Fri. Dec 13th, 2019

Bosco Ntaganda during the handling down of his sentence in Courtroom 1 of the International Criminal Court, on 7 November 2019. | Photo by: ICC

Trump withdraws from Paris climate deal, Iran continues backing out of nuclear deal, and ICC sentences another African leader to imprisonment

North America and Canada

  • US President Donald Trump announced the United States’ withdrawal from the Paris Climate Agreement last Monday (Nov 4). This drew sharp criticisms from the Democrats, including presidential hopefuls.
  • Mark Zaid, a lawyer for the main whistleblower in Trump’s impeachment inquiry, stated last Monday (Nov 4) that his client is willing to provide written answers to questions by Republicans. But the Republicans argue that written answers will not be sufficient to cross-examine him. 
  • John Bolton, a former National Security Advisor to Trump, indicated via his lawyer that he has relevant information to share with impeachment investigators about Ukraine. But he will only do so if a court rules whether witnesses should abide by the testimony requests of lawmakers or White House directives not to testify.
  • Democratic senator and presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren unveiled her new ‘Medicare-for-All’ plan which calls for 52 trillion dollars over the next 10 years. She claimed that the plan would not raise taxes on the middle class, but it would be funded by employers, corporations, and reduced defence spending. This plan has been denounced by her democratic rivals, with Biden calling it unrealistic.
  • Refugee advocates and lawyers took the federal government to court last Monday (Nov 4) to argue that Canada should allow asylum claimants to seek protection at all official land border crossings. This came after they cited that the US is no longer a safe country for refugees. 
  • The US Justice Department accused two twitter employees for using their positions and access to Twitter’s internal systems to spy for Saudi Arabia.
  • Democrats won complete control over Virginia last Tuesday (Nov 5), capturing both legislative chambers. Incoming Governor Ralph S. Northam has promised to raise the minimum wage and call for tighter gun control.

Latin America

  • Argentinian President-elect Alberto Fernandez met with Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador last Monday (Nov 4). Both leaders were elected on left-leaning promises, and hope to further cooperation between the two nations, as well as find an alternative way to deal with the challenges of globalisation. Both also hope to revive the Community of Latin American and Carribean States as a counterweight to the Organisation of American States (OAS) – where the OAS is often perceived as a vehicle for US influence in the region.
  • Bolivia’s governing party, the Movement for Socialism, has urged Bolivian citizens to support recently re-elected President Evo Morales, after opposition protesters overran two state-run media outlets in La Paz. Morales is Latin America’s longest-serving left-leaning leader, and was recently elected for his fourth consecutive term in elections that opposition parties claim were rigged. Morales’ biggest rival, Carlos Mesa, has rejected a dialogue offer and is insisting on new elections and Morales’ resignation. Bolivian Defence Minister Javier Zavaleta has indicated that he has no plans to use the armed forces to quell the rebellion.
  • Mexico reports that its inflation rate has held steady at three per cent, in line with the central bank’s target. This clears the way for further interest rate cuts, which banks expect. The central bank has previously cut interest rates in August and September.
  • Chile’s President Sebastian Pinera said his government has “nothing to hide” over allegations that security forces tortured protesters, after a public prosecutor announced his intent to investigate 14 police officers over abuse claims.

Asia-Pacific

  • Chinese President Xi Jinping announced last Monday (Nov 4) that the Chinese government fully backs Hong Kong’s Chief Executive Carrie Lam, despite months of political unrest in Hong Kong and previous rumours of the intention to replace Lam.
  • A Hong Kong student, part of the anti-government protests in Hong Kong, fell to his death last Friday (Nov 8). During a candlelight vigil held for him, attendees began protesting government policies and excessive use of force by the police, prompting police to use tear gas to try and defuse the situation. Protesters have also called for a general strike today (Nov 12), including the blocking of public transport. While not new, these calls have not been heeded by the majority of the Hong Kong population.
  • In the worst attack in years, Muslim gunmen killed at least 15 people at a security checkpoint in Southern Thailand last Tuesday night (Nov 5). Seven suspected rebels were arrested in connection with the attacks last Saturday (Nov 10). A Muslim majority region in a Buddhist majority country, the area has seen intermittent violence and a low level insurgency since World War Two, when wartime Prime Minister Plaek Phibunsongkhram instituted nationalist policies to homogenise the population according to the ‘Nation, Religion, King’ ideology’. Many citizens in Southern Thailand see themselves as culturally distinct from the rest of Thailand, and some feel a greater affinity with Malaysia than Thailand.
  • Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi decided against signing the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) last Monday (Nov 4), over concerns regarding their domestic production. Other countries that have signed the RCEP include China, Japan, Australia, Thailand, and Vietnam. RCEP members have issued a joint statement saying that the opportunity for India to be part of the partnership remains, and they will continue to address India’s concerns.
  • The Indian Supreme Court ruled in favour of Hindus in the Ayodhya dispute last Saturday (Nov 9), awarding the site to Hindus on the basis that there was evidence that there were remains of a building “that was not Islamic” below the structure of the demolished Babri Mosque. The court also ruled that another plot of land should be given to Muslims for the purpose of building a mosque, that the right to build a Hindu temple was subject to ‘peace, harmony, law and order’.  In addition, the demolition of the Babri Mosque, previously located on the site, had been against the rule of law.
  • Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced last Thursday (Nov 7) that the government will offer farmers affected by drought up to A$1 billion in cheap loans. This comes amid growing climate protests in Australia, and consecutive years of droughts. Morrison’s announcement seems to be a policy reversal from both his conservative positions and his threat to outlaw climate protests two weeks ago.
  • According to a report released last Wednesday (Nov 6), girls as young as 12 have been strip-searched by police in New South Wales. Civil rights groups have denounced the searches as an “invasive overstep of paternalistic police powers that leaves psychological trauma”.

