Asia/Africa update: September 20 2018

Best wishes to any readers who are observing Ashura.



The Taliban carried out “a series of coordinated attacks” against three security checkpoints in Ghazni province on Thursday morning, killing at least five Afghan security forces. Additionally, five people were reportedly wounded by a roadside bomb in Nangarhar province.


One of Imran Khan’s quests during his just-completed visit to Saudi Arabia was apparently to try to sell the Saudis on coming in as partners, alongside China, in Pakistan’s various Belt and Road projects. It’s been a goal for Pakistan to try to bring other parties into the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor effort in part to maybe ease its financial dependence on China, but so far it hasn’t had much luck in that department.


Khan has reportedly written a letter to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressing his desire for talks, particularly on the Kashmir issue. Modi has already expressed a similar interest in engagement with Khan, but the wild card here is the Pakistani military, which helped engineer Khan’s victory in July’s election and has historically been cool to the idea of engagement with India.


The Maldives will be holding its presidential election on Sunday. Incumbent Abdulla Yameen is expected to win, mostly because he’s rigged it that way:

Along with the jailing of opposition leaders for various reasons after speedy trials, Yameen has made several appointments activists say make a free and fair election difficult.

He annulled a Supreme Court ruling that quashed the convictions of nine opposition leaders, including former president Mohamed Nasheed, the country’s first democratically elected leader, sparking a political crisis in February.

He then appointed a new chief justice after removing his predecessor for ordering the releases, sacked two police chiefs and enacted laws in parliament without a required quorum.

Things are so stacked in Yameen’s favor that even in the unlikely event that he loses the vote, he’s still likely to remain in power.


Separatist fighters in southern Thailand killed one person on Wednesday when they opened fire on a truck on a road in Yala province.


The Trump administration imposed sanctions on China on Thursday for buying Russian weapons systems in contravention of sanctions law related to Russian meddling in the 2016 election. Washington is trying to take a hard line against countries buying Russian weapons as a signal to US allies–Turkey, the Saudis, Qatar–that are thinking about doing likewise. If you’re killing people you better buy American or else go fuck yourselves.

In Xinjiang, meanwhile, Chinese authorities are–in a policy the Trump administration can surely recognize–forcibly separating Uyghur children from their families and putting them in orphanages for reeducation purposes:

The orphanages are the latest example of how China is systematically distancing young Muslims in Xinjiang from their families and culture, The Associated Press has found through interviews with 15 Muslims and a review of procurement documents. The government has been building thousands of so-called “bilingual” schools, where minority children are taught in Mandarin and penalized for speaking in their native tongues. Some of these are boarding schools, which Uighurs say can be mandatory for children and, in a Kazakh family’s case, start from the age of five.

China says the orphanages help disadvantaged children, and denies the existence of internment camps for their parents. It prides itself on investing millions of yuan in education in Xinjiang to steer people out of poverty and away from terrorism. At a regular press briefing Thursday, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said the measures taken in Xinjiang were necessary for “stability, development, harmony” and to fight ethnic separatists.

But Uighurs fear that these measures are essentially wiping out their ethnic identity, one child at a time. Experts say what China is doing echoes how white colonialists in the U.S., Canada and Australia treated indigenous children — policies that have left generations traumatized.


The US military says it’s ready to conduct joint operations with North Korea to recover the remains of Americans lost during the Korean War, but it’s apparently still negotiating through a list of North Korean demands. That list includes “a large sum of money, eight ambulances and other items,” a package the Pentagon says is “out of sorts.”


Japanese Prime Minister Shinzō Abe won a Liberal Democratic Party leadership election on Thursday that will leave him in charge of the party for another three years and practically makes him a lock to become Japan’s longest-serving PM ever. The corruption allegations that have dogged Abe in recent months weren’t enough to dent his support.



Writer Christian Freymeyer argues that there are steps the US could take to counter the Cameroonian government’s crackdown against its English-speaking minority–specifically by cutting aid to the country’s elite military unit, the Battalion d’Intervention Rapide (BIR), which has been implicated in the crackdown:

The so-called Leahy Law, passed in 1997 and named for its chief advocate, Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy, essentially bars the Departments of State and Defense from providing military assistance to foreign security forces that have credible accusations of human rights violations made against them. From a growing number of press reports, firsthand accounts, and on-the-ground videos, it’s clear that the BIR and the military more broadly are violating Cameroonians’ human rights. These are exactly the types of forces the Leahy Law was designed to target.

The BIR has always been a bit of an outlier when compared with its counterparts from other branches of the armed forces: It’s well funded, receives training from the United States, and is led by a retired Israeli military officer. The BIR doesn’t even report to the country’s defense minister, taking orders instead directly from Biya.


The DRC has published its final list of candidates for the presidential election it insists it will hold this year. On it, obviously, is current President Joseph Kabila’s handpicked successor, Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary, and missing are two of the country’s most prominent opposition figures: Jean-Pierre Bemba and Moïse Katumbi. Their exclusion plus the introduction of some swanky new electronic voting machines has raised concerns that Kabila’s ruling party is rigging the vote. But if the election is conducted fairly, then Ramazani could face a tough challenge from opposition leaders Félix Tshisekedi and Vital Kamerhe. Since the DRC uses a single-round plurality vote to choose presidents, it would behoove the several opposition candidates to figure out a way to unite behind one person so they don’t split the anti-Kabila vote, but that seems like a long shot.


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