YGA’s international extravaganza: no. 12

Volatility in al-Fashaga escalates

by Angel Hill

image credit: smahel (Pixabay)

Relations between Sudan and Ethiopia sours as the border dispute to control the fertile plot of land, al-Fashaga, worsens daily. In December 2020, while Ethiopia was distracted by the Tigray conflict, Sudanese forces took control of the fragile border. This resulted in both civilian and combatant lives being lost, while tensions have been steadily rising. 

On 4 September, a shipment of 72 boxes, reportedly containing weapons and night-vision binoculars, was seized by the Sudanese authorities. The weapons shipment was transported on a civilian flight from Addis Ababa, on Ethiopian Airlines. Reports from SUNA News Agency say that Sudanese authorities were not notified of this shipment until it was seized in Khartoum airport; this has led to suspicions that the weapons were intended to be used “to impede the democratic transition and prevent transition to civilian rule”.

Brazil’s interest in Suriname’s oil and gas resources

by Connor Crout

image credit: Amiralis (Wikimedia Commons)

Suriname is part of the Guyana-Suriname basin which is known as the holy grail of oil and gas. In 2015, the U.S. Geological Survey estimated that the basin had enough undiscovered resources for 13 billion barrels of oil and 32 trillion cubic feet of gas. In 2020, Suriname discovered approximately 10 billion barrels of oil and gas reserves in the basin.

These discoveries have caught the attention of Brazil, who according to Brazil’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Carlos França are willing to cooperate in the development of the resources for Suriname and its people. Furthermore, Brazil’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs is willing to coordinate missions and dialogue between corporations, Brazilian agencies and their Surinamese counterparts. This cooperation would see Suriname become a hydrocarbons superpower and fulfil the basin’s resource potential.

Sweden and the crypto critique

by Jonathan Vallee

image credit: cryptostock (Pixabay)

The Governor of the Swedish Central Bank, Stefan Ingves, known for unconventional monetary policy such as the decrease of the baseline interest rate from 0 to -0.25 percent in December of 2019, has publicly criticised the trading of bitcoin. He compared the former to “trading in stamps”, stating that “sure, you can get rich by trading in bitcoin” but the risks are too great, as “private money usually collapses sooner or later”.

Although this opinion is broadly similar to that of other central bankers, it has intensified the opposition between supporters of state sponsored fiats and private money (cryptocurrencies). Supporters of cryptocurrencies champion the benefits of a non-official money, and a move away from government control of currency. Governments, on the other hand, put forth the lack of intrinsic value of cryptocurrencies and their ability to crash at any moment.

Switzerland’s influence over assisted death

by Sophie Moseley

image credit: eberhard grossgasteiger (Unsplash)

Switzerland remains a constant source of political debate for many nation-states as it concretes the long controversial idea of ‘assisted death’ as a functioning and achievable reality. Famous or infamous, its Dignitas organisation works humanely and effectively to give people back their chance of a dignified death. The organisation does not discriminate based on citizenship and is thus a catalyst of international change.

So far Switzerland has influenced six fellow countries to legalise some form of assisted death, with seven states in the US and four in Australia also passing similar laws. Dignitas marks its 23rd year in 2021, with its mission of “dignity in life and death” remaining a huge source of international inspiration.

Humanitarian crisis in Idlib

by Samiha Hamze

image credit: TUBS (Wikimedia Commons)

After ten years of a disastrous war leaving hundreds of thousands dead and millions displaced, fighting between the government and rebels in Idlib is still ongoing. After the re-election of Bashar, his government promised to liberate Syrian territories still under rebel ruling. Idlib has a population of nearly 3 million Syrians both displaced and non-displaced, and is still dominated by Al-Qaeda affiliated groups. 

There have been ongoing artillery attacks that are targeting villages resulting in death and destruction of homes of innocent civilians. In one village, one family lost four of their children. Another village witnessed the killing of three children including their mother. Moreover, the Covid Delta variant continues to surge in the region, all of this resulting in a large humanitarian crisis in Idlib.

