Global Snapshot – April edition
By Rachel Hankey and Andrew Romanin
The April issue of Global Snapshot, which brings current international issues and news from around the world.This month sees a series of presidential election campaigns occurring across three continents, ongoing manhunts and a number of militant attacks.
Mass protests took place across Spain as thousands gathered in cities to protest the conservative government’s new labour reforms that passed through parliament.
The reforms, which included cuts to severance pay and initiatives to make it easier for employers to fire workers, were met by an estimated 500,000 in Madrid alone. In addition, Spain’s two largest unions, the UGT and CCOO, organised marches in 60 cities. The government has conceded that unemployment will continue to rise this year despite the reforms.
President Hamid Karzai has called for calm as recent rioting has spread throughout Afghanistan. The already strained relations between the Afghan and US administrations has been further tested after US forces admitted to inadvertently burning copies of the Koran at Bagram Air Base. In the wake of the incident it was reported two Aghan and American soldiers were killed, as well as two civilians. The Taliban later claiming responsibility for the attack. A further seven US soldiers were wounded in a grenade attack on a training facility in Kunduz province.
Further igniting the volatile atmosphere in the country was the rampage shooting by a US soldier in Kandahar province, killing 16 civilians and wounding five others when he opened fire in their homes. US officials have apologised, but this latest incident has heaped further pressure to accelerate a US-withdrawal from the country.
A surprise attack, by fighters linked to al-Qa’eda, on a military base resulted in the killing of 185 Yemeni soldiers as violent insurgency threatened to envelope the country’s south. Thirty-two al-Qa’eda militants were also killed. Heavy weaponry and mortar shelling was deployed by the militants.
The attack followed a twin suicide bombing on a military post in Zinjibar which killed six soldiers.
Islamist militants have controlled Zinjibar since last year after seizing control of the city as anti-government uprisings ousted former president Ali Abdullah Saleh. Opposition activists say Saleh’s loyalists are helping to fuel the unrest with the aim of returning him to power.
A series of air strikes in the Gaza strip have left 25 people dead following escalated violence in response to the assassination of high-ranking Palestinian militant, Zuhir al-Qaisi. The leader of the Popular Resistance Committees (PRC) was killed after an Israeli drone targeted his vehicle.
Al-Qaisi and the PRC were believed to be planning a high-profile attack on the Egyptian border, where they had previously inflicted Israeli and Egyptian casualties in August last year. Following his assassination, militants in Gaza launched more than 240 rockets into Israel. Egyptian negotiators have since mediated an informal ceasefire.
The African Union is set to deploy up to 5,000 troops to South Sudan to join the hunt for Ugandan warlord Joseph Kony. Following the viral internet video sensation released earlier in the month by US-based child rights advocacy group Invisible Children, the atrocities committed by Kony’s Lord Resistance Army have gained significant attention and media coverage.
The UN said this has acted to prompt the African Union to establish the Ugandan-led brigade.
Presidential elections in Senegal have ended with defeat to the current sitting president Abdoulaye Wade.
Wade conceded defeat to his former protégé and rival, Macky Sall, who secured a crushing victory in the second round of polling. He intends to use this election win to usher in a “new era” for the West African nation, promising to restrain lavish government spending on such things as statues and monuments which have ignited discord among the country struggling population.
The election campaign experienced violent street protests in response to Wade’s attempt to seek a third term in office despite the constitution only allowing for a maximum of two.
On March 22, Mali’s President Amadou Toumani Toure was overthrown by the army, following a mutiny at a military base. On April 6, the military junta announced that it would hand over power to a civilian government, in return for an end to the sanctions imposed on the country by neighbouring states in West Africa.
Tuareg rebels, fighting to establish an independent state, have seized on the instability to further their campaign. In January 2012 insurgents from the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (NMLA) began an offensive to establish an independent Tuareg homeland in northern Mali.
The rebels have been attempting to consolidate their power in the region, and in early April declared the creation of an independent nation. On April 6 the NMLA announced that they had formed a new state, in accordance with principles of international law and justice. The move has been condemned by the international community, and the African Union has declared the announcement to be "null and void".
Early in April Tureg rebels invaded the Algerian Consul in Goa, and kidnapped seven members of staff, including the Algerian ambassador to Mali. There are fears that the presence of Islamists with links to al Qaeda within the rebellion may lead to the creation of “a new rogue state threatening global security.”
China’s seemingly inevitable shift to democracy took a small step as a Chinese village was allowed to hold independent elections. The unusual concession by authorities permitted residents in the Guangdong village of Wukan to elect Lin Zuluan, a local activist, to oversee a new village committee. The elections came just two months after Zuluan led a rebellion against local officials and police in response to unpopular corruption and land-grabbing activities by the government.
The ten-day rebellion ended after detained protesters were released and activist told they would be granted the opportunity to stage the elections.
In recent presidential elections, Timor-Leste’s incumbent, José Ramos-Horta, was defeated after failing to make the second-round run-off to be held on April 21.
None of the 11 candidates secured the required 50% majority in the initial round of voting in a year that marks ten years of official independence for the nation. Leader of the opposition Fretilin party, Francisco “Lu Olo” Guterres, led the voting with 27%, followed closely by Taur Matan Ruak, former chief of the armed forces, on 25%.
Ramos-Horta has announced he will step down in May when his current term ends. Meanwhile, voters will return to the polls in June to elect a new government.
Aung San Suu Kyi's party has won a landslide victory in Burma’s by-elections. The elections mark the first free vote in the country since 1990. Aung San Suu Kyi's party, the National League for Democracy (NLD), won 95 percent of the vote. Some observers expressed concern that the NLD’s success may alarm hardliners within the military establishment and damage the country’s deomocratisation process. However, Burma’s President, former military leader Thein Sein, has welcomed the results of the elections, and has vowed to continue the country’s liberal reform programme.
The result has been welcomed by the international community, and America has announced that it will take steps to ease sanctions against the country. ASEAN leaders have praised the result, and has called for the lifting of sanctions, arguing that it would provide a positive contribution to the democratic process and economic development in the country.
At a recent meeting of Central American nations, Guatemalan president Otto Pérez Molina continued his push for the decriminalisation of drugs. His proposal aims to deter drug-related violence in the region. The plan outlines a legal framework to regulate drug consumption and trafficking, for which a regional court would be established. Compensation from “consumer” countries, such as the United States, would be sought to fund police operations and control initiatives.
Despite the lack of any formal agreement, the talks were hailed a success and paves the way for continued negotiations.
Indigenous protesters in Ecuador held a two week long march across the country to campaign again plans for large scale mining projects. Some 1,000 people marched from the town of El Pangui to the capital Quito a distance of 700 km (430 miles). A Chinese company has been given permission to begin developing a huge open-cast copper mine, in the Amazon's Ecuacorriente Zamora-Chinchipe region.
The main indigenous organisation in Ecuador, Conai - the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador – is campaigning against the decision. Conai claims that the mining will cause significant damage to the environment and force entire communities off their land.
Ecador’s President, Rafael Correa, has defended the decision, claiming that the project will provide funding for much needed development projects.