Meeting of Brahima Sanou and Sahle-Work Zewde on September 5, 2016 in Nairobi for the UN

The World This Week: October 29th, 2018

Sub Saharan Africa

Zimbabwe has announced its intention to continue its multi-currency regime despite the economic crisis it is currently facing. The country began this practice in 2009 and shortly after began experiencing hyperinflation, which made the local currency worthless. Zimbabwe currently has the United States dollar, the South African rand and local bond notes in its basket of currencies. The Botswana pula and British pound have in times past been accepted as legal tender.

Ethiopia’s new president Sahle-Work Zewde has joined the ranks of African women that are leading history as pioneers and leaders in male-dominated spheres. Her appointment on Thursday followed Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed appointing a gender-parity cabinet that included 10 female ministers out of 20. The African Union chairperson, Moussa Faki Mahamat, commended Ethiopia and Rwanda for taking strides to demonstrate that men and women are equal in politics.

At least nine people were injured when a 30-year-old woman detonated a bomb she was holding in Tunisia’s capital, Tunis. Describing the blast as a “terrorist explosion,” the interior ministry said the woman had had no previous known militant background. Eight of those hurt in the explosion on Avenue Habib Bourguiba, which runs through the middle of the city, were police officers.

Latin America and The Caribbean

Congressman Jair Bolsonaro was announced as the 38th president of Brazil in a contentious runoff election Sunday. Bolsonaro secured 47% percent of the vote in the first round and had 56% of the vote as of Sunday night. He will be sworn in on New Year’s Day, but is expected to get right to work with acting President Michel Temer. Bolsonaro is only the second presidential candidate ever nominated from his Social Liberal Party (Partido Social Liberal).

Mexico had a 4-day public referendum over construction at Benito Juarez International Airport in Mexico City. Incoming president, Andres Manuel López Obrador, vehemently decried the project during his campaign due to concerns of corruption and waste. The project, however,  is already a one-third completed and is expected to be the third largest airport in the world. Nevertheless, Lopez Obrador vowed to cancel development if it is rejected by voters.

This week is the 36th International Havana Trade Fair (FIHAV). Over 50 countries and numerous business representatives will be attending the annual event to promote free trade and foreign investments within Cuba and the Caribbean. The event will coincide with the 2nd meeting of the Cuba-Russia Intergovernmental Commission on Trade, Economic, Scientific and Technical Cooperation. Several Russian news outlets have stated that Cuba will sign agreements at the events to purchase over $50 million in Russian military equipment.


East Asia and the Pacific

On Friday, Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena removed his party from the ruling coalition and ousted his prime minister, appointing in his place former president Mahinda Rajapaksa. The move has sparked a constitutional crisis as the former prime minister has insisted that only the parliament can make such a decision. During his time as president, Rajapaksa was credited with ending the 27-year civil war with the separatist Tamil Tigers, but also accused of using heavy-handed tactics to do so. These include-human rights violations, and the United Nations estimates 40,000 civilians died in the last days of the conflict.  Rajapaksa also moved the country closer to China during his tenure and borrowed heavily from Beijing to fund massive infrastructure projects in line with the Belt and Road initiative. This included a $1.2 billion port which Sri Lanka had to hand back to China last year because it couldn’t service its debts. Rajapaksa was voted out of office in 2015 over abuse of power charges.

On Wednesday the U.N. Security Council was briefed for the first time ever by a human-rights envoy on a specific country. The report involved the ongoing crisis of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar who have faced repression and genocide in a campaign which began in 2015. Over 400,000 Rohingya remain in the country. The envoy called on the council to refer Myanmar to the International Criminal Court (ICC) or create an ad hoc international tribunal. He also recommended an arms embargo and targeted sanctions against the six senior army officials who commanded the violations. Russia and China attempted to block the discussion on the grounds that human rights are outside of the council’s mandate. The briefing comes amid the annual meeting at the U.N. when country-specific human-rights reports are presented to the 15-person General Assembly committee that oversees human-rights affairs. A procedural vote to allow discussion in the committee passed with nine nations in favor. U.S. ambassador to the U.N. Nicki Haley has condemned the atrocities but not commented on specific courses of action.


Middle East and North Africa

While initially denying any involvement in the case, this week the Saudi Arabian government claimed the Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi died in a “rogue operation.”  The Saudi public prosecutor contradicted this claim saying the murder was “premeditated.” While Turkey is attempting to extradite 18 individuals back to Turkey who were  involved in the case, Saudi Arabia says the case will be investigated and tried in Saudi Arabia.

Some of Iran’s top oil buyers are reticent to comply with President Trump’s sanctions against Iran that are set to begin on November 5.  India, China, and Turkey are all worried that there are not enough oil supplies to replace those that will be lost with the Iran sanctions. The price of oil hit a four year high this month, hovering just below $87 a barrel. Some are worried renewed sanctions with Iran could create an even larger global oil price spike.

After being closed for six years, Syria has reopened part of its national museum in Damascus this week.  The museum evacuated most of its collection after the museum was closed in 2012 due to the ongoing civil war. Syria has also seen increased tourism from Jordanians since the Syrian-Jordanian border reopened on October 15. For some, it is the first time making the trip from Jordan to Damascus since the conflict erupted in 2011.


South Asia

A political crisis is underway in Sri Lanka following the collapse of the ruling coalition. President Sirisena has dismissed Prime Minister Wickremasinghe, replacing him with Rajapaksa, a Buddhist nationalist who was ousted from the Presidency in 2014. Wickremasinghe maintains that he remains Prime Minister and has disputed the constitutionality of the President’s actions. Despite the dispute, President Sirisena has begun to transfer the privileges of the Prime Minister’s office to Rajapaksa. The United States has urged all sides to follow the constitution while China has shown early support for Rajapaska’s nascent premiership. Rajapaksa has a difficult relationship with the United States. As President, he brutally ended Sri Lanka’s 27-year civil war in a military action that may have cost 40,000 Tamil civilians their lives. In the aftermath of the civil war, Rajapaksa relied heavily on China to finance reconstruction, creating a heavy debt burden for Sri Lanka in the process.

Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan successfully secured a $6 billion emergency aid package from Saudi Arabia, as Pakistan struggles with falling foreign currency reserves and a widening trade deficit. Saudi Arabia’s support will allow Pakistan to pursue a smaller loan from the IMF with less stringent requirements. Prime Minister Khan will travel to China this week, where he will try to secure a loan from China as well. Imran Khan will also likely try to renegotiate the $60 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, hoping to place more emphasis on the need for social development.

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