October 1, 2021
CANVAS is delighted to bring you another issue of our weekly report!
In this issue, we cover the latest updates on the Israel-Palestine conflict, the upcoming corruption trial in Myanmar, protests in Sudan for an exclusively civilian government, and more.
Israeli forces have killed 3 Palestinians this week in Gaza, Jerusalem, and Burqin. After raiding Burqin to carry out arrests, Israeli forces shot Alaa Nasser Mohammed Zayyoud during a violent confrontation. Reportedly, he was shot four times in close range. During the confrontation, two were injured and two more were arrested. Israa Khuzaima was shot and killed at the Old Town Jerusalem Chain Gate. Before her death, she allegedly tried to stab an officer. After the killings, the Damascus gates were blocked off by Israeli forces. The third death was another shooting at the Gaza-Israeli border gate, where a 40-year-old bird hunter was shot dead. These deaths come after 5 killings in the occupied West Bank on Sunday. During an overnight raid intended to arrest Hamas operatives, five citizens were shot dead in Jenin and Jerusalem. Reportedly, two Israeli soldiers were seriously injured and are now hospitalized. The mother of one of the deceased claims that the Palestinian National Authority are responsible for the raids, citing a recent raid on their home carried out by the group. Rebels in western areas of Cameroon are reported to have killed 15 soldiers and civilians in an ambush last Friday. First, the group used an IED, followed by an anti-tank rocket launcher to stop the convoy of elite rapid intervention forces and civilians. After this, they opened fire on the group. The perpetrators are suspected to be one of the many armed secessionist groups in the nation, the latter of which has been experiencing civil war for years when government forces lethally put down peaceful protests of teachers and lawyers.
On Tuesday, September 28, Pfizer Inc and BioNTech SE submitted initial phase II/III trial data to the FDA for their COVID-19 vaccine in 5-11 year olds. Although, they have yet to submit an official request for emergency use authorization (EUA) in the U.S.. Pfizer said that the submitted data showed that the two-shot vaccine program generated antibody responses and a safety profile in 5-11-year-olds comparable to that of their study on those aged 16 to 25. To note, the younger participants received a 10-microgram-doses per vaccine, whereas older participants received 30 milligrams per vaccine. With Pfizer’s submission of its trial data, medical news outlet BioWorld observed that competition from other international firms like Moderna Inc., Novavax Inc. and Sanofi SA, will fall further behind. Compared to Pfizer, Moderna, which is conducting a study on elementary-aged children, are expecting results later in the year. Additionally, French drugmaker Sanofi are shelving plans for their messenger RNA vaccines, citing that it wasn’t worth pursuing due to the wide availability of those vaccines. Meanwhile, several notable countries, including the United States and the United Kingdom, are rolling out booster shots despite pleas from the World Health Organization (WHO) to do otherwise, with the WHO arguing that there is a more pressing need for first doses in poorer countries. Although during the UN’s annual meeting last week, countries pledged to vaccinate 70% of people in countries of all income levels, the British Medical Journal (BMJ) stated that this pledge is, ironically, “a retreat from [a similar] goal set by the UN, WHO, and World Bank to vaccinate 40% of people in low and low-middle income countries by the end of 2021 and 70% by mid-2022. There is now no chance of even approaching the target for 2021.” According to Oxfam president, Abby Maxman, “President Biden and leaders of rich countries should listen to what leaders from developing countries are asking for: the rights and the recipe to make their own vaccine doses.” Maxman is referring to remarks made earlier in the UN summit by leaders from South Africa and India to waive vaccine patent restrictions–something that none of the rich countries’ leaders addressed during the conference, including President Biden. As rich countries are preparing booster shot programmes and buying more high-profile vaccines like Moderna and Pfizer, the South China Morning Post (SCMP) reported that “poorer countries are turning to lesser-known rivals like Abdala, Soberana 2” and other brands that yet to receive approval from the World Health Organization.
