Africa: Scores killed and many arrested during protests in Ethiopian capital; South Africa’s ruling party suffers electoral blow and loses major municipality.
Americas: Colombian government and FARC agree on UN-brokered deal to disarm guerrillas; wife of Nicaraguan president to be his running mate in November general election.
Asia-Pacific: Protests in Hong Kong over new rule requiring candidates in upcoming local elections to acknowledge Hong Kong as ‘inalienable’ part of China; Japan’s new defence minister strong advocate of revising country’s pacifist constitution.
Europe: Man attacks two police officers in Belgium with machete; British government plans new mandatory counter-radicalisation programme targeting those returning from Syria and those supporting violent jihadism in Britain.
Middle East: Rebels reportedly break Syrian armed forces siege of eastern districts of Aleppo; large crowds attend rally in support of Turkish president following recent coup attempt.
Around 100 people are estimated to have been killed and many others arrested during protests in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Abada, between 6 and 8 August. The protests began after a gathering of over 500 people from the Oromo ethnic group to demonstrate against economic inequality and general discrimination. Further demonstrations took place across the Oromo region, with police responding with full force, as the previous day the Ethiopian prime minister, Haile Mariam Dessalegn, had banned all protests that might ‘threaten national unity’. It is likely that the Oromo will call for further protests, and that clashes between police officers and demonstrators will continue.
South Africa’s largest political party, the African National Congress (ANC), and its leader, the country’s president, Jacob Zuma, suffered a significant blow during local elections on 3 August. In Tshwane municipality, which includes the South African capital, Pretoria, the Democratic Alliance (DA) opposition party secured 43% of the vote against the ANC’s 41%. Overall, the ANC experienced its worst election performance since it gained power at the end of apartheid in 1994. While it is too early to assess the impact of the local election results on national politics and the general election in 2019, it is clear that the ANC’s popularity has fallen as people demand greater government transparency, particularly after the ruling in June that Zuma had violated the constitution in a corruption scandal.
On 5 August, the Colombian government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) took another step towards ending their 50-year conflict by agreeing on a UN-supervised security protocol, timetable and other details for disarming FARC’s estimated 9,000 guerrillas. The agreement lays out how the ceasefire will function in 23 zones throughout the country and sets a timetable for rebel fighters to gather at eight points around the country to surrender their weapons. The latest agreement is the most significant progress between the two sides during the course of their peace talks, which began in 2012. Despite the peace agreement, intermittent clashes are likely to take place during the disarmament period. The peace accord will contribute greatly to an improved security environment within the country, though other legacies of the decades-long conflict, such as landmines scattered throughout the country, will take longer to eradicate.
The ruling Sandinista National Liberation Front announced on 2 August that Rosario Murillo, the wife of the president, Daniel Ortega, will be his running mate in the 6 November general election. While the president is attempting to portray Murillo’s nomination as evidence of the Sandinistas’ commitment to gender equality and an increased role for women in politics, Nicaragua’s political opposition is viewing the nomination as the couple’s attempt to strengthen their hold on power and create a political dynasty. Four of their children currently serve as presidential advisors, and by nominating his wife as his running mate, Ortega is likely attempting to further concentrate power within the hands of his family and firmly entrench himself in the country’s politics. Despite the opposition’s disapproval of Ortega’s decision, it is unlikely to lead to political instability or civil unrest ahead of the country’s presidential election. The move is also unlikely to harm Ortega’s chances of being elected Nicaragua’s president for a seventh time, as the Sandinista Party continues to support him.
Protests broke out in Hong Kong on 2 August over a new rule requiring candidates in the upcoming Legislative Council elections to acknowledge that Hong Kong is an ‘inalienable’ part of China. Several pro-independence candidates have already been disqualified for refusing to do so. Hundreds of protesters took to the streets and disrupted a meeting for candidates running for the legislature, though the protests did not turn violent. Political tensions are likely to remain high in the run-up to the Legislative Council elections, which will take place on 4 September. Adding to the already high political tensions are Chinese accusations that Western powers, the United States in particular, are stirring up unrest and colluding with groups that are calling for Hong Kong’s independence from China. It is highly likely that the protests and demonstrations will continue, and possibly intensify, ahead of the elections.
