Watchlist: On the Border

Week of October 22

Guard posts in Panmunjom. (Source: Wikimedia Commons)


Congolese Rebels Attack Ebola Epicenter of DRC, Killing 13

Congolese rebels attacked the epicenter of the DRC’s ebola outbreak this past Saturday, killing 13 and kidnapping a dozen children. The rebels were identified as members of the Allied Democratic Forces, a rebel group which has killed hundreds in recent years as part of an ongoing conflict against the DRC’s government. Attacks such as this have stalled efforts to combat the outbreak of ebola, as they have blocked the arrival of aid and have resulted in the deaths of medical workers. The attack came after officials of the World Health Organization announced last Wednesday that the spread of ebola in the DRC was not considered to be an international health emergency. A total of 139 deaths have been reported since the outbreak began on August 1st. The outbreak, the 10th in the DRC in the past forty years, came shortly after another outbreak had been declared to be over. MEGAN ROSSITER

Violent Outbursts in Kasuwan Magani

The deep and pervasive divides in Nigeria’s regional, religious, and ethnic identities was elevated recently in a clash in Kasuwan Magani, a town in the northern Kaduna state. The conflict was allegedly started between wheelbarrow porters in a market, leading to 55 deaths. Beneath the original disagreement are tensions that are perpetually close to the surface between the Muslim and Christian inhabitants. The largest ethnic groups in Nigeria include the Hausa-Fulani, Yoruba, and Igbo. Hausa-Fulani practice Islam as their major religion, the Yoruba is mixed between Islam and Christianity, and the Igbo are majority Christian. Religious differences in Nigeria has lead to arguments over structure of society, culture, and day to day interactions. These unsettled issues can emerge in deadly violent outbursts like in Kasuwan Magani. The clash led to 22 arrested, 55 dead, and countless others injured. Consequently, the town is now under round-the-clock curfew. Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari expressed his concern for Nigerian citizens’ tendencies to settle disputes through violence, encouraging peaceful coexistence and calling on local leaders to try to ease tensions and solve issues in a diplomatic manner. RACHEL MILNER


Weapons removed from both sides of Korean De-Militarized Zone

North and South Korea, along with the UN forces that oversee the DMZ along the border, agreed today to withdraw firearms and guard posts in the village of Panmunjom, which rests just North of the border. Like much of the recent progress in North Korea’s relations to the world, it is largely symbolic. Panmunjom, while no longer a strategic point in the DMZ, is the village where the 1953 armistice was originally signed. The agreement comes in the wake of South Korean President Moon Jae-in’s third trip to Pyongyang. He said the North is prepared to dismantle a key missile site if the West takes reciprocal action such as humanitarian and financial aid. Despite an agreement months go, North Korea has yet to diminish its nuclear supply or disclose information on number of and location of sites. WILL FEUER


The Fate of the Amazon, and our Planet, Takes A Dim Turn

Brazilian presidential frontrunner, Jair Bolsonaro, is feared by many activists in Latin America as the single biggest threat to the region’s environment in modern history. He has made his position on regulation crystal clear— “Where there is indigenous land, there is wealth underneath it.” In numerous public statements, Mr. Bolsonaro has signaled that he will not just relax environmental regulations to spur economic growth, as many mainstream Brazilian conservatives support, but completely end them. His plan, to dissolve Brazil’s Environmental Ministry and withdraw “every square inch of territory marked for indigenous peoples”, is a stark departure for a nation which just recently pledged to completely end illegal deforestation over the next decade. Home to the planet’s single most effective scrubber of carbon dioxide emissions, the Amazon, Mr. Bolsonaro’s policies may single handedly hasten, if not ensure, that climate change will harm billions across the globe. Brazilian voters, meanwhile, overwhelmingly cite healthcare, violence, and unemployment as their top concerns, neglecting the one issue which will exacerbate all those problems if left unaddressed. LUKE JACOBS


Italy’s Budget Proposal Triggers Economic Woes

Last Monday, Italy’s government approved a draft budget that projected an increase in its deficit to 2.4% of national GDP. The anti-establishment coalition government between the 5 Star Movement and the League party plans to boost welfare and pension spending while cutting taxes in 2019. Their proposal violates the European Union’s Stability and Growth Pact terms, however, which require shrinking deficits if a country’s debt-to-GDP ratio exceeds 60%. Italy’s is 130%. Unless Rome changes its course, it is headed for a standoff with the EU which could end in economic sanctions. Investors have already responded to the turmoil by treating Italian credit as a riskier investment, as evidenced by heightened Italian government bond yields not seen since 2014. This means the government must pay higher interest on its national debt, making borrowing costlier. The confluence of forces at play caused Moody’s, the ratings agency, to downgrade Italy’s credit score to the lowest investment grade level on Friday, one step above a “junk” rating. Italy’s government may not want to cave to EU demands, but market forces might leave them little choice. DANIEL EVANS

Middle East

Jordan to take back land held by Israel

King Abdullah II of Jordan announced on Sunday that he intends to reclaim two territories which have been under Israeli control since 1948. The territories—al-Baqura and al-Ghumar—comprise about 1,000 acres of farmland and were leased to Israel under the 1994 peace treaty. The king said that he would end the lease on the October 25 renewal date, and added, “Our decision is to end the annexes of the peace treaty based on our keenness to take all that is necessary for Jordan and Jordanians…Al-Baqura and al-Ghumar are Jordanian land and will remain Jordanian.” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has stated that he will attempt to contest the end of the leases. The announcement comes after mounting pressure from civil service groups and activists in Jordan to end the agreement. Last week, 87 members of parliament signed a petition calling on the king to end the lease. Abdullah II’s decision is expected to be met with positive reactions from the Jordanian public. MAYA ZREIK

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