January 15, 2021
CANVAS is pleased to bring you another weekly report! This week covers elections in Uganda, the storming of the U.S. Capitol, arrests in Zimbabwe, and tensions on the Sudanese – Ethiopian border.
In Brussels, protests over the death of a young Black man who died in police custody turned violent and 116 people were arrested, including 30 minors. According to police, demonstrators set fires, damaged police vehicles, threw projectiles, smashed a window and door to a police station and injured several officers. Four people remain in custody and two of them are minors. In Uganda, elections took place on 14th January despite the UN secretary general’s concern regarding reports of violence and tension in parts of the country preceding the election. The government ordered internet service providers to block access to social media two days ahead of the election, which opposition leader Bobi Wine alleges is part of a campaign of mass fraud. Wine also made claims on 15th January that his residence is “under siege” by the military. Reporters attempting to visit Wine’s home for a press conference were turned back by security forces. Journalists have also been forcibly removed from the national election tally center and according to Wine, the majority of his polling agents across the country were prevented by police from observing the election despite the fact that under Ugandan law, every candidate is granted representation at polling locations. North Korea has unveiled a new type of submarine-launched ballistic missile. The weapons capabilities remain unclear due to a lack of testing. Coronavirus Update: There is growing concern over three new variants of COVID-19. One mutation believed to have originated in South Africa has been deemed more contagious. It has spread to over 20 countries. Another variant, discovered in the United Kingdom, also considered to be more contagious, has sent the country into a lockdown. The UK variant is believed to have spread to 50 countries as of Friday. The last variant of concern has been discovered in Brazil, where it has been linked to a rapid increase in cases. There are reports of severe oxygen shortages in the country. Vaccine rollout has been slow in many of the 50 countries in the process of distribution. It is difficult to determine whether infrastructure or supply limitations are at fault. There are serious concerns that lower income countries have not received the vaccine due to a prioritization of higher income countries.
On January 6th the Electoral College was counting the vote to approve President Elect Biden as the 46th President of the United States was taking place in a joint session of Congress. Supporters of President Trump were gathered in Washington to support his claim that the election had been taken from him. The “Save America” rally was going on as President Trump encouraged the group to travel to the Capitol to continue protesting the election. In the middle of the joint session, the rioters traveled to and stormed the capitol building, supporting Trump’s wishes. The only known group of the riots is, The Proud Boys, who come from multiple different states, but it is evident that they were all white supremacists. This event caused multiple deaths, including of a police officer, and destruction to the Capitol building. Both chambers of congress were evacuated until capitol Police and The National Guard were able to gain back control. The House then impeached Trump this week with the support of some.
Two members of a World Health Organization (W.H.O.) team were denied entry into China last week after testing positive for coronavirus antibodies in Singapore. China has repeatedly delayed giving its approval to the W.H.O to begin investigating the origins of the Covid-19 Pandemic in Wuhan; Beijing has demanded that Chinese scientists oversee crucial parts of the inquiry and has also limited the W.H.O.’s access to research and data. In other news, the Trump Administration added Chinese smartphone maker Xiaomi to a blacklist of alleged Chinese military companies; Xiaomi was the world’s third largest smartphone manufacturer in the third quarter of 2020.
Lu Siwei, a Chinese lawyer who represented one of the twelve Hong Kong activists who attempted to flee to Taiwan last year, had his license revoked by the Sichuan Provincial Justice Department this week. Ren Quanniu, another lawyer representing the activists, was notified by the Zhenzhou office of the Henan Justice Department that he, too, could lose his license for posting comments online that had “a negative impact on security.” In other news, the Chinese government informed Hong Kong’s 180,000 civil servants that they must sign a document pledging their loyalty to Hong Kong’s constitution and government within four weeks.
