Week in Review - November 7, 2014

Sub-Saharan Africa
Middle East and North Africa
Latin America and the Caribbean
Central Eurasia

Middle East and North Africa

  • President Sisi appointed Fayza Abul Naga, a former official for Mubarak and later the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) with a history of animosity towards non-governmental organizations (NGOs), to be his new National Security Adviser. This came as several U.S. non-governmental organizations signed a joint letter to President Barack Obama urging him, “use all available means to make clear to President al-Sisi that there will be serious consequences if there is a further crackdown on NGOs.” Meanwhile, the American company Swiftships received a contract to build six patrol boats in Alexandria, Egypt.
  • Egypt’s human rights record came under renewed scrutiny as the United States and several European states pressed President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi to reverse course as the United Nations Human Rights Council released its assessment of the country’s human rights record since 2011. U.S. representative to the UNHRC, Ambassador Keith Harper said, "We are deeply concerned with steps taken by Egypt that have resulted in violations of freedoms of expression, peaceful assembly and association, deprived thousands of Egyptians of fair trial guarantees, and undermined civil society's role in the country." This comes after Egypt sent 34 people to be tried in military courts for terrorism--the first civilians to be tried in military courts since President Sisi’s decree allowing such measures.
  • France’s Defense Ministry announced that the delivery of a $3 billion arms deal to Lebanon would begin in early 2015. The military aid package consists of “land, sea and air equipment, including armored vehicles, heavy artillery, anti-tank missiles, mortars and assault weapons” as well as intelligence materials including drones. The arms deal is made possible by a Saudi grant. Meanwhile, Lebanon’s parliament voted to extend its own term into 2017 by postponing elections amid protests from civil society groups that claim the action is against the country’s constitution.


Sub-Saharan Africa

  • Following last week’s military takeover in Burkina Faso, the African Union threatened  to implement sanctions if the military violated a two-week deadline for the military to return power to a civilian-led government. However, Lieutenant Colonel Isaac Zida, the acting head of state, formally rejected the A.U.’s two-week deadline, claiming “we are not afraid of sanctions” and that stability and peace trumped all. Yet, claiming “power does not interest us,” Zida has agreed, along with the countries political parties to a year-long transition plan to be followed by elections in November 2015.
  • The Pentagon announced that efforts to combat Ebola in West Africa will not be scaled back. President Obama on Wednesday requested over $6 billion in emergency funds both to combat Ebola in West Africa as well as secure the United States from further spread of the virus. The President request comes during the same week that Tony Banbury, head of the U.N. mission to fight Ebola, stated that the U.N’s operations do not have the resources to contain and defeat the virus, despite contributions from the U.S., U.K., China, and Cuba.



Latin America

  • Tens of thousands of demonstrators marched in Mexico City and dozens of universities saw student and faculty strikes calling for a more forceful government response to the case of 43 university students from Guerrero state who have been missing since September 26. Although numerous mass graves containing human remains have been uncovered in the area, no evidence has definitively pointed to the whereabouts of the missing students. Many citizens and community leaders have speculated that politicians and security forces corrupted by criminal elements were involved in the students’ disappearance. The mayor of the town from which the students disappeared has been arrested along with his wife on charges related to the incident, as have several police officers.
  • A recent spate of violence in Brazil has refocused attention on the country's militarized police tactics. In Belém, nine people were killed in one night. Some witnesses reported that the deaths were the result of a "revenge killing" spree by security forces in retaliation for the recent murder of a local police officer. In Baixada Fluminense, military police operations carried out by units including “Shock,” “Canine Action” and “Special Operations” Battalions, left five people dead. Considering the reputation for brutality earned by Brazilian security forces during this summer’s World Cup, these recent reports have raised concerns about the role of the police with regard to the upcoming Olympics Games to be held in Rio de Janeiro in 2016.
  • Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos continued his European tour to drum up support for the ongoing peace negotiations between his government and the FARC rebel group. Numerous European leaders have expressed their support for the talks, but some European politicians have expressed continuing reservations about the Colombian government's human rights record. The United States, with some exceptions, has rhetorically supported the negotiations, but has not pledged support tied directly to the completion or success of a peace deal.


Central Eurasia

  • Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili dismissed the Minister of Defense, Irakli Alasania, prompting Alasania’s Free Democrats party to leave Georgia’s ruling coalition. The Prime Minister fired Alasania in reaction to remarks by Alasania defending the arrested Ministry of Defense officials who are accused of issuing a sham tender and misspending the Georgian equivalent of roughly $2.3 million. Alasania condemned the arrests as politically motivated, calling it an “attack on Georgia’s Euro-Atlantic choice,” a reference to Georgia’s NATO membership ambitions. The U.S. Department of State expressed concern and urged the Georgian government “to take steps to dispel perceptions that the judicial system is being used for political purposes.”
  • A bipartisan group of U.S. lawmakers pressured NATO to buy two controversial Mistral warships from France that were originally manufactured for Russia. In a letter to NATO’s new Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, the members of Congress described such a deal as “sensitive to the financial burden that France may incur should it rightly refuse to transfer these warships to Russia.” USNI News reported yesterday that Russia is willing to wait until the end of the year for France’s final decision on delivery of the Mistral ships. According to an article by Russian news outlet RIA Novosti, Moscow has not received any notification of delay, suspension or cancellation of the $1.5 billion contract.
  • The Department of Defense recently released a report criticizing the U.S. Army’s procedures for reporting military inventory loss in Afghanistan. According to Bloomberg, the report finds that the Army field brigade responsible for managing equipment being shipped out of the country failed to report in a timely manner approximately 15,600 pieces of missing gear worth as much as $419.5 million. Unaccounted military equipment includes weapons systems, vehicles, electronics and communications gear.