Kenya More than 10 people were brutally killed in an attack on a bus, claimed by al-Shabab. The Kotulo region, where the attack took place, is predominantly ethnic Somalis; the attackers explicitly targeted non-Somalis. Among the dead were Kenyan police officers, and the Somali jihadist group stated that it was as revenge for the stationing of Kenyan troops in Somali.
The Gambia Following the tragic deaths of 60 Gambians onboard a ship bound for Europe, President Adama Barrow vowed to crack down on human trafficking, with rapid prosecution of human traffickers and increased surveillance. Recent events in Libya have made it increasingly difficult to travel through Libya, so an increasing number of migrants now attempt the crossing through the so-called western migration route to the Canary Islands. The Gambia has given aid to Mauritania where the survivors are currently staying, and plans are now laid for their repatriation. The International Organisation of Migration has recorded 158 deaths on the route so far this year, almost four times as many as the previous year.
Asia & Oceania
Australia Conditions in New South Wales’ worst ever recorded forest fire season worsened, as a ‘mega fire’ formed on the outskirts of Sydney. Since September, 688 homes have been destroyed and 2.1 million hectares scorched, with smoke clouds reaching western New Zealand. Perhaps most concerningly, forest fires are generally at their worst in mid-January, so there may be more still to come. NSW Rural Fire Service, the largest volunteer fire service in the world, is desperately trying to control the fires, particularly the ‘mega fire’ threatening Sydney.
Papua New Guineau Polls closed in a referendum on the island chain of Bougainville on independence from Papua New Guineau, which was believed to have an extremely high turnout rate. Most local politics pundits predict that voters will overwhelmingly support independence, but there are no significant polls to back up this claim. The vote was an integral part of a peace deal signed in 2001 between separatists and security services after a brutal civil war lasting ten years. However, there are concerns that the necessary ratification from Port Moresby to allow the islands to become independent would not be forthcoming, due to concerns that it might spur on other separatist movements in what is one of the world’s most diverse countries.
Mexico A group of videos showing powerful individuals mocking a new feminist anthem sparked outrage in a country where rape and femicide are commonly unpunished. The anthem, ‘A Rapist in Your Path’, originated in Chile, and was performed in Mexico City and other parts of the country over the last fortnight by women’s rights groups. Videos showed members of the U17 team of Mexico City football club America mocking the video; perhaps worse was footage of marines doing so given that security forces are often implicated in abuses such as rape. Even most explicit was an Instagram video shared by the leader of the prominent hip-hop group ‘Cartel de Santa’ which went beyond mocking the song and actually seemed to condone rape. All this follows months of feminist protests against gender violence, rape, and femicide: on average, 10 women are killed each day in Mexico.
Kosovo The Balkan country said it would boycott the upcoming Nobel Prize ceremony in Sweden to show its indignation that Peter Handke, an Austrian supporter of Serbia during the wars of the 1990s, had been awarded the literature award. Milosevic, the Serbian leader who ordered the ethnic cleansing of ethnic Albanians was a close friend of Handke, who spoke at Milosevic’s funeral. Despite a UN court ruling that genocide had been committed in Srebrenica, the author maintains that Bosniaks slaughtered themselves in Sarajevo to force the blame on Serb forces. He is also deeply critical of the Nobel Prize for Literature, referring to it as a ‘circus’.
Iran With inflation reach 40 percent and violent riots on the streets, President Rouhani announced a $39bn stimulus package to keep the economy afloat after the imposition of crippling US sanctions. Public sector wages will rise, which the government will attempt to finance both through selling bonds and attracting Russian state investment. A prisoner exchange this week between the US and Iran has attracted speculation that the spending plans are a short-term measure while Rouhani tries to bring about a thaw in relations with the US, and with it the lifting of some sanctions.
By Patrick Stephens, World This Week Editor