The latest edition of Conflict Weekly covers: Further trouble to the Naga Peace Talks, Taliban attack on a woman negotiator, Protests in Thailand, Belarus and Bolivia, Israel-UAE Rapprochement, and the Oil Spill in Mauritius | Contributors to this edition are: Vaishali Handique, Sukanya Bali, Aparupa Bhattacherjee, Sourina Bej, Samreen Wani, Lakshmi V Menon, Rashmi B R and Abigail Miriam Fernandez
India’s Northeast: The Naga Peace talks in trouble, with the new NSCN demands
In the news
The National Socialist Council of Nagaland (Isaak-Muivah faction) has released the original copy of the confidential “Framework Agreement” (FA) signed by the Prime Minister of India in 2015 in the lines of achieving a peace settlement between the Naga separatist groups and the Republic of India. It has also accused RN Ravi – the Governor of Nagaland, who is also the interlocutor, of doctoring the FA and creating a rift between the Nagaland’s political groups.
On 14 August 2020, the NSCN Chief has stated never to “merge with India but coexist” during the Naga Independence Day celebrations on and fight till the wrong of the interlocutor is undone.
The Prime Minister has asked the Intelligence Bureau (IB) to investigate, and channelize it with proper communication, and clear those unresolved issues.
Issues at large
First, is the growing mistrust between the NSCN (IM) and the Naga National Political Groups (NNPGs). The Naga separatist movement is no longer a monolith was the case earlier. The NSCN is working to bring back the consensus; one of the reasons to publish the confidential Framework Agreement stems from this. However, the NNPGs is on the opposite end while another Naga Kuki group was quick to request protection from New Delhi regarding any possible genocide by the NSCN (IM).
The second issue is the difference between the NNPGs and the NSCN (IM) that includes the removal of the interlocutor cum Governor. Though the NSCN believes that Mr Ravi misled the NNPGs into a parallel agreement, the latter expressed clearly that they are concerned with the conclusion of the peace accord. The demand of the NSCN (IM) of having a separate flag and a constitution is proving to be a hindrance for other groups; for them, insisting on this demand is delaying the main objective.
The third issue is the protest against NSCN (IM) ‘s demand for a greater Nagalim in the rest of the Northeast. The governments and people in Manipur, Assam and Arunachal Pradesh are against the territorial expansion of Nagaland. They demand that New Delhi does not disturb the territorial integrity of the other States towards achieving peace with one State in the region.
The fourth issue is the strong position taken by the Governor of Nagaland, who is also the interlocutor of the Naga peace process. He considers the demands of the NSCN (IM) as “imaginary”. He is against the NSCN demand for a separate “sovereign” demand with their own flag and constitution stating it to be impossible as Nagaland falls under the Indian constitution.
First, the NSCN (IM) does not want to break the process and upset the trust established with New Delhi, but want a different interlocutor. The release of the original FA for comparison and analysis only proves the point. The NSCN has left the doors open for New Delhi’s involvement.
Second, the NSCN (IM) is careful in blaming the NNPGs. It needs a consensus in Nagaland, hence shifting all the blame on the interlocutor. They realize that most of the NNPGs stand with the interlocutor and hence aim to gain back their trust.
Third, the NNPGs choosing the interlocutor’s side is a game-changer. This makes the NSCN (IM) demand on ‘sovereignty’ weak, and impact their decades-long dream of a separate Nagalim. It is a brave move by the NNPGs and a practical approach to attaining peace in the State.
Afghanistan: The release of prisoners reach another deadlock, as the Taliban targets a woman negotiator
In the news
On 13 August, the Afghan government released 80 out of 400 Taliban prisoners.
On 15 August, Faizia Koofi, a member of the Afghanistan negotiation team was attacked, reportedly by the Taliban. President Ashraf Ghani said, “these cowardly attack on Afghan women activists will not stop their commitment to protecting the value of last 19 years in Afghanistan”.
On 16 August, France and Australia disapproved the release of six prisoners, who were accused of killing their nationals. The US Special Representative, Zalmay Khalilzad, tweeted: “I call on all sides who seek peace to not only condemn the attack but to accelerate the peace process and start intra-Afghan negotiations as soon as possible.”
On 17 August, President Ghani has warned to halt the release of the prisoners, until the Taliban releases 20 government troops.
