This week in Peace & Security, brought to you every Friday
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September 29 – October 5

This week in:

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


Over the past year, Creative Learning partnered with Creative Frontiers and CFx Comics to work with University students in Pakistan to create comic books relating to resilience and peacebuilding. Head to the IPSI Facebook Page for a short video about our Comics for Peace University Kick-Off event where we toured 9 Universities in Pakistan and engaged with over 1,000 students on peacebuilding and storytelling through comics. Stay tuned for sneak peaks of the final Comics!

This week in Sub-Saharan Africa

ETHIOPIA: Thousands flee as ethnic violence erupts


On Tuesday, local government officials stated that over 70,000 people fled western Ethiopia since ethnically-charged violence erupted in the Benishangul-Gumuz region on Friday. Four local officials were killed while visiting the Oromiya region last week, sparking violent clashes and widespread displacement over the weekend. At least 44 people died in the violence. Comment: Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed is facing criticism domestically for the spike in ethnic violence since his election in April, despite receiving widespread global praise for taking steps toward peace with longtime foe Eritrea. Speaking to his ruling coalition on Wednesday, Ahmed pushed for unity by stating, “an attack on one is an attack on all.” (Addis Standard, Al Jazeera, AP, Reuters 1, 2)

GUINEA-BISSAU: Dozens feared dead in boat accident


On Monday, a small, overcrowded fishing vessel reportedly carrying over 60 migrants capsized off the coast of Guinea-Bissau. According to Coast Guard Commander Siga Batista, the identities and nationalities of the people on board remain unknown, and their planned destination is also a mystery. Local officials found wreckage of the boat, but no bodies have been recovered. Comment: Due to the country’s dire financial situation, organizing an effective rescue operation has proven challenging for coastal authorities. Guinea-Bissau remains one of the world’s poorest nations, so people often attempt to seek brighter opportunities abroad. (Daily Nation, Al Jazeera, BBC)

REGIONAL: Melania Trump on five-day Africa tour

On Tuesday, U.S. First Lady Melania Trump began her five-day tour of Africa with a visit to Ghana, where she made stops at health facilities and a former slave-trading fort. Following her two-day visit to Ghana, Trump traveled to Malawi on Thursday, and plans to round out her trip with visits to Kenya and Egypt. Child well-being is the primary focus, as she plans to promote the cause of her “Be Best” campaign. Comment: This is Melania’s first major trip without the president, who has yet to visit the African continent during his tenure. Due to the president’s unpopular comments on African countries in January, the first lady will look to mend fences with the continent’s leaders throughout her trip. Despite President Trump’s previous remarks, the president recently proclaimed in a speech at the UN that he and his wife “love Africa.” (Nyasa Times, Africa News, AP, Reuters, The Guardian)

Researched/Written by Matan Ayash

This week in the Americas & Caribbean

ARGENTINA: Buenos Aires hosts W20 summit of women leaders


On Monday, the three-day meeting of the W20 – one of the G20’s seven affinity groups – began in Buenos Aires. On the first day of the summit, invited delegates met privately for dialogues and workshops to come to a better mutual understanding and to draft policy briefs, concept notes and joint statements. Their efforts centered around four focus topics: labor inclusion, digital inclusion, financial inclusion, and inclusion of rural women. Tuesday and Wednesday’s public sessions featured panels and keynote speeches, including one by Argentine President Macri. Comment: The W20 was established in 2015, and this was the first year a South American country hosted the summit. G20 affinity groups consist of civil society leaders who meet separately and with G20 leaders to establish dialogue, influence decision-making and set agendas. (El Cronista, La Nacion 1, 2, El Comercio)

EL SALVADOR: U.S. cancels visas, criticizes “secret negotiations” with China


On Tuesday, the U.S. Ambassador to El Salvador Jean Manes announced that the U.S. has cancelled visas of Salvadoran officials connected to corruption. This comes immediately after Manes’ return from Washington, where she met with officials in the executive branch to discuss El Salvador’s recent decision to cut diplomatic relations with Taiwan in favor of recognizing China. Manes stated that the “secret agreement” with the Chinese government opens the door for corruption and is worrying to the U.S., which holds the right to cancel more visas in the future. Comment: In September, the U.S. recalled diplomats in El Salvador, Panama, and the Dominican Republic after El Salvador became the third country to cut ties with Taiwan this year. On Wednesday, the White House announced that Ronald Douglas Johnson will be nominated as the new U.S. Ambassador to El Salvador. Johnson has previously served as a liaison between the CIA and Southern Command. (La Prensa Grafica 1, 2, 3, 4, Financial Express)

