April

Bahrain by Alistair Galloway

Bahrain worked with other Gulf Arab leaders to discuss regional security as well as to formulate a unified stance on Iran. Despite the continuation of tense relations between Bahrain and Iran due to continued suspicion of Iranian intervention in Bahrain’s domestic affairs, Bahraini Foreign Minister Sheikh Khalid bin Ahmed bin Mohammed Al Khalifah made a statement encouraging the continuation of talks between Iran and Persian Gulf Arab countries, mediated by Kuwait. Clashes between Bahrain’s Shiite population and the Sunni ruled government persist causing an uptick in government intervention. The crackdown has worried human rights groups. Bahrain is scheduled to have its UN Human Rights review session in Geneva on May 1st. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has urged Bahrain to make significant spending cuts after the economy has been hard hit by falling oil prices. Construction of the first liquefied natural gas (LNG) receiving and regasification terminal in the Middle East is underway in the Hidd Industrial area of Bahrain. After meeting with Bahrain’s King Hamad bin Issa Al Khalifa, head of the Russian republic of Chechnya, Ranzan Kadyrov, announced that the prominent Russian gas company Gazprom had reached an agreement with Bahrain’s authorities regarding its participation in oil and gas prospecting works. Bahrain continued to pursue close economic, political, and cultural ties with countries such as the Philippines, Sudan, and Pakistan. The US has agreed to supply the Royal Bahrain Naval Force with another five Mk V patrol boats later this year. Although Bahrain’s economy has been hard hit by falling oil prices, its business investment as well as restaurant and hotel sector have continued to grow. 

 

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Angola by Alistair Galloway

Angolan President Jose Eduardo dos Santos has signed a decree that has set 23 August as the date for this year’s general election in Angola. A spike of violence in the Kasai Province of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has now forced over 11,000 refugees to seek safety in Angola. Angola’s Ambassador to Belarus Joaquim Augusto de Lemos met with Belarussian Minister of Foreign Affairs Vladimir Makei. Seven Angolan opposition activists have been sentenced to 45 days in prison and fined 65,000 kwanzas (appeox. $390 USD) over a protest calling for greater transparency and fairness in the upcoming election. World Health Organisation (WHO) survelliance officer Jean Marie Kipela reaffirmed the WHO’s commitment to work with the Angolan government in an effort to eradicate malaria in the country. According to the World Bank, Angola, Nigeria and South Africa remain the largest economics of Africa. The United Nations migration agency has provided emergency funding of $100,000 to kick-start relief operations in Angola for Congolese refugees displaced by fighting in the DRC’s Kasai region. President Jose Eduardo dos Santos stated that state economic policy is focused upon controlling consumer price inflation and diversifying revenue sources. Tens of thousands of Chinese have reportedly left Angola as a result of the current oil slump. Angola has become the latest country affected by the fall armyworm. Angolan Minister of External Relations Georges Rebelo Pinto Chikoti met with New Zealand Foreign Minister Murray McCully to dicuss trade between the two countries. Angolan Minister of External Relations Georges Rebelo Pinto Chikoti met with Indonesian Industry Minister Airlangga Hartarto on 12 April to discuss ways to boost the Angolan and Indonesian economies through trade and investment. Angolan Minister of External Relations Georges Rebelo Pinto Chikoti met Vietnamese Foreign Minister Pham Bình Minh. The pair agreed to continue seeking measures to improve ties in certain areas and expand cooperation in particularly promising fields.

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Yemen by Alistair Galloway

The European Union (EU) maintained its belief that a political dialogue rather than military conflict is the only way that peace can be achieved in Yemen. The United Nations (UN) confirmed on 10 April that, with its partners, it has succeeded in completing a nationwide polio campaign for children in Yemen. Mertixell Relano, spokesperson for the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) in Yemen, announced that up to 4.5 million children will be unable to complete the school year in Yemen this year. Several hundred activists marched from the UN offices in Sanaa to the besieged port city of Hodeidah to advocate for the creation of a humanitarian zone in the city. The United Nations organised a conference on the 25th of April to help raise funds for humanitarian assistance in Yemen. Save the Children and Watchlist are advocating for Saudi Arabia to be placed on the UN’s list of children’s rights violators due to recent attacks on hospitals and doctors in Yemen. Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi was reported to have offered 40000 Egyptian troops to the Saudi-led coalition on 17 April for the conflict against Houthi rebels in Yemen. Twelve Saudi Arabian military officers were killed in eastern Yemen on 18 April when their helicopter crashed in Marib province. Four Al-Qaeda militants were killed in a U.S drone strike in Maarib province on 18 April. Jamie McGoldrick, UN humanitarian coordinator for Yemen, called on 20 April for Saudi Arabia not to bomb the rebel-held port of Hodeida. Seven Yemeni soldiers were killed in Aden on 24 April when a shipment of landmines accidentally detonated. President Hadi and the Yemeni government vowed to reclaim the port city of Hodeida from Houthi rebels earlier this month. The Saudi-led coalition has confirmed the capture of a senior al-Qaeda commander as well as other militants from the group during counterterrorism operations in the city of Hadramout on 23 April. Houthi forces have been accused by Human Rights Watch for the use of illegal landmines which have killed hundreds of civilians throughout Yemen. 

