This week in Peace & Security, brought to you every Friday
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November 10 – November 16

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

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The U.S. Department of State is making foreign assistance count in conflict areas through maximizing the effectiveness of stabilization efforts. Creative Learning’s Stabilization Symposium was an important step in the process of advancing the goals of the Stabilization Assistance Review. Read the Symposium Executive Report HERE.

This week in Sub-Saharan Africa

DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF THE CONGO: Two opposition leaders withdraw approval of joint candidate


On Monday, two opposition leaders withdrew their support for a single, coalition-backed candidate ahead of December 23 elections. Felix Tshisekedi of the Union for Democracy and Social Progress and Vital Kamerhe of the Union for the Congolese Nation pulled their support for businessman Martin Fayulu, a former Exxon Mobil manager, after previously agreeing to abandon their candidacies in the interest of partnering with other opposition parties to defeat Joseph Kabila’s handpicked candidate, Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary. Their decisions came following intense protests in the capital of Kinshasa against Fayulu’s selection as the joint opposition candidate. Comment: Some opposition leaders remain committed to the prior agreement, but lack of support from Tshisekedi and Kamerhe dampen prospects for victory against Shadary. In an attempt to keep the coalition alive, Fayulu tweeted, “I urge my brothers to overcome partisan considerations and to give priority to the nation’s higher interests.” (Africa News, The East African, AP, France24, Reuters)

ERITREA: UN Security Council lifts sanctions


On Wednesday, the UN Security Council voted unanimously to remove sanctions on Eritrea, which had been in effect since 2009. Citing “efforts toward peace, stability and reconciliation in the region,” the newly instated resolution will instantly eliminate the targeted sanctions, travel bans, arms embargoes, and asset freezes that were previously imposed on Eritrea. In addition to commending Eritrea on restoration of peaceful ties with Ethiopia, the resolution further called on the country to continue taking steps toward diplomatically resolving its border conflict with neighboring Djibouti. Comment: The UN Security Council imposed an arms embargo and other sanctions on Eritrea in 2009 for supplying weapons and assistance to al-Shabab militants in Somalia, which further crippled Eritrea’s already struggling economy. Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed praised the Security Council’s decision, stating that it will have “far-reaching effects in improving stability and building lasting peace and normal relations in the Horn of Africa region.” (Africa News, AP, BBC)

GABON: Constitutional Court orders VP to take over presidential duties

On Thursday, Gabon’s top court authorized Vice President Pierre Claver Mananga Moussavou to take over presidential responsibilities in the absence of President Ali Bongo Odimba who has been hospitalized for three weeks in Saudi Arabia. The court stated that this decision was made “in order to ensure the continuity of the state and the public service, as well as the regular functioning of the government.” The president’s hospitalization has caused much speculation in Gabon, as government officials continually insist that he is hospitalized due to mild fatigue despite widespread reports that Bongo suffered a serious stroke. Comment: President Bongo has not been seen in public since being hospitalized in Riyadh on October 24. Bongo took over for his father, Omar, in 2009. The Bongo family has ruled in Gabon for nearly five decades. (Africa News 1, 2, Daily Nation, The Punch)

Researched/Written by Matan Ayash

This week in the Americas & Caribbean

BRAZIL: IACHR expresses concerns over Bolsonaro’s campaign issues


On Monday, the human rights arm of the Organization of American States, called the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), presented findings after a week-long visit to Brazil expressing concern over the state and future of human rights in the country, particularly relating to President-elect Jair Bolsonaro’s campaign statements. The commission pointed specifically to social exclusion, public services, access to justice, and the intended use of anti-terror laws to punish protesters, all without naming Bolsonaro explicitly. The commission’s findings expressed concern over rights for Afro-Brazilians, indigenous people, and women, while the President of the commission herself stated concern over the President-elect’s campaign rhetoric. Comment: Far-right President-elect Bolsonaro ran as a ‘straight-talker’ but is criticized for racist, misogynistic, and homophobic comments. He has also said that he favors abolishing protected indigenous lands. (Veja, Reuters, El Espectador)

COLOMBIA: First migrant camp for Venezuelans opens in Bogotá


On Wednesday, the first official refugee-style camp for homeless Venezuelan migrants opened in Colombia, modeled after similar camps for Syrian refugees in France. Yellow tents and cots on a football field in Bogotá are meant to hold just 500 migrants, while over a million Venezuelans live in Colombia today. Individuals can stay in the camp for three months and are offered information on accessing education and healthcare. In the meantime, officials are assessing the need for a more permanent fixture. Comment: Immigrant flows from Venezuela have increased steadily in the past few years as the socio-economic crisis has worsened amid hyperinflation, food shortages, and crime. Over two million have fled in the past three years, mostly to neighboring Colombia. As the country resists putting up permanent structures to house the refugees, many have remained homeless. (El Espectador, AP, Buenos Aires Times, VOA)

