Unrest Increases in Sudan Amidst State of Emergency

By Leah Cerilli

Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir has declared a state of emergency in an attempt to quell uprisings calling for the overthrow of his presidency. This action has only intensified the protests that began in late December. The protests began as a reaction to poor economic conditions such as expense increases, currency devaluation, and fuel shortages. Sudan’s economy has been suffering since its secession from South Sudan in 2011, which contained almost 75 percent of Sudan’s oil reserves. The unrest quickly developed into widespread protests against Bashir’s rule, who has been in power since 1989 following a military coup.

The state of emergency declaration includes a ban of unlicensed public gatherings, increased policing powers, and the establishment of emergency prosecutors and courts. Security personnel are permitted to search citizens and properties as needed, as well as confiscate money suspected as being used in illegal trade. These actions are part of an effort to control civilian actions and justify securitization measures such as the deployment of additional troops in populated areas that have seen the most protest. The Sudanese government officially announced that the death toll from the protests amounts to 31 deaths as of late February, but the actual number is estimated to be higher.

In addition to announcing a year-long state of emergency, Bashir dissolved the central and state governments. He has begun the process of replacing government officials through appointment, predominantly with senior military officials. Bashir also dissolved all elected regional governments and replaced all state governors with senior military officials. Protests widely escalated following the emergency declaration and government appointments, particularly in the capital city Khartoum.

Bashir’s actions are notable on a regional level due to the implications of Islamist and nationalist politics. Although he rose to power as a Muslim politician, Bashir seems to be distancing himself from Islamist political parties by appointing military officials and setting a nationalist tone. Islamist parties such as the Popular Congress Party sympathize with the protestors, blaming Bashir’s government for the economic crisis that started the unrest. Neighboring countries, such as Egypt and Turkey, faced unrest from Islamist parties during the Arab Spring and are consistently attempting to suppress the Islamic faith throughout the region. Both Egypt and Turkey have announced their support for Bashir and concern for stability in the country.

The situation in Sudan is being paralleled to the 2011 Arab Spring. One popular slogan in the Sudanese protests, “The people want the fall of the regime”, was made famous by the uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia. Similar to the Arab Spring, the protests are largely made up of young people. Women are also playing a dominant role, taking to the streets to protest abuse and sexual harassment, in addition to arbitrary detentions by security forces.

Bashir has stated he will only step down if elections are held to replace him. Sudan’s next elections are scheduled for 2020, but protesters have vowed to remove Bashir from power before then.

Serbia and the EU: Part II

By Kavya Verma

There is evidence favoring the theory that these overtures being made to Serbia are being done in part to counter Russian influence in the EU’s neighborhood, and to legitimize the Vucic administration in exchange for Vucic and Serbia controlling the flow of migrants into neighboring EU member states. Russian influence in Serbia is not a new phenomenon or one that came about due to its twentieth century history: it is extensive and can be traced back as early as 1870. In Serbia at the time, political overtures and support of the geographically distant Russia were seen as safer than bowing down to the Austro-Hungarians. This historic factor was just the beginning. Serbia and Russia’s relationship has progressed further since then, with Serbian dependency on Russian natural resources and pro-Russia attitudes among Serbian elites. A shared history of Orthodox Christianity allows for a shared cultural heritage that unites both countries, leaving room for many soft power initiatives between the two. Furthermore, another very real risk is Russian-led misinformation campaigns in Serbia. Freedom House puts Serbia at having an internet penetration rate of 65.3%, and the Kremlin remains committed to ensuring that a country of such strategic interest with fundamentally common values not be lost to the EU. Because of this and the Kremlin’s commitment to advancing its soft power initiatives in Serbia, it is posing a threat to both the EU’s neighborhood and EU member states sympathetic to Russia. The EU currently lies at a crossroads when it comes to Serbian accession. Either it can be the external actor that initiates democratization, or it can risk letting Serbia fall back to its historic influencer and become a gateway for Russian influence into the EU. An even greater threat from the advancement of Russian initiatives in the EU is Russia’s use of frozen conflicts and capitalizing on ethnic tensions to prevent the Western Balkans from meeting the criteria for accession into the EU. Furthermore, with support for the accession of Western Balkan states into the EU waning, it has become necessary for EU leadership to counteract both a blatant lack of support by member states for Serbian accession, as well as chaos-causing overtures by Moscow to Serbia. A greater risk posed by Russian support of frozen conflicts is the reignition of ethnic tensions in the Balkans. Not only might this cause another humanitarian crisis, but it will also run the risk of blocking key energy supply routes from Russia to the rest of Europe, and worsen EU sentiments on the accession and integration of Serbia and the rest of the Western Balkans into the EU.

