VIF News Digest: International Developments - US, Russia, EU and Africa, 4 - 18 June, 2019
A new migrant surge at the Border, this one from Central Africa: New York Times, 16 June 2019

Migrants from Latin America have been making their way into the US. But in recent times there is a surge of immigrants from Central Africa, particularly from Congo and Angola. The African migrants have been arriving at the immigration centres in San Antonio and Portland. African migrants had arrived at US in the past but the numbers were few, this time 700 migrants have shown up. Earlier, the migrants joined their relatives in the US but in the current batch, many do not have any relatives in the US. Amongst the local population there have been fears of an Ebola outbreak due to these migrants but these concerns have been dismissed. The Mayor of Portland welcomed the migrants and does not see the African migrants as a security threat. Click here to read

US National security under threat due to Huawei ban, technology companies warn Trump administration: South China Monitoring Post, 8 June 2019

US tech companies have told the Trump administrations that the ban on Huawei will affect their bottom lines which in turn will impact ability to develop new technological innovations. Huawei is the third-largest purchaser of US-made chips. Under the new regulations, when the ban on Huawei will be effective in August onwards, any US company that wants to sell to Huawei will have to apply for a license. The companies, and specially the chip-makers have shown through data how this would severely affect them in the long run. Huawei has already reduced its reliance on US-made chips. US firms worry that the loss of revenue from Huawei will force them to cut back on R&D that could affect US military technology and critical infrastructure could become vulnerable to attack. Click here to read

Pompeo on Iran - US considering range of options including military: CNN, 16 June 2019

Amidst the rising tensions with Iran, Pompeo stated that the United States was considering full range of options including the military but he also said that President Trump did not want to go to war. Pompeo said that the US will defend its interests but that the President does not want Iran to get nuclear weapon. In the aftermath of the attack on two tankers in the strategic Straits of Hormuz, US accused Iran of carrying out the attack which Iran has denied. Even Saudi Arabia has blamed Iran for the attack. US has released video that shows an Iranian patrol boat removing an unexploded mine from the hull of the vessel. Click here to read

US sending 1,000 additional troops to Middle East amid Iran tensions: CNN

The US Central command demanded additional troops following the tensions in the Middle East. The Pentagon on Monday authorized 1000 troops to be dispatched to the Middle East. The reinforcement is said to be defensive and to address air, naval and ground based threats in the Middle East. "The recent Iranian attacks validate the reliable, credible intelligence we have received on hostile behavior by Iranian forces and their proxy groups that threaten United States personnel and interests across the region," said Patrick Shanahan, acting defense secretary.

The decision on additional troops is said to be taken to protect American troops on the ground and to protect the national interest. Click here to read

Soviet dissidents’ enemy No.1 KGB General Bobkov dies in Moscow: Russia Today, 17 June 2019

Gen. Filipp Bobkov, a veteran of Soviet counter-intelligence whose job at the KGB involved quashing dissidents and preventing flare ups of ethnic tensions, has died in Moscow aged 93.

Bobkov started his career in 1945 at the age of 20 in the Russian school of Smerh, a military organisation. He later joined the Ministry of State Security. As department chief in the downsized KGB in 1956, during the time of Khrushchev, he was in-charge of handling mass protests in Tbilisi, Georgia. The peak of Bobkov’s 45-year career in state intelligence brought him to the level of deputy head of the KGB in the first half of the 1980s.

Nationalism-tinged tensions became one of the prime threats Bobkov was dealing with at the peak of his career, and the idea being to identify the fault lines that CIA could use to flare up tensions in the Soviet Union. Pyatka was KGB programme that crushed dissidents, looked for literature and art that supported the western psychological warfare, spied on foreigners and Jews and religious people. Click here to read

Russian journalist Golunov released after drug case against him dropped: Russia Today, 11 June 2019

Russian investigative journalist Ivan Golunov has been released from house arrest as the criminal case against him was dropped due to a lack of evidence. His arrest sparked widespread protests and allegations of police misconduct. Vladimir Kolokoltsev, the interior Minister, stated that the evidences found against Gulonov were invalid.