After 37 days and more than 550 kilometers, the Indigenous peoples’ march has arrived in the Bolivian capital of Santa Cruz from Trinidad. Over 700 marchers, composed of different Indigenous groups, entered the city’s main plaza, the Plaza 24 de Septiembre, where they were welcomed by citizens and political figures such as the archbishop, the governor of Santa Cruz, and Mayor Jhonny Fernández. The marchers came with a national agenda containing 16 points that they hope to submit to President Luis Arce several hours after entering the city. Their demands center on respect for their lands; if not met, the marchers have declared they will hold a vigil in the capital. Meanwhile, recent protests by coca farmers in the Bolivian highland city of La Paz turned violent, with Reuters reporting, on Wednesday, 29 September, clashes between protestors and the police involving slingshots, tear gas, and the setting of a building on fire. The protest stemmed from disputes among coca growers in the Yungas region over control of the coca market. In turn, two main cliques have formed: one around the government-backed head of coca management body Adepcoca, Arnold Alanes, and the other behind government critic Armit Lluta. According to Armin Lluta, Adepcoca, which is supported by the ruling party and former president Evo Morales, is trying to gain control of the coca trade: “Evo Morales…wants to form a great national confederation of coca leaf producers, he wants to be the leader of the Chapare and the Yungas,” Lluta stated to reporters (Yungas and Chapare are the main coca-growing regions). For its part, the Yunga region produces around 200 million USD of coca per year, according to the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime.
On September 30, the Belarusian Supreme Court upheld the move proposed by the Justice Ministry to liquidate the Belarusian Helsinki Committee. Earlier, the ministry filed a lawsuit to dissolve the Belarusian Helsinki Committee, one of the country’s oldest independent human rights groups in the country. This move is said to be a part of wider effort by Belarusian authorities to silence all independent or critical voices in the country. The next day, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights has also expressed their shock by “persistent allegations” of “widespread and systematic torture” of protesters in Belarus. The country will hold a referendum on a new constitution in February. President Lukashenko said the new structure would redistribute powers between the main branches of the government and establish a new governing body called the All-Belarus People’s Assembly. Critics say this move could further cement his grip on power after months of mass opposition protests. Continuing their series of steps restricting independent media in the country, on 29 September, the Belarusian Ministry of Information blocked access to another news site called the Komsomolskaya Pravda. Komsomolskaya Pravda is a Belarusian subsidiary of a popular Russian newspaper of the same name. The access to it was restricted several hours after it ran a story about an alleged shootout in an apartment in Minsk, the capital of Belarus, during which two people — an opposition supporter and a KGB officer — were killed. The news outlet published a comment from the opposition supporter’s friend, who described him in a positive light. It is reported that the man who the KGB officers shot dead on Tuesday was an employee of EPAM Systems, a U.S.- based software firm. The U.S. Special Envoy for Belarus will be seeking additional information on whether the victim in the shooting was a U.S. citizen. Police had shot a 31-year-old man and arrested his wife after he resisted law enforcement officers. The European Commission has said it wants to suspend easy access to visas for Belarusian officials. The European Commission wants to suspend an agreement that reduces the average cost of a visa to €35 and brings down waiting times for government officials, parliamentarians and senior judges, though the scheme would still operate for ordinary Belarusians. This comes in after the continuing diplomacy regarding the migrant issue emerging from Belarus. Poland illegally pushed back a group of Afghan asylum seekers who were camped out on its border with Belarus in late August, according to a digital investigation by Amnesty International. The report published on Thursday mentions that many of the 32-strong group, including a 15-year-old girl and four women, were located in Poland on August 18, having crossed into the country from Belarus. This “could constitute evidence of an unlawful pushback”. On September 30, the state of emergency was extended along the border with Belarus until the end of November. The migrant influx to Poland has seen a steep spike, recording some 6,000 attempts to cross the border, 60 times the figure from the entire 2020 in September alone.
The Council of Europe’s Congress of Local and Regional Authorities will observe the October 2nd self-government elections in Georgia at the invitation of the Georgian government. The mission involves 18 congress observers from 15 countries and is chaired by David Eray from Switzerland. The Council of Europe Congress will observe the elections in the country along with the OSCE/ODIHR and the European Parliament. The Congress delegation will meet with the Head of the Central Election Commission (CEC) of Georgia Giorgi Kalandarishvili and the Deputy Minister of Justice and Head of Inter-Agency Task Force for Free and Fair Elections Tornike Cheishvili as part of preparatory meetings. The representatives of the mission will also meet with diplomatic corps, domestic and international NGOs, and media outlets on September 30 and October 1 before the deployment of the mission on the ground. Saakashvili was convicted in absentia in Georgia, and he now faces 6 years in prison which means that according to Georgian law, as soon as he enters the country, he must be arrested and sent to prison. Saakashvili’s announcement of his possible arrival in Georgia on October 2nd added drama and intrigue to the already tense pre-election environment. In a statement posted on Facebook, Saakashvili said that he is not afraid of arrest, is ready to go to jail, and is confident that the Georgian people will protect him. The authorities openly state that Saakashvili will be arrested if he comes to Georgia. Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili said that he does not believe in Saakashvili’s return, because he is a “cowardly person” who “has been promising to come for eight years, but never came”.
