September 1, 2023
CANVAS is delighted to bring you another issue of our weekly report!
Ukrainian forces claimed to have retook the southern village of Robotyne, in the Zaporizhzhya region, on Monday, August 28th. The capture of the village means that the military has successfully punctured the primary layer of Russian fortifications built in preparation for the much-anticipated Ukrainian counter-offensive. The capture of the Robotyne opens new opportunities with the villages of Novoprokopiva and Ocheretuvato close by. Ukrainian drone assaults have ramped up inside of Russia. 400 miles from Ukraine, 4 military transport planes were hit at an airfield in Pskov, Russia, close to the Estonian border. Aerial bombardments also targeted the Soltsy base in the Novgorod region, destroying one aircraft there. Ukrainian assaults inside Russia have become all too common, with Moscow’s four airports repeatedly needing to halt operations of commercial flights. President Zelensky, on Sunday August 27, sought to reiterate his stance on seeking security guarantees from Washington. Zelensky said he believes that Washington will offer military aid and funding in a relationship that is similar to that of the US and Israel, in which Israel is designated as a major non-NATO ally.
President Ali Bongo won reelection on early Wednesday morning, August 30th, for his third consecutive term, having been first elected in 2009 following the death of his father. Upon the announcement of his reelection gunshots could be heard in the capital and the military soon proclaimed that they had taken over, canceled the results of the election, closed borders and dissolved all state-institutions. The African Union subsequently paused Gabon’s membership.
Africa has been racked over the past decade with military coups with nine over the past three years. However, Gabon and the surrounding countries south of the Sahel have largely been spared. Gabon is an OPEC member, first obtaining membership in 1975 and has large oil reserves. Gabon is the latest former French colony to remove a long standing democratically elected leader after a coup in Niger in July.
The military in Niger has strengthened their hold on power, recently severing all diplomatic ties with the French mission in the country. Diplomatic immunity for Sylvian Itte was revoked and his family’s visas were voided. France has yet to withdraw him from the country.
The Zimbabwe opposition party has called for a new election after tampering and corruption conspiracies arose regarding prevalent abnormalities during voting procedures and extended voting deadlines. Last week’s votes showed that incumbent Emmerson Mnangagwa, of the ZANU-PF, won reelection, a result that was completely rejected by the opposition party, Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC). Mnangagwa’s win pushes the ZANU-PF party’s ruling to 43 years since the rule of longtime dictator Robert Mugabe. The opposition party requests that any new election is monitored and controlled by neighboring nations, with hopes that the ruling party has no chance to alter the results. The CCC party has attempted to launch a legal challenge, which analysts say will not gain much traction.
The triumph of the ZANU-PF party has caused concern for humanitarian organizations. The United Nations Secretary General António Guterres expressed worries for election monitors who have been arrested for checking the results to confirm they were not rigged. Mnangagwa has been unable to reign in high levels of unemployment, uncontrolled inflation, and widespread corruption that has left many Zimbabweans looking for opportunities elsewhere.
Protests are slated to resume this week advocating for the replacement of heads of the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Security Information Agency in Serbia, and the banning of reality shows that promote violence and unethical behavior. On Wednesday, the news broke out that the hackers changed the name of the grammar school in Valjevo to the name of the boy who committed the massacre in the Belgrade school in May on Google Maps. Despite the fact that the upcoming 18th protest against the violence is going to focus on education and the rule of law it is highly possible that concerns about this worrying event will be addressed.
This week marked several more activist initiatives in Serbia. Serbian students formally addressed PM Ana Brnabić asking for information on what has been done concretely to prevent tragedies, such as the one that occurred in May, while activists in Futog attempted to symbolically hand a bullet-proof vest to the Mayor of Novi Sad during his visit to one elementary school. In other news, the European Commission expressed its concerns about the recently changed law on Serbian citizenship, because it facilitates procedures by which foreign citizens can get Serbian passports. The circumstances as such, according to the EC, can present a public political and security threat to the EU because Serbian citizens enjoy their visa-free regime within the union.
The military-installed government has expelled the ambassador of East Timor out of Myanmar. These orders come after the senior diplomat of East Timor in Myanmar met with the military government’s main opposition and shadow government, the National Unity Government (NUG). Furthermore, East Timor invited the NUG’s human rights and foreign service minister to attend the swearing-in ceremony of Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao in July. These extended relations with the shadow government, coupled with the outward criticism of the military junta, have led to strained ties between the nations.
August 25 marked six years since the beginning of ethnic cleansing of the Muslim minority in Myanmar, which has left over 25,000 Rohingya dead and hundreds of thousands seeking refuge in neighboring Bangladesh. Refugees continue to struggle to survive in Bangladesh, facing food crises with most stuck in camps with no work. The World Food Programme assistance to refugees in camps has been cut by nearly a third.
May elections voted in Pita Limjaroenrat, a 42 year old reformist politician, and his Move Forward party, to power in a move that was seen as a rebuke to the monarchy and the ruling military powers. Due to “intractable military and conservative opposition” pro-democracy Pheu Thai party member Shretta Thavisin was elected Prime Minister by parliament. Upon the election of Thavisin, former PM Thaksin Shinawatra returned to the country after years living in exile. Shinawatra was convicted of abuse of power and sentenced to eight years in prison. Shinawatra founded the Pheu Thai party and is a close ally of Thavisin. Upon returning to the country Shinawatra was immediately transferred to prison where he was sent a pardon request that first must be approved by Thavisin before being transferred to the king.
Four Americans remain under house arrest in Iran as negotiations for a prisoner swap have concluded. Five Iranians under arrest in the United States as well as 6 billion in sanctioned oil revenue that is tied up in South Korea will be returned to Iran in exchange. The oil revenue must be used for humanitarian efforts in Iran. The deal has been agreed upon, however the swap has yet to take place.
Last week Iran received an invitation to join the BRICS block alongside 5 other countries, expanding the block to 11. The block, formerly run by Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa is growing in a push for the global south to counter western influence in world affairs. The expansion has created questions about the creation of a currency used by the block to counter the influence of the US Dollar in international trade. However, experts maintain that the creation of any common currency is a long way off.
Javad Rouhi was arrested last year soon after the death of Mahsa Amini in a wave of mass arrests designed to quell anti-government protests. He was found guilty of leading rioters, destroying property, and apostasy for allegedly burning a Quran during a demonstration. Rouhi was sentenced to death for his actions. His sentence was overturned by the Supreme Court. Rouhi died on August 31st of a seizure after being exposed to floggings and freezing temperatures while in prison awaiting a new sentence.