Asia/Africa update: October 12-13 2017

ASIA

AFGHANISTAN

The United Nations says that civilian casualties from American and Afghan airstrikes have risen 50 percent over last year. This comes amid the implementation of Donald Trump’s “bomb the shit out of them and by them I mean whoever” strategy for winning the War on Terror, but notably mostly happened before Trump launched his new “what we’ve been doing, but with More Bombing” plan for Afghanistan. So you should very much expect things to get worse before they get better.

PAKISTAN

Nawaz Sharif has already been drummed out of Pakistani politics, but suddenly things aren’t looking so hot for his biggest rival, opposition leader Imran Khan. The country’s election commission on Thursday issued a warrant for Khan’s arrest on contempt charges.

In a little good news, a Canadian-American family of five who had been abducted by the Haqqani Network in 2012 were rescued by Pakistani forces earlier this week and have now left the region on their way back to the US.

MYANMAR

Is Aung San Suu Kyi finally doing something to help the Rohingya? Maybe:

Myanmar’s de facto leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, has announced plans to set up a civilian-led agency, with foreign assistance, to deliver aid and help resettle Rohingya Muslims in Rakhine state.

 

A close adviser, speaking with Aung San Suu Kyi’s knowledge, said the proposed body had been long planned, and was part of an attempt to show the civilian government she leads, rather than the Burmese military, can deliver humanitarian relief, resettlement and economic recovery.

She’s sending advisers out to tell reporters how “deeply affected” and “appalled” she is by the violence in Rakhine, would would ring less hollow if she hadn’t, for example spent years refusing to use the word “Rohingya” for fear of portraying them as anything other than alleged undocumented Bangladeshi migrants. And that’s where this initiative could collapse–Suu Kyi could easily demand proof of Myanmar citizenship as a condition of resettlement, yet Myanmar’s government has for decades specifically denied citizenship to the Rohingya.

Meanwhile, the Myanmar army plans to investigate its own conduct toward the Rohingya. I bet it will take a very objective look at itself. I wonder if they’ll look at the killing of at least 45 Rakhine state Hindus whose bodies were discovered two weeks ago. The military says they were killed by the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army, but Hindu refugees in Bangladesh have claimed that it was the military itself that did the killing.

INDONESIA

The Washington Post’s Vincent Bevins reports on Indonesia’s disturbing crackdown against the LGBT community. Authorities have had to get creative because, outside of Aceh province, Indonesian law does not directly criminalize homosexuality:

“We’ve increasingly seen police targeting LGBT groups using pornography laws,” said Ricky Gunawan, the director of the Community Legal Aid Institute in Jakarta. In fact, last week’s incident was the third of its kind that has been reported this year. In April, police in the city of Surabaya broke up a party at a hotel for similar reasons, arresting 14 men, and in May, 141 men were arrested at a sauna in Jakarta.

 

“These communities have always been targeted by police, but we’ve seen this worsen since 2016, when a number of high-level politicians made statements portraying LGBT communities as immoral or a threat to the nation,” Gunawan said.

It’s an established and troubling fact that extreme interpretations of Islam have been gaining credence in Indonesia, and this repression is part of that larger trend.

PHILIPPINES

Rodrigo Duterte wants you to know that he only suspended police involvement in his war on drugs on account of you candy-ass liberals, the kind of hippie wimps who for some reason don’t want police running around murdering people with impunity. You’ve really disappointed him, I hope you’re happy. Duterte also threatened to expel all European ambassadors from the Philippines in 24 hours, as one does, because apparently a group of European parliamentarians from the Progressive Alliance visited the country and made some comments about Manila losing its United Nations membership. Duterte for some reason, probably because manufactured outrage and police murders are the only things that get him up in the morning, took this as a threat from the European Union or something, instead of the inane ramblings of a handful of people who have absolutely no ability to follow through on their talk. Needless to say, Duterte’s handlers later clarified that he’s not expelling anybody.

NORTH KOREA

North Korea’s (probable) test of a thermonuclear bomb last month may have wound up destroying its Punggye-ri nuclear test site. A series of minor localized earthquakes since the test suggests that the blast destabilized Punggye-ri’s underground caverns, which could now be at risk of total collapse.