Golunov was detained on Thursday, with police officers claiming they found drugs on him and at his apartment and accused him of drug dealing. The journalist denied all the allegations, claiming that the evidence was planted by the police and the whole case was a set-up in retaliation for his investigative journalism. The case triggered widespread outrage in Russia, with many fellow journalists and other public figures rallying in support of Golunov, and accusing law enforcement of misconduct. Gulonov’s arrest saw widespread protests and agitations. Click here to read

Moscow unveils anti-UAV device which ‘forces’ drones to land: Russia Today, 8 June 2019

Russia’s Emergencies Ministry showed off a new device which intercepts and ‘grounds’ menacing drones that disrupt rescue operations in disaster areas. The technology allows responders to intercept any unauthorized UAVs operating in disaster areas and bring them into forced landings. The presence of civilian drones during disasters has long been a problem for response teams since they risk disrupting the work of relief aircraft, like air tankers water-bombing or medevac helicopters. In recent times there has been a surge in anti-UAV devices due concerns over its spread and availability. Click here to read

Russia to call on UN to recognize WWII victory as ‘heritage of humanity’” Russia Today, 6 June 2019

Russia will address the United Nations to declare victory in World War II as the ‘heritage of humanity,’ while also making the monuments to those who fought against the Nazis as part of a global memorial. The call to recognize the victory against the Nazis as the ‘heritage of humanity’ and protect the monuments to WWII troops was formulated during the Livadia International Humanitarian Forum, which took place in the Crimea’s Yalta earlier this week and was attended by representatives of 50 countries. Russia wants to ensure that its decisive role in the WWII should not be obliterated, and there are accusations that the West was trying to do so by re-writing history of the war. Click here to read

4-day week may be future of labor in technology-changed world – Russian PM: Russia Today, 11 June 2019

New technologies make jobs less labour-intensive and the labour market more global. Employers who benefit from it should be prepared to make concessions to their workers in return, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev has said.

“It’s quite possible that the future belongs to the four-day week as the foundation of the social labour contract,” Medvedev said as an example of what corporations may offer laborers in the future. Changes in the working hours while retaining the same salaries will not affect profits as instances in the past have shown that it increases productivity. A shorter work week will address the ‘burnout’ – a condition that WHO has classified as a disease only last month. Click here to read

Zuzana Caputova sworn in as Slovakia's first female president: EuroNews, 15 June 2019

Anti-corruption campaigner Zuzana Caputova was sworn in as Slovakia's first female president on Saturday, vowing to fight impunity and champion justice in a country shaken by a journalist's murder last year. The killing of Jan Kuciak, who investigated high-level graft cases, and his fiancée at their home last February sparked mass street protests and hit the approval ratings of the governing leftist party Smer. Smer is the most popular party in Slovenia but Caputove’a win has bolstered the liberal alliance. The liberal-progressive alliance also won the seats to EU parliament.

In her inauguration speech, Caputova said state officials that had proven incapable of stamping out corruption should lose their jobs and vowed to make the justice system work fairly for everyone. Caputova's election stood in contrast to a European shift towards populist and nationalist parties. Click here to read

‘History proves them right’ - three decades on, Swiss women strike again for equality: France24, 13 June 2019

Twenty-eight years after staging a historic walkout, women from across Switzerland take to the streets again Friday for a nationwide strike aimed at highlighting the country's poor record on gender equality.

On Thursday night a 600 year old tradition was challenged for the first time- where a ‘watchwoman’ climbed the bell tower of the Laussanne cathedral to ring the bell each hour- a tradition that has been done by men. After the bell was rung, women came out to protest. Protesting women say that Switzerland is still an unequal and conservative country that gave voting rights to women only in 1970.

Although gender equality is enshrined in the constitution since 1981, but the prevalence of inequality forced Swiss women to lodge a historic strike on 14 June 1991 in which a half a million women had participated. That led to Gender Equality Act but protestors today say that not much has changed and in fact gender inequality has increased. Swiss women earn 20 percent less than their male counterparts. Click here to read

EU must improve 5G and boost technology, say top companies: PoliticoEu, 16 June 2019

The next European Commission should prioritize beefing up the Continent's 5G networks and accelerating the take-up of technologies such as AI, according to a survey of some of the EU's largest businesses. The study, carried out for the European Round Table of Industrialists, tapped into the opinion of CEOs from its member companies — which between them have a combined revenue of €2,250 billion, and include major firms such as Volvo, Heineken, Shell, Nestlé and Siemens. ERT members employ 6.8 million people in Europe.

