Arms Sales to Africa

The World This Week: March 14, 2020

Africa

The United Nations Security Council is failing to control arms sales to the Sahel, specifically Libya and Mali, as the conflict in the region that grows daily at an alarming rate, creating an unprecedented humanitarian crisis. Today, over 20 million weapons, including heavy machine guns, rocket-propelled grenades, and surface to air missiles, are circulating throughout the Sahel. An estimated one million weapons are estimated to be circulated in Libya alone. Key members of the council fear enforcing the arms embargo on the UAE, Jordan, and Egypt, allowing the three countries to continue breaching the UN weapons embargo to Libya. In Mali, independent United Nations human rights expert, Alioune Tine, has demanded that Australia stop selling arms to the country. For months, he has urged the international community to do more to prevent active production and selling of weapons, especially in conflict zones such as the Sahel. The Australian government says export licenses are issued only after assessments on whether arms will be used to violate human rights. Activist groups have called on the Australian defense department for greater transparency on its arms sales. The department has refused to reveal who, what, and why they are exporting to These and other requests under freedom of information law for these details have been denied. However, the Guardian released internal records after it obtained them from this law and have revealed that Australian weapons companies were given 31 permits last year to export weapons and military technology to numerous African nations suffering from violence and instability, including Libya, Sudan, Somalia, Mali, the Central African Republic, and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

A Canadian woman, Edith Blais, and her Italian partner, Luca Tacchetto, have been released to the United Nations’ peacekeeping mission in northern Mali. The couple went missing in Burkina Faso somewhere between the Bobo-Dioulasso and Ouagadougou in December 2018. The couple was traveling from Italy by car to Togo for a humanitarian project. Apparently, they escaped wearing the region’s traditional clothing, hailed a passing car, and asked the driver to take them to the nearest UN post. None of the jihadist groups in the region have claimed responsibility for the kidnapping, even though these armed groups are highly active and have recently kidnapped dozens of Westerners. It is still not known who was responsible for the kidnapping, but Mali officials have confirmed that no ransom was paid. Their disappearance came only a month before the kidnapping and murder of another Canadian, Kirk Woodman, who was a geologist working in northern Burkina Faso for a Vancouver-based mining company. His body was found two days after he was taken in January 2019.

The coronavirus has now spread to 19 African countries. Kenya, Ethiopia, Sudan, Mauritania, and Guinea all announced their first confirmed cases of coronavirus on Friday. Other African countries with reported cases include Morocco, Tunisia, Egypt, Algeria, Senegal, Togo, Cameroon, Burkina Faso, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, South Africa, Nigeria, Ivory Coast, Gabon, and Ghana. Most of these countries are reporting only one case, excluding North Africa, where five people died from the virus. Most of the cases reported in Africa are foreigners or people who had returned from travel abroad.

Asia Pacific

In light of the WHO’s declaration that COVID-19 has reached pandemic levels, many countries continue their efforts to curb the disease’s spread. For the next month (until April 15), India plans to suspend nearly all visas for travelers, as well as visa-free travel for its citizens abroad. The few exemptions include diplomatic, official, employment, and project visas. To date, India has confirmed 73 coronavirus cases, but officials expect that number to rise as the most recent testing data becomes available.

The global airline industry continues its downturn, as travel restrictions discourage air travel. Chinese airlines, in particular, have suffered an economic dip: passenger numbers have dropped over 80% in the last month. The Civil Aviation Administration of China announced it would subsidize airlines and fund international flights to soften the impact.

Europe

The impact of COVID – 19, better known as the Coronavirus, spread rapidly across the eurozone this past week, as the health crisis further injures the economy. Already faltering in past months, the European Union is very likely to be in a recession this year because of the coronavirus outbreak, a top economic official of the European Commission said on Friday.

Italy’s healthcare system, in particular, is struggling to function as it takes on an unprecedented influx of patients. In less than three weeks, the virus overloaded hospitals in northern Italy, offering a glimpse of what countries face if they cannot slow the contagion.

The scramble to contain the novel virus has overtaken all other topics; however, its impact reveals weaknesses and problems that already existed across Europe and Britain. Containment efforts have thus far been halting and insufficient, and overburdened healthcare systems will inevitably strain to support an increased number of patients.  

Latin America

The economic effects of the novel coronavirus have already begun to unfold in the Caribbean. The tourism sector has seen thousands of cancellations and postponements, leaving local businesses wondering how they will pay their bills. For these and all economies reliant on international travel, the virus will deal a significant blow to growth and GDP.

This past Monday was nicknamed “black Monday” throughout Latin America as the oil price war between Riyadh and Moscow plummeted oil prices to their lowest point since the 2008 crisis. The oil industry is a significant source of tax revenue throughout Latin America most significantly affecting Colombia, Venezuela, and Ecuador.

El Salvador despite having no confirmed cases of the virus has barred all foreign entry to the country and imposed a 30-day quarantine on all citizens entering from abroad. The action has been cause for concern for many who believe there is not sufficient evidence of the outbreak to warrant such measures. President Bukele warned that the health systems are not at the same level as South Korea and Italy. Bukele is airing on the side of caution but may have stirred up unnecessary chaos.

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