PSR: June 22, 2018

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This week in:

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


This week in Sub-Saharan Africa

CAMEROON: Government pledges assistance amid separatist clashes


On Wednesday, Cameroonian Prime Minister Philémon Yang presented a government report at a conference in Yaounde, claiming that Anglophone separatists have killed 81 security force members and over 100 civilians since violence erupted in late 2017. The report called for a USD 21 million humanitarian assistance plan to help the thousands of people displaced throughout the ongoing crisis between Anglophones and the government. The government released this information on the heels of an Amnesty International report accusing both sides of human rights violations during the past year. Comment: The crisis began in late 2016 when English speakers staged protests calling for institutional reform and increased sovereignty. The protests rapidly escalated to violence, resulting in the displacement of hundreds of thousands of people. (The Guardian, News24, Reuters, Amnesty International, International Crisis Group)


ERITREA: President to send peace delegation to Ethiopia


On Wednesday, Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki announced that he will dispatch a delegation to Addis Ababa in order to discuss future steps with his Eritrean neighbor. In a speech during Martyrs’ Day celebrations in Eritrea’s capital city of Asmara, Afwerki stated that he has noticed “positive signals” from Ethiopia in recent weeks and that he is ready to engage in meaningful dialogue with his country’s longstanding rival. Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed welcomed the announcement, which was the first response from Eritrea since Ethiopia’s June 5 declaration of its readiness to accept and implement the 2000 Algiers Agreement. Comment: The last time Eritrea sent a delegation to neighboring Ethiopia was in 1998, right before a bloody border war broke out between the nations. The violent clashes ultimately led to a 16-year stalemate; as a result, Eritrea became one of the world’s most closed off and authoritarian countries throughout that period. (Addis Standard, Addis Fortune, Reuters, AP)


NIGERIA: Attacks leave 31 dead and dozens more injured


On Saturday, suspected Boko Haram jihadists killed 31 and injured at least 40 more in the northeastern town of Damboa, located in the state of Borno. Two suicide bombers detonated explosives in the Shuwari and Abachari districts before additional militants launched rocket-propelled grenades at the assembling crowds of people who were reportedly returning from Eid al-Fitr celebrations. The bombings occurred only hours after Lt. Gen. Tukur Buratai stated that it was safe for Borno residents to return to their homes. Comment: On May 1, government officials began a four-month military operation to drive out Boko Haram from Borno and the surrounding areas. Current President Muhammadu Buhari won the election in 2015 largely due to his promise to defeat Boko Haram, but security has proven to be a major challenge throughout his tenure. (AFP, BBC, Reuters, Vanguard)

                                                                                             Researched/Written by Matan Ayash

Symposiums - 27.03.18

This week in the Americas & Caribbean

COLOMBIA: Ivan Duque wins runoff election


On Sunday, conservative candidate Ivan Duque won Colombia’s runoff presidential election. Duque won 54 percent of the vote with more than 10 million votes, while leftist candidate Gustavo Petro obtained eight million votes, 42 percent of the vote. 53 percent of Colombia’s eligible voters participated in the election. While Duque ran on the campaign promise to reform the current peace accord with FARC, specifically elements that “affect the rule of law,” he also promises to cut taxes and support the oil and coal sector to foster economic prosperity.   Comment: Colombia’s presidential election headed to a runoff after candidates failed to win 50 percent of the vote in May. Duque will become one of Colombia’s youngest presidents at 41 years old, while Marta Lucia Ramirez will become the first female Vice President in Colombia’s history. (BBC, telesur, Reuters, Al Jazeera, Fortune)


UNITED STATES: Trump signs executive order ending immigrant family separation 


On Wednesday, President Trump signed an executive order ending illegal immigrant family separation on the U.S.-Mexico border. This order amends the Trump administration’s previous “zero tolerance” immigration policy, which received bipartisan backlash for separating children from their families. In an address to the public, President Trump reiterated that the United States would keep “strong borders”, but will begin to detain families together rather than separate them. The order directs Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen “to maintain custody of detained families during criminal proceedings,” Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis to construct facilities to hold detainees, and Attorney General Jeff Sessions to “prioritize the adjudication of cases” of detained families. Comment: Public backlash comes after the media reported nearly 2,000 children being separated from their families and detained in cages. The policy is part of the Trump administrations “zero-tolerance” policy on immigration, which prosecutes all people illegally entering the United States. (PolitiFact, AP News, Brookings, ABC News, NPR)


