Asia/Africa update: May 9 2018

ASIA

ARMENIA

New Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan told reporters on Wednesday that he’s open to holding talks with Azerbaijan, but he’s made it pretty clear that he’s committed to upholding Armenia’s claim on the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region. Pashinyan visited Nagorno-Karabakh only hours after assuming the PM office on Tuesday, and says he wants the enclave’s leaders to participate in any Armenia-Azerbaijan talks. That point in particular has been a non-starter for Azerbaijan.

AFGHANISTAN

Two police stations in Kabul were hit by attackers on Wednesday in separate incidents that were each claimed by a different group and in which at least five people were killed in total. ISIS claimed responsibility for attacking a police station in western Kabul while the Taliban took credit for a later attack in the center of the city. Interestingly, Afghan authorities are rejecting both claims and say the attacks were both carried out by the Haqqani Network (which, OK, is still sort of Taliban) in collaboration with Pakistan’s Lashkar-e-Taiba terror group. LeT was founded in Afghanistan during the Mujahideen days and does have links to both the Taliban and al-Qaeda, though it usually focuses more on Kashmir and India.

INDIA

Two Indian paramilitary soldiers were killed on Wednesday when a bomb exploded at a Border Security Force post in Manipur state. There’s been no claim of responsibility.

MALAYSIA

Defying incredibly long odds, Malaysia’s opposition Pakatan Harapan coalition won Wednesday’s election, taking at least 115 seats–just 3 more than needed for a majority. The ruling Barisan Nasional coalition had only 79 seats, though there are apparently still a few seats left on the board. This is a seriously stunning outcome, and not just because it puts former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad back in the PM office at the age of 92 (!). It ends 62 years of Barisan Nasional control. Now it’s up to Mahathir whether he will follow through on his campaign promise to investigate soon-to-be-ex PM (and Mahathir’s former protege) Najib Razak over his role in the 1MDB scandal. The extremely elderly Mahathir is probably only serving as an interim PM while the new opposition government works to get a pardon for its actual leader, the currently jailed Anwar Ibrahim. Once Ibrahim is freed it seems likely he’ll take over, though obviously nothing’s settled until it’s settled.

Mahathir_2007
Mahathir in 2007, when he was a sprightly, uh, 81 (Wikimedia | amrfum)

INDONESIA

At least six people–five guards and one inmate–have been killed in a riot at a high-security prison outside of Jakarta that may have been caused by ISIS. The situation is still developing, but ISIS’s media arm has already claimed responsibility and produced video footage from inside the facility to back up that claim. The riot itself appears to finally have been brought under control as of Thursday morning.

NORTH KOREA

Pyongyang has in fact released three US citizens it was holding, and all three will be returning to the US on the flight bringing Secretary of State Mike Pompeo back from his brief visit. Even though Pompeo apparently doesn’t know how Korean names work, I think you have to give some kudos here. If all he and Donald Trump manage out of this flurry of North Korea activity is getting these three guys released–and as long as they don’t make anything worse, of course–then that’s still something commendable.

Speaking of that flurry of activity, CNN is reporting that Trump’s meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un will take place in Singapore. Site selection has been among the tricky details that US and North Korean officials have had to work out in advance of the summit. Trump plans on announcing the meeting’s date and location officially in a few days.

While analysts disagree over what message the Iran nuclear deal kerfuffle is going to send to Kim (maybe Trump Means Business but also maybe The US Can’t Be Trusted), the main likely sticking point for their talk continues to be everybody’s varying definitions of “denuclearization”:

During a meeting in Tokyo of the leaders of China, Japan and South Korea on Wednesday, all three mentioned “denuclearization” during remarks to reporters. Yet it is clear they have different ideas about how it would be achieved.

On Tuesday, for example, when Mr. Kim flew to Dalian, China, to meet with Mr. Xi, the two leaders outlined a far more drawn-out process for denuclearization than is favored by either the United States or its ally Japan.

Denuclearization is “a very broad Rorschach test” that can “mean anything and everything to everybody,” said Kent Calder, director of the Center for East Asian Studies at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies in Washington.

AFRICA

LIBYA

Of all the things preventing Libya from stabilizing, you probably wouldn’t think Malta was one. And yet, here we are:

Maltese authorities are failing to rein in illegal fuel smuggling, turning the island into a haven for traffickers of oil from Libya.

 

International observers have warned that it is contributing to destabilisation in Libya and costing the country nearly $1bn (£740m) a year in lost revenue.

 

An investigation by the Daphne Project, a consortium of 18 media organisations that has taken on stories pursued by the murdered Maltese journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, has found evidence that Malta failed to act on calls by Italian authorities to try to stop the illicit trade.

NIGERIA

After leaving Nigeria for yet another medical visit to London, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari is once again facing calls to disclose more information about his health. Buhari apparently visited his London doctor covertly last week on his way home from the United States, compounding the calls for disclosure. Buhari has no legal obligation to come clean about whatever ails him, but he is 75 and has made four health-related trips to London, a couple of them quite lengthy, since being elected president. So some public curiosity is understandable.

SOMALIA

An al-Shabab suicide bomber killed ten people on Wednesday in a market in the town of Wanlaweyn in southern Somalia.

DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF THE CONGO

There is now a confirmed ebola outbreak happening in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. It’s believed that 17 people have died of hemorrhagic fever over the past five weeks. Not all of them necessarily have had ebola, but lab tests have confirmed at least two cases of ebola which is enough to declare the outbreak. The outbreak may have been going on for some time before it was discovered, and there are concerns that it could spread into the DRC’s larger cities.

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Author: DWD

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