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UAE by Alistair Galloway

Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan met with Vladimir Putin at the Kremlin, in an effort to strengthen relations between the two countries. The UAE allegedly arranged a secret meeting in January 2017 as part of an effort to establish a back-channel line of communication between Moscow and President-elect Donald Trump. Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan met with the President of the Federal Republic of Somalia, Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo. New Zealand Prime Minister Bill English has announced that his country is considering restrictions on laptops and other large electronic devices on flight cabins from some Muslims majority countries in the Middle East. An Emirati soldier was shot dead in an incident involving an Iranian ship that was attempting to enter UAE territorial waters. Dubai police have arrested a group of foreign hackers after they targeted five senior White House officials in a blackmail email scam. An Iranian businessman has been sentenced to 10 years in prison, after being convicted of attempting to re-export an electric generator to Iran. According to a report from the World Economic Forum, the UAE is the second safest country in the world behind only Finland. Following talks on 24 April between, Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan and Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida, the UAE and Japan have agreed to broaden economic ties between the two countries. Two major lenders in the UAE, the First Gulf Bank and the National Bank of Abu Dhabi, have merged to become the largest bank in the country under the name First Abu Dhabi Bank. On 26 April, Emirates National Oil Company (Enoc) opened the UAE’s first solar- powered petrol station. 

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Turkey by Alistair Galloway

President Erdogan claimed a victory in the Turkish referendum, designed to alter the constitution to drastically increase the president’s power in the country, though opposition parties have demanded a recount. A report from the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe and the Council of Europe found that up to 2.5 million votes could have been manipulated in the referendum. The European Union has decided not to suspend Turkey’s bid to join the EU. Several prominent European politicians have spoken out in favor of suspending Turkey’s membership talks, a move that would freeze the annual payment of approximately 650 million USD of EU pre- accession funds to Turkey. For some EU member states, the last threshold to end membership talks with Turkey would be Ankara’s reinstatement of the death penalty, something that has been discussed since Erdogan’s referendum victory. The Turkish government blocked Wikipedia in the country, stating that Wikipedia refused to remove content that suggested Turkey was in cooperation with “terror groups”. Turkish authorities arrested more than 1,000 people throughout the country for suspected ties to the US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen. At least 38 people were arrested following protests throughout Turkey against the referendum’s passing vote. According to US officials, Turkey gave coalition forces “about 20 minutes notice” before launching airstrikes on Kurdish troops in Syria, potentially putting American and other coalition forces in the area at risk. Turkey’s central bank has continued to tighten monetary conditions by raising its liquidity lending rate to its highest level since 2015. Consumer price growth has reached its highest point in the country since 2008. 

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Sierra Leone by Alistair Galloway

Sierra Leone President Koroma hosted Gambian President Adam Barrow and the two leaders discussed their commitment to upholding democracy in the region. Samuel Sam-Sumana, the former vice president of Sierra Leone, returned to the country. Sam-Sumana is a controversial political figure, having been involved in the ‘Timbergate affair.’ Sierra Leone’s parliament voted against bills that would have legitimised the electoral registration and boundary changing process that began earlier this year in preparation for next year’s general election. Armed soldiers surrounded and entered a police station to free a senior military official who had been arrested and held in custody. The World Health Organisation confirmed a case of monkeypox virus, which is the third known case of the virus in Sierra Leone. A joint effort by Greenpeace and Sierra Leone fishery authorities found four illegal fishing cases. The United Nations Office for Project Services held training events for solar energy companies. Sierra Leone’s only privately owned indigenous bank negotiated a US$6 million line of credit from the Islamic Corporation for the Development of the Private Sector, a multilateral development financial institution. The World Bank and International Monetary Fund announced they expect most sub-Saharan African countries to grow by around 2.5 per cent in 2017. 

