This week in Peace & Security, brought to you every Friday
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October 20 – October 26

This week in:

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

This week in Sub-Saharan Africa

CAMEROON: Biya claims victory in presidential election


On Monday, President Paul Biya officially claimed victory in Cameroon’s presidential election, thereby extending his 36-year long rule. Biya comfortably won the election by earning 71 percent of the total vote, but nationwide voter turnout was only at 54 percent and below 15 percent in the separatist, violence-plagued Anglophone regions. The two leading opposition candidates, Maurice Kamto and Cabral Libii, rejected the election results and refuse to recognize Biya as the legitimate president, accusing the ruling Cameroon People’s Democratic Movement of voter intimidation and ballot stuffing. Comment: The government preemptively deployed riot forces to major cities ahead of the official announcement of election results in order to prevent protests and “silence opposition marches.” Clement Antangana, president of the government-appointed constitutional council tasked with tallying election results, stated that “the election was free, fair and credible in spite of the security challenges.” (AP, The Guardian, Reuters)

ETHIOPIA: Government confirms country’s first female president


On Thursday, Ethiopia’s two parliamentary bodies confirmed the appointment of Ambassador Sahlework Zewde as the country’s first female president, replacing outgoing President Mulatu Teshome who held the position since 2013. Zewde recently resigned from her role at the UN, where she was serving as Secretary-General António Guterres’ Special Representative to the African Union and the Head of the United Nations Office to the African Union. She has three decades of experience at the UN, having served as the Ethiopian ambassador to numerous countries. Comment: The appointment of Zewde further points to Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s progressive track record thus far in his presidency, most notably by taking major strides toward peace with longtime foe Eritrea. Women also hold half of the cabinet positions in the revamped, 20-person Council of Ministers. (Addis Standard, Africa News 1, 2, BBC)

ZIMBABWE: Opposition leader calls for dialogue amid economic crisis

On Tuesday, opposition leader Nelson Chamisa called for the establishment of a “national transitional authority” to address the current economic crisis, Zimbabwe’s worst since 2008, as the country is experiencing serious shortages of fuel, food, and medicine. Chamisa, who lost July’s election by a slim margin to President Emmerson Mnangagwa, is calling for dialogue between the opposition and the ruling party in order to fix Zimbabwe’s economic woes. The opposition leader has repeatedly accused the government of mismanaging vital resources. Comment: Ruling ZANU-PF officials stated that dialogue can only take place if Chamisa recognizes Mnangagwa’s legitimacy as president, but Chamisa is “not ready to be forced [to] legitimize the illegitimate.” In 2009, a national unity government, similar to Chamisa’s idea of a “national transitional authority,” helped revive Zimbabwe’s economy after hyperinflation reached 500 billion percent. (News Day, Times Live, AP)

Researched/Written by Matan Ayash

This week in the Americas & Caribbean

ECUADOR: Government will no longer intervene for Assange


On Tuesday, Ecuador’s Foreign Minister José Valencia told Reuters that the country does not plan to intervene in talks between Julian Assange and the British government regarding Assange’s status as an asylee in Ecuador’s embassy in London. The statement, which comes as Assange files a lawsuit against Ecuador over the embassy’s demands that he pay his medical bills and watch after his cat, marks a change in Ecuador’s stance, which granted Assange citizenship last December and has negotiated on his behalf in the past several years. Comment: Assange is the founder of WikiLeaks, which rose to the spotlight after publishing troves of information leaked by Chelsea Manning. Under criminal investigation, threat of extradition, and the death penalty in the U.S., Assange was granted asylum at the Ecuadorian Embassy in the UK in 2012 – causing a diplomatic rift between the three countries – where he has remained while trying to find a long-term solution. (El Comercio, Reuters, The Australian, The Guardian, Rappler)

URUGUAY: Expansive law on transgender rights is passed


Late last Thursday, Uruguay’s legislature passed the “Comprehensive Law for Trans People,” which makes gender-affirming surgery and hormone therapy rights paid for by the state. In addition, the country will reserve one percent of government jobs for transgender individuals and establish a fund to pay a monthly pension to trans people born before 1975, which will serve as reparations for those who experienced torture and detention under Uruguay’s military dictatorship from 1973 to 1985. Comment: This law is one of the most progressive in the world for trans rights – and Uruguay is considered one of the most LGBT-friendly countries in South America. This law was drafted after a census found that three-quarters of trans Uruguayans don’t graduate from high school and one quarter are cut off from their families. (Buenos Aires Times, El Espectador, teleSUR TV, AP, Quartz)

