Asia/Africa update: December 10 2018

UNITED NATIONS

ASIA

The UN on Monday adopted the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly, and Regular Migration, absent 29 countries who have decided to reject the accord or are debating whether to reject it. It’s rare that an international treaty like this generates so much drama, but such is the power of racism I guess. Anyway, now that it’s signed everybody can move on to ignoring it as they do with most international law.

GEORGIA

The Georgian government has, in something you almost never see, reportedly rejected the new US ambassador, Bridget Brink. Apparently she’s too big a fan of former Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili for comfort. Lest you be tempted to blame the Trump administration for nominating some manifestly unqualified bundler who offended the host country, Brink is a career foreign service officer who has twice served in diplomatic posts at the US embassy in Tbilisi. There appears to be scant evidence of her supposed affinity for Saakashvili, but the decision to reject her was presumably made by Georgian billionaire Bidzina Ivanishvili, since he really runs the country, and he’s rich enough and powerful enough that the things he does don’t have to make any sense. Ivanishvili has in the past expressed a belief that the US in general is too pro-Saakashvili for his taste. There’s little the US can do here, as far as I know–if the host government won’t accept an ambassador, that’s pretty much that.

ARMENIA

The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe says that its election observers concluded that Sunday’s parliamentary vote in Armenia was both free and fair. Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan’s victory was so thorough, as it turns out, that Armenia’s former ruling party, the Republicans, didn’t cross the minimum threshold to win a single parliamentary seat. This means that not only will Pashinyan’s One Step Alliance control over 70 percent of the new parliament, it won’t really have an opposition party to face–the two other parties that cleared the threshold aren’t believed to be especially opposed to his agenda.

AFGHANISTAN

Civilians in the rural northern province of Faryab are reportedly being blockaded by the Taliban and have appealed to the Afghan government for emergency food aid. The Taliban has been squatting on the main roads in Faryab for two months in an effort to control Afghanistan’s land routes into Turkmenistan, and the situation has become critical.

NORTH KOREA

The US Treasury Department sanctioned three senior North Korean officials on Monday over alleged human rights violations.

The Wall Street Journal reports that international efforts to shut down North Korea’s military assistance programs are failing:

Inside one of Uganda’s air bases behind rings of security lurks a resource the nation pledged two years ago to jettison—North Korean soldiers.

The commandos, from North Korea’s special-operations division, are covertly training Uganda’s elite troops in skills from martial arts to helicopter-gunnery operations, say senior Ugandan military officers.

The instructors are among the North Korean soldiers, companies, contractors and arms dealers operating around the world in violation of United Nations sanctions, helping Pyongyang skirt a Washington-led “maximum pressure” campaign, say military officers and foreign diplomats.

AFRICA

LIBYA

Libya’s National Oil Company has been forced to shut down exports from its El Sharara oilfield in southwestern Libya, after local tribesmen seized control over the facility over the weekend. That will reduce Libyan oil production by almost 400,000 barrels per day, and threatens operations at one of the country’s main refineries. The tribes, who have been heavily impoverished by the civil war and weren’t exactly rolling in loot before that, are demanding a greater share of oil revenue to invest in hospitals and other infrastructure in that part of the country.

NIGERIA

The Washington Post reports on vigilante groups that have popped up to police the ongoing farmer-herder conflict across central Nigeria:

Nigeria’s police and security forces are underequipped, underpaid and often deployed to unfamiliar areas of this diverse country of almost 200 million people.

Vigilante groups have proliferated out of necessity. They have formed a national umbrella organization that says it has nearly 350,000 members. They fill a giant law enforcement vacuum, but they also represent a homegrown approach to peacekeeping.

They build trust by settling not only potentially explosive disputes between farmers and herders, but also smaller ones. The process often resembles a court proceeding. On a recent day, vigilantes spent hours smoothing out a disagreement over money among women trying to raise chickens collectively.

The volunteers are everyday people, mechanics and bricklayers, men and women, and Muslims and Christians, and they represent all the plateau’s ethnic groups, including the two largest, the Berom and Fulani. Most farmers here are Christian and Berom, while most herders are Muslim and Fulani.

RWANDA

Rwandan authorities say their army intercepted a group of armed fighters attempting to cross into the country from the Democratic Republic of the Congo on Sunday and drove it off, killing four fighters in the process. It’s suspected that the fighters were part of the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda, which is made up primarily of ex-génocidaires from the 1994 genocide who were driven into the DRC by the Tutsi counterattack.

DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF THE CONGO

The European Union renewed its human rights sanctions against 14 senior DRC government officials on Monday, including Joseph Kabila’s choice to succeed him in this months (still hypothetical) presidential election, Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary. So that will be awkward if Shadary wins. Kabila warned of repercussions against the EU, but, uh, it’s hard to imagine what those might be.

Hey, speaking of human rights violations, Rudy Giuliani has reportedly found a new gig for himself:

On a July evening, Trump administration officials and allies, including the president’s personal lawyer, Rudolph W. Giuliani, gathered with investors atop the Hay-Adams hotel overlooking the White House for a cocktail reception featuring a short presentation by the Democratic Republic of Congo’s special envoy to the United States.

An invitation for the reception billed it as an opportunity to learn about “the role Africa plays in gaining access to critical minerals, such as cobalt” and to discuss “the strategic relationship” between the United States and the nations of Africa.

In fact, the reception was part of an aggressive $8 million lobbying and public relations campaign that used lobbyists with ties to the Trump administration to try to ease concerns about the Congolese president, Joseph Kabila, whose government was facing threats of additional sanctions from the Trump administration for human rights abuses and corruption.

The lavish cocktail party was one example of a lucrative and expanding niche within Washington’s influence industry. As President Trump’s administration has increasingly turned to sanctions, travel restrictions and tariffs to punish foreign governments as well as people and companies from abroad, targets of those measures have turned for assistance to Washington’s K Street corridor of law, lobbying and public relations firms.

Nice to see Rudy land on his feet like that. Good for him.

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