The Japanese prime minister, Shinzo Abe, reshuffled his cabinet on 3 August, appointing Tomomi Inada as the country’s new defence minister. Inada is known to be a strong advocate of revising Japan’s pacifist constitution, and it is likely that he will push for a reinterpretation of the constitution in the next few months as well as attempt to bolster the country’s security policies. If he is successful, Japan’s neighbours, including China and South Korea, are very likely to become more apprehensive of its military ambitions, leading to increased tensions in the region. However, it is unclear how likely it is that Inada can secure any change to Japan’s pacifist constitution, as constitutional reform plans would be subject to a referendum. Public support for a stronger military has increased substantially over recent years, but is currently only at about 30% according to a 2015 poll.
On 6 August, a 33-year-old Algerian man attacked two police officers in Charleroi with a machete. He is reported to have shouted ‘Allah Akbar’ shortly before the attack. Both officers are in a serious condition; a third police officer shot and killed the attacker. Islamic State have claimed responsibility for the attack, and the Belgian prime minister, Charles Michel, said that ‘Initial indications very clearly point towards terrorism.’ The attacker had minor criminal infringements on his record, but no known links to terrorism. The incident is likely another example of the growing number of lone wolf attacks inspired by Islamic State but not directed by the group. This form of terrorism is very difficult to prevent, as the lack of communication with or resources from Islamic State means that attacks are less likely to be detected in advance by security services. The EU and individual member states are very likely to implement further security measures and intelligence operations in light of the number of lone wolf attacks Europe has experienced this summer. The large number of attackers from Belgium means that the Belgian government in particular will be under pressure from other European leaders to tackle radicalisation in the country.
In an attempt to mitigate the risk of lone wolf terrorism, the British government has announced plans for a new counter-radicalisation programme. Targeted at those returning from Syria and those that support violent jihadism in the United Kingdom, the programme will be mandatory where legally possible. The current programme, called Channel, is voluntary, but has been used by 4,000 people so far with much success. The new programme, called Contest, will be a more intensive and compulsory scheme. Contest is part of a new counter-terrorism strategy slowly being unveiled by the UK government. The strategy is expected to include more armed police, a better-resourced intelligence system, new measures to protect against biological weapons and new measures to make getting hold of explosive materials more difficult. Countries such as Germany, France and Belgium will be watching Contest with interest to see whether they could implement similar programme to counter radicalisation in their own countries.
Opposition groups have said that rebels broke the government siege on eastern districts of Aleppo on 7 August. The eastern part of the city had been under siege since 17 July after government forces closed all opposition-held routes into Aleppo. Images of the broken siege have been shared across social media platforms, but the government and Hezbollah have both claimed that reports that the siege has been broken are false. Breaking the siege, despite not fully securing the area, marks significant progress for rebel fighters in Aleppo; however, the Syrian armed forces will continue their bombing campaign of rebel-held areas in the city.
Large crowds attended a rally on 7 August in support of the Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, just weeks after the failed 15 July coup against him. Over a million people were expected to attend the rally, which was also attended by the country’s president, prime minister and two opposition party leaders. The rally was the final event after a series of nightly anti-coup demonstrations across the country. The event is the first in recent years to demonstrate unity between the government and opposition parties, though the Kurdish People’s Democracy Party (HDP) were not invited to the rally. Erdoğan used his speech to the rally to outline the conditions under which the death penalty could be reinstated in Turkey; however, Germany has stated that any move toward bringing back the death penalty would end Turkey’s chances of eventually gaining EU membership. It is likely that Erdoğan will continue to experience high levels of support, but the solidarity between opposition and government will falter over issues such as the restructuring of the military.
Prepared by Kirsten Winterman, Erin Decker and Matthew Clarke.
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