Last Week in Foreign Affairs (September 17 - September 23)
Bobi Wine, the Popular Ugandan MP Returns Home to Uganda to Face Charges of Treason
The political rise of Bobi Wine began with his musical career, when he wrote songs lamenting the corruption and poverty that marred his country at the time (and continues to persist today). His music was well received, so much so in fact that he was elected as a member of parliament last year. Wine’s humble beginnings earned him the nickname of “Ghetto President”, signifying the overwhelming support he holds with the poor. And his continued degeneration of the current autocratic regime, led by Yoweri Museveni, eventually culminated in his arrest and torture this past August. Just over month after being brutally beaten and almost assassinated by his own government, Wine has returned to defiantly face the charge of treason brought against him.
Led by a president who has been in power since the “liberation” movement against the nation’s colonial masters in 1986, Uganda is now experiencing a period of deep social and political upheaval. Its young population, with 70% of its citizens being under the age of 30, have decided they’ve had enough. If Wine is harmed or killed at the hands of the government, it could precipitate another wave of mass demonstrations or even violence against an increasingly brutal dictator.
Cuban President Denies Performing Acoustic Attacks Against American Embassy Employees
In late 2016, over two dozen American diplomats in Cuba reported symptoms such as ear pain, headaches, and vertigo, seemingly from out of nowhere. There is reason to believe now that foul play was involved, although the source remains unclear. United States investigators claimed earlier this month that these inexplicable symptoms potentially stemmed from microwave generating devices aimed to harm American embassies. Cuban president Miguel Diez-Canel denied that any such attacks occurred, going as far as to say this was a possible propaganda attack staged by the Trump administration. This incident has served to further cool relations that had thawed under the Obama administration. While the attacks occurred on Cuban soil, the US has not yet ruled out Russia and China as potential instigators of these attacks either. Because of this, however, Cuba has a responsibility to “safeguard the diplomats’ well-being and would likely know if such an attack occurred on their turf. Both Russia and China deny any role in the attacks as well.
Major Update in Brexit Saga As EU Denies British “Chequers” Plan
Negotiations over Brexit took a dramatic turn as the EU rejected the new “Chequers” plan the United Kingdom had proposed earlier this year. Donald Tusk, president of the European Union, warned the UK, “Today there is perhaps more hope, but there is surely less and less time.” The plan was designed to lessen the financial impact on businesses leaving the economic trade union all EU member states are members of. A major point of contention was a clause stipulating all EU citizens have “unfettered access” to work in each member country, which became one of the defining reasons voters cited in choosing to leave. The EU decided that permitting the UK to retain most of its status in the economic conglomerate while rejecting the social aspects would be ceding too much, and rejected such an alternative. Furthermore, the UK’s only border with the EU in Northern Ireland is complicating matters. UKIP, the political party governing the province, refuses to allow a hard border in between Northern Ireland and the island proper, fearing that it could distance London from the territory. A hard border between the Republic and Northern Ireland, however, was one of the defining problems that lead to the rise of the IRA during the Troubles. All of these questions and more have to be settled by the deadline at the end of March next year, or the entire process could come crashing down.
The Maldives Hold Elections that Decide the Fate of A Young Democracy
Despite being a small island nation, the Maldives has found itself in a high-stakes game of geopolitical chess. Its burgeoning democracy is under threat by superpowers attempting to influence the election. Much like the larger nation of Sri Lanka to its east, the Maldives lie on extremely important maritime routes connecting much of Europe and Africa to China. Its geographic location has resulted in China investing just under one billion dollars, or a third of the Maldives’ GDP, in the nation. Through its One Belt, One Road initiative, China aims to both improve infrastructure and influence local politics. The current president, Abdulla Yameen, has purportedly taken increasingly autocratic measures to retain power, including jailing political opponents, stacking election commissions with loyalists, and cancelling voter registrations. All of this comes just ten years after the Maldives instituted democratic elections, and only five years after they held elections that were monitored by over 100 international observers. This rapid decline of democracy has been attributed in part to “debt-trap diplomacy”. While China has enriched the wealthy class with lucrative trade deals and incentives, it has also dramatically increased the country’s reliance on Chinese-owned debt. Furthermore, the United States and Europe have threatened to place sanctions on the Maldives if the elections are not “free and fair”. It seems as though this is just another proxy showdown between a rising China and the United States and its allies.