Russian tanks in Tajikistan in Afghanistan aftermath

by Joe Mawer

image credit: Makalu (Pixabay)

There is a cliché in Central Asia that it is Russia’s backyard as until the fall of the Soviet Union, Moscow had controlled the region for well over 100 years. Today this cliché is not true as the countries of Central Asia are autonomous from Moscow in their direction of their foreign policy.

Tajikistan was a key supporter of the Afghan government against the Taliban, with some high ranking officials fleeing to Tajikistan in the aftermath of the fall of Kabul. Tajikistan also helped to arm the Panjshir Valley, who are mostly ethnic Tajiks. Russia is increasing its security role in the region, through military exercises with Central Asian militaries and stationing 30 modern tanks on the Tajikistan- Afghanistan border.

Opposition Silenced in Tanzania

by Harry Padoan

image credit: TUBS (Wikimedia Commons)

The largest opposition party in Tanzania, Chadema, have seen several of their members arrested in recent days. According to the party, police detained nine members and raided offices after suggestions that the party would hold a symposium on constitutional change. Many fear this action is an attempt by President Samia Suluhu Hassan to silence her enemies, with Chadema describing detentions as a “suppression of democratic rights”. 

This follows the arrest of Chadema leader, Freeman Mbowe on charges of terrorism charges earlier this year. However, the leader’s trial is expected to be delayed, with questions over the legality of such charges being hotly contested.

Thailand creates PPE gear from plastic waste

by Jessica Pender

image credit: tanvi sharma (Unsplash)

Plastic bottles have been collected from landfills, shredded, and turned into threads to make PPE gear. The woven fabric is then sewn into suits for undertakers, medical personnel, and monks, who are exposed to the virus when caring for patients and assisting with cremation. While the supplies are not medical grade, they do provide a baseline of protection from Covid.

The scheme is incredibly environmentally friendly, with roughly 18 million bottles recycled so far. Every gown can be reused up to 20 times, and is made up of around 18 plastic bottles each.

Anutin Charnvirakul, Minister of Public Health, announced that the government plans to hand out 44,000 gowns. Eco-friendly gowns will allow Thailand to focus on internal production, rather than depend on unreliable imports of PPE from other nations.

Danish report highlight Timor Leste’s “State of Calamity”

by Max Bedford

image credit: sharonang (Pixabay)

A recent report by the Danish Refugee Council highlighted the impact of flash floods and landslides that hit the Indonesian nation through March and April. It is estimated that 33,177 households were affected; with 45 dead, 28,000 houses destroyed and 2,363 hectares of agricultural land destroyed. Combined with the Covid pandemic, the nation was forced to declare a state of calamity as it struggled to protect its citizens through the succession of disasters. 

Since the state of calamity, $32 million has been provided for victims of the flooding, numerous relief efforts done in partnership with a variety of international actors has seen funding and resources go to the nation and its people. However, with a significant amount of its agricultural industry gone, and infrastructure swept away in landslides, it’s expected that it will take several years before the economy can truly recover.

Major lockdown introduced in Togo

by Owen Buchan

image credit: KlausHausmann (Pixabay)

Togo has announced a plethora of restrictions due to Covid cases rising. Places of worship will be shut, weddings and funerals as well as cultural, sporting and political events will be banned for a month. These bans come with penalties for those who break them. Despite a rise in Covid cases and deaths in Togo, the picture is unclear as testing rates have been low. 

The nation of 8 million has officially recorded over 23,000 cases and 203 deaths. The death rate has been steadily rising according to the President of Togo’s Scientific Council; with eight deaths in June, 22 in July and then 33 in August. It’s hoped this swift lockdown will halt the rising Covid cases.