    In the 1990’s, Vucic served as Information Minister to Slobodan Milosevic. His job included countering media sources opposed to the Milosevic regime and essentially denying freedom of the press and the existence of other political parties. However, since joining the team of “Reformed ultra-nationalists” in the post-Milosevic era, Vucic has taken steps that, albeit risky or unlikely, to help have set the tone for what normalized relations with Kosovo would look like. While there is still more that can be done, the 2013 deal between Kosovo and Serbia recognizing that Serbs located in Kosovo’s north would have to follow Kosovo’s laws was a milestone. While not even close to fully normalized relations with Kosovo, this move was an example of Serbia firmly aligning itself with the EU as a counterbalance to Russia, just as many years ago it had used an alliance with Russia as a counterweight to its western neighbors.

    Additionally, it appears that every decision made by Serbian leaders is a balancing act between its citizens who feel a historic connection with Europe and those who feel the same deep connection to Russia. As can be witnessed in Serbia’s response to the annexation of Crimea, the country’s neutral response to this violation of national sovereignty can be attributed to a population torn between historic identities and cultures. Ultimately, overtures by EU leadership to a population contending with issues of identity, energy dependency, and a lack of support for Serbian accession to the EU among the EU’s own citizens is required to prevent Serbia from pivoting more towards Russian interests rather than those of the European Union.

Nigeria: The Constant Question of Democracy

By Sabine Tessono

When Muhammadu Buhari was elected to presidency after defeating Goodluck Jonathan (member of the PDP, a political party dominated by former military officers and Muslims from the northern region of Nigeria) in 2015, many believed that his rise to power signified Nigeria’s victorious claiming of democracy. After a long struggle with ethnic tensions (eventually causing a civil war), a consistent pattern of coup d’etats and authoritarian warlord leadership, and a lack of communication and unification of commissions created to represent the general populace, Buhari’s presidency, along with Goodluck Jonathan’s willingness to step down, signified the first peaceful transfer of power in Nigeria’s history—leading to an overarching belief of a democratic regime filled with promise.

    Yet, over the course of Buhari’s presidency, organized democracy seems to be in jeopardy. With the onslaught of terrorist groups like Boko Haram threatening the livelihood of various citizens throughout the country and playing upon ethnic and political divides, and with human rights abuses and forceful suppression of protests of the establishment, the question of Nigeria’s potential for a true democracy without any authoritative elements seems to remain in question.

    The underlying current of unrest began to turn into distinct, vocalized outrage when President Buhari suspended the Nigerian Chief Justice Walter Onnoghen, under grievous accusations of “failing to disclose bank accounts in foreign currencies.”. While Buhari himself claimed the dismissal was in favor of enforcing justice and an intolerance for corruption, many believe that Onnoghen’s dismissal came suspiciously close to the date when he was set to preside over a disputed election result—one that could have been influenced by potential violence and vote-rigging. This swift ousting of the Chief Justice, combined with Buhari’s run for reelection has led those from the opposition side to question the validity of the decision. During press interviews and even on social media, dissenters from the PDP consistently slammed Buhari for his “’brazen dictatorial act [that is] an ongoing rape of our nation’s democracy’”, while others believe that Nigeria has regressed from a democratic nation into a “’jaded era of military dictatorship’”. In fact, Buhari’s firmness on the matter has caused leaders from the EU, UK, and US to critique the suspension and how it could reflect upon the electoral and democratic process.

