Dec 3: US and China agree halt on fresh tariffs, George HW Bush dies at 94, South Sudan’s tense reconciliation
South Sudan's President Salva Kiir holds hands with South Sudanese rebel leader Riek Machar as Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir and Kenya's Uhuru Kenyatta witness, before the signing a ceasefire and power sharing agreement in Khartoum, August 5, 2018. /REUTERS
Former US President George HW Bush has died at the age of 94 at home in Houston, Texas. He served as the 41st president between the end of Cold War and the first Iraq war against Saddam Hussein. President Trump will be attending his funeral in Washington.
UN reported that a US airstrike in Afghanistan last Tuesday killed as many as 23 civilians, with most victims women and children. The strike on a compound in Helmand province was called in during a joint operation between Afghan and US forces. US is investigating.
The US Senate is pushing to withdraw American support for a Saudi-led coalition fighting in Yemen after senators voted 63-37 to take this bipartisan motion forward. One main reason is their unhappiness with President Trump’s response to the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi. US provides logistical and intelligence, and more than 60 per cent of arms imports to the kingdom.
US and China have agreed to suspend new trade tariffs for 90 days to allow for talks. At a post-G20 summit meeting in Buenos Aires, US president Donald Trump agreed not to boost tariffs on $200bn of Chinese goods from 10 per cent to 25 per cent on 1 January. Both sides also pledged to “immediately begin negotiations on structural changes with respect to forced technology transfer, intellectual property protection, non-tariff barriers, cyber intrusions and cyber theft”, the White House says.
Former US Department of Justice official, George Higginbotham, has pleaded guilty to banking violations as part of an attempt to lobby Washington to drop an investigation into a money laundering and bribery scheme relating to Malaysia’s 1MDB investment fund (1MDB). The money was known to have been gambled in Las Vegas, spent on diamond jewellery and a luxury yacht and used to finance the Wolf of Wall Street and other Hollywood productions.
President Trump has once again threatened to impose tariffs on imported cars after General Motors announced job cuts and plant closures. GM’s decision to close production at factories is a blow to Trump as he has made rebuilding the US car industry as one of his administration’s priorities.
US, Mexico and Canada have signed an updated free trade agreement, titled United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Argentina. It is aimed at replacing the former North American Free Trade Agreement. If ratified, most of the new agreement’s provisions are expected to go into effect in 2020.
Mexico’s new left-wing president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, has promised to bring radical change by eradicating corruption and ending drug wars within the country. Citing that he will “carry out a peaceful transformation, ordered, but profound and even radical”, the 65-year-old announced several initiatives on security and economic issues.
An Argentine news channel, Cronica TV, has come under fire for displaying an image of the Simpsons character Apu as Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi arrived in Buenos Aires. Social media users responded angrily to the use of image, citing it as racist. The character has been part of the animation series since 1990.
Voters in Taiwan have rejected a series of referendums to enshrine same-sex marriage in the their civil code. In three separate proposals, citizens have not only backed the definition of marriage as the union of a man and woman, it also prohibited the teaching of LGBTQ issues in primary and junior school and introduced limited protections for same-sex couples that fell short of marriage equality. The constitutional court gave them until May 2019 to adopt the practice.
Tens of thousands of farmers and agricultural workers marched towards the Indian parliament last Friday demanding debt waivers and higher crop prices. They hope to obtain legal rights, especially for tenant and women farmers with no rights. More than 300,000 farmers have killed themselves in the last 20 years, mainly because of poor irrigation, failed crops and being unable to pay back loans.
Thousands of Australian students have skipped school last Friday to urge greater action on climate change in protests across the country. Australian prime minister Scott Morrison rebuked their plans for “activism” during school hours and insisted his government was tackling the issue. Earlier that week, the UN reported that many nations, including Australia were falling short of their emission commitments as it had made “no improvement” in its climate policy since last year.
The Afghan government has formed a 12-member team to hold peace talks with the Taliban. The president, Ashraf Ghani, is hoping for a peace agreement in which the Taliban would be included in a democratic and inclusive society, but added that no organisation that has ties with “terrorist networks” will be allowed to join the political process.
The Philippines has finally taken action against police officers who have murdered during their drug crackdown. The Caloocan City regional trial court sentenced three police officers to up to 49 years in jail for killing a 17-year-old high school student in a northern suburb of the capital, Manila. “We respect the decision of the court. We don’t tolerate any erring police officers,” said Benigno Durana, national police spokesman.
Sri Lankan’s parliament vote to block any spending by the prime minister’s office last Thursday. The country has been in a political gridlock for over a month after President Maithripala Sirisena replaced former Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe with Rajapaksa, who was then twice sacked by parliament but has refused to resign.
Protests over fuel tax and higher living costs in France is now into its third week. The riot has escalated and the police fired tear gas on the Champs-Elysées, while masked protesters hurled projectiles and set buildings on fire. The price of diesel, the most commonly used fuel in French cars, has risen by around 23 per cent over the past 12 months to an average of €1.51 per litre, its highest point since the early 2000s.
Parents in France are now banned from smacking their children after French MPs voted overwhelmingly in favour of a bill on “corporal punishment or humiliation”. About 85 per cent of French parents resort to corporal punishment.
Ukraine has imposed a martial law on Russian men aged 16-60, barring them from entering the country. This came as Ukraine’s president voiced fears of a Russian invasion after Russian forces fired on and seized three Ukrainian boats and 24 sailors in the Black Sea. President Trump has cancelled a meeting to meet Putin on the sidelines of the G20 summit after Russia pulled that move.
