Weekly Update: October 3, 2022

Roots In Murder and Distrustful Partnerships for Democracy

By William Lucht

Mohamad Hamdan Dagalo, known as Hemeti by the Sudanese, has recently attempted to align himself with the pro-democratic movement which still seeks peaceful democratization in the wake of decades of tragedy.

One may recall the rule of Omar Al-Bashir who took power in a military coup in 1989 and ruled Sudan for the next 30 years. A regime hated by many, the country revolted and attempted to oust Bashir. During the uprisings Bashir found no quarter from within the military ranks which aided in his rise. The military turned its back and the regime of Al-Bashir toppled. Though, democracy alluded the Sudanese people yet again as the army took over in the absence of the former autocrat.

The Transitional Military Council (TMC) served as a committee of ruling military elites. Protests which once moved to remove Al-Bashir turned their gaze, eventually erupting into what was known as the Khartoum Massacre where many men and women were sexually assaulted, raped, and dead bodies were thrown into the Nile. With protestors pressuring the TMC, and violence mounting, the TMC and eventually the military leaders accepted to share leadership with the group which basically represented the protestors, the Forces of Freedom and Change (FFC).

TMC and FFC agreed to a 39-month transition period in which the government would there after hold democratic elections. Both sides had seats on a joint committee called the Sovereign Council. General. Abdel Fattah Al-Burhan lead the military coup as well as the military leadership, and Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok represented the civilian aspect of the cabinet. Though during this transition period General. Abdel Fattah Al-Burhan seized power.

Enter stage left, Mohamad Hamdan Dagalo who backed the coup a year prior. A paramilitary leader who finds himself continuously avoiding the hangman’s noose, now is attempting to pawn himself off as a useful character to the pro-democracy groups across Sudan. “In recent weeks, Dagalo has declared the October 25, 2021 coup a failure due to the ongoing protests and a spiraling economy, and touted his efforts to reduce violence in Sudan’s neglected peripheral regions. But as the leader of the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), a group widely blamed for killing more than 120 protesters in the capital of Khartoum in June 2019, many in the pro-democracy movement do not trust Hemeti.” It is more likely that Dagalo  is seeking to align himself with a faction he sees as having the highest probability of offering him a gift. In this case, a role in governing peripheral regions in return for paramilitary support and protection offered to protestors. Regions Dagalo could run as mini fiefdoms with little oversight.   

Women at the Forefront: Protests in Iran Surge and Spill Into Iraq as Kurds Mourn the Loss of Jina Mahsa Amini

By Bushra Bani-Salman

Protests continue for nearly two weeks after the death of Jina Mahsa Amini. Amini was a 22 year old from East Kurdistan/ Western Iran who died in Iran’s police custody after she had been accused of violating the country’s modesty laws. Amini was allegedly beaten by the police and went into a coma. She passed soon after. 

What began as a protest against the morality police and the strict modesty laws in place for women, became a demonstration for Iranians and Kurds to express their grievances with the repressive Iranian government. The regime has made attempts to subdue these demonstrations through blocking the internet, detaining protesters and sympathizers, tear gas, rubber and real bullets on protesters. While these efforts have made it difficult for protesters to organize, they have not been able to stop the protests from spreading.

Protests have grown to reach the semi autonomous Kurdish region of Iraq, Erbil. Iranian forces have attacked the region with drones and artillery. Kurdish officials state there have been at least 18 deaths and more than 50 people have been injured, including children after one of the strikes hit a refugee camp. Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corp blames the Kurds for the unrest in Iran. Authorities in Iran said that 41 protesters have been killed and more than 1,200 people were arrested. According to Reporters Without Borders, nearly 19 journalists have been arrested across Iran. 

Iran’s President Ebrahim Raisi said on a televised interview that the demonstrations were orchestrated by foreign enemies who want to further divide the Iranian people from the government. US President Joe Biden publicly sided with protesters in his speech to the United Nations and imposed sanctions on Iran’s morality police. Additionally, the US administration allowed for satellite links and internet services to activate in support of the protesters’ access to information, after the Iranian government blocked the internet. This is different from previous President Barack Obama’s uncertainty to back the anti-government rally back in 2009.

Hurricane Ian & Persona Non Grata

By Elliott Cochran

Cubans have taken to the street after days without power post Hurricane Ian. Hurricane Ian hit Cuba on Tuesday and knocked out power for the entire island, by Friday half of Havana had electricity back. However, many people began banging on pots and pans in protest because of food spoilage. In Latin America it is common for citizens to express their frustration by banging on pots and pans. On Saturday, October 1, the protests continued as the blackouts continued. Cuban officials claim that 82% of customers in Havana have power but many more around the island are still without power leading to food spoiling, and citizens suffering in the heat during the day. The protests are a rarity in Cuba, a communist country that has not seen anti-government rallies since 2021 and before then 1959 when Castro rose to power. Due to the power crisis the Cuban government has requested emergency assistance from the Biden administration. Cuban authorities requested aid in order to focus on critical infrastructure like hospitals, water pumping facilities and sanitation. President Biden promised to work closer with Cuba upon his election, but the 2021 protests put a stop to the re-engagement. Depending on how Cuba handles the current protests will most likely have an effect on the aid request.

Nicaragua on Wednesday declared the European Union ambassador a “persona non grata” after the EU urged Nicaraguan president to “restore democracy.”  On Friday the Nicaraguan government cut diplomatic ties with the Netherlands ambassador and denied a the approval of an US ambassador.

