Home > Publications > Political and security risk updates > The weekly briefing, 8 November 2016: Kenya withdraws troops from UN mission in South Sudan, over 200 people drown in two shipwrecks off coast of Libya, pro-government rallies in Malaysia against independent news website

The weekly briefing, 8 November 2016: Kenya withdraws troops from UN mission in South Sudan, over 200 people drown in two shipwrecks off coast of Libya, pro-government rallies in Malaysia against independent news website

by Kirsten Winterman, Matthew Clarke and Raphaël Zaffran

Briefing

Summary

Africa: Kenya withdraws troops from UN mission in South Sudan after UN commander sacked; ceasefire between Somalia’s Puntland and Galmudug collapses.

Americas: Pentagon imposes new F-35 joint strike fighter deal on Lockheed Martin; Nicaragua’s president set to win re-election alongside his wife.

Asia-Pacific: Beijing rules that two pro-independence Hong Kong legislators cannot take up their elected positions; pro-government rallies in Malaysia against independent news website reportedly funded by George Soros’s Open Society Foundation.

Europe and Central Asia: UK High Court rules it would illegal for prime minister to trigger Article 50 and begin process of extricating United Kingdom from European Union without consent of parliament; Russian soldiers killed in Syria.

Middle East: Islamic State claims responsibility for car bomb in Turkish city of Diyarbakir blamed on Kurdistan Workers Party; over 200 people drown in two shipwrecks off coast of Libya.

Africa

South Sudan

Kenya is withdrawing its 1,000 troops from the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) after the UN secretary-general, Ban Ki-moon, sacked the Kenyan commander of the UN peacekeeping force in the country on 2 November. The secretary-general removed Ondieki after a UN special investigation argued that UNMISS had responded ineffectively to the deadly violence in Juba in July. was The Kenyan ministry of foreign affairs has blamed dysfunction in UNMISS for the chaotic response to the violence, and maintains that Lieutenant General Johnson Mogoa Kimani Ondieki was not to blame. It is unclear at present how the UN will meet the shortfall in troop numbers, particularly as UNMISS has struggled to reach the mandated numbers and was already increased by 4,000 troops in September. Furthermore, while Ondieki was responsible for some failures, he was only in post for two months and there are clearly wider systematic issues that his replacement will need to address.

Somalia

A ceasefire between the forces of the semi-autonomous regions of Galmudug and Puntland in Somalia broke down on 6 November after clashes over a disputed border area killed at least 20 people. The ceasefire, brokered just a week ago by the United Arab Emirates, called for the withdrawal of fighters from the disputed town of Galkayo, to allow those who had fled to return to their homes. The breakdown of the ceasefire has not, as of yet, affected voting in the elections, which are expected to conclude with a new president being elected by the new parliament on 30 November. The violence is likely to continue, even as several prominent warlords, including from Galmudug and Puntland, are likely to be elected to parliament.

Americas

United States

Following a year of negotiations with Lockheed Martin, the Pentagon moved on 2 November to impose a new $6.1 billion deal on the manufacturer of the F-35 in view of the upcoming ninth batch of the joint strike fighter (JSF). The main point of contention between the two parties has been the total price of the contract, which involved disagreements over the price per unit and the eventual payment allocated to Lockheed Martin. The Pentagon’s unilateral contract action effectively bypasses Lockheed Martin’s objections and forces the company to follow the previously-agreed terms of production. Although initially set to revolutionise the way defence procurement was carried out, the Joint Strike Fighter programme has been marred by a series of controversies since its inception. Lockheed Martin has faced considerable additional costs, production delays and criticisms over the JSF’s actual added value in terms of its technological edge. In this recent turn of events. The company must now either accept the Pentagon’s unilateral contract action or appeal the move with the Armed Services Board of Contracts Appeals.

Nicaragua

Nicaragua’s incumbent president, Daniel Ortega, is set to win re-election and embark on a third consecutive term. His wife and running mate, Rosario Murillo, is set to become the country’s vice-president, in a move that is seen as part of the president’s efforts to establish his political dynasty. Official reports claim that around 65% of the country’s 3.8 million registered voters had participated in the vote. However, government critics and international observers have voiced concern over the fact that opposition parties have not been represented fairly during the course of the campaign. Nicaragua’s main opposition movement, Frente Amplio por La Democracia, reported that over 70% of Nicaraguan voters did not cast their votes. In recent years, Ortega has worked to gradually delegitimise the main opposition, and his recent presidential-election opponents were largely unknown to the public. The Ortegas are now likely to face significant pressures from outside the country. The US Congress recently introduced a bill that would oppose international lending to Nicaragua, and the Ortegas will not be able to rely much on their regular allies Venezuela and Cuba, as the former is embroiled in economic and social crises and the latter is thawing its diplomatic relations with the United States.