VENEZUELA: UN, OAS officials say health system is at crisis point

On Monday, human rights experts reported that the health system in Venezuela is in crisis, pointing to the preventable deaths of children in hospitals, lack of access to healthcare, and harassment of medical personnel, journalists, and victims’ families. The statement, issued by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IAHCR), an autonomous body of the Organization of American States and the UN, also expressed concern regarding closure of facilities for the elderly, shortage of medication, and malnutrition. The organizations urged the Venezuelan government to act to secure resources and food, including through international cooperation, to relieve the crisis. Comment: The economic and political crisis in Venezuela has caused hyperinflation and made food unattainable for much of the population, including in hospitals, while Maduro’s government refuses medical and food aid. (La Prensa, Organization of American States, United Nations, NBC News, Wall Street Journal)

Researched/Written by Tabitha Niemann

This week in East Asia & Pacific

CHINA: Chinese and U.S. destroyers come within meters in South China Sea

On Sunday, the USS Decatur and a Chinese Luyang destroyer came within an estimated 41 meters in the South China Sea, as U.S.-Chinese tensions continue to escalate. According to the U.S. Navy, the USS Decatur was sailing near the Gaven Reef in the Spratly Islands, which China claims, when the Luyang destroyer positioned itself in front of the Decatur and slowed, prompting the Decatur to quickly maneuver to avoid collision. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying accused the U.S. of encroaching upon Chinese sovereignty, advising the U.S. to cease provocative activities that undermine regional stability and strain U.S.-China relations. Comment: The USS Decatur was on a “freedom of navigation” operation. The destroyer sailed within 12 nautical miles of the Gaven Reef, which under international law is the claim limit on seas off a nation’s coast, demonstrating the U.S. does not recognize China’s territorial claim to the area. (South China Morning Post, BBC, Business Insider)

INDONESIA: Soldiers ordered to shoot looters


On Wednesday, Colonel Ida Dewa announced that soldiers stationed on the tsunami-ravaged island of Sulawesi have orders to shoot looters as survivors began stealing valuables from stores. Individuals caught looting will be given one warning shot, then soldiers will aim to “shoot to immobilize.” Colonel Dewa said that while the officials understand and tolerated survivors stealing food and water during the first two days after the tsunami, some began to loot luxury items like electronics. Dewa also announced that given the volatile situation, five soldiers will be assigned to each vehicle carrying emergency supplies, which are slowly trickling in. Comment: The 7.5 magnitude earthquake and ensuing tsunami devastated Sulawesi, killing at least 1,400 and damaging or destroying 80 percent of buildings in the area. The death toll will likely rise through the weekend, as authorities have set Friday as a tentative deadline for rescuing people still trapped under rubble. (Free Malaysia Today, Al Jazeera, Time)

JAPAN: First British-Japanese joint military exercise held


On Sunday, the Japanese Ground Self-Defense Force (JGSDF) and the British army launched a joint military exercise on Fuji Training Camp, the first such exercise held between the two nations. 60 Japanese and 50 British troops will take part in the 13-day training drill, which will focus on surveillance techniques. The media was granted access to the training on Tuesday which showcased soldiers identifying enemy locations from helicopters. In a statement, JGSDF Lieutenant General Yuichi Takada claimed that increased defense ties with Britain improves both Japanese and regional security, while British Lt. General Patrick Sanders declared that Japan is a key strategic ally that “will not have to fight alone.” Comment: The military exercise, which was announced last month, is a continuation of strengthening British-Japanese relations. In an August 2017 summit, British Prime Minister Theresa May and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe reached a post-Brexit trade agreement and pledged cooperation on countering the growing North Korean threat. (Japan Times, NHK, Telegraph)