VENEZUELA: Nightclub stampede kills 17


On Sunday, a teargas canister detonated in the Caracas nightclub ”El Paraíso” resulting in a stampede that killed 17. Partygoers involved in a brawl set off the canister, which caused widespread panic and a stampede of the approximately 500 guests in attendance. One witness reported that the canister detonated inside the bathroom and one of the club’s doors was unable to open. Comment: Partygoers at the nightclub were celebrating their high school graduation. According to Interior Minister Nestor Reverol, Venezuelan police detained eight people, two of which are believed to have detonated the canister. (CNN, Time, New York Times, Washington Post)

                                                                                             Researched/Written by Abigail Gress


This week in East Asia & Pacific

JAPAN: Princess visits Russia to advocate for better relations


On Tuesday, Japanese Princess Hisako Takamodo visited Russia to support Japan in the World Cup and encourage positive relations between Russia and Japan through cross-cultural exchanges. The following day she stressed that 2018 should be celebrated as “the year of Japan in Russia and the year of Russia in Japan,” according to an official translation of her comments. Ties between the nations strained this year when Moscow deployed war planes to a group of disputed islands north of Japan in response to the implementation of an American missile system there. Comment. Russia has had jurisdiction of the islands since the end of World War II, but the persistent disagreement over rightful ownership is why Russia and Japan never signed a formal peace treaty at the end of the war. Takamodo is the first member of the royal family to visit Russia since 1916. (Channel News Asia, Reuters, TASS Russian News Agency)


MALAYSIA: Prime minister meets with SCMP, talks South China Sea


On Tuesday, the South China Morning Post published an exclusive interview with Prime Minister Mahathir in which he recommended replacing all war ships in the South China Sea with smaller boats to prevent any chance of an armed conflict. He said that the Association of Southeast Asian Nations should oversee patrols in the South China Sea since all member-states are all located in the region, although other nations can join the joint boat patrol as long as they do not use armed ships. He cited the Strait of Malacca, which runs between Indonesia and Malaysia, as an example of the economic benefits of having open waters. Comment: Critics of Malaysia’s former Prime Minister Najib Razak accused him of being “too soft” on the South China Sea issue. When interviews asked Mahathir about his own South China Sea policy, he said Malaysia would continue to build up its own islands in the disputed waters. (South China Morning Post, The Star Online, Zee News)


REGIONAL: Kim Jong-un meets with Xi Jinping to discuss plans for the peninsula


On Tuesday, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un met with Chinese President Xi Jinping to discuss how to ensure a peaceful future for the Korean peninsula. Both leaders attended the two-day meeting in Beijing to develop a mutual understanding on issues important for both China and North Korea. While denuclearization is one such issue, Kim also visited an agriculture science center in China on Wednesday to move forward on North Korea’s economic development. Comment: This is the third time Kim has visited China in 2018 and is the first visit since the peace summit last week between North Korea and the United States. Xi praised Kim, telling China’s official Xinhua news agency that the “DPRK’s socialist cause has entered a new stage in history.” (Channel News Asia. Reuters, South China Morning Post)

                                                                                          Researched/Written by Nida Kuruvilla


This week in Europe & Central Asia

GERMANY: Merkel delays deal on migration dispute


Chancellor Angela Merkel was able to prevent her coalition government from splintering Monday over a migration disagreement, making a deal with Interior Minister Horst Seehofer to give the country more time to come to a solution. Seehofer, who opposes Merkel’s open-door policy of migration, agreed to wait until an upcoming EU summit to try and find a solution with other EU countries before taking on any unilateral asylum reform. Seehofer originally proposed turning some migrants away at Germany’s border, an idea Merkel rejected. Comment: Seehofer is head of the Christian Social Union (CSU), the sister party of Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU); the migration dispute between the parties comes just three months after the coalition took office. (DW 1, 2, AP, BBC, Reuters)


HUNGARY: Parliament passes law banning support for migrants 


On Wednesday, Hungary’s parliament passed a package of bills that criminalize support given to asylum seekers in a 160-18 vote. The law allows criminal penalties of up to a year in prison for those convicted of aiding asylum seekers and “facilitating illegal immigration.” Parliament also passed a constitutional amendment stating that “alien populations” cannot settle in Hungary if they traveled through countries where they were not persecuted or at risk of persecution. Comment: Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s government dubbed the bill the “Stop Soros law,” after the Hungarian billionaire philanthropist George Soros, who Orban has accused of encouraging mass immigration to Hungary. Many human rights organizations criticized the Hungarian government for passing the bill, with Amnesty International calling the laws “draconian.” (Daily News Hungary, AP, BBC, Reuters)