Access to an online museum dedicated to the victims of China’s 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown appeared to be restricted in Hong Kong, with the website then accusing authorities of censorship. The Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China, the organizers of the annual June 4 vigils for the 1989 victims, announced the opening of the website last month. The website operated independently from the Alliance, it said. Hong Kong users have not been able to access the website from the city since Thursday without using virtual private networks. This follows arrests of group members and pressure for the alliance to disband, as well as the forceful emptying of a physical pro-democracy museum in the city. Hong Kong authorities have repeatedly denied curbing human rights and freedoms, saying law enforcement has been based on evidence and has nothing to do with the background, profession or political beliefs of those arrested. Police in Hong Kong halted a four-person pro-democracy protest on China’s National Day Friday amid an expanding crackdown on free speech and opposition politics. Chanting and carrying a placard calling for the release of Hong Kongers arrested in the crackdown and chanting pro-democracy slogans, the four members of the opposition party League of Social Democrats had attempted to march to the harbor-side Convention Center where the official celebration was being held. Dozens of officers, part of a massive police presence deployed to prevent any disruptions on the day, surrounded them and kept them out of sight and earshot of officials attending a flag-raising ceremony.
On Monday, 27 September, hundreds of student protestors from the Nationwide Student Executive Board Alliance (BEM SI) demonstrated in front of the Corruption Eradication Committee (KPK) headquarters in Jakarta. The students are joined by members of the Save KPK Movement (GASAK). Together, they drafted a joint letter to the President earlier last week with an ultimatum to march on the streets if the president does not reverse his decision to fire 57 KPK employees earlier this year–their ultimatum, evidently, went unheard. Around 1,200 members of police were deployed to oversee the protest. The 57 KPK employees were fired earlier this year for failing the highly criticised Civic Competency Test (TWK). The exam is part of the 2019 legislative amendments to reform the KPK, which many have accused of curtailing the KPK’s independence and investigation and prosecutorial powers. Notably, among the 57 fired employees include “several senior staff and prominent KPK investigators…[this] raises serious questions about the future of the agency and the very purpose of the exam,” said Danang Widoyoko, Secretary General of Transparency International Indonesia, in an article published by his organization in June. In other news, Indonesia has responded to the recent AUKUS partnership between Australia, United Kingdom, and the United States with what the Jakarta Post describes as its typical “equidistant” approach. The country reiterated “its principled position in regard to the geopolitical rivalry in the region,” and reminded Australia of “its regional obligations to maintain peace and security while also emphasizing the obligation of all parties concerned to respect international law.”
Thailand is rushing to protect Bangkok from floodwaters after inundations in the country’s northern and central provinces killed six people. Soldiers on Tuesday set up barriers and sandbags to protect archaeological ruins and landmarks as well as neighborhoods in the old royal capital Ayutthaya north of Bangkok. The level of the Chao Phraya River is steadily rising amid Tropical Storm Dianmu, which has hit 30 of the country’s 76 provinces. Seasonal monsoon rains may worsen the flooding, which extends to about a third of Thailand, officials said on Monday. Pumping stations have been used to reduce the potential damage. Thailand plans to waive its mandatory quarantine requirement in Bangkok and nine regions from November 1st to vaccinated arrivals, authorities said on Monday, as the country tries to boost its immunization rate and revive its battered tourism sector. The country is keen to welcome back foreign visitors, after nearly 18 months of strict entry policies that contributed to a collapse in tourism, a key sector that drew 40 million visitors in 2019. Authorities will also reduce the quarantine time nationwide for visitors arriving from October 1st, the COVID-19 task force said, halving it to seven days for vaccinated arrivals, and cutting it to 10 days for those not inoculated.
In Iran, massive military drills on the border of Azerbaijan have ensued due to the Azerbaijani ties with Israel having been reinforced. Tanks, helicopters, and soldiers have been posted to the border. Reports of drones have also been released. The Iranian minister has said he “does not tolerate the presence and activities of the Zionist regime against its national security and will do whatever necessary in this regard”. Iranian government officials have also spoken out against visits by Israeli officials to neighboring Bahrain. Bahrain, along with the United Arab Emirates, normalized ties with Israel last year. The tensions between the two countries have increased due to a new Azerbaijani policy of a “road tax”. The road tax affects Iranian trucks driving through the Karabakh religion, and has led to the detainment of Iranian lorry drivers.