REGIONAL: UNICEF calls for protection of migrant and refugee children

On Saturday, UNICEF’s Latin America office urged states in Central and North America to provide extra care and protection for children migrants. UNICEF specifically called for states of origin, transit, and reception to avoid separating children from parents, guardians, or caregivers; find alternatives to detention for migrant or refugee children; provide access to healthcare, education, and registration services; fight xenophobia and anti-migrant sentiment; and provide protection from violence, trafficking, and abuse. In the same press release, UNICEF stressed that given the causes of child migration, violence and poverty, children should not be returned to their country of origin if they face personal threat. Comment: UNICEF’s statement comes as several thousand mostly-Honduran migrants make their way to the U.S. border. Most plan to seek asylum, while President Trump threatens to deploy the military to the border and cut off foreign aid to El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras. UNICEF stated that seven million children are migrants or seek refuge through Latin America and the Caribbean. (El Mundo, La Prensa 1, 2, Tico Times, Washington Post, UNICEF)

Researched/Written by Tabitha Niemann

This week in East Asia & Pacific

CHINA: Canada installs Chinese underwater sensors near U.S. nuclear submarine base

On Monday, the media revealed that Canada deployed Chinese-made deep sea monitoring devices less than 200 miles off the U.S. Pacific coast in June as part of a scientific program. The sensors were placed along the Juan de Fuca Ridge in the northeast Pacific Ocean, about 300 miles away from U.S. Naval Base Kitsap, which houses a nuclear submarine shipyard. The devices are part of Ocean Network Canada, a marine observatory network run by the University of Victoria, and are meant to detect deep sea chemicals. The data gathered by the sensors is streamed to the Chinese Sanya Institute of Deep-sea Science and Engineering’s headquarters in Sanya. The U.S. State Department declared it had “nothing to say” about the revelation. Comment: While there is no evidence the Chinese military has access to the data streamed by the devices, or even that the devices are capable of tracking naval vessels, a Chinese expert on Canadian studies remarked that “such collaboration is very unusual. The implications go far beyond science.” (South China Morning Post, Sputnik News, UPI)

JAPAN: Journalist captured in Syria in 2015 released


On Tuesday, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga announced that Jumpei Yasuda, a freelance journalist captured in 2015 in Syria, has been released. He returned home to Japan on Thursday. Yasuda entered Syria in 2015 to report on his friend Kenji Goto, a journalist who was abducted and executed by ISIS, but was soon after captured by the al-Qaeda affiliate Al-Nusra Front, which held him for ransom. Al-Nusra released multiple videos and photos of Yasuda, who became noticeably unkempt and grey-haired as the publications continued, demanding ransom money in return for his release. Japan, which is typically unsympathetic for captives who voluntarily enter war zones, refused to pay. Comment: This isn’t the first time Yasuda has been captured while reporting from a war zone. He was captured in Iraq in 2004 and held hostage for several days before Muslim clerics intervened and negotiated his release. (South China Morning Post, Straits Times, Al Jazeera)

SINGAPORE: New agency created to rival Chinese Belt and Road Initiative


On Tuesday, Singapore launched the Infrastructure Asia agency, which will compete against China’s Belt and Road Initiative to fund regional infrastructure projects. Infrastructure Asia will work with private companies, governments and banks to spur regional collaboration on projects and provide much needed capital for infrastructural undertakings. The agency, which will be funded by the Monetary Authority of Singapore, will aim to make projects as profitable as possible, thereby attracting additional private investors. Comment: The Asian Development Bank reports that developing economies in Asia do not adequately invest in infrastructure, estimating that USD 36 trillion will need to be spent by 2030, roughly USD 2.4 trillion a year. The Infrastructure Asia agency will attempt to close this investment gap. (Channel News Asia, South China Morning Post, Reuters)