Issues at large
First is the continuing violence by the Taliban, despite the release of prisoners. The Afghan Interior Ministry of Interior on 14 August stated the killing of 121 Afghan civilians in 29 provinces during the past two weeks. Taliban violence has not reduced.
The second issue is the Taliban’s attitude towards women. Their latest attack is on Faizia Koofi; she is one of the 21 members, scheduled to take part in the forthcoming intra-Afghan dialogue in Doha.
The third issue is the continuing US pressurize on the Afghan government to release the Taliban prisoners. The Jirga has put forward five conditions for the Taliban with the release of 400 prisoners.
The intra-Afghan dialogue has a long way to go. The opposition from the Taliban to involve Women in the intra-Afghan talks complicates not only the outcome, but also the future of Afghanistan. The continuing attacks by the Taliban underline that the pressure is only in the Afghan government.
Thailand: Youths come to the streets to protest against the monarchy and the military
In the news
On 16 August, approximately 10,000 protestors came together for an anti-government rally in Bangkok demanding political reforms. This was the most massive demonstration, since 2014. The ‘Sunday protest,’ as it has been referred to, was staged in front of the Democratic monument, similar to the ‘Free youth’ rally held on 18 July.
Earlier, on 14 August, the Human Rights Watch has demanded the release of Parit Chiwarak, the student’s rights activist from the Thammasat University, along with other prominent activists such as Arnon Nampha and Panupong Jadnok.
The protests in front of the democratic monumnet is symbolic of the protestors’ demand for reforms relating to the constitution and the monarchy.
Issues at large
The first issue is the return of the protests in Thailand. It started in February following the disbanding of the Future Forward Party (FFP), the opposition. In July, after months of silence due to the pandemic, there was a second wave of protests erupted again. Several students and political activists have been arrested, and some have been reported to have disappeared.
The second issue is the nature and strength of the current protest vis-a-vis the earlier ones in Thailand. Political protests have been common during 1973, 1976, 1992, and 2010; there have been periodic demonstrations and clashes between the red and yellow shirts since the late 1990s. Unlike these earlier protests, the present one is led by the educated youths, belonging to the upper-middle-class families from urban areas. Distinct from the red shirts (farmers from the rural areas) and yellow shirts (monarchy loyalists), these protestors are not defined by any political affiliations.
The third issue is the causes of protests in Thailand – disbanding of a political party, suppression of rights and freedom of expression, and the nature of the governance. However, the trigger for this protest is different. The crumbling economy, rising unemployment, economic disparity between the rule and the ruled, corruption in the system form the core of this protest. The above persisting problems were further aggravated by the pandemic. It has led to the worst economic crisis since the 1997 Asian financial crash. This would have a repercussion on the job market and the future of the 500,000 students who will be graduating in 2020. This could explain the larger role of university students in the protest.
The final issue is the shift in popular perceptions against the monarchy as an institution. There is apathy towards the newly crowned King Maha Vajralongkorn Bodindradebayavarangkorn. Many question his lifestyle, the use of fear to consolidate his power (that includes bringing the royal assets and Bangkok based unit of the Thai Army under his control) and his long absence from Thailand have agitated the people. This has also made the current protests against the monarchy and demand its reformation.
There is a growing fear of strong State response, like the one against the student’s protest in 1976. However, this is unlikely to hamper the spirit, given the number of youths in the streets of Bangkok. The government has to realize that the use of force to suppress the agitation will provide further momentum to the protest, and instigate others to join.
The protests that have started in Bangkok has already spread to 44 other provinces. However, the government and its supporters behind it, seem not to understand the larger repercussion. If it relies on the use of force rather than addressing the causes, it would only exacerbate, and provide fuel to more protests in the future.
Bolivia: Protests against the Election postponement
In the news
On 11 August, various worker and indigenous groups blockaded the roads and highways in Bolivia against the decision of the interim government (led by Jeanine Anez) to postpone the elections for the third time citing health concerns. Supporters of the deposed populist leader Evo Morales barricaded nearly 150 points across the country which caused massive inconvenience in deliveries of food and medical supplies. Some protestors called for the resignation of President Anez and demanded elections be held on the unanimously agreed earlier date of 6 September.
