The Afghan National Army keeps watch after the US forces left Bagram airfield in the north of Kabul, Afghanistan, on July 5, 2021. | Photo Credit: Haroon Sabawoon/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

July 12: Haitian President Jobenel Moise assassinated, Taliban rushes to fill power vacuum left by US withdrawal, container ship Ever Given sets sail from Suez Canal

North America:

  • Mary Simon, the first indigenous Canadian, a former ambassador, journalist and Inuit community activist, was announced as the next Governor-General of Canada on Tuesday, July 6. Simon told reporters, “My appointment comes at an especially reflective and dynamic time in our shared history. I will work every day towards promoting healing and wellness across Canadian society.” Canadian indigenous groups welcomed Simon’s appointment, noting that it is a “truly historic day”. 
  • Nicaraguan police have detained another five opposition leaders amidst the crackdown of political and business figures opposed to President Daniel Ortega in light of the November elections (July 7). The police accused them of murdering and kidnapping police officers and civilians, armed robbery, and extortion, among other crimes during a wave of anti-government protests in 2018. The arrests have sparked international outrage. 
  • Haitian President Jobenel Moise was assassinated in his home on Wednesday, July 7. The government declared a two-week state of emergency, sending the already impoverished and unstable nation deeper into a humanitarian crisis. Moise was unpopular and his rule was plagued with allegations of corruption, mismanagement, and authoritarianism. Authorities said a heavily armed commando unit of 26 Colombians, and two Haitian Americans were behind the assassination (July 8). 
  • The United States-China trade war has reached its third year. The war had developed from economic tariffs to include geopolitical and human rights issues under United States (US) President Joe Biden. Biden has extended the national emergency designation over Beijing’s tightening control on Hong Kong (July 9) and reinforced its “strong unofficial relationship” with Taiwan which Beijing views as “provocation” to its national sovereignty (July 10). The US also sanctioned over 37 Chinese firms over alleged human rights abuses in Xinjiang (July 10). 
  • A video of President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador’s younger brother, David Leon receiving stacks of cash, has surfaced. The video broadcasted by Mexican news outlet Latinus showed Leon receiving 150,000 pesos (S$4,055), allegedly ahead of a national vote in which the now-ruling party was competing in its first election (July 8). The president and his brother have denied any wrongdoing.

South America:

  • Thousands of Peruvians protested against uncertainty over the result of the presidential election a month ago as the confirmation of leftist Pedro Castillo is held up by ballot challenges from his conservative rival (July 6). Castillo garnered a lot of support from poor, rural and indigenous communities based on his humble upbringing as the son of peasant farmers, making him relating “as one of us”. These communities hope that he would give greater representation to marginalised groups (July 5). 
  • Venezuelan court indicted human rights activists for terrorism and instigation of hatred and treason (July 5). Among the indicted is Javier Tarazona, director of NGO Funda Redes, which has been most active in documenting and denouncing abuses by irregular Colombian armed groups in border areas and their illegal trafficking and mining activities. The UN Human Rights Council has documented 97 incidents of such abuses from June 2020 to May 2021 (July 5). 
  • Deeply unpopular Brazilan President Jair Bolsanaro faces protests for his impeachment. He is facing allegations of negligence surrounding a 1.6 billion-real (S$412 million) contract signed in February for 20 million doses where neither any payments nor deliveries were made. At 500,000, Brazil comes in second place for most COVID-19 deaths. He has also announced his intention to cancel the 2022 election.
  • Colombia’s Special Jurisdiction for Peace (JEP) tribunal accused 10 members of Colombia’s army and a civilian of forcibly disappearing 24 people and murdering at least 120 civilians and falsely classifying them as guerrilla fighters killed in combat so they could receive promotions or other benefits (July 7). Dubbed the False Positive Scandal, at least 6,402 civilians were murdered by Colombia’s army between 2002 and 2008 according to the JEP. Dozens of army officers have been detained and convicted for their part in the scandal.
  • The Argentine government has started to sanction a number of foreign firms it accused of illegally drilling for oil in a disputed area near the British-run Falkland Islands, over which it also claims sovereignty (July 7). Eight other firms were previously sanctioned between 2011 and 2015. Argentinian energy secretary Dario Martinez said that these companies are operating under illegitimate authorisation. 
  • A Mapuche man was shot dead by the police in Chile’s Araucania province, increasing tensions with and threatening attempts to improve relations between the state and the Andean country’s indigenous people (July 10). Indigenous people have claimed that their territory has been illegally requisitioned by the state. A week ago, the citizens elected a Mapuche academic, Elisa Loncón to lead the drafting of a new constitution. Under dictator Augusto Pinochet’s rule, indigenous people were not recognised.

