PSR: June 8, 2018

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June 2 – June 8

This week in:

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


This week in Sub-Saharan Africa

ETHIOPIA: Government authorities agree to fully implement Algiers Agreement


On Wednesday, the ruling EPRDF party accepted the findings of the 2002 Eritrea-Ethiopia Boundary Commission (EEBC) report, which stated that Badme and its surrounding territory be granted to Eritrea. Recognition of the commission’s decision overcomes one of the major obstacles to peace between the neighboring states.  Eritrean officials are yet to officially respond to the pronouncement, but have long held that unilateral withdrawal of Ethiopian armed forces from disputed territories is a prerequisite to peace talks. Comment: The 2000 Algiers Agreement officially ceased the deadly two-year border dispute, but Ethiopia’s refusal to recognize the 2002 EEBC resolution resulted in a draining 16-year stalemate between the two nations.  Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed said that normalized relations and economic ties between the longtime rivals would help bring stability to the Horn of Africa.  (Tesfa News, Ethiopian Herald, BBC, Reuters)


MALI: Dozens injured in opposition protests

Mali - dozens  

On Saturday, police fired tear gas at protesters to break up demonstrations in Bamako, resulting in the hospitalization of between 16 and 30 protesters.  Supporters of the opposition called for more transparency in the upcoming elections, believing that current President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita failed to combat youth unemployment or halt increased hostilities in the north.  Keita stated that he fully intends to run for reelection in July.  Comment: Government authorities preemptively attempted to ban Saturday’s march as part of the state of emergency in effect since 2015, after 20 people died in a terrorist attack. The mounting instability casts doubt over whether free and fair elections are realistically possible in the near future.  (Reuters, France24, UN News)


ZIMBABWE: Thousands march for electoral reforms ahead of July elections

  Zimbabwe - thousands

On Tuesday, supporters of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) rallied in Harare to demand a more credible election process from the ruling ZANU-PF party.  Protesters accused President Emmerson Mnangagwa of using soldiers to campaign for his reelection, while government officials have repeatedly denied these allegations.  MDC leader Nelson Chamisa stated that failure to meet his party’s conditions could prevent elections from taking place.  Comment: The upcoming election is of particular importance because it is the first countrywide vote since longtime leader Robert Mugabe was forced to resign last November.  In an attempt to ensure a fair vote, the EU will deploy election monitors to Zimbabwe for the first time in 16 years.  (Daily Maverick, AP, Reuters, The Telegraph)

                                                                                    Researched/Written by Matan Ayash

Symposiums - 27.03.18

This week in the Americas & Caribbean

CUBA: Commission established to discuss constitutional reforms


On Saturday, Cuba’s National Assembly approved a commission headed by former president Raul Castro to debate possible constitutional reforms.  The reforms intend to “provide legal backing to the island’s economic and social opening” while maintaining the country’s socialism.  Expected reform topics include presidential age, term limits, and rights for Cuba’s LGBT community.  After a new constitutional draft is ready, it will go to parliament and the “broader population” for discussion before it is submitted as a referendum.  Comment: The draft by the commission is expected to be the “broadest update” to the constitution.  With the commission, former President Raul Castro continues to “lead the major decisions on the present and future of the nation,” according to current President Miguel Diaz-Canel.  (BBC, CBC News, telesur, Reuters


GUATEMALA: Volcano eruption kills 75

Guatemala - volcano  

On Sunday, the “Volcano of Fire” located 25 miles from Guatemala City erupted killing 75 people.  Approximately 3,100 people evacuated as the volcano erupted, and the eruption destroyed several villages, according to Guatemala’s National Disaster Management Agency.  The volcano released a “pyroclastic flow, a fast-moving mixture of gas and volcanic material” that is extremely deadly. Rescuers are still attempting to reach affected areas, and the death toll is expected to rise.  Comment: The Volcano of Fire, situated in the “ring of fire”, is one of Central America’s most active volcanoes. Experts estimate that the eruption will affect an estimated 1.7 million people due to the ash fall.  (telesur, BBC 1, 2, CNN, USA Today, Time)


NICARAGUA: Protests continue as national dialogue breaks down

  Nicaragua - protests

This weekend, five more people died amid anti-government protests in the city of Masaya, raising the death toll to more than 110 since the protests began in mid-April.  Masaya residents described the anti-government protesters as using “home-made mortars and slingshots” against riot police and alleged paramilitary forces loyal to the President Daniel Ortega’s government.  Two casualties occurred after attacks by riot police and other various militia groups when protesters took refuge in a local church.  The Nicaraguan Association for the Protection of Human Rights reported “a profound violation of human rights” during the ongoing protests.  Comment: The protests began in opposition to social security, reforms but evolved into anti-government protests.  The national dialogue formed to resolve the conflict broke down last month, but this weekend’s events led President Ortega´s government to call for a renewal of the dialogue.  (Al Jazeera, Yahoo News, Today Nicaragua, Business Standard, BBC) 

                                                                                             Researched/Written by Abigail Gress


This week in East Asia & Pacific

JAPAN: Prime minister visits Trump to express Peace Summit’s importance for Japan


