CANVAS Weekly Update – January 22nd, 2021


January 22, 2021

Dear friends,

CANVAS is pleased to bring you another weekly report! This week covers the indictment of 12 Hong Kong protesters, internet crackdowns in Thailand, escalating protests in Kurdistan, and EU sanctions on Belarus.

Conflict Update:

In Uganda, President Yoweri Museveni has won a sixth term, despite election controversies. Opposition leader Bobi Wine remains under house arrest with authorities citing his presence in public a threat to public safety. As of Tuesday, there is an indefinite ban on social media, which has been restricted in the country since elections took place last week. In Ethiopia, there have been reports of extreme sexual violence in the Tigray region, which has been embroiled in a civil war since November. Information is limited because phone networks are down and the government has barred reporters from entering the region. On Wednesday, a reporter in the region was shot. Aid agencies estimate that between 2 and 4.5 million people are in need of assistance but the government has stalled the delivery of 450 tons of supplies. In Russia, prominent opposition leader Aleksei Navalny was arrested on Sunday upon his return to the country. In the wake of his arrest, the team led by Navalny has published a video detailing an investigation into one of Putin’s residences which claims the estate has a value of over $1 billion USD. The Kremlin has denied the report. Navalny’s allies have planned demonstrations in 65 cities on Saturday, which prosecutors have warned against, calling them “illegal,” and prosecutors are demanding a ban on sites where protests are being organized. As of Friday, Russian authorities have detained five of Navalny’s aides.

Coronavirus Update:

The world has surpassed 2 million Covid-19 deaths, with the highest number of deaths in the US and Brazil. In Brazil, where two new variants have been detected, vaccinations have begun, although rollout is expected to be slow. Concerns over “vaccine hoarding” continue as it is revealed that 39 million doses have been distributed across 49 wealthier countries, compared to just 25 doses distributed across Guinea, the only low-income country to have received vaccines. In other news, new studies have raised concerns that some variants of COVID-19 may make vaccines less effective.

The United States:

Joe Biden and Kamala Harris have been sworn in as the 46th President of the United States and 49th Vice President of the United States, respectively. This came just hours after the United States reached 400,000 Covid-19 deaths as the virus claims more lives than any other condition. Kamala Harris is breaking history by becoming the first woman vice president, the first South Asian vice president, and the first Black woman vice president that the United States has seen. In his first 100 days in office, Biden plans to help curb the Covid-19 pandemic, provide economic relief to Americans, and combat the joint challenge of climate change and racial justice. On his first day in office the President signed multiple executive orders, many of which reversed Donald Trump’s previous orders. The list of executive orders includes, mandating masks to be worn on federal property, the boosting of federal support for underserved communities, a revision of regulations and policies in federal agencies that prohibit sex discimination to include sexual orientation and identity, and the rejoining of the Paris Climate Agreement, among many other actions. These actions are just the beginning of the changes that Biden and his administration will be making over the next 100 days and the rest of his term.  


A day before Joe Biden was sworn in as the next U.S. President, the U.S. State Department officially accused the Chinese government of committing genocide against the Uighurs and other minority groups in Xinjiang. In other news, China imposed sanctions on 28 former Trump Administration officials, including former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. A statement released just minutes after President Biden took office in the United States, China’s foreign ministry released a statement which described China’s decision to impose sanctions on those “who have seriously violated China’s sovereignty and who have been mainly responsible for U.S. moves on China-related issues.” Sanctions bar these individuals from entering Mainland China, Hong Kong, or Macau, as well as prohibiting them from doing any business with Chinese companies.  

Hong Kong:

Hong Kong is placing tens of thousands of residents in the Jordan and Sham Shui Po districts in a lock down to contain the spread of a new Covid-19 outbreak in the Chinese city-state. These are the first lock down measures that Hong Kong has taken since the beginning of the Covid-19 Pandemic last year. In other news, pro-China lawmakers are pushing for surveillance cameras to be installed in classrooms to monitor teachers’ speech. After last year’s mass resignation of opposition politicians, pro-Beijing lawmakers now dominate Hong Kong’s Legislative Council. Two independent members of the chamber voted no on the surveillance measures.  


Foreign minister Sibusiso Busi Moyo and Transport Minister Joel Biggie Matiza have died from COVID-19, now four top ranking Zimbabwe officials have died from the virus. In other news, the clergy have stated they wish to have Personal Protective Equipment as they perform their national duties.  


Two suicide bombings at a market in the Iraqi capital of Baghdad killed at least 32 and injured at least 110 this week. ISIS claimed responsibility for the attack. This was the first ISIS suicide bombing in Baghdad since 2017, and many blast walls and check points have been removed since ISIS was dislodged from the country by Iraqi forces and the U.S.-led coalition. In other news, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced that Turkey may conduct a joint counter-terrorism operation with Iraq against the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in Sinjar. The PKK gained a foothold in Sinjar in 2014 claiming that they were there to protect the local Yazidi community from ISIS attacks. Turkey has labled the PKK a terrorist organization.