Researched/Written by Christian Vickland

This week in Europe & Central Asia

ARMENIA: President dismisses six ministers in ongoing political turmoil


On Wednesday, President Armen Sarkisian dismissed six ministers whose parties voted for a bill that would make it more difficult to hold early parliamentary elections. Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan recommended the firing in an effort to oppose what he called a “counter-revolution” that is opposing his efforts to lead governmental reforms. On Tuesday, thousands of protestors gathered in the capital Yerevan at Prime Minister Pashinyan’s request to support holding elections. Comment: In April, Pashinyan led protests against Prime Minister Serzh Sargsyan who had maintained power since April 2008. As a result, Prime Minister Sargsyan resigned, and Pashinyan replaced him. (Armenia News, Eurasia Net, Radio Free Europe 1, 2)

SPAIN: Tens of thousands mark anniversary of Catalan independence referendum


On Monday, about 180,000 people gathered in Barcelona to commemorate the anniversary of the unauthorized Catalan referendum. Several roads closed due to the protests, and police clashed with hardline protestors who rushed the regional parliament building. The following day, Catalan President Quim Torra, who took office in June after Madrid ended its direct administration in the area, used the opportunity to press Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez for a new plan for regional independence by the end of the month. Prime Minister Sanchez, whose minority party gained control in parliament with the help of Catalan nationalists, said he would not be forced into action because of this ultimatum. Comment: The unauthorized referendum a year ago led to the government of Catalonia declaring independence from Spain, which in turn caused Madrid to take direct control of the region. An opinion poll from July suggested that about 47 percent of Catalans support independence while about 45 percent oppose it. (El Pais, BBC, The Guardian, Politico, Reuters)

UKRAINE: Mines kill three schoolboys

On Sunday, a mine blast killed three boys aged 13 to 15 and injured another aged 10 outside Horlivka, a separatist controlled town in eastern Ukraine. According to the town’s mayor, Ivan Prikhodko, the boys “found an abandoned house and were just looking for adventure.” The Ukrainian and separatist forces agreed on a truce in August regarding ongoing fighting to allow children to attend school. Comment: More than 10,000 people have been killed since fighting began in April 2014, with combat often located close to or within cities. In April of this year, UN representatives stated that mines have killed over 1,600 civilians, and that two million civilians live near areas with landmines. (Kyiv Post, UNIAN, Deutsche Welle, Radio Free Europe, RIA, UN)

Researched/Written by Lars Spjut

This week in the Middle East & North Africa

EGYPT: Court orders retrial of multiple Muslim Brotherhood members


On Sunday, the Cairo Criminal Court ordered the retrial of the spiritual leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, Mohamed Badie and other senior members. The retrial concerns the life sentences handed down in 2015 for inciting violence between supporters and opponents near the group’s headquarters. Although the court did not clarify why the charges had been altered, under Egyptian law charges can be changed if new evidence is presented. Many senior members of the Muslim Brotherhood have received life in prison and death sentences. Comment: In 2013, Egypt’s military, led by Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, overthrew the democratically elected government of President Mohamed Morsi, who is a member of the Muslim Brotherhood. After removing Morsi, the military labeled the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organization and arrested thousands of its supporters. This led to multiple clashes between the military and Muslim Brotherhood, which caused hundreds of deaths. (Al Arabiya, Al Jazeera, Reuters)

LIBYA: Elections in December may not be possible, UN says


On Sunday, the UN said it will be hard to hold national elections in December because of continued violence throughout the country. The key figure in the east, commander Khalifa Haftar, supports the elections but believes others are not as committed. There has been no word from the UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA), headed by Fayez al-Sarraj in the west. In May, France brought forth a plan to hold elections in December, which the UN supported. Comment: Haftar, Sarraj and other opposing groups agreed to the plan in Paris. Haftar and his Libyan National Army controls Benghazi and most of the east, while Sarraj and the UN-backed government nominally controls Tripoli and parts of the west. Weeks of violent clashes between rival groups have put any elections in jeopardy. (Al Arabiya, Jordan Times, Reuters)

