Shining a spotlight on some of the key security stories from across the Commonwealth.
1. Regions of Canada and India hit by severe flooding.
Heavy rainfall in British Columbia, Canada’s western province, and the state of Andhra Pradesh in south-east India have caused significant flooding, requiring the assistance of emergency services in recovery efforts. 120 personnel of the Canadian Armed Forces have been deployed in the city of Abbotsford, as well as over 200 in Surrey, to provide assistance in the wake of severe floods that inundated much of British Columbia last week. Defence Minister Anita Anand stated the armed forces would be there ‘over the next 30 days, and possibly longer if needed’ to help those affected. The flooding has been described as a once-in-500 year event by Canadian officials, and has so far claimed four lives.
Meanwhile, at least 40 people have been killed and thousands more displaced in Andhra Pradesh following torrential rain on Friday 19 November. The downpour swelled the Chitravathi, Papagni and