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Weekly Round-Up

1. Two Canadian citizens detained in China to face trial.

Two Canadian citizens arrested two years ago in apparent retaliation for Canada’s detention of a Chinese national, Meng Wanzhou, who is a senior executive at telecoms giant Huawei, are set to face trial in the coming days. The two men, Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig, were arrested on espionage charges that are widely believed to be fabricated. Canada has been unwilling to release Ms. Wanzhou, who is accused of fraud, in exchange for the two men for fear that it will set a precedent for the arbitrary arrest of their citizens abroad to exert political pressure on the Canadian government. Ensuring this situation is resolved amiably is integral to the security of the 250,000-300,000 Canadians living in China, many of whom currently live in fear of arbitrary arrest. Canadian Foreign Minister Marc Garneau noted in a statement “The arbitrary detention of Mr Kovrig and Mr Spavor is a top priority for the Government of Canada, and we continue to work tirelessly to secure their immediate release”.

2. Jamaica to launch “more secure” central bank digital currency in 2022.

Jamaica’s Minister of Finance, Nigel Clarke, broke the news this week that the Jamaican central bank will be piloting a digital currency with a view to rolling it out for mainstream use in 2022. The central bank digital currency will be exchangeable on a one-to-one ratio with the Jamaican dollar and is part of a wider bid to digitalise the Jamaican economy. Nigel Clarke noted that the added security digital currencies can provide was a key factor in the decision to introduce the new technology; “With recent innovations in technology, it is possible to introduce alternatives to cash that are cheaper, more secure, and more efficient”.

3. Former Gambian Death Squad Member Arrested.

In an important step towards justice for the victims of abuses during Yahya Jammeh’s rule in Gambia, a former death squad member has been arrested in Germany. The individual, known as Bai L, was an alleged member of the notorious “Junglers” death squad, set up by then-president Yahya Jammeh in the mid-1990s. Jammeh’s rule was marked by human rights abuses, many of which are believed to have been carried out by the “Junglers”. This individual is the third accomplice of Jammeh to be detained abroad alongside another death squad member and former interior minister Ousman Sonko. Jammeh himself is currently in Equatorial Guinea, where he fled after losing the 2016 Gambian election. Commentators have suggested that this is a positive sign that the perpetrators of human rights abuses in Gambia will face justice for their crimes.

4. Sierra Leone pens first Cybersecurity Strategy.

Sierra Leone’s Ministry of Information and Communications has drafted its first cybersecurity strategy in collaboration with international partners and the private sector. After attending the 2019 UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office sponsored Commonwealth National Cyber Security Incident Response conference in Accra, Ghana, Sierra Leone’s Ministry of Information and Communication realised their current cybersecurity provisions were underdeveloped. Using Ghanaian consultants, Sierra Leone began to address the gaps in their cyber defences, leading to the completion of the first draft of their inaugural cybersecurity strategy, which will help them combat a complex array of threats.

5. Islamist insurgency in Mozambique intensifies.

The ongoing Islamist insurgency in Mozambique appears to be intensifying. Harrowing reports have emerged this week that children as young as eleven have been beheaded by the extremist group Ahlu Sunna Wal Jamaa, known also as Al Shabaab. Witnesses describe not being able to do anything about the heinous attacks, for fear of being killed themselves. At the same time, US Special Forces are beginning a programme to train the Mozambican army. This programme is, so far, limited in scope with 12 US Army Green Berets set to train Mozambican marines for two months. However, it signals the entrance of Western forces, including a prospective deployment for the United Kingdom's recently announced Ranger Regiment, into the rapidly escalating conflict.

6. Australia undermines “nest of spies” attacking defence technology.

The Chief of Australia’s intelligence services, Mike Burgess, has announced that a” nest of spies” reporting to an as yet undisclosed foreign power has been apprehended. The group was disrupted last year, but not before recruiting a senior Australian official with access to sensitive information concerning defence technology. It was also stated that “They asked a public servant to provide information on security protocols at a major airport”. The foreign intelligence officers have since been removed from the Australia and are described as being from outside the region.


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