UNITED KINGDOM: May’s government passes flagship Brexit bill 


On Wednesday, Parliament passed the EU Withdrawal Bill after Prime Minister Theresa May fought off a last-minute rebellion by pro-EU Tory party lawmakers. The Tories originally rejected the law because they felt that Parliament did not have enough say in any Brexit deal, but eventually backed down and supported the legislation. Comment: Pro-EU legislators favor retaining close ties with the EU, in case any deal goes wrong and the country has to go back to the negotiating table; May’s conservative minority government opposes this and wants a clean break from the bloc. (BBC, AP, Reuters 1, 2)

                                                                                               Researched/Written by Abby Fram


This week in the Middle East & North Africa

IRAQ: Supreme Court endorses recount of recent election


On Thursday, Iraq’s top court ruled in favor of holding a manual recount of votes cast in the May 12 parliamentary elections. This ruling follows allegations of electoral fraud and is a surprising triumph for populist Shia leader, Muqtada al-Sadr. In addition to upholding the parliament’s decision for a recount, the court also ruled that the cancellation of votes from displaced or abroad Iraqi citizens is unconstitutional and that the ballots should be counted accordingly. Comment: The elections commission and parties that faired well in the original vote oppose the court’s decision, but the ruling is final and cannot be appealed. The recount may hurt Sadr’s prospects of forming a successful coalition to take charge of the Iraqi government. (Reuters, Al Jazeera, The New Arab

                                                                                             Researched/Written by Matan Ayash


ISRAEL / GAZA: Israeli jets carry out strikes in Gaza


Israeli warplanes struck Hamas positions in Gaza on Wednesday in response to Palestinian rocket fire, in the largest flare up of violence between the two sides in weeks. The Israeli military reported that Palestinians fired 45 rockets and mortar shells in the early morning, several of which were intercepted. In response, Israeli jets attacked 25 targets linked to Hamas in the Gaza strip; no casualties were reported on either side. Comment: This spate of violence comes a day after Israel struck nine targets in Gaza in retaliation for the launching of incendiary kites by Palestinians. Hamas has praised the most recent attacks, although it did not take credit for the rockets. (Haaretz, AP, Al Jazeera, CNN)

                                                                                               Researched/Written by Abby Fram


YEMEN: Pro-government forces storm rebel-held airport


On Tuesday, pro-government forces stormed the main compound of the Houthi-held Hudaida airport in the port city of Hodeidah. The Saudi-led coalition, supported by airstrikes, encountered Houthi tank, artillery and mortar fire once inside the airport. According to the UAE state news agency Wam, pro-government forces captured a significant portion of the airport and dozens of Houthi died or were wounded. Comment: The capture of the airport is part of a larger Saudi-led effort to gain control of the strategic port city of Hodeidah. The port is essential for the delivery of aid and acts as a line of supply for the Houthi rebels. (Al Jazeera 1, 2, Reuters, BBC, CBS News)

                                                                                          Researched/Written by Abigail Gress


This week in South Asia

AFGHANISTAN: Taliban resumes fighting as Ramadan ends


On Sunday, a Taliban spokesperson in Herat rejected the government’s proposal to extend a three-day ceasefire, stating they had only agreed to the truce in order to allow civilians to celebrate Eid, not in response to the government’s own ceasefire. They ordered all militants to resume fighting and reiterated their preconditions for future talks: direct negotiations with the U.S. and the exit of foreign actors from Afghanistan. This comes after two days of celebration, marked by photos on social media of Afghan civilians, officials, and Taliban militants embracing each other and taking selfies. Comment: The government’s ceasefire is slated to end on June 30. The Taliban’s June 9 announcement of a ceasefire brought a brief respite from its spring offensive that has killed hundreds of officials and policemen since April. (BBC, Al Jazeera, The Washington Post)


BANGLADESH: Imprisoned former prime minister ill; government officials challenge claims 


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: BJP ends coalition with regional party in Kashmir

On Tuesday, the general secretary of the incumbent Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in New Delhi announced BJP’s exit from its coalition of four years with the regional People’s Democratic Party (PDP) in Jammu and Kashmir. With the goal of protecting national “integrity and security,” the party called for federal control over the state that has experienced a surge in violence since 2016. Following this announcement, the state’s chief minister, Mehbooba Mufti of the regional People’s Democratic Party denounced this move and resigned. Comment: Jammu and Kashmir will enter into governor’s rule pending reelections or the formation of a new coalition. The decades old insurgency in the contested state has killed over 130 people this year, prompting the UN’s human rights office to call for investigations. (BBC, Reuters, Times of India)

                                                                                            Researched/Written by Kritika Kapoor

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