Zimbabwean journalist and government critic Hopewell Chin’ono has been arrested for the third time in five months. His most recent charge is for “communicating falsehoods,” after he tweeted that police beat an infant to death while enforcing COVIfD-19 lockdowns. Police deny this claim. Before his most recent arrest, Chin’ono was out on bail on two charges. In addition to Chin’ono, the deputy national chairperson of the main opposition party, the Movement for Democratic Change Alliance (MDCA), Job Sikhala, and MDCAs spokeswoman, Fadzayi Mahere, have been arrested under the same charge. Sikhala is also charged with inciting Zimbabweans to revolt against President Mnangagwa’s administration. Chin’ono claims the latest charge falls under an “unconstitutional” law and lawyers have supported his claim after determining that the criminal code cited by prosecutors was struck down by the Supreme Court in 2014 for being “unfair.” Those who support Chin’ono claim that he is being targeted for exposing government corruption. The ruling party are accusing him of being out to tarnish Mnangagwa’s image. As of Wednesday, Chin’ono has been denied bail. In other news, MDCA has rejected claims that they received funding from South African president Cyril Ramaphosa. There is growing belief in Zanu PF that Ramaphosa has been secretly funding the leader of MDCA, Nelson Chamisa. The MDCA says the claims are an effort to “derail the people’s movement.” Chamisa has accused the administration of President Mnangagwa of systematically dismantling the MDCA’s operations by denying it access to political funding, recalling it’s councillors and MP’s from office as well as through use of the courts.
The United States announced sanctions against Falih al-Fayyadh, the leader of Iraq’s Hashd al-Shaabi paramilitary force, accusing him of committing multiple human rights violations during anti-corruption protests in late 2019. The U.S. Treasury Department said in a statement that al-Fayyadh was part of a “crisis cell” supported by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, designated as a terrorist organization by the United States. Further, an Iraqi court issued an arrest warrant for American President Donald Trump over a drone strike which killed Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, a top paramilitary commander who was killed in the same airstrike that killed Iranian general Qasem Soleimani last year.
The Iranian Navy recently inducted their largest military vessel during a two-day maritime missile drill in the Sea of Oman. The ship called I.R.I.N.S Makran, is said to be able to carry up to five helicopters and also joined a fleet with another ship that can fire missiles. Admiral Hamzeh Ali Kaviani, the spokesman for the drill, said that the drill will allow them to evaluate their ability to respond to potential threats in a timely manner. He notes that this two-day drill will help them address their weaknesses and boost their strengths. With heightened tensions between the US and Iran, Iran’s continued development of missiles and nuclear weapons continue to draw sharp reactions from not only the US but also the European Union. In other news, the country has formally prohibited imports of the COVID-19 vaccine from the United States and the United Kingdom. Instead, the government is trying to secure 16.8 M doses of the vaccines developed by COVAX, which operates under the World Health Organization. Another initiative they have taken is launching human trials last December of the Iran Barekat.
Sriwijaya Air Boeing 737-500 crashed into the sea shortly after taking off on January 9, 2021 from Jakarta. The plane had 62 people on board, 50 of them were passengers and 12 were crew members. After search and rescue efforts, there were no survivors found in the crash. Human remains and plane debris were located to the north of Jakarta, such as passengers’ clothing and body parts, as well as the engine turbine. Currently, the search crew is in the process of retrieving one of the two block boxes that would be able to provide crucial information on the air accident. Black boxes are recorders that store general flight and cockpit data. Investigations are taking place to retrieve data on the flight data. Experts on the ground have noted that this stage of investigations could take up to a year.
Nineteen Rohingya persons and a Thai woman were arrested on Sunday, January 10 for illegal entry to Thailand. The Thai woman arrested was accused of housing the Rohingya persons in Bangkok’s Don Mueang district. An immigration found that the group was smuggled into the country and was initially bound for Malaysia. Police believe this may be part of a bigger smuggling incident, and are currently conducting investigations. In other news, tensions continue to grow on Thailand’s pro-democracy protests. Two weeks ago, more than 50 people were injured in a protest near the parliament. Authorities continue to hold Section 112 on protestors, which states that royal defamation may lead up to 15 years in prison. Demonstrators continue to remain firm on their stances on calling for Prime Minister Prayut Chan-O-Cha to step down and constitutional changes for monarchy reform.
