This week in Peace & Security, brought to you every Friday
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October 27 – November 2


This week in:
Africa | Americas | East Asia | Europe & Central Asia | Middle East | South Asia


Featured Publication
Global Peace Index 2018 Cover

The Global Peace Index 2018 was written, researched, and produced by the Institute for Economics & Peace. This annual report ranks 163 nations according to their level of peacefulness and provides in-depth, comprehensive analysis on “trends in peace, its economic value, and how to develop peaceful societies.”

This week in Sub-Saharan Africa

CAMEROON/GABON: Communications regulator suspends Cameroonian TV channel over false death report


On Tuesday, the High Authority of Communication (HAC), Gabon’s communications watchdog, suspended the privately-run Cameroonian Vision 4 television channel over fictitious reports concerning the death of Gabonese President Ali Bongo Ondimba. Vision 4 falsely reported that Bongo died while admitted in the King Faisal hospital during a visit in Saudi Arabia. The HAC suspended the channel for six months because it “threatened the lives of others and disseminated information tending to disturb public order.” Comment: Contrary to widespread reports stating that the president suffered a stroke, Gabonese government officials released a statement asserting that Bongo was hospitalized as a precautionary measure last Wednesday due to extreme fatigue stemming from his busy schedule. The Cameroonian Embassy in Gabon issued a statement distancing the Cameroonian government from the Vision 4 channel and further emphasized the “fraternal” relations between Bongo and Cameroonian President Paul Biya. (Africa News, Daily Nation, Reuters)

NIGERIA: Security forces open fire at Shia protesters, kill dozens


On Tuesday, Nigerian security forces killed 42 members of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN) during the second day of protests in the capital city of Abuja. The IMN, Nigeria’s largest Shi’ite movement, has been violently targeted by authorities on numerous occasions following the arrest of their leader, Ibrahim Zakzaky, in a 2015 army operation that killed hundreds of his supporters. His followers took to the streets on Monday and Tuesday after it came to light that authorities ignored a court ruling ordering his release and subsequently charged him with murder over the 2015 incident. Comment: Approximately half of Nigeria’s 190 million citizens are Muslims, although the vast majority are Sunnis. The ongoing subjugation of Nigeria’s Shia population has drawn widespread global criticism, as concerns grow that this group will become radicalized if oppression continues. (Premium Times, Vanguard, Al Jazeera, Reuters)


SOUTH SUDAN: Rebel leader returns to Juba to celebrate peace deal

On Wednesday, opposition leader Riek Machar returned to South Sudan for the first time in more than two years in order to usher in the latest peace deal between his supporters and President Salva Kiir’s government. Under pressure from regional leaders and the UN, Machar and Kiir signed a peace deal last month, under which Machar would regain his position as vice president. Speaking to a crowd in the capital of Juba, Machar vowed to bolster government institutions and address widespread corruption, and further stated that the longtime foes “have opened a new chapter for peace and unity.” Comment: This new iteration of the peace deal is the third attempt between the two leaders to achieve peace since civil war erupted in 2013. Each previous endeavor has resulted in further escalation of the conflict. The international community has criticized the new deal since it was signed in September, accusing the two sides of “slow implementation, missed deadlines, and continued cease-fire violations.” (Vanguard, AP, Reuters)

Researched/Written by Matan Ayash

This week in the Americas & Caribbean

ARGENTINA/BRAZIL: Bolsonaro advisor backtracks after saying Argentina is “not a priority”


On Tuesday, Paolo Guendes, economic advisor to Brazil’s President-elect Jair Bolsonaro, backtracked previous statements saying the country’s relationship with Argentina is not a priority. Guendes made the statements on election night, also saying that Mercosur (a South American trade bloc) is “extremely restrictive.” The Argentine ambassador to Brazil responded on Monday, saying that while he doesn’t foresee an end to Mercosur, he welcomes any attempts to open it to the world. Comment: Bolsonaro, a divisive right-wing figure, officially won the Brazilian presidency on Sunday with 55 percent of the vote. While Argentina’s President Macri congratulated Bolsonaro and wished for the two to work to strengthen their countries’ relationship, Argentina’s press has reported that Bolsonaro’s first visit will be to Chile and the U.S., breaking tradition of Brazilian presidents first visiting neighboring Argentina. (Clarin, El Pais, Mercopress, Perfil, BBC)

