Weekly Update: September 12, 2022

New Taiwan Arms Sale

By Camden Hanley

The US has approved a $1.1 billion arms package for Taiwan. The package includes 60 harpoon anti-ship missiles, 100 sidewinder air-to-air missiles, and logistics support for Taiwan’s Surveillance Radar program. The logistical support comprises the largest portion of the package at $665.4 million, with $355 million for the harpoon missiles and $85.6 million for the sidewinder missiles. This sale comes after the PRC conducted military exercises around Taiwan in response to Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to the island.

The PRC has said it “firmly opposes” the sale and that it “severely jeopardizes US-China relations and peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait.” The Chinese embassy spokesperson, Liu Pengyu, tweeted that the PRC will “resolutely take legitimate and necessary counter-measures.” As the PRC has long claimed the island to be a part of its sovereign territory, it claims the US is meddling in its internal affairs. In response, the US State Department has stated that sales are in line with longstanding US policy of providing defensive weapons to the island which are essential to Taiwan’s security.

This sale also highlights the fact that Taiwan is still waiting on previously approved arms packages dating back to 2017. If Taiwan’s security is to be maintained, arms packages can not be delivered on such a delayed schedule. To remedy this problem, the Taiwan Policy Act has been created. It is still in the legislative process, but it is expected to provide $4.5 billion in military aid to Taiwan and declare Taiwan a major non-NATO ally. This would help expedite arms sales while not quite being a mutual defense pact.

Is Solar Energy the Future of North Africa? 

By William Lucht

As climate change continues to affect our planet in multipolar ways, many governments have taken steps to achieve net neutral carbon emission or have started transitioning into renewable energy. While oil rich Middle Eastern states have enjoyed powerful influence in the energy sector, some up and comers like Egypt may be moving into a comfortable position in renewable energy, that is, if they manage to make meaningful strides in their solar industry. 

The Egyptian sun beats down on the sand virtually cloud free year-round, making region ideal for solar energy. The International Energy Agency (IEA) concluded that Egypt may be one of the world’s most fertile regions for solar energy. Some private industry investment firms seem to concur. The Benban Solar Park is one example where investment has come to match the intrigue of being on the precipice of a new prosperous venture. Benban is one of the world’s largest solar parks stretching approximately 650 km (400 miles) south of Cairo.

While there is the possibility of Egypt being on the forefront of a lucrative and beneficial market, Egypt faces obstacles they must remedy before they can move in any meaningful direction. The state has attempted to issue generous incentives for rooftop solar panel use with little success. The feed-in tariff is one example which would pay back to those who held energy surpluses. Regardless of attempted incentives, energy consumption still, for pragmatic and financial reasons, are non-renewables in the form of hydrocarbons. Egypt set high aspirations for transitioning into renewables in 2016 stating they wished for 20% of energy to come from solar and wind. The goal is far from being achieved as only 12% of renewable energy comes from hydro and a meager 3% comes from solar.

Egypt has struggled to balance its desire to move to a lucrative renewable venture with its widening population in need on energy today. According to the IEA, Egypt’s energy consumption has increased threefold in the last twenty years with a paralleled threefold increase in natural gas while there is currently very little increase in solar-power capabilities.

It is unclear whether Egypt will have the right social and political conditions to achieve its aspirations in this sector. Affordability for solar panels which hold enough charge at a large enough capacity to sustain the needs of families remains vastly overpriced for commercial use. Regardless of incentives, the hurdle of cost coupled with the immediate need for energy today, which Egypt can capitalize on with higher oil prices, creates a serious challenge to moving into this new era of sustainable energy. It would benefit the country and the region to make the transition a priority. High hopes, though, must be met with a realistic path of trajectory and a complex mix of luck and robust thriving infrastructural, social, and political conditions.    

An Iran Nuclear Deal in the Near Future Seems Unlikely

By Bushra Bani-Salman

The 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), more commonly known as the Iran Nuclear Deal, was a monumental agreement between Iran, Germany, and the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council (United States, China, France, Russia, and the United Kingdom). The JCPOA increased regulations and constraints on Iran’s nuclear program and in return, lifted sanctions and the weapons embargo on Iran.

In 2018, President Trump withdrew the US from the JCPOA deal, arguing that it did not serve its purpose. President Trump pressed Iran with sanctions in hopes for a different agreement. This gave Iran the ability to return to its nuclear activities and enhance its program over 3 years. After President Joe Biden took office in 2021, he said the US would go back to the JCPOA deal, if Iran went back to adhering to the agreement. 

