Asia/Africa update: July 9 2018



Secretary of State Mike Pompeo made a surprise stopover in Afghanistan on Monday on his way back from North Korea. He gushed about the success of the US operation there even as he had to fly in and out in a matter of a few hours under extremely heavy security and without making it public knowledge beforehand. Yeah, sounds like things are going great. The only thing of substance to Pompeo’s visit was his call for the Taliban to participate in peace talks.


Holy crap is this disturbing:

BuzzFeed News interviewed 10 people in the exiled Uighur community who were targeted by Chinese state security after they moved overseas. They come from all walks of life — from waitstaff and fruit sellers to businessmen and government officials. BuzzFeed News is not naming the majority of these people to avoid endangering their family members who still live in China, because the government regularly punishes Uighurs’ families for real or perceived transgressions committed while abroad. Their accounts, as well as dozens of WeChat and WhatsApp messages and voice recordings that they provided to BuzzFeed News, shed light on the methods and processes the rank and file of China’s security apparatus use in surveilling Uighur exiles and fomenting deep-seated mistrust within their communities.

That China spies on and pressures its exiles — particularly ethnic minorities and those involved in activities deemed political — is not new. China has used such tactics since at least the 1990s to put pressure on those it believes are seeking to undermine the state. But Uighur exiles, Western academics, and advocacy groups say this pressure campaign has gotten far more aggressive over the past two years and has been bolstered by digital surveillance tactics.


Things are going so well on the North Korea front that Donald Trump is tweeting about it again:

There was no “contract,” handshake agreements don’t mean shit, and North Korea has never acknowledged agreeing to unilateral denuclearization, but other than that what a great tweet. We’re already at the finger-pointing stage and it’s been less than a month since the Singapore summit, and blaming China even though it’s become pretty clear over the past few years that Beijing only exerts a limited amount of sway over Pyongyang.

I fear that this situation is approaching my worst-case scenario, which I talked about before the summit but have tried not to think too much about since then: Trump getting pissed off, because he thinks North Korea is screwing around, and lashing out. Pompeo’s weekend visit to North Korea should have been a wake up call that this process is going to be long and grueling because Pyongyang, at the end of the day, doesn’t really want to give up its nuclear deterrent. They’d love to negotiate an end to international sanctions, but there are levels of sanctions that they can live with, and talking with the US helps reset sanctions to a lower level of pain. Even if those talks go nowhere, if they can be stretched out it’s in North Korea’s interest to do so.



Nigeria’s opposition parties announced on Monday that they plan on unifying behind one candidate to challenge President Muhammadu Buhari in next year’s election. That group of parties includes a faction that split from Buhari’s All Progressives Congress just last week to form the “Reformed-All Progressives Congress.” Obviously the election is a ways off but this could be a bad sign for Buhari’s reelection chances.


The brand new South Sudanese peace deal lasted all of a day before rebel leaders apparently shot it down on Monday. Riek Machar’s SPLM-IO party rejected the plan that would set up a transitional government with Salva Kiir as president and four regional vice presidents, including Machar, underneath him. It’s demanding stronger structural limitations on Kiir’s authority. This is a very strange situation, because Machar himself seemingly agreed to this arrangement over the weekend in Uganda, and it’s unclear whether the SPLM-IO is rejecting it on his orders or without his approval.


The Ethiopian and Eritrean governments formally agreed to reopen relations with one another on Monday, the result of talks between Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki. The United Nations has naturally praised the accord and may now begin lifting international sanctions against Eritrea that have been in place since the 2000s.


Astonishingly, the Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals (which has assumed the remaining functions of the former tribunals for both Yugoslavia and Rwanda) may soon release three notorious Hutu génocidaires: Aloys Simba, Dominique Ntawukulilyayo, and Hassan Ngeze. All three were directly involved in the slaughter of Tutsis in Rwanda in 1994 and were convicted by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda. The New Yorker’s Jina Moore explains:

The first decisions in paroling genocidaires cited domestic parole regulations, which often grant eligibility after two-thirds of a sentence has been served; over time, as Meron has noted, the Tribunals have come to rely on two-thirds of time served as an eligibility standard. But critics question any parole system for the world’s gravest crimes. Early release of rehabilitated criminals may make sense in states that are trying to reduce the costs of incarceration, and where authorities can monitor the activities of parolees. But the criminals convicted by international tribunals have perpetrated a scale and degree of harm that domestic regulations were not designed to account for; furthermore, they are not supervised after their release, and there are no legal grounds for detaining them should they once again begin stoking ethnic hatred or worse. In a letter to the court, the Rwandan government has adamantly protested the request, writing that the men’s crimes “offend all standards of humanity, morality and decency” and continue to harm Rwanda and Rwandans a quarter-century later. Damas wholeheartedly agrees. “This may not be something the whole world is ready to understand—it’s just my opinion—but, if we are going for justice, Simba cannot be let out,” he told me. “It would be unfair for the small people who took those machetes, who came running after us, who had no idea of whatever was happening up the chain of command.”


DRC President Joseph Kabila has postponed a visit by UN Secretary General António Guterres that was supposed to have taken place this week, and he’s reportedly refusing to meet with US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley. Haley I can understand and there may be a simple explanation for delaying Guterres’s visit, but cue renewed speculation that Kabila is trying to screw with December’s planned election.

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