PSR: September 21, 2018

 

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September 15 – September 21
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This week in:

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

New FrontiersNew Frontiers Memoirs: The inaugural DC Symposium on the New Frontiers of Peacebuilding gathered 26 carefully selected global peacebuilders for a three-week program examining innovative perspectives on peacebuilding. The New Frontiers Memoirs provide descriptions and analysis of this cutting-edge program.

Stabilization Exec Report

Stabilization Symposium Executive Report: On June 26-27, 2018, Creative Learning, the Elliott School of International Affairs at George Washington University, and other strategic partners gathered over 300 thought leaders, policy makers, legislators, development practitioners, peacebuilders, and the private sector to engage with the State, USAID, and DoD architects of the SAR and each other to dialogue about applying this new framework in practice, incorporating a multi-stakeholder approach, and addressing challenges to implementing coordinated stabilization programming.

This week in Sub-Saharan Africa

BURKINA FASO: At least nine killed in pair of attacks

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On Saturday, suspected jihadists killed at least nine civilians in a two separate attacks in the villages of Diabiga and Kompienbiga in the eastern Kompienga province. The first attack targeted an Islamic religious leader and five others, while three people of the same family were killed in the second assault. Comment: Since 2015, Burkina Faso has experienced a surge in extremist attacks within its borders, in large part due to the violence that spills over from neighboring Mali and Niger. President Roch Marc Christian Kabore recently vowed new security measures “to eradicate the scourge of terrorism.” (EWN, Vanguard, France24, Al Jazeera)

CAMEROON: Amnesty International warns of rising tensions in Anglophone crisis

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On Tuesday, Amnesty International released a report concerning the anticipated escalation of Cameroon’s ongoing Anglophone crisis ahead next month’s elections. The report noted that more than 400 people were killed so far in 2018 as a result of the increasingly violent internal conflict. The international organization further recorded over 260 separate security incidents over the course of the year, including “clashes between armed separatists and security forces, kidnappings of members of the general population and the killing of security forces by armed separatists,” as well as “unlawful killings by the security forces, and the destruction of private properties by both sides.” Comment: Conflict between armed separatists and security forces in Cameroon’s Anglophone regions has steadily escalated since its onset in late 2016. Impending elections are likely to cause further intensification of violence, as the separatists wish to disrupt the nationwide vote in order to push for independence. (The East African, Vanguard, The Guardian, Amnesty International)

RWANDA: President frees opposition leader Victoire Ingabire

On Saturday, President Paul Kagame pardoned opposition leader Victoire Ingabire, who served six years out of her 15-year prison sentence. Ingabire, head of the opposition FDU-Inkingi Party, was arrested in 2012 for “conspiring to form an armed group to undermine the government and for seeking to minimize the 1994 genocide.” Government officials downplayed the move, stating that the president was simply exercising his right to show mercy and that the release of political opponents was unrelated to any domestic pressure placed on Kagame. Comment: In a speech to parliament on Wednesday, Kagame warned Ingabire and other released prisoners to be “humble” and “careful” lest they get imprisoned once again. While Kagame is globally lauded for the strong economic development Rwanda has displayed since the 1994 genocide, critics continually accuse him of stifling dissent within his country. (France24, AP, Reuters)

Researched/Written by Matan Ayash

This week in the Americas & Caribbean

COSTA RICA: Government and unions start talks to bring end to strike

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On Wednesday, government and union representatives met to define conditions for negotiations to end strikes, now in their second week in Costa Rica. Union leaders remained unwilling to suspend the strike but reciprocated the government’s request to negotiate on Tuesday, while the government insisted that negotiations only take place if the strike is suspended. The labor strike, which began on September 10th, brought about fuel shortages, tourist cancellations, and disruptions in medical services and is mirrored by protests from university students. The strikes are in response to tax reform; among other proposals, the reform replaces sales tax with value-added tax, which includes taxes on services. This is the first sign of a potential end to the strike. Comment:  Hotel owners and the Costa Rican Chamber of Hotels spoke out against the strikes, and the U.S. State Department issued an alert for citizens living in or traveling to the country. Although riot police were deployed to disperse protestors blocking ports and highways, there have been no injuries. (Costa Rica Star, Tico Times 1, 2, 3, ABC News)

CUBA: Díaz-Canel backs legalization of same-sex marriage

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On Sunday, President Miguel Díaz-Canel stated in an interview with TV Telesure that he is in favor of recognizing marriage without any restrictions. Cuba is currently in the process of updating their constitution to define marriage as being the consensual union between two people. Although the draft has been approved by the National Assembly, it is still subject to final approval through a national referendum scheduled for February. Comment: Many believe this policy change is due to the work of Mariela Castro, daughter of Raúl Castro, and her activism. Mariela heads the National Center for Sex Education, which advocates tolerance for LGBT people and lobbies for legislative change, including this constitutional shift. Religious forces in Cuba still oppose the legalization of gay marriage, with five evangelical churches releasing a statement on social media in June reaffirming the belief that marriage is between a man and a woman. (Havana Times, Telesur TV, BBC Latin America, Reuters)

