Weekly report: July 28th, 2017


July 31, 2017

Police block the road leading to the Parliament building in Male, Maldives, Monday, July 24, 2017. (AP Photo/Ahmed Shurau).

Cambodia launched a free mobile application with the comprehensive history of the Khmer Rouge. Since seventy percent of Cambodia’s population is under thirty, developers felt it was imperative to educate the younger generations about the development of the Pol Pot-led regime, which started as a guerilla group in the 1950s. Thanks to funding by the EU and the Rei Foundation, the app will be introduced in 80 schools and 20 universities in October.

These efforts coincide with the trials of the last two surviving top leaders of the Khmer Rouge in the Cambodia Tribunal. One is the second-in-command and chief ideologist of the regime, Nuon Chea, and the other is its former head of State, Khieu Samphan — both were sentenced to life imprisonment during the first part of the trial in 2014


ISIS is losing more and more territory in Syria. The Islamic State is struggling to mount an effective defense of the city of Raqqa, its headquarters, as local forces make rapid headway in ousting the militants, the U.S. military said. The U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) said they have captured 40% of the city since June 6, when a ground assault began.

Meanwhile, US president Donald Trump and Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri held a joint press conference on Tuesday. Trump mentioned that the US will support “the humanitarian needs of displaced Syrian citizens as close to their home country as possible”, thus allocating new funding to Lebanon, in support of Syrian refugees there.


The Maldives:
In the Maldives, an ongoing political crisis is unfolding after President Abdulla Yameen ordered troops to barricade Parliament on July 24. Opposition lawmakers have been physically barred from entering and assaulted with pepper spray. This comes after the unified opposition declared a no-confidence vote for July 24 against the Speaker Abdulla Maseeh; the Opposition claims it has support from 45 out of 85 MPs.  The situation escalated after last week, when Yameen arrested and jailed the son of Abdul Maumoon Gayoom. Gayoom is the former authoritarian leader who has now joined the opposition against Yameen.


Democratic Republic of the Congo 
This week, the UN issued two declarations related to the DRC. The first focused on the mass graves found in the insurrection-ravaged Kasai region: for the first time, the UN has directly suggested that government forces dug most of these graves. Congo’s authorities, however, have repeatedly denied this accusation. The second declaration urged Congo’s government to hold presidential elections by the end of the year. Current president Kabila has been trying to postpone these elections, blaming the lack of funds and voter registration.

Meanwhile, as the conflict in Congo continues, the Congo Central Bank predicted a steep rise in 2017 inflation, from a previous forecast of 33.12% to 44%. Moreover, Ntabo Ntaberi Sheka, the founder and leader of a Congo rebel group who is wanted for crimes against humanity surrendered Wednesday in the country’s North Kivu province, the United Nations mission in Congo said.


The United States of America
As republicans failed to once again pass a successful health care reform bill, President Trump shifted tactics and has now set his sights on repealing Obamacare. The so-called “skinny repeal” that republicans attempted to pass would have stripped 16 million people of healthcare insurance by 2026 and eliminated the mandate requiring all Americans to have health care coverage. Although Trump secured a victory Monday after John McCain flew in to cast a yes vote, allowing for debate to begin health care legislation reform, republicans were dealt a major blow after the skinny repeal failed to pass in a 49-51 vote. As a result, all three Obamacare repeal bills have now failed to pass.

Meanwhile, President Trump also announced Wednesday that Transgender people would no longer be allowed to serve in the military, citing costs of gender reassignment surgery and hormone therapy. Soon after, hundreds of protestors took to the streets of New York, D.C. and San Francisco to speak out. Protestors held signs saying such things as “Resist” and “Trans is not a burden.” Although the military has yet to act upon Trump’s announcement, many currently out service men and women fear for their future in the military. Trump’s announcement is seen as a significant reversal in White Policy, after previous President Barack Obama had earlier declared that Transgender people would be allowed to freely serve in the military.


On Thursday, the Venezuelan government banned protests and said violators would be punished with 5-10 years in prison. This came on the second day of a 48-hour national strike, organized by the opposition, in an attempt to thwart the upcoming vote on Sunday that would give President Maduro’s government power to rewrite the constitution. Thousands are fleeing the country leading up to the vote, and the protest ban demonstrates an escalation of repression by the Maduro government.


This week, it is reported that Zimbabwe’s First Lady, Grace Mugabe, has urged her husband, President Robert Mugabe, to appoint an heir. Over the past year, President Mugabe has flown to Singapore at least three times in order to receive medical treatment. Although the government has attempted to downplay the severity of Mugabe’s health problems, many are starting to think that Mugabe may not survive until even the next president presidential election.

In other news, almost 100 Zimbabwean civil rights groups are protesting a recent ruling that would alter Zimbabwe’s current constitution. The previous constitution had been amended twenty times, and people fear that Zimbabwe’s current constitution might go the same way. This has only cemented fears that the government has no intention to undergo reform.