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Russia by Alistair Galloway

Russia blocked a United Nation’s Security Council (UNSC) draft resolution to denounce the chemical attacks made by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad earlier this month. An explosion in St. Petersburg metro killed eleven and injured an addition forty five. According to United States Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, the United States will maintain the Minsk II sanctions until Crimea is returned to Russia. Russian President Vladimir Putin and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe called for talks with North Korea in an attempt to curb aggression. According to Kremlin Spokesperson Dmitry Peskov, the risk of a direct collision between the United States and Russia has significantly increased following the United States’ missile strikes in Syria. Both Russia and Iran warned the United States that they will respond with force if red lines are crossed. Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev stated in his annual address that the Russian economy narrowly avoided catastrophe despite low global oil prices. 

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Pakistan by Alistair Galloway

India put the upcoming Indus Water talks on hold claiming that it needs more time to have further discussions about the technicalities involved in redesigning further hydropower projects before it is ready to discuss the issue. Pakistan’s former Chief of Army Staff (CoAS) General Raheel Sharif was appointed as head of a Saudi-led military coalition. Pakistan resumed the repatriation of Afghan refugees sending back nearly 1200 people, some of whom have lived in Pakistan for over 25 years. The Pakistani military announced that the construction of a fence along the entire border with Afghanistan is coming along well. The Supreme Court of Pakistan ruled that there was insufficient evidence to remove Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif from office as part of the ‘Panama Papers Leaks Case’. Four missiles fired by a militant group from Afghanistan destroyed a mosque and a shop in Kurram Agency leaving no one injured. The Pakistan Taliban claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing in Lahore that left five soldiers and two civilians dead. Four soldiers were killed when a roadside bomb detonated on the Iranian border with no militant group claiming responsibility. A roadside bomb was remotely detonated in Kurram Agency, killing 14 people. Pakistani counter-terrorism officers were ambushed by the Pakistan Taliban resulting in 10 of the militants dying. Military and paramilitary forces raided a militant hideout in Dera Ghazi Khan district resulting in 10 militants and three soldiers dying. Clashes between India and Pakistan along the Line of Control (LoC) continued in April with five instances being reported of mortar fire, larger artillery fire, and small arms fire being exchanged indiscriminately. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) completed its Article IV mission stating that the country is in a good position to build of reforms to further improve economic growth. Pakistani government announced it will miss its deficit reduction target of 3.8 per cent this year, with the deficit expected to be 4.1 per cent instead. The central banks of Pakistan and Iran signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to provide a trade settlement mechanism for exports and importers in both countries.China further increased its investment in the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) to $62 billion. China also provided $1.2 billion in loans to Pakistan to help it pay back older loans made in foreign currencies. Pakistan’s foreign currency reserves have been largely depleted in recent months and will feel greater strain as the country pays the contractors and suppliers involved in CPEC. 

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Nigeria by Alistair Galloway

President Buhari has suspended two high-ranking government officials over allegations of corruption. The head of the National Intelligence Agency is being investigated after a police apartment raid discovered US$43 million in cash that belonged to his agency. An oil tanker has been detained on suspicion of oil theft from the Shell Afremo platform. 14 young girls have been abducted by militants believed to be Boko Haram. In a separate incident four girls were allegedly abducted by Boko Haram after a herdsman was murdered. A suicide car bomber attacked a military convoy on 27 April. 5 soldiers were killed and another 40 were injured. UNICEF have warned about the “alarming” numbers of children that are being deployed as suicide bombers in Nigeria. Government officials are hoping that 2017 started with good economic growth and are confident the growth figures will be good news when published at the end of May. The Central Bank has designed a scheme to give certain investors access to a floating naira. The Investors’ and Exporters’ FX Window is designed to allow access to dollars and improve liquidity whilst shielding the economy from the rapid increase in inflation that would follow a decision to allow the naira to suddenly float freely. 

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Kuwait by Alistair Galloway

A former Member of Parliament (Musallam al-Barrack) who was convicted in 2012 for insulting the Emir of Kuwait has been released from prison. This is likely to be a morale boost for opposition politicians. Kuwait has committed $100 million to the United Nation (UN)’s fundraising appeal to deal with the human consequences of the Yemen conflict. Kuwait has also pledged $100 million to help with the reconstruction of Iraq in the aftermath of the Islamic State (IS) insurgency. Kuwait is to reinstate military service. Kuwait has signalled that it wants to see Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) cuts to oil production extended beyond their expiration date in June. 

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