    But one could also examine the accusations leveled against Onnoghen. If these charges of fraud are found to be true, what would that say about the validity of having a Chief Justice or a legislative body to keep electoral process in check when corruption is an undercurrent in the proceedings? Yet, the presidential response to the accusations and the denial of due process in the midst of an incoming presidential election also raises the question of whether Nigeria’s democratic proceedings are able to hold firm amidst the outcry and chaos or if the president utilizes this opportunity to tamper down further dissent. In any case, Onnoghen and Buhari’s struggle still proves that Nigeria has quite a ways to go before having a solidified and relatively efficient form of government.  

US Stops Aid to West Bank and Gaza

By Leah Cerilli

The United States has halted all aid to Palestinians in the Gaza Strip and West Bank as of February 1. The move is part of US Anti-Terrorism Clarification Act (ATCA).

    Under ATCA, American citizens are able to sue any country receiving aid from the U.S. through the American legal system over complicity in “acts of war”. The Palestinian Authority is opting to reject all American aid in order to avoid such lawsuits, but denies accusations that it encourages “acts of war” such as violence and terrorism. The U.S. previously gave over $50 million in aid last year for the training and operations of Palestine’s security apparatuses. The U.S. did not initiate the cessation of this aid; it is part of the aid that Palestine is rejecting. Palestine fears economic hardship from potential lawsuits that would make it not worth receiving aid in the first place. All USAID operations in the West Bank and Gaza Strip have ceased, but no steps are currently being taken to close the USAID mission to the Palestinian Territories.

    This is not the first time the U.S. has cut aid to Palestine. Last year, Washington cut hundreds of millions of dollars of funding to health, infrastructure and education humanitarian organizations supported by USAID. U.S. funding for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNWRA) ceased in August 2018. The U.S. had previously been the largest donor to UNWRA, providing more than $360 million in 2017. Numerous public institutions such as schools and clinics funded by the UNWRA now face fears of closure or severe budget and job cuts. Humanitarian organizations in the West Bank and Gaza also report a general cutback in funding from donors worldwide, especially as they seek additional funding to make up for the lost American aid.

    President Donald Trump claimed that the USAID cuts were meant to pressure the Palestinian Authority to pursue further peace talks with Israel. However, both measures are likely to further deteriorate the relationship between the U.S. and Palestine. This relationship is already especially fragile, given the U.S. recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital last year.

The lack of Palestinian security aid could also negatively harm Israel. Although security relations can be tense, Israel and Palestine do share intelligence and coordinate arrests. This coordination is a positive function for both countries amid their countless disagreements, which will likely be damaged if Palestinian forces lose such a significant amount of funding. Additionally, a weakened Palestinian security apparatus is a regional security concern that can easily cross borders.

Serbia and the EU: Part I

By Kavya Verma

    Serbia is of great geopolitical interest to the EU, dating back to the crisis in the Balkans in the 1990s, which traumatized not only the western Balkans but also all of Europe. In 2000, the Feira Council originally stated that membership to the EU was a plausible option for the Western Balkan states, specifically Serbia, although the opportunity for membership would only be extended if certain criteria were met by these nations. Since then, many milestones have been reached in the EU-Serbia relationship, with a big victory being the 2003 Stabilization and Association Process, along with the 2009 lifting of visa requirements for Serbs traveling to Schengen countries.

Brussels has shown a desire to rapidly integrate Serbia in particular into the European Union, with overtures to the illiberal Vucic administration increasing since the start of the migrant crisis. As high-level officials in the EU have publicly announced ambitious dates for the accession of Serbia into the EU, and Vucic is attempting to balance pro-Russia sentiment in his cabinet with the aims of the EU, many believe that Serbian accession to the EU is merely part of the European Neighborhood Policy and EU security interests in the Western Balkans. However, there are certain factors pointing to a greater explanation behind the EU’s interest in Serbia than simply the ENP and immediate security interests. Certain factors show that in exchange for the plausibility of Serbia joining the EU and prominent EU leaders legitimizing the Vucic administration, Serbia maintains a balance between Russian influence and EU influence, while also stemming the flow of migrants to neighboring EU member states.