Tonga denies cover-up of 1984 murder

by Frank Roberts

image credit: anncapictures (Pixabay)

The Tongan royal family have denied allegations that the late King Taufa’ahau Tupou IV assisted in covering up the murder of George Brown in 1984. Brown, who trained racehorses from Randwick in Sydney was found with his car having been set on fire. It is alleged that the late Bill Waterhouse, a prominent bookmaker whose family have long been influential within Australian racing, was attempting to fix a race when Mr. Brown withdrew from the scheme.

David Waterhouse, son of Bill, alleges Bill Waterhouse organised thugs to torture Brown in an attempt to secure the money that had been lost. The assailants, of Tongan descent, are said to have fled to Tonga in the aftermath and Bill Waterhouse was known to have close ties to the kingdom, operating as Consul-General from 1970 to 1995. 

Oil spill concerns in Trinidad and Tobago

by Tiffany Choong

image credit: USAID (PIXNIO)

The latest occurrence of an oil spill in August adds to the 498 reported spills on land and at sea since 2018. Fishermen and Friends of the Sea raise concerns regarding the devastating threats to marine life and the environment. Paria Fuel Trading Company Limited is responsible for the spill near the Gulf of Paria, and there remains a thick black coat of oil in the surrounding area. This also poses great concerns for the fishing industry, as the ecosystem is being contaminated and more than 60 percent of the country’s fishing activity takes place in the Gulf.

The inadequate response by the government includes no prosecution or charges in these oil spills and no compensation for those affected. The company itself claims to be containing the spill, but there is no substantial evidence of that being done.

A telling off for Tunisia’s President

by Rachael Ward

image credit: Slim Abid

G7 leaders have pushed Tunisia’s President towards a sturdier political state, nudging the current government towards a reinstitution of democratic legitimacy. In defence of democracy, G7 ambassadors have ordered Tunisia’s President, Kais Saied, to forgo his political powers and pursue a political path with the people at its heart. In particular, the G7 have called for a functioning elected government with a fresh face to lead it.

Among accusations hurled towards Saied, are a flagrant dismissal of the judiciary and brazen ignorance to Tunisian wishes. While the President will not take kindly to a spot of international interference, some constitutional coherency is needed to clear the path for political and economic cooperation. Political turmoil has ensued since the President’s power grab in July, now major democracies are rallying together to denounce this undemocratic dereliction of Tunisian rights.

Turkey willing to forget it’s bitter rivalry with the UAE to build economic ties

by Dylan Nykamp

image credit: Michał Józefaciuk

Long-lasting tensions between Turkey and the UAE have, in the past, helped to fuel conflicts such as the Libyan war. Now, the countries seem set to put their differences aside in pursuit of the economic gain that cooperation could bring.

Relations worsened following the Egyptian Revolution in 2011, where Turkey backed the Muslim Brotherhood of Egypt, whilst the UAE sided with the incumbent president. Since then, the UAE has been accused of supporting an attempted coup against the Turkish government in 2016. Other points of contention include the Qatari Diplomatic Crisis, Syrian Civil War, Yemeni Civil War, Emirati recognition of the Armenian Genocide, and the UAE’s establishment of diplomatic relations with Israel.

Political differences between the countries remain, but focus is now firmly set on building economic ties.

Death and denial: Turkmenistan’s dubious Covid response

by Toby Gill

image credit: GDJ (Pixabay)

Since March last year, the Turkmen government has suppressed all talk of Covid in the country, and authorities continue to deny any positive cases. The impacts of this impetuous decision are becoming clear, as reports of overcrowded hospitals, prolonged school closures and new hospitals being constructed begin to circulate. 

Radio Free Europe recently received reports that the Turkmen Foreign Minister, Rashid Meredov, has been hospitalized with Covid, and has not been seen publicly since 20 August.  Nonetheless, President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov is steadfast in his assurances that the pandemic hasn’t affected the country. 

Despite the state imposing mask requirements, and reports of an increasing number of fresh graves being dug in the nation’s capital, the official stance is the same. The President vehemently denies any cases and is even going ahead with plans for a large scale military parade on 27 September.

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