UK faces another loss over Brexit as another minister resigned after PM Theresa May pulled the country out of the EU’s Galileo sat-nav system, following a row with Brussels. Science and universities minister Sam Gyimah is the 10th person to resign over May’s agreement with the European Union. MPs will vote on the agreement on Dec 11, with many set to vote against it.
UK PM Theresa May has refused to rule out another Commons vote on her Brexit deal if MPs reject it the first time. Meanwhile European Council President Donald Tusk stressed that the deal the EU struck with Theresa May was the “only possible one”.
Two Catalan separatist leaders jailed pending trial in Spain over their role in last year’s failed independence bid have begun a hunger strike. They are taking this step to “raise awareness” of their unfair treatment by Spain’s justice system, accusing the Constitutional Court of blocking their appeals against their imprisonment from reaching the European Court of Human Rights.
A German anti-racism activist has opened the floodgates of a #MeTwo debate after speaking on national TV about everyday racism in the country. Several prominent Germans, including Cem Özdemir, a MP of the Green Party, have spoke up about the racist comments faced during their education or even entering entertainment premises.
A university in Hungary has been forced to leave for political reasons. The Central European University’s (CEU) conflict is part of a wider crackdown by the Hungarian government on academic freedoms, including tighter budgetary and academic controls over its universities. CEU is set to move its activities and start the 2019-2020 academic year in Vienna.
A mass protest have been staged in Georgia over the results of the country’s presidential runoff vote, alleging widespread electoral fraud and demanding snap parliamentary elections. Salome Zurabishvili became the first woman president of the nation but her rival, Vashadze, urged the authorities to overhaul the country’s electoral system and by Dec 16 establish a working group to hold talks with the opposition.
Saudi Arabia crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman (MBS), did not face the obvious snub at the G20 after international attention has been turned towards Jamal Khashoggi’s death. While Russia’s Putin high-fived MBS, he got chided by individual leaders such as Britain’s May and France’s Macron who both demanded that he cooperate with the international community to get to the truth of the death.
Iran has launched a domestically-made destroyer, amid rising tensions with the US. The warship is known to have radar-evading stealth properties and can sustain voyages lasting five months without resupply.
The new United Nations (UN) human rights chief said it’s time for them to investigate in journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s death, seeing that Saudi and Turkish investigation seem to be going nowhere.
The number of women elected in Bahrain’s elections have broken the glass ceiling of representation in the country’s parliament. A total of six women were voted in, doubling the number of female lawmakers in the tiny Gulf kingdom. Prior to that, the opposition claimed that turnout did not exceed 30 per cent after election officials announced that 67 per cent of eligible voters participated in the first round of elections.
The Democratic Republic of Congo’s deadly Ebola outbreak is now the second largest in history, according to the World Health Organisation. Since the outbreak in Aug, there have been 426 cases, with 198 confirmed deaths.
South Sudan’s two factions have attempted to reconcile through a face-to-face meeting last week after a new peace agreement was signed in September. But the atmosphere continues to be tense as both sides exchange accusations as they blame violations on “undisciplined officers” for whom neither party took responsibility.
Unknown gunmen have raped 125 women during a 10-day spress of violence in Bentiu in South Sudan, reported aid agency Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) They have sought medical treatment after having been raped or sexually assaulted as they walked along roads near Nhialdu and Guit on their way to Bentiu and that victims reported the attacks as having been carried out by young men in civilian clothing or military uniforms. Local official disputed the report.
Burundi has launched international arrest warrants for ex-president Pierre Buyoya and 16 former senior officials over their alleged role in the 1993 assassination of Melchior Ndadaye, the country’s first democratically elected Hutu leader. Buyoya has since denounced the warrant as politically motivated.
A report published by the United Nations commission of inquiry last Monday suggested that crimes against humanity are being committed in Burundi since 2015. Alleged perpetrators of the violence include top officials in Burundi’s National Intelligence Services and police force, military officials and members of the youth league of the ruling party, known as Imbonerakure, said the commission’s report.
Egypt regrets the decision of Italy’s lower house to break parliamentary ties over the lack of progress in investigations related to the torture and killing of an Italian researcher nearly three years ago. Last Friday, the Egyptian parliament said it was “surprised” by the Italian chamber’s “unilateral” decision and called for the non-politicisation of legal issues.
A London-based Conflict Armament Research report has raises questions about Uganda’s support for neighbouring South Sudan’s government after it diverted European weapons to the latter’s military despite an European Union arms embargo. The transfers occurred before the United Nations Security Council imposed its own arms embargo on South Sudan earlier this year but well after the EU embargo. South Sudan’s information minister Michael Makuei Lueth has rejected the findings as fake.
United Nations refugee agency has been reported to misspending millions of dollars on Africa’s largest refugee crisis, including paying for what became a parking lot at the Ugandan prime minister’s office. The report by the UN’s internal watchdog says about $11 million alone is being spent on a recount of the South Sudanese who poured into Uganda, to weed out potentially hundreds of thousands of “ghost refugees.”
The IAS Gazette is a news site run by undergraduates from the Singapore Institute of Management’s International Affairs Society (IAS). Founded in 2018, it traces its roots to The Capital, a now defunct bimonthly magazine previously under the IAS.