

                                                                                             Researched/Written by Matan Ayash

Symposiums - 27.03.18

This week in the Americas & Caribbean

 HONDURAS: First lady visits migrant detention centers in U.S.


On Monday and Tuesday, the Honduran first lady Ana García Carías visited an immigration-processing center in McAllen, Texas. She toured the center with Honduran officials from the child migrant task force she leads. Speaking to the press, the first lady urged Hondurans to remain in their country as the government looks for possible solutions to support them at home. The trip intended to “verify the treatment of Honduran children,” and the first lady confirmed that child separation from their parents has ended. Comment: The trip follows President Trump’s executive order to end child separation in immigration-processing centers, and the end of the temporary Honduran protection status in the United States. Honduras remains among the top five countries from which undocumented immigrants enter the United States. (CNN, telesur, New York Times)


MEXICO: Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador wins presidential election


On Sunday, leftist candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador of the Morena party won Mexico’s presidential election with more than 53 percent of the vote, while Ricardo Anaya Cortés followed with approximately 22 percent of the vote. The former mayor of Mexico City promised to address corruption and will work to remain in NAFTA. He also vowed to “pursue prudent economic policies and the independence of the central bank.” Comment: Lopez Obrador obtained the largest percent of an electoral vote during a presidential election in Mexico since the 1980s. The Morena party may also win majorities in both chambers of Congress, according to Reuters. (Reuters, BBC, Al Jazeera, CNN)    


REGIONAL: Vice President Pence visits Ecuador as part of Latin America tour


On June 28, United States Vice President Mike Pence visited Ecuador’s President Lenin Moreno at the government palace in Quito. As part of a Latin America tour, Pence praised Ecuador for “warming relations” between the two countries and urged Ecuador and Latin American allies to isolate the Maduro regime in Venezuela. Pence and Moreno also agreed to “exchange information regarding drug trafficking and international organized crime.” Restoring U.S. and Ecuadorian trade privileges was another top priority during the visit. Comment: The visit follows Venezuela’s reelection of Nicholas Maduro in May. The U.S. called for the suspension of the elections, and placed sanctions on Venezuela the next day to prevent greater Latin America instability. (Washington Post, New York Times, Reuters)

                                                                                             Researched/Written by Abigail Gress


This week in East Asia & Pacific

INDONESIA: Crackdown on Indonesian LGBT community fueling HIV crisis


On Monday, Human Rights Watch (HRW) published a 70-page report titled “Scared in Public and Now No Privacy: Human Rights and Public Health Impacts of Indonesia’s Anti-LGBT Moral Panic” which asserted that the crackdown against Indonesia’s LGBT population is fueling an increase in HIV cases. Police raids have frequently targeted areas popular among the community, including saunas, nightclubs, and hair salons. As a result, at-risk individuals have not sought out HIV treatment, and the raids have prevented outreach groups from meeting people at these popular hangout spots to provide preventative medication, contraceptives, or counseling. Comment: HRW LGBT rights researcher Kyle Knight has assessed that the national government’s failure to address anti-LGBT moral panic has severe consequences for public health. (Strait Times, Human Rights Watch, Washington Post)


KOREA: North Korea and South Korea reopen maritime communication channel


On Sunday, the South Korean navy successfully contacted a North Korean patrol boat via the maritime communication channel for the first time in a decade, according to South Korea’s Defense Ministry. The ministry said that this communication channel reopened due to agreements between the two counties to “diffuse military tensions and prevent unexpected confrontations.” At a generals’ meeting on June 14, both sides agreed to restore the communication channel to support naval transit and prevent armed conflict, especially in areas such as the Yellow Sea where both nations have drawn different maritime border lines. Comment: The two nations used maritime connections from 2004 to 2008. (Korea Joongang Daily, Reuters, Yonhap News Agency)


