This week in Peace & Security, brought to you every Friday
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September 8 – September 14

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

BURUNDI: Government bans UN officials following report on human rights abuses

Burundi UN

On Wednesday, Burundi’s government, in a letter released by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, banned three UN human rights experts from entering the country. The banned officials – Doudou Diene, Lucy Asuagbor, and Françoise Hampson – authored a report last week for the UN Human Rights Council in which they presented evidence of crimes against humanity committed by the Burundian government, particularly “summary executions, arbitrary detentions, torture, sexual violence and forced disappearances in 2017 and 2018.” Government officials denied the report’s findings, calling them “defamatory and false.” Comment: Burundi has experienced serious turmoil since the controversial July 2015 election of President Pierre Nkurunziza to an unconstitutional third term. The ensuing crisis has caused hundreds of deaths and displaced hundreds of thousands more. (The East AfricanPremium TimesHuman Rights WatchReuters)

ERITREA/ETHIOPIA: Leaders officially open border in latest sign of reconciliation


On Tuesday, Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki officially opened up border crossings between their respective nations for the first time in two decades. The move is set to provide landlocked Ethiopia with direct access to Eritrea’s ports on the Red Sea. The leaders further announced that troops from both countries will be removed from the formerly disputed border in order to continue easing tensions between the longtime foes. Comment: This latest initiative follows a series of actions – reopening embassies, renewal of commercial flights, and reinstallation of phone lines – aimed at restoring peaceful relations between the Horn of Africa neighbors. (Africa News, Reuters, AP)

ZIMBABWE: Police ban public gatherings as cholera outbreak intensifies

On Wednesday, Zimbabwe’s police prohibited all public gatherings indefinitely in the capital city of Harare in an effort to curb “the continuous spread” of the latest cholera outbreak in the southern African nation. A day earlier, the government of newly elected President Emmerson Mnangagwa declared a state of emergency in the country, as the death toll from the outbreak reached 21. According to Minister of Health Obadiah Moyo, more than 3,000 people have been infected by the disease, which has now extended to areas beyond Harare’s borders. Comment: The ban on public gatherings also followed opposition leader Nelson Chamisa’s announcement of plans to hold a mock inauguration ceremony in protest of the July election outcome. This epidemic marks the biggest cholera outbreak in Zimbabwe since 2008, when over 4,000 people died. (New ZimbabweReutersAP)

Researched/Written by Matan Ayash

This week in the Americas & Caribbean

BRAZIL: Lula drops out of presidential election, endorses Haddad


On Tuesday, jailed former Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva pulled out of next month’s presidential election, endorsing his running mate Fernando Haddad. Lula had been the frontrunner in the race despite being convicted of corruption and having his candidacy barred by the country’s top electoral court. Though Lula maintains his innocence, he dropped his bid ahead of the deadline to register candidates to allow Haddad to be registered by his Workers’ Party. Comment: Haddad is rising in the polls after Lula’s endorsement, but remains behind other candidates. Brazil uses a two-round voting system, and currently far-right Jair Bolsonaro is in the lead and rising after being stabbed last week. Haddad is projected to be able to beat Bolsonaro narrowly in a second-round vote. (Jornal Do BrasilReutersBBC)

NICARAGUA: Families of jailed activists march to demand release


On Sunday, thousands of Nicaraguans marched in the capital city of Managua to call for the release of activists detained in anti-government protests since April. Nicknamed the March of the Balloons in honor of the blue and white balloons they carried, the march faced pro-government supporters but no physical altercations were reported in Managua. Smaller marches in other cities across Nicaragua were suspended after harassment from police or pro-government counter-protests. According to human rights groups, at least 135 individuals remain in jail since the protests (and arrests) began. Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega insists that those arrested are not political prisoners, but criminals. Comment: Protests erupted in April surrounding what many in the country view as President Ortega’s increasingly repressive leadership and policies, but others remain loyal to Ortega and his FSLN party. Nicaragua is deeply divided and clashes have been deadly and resulted in human rights violations and the UN Human Rights delegation’s expulsion from the country after publishing a critical report. (El ConfidencialLa PrensaBBC)

REGIONAL: U.S. recalls diplomats from three Latin American countries

On Friday, the U.S. recalled top diplomats from Panama, El Salvador, and the Dominican Republic over those countries’ decisions to cut diplomatic ties with Taiwan in favor of establishing relations with China. El Salvador cut ties with Taiwan in August, the Dominican Republic did so in May, and Panama in June of 2017. Although the U.S. itself recognizes China and does business with Taiwan, it has become increasingly concerned about China’s influence in Latin America and Taiwan’s limited formal relations. The diplomats are expected to return to their posts by the end of the week, after meeting in Washington to discuss the challenge and how to combat it. Comment: The U.S. has become more aggressive toward China in recent years, claiming that China’s behavior on the international stage – economic, diplomatic, and military – is aggressive and predatory. Meanwhile, members of the U.S. Congress have introduced legislation which would allow the State Department to suspend foreign assistance or downgrade diplomatic relations with any country that “takes adversarial actions with regard to Taiwan”. (The New York TimesReutersThe Telegraph)

