Week in RevieW
12 October 2018
UNREST BREWING IN CAMEROON. As an election nears, there is a group of separatists seeking to upend stability in a fight for independence. Due in large part from Cameroon’s complicated colonial past, the English-speaking part of the state is being targeted. The separatists want their own country, Ambazonia and the government crackdowns to prevent an uprising are not making the situation more stable. Even though the election will be highly lopsided in favour of Mr. Biya, the president for the past 36 years, the English-speaking regions will have little say and its largely because there is almost no one left in the regions. There have been an estimated 90% of residents who have fled these regions in fear of being attacked or killed. Homes and businesses have been burned in battles between the separatists and the government. The division between the English and French regions have made tensions rise and it has been exasperated by the president’s preference towards French-speakers, while ignoring infrastructure and appointing French speaking judges and teachers to the English regions.
ANOTHER AUTHORITARIAN COULD WIN. Presidential candidate Jair Bolsonaro could become the president of Brazil on October 28th after nearly winning it in the first round this week with 46 percent of the vote. As the days tick down to the runoff-vote, the reality of him become president are setting in. He would be the first conservative president since 2002 and the first leader to espouse such militaristic, anti-democratic, and divisive values since the end of military dictatorship in the 1980s. Like many similar figures around the world, Bolsonaro raised much less money, instead using social media to reach out to his supporters. His charismatic charm and unwavering use of anti-democratic terms and values emboldened a frustrated population in Brazil, fed up with the instability, faltering economy, and crime. While he has yet to announce any sound policy, many believe he will be fiscally responsible, make Brazil more business-friendly, and truly crackdown on crime. For the world watching, it could be mean the democratic-backsliding of the world’s fourth largest democracy.
DUTERTE UNDER FIRE. President Duterte of the Philippines has been known for his mass war on drugs, killing thousands without due process, has made jokes about rape, and has clashed with major institutions like the Roman Catholic Church. He has done all of this without a major loss of support. His base of the nation’s poorest has always stood behind him, until now at least. A crack in his base is beginning to show itself as the price on food-staples is soaring. The country’s inflation rate has also hit a nine-year high. Accusing the rice producers as being hoarders and putting out a reward for more information about their crimes, Duterte has used his usual tricks to retain support. Yet, the prices are continuing to climb, something most of his supporters just cannot live with, literally. While the typhoon last month destroyed 250 000 tons of rice, this problem is larger than nature disasters. Experts say the country’s food agency has succumb to infighting and is unable to improve the situation. It is a lack of coherent policy from the government that has worsened the issues that have plagued the Philippines for years. This week, he dropped import taxes on certain foods, which should help the situation, but it marks his realization that his is not impervious to external threats. While he does still maintain a 60% satisfaction rating, it is much lower than it used to be.
WARMING RELATIONS BETWEEN THE TWO KOREAS IS TOO FAST FOR THE UNITED STATES. South Korea announced it would be willing to lift its embargo on bilateral trade on North Korea. As the two sides have increased communications, become more friendly, and are working towards denuclearization, the South is hoping that increasing trade will give it more leverage. Yet, the announcement only holds so much power since much on the South Korean sanctions are duplicated by the United Nations sanctions. If they are dropped, the UN sanctions will stay in place, meaning little change. The countries’ conservatives resist any sort of relaxation of sanctions in fear that it will harm its relationship with the United Nations. President Trump backed up that sentiment by stating, “[South Korea] won’t do it without our approval. They do nothing without our approval”. This strict statement aligns with the United States’ attempt to apply maximum pressure until real steps of denuclearization are taken. For now, it seems as though the historical back and forth between North Korea and the United States/its allies will continue.
ANOTHER EUROPEAN UNION MEMBER ACCUSED OF ANTI-DEMOCRATIC NORMS. In recent years countries such as Poland, the Czech, and Hungary have been committed to serious democratic backsliding. Now, Bulgaria is increasingly seen as another potential candidate for the label or at least it has never been fully democratic to begin with. When a journalist was found dead by the Danube River, many assumed like two other journalists in recent months, that she had been killed from political motives. While the government refutes the claims, saying that there is ample evidence for this to be a typical murder, others are not so sure. All three journalists had been doing work to uncover corruption scandals at the government level, which has been a persistent issue with Bulgarians. Additionally, Bulgaria has the lowest level of media freedom in the EU and has arrested other journalists for investigations into the government’s corruption.
TRUCE MAY LEAD TO BETTER RESULTS. A truce agreed to by the Syrian Government and the rebels may lead to some real improvements in the conditions of fighting. Unlike past peace agreements, which have always fallen apart, this was brokered by Russia and Turkey, who take opposing sides on the war. The rebels have been on a retreat for months and this is seen as a way to prevent millions of more Syrians from flooding into Turkey, which could then move into Europe again. The city at the centre of the truce is Idlib, home to 3.5 million Syrians, many who have already fled from their homes elsewhere in the country. Being only a two hour journey to Turkey it increases the risk of another wave of refugees. The government insists the measures are only temporary and that Syria will once again be under full-government control.
CONTROVERSY ALWAYS FOLLOWS A TRUMP. First Lady, Melania Trump has been on a six-day trip across Africa this week, promoting her ‘Be-Best’ campaign and giving out aid to countries. This comes as he husband is cutting 30% of aid to African countries at the United Nations. Asked about this, she simply replied that the United States is already providing funding. The largest controversy on her trip was the white pith helmet that she wore in both Kenya and Egypt. These are synonymous with colonial British rule and it sparked debate over her intentions. Her ignorance to such cultural understandings illustrates that Trumpian mannerisms do not only extend to the President and his sons.