Weekly Update: October 24, 2022

Its Xi’s Party Now

By Camden Hanley

This week the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) held their 20th Party Congress. A Party Congress is a large meeting held every five years where, among other things, the people who will be on the Politburo Standing Committee (PBSC) for the next five years are revealed. Those who are on the PBSC are considered to be the top leaders in China. Currently, there are seven members on the PBSC, though it has fluctuated from five to eleven members in the past. Due to the one-party nature of the Chinese state, PBSC decisions effectively have the force of law behind them, which is why foreign observers follow its membership so closely.

At the 20th Party Congress, it was confirmed that Xi Jinping will serve an unprecedented third term as the leader of the PRC. It had become a political norm in China that leaders only serve two five-year terms as leader and then retire allowing a successor to take over. This started with Deng Xiaoping as an effort to prevent one man from recreating personalistic rule within China like Mao Zedong did, something Deng clearly considered bad for China. Xi set the stage for his third term at the 19th Party Congress in 2018 when he had presidential term limits removed from the country’s constitution.

However, it is not just the third term that confirms Xi’s political power, the members of the new PBSC also confirm this. Two incumbent members of the PBSC remained on this edition of it, those being Wang Huning and Zhao Leji. The four new members are Li Qiang, Cai Xi, Ding Xuexiang, and Li Xi. All of these men are considered to be Xi Jinping loyalists. Noticeably, none of the new members are a clear candidate to be a successor to Xi, possibly indicating his intention to remain in office beyond this third term. In the previous iteration of the PBSC, there were men who were considered to from a faction within the CCP that isn’t loyal to Xi. However, these men did not return to the current PBSC despite not reaching the CCP’s unwritten age limit of 68. These include former premier Li Keqiang and Wang Yang. Their exclusion is another example of Xi’s power within the party, effectively marginalizing any factions who aren’t loyal to him.

The new PBSC was not the only interesting thing that happened at the Party Congress. During the closing ceremony, Hu Jintao, Xi Jinping’s immediate predecessor, was escorted out of the Great Hall of the People where the Congress is held. He seemed to be resistant to leaving and exchanged a few words with Xi as he was leaving. This is extremely peculiar for such an event which is normally meticulously stage managed. Explanations range from the official statement from Chinese-state controlled media outlet Xinhua stating Hu insisted on attending the closing ceremony, but was not feeling well and was accompanied to another room to recover to speculation that this was just another show of Xi’s political power to humiliate a leader of an opposing faction. We may never be certain of the true reason it occurred, but it is definitely a noteworthy event.

Something we do know for certain is that Xi Jinping is here to stay for the foreseeable future. However, some experts claim this concentration of power may cause some backlash. For example, if there is a policy failure, there is no one else to blame but Xi and his political allies. At this moment, the PRC does not lack challenges with a domestic economy that is the weakest it has been in a long time and an external environment that is growing more hostile, this newly minted administration does not have much room for error. It remains to be seen whether Xi can guide the Chinese state through the coming storms.

West Africa: Ghanian Cedi Plummets; 33 of 36 Nigerian States Flooded

By Osetemega Iribiri

The Cedi, Ghana’s national currency, has depreciated by 47% against the dollar, making it the worst-performing currency to the dollar. Further, its annual inflation stood at 37.2% in September, the worst in twenty-one (21) years. Consequently, members of the Ghana Union of Traders Association suspended commercial activities in the nation’s capital, Accra, for three days starting from Wednesday. This action was their message to the government to express their frustration over the weakening currency, surging inflation, high lending rates, over 50% reduced profit margin, and increased cost of living. Ghana’s central bank raised its lending rate by 10% to tame price growth, bolster the currency and lure back foreign investors. Unfortunately, this move increased traders’ borrowing costs.

In July, the Nana Akufo-Addo-led government engaged the International Monetary Fund (IMF). It seeks a $3 billion relief package to inject into the economy. Although Ghana’s finance ministry is trying to fast-track this process, the response has been slow as the IMF requires a debt sustainability plan before lending. Ghana has also witnessed the exit of foreign investors over concerns about the country’s debt sustainability.

Ghana is not just going cap in hand to the IMF; it is seeking ways to improve the economy. Ghana Statistical Services revealed, despite the economic downturn, the economy grew by 4.8% in Q2 2022, an upward progression from 3.4% in Q1 2022. This was a consequent effect of the cumulative growth in the manufacturing, crops and cocoa, mining and quarrying, information and communication, and education sectors.

Ghana is the second largest economy in West Africa, following Nigeria, the largest in the continent.

Nigeria is also facing economic setbacks. In a preemptive move, Nigerian Liquefied Natural Gas (NLNG) declared force majeure due to Nigeria’s high flood water levels. In a tight global market, the company is temporarily cutting off its 22 million tonnes/annum production capacity export terminal at Bonny Island, Rivers State.

NLNG was developed to monetize Nigeria’s vast quantity of flared gas oilfields. Also, it became an effective alternative for Europe, especially with winter drawing near, as Russian gas supplies fell. Portugal relies heavily on NLNG gas. NLNG primarily supplies gas to Galp Energia, a Portuguese gas company. Nigeria is heavily reliant on petroleum revenue. Therefore, this shutdown will plummet Nigeria’s IGR.