Asia Pacific:

  • A new British government-funded project, Myanmar Witness, was launched on Monday to investigate evidence of human rights violations in Myanmar (July 5) and will share its findings with the UN. Officials from the UNHCR have called on countries to impose economic sanctions and launch political dialogues with the junta and the democratically elected National League of Democracy, as Singapore assures that ASEAN is working towards brokering peace in Myanmar (July 7).
  • A high-level meeting to commemorate the 50th anniversary of former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger’s secret visit to China took place on Friday, July 9. Kissinger urged US-China dialogue on major issues to avoid a war, while China’s Vice President Wang Qishan said China and the US should handle differences and friction via dialogue, adding that the US’s biggest challenge is itself, not China. 
  • The Taliban continues to gain new territory at an increasing rate amidst the US military withdrawal from Afghanistan (July 6). Impossible to estimate, numbers for the control of the Taliban have ranged from a third to up to 85 per cent (July 9). The Taliban delegation in Moscow reassures Russia that it is not a threat, in response to the Russian-led military bloc saying it was ready to mobilise if the situation at Tajikistan’s border with Afghanistan worsens (July 9). Afghans are fleeing their country.
  • Japan’s Deputy Prime Minister, Taro Aso, angers China by saying that Japan needed to defend Taiwan with the US if the island was invaded (July 5) because of its geography. China foreign ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said Aso’s remarks “harmed the political foundation of China-Japan relations”. Aso has backtracked reiterating Japan’s official policy that China and Taiwan will resolve their issue through direct dialogue in a peaceful manner (July 7). 
  • A coalition of nations announced their concerns that further legislation in Hong Kong could be used to limit media freedom (July 9). The European Parliament adopts a non-binding resolution imposing sanctions on Hong Kong officials and a diplomatic boycott of the Beijing Winter Olympics in response to the closure of the newspaper Apple Daily (July 9). 
  • China-India relations continue to worsen as Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted that he had personally wished Tibet’s spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, a happy birthday in a phone call (July 6). The Dalai Lama, who is living in exile in northern India for more than six decades, is seen by China as a dangerous separatist, and the nation disapproves of any engagement with him. India offered no congratulations for the centenary celebrations of the Chinese Communist Party.

Europe: 

  • French President Emmanuel Macron has announced that it would eventually halve its military presence in the Sahel region (July 9). The Sahel G5 consists of Niger, Mali, Chad, Burkina Faso, and Mauritania. The French had been there since 2013, fighting with the Sahel G5 against Islamic terrorist groups like al-Qaeda and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).
  • Belarusian authorities have cracked down on opposition by raiding the offices of dissenting independent media outlets (July 10) and convicting an ex-presidential contender, Viktor Babariko (July 6). The state security agency conducted raids on a variety of media outlets and journalists’ homes. They have also blocked the website of independent outlet Nasha Niva.
  • European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen announced on Saturday that the bloc has reached its goal of vaccinating 70 per cent of its adults at least once by summer (July 10). Its long term goal is to immunise its entire population by the end of September.
  • A Dutch crime journalist gets shot by two gunmen as he is left in critical condition (July 6). He had received death threats in the past and had been acting in an advisory capacity in a Netherlands prosecution of a high-profile drug lord.
  • German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron were told by Chinese President Xi Jinping in a call that he hoped that they can cooperate on a global level moving forward (July 5). This is expected to have been in response to an increase in tensions following a stalled trade agreement and sanctions of human rights.

