the brief: issue two


Tensions in Mogadishu Over Presidential Elections
by Connor Crout

Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, nicknamed Farmajo, the President of Somalia, has U-turned on his plans to seek a two-year extension to his office. He approved this last week which led to fighting breaking out in Somalia’s capital city, Mogadishu, which according to the UN resulted in 60,000 to 100,000 people fleeing their homes since Sunday. The reports suggested that protesters were chanting, ‘We do not want a term extension. We do not want Farmajo. We do not want dictatorship’.

This is not the first time this has happened – in February, when Farmajo’s presidency was due to end, opposition leaders broke a ban on public gatherings to protest against the delay in calling elections. Somalia’s complex election system, where clan elders select MPs to elect the president, is a potential reason for the difficulty in calling elections.

Total Abandon Mozambique Operations
by Frank Roberts

French oil company, Total, has declared a state of ‘force majeure’ with regards to the control supposed Islamic extremists are now exerting within the north of the country. Civilians were killed in an attack in Palma, intended to disrupt the oil and gas industry operating within Mozambique borders. Political instability could wreak havoc on the country’s economy with an inability to provide foreign firms and staff with a safe haven within which to conduct business a major concern.

Oil companies outside of Mozambique have been severely impacted, Italian firm SAIPEM have reported that the uncertainty surrounding the likelihood of Mozambique returns may have cost them within the region of $20 million. The long-term situation remains unclear.


Injustice in South Asia: Disturbing Consequences of Disbelief and Denial
by Rachael Ward

Denied detention for sexual criminals and disbelief at sexual claims. A combination of the two present a disturbing equation. On top of low conviction rates, India, Nepal and Sri Lanka still use physical vaginal testing to examine women’s claims of rape. The tests are predicated on the grounds of scientific evidence but fail to give any evidential insight. These famously inaccurate vaginal tests are permitted for use in some courts of so-called justice in five South Asian countries.

Equality Now have flagged this breach of human rights. Unfortunately, this is not an isolated impediment to justice for rape victims. Many reports have revealed that women are compelled to compromise, settle for compensation, and diffuse their own allegations. Despite the official banning of such testing in India, the practice is permeated in the culture of denied justice for raped women.

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe Convicted Again in Iran
by Josh Chapman

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe faces another year in prison. She was convicted of ‘propaganda activities against the regime’ in March and sentenced to a year imprisonment on 27 April. Zaghari-Ratcliffe was released in March after serving a 5-year sentence for allegedly ‘plotting to topple the Iranian government’. Hopefully, she will return to house arrest at her parents’ home; she was moved there from prison due to Covid.

This development extends Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s role as a political pawn. Whilst never officially stating it, Iran is clear that her continued imprisonment is connected to the £400 million debt the UK owes Iran, dating back to the 1970s. Despite Boris Johnson saying the government will ‘redouble our efforts’ to secure her release, it is unlikely the debt will be settled. Until it is, her situation remains unclear.

Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan Fight Over Border
by Joe Mawer

Fighting broke out over who owned a reservoir and a pump on the border near the village of Kok-Tash. The day of fierce fighting cost at least 41 lives and left a village and a guard post ablaze. For now, the fighting seems over with the Tajik and Kyrgyz head of State National Security Committee meeting and plans for both of the leaders to meet later in May.

These clashes again highlight the difficulty created by the borders drawn by the Soviets which were not meant to be used by independent nations. In the region, Uzbekistan and Russia have not been drawn on sides and have called for both countries to stick to the ceasefire agreement, hopefully increasing the chance of long-lasting peace.

India Holds Elections During Covid Crisis
by Jessica Pender

Millions lined up at polling stations in West Bengal last week, despite concerns that the region may become a new Covid hotspot. India has had growing cases over the past few weeks, reporting 379,257 new infections on 20 April- a new global record.

Politicians, such as Prime Minister Narendra Modi, have been holding large rallies such as the Kumbh Mela festival with unenforced or no social distancing and mask procedures. It is thought that these events have contributed to the severity of India’s second wave, as well as the spread of the new variant. According to the Guardian, only nine percent of India’s population has been vaccinated.

Election activities have thus received scrutiny. The West Bengal region is one of the few states in India where Modi does not hold a parliamentary majority. Local cases have already increased by a record 17,000.


Albania Socialist Party Celebrate 3rd Successive Win
by Owen Buchan

Albania’s Socialist Party has won its third consecutive election and secured another parliamentary majority according to The Central Election Commission. The elections, which occurred on the 25 April, saw the Socialist Party gain 49 percent of the vote and 74 of the 140 seats in Parliament.

The Socialist Party leader and Prime Minister, Edi Rama, addressed an adoring crowd of thousands in Tirana’s main Skanderbeg Square and proclaimed his main governmental foci. These include tourism and agriculture. It’s hoped Rama can turn Albania into the “Balkan Champion”.

With such large support from the public, the Socialist Party has a powerful mandate to act upon. With the main opposition, the centre-right Democratic Party gaining 39% of the vote and 59 seats, there seems to be little stopping the socialist agenda in Albania.


Australia’s Coal-Fired Climate Crisis
by Harry Padoan

The coal industry has been a bastion of Australia’s trade exports for more than two centuries. But with the urgent action required to fight climate change and coal being the most polluting fuel source on the planet, this can surely not continue. Despite international pressure on Australia to reach net-zero emissions by 2050, the Government has refused to facilitate a phasing out of coal.

In the last decade, the Australian government has granted over A$10bn in tax breaks and subsidies to the fossil fuel industry, and have recently entertained the concept of a new coal plant in Queensland. It seems that coal continuity is set to sweep across Australia – many fear that this action spells disaster for the climate crisis.


Brazilian Congress To Begin Enquiry Into Bolsonaro’s Handling of Covid
by Adam Spencer

On 27 April, it was announced that the Brazilian Congress would begin an inquiry into the handling of the Covid pandemic by President Jair Bolsonaro.

Brazil has recorded over 400,000 Covid deaths, and the third highest infection rate of any country, eclipsed only by the United States and India. Areas of the country also saw their healthcare systems collapse and medical supplies run out in a fresh wave which swept the country in January.

The inquiry will investigate the collapses, as well as whether federal and state officials, including the president, were criminally negligent or actively sabotaged public health measures. Opponents to the president hope that the inquiry will sink Bolsonaro’s chances of re-election. Bolsonaro continues to defend his approach to the pandemic, claiming a lockdown would have destroyed the economy.


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