The flooding began in June 2022. Currently, 33 of Nigeria’s 36 states are flooded. Over 600 people dead, millions displaced, thousands injured, and road networks cut off. Homes, classrooms, health care centers, private and commercial buildings, food storage facilities, and farmlands are destroyed, and food supply chains are disrupted. Citizens have resorted to canoes as means of transportation in affected areas. This is the deadliest flood in twelve (12) years.

In the form of persistent rainfall, climate change is partly to blame for this flood. The other factor is the release of water from Cameroon’s Lagdo Dam. The dam began operating in 1982 and is located on Cameroon’s side of River Benue. Its construction was intended to supply electricity to the parts of Nigeria and allow the irrigation of 15,000 hectares of crops downstream. Still, states in Nigeria’s North-East, namely Borno, Adamawa, and Taraba, are usually flooded whenever water is released. As a countermeasure, the Nigerian government was to embark on a similar project along River Benue. The purpose was to contain the flood water released upstream from Lagdo Dam and prevent flooding and the attendant consequences. However, the dam, which was to be in Adamawa State, was never built.

This incident affects Nigeria’s economy, security, education, and health sectors. Health authorities warn of potential cholera and malaria outbreak in affected areas. This incident compounds Nigeria’s humanitarian crisis and increases the number of internally displaced persons (IDPs) already fueled by Boko Haram insurgency.

Blood of The Covenant is Thicker Than Water of The Womb

By William Lucht

In Sudan’s Blue Nile State, ethnic clashes have hit a new death toll with 150 killed including elderly, women, and children. Clashes reportedly broke out last week over land disputes between the Hausa people and other rivals. Fighting has centered around the “Wad al-Mahi area near Roseires, 500km (310 miles) south of the capital Khartoum.”

The Blue Nile has been shaken by continuing escalations in combat between ethnic minorities who receive little attention or support from the current ruling military regime. This lack of support has been criticized by the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). The region is home to dozens of different ethnic groups, and differences between tribal groups have continued to escalate into armed conflict. Fighting in July between the Hausa and Berta people centered on land disputes. Hausa members stated that individuals with heavy weapons had been harassing them but stopped shy of directly blaming any specific group.

The OCHA has cited conflicts in this region have displaced tens of thousands, and the most recent conflict has added an additional 1,200 displaced. Conflict in the southeastern part of Sudan seems to be spreading to nearby regions. OCHA has stated that nearby West Kordofan has suffered from killings resulting in 19 dead and dozens wounded due to armed conflict last week. Fighting conducted by the “Misseriya and Nuba ethnic groups erupted amid a land dispute near the town of Al Lagowa.” In the midst of the fighting, the West Kordofan governor visited the town but had to evacuate due to incoming artillery fire from surrounding mountain peaks.

Southeast Sudan has been plagued by violence in this most recent decade. This region has suffered continued and spreading conflict since the coup last year which ended a short lived democratic transitionary period. Many experts cite the increased level of violence to a power vacuum. Additionally, Sudan’s security has further been injured by compounding energy shortages caused, in part, by the war in Ukraine.  

Haiti: Is U.N. Intervention Enough?

By Ciara Perez

Under Prime Minister Ariel Henry, Haiti has been in decline. “Haiti has seen worsening inflation, fuel shortages, kidnappings, massacres, displacement, and escalating clashes between heavily armed gangs” and in August, Haitians began protesting for Henry’s resignation.

Last month, armed gangs blocked the main fuel terminal in the capital of Port-au-Prince and severed access to aid routes. The people took to the streets in protest of the higher fuel and food prices, as half the country is now experiencing acute hunger. Not only are the people hungry, but the country is also combatting a cholera outbreak. “Lack of access to clean water and sanitation, pervasive food insecurity, and inadequate health care create perfect conditions for a dangerous cholera outbreak” according to researcher Cesar Munoz.

Prime Minister Henry has asked for international intervention in the form of specialized armed forces, though this idea is not welcomed by many Haitians due to a turbulent history. If this request is honored, it will be the fifth time that military intervention was needed in Haiti.

The UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres has also called for armed action to free the port being held by gangs and to allow for a humanitarian corridor, though the UN would not be leading these efforts. Past UN peacekeeping missions in Haiti brought an outbreak of cholera that killed nearly 10,000 people, so the U.S. is leading the talks for now. The U.S. and Mexico have drafted a resolution imposing financial sanctions on Jimmy Cherizier, freezing his assets, and limiting international travel. Cherizier leads a coalition of nine gangs, which are directly responsible for the increased violence, unrest, and economic hardship hitting the Haitian population right now.

Last week, this resolution was unanimously approved by the UN Security Council and the arms embargo was enacted. At the vote, Haiti’s UN Ambassador Antonio Rodrique said that “these measures contribute to an end to the violent and deadly activities of these armed groups, marauding in the country, and causing numerous victims and mass population displacement”.  This resolution sends the message that the international community is watching and will see order restored to Haiti.

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