UNITED STATES: Caravan group, including LGBT migrants, reaches border

On Wednesday, a group of about 400, including LGBTQ migrants, reached the U.S. border at Tijuana by bus. These migrants broke off from the larger group of about 5,000 in Mexico City – other groups are expected to reach the border in the coming days. Along with women and children, many in this smaller group are LGBTQ and split from the larger group after discriminatory treatment from locals and fellow travelers. They continued to face verbal abuse in Tijuana and on social media, according to one advocacy group leader. Comment: As thousands make their way from Honduras, Guatemala, and Mexico to the U.S. border, President Trump has attempted to dissuade them from crossing the U.S. border by sending troops and signing an executive order on Friday suspending the granting of asylum for individuals that cross the border illegally. (Washington Post, Reuters, BBC, La Prensa)

Researched/Written by Tabitha Niemann

This week in East Asia & Pacific

AUSTRALIA: Terror attack in Melbourne

On Friday, a 30-year old Somali man named Hassan Khalif Shire Ali deliberately crashed his car in Melbourne’s Central Business District, setting it aflame before he exited on foot and began stabbing pedestrians, killing one person and injuring two before being shot and killed by police. Australian authorities declared the attack an act of terrorism, for which the Islamic State claimed responsibility. Ali reportedly struggled with mental health and substance abuse issues and had grown increasingly delusional leading up to the attack, reportedly telling friends he was “being chased by unseen people with spears.” Ali was known by police to have radical views, even having his passport revoked in 2015, but authorities say it is more likely he was inspired by Islamic State propaganda online, rather than receiving direct communication and instruction from the group. Comment: The attack, which Australian police declared a “wake up call”, has led to demands for heightened security measures. In recent days, politicians floated proposals mandating people suspected of radicalization to live at a fixed address, adhere to a curfew, wear monitoring devices, stay away from certain populated areas, and even be forbidden from accessing the internet. (ABC, New Zealand Herald, News 1, 2, The Guardian)

CHINA: Crackdown on Marxist activists


Over the weekend, Chinese authorities detained 22 young Marxist labor activists in five cities, 16 of whom were still missing as of Wednesday. The crackdown follows the detention of nearly 50 rallygoers at a labor protest in July, some of whom, like 22-year-old Yue Xin, are still ‘disappeared.’ The recent arrests targeted members of the Jasic Workers Solidarity group, a growing grassroots Marxist student movement that calls for increased workers’ protections. The group has vowed to continue protests and seek the release of the disappeared, stating that “we can’t let those who created the path of freedom be trapped in the thorns.” Comment: The crackdown on Marxists is somewhat ironic given that Chinese President Xi Jinping, head of the Communist Party, has been urging China to embrace its Marxist roots since assuming power. Marxist classes are mandatory for all Chinese university students, but the Chinese government does not tolerate advocacy for unions and employee rights that Marxism espouses. (Japan Times, South China Morning Post, The Guardian)

INDONESIA: Government courts Saudi investment to reduce reliance on China


On Tuesday, Yenny Wahid, a senior member of Indonesian President Joko Widodo’s re-election team, announced that Saudi Arabia recently pledged USD 100 million to fund Indonesian infrastructure projects. Wahid, the daughter of former president Abdurrahman Wahid, facilitated a meeting between Minister of State-owned Entreprises Rini Soemarno and Saudi Arabia Abdulrahman Al Saeed on the sidelines of last month’s International Monetary Fund conference in Bali, which resulted in the monetary commitment. Saudi Arabia’s investment is widely seen as a countermove to China’s heavy investment in infrastructure in Southeast Asia through its Belt and Road Initiative, which Wahid called “very aggressive.” Wahid claims Indonesia is seeking a wide range of investors, especially Muslim nations, for its recently announced USD 355 billion infrastructure revamp so that it does not become vulnerably reliant on China. Comment: Wahid’s announcement comes after Saudi Arabia and Indonesia publicly pledged to enhance their economic and counter-terrorism partnership late last month. The two nations agreed to trade more, share intelligence on potential terrorists, exchange ‘best-practices’ for counter-radicalization and, as seen here, invest more in each other’s economies. (South China Morning Post, The Straits Times, IDN Financial)

Researched/Written by Christian Vickland

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Applications are open for Spring 2019 Creative Learning International Programs Internships! If you’re a graduate student in the DC-metro area visit our website for more information.