Tech issues came out top of the list of CEOs' priorities, with 73 percent ranking digitalization and 5G as a top priority on a 6-point scale. Sixty-six percent ranked new technologies as a top priority. In third place was fair global trade with 55 percent giving it the top ranking. Skills and capabilities was next on the list. The CEOs held that they should not focus on either China or US. Further down were issues such as competition policy, climate change and a U.S. trade deal. The CEOs ranked supporting SMEs and labour market rules as the two least important priorities for the new Commission. Click here to read

Priced out by corporate landlords, Berlin renters fight back: Al Jazeera, 14 June 2019

Fed up with skyrocketing rents, Berliners back a controversial plan to expropriate corporate-owned flats. Corporate builders in Berlin are raising rents as high as 50 percent to pay up for building renovations. Rents in Berlin have nearly doubled in the last decade. In 2018 alone, the average rental cost per metre in the capital of Germany was 11.7 euros ($13.22) - a 13 percent increase over the previous year, according to real estate site Immowelt.

There are campaigns calling for nationalizing swaths of city’s housings by invoking a constitutional provision that allows for private land to be converted into public ownership. The grass root organization Deutsche Wohnen & Co Enteignen (DWE), has been conducting signature campaign and so far 77,000 signatures are collected. If the referendum is held and becomes successful it will be a radical shift in policy and will have implications beyond Berlin. It is said that it may also establish housing as a human right. Click here to read

Russian troops to join U. force in Central African Republic soon: Reuters, 3 June 2019

Russia will in the near future send 30 military personnel to Central African Republic where they will form part of a United Nations mission to help stabilise the country, Interfax news agency quoted a Russian foreign ministry official as saying.

Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a decree in April on the despatch of the military contingent. Click here to read

UN - Millions Could Face Severe Food Shortages as Drought Grips Somalia: VOA, 4 June 2019

The United Nations Refugee Agency warns an estimated 5.4 million people affected by worsening drought in Somalia will likely face severe food shortages by next month without immediate lifesaving assistance.

The U.N. Refugee Agency reports that climate-related droughts are occurring with greater frequency in Somalia. This, it says, is making things worse for the millions of people already displaced and deprived of essential necessities by the country’s chronic instability and conflict.

This latest disaster comes just as Somalis were beginning to recover from the devastating impact of a two-year drought that ended in 2017. Click here to read

Sudanese opposition rejects military's transition plan after day of violence: 4 June 2019

Sudan’s opposition on Tuesday rejected a plan by its military rulers to hold elections within nine months, a day after the worst bout of violence since Omar al-Bashir was ousted as president in April.

At least 35 people were killed on Monday when security forces stormed a protest camp outside the Defence Ministry in central Khartoum, according to doctors linked to the opposition. The military council that has ruled since Bashir’s overthrow afterwards cancelled all agreements with the main opposition alliance. Click here to read

Nearly half of all child deaths in Africa stem from hunger, study shows: The Guardian, 5 June 2019

One in three African children are stunted and hunger accounts for almost half of all child deaths across the continent, an Addis Ababa-based thinktank has warned.

In an urgent call for action, a study by the African Child Policy Forum said that nearly 60 million children in Africa do not have enough food despite the continent’s economic growth in recent years. A child dies every three seconds globally due to food deprivation – 10,000 children every day – but although figures show an improvement in child hunger at a global level, it is getting worse in some parts of Africa, where the problem is largely a question of political will. Click here to read

African Union suspends Sudan over military crackdown: Aljazeera, 7 June 2019

The African Union (AU) has suspended Sudan's membership days after the military launched a brutal crackdown on protesters that killed dozens of people. The AU's Peace and Security Department said in a post on Twitter on Thursday that Sudan's participation in all AU activities would be suspended with immediate effect - "until the effective establishment of a civilian-led transitional authority," which it described as the only way to "exit from the current crisis".

