the brief: issue seventeen


Students demand an end to Africa’s only remaining absolute monarchy

by Dylan Nykamp

image credit: Retlaw Snellac Photography (Flickr)

King Mswati III, the only remaining absolute monarch in Africa, is facing increasing pressure to engage in pro-democracy talks. Demonstrations in Eswatini have become increasingly volatile following the arrests of students and pro-democracy political figures under the Suppression of Terrorism Act. Following a decree in 1973 by previous-King Sobhuza II, all political parties were declared terror organisations.

Late last year tensions became so severe that nurses refused to treat injured police officers, accusing them of shooting colleagues during a wave of demonstrations. Campaigners had hoped that this year the government would act in good faith and engage in talks, however the arrest of a student campaigner for destroying a photo of the King has sparked a new wave of protest and led to the University of Eswatini closing all three of its campuses.


Future hazy for Ulaanbaatar’s pollution crisis

by Harvey Young

image credit: Erdenebayar (Pixabay)

The firing of Mongolia’s environment minister on 18 January has shed light on the country’s ongoing struggle to deal with chronic pollution in its capital city, Ulaanbaatar. The city’s serious air pollution problem has been labelled a ‘child health crisis’ by the United Nations, with most children born there expected to suffer respiratory illness in adulthood. However, unlike similar pollution issues in other cities, the problem has been attributed mainly to mass migration from rural areas with most migrants living in tent-like gers which can only be heated through burning coal.

To combat this public health crisis, the Mongolian government banned the burning of raw coal in March 2019, but this has proven ineffective. This raises serious concerns as to whether more drastic and fundamental changes are needed, and what approach the next Environment Minister will take to alleviate this crisis.


Tensions reach boiling point on the Russian-Ukrainian border

by Rachael Ward

image credit: Anton Holoborodko

As European tensions escalate, Boris Johnson met with NATO allies in Brussels and Warsaw amid the mounting crisis in Ukraine. The presence of over 100,000 Russian troops on its borders have forced figureheads together in order to avert prospects of war and widening Russia’s sphere of influence. Following French President Emmanuel Macron, the UK’s foreign and defence secretaries were next to be seated at Moscow’s diplomatic dining table, echoing calls for Ukrainian independence.

In an attempt to settle nerves, Macron assured that Russia has little intention to invade, however the ten-day military pageant planned for Russian and Belarussian troops hints otherwise. Johnson has urged his NATO allies to draw ‘lines in the snow’” in the standoff between diplomatic routes to democracy and the road towards war. Yet, with global political temperatures heating up, those lines are likely to disappear as the snow starts melting.


Truckers protest government mandates

by Ellis Holden

image credit: Yeeno (Wikimedia Commons)

For around two weeks now, Canadians (and a handful of Americans) have gathered in Ottawa, Canada. Thousands of truckers, farmers and other large automobile drivers have shut down motorways across the country. In response, the government has declared a state of emergency, with authorities seeking to quell the trucker rebellion. 

With criticism being levied personally at Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, the truckers are inspiring anti lockdown protestors worldwide, with France going through their own bout of automobile madness. Rumours indicate that the Superbowl LVI in Los Angeles will be blocked by truckers seeking to end vaccine mandates. However, considering security is very tight at such a high profile event, this will likely manifest unsuccessfully. 

Media moguls are dismissing these protestors as merely ignorant anti-vaxxers. However the elitist assumption may not represent the full range of people’s views at these protests. 


Australia re-opened!

by Connor Crout

image credit: propertysold (Pixabay)

Australia has announced that they will be re-opening their borders to vaccinated tourists and visa holders on 21 February for the first time in nearly two years since first closing their borders in March 2020. Despite Australia starting to open up, the state of Western Australia still has very strict measures, with the state being closed to both international and interstate non-residents unless permission has been granted.

Australia’s strict anti-Covid measures seem to have been successful, with only approximately 4500 Covid-related deaths across the whole pandemic. Opening up their borders might risk bringing in Covid, but will also bring in tourists, which must seem like a distant memory to the country.


Six months, four cabinets and one president

by Neo Allert

image credit: Marium Alberto (Wikimedia Commons)

Pedro Castillo, the president of Peru, has been busy swearing in a new cabinet – the fourth in just six months. The last prime minister, Héctor Valer Pinto, lasted a mere three days in office after allegations of domestic abuse were made public. The new man for the job is Anibal Torres, the 79-year-old head of the Justice Ministry who took the oath of office on 8 February: if he fails to get a vote of confidence in the next 30 days, Castillo will have to swear in yet another cabinet.

These developments are characteristic for the state of Peruvian politics, or as political analyst Eduardo Ballon told the daily La Republica: this is simply  ‘the continuation of a longstanding crisis’ in Peru’s political system. Amidst all this instability, the economic and political crisis in Peru seems to be unfolding even further.

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