The European Union and Serbia have a long and complicated history. An article from the European Council on Foreign Relations sums up their relationship nicely: “How do we in Serbia see the EU? The simple answer is ‘about the same as we in Serbia are seen by the EU’ - with lots of prejudice, without understanding the wider context, and framed with the perceptions and memories from the 1990s.”

The author is not incorrect, as when survey participants were asked if they in favor of the Yugoslavia Federal Republic (Serbia and Montenegro) joining the EU, Eurobarometer results showed only 31% support on average from the EU. Those most strongly against the prospect of Serbia joining the EU are Austria, Germany, and France, with the only northern European member state with a majority in favor being Sweden. Given the current troubles the EU is having dealing with its existing illiberal democracies, Hungary and to a lesser extent Poland, the benefits of the EU expressing support for Serbia joining the EU when ⅔ of EU citizens are against that prospect does not make sense. While Serbia is of geopolitical interest to the EU, the fact remains that the political goodwill of EU citizens is lacking, as are the abilities of Serbia under the Vucic administration - currently likely to be a stable factor in Serb politics for years to come - to meet EU standards of accession. Therefore, the question must be raised: why and how are the EU and Serbia continuing to integrate while balancing their respective relationships with Russia?

Emmanuel Macron and What Army: the assets and liabilities of soft and hard power policy – Part 3

By Chris Brown

Retrospectively, I’m glad that I put off the final installment in this series of blog posts for so

long. 2018 was a long and treacherous year for Macron. The progression to violent skirmishes

between gendarmes et gilets jaunes epitomizes the discontent that results from the liberal

centrist’s fiscal policies. Understanding Macron means understanding the context of his liberal

economic cadre and its raisons d’étre in France. Macron himself may frequently frame his

actions in an internationalist context, citing the goals of the COP21 accords or “commitments at

the EU, G20, and UN levels,” as he does at the head of his speech on 27 November in response

to the gilets jaunes protests. However, the force behind his policy decisions comes from a larger

political and intellectual class than just Macron, whose aims diverge from those of the COP21


Ever since the mid to late 1980s, it has essentially been the goal of each French

government’s economic policy to catch up with the leading European economies. Macron is

unique in that his aim to increase economic competitiveness coincides with his previously

discussed goal of making budget cuts to reduce France’s deficit and debt-to-GDP ratios to within

the European Commission’s recommendations: a goal which was achieved by the French

government 2017, but will likely be undone by the time 2019 is over. Meanwhile, “Liberal”

economists have criticized Macron’s reform, which coincides with this budgetary goal, for not

going far enough. Such criticisms include his policy’s failure to reduce social security pay-ins for

businesses, his 2018 budget’s failure to show sufficient deficit reductions, and his labor reforms’

lack of substantive change compared with that of other EU countries in the wake of the


The position of the EU tends to coincide with that of the French economic elite when it

comes to a pairing of budget and tax cuts meant to boost the French economy back towards

lower unemployment and more steady growth. It would appear, however, that among the first

priorities to fall in the face of the gilets jaunes protests are those demanded by the European

Union. The Edouard Philippe government has announced that the French public will see no

increase of the TICPE emissions tax in 2019.

Now what does all of this have to do with defense spending? Macron’s budgetary

pivoting in the French public arena is more than just analogous to European defense spending in

the sphere of transatlantic relations. Whereas the past year’s worth of economic reform made by

the Macron/Philippe government has been modest at best, 2018 turned out to be a boon for the

growth and development of the European Defense Community. Countries across the EU have

made progress towards the 2% of GDP NATO spending target. Some EU members have even

exhibited resistance to Russian sharp power pressure, such as Finland, whose September raids on

Russian-owned properties on its western islands caught its Russian owners off-guard.