The announcement followed an emergency meeting by the AU in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, after the violent dispersal of a protest camp in the Sudanese capital, Khartoum, began on Monday. Click here to read

Liberia blocks internet amidst anti-Weah protests: africanews, 7 June 2019

Authorities in Liberia have blocked the internet, in what is perceived to be a move to suppress ongoing anti-government protests in the capital, Monrovia.
Netblocks, an organisation that monitors internet disruptions and shutdowns confirmed the shutdown on Friday afternoon, saying access to social networking platforms Twitter, Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram and Snapchat had been restricted. ‘‘The disruptions affecting ordinary operation of the social media platforms have raised concerns of a state order to restrict the Save The State protests in Liberian capital Monrovia,’‘ Net Blocks said in its statement. Click here to read

Eritrea President in Egypt for official visit, Sudan likely to feature: africanews, 8 June 2019

Eritrean president Isaias Afwerki on Saturday arrived in Egypt on a two-day official visit, Eritrea’s Information Minister Yemane Meskel disclosed today. “President Isaias and his entourage are scheduled to meet President El- Sisi and other senior officials to discuss bilateral ties, latest developments on the African continent, and other issues of mutual interest,” the Minister said in a tweet.

The Egyptian presidency spokesman is quoted by Egypt Today as having confirmed that the two leaders had met at the Al-Ittihadya Palace. Click here to read

Sudan arrests opposition leaders after Ethiopia mediation effort: Aljazeera, 8 June 2019

Sudanese security forces have arrested two opposition leaders shortly after they met with Ethiopia's Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed during reconciliation talks in Sudan's capital, Khartoum.

Abiy, who has emerged as a key regional leader, met representatives of both sides on Friday in a bid to revive talks between Sudan's ruling generals and protest leaders after the military launched a brutal crackdown on protesters that killed dozens of people this week. Click here to read

Niger, Tunisia et al take seats on UN Security Council: africanews, 9 June 2019

Niger and Tunisia were among countries elected as non-permanent members to the Security Council for a period of two years. Seven candidates ran for five seats including Viet Nam ,Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, El Salvador, Estonia and Romania.
Khemaies Jhinaoui is Tunisian Foreign Minister. “Tunisia, a nation in democracy, which has made major strides in the last few years in building new democratic system, will be the voice for human rights, and will be also the voice for the role women and women in contributing to peace building and peace settlement.” Click here to read

After price hike demo, Liberia protest coalition issues demands: AFP, 10 June 2019

A protest coalition in Liberia that has challenged President George Weah on the streets of Monrovia over rising prices and corruption on Sunday issued a string of demands with a four week deadline.

Thousands of people - 10,000 according to organisers, 4,000 according to police - took part in a protest on Friday in the capital city, in a key political test for football icon Weah. Weah, 52, is being challenged over the same issues on which he campaigned in his rise to the presidency of the impoverished West African state just 18 months ago. Click here to read

Mali attack: '100 killed' in ethnic Dogon village: BBC, 10 June 2019

Nearly 100 people have been killed in an attack in a village in central Mali inhabited by the Dogon ethnic group, officials say. The attack happened in Sobame Da, near Sanga town in the Mopti region. Search for bodies is ongoing, but officials say 95 people have been found dead, with many of the bodies burned.

There have been numerous attacks in Mali in recent months, some ethnically driven, some carried out by jihadist groups. Clashes between Dogon hunters and semi-nomadic Fulani herders are frequent. Mali's government said "suspected terrorists" had attacked the village at around 03:00 local time. At least 19 people were still missing, it said. Click here to read

Many Zimbabweans still distressed 3 months after Cyclone Idai: VOA, 10 June 2019

Cyclone Idai ripped through eastern Zimbabwe three months ago, after striking Mozambique and Malawi. On Monday, a top UN official for humanitarian affairs and emergency relief said Zimbabweans in the storm-hit areas are still struggling to get food and medicine. Ursula Mueller said Monday the situation in the cyclone-hit areas of Zimbabwe is still "devastating and distressing."