SAUDI ARABIA: Officials admit mistakes in Yemen that killed civilians

On Monday, under pressure from both allies and international rights groups, Saudi Arabia said it was working hard to fix mistakes by the coalition that led to civilian deaths. Osaiker Alotaibi of the defense ministry said the Saudi-led coalition was dedicated to following the guidelines of international humanitarian law; however, UN human rights experts raised the issue of children causalities of coalition airstrikes multiple times with Saudi Arabia. Comment: The Saudi-led coalition in Yemen has continually accused the UN Human Rights Council of being biased. The Yemen Civil War is going into its fourth year and has caused over 10,000 casualties, likely a low estimate. Schools and hospitals have repeatedly been attacked by both sides, which is illegal under international humanitarian law. (Arab News, Press TV, Reuters)

Researched/Written by Tyler Spyrison

This week in South Asia

AFGHANISTAN: Suicide bombing attack at Nangarhar election rally


On Tuesday, a suicide bomber attacked an election rally in the eastern province of Nangarhar. 13 people died and at least 30 were wounded, although the death toll is expected to rise. The self-proclaimed Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) claimed responsibility for the attack in a statement through their news agency, Amaq. ISIS claimed multiple attacks this year, killing dozens of people, including five political candidates, in Nangarhar. Comment: Afghan parliamentary elections are scheduled to take place on October 20. Roughly 54,000 members of Afghanistan’s security forces are responsible for protecting more than 5,000 polling centers on election day; however, roughly 2,000 polling centers will not be open due to security reasons. (Straits Times, Al Jazeera, Reuters,1, 2)

INDIA: Regional tech giants pledge to minimize fake news ahead of upcoming elections


On Sunday, Indian Chief Election Commissioner Op Rawat announced that regional heads of tech giants Facebook, Twitter and Google will help reduce misinformation in the upcoming elections. Each company pledged to monitor the flow of information on their platforms and work to eliminate the adverse impact of fake news on targeted communication to voters. Op Rawat added that each company has also promised that anything related to the election will not be allowed on their platforms 48 hours before the election, a period traditionally known as the “silence period,” allowing silence for voters to peacefully decide who to vote for. These efforts will be put in place in the upcoming parliamentary elections in the four states of Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, and Mizoram in December and January. Comment: On September 22, Amit Shah, the president of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, approved the dissemination of false information on social media platforms if it helps the public image of the party. WhatsApp came under fire recently for not doing enough to halt the circulation of fake information, which has frequently led to instances of mass violence. (Indian Express, Bloomberg, The Atlantic)

MALDIVES: Former president released from prison following incumbent’s election loss


On Sunday, Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, who ruled the Maldives from 1978 to 2008, was released from prison following appeals from president-elect Ibrahim Mohamed Solih. Solih, who recently defeated incumbent president Abdulla Yameen, is Gayoom’s half-brother. Gayoom was arrested in February on charges of plotting to overthrow the government after he refused to hand his phone to investigators. Gayoom’s release coincides with another former leader’s release from prison. Mohamed Nasheed, the first democratically elected president in 2008, was sentenced for 13 years in 2015 on charges of terrorism. Comment: Abdulla Yameen’s five-year term as president will end on November 17 when Ibrahim Mohamed Solih is sworn in. While Yameen was in power he was known to lock up political opponents or force them to flee the country. Both Gayoom and Nasheed support the election winner, Ibrahim Mohamed Solih. (The Straits Times, The Times of India, Al Jazeera, BBC)

SRI LANKA: Major Japanese aircraft carriers stop in Colombo for goodwill visit

On Saturday, Sri Lanka hosted the Kaga and Inazuma helicopter carriers, two of Japan’s largest warships. The high-profile military visit of Japan to Sri Lanka marks one of many recent endeavors from Japan to battle China for key influence in the region’s vital commercial sea-lanes. Sri Lanka, a major hub in the Indian Ocean, holds strategic importance to current political and economic goals of China and Japan. The Kaga and Inazuma are halfway through a two-month deployment and will visit India next. Comment: Japan has a history of providing low interest loans and aid to Sri Lanka to help transform Colombo into a major logistics hub linking the Middle East and Europe with Asia. Sri Lanka has also partnered with China and recently ceded control of a USD 1.5 billion port on its southern coast to help cut down their debts with China. (Tamil Guardian, The Times of India, Reuters)

Researched/Written by Sloane Katleman

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