Asia-Pacific

China

In October, two newly elected legislators in Hong Kong – Yau Wai-Ching and Sixtus Leung – refused to swear allegiance to China. The pro-independence pair each wore a banner pro-claiming that ‘Hong Kong is not China’. On 7 November, Beijing refused to allow the officials to take up their elected positions. The government said that both had failed to correctly take their oaths, as they had skipped the sentence swearing allegiance to China, and they would not be allowed to retake them. In fearing the spread of pro-independence movements to other parts of China, Beijing has taken steps that may cause increased civil unrest in Hong Kong and elsewhere in the country. The pro-independence movement in Hong Kong is unlikely to benefit significantly from these recent developments in the short term, but Beijing’s move is likely to disenfranchise more people in the autonomous territory.

Malaysia

More than 500 people have been protesting in Kuala Lumpur in pro-government rallies against the independent Malaysiakini news website. In July 2015, the website reported that £450 million had been transferred from a state fund to bank accounts belonging to the prime minister, Najib Razak. Documents leaked on 31 October showed that Malaysiakini is partly funded by the Open Society Foundation, a US foundation set up by the billionaire investor and philanthropist George Soros. Soros allegedly made his fortune in part by buying and then selling the Malaysian currency – the ringgit – in 1997, causing the economic collapse of the country. Pro-government supporters are calling Malaysiakini a foreign agent and claim that it is designed to influence the results of the next general election. Both anti- and pro-government protests are scheduled for 19 November, prompting fears of further civil unrest.

Europe and Central Asia

United Kingdom

On 3 November, the UK High Court ruled that it would illegal for the prime minister, Theresa May, to trigger Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty and begin the process of extricating the United Kingdom from the European Union without the consent of parliament. The government had argued that May had the royal preoperative to carry out the ‘will of the people’ as articulated through a small Leave majority in the June 2016 referendum. However, the court ruled that parliament, not the executive, has supremacy in this matter, and as such parliament will need to vote on triggering Article 50. The government is planning to appeal to the Supreme Court, and has insisted that Article 50 will still be triggered by March 2017. If the Supreme Court upholds the original ruling, then there is a moderate chance that the Brexit process will be halted, or at least delayed, as a majority of MPs and an even larger majority of Lords are pro-EU. However, there is doubt over whether parliamentarians will have the courage of their convictions or will vote to uphold the advisory, and explicitly non-binding, referendum result. As it stands at present, it still looks more likely than not that the United Kingdom will leave the European Union, but the leaving date may be closer to 2020 than previously expected.

Russia

Officially, Russia’s military assistance to Syria’s president, Bashar al-Assad, consists of aerial support alongside a small number of special operations forces and military advisers on the ground. The Kremlin rejects claims that regular Russian ground troops have been involved in combat operations in Syria. However, the recent deaths of several Russian soldiers in the country has cast further doubts on these denials. It was recently reported that two of soldiers were killed in the Aleppo and Palmyra areas during assignments with private military companies. This is currently illegal under Russian law; however, the contractors’ families were nonetheless reportedly notified of the deaths and given order of bravery medals on behalf of the Russian state. This further demonstrates the blurred lines between special operations forces, private military contractors and regular forces in Russia’s hybrid warfare in Syria and elsewhere – a strategy that the Kremlin is likely to continue while Assad remains a useful ally.

Middle East

Turkey

A car bomb in the Turkish city of Diyarbakir on 4 November killed 11 people and injured more than 100. The country’s prime minister, Binali Yildirim, has blamed the bombing on the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), though Islamic State (IS) has claimed responsibility. The attack occurred just hours after the arrest of a dozen MPs from the pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party and days after the leader of Islamic State, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, released an audio message calling for attacks against Turkey. The local governorate in Diyarbakir issued a statement on 5 November repeating its claim that the PKK were responsible. Fighting between the PKK and Turksih security forces is likely to continue, and there is an increased risk of IS attacks in the country.

Libya

Over 200 migrants are believed to have drowned after reports of two shipwrecks off the coast of Libya on 2 November. Some 31 survivors arrived on the southern Italian island of Lampedusa reporting that the vessels that they were travelling in had capsized in stormy weather after leaving Libya. Many of those killed are thought to have been from West Africa. The number of migrants arriving in Italy surged in October despite the bad weather, and the latest tragedy is unlikely to deter people from attempting the perilous journey.

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