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.