This week in Europe & Central Asia

GEORGIA: European Parliament praises Georgia’s progress towards EU membership


On Wednesday, the European Parliament passed a resolution praising Georgia’s progress in passing reforms connected to the EU association agreement in 2016. The resolution, passed by a margin of 528 to 97, noted improved election processes and closer ties with the EU while also calling for continued work to reduce high-level corruption and implement further democratic reforms. Prime Minister Mamuka Bakhtazde thanked the European Parliament for supporting Georgia’s efforts to build better relations with Europe. Comment: Despite this official recognition of progress, Georgia is not yet an official candidate for EU membership. The European Parliament also passed a resolution on Wednesday expressing concern for Moldova’s move away from European values of democracy, marking a move away from ties with the EU. (, Georgia Today, Radio Free Europe, European Parliament)

HUNGARY/MACEDONIA: Former Macedonian prime minister seeks asylum in Hungary


On Wednesday, the office of Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban confirmed that it had received a request from former Macedonian Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski for asylum. Police ordered Gruevski’s arrest on Monday after he failed to appear for the start of his two-year sentence related to a wiretapping scandal during his ten-year tenure as prime minister. Gruevski posted on Facebook on Tuesday that he was seeking political asylum in Hungary claiming that he had received multiple death threats. The Macedonian government has already requested his extradition. Comment: Gruevski was a close ally of Prime Minister Orban when he was in office. Offering asylum would show support for Orban’s allies, but it would also likely further alienate other European leaders. (Budapest Business Journal, Balkan Insight, Radio Free Europe, AP, Reuters)

ROMANIA: Lawmakers approve bill to cancel wiretap evidence

On Wednesday, the lower house in Romania’s parliament approved a bill that would cancel evidence obtained through wiretapping, which could eliminate sentences in hundreds of corruption cases. The head of the ruling Social Democrats, Liviu Dragnea, pushed for this bill, which has the potential to cancel his own two-year sentence for electoral fraud. Dragnea claims that the intelligence service abuses its ability to implement wiretaps by faking evidence and illegally monitoring millions of Romanians. Comment: On Tuesday, the European Commission and European Parliament both criticized Romania’s actions in changing the criminal code and seeking to influence the judiciary. Moving forward with this bill supports the Social Democrats’ claim that these criticisms were unjustified and unfair. Romania is scheduled to begin its six-month term as the rotating presidency of the Council of the EU on January 1. (Romania Insider, Balkan Insight, DW, Reuters)

Researched/Written by Lars Spjut

This week in the Middle East & North Africa

IRAN: Officials still following through on nuclear deal


On Monday, the International Atomic Energy Agency report said Iran continues to maintain the important parts of the nuclear restrictions from the 2015 deal. Iran’s low-enriched uranuim and heavy water is far below the deal’s limits. Despite fears that Iran would deviate from the original 2015 deal once the U.S. reimposed sanctions on Novermber 5, Iran said that as long as France, Britain, Germany, China, and Russia remain committed to the trade benefits of the agreement, it will stick with the deal. Comment: The U.S. reimposed sanctions not only to push for harsher conditions on Iran’s nuclear program but also on its ballistic program, which they see as being interlinked. The other partners in the deal have been focusing on helping companies that may be affected by the new sanctions and to protect Iran oil, but many experts do not believe these acts will save the deal. (The Iranian, Reuters, US News)

IRAQ: Violence continues in Anbar province


On Monday, gunmen killed nine people in Anbar province, where they targeted a Sunni militia officer. Captain Misha’an Hazemawi was killed along with eight other people in his home, northeast of Fallujah. No one has claimed responsibility for the attack, but multiple Iraqi security sources blamed the Islamic State (ISIS). Hazemawi was part of the Tribal Mobilisation Forces, which helped the Iraqi government expel most ISIS fighters from the area in 2016. Comment: Since losing most of their territory in Iraq in 2017, many security experts believe ISIS will revert back to insurgency-style tactics in Iraq. Anbar province has been a hotbed of anti-government and anti-U.S. sentiment since the U.S. invaded Iraq in 2003. U.S. forces tried to militarily subdue Fallujah and the surrounding areas twice during the occupation but the incorporation of Sunni Awakening Council militias helped stem the tide of violence. Former President Al-Maliki’s government was blamed for marginalizing the Sunni population. (Arab News, Middle East Monitor, US News)

LIBYA: Rivals shake hands at Italian Summit

On Tuesday, Prime Minister Fayez al-Serraj and General Khalifa Haftar met for the first time since May. Serraj represents the internationally backed but weak government in the west while Haftar rules most of the east with his own army, along with support from Egypt and other Arab states. In May, France hosted a meeting aimed at setting up elections this year, while Italy hosted the summit this time around. At this summit, the parties agreed to hold elections next spring and abide by the outcome. Haftar also said that he had no plans to remove Serraj before elections, which seemed to be a veiled threat at the western government. Comment: Italy, which was the former colonial power, has huge interests in the oil and gas sectors in Libya and supports the internationally backed government, while France has reportedly been favoring Haftar. The UN has blamed an escalation of violence on the lack of elections this year but said it is up to the Libyan people to decide what type of election to hold in 2019. (Al Jazeera, Middle East Eye, Reuters)

