Commonwealth Security: Weekly Round-Up
1. Tensions run high in Guyana as preliminary results of electoral recount emerge.
Guyana's contested election rumbles on threatening stability in the country. The election, originally held in March, was won by the incumbent David Granger. However, the victory was marred after outside observers noted irregularities in the vote counting. In light of the recount, the opposition has emerged as likely victors. This has, in turn, been rejected by the current governing party. The fraught election has come at an interesting time in Guyana, as a large oil deposit has been found off the country's coast, which several companies are preparing to extract. The controversial election may exacerbate tension between the country's Afro-Guyanese and Indian populations, with some in each community fearing the other will seek to exploit the country's new found oil wealth for themselves.
2. Tensions continue to foment in South Sudan, with new opposition groups emerging and clashes on the Ugandan border.
In South Sudan, a country aspiring to be part of the Commonwealth, security threats continue to increase despite a ceasefire between the government and the main opposition group. First, a former political detainee, Kerbino Agok Wol, has founded a new armed opposition group. Known as the 7th October Movement, the movement has positioned itself as “the voices of the collective citizenry” of South Sudan and has called for the current ruling structures to be “eliminated”. And second, members of the South Sudanese military have clashed with the Ugandan military on their shared border. A spokesman for the Ugandan Army reported that seven South Sudanese soldiers crossed the border in the district of Yumbe, three of whom were killed after an exchange of gunfire. The soldiers were seemingly robbing and extorting Ugandan citizens. It appears the attack is being treated as criminal in nature, rather than military, after talks between the countries. Events such as these speak to the continuing insecurity in South Sudan.
3. Pakistan is trialing a novel means of combating the worst Locust swarms they have had in twenty-five years.
Farmers are struggling in Pakistan as they face Locust plagues that are destroying harvests in the country’s agricultural heartlands, leaving people struggling for income and threatening food shortages. In order to combat this, Prime Minister Imran Khan’s government are trialing a scheme whereby individuals are paid to capture the Locusts and turn them into chicken-feed. The trial is taking place in the Punjab’s Okara district where farmers had not used pesticides that would make the locusts unusable. One farmer, who had lost all her income, said that she and her son were able to mitigate their financial hardship, earning 1600 Rupees during a single shift of locust gathering. This novel solution to Locust swarms, if effective on a larger scale, could be an example of best practice in dealing with pests, and boosting food and income security around the Commonwealth.
4. India and China have agreed to peacefully resolve the dispute over their border in the Ladakh reason.
India and China have agreed to resolve their ongoing border dispute through diplomatic means. Spokesmen from both nations agreed “the two sides should handle their differences through peaceful discussion”. First, the countries will focus on removing excess troops and military installations from the region as generals and diplomats meet to discuss terms. Once this has been achieved, the broader future of the Sino-Indian border will be discussed. Negotiations are ongoing, but it appears violence between the two powers has abated.
5. Fiji and New Zealand declare themselves 'free' from the Coronavirus.
The two countries have emerged as the fastest nations to declare themselves free of COVID-19 having battled outbreaks. With the exception of external travel, New Zealanders are now free to go about their lives as normal, a major milestone in combating the effects of the virus. New Zealand enacted major ‘lockdown’ style restrictions early in their course of exposure to the virus. Perhaps with hindsight their decisive action will function as a model for future pandemic responses. Fiji demonstrated similar decisiveness, imposing localised lockdowns and is maintaining border restrictions.
The two nations join fellow Pacific and Commonwealth neighbours including Vanuatu, Soloman Islands, Tonga, Samoa and others in being free from the disease. With regional economies heavily dependent on tourism hopes abound that the mooted 'travel bubble' linking Australia and New Zealand will also include those 'covid-free' Pacific states.