VENEZUELA: Three foreign journalists detained for eight hours

On Friday, one Argentinian and two British journalists were detained by the Venezuelan military at the Venezuelan-Colombian border. The journalists spent the previous three days reporting on tourism in Venezuela. They were released on Friday night, after eight hours in custody, and had all of their equipment returned. The reporters’ drivers, who they had hired for security, were reportedly arrested last Wednesday. There is no news on their release. Comment: Venezuelan President Maduro has been criticized for violating press freedom by those in the media. The Venezuelan press union, the SNTP, as well as individual media outlets and the Committee to Protect Journalists, claim he violated freedoms through the forced closure of outlets, restriction of newspaper deliveries, censorship, and detention of journalists. (Buenos Aires Times, Espacio Publico, Martí, CPJ)

Researched/Written by Tabitha Niemann

This week in East Asia & Pacific

CHINA: As trade war with U.S. heats up, firms begin relocating production facilities

On Tuesday, U.S. President Donald Trump announced a 10% tariff on USD 200 billion of Chinese goods, escalating the trade war between the two nations. Businesses are increasingly apprehensive of the situation. The same day as President Trump’s announcement, Taiwan’s Minister of Economic Affairs, Shen Jong-chin, stated that 20 Taiwanese businesses will be moving from China back to Taiwan. A survey by the European Union Chamber of Commerce found that 54% of respondents believe U.S. tariffs will significantly disrupt the global market, and that 5.2% of European companies with production facilities in China have relocated or plan to do so. Comment: The trade war shows no signs of slowing down. China responded to the escalation by imposing 10% tariffs on USD 60 billion of U.S. goods. (Nikkei, South China Morning Post 1, 2)

JAPAN: Submarine participates in naval drills in South China Sea for the first time

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On Monday, the Japanese Ministry of Defense announced that the Japanese submarine Kushiro took part in war games held in the South China Sea last week. The exercise, which marked the first time a submarine participated in Japanese naval drills in the region, consisted of the Kushiro attempting to evade detection by destroyers. Japan is typically secretive about its submarine activity. In response to the drill, a spokesman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry urged Japan to cease destabilizing activities. Comment: Japan’s escalation of naval drills signals its aim to pushback against Chinese territorial claims in the disputed South China Sea. China has been aggressively pursuing its claim to the oil-rich region and strategic waterway, constructing military facilities on reefs and even artificial islands. (Japan Times, South China Morning Post, Reuters)

MALAYSIA: Former Prime Minister arrested on corruption charges

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On Wednesday, former Prime Minister Najib Razak was arrested on corruption charges. Najib, who is already facing charges of money laundering and abuse of power, is accused of siphoning RM 2.6 billion, equivalent to USD 627.8 million, from the 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) state fund into his personal bank account. Najib claims the funds in question stem from Saudi donations, most of which he returned. The 1MDB is infamously scandal-plagued, with an estimated USD 4.5 billion laundered from it since its creation in 2009. Comment: Najib’s arrest ignited chaos in his political party, the United Malays National Organization (UMNO); two top lieutenants and five members of parliament left the UMNO in response. UMNO is the largest opposition party in Malaysia; if it crumbles further, the country could be tilted towards single-coalition rule. (Malaysia Today, South China Morning Post, Reuters)

Researched/Written by Christian Vickland

This week in Europe & Central Asia

GREECE: Thousands of asylum seekers to relocate to mainland

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On Tuesday, Greece announced it will relocate 2,000 asylum seekers from the overcrowded Moria migrant camp on the island of Lesbos to the mainland to process their claims. The camp currently holds 9,000 migrants despite being built for only 3,100. Doctors Without Borders instigated the change by reporting high rates of attempted suicide among minors at the camp. Comment: The EU continues to struggle to find a comprehensive solution to the large number of asylum seekers entering Europe. EU border nations face thousands of incoming migrants while some member nations mostly refuse to take in refugees. (Al Jazeera, Voice of America, Reuters, MSF)

KYRGYZSTAN: Human rights report criticizes excessive crackdown on extremism

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On Monday, Human Rights Watch (HRW) released a report criticizing Kyrgyzstan’s excessively harsh crackdown on extremism. According to the report, the main legislation used to prosecute extremist offenses uses an overly broad definition of extremism that includes “vandalism,” “hooliganism” and possession of extremist materials. The government plans to introduce amendments in January that will require police to identify intent to distribute extremist materials rather than simply possession, but issues such as the overall definition of extremism will remain. Comment: Other countries in Central Asia are carrying out similarly harsh efforts to counter extremism, but according to the HRW report, these efforts have the potential to generate greater support for extremist groups. Government leaders could also use these measures to target political opponents. (24.kg, Radio Free Europe, The Diplomat, Human Rights Watch)

ROMANIA: Magistrates protest against changes to judiciary

On Sunday, hundreds of magistrates gathered in front of a Court of Appeal in Bucharest to protest recent changes to the judiciary and graft laws. The country’s ruling party, the Social Democrats, dismissed the lead anti-corruption prosecutor earlier this year and is investigating the general prosecutor. Meanwhile, several party members are under investigation for corruption. Comment: This protest marks the third magistrate protest in nine months and follows large-scale protests against corruption in August. The EU is investigating similar concerns about the rule of law in Hungary and Poland. (G4 Media, Romania Insider, Reuters)