On December 21, 2020, The Nicaraguan Congress passed a law that prohibits “traitors” from running for or holding public office. The law broadly defines “traitors”, one of which being people who “damage the supreme interests of the nation”. This means that under the law, anyone who is deemed by the government to be leading or financing a coup, altering constitutional order, promoting or inciting terrorist acts, to name a few, is a traitor. This is punishable by up to 15 years of prison, and the said traitor may not run for public office. With the Nicaraguan election nearing soon in November 2021, human rights scholars and organizations such as the Human Rights Watch have been quick to condemn this legislation that threatens the country’s free and fair elections.
Belarusian president Alexander Lukashenko said that a new constitution for the country will be drafted by the end of 2021, which the government has lauded as a solution to the political crisis that has gripped the country since Lukashenko claimed victory in elections last August, the results of which were rejected by the opposition. In other news, Russian deputy Prime Minister Alexander Novak said last week that the export of Belarusian petroleum products via Russia may begin in 2021. Russia and Belarus have been discussing the export agreement since Lithuania imposed sanctions on Belarus last September.
Tensions between Sudan and its East African neighbor, Ethiopia, continue over border disputes. The Ethiopian foriegn ministry said Sudan armed forces pushed into their territory and Sudan continues to condemn the aggression by Ethiopia’s militias in the east. Multiple deaths have occured from this conflict that has been intensifying since last year. The US Treasury Secretary has announced that the US would aid Sudan with a $1.2bn loan to aid in clearing its loans to the World Bank. This comes just weeks after the US removed Sudan from its list of state sponsors of terrorism. The negotiations between Ethiopia, Egypt, and Sudan over the dispute of a dam on the River Nile have been halted again. The construction of the dam was completed in July of last year in the west of Ethiopia. Egypt is concerned that the dam will gravely affect its water supply and Ethiopia and Sudan have given statements that continue to blame the other.
Four members of the Georgian Parliament, who were previously members of the Alliance of Patriots party, have launched the European Socialists party (ES). The ES will be the first opposition party of the 10th convocation of the Gerogian Parliament because the remaining opposition parties are boycotting the legislature over claims of a “rigged election.” In other news, the chairmen of the Georgian Dream party (GD), Bidzina Ivanishvilli, has left the party for a second time. Ivanishvilli has cited age as the reason for his departure but those in opposition to the GD have suggested that his departure is an effort to avoid blame for the current situation regarding COVID-19 and the economy. Others claim his departure is only symbolic and that he will continue to exert his power privately.
The Bolivian city of Sucre was hit by a sudden flash flood on January 5th. The flood lasted for about half an hour as some of the streets became rapidly flowing rivers. Police say that the floods killed at least 4 people, the most affected being around the city’s largest farmers market. Multiple vehicles were swept away and numerous merchants lost all of their goods. The residents are saying that the city should have done more to maintain its drain systems during the rainy season, as many of the drains were covered in garbage and debris. Russia has announced that they will be supplying Bolivia, among other nations, with the Sputnik V vaccine. This comes as hospitals in the country begin to overflow as COVID-19 surges in the nation as they are unequipped to handle the crisis.
The United States President, Donald Trump, and Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, have added Cuba to the US terrorist watch list. The decision was made just 11 days before Trump was set to leave office and was readded because they have repeatedly provided support for acts of terrorism, including harboring Colombian rebel leaders and U.S. fugitives. The placement on this list will require a formal review which could take months, halting president-elect Biden’s efforts to build better relations between the two nations. In other news, the San Isidro protesters are continuing their efforts and receiving widespread support and attention through social media. The dialogue between the protestors and the government has continued to be silent.