the brief: issue fourteen


Possible end in sight for Libya’s eleven-year civil war?

by Harvey Young

image credit: Rr016 (Wikimedia Commons)

UN special advisor for Libya, Stephanie Williams, has talked of the ‘reasonable’ possibility that the country will hold an election in June. After the 41-year dictator, Muammar Gaddafi, was overthrown in a NATO-backed rebellion in 2011, Libya descended into a civil war which has raged intermittently ever since. None of the major factions have been able to agree on a transfer to democratic governance.

However, due to recent developments, this may be about to change. Leaders of the warring factions have recently been negotiating a transition to a democratic national government but need elections to give legitimacy to Libya’s institutions and determine a president. Although elections were postponed in December following disagreements between Libyan parties, the UN seems cautiously optimistic that this period of strife could be nearing its end.


Saudi coalition airstrike kills many

by Frank Roberts

image credit: jones814 (Pixabay)

The Saudi-led coalition has completed an airstrike on a prison in Sana’a, a key city for the Houthi rebels in the country. Hundreds have been injured and upwards of 70 people have died. The airstrike comes after a Houthi attack in the UAE earlier this week resulted in three casualties. Joe Biden has announced the US State Department is considering designating the Houthi rebels as a terrorist organisation, likely because of pressure from the UAE.

Yemen has been embroiled in civil war since 2014 with the fragile state now divided into various areas of control by the Houthi rebels (alleged to have Iranian backing), the internationally recognised Hadi government, and South Yemen secessionists. The coalition insists it has attacked legitimate military targets.


UK warns of Kremlin plan to install pro-Russian Ukrainian leadership

by Luke Jones

image credit: Ministry of Defense of Ukraine (Flickr)

Russian military buildup on the Ukrainian border has dominated foreign policy circles in recent months, now numbering at least 100,000 personnel. In the latest developments, the UK Foreign Office announced in a statement on 22 January that ‘the Russian Government is looking to install a pro-Russian leader in Kyiv as it considers whether to invade and occupy Ukraine’, considering former Ukrainian MP Yevhen Murayev as a potential candidate.

This is of course not the first time accusations of election interference have been levelled against Russia – ranging from Ukraine’s 2004 presidential election to the United States in 2016. Ignoring this, Russia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs predictably called the press release ‘disinformation’, as did Murayev, countering that he is banned from Russia.


Quebec set to tax unvaccinated residents

by Esha Kaur

image credit: YanikB (Wikimedia Commons)

Quebec, a province of Canada, is set to implement a ‘health tax’ on residents who have remained unvaccinated against Covid for non-medical reasons. Quebec will be the first in the nation to impose a financial penalty on the unvaccinated among a new wave of Covid in the province.

Quebec’s Premier François Legault has announced that those who are unvaccinated will have to pay a contribution, as they bring a ‘financial burden’ to hospital staff and the 90 percent of the population who have been vaccinated. The exact amount is yet to be decided, but is said to be ‘significant’. 

Only ten percent of Quebec residents are unvaccinated, yet they account for almost one third of all hospital cases and half of intensive care patients. As of 11 January, there have been 12,028 Covid related deaths in the province, the highest in Canada.


Tonga’s battle with the tide

by Rachael Ward

image credit: Planet Labs PBC (via Reuters)

Despite being a set of isolated islands, the impact of Tonga’s underwater volcanic eruption has shaken global grounds. Ties of communication between Tonga and their counterparts have been cut and there are fears that water may have become contaminated with ash. An evacuation effort is underway with pressures mounting to move those on Tonga’s smallest islands to its larger ones where the hope of safety is a little higher. Its nearest neighbours, New Zealand and Australia, have deployed resources to Tonga in an attempt to avert the worst of this natural disaster.

One British woman is among those to have died while on the islands as the wait for reports of the damage, dislocation, and death toll drags on. As the repercussions of Tonga’s battle with the tide reverberate around the world, the sight of calmer waters seems oceans away.


A chance for a breath of fresh air in Colombia: Íngrid Betancourt’s bid for office after her six-year abduction

by James Dring

image credit: BankingBum (Wikimedia Commons)

With the Colombian presidential primaries two months away and the incumbent Ivan Duque prevented from running by electoral rules, there is a real opportunity for change. Over 20 candidates have already declared, but Íngrid Betancourt’s announcement in Bogotá has gained international attention.

Betancourt previously ran for office in 2002 but was kidnapped by left-wing Farc rebels and held hostage for six years. Despite maintaining a low profile since then, she has reemerged, leading the Oxygen Green Party who are committed to tackling corruption and poverty if elected. 

Her leftist opponent is Gustavo Petro, former M-19 guerilla fighter, who leads largely thanks to right-winger Duque’s unpopularity. Betancourt faces a tough fight for the nomination but expects support from Colombia’s nine million conflict victims. 

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