Asia/Africa update: September 19-20 2017



Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev is winning friends in Kyrgyzstan. He met on Tuesday with Omurbek Babanov, one of the candidates who will be standing for president in Kyrgyzstan’s October 15 election, and was immediately accused by Bishkek of interfering with the election. Babanov is an opposition candidate, you see, and could be a threat to President Almazbek Atambayev’s preferred successor, current Prime Minister Sooronbai Jeenbekov. Nazarbayev already met with Jeenbekov, last month, so at least both candidates have had equal time in Astana.


Afghan President Ashraf Ghani likes Donald Trump’s plan for his country, and he’s not just saying that to kiss Trump’s ass. I mean, he’s mostly saying it to kiss Trump’s ass, but he also likes that Trump has decided to take a hard line with Pakistan over its support for the Taliban. That is, to be fair, the least objectionable part of Trump’s new/old Afghanistan strategy, but it’s also the one least likely to go anywhere because American influence over Pakistan just isn’t all that great. The strategy that seems to be taking shape involves pulling US and Afghan forces out of areas deemed less vital and consolidating defenses around more valuable real estate. This does reflect a change in the conduct of the war–where eradicating the Taliban was the goal, now the goal seems to be to survive long enough to force the Taliban to negotiate.


Aung San Suu Kyi delivered a televised address on the Rohingya crisis on Tuesday, and, uh, as televised addresses go, it sure was one. On TV and everything. Noting that “Myanmar does not fear international scrutiny,” she then proceeded to Both Sides the hell out of the ethnic cleansing campaign the Myanmar military is conducting against the Rohingya in Rakhine state:

“There have been allegations and counter-allegations … We have to make sure those allegations are based on solid evidence before we take action,” she said in her speech from the capital, Naypyidaw.

She insisted there had been “no conflicts since 5 September and no clearance operations” against the country’s Muslim minority, a point disputed by those who have fled the violence.

Funny how the people who have fled the violence seem to think that there has actually been violence. Later, Suu Kyi offered this OJ-looking-for-the-real-killer-esque statement:

“We are concerned to hear that numbers of Muslims are fleeing across the border to Bangladesh,” she said. “We want to find out why this exodus is happening.”

We want to find out why it’s happening! We don’t know! It’s a mystery! Are the Rohingya actually migratory birds? It’s possible! Our scientists are looking into it! Did they all go to Bangladesh because they heard the beaches are nicer there? Maybe! We’ve got our travel agents on the case! Please give us more time to get to the bottom of this!

A greater load of vile horse shit hasn’t streamed from the mouth of a Nobel laureate since the last time Henry Kissinger said something. The most telling bit was this: Suu Kyi only used the word “Rohingya” in her address once, when talking about the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army. She can’t bring herself to use the Rohingya people’s name because she doesn’t believe they’re actually a people.


Philippine forces killed nine rebels from the communist New People’s Army during a lengthy gun battle in the country’s northern Nueva Ecija province.


As much as Donald Trump lashed out at Iran in his UN speech yesterday, he clearly saved most of his ire for North Korea and Kim Jong-un, or “Rocket Man” as the actual, normal President of the United States literally referred to him on the floor of the United Fucking Nations. And guess what? According to Nikki Haley, that “Rocket Man” thing “worked.” Oh damn, North Korea gave up its nuclear program? Holy shi-

“It worked,” Haley told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos when asked if it was appropriate for Trump to call Kim “rocket man.”

Haley said it was a way of “getting people to talk about” North Korea.

“Every other international community is now referring to him as ‘rocket man,’” Haley said on ABC’s “Good Morning America.”

Oh wow, that’s also a kind of working, I guess? To be fair, nobody was talking about North Korea before yesterday but now it’s a really big deal, so mission accomplished?