Iraq, anticipating the October 10th election, has implemented measures to limit travel for the duration of voting. Policies include the closure of airspace, as well as limiting inter-region travel between cities. All border crossings and airspace will be closed. Motorcycles and small cargo vehicles will be banned in cities. The country has large plans to ensure fair elections, including a United Nations team of 130 international experts to oversee the elections. Currently, there have been reports of illegal vote-selling, even with the new biometric voter card measures to prevent such actions. Security forces reported the seizure of such illegal cards. On Thursday, the electoral commission announced a decision to cancel the endorsement of Ashwaq Fahed Aboud al-Ghurairi because of a recent criminal case brought up against her. She is currently being charged for buying votes. The US, through the world bank, has pledged $100 million dollars in order to combat COVID in Iraq. The money has been allocated to ensure vaccines to priority groups, as well as build and support infrastructure to distribute the vaccine. Funds have also been allocated for vaccine promotion in media, as well as medical waste management.
On Thursday, thousands of Sudanese gathered in Sudan’s capital Khartoum demanding a transition to an exclusively civilian government. They further accused the military branch of the government of derailing the transition to democracy. Right now, Sudan’s government is co-run by a military government and a civilian branch after the military ousted Omar al-Bashir in April 2019 after four months of protests. This interim government runs under the premise that the military will transfer its power and authority over to the civilian government. However, more and more conflict is arising around this transfer of power. The tension between military forces and the civilians have heightened after a failed coup attempt within the military last week. The head of the civilian government described the coup attempt as, “an effort to undermine Sudan’s democratic transition.” On Thursday during the protests, Sudanese civilians chanted pro-democracy slogans and accused the military of postponing on transferring power to civilians. They also accused the government of dragging their feet on purging state institutions of reminders of al-Bashir’s regime, specifically about prosecuting security forces who were responsible for the death of dozens of protesters during protests in June 2019. Demonstrators gathered around the government buildings including Republican Palace which is the home of the Sovereign Council. Security forces fired tear gas at demonstrators in order to disperse the protesters. The Civilian government was supportive of Thursday’s demonstrations.
Many private schools in Uganda may not reopen as staff found new jobs following layoffs during the COVID-19 lockdown. When schools shut for the lockdown, families stopped paying fees and teachers stop receiving income. Forty percent of Uganda’s primary schools and 60 percent of its secondary schools are private institutions run without the help of local authorities. The source of income comes from school fees which run from $100 to $250 USD a month. The government promised it would pay the wages of both state school teachers and private school teachers but that promise has gone unfulfilled. Many teachers have transitioned to new careers and many private school’s properties have been put up for sale. One private school teacher George Wakirwaine, said that after seven years of teaching he cannot afford for his family to live in Kampala. He sent his family to his extended family’s village and his wages now depend on the goodwill of the parents whose children he taught and his side job of fetching water for different homes around the neighborhood. This situation shows the future of private schools in Uganda is unclear. At the African Energy Week in Cape Town South Africa, Uganda’s oil and gas industry will be an important topic of conversation. Back in 2006, oil was discovered in Uganda and it was seen as an opportunity economic opportunity for the country. It was not until the spring of 2020 that deal was struck between French oil company Total and China’s state-owned oil company to develop the drilling spots. Then in 2021 another deal was created to construct the East African Crude Oil Pipeline. The environmental concerns for the pipeline are severe and may prevent the project from getting off the ground. More than 250 NGOS, urged major commercial banks not to fund the East African Crude Oil Pipeline.
On September 28th, Zimbabwe’s central bank placed an order for local banks to freeze the bank accounts of 30 people for two years. Governor John Mangudya released a list of names of 30 people accused of promoting and facilitating illegal foreign currency trading. The Governor explained how the accused used social media platforms and mobile telecoms services to enable forex trade and money laundering. In the official statement Mangudya instructed the Financial Intelligence Unit, (to) “identify and freeze any accounts operated by these individuals and, further, to bar them from accessing financial services for a period of two years, with immediate effect.” Zimbabwe has struggled with foreign exchange shortages and it was only two years, in 2019, that it re-introduced its own domestic currency. The local currency however has been losing it value and trades on the black market. The trade can be up to 100% of its official rate of 86 Zimbabwe dollars to USD. More details emerged about the Chinese Mining Company Heijin and its deal with the Uzumba villagers in the Kaseke, Uzumba district. Heijin has told the villagers that they are evicted from their homes and have no title deeds to the disputed communal land. The mining company plans to pave through 89 households which is approximately 300 hectares in order to mine granite stone. Chief Nyajina, the traditional leader of the village, said that the Heijin’s representatives were disrespectful and claimed to be “connected to the highest offices on the land.” The villagers asked the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) to stop the company from evicting them. After further investigation, ZLHR has found that Heijin has not summitted Environmental Impact Assessment. The government has sent government officials to negotiate a deal between the mine company and the villagers to resolve the ongoing disputes.