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 20 to 25, 2017
93-year-old Robert Mugabe and his wife were held in custody by Zimbabwe’s military last week, and while the former president initially rejected military demands to step down (even delivering a defiant televised speech earlier this week) he eventually resigned in a letter to Parliament, as Parliament began a process of impeachment. As part of the deal which led to his resignation, Mr. Mugabe was “granted immunity from prosecution and assured that his safety would be protected“, and former vice-president Emmerson Mnangagwa, who was ousted by Mr. Mugabe, returned to the country to be sworn in as the new president. Nicknamed “The Crocodile” for this political patience and ruthlessness, there are doubts that Mr. Mnangagwa – “notorious for persecuting the opposition and for organising the rigging of elections” – would bring about the political and economic change the country needs.
- President of Kenya Uhuru Kenyatta won re-election in a second election – after the country’s Supreme Court nullified the first one – and did so despite voting irregularities and the withdrawal of opposition presidential candidate Raila Odinga. Political clashes have again surfaced as Mr. Odinga returned from speaking engagements in the United States.
- Later in the week, Kenya’s Supreme Court dismissed challenges to uphold Mr. Kenyatta’s re-election.
- At least 50 people were killed in Nigeria, in a suicide bomb attack at a mosque. The bomber is said to be just 17 years old.
- In Uganda, an outbreak of the Marburg virus disease – “found in cave-dwelling Egyptian fruit bats [and] similar to the Ebola virus” – has killed at least three people, with 100 more being monitored. There is no specific treatment or vaccine for the virus.
- Having rejected military demands to step down last week, President of Zimbabwe Robert Mugabe was fired as leader of his party. In a televised speech later in the week, a defiant Mr. Mugabe refused to resign.
- And finally, Mr. Mugabe resigned in a letter to Parliament. Citizens celebrated in the streets, following the announcement. Former vice-president Emmerson Mnangagwa, who was ousted by Mr. Mugabe, returned to the country to be sworn in as the new president.
- Having won his country’s snap elections with a two-third majority and having kept intact his cabinet, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe delivered his first policy speech to parliament, announcing an “intended [constitutional] change to the war-renouncing Article 9“.
- At least 48 shipwrecks in South East Asia have been illicitly salvaged, and the protection of other wrecks is gaining more traction.
- A former Bosnian Serb general, Ratko Mladić, “has been jailed for life for genocide and other atrocities in the 1990s Bosnian war“. He was convicted by a United Nations tribunal in The Hague, though Mladić said he would appeal.
- 23 members states of the European Union (EU) signed an EU Defence Cooperation Pact, characterised as the “nucleus of a joint army“. The departure of the United Kingdom has also raised concerns about future defence relations in Europe.
- Negotiations to form a coalition government in Germany broke down, leaving the country with a caretaker government and the prospects of a fourth term for Chancellor Angela Merkel – whose conservative bloc lost support in the September elections – in doubt.
The Middle East
- The Supreme Court of Iraq declared that the independence referendum of Iraqi Kurdistan was unconstitutional. Iraqi Kurds had, in September, voted in favour of declaring independence from Iraq. Longtime president of the region Masoud Barzani has also resigned.
- Two weeks ago the prime minister of Lebanon Saad Hariri abruptly resigned before meeting with King Salman of Saudi Arabia, and this week he arrived in France. Reasons for his stay in Saudi Arabia and now the French visit remain unclear. As the situation pans out, “Lebanon could explode as a result of miscalculations by the different players“, like other proxy wars in the region.
- Mr. Hariri then returned to Lebanon and suspended his shock resignation.
- A car bomb by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, in Syria, killed at least 20 people.
- Hundreds of thousands of gallons of crude oil leaked from the Keystone Pipeline, in South Dakota.
- Last week, President Donald Trump said he would reverse an elephant trophy policy in Zambia and Zimbabwe, but changed his mind.
- North Korea was returned to a list of state sponsors of terrorism.
- An Argentine submarine went missing. Navies from around the world joined the search.
- Brazil is one of the world’s deadliest murder capitals, and in Rio de Janeiro the violence has only surged in the past year. Experts say the rise in violent crime “is part of a nationwide trend … exacerbated by Brazil’s economic recession, by corruption that has hollowed out government coffers, and by fierce competition between drug trafficking organisations“.