On Thursday, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visited President Trump to emphasize Japanese interests in the U.S.-North Korea peace summit happening on June 12.  His main concerns are maintaining pressure on North Korea to completely dismantle all weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missiles, as well as pleading for the release of at least twelve Japanese citizens that North Korea abducted in the 1980s and 1990s.  Japanese officials worry that Trump may focus on American interests, such as persuading North Korea to relinquish its long-range missiles while still leaving Japan vulnerable to shorter-range ones.  North Korea responded by criticizing Japan for its alleged uncooperative behavior that may “isolate Japan from the Korean peninsula.”  Comment: Without a strong American presence to counter China and North Korea, Japanese officials worry that their nation may become the main point of leverage against Chinese influence on the Korean peninsula.  (ABC News, Bloomberg, Japan Times, SCMP)


MYANMAR: Myanmar and UN agencies agree to cooperate on Rohingya repatriation

Myanmar - Myanmar  

On Wednesday, Myanmar, the United National Development Program, and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees signed an agreement that would give UN agencies the ability to plan a repatriation process for the 700,000 Rohingya back into the Rakhine state.  The agreement is a high point in the UN’s relationship with Myanmar after the country accused UN agencies of providing food to Rohingya militants. While UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres toted the agreement as the “first step to address the root causes of the conflict in Rakhine,” human rights groups like the Burma Human Rights Network say that the agreement “means nothing if the Rohingya do not have the protections and rights of full citizens”.  Comment: Myanmar’s officials did not explicitly write the term “Rohingya” in the agreement, and the country still denies any human rights violations against the Rohingya. Myanmar and Bangladesh agreed in January to plan a two-year repatriation process, but the plans had stalled since then. (Myanmar Times, NPR, Reuters, Strait Times)


SINGAPORE: Minister visits North Korea in preparation for peace summit

  Singapore - minister

Singapore’s Minister for Foreign Affairs Vivian Balakrishnan visited North Korea on Thursday and today in a pre-Peace Summit meeting with North Korean counterpart Ri Yong Ho. Balakrishnan says Singapore is “happy to play (its) part for world peace” by being the host nation for these talks.  Singapore has diplomatic ties to both the United States and North Korea.  This is the second time a Singaporean official visited North Korea, in 2008 then Singaporean Foreign Minister George Yeo visited North Korean leader Kim Jong Il.  Though Singapore hopes to work cooperatively with both nations it does respect international sanctions and adheres to the United Nations trade sanction against North Korea last year.  Comment: North Korea has an embassy in Singapore and serves as the regional headquarters for many U.S. companies and navy vessels due to Singapore’s port facilities. (Channel News Asia, Reuters, Strait Times)

                                                                                            Researched/Written by Nida Kuruvilla


This week in Europe & Central Asia

HUNGARY: Debate over Prime Minister’s anti-migration bill

Hungary - debate  

On Tuesday, parliament opened debate on Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s proposed legislation to criminalize activities that promote or facilitate illegal migration.  The bill punishes any person engaging in such activities, which, for example, would include providing food to illegal migrants, with up to a year in prison.  Civil rights groups, including the Hungarian Helsinki Committee, Amnesty International, and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, contest the proposal; they say it is designed to intimidate aid workers and has “no place in a civilized country.”  Comment: Anti-migrant rhetoric was central to Orban’s campaign.  In 2015, he had endorsed the construction of a wire fence at the Hungarian-Serbian border to deter migrants from entering the country.  (Daily News Hungary, TRT World, AP, BBC)


SLOVENIA: Right-wing party wins vote in parliamentary elections

  Slovenia - right-wing

On Sunday, the anti-immigrant Slovenian Democratic Party (SDS) received 25 percent of the votes in the general elections, making it the largest party in parliament.  The anti-establishment Marjan Sarec List party came in second, with 12.7 percent.  Currently, most party leaders rejected cooperating with the SDS.  If the SDS is unable to form a coalition, new elections may be called.  Comment: Current Prime Minister Janez Jansa, of the SDS party, expressed support for Hungarian populist leader, Victor Orban. (Slovenia Times, BBC, Al Jazeera, NYTimes)


SPAIN: Pedro Sánchez becomes new prime minister


On Saturday, Socialist Party (PSOE) leader Pedro Sanchez became prime minister of Spain following former prime minister Mariano Rajoy’s ouster in a vote of no confidence; this is the first time a Spanish prime minister lost a vote of confidence since the end of Franco’s dictatorship in 1975.  Sanchez filed the motion after a massive corruption scandal involving Rajoy’s conservative People’s Party (PP) erupted last week.  Although PSOE only holds one quarter of parliamentary seats, Sanchez chose new cabinet members, including many women and scientists in what he called a “pro-gender equality, cross-generational” cabinet.  Comment: Sanchez said he plans to end corruption in the country, acting on the court’s corruption ruling last week against the Popular Party.  Former Treasurer, Luis Barcenas, received a conviction of 33 years in prison after what BBC called Spain’s “biggest corruption scandals.”  In total, the Spanish national courts charged 28 individuals for participating in kickbacks-for-contract schemes.  (El País, AP, BBC 1, 2, NYTimes, Reuters)