Meanwhile, and perhaps more importantly, the goals of European Defense spending and

foreign policy motives across EU countries coalesced more than it had in years prior. Across the

EU, countries responded swiftly and sharply to the Skripal affair by expelling Russian diplomats

last March. Then, in the fall afterwards, Macron used his pulpit at the 100th anniversary of

armistice day to advance his goal of uniting a “European Army”, this time harping on the

importance of thereby establishing European sovereignty. This position of Macron’s, met with a

twitterstorm from Donald Trump, who pointed out Macron’s own domestic struggles, is a

precarious one in the realm of European security, but is one that is increasingly supported by key

actors across the EU. Even Angela Merkel, who was at first hesitant to jump on board with

Macron’s many reformist proposals, now has a sizeable base of support, even among the less-

than-warhawkish German public to work with.

Given Macron’s importance as a driver behind reinforcing European security, the

delicacy of his domestic situation endangers his plans for a European Army. If he crumples

against Meluche’s generation of yellow-vested protests and changes his draft budget, then

Macron loses clout as a champion of EU rules and policies. If he doubles down as a European

‘sovereign’ and cracks down on protesters, a price will be paid in credibility as one among

Europe’s vanguard against authoritarianism. For the time being, it would appear that Macron has

chosen the latter. While I would not personally set the bar so low as to compare Macron to

authoritarians like Putin in this regard, the optics of Macron’s overzealous response to protesters

and calls for European sovereignty have the potential to empower those who stand against said


Trump's Iran Sanctions Disputed by Deal Members

By Leah Cerilli

On Sunday, November 4th, the White House reinstated economic and trade sanctions on Iran, effectively ending the United States’ participation in the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. These sanctions specifically target Iranian oil, which makes up 70% of Iran’s economy.

Commonly dubbed the “Iran nuclear deal”, JCPOA was forged in 2015 between Iran, UN Security Council members, Germany, and the European Union. This recent move is a reflection of President Trump’s promise to pull out of the deal, which he says is “horrible” and “one-sided”. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the sanctions are meant to influence Iran into renegotiating the deal. The Trump administration has also justified  the sanctions as a means to condemn Iran’s poor human rights record, support for terrorist organizations, and destabilizing actions within the Middle East. JCPOA lifted previous sanctions held on Iran since 1979, in exchange for limiting and monitoring its nuclear program.

The American sanctions predominantly target Iran’s banking, shipping, and petroleum sectors. They stipulate that countries that do business with Iran without U.S. waivers will face hefty fines or may be prevented from doing business with the United States. Eight countries have been given temporary waivers: China, India, Greece, Italy, Taiwan, Japan, Turkey, and South Korea. The waivers are supposed to last for six months and are intended to allow the granted countries enough time to eliminate their Iranian imports as well as avoid disruption of global oil markets. The importing countries must deposit Iran’s earning into an escrow account, which Iran can only spend on a limited range of humanitarian items. Although humanitarian goods can still be traded with Iran, the sanctions will likely make the purchase more expensive.

The US will be able to globally enforce these sanctions given that the majority of international transactions are made in US dollars. Any transaction that is made in US dollars or passes through American banks is subject to American sanctions.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said the sanctions will backfire on the US. He claims the sanctions will only make the US more isolated, as the international community will oppose the sanctions. Both the European Union and China have criticised the sanctions.

However, the European Union is indicating that it may shift sides and pivot closer to the United States. Both France and Denmark have recently uncovered Iranian intelligence plots in their respective territories. Denmark suspects Iran of trying to carry out an assassination on its soil in October. France has concluded Iran’s intelligence ministry was behind a plot to attack Iranian exiles protesting in Paris this past June. Both countries have said they are considering sanctions at an EU-wide level as a result of the attempted operations.

The EU is also exploring a loophole that would allow continued trade with Iran. Their proposal is to create a “Special Purpose Vehicle” - a third party institution that would process transactions between Iran and businesses seeking to trade with them. Under the SPV, the deals would be subject to EU law, not international law.

Iran has threatened to abandon the deal if the EU does not protect its trade and financial benefits.

