1. Sierra Leone escalates its health emergency response mechanism in response to reports of Ebola in Guinea
Following the reported deaths of four people in the Guinean town of Guerkedou of Ebola, the Sierra Leone government has taken urgent steps to prevent its spread in the country. President Julius Maada Bio ordered Ministry of Health officials “to inform the general public that even though there are no reported cases of EVD in Sierra Leone, the government will take prudent action to prevent any introduction of the virus into the country and institute measures to protect the lives of Sierra Leoneans………The government of Sierra Leone has activated its Health Emergency Response System to level II (Enhanced Surveillance, Active Case Finding and robust Community Engagement).”
Sierra Leone was badly struck by the 2014-16 West Africa Ebola outbreak, with near to 4000 casualties. Robust measures taken by Sierra Leone, with international support from United Kingdom defence and aid assets, allowed the country to control the virus, and ultimately stymie its progress.
2. Central Bank of Nigeria reasserts ban on cryptocurrencies, citing security risks
On Friday the 5th of February, the Central Bank of Nigeria released a statement ordering all banks to close the accounts of cryptocurrency users and cease facilitation of cryptocurrency transactions. They warned that “severe regulatory sanctions” would face any parties found to be violating the order. Several commentators decried this move as an unnecessary violation of financial freedoms. However, the central bank released a further statement noting that this has been policy since 2017 and cited security concerns as the driving factor behind the decision. Such concerns included “money laundering, terrorism financing, illicit fund flows and criminal activities”. The financial authority stated that it was following in the footsteps of nations like Canada and China, who have placed varying degrees of restriction on the use of digital currencies.
3. Kenya appeals for ICJ to postpone hearing of its maritime dispute with Somalia
Kenya has appealed to the International Court of Justice, for a third time, to postpone the hearing of a case that would delimit its Indian Ocean border with Somalia. The two nations disagree over the ownership of a 62,000 square mile section of ocean located adjacent to them, which is believed to contain sizeable oil and gas deposits. It is one of a number of issues that has seen tension between the two nations increase in recent years and months that has recently resulted in Somali extremists Al-Shabaab attacking Kenyan infrastructure and security forces. Kenya believe that key pieces of evidence in the scheduled hearing have disappeared, including several maps, undermining the validity of the court case at this point in time.
4. Glacial breakdown causes heavy flooding in India
31 people have been confirmed dead and more than 200 declared missing after heavy flooding in India caused by the bursting of a glacier. The flash flood near Tapovan in Uttarakhand has damaged many burgeoning infrastructure projects and swept away many bridges, leaving at least 13 villages cut off from the rest of the region. The Indian government is working with local authorities to provide relief to effected communities. Many commentators have noted that this demonstrates the increased disaster risk resulting from climate change as the glacier is believed to have burst in part due to increased temperatures.
5. New Zealand Imposes Sanctions on Myanmar
After the military in Myanmar ousted the countries democratically elected leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, New Zealand has cut official diplomatic ties with the Asian nation and imposed travel restrictions. New Zealand is one of the first nations to officially state that they do not recognise Myanmar’s military government, which seized power earlier this month. New Zealand’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Nanaia Mahuta, noted that the move “sends a fairly clear message that the situation in Myanmar in terms of the military coup and government takeover is not to be tolerated”. Commonwealth nations have long been a strong voice in standing up to human rights abuses in Myanmar, with the Gambia and Canada leading the prosecution of those responsible for abuses in the ICJ.