REGIONAL: First China-ASEAN naval drills in South China Sea underway


On Monday, the navies of China and the 10 member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations commenced the China-ASEAN Maritime Exercise, their first joint field exercise, off the coast of southern China. The drill, which will involve eight ships, three helicopters and more than 1,000 military personnel, was first proposed in 2015 and solidified in February. China, Singapore, Thailand, Brunei, Vietnam and the Philippines will each take turns commanding the exercise, which will focus on search-and-rescue operations. At the exercise’s opening ceremony, Singaporean navy chief Rear Adm. Lew Chuen Hong stressed that prosperity in the South China Sea can only be achieved if the region is stable and common rules are adhered to. Comment: While the China-ASEAN Maritime Exercise is the first instance of the entire ASEAN bloc holding a military exercise with a single nation, it should not be mistaken for a declaration of allegiance. On Friday, ASEAN and the U.S. announced a similar joint drill in the South China Sea scheduled for next year. (Asia News Network, Mainichi, South China Morning Post)

Researched/Written by Christian Vickland

This week in Europe & Central Asia

FRANCE: UN committee says ban on full-body veil violates human rights


On Tuesday, the UN Human Rights Committee declared that France’s law banning the niqab, a full-body Islamic veil, violates human rights. The law, passed in 2010, forbids wearing any article of clothing intended to conceal the face in a public space. The Committee found that this law places an undue burden on those who would like to wear a hijab and does not “allow for a reasonable balance between public interests and individual rights.” While the findings are not legally binding, France has 180 days to report on steps it has taken to implement the decision. Comment: The European Court of Human Rights, part of the Council of Europe, ruled in 2014 that the ban did not violate human rights. Other EU countries, such as Denmark, Austria, Belgium, and parts of Germany and Switzerland have implemented similar full-face veil bans. (France24, Reuters, UN)

MACEDONIA: Parliament approves name change plan


On Friday, Macedonia’s parliament approved a plan to adjust the constitution to change the country’s name to Northern Macedonia as part of a deal with Greece. This decision comes after a failed national referendum last month when only 30 percent of voters participated, short of the 50 percent needed for their decision to guarantee moving ahead with the change. 80 members of parliament voted in favor of the change, which was exactly the two-thirds necessary to move forward. Eight members of the opposition party switched sides; some members of parliament who voted against the measure allege that Prime Minister Zoran Zaev used bribery to gather enough votes to move forward. Comment: Once the constitution is amended, the Greek parliament will still need to accept the proposed changes. If passed, this will allow Macedonia to prepare for membership in NATO and the EU. (Ekathimerini, BBC, Guardian, Sputnik)

POLAND: European court suspends change to supreme court retirement age

On Friday, the EU’s highest court, the European Court of Justice, ordered Poland to suspend implementation of a law that changed the retirement age for members of the Supreme Court. This law, passed in April, forced 23 of the court’s justices to retire since they were already 65 years old, whereas the previous retirement age was 70. Based on this order, those judges will be able to return to work while the European Court of Justice prepares to give a final ruling concerning allegations that the government has undermined judiciary independence. Comment: Poland’s ruling party, the Law and Justice Party (PiS), will be able to fill any vacancies created by this law, which would dramatically shift the political composition of the Supreme Court. Malgorzata Gersdorf, the court’s chief justice, refused to retire until her term ends in 2020. (PAP 1, 2, Reuters, CJEU)

Researched/Written by Lars Spjut

This week in the Middle East & North Africa

IRAQ: Car bomb rocks town of Qayyara


On Tuesday, a car bomb killed six people, including two soldiers, and wounded 30 in a town south of Mosul. The car exploded next to a restaurant and a popular market. No one has claimed responsibility but Iraq’s top military commander blamed the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS). Qayyara was under ISIS control until 2016. Comment: Iraq declared victory in its fight against ISIS in December after recapturing almost all territories under ISIS control; however, since then, ISIS has carried out kidnappings and suicide bombings throughout the country. (Al Jazeera, Arab News, Reuters)

JORDAN: King to reclaim farm land leased to Israel


On Sunday, King Abdullah II told Israel that the country would reclaim land leased to Israel in the 1994 peace deal. The two territories, al-Baqura and al-Ghumar, are rich farmlands and popular tourist spots that were leased to Israel for 25 years, with a stipulation that Jordan needed to notify Israel within twelve months if it wished to reclaim the land. Israel’s Prime Minister Netanyahu said Israel wished to negotiate with Jordan to keep the land. Comment: The move is very popular in Jordan, as activists and civil society groups have praised the move. The 1994 peace deal is very unpopular in Jordan because of Israel’s occupation of Palestine. One political activist, Hussam Abdallat said the king’s efforts would, “endear him to the public.” There have been recent protests against corruption, rising prices and income tax reform, so this is one way for Abdullah to change the narrative within the country. (Al Jazeera, Egypt Independent, Gulf News)

