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!
November 13 to 18, 2017
93-year-old President of Zimbabwe Robert Mugabe has been the leader in charge since 1980, but his fate now appears to be in the hands of his former allies and opposition officials, after the country’s military took control of the capital city. Some of his allies have been arrested. “The military denied it had carried out a coup, saying Mugabe and his family are ‘safe’ and their ‘security is guaranteed’“. Just last week, former vice president Emmerson Mnangagwa – on accusations of witchcraft – fled the country, as First Lady Grace Mugabe was expected to succeed her husband in 2023. And it would appear that Mr. Mugabe – who has rejected military demands to step down – had been deposed for favouring his wife over Mr. Mnangagwa, who is preferred by the elites. Mr. Mnangagwa has had his own presidential aspirations, and has “promised to control his party ‘very soon’ and urged his supporters to register to vote in the national elections next July“.
- Cape Verde has pledged to “obtain 100 per cent of its electricity from renewable resources by 2025“, up from the 25 per cent at the moment. The country will have to leverage upon diverse resources, including an emerging technology called ocean thermal energy conversion.
- In Nigeria, where crime rates are high and where there is little faith in the effectiveness of the police, vigilantes are assuming responsibility for crime control. Official support or recognition is sometimes given to these groups, though some have been implicated in abuses, with fears “that they could evolve into an ethnic militia or be used for political means“.
- 10 people in Nigeria were killed by suicide bombs. No group claimed immediate responsibility.
- Somaliland – a self-declared state, recognised internationally as an autonomous region of Somalia – is the first country in the world to use iris recognition in a presidential election. “A lack of trust” in the 2008 elections prompted this shift.
- The crash of a light aircraft in Tanzania left at least 11 people killed.
- In Uganda, poverty and physical disabilities are cited as key reasons why older persons do not seek healthcare services, and consequently there are calls for the country’s primary healthcare system to be strengthened.
- Zimbabwe’s military took control of the country’s capital. President Robert Mugabe and his wife were held in custody.
- With a participation rate of 79.5 per cent, 61.6 per cent of Australians voted yes to same-sex marriage. The survey is not binding, but it “paves the way for Parliament to legally recognise the unions of gay and lesbian couples“.
- A highway pile-up of 30 cars in China left at least 18 people dead.
- The Supreme Court of Cambodia dissolved the country’s main opposition party, banning 118 of its politicians from office. The presiding judge is a member of Prime Minister Hun Sen’s ruling party. National election in 2013 almost unseated the prime minister, and this dissolution – characterised as the “death of democracy” – follows crackdowns on dissent and other legal attacks.
- Like India, neighbouring Pakistan is also shrouded in smog. The month of November, when “crop burning, higher emissions, and cold weather combine to blanket [parts of the country] with acrid smog“, has been described as a “fifth season”.
- A highway crash between a minibus and a truck left nine people dead, in Bulgaria.
- Publication of the Paradise Papers – “disclosing previously confidential documents about the tax activities of many of the world’s most powerful companies and people” – has given fresh impetus for the European Union to address the issue of tax avoidance.
- Flash floods in Athens, Greece, killed at least 16 people. Many areas were left without power and water.
- 60,000 people in Poland participated in a white nationalist march, one of the largest far-right gatherings in Europe. It has, by now, “grown to dwarf the official version of Poland’s independence day“, attracting far-right leaders from Italy and the United Kingdom too.
- Brexit minister of the United Kingdom David Davis announced that Parliament would be able to debate, amend, and vote on the terms of Brexit. The move is seen as “a concession to rebellious lawmakers who have demanded more power over the process“.
The Middle East
- 22 people in Afghanistan were killed at checkpoints, after a series of Taliban attacks.
- Bahrain has blamed Iran for “an explosion which caused a fire at its main oil pipeline“. Iran rejected the allegations.
- President of Egypt Abdel Fattah el-Sisi said he will not a seek a third term in office. He said he respects “the country’s constitution which permits its leaders to serve only two four-year terms“, though some of his supporters are petitioning for him to contest.
- An earthquake in Halabja, Iran killed hundreds of people. It is the world’s deadliest earthquake this year, and the final death toll is estimated to be upwards of 400 people, with thousands more wounded.
- The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has suffered a string of defeats in both Iraq and Syria – including its de facto capital, the Syrian city of Raqqa – but the “BBC” has found that hundreds of ISIS fighters and their families were allowed to escape from Raqqa.
- President Donald Trump wrapped up his 12-day Asia tour in the Philippines, after a summit of South East Asian countries.
- Donald Trump Jr. revealed, by tweeting screenshots, that he had conversed with anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks before the presidential elections last year. This July, it was reported that Mr. Trump Jr. had met with a Kremlin-connected Russian lawyer in 2016.
- A small consumer advocacy group in Colombia has been advocating for a 20 per cent tax on sugary drinks, but have faced fierce industry backlash, media and legislative challenges, and even harassment of its employees. In the country, in particular soda has been a strong part of its culture, a trend which is exacerbated by the lack of access to potable water.
- Under President Nicolás Maduro, Venezuela has been roiled by persistent political and economic problems. And now, having “defaulted on some of its debt after missing an interest payment due in October“, the country is in urgent need of international financial assistance.