Pakistan's Controversial Blasphemy Law Creates Unrest

By Leah Cerilli

Pakistan’s controversial blasphemy law has recently come under international attention after a Pakistani woman was convicted of blasphemy and subsequently sentenced to death by hanging.

Pakistan’s blasphemy laws have affected scores of citizens. Critics argue that the law is unfairly used to target minority faiths. Since 1987, a total of 633 Muslims, 494 Ahmadis, 187 Christians and 21 Hindus have been accused under various clauses of the blasphemy law. Accusations of blasphemy often lead to mob violence by militant Islamists, particularly when the accused are Christian. The vast majority of these cases are for desecrations of the Quran. Since 1990, at least 65 people have been killed in Pakistan after being informally accused.

Aasiya Noreen (commonly referred to as Asia Bibi) is a Catholic and is an example of a life fundamentally altered as a result of Pakistan’s blasphemy law. She was reported to be the only Christian in her village and was arrested in 2010 after allegedly insulting the Prophet Muhammad in front of her neighbors.

    In June 2009, Asia Bibi was harvesting fruit with her neighbors. An argument broke out after she took a drink of water from a bucket. A neighbor argued that Bibi contaminated the water and now the neighbors could no longer use it as Bibi’s faith made it unclean. Both women then exchanged a series of offensive comments about the other’s religion, with Bibi eventually insulting the Prophet Muhammad. Bibi maintains that she did not insult the Prophet, and that she is a victim of false accusations prompted by bigotry and racial hatred.

    Following the dispute, Bibi was allegedly attacked by an angry mob at her house and was later taken away by police. She was held in jail for over a year before being charged with blasphemy. She was then placed in solitary confinement until she was acquitted in October 2018 by the Supreme Court. Bibi currently remains in prison, which has been turned into a safe house run by the Pakistani army and intelligence services. Bibi fears for her life and is unable to leave. Her husband is looking for the family to be granted asylum in the United States, United Kingdom, or Canada.

    Under Pakistan penal code, blasphemy is punishable by life imprisonment or death. Bibi was the first citizen to be sentenced to death for the crime. Public support for the laws are strong, with violent protests breaking out after her acquittal was announced. Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan, an Islamist movement, is a prominent force in the opposition and violent demonstrations. The government struck a deal with the group in order to end the protests, promising not to oppose a review position against the Supreme Court’s decision. The government also pledged to release everyone detained in connection with the protests.

In 2009, a prominent governor Salman Taseer spoke out in favor of Bibi and openly condemned the laws. He was subsequently assassinated by his own bodyguard. This case divided Pakistan, with some deeming him a criminal and others calling him a hero.

    A month later, Shahbaz Bhatti, was shot and killed outside his home after speaking out against the laws. Bhatti was the only Christian cabinet minister in the Pakistani government.

Nearly all political parties have voiced desires to reform the laws, but little has been accomplished. The subject seems to be too sensitive for most politicians to pursue, with the threat of  violent attacks to those who dare criticize the laws. Politicians are also reluctant to alienate influential religious groups and parties by altering the laws.

Crossing the Gate of Tears Pt. II

By Kavya Verma

    With the recent disappearance and murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, Saudi-US relations have become tense, leading to a major public outcry and renewed critiques of many of Saudi Arabia’s policies, including the country’s role in the ongoing crisis in Yemen. Adding to the public attention and concern regarding this topic is the UN’s prediction of the worst famine in the last century if the war does not come to an end. Now this fear is edging closer to reality as conflict rages over the key port of Hudaydah, where massive portions of key resources arrive in Yemen. If the port of Hudaydah suffers, so will a large number of Yemenis who are dependent on the supplies that pass through it for their survival.

    Since the crisis erupted in 2015, the UNHCR estimates that out of the 166,658 individuals who have fled Yemen, 75,748 have arrived in countries located in the Horn of Africa. It is a short sea route that separates Yemen from Djibouti, and linguistic, cultural, and historic ties may make Djibouti a viable option for those in desperate need of refuge away from nearby conflict. What greets them in their place of relative refuge, however, is all too disheartening.