Researched/Written by Lars Spjut

This week in the Middle East & North Africa

IRAQ: Parliament elects Sunni lawmaker to be speaker

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On Saturday, Iraq’s parliament selected Sunni politician Mohammed al-Halbousi to be the new speaker. This was a crucial step in the formation of a new government, coming four months after the inconclusive countrywide election. The election of Halbousi initiates the beginning of a constitutional 90-day process intended to ultimately form a new government. Comment: Positions of power in the Iraqi government have been strategically shared among Iraq’s three largest ethnic groups since the overthrow of Saddam Hussein in 2003. Iraq’s proportional, power-sharing system is in place to avert a relapse back into authoritarianism. (Arab News, Gulf News, Reuters)

ISRAEL / SYRIA: Hezbollah leader boasts about advanced weaponry

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On Thursday, Hezbollah Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah told supporters that the group possesses “precision rockets,” despite Israel’s attempt to cut supply routes in Syria. In an effort to combat Hezbollah’s acquisition of additional arms, Israel acknowledged launching more than 200 air attacks in Syria during the last 18 months.  In a recent mission to stop the arming of Hezbollah, Syrian forces shot down a Russian military aircraft that Israeli forces were using as cover. Comment: Nasrallah further stated that Hezbollah militants will remain active in Syria indefinitely in order to aid President Bashar al-Assad with the ongoing civil war in his country. The violent conflict is currently in its eighth year. (Jerusalem Post, Arabiya, Al Jazeera, BBC)

REGIONAL: Saudi-UAE coalition begins incursion on Yemen’s Hodeidah

On Tuesday, Saudi and Emirati forces joined the Yemeni government in launching a new attack on the Houthi-held port city of Hodeidah in western Yemen. With this latest offensive, the alliance hopes to retake the longtime Houthi stronghold. Recapturing the city would be a major victory for the Yemeni government and its allies, as Hodeidah is recognized as a major access point for the Houthis to receive arms. Comment: Aid agencies are concerned that a major military assault on the port would cut off access to much needed assistance for the millions of Yemeni civilians currently living in dire situations. To this point, the conflict has caused tens of thousands of civilian deaths and millions of displacements. (Al Jazeera, Gulf News, Reuters)

Researched/Written by Tyler Spyrison

This week in South Asia

BANGLADESH / INDIA: Indian government provides provisions for Rohingya refugees

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On Monday, Indian High Commissioner to Bangladesh Harsh Vardhan Shringla delivered 1.1 million liters of kerosene oil and 20,000 stoves to assist Rohingya refugees from Myanmar currently living in the Hutupalong camp in Cox’s Bazar. This is the third phase of Indian support to refugees in Bangladesh: the first providing 981 metric tons of supplies in September 2017 and the second providing 373 metric tons of supplies in May. The oil and stoves are intended to eliminate the need for locally sourced firewood in the camp, which is contributing to environmental damage in areas of Bangladesh that are hosting large numbers of refugees. Comment: The UN Development Program released a report on the environmental impact of refugees in Bangladesh, identifying 28 risk factors to biodiversity and human security. Major threats include the continued deforestation of national forests, barren graving land for wild elephants, and reduced clean water sources. (bdnews24.com, Dhaka Tribune, The Times of India, The Washington Post)

BHUTAN: Prime Minister concedes election

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On Sunday, Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay, who was running for a second term, acknowledged that the people had “spoken” after his party, the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), was defeated in the election. PDP came in third place behind Druk Nyamrup Tshogpa and Druk Phuensum Thosgpa with approximately 66 percent of registered voters reporting. The general election will be held on October 18. Comment: This is the third democratic election to take place in Bhutan since they ended their monarchy in 2008. The government has peacefully transitioned in each of those three instances. (Bhutan Times, The Hindu, The Straits Times 1, 2)

PAKISTAN: Prime Minister advocates citizenship for Afghan and Bengali refugees

On Sunday, Prime Minister Imran Khan announced plans to advocate for citizenship to be granted to refugees from Afghanistan and Bangladesh who have lived in Pakistan for decades. It is unclear whether this plan applies to all refugees who claim Pakistan as their home country, but he did make it clear that he will push for citizenship for all children born in Pakistan. This announcement received backlash from opponents and others inside his own coalition. Though no official policy changes have been drafted, Khan hopes his statements will “initiate a debate.” Comment: Approximately 2.7 million Afghan refugees have entered Pakistan since Afghanistan was invaded in 1979 by the Soviet Union. Many of the Bengalis living in Pakistan came there after Bangladesh declared independence from Pakistan in 1971, but there are no clear numbers as to how many Bengalis are permanently residing in Pakistan. (DAWN, The Guardian, Reuters)

Researched/Written by Amy Pipher

PSR Archives

 

2018-10-12T10:55:15+00:00