Week in review

23 November 2018

Yemeni mother struggling to feed her family, 2018.

Yemeni mother struggling to feed her family, 2018.


YEMEN RETURNS TO THE HEADLINES. Media coverage of the long-running war in Yemen tends to come in fits and starts. Every once in a while, stories of the intense suffering faced by thousands in Yemen come to the surface. After a few weeks of international attention, the story disappears into the background noise of the news cycle. Fortunately, Yemen has been receiving more attention over the last few weeks. What began as the ongoing conflict between a Yemeni rebel group called the Houthis and the Yemeni government boiled into a full-blown war after Houthi rebels took the capital city of Sanaa in 2014 and a coalition of neighbouring countries launched a military campaign to restore the Yemeni Government in 2015. The government is led by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. 

After three long years with no end in sight, the war has taken its toll on civilians. Frequently, the number of casualties is reported to be about 10,000, but many expert groups place the number much higher. Some put at it 56,000; others, closer to 80,000. It's very hard to know. Some of these causalities are a direct result of the fighting, while thousands more are from the starvation caused by the tactics of coalition forces. Coalition forces have used blockades of key ports and have targeted local food production sources in an effort to weaken rebel areas. A recent report using the United Nations (UN) data compiled by Save the Children has estimated that approximately 85,000 children may have starved to death since the beginning of the war. Additionally, a UN investigation also reported that collation forces have been directly targeting civilians by striking targets like markets, weddings, funerals, and medical facilities. 

There is a lot of controversy in Western countries about ongoing arms sales to Saudi Arabia in light of these war crimes. Some countries are beginning to withdraw their arms trade relationships with Saudi Arabia. Finland and Denmark both announced earlier this week that they will withdraw their arms sales to Saudi Arabia; citing the war in Yemen and the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. While public awareness of the war has increased over the past few weeks, for the people of Yemen, there is still a long road ahead.

CONTENTION OVER INTERPOL VACANCY. On Wednesday, the International Criminal Police Organization, better know as Interpol, elected a new president. Russian Alexander Prokopchuk had been widely favoured to take the post, but in a surprise result, he was defeated by South Korea's Kim Jon-yang. While the position of president is largely ceremonial, it would have represented a powerful symbolic win for Russia in an international organization. Many had criticized Prokopchuk's candidacy, citing a history of using Interpol "Red Notices", or arrest warrants, to target opponents of Russian President Vladimir Putin. Russia fired back against these claims, suggesting that the opposition of a group of United States Senators amounted to "election meddling". The election came in the wake of the recent resignation of former Interpol president Meng Hongwei of China, who disappeared in September on a trip to China and is now being detained for allegations of bribe-taking.

CONCERN OF CHINESE INFLUENCE ON TAIWAN’S ELECTIONS. This coming Saturday Taiwan will hold its local elections amid concerns about a Chinese campaign of misinformation to sway the results. The local elections will serve as an indication of support for the current president Tsai Ing-Wen. Tsai was elected in 2016 as leader of the Democratic Progressive Party, which leans towards independence from China. In order for China to assert its influence over the island’s politics they have been accused of illegally funneling money into political campaigns and spreading misinformation to Taiwanese voters over social media. The Chinese government has denied any involvement in spreading misinformation calling the accusations “fake news”.