Seriously though, Trump used his address to threaten to “totally destroy”–his words–North Korea, a country of somewhere in the neighborhood of 25 million people. Which means Trump’s UN speech included at least one serious violation of international law. White House Chief of Staff John Kelly seemed to really enjoy this part of the speech:

I am very reluctant to make big pronouncements based on UN General Assembly speeches, which are mostly meaningless showpieces. But juxtaposing Trump’s comments on Iran and North Korea puts him in a bit of a bind. On the one hand, he wants North Korea to voluntarily abandon its nuclear program and then negotiate with the US. On the other hand, he’s shown North Korea that he’s prepared to bully the hell out of a country that doesn’t have nuclear weapons and that any international agreement America negotiates isn’t worth squat. If Pyongyang is paying attention to what Trump is doing on Iran, then why would it ever agree to put itself in Iran’s position?



OK, so, nobody can find any evidence that a country called “Nambia” actually exists. But according to Donald Trump they have a great health care system so, congratulations? You Nambians, wherever you are, should be very proud.

At the same lunch in which he invented the nation of Nambia, Trump also praised African leaders on account of all his friends who are going to Africa to get rich. No, really:

“We hope to extend our economic partnerships with countries who are committed to self-reliance and to fostering opportunities for job creation in both Africa and the United States,” said the president.

“I have so many friends going to your countries trying to get rich. I congratulate you,” continued Trump, adding that Africa represented “huge amounts of different markets and for American firms.”

“It’s really become a place that they have to go, that they want to go,” he said.

Prion disease is a terrible thing, folks. It’s sad to see what it’s done to Donald’s once-sharp previously average already fairly compromised let’s be honest mind.


The UN is rolling out a new roadmap for Libyan peace that will shrink the Government of National Accord’s presidency council to three members from its current nine, and then task the GNA with establishing a transitional government. The plan is to get the international community, particularly nations that are on friendly terms with eastern Libyan strongman Khalifa Haftar, behind the plan so they can encourage their clients in Libya to participate in the process. One country that needs to buy in will be Egypt, which announced Tuesday that it’s hosting a “reorganization” of Haftar’s Libyan National Army into a national institution. Instead of a broad reconciliation process, Egypt would be very happy to see Haftar running Libya in a same pseudo-democratic manner similar to the one Abdel Fattah el-Sisi employs in running Egypt.


A ten year old boy was killed on Wednesday in clashes between security forces and protesters demanding term limits for President Faure Gnassingbé.


Nigeria’s Civilian Joint Task Force, a paramilitary unit formed in response to the Boko Haram insurgency, has reached an agreement with the UN to stop using child fighters.


On Monday, 25 people were killed in fighting between former Vice President Riek Machar’s rebels and the South Sudanese army in South Sudan’s northern Unity state. The rebels claimed to have taken control of the village of Nhialdiu, but that’s unconfirmed.


Kenya’s Supreme Court on Wednesday issued its full ruling annulling the results of August’s presidential election, in which it blamed the country’s electoral commission for releasing electronic voting results before verifying them by checking them against paper receipts. Which seems like more of a procedural issue than an argument that the election was stolen from challenger Raila Odinga, but fair enough. Supporters of incumbent President Uhuru Kenyatta protested outside the Supreme Court building on Tuesday and were tear gassed by police for their trouble.

Hillary Clinton, of all people, jumped into the Kenyan election story on Tuesday when she suggested that data firm Cambridge Analytica, which worked for Kenyatta and also worked for Donald Trump in the 2016 election in the US, might have mucked around with the electoral process in both countries. Steve Bannon was once a VP at Cambridge Analytica, and much of the company is owned by billionaire Republican donor Robert Mercer. So far she’s the only high profile person to flag concerns about Cambridge Analytica with respect to Kenya though–all the attention so far has been on misconduct by the electoral commission.


DRC President Joseph Kabila may be approaching year six of his final four year term as Congolese president, but he’s still doing stuff, so good for him. On Tuesday he opened a peace conference in Kasai meant to quell the insurgency that has roiled that part of the country since August 2016. The insurgency in Kasai is both cause and effect of Kabila’s decision to remain in office past the end of his term–the uprising is fueled by the country’s overall political crisis, but it’s also made it difficult to register voters in Kasai, which is a handy excuse for Kabila to keep postponing an election.

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