An uneasy calm returned to the streets in Bolivia only after mediation by the European Union, the United Nations and the Catholic Church led to talks between the socialist leaders and the government. Although there is a resumption of public services, the demand for timely election and an end to the political impasse continues.
Issues at large
First, the issue of competing ideologies. Political volatility in Bolivia has a long history and has seen 190 revolutions and coups. The recent uncertainty left by Evo’s departure has unleashed a tussle between three political factions- the pro-US right-wing party, the socialists eyeing a comeback, and the moderates in the opposition. The interim government does not hold an elected mandate. However, it has made efforts at reversing the ideological gains made by Morales’ incumbency even as the popularity of the MAS persists in its traditional strongholds. President Anez’s appearance at the Bolivian Palace of Government with a Bible in hand has alarmed the left-wing, who saw this as an affront to the secular culture of laicismo. Additionally, a campaign of intimidation and public humiliation unleashed on Evo’s aides after the coup was an unambiguous statement on dominance.
Second, the issue of internal fissures between the indigenous and white communities. As the first indigenous President, Evo Morales’ tenure ushered in prosperity in rural areas and amongst communities traditionally disenfranchised. The declaration of Bolivia as a ‘plurinational’ state, to eliminate structural discrimination of the indigenous community ruffled the sensibilities of the white elite urban class. The presidency of Jeanine Anez is being viewed with absolute contempt among these communities. She is perceived as a dictator; her authorization granting full immunity to the police and the military in dealing with the indigenous protestors in November last year is neither forgotten nor forgiven. Since the right-wing has never managed to gain even four per cent of the national votes in any election, the interim government is viewed as a sell out to ‘Yankee imperialism’.
Third, the issues related to the pandemic. COVID-19 has forced a rethinking of electoral conduct along with altering voting systems in democracies. Despite the health risks, 35 countries have conducted referendums and elections at various national and provincial levels. Six out of eight parties in the Bolivian election favoured a deferment of elections due to the pandemic. Health concerns notwithstanding, rescheduling elections does not guarantee a fair and reasonable outcome. Therefore, the triple delay in elections in Bolivia is perplexing.
A sustained opposition-led political campaign for conducting elections will help avoid the bloodshed that succeeded the aftermath of the coup late last year. At the same time, democracies should not hinge on populist personality cults. The internal fissures in Bolivia that extend to the political sphere beg the question of whether elections are the ‘only’ way to resolve deep-rooted issues. The process of election is not just a mandate to occupy public office but also an endorsement of popular support. Moreover, for an export-oriented country like Bolivia, political stability is- among other factors- also a direct consequence of who controls the extraction and allocation of resources.
Consequently, timely elections are important for legitimate leadership and a healthy democracy.
Belarus: One election sparks the largest protests against an autocratic President
In the news
On 18 August, amid weeks of anti-government protests, the Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko called for a power-sharing agreement with the opposition but on his own terms. This followed after the President was heckled by workers on a visit to a factory on 17 August as anger mounts over his disputed re-election. Workers chanted “leave” as the former Soviet leader defended his victory and said, “We held the election. Until you kill me, there will be no other election.” Police violence towards opposition supporters, as well as the alleged poll-rigging on 9 August, has fueled the biggest protest rally in the capital Minsk. Following the rigged election, the opposition leader went in exile and since has been communicating with the protestors with messages to restore normalcy, free political prisoners, and proposal to lead the country.
Issues at large
First, long-standing discontent against the regime as the cause. President Alexander Lukashenko has been seen as Europe’s last autocratic leader trying to preserve elements of Soviet communism through state control over media, institutions, and the public space. In the post-Soviet Belarus, Lukashenko’s strong policies have been seen as the reason for stability as protests remained constant in its neighbourhood. These factors have been the base for the support for the President, though elections under him have never been free or fair. The present shift in the mood of the people has come amid complaints of corruption, poverty, a lack of opportunity, and this is compounded by the pandemic.
Second, a disputed election as a trigger. The shift in the public perception against their leader got reflective in the election. A wave of anger has been rising since the Central Election Commission said Lukashenko had won 80 per cent of the vote and the revered opposition contender Sviatlana Tikhanovskaya has won 10 per cent. The trajectory of the opposition leader coming to contest the election was around the demand to release her husband, an influential blogger, who challenged Lukashenko, is in jail. As the protest broke out, it gave the space for Sviatlana to outgrow her political agenda. Now, she not only symbolizes the protests as being a middle-class woman against an elite male autocrat but also as a beacon of hope leading the country out of corruption by the incumbency.
