Note from authors: All the headlines nowadays seem to start off with COVID-19 or Coronavirus and its all so depressing, so instead we have been stocking up on some interesting stories that exclude those two words from across the world! To check out our February posts click here.
Mali Parliamentary elections Marred in Mayhem
Decisive Parliamentary election to vote in 147 parliamentary seats
Mali, West Africa
The Main Story
Since 2012, Mali has been a victim of terror and conflict. From the armed uprising in the North 8 years ago, Mali has seen a plethora of attacks from al-Queada aligned Islamist groups such as Nurast al-Islam. Intervention from France and U.N. peace forces have been in place since 2013, with decisive victories in detaining al-Queada commanders in the North of the country. The last presidential election in 2018 saw the re-election of President Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta of the RPM party (Rally for Mali). He has been in power since 2013. Shortly after the presidential elections, parliamentary elections, held to vote in MPs to the 147-seated Malian parliament, were meant to be held, however, due to security issues, the Council of Ministers decided to push the elections to a few months later. Security issues kept arising, meaning the elections initially to be held in November 2018, were moved to April 2019, then June 2019 and finally to March 2020. Yet the security issue has still not been resolved, due to the violence leading up to, and around the polls.
February and March have seen a series of violent attacks in the Malian countryside with villages being burnt down, amounting to numerous deaths. A week before the election date, the leader of the opposition, Soumali Cisse was victim to kidnap on the 25th March. Other notable tribes leaders and political figures also saw violence and kidnappings surrounding the polls. Citizens out to vote were also faced with terror, with a roadside bomb killing 9 people and others being subject to assault. The parliamentary elections are key in the peace process for Mali, with MPs being an integral part of peace talks for the country. The elections also hold hope for neighboring countries of Niger and Burkino Faso, who are also, unfortunately, seeing civil unrest from extremist Islamic groups. The primary elections were held on Sunday 29th March with the secondary to be held on the 19th of April this year.
Latin America’s Women’s Rights in the Throws of Change?
Various events that are changing the landscape of women’s rights in Central and Latin America
Argentina, Columbia, Mexico
The Main Story
March is a month full of positivity for women’s equality, with International Women’s Day falling on the 8th March. The equality landscape is ever-shifting, especially for Central and Latin America this March. To set things off this month in Bogata, Columbia’s capital saw the re-opening of a case on whether to legalize abortion. Columbia, amongst other countries in the region, holds true to fierce Catholic beliefs, that translate to legislation. One of these strict laws rules on abortion. Currently, the country upholds the law, passed in 2006, that women are allowed to legally abort if one of the following applies: When her life is at risk, when a fetus has serious health problems, or when a pregnancy has resulted from rape. Columbia, being a larger nation holds an important influence over other catholic countries in the region, meaning that a change in the law as controversial as abortion, would potentially see a domino effect in the area. However, on the 3rd of March, the court ruling on the issue means that the laws will remain the same, passing the baton of the law changing to Argentina. Around the same time as this court case re-opened in Bogata, Argentinian President Alberto Fernández, said he was to put a bill before Congress in the following days. Should Congress approve the bill, Argentina – with a population of 45 million – will become the first major nation in the region to legalize the practice. As of the 10th March, no decision has yet to be reached.
Travelling North to Mexico, International Women’s Day saw 80,000 women take to the streets to protest against the rising femicide in the nation. It is estimated that 10 women are killed a day in Mexico, and police are currently investigating over 700 cases of femicide. Many cases are being thrown out, and men arrested for the murders of these women are being released without charge. Small protests have been going on within Mexico City for several weeks leading up to the 8th March, with many protestors showing their support for the recent cases of Ingrid Escamilla, 25, who was killed, skinned and disembowelled, and of Fátima Cecilia Aldrighett, 7, whose body was found wrapped in a plastic bag.
Women who did not turn out to March, stayed at home as a form of protest, leaving many workplaces empty and unable to function.
Unfortunately, no action has been taken by the president currently, but Mayor of Mexico City, Claudia Sheinbaum, had ordered the municipality organisations not to take sanctions against the strikers, in support of those protesting.
Mongolia’s historic step away from Soviet past
Government mandated return to traditional Mongolian writing system
Mongolia, East Asia
The Main Story
This month the Government of Mongolia announced plans to shift the country away from the Cyrillic alphabet and back to the traditional horizontal Mongolian script. For almost a century the people of Mongolia have been subjected to using a foreign alphabet. To put this in perspective, the modern equivalent of this would be you local government from one day to the next deciding that instead of using a Latin alphabet (as used by English, French and most other European languages), everyone would now be using Cyrillic, or even Chinese logogram alphabet to write in English, French or German.