Cuba Legalizes Same-Sex Marriage

By Ciara Perez

The referendum on Sunday, September 25th, was a vote on Cuba’s proposed Family Code. The Family Code is a 100-page document that proposed the legalization and allowance of same-sex marriage, same-sex couples to adopt children, surrogate pregnancies, the redefining of children and grandparent rights, the codification of domestic violence penalties, and the promotion of equally sharing domestic rights and responsibilities between men and women. There have only been four referendums since the 1959 Revolution in Cuba, and this is the second time that the government has tried to push for same-sex marriage. The first attempt in 2019 was shut down by the campaigning of religious leaders.

According to President Miguel Díaz-Canel, who was a big proponent for the Family Code, the hope behind this referendum was to abolish “prejudices and taboos that have been ingrained in Cuban society”. Prior to the election, the Family Code had undergone 25 drafts and had incorporated several thousand suggestions of what the public hoped to achieve. Concerns regarding the Code focused on the fact that it would outlaw corporal punishment, require parents to educate children and to respect authorities, and would “make it easier for anyone to report physical or verbal abuse of minors to law enforcement”.

Although the government led a campaign to show their support for the referendum in the weeks leading up to the vote, there was still strong resistance to the Code among religious groups, particularly among the Evangelical movement. There has also been criticism of the government for leaving the Code up to a popular vote rather than passing it through legislation. Critics believed that by leaving it to a popular vote, the government was shedding its responsibility to address the issue of gender and sexual discrimination if the referendum didn’t pass. Other critics believe that the government was trying to boost its image as a system of democratic centralism through the vote.

The results of Sunday’s vote, where roughly 8.4 million Cubans participated, demonstrated that an overwhelming majority were in favor of the Family Code. The results showed that almost one third, about 66.9%, of the Cuban population voted to ratify the code, while only 33% opposed it. This was a victory for the government, as there were two main concerns for voter behavior: 1) that people would choose not to vote as an act of dissent, or 2) they would vote, but they would vote ‘no’ or cast a blank ballet in opposition of the government. Many had hoped to prevent the government from gaining a victory and distracting from the economic and social crisis taking place in the country. Amidst these political changes, the government has been cracking down on civil society and political opposition. Since the July 11, 2021 anti-government demonstrations, over 1,400 people have been arrested for participating, which has led to a record high number of Cubans leaving the country.

Another Military Coup in Burkina Faso

By Osetemega Iribiri

In the early hours of Friday, September 30, 2022, sounds of gunfire were heard near the Baba Sy military camp, near the presidential palace in Kosyam. Military vehicles were deployed in several strategic locations in Ouagadougou and Radiodiffusion Télévision du Burkina (RTB), the national television station, had its programs interrupted, throwing the nation into a state of confusion. After hours of confusion, on Friday evening, military men in fatigues, bulletproof vests, and red berets, surrounded by hooded and helmeted men, appeared on the Radiodiffusion Télévision du Burkina (RTB). They announced that Captain Ibrahim Traore of the Movement for SafeGuard and Restoration (MPSR) had taken over. Consequently, the new junta dissolved the government, the transitional charter, and the National Assembly. The country’s land and aerial borders have been closed, with a 9 pm to 5 am curfew.

This coup is coming less than a year after Lieutenant-Colonel Paul-Henri Damiba’s successful coup on January 24, 2022. Burkina Faso became the epicenter of the violence that began in neighboring Mali in 2012. This violence has now spread across the arid expanse of the Sahel region south of the Sahara Desert. Lt Col. Paul-Henri Damiba took over power with the promise to restore security after years of violence carried out by Islamist militants linked to al Qaeda and the Islamic State. The new government, disappointed at Lt Col. Paul-Henri Damiba’s ability to stabilize security, promised to end the country’s security challenges. At the time of writing this report, Lt Col. Paul-Henri Damiba is at Camp Kamboinsin, the Burkinabe special forces base, and he is said to be doing well.

ECOWAS and the AU have issued a statement condemning the forceful takeover of power by calling it “unconstitutional.” Additionally, Moussa Faki Mahamat, the Chair of the AU, called on the military to restore the “Constitutional order by July 1, 2024, at the latest,” refrain from any violence against civilians, and assured Burkinabes of the continued support of the African Union to ensure peace, stability, and development of the country.

To understand the wave of military coups in West Africa, listen to the Patterson Perspectives.

VP Harris Goes to South Korea & the North Korean Response

By Camden Hanley

This week US VP Kamala Harris visited South Korea to meet with South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol. The trip “underscored that the United States is committed to defending [South Korea] …and welcomed [their] close co-operation.” The two leaders criticized North Korean proactive nuclear rhetoric and ballistic missile launches. In the spirit of this co-operation, the US and South Korea held joint naval exercises around Korean peninsula this week as well. Responses to potential further North Korean provocations were discussed, including trilateral co-operation with Japan.

In response to these exercises and the visit, North Korea launched ballistic missiles on three separate occasions. The first were fired on Sunday before the naval exercises began, the second two were fired on the eve of VP Harris’s visit, and the last two were launched hours after she left. This year, North Korea has launched a record number of missiles, launching more than 30 total. At the UN General Assembly, Pyongyang criticized the US and South Korea for their military exercises, saying they were bringing the peninsula to the “brink of war.” For their part, the US and South Korea defeat the exercises saying they aim to stabilize the region.

North Korea’s assertiveness over its nuclear weapons is growing, worrying the US and South Korea. Pyongyang recently passed a law declaring itself a nuclear weapons state. Kim Jong-un has vowed his country will not give up their weapons or engage in nuclear disarmament. The law allows for North Korea to use nuclear weapons to strike first, a deviation from previous policy that stated their nuclear weapons were only a deterrent for preventing war. US and South Korean intelligence worry the North Koreans may conduct a nuclear test soon. They believe they are waiting on a politically opportune moment, possibly between mid-October and early November.

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