Watchlist: France and Italy's Feud Thaws as Recalled Ambassador Returns

Week of February 18th, 2019

Italian Deputy Prime Minister Luigi Di Maio pictured in 2018 (center). Di Maio's meeting with leaders of the Yellow Vests movement in France initiated the diplomatic spat between the two nations.


Boko Haram Continues Attacks Amidst Nigeria’s Campaign Process

Nigeria's presidential election was delayed over the weekend due to logistical concerns of the Independent National Electoral Commission, drawing outrage from incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari. Buhari questioned the necessity of the weeklong electoral delay and called for an investigation into the matter, as well as implying that the electoral process was under siege by "vote riggers." Furthermore, President Buhari announced that he'd given the country's military and police the power to kill those trying to interfere with the election, a move which the opposition party, the People's Democratic Party, called a "direct call for jungle justice." The electoral commission postponed the election five hours before voting was scheduled to begin on Saturday, due to an inability to transport ballots to certain rural areas of the country. MOUSTAFA EL-KASHLAN


Suicide Bombing in Indian-Controlled Kashmir

Last Thursday, a major attack took place in Indian-controlled Kashmir. A suicide bomber linked with the terrorist group Jaish-e-Mohammad took the lives of 46 paramilitary police officers in an attack on a police convoy near the city of Srinagar. This attack triggered an angry response from the Indian government; even though Pakistan denies any links to Jaish-e-Mohammad or this attack, the government of PM Narendra Modi has pinned the blame for the attack on Pakistan. India has since revoked Pakistan’s status as a “Most Favoured Nation” for trade and increased tariffs on Pakistani goods to 200%. Tension between these two age-old rivals is sky high, as many in India call on the government to respond to the death of its soldiers, and with general elections on the horizon in three months, PM Modi might be pushed into a very harsh response to this latest development in Kashmir. SAMUEL ROSENBLUM.


Indigenous Communities in Brazil Fear Violence as Bolsonaro Hints at Flouting Land Rights

On February 13th, 2018 at a meeting in Bolivia of the Organization of American States’ (OAS) Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, a group of Brazilian indigenous community advocacy organizations presented an unsettling state of affairs. After the election of the new Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro on October 28th, 2018, violent attacks against indigenous communities substantially increased, with 16 such attacks (including homicides, arson, and stonings) occurring in less than three months. Many indigenous people specifically blame Bolsonaro and his cabinet appointees for this violence, alleging that they are starting the process of weakening government institutions, such as the National Indian Foundation (FUNAI), which protect native land rights, in favor of opening up indigenous lands of commercial agriculture. According to Angela Amanakwa Kaxuyana from the Coordination of Indigenous Organizations of the Brazilian Amazon (COIAB), one of the organizations present at the Commission meeting, violence against indigenous groups is not a new phenomenon, but the “difference is that now these attacks are institutionalised, as…the president himself incites hatred” (ALJazeera). However, these attacks are only the latest in an intensifying trend of disrespecting indigenous Brazilian land, with land incursions by farmers increasing by 62% from 2017-2018. The government response to the events occurring in the OAS Inter-American Human Rights Commission meeting has not been clarified yet and much remains to be seen regarding president Bolsonaro’s future policies towards native Brazilians. TUHIN CHAKRABORTY


France Ambassador Returns to Italy, Thawing Diplomatic Feud

On Friday, February 15th, French Ambassador Christian Masset returned to Italy following a bitter diplomatic quarrel between the two countries. France had initially recalled Masset from Italy in protest of a meeting between Italy’s deputy prime minister, Luigi Di Maio, and leaders of the antigovernment yellow vest movement in France on Tuesday of the previous week. During his meeting with the protesters, Di Maio expressed his solidarity with the political ideology of the movement and signaled his willingness to cooperate with yellow vest representatives in the European Parliament elections in May. France viewed the meeting as a backhanded political provocation by a supposed ally. France acknowledged that its diplomatic relations with Italy over the past two weeks had reached their lowest point since the end of World War II. Even before Di Maio’s meeting, Italian officials had been openly critical of French President Emmanuel Macron due to differences over immigration policy and support for the European Union. Now that he has returned to his ambassadorial residence in Rome, Masset welcomes the chance to quell the recent dispute through dialogue, and to that end, Di Maio has made statements distancing himself from the violent elements of the yellow vest protest movement. DANIEL EVANS

Middle East

Suicide Bomb Strikes Iran Near Pakistan Border

Iran is still reeling from a car bombing on Wednesday which killed 27 members of the Revolutionary Guard in the southeast province of Sistan-Baluchestan. It is one of the deadliest attacks on Iranian soil in recent years. Jaish al-Adl, a terrorist organization operating from Pakistan, claimed responsibility for the attack. This is the latest and deadliest of a number of attacks that the group has carried out in Iran. On Sunday, the Iranian government summoned the Pakistani ambassador Rafat Masoud and lodged an official complaint in response to the attack. Iranian foreign minister spokesman Bahram Ghasemi stated that Iran had conveyed their expectations to Masoud that Pakistan would “make a serious and decisive action” against the group. Additionally, Iranian parliamentary speaker Ali Larijani has demanded that the Pakistani government be held accountable for the attack. MAYA ZREIK

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