Third, the nature of the protest. Hundreds of protesters have been wounded and two have died in clashes with police over the past week. Some 6,700 people have been arrested, and many have spoken of torture at the hands of security forces. After the President’s rally on 17 August, he has been losing his strong support base from the workers. This protest that has continued for a week has been spontaneous, impulsive with only an exiled leader as the face of the protest. Heavily dominated by the demographic group representing women, the middle class and workers are other two social groups that called out the ousting of the President; all as they risk being arrested.
First, the protest curve has expanded from middle-class women to labourers crying anti-government slogans. The protest is likely to continue and intensify as this is the first time when a majority of the population has continued to come together in spite of the heavy clampdown. The slogan for solidary that echoes at the moment is “now or never for the country” to stand against the last of the post-Soviet era leaders. For the first time since 2010, the people in Belarus have set aside their fears, recaptured their sense of dignity, and aimed to own their political consciousness.
Second, strong police action against the protestors have continued but will also be contingent on the present warming tone of the government and larger regional dynamics. Six years on, the parallels of the Orange Revolution in Ukraine has been reflective in Belarus. As Poland and the Czech Republic led EU meeting over sanctioning against Belarus, the threat of considering a Russian intervention looms large. But such a move by Russia would be counter-productive as the protest in Belarus is anti-Lukashenko and unlike in Ukraine, it doesn’t echo an anti-Moscow sentiment.
Israel and UAE normalize relations
In the news
On 14 August 2020, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) became the first Arab Gulf state and the third Arab nation (after Egypt and Jordan) to establish formal diplomatic relations with Israel. The two Middle Eastern powers concluded a historic US-brokered agreement to normalize relations. Prime Minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu announced “the establishment of a full and formal peace” that includes “the opening of mutual embassies, direct flights and many other bilateral agreements” and called it the “greatest advancement to restore peace between Israel and the Arab world in the last 26 years”. Later, the Tel-Aviv Municipality lit up with the Emirati flag. The White House congratulated itself, and the US President Donald Trump announced that Israel would now suspend plans to further annex the occupied West Bank. Trump said the union of “two of America’s closest and most capable partners in the region” was “a step towards building a more peaceful, secure and prosperous Middle East”.
Meanwhile, the Palestinian Authority rejected the deal, calling for a meeting of the Arab League; the Islamic Republic of Iran called the deal “shameful”; the United Nations’ spokesperson said the UN Chief Guterres welcomes ‘any initiative that can promote peace and security in the Middle East’; and notably, President Trump’s Advisor Jared Kushner said that some Arab states were sorry they couldn’t be the first to normalize relations with Israel.
Issues in the background
First, Netanyahu’s statement on West Bank annexation. In May, Netanyahu publicized his commitment to the potential West Bank annexation on completion of a conceptual map by an Israeli-US team. Palestinians began protesting, fighting and resisting Israel’s proposed annexation of parts of West Bank which the Palestinians are seeking for the future State of Palestine. Since then violence has been rife. The UAE reacted by warning Israel that such a move would be crossing a red line.
Second, the breakup of Arab unity. Saying the recent development was unforeseen would be a folly. There were already signs of Israel’s warming ties with the Arab states that share a common fear over Iran. Similarly, the bromance between Netanyahu and Iran’s arch-rival Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman is no secret. This also has been on the basis of a shared fear of Iran. The Arab world is now split into Iran’s supporters and opposers.
Third, the questions of end to a Palestinian state. Core issues of Israeli occupation, illegal settlement construction, securitization, access restrictions, displacement, deprivation of basic civil rights of Palestinians, violence and the “Swiss cheese” resembling disjointed Israeli-Palestinian map remain unaddressed and unresolved. It will not lead to larger peace. The establishment of UAE-Israel ties is a distinct departure from the traditional understanding of Arab-Israeli peace only post the formation of a Palestinian state. It ends the collective regional arrangement for peace and maybe the strife for a future Palestinian state.