It looks as though China has responded to United Nations sanctions against Pyongyang by substantially curtailing its trade relationship:

On Friday, China’s General Administration of Customs announced that China’s imports from North Korea fell 37.9 percent in September, the seventh successive monthly decline. China’s exports to North Korea dropped a more modest 6.7 percent in September, Huang Songping, spokesman for the customs department, said at a news conference.

 

Although there is room for considerable skepticism about official Chinese data — and the numbers can swing wildly month to month — there is reason to believe that there has been a recent slowdown in trade, experts say.

Chinese traders along the North Korean border are apparently telling reporters that the authorities are really cracking down on their businesses.

AFRICA

LIBYA

The 5800 would-be migrants left stranded by fighting between Libyan militias in Sabratha are in desperate shape according to the head of one of the detention facilities to which they were taken:

About 70 percent of the migrants brought to the center needed medical attention and were not receiving it, Muftah said. One migrant clinging to the bars of the door of one the hangars called out as a reporter passed, saying “Please. We’re dying, we’re dying”.

 

Muftah said there were many children and some pregnant women in the center, several of whom had given birth since arriving.

 

“We appeal to all international organizations and the Libyan state to consider the humanitarian condition of these migrants,” he said.

LIBERIA

Early results in Liberia’s presidential election show former footballer George Weah leading in 11 of the country’s 15 counties. Whether he’ll get over 50 percent and avoid a runoff is a question that will have to wait for final results to be certified in a couple of weeks.

ETHIOPIA

Six people were killed on Wednesday when protests in the country’s Oromia region turned violent. There’s no word on how they were killed. Massive protests took place in Oromia back in 2015, but a state of emergency had tamped them down until it was lifted in August.

SOMALIA

Somalia’s defense minister, Abdirashid Abdullahi Mohamed, and its army chief, General Mohamed Ahmed Jimale, both resigned on Thursday in the wake of several successful al-Shabab attacks in southern and central Somalia in recent weeks.

KENYA

Trouble is brewing in Kenya in the wake of Raila Odinga’s move to withdraw from the October 26 presidential election. Uhuru Kenyatta’s government banned opposition protests on Thursday, after Odinga called for daily demonstrations over the need for reform in the country’s electoral commission. Two protesters were killed by Kenyan police on Friday. Odinga said Friday that his withdrawal should have canceled the October 26 vote and that if the vote proceeds without him it would be a “selection” rather than a lawful election.

CHAD

Chad, the surprise addition to Donald Trump’s latest travel ban, is yanking hundreds of its soldiers out of Niger, where the terrorism problem is severe enough that, as you may recall, American soldiers are getting killed while out on patrol. Chadian authorities won’t say if the withdrawal is because of the country’s inclusion in the travel ban, but it’s definitely because of the country’s inclusion in the travel ban. Now, Chad’s lousy record on things like human rights and corruption make it a problematic partner for the United States, but it’s hard to deny that its forces have played a substantial role in Sahel and West African counter-terrorism efforts. So its decision to pull back on those efforts in retaliation for the travel ban is going to have an impact.

ZIMBABWE

Zimbabwe’s ruling ZANU-PF party is planning a special vote to give Robert Mugabe a new five year term as party leader, in an effort to give him more control over the chaotic process of determining his successor. Or at least that’s what they’re claiming. If you subscribe to the theory that Mugabe is undead, then it makes perfect sense to give him another five years as party leader because, hey, he’s not going anywhere.

SOUTH AFRICA

Some old corruption charges against President Jacob Zuma are about to land in his lap again:

The Supreme Court of Appeal upheld a lower court’s ruling that a 2009 decision by state prosecutors to drop the charges against Zuma was irrational. The president, who has faced calls for his resignation because of a series of scandals, and the National Prosecuting Authority had appealed the lower court’s ruling.

 

The charges against Zuma were initially instituted in 2005 before he became president and after former business partner Shabir Shaik was convicted of fraud and corruption, according to the appeals court. They are partly linked to alleged bribes that Zuma received in connection with a South African arms deal while he was deputy president.

SEYCHELLES

Seychelles media reported Wednesday that a man who returned to the country from Madagascar has been diagnosed with plague. As far as I know this is the first report of Madagascar’s recent plague outbreak spreading to another country. Anyway have a good weekend!

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