Researched/Written by Tabitha Niemann

This week in East Asia & Pacific

CAMBODIA: Opposition leader released from jail

On Monday, Kem Sokha, former leader of the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), was released after spending a year in prison. He remains under house arrest in the capital city of Phnom Penh. Sokha was accused of treason in September 2017 for his alleged role in organizing the 2014 Veng Sreng street anti-government demonstrations, which turned violent and resulted in four deaths. Sokha’s CNRP was subsequently dissolved in November 2017, part of a broad political crackdown by Prime Minister Hun Sen leading up to general elections this past July. Prime Minister Sen’s ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) was essentially unchallenged in the election and won all 125 National Assembly seats. Comment: Prime Minister Sen has regularly tightened suppression of critics before elections and eased it after. The July elections, widely condemned by the international community, won the former Khmer Rouge commander another five years in power. (Phnom Penh Post, Japan Times, Reuters)

JAPAN: Shinzo Abe and Vladimir Putin agree to economic cooperation on disputed Kuril Islands

Japan Abe and Putin

On Monday, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Russian President Vladimir Putin agreed to launch joint economic projects on the contested Kuril Islands. In a news conference during the Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok, Russia, Abe declared the two leaders had approved a preliminary “road map” for future projects in aquaculture, renewable energy, and tourism. Russia’s stated motive for the move is to attract Japanese investment on the islands, which are laden with natural resources but underdeveloped. The islands, which are held by Russia but claimed by Japan, have been disputed for decades. The joint economic projects are largely seen as a sign of goodwill and trust-building between the leaders, setting the stage for dialogue on the islands’ ownership and possibly an eventual peace treaty between Japan and Russia. Comment: Japan and Russia have been unable to sign a peace treaty since 1945 largely due to their territorial dispute of the Kuril Islands. If the aforementioned “road map” leads to substantial economic cooperation and compromise on the Kuril ownership issue, this summit would mark a turning point in Japan-Russia relations. (Japan TimesSouth China Morning PostReuters)

MONGOLIA: Joint military exercise with India underway

Mongolia Military Exercise

On Tuesday, Mongolian and Indian Army personnel launched a joint training exercise at the Mongolian Armed Forces Desert Region Training Centre in Umnugovi. Dubbed ‘Nomadic Elephant-2018’, the exercise will focus on improving counterinsurgency and counterterrorism tactics in urban environments, in addition to strengthening military ties between the nations. India sent soldiers from the 17th Punjab Regiment while Mongolia sent Unit 084. The two nations have a defense cooperation agreement and have done joint military exercises in the past, part of India’s broad strategy to engage with China’s neighbors. Comment: India has been providing Mongolia with significant financial assistance in recent years, notably during a Chinese border shutdown and funding for Mongolia’s first oil refinery. Nomadic Elephant further deepens the partnership the two nations are cultivating. (The Asian Age, The Shillong Times, Indian Ministry of Defence)

Researched/Written by Christian Vickland

This week in Europe & Central Asia

MACEDONIA: Merkel encourages vote for name change and NATO, EU membership


On Saturday, during a joint press conference with Macedonian Prime Minister Zoran Zaev, German Chancellor Angela Merkel urged Macedonians to vote for a name change that would facilitate entry to the EU and NATO. The proposed name is the Republic of North Macedonia, a change meant to indicate no intention for expansion into the Greek region called Macedonia. Prime Minister Zaev agreed to the name change while meeting with the Greek prime minister in June, but the national referendum to accept the name is scheduled for the end of this month; polling shows that 57 percent of Macedonians support the name change while 22 percent oppose it. Comment: Leaders from NATO, Austria, and the U.S. visited Macedonia recently to discuss this referendum. Also on Saturday, thousands of protestors gathered in the Greek city of Thessaloniki to oppose the name change, claiming the continued use of the name “Macedonia” was unacceptable. (KathimeriniRadio Free EuropeReuters)

RUSSIA: Police detain hundreds in unauthorized pension reform protests


On Sunday, protestors in more than 80 cities across Russia marched against the recent government decision to raise the pension age from 60 to 65 for men and from 55 to 60 for women over the next decade. Local authorities did not authorize most of the protests, which occurred on the same day as elections for regional leaders in 26 of Russia’s 85 regions and included about 2,000 protestors in Moscow alone. Officials estimate that police detained a total of 200 protestors while other sources estimate over 1,000. Comment: Alexei Navalny, an opposition leader, announced the protests last month, but he was unable to participate due to his arrest for participation in other protests in January. The pension age change has been widely unpopular, resulting in President Putin’s popularity dropping by 15 percentage points. (Radio Free EuropeRIABBCReutersOVD-Info)

