Asia/Africa update: September 26 2018



The United Nations mission in Afghanistan says that 21 Afghan civilians were killed over the weekend in two airstrikes–nine in a Saturday strike in Kapisa province and 12 on Sunday in Maidan Wardak province. It does not know whether these were Afghan or NATO/US airstrikes.


So remember how Maldivian President Abdulla Yameen was so surprisingly gracious in conceding his defeat in Sunday’s election to challenger Ibrahim Mohamed Solih? Well, about that. On Wednesday, Yameen’s Progressive Party of the Maldives “raised some concerns,” according to the head of the Maldivian elections commission, and sought to have the official announcement of the results delayed from their September 30 deadline. Which has the makings of an attempt to come up with some reason to challenge the results, right? However, Maldivian police and the country’s military both issued statements later in the day saying that they would uphold Sunday’s outcome. This would seemingly put the kibosh on any attempt by Yameen to try to remain in office, but I guess we’ll see.


Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina told Reuters on Wednesday that the Myanmar government is deliberately dragging its feet on preparing for the safe return of 700,000 Rohingya residents from Bangladesh because it doesn’t want those refugees to come back. Hasina made the accusation along with a pledge that the Rohingya will not be allowed to remain in Bangladesh indefinitely. Myanmar’s government has been claiming that it’s ready to receive the Rohingya but that Bangladesh hasn’t been providing it with the proper information to process the refugees.


Singapore has been piggy-backing off of China’s Belt and Road initiative to establish itself as a financial clearinghouse for funds traveling between Beijing and China’s mercantile colonies partners in the project. This has apparently been of particular value in China’s efforts to expand Belt and Road into India, whose government generally opposes the whole initiative:

Next year, the United Nations’ convention on mediation is to be named after Singapore. The city-state’s position as a neutral mediator has been in focus since hosting the U.S.-North Korea summit on June 12. However, Singapore has also been the partner of choice in facilitating cooperation, particularly for businesses, between the larger conflicting nations, China and India, since 2015. What is especially interesting is Singapore’s role in India, where it has acted as an intermediary for Chinese investment as a part of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). The success of Sino-Indian cooperation on the commercial front lends hope for the future of the political relationship considering the recent warming of ties between the two states.


Donald Trump says that the Chinese government is planning to interfere in the 2018 midterm elections on behalf of Democrats, on account of China doesn’t like Trump since he’s so tough and scary. Is there any evidence that China is doing this? Sort of–which, to be fair, is way better than Trump usually does on this sort of thing. This is apparently a real thing that the Chinese government did:

Which, OK, you could make this out to be attempted election interference if you squinted just the right way. But it’s still a stretch. And certainly if Trump is trying to argue that there’s some sort of China-Democratic Party collusion happening in order to deflect from Russia’s efforts to swing the 2016 election in his favor–and of course he is–then this is pretty lame evidence for it.

On the plus side, the Pentagon apparently flew a couple of B-52 bombers in the vicinity of the South China Sea this week, so that should help calm Beijing down.

On the extreme minus side, an environmental research group called Coalswarm says its analysis of satellite imagery shows China is on a pretty big coal power plant construction kick, despite Xi Jinping’s talk about environmental leadership and the like. The Chinese government did throttle back on coal plant construction for the last two years, but its electricity demand is apparently too great to maintain those restrictions. The level of plant building happening down would wreck any chance that China could meet its international emissions targets and therefore any lingering chance of mitigating the worst effects of climate change. Cheers!


Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says he’ll be heading to Pyongyang in October to make plans for Trump-Kim II. Pompeo said over the weekend that the next summit could happen as early as next month but more likely sometime after that. Meanwhile, Trump told reporters at what was in general a completely batshit press conference at the UN on Wednesday that he’s not worried about imposing any timetables on the North Korean denuclearization process, saying “I’ve got all the time in the world.” Good luck sleeping tonight with that message rattling around your head.



Libya’s warring militias have decided to give peace a(nother) chance in Tripoli. The 7th Brigade south of the city and the Tripoli Revolutionaries’ Brigades and the Nawasi Brigade in Tripoli have reportedly agreed on yet another ceasefire in their conflict, which has killed at least 117 people and displaced over 1700 more in around a month of fighting on the southern edge of the Libyan capital. While that was going on, the United Nations Libya envoy was reporting that conditions are otherwise improving actually pretty bad all over:

Also on Wednesday, the U.N. envoy for Libya, Ghassan Salame, told the U.N. Human Rights Council that armed groups loyal to both the self-styled Libyan National Army, led by Field Marshal Kahlifa Hifter in the east, and the U.N.-backed-government in Tripoli continue to violate international law and human rights and use foreign mercenaries, especially in southern Libya.

“Impunity of armed groups must be challenged and all grave violations punished, sanctions imposed and perpetrators brought to national courts or the International Criminal Court,” Salame tweeted.

He warned of “terror attacks on the rise, ISIS resurgent, with 57 dead in 14 attacks since year’s start, including latest on the National Oil Cooperation headquarters in Tripoli.”

On the other hand, Tripoli’s airport is open again. That’s got to count for something, right?


A band of Fulani raiders attacked a Tuareg village in Mali’s Ménaka Region, close to the Niger border, on Tuesday. They killed at least 15 Tuareg men. Clashes between Fulani and Tuareg forces are one of Mali’s panoply of violent ongoing conflicts, and it feeds into concerns about Islamist extremism since al-Qaeda and ISIS both use communal grievances as tools to recruit Tuareg and Fulani individuals into their ranks.


Eight Burkinabe soldiers were killed on Wednesday when their vehicle struck a bomb in Soum province, along the country’s border with Mali. No group has claimed responsibility for the attack.


A new study from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (?) says that 190,000 people have been killed since December 2013 as a direct result of the South Sudanese civil war. When indirect factors like the destruction/degradation of health facilities, disruption to food supplies, displacement, etc. are included, that death toll doubles to roughly 383,000.


The World Bank has agreed to send $80 million in financing to Somalia, its first direct involvement with that country since 1991. The money should go toward basic service provision–clean water, healthcare, schools, etc.


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