                                                                                                 Researched/Written by Abby Fram


This week in the Middle East & North Africa

IRAQ: Parliament votes recount of all votes from recent parliamentary election

Iraq - Parliament  

On Wednesday, Iraq’s parliament amended the electoral law to start a recount of all 11 million votes of the parliamentary election held on May 12.  Muqtada al-Sadr’s Shia bloc won the most seats in parliament, whereas Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi’s party won the third-most party seats.  Al-Abadi claimed there were “dangerous” violations and blamed the Independent High Election Commission (IHEC) for not performing error checks on the voting machines used for the first time to count votes in the election.  Parliament also voted to fire the leadership of the IHEC and replace them with new judges.  Comment: The same day, two explosions killed at least seven people and injured 20 in a mosque of the Shia Sadr district in Baghdad, which is often attended by al-Sadr’s supporters.  No group claimed responsibility for the attack.  (Al Jazeera 1, 2, BBC, Reuters)


JORDAN: New Prime Minister announces repeal of contentious tax reform bill


On Thursday, new Prime Minister Omar al-Razzaz announced that the controversial tax reform bill would be repealed, after citizens engaged in a week-long protest against the new bill.  Previous PM Hani al-Mulki’s government presented the bill as part of a joint plan with the IMF to raise sales tax to reduce Jordan’s debt.  Trade unions continued to protest after King Abdullah II asked al-Mulki to resign on Monday and appointed al-Razzaz the next day to permanently take his place.  Thousands of people continued to protest in major cities, including the capital, Amman.  Security detained some protestors, including one man who stabbed a policeman.  Comment: Al-Razzaz previously worked as an economist for the World Bank and served as the education minister in Jordan.  (Al-Bawaba, Al Jazeera 1, 2, 3, Reuters)


SAUDI ARABIA: Government issues driver’s licenses to women for the first time

  Saudi Arabia - government

On Monday, 10 Saudi women replaced their foreign driver’s licenses with Saudi ones after completing a short driving test.  The driving ban for women will be lifted on June 24, allowing all women to apply for driver’s licenses.  Hind Khalid Al-Zahid, leader of the Businesswomen Center said this “historic move” is a “positive step toward promoting the rights and opportunities for women.”  Schools are recruiting female driving teachers from abroad to teach Saudi women how to drive.  Comment: Nine women’s rights activists remain in Saudi prison for advocating for women’s rights – some specifically advocating for the right to drive.  (Al-Arabiya, Arab News, The Guardian, Reuters)

                                                                                          Researched/Written by Daniel Boerger


This week in South Asia

AFGHANISTAN: Suicide bomber attacks religious council banning suicide bombing

On Monday, religious scholars from across the country met in Kabul and issued a fatwa, a religious ruling, outlawing suicide bombings in Islam.  This “grand assembly” of the Afghan Ulema Council also called for peace talks with the Taliban.  Around an hour later, a suicide bomber attacked the assembly and killed at least seven people.  The self-proclaimed Islamic State took responsibility for the attack.  Comment: In recent months, the frequency of Taliban and other militant group bombings increased in Kabul, resulting in the closures of schools and hospitals.  (Reuters, Al Jazeera, Business Insider)


BANGLADESH: Government faces cross-pressures in supporting ICC in Rohingya case


On Monday, rule of law experts in Dhaka stressed the need for Bangladesh to support the International Criminal Court’s (ICC) jurisdiction over the Rohingya deportation case.  In a seminar at Dhaka University, international attorney generals, ICC representatives, and scholars urged Bangladeshi government officials to comply with the court’s request from May 7 to provide evidential documents for the eventual prosecution of suspected perpetrators.  Myanmar, who is not a member of the ICC, later warned that ICC proceedings would slow down the repatriation process.  Comment: Myanmar, China, and India are advising Bangladesh to solve the Rohingya problem bilaterally; however, under the Rome Statute, the ICC prosecutor can initiate an investigation despite Bangladeshi non-compliance.  (The Daily Star, NewAge, The Independent, Reuters)


PAKISTAN: Hostilities continue despite ceasefire renewal


In a press conference in Islamabad on Monday, Pakistani army spokesperson, Asif Gharoor, cautioned India against interpreting Pakistan’s desire for peace as its weakness.  Sporadic firing on the border continued, even after a May 29 agreement by both countries to respect the 2003 ceasefire in Kashmir.  Reports say that India reneged from the agreement the following week, but India’s Border Security Force denies these allegations and dubs its actions as retaliation to shelling in the Kashmir’s Pargwal sector.  Comment: Both sides allege repeated violations of the 2003 ceasefire agreement along the militarized border in the disputed territory of Kashmir.  India reportedly violated it more than 1,500 times in 2018, with Pakistani violations increasing since the 2016 killing of Burhan Wani, a young militant leader.  (The Dawn, Al Jazeera, Times of India, The New York Times)

                                                                                            Researched/Written by Kritika Kapoor

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