Traditional Mongolian is a considered a Syriac alphabet and is very similar to the alphabet used by the Uighurs. It comes from a long history of being borrowed from the Middle East through Persia and Xinjiang, home of the Uighurs in western China during the rule of Kublai Khan, Genghis Khan’s grandson. The move to switch writing systems may seem trivial but signals a significant step away from Mongolia’s soviet past and Russian influence in the East Asian country. It was in fact the Soviet Union that in the 1930’s attempted to implement a Latin script for the Mongolian language. However, in the wake of Stalin’s great terror the Cyrillic alphabet was enforced in the Mongolian People’s Republic. Furthermore, Cyrillic later served as a linguistic barrier to the People’s Republic of China, which was an ideological competitor to the Soviet Union. The legacy of the Soviet Union in Mongolia runs deep. It affected not only the economy for over a decade in the post-soviet slump of the 1990’s but also set a non-Mongolia standard for gender norms. The nomadic mentality of Mongolia meant that all tribal members were required and able to perform all tasks that needed doing. While Mongolia and Russia have friendlier relations than in the past, Mongolians are very proud of their young democracy, no matter its faults. Part of that pride is that they refuse to define themselves or be influenced by Russia or China.
Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, Mongolia has been making steps back to its linguistic origins. In 2003 English replaced Russian as the mandatory foreign language in schools. The new change of alphabet is to be fully implemented by 2025, starting with an increased use of traditional Mongolian in electronic media. Until 2024, Mongolian media will publish news and articles in both Cyrillic and Mongolian. One of the most import facts about this return to Mongolian is that will heal a divide between the Mongolian peoples. While most of Mongolia uses Cyrillic, the autonomous region of Inner Mongolia in northern China has maintained traditional Mongolian as their alphabet.
E.U. enlargement: New Talks for Albanian and North Macedonian Membership
Expansion of the European Union, membership talks commence with Albania and North Macedonia
Albania, North Macedonia and the European Union
The Main Story
The European Union (EU) is a collaboration of Nation-States united not just by geographical location, but by shared laws, economy and ambition. Countries can join the EU if they fulfil certain requirements set out by the union known as the Copenhagen criteria. The criteria include countries to have a “free-market” economy, a stable democracy and rule of law and acceptance of EU legislation. If an applicant country is seen to fit these criteria by the European Commission, the European council then sets out an agreement upon a tailored framework for negotiations with the applicant. This usually involves 35 policy chapters that are individually negotiated. Once the European Government is satisfied with all negotiations, the candidate signs an Accession Treaty, that determines the formal date of the candidates joining the EU. Each member state of the European Union is also required to ratify the treaty.
Albania and North Macedonia have begun accession talks with the European Union. If accepted they will be the first to enter the union since the departure of the United Kingdom in January 2020. Their accession is not without resistance. France has moved to block both countries from entering. While the Netherlands and Denmark have joined France in opposing Albania’s accession, citing it has not committed to as much to reformation as it needs to meet the criteria.
It is important to bear in mind that accession talks are no guarantee of acceptance. Both Montenegro and Serbia are in the negotiation process to join the EU. Best estimates indicated that both countries could be EU member states by 2025. Turkey on the other hand began negotiating its accession to the EU in 2005, but talks have come to a stand-still. The accession of other Balkan states to the EU will go a long way to rectify the imbalance in the Balkans. Croatia is currently the only Balkan EU member. Not only will accession of other Balkan nations to the EU make trade and travel much easier, it will be a step towards healing the wounds of the wars in the 1990’s.
Kosovo in Crisis
On-going government Chaos
Pristina, Kosovo, Balkan Peninsula, Europe
Albin Kurti, Hashim Thaci and others
The Main Story
March was a turbulent month for what is considered one of Europe’s most turbulent countries.
The on-going turmoil in Kosovo is endemic, as it is on the front lines of the competition for influence between Russia and NATO. NATO has had a long-term peace keeping mission in Kosovo since the end of the Kosovo War in 1999. Russia continues its unwavering support for Serbia, which does not recognize Kosovo’s declaration of independence in 2008. Part of Russia’s support includes veto-ing Kosovo’s access to international organizations such as the United Nations.
In November 2018 Kosovo imposed astronomical tariffs on goods from Serbia. The tariffs effectively ended an on-going EU sponsored dialogue to normalize relations between Serbia and its former breakaway province. The issue is further complicated by the domestic politics of Kosovo. On the 3February, after four months of attempts to create a coalition government, Albin Kurti of the social-democratic Albanian nationalist Party Vetevendosja was elected Prime Minister of Kosovo. On March 25 his government was cast out by a vote of no confidence. The division in the government was caused by Kurti’s rejection of a proposal by the President of Kosovo, Hashim Thaci, to declare a state of Emergency in Kosovo due to the on-going global pandemic. The divide was worsened still by the refusal of the Kurti government to lift the 100% import tariffs on Serbia, despite American support for removing the tariffs.
Although the future of Kosovo will continue to be turbulent, the fallout of the political bickering in this time of crisis will most likely be devastating. The struggle for influence in Kosovo, not only within its domestic politics, but between Russia and the United States, will intensify what is already the worst public health crisis in living history in one of the most fragile countries in the world.