Asia/Africa update: September 21 2018



Most predominantly Muslim countries have been conspicuously reluctant to criticize China over its brutal repression of its Uyghur population. Obviously nobody wants to offend a country as economically powerful as China over a bunch of Uyghurs, even though they are Muslim. It is frankly a little remarkable, then, that some of the first–albeit seemingly mild–criticism of Beijing’s Uyghur internment policy comes from Pakistan, the Muslim country that might be the most dependent on Chinese largesse:

Pakistan has demanded China to soften restrictions on Chinese Muslims living in Xinjiang province. Federal Minister Pir Noorul Haq Qadri while meeting Chinese Ambassador Yao Jing said that strict regulations and laws fuel extremism and in order to curb intolerance and promote religious harmony China should deal with patience.

The minister proposed that Pakistani religious scholars can visit the troubled region and can play their role in ending extremist ideology and promote moderate thinking.

The Chinese ambassador promised that his government will soon facilitate Pakistani delegation of religious scholars to visit Xinjiang province.


A group of Kashmiri rebels attacked the homes of a dozen Indian police officers on Friday, abducted three of them, executed them, and then dumped their bodies. Rebels have been warning police officers to quit the force and steer clear of counterinsurgency operations, looking to reduce India’s security forces in the province. Partly due to these three deaths the Indian government decided to cancel a planned meeting between the Indian and Pakistani foreign ministers on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly meeting, presumably setting back efforts to reestablish regular diplomacy between those two countries.


Al Jazeera reports that the Thai military junta has, in a step back toward civilian government, lifted bans on political activity that have been in place since its 2014 coup:


Vietnamese President Trần Đại Quang died on Friday following a “serious illness” that was apparently viral, according to Vietnamese officials. The duties of the Vietnamese presidency are largely ceremonial, but the 61 year old Trần Đại Quang was seen as a potential replacement for 74 year old Communist Party General Secretary Nguyễn Phú Trọng. A new president will be elected at the next National Assembly meeting, which is scheduled for late next month but could be moved up.



At least 11 people were killed and 33 more wounded in renewed militia fighting in southern Tripoli on Thursday. That brings the overall death toll in this apparently unending conflict between militias in the city and militias controlling territory to the south to 96 after several weeks of fighting. The conflict has dashed whatever hopes there might have been for an orderly national election in Libya this year and is even impacting air travel–Tripoli’s airport has been shut down by the fighting, diverting all international air traffic to Misrata, whose airport is simply unable to handle the workload.


The ruling part of Tunisia, Nidaa Tounes, is in the midst of a civil war of sorts pitting Prime Minister Youssef Chahed against President Beji Caid Essebsi and his son, Hafedh Caid Essebsi, who is the party’s executive director. Chahed and Hafedh Caid Essebsi don’t get along very well with one another, in large part because Chahed has spearheaded an anti-corruption effort that has hit wealthy folks who have ties to the party, while Chahed has taken heat from Beji Caid Essebsi for failing to fix Tunisia’s lagging economy. The party has now begun to move against Chahed as there is mounting evidence he’s forming his own party and preparing to jump ship:

Tunisia’s ruling party, Nidaa Tunis, froze the membership of Prime Minister Youssef Chahed on Sept. 14. The decision came after Chahed refused to answer a questionnaire by Nidaa Tunis clarifying the nature of his relationship with the party.

A week earlier, on Sept. 8, eight parliamentarians from Nidaa Tunis‘ bloc of 56 parliament members submitted their resignations from the bloc. Parliament member Mohammed al-Rashdi, one of the eight, told the Tunis-Afrique Presse news agency that they will join the National Coalition, a new bloc initially composed of 33 parliament members supporting the government of Youssef Chahed.

The National Coalition bloc was formed Sept. 7 by independents and resigning members from political parties such as Machrouu Tunis and Free Patriotic Union.

The National Coalition could become the third largest party in the Tunisian parliament after the Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated Ennahda, the largest, and Nidaa Tounes. If it continues to grow it could surpass Nidaa Tounes. It may already be strong enough to save Chahed’s job should Beji Caid Essebsi decide to fire him. On the other hand, all this political turmoil could actually cost Chahed his job in next year’s general election (it could also cost Beji Caid Essebsi his job). At the very least, the maneuvering seems to have blown Chahed’s political capital and left him unable to pursue any more austerity policies, and that’s…well, hey, that’s actually good news for Tunisians then. Tunisia’s Western creditors won’t like it but oh well.


Somebody appears to have stolen $100 million worth of Liberian dollars that were shipped into the country last fall and again this past August. Liberia’s GDP hovers around the $2 billion mark so that’s a hefty chunk of change, and so far nobody seems to know who made off with it. The Liberian government has been preventing suspects from leaving the country and has now apparently asked the United States for help in its investigation.


The French government is pressuring Malian President Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta to implement fully his government’s 2015 peace accord with Tuareg rebels in northern Mali. Keïta has been dragging his feet on this issue for political reasons, but with Mali increasingly struggling to cope with Islamist violence, be it from ISIS-Greater Sahara or the al-Qaeda linked Nusrat al-Islam, it would behoove Keïta to put any other potential internal conflicts to rest.


DRC officials have confirmed a case of Ebola near the country’s border with Uganda and some 200 kilometers removed from the next nearest verified case. This is obviously not a good sign from the standpoint of containing this most recent outbreak.


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