Rwanda – On August 5th, Paul Kagame won the Rwandan presidential election with almost 99% of the total vote. This marks the third time, after 2003 and 2010, that Kagame was elected as president of Rwanda, which under his governance has seen economic growth, but also experienced various human rights violations and acts of political repression. This trend to authoritarianism is also reflected in a 2015 constitutional amendment, which allowed Kagame to run for a third term and changed the presidential system, allowing Kagame to run for office again in 2024, for the first of potentially two five-year terms. In a region where democracy has a tenuous hold in Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda, this example of economic success combined with authoritarian rule could have serious repercussions for the continued democratization of East-Africa.
Asia and Pacific
Afghanistan – On August 1st, a suicide attack took place in Afghanistan’s city of Herat, killing 29 and wounding dozens at a Shiite mosque during evening prayers. With the Taliban denying any complicity in the attack, the obvious culprit is the Islamic State. IS has utilized sectarian violence in Iraq to further their objectives, something that is still uncommon in Afghanistan. Only one day prior on July 31st, IS claimed responsibility for an attack on the Iraqi embassy in Kabul, likely in retaliation for the recent recapture of Mosul by Iraqi forces, with help the western coalition airpower. Both of these attacks highlight the continued fragility of the situation in Afghanistan after more than 15 years of conflict.
Australia – Last week the Australian authorities announced that they foiled not one but two terror attacks, a bombing of a plane, as well as a potential toxic gas attack. The two alleged plotters, Khaled Khayat, 49, and Mahmoud Khayat, 32, received significant aid from IS operatives in the Middle East, who had been in contact with at least one of the suspects since April, and even shipped bomb parts from Turkey. Although this plot was ultimately foiled, it showcases the far reach of IS, its operatives, and ideology despite its recent territorial losses in the Middle East, and the threat lone wolf style attacks in Western countries.
Latin America and Caribbean
Venezuela – Since the death of Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez in 2014, the domestic political situation in Venezuela has deteriorated significantly. With the economic situation worsening under successor Nicolás Maduro, the opposition gained a majority of seats in the National Assembly in the 2015 parliamentary elections. This triggered a constitutional crisis in late March of 2017 when the Supreme Tribunal of Justice, Venezuela’s highest legal court took away legislative authority from the parliament. Maduro attempted to resolve with a constituent assembly election to rewrite the constitution. The election was held on July 30th, but fraught with boycotts and fraud claims, which were substantiated by the polling company. However the new assembly was inaugurated and quickly moved to consolidate power for President Maduro, ousting Venezuela’s chief prosecutor Luisa Ortega Díaz, who had been increasingly critical of Maduro’s government.
Israel – Since the diplomatic crisis erupted between the Arab Gulf States and Qatar, Al Jazeera, the Qatari government funded news agency, has increasingly come under pressure. Seen as a mouthpiece of the Qatari government by many in the region, one of the demands against Qatar is the closing of Al Jazeera. In a move similar to the Arab demands, Israel is seeking to ban Al Jazeera in Israel, due to the news organization’s alleged support for terrorism at large and the recent crisis surrounding the Muslim and Jewish holy site in Jerusalem. This move is surprising by a country that is widely considered the region’s only democracy and is likely to be challenged in Israeli courts.