The development may not be a comprehensive Middle Eastern peace deal, but it is a momentous breakthrough in the Arab-Israeli peace process. It signifies formal political, diplomatic, technological and multisectoral cooperation between the two largest economic powerhouses of the region. Palestinians are feeling angry, betrayed and marginalized. However, UAE has attempted to justify its historic move by saying that Israel had now agreed to not execute their annexation plans. Simply put, the world may not witness Israel-Palestine peace but would most definitely see the materialization of a novel Arab-Israeli peace in the near future.
Mauritius: The Oil spill underlines the need for better management and swift actions
In the news
On 25 July, a Japanese-owned Panama-flagged vessel struck a coral reef off the coast of Mauritius and developed cracks, leading to 1000 tons of oil spilling into the ocean. The spread has been increasing since then, with more than 10 square miles covered with oil. Mauritius has declared a ‘state of environmental emergency’ and has been undertaking cleaning operations. Experts from the UN, France, India and Japan are extending their technical expertise and deploying teams for managing the disaster.
Issues at large
First, the frequency of oil spills. Oil spills have become a frequent occurrence across the world, caused either by shipwrecks or leaks in the oil fields. In some cases, like the Brazilian oil spill of 2019, causes are unclear, thereby posing more serious challenges for disaster management mechanisms. The recent spill, off the coast of Siberia in June, is still a major concern, even as cleaning operations are underway.
Second, the negligence of disaster management in Africa. Oil spills are common in countries like Nigeria, Niger and Angola. Niger Delta is one of the most polluted places on the planet because of constant oil leaks for decades. Environmental concerns in troubled countries like Somalia due to the shipping industry and conscious dumping by other countries fail to gain enough limelight. There are negligence, apathy and lack of intent on the part of the international community to address these very serious challenges.
First, the government has been accused of not responding swiftly. Civil society organizations and environmental organizations participating in the cleaning operations opine that the authorities failed to take any action on time, that resulted in the spread of the oil to a wider area. Mauritius citizens have united for the cause and are seen participating in large numbers in the cleaning process. A similar response from the civil society was noted when oil spilt off the coast of Brazil in 2019.
Second, the impact on marine biodiversity is immense. It is threatening biodiversity hot spots- Ile aux Aigrettes reserve and Blue Bay Marine park thriving with over 40 species of coral, fish and marine mammals. It usually takes no less than a decade for an affected area to limp towards near-normalcy. The effect is also felt on the economy of the island nation. The oil spill will impact the tourism-dependent economy that is already battered due to COVID-19.
Third, Mauritius sought international help, but the Indian Ocean region has failed to respond unitedly. The Indian Ocean Rim Association has not come together as a regional organization for the cause, even though disaster management is one of the focus areas. Therefore, there is a need for a stronger cooperative mechanism and an emergency task force at the global level or at the regional level that would respond swiftly. This would ensure a better response, technical expertise and will reduce the burden on the affected country, particularly if it is a developing nation.
Peace and Conflict in Asia
Japan: Proposal for long-range missiles
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s political party has begun considering the prospect of whether Japan should acquire weapons that are capable of striking missile launch sites in enemy territory in the likelihood of an attack. The proposal was discussed by Taro Kono, Japan’s defence minister, who spoke publicly about the idea of acquiring long-range missiles during an interview at the Defence Ministry.
The above discussion takes place as Shinzo Abe has pushed for a muscular military, arguing that Japan needs to respond to a deteriorating security environment in East Asia, with North Korea’s expanding nuclear arsenal, China’s rising military aggression and the dwindling commitment of the United States to guarantee the region’s security.
South Korea: Another COVID-19 cluster tied to a Church
On 16 August, 279 cases were reported as Health officials rushed to test thousands of members of the Sarang Jeil Church and their contacts after it reported coronavirus cases over the past four days in Seoul and the surrounding province of Gyeonggi. This is the first time since March that a new daily infection had surpassed 200. The government, as a result of this, has tightened rules in Seoul and Gyeonggi Province. The Sarang Jeil Church’s chief pastor has been a vocal critic of President Moon Jae-in with the group calling for a public uprising to oust Mr Moon and has been a key stimulus behind largely Christian conservative rallies against him in central Seoul. This is the second such case where earlier this year the Shincheonji Church of Jesus was identified as South Korea’s biggest virus cluster.
