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!
October 16 to 21, 2017
While “an uninterrupted series of general elections took place in Central and East Africa” between June 2015 and August 2017, voters have grown increasingly sceptical of African leaders who remain in power, and especially those who have delayed elections or those who have quashed the opposition. In DR Congo, President Joseph Kabila has refused to hold long-overdue elections which were scheduled for December 2019, and his government has now delayed it to mid-2019. Angola has a new president, but the election – notwithstanding challenges of its validity – has instead been perceived as a transfer of power. And in Kenya, a second presidential election is scheduled, after the first was nullified by the Supreme Court, yet the main opposition presidential candidate has withdrawn from this second election.
- President of DR Congo Joseph Kabila has refused to hold long-overdue elections (scheduled for December 2016), and the incumbent government has given a plethora of official reasons – or excuses – related to cost and logistics for this lengthy delay. Mid-2019 is now the announced date, though “that could be a disaster for the unstable, corruption-riddled government“.
- A handful of countries in East Africa – Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, South Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda – are blaming the import of used or secondhand clothing and shoes, for undermining “their efforts to build domestic textile industries“. They are therefore seeking restrictions or a ban, yet the countries are facing trade backlash, especially from the United States.
- The spread of a pneumonic plague outbreak in Madagascar has now claimed the lives of at least 74 people.
- Earlier this month, Mozambique experienced its first confirmed, armed Islamist attack, as a group of 30 men “killed two policemen, stole arms and ammunition, and occupied the town [of 30,000 inhabitants]“.
- The explosion of a vehicle bomb in Mogadishu, Somalia, left at least 20 people dead. No group has yet claimed responsibility.
- Later, two truck bombings in Mogadishu, Somalia, killed at least 237 people and injured at least 300. The explosions are “one of the deadliest attacks to hit the capital“, and it is not clear yet who had staged the bombings.
- The world’s youngest country, South Sudan, “is like a jigsaw puzzle that has been broken apart, soaked in petrol and set alight”. An ongoing civil war has only exacerbated the political and economic situation, and no end appears to be in sight.
- Chinese leader Xi Jinping delivered a three-and-a-half-hour speech at the Community Party congress.
- With concerns over air quality and pollution, India’s Supreme Court reinstated a ban on the sale of fireworks in the country’s National Capital Region (which includes the capital city of New Delhi) ahead of the Hindu festival of lights, Diwali.
- “An explosion in an illegal firecracker factory” in India killed at least seven workers.
- The collapse of an apartment block in Bangalore, India, left at least six people dead. Millions in the country “are forced to live in cramped, dilapidated properties because of spiralling real estate prices and a lack of housing for the poor“.
- Former Prime Minister of Pakistan Nawaz Sharif was disqualified from office in August this year, after a corruption probe into his family wealth. Now, he and his daughter have been indicted, with charges “that could see the former leader jailed“.
- Authorities of the Philippines said government troops have killed the leader of Abu Sayyaf Isnilon Hapilon. Abu Sayyaf is “a militant group affiliated with the Islamic State [of Iraq and Syria]”, which has held parts of Marawi since May this year.
- Later, President President Rodrigo Duterte declared the city liberated from the militants.
- A new conservative leader, 31-year-old Sebastian Kurz, is set to lead Austria. With immigration the dominant issue in the lead-up, his party is set to win more than 31 per cent of the vote in the country’s general election.
- Voters in Catalonia, in a referendum, voted to secede from Spain. Catalonia is insisting upon this result, and now the Spanish government in an unprecedented move said “it would begin the process to impose direct rule on Catalonia“.
- The European Union (EU) and the United Kingdom are moving to the next round of Brexit talks, though talks are at an impasse. The former said negotiations on future relations will not start, while the latter is now preparing for no-deal scenarios.
- Hurricane Ophelia struck the Republic of Ireland, killing at least three people.
- At least 30 people in Portugal and northern Spain have been killed by wildfires, fanned by strong winds from a hurricane.
The Middle East
- “Two separate suicide and gun attacks on police and soldiers” in Afghanistan left at least 71 dead.
- Iraqi forces tried to retake the disputed Kurdish area of Kirkuk, seizing a military base, an airport, and an oil field. In response, the United States-led coalition urged both sides to “to avoid escalatory actions“. Last month, Iraqi Kurds voted overwhelmingly – with 92 per cent of voters voting “yes” – in a referendum, in favour of declaring independence from Iraq.
- A fire at a carpentry workshop in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, left at least 10 people dead.
- United States-backed forces say they have taken back control of Raqqa, Syria, the de facto capital of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). This comes a week after ISIS fighters were driven off their final urban stronghold in Iraq.
- President Donald Trump disavowed the Iran nuclear deal, after announcing that he would not certify Iran’s compliance.
- The wildfires across northern California continue to claim lives, straining resources of firefighting and healthcare agencies.
- After 13 years of deployment, the United Nations will withdraw its peacekeeping troops – of the UN Stabilisation Mission in Haiti, or MINUSTAH – from Haiti. The mission, however, has been hit by controversy: For introducing cholera into the country in 2010 (and taking six years to apologise), and peacekeepers who sexually exploited children and women.
- Two earthquakes in Mexico in September have left thousands still homeless, and a month later the destruction persists.