Iran’s accelerated collection of uranium and its work on enriching the chemical element has raised concern in the Middle East, as well as the international community as a whole. Iran says its work on nuclear energy is for domestic energy consumption, but Director General of the UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Rafael Gross says, “it [Iran] has no justification to enrich uranium to 60 percent for civilian purposes.”

Fast forward to the present, it remains unclear whether parties are able to come to an agreement. Notable changes in world affairs could be a determining factor in how this is playing out. Some members of the UN Security Council have new leaders and the Russian invasion of Ukraine has proved a critical component in current international affairs. 

What remains certain is Iran’s inconsistency. A nuclear deal with Iran has been in negotiation for 18 months now, and when a finalization of the draft comes close, the Iranians add demands that set it back. One demand is assurance that the US will not pull out of the deal, like President Trump did in 2018. Another is that the US remove the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps as a terrorist group. Some believe that these demands are to prolong negotiations, giving Iran more time to enhance their nuclear program. 

New Chilean Constitution Rejected by the People

By Ciara Perez

On September 4, 2022, 13 million Chilean’s participated in a mandatory vote of the newly drafted constitution, which would drastically change the institutional structure of society and the rights of the people. The results were unexpected. Almost 62% of people voted against the proposed draft, compared to the 80% of people who had supported the idea of a constitutional referendum when it was proposed in October 2020. At the time, many people associated the idea of a new constitution with a feeling of hope for the future, but as the vote drew closer, the feeling of hope was replaced by uncertainty for many.

The process to change the Chilean constitution began in 2019 after student-led protests over the costs of public transportation “expanded into broader demands for greater equality and more social protections” (Politi, 2022). Chile’s current constitution was implemented in 1980 when the country was under the rule of military dictator Augusto Pinochet, and it lacks the foundation to provide greater rights to the people. The proposed constitution had 388 articles and was 178 pages long, and included “issues like gender equality, environmental protections and Indigenous rights throughout the document” (Politi, 2022). It would have made Chile “the guarantor of more than 100 rights, more than any other national constitution in the world”. One of the main reasons cited for the rejection of the proposed draft is that “it would have declared Chile a “plurinational” state, recognizing the rights of Chile’s indigenous populations” (Buschschlüter, 2022). The fact that the vote was mandatory means that many who had doubts about the draft chose to reject it in hopes that a new version would be more agreeable.

However, this is not the end of constitutional reform within Chile. President Gabriel Boris, a leftist who took office in March 2022, was a champion of the proposed draft. On Tuesday, after hearing the voice of the people, he began making “changes to his cabinet to bring in more moderate and politically experienced politicians”. The proposal had been “drafted by a constituent assembly largely made up of leftist activists” and people felt that it “would have undermined the balance of power, weakened the independence of the judiciary and scaled back equality for all citizens under the law” (Forero, 2022). In his new cabinet comprised of more centrists, the hope is that there will be better communication between the executive and legislative branches to reach a proposal that will unite the people of Chile.

One thing is for sure, a change to the constitution is desired by both the people and the government, so both will work until a drafted proposal can be agreed upon.

Will the International Community Hold China Accountable for Human Rights Abuses?

By Cameron Chambers

The Peoples Republic of China (PRC) has come under scrutiny this week as a U.N. report was released detailing the human rights abuses that Uyghurs in the Xinjiang region are facing. The United Nations Human Rights Office of High Commissioner released the report on August 31, 2022. This follows a long investigation that details how the Uyghurs have faced increasing discrimination in the autonomous region. Within the past decade, the PRC has created internment camps that are used to house Uyghurs. These camps are used as “reeducation” tools to stifle any dissident within the region. The report details several abuses such as torture, beatings, waterboarding, forced sterilization, religious repression and rape. Furthermore, an example of the abuse that the Uyghur people face  is that the rate of sterilization within Xinjiang was higher than in the rest of the nation, with 243 per 100,000 inhabitants being sterilized. This example is just one of many ways in which the PRC is being accused of abuse.

These human rights abuses are undertaken by the PRC’s counterterrorism effort, against what the government emphasized as a movement of extremism and violent terrorism. The PRC uses legal means to discriminate against the Uyghurs,  as documented in section 16 of the U.N. report

China has developed what it describes as an “anti-terrorism law system” composed of specific national security and counter-terrorism legislation, general criminal law, and criminal procedure law, as well as formal regulations pertaining to religion and “deextremification”.

