March 12, 2021
CANVAS is pleased to bring you another weekly report! This week covers human rights violations in Zimbabwe, the continued violence in Myanmar, and the Bolivian election.
Gunmen kidnapped dozens of students from a college in northwestern Nigeria late Thursday, the fourth mass abduction in as many months in a region that is suffering a worsening breakdown of law and order. The attackers breached the fence surrounding the Federal College of Forestry in Mando, located in Kaduna state, just before midnight and began rounding up students. Shehu Sani, a former senator of Kaduna, said he had been briefed by security officials that the attackers had separated the girls from the boys and only took the girls. In a recent report on kidnappings across Nigeria, SB Morgen, a Lagos-based geopolitical research firm, found that almost $11 million was paid to kidnappers between January 2016 and March 2020. According to United Nations relief workers, more than 240,000 people have been displaced in the Central African Republic after rebels who call themselves the Coalition of Patriots for Change launched attacks, first to disrupt last December’s elections, and now to destabilize the newly-formed government of President Faustin Archange Touadera. The rebels currently control nearly two thirds of the country, making it difficult to deliver humanitarian aid. Hundreds of thousands of people have been left without food or basic healthcare and the closure of the main road between the Central African Republic and Cameroon has caused food prices to skyrocket. Ethiopia’s government is facing mounting pressure to withdraw troops from the northern Tigray region amid growing reports of war crimes in an area that now faces a humanitarian crisis. Criticism of the conduct of government troops has grown after U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Wednesday that “ethnic cleansing” has happened in parts of Tigray. The conflict began last November when Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed sent government troops into Tigray after an attack there on federal military facilities.
Multiple European countries, including Denmark, Norway, Iceland, Italy, and Romania, suspended the use of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine because of concerns that it might increase the risk of blood clots, but emphasized that they were taking action as a precaution and that there is no evidence of any causal link. The scare is a setback for the AstraZeneca vaccine, which has already struggled with the perception that it is a less desirable option because it has a lower overall efficacy rate in clinical trials compared to other COVID-19 vaccines. However, extensive data shows that the vaccine is safe and effective, and in many places across the world, it is the only shot currently available. Tens of millions of doses of the same vaccine manufactured by AstraZeneca are sitting idly in American manufacturing facilities awaiting results from its U.S. clinical trials while the more than 70 countries that have already authorized the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine are begging the U.S. to give them access to the stockpile. The fate of the American AstraZeneca vaccine doses is the subject of an intense debate among U.S. federal health officials, with some arguing that the Biden Administration should let the doses go abroad where they are desperately needed right now, while others are not ready to relinquish the vaccines. Under pressure to donate excess COVID-19 vaccination to needy nations, the U.S. has announced that it will partner with Japan, India, and Australia to finance a large expansion of the vaccine manufacturing capacity. The agreement was announced Friday at the Quad Summit, a virtual meeting held between the heads of state of the aforementioned four countries. The goal, according to senior administration officials, is to address an acute vaccine shortage in Southeast Asia, which will eventually boost worldwide supply.
Violence continues to escalate in Myanmar after at least twelve people were killed by the ruling junta Thursday, according to a watchdog group. A top U.N. official said the crackdown on peaceful protests is “likely meeting the legal threshold for crimes against humanity.” The United Nations human rights office has said that at least 80 people have been killed since the military invalidated the results of Myanmar’s democratic election earlier this year, with an additional more than 2,000 arbitrarily detained since the coup. Student activists have made up a significant number of arrested protestors, with many being taken to Insein Prison without access to legal counsel. Insein Prison is an infamous facility in the Burmese capital of Yangon that has long been used to house and torture political prisoners, including those arrested following uprisings against the previous military dictatorship in 1988. U.N. special rapporteur for human rights in Myanmar Thomas Andrews has noted that there is extensive video footage of security forces brutally beating protesters, medics, and bystanders, as well as destroying property, looting shops, and firing indiscriminately into people’s homes. There is growing evidence that the violence has forced people to flee the country, with India’s Mizoram state reporting that between 200 and 300 people had crossed the border from Myanmar into India. Sister Ann Rose Nu Tawng, a Catholic nun from the city of Myitkyina in Kachin state, has won praise from Myanmar’s majority Buddhist population after she begged a group of heavily armed security officers to take her life instead of the lives of the children nearby. Additionally, the United States this week imposed sanctions on six companies controlled by two children of Myanmar’s military leader Min Aung Hlaing in response to the coup and the killing of protesters. U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken warned that more punitive actions could follow and condemned attacks by Myanmar’s security forces targeting peaceful protesters.