the brief: issue twenty-six


Ugandan Court Sentences Ivory Trader to Life in Prison
by Freddie Weaver

image credit: Paul Asjes (Flickr)

A Ugandan court has sentenced an ivory trader to life imprisonment – Uganda’s longest ever sentence for ivory trading. 

Pascal Ochiba was sentenced on 20 October, by the Standards, Utilities and Wildlife Court following his arrest in January 2022 for the unlawful possession of two pieces of elephant ivory weighing 9.55kg (22lb) in total. Ochiba had already been  imprisoned in 2017 for the possession of four pieces of ivory and the skin of an Okapi. Okapi are zebra-like forest animals that mostly reside in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Sam Mwandha, the Executive Director of the Uganda Wildlife Authority, commented: ‘This is a landmark achievement in our war on illegal wildlife trade in Uganda.’ Uganda’s endangered elephant population has been growing since the 1990s, but poaching and trafficking still remain a threat, despite new laws that have toughened prison sentences. 


Xi Jinping strengthens grip over China
by Aidan O’Connor

image credit: Wxmarshall (Wikimedia Commons)

General-Secretary of the Chinese Communist Party Xi Jinping has secured a historic third term in office on 23 October at the party’s 20th National Congress. His re-election has cemented his power over China and has allowed him to shake up his top team, the Politburo standing committee, by filling it with colleagues loyal to him.

Xi Jinping’s reign has seen a sharp increase in the persecution of minorities, predominantly the Uyghur population of Xinjiang in north-west China. China’s foreign policy objectives have also been shaped by Xi Jinping’s rule, which has resulted in many nations in South-East Asia, Africa and elsewhere becoming increasingly influenced by China. Although it is difficult to predict the future of Chinese foreign and domestic policy, Xi Jinping will arguably face a multitude of challenges at home and abroad.


Rising tensions in the Eastern Mediterranean
by Herb Alexander

image credit: Sebastian Wallroth (Wikimedia Commons)

Tensions in the eastern Mediterranean rose to a new high on 18 October, as Turkey test-fired a short range ballistic missile over the Black Sea, angering its neighbour Greece. The launch was soon followed by Turkey demanding the withdrawal of all Greek military forces from the Aegean islands, threatening consequences if they did not comply.

In recent months Ankara has accused Athens of escalating long-standing tensions by increasing military capacity on the Greek Aegean islands which the Turks argue should be demilitarised. The Aegean sea is a flash point for the two countries as both hope to exploit its hydrocarbon resources.

On 19 October, Turkish President Erdogan announced a massive increase in defence spending whilst warning Greece and Cyprus from further accumulation of arms. The prospect of Greek-Turkish relations opening a fissure in the NATO alliance seems to be increasingly realistic.

Hungary gets exemption from the EU gas price cap
by Mikołaj Stępień

image credit: European People’s Party (Flickr)

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban announced that his cabinet has reached an agreement with Brussels, stating that no planned EU price cap will necessarily apply to Hungary. On his facebook page, Orban stated ‘We got an exemption from the gas price cap so that it will not jeopardise Hungary’s security of gas supply’.

At the recent EU summit, European leaders backed a “temporary dynamic price corridor” on imported gas. Hungary, whose energy sector is heavily dependent on Russian imports, had been seeking a possible exemption ever since the negotiations started. Moreover, Moscow has warned that gas deliveries would be halted if Hungary adopted the price cap. 

Despite this decision being the only way of avoiding an energy crisis in Hungary, the decision still sparked controversy. Viktor Orban has been known for his outspoken support for Russia, which he apparently seeks to continue.

North America

Bannon Gets Banged Up
by Owen Buchan

image credit: Gage Skidmore (Flickr)

Ex-Trump aide Steve Bannon has been handed a four-month jail sentence and a $6,500 fine after being found guilty of contempt of Congress.

The January 6th Congressional Committee has been calling on various witnesses to give evidence and testimony regarding the Capitol Hill Riots in January 2021. Bannon refused the Committees subpoena and was convicted in July for refusing to give either testimony or documents to the committee. Bannon is due to be released pending any appeals to his sentence, which he is very likely to make. 

This all comes at a very crucial time, as the midterms are set to go ahead on 8 November. Bannon’s conviction could help prompt a Republican surge. Furthermore, Trump has been served with a court summons to testify before Congress shortly after Bannon’s conviction, repeating his counterpart’s mistakes could mean he may also face criminal charges.


Making the South Pacific crisis-proof
by Neo Allert

image credit: TUBS (Wikimedia Commons)

The eruption of the Hunga-Tonga Hunga-Ha’apai in January 2022 devastated the island nation of Tonga, serving as yet another reminder of the South Pacific’s inherent vulnerability to natural disasters. Faced with rising sea levels, many nations in the South Pacific are at severe risk of virtual extinction. Natural disasters sparked by volcanic and seismic activities are equally threatening and should not be underestimated.

To better strengthen their defences and prevent any further catastrophes, representatives of the Pacific island nations congregated in Nuku’alofa, Tonga, for the 7th Oceania Regional Seismic Network meeting (ORSNET) as well as the 7th Sessions of the Pacific Tsunami Warning and Mitigation System (PTWS) Working Committee 2 from 17 to 21 October.

These meetings aimed to develop strategies to better monitor the regional seismic network and improve the various early warning systems to increase disaster preparedness.

South America

UN reports increased levels of coca in Colombia
by Eleanor Austin

image credit: Cbrescia (Wikimedia Commons)

The UN released a report this week revealing that the farming of coca plants has increased by 43 percent, to 204,000 hectares, in the past year. This is the highest figure since data collection began in 2001. 

Colombia’s cocaine production has often been in the spotlight of international condemnation. However, President Petro, previously stated that the war on drugs method was irrational, changing his approach and opting for a more social focused approach. He will attempt to transition farming away from coca plants, providing plant substitutions, subsidies and regulations for the industry. 

Previous presidents have also announced such promises, but within Colombia, social change is seeming more likely under Petro’s left-wing leadership. Thus, with farmers believing that they have no other choice but to cultivate coca plants, these incentives will hopefully provide a new option for them. However, until they materialise, promises won’t change their farming practices.

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