Of note are the broad and unclear definitions that the PRC uses when describing terroristic acts, these include terms such as “propositions, social panic, and other objectives” as noted in section 18 of the U.N. report. These broad and unclear definitions allow for increased legal discrimination that the Uyghurs face.

The PRC, as stated by the U.N. report, has used legal and extralegal methods to stifle the human rights and freedoms of the Uyghur people. Methods such as imprisonment, reeducation, and ethnic repression are common. In response to the accusations of the report, the Chinese government has stated that “authorities in the Xinjiang region operate on the principle that everyone is equal before the law … and the accusation that its policy is ‘based on discrimination’ is groundless.” Furthermore, the government has stated that the camps are not internment camps but rather learning facilities that are in accordance with the law. The International response has been mixed, with no clear consensus on holding the government responsible for the alleged crimes.

A Bolstering National Security & the Indigenous Community’s Big Win

By Elliott Cochran

Mexico’s Congress voted to give control of the National Guard to the Army. Mexico’s National Guard is a civilian led organization. The decision has caused concern throughout the country due to the militarization of public security. The National Guard was created in 2019, and the security force was designed to help bolster national security. Mexico has struggled to create a law enforcement force that can combat the drug cartel while also being a civilian law enforcement. Opposition to the bill says the armed forces will have too much authority and could lead to abuse of power. President Lopez Obrador believes the bill will be beneficial because the National Guard is already trained within the Mexican military. However, the Mexican military has a laundry list of abuses. Edith Ferreto, executive director of Amnesty International Mexico, criticized the decision saying Mexico has attempted this before with terrible results.

In Ecuador, the Indigenous people have won big and will have a stronger say over oil, mining, and other projects that affect their land. Ecuador’s president was planning on a double oil production and mining expansion. The ruling allows the Indigenous community to refuse any project, only in exceptional cases the government can move forward with a rejected project.

On Elections and the Peaceful Transfer of Power, Part Two & Reactions to the Death of Queen Elizabeth II

By Osetemega Iribiri

As a follow-up to last week’s report on Kenya’s presidential election: Kenya’s Supreme Court, led by Chief Justice Martha Koome, outrightly dismissed Raila Odinga’s claims of election rigging and irregularities. The decision was a stinging defeat for Odinga, who has persistently contested for the presidential seat five times in a roll and challenged the results thrice at the law court. The Court unanimously upheld the results declaring William Ruto Kenya’s President-Elect. He won 50.49% of the vote against his rival, Raila Odinga’s 48.85%.

On Monday evening, after the Supreme Court verdict, President Uhuru Kenyatta, the outgoing president, said he would “oversee a smooth transition to the next administration.” “Unfortunately, President Kenyatta has not seen it fit to congratulate his vice-president and president-elect,” said William Ruto in an exclusive Wednesday interview with Christiane Amanpour. William Ruto, 55, will be sworn in on Tuesday, September 13, 2022, as Kenya’s fifth president since independence from Britain in 1963. He has a single term of five years and can seek reelection for another.

Additionally, there have been divided reactions to the death of Queen Elizabeth II.

It was during a tour to Kenya that later-to-be-crowned Queen Elizabeth II, 25, was informed of her father, King George VI’s, passing. He had sent her there in the wake of the Mau Mau campaign. Seven (7) decades later, her reign has ended, and the world mourns her death.

Her death has sparked mixed feelings about the Queen and the British Empire she represented. African Union Commission President, Moussa Faki Mahamat, tweeted, “Our deepest condolences to the Royal Family, the people of the United Kingdom, and the countries of the Commonwealth on the death of Her Majesty Queen. Likewise, other African leaders have sent their condolences to the royal family. Africans, home and abroad, have also taken to social media to share fond thoughts and memories of the queen.”

Conversely, not all Africans share enthusiastic sentiments. Her death has reopened the deep wounds of slavery, imperialism, and colonialism experienced by many Africans during the British occupation of Africa. In their view, the queen is the symbol of Africa’s exploitation. Furthermore, they believe she had the opportunity to right the wrongs by acknowledging, apologizing, and ensuring reparations were paid for the atrocities of the British Empire, but she never did. They referred to horrendous cruelties and economic deprivation such as the brutal 1950s crushing of Kenya’s Mau Mau rebellion, Nigeria’s Biafra war, and a huge diamond, also called the Star of Africa, which the British royal family acquired from colonial South Africa in 1905, which the queen never returned despite calls to do so.

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