Europe

  • Nigel Farage announced last Monday (Nov 4) that he would “campaign aggressively” against incumbent Conservative Prime Minister Boris Johnson over Johnson’s Brexit deal. However, he will not be running in the upcoming elections.
  • Member of Parliament Sir Lindsay Hoyle was elected the Speaker of the House for the UK House of Commons, over fellow Labour MP Chris Bryant. Prime Minister Boris Johnson congratulated him, thanking him for his service and expressing his conviction that Hoyle would stick up for backbenchers. Hoyle had previously served as a Labour MP and as the Chairman of Ways and Means.
  • French President Emmanuel Macron announced new measures to crack down on immigration, just before the upcoming municipal elections. The measures include a provision that asylum seekers would have to wait three months before qualifying for non-urgent healthcare, and the introduction of quotas for skilled immigrants looking to enter France. These measures are meant to keep his political opponents at bay, in particular, far-right leader Marine Le Pen and her party, the National Rally. Le Pen has criticised Macron’s measures as politically motivated and ineffective.
  • A French student is in critical condition after setting himself on fire in front of a restaurant in the city of Lyon. In a politically charged post on Facebook just before he self-immolated, he had accused French President Emmanuel Macron, as well as Macron’s predecessors Francois Hollande, Nikolas Sarkozy, and the EU of killing him. He also accused far-right leader Marine Le Pen and the media for creating fear, and called for a “fight against the rise of fascism, which only divides us…and liberalism that creates inequalities”.
  • At Germany’s celebration of the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, German Chancellor Angela Merkel warned against taking democracy for granted, an apparent cautioning against the rise of right-wing nationalism and nationalist sentiment in Europe. Merkel was not alone in this sentiment, with both President Frank-Walter Steinmeier and foreign minister Heiko Maas noting the shift from liberal democracy to authoritarianism worldwide with concern.
  • Protests broke out in Tbilisi, Georgia, last week over the premiere of Georgia’s first LGBTQ film. Georgia’s orthodox church called the premiere an “attack against the church”, while the Equality Movement, a Georgian LGBTQ rights group, asked the police to provide security at the premiere.
  • Italy’s education minister declares that schools will soon require students in every grade to study climate change and sustainability. 

Middle East

  • Iranian President Hassan Rouhani announced that Iran will begin injecting uranium gas at its Fordow facility, in the latest breach of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, also known as the  Iran Nuclear Deal. Russian President Vladimir Putin has expressed concern over the move, in hopes of preserving the deal. Iran has been easing away from the restrictions set by the deal ever since the United States withdrew from the deal and reimposed sanctions. However, Iran has indicated that all its moves away from the deal are reversible, and that “Tehran will uphold all of its commitments under the deal when the remaining signatories do the same”.
  • Egypt, Ethiopia, and Sudan made a commitment to resolving a dispute over a large Ethiopian-led dam project after US-led talks last Wednesday (Nov 6). As an upstream state, Ethiopia’s plans to dam the river has been met with objection from Egypt and Sudan due to their heavy reliance on it for drinking water. Following the talks, the countries will continue negotiations to find a solution by Jan 15, failing which they would then involve an international mediator.
  • Iraqi Security Forces opened fire and killed at least five protesters in Baghdad last Tuesday (Nov 5). The day before, most of Iraq had their internet services cut off.  The service blackout was ordered by the Iraqi government in an effort to quell protests throughout the country.

Africa

  • The International Criminal Court (ICC) has sentenced former Congolese rebel leader  Bosco Ntaganda to 30 years in prison, the first to be convicted of sexual slavery. His crimes include murder, rape, sexual slavery, enlistment of child soldiers, and intentional attacks against civilians. He served in the Patriotic Forces for the Liberation of Congo which was formed towards the end of the Second Congo War. His sentence is the longest handed down by the ICC.
  • Zimbabwean authorities arrested Minister of State for Presidential Affairs Joram Gumbo last Tuesday (Nov 5) over corruption charges while he was Minister for Trade and Infrastructural Development under former President Robert Mugabe. Gumbo stands accused of awarding a US$33.3 million tender to Indrastemas & Homt Espana of South Africa for air traffic control equipment without proper procurement procedures, nepotism, and favouritism. His arrest comes amid corruption crackdowns in the country, and the growing relevance of the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission.
  • Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari approved the dismissal of dozens of Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo’s aides, fuelling speculation that the President has no intentions to allow Osinbajo to succeed him. Buhari had also refused to hand temporary authority to Osinbajo while he was on a trip to the United Kingdom. This follows a decision by Buhari to replace a committee headed by the Vice President with a new economic advisory council that reports to Buhari instead. 
  • The Western Cape South African Human Rights Commission met last Monday (Nov 4) to discuss a racism case filed against Rugby player Eben Etzebeth. Mr Etzebeth is accused of using a racial slur on Aug 25. Etzebeth allegedly addressed a group of men as ‘hottentots’, a derogatory term for people of mixed race. South Africa has faced issues with racism before, having been under Apartheid governance until 1995. Etzebeth has since denounced the Commission as biased and having a hidden agenda.
  • Extinction Rebellion, a climate activist group, staged two protests at the Cape Town International Convention Centre last Tuesday (Nov 5) and Friday (Nov 8), where the Africa Oil Week conference was held. The conference was held throughout the week. The group demanded that governments declare a climate emergency, and rejected any oil and gas developments that the conference produced.
  • Somalia announced last week during Africa Oil Week that it would launch its first oil and gas licensing round in late December. The frontier market looks to attract new investments after decades of civil strife and hopes to create more jobs, help prevent young people from turning to crime and spread peace in the country.
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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.

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