Africa: Tunisian parliament votes to approve new government and country’s youngest-ever prime minister; anti-Mugabe protests turn violent in Zimbabwean capital.
Americas: Colombian government and FARC sign final peace agreement, ending 52 years of conflict; Brazil’s senate initiate final trial on impeachment proceedings against country’s president.
Asia and Pacific: Over 1,800 people killed in crackdown on drugs since the Philippines new president took office seven weeks ago; North Korea fires ballistic missile from submarine off its east coast into Japan’s Air Defence Identification Zone.
Europe: Hundreds of people killed, injured or left homeless in multiple earthquakes in Italy; British cabinet split over retaining membership of EU’s single market.
Middle East: Syrian government retakes Darayya after rebel forces leave Damascus suburb for Idlib; Islamic State claims responsibility for suicide attack on training camp used by pro-government Popular Resistance militia in Aden, Yemen.
On 24 August, the Tunisian parliament voted to approve a new government, backing the prime minister-designate, Youssef Chahed. Chahed was named as the successor to Habib Essid after Essid was dismissed in a no-confidence vote on 30 July following his failure to implement economic reforms. Chahed will be Tunisia’s youngest prime minister since the country gained its independence in 1956. His new government includes Islamists, leftists, unionists and independents. Chahed will have to make difficult decisions with regards to the economy, and it is likely that new austerity measures will need to be brought in.
Anti-Mugabe protests turned violent in the Zimbabwean capital, Harare, on 24 and 26 August, with police using tear gas, water cannons and batons to disperse crowds of protesters. Around 200 demonstrators took to the streets on 24 August, two days before the planned march by all opposition parties to force the country’s president, Robert Mugabe, to implement electoral reforms prior to the 2018 general election. The 26 August protest was broken up by police despite it being approved by Zimbabwe’s high court. Unrest and clashes are likely to continue as opposition supporters continue to protest against Mugabe’s regime.
On 24 August, the Colombian government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) signed a final peace agreement, ending 52 years of conflict. The agreement includes provisions for addressing the illegal drugs trade, agrarian reform, transitional justice and the laying down of arms. A plebiscite on the peace agreement is scheduled for 2 October, and it is likely that the public will vote to support the agreement. It is not yet clear when demobilisation will begin, but once it is determined, the Colombian armed forces will facilitate FARC’s movement to 23 so-called ‘hamlet zones’ and eight camps in different areas of the country for 180 days. FARC will have 90 days after the demobilisation begins to demobilise by 30%. It will then have 30 more days to demobilise a further 30% and then an additional 30 days to demobilise the remaining 40%. The United Nations will verify the process and spend the final 30 days ensuring that all weapons are removed. On day 180, the demobilisation zones will be dismantled and the ceasefire process will be over.
On 25 August, Brazil’s senate initiated the final trial on the impeachment proceedings against the country’s president, Dilma Rousseff. Rousseff is accused of breaching fiscal responsibility laws, and has been suspended from office since 12 May. The vice president, Michel Temer, is currently serving as interim president. The impeachment needs a two-thirds majority in order to be approved, and it is likely to result in Rousseff’s permanent removal. However, a recent poll showed that only 14% of Brazil’s population regards Temer positively. If Rousseff is removed and Temer assumes the presidency, it is possible that some political instability may occur in the short term as he will have to work hard to increase his legitimacy.
The Philippine National Police reported on 23 August that over 1,800 people have been killed in a crackdown on drugs since the new president, Rodrigo Duterte, took office seven weeks ago. Although the police stated that there is no official policy of killing drug dealers or users, 750 of those killed were confirmed to be drug dealers killed during police operations, and the remaining deaths are still under investigation. Human Rights Watch and the United States and other countries have condemned the deaths and two UN human rights experts have urged Manila to stop the extra-judicial killings; however, the majority of the Philippine public still support the president’s attempts to eradicate drugs and crime in the country. It is very likely that the crackdown and resulting casualties will continue for the foreseeable future. If the killings do continue, the country may face increased international condemnation and perhaps even sanctions for its human rights abuses.