CUBA: Russia offers USD 50m arms deal during Havana meeting


On Monday and Tuesday, Havana hosted the 16th session of the Russian-Cuban Intergovernmental Commission on Trade and Scientific Cooperation, coinciding on Monday with the Second Russian-Latin America and Caribbean Business Forum. During the talks, both sides agreed to a loan of USD 50 million for the purchase of Russian weapons and military equipment. Meanwhile, a final document outlining other cooperation projects (worth a total of around USD 260 million) is expected to be signed during Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel’s trip to Moscow, which began Thursday. Comment: President Diaz-Canel’s trip to Russia is his first to Cuba’s traditional ally. While the President is trying to improve the country’s reputation overseas, he is also focused on securing loans and investments, like those from Russia, as the country is hit by falling tourism. (Radio Rebelde, TASS 1, 2, 3, Miami Herald, Newsweek)

VENEZUELA: Intelligence chief replaced after scandal over opposition leader’s death

On Tuesday, the Venezuelan government confirmed the removal of the Director of the Bolivarian Intelligence Service (SEBIN), which was first reported on Friday. The new Director, Army General Manuel Cristopher, will take over for Gustavo González López. The replacement comes weeks after the death of opposition leader Francisco Albán, who died in SEBIN’s custody. While the government has maintained that he jumped out of a 10th floor window, that story has been questioned by international leaders and domestic opposition party Primerio Justicia (PJ), who now say the dismissal confirms foul play. Comment: SEBIN was created in 2010 by Hugo Chavez and reports to the Vice President. According to Human Rights Watch, individuals arrested by SEBIN are often not given reasons for their detention and are subject to physical and psychological abuse. (El Nacional, Emol, Reuters, Human Rights Watch)

Researched/Written by Tabitha Niemann

This week in East Asia & Pacific

AUSTRALIA: Spy watchdog to investigate whether bugging operation broke laws

On Wednesday, documents revealed that Margaret Stone, the Inspector General of Intelligence and Security (IGIS), is examining allegations that the Australian Secret Intelligence Service (ASIS) broke intelligence laws when it planted over 200 listening devices in Timor-Leste’s cabinet rooms during gas and oil treaty negotiations in 2004. In early October, three senators and a member of parliament wrote to Inspector General Stone requesting her to investigate the bugging, which was meant to give Australia the advantage in negotiations over the distribution of oil and gas reserves in the Timor Sea. The IGIS monitors Australian intelligence and security agencies and has legal authority to compel individuals to respond to questions and provide documents. Comment: The bugging was made public in 2012 by former ASIS agent Witness K, whose anonymity is mandated by the Intelligence Services Act. In June of this year, Australia charged Witness K and his lawyer with conspiring to communicate secret information, a move that has been met with widespread outrage and calls for dismissal from Australian lawmakers. (SBS News, South China Morning Post, The Guardian)

SINGAPORE: Government will gauge public opinion on death penalty


On Wednesday, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) announced a survey querying the general public on the death penalty. A spokesperson for the MHA stated that the survey is part of continual research meant to improve the Singaporean criminal justice system. Roughly 2,000 respondents, randomly selected across age, race and gender parameters, will be surveyed between October and December by Blackbox Research, a market research consulting firm. Eight people were executed last year, the highest figure in a decade, all for drug trafficking, which until 2012 carried a mandatory death penalty sentence. Comment: Human rights groups are skeptical this survey precedes any softening of capital punishment in the country. Phil Robertson, the deputy director for Asia at Human Rights Watch, believes just the opposite: that the motive behind the survey is to show the public backs Singapore’s use of the death penalty and “provide justification for their continued defiance of the international trend towards abolishing the death penalty.” (The Malaysian Insight, New Straits Times, Straits Times)

REGIONAL: South Korean supreme court orders Japanese corporation to pay WWII reparations


On Tuesday, South Korea’s top court ruled Nippon Steel & Sumitomo must pay four South Koreans 100 million won, or USD 87,000, as reparation for forced labor during World War II. South Korea claims 150,000 people were victims of forced labor, 5,000 of whom are still alive. Currently, there are 14 active lawsuits filed by nearly 1,000 complainants, a number which is expected to increase after Tuesday’s ruling. Japan, which has threatened to seek international adjudication on the matter, believes a 1965 treaty between the countries resolved the issue as it contains a provision stating that any compensation issues have been settled “completely and finally.” Previous South Korean administrations viewed the 1965 treaty as being the final say on forced labor reparations, but the Moon government has said it will abide by the court’s decision. Comment: Tuesday’s ruling is likely to sour relations between the two nations. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe denounced the decision as “impossible” under international law, while media sources from Japan and South Korea alike are urging calm, warning of possible heightened nationalist sentiments if lawmakers react emotionally to the ruling. (Japan Times, Korea Times, Reuters)

Researched/Written by Christian Vickland

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This week in Europe & Central Asia

