Home > Publications > Political and security risk updates > The weekly briefing, 8 December 2017: UAE announces new partnership with Saudi Arabia, British prime minister suffers another setback in Brexit negotiations, Boko Haram militants kill 17 people in two suicide attacks

The weekly briefing, 8 December 2017: UAE announces new partnership with Saudi Arabia, British prime minister suffers another setback in Brexit negotiations, Boko Haram militants kill 17 people in two suicide attacks

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Africa: Suspected Boko Haram militants kill 17 people in two suicide attacks in north-eastern Nigeria; New Zimbabwean president criticised for including Mugabe loyalists in new cabinet.

Asia-Pacific: Australian police injured in clashes between anti-Islam group and counter-protesters in Melbourne; Chinese authorities close school for violating core socialist values.

Europe and Central Asia: British prime minister suffers another humiliating setback in Brexit negotiations.

Middle East and North Africa: Houthi rebels kill former president and one-time ally in Yemen; UAE announces new partnership with Saudi Arabia outside of the GCC.

Apologies for the lack of Americas section this week.



Militants killed 17 people and injured at least 47 others in two suicide attacks on 2 December at a market in the town of Biu in north-eastern Nigeria. Although no group has claimed responsibility for the attacks, it is believed to be the work of Boko Haram. The insurgent group has carried out multiple attacks on civilian targets in the area, such as markets, schools and places of worship. The United Nations estimates that Boko Haram militants have killed around 20,000 people since 2009. Despite increased efforts by the Nigerian military, Boko Haram continues to pose a serious threat in Nigeria, particular in the north-east of the country, where there has been an upturn in attacks. 


The new Zimbabwean president, Emmerson Mnangagwa, has been criticised for appointing a number of individuals loyal to his predecessor, Robert Mugabe, to his 22-member cabinet. Mnangagwa formed the cabinet on 1 December, and gave a number of high-profile individuals a seat at the table of power. The new cabinet also includes a number of key military personnel who were involved in the recent military actions that led to Mugabe’s resignation, but lacks any opposition politicians. Despite a lack of change throughout the senior leadership, there seems to be a willingness among Zimbabweans to allow Mnangagwa time to tackle key issues, including the economy and employment. 



Five Australian police officers were injured in clashes between two rival groups during wide-spread protests in Melbourne on 4 December. Police arrested two individuals during the violence, which was sparked by right-wing protesters. Demonstrators from the Campaign Against Racism and Fascism and Reclaim Australia clashed outside an event hosted by the far-right figure Milo Yiannopoulos. Yiannopoulos is a British writer who promotes alt-right perspectives on Islam and other ultra-conservative viewpoints. He also addressed a private event in Parliament House in Canberra on 5 December, which the Australian Green Party unsuccessfully attempted to block. Reclaim Australia is a loosely structured anti-Islam group that has been holding street rallies in cities across Australia since 2015.


Chinese authorities have closed a school for violating core socialist values. The school taught Chinese women to be subservient to men. The institute urged women to unconditionally obey their fathers, husbands and sons; to not fight back when beaten; and to never divorce or scold their partners. The school also taught women that having sex with more than three men was poisonous and could kill them. The institute represented a sub-culture in China that is moving back towards what the institute claims to be ‘traditional’ values. The government’s response to the school has been hailed by supporters as indicative of a modern China, whereas opponents have condemned what they see as a crackdown on free speech and views that are counter to those of the government. 

Europe and Central Asia

United Kingdom

The British prime minister, Theresa May, has suffered yet another humiliating set-back after her coalition partner, the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), publicly scuppered an apparent agreement on the border between Northern Ireland and Ireland. The DUP had previously declared that it would block any move that left Northern Ireland with different arrangements to the rest of the United Kingdom following Brexit. However, that is exactly what May seems to have agreed with European and Irish negotiators before the DUP forced her to back out of the deal at the last minute. An agreement would have allowed negotiations to finally move onto post-Brexit trade talks. May is under further pressure on the issue, as the Scottish first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, and the mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, have raised the point that if Northern Ireland can have a different deal to the rest of the United Kingdom then so too could other parts of the country that did not vote for Brexit. With the Brexit negotiations faltering once again and the DUP holding an apparent and unwarranted veto on the outcome of the talks, the British prime minister has been further weakened and the government undermined once again.

Middle East and North Africa


A key Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) summit in Kuwait was cut short on 5 December after the United Arab Eremites announced that it has formed a new economic and military partnership with Saudi Arabia outside of the GCC. Tensions at the Kuwait summit were already high, as the meeting is the first since Saudi Arabia, UAE and Bahrain cut all diplomatic ties with fellow GCC member Qatar on 5 June. Heads of state or senior delegations usually attend the GCC summits. While the Qatari and Kuwaiti emirs and Omani deputy prime minister attended the Kuwait summit, Saudi Arabia, UAE and Bahrain sent lower-level officials. Despite Kuwaiti efforts, the summit does not appear to have provided any reprieve in the troubles within the GCC. Although Riyadh has not yet publicly confirmed the new Saudi-UAE partnership, if established it could call into question the future of the GCC.

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Houthi rebels have killed their former ally and the ousted president of Yemen, Ali Abdullah Saleh. The Houthi-controlled interior ministry announced Saleh’s death on 4 December, and the former president’s party, the General People’s Congress, confirmed his death shortly afterwards. Houthis killed Saleh two days after he broke his alliance with the rebels in a televised statement in which he also expressed an openness to talking to the Saudi-led coalition. Heavy fighting has broken out between Houthi rebels and those loyal to Saleh, particularly in the capital, Sanaa. The increased fighting has led the UN to issue urgent pleas for a humanitarian pause to allow civilians to leave their homes and seek aid. 

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