CANVAS Weekly Update – October 19, 2020


October 19, 2020

Dear friends,

CANVAS is pleased to bring you another weekly report! This today’s report covers the Bolivian elections, Belarus’ authorization to use deadly weapons against protestors, US sanctions on Nicaragua, a ceasefire in Iraq, and our weekly Conflict Update!

Conflict Update

The recently-implemented ceasefire between Armenia and Azerbaijan over the Nagorno-Karabakh region was broken soon after it went into effect.
Governor Adegboyega Oyetola of the Osun state of Nigeria escaped an assassination attempt after marching with End SARS protestors.
Ex-president Almazbek Atambayev of Kyrgyzstan was re-arrested after being freed by protestors last week.
Indonesia is entering its third week of mass protests in Jakarta and other cities against the newly-passed omnibus law.

Coronavirus [UPDATE]

According to Johns Hopkins University, the United States surpassed 8 million coronavirus cases on Friday, the highest total number of infections in the world. Living samples of the coronavirus were found by the CDC on frozen food packaging in China’s port city of Qingdao, confirming the “theoretical possibility” that the virus could be transmitted via contaminated objects. Rare coronavirus complications of multi-system inflammatory syndrome usually reported in young children manifested in an adult in New York City, calling into question the commonality of the syndrome in COVID-19 positive patients.


On Sunday, the first election since the ousting of former president Evo Morales was held in Bolivia. Though the weeks leading up to the election were fraught with tension, the voting processes remained mostly peaceful, despite the slow count and the long queues outside of some polling places. The two leading candidates are Luis Arce, from Morales’ Movement Towards Socialism Party (MAS) and former president Carlos Mesa, from the Community of Citizens. The Supreme Electoral Tribunal of the country decided to not publish exit polls in order to prevent panic similar to that of the country’s most recent election, in which Evo Morales was accused of committing election fraud. The decision to not release polling updates has prompted calls of concealment and concern from Morales and other MAS party members. However, the candidates have pledged to respect the outcome of the election in order for a peaceful transition of power.


In response, Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, the leader of Belarus’ opposition, has given embattled President Lukashenko an ultimatum: resign by October 25, or the anti-government movement will launch nationwide strikes. Her statement elaborated on this threat, saying, “all enterprises will begin a strike, all roads will be blocked, [and] state-owned stores will no longer have any sales.” This came in response to an announcement by the Interior Ministry earlier in the week that police had received authorization to use lethal weapons against protestors. Security forces used flare guns and water cannons against demonstrators this week.


Following talks held in South Sudan, the Sudanese government signed an agreement with the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N) to integrate the major rebel group into the national armed forces over the coming 39 months. The deal stipulates that rebel forces will operate under the Sudanese army’s command for the next 14 months while staying in their current positions in the Nuba Mountains and the Blue Nile, after which they will be stationed across the country for 13 months before being completely integrated. The deal has been lauded as “historic.”


After the US threatened to close its embassy in Baghdad several weeks ago, Iran-backed militias have agreed to a conditional ceasefire with American interests in the nation, so long as the US provides a timeline for the full withdrawal of its troops from Iraq. Meanwhile, there have been protests in Iraq’s Shengal region following the signing of an agreement between the Kurdistan regional government and Baghdad that was drawn up as part of UN-backed negotiating efforts. The minority Yazidi population says it was excluded from discussions and has since called on international organizations to “use their influence to preserve the existence of Yazidi society.”

Hong Kong

Following last week’s uproar over a teacher who was fired for “promoting Hong Kong independence” in her primary school classroom, the Secretary of Education announced that the Bureau was reviewing multiple other cases brought against teachers, likely on similar charges. In a similar move to quash dissent, anyone who assumes public office in the city now has to “confirm in writing or take an oath to uphold the Basic Law and swear allegiance to the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region” or else they will be fired. Eventually, all current public servants will have to do the same; if they refuse, their decision will “become a factor in deciding promotions and other career development.”


A high court ordered that opposition legislator Joanah Mamombe be released from Chikurubi Maximum Security Prison, where she was held for nearly two weeks prior to facing trial for “public violence” and violation of public health measures. In other legal news, activist Godfrey Tsenengamu turned himself in to the police last Friday after appearing on the police wanted list for “inciting public violence.” His bail hearing has been postponed. Additionally, the Zimbabwean government has formally requested that South Africa extradite former minister Saviour Kasukuwere, who faces several corruption-related charges for his time in office.


The United States imposed a new wave of sanctions on Nicaraguan government officials and institutions this week, targeting “Attorney General Ana Julia Guido De Romero, Secretary of the Presidency Paul Herbert Oquist Kelley, and financial institution Cooperativa De Ahorro Y Credito Caja Rural Nacional RL.” Despite objections from the USA and other international actors, a body within the Nicaraguan parliament said it had deemed the controversial “foreign agents” bill “favorable to approve.” If passed, the bill would require all Nicaraguan citizens working with foreign entities to register with the government and be subject to considerable restrictions and scrutiny. ”


Following the arrest of Chinese scholars in the United States, Chinese officials threatened to detain Americans in the country if the Justice Department proceeds with the prosecution of said scholars. The scholars, members of the Chinese military, are accused of including false information on their visa applications. Unrelatedly, disappeared Hong Kong protester affectionately known as “Grandma Wong” has reported that she was taken to mainland China and ordered to renounce her activism, followed by a “patriotic tour” in which she was forced to take photographs of her with the Chinese flag and sing the Chinese national anthem.


The United Nations arms embargo on Iran was lifted on Sunday, allowing the country to now buy and sell conventional weapons despite protests from the United States. The lift of the embargo was a part of the 5-year timetable described in the Iran nuclear deal signed in 2015. Despite being hailed as a “momentous occasion” by the country, Iran will not see an arms-buying spree, claiming that “Unconventional arms, weapons of mass destruction and a buying spree of conventional arms have no place in Iran’s defense doctrine.”