the brief: issue twenty-five


Hopes for democracy as former opposition leader appointed as Chad PM
by Harvey Young

image credit: TUBS (Wikimedia Commons)

In a move that has raised hopes that Chad might transition to democracy, former opposition leader Saleh Kebzabo has been appointed as Prime Minister by the leader of the country’s ruling military junta, General Mahamat Déby. Former President Idriss Déby was killed by insurgents in April 2021 and since then, his son has been ruling the country as a military dictator.

However, the government claims that this step is only a transitional measure until democratic elections can be held in 2024. Mr Kebzabo, who stood against Idriss Déby four times in presidential elections, has welcomed the appointment. He praised the current ruler’s commitment to democracy whilst simultaneously warning Deby he would resign if the elections are cancelled.

Whilst a peaceful democratic transition remains to be seen, it will buck the recent trend of violent coups in the region with there being seven successful coups in Africa since 2020.

French PM visits Algeria
by Herb Alexander

image credit: EU2017EE Estonian Presidency (Wikimedia Commons)

This week the French prime minister, Elisabeth Borne, is in Algeria conducting a two-day visit – the first since becoming prime minister. Her visit follows president Macron’s successful sojourn in late August which marked an attempt to mend relations after recent tensions between the two countries resurfaced. Borne promises more than just a meet and greet operation as her delegation includes 16 ministers and is the first  meeting of the ‘High-Level Intergovernmental Committee’ since 2017.

The committee’s pre-determined aim is to unblock the route to the signature of 12 accords concerning industrial, technological, educational and cultural cooperation.

There seems to be a willingness to cooperate and end the spat on the part of both Borne and her Algerian counterpart, Aïmene Benabderrahmane; especially in the area of the Algerian-French commercial relationship. Nevertheless, possible flashpoints remain, most notably their fractious joint history as well as disagreements over visa rules.


Anti-Xi protest prior to Communist party congress
by Henry Neale

image credit: Palácio do Planalto (Wikimedia Commons)

A rare public protest against China’s president Xi Jinping was captured just days before a Communist party meeting, in which the nations’ seventh president is expected to extend his leadership to a third term.

The protest itself took place on Sitong Bridge in Beijing, where banners denouncing the dictatorship, Covid policies, and lies of the Chinese government were left for the world’s media to see. This action sparked extensive internet censorship by the government.

Xi Jinping’s expected third term in office certainly undermines the principle of collective leadership introduced by the Communist party in the 1980s; a principle established as a reaction to the devastation inflicted upon China by the reign of Mao Zedong. The beginning of Xi’s 11th year in power should certainly induce caution, as China looks set to continue its reverted path through the unpredictability of one-man rule.

Trans Bhutan Trail Reopen
by Owen Buchan

image credit: Greenmnm69 (Wikimedia Commons)

On 28 September, the King of Bhutan reopened the Trans Bhutan Trail after its closure almost 60 years ago. This is part of a wider programme of reopening the Himalayan kingdom to the world after one of the worlds longest Covid pandemic border closures. 

Historically, the trail was originally a part of the silk road pilgrimage route. This wider pilgrimage route was active for thousands of years, and around 250 miles stretched through what would become Bhutan. In the 1950s, Bhutan created a highway system and the trail was neglected and became unusable. 

With the trail now repaired and opened, those who are looking to travel on this historic route will have to pay a $200 ‘sustainability development fee’. The Bhutanese government hopes that this fee will help control the number of visitors and protect the nation’s culture.


Illegal cigarette trade to blame for collapse of government, claims outgoing Montenegrin Prime Minister as corruption scandal deepens
by Fraser Cadman

image credit: AFP (Getty Images)

Political instability plaguing Montenegro deepened in recent days as links between the country’s illegal tobacco trade and government officials were exposed by the outgoing Prime Minister, Dritan Abazovic. Abazivic had recently sacked and accused many senior officials for connections with organised crime.  

In February, over €1,000,000 worth of seized illegal tobacco disappeared en route to incineration which was later found in the possession of two customs officers, prompting speculation over internal collusion with smugglers in the port city of Bar. 

For decades Bar has been seen as an entrepôt for tobacco smuggling into Europe. Abazovic’s hard-line attempts to crack down and end this illegal trade have put his political career in jeopardy, with the ruling coalition losing a confidence vote in August. Abazovic, who now leads a caretaker administration, claims that organised crime exerted its influence over corrupt MPs to oust him from power as retaliation.

North America

Nicaragua enforces alienating foreign relation policies
by Kate Nuttall

image credit: Professorsolo2015 (Wikimedia Commons)

This week, the European Council announced that the Republic of Nicaragua’s head of mission to the European Union would undergo a status change to ‘persona non grata’. This diplomatic term effectively expels the head of mission, removing their diplomatic immunity. The decision came in response to the Nicaraguan government declaring the head of the EU delegation to Nicaragua a ‘persona non grata’ last month, giving her three days to leave the country. The EU argued that this move was completely unjustified. 

The EU’s high representative for foreign affairs and security policy warned that Nicaragua’s actions would lead to negative bilateral relations between the country and EU member states. Preceding these events president Daniel Ortega of Nicaragua had severed diplomatic ties directly with the Netherlands, while his wife vice president Rosario Murillo had announced the country’s refusal to accept the appointment of the new US Ambassador to Nicaragua.


Drowning in the land down under
by Neo Allert

image credit: TUBS (Wikipedia Commons)

Climate change strikes again: Australia, usually suffering from ferocious wild fires, has to battle yet another form of extreme weather as two days of constant rain resulted in a wave of flooding. The south-eastern part of Australia, that is mainly Victoria state, as well as the southern state of New South Wales and the northern tip of Tasmania have been hit hard by sudden influx in rain water that has been pouring down on the land down under since 12 October.

Dams have been overflowing and rivers have left their banks threatening the lives and livelihoods of many. Victoria state has been hit the hardest with a whole suburb of Melbourne being drowned under masses of water. Tasmania has warned that lives are at stake, evacuating large parts of the island. This flood marks just the latest extreme weather phenomena to devastate Australia.

South America

Natural disaster devastates city
by Eleanor Austin

image credit: Voz de América (Wikimedia Commons)

Three days of mourning were seen in Venezuela this week after the city of Las Tejerías was hit by a landslide. Currently, the death toll has reached 36 people, but sadly with around 60 people still missing, it is thought this will rise.

This disaster was caused by a culmination of issues: on top of the seasonal La Nina weather system that is seen in this region, and the after-effects of Hurricane Julia, a month’s worth of rain fell within eight hours. This abnormal rainfall led to the El Pato river  bursting its bank, completely submerging  the city in water. The destruction caused has been far reaching, with over 300 homes completely destroyed and around 750 damaged.

Following the devastating news, President Maduro has promised to rebuild the city, stating that he would make sure that everyone was given new homes. For now, this announcement provides a glimpse of hope for many affected by this tragedy.

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