By Patrick Stephens
Africa and Middle East
Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appeared in court only a week after being sworn in for a fifth term. He is accused of fraud, repeated acceptance of bribes such as Cuban cigars, and offering legislative ‘favours’ to media corporations in exchange for favourable news coverage of himself and a smear campaign against opponents. He denies the charges and is under no legal obligation to resign in the face of them. The trial ironically bears the name “State of Israel v. Benjamin Netanyahu”.
Nile Egypt accepted an offer to renegotiate over the filling of a mega-dam in Ethiopia, which both it and Sudan object to in the strongest possible terms. The dam threatens water supplies in both Egypt and Sudan. Any new agreement will aim to take sufficient account of Egypt and Sudan’s water interests. The attempt at diplomacy comes after Egypt wrote a letter to the UN Security Council threatening to use force to defend its vital interests; Ethiopia denies any legal obligation to seek Egypt’s approval, but presumably wishes to avoid war.
Egypt President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi pardoned over 3,000 prisoners to coincide with the Eid al-Fitr Muslim holiday. Conspicuously absent from this list were political prisoners, journalists and activists, of which 60,000 are now in jail; their heinous crime of speaking out against the government is judged too severe to merit clemency and escape from brutal treatment. Conversely, those pardoned include an infamous hitman.
West Africa The French Council of Miisters approved the introduction of a new currency, the ECO, in former French colonies in West Africa. The previous currency, the CFA, was controlled for 75 years by the bank of France which held half of the currency’s reserves. The new currency will be pegged to the Euro; many have argued that the increased monetary independence the move implies is nothing but a rebrand.
Libya The internationally recognised Government of National Accord (GNA) captured three military bases from Khalifa Haftar’s Libyan National Army. This is a major setback for Haftar’s attempt to seize Tripoli; Haftar’s vowed to continue the fight against “Turkish colonialism”, referencing Turkish backing for the GNA.
Namibia 10 elephants were shot this month to protect farms in the north of the country. The elephants had damaged crops and apparently threatened framers; their carcasses were given to communities to compensate them for the destruction to their harvests.
Malawi The Head of the Electoral Commission resigned in the face of nationwide protests after her handling of the disputed election last year. A rerun of that election, ordered by the Constitutional Court, is due to be held next month. Opposition parties object that she is being used as a scapegoat for the entire Electoral Commission, which was complicit, while many fear the timing of her resignation may derail the election.
Egypt 21 members of an ISIS-affiliate were killed in North Sinai after security forces raided two hideouts. The groups had apparently been planning attacks during Eid al-Fitr.
Asia & Oceania
Afghanistan Following the announcement of a three-day ceasefire for the Eid al-Fitr holiday, President Ghani pledge to speed up the release of Taliban prisoners. In an agreement in February, both Taliban and government pledged to released prisoners.
Chinese-Indian border It was reported that Chinese and Indian troops had skirmished at two points along their shared border at the beginning of May. Rather than use weapons, they opted to throw rocks at one another. The skirmishes took place in Ladakh and Sikkim, where the Line of Actual Control remains disputed. China blames Indian troops for trespassing on its territory, and conducted military exercises in Tibet as a show of willingness to use force.
Hong Kong Beijing forced through controversial “anti-sedition law” to stop anti-government protests. The CCP, and pro-Beijing deputies, argued that such “national security” measures were necessary due to the frequency of protests in Hong Kong this year. Thousands in Hong Kong defied curfew and braved riot police this weekend to protest against the law which they see as a flagrant violation of “one country, two systems”. The US threatened sanctions in response. The two Global Times links below, attempts by China to justify its actions, make for particularly interesting, and concerning, reading.
Pakistan Almost 100 people were killed when an airliner crashed into a residential district of Karachi. No one on the ground was killed, while two people onboard survived. The black box indicates an issue with the plane.
USA Democratic nominee Biden provoked indignation this week suggesting that African Americans who do not immediately support his campaign “ain’t black”. He claims that the comment was meant as a reference to his record as a supporter of black rights.
USA Mark Zuckerberg dashed hopes that his employees could move away from the eye-wateringly expensive Silicon Valley and still earn the same wage, confirming that wages will differ reflective of the local cost of living.
USA A new poll from Fox News predicted a crushing defeat for Trump in the November election. To the amusement of commentators, he called Fox News’ data “fake” – it is unclear if there are any news sources in America at all that are not, in Trump’s opinion, purveyors of “fake news”.
Germany The Federal Court of Justice ordered Volkswagen to buy back car models which cheated emissions tests. The ruling is a significant financial blow to VW, though reimbursement for cars with higher mileage will be lower.
Norway The country’s sovereign wealth fund took steps to try to limit its emissions by excluding oil companies and commodity traders from its investments. Norway’s is the world’s largest sovereign wealth fund, and many hope that it marks the start of a significant trend towards divestment. It is worth remembering that Norway’s fund is made up almost entirely of the profits of oil exports.
Poland The Supreme Court selected five candidates for “Chief Justice”, four of which were supporters of the governing party PiS. The country’s President will appoint the new Chief Justice from these candidates; by far the most likely is Manowska, a close associate of the Justice Minister. Poland has been widely criticised for new laws which undermine the independence of the judiciary from the government.