Home > Publications > Political and security risk updates > The weekly briefing, 10 October 2017: Liberia holds general election, deputy leader of main opposition party flees Cambodia, Egyptian security forces target members of the LGBT community

The weekly briefing, 10 October 2017: Liberia holds general election, deputy leader of main opposition party flees Cambodia, Egyptian security forces target members of the LGBT community

by Kirsten Winterman, Raphaël Zaffran and Matthew Clarke

Briefing photo

Summary

Africa: Clashes between opposition supporters and security forces continue in Kenya; Liberia holds general election to elect president and members of house of representatives.

Americas: Trump administration attempts to leverage US Congress into funding some of the president’s key campaign promises; Tropical storm causes widespread damage across Nicaragua and Costa Rica.

Asia-Pacific: 12 people dead and up to 100 children missing as boat capsizes carrying Rohingya refugees from Myanmar to Bangladesh; Deputy leader of main opposition party flees Cambodia over fears of arrest.

Europe and Central Asia: Embattled British prime minister attempts to calm MP’s fears over Brexit; Kyrgyzstan president not to attend CIS summit in Russia over fears of unrest ahead of presidential election.

Middle East and North Africa: Security forces target members of the LGBT community in crackdown in Egypt; Syrian Democratic Forces launch campaign to liberate the last remaining parts of Raqqa still held by Islamic State.

Africa

Kenya

Human rights organisations in Kenya have issued warnings over the violence that has followed the general election in the country on 8 August. The incumbent, Uhuru Kenyatta, won the presidential election, but his main opponent, Raila Odinga, contested the result at Kenya’s supreme court, which subsequently annulled the election. Protests broke out across the country after the elections, and opposition supporters continue to clash with security forces. Protesters are demanding that electoral officials be sacked and for reform of the electoral system. So far, 37 have reportedly been killed and another 126 injured in the violence primarily in the opposition strongholds in Nairobi and the western parts of the country. A number of children have also been killed. A new presidential election will be held on 26 October.

Liberia

Liberia is holding a general election on 10 October to elect the president and 73 members of the lower chamber, the house of representatives. The incumbent president, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, is stepping down after serving two six-year terms. Sirleaf will be the first democratically-elected leader in Liberia to hand over power to another democratically-elected leader in 73 years. It is unlikely that any of the 20 candidates for the presidency will obtain the necessary 50% of the total votes cast in the first round, and therefore a presidential runoff is likely. Sirleaf has been widely credited with maintaining peace and stability in Liberia despite criticism from human rights organisations over the lack of accountability for those accused of war crimes and the strict libel laws in the country.

Americas

United States

On 9 October, the Trump administration delivered a ‘list of principles’ to the US Congress, which effectively outlines conditions on any moves regarding legislation on the status of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients. The DACA programme grants minors who were brought to the United States illegally a renewable two-year period of deferred action from deportation and eligibility for work or study permits. DACA was established in 2012 under the Obama administration, and is due to expire in March 2018. The Trump administration is attempting to leverage Congress to fund some of Donald Trump’s key campaign promises in exchange for White House support for future legislation akin to DACA or the related Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act (Dream Act). This includes the president’s controversial pledge to build a border wall with Mexico. It is highly likely that ranking Democrats from the House of Representatives, such as Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer, as well as advocacy groups will push back on the move.

Donald Trump is attempting to leverage the US Congress into funding some of his key campaign policiesClick To Tweet

Nicaragua

Tropical Storm Nate has caused considerable damage across Central America, with the highest death toll occurring in Nicaragua, where at least 16 people were killed. The storm has added to the already-developing humanitarian crisis in the country, which suffered from two weeks of heavy rainfall before the storm hit. Landslides have destroyed houses, roads and bridges, and thousands of Nicaraguans are now homeless. Nicaragua’s vice-president, Rosario Murillo, announced a massive national emergency effort, including dozens of medical brigades and hundreds of health workers being deployed to the worst-affected areas, such as Madriz, Leon, Nueva Segovia, Estelí, Carazo, Chinandega and Managua. The storm has effectively become a regional crisis, as the president of neighbouring Costa Rica, Luis Guillermo Solis, has stated that it has created the worst crisis in Costa Rica’s history. Nate reportedly weakened on 9 October, with the National Hurricane Centre downgrading it from a category 1 hurricane to a tropical depression. However, the storm is likely to cause destruction across the southern United States until at least the middle of the week, particularly in areas such as the Tennessee Valley and central Appalachian Mountains.