Russian occupation forces have detained three Georgians in Tbilisi-controlled territory. The State Security office has deemed the act an “purposeful provocation.”  In other news, Anatoly Bibilov, the leader of the de facto state South Ossetia, also known as the Tkhivali region, has appointed Erik Pukhaev to the position of state advisor to the “president.” Pukhaev resigned from the position of “prime minister” in August of 2020 over the controversial death of an inmate and the ensuing protests.  


Mohammad Javad Zarif, Iran’s top diplomat, has welcomed Qatar’s call on engaging in a dialogue between Gulf states and the Islamic Republic. He emphasized the need for them to collaborate in forming a stronger region, free from global or regional hegemony. Qatar and Iran appear to be hopeful in restoring the balance in their region and ensuring peace and stability for their citizens.  


Last Friday, January 15, 2021, a 6.2-magnitude earthquake struck the island of Sulawesi in Indonesia. As of January 19, 2021, 84 people were found dead, hundreds are injured, dozens are still missing, and over 19,000 people are left homeless. Rescue efforts continued as the toll rose, and doctors had no choice but to create makeshift centers to treat injured patients. Survivors of the earthquake are currently seeking refuge in the hills but are running short of food, water, and other necessities. Authorities are also busy separating the camp into high and low-risk groups to prevent a COVID-19 outbreak.  


Pro-democracy protesters spent their Friday outside the Commerce Ministry to demand the Thai government to focus on the second wave of COVID-19. Protestors demanded the government to cut down military spending to aid victims of the pandemic. One of the concerns they raised was the redistribution of the budget to import vaccines and equally distribute to stabilize the economy. The group also called on the government to reduce utility bills for at least three months to prevent citizens from falling into debt. There was no response from the government as of today. In other news, a 63-year-old former civil servant, Anchan, has been jailed for 43 years for criticizing the royal family under Thailand’s lèse-majesté law. The law has been noted as one of the strictest in the world, which forbids any insult to the monarchy. Anchan said that she merely shared audio files and did not comment on any of the content. She pleaded guilty, which cut her initial 87-year sentence in half.  


Havana has gone back into lockdown as the island is seeing a rise in cases. There have been record breaking numbers in cases, over 1,500 in a week, and multiple deaths. Sporting events, cultural events, and schools have all been closed again after the country was open for 2 months since they decided to open their borders again mid-November. That decision was made to attract tourists, a vital part of their economy, but the numbers of Covid-19 cases have only been on the rise. In other news, Cuban officials are hopeful that with Biden becoming the new President of The United States, more Obama-era policies will come into place, as will the reopening of the US Embassy in Havana.  


On Monday, January 18, 2021, Nicaragua’s congress gave its final approval to President Daniel Ortega’s proposal to permit life imprisonment. Opposition legislators expressed their concerns on the dangers in the application of the law as a means to punish any Nicaraguan citizen. While the opposition voted against the proposal, the ruling government still garnered enough support from congress and three million signatures from their supporters.  


A 35-year-old man lit himself on fire outside the government headquarters in the Belarusian capital of Minsk this week. The reasons behind the man’s actions were not immediately clear. Belarus has been engulfed in unrest since an election last year which the opposition says was rigged in favor of incumbent President Alexander Lukashenko. In other news, a Belarusian court in Minsk upheld an extension of the pretrial detention of opposition leader Maryya Kalesnikava, who was arrested in September 2020. Kalesnikava faces national security-related charges after she urged people to protest the disputed election results.  


A State of Emergency and curfew have been placed on Sudan’s Darfur region after violence broke out. Just weeks after UN and African Union peacekeepers left the area after over 13 years based on a withdrawal plan that had been signed by multiple rebel groups and the transitional government, violence occurred again. The western city of El Geneina and a nearby refugee camp for internally displaced people were the center of the attacks. Over 80 people were killed and many more were wounded, over 50,000 people were displaced from the camp and surrounding villages. The situation in the region is currently extremely delicate and the new curfew has made the work of many doctors difficult, causing many hospitals to struggle and more deaths.  


Since last week, many of the municipalities with the highest number of coronavirus cases have doubled. The government is encouraging the population in the municipalities from high risk to low risk to continue with the containment and distancing measures in place. In other news, the Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE) has declared the validity of last year’s elections and has invited and encouraged the political parties to respect Covid-19 precautions, engage in honest debate, and accept the results as well. When it is signed, the document will also call for the continuation of virtual events when discussing the government plan and other major topics.