WEST BANK AND GAZA: Governments accused of human rights abuses

On Tuesday, Human Rights Watch (HRW) published a report accusing the Palestinian Authority (PA) and Hamas of “systematic arbitrary arrests and torture.” HRW investigated 86 cases and interviewed 147 people documented in the 149-page report. According to the report, critics were detained to punish them and deter them from continuing their activism. In addition, HRW accused both authorities of broad interpretations of certain laws as an effort to clamp down on opponents such as “harming the revolutionary unity” or insulting leaders. Comment: Both the PA and Hamas accused the report of being inaccurate and biased. The report said that the PA arrested activists associated with Hamas, while Hamas arrested activists affiliated with Fatah in the West Bank. (Al Jazeera, Arab News, Human Rights Watch)

Researched/Written by Tyler Spyrison

This week in South Asia

AFGHANISTAN: Parliamentary election persists despite violence and administrative delays


On Saturday, roughly three million Afghan citizens showed up to vote in the country’s long-awaited parliamentary elections. Delayed for three years due to security concerns, the election had multiple setbacks reported including missing or incomplete voter registration lists, problems with biometric verification devices being used for the first time and absent or poorly trained election staff. Many polling sites were also either several hours delayed or not open at all, prompting outrage from citizens and causing officials to open 401 polling sites again on Sunday. Over the two-day voting period, 170 civilians and security forces were killed or wounded in election-related attacks. Both the Taliban and ISIS claimed responsibility for the attacks. Comment: Officials postponed elections in the Kandahar Province until October 27 because of the assassination of a powerful police chief last Thursday. U.S. Army Brigadier General Jeffrey Smiley was confirmed as one of the two Americans wounded in the attack on the Afghan police chief. (Times of India, Straits Times, Reuters, Al Jazeera, Foreign Policy)

BANGLADESH: Prominent pro-opposition leader arrested ahead of December elections


On Monday, authorities arrested Moinul Hosein, a prominent lawyer and pro-opposition newspaper publisher, on six separate charges of defamation. The warrant involved a television talk show appearance on October 16 during which Hosein called a female journalist “characterless” after she asked him if he represented a conservative opposition party. The arrest came hours after Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina publicly denounced his comments, accusing him of collaborating with Pakistan during Bangladesh’s war of independence and urging female journalists to file defamation charges against him; Hasina has since apologized for her statement. Hosein was denied bail without explanation on Tuesday and remains in jail. Comment: Hosein does not belong to a political party but has emerged as a top critic of the government in recent months. He was also a key organizer of the recently formed alliance between the main opposition party (BNP) and other centrist parties who hope to defeat Hasina in the December elections. Critics have accused the government of a massive crackdown against freedom of speech and press. BNP reported that police have arrested at least 4,000 activists and journalists since September under the controversial Digital Security Act passed last month. (NDTV, Indian Express, South China Morning Post, Associated Press)

BHUTAN: Elections establish new government and prime minister

On Friday, election commission officials announced that a new ruling party, the Druk Nyamrup Tshogpa (DNT) or the “Bhutan United Party,” won 30 of the 47 national assembly seats in Thursday’s election. The Druk Phuensum Tshogpa (DPT) or the “Bhutan Peace and Prosperity Party,” won the 17 other seats. The DNT and the DPT won the primary in September, pushing out the current ruling party, the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), from contending in October’s final round election. Bhutan’s new prime minister will be Lotay Tshering, a 50-year-old surgeon trained in Bangladesh and Australia. Comment: This is the third democratic election to take place since the country transitioned from an absolutist to constitutional monarchy in 2008. Bhutan’s new prime minister, Lotay Tshering, helped found the DNT party in 2013 and became its leader in May 2018. Lotay and the DNT party ran their campaign on alleviating youth unemployment, rural poverty and high foreign debt to India. The election saw a 70 percent turnout and a record 11 women win seats. (Channel News Asia, League of India, Al Jazeera)

Researched/Written by Sloane Katleman

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