Middle East:

  • Kuwaiti Businessman and Poet Jamal Al-Sayer have been arrested by the authorities following tweets alleged to have been “insulting” (July 7). For the past few weeks, Al-Sayer had criticised the government and addressed the emir, Sheikh Nawaf Al Ahmad Al Sabah, directly. The emir retains the final word on all state matters, despite parliamentary power to introduce legislation and question ministers.
  • Oil prices increased to their highest level in six years following an impasse between the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and its allies (OPEC+). OPEC+ had failed to agree on a proposal that would have increased oil production to 2 million barrels per day by the end of 2021 (July 5). This was in response to historic measures in April 2020 that removed almost 10 million barrels per day of production.
  • Israel and South Korea agree to exchange 700,000 Covid-19 Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine doses (July 6). These swapped doses are due to expire by the end of July and have a shelf life of up to six months if stored correctly. South Korea had failed to secure doses of fresh vaccines, which prompted this agreement between the countries. They will eventually have to send back vaccines to Israel by October. This is in light of a falling-out between Israel and the Palestinian Authority (June 18).
  • Iran takes steps to produce enriched Uranium (July 6) while the US, France, Germany, the United Kingdom, and Saudi Arabia condemned the move (July 9). Iran has disclosed that such steps were taken for fuel in a research nuclear reactor. This further complicates talks to bring back the 2015 Iran Nuclear Deal which the previous US President had walked back on.
  • Israeli forces have opened fire on Palestinian protestors in Beita, a West Bank town (July 9). 379 people have been wounded, with live rounds hitting 31. Protesters burned tyres and threw rocks, while Israeli troops fired live ammunition, rubber bullets, and tear gas canisters.

Africa

  • Ever Given, the ship that had blocked the Suez Canal (Mar 23) and caused a disturbance in international trade has been allowed to set sail. (July 8) It had been seized by the Suez Canal Authority (SCA) for three months. From S$1.23 billion, the SCA and Japanese owner Shoei Kisen had agreed on an undisclosed settlement amount (July 5).
  • Ethiopia begins the second stage of their mega-dam construction, to the anger of Egypt and Sudan (July 6). The dam is constructed on the Blue Nile. Ethiopia has projected that this dam will provide power to 60% of its people, while Egypt and Sudan fear that the hydroelectric dam will disrupt their access to a critical water source. Tunisia has since drafted a binding agreement between the three countries and proposed it to the United Nations Security Council (July 8).
  • Jacob Zuma, former South African President has turned himself into the authorities (July 7) after refusing arrest (July 5). Defiant, he did not cooperate with investigations for allegations of graft, racketeering, and fraud during and before his time as president. The constitutional court then was ordered to a 15-month jail term for contempt, which has since been reduced to four months (July 9).
  • An estimated 150 students have been kidnapped in Nigeria (July 5). Affecting at least 1,000 students, this is the 10th mass school kidnapping of 2021. These kidnappings have been the result of ransom demands, not explicitly politically or religiously motivated like those conducted by Boko Haram. As of the time of publishing, kidnappers have only demanded food, no money (July 8). The Baptist Convention has also expressed that they will not pay any ransom sum (July 10).
  • On the decennial of their independence, South Sudan’s two most powerful politicians, President Salva Kiir and Vice President Riek Machar have declared that they will not go back into civil war (July 9).
  • World Health Organisation regional director for Africa, Matshidiso Moeti, has remarked that Africa has just had its most disastrous week in the pandemic thus far (July 9). The African region has just reported an abrupt 23 per cent increase in deaths in seven days, ending July 4.

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