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In brief

News of the week

von D+C / E+Z

In Kürze

D+C/E+Z contributor released from prison in Chad / Turkey’s two-front war / Mullah Omar dead / US report on global human trafficking / Obama visits Kenya and Ethiopia / UN warns World Population will grow to at least 10 billion by 2100 / World-market commodities prices fall

News of the week

D+C/E+C contributor set free again 

Djeralar Miankeol, a civil society activist in Chad and recent contributor to D+C/E+Z, has been released from detention after a court decided that he was not guilty of contempt of court. The judges overturned an earlier conviction, as Miankeol’s supporters told D+C/E+Z. Amnesty International and other human-rights groups had campaigned on his behalf. Amnesty considered him a prisoner of conscience.  

Source: personal communication

Link: http://www.dandc.eu/en/article/chad-crop-farmers-and-livestock-herders-are-competing-water-and-land-solution-conflict


Turkey’s military bombs ISIS – and Kurdish rebels

Turkey’s military has started air raids south of the country’s borders, attacking ISIS in Syria as well as Kurdish rebels in Iraq. The Turkish government is now also allowing the USA to use an airbase in its campaign against ISIS. The strategies of the two NATO partners do not look coherent, however, as the USA consider Kurdish rebels important allies in the fight against the Islamist militia, whereas the same Kurdish forces look threatening in the eyes of the Turkish government.

In past decades, a Kurdish insurgency had claimed many thousands of lives in Turkey. The government had entered negotiations with the PKK, the militant Kurdish outfit. A truce has held for about two years. However, Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has now declared that the peace process is over. Kurdish rebels in Syria and Iraq have close ties to Kurds in Turkey.

Some observers argue that Erdogan is trying to discredit the HDP, an opposition party with Kurdish roots in Turkeys. HDP supporters and other left-leaning activists have been arrested in Turkey in the past week. In recent elections, Erdogan’s party AKP had lost its majority in parliament, while the HDP got more votes than expected. Erdogan is believed to be considering new elections in the autumn, and military action might boost his parties chances. At the same time, attacks on security forces in Turkey are increasing. To some people it feels as if there never had been peace talks at all.  

Sources: FAZ, FR, taz


Top Taliban leader died in 2013

Mullah Omar, the Taliban leader, is dead. This was confirmed by his family and the current Taliban leadership. The Taliban have cancelled peace talks that were supposed to begin with the Afghan government.

Apparently Omar died two years ago in a hospital in Karachi. Even though he obviously cannot have played any active role in the past two years, the news of his death is relevant. The Taliban are a rather fragmented movement, and the belief that Mullah Omar was at the helm helped to keep it coherent. The Taliban may now splinter, causing more violence and chaos in Afghanistan.

Sources: dlf, vox.com


US report on human trafficking

The State Department in Washington assesses 188 countries in this year’s report on human trafficking and forced labour. According to the document, industries such as mining and construction, prostitution and domestic services are currently exploiting more than 20 million trafficked persons.

The State Department ranks countries according to their performance on related matters. It lists 23 countries in the worst category, including North Korea, Russia, Iran, Yemen, Syria, Libya, Algeria, South Sudan, Zimbabwe and Venezuela.

Malaysia, China and Cuba were in the worst category in last years` report, but upgraded this year. Some critics say that the rankings are driven, at least in part, by foreign-policy considerations. For instance, the US only recently restored diplomatic relations with Cuba, and Malaysia is a partner of the USA in the negotiations to establish the Trans Pacific Partnership as a free-trade zone.

Sources: Deutsche Welle, Voice of America

Link: http://docs.voanews.eu/en-US/2015/07/27/15d73e60-6739-4dee-b0b6-4c47ee30b92c.pdf


Obama defends term limits in Africa

US President Barack Obama was celebrated by African people when he visited Kenya and Ethiopia last week. He said that Africans must fight corruption and that term limits for presidents serve a democratic purpose: “I actually think I’m a pretty good president. I think if I ran, I could win. But I can’t,” Obama said addressing the African Union in Addis Ababa, adding that the “law is the law”.  

Obama explicitly mentioned Burundi’s President Pierre Nkurunziza who staged a reelection in July. He caused a deep and violent crisis by running for a third term. The opposition boycotted the vote, there have been protests and violence for months. Disputes over presidential term limits had earlier erupted in other countries. Last year, for example, a broad-based protest movement forced Burkina Faso’s President Blaise Compaoré to resign after he had announced he wanted to undo constitutional reforms so he would be allowed another term. He had been in office for 27 years.     

Journalists noted that ordinary citizens and the media responded to Obama’s statements with more enthusiasm than Africa’s top politicians. The Nairobi-based newspaper Business Daily for instance re-affirmed Obama’s anti-corruption argument. It stated: “Kenya faces a serious challenge in managing its resources. Corruption has for many decades crippled service delivery in this country, leaving millions of Kenyans in desperate situations.” Obama was the first US president to address the African Union.

Sources: time, Business Daily


World population prospects

The UN predicts that the World population will rise to at least 10 billion people by the end of the century and may climb to 12.5 billion. The probability that the true number will be between these two figures is 80 %, according to the 2015 Revision of the UN’s World Population Prospects. Humankind is currently growing at a rate of 1.18 %. Ten year’s ago, the comparative figure was 1.24 %.

While the population of Asia is set to decline by 2050, population growth in Africa is expected to further accelerate. By 2100, it will have 4 billion people and be close to catching up with Asia. The UN document states: “Regardless of the uncertainty surrounding future trends in fertility in Africa, the large number of young people currently on the continent who will reach adulthood in the coming years and have children of their own, ensures that the region will play a central role in shaping the size and distribution of the world’s population over the coming decades.”

Sources: The Guardian, spiegel.de

Link: World Population Prospect, Key Findings: http://esa.un.org/unpd/wpp/Publications/Files/Key_Findings_WPP_2015.pdf


Commodities slump

The world-market prices for commodities have fallen fast. The Bloomberg commodity index dropped to an 11 year low in July, losing 9.5 %. The index reflects the prices of 22 raw materials. It is now about 11 % lower than at the start of this year.

The slump has several reasons. Probably the most important is the stock-market crisis in China, which indicates that the Chinese economy will slow down, so the People’s Republic will import less commodities. Share prices tumbled once more in the past week, but seemed to stabilise again. Another reason for lower commodity prices is that investors expect the Federal Reserve in the USA to raise interest rates soon, and such a step would redirect international finance flows. A third reason is that oil prices, moreover, are under pressure because Iran is expected to increase oil exports after its recent non-nuclear proliferation deal with the permanent members of the Security Council and Germany.  

In the wake of the Chinese stock-market problems and falling commodity prices, the exchange rate of several emerging markets have taken a hit. This trend particularly affects countries that depend on commodity exports such as Brazil and Russia. Higher interest rates in the USA would compound their problems.

Sources: Bloomberg, FT

These items were compiled by Hans Dembowski on the basis of international media coverage.

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