Cameroon Divina Maloum was awarded the joint International Children’s Peace Prize, along with Greta Thunberg. Maloum, aged just 15, created the organisation ‘Children for Peace’ which aims to support vulnerable Cameroonian children at high-risk of being groomed as potential child soldiers by extremist groups such as Boko Haram. Maloum intends to use half her $110,000 prize to create a pan-African youth parliament.
Somalia After brutal flooding last month drove 230,000 people from their homes in Beledweyne district, the United Nations Development Programme this week announced a mobile phone alert system to warn local people of potential extreme weather. The first such nationwide project in sub-Saharan Africa, it will particularly help nomadic groups, who make up 60% of Somalia’s population, and for whom extreme weather events can lead to the destruction of their herds, which, rather than property, is where much of their wealth is stored. The growth in phone usage in sub-Saharan Africa in recent years has been extraordinary; it is now estimated that 7 in 10 Somalians own a mobile phone.
Niger 60 years after its independence from France, President Mahamadou Issoufou announced the creation of a commission to consider alternatives and changes to the lyrics of the national anthem following a social media storm over its content. The French-written words have been subject to significant criticism in Niger; the line “Let us be proud and grateful for our newfound freedom” (Soyons fiers et reconnaissants //de notre liberté nouvelle) is interpreted as implying a feudal deference to the former colonial masters.
Asia & Oceania
Sri Lanka Gotabaya Rajapaksa, a former defense secretary, was elected President, with an impressive 52.5% of the vote, though with minimal support from Sri Lanka’s ethnic and religious minority groups. In recent years, candidates have sought to gain the support of Muslims as well as the majority Buddhist community, but Gotabaya’s popularity among Buddhists made this unnecessary. Several Muslim political commentators have expressed fear at evidence of rising religious tensions and violence following the Easter Sunday bombings on the island; the focus in Gotabaya’s campaign on “Muslim extremism” only serves to exacerbate this concern in a country still traumatised from a 26-year civil war. The new president has promised a fresh set of parliamentary elections as soon as is feasible.
India In excess of 2,500 indigenous groups protested outside the Supreme Court as it heard a case on whether to evict them from their lands. Numbering over a million people, the Supreme Court ordered them expelled from their lands in February after their claims of ownership were rejected, a decision which activists have this week challenged. Many critics direct blame at the BJP for turning a blind eye to the concerns of indigenous groups, accusing the government of prioritising the codification of property rights to allow corporations to exploit mineral wealth over the needs of local people who have inherited the land for centuries.
Columbia The opposition parties called for what is believed to be the country’s largest general strike in decades, primarily in response to economic reforms proposed by the government, but also after alleged killing of civilians by the army in areas where the peace deal with FARC is most fragile. The government has deployed soldiers to prevent foreign entry to the country, claiming that protestors from other countries, notably Chile, may try to stage more demonstrations in an effort to destabilise the country.
Nicaragua Demanding the release of 139 opposition protestors, groups staged a hunger strike in Managua cathedral, following which the UN called on Daniel Ortega to cease violent government repression in the Central American country. Pro-government forces tried to storm the building, injuring a priest and a nun in the process, but the government backed down and allowed the protestors to safely leave the building. Following last year’s mass unrest, the state’s repressive response has forced over 70,000 people to leave this country of 6 million; Ortega is widely regarded as a despot by western commentators, who point to his wife’s position as vice-president as evidence of the extent of corruption within the country.
Spain Preparations began for the exhumation of former soldiers from the Valley of the Fallen, bringing relief to many families whose relatives have remained buried for decades in what has become a far-right place of homage to Franco. The dictator’s exhumation last month from this basilica, which he had built as a memorial to the dead on both sides of the civil war, paved the way for others to be removed from the site and taken to places of rest.
Iran Allegedly due to American sanctions, the Iranian government announced significant fuel price increases, and promptly introduced measures to stifle internet usage and spreading of information for a period of five days. Protests were thus localised, though we do know they took place; Amnesty International claims that 100 people were killed in the demonstrations, a figure the Iranian government vehemently denies. The American government responded by imposing yet more sanctions, this time directed at Iran’s communications minister.