    In the years prior to the outbreak of violence in Yemen, many would exit the Horn of Africa through Djibouti and Somalia, and possibly onwards into Yemen, to attempt to seek work in the more prosperous Gulf States. Since 2015, Bab-el-Mandeb, the less than 100km-wide strait that separates Yemen and Djibouti, has seen two-way travel by those seeking prosperity on each side. In recent years, the number of Yemenis crossing the strait has substantially increased.

    Once they are placed in refugee camps at a great distance from the capital and the relatively prosperous regions in which new arrivals from Yemen seek to rebuild their lives, many refugees unsurprisingly become pessimistic regarding their future prospects. This has led to reports of instances of domestic abuse, compounded by a cultural stigma which presses victims not to report abuse. Now, the prolonged economic strife faced by refugees upon arrival in the Horn of Africa is likely to lead to increased - but just as infrequently reported - instances of domestic violence against Yemeni women.

    This single issue brings to light the lack of support being provided to the the nations hosting the largest number of Yemeni refugees, as well as the issue of integrating refugees into local society and away from refugee camps. Increased integration and improvements in financial prospects among refugees could reduce domestic violence, and any additional resources going to Djiboutian NGOs aiming to provide care for victims of domestic abuse would assist in countering the cultural stigma against reporting abuse.

    Even with the US currently calling for a ceasefire, if the the port of Hudaydah suffers damage, the rest of Yemen will. Those who are able to flee may be forced to make their final attempt to get out of Yemen, relocating across the Horn of Africa in a desperate bid for relative safety.

Top Afghan Commander Assassinated Amid Election Violence

By Leah Cerilli

Kandahar police chief General Abdul Raziq was shot dead in a Taliban attack on October 18, following a security meeting. The Taliban released a statement saying that Raziq, “a brutal police chief”, was the primary target. Abdul Mohmin, Kandahar Province’s intelligence chief, was also killed in the same attack that wounded three NATO personnel as well. General Scott Miller, the head of US and NATO forces in Afghanistan, was present during the attack, drawing his sidearm but ultimately not firing. The attacker was later killed by US forces in a shootout.

At the time of the attack, General Raziq had left a meeting and was heading towards \a helicopter taking US members back to Kabul. Provincial officials such as the governor and the police chief were also accompanying the group when the gunshots suddenly rang out. At least two hand grenade explosions were also reported.

General Raziq was the provincial police commander of Kandahar, being one of the most powerful military and political figures in Afghanistan. He had been previously accused of human rights abuses such as torture and was a key opponent against the Taliban. He was considered by many to be a symbol of the anti-Taliban struggle, previously surviving nearly 20 murder attempts.

This is a significant blow to Afghan and NATO counter-insurgency campaigns, in which nearly the entire leadership of Kandahar Province have been killed. This is particularly difficult for Afghanistan as Kandahar is considered to be one of the more stable provinces in the country, raising concerns over the region’s future stability.

It is also particularly troubling as parliamentary elections are long overdue in the Kandahar region. Elections were previously scheduled for October 20, but they have been delayed again for an additional week after the recent attacks. The parliamentary elections have continuously been delayed for over three years, since the current assembly’s term was supposed to end in 2015. Over these past few years, the government has been reforming the government and election system with the help of the United States.

There is international concern that this attack could result in further delays or reduce voter turnout. Afghan officials previously warned that attacks ahead of the elections were likely. The Taliban has warned potential voters not to take part in the elections, as they claim it is imposed by foreigners. At least ten candidates have been killed across the country leading up to the elections, in addition to several attacks on voting centers.

The election is supposed to serve as an indicator of how Afghanistan can handle organizing free and fair elections ahead of the presidential election in 2019. It will also test the Afghan military and police in preventing Taliban attacks and securing voting areas. This is particularly important since this will be the first election since NATO’s combat mission in Afghanistan ended in 2014, leaving election security largely up to Afghans. NATO’s Resolute Support Mission has offered to provide backup if requested. Shortly following the Kandahar attack, the Interior Ministry said forces are now on high alert and put in place measures needed to ensure the elections occur without further incident.