India: 4G service restored in J&K on a trial basis
On 16 August, high-speed mobile data services were restored on a trial basis in two districts for post-paid sim cardholders in Jammu and Kashmir, more than a year after it was suspended. However, internet speed in other districts will continue to be restricted to 2G only. This decision comes after the Centre informed the Supreme Court that a special committee was looking into the matter and was considering allowing the facility on a trial basis in two of the 20 districts of the union territory.
India: Panel formed in Arunachal Pradesh to discuss autonomy demands
On 14 August, the Arunachal Pradesh government formed a nine-member committee to discuss a possible solution to the issue of creation of two autonomous councils in the State. The committee has been tasked with consulting all the community-based organizations on the issues related to constitutional safeguards for the indigenous people of the State and submit a report on the same.
The first meeting is expected to be held in Itanagar on 19 August. This comes after larger ethnic groups such as the Nyishi and Galo inhabiting the central parts of Arunachal Pradesh have expressed concern over the bid to revive the demands for Mon Autonomous Region (MAR) and Patkai Autonomous Council (PAC). Further, the All Arunachal Pradesh Students’ Union has been critical of the demands.
New Zealand: Delay in elections due to new outbreak of COVID-19
On 17 August, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced a delay in the country’s parliamentary election by four weeks to 17 October after the re-emergence of COVID-19 in the country. The decision came after she had consulted with all the major parties before delaying the vote, originally scheduled for 19 September. Arden stated that although this is a compromise, she ruled out further change stating “we will be sticking with the date we have,” further adding that the Electoral Commission had assured that a safe and accessible election would be possible on the new date. The announcement comes after locally acquired cases of coronavirus had been confirmed in the Auckland, prompted the government to introduce strict level three lockdown measures on 12 August. The rest of the country has been put under level two lockdown, with both lockdown periods extended until 26 August.
Peace and Conflict in Africa
Mali: President Keita announces resignation after a military coup
On 18 August 2020, Mali’s President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita resigned after mutinying soldiers arrested the embattled President and Prime Minister Boubou Cisse following months of mass protests against alleged corruption and worsening security in the country. While, the United Nations, France and others have condemned this coup, the news of Keita’s resignation was met with great celebrations, with anti-government demonstrators expressing support for the actions of the soldiers, while leaders of the military coup said they would enact a political transition and stage elections within a “reasonable time.” Political tensions have been building in Mali since March of this year after tensions broke out over the results of a parliamentary election which prompted thousands to take to the streets to demand Keita’s resignation
Libya: Turkish, Qatari and German ministers in Libya for talks with GNA
On 17 August, Hulusi Akar and Khalid bin Mohammad Al Attiyah, the defence ministers of the Turkey and Qatar respectively visit Libya to observe the implementation of Turkey’s defensive arrangements with the internationally recognized Government of National Accord (GNA) in Tripoli. Further, both ministers reiterated their support to the GNA and it’s committed to the country’s territorial integrity and political unity. Further, the foreign minister of Germany Heiko Maas also made an unexpected visit to Libya where he met with the GNA. During his visit, he stated, “We see a deceptive calm in Libya right now. Both sides and their international allies are continuing to arm the country on a massive scale and are sticking to preconditions for a ceasefire,” adding the need for direct talks between the two parties and stop the escalation near Sirte, the site of recent military confrontations
Somalia: 16 killed after hours-long Mogadishu hotel siege by al-Shabab
On 16 August, at least 16 people were killed and dozens wounded in a gun and bomb attack by the al-Shabab armed group on a hotel in Mogadishu. The siege ended after a fierce three-hour gun battle between al-Shabab fighters and security forces that began with a suicide car bombing which blew off the security gates to the hotel. After which gunmen ran inside and took hostages, mostly young men and women. Further, the hotel is owned by Abdullahi Mohamed Nor, a lawmaker and former finance minister, and is said to be frequented by government officials and members of the Somali diaspora. This attack is another attempt by al-Shabab and its fighters who continue to wage war against the government by carrying out regular attacks.