REGIONAL: European Parliament votes to censure Hungary for breach of core values

On Wednesday, the European Parliament meeting in Brussels voted to censure Hungary for attacks on the media, minorities, and democratic values. In a 448 to 197 vote, the EU Parliament cleared the two-thirds threshold necessary to begin proceedings to determine what discipline will be applied, with removal of voting rights as the harshest possible punishment. Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto declared that Hungary would challenge the ruling and that many of the criticisms lie outside of EU jurisdiction. Comment: This is the first time the parliament invoked Article seven of EU rules against a member state, although similar proceedings began against Poland last December. Both countries have promised to support each other in the ongoing discussions. (Hungary TodayRadio Free EuropeBBCReuters)

Researched/Written by Lars Spjut

This week in the Middle East & North Africa

LIBYA: Rockets fired at Tripoli airport


On Tuesday, rockets fired at Tripoli airport caused inbound flights to be diverted, although there were no reports of damage or casualties. The airport had just reopened on Friday after a week of fighting between militia groups caused operations to shut down. A new group, Tripoli Youth Movement, claimed responsibility for the attack. Comment: Libya has experienced significant unrest since a NATO-led operation to remove Muammar Gaddafi in 2011. A UN-backed government has nominal control over Tripoli, but contesting militias roam freely in most parts of Libya. (Al JazeeraBBCReuters)

MOROCCO: Forced marriages and sexual violence banned


On Tuesday, a law was passed banning forced marriages, sexual harassment in public places, and other forms of violence. The law is named after Women’s Minister Bassimi Hakkaoui, who drafted it five years ago. A government survey reported that 63 percent of women between the ages of 18-65 had been victims of violence. Comment: Human Rights Watch criticized the new law for not going far enough in criminalizing marital rape and domestic violence. Human Rights Watch did praise the law’s definition of violence against women. (AfricaFeedsAl JazeeraBBC)

SYRIA: Turkey boosts arms to rebels in Idlib

On Tuesday, reporters outlined that Turkey has been supplying arms to the Syrian rebels in Idlib to stop the impending offensive by Syria, Russia, and Iran. The weapons included ammunition and GRAD rockets. Recently, Turkey sent additional troops to reinforce its 12 military observation posts around Idlib. Comment: Turkey is already hosting 3.5 million refugees and is concerned the operation to retake Idlib will result in additional refugees. Idlib is the last major remaining rebel territory, and there are three million people living in the area. (Al JazeeraBBCCFRReuters)

Researched/Written by Tyler Spyrison

This week in South Asia

AFGHANISTAN: Taliban prepare for peace talks with U.S.


On Tuesday, two U.S. officials confirmed reports that the Taliban are preparing for new peace negotiations with the U.S. government. The negotiations will be led by Sher Abbasi Stanekzai, head of the Taliban’s Qatar political office, and veteran U.S. diplomat Zalmay Khalilzad. They will focus on how to end the conflict in Afghanistan. There is no indication at this time of when or where the negotiations will take place. Comment: Preliminary meetings for these negotiations occurred in July between U.S. Principal deputy Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs Alice Wells and Taliban political representatives. U.S. Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis also went to Kabul a week ago to meet with top Afghan leaders. (Daily Times, The Times of India 12Reuters)

BANGLADESH: No plan to assimilate Rohingya refugees, according to foreign secretary


On Wednesday, the Bangladesh Foreign Secretary Shahidul Haque said that the country has no plans to assimilate Rohingya Muslim refugees in the country but will continue to work with Myanmar to help them return to their former homes. Bangladesh and Myanmar reached an agreement last November regarding the repatriation of Rohingya refugees within two months; however, that process has yet to begin. Transit centers have been constructed to support these returning refugees, but the UN reports that the country is not yet safe for them to return. Comment: Approximately 700,000 Rohingya refugees have entered Bangladesh since August 2017. The capacity for refugees in Bangladesh is hitting its limit, resulting in overcrowding, lack of resources, and safety concerns. (bdnews24.comThe Times of IndiaReuters)

MALDIVES: Visa requirements for journalists cause political disputes

On Thursday, the Maldives Elections Commission released a statement denying allegations from the Maldives Joint Opposition that the government is rejecting visas for international journalists to block access to the upcoming September 23 presidential elections. Journalists previously received visas upon arrival, but under the new system journalists need a business visa that requires a Maldivian sponsor, previously employment information, travel history, bank account information, and police clearance. The Election Commission states that they invited journalists to cover the election, but it is unclear how many were invited or approved for visas. Comment: The political environment in the Maldives has been unstable since former President Mohamed Nasheed was overthrown by a police mutiny in 2012. The current President Abdulla Yameen is seeking his second five-year term in the September elections against Ibrahim “Ibu” Mohamed Solih and the opposition coalition led by the Maldivian Democratic Party. (AvasThe EditionAll India RadioThe Indian ExpressReuters)

Researched/Written by Amy Pipher

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