ARMENIA: Parliament unanimously passes far-reaching amnesty bill


On Wednesday, Parliament unanimously passed an amnesty bill after its first reading, with another unanimous and final approval after the second reading on Thursday. The government introduced the bill as part of celebrating the 2,800th anniversary of the founding of the capital, Yerevan, as well as the 100th anniversary of the First Armenian Republic. Acting Justice Minister Artak Zeynalian explained that this bill is a “purely humanitarian act” which will apply to some degree to an estimated 6,500 people, including releasing 660 of the 2,888 people being held in prison. The bill applies to those who received sentences of up to three years and certain other groups with sentences up to five or six years. The amnesty will not apply to people who committed serious crimes such as high treason or terrorism. Comment: Some family members of those being held in life-term sentences protested outside the National Assembly hoping that their relatives could be included in the bill. Armenia passed another large amnesty bill in 2009 in connection with the arrests of opposition activists. (Arm Radio,, Panorama, Azatutyan, Eurasianet)

BOSNIA AND HERZEGOVINA: Police move migrants to new migrant center


On Tuesday, police said they bused dozens of migrants on the border to a new migrant center in northwestern Bosnia as part of an agreement with Croatia to reopen a border crossing. Authorities say about 20,000 migrants from Asia, the Middle East, and North Africa have crossed the country seeking to enter neighboring Croatia, an EU member state. The government, as part of an effort to prevent a humanitarian crisis with winter approaching, opened two new migrant centers last week, which doubled the number of available beds to about 1,700; more than 1,000 migrants remain homeless. Comment: Bosnia became part of a new “Balkan route” for migrants after other nations tightened immigration policies, greatly increasing the number of people entering the country to try to pass into the EU; however, those trying to enter Croatia have faced substantial barriers, resulting in several conflicts at the border over the past month such as police disbanding groups blocking the roads. (Sarajevo Times 1, 2, Balkan Insight, Daily Sabah, Radio Free Europe)

RUSSIA: Constitutional court rules against regional border deal

On Tuesday, the constitutional court in Ingushetia ruled that a new border deal with Chechnya runs contrary to the republic’s constitution. The deal, which was approved on October 4, clarified the administrative border between the two republics; however, cartographers estimate that Ingushetia gave up 26 times the amount of land as Chechnya did. The court said that changing the borders requires a referendum, which has not yet been planned. Comment: Thousands have protested against the agreement since its announcement in September, while President Ramzan Kadyrov of Chechnya announced on Sunday that he considered the matter closed. The territorial dispute began in the early 1990s when the two republics split apart as Chechnya tried to become independent from Russia. (Caucasian Knot, Moscow Times, TASS, Radio Free Europe)

Researched/Written by Lars Spjut

This week in the Middle East & North Africa

JORDAN: Amman on target to be carbon neutral by 2050


On Tuesday, Yazan Ismail, an energy auditor working for a green consultant group in Jordan, said almost all mosques in Jordan are now covering their energy needs through solar panels and energy conservation. Over 70 cities worldwide, including Amman, are pushing to be carbon neutral by 2050. Beginning in 2014, the Ministry of Religious Affairs pushed mosques to become greener, and now they are selling back their excess energy. In 2013, the Al-Hoffaz Academy was one of the first schools to go green in Jordan and now generates 95 percent of its own energy needs. Comment: Amman averages 104 degrees Fahrenheit in the summer. Jordan imports almost all energy currently, but aims to internally generate 20 percent of its energy by 2022. Religious leaders are helping green initiatives, stating that Islam teaches to conserve natural resources and reduce excessiveness. (Arab News, Awsat, Economic Times)

QATAR: Human Rights Watch says asylum law a “huge step forward” in the region


On Tuesday, Human Rights Watch (HRW) released a report praising Qatar’s asylum law while urging it to go further to match international human rights and refugee laws. In September Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al Thani passed the asylum law, which removed exit permits for migrant workers and allowed people to apply for permanent residency; however, as the HRW points out, the new law does not allow these people to engage in political activism or have freedom of movement within Qatar. Comment: The executive director for the Middle East and North Africa of HRW tweeted that this was a “big deal” to the wider region because five million Syrian refugees are currently living in countries in the Middle East and North Africa. This might be seen as a political move with Qatar set to host the 2022 World Cup and the UN High Commission for Refugees urging Gulf countries to develop a legal system for refugees. (Al Jazeera, Middle East Eye, Human Rights Watch)