Guinea Three people were killed as armed police opened fire on what opposition groups claim were purely peaceful protests. The opposition launched an appeal for a nationwide protest last month after the government proposed a redrafted constitution which would allow Alpha Conde, the country’s first democratically elected president, to run for a third term. The government’s security minister has been removed from his post for the violent response of the security forces to the protests.
Kenya A United Nations summit was held in Nairobi on progress relating to women’s issues across the world. Statistics from the UN Population Fund state that, each day, 33,000 girls are forced into marriage, and 800 women die from preventable pregnancy-related causes. Kenyan Uhuru Kenyatta set the tone of what was hoped to be a highly constructive summit with a pledge to end FGM by 2022, a pledge which critics say he has little feasible way to attain. Elements of the summit on abortion and reproductive rights were controversial, with the US refusing to back abortion even in the case of rape. Due to certain themes of sexual and reproductive rights which remain contentious within the Catholic Church, the Vatican abstained from any involvement.
Asia & Oceania
China Beijing successfully conducted a landing test in Hebei province for its 2020 Mars exploration mission. Other aspirations include a modular space station in 2022, which can then be used as a launchpad for missions into the solar system. Ultimately, China aims to rival Russia and the US as major space powers by 2030.
India Prayas, an Indian charity which aims to improve child protection and juvenile facilities, received widespread criticism after it held a children’s fun-run one day after the city government had ordered all schools to close due to extreme levels of air pollution. The charity claims it significantly shortened the run so that it was largely symbolic, and that it had permission from the authorities to hold such an event in those conditions.
USA The impeachment proceedings against President Trump held their first public hearings, as several current or former senior American diplomats in Ukraine gave their testimonies. Marie Yovanovitch, the former US ambassador to Ukraine, alleged that she was subject to a smear campaign by Trump’s lawyer, and then was recalled by the president from her post.
Italy As a final measure, the Venetian authorities order that St Mark’s Square be closed due to dangerous flooding and threats to life. A state of emergency has been called for the city, with many tourist attractions closed. The exceptionally severe ‘acqua alta’ are widely being blamed on global warming.
Democratic Republic of Congo Bosco Ntaganda, the Congolese warlord known as ‘The Terminator’, convicted 18 counts of ranging from war crimes to sexual slavery, received the International Criminal Court’s longest ever sentence of 30 years. The court heard details of gruesome atrocities committed on his orders in Ituri province in 2002 and 2003, especially against children. It has been hailed as a landmark case for international human rights law, with Ntaganda the first person to be convicted for sexual slavery by the ICC.
South Sudan Fears of war in South Sudan between the ruling party and the opposition led to the agreement of a 100-day extension to a deadline scheduled for next week for the formation of a government. Thus far, attempts at formation of a coalition have been marred by tensions and accusations of intransigency on both sides. The US government has threatened sanctions on individuals standing in the way of the implementation of the November 2018 peace agreement.
Asia & Oceania
China In a bid to tackle the growing issue of gaming addiction in China, the government has imposed a video game curfew, as well as restrictions on total daily play time for minors. Under-18s are to be banned from playing video games between 10pm and 8am, and may not play for more than 90 minutes on weekdays. In addition, tight limits are to be imposed on how much ‘real’ money children can spend on in-game currency or perks.
Thailand 15 people were left dead by a terrorist attack in Yala province, south Thailand. The region, an exception in this predominantly Buddhist country, has a Malay-Muslim majority. An insurgency has raged in the region for 15 years as separatists fight against what they perceive as Thai colonisation of their country, while the Thai government attempts to supress a clear threat to security and order.
Brazil A landmark ruling in the supreme court could pave the way for the release of Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, a formed president tried as a result of the ‘car wash’ investigations into corruption. The court ruled that the accused should only be imprisoned once all possible appeals have been exhausted; a spokesperson for Bolsonaro’s government expressed total disdain for the decision which will lead to the release of many recently jailed for corruption.
