This roundup covers news summaries across six regions: Africa, the Asia-Pacific, Europe, the Middle East, North America, and South America. Wherever possible I draw links to Singapore, but I think it is more important to understand geopolitical developments around the world, to draw attention to meaningful news stories, and to highlight both positive and negative events.
Around the world, I rely primarily on the email newsletters from “The Economist“, “Foreign Policy“, “Muck Rack“, “The New York Times“, “The Wall Street Journal“, and “The World Post“. In Singapore, the weekly digests from the European Union Centre and the Middle East Institute are handy. Do send me recommendations of news outlets or articles too, to jinyao.guan.yin.miao[a]gmail.com!
September 4 to 9, 2017
Last week, in Angola – after 38 years – power was transferred from President José Eduardo dos Santo to defence minister and dos Santos ally João Lourenç, after the latter’s party won 61 per cent of the vote. This week, in Kenya, the Supreme Court of Kenya nullified the presidential election won by President Uhuru Kenyatta, and in this historic ruling ordered for a new vote to be held within 60 days. There are concerns, however, given that the court “failed to tell the public exactly what the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission had done wrong“. And in Zimbabwe, where political and socio-economic problems persist, President Robert Mugabe is likely to again compete in the 2018 presidential elections, yet the First Lady Grace Mugabe has stirred up a political storm during a visit to South Africa.
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- In a historic ruling, both for the country and for the African continent, the Supreme Court of Kenya nullified the presidential election – won by President Uhuru Kenyatta, in an election which was also preceded by the torture and murder of a senior election officer – siding with the argument made by the opposition (led by opponent presidential candidate Raila Odinga) “that the vote had been hacked and electronically manipulated“. A new vote must now be held within 60 days.
- 27.7 per cent in South Africa are unemployed. Of this, 39 per cent have never been employed, and among young people 60.3 per cent have never worked before. Poverty alleviation for the elderly and job training have been mooted as potential solutions.
- South Sudan has seen “the largest sudden exodus in Africa since the 1994 Rwandan genocide“. In-between the government and rebel forces, civilians are bearing the brunt of the civil war, as more look to leave the country, especially to Uganda.
- It was widely assumed that First Lady of Zimbabwe Grace Mugabe was going to succeed her husband, President Robert Mugabe – who is likely to compete in the 2018 presidential elections – in 2023, but she stirred up a political storm during a visit to South Africa, “when she allegedly used a power cord to strike a South African model who had been partying with her sons“. An ongoing economic crisis plagues the country, and Mr. Mugabe’s ruthless repression of dissent and election-rigging have been deleterious too.
- The collapse of a three-storey building in India killed at least 24 people.
- The military offensive against the Rohingyas in Myanmar continues. Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi – together with regional associations – has been criticised for their inaction, as tens of thousands of Rohingyas flee into neighbouring Bangladesh.
- North Korea said its hydrogen bomb test was a “complete success“, and the device can now be loaded into its long-range missiles.
- In Pakistan, five suspected Taliban members were acquitted “of conspiracy to murder former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto in 2007“. Miss Bhutto was killed in a gun and bomb attack. In this vein, there is still no clarity over who ordered her murder. Former president Pervez Musharraf, charged in this case, was also declared by the court as a fugitive from justice.
- The Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, and Slovakia were taken to task by the European Commission for non-compliance with the refugee relocation scheme, and the European Court of Justice ruled that this relocation plan was legal. The top court has now “rejected a challenge by Hungary and Slovakia” over this compulsory fixed-quota scheme, and this final decision cannot be appealed.
In Spain, Catalonia is set to approve plans for a referendum in October “on whether to declare independence from Spain“. There is no minimum turnout requirement, though the Spanish government has said the vote is illegal and that it will stop it.
The Middle East
- Forces in Afghanistan freed “almost 40 children during multiple raids near the Pakistani border” over the summer. These children were trafficked by groups working with the Taliban, and poverty remains a contributing factor in the country.
- A bus crash in Iran left 12 people dead. 11 of them were schoolgirls.
- Community bank Wells Fargo – as a result of its high-pressure sales culture – used questionable sales tactics by secretly signing up customers for credit cards. There were 3.5 million of such accounts.
- As the floodwaters brought in by Hurricane Harvey recede, there are new dangers – explosions at a damaged chemical plant and the mixture of chemicals, sewage, and debris across the cities – as the death toll rises too.
- President Donald Trump ended the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or the DACA programme, which protected about 800,000 young undocumented immigrants from deportation. Mr. Trump gave Congress a six-month deadline to pass a new legislation.
- It took two tries last year, in October and in November, for a historic peace deal to be signed in Colombia with former terror group the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC. Now, the group has unveiled its new political party.
- In Guatemala, there is a battle between the government of President Jimmy Morales and the International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala, or the CICIG, a United Nations-backed body “that has been investigating corruption for more than a decade“. The scope of the latter’s investigations has widened, but the country’s next election is unlikely to bring about change.