July 9, 2021
Dear Friends, CANVAS is pleased to bring you another weekly report! This week covers the assasination of Haitian president Jovenel Moïse, the withdrawal of American troops from Afghan territory, and airstrikes in Iran.
In the early hours of Wednesday, a group of gunmen stormed Haitian president Jovenel Moïse’s residence in the outskirts of Port-au-Prince, the nation’s capital. The assailants shot the president dead and left her wife, First Lady Martine Moïse, badly wounded in what officials called a “well-planed operation that included ‘foreigners’ who spoke Spanish.” Police have so far arrested 20 suspects in connection to the fatal shooting and a mass, countrywide manhunt is underway for at least five additional subjects. On Friday, police published a list of the names of 19 suspects who had been apprehended by authorities, which they said included 17 Colombians and two Haitian-Americans. As investigations continue their course, Haitian authorities are concerned that the political void might deepen the turmoil and violence that have gripped the country for months, threatening to tip one of the world’s most troubled nations further into lawlessness.
Ethiopian Prime Minster Abiy Ahmed has won the country’s delayed elections with an overwhelming majority, the election board said on Saturday. According to the board, Mr. Abiy’s Prosperity Party won 410 out of 436 seats, giving him another five-year term in office. However, opposition movements and the international community have raised concerns over the integrity of the ballot, Ethiopia’s first multi-party election in 16 years, albeit one riven with conflict, jailed opposition figures, and parts of the country – Tigray being the largest and most relevant – unable to vote. Many Ethiopians in conflict-ridden areas will have to wait until September 6 to cast their ballots when the second round of voting will be held.
Dozens of people have been arrested in South Africa as violence spreads following the jailing of former president Jacob Zuma. Pro-Zuma protesters first took to the streets after the 79-year-old handed himself to the authorities on Wednesday to begin a 15-month sentence over charges of fraud, racketeering, corruption, and money laundering. Over 300 people barricaded a major highway in Johannesburg as unrest unleashed in the streets of Zuma’s home province of KwaZulu-Natal, leaving three wounded police officers so far.
On Thursday, the world’s known Covid death toll passed four million. During a news conference, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the Director General of the World Health Organization (WHO), said this number was due to the spread of variants and unequal vaccine distribution. To date, just under 3.3 billion doses have been administered across the world, not nearly enough to curve the recent spikes. In order to deal with rising infection rates, some countries are seeing makeshift hospitals spring up. On Thursday, authorities in Thailand announced that they were converting the Suvarnabhumi Airport’s new terminal into a field hospital that can hold up to 5,000 beds.
Countries are seeing a return to former safety protocols, including curfews and masks. In tourist hot spots, cases have been steadily rising, leading to a number of countries forced to re-examine their guidelines. As the Delta variant continues to spread, Portugal announced the return of curfews starting at 11pm. Spain’s Canary Islands are petitioning for the central government to bring back mandatory night curfews to counter rising infections in tourist hotspots. With recent spikes in Tokyo and the Olympics only two weeks away, organizers announced all foreign spectators are banned from watching the games in person.
Following predictions made last week, Africa has hit its “worst pandemic week ever,”according to the WHO. More than 251,000 new cases have been reported, a 20% increase from the previous week. Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, the WHO General Director for Africa, said that 16 countries are reporting a resurgence in infections, with Malawi and Senegal added this week. The African Union’s special envoy on COVID-19 urged Europe to relax restrictions on exports so African countries could try to control the third wave. Pfizer-BioNTech and Johnson & Johnson doses are expected to arrive in the next few days. Only 1% of the continent is vaccinated and while other countries from the Global North have pledged to distribute vaccines worldwide, logistics and results are still left in the dark.
Resistance against Myanmar’s military government continued this week. On Wednesday, demonstrators commemorated the student protests against the 1962 military coup d’état which overthrew Myanmar’s then-parliamentary democracy. More than 100 students were killed in 1962 and thousands more arrested by the new military government which stayed in power for over 50 years afterward. This history resonates deeply with the present-day demonstrators who intend to overthrow the current military government that took power in February. As part of their commemoration, the nonviolent protestors displayed the common three-fingered salute of resistance and utilized flash mob tactics to avoid violent police crackdowns. Although these non-violent tactics are still prevalent, violent actions against the regime are increasing.
The People’s Defense Force (PDF), a major resistance group, believes violence is necessary to overthrow the junta. This week the PDF increased sporadic attacks on the police for their part in violently crushing the widespread anti-junta protests that have taken place since February. PDF actions have included burning down police stations and executing officers. With mounting pressure to choose between the citizens of Myanmar or the military government, some police officers have defected and dedicated themselves to restoring democracy. Like other anti-junta activists, defected police officers who ‘cross the line’ face harsh jail sentences and likely execution. Virtually all of them must live in secret camps to avoid these consequences.
Reports from Myanmar have alleged that the military-run State Administration Council (SAC) is arresting the family members of anti-junta activists. With much of the opposition in hiding, the SAC has reportedly interrogated the family members as to the activists’ whereabouts and hope to use relatives as a source of power over the dissidents. Reports from the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners in Thailand show that while the junta have arrested family members since the beginning of the coup, recently the rate of arrests has increased. The most recent data shows 85 family members arrested since February, with 53 still held in custody. So far it seems that SAC’s actions have not been successful in coercing activists to turn themselves in.
Far-right anti-pride protesters clashed with attendees of the Tbilisi Pride March on Monday, as members of the far-right group attacked dozens of journalists. As of Thursday, fifteen have been arrested, and eight are facing court charges. A reported 53 journalists were injured at the attack, including a cameraman who sustained a severe concussion. In a statement on Tuesday, Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili condemned the violence, saying “What happened yesterday is categorically unacceptable. Violence against journalists is unacceptable and of course, it has to be condemned.” Prior to the march, Garibashvili warned of civic confrontation, citing the broad disapproval of the demonstration among the Georgian population. While members of the ruling Georigian Dream Party also condemned the violence, many also expressed their disapproval of the ‘radical opposition’ behind the pride movement, calling it a “fight against the church.” These events highlight the ongoing tensions within Georgia regarding LGBT rights: while discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is illegal, the country remains largely conservative and LGBT people often face societal discrimination.