Watchlist: Wallonia Holds Out

Week of October 24th

A view of Iquala, Mexico, where 43 students were kidnapped in 2014.


South Africa to Depart from the ICC

This week, South African officials announced their intention to withdraw from the International Criminal Court (ICC). Their justice minister, Tshililo Michael Masutha, released a statement saying the ICC and the Rome Statute that created the court are in conflict with parts of customary international law including diplomatic immunity. The move follows concerns the ICC has unfairly targeted African nations. They are not the first country to express their concern with the court and its role on the continent. Both Burundi and Kenya have voiced their desire to separate from the ICC in the past month as their leaders have faced scrutiny for their behavior. Presidents Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya and Pierre Nkurunziza of Burundi are suspected of committing human rights violations during their respective elections, and South African officials refused to arrest Omar al-Bashir of Sudan at the request of the ICC in 2015. As a country familiar with the importance of transitional justice, South Africa’s relationship with the ICC and their decisions in the upcoming weeks will certainly encourage the international community to reconsider its opinion of the court.

Government of Burkina Faso Prevents Coup

On Friday, the government of Burkina Faso announced that it thwarted its second attempted coup in just over a year. The coup, attempted on October 8th, was organized by 30 members of former President Blaise Campoare’s Elite Presidential Guard. Campoare was removed from power in 2014 as the result of popular demonstrations against his attempt to amend the constitution in order to extend his 27-year tenure as president. Forces loyal to Campoare, who had been accused of widespread abuses throughout his presidency, also staged a coup in September, 2015. However, the orchestrators of the coup surrendered after just a week in the wake of widespread protests and the opposition of many military leaders. The most recent attempted coup is a worrying sign of further political instability in a country that already ranks among the poorest and least literate in the world. Burkina Faso ranks 183rd out of 188 countries on the Human Development Index and its citizens continue to suffer from malnutrition, extreme poverty, and a poor educational system. None of these problems can be solved without increased political stability in Burkina Faso.


Update on Deceased Dhaka Café Attack Suspect

Abdur Rahman tried to escape a police raid earlier this month as he jumped off a five-story balcony, later dying from his severe injuries. Investigators now believe that Rahman may have orchestrated the terror attack in the Dhaka café this past July, which left twenty-one hostages and two police officers dead following an eleven-hour siege. Documents and letters found during the raid have allowed authorities to determine that Rahman was the leader of the Jamaatul Mujahideen Bangladesh, a prohibited jihadist group that has pledged support to ISIS. This group’s attacks have previously focused on religious minorities. Although ISIS took responsibility for the July attack, officials still have no hard evidence that ISIS has taken a stronghold in Bangladesh. Look out for more updates on possible ISIS related activity in Bangladesh.


#NiUnaMenos Protests in Argentina

A massive women’s protest took place this week on Wednesday throughout Argentina, with women taking to the streets in a protest against the violence towards women that is rampant in their nation. It is being called Miércoles Negro, or Black Wednesday, on social media. The protest was in direct response to the vicious and disturbing rape of 16-year-old Lucía Pérez in the coastal city of Mar del Plata. Pérez was so badly tortured and physically assaulted that she went into cardiac arrest and died from internal injuries caused by the rape. The protest was organized by the #NiUnaMenos (Not One Less) women’s movement in direct response to the rape case. The movement has taken hold of the entire nation, causing a national debate about the role of women in a country known for its machismo, or hypermasculinity. The women were also protesting human trafficking, and calling for increased economic independence for women. #NiUnaMenos has forced women’s issues into the spotlight and will hopefully spur important conversations and change in the following weeks and months.

Arrest of Mexican Police-Chief

Two years since the mysterious disappearance of 43 Mexican college students, the police-chief of Iguala, the town in which the students were last seen, has been detained. The chief, Felipe Flores, had been on the run for the past two years as a fugitive. Flores is thought by Mexican authorities to be complicit in the disappearance, under the orders of the then-mayor of the town. The chain of events leading to the disappearance remains unclear, however the official report by the Mexican government maintains that the students were handed over to a drug cartel, assassinated and subsequently burned. This report is disputed by the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights, which claims Mexican authorities prevented access to the area for investigation and tortured witnesses in addition to tampering with the evidence. However, the arrest of Flores is hailed as a breakthrough by the Mexican government. Still, people across Mexico remain skeptical of a corrupt government that has already hid evidence in the investigation. More information will surface in the coming weeks, which can perhaps help to settle the remaining unanswered questions of the disappearance of the students.