Researched/Written by Tyler Spyrison

This week in South Asia

BANGLADESH: Rohingya repatriation plans for November 15 allegedly begin


On Wednesday, despite conflicting reports, the Rohingya repatriation to Myanmar will allegedly start as scheduled on November 15. Reports this week show there was mass confusion and fear among the 900,000 Rohingya refugees living in the sprawling camps of Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh as many were unsure if they would appear on the initial government lists of those who would be repatriated to Myanmar. Myanmar and Bangladesh governments made a controversial, bilateral agreement late last month to start returning the refugees on November 15. On Wednesday, Bangladesh refugee commissioner, Mohammad Abul Kalam, told reporters that all arrangements had been made for the following day, and the goal was to repatriate “150 Rohingyas from 30 families” despite earlier reports that they planned to return 2,000 refugees on Thursday. Bangladesh also deployed their army to the refugee camps ahead of the repatriation in a move Human Rights Watch said underlined the ongoing fear of the refugees to return to Myanmar. However, Kalam reiterated that only those Rohingyas who volunteer will be returned, while UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, said on Tuesday that many refugees are panicking at the prospect of being sent back against their will. Comment: On Wednesday, U.S. Vice President, Mike Pence, met face to face with Aung San Suu Kyi at the ASEAN Summit in Singapore and delivered a stern rebuke to Myanmar’s leader over the country’s past persecution of the Rohingyas. In August 2017, more than 720,000 mostly Muslim Rohingya sought refuge in Bangladesh from the Myanmar military’s brutal crackdown that UN investigators say amounted to ethnic cleansing, joining roughly 300,000 Rohingyas already in refugee camps in Bangladesh. (Times of India, South China Morning Post, Al Jazeera, Reuters 1, 2, 3)

PAKISTAN: Netherlands embassy forced to close while western governments publicly offer Bibi refuge


On Monday, Dutch Foreign Minister, Stef Blok, said the Netherlands had to briefly close its embassy in Islamabad due to receiving death threats for providing shelter for the lawyer of Asia Bibi, a Christian woman in a blasphemy case that has put the country in turmoil in recent weeks. The Netherlands government recalled a large number of staff from the embassy and also halted visa services following the security concern. The Pakistani government officials have said Asia Bibi is in a secure, undisclosed location in Pakistan while the Supreme Court reviews the appeals against their ruling last week which overturned her death sentence. In the meantime, multiple officials from Italy, Canada and the UK have publicly offered Bibi asylum in their countries. Comment: Asia Bibi’s lawyer, Saiful Mulook, fled to the Netherlands soon after the Supreme Court verdict, citing death threats. Last week, the conservative Tehreek-e-Labaik (TLP) party led widespread violent protests in the streets after the court ruling and blocked main cities and highways for three days, until they struck a deal with the government of Prime Minister Imran Khan. One of the assurances they received from Khan was that Asia Bibi would not leave the country until the court reviewed petitions against overturning her death sentence. (NDTV, Straits Times, Reuters, Independent)

SRI LANKA: Supreme court overturns President’s dissolution of parliament, no confidence vote in Rajapaksa

On Friday, President Sirisena unexpectedly dissolved parliament and announced a snap election to be held on January 5, 2019, prompting further outrage in the ongoing political crisis. Many assumed the president’s decision was because he did not have enough support in the House to approve the appointment of Mahinda Rajapaksa following his abrupt sacking of Ranil Wickremesinghe on October 26. However, on Tuesday, the Supreme Court overturned the President’s decision to dissolve parliament, and parliament reconvened as scheduled on Wednesday, November 14. As many expected, Speaker Karu Jayasuriya ruled that a majority of the 225-member assembly supported a no-confidence motion against Rajapaksa; however, Sirisena, Rajapaksa and their supporters argued the vote wasn’t legitimate. Parliament reconvened at 10:00 AM on Thursday and a massive fight broke out between Rajapaksa and Wickremesinghe loyalists. Comment: The political crisis continues to have diplomatic consequences for Sri Lanka. On Monday, Foreign minister Sarath Amungugama called the heads of 43 foreign missions for a meeting on the political crisis, but eight countries did not show up in protest. In previous weeks, Western nations led by the U.S. have been urging Sirisena to convene Parliament and let the legislature decide who should be Prime Minister. (Times of India 1, 2 South China Morning Post, Al Jazeera, Reuters, The Guardian)

Researched/Written by Sloane Katleman

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