TUNISIA: Woman blows herself up in the heart of the capital

On Monday, a university graduate blew herself up in Tunis, wounding fifteen, including ten police officers. Police believe her target was a police checkout point, but the explosion was also close to the French Embassy and Municipal Theatre. The 30-year-old woman told her family she was going to the capital to find a job and was thought to have no prior militant involvement. No group has claimed responsibility yet. In 2015, Tunisia dealt with two deadly terrorist attacks that hit the tourist economy hard. Since then, Tunisia has been under a state of emergency, but many believed security and tourism were finally improving. Comment: Tunisia is one of the few democratic countries in the region, holding free elections and guaranteeing fundamental rights, but it has had 3,000 citizens join the Islamic State and other terrorist groups throughout the region. Before this attack, the Tunisian government was already dealing with a sluggish economy and Libya’s ongoing conflict next door. (Al Jazeera, BBC, Reuters)

Researched/Written by Tyler Spyrison

This week in South Asia

BANGLADESH: Foreign Secretary reaches deal with Myanmar to repatriate Rohingya refugees


On Tuesday, foreign secretaries from Bangladesh and Myanmar met in Dhaka for negotiations, and agreed they will start the first phase of returning Rohingya refugees in mid-November. The announcement comes less than a week after UN investigators warned that the genocide against the Muslim minority was still ongoing in the northern Rakhine state of Myanmar. Following the announcement, 60 Rohingya community leaders met with the Myanmar delegation in Cox’s Bazar, the main Rohingya refugee camp in Bangladesh, and insisted they will not return to Myanmar without guaranteed rights such as citizenship, access to healthcare, and freedom of movement; however, the two country’s leaders did not involve the Rohingya community in negotiations for the repatriation, and the future repatriation terms and logistical details remain unclear on each side. Comment: Last week, Marzuki Darusman, chair of the UN fact-finding mission on Myanmar, said that thousands of Rohingyas are still fleeing violence in Myanmar, and those who remain “continue to suffer the most severe restrictions and repression”. In August 2017, an estimated 730,000 Rohingya fled a brutal military crackdown on their communities, taking shelter in crowded camps in Bangladesh and bringing stories of mass rape, murder and arson from Myanmar army forces. UN investigators said senior Myanmar military officials should be prosecuted for genocide in the Rakhine state, but Aung San Suu Kyi has rejected the accusations, insisting the country was defending itself against armed Rohingya insurgents. (Times of India, Channel News Asia, Al Jazeera, Reuters, The Guardian)

PAKISTAN: Controversial death sentence overturned, protests ensue


On Wednesday, Supreme Court judges overturned Asia Bibi’s death sentence, citing insufficient evidence to prove the blasphemy charges against her. Protesters against the court decision immediately took to the streets and continue to protest into Thursday. Large groups of protesters from hardline conservative groups blocked 10 key roads in Karachi and Lahore, causing most schools to shut down both days. The most vocal group against the ruling, the Tehreek-e-Labaik (TLP) party, called for the death of the chief justice of the Supreme Court and two other judges who overturned the death sentence of the Christian woman previously convicted for blasphemy. The TLP also called for the current Prime Minister, Imran Khan, to step down over the controversy. Additionally, they urged members of the military to rise up and kill their military leaders. As a response to the violent protests and incendiary remarks by the TLP, Khan made a televised address on Wednesday night asking protesters to stop blocking the streets and damaging property. Comment: Asia Bibi had been living on death row since 2010 as the first woman sentenced to death by hanging under Pakistan’s strict blasphemy laws. In 2009, Bibi was accused of making derogatory remarks about Islam after neighbors objected to her drinking water from their glass because she was not Muslim. Around 40 people in Pakistan are on death row or serving a life sentence for blasphemy. (South China Morning Post, Al Jazeera, Reuters 1, 2)

SRI LANKA: Government upheaval causes political crisis, protests, violence

On Friday, president Maithripala Sirisena unexpectedly fired prime minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and quickly appointed former president Mahinda Rajapaksa as the new prime minister, triggering political chaos and prompting criticism that the move was illegal and unconstitutional. The following day, Sirisena suspended parliament until November 16 after Wickremesinghe sought an emergency session to prove his majority. Sirisena’s actions prompted both international backlash and support, with China publicly congratulating Rajapaksa as the new prime minister, and India, the EU and the United States urging Sirisena to abide by the constitution and support the current prime minister, Wickremesinghe. On Monday, the U.S. State Department released a public statement urging Sirisena to immediately reconvene parliament and allow the democratically elected representatives to fulfill their responsibility to affirm who will lead the government. As the political chaos continues, loyalists from both sides have taken to the streets in protest to advocate for their preferred outcomes. Comment: Parliament speaker Karu warned that the crisis could lead to a “bloodbath” on the streets unless Sirisena ends the suspension of parliament to let representatives choose between Wickremesinghe and Rajapaksa. Two people have died and three have been injured in street clashes over the political turmoil. (Times of India 1, 2, Straits Times, South China Morning Post, Reuters, Al Jazeera)

Researched/Written by Sloane Katleman

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