Tensions Rise in Srebrenica over Local Election Results

Local election results from October 2 show that Mladen Grujičić, an ethnic Serb, has been elected mayor of the Bosnian town of Srebrenica, the site of a 1995 massacre of Bosnian Muslims by Bosnian Serbs that has been recognized as genocide by the international community. To the dismay of Bosnian Muslims in Srebrenica and throughout the Balkans, Grujičić denies that the 1995 events were genocide, although he does acknowledge that the killings occurred. Conversely, the incumbent mayor, Ćamil Duraković, himself a Muslim, recognizes the genocide and has even refused to concede the race to his opponent. Additionally, several groups representing Bosnian Muslim interests, including the Mothers of Srebrenica group, have called for an annulment of the election results. As a vote recount gets underway in the Bosnian capital of Sarajevo and tensions continue to rise in Srebrenica. Watch out for the final election results and for reactions from the governments and people of Bosnia and Serbia.

CETA Negotiations to be Emblematic of EU’s Political Dexterity

The European Union and Canada’s free-trade deal, the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA), will be signed on Thursday after 7 years of negotiations. However, the agreement faces last-minute obstacles as Belgium’s Wallonia region refuses to back the deal. Talks between the EU and Canada broke down Friday and the EU issued a Monday deadline to overcome Wallonia’s opposition. Although all 28 EU governments support the CETA, Belgium cannot assent without the consent of its five sub-federal regions, including Wallonia. The CETA would eliminate 98% of tariffs between the EU and Canada, and supporters claim it would increase trade by 20%. Critics believe it would lower product standards, favor big businesses, and harm European farmers – a sensitive issue in Wallonia. As the EU and Belgium seek a solution this week, watch out for further negotiations between their administrations and Wallonia. Should they be successful, it would be a landmark deal, the first between the EU and a G-7 country. Just months after Brexit, however, a failure will be a major embarrassment as the EU attempts to prove itself as a progressing and cohesive international entity.

Middle East

Could General Michel Aoun End Lebanon’s Presidential Vacuum?

Lebanon took a major step towards ending its two yearlong presidential vacuum last week when former Prime Minister Saad Hariri endorsed General Michel Aoun, leader of the Free Patriotic Movement, the largest Christian bloc in the Lebanese Parliament. The presidential vacuum began in early 2014 at the conclusion of Michel Suleiman’s presidential term and the Lebanese Parliament has since failed to elect a President in at least 40 attempts. Lebanon’s unique sectarian-style government requires that the President be a Maronite Christian, the Prime Minister be a Sunni Muslim, and the Speaker of Parliament be a Shi’ite Muslim, making the process of selecting leaders a difficult task. Mr. Hariri’s support for Michel Aoun has raised hopes that the presidency will finally be filled, given that Mr. Hariri leads the March 14 coalition, traditionally opposed to the Aoun and Hezbollah led March 8th coalition. Although Mr. Hariri’s surprise endorsement certainly hints at ending the vacuum, Mr. Hariri, himself a Sunni, is facing internal dissent over his decision and Aoun continues to face resistance from Speaker of Parliament Nabih Berri. However, as the Parliament votes on the presidential question for the 46th time since 2014, there is more hope that Lebanon will finally have a President.

Ceasefire Brokered in Yemen

A 72-hour ceasefire began in Yemen on Wednesday night in order to allow humanitarian aid to enter the nation. This briefly halted the 18-month conflict between Houthi rebels and a Saudi coalition seeking to reinstate the ousted Yemeni president. As of September 2016, 82% of the population is in need of humanitarian aid and 52% are food insecure. This is largely due to a Saudi naval blockade, which has kept food, water, diesel, and medical supplies from reaching Yemen. Malnutrition has spiked and civilians are dying of simple diseases due to the lack of supplies. The ceasefire was called after a Saudi airstrike killed over 140 people at a funeral home in the capital of Sanaa. The ceasefire, which the UN hoped would lead to extended peace talks, held despite small clashes since Wednesday. Both the Houthis and Saudi Arabia have accused the other of violating the ceasefire, which has been largely successful in allowing aid to reach previously inaccessible areas. Despite calls from the UN envoy to extend the truce, Saudi airstrikes on the capital of Sanaa resumed on Sunday morning.

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