the brief: issue thirty-three


Burkina Faso pivots towards Russia as French troops and ambassador ordered to leave
by Harvey Young

image credit: TUBS (Wikimedia Commons)

On 23 January, Burkina Faso’s ruling military Junta ordered the approximately 400 French troops operating in the country to leave, with the French subsequently recalling their ambassador on 26 January, following a similar demand from the Burkinabe government.

The French troops had been helping the Burkinabe military fight a jihadist insurgency which had spilled over from neighbouring Mali since 2013. However, anti-French sentiment both from the government and wider society has been increasing. 

Burkina Faso seems to be following Mali and the Central African Republic in turning to Russia, instead of their former colonial master, as their main military partner, with the Burkinabe prime minister recently describing partnering with Russia as a ‘reasonable choice’. This reorientation seems to be part of a wider shift of African governments towards Russia and China, begging the question as to how France and the West may try to counter this.


2023 holds ominous implications for conflict between Israel and Palestine, as fears surface regarding the stance of Jerusalem’s ultranationalist government
by Henry Neale

image credit: LLs (Wikimedia Commons)

Raids by the Israeli army in the West Bank had increased sharply since the beginning of 2022, with this upwards trend seems to be continuing into 2023. The UN reported a total of 150 Palestinian deaths in the West Bank last year, with further nine being killed by the Israeli army in a recent raid on Jenin refugee camp.

It remains to be seen what consequences the formation of Israel’s new far-right government, headed by Benjamin Netanyahu, will have on relations with Palestine: many have voiced fears that democratic backsliding and escalating tensions in both the West Bank and Gaza will ensue.

Israeli protest against its nationalist government has formed, leading to the imminent arrival of US Secretary of State, Anthony Blinken. However, it looks increasingly possible that uproar against the ultranationalist state, combined with intensified conflict with Palestine, may lead to the region spiralling even further out of control.


Ukrainian government bolstered by new arms shipments as Russian invasion nears one-year anniversary
by Fraser Cadman

image credit: Roman Kubanskiy (Wikimedia Commons)

The new year has seen a continuation of vicious fighting in Eastern Ukraine, with Russia’s invasion stagnating into a brutal stalemate during the winter. Neither side has made any major gains recently, though fierce trench warfare continues around the destroyed towns of Soledar and Bakhmut. 

Recent agreements with Germany have sparked Ukrainian hopes of a turning point, as shipments of Leopard-2 tanks have been approved after significant delays. Germany had previously refused to commit to further weapons exports, with German Chancellor Scholz facing widespread criticism for attempting to placate the Pro-Moscow elements of his ruling party. In recent days, however, Scholz has U-turned on this position, supported by a new US commitment to supply tanks to Ukraine.

It is hoped that these new tanks will help in liberating further territory, with Ukrainian President Zelensky claiming the tanks would help ensure that “tyranny will never again rise up”.

North America

Canadian PM appoints Amira Elghawaby as Canada’s first special representative on combating islamophobia
by Orestis Sechas

image credit: PascalHD (Wikimedia Commons)

On 26 January, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau appointed Amira Elghawaby, an award-winning journalist and human rights advocate, as Canada’s first special representative on combating islamophobia. Elghawaby’s appointment seeks to support Ottawa’s efforts to end discrimination and hatred of all forms directed at Muslim communities. The aim is to challenge anti-Muslim stereotypes, raise awareness of islamophobia in society, and propose government policies and legislation to foster the inclusion of Muslim communities in Canada. 

Speaking at an event celebrating her installation, Ms. Elghawaby said that despite the ideal of multiculturalism, which remains one of Canada’s greatest strengths, islamophobia is a lived, ‘painful and even deadly reality’ for many Muslims in Canada. The creation of this position marks an important step towards embracing equality and diversity and tackling systemic discrimination and violence. 


Friday, 27 January: the wettest day on record in Auckland
by Neo Allert

image credit: Ulanwp (Wikimedia Commons)

As Auckland, New Zealand’s largest city, is drenched by torrential rainfall, many residents face major disruptions, with the unprecedented downpour of rain leading to severe flooding. On 27 January, Auckland’s Mayor Wayne Brown, swiftly declared a state of emergency in order to effectively address the situation and mitigate further negative impacts.

Many Aucklanders have been heavily impacted by the sudden downpour with houses being shifted and a shortage of electricity due to power cuts. The emergency services have done their best to come to the rescue of those trapped in their houses, but despite their best efforts the extreme downpour has left four people dead. 

Friday, 27 January, has been described as the wettest day in the history of Auckland. Whilst one should be cautious in attributing individual weather events to climate change, extreme weather has been shown to be linked to the warming planet.

South America

Violent clashes continue in Peru
by Eleanor Austin

image credit: Candy WikiAcción (Wikimedia Commons)

The political situation in Peru remains tense this week, with fresh calls demanding the resignation of President Dina Boluarte. In her speech on Wednesday, Boluarte urged the protestors to engage in dialogue, rather than violence. Controversially, she also alleged that those who have died during the protests were not shot by the police, but by fellow protestors. This directly contradicts official figures, which state that 46 people were killed by security forces. As a result of this speech, thousands of protestors returned to the streets of Lima, clashing once more with security forces. 

In an attempt to end the continued disruption, Boluarte urged congress on Friday to reschedule the April 2024 elections to end of this year. This request was rejected by congress, with many stating that her resignation and constitutional reform are needed, not solely elections.

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