Nile dam: African Union-led talks resume between Egypt, Ethiopia, Sudan
On 16 August, Sudan’s water ministry issues a statement saying that Sudan, Egypt and Ethiopia have agreed to present draft proposals over the management of Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) within two days. The decision came after talks led by the African Union between water and foreign ministers from the three countries about the controversial dam resumed after a short suspension. This development comes amid years of negotiations which have failed to produce a solution. The dispute escalated in July when Ethiopia announced it had completed the first stage of the filling of the dam which caused fear and confusion in Sudan and Egypt, the two downstream nations who have repeatedly insisted Ethiopia must not start filling the reservoir without reaching a deal first.
Sudan: Protests return to the streets a year after the power-sharing deal with the army
On 17 August, protesters in Sudan returned to the streets over the slow pace at which change was taking place a year after a power-sharing agreement was signed between the country’s generals and a pro-democracy movement. Protesters took to the street pressuring the government to speed up the political reforms stating that the government had not fulfilled its promises. Further, the demonstrates express their grievance on the course that the transition had taken, saying that the military exerted too much influence on the civilian leadership. Large amounts of tear gas were also fired at protesters. This recent demonstration comes after a year after Omar al-Bashir, who is currently on trial over the military coup that brought him to power, was overthrown by the army in early 2019 after a wave of mass protests against his three-decade reign. Later that year, after weeks of intense negotiations, the military rulers and protest leaders signed a “constitutional declaration” under which a sovereign council of six civilians and five military figures were to govern for a transitional period.
Mozambique: Regional leaders meet as security crisis worsens
On 13 August, ISIL-linked fighters seized a heavily defended port in the far northern Mozambique town of Mocimboa da Praia, close to the site of natural gas projects worth some $60 billion following days of fighting. Mozambique’s defence forces (FDS) confirmed these terrorists launched attacks on several villages surrounding the port over the past week in an attempt to occupy the town. The Islamic State Central Africa Province (ISCAP) an ISIL-affiliated group claimed responsibility for the attack. The group which has stated their goal of establishing a caliphate in the region has claimed several attacks since June 2019 via social media, often posting images of slain soldiers and seized weapons. Further, the Southern African Development Community (SADC) a regional bloc has called for a meet as security crisis worsens in the country. Further, in a joint statement issued by the bloc, it stated “commitment to support Mozambique in addressing the terrorism and violent attacks” and praised Mozambique for its “continued efforts.”
Namibia-Germany: Namibian President rejects Germany’s reparations offer for genocide
On 12 August, the President of Namibia Hage Geingob rejected Germany’s offer of €10 million of compensation for the genocide committed by the German Empire at the start of the 20th century. Geingob also objected Berlin usage of “healing the wounds” in place of the word reparations, stating that the terminology would be debated. Further, he added that the government’s special envoy would continue to negotiate for a “revised offer.” This development comes after the two countries began negotiation an agreement in 2015 which would see Germany give an official apology and development aid as compensation for the killing of tens of thousands of indigenous Herero and Nama people by German occupiers in 1904-1908.
Peace and Conflict in the Americas
Brazil: COVID-19 makes Brazil an ideal testing ground
Brazil, where over 100,000 people have died from COVID-19, has emerged as a potentially vital player in global efforts to end the pandemic. With researchers needing countries with large enough outbreaks to assess whether a vaccine will work, Brazil has become the ideal vaccine laboratory. According to a World Health Organization report, three of the most promising and advanced vaccine studies in the world have come to rely on scientists and volunteers in Brazil. The Butantan Institute which has partnered with China’s Sinovac on one vaccine that has reached the third stage of research, during which potential vaccines are tested on 9,000 people. Around 5,000 Brazilians have also been recruited to support a trial by AstraZeneca, a British-Swedish pharmaceutical company in partnership with Oxford University. Additional 1,000 volunteers in Brazil were recruited to test a vaccine developed by New York-based Pfizer.
About the authors
Aparupa Bhattacherjee and Rashmi B R are PhD scholars at the School of Conflict and Security Studies, NIAS. Sourina Bej and Sukanya Bali are Project Associates at NIAS. Lakshmi V Menon and Abigail Miriam Fernandez are Research Consultant and Research Assistant at NIAS. Samreen Wani is a postgraduate scholar in International Studies from Stella Maris College. Vaishali Handique is a postgraduate scholar from the South Asian Studies, UMISARC, Pondicherry University.