the brief: issue fifteen


Instability leads to coup in Burkina Faso

by Iwan Roberts

image credit: David_Peterson (Pixabay)

On Monday, Burkina Faso became the site of West Africa’s third military coup in eight months. The army’s deposition of President Roch Kaboré, suspension of parliament and constitution comes in the wake of instability including a jihadist insurgency that has left thousands dead. The number of displaced people in the country has risen to 1.6 million of a population of just over 20 million in recent years. 

Although the UN and France have condemned the coup, crowds have gathered in the nation’s capital, Ouagadougou, to express their support for the new junta led by Lieutenant Colonel Paul-Henri Sandaogo Damiba. Many will be hoping that his regime can restore peace and stability to the country, although the record of similar juntas in the region is likely to leave international observers doubtful.


Ceasefire between Tajikistan & Kyrgyzstan

by Frank Roberts

image credit: Makalu (Pixabay)

Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan have announced a ceasefire following several border clashes earlier last week. Tajikistan had declared 2 dead and a further 10 injured on Friday. Kyrzgystan also reported 11 injured. The borders between the 2 Central Asian nations have long been contested and tensions were particularly heightened during 2021 with disputes over water access resulting in the displacement of approximately 35,000 Kyrgyz citizens. Whilst this week’s figures were much smaller (approximately 1,500 were evacuated) this nevertheless constitutes a further setback for Kyrgyz-Tajik relations.

The border between both nations have long been complicated by Tajikistan’s 2 enclaves surrounded by Kyrgyzstan – the most populous of which is Vorukh. Whilst the situation was resolved swiftly, the importance of water located within the Isfara valley is likely to remain a contentious issue for both nations over the coming decades.


Russian invasion looking more likely as Ukraine pleads for calm

by Arun Kohli

image credit: NATO North Atlantic Treaty Organization (Flickr)

Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Foreign Secretary Liz Truss have committed to visiting Eastern Europe in the coming weeks as tensions continue to escalate. Russia, after amassing 100,000 troops on its border with Ukraine, has shown no signs of backing down with an invasion of Ukraine remaining a possibility. Many NATO countries have committed to sending armed forces to the region in order to bolster defences should a Russian invasion occur.

Last week, US President Joe Biden, in a call with Ukrainian President Zelensky, warned against an imminent invasion. The Ukrainian government has appealed to Western countries to tone down their rhetoric in relation to Russia so as to not cause panic. Despite Ukraine’s insistence on a calmer rhetoric, it does seem increasingly likely that Russia will invade Ukraine in a matter of weeks should no diplomatic route ease tensions.

Last minute agreement reels in fears of naval clash off Irish coast

by Harvey Young

image credit: Albert Bridge

Concerns have been raised regarding a potentially dangerous and deadly incident off the Irish coast between the Russian Navy and local Irish fishermen protestors. The Russian Navy is planning to carry out live-fire naval exercises southwest of Ireland, outside of the country’s territorial waters but within its ‘Exclusive Economic Zone’. This prompted a planned peaceful protest from Irish fishermen against disruption to their fishing waters, which both the Irish and Russian governments warned could put them in harm’s way.

However, tensions were eased significantly on Thursday when a ‘constructive and positive’ 50-minute meeting between the Russian ambassador to Ireland, and representatives of the protestors established a 60-80 KM buffer zone between Russian and Irish ships. Whilst this agreement has calmed fears, the Russian embassy has denied that ‘an absolute guarantee’ that Irish fishing waters won’t be affected was reached.

Taking the wheel out of their hands

by Rachael Ward

image credit: Albert Bridge

A report from the law commissions of England, Scotland and Wales has recommended that the government steer towards removing legal liability for the person behind the wheel of a self-driving vehicle in the event of an accident. Instead, when in self-driving mode responsibility should be on the ‘user-in-charge’ -, the company the vehicle belongs to. It’s been a bumpy ride for autonomous vehicles, as California witnessed a fatal collision when one self-driving vehicle crashed into another while running a red light.

Closer to home, in 2018, one driver in the UK was banned from getting behind the wheel of autonomous-driving cars after he climbed into the passenger seat when on the road. While the law commissions have set the indicator for a new direction of travel, it will be up to the regional governments as to whether they make the turning.


Journalism in jeopardy

by Toby Gill

image credit: JoeBamz (Pixabay)

Mexico has been ranked as the deadliest country for journalists, with seven media workers being murdered last year. The tragic pattern seems to be worsening, as three journalists have been targeted and killed this month alone. 

On Wednesday, another journalist, Jose Ignacio Santiago, was the victim of a targeted attack and only narrowly escaped. There have been widespread protests, calling for more government intervention and support in tackling the threats facing journalists, but the response has been limited. 

A US-based ‘Committee to Protect Journalists’ estimates that 95 percent of murders of journalists remain unresolved in Mexico. Likewise, government protection programmes remain deeply flawed due to a lack of funding, and issues of corruption are prevalent across the country. Journalism in Mexico faces a deadly challenge, and it remains to be seen how the government aims to tackle this crisis.


Australia’s 2022 election campaignings begin

by Ellis Holden

image credit: Dave Sutherland

Pauline Hansen’s ‘One Nation’ has been on the forefront of campaigning for the seemingly upcoming 2022 election with her political cartoon series ‘Please Explain.’ This has so far produced 12 episodes, making fun of the current political climate and rival party’s controversies. This comes as political parties in Australia begin to ramp up campaigning as current Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s 3 year term comes to an end.

As the Australian Labor Party begins to capitalise on Scott Morrison’s controversies and failures, such as with the recent Novak Djokovic affair, Omicron and Covid recovery as a whole. Anthony Albanese of the Labor Party is leading in the polls right now, and could become the first Labor Prime Minister since Julia Gillard. On the other hand, Scott Morrison could pull off another shock win, just as he did against Bill Shorten.


Justice for wartime rape survivors

by Eleanor Austin

image credit: Johan Ordóñez (AFP / Getty Images)

Five former pro-government paramilitary patrolmen have been found guilty of the rape of 36 Maya Achi women in the 1980s. They each face 30 years in prison for their actions during the Guatemalan Civil War. The violence against these women took place in Rabinal, a village north of Guatemala City, an area which was targeted significantly during the war. The patrolmen used rape and sexual violence as a systematic weapon of war, to demoralise the Maya Achi women,- without consequence until now. 

Hence, after seeking justice for violence and significant discrimination, this court ruling is a poignant victory for the Maya Achi women. The crimes against humanity that these survivors were subjected to are finally being recognised and, importantly, believed. 

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