1. Rwanda and Burundi begin process of normalising relations.
The Foreign Ministers of Rwanda and Burundi met on 20 October at the Nemba-Gasenyi border point and agreed to begin the process of normalising relations between their two countries. Relations have been rocky since 2015, when Burundi accused Rwanda of backing dissident voices against their government. Foreign Ministers Biruta and Shingiro discussed shared bilateral security concerns and spoke to the intertwined history of the countries. A statement from the Rwandan foreign ministry announced that the ministers committed “to attempt all measures to ensure normalisation of relations and stability of the sister-countries”. This meeting follows a previous meeting in which top intelligence officials from both nations met to discuss the security issues that place strain on their relationship. This is a positive step that signals a brighter future for both nations.
2. Mozambique insurgency spills into Tanzania.
Insurgents believed to be part of Mozambique based group Ahlu Sunna Wal Jamaa attacked the Tanzanian town of Kitaya on Wednesday night, capturing an armoured personnel carrier and killing at least two people. Reports say up to 200 armed insurgents were involved in a prolonged firefight in the town and the army base nearby. Videos have emerged on social media of armed extremists saying that Al Shabaab (the group’s local name) has expanded to Tanzania. In one video an armed man is seen tearing up a poster of Tanzania’s president John Magufuli and saying “This is Kitaya, and we are Al Shabaab from Mozambique, we have come to remove Magufuli”.
3. India return Chinese soldier captured in Ladakh in show of good will.
The Indian Armed forces detained a Chinese soldier who had strayed over the disputed border in the Ladakh region and subsequently returned him according to the official Chinese military newspaper. The soldier, identified as Wang Ya Long, was released on Wednesday morning. This is a positive sign of improved relations between the nations who have been in a fierce stand off in the Western Himalayas for some months. State-backed Chinese newspaper Global Times noted that India’s decision to release the soldier “brings an optimistic message to the tense China-India border” and that “It is hoped the cooperation can grow into more mutual trust between the two”.
4. Australia and Vanuatu to create Pacific Islands Security Centre.
Australia will set up a centre focusing on the security concerns of the Pacific island nations, opening next year, based in Vanuatu. The centre will host experts sharing information and analysis on transnational issues such as illegal fishing, human and drug trafficking as well as disinformation. This development is part of Australia’s wider ‘Pacific Step Up Strategy’ which has been seen as a counter to growing Chinese influence in the Pacific Islands. The Foreign Minister of Vanuatu, Marc Ati, said that “Vanuatu looks forward to working with Australia to establish the Pacific Fusion Centre, to complement and bolster existing regional security architecture.”
5. Plastic pollution in the South Pacific Ocean poses existential threat to Seabird populations.
Plastic gathered from distant corners of the South Pacific Ocean confirms fears that rising pollution will have devastating consequences for seabird populations. A study conducted in the journal Aquatic Conservation examined plastics ingested by seabirds from around the pacific to draw the conclusions that most seabird species will be threatened by 2050. Christopher Robinson, a New Zealand based scientist and co-author of the report, noted that “some of the areas where we collected the plastic are very remote. To me, that shows that this is a global issue; it’s not something a single country can solve on its own.”