Asia-Pacific

Myanmar

At least 12 people have died and up to 100 children are missing after a boat packed with Rohingya Muslims fleeing the violence in Myanmar capsized near Bangladesh. A rescue operation has been launched. Over half a million Rohingya refugees have fled from Myanmar into Bangladesh since 25 August 2017, joining the 300,000 refugees already in the country. Most travel by land, but some attempt to traverse the Bay of Bengal. Last month, 60 people died in a similar fashion. The Myanmar military has conducted an aggressive counter-offensive operation in Rakhine state after Rohingya militants attacked police posts in August. The Rohingya accuse the military and Rakhine Buddhist mobs of ethnic cleansing, including burning villages and killing unarmed civilians. Buddhist refugees fleeing south have in turn accused Rohingya militants of attacking villages. The military has rejected a ceasefire offered by the militants designed to allow for the delivery of aid to the civilian population. Myanmar’s de facto leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, has come under intense international criticism for failing to protect the Rohingya.

Cambodia

The deputy leader of the opposition Cambodian National Rescue Party (CNRP), Mu Sochua, has fled Cambodia over fears that she would be arrested for treason. In September, the leader of the CNRP, Kem Sokha, was arrested at his home by 200 officers and charged with treason. On 6 October, it emerged that the interior ministry had filled for the dissolution of the CNRP after the Cambodian prime minister, Hun Sen, said that others would be arrested. The attacks stem from the communal elections in June 2017, in which the CNRP made huge gains at the expense of the ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP), which has been in power since 1979. Recent polls suggest that the CNRP may win the general election scheduled for July 2018. Hun has been prime minister since 1985. The CPP has banned public gatherings and arrested opposition politicians and union leaders, and has near-complete control over the mainstream media in Cambodia. Civil unrest is highly likely as Hun and the CPP attempt to shore up their position.

Civil unrest is highly likely as Hun Sen and the CPP attempt to shore up their in CambodiaClick To Tweet

Europe and Central Asia

United Kingdom

The British prime minster, Theresa May, made a statement to the British parliament on 9 October regarding the United Kingdom’s departure from the EU. Following an underwhelming Conservative party conference, which prompted rumours of a bid to overthrow the prime minister and a cabinet reshuffle on the cards, the statement was designed to reassure worried MPs about the stability of Brexit. It comes as the British government heads into the fifth round of Brexit talks with the EU. The talks are the last chance to make progress before the EU meets to discuss opening the negotiations up to post-Brexit trade relations. The EU parliament has issued a non-binding motion that significant progress is needed before the negotiations can be opened. With the British government’s position still unclear and incoherent and the prime minister consumed with domestic politicking, there are growing calls for a rethink on the ‘hard Brexit’ agenda that the Conservative party is pursuing. To this end, May confirmed that the United Kingdom would remain subject to European Court of Justice rulings for at least two years after Brexit, and said that Britain would negotiate a ‘creative’ new solution to trade with the EU.

Kyrgyzstan

On 9 October, Kyrgyzstan’s president, Almazbek Atambaev, announced that he would not be attending the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) summit in Sochi, Russia, this week. Atambaev stated that this is due to fears of unrest ahead of Kyrgyzstan’s presidential election on 15 October, in which he is constitutionally barred from seeking a second term in office. Atambaev has instead sent his prime minister, Sapar Isakov, to represent Kyrgyzstan at the summit. The outgoing president has recently accused Kazakhstan of meddling in the forthcoming election by supporting the opposition candidate Omurbek Babanov. Given the history of political violence in Kyrgyzstan, with two of Atambaev’s predecessors being ousted in popular movements from office in 2005 and 2010, civil unrest surrounding the presidential election is highly likely.

Middle East and North Africa

Egypt

Members of the LGBT community in Egypt have been targeted in a crackdown by security forces. This appears to be in response to a concert by Lebanese alt rock band Mashrou’ Leila in Cairo last month at which an LGBT flag as flown. The rare show of public support for LGBT rights in Egypt has prompted the country’s widest anti-gay crackdown to date, including the arrest of 57 people and prison sentence of between one and six years for 10 men. The Egyptian parliament is currently debating whether to criminalise homosexuality. With the government, police, conservative media and religious establishment in Egypt aligned against homosexuality, the crackdown on human rights in the country is highly likely to continue.

Syria

The US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) launched a campaign on 8 October to capture the last remaining parts of Raqqa still held by Islamic State. Some 400-500 ISIS fighters – predominantly foreign mujahideen – are thought to remain in the city. Raqqa was Islamic State’s last stronghold in Syria, and was formerly the de facto capital of the group. The SDF has already liberated much of the city in an offensive that began in June 2017 with the help of air strikes by the US-led coalition. However, Islamic State slowed the SDF advance by using human shields, snipers, booby traps and tunnels to launch counter-attacks. There will be fierce fighting during the final stages of the campaign against the remaining ISIS fighters concentrated around the complex that was the national hospital and the stadium.

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