France President Macron, in an interview with The Economist, expressed a concern that NATO was ‘experiencing brain death’ because due to poor coordination and the unpredictability of Trump’s White House. He expressed doubts as to the strength of the Article 5 collective defence commitment, and the estrangement of Turkey, which invaded northern Syria last month, and, most critically, the US. Chancellor Merkel and Secretary Pompeo both dismissed his criticisms and affirmed the importance of NATO to collective security.
Middle East and South Asia
Iran As a response to American unilateral withdrawal from the nuclear agreement and Europe’s inability to compensate Iran for American sanctions, Tehran began once more to enrich its own uranium, sparking concerns from the international community. Spokespeople from the Iranian government state that the move is to decrease their commitments so as to salvage what remains of the nuclear deal.
Africa and Middle East
Côte d’Ivoire: The UNESCO World Heritage site and city of Grand-Bassam was flooded due to heavy rain, and evacuated. A UN mission is being sent to the former capital of the country, known for its 19th century colonialist architecture, to assess the damage.
Guinea-Bissau: President Jose Mario Vaz dismissed the prime minister, Aristide Gomes; the latter refuses to leave office on the grounds that the President’s term ended in June. Faustino Imbali, who belongs to the same party as Vaz, has been appointed as interim prime minister until the presidential election on the 24th November: the presence of two rivals governments makes preparation for this extremely difficult.
Saudi Arabia Riyadh hosted its first ever female wrestling match between the Canadian ‘Natalya’ and American ‘Crown Jewel’. Activists dismissed it as a crude publicity stunt to distract from the grossly inferior legal and social status of women.
Lebanon A proposed tax on Whatsapp calls struck a nerve in a country which suffers endemic corruption and political gridlock, with protesters formed a human chain stretching 105 miles from the south to the north of the country. A government reshuffle and economic policy changes have done little to placate the protests, which demand what they regard as substantive political and economic reform. Pro-government counter-protesters have since attacked demonstrators, and the prime minister has resigned in the hope of triggering what he calls a ‘positive shock’.
Asia & Oceania
Ongoing stories: Hong Kong: protests continued in the city of Hong Kong, as protesters used Halloween as a pretext to wear masks. Such wearing of facemasks was banned by executive order on the 4th October
India 3 months after stripping the state of Jammu and Kashmir of its special privileges, Modi’s government divided the province into Ladakh, and Jammu and Kashmir and formally took both under direct federal control. The region has been under lockdown to prevent any political backlash in this predominantly Muslim (and separatist) region, with internet and phone access still severely restricted and tens of thousands of Indian soldiers enforcing a curfew. The government affirms that this approach will mean that the long-running insurgency can be quelled; critics are concerned that it will simply add fuel to the flames.
Panama Student protests erupted centred around Panama University against a proposed constitutional reform. While attempting to establish more robust institutions as a way to fight corruption, the protesters objected to an amendment which aims to prevent the future legalisation of gay marriage.
Chile A 3% increase in metro fares triggered nationwide protests across Chile, which in places turned violent. The protests have become a wider criticism of societal inequality in the most unequal country in the OECD, and much of the blame is levelled at Chile’s billionaire president. The government responded by promising increased taxes on the wealthy and a higher minimum wage, but eyebrows have been raised across the world by the introduction of a Pinochet-era state of emergency, where soldiers are placed on the streets and sentences of up to 20 years imposed on anyone causing a menace to public services. The government says the measure is necessary to preserve the rule of law and prevent violence.
UK Boris Johnson’s timetable for parliamentary debate of the latest Brexit deal was blocked by the House of Commons on the grounds that 3 days was far too little time for it. Mr Johnson was trying to avoid the need for an extension to Article 50; the extension has now been granted by the EU. In the meantime, with No Deal off the table, the Labour Party backed a general election, set for Johnson’s preferred date of 12th December.
Georgia Almost 2,000 Georgian websites, including NGOs and media outlets, were hacked, their content replaced by a photo of the former president Mikheil Saakashvili captioned “I’ll be back”. The identity of the culprits is unclear: commentators remain unconvinced that either Saakashvili or the Russian government is behind it.
By Patrick Stephens- World This Week editor.