The UN relief official said people are still food insecure and cannot access basic health care. “This is particularly distressing for people living with HIV who face a double dilemma of being unable to access drugs. Even if they can access them, not be being able to absorb them on an empty stomach," she said. Click here to read

Sudan’s protesters call off strike and agree to resume talks with Military: The New York Times, 11 June 2019

Protest leaders in Sudan have agreed to end the general strike that brought Khartoum to a standstill this week and are willing to resume power-sharing talks with the ruling military council, an Ethiopian mediator said on Tuesday.

The announcement, which was confirmed by protest leaders, came eight days after a notorious paramilitary group brutally dispersed demonstrators at the main protest site in central Khartoum in a wave of violence that doctors said killed at least 118 people. Click here to read

Trump administration names veteran diplomat Donald Booth as envoy for Sudan: Reuters, 12 June 2019

The United States on Wednesday named veteran diplomat Donald Booth as its envoy to Sudan amid an international push for a peaceful transition after the overthrow of former President Omar al-Bashir. Booth, who has extensive experience in Africa, served as U.S. special envoy for Sudan and South Sudan during the Obama administration.

U.S. Assistant Secretary for Africa Tibor Nagy is currently in Khartoum to encourage the heads of the Transitional Military Council and the civilian opposition to find a solution to the political crisis. Click here to read

Second Ebola patient dies in Uganda, two others in intensive care: Reuters, 13 June 2019

A Congolese woman has become the second patient in Uganda to die of Ebola since the virus crossed the border from the Democratic Republic of Congo and two other people remain in intensive care, a health ministry official said on Thursday. The 50-year-old woman was the grandmother of a 5-year-old boy who died on Tuesday evening after crossing into Uganda with his family from Congo, the ministry said. “The grandmother also died last night,” the official, Emmanuel Ainebyona, told Reuters.

Ainebyona said the two other patients being kept in isolation were the 3-year-old brother of the dead boy and a 23-year-old Ugandan man who displayed Ebola symptoms. Click here to read

U.S. joins diplomatic push to salvage agreement in Sudan: Reuters, 13 June 2019

The top US diplomat for Africa on Wednesday joined an international effort to press Sudan’s military rulers and the opposition toward a deal on a transition to democracy two months after the overthrow of former President Omar al-Bashir.

An Ethiopian envoy has said that the military and opposition groups have agreed to resume talks on the formation of a transitional council that collapsed after the violent dispersal of a protest sit-in on June 3.

Tibor Nagy, the US assistant secretary of state for Africa, met on Wednesday with the main opposition coalition and held talks with Sudan’s acting Deputy Foreign Minister Ilham Ibrahim. Click here to read

Madagascar President assured of winning majority seats in Parliament: africanews, 15 June 2019

Malagasy President Andry Rajoelina is assured of winning the majority of seats in the next National Assembly, according to the full results published Saturday by the National Independent Electoral Commission (Céni).

Projections made by political parties on the basis of these results attribute 84 of the 151 seats of deputies to the Rajoelina-led coalition, compared to only 16 to his unfortunate presidential opponent’s party, Marc Ravalomanana. Click here to read

Ethiopia anger over texting and internet blackouts: BBC News, 16 June 2019

Ethiopians are angry that the country's text messaging service has been shut down since Thursday without any explanation. Internet blackouts, which began last Tuesday, are also still affecting many areas of the country.

The state-run Ethio Telecom, the country's only telecoms provider, has refused to comment on the outages. The closure of the services coincides with nationwide exams, which some say may be the reason for the shut down. Click here to read

Sudan's Bashir appears in public for first time since being ousted: The Guardian, 16 June 2019

Sudan’s former president Omar al-Bashir has appeared in public for the first time since he was overthrown, as he was taken out of prison to the office of the anti-corruption prosecutor. Bashir, wearing traditional white robes and turban, was driven to the prosecutor’s office in Khartoum on Sunday, a Reuters witness said.

The military overthrew and detained Bashir on 11 April after 16 weeks of street protests against his 30-year rule. He was being held in prison in Khartoum North, across the Blue Nile from the capital’s centre. Click here to read

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