North Korea fired a ballistic missile from a submarine off its east coast on 24 August. Japan’s prime minister, Shinzō Abe, said the missile fell inside Japan’s Air Defence Identification Zone, and called it a ‘reckless act’. The launch came as South Korea and the United States began their annual military drills, the Ulchi Freedom Guardian exercises, which Pyongyang interprets as a rehearsal for an invasion of North Korea. Following the missile launch, Japan, China and South Korea issued statements urging North Korea to refrain from further provocation and to follow UN Security Council resolutions. Ministers from the three countries also agreed that Japan will host a trilateral summit later this year. However, tensions in the region continue to rise, and Pyongyang is likely to continue to engage in provocative behaviour for as long as it feels threatened by its neighbours.
A 6.2 magnitude earthquake centred in Norcia in central Italy occurred in the early hours of 24 August. Two more earthquakes hit a similar area the next day, and two further earthquakes occurred on 26 and 28 August. At least 250 people have died, and many more have been left homeless. In the aftermath, around 2,500 volunteers helped in rescue attempts, 420 Red Cross aid workers were on the ground, and AirBnB waived accommodation fees and introduced a ‘free spare room’ service to give people a place to stay. Many are now calling for more to be done to protect towns from the frequent earthquakes that Italy suffers. There is currently an investigation into why money set aside to retrofit earthquake protection to buildings was never spent on this. There are also efforts underway to prevent Italian organised criminal gangs profiting from the reconstruction process.
On 24 August, the British prime minister, Theresa May, led discussions at a cabinet meeting on the United Kingdom’s options following the June referendum vote to leave the European Union. The meeting ended with a reported split between senior cabinet members over whether or not to remain part of the EU’s single market. This fundamental question will decide the nature of the new relationship between the EU and the United Kingdom. Meanwhile, the German vice-chancellor, Sigmar Gabriel, has said that the EU may fall apart if the Brexit negotiations end with the United Kingdom retaining the benefits of EU membership without the responsibilities. Further adding to the pressure, the president of the Nord-Pas-de-Calais-Picardie region in France, Xavier Bertrand, has said that the UK Home Office should accept asylum applications from migrants still in France, without waiting for them to reach the United Kingdom. This will be a likely trend over the coming months as European politicians add their demands to the debate surrounding the United Kingdom’s exit negotiations and agitate to ensure that the EU is left in the best possible situation after the negotiations. For its part, it is becoming even more likely the British government will need to refrain from triggering Article 50 until its negotiating team is assembled and the cabinet has agreed on key issues if it is to ensure a strong position.
The Syrian government has retaken Darayya after rebel forces left the area on 27 August following a deal between the two sides to bring an end to the four-year siege of the Damascus suburb. As part of the deal, some 700 rebel fighters were moved from Darayya to the city of Idlib and some 4,000 citizens were moved to government shelters on 26 August. Darayya has been under government siege since 2012, and the withdrawal of rebel forces has been hailed by government supporters as a triumph for the Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad. Meanwhile, Russian and American diplomats and military officials have been attempting to broker a ceasefire deal in Geneva. While reports on 26 August suggested that an agreement was close, there are still a number of outstanding issues that have not been resolved. Talks between the Russian and American foreign ministers, Sergey Lavrov and John Kerry, are highly likely to lead to a ceasefire arrangement in the coming weeks; however, whether the ceasefire is able to hold or not is less certain.
Islamic State has claimed responsibility for a suicide attack in Aden, Yemen, on 29 August in which at least 45 people were killed. The attack targeted a training camp used by the pro-government Popular Resistance militia. The attack is one of a number in recent months targeting officials and security forces. Islamic State is likely to continue to target Yemeni security forces as progress is made between the government and rebels on restarting peace negotiations after the talks in Kuwait collapsed earlier in August.
Prepared by Kirsten Winterman, Erin Decker and Matthew Clarke.
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