PHILIPPINES: Mayor known for strong anti-drug stance shot dead


On Monday, an unknown shooter killed Tanauan City Mayor Antonio Halili during the mayor’s singing of the national anthem at a weekly flag-raising ceremony for government officials. Halili, a well-known advocate for Duterte’s anti-drug campaign, became especially notorious for parading suspected drug dealers through the streets in a “walk of shame.” However, Halili may have been involved in illegal drugs himself, according to a statement President Duterte gave at the anniversary ceremony for Maasin City. Comment: The shooter is still at large, and on Tuesday, General Tinio’s Mayor Ferdinand Bote also died from a shooting – it is unclear if the shootings are connected. Senator Joseph Ejercito called these assassinations a “black eye” in the face of economic development because it may deter businesses from working in the Philippines. (The Philippine Star 1, 2 , CNN Philippines, Reuters)

                                                                                          Researched/Written by Nida Kuruvilla


This week in Europe & Central Asia

GERMANY: Merkel and Seehofer reach compromise on immigration dispute


On Monday, Chancellor Angela Merkel reached an immigration compromise with her Interior Minister Horst Seehofer that preserved her coalition government. Under the deal, Merkel’s Christian Democrats (CDU) and Seehofer’s Christian Social Union (CSU) agreed to tighten controls at the German-Austrian border and build “transit centers” for asylum seekers. The parties had been at odds for weeks after Seehofer insisted that the government turn away migrants who have sought asylum elsewhere in the EU before coming to Germany, a move Merkel originally rejected. Comment: Seehofer offered his resignation as interior minister and leader of the CSU on Sunday, but said he would remain in both positions after the talks ended Monday. The third party in Merkel’s coalition, the Social Democrats, must approve the new policy before it becomes law. (DW, BBC, NY Times, AP)


POLAND: Supreme Court justices defy new retirement law 


On Wednesday, chief Supreme Court Justice Malgorzata Gersdorf defied a government effort to purge the court and showed up to work, surrounded by supporters and anti-government protesters. At midnight, the government forced Gersdorf and almost two dozen other judges to retire by putting into effect a law that lowered the mandatory retirement age for judges from 70 to 65. The Supreme Court is in disarray, with judges saying that the law is unconstitutional and refusing to recognize their dismissal and government officials saying they are no longer allowed to hear cases; Gersdorf said she intends to serve until the end of her mandated six-year term in 2020. Comment: Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki defended the law, saying in a speech to the European Parliament Wednesday that “every EU country has the right to develop its judicial system according to its own traditions.” Morawiecki‘s Law and Justice party said that the law is part of larger government efforts to fight corruption. (Radio Poland, BBC, AP, NY Times)


UNITED KINGDOM: Two in critical condition after exposure to nerve gas 


Two British citizens fell critically ill Saturday after being exposed to the same nerve gas, Novichok, that was used to poison a Russian ex-spy, Sergei Skripal, and his daughter four months ago. The two were hospitalized after visiting the town of Salisbury, the same town where Skripal and his daughter were poisoned in March. Police do not believe that the pair was intentionally targeted. Comment: Police do not know if there is any link between the new case and the previous attack. Britain’s defense laboratory confirmed that the toxin was Novichok, but are still unsure if it is from the same batch that almost killed the former spy and his daughter. (BBC, Reuters, AP, NY Times)

                                                                                               Researched/Written by Abby Fram


This week in the Middle East & North Africa

ISRAEL / PALESTINE: Knesset freezes funds for families of Palestinian attackers


Israel’s parliament passed a law on Monday to withhold hundreds of millions of dollars in funds from the Palestinian Authority (PA) to penalize it for its payments to families of Palestinian prisoners in Israel, and of those killed while carrying out attacks. The stipends, which total approximately USD 330 million, come from taxes that Israel collects on the PA’s behalf under previous interim peace agreements. PA officials condemned the Knesset’s decision, with chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat calling it “a very dangerous decision that amounts to the cancellation of the Palestinian Authority and is piracy and theft.” Comment: The Knesset, Israel’s parliament, has long pushed for Palestine to stop giving out the stipends, saying that the money encourages violence against Israel. The PA says that the families of those involved in attacks make up only a small percentage of the fund’s beneficiaries. (AP, NY Times, Haaretz, BBC)

