Asia/Africa update: December 13 2018



Sri Lanka’s Supreme Court ruled on Thursday that President Maithripala Sirisena violated the country’s constitution when he attempted to dissolve parliament last month so as to install Mahinda Rajapaksa as prime minister. At this point, it’s hard to see what legal choice Sirisena has left but to return Ranil Wickremesinghe to the PM job and deal with it. Of course he could decide to do something extra-legal…


Beijing says that the two Canadian nationals it’s detained over the past couple of weeks, businessman Michael Spavor and International Crisis Group analyst Michael Kovrig, are suspected of “endangering” national security. So it totally has nothing to do with the Meng Wanzhou case, just shut up about that please. Spavor, interestingly, has deep ties to the North Korean government and Kim Jong-un himself, though it’s unclear how that connects to the rest of his case.


John Bolton rolled out the Trump administration’s new Africa policy on Thursday, one that’s supposed to counter Russian and Chinese influence on the continent by, as far as I can tell, complaining a lot about Russian and Chinese influence on the continent. It certainly doesn’t seem focused on increasing US aid to Africa as a counterweight to Beijing and Moscow–in fact, the administration mostly just seems interested in shedding its commitments to UN peacekeeping missions:

Bolton said that Trump had approved the policy on Wednesday and the administration would begin executing it immediately. That is likely to have a rapid impact on UN peacekeeping missions. The US has already demanded a change of the mandate of the peacekeeping mission in Western Sahara, refused to increase funding of a mission in the Central African Republic, and has threatened to cut funds for the mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo, which is up for renewal of its mandate in the New Year.

“The United States will no longer provide indiscriminate assistance across the entire continent, without focus or prioritization. And, we will no longer support unproductive, unsuccessful, and unaccountable UN peacekeeping missions,” Bolton said, in a speech at the Heritage Foundation thinktank in Washington. “We want something more to show for Americans’ hard-earned taxpayer dollars.”

Anybody who thinks John Bolton really gives a shit about getting value for US taxpayer dollars, please email me with your bank account information and Social Security number. I’ve got a great investment opportunity that I’m dying to share with you.


The feud between Tunisian President Beji Caid Essebsi and the Ennahda Party is worsening, with Essebsi now pretty much openly accusing Ennahda of conducting assassinations:

In a Nov. 29 speech to the Tunisian National Security Council in Carthage, President Beji Caid Essebsi accused the Ennahda political party of personally threatening him. He said he will not let this threat pass and will resort to the judiciary in this regard.

Essebsi was responding to Ennahda’s Nov. 26 statement on its official website warning against the dangers of involving the presidency in judicial affairs, saying that would undermine the judiciary’s independence and place the presidency in the middle of political clashes.

Ennahda had posted the statement just hours after Essebsi met with some members of a group calling itself the “Committee for the Defense of Martyrs Chokri Belaid and Mohamed Brahmi,” two politicians who were assassinated in 2013. The committee comprises lawyers who weren’t satisfied with the initial investigation and have been pursuing their own probe.

The committee charged in October that Ennahda was not only involved in the assassinations, but that it had formed a secret group that infiltrated state institutions to steal thousands of related documents from the Tunisian Ministry of Interior. The committee is demanding that the judiciary reopen the case.

The committee also accuses Ennahda of attempting to assassinate Essebsi and French President François Hollande in 2013, a charge Ennahda of course denies. Essebsi and the Popular Front party, in which Brahmi and Belaid were members, want an investigation into Ennahda’s activities.


At least 43 Tuareg civilians have been killed by armed attackers in the village of Tinabaw in northern Mali this week. It’s unclear who was behind the attack, but Fulani fighters would be a good guess. Some 15 Fulani villagers were killed in a similar attack in central Mali earlier this month, quite possibly by Tuaregs. The two communities have a long history of mutual violence.


The Ethiopian government says its Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam won’t be completed until 2022 at the earliest. That’s a full four years later than it was supposed to be finished, but I suppose on the bright side that’s four more years for the Ethiopians to negotiate some sort of settlement over the Nile River’s water flow and avoid a water war. Or maybe not–it’s not the dam that’s the problem so much as filling the dam’s reservoir, and not being a civil engineer I really couldn’t tell you whether the timeframe for that is being affected here or not.


Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki visited Somalia on Thursday for the first time since…well, ever. It’s remarkable how quickly the rapprochement between Eritrea and Ethiopia has unlocked regional diplomacy in the Horn of Africa, and there’s no better example of that than the speed with which Eritrea and Somalia have rebuilt their relations, which had been broken for several years due mostly to the Eritrea-Ethiopia conflict.


The United Nations Security Council renewed its peacekeeping mission in the CAR for another year on Thursday. Russia and China abstained from the vote due to Russian anger that the renewal resolution didn’t acknowledge Russia’s role in the CAR, which has mostly involved sending weapons and mercenaries to help the government while getting sweet mining contracts in return.


Oh my God, you guys. You know how the Congolese government led by Joseph Kabila is supposed to hold an election this month that will finally mark the end of Kabila’s 17 years in power, two years after his second and final presidential term was supposed to have ended? And how Kabila is totally committed to having this election, he swears? Well the craziest thing just happened: some totally unknown arsonists whom we’ll probably never catch just set fire to an election commission warehouse in Kinshasa and, like, burned up a bunch of ballot machines and stuff. Yeah, we know, it sucks. What a totally unplanned and random turn of events, right? So anyway we might not be able to have the election now after all, which is a huge bummer because President Kabila and the whole gang were really looking forward to it.

Also there’s been a smidgen of violence over the past couple of days, a few opposition supporters accidentally ran into bullets fired by government security forces, it’s no big deal but we thought you should know. Really hoping that election happens despite all the problems. Fingers crossed!

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