Mercenaries worsen the security situation in Mali
by Herb Alexander
On 27 October a senior US state department official blamed the deteriorating situation in Mali on the presence of the Russian Wagner mercenary group. During a press briefing, the previously mentioned official said ‘The United States’ ability to help Mali on the security side is greatly constrained […] by the choice that the Mali government made to get into bed with Wagner’.
The UN mission MINUSMA has also complained that it is being hindered by Wagner’s presence. Mali has, with the help of France, battled Islamist insurgency in the north of the country since 2012. However, the ruling junta has strongly opposed the French presence. Leading junta figures maintain that they are cooperating with Russia at a state-to-state level and mercenaries are not involved.
The Sahel region has long been plagued by instability, with this looking set to continue.
Myanmar’s military junta remaining obstinate in the face of ASEAN pressures
by Henry Neale
In early 2021 a coup d’état unleashed political chaos in Myanmar, where the Tatmadaw (Myanmar’s military) purged members of the opposition NLD party in response to a landslide victory in the 2020 elections. A year-long state of emergency was declared, and the nation now lies in an economic and humanitarian crisis.
The military junta has recently responded to calls by ASEAN for de-escalation by diverting the blame towards armed resistance movements, having previously bemoaned the impact of Covid-19 on slow peace progress. Myanmar has similarly refuted the legitimacy of the recent ASEAN meeting held in Jakarta discussing the crisis in Myanmar. The junta has criticised the meeting due to the lack of a self-appointed representative, asserting that it will not be constrained to any outcomes.
The traditional non-interference policy adopted by ASEAN has come under fire, with many suggesting that more substantial action is needed to curb the increasing violence in Myanmar.
Kosovo’s ultimatum to Serbs over licence plates threatens ethnic conflict
by Fraser Cadman
A controversial licence plate law threatens to trigger a complete shutdown of roads in North Kosovo by Serb militias as ethnic tensions continue to rise. The semi-recognised state of Kosovo has issued a deadline requiring their Serb population to switch to new Kosovar Licence plates by November.
Kosovo’s Serb minority comprises only 4% of the population but does not recognise the authority of the 93 percent ethnically Albanian state and has threatened armed blockades of the region if the deadline is not extended. Negotiations between Serbia and Kosovo have delayed this deadline once before and stopped a similar enforcement of Kosovar-issued ID cards. Leaked details of the ongoing discussions claim that a French/German proposal would see Serbia recognising Kosovo’s independence in return for EU accession and a significant aid package if a deal can be struck, potentially calming a decades-long political struggle in the region.
by Rachael Ward
As the midterm elections creep up the calendar, Nancy Pelosi’s political critics are coming a bit too close to home – literally. The husband of the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Paul Pelosi, has been hospitalised in his San Francisco home by an intruder, yielding a hammer and demanding to see Nancy. By a stroke of luck, Pelosi was in Washington at the time.
The police were not keen to report a definitive motive, but the assailant had dabbled in disseminating far-right conspiracies and claims of election fraud in his social media circles – something Pelosi would be unsurprised to learn. The attack sounded ever so similar to the January 6th Capitol riot’s, contesting the ‘stolen election’. The US government has warned of a heightened threat of violence against election candidates and workers in the wake of the attack. Warding off such violence will be another matter.
New Zealand suspends human rights dialogue with Iran amidst deadly protests
by Harvey Young
Voices from throughout the western world have strongly condemned the Iranian regime following the alleged killing of Mahsa Amini on 16 September by Iranian Morality Police. The young woman had been arrested for violating a strict female dress code. This has sparked major protests in Iran that have been followed by a brutal government crackdown, leaving 270 people dead.
The New Zealand government has gone a step further than most western governments by suspending its bilateral human rights dialogue with Iran. This dialogue was set up in 2018 for the two countries to discuss human rights issues, with a session originally scheduled to be held later in 2022.
The New Zealand government, however, has called this arrangement ‘no longer tenable’, claiming that suspending this dialogue sends a clear message to the Iranian regime. Whilst this move has a largely symbolic impact, it may help to spark a more consequential international response to the events occurring in Iran.
Thousands left internally displaced in Haiti
by Eleanor Austin
A report by the International Organisation of Migration (IOM) has highlighted the multifaceted nature of the current crisis in Haiti. The research undertaken between August and September 2022 reveals how the number of internally displaced persons (IDPs) has tripled to 113,000 in the past five months. Unsurprisingly, 96,000 of these individuals have been displaced from the capital of Port-au-Prince, where the situation is continuing to deteriorate; gang violence has exploded in the past few months and a cholera outbreak has wreaked havoc, causing 1,700 suspected cases.
Additionally, around 17,000 of these IDPs are still displaced from the August 2021 earthquake. With the numbers of IDPs continuing to increase, and the national situation becoming progressively more unstable, the government needs to ensure their protection within society. However, Haiti has faced and continues to face substantial difficulties, often lacking the infrastructure to install these protections.