                                                                                               Researched/Written by Abby Fram


LIBYA: Haftar recaptures two eastern seaports


On Monday, Khalifa Haftar and his Libyan National Army recaptured the al-Hariga and Zweitina seaports, resulting in the halt of all oil exports.. Haftar’s forces said that “no tanker will be allowed to dock” without the permission of rival National Oil Corporation (NOC) based in Benghazi, which stands against the UN-backed government in Tripoli and the government’s NOC. This recapture, along with cuts to gas and other petrochemical exports, equals a USD 67.4 million per day increase for Libya’s oil-dependent public revenues. Comment: In a joint statement, the United States, Britain, France and Italy expressed concern for this transfer of power to a “an entity other than the legitimate National Oil Corporation.” This is the continuation of a conflict dating back to 2011, when a NATO-backed revolt pushed Muammar Ghaddafi out of power and led to his eventual death. (Al Jazeera, Bloomberg, Reuters

                                                                                            Researched/Written by Nida Kuruvilla


YEMEN: Hodeidah offensive halted in lieu of UN peace efforts


On Sunday, the United Arab Emirates Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash announced a halt in its military campaign against port city of Hodeidah. Gargash says that the pause comes with intentions of negotiations for “unconditional” Houthi withdrawal from the strategic port city by UN envoy Martin Griffiths. In effect since June 23, the ceasefire is awaiting the results of Griffiths’ visit to the Houthi-held capital city of Sanaa. Comment: On June 12, Saudi Arabia and the UAE launched an offensive to regain control of the port city. The Hodeidah port serves as a main supply line for Houthi rebels and is essential for the delivery of aid to the Yemeni people. (Al Jazeera, Middle East Eye, Reuters, Twitter)

                                                                                          Researched/Written by Abigail Gress


This week in South Asia

AFGHANISTAN: Islamic State bombing kills 19; minorities targeted


On Sunday, a bomber attacked a delegation of minority communities travelling to meet President Ghani at the governor’s residence in the city of Jalalabad, killing 19 people and injuring 20 others. On Monday, the Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack on “polytheists.” The victims were all Afghan Sikhs and Hindus and included Sikh leader Avtar Singh Khalsa, who had planned to run for parliamentary elections in October. Comment: Sikhs and Hindus in Afghanistan face violent discrimination with little political representation in the conservative Muslim nation. A majority of the groups have migrated to India in recent decades, leaving only a few thousand Sikhs and Hindus in Afghanistan. (Haaretz, The Independent, The New York Times)


BANGLADESH: Zia denied bail in Comilla murder case 


On Sunday, the secretary general of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) announced that former Prime Minister Khaleda Zia is critically ill. The imprisoned opposition leader suffered a mild stroke with multiple complications and is currently unable to walk. The BNP is urging the government to transfer Zia to a private hospital with better facilities than public ones. In response, opposition leaders challenged the legitimacy of Zia’s illness, deeming it a sympathy tactic for the upcoming elections. Comment: Zia is a political rival of incumbent Sheikh Hasina and has been in prison since February on five charges of embezzlement. BNP recently announced that it will not participate in the elections without her. (Economic Times, The Independent, Business Standard)


INDIA:  Mob provokes by child abduction rumors kills five tribal men

On Sunday, a mob lynched five men to death in a village in Maharashtra in response to child abduction rumors circulated on WhatsApp. The victims belonged to a nomadic tribe passing through the village that was rumored to abduct children from settled communities., When some villagers found the victims talking to a young girl, they began to question them and then beat them to death. The mob also injured police officials who tried to intervene. Comment: Mob violence has killed eight in the last week and 30 this year. The killings are based off of WhatsApp rumors and unsourced videos depicting certain groups, mostly migrants, as child kidnappers. Police and authorities are struggling to control and dispel such rumors. (The Guardian, BBC, CBS News) (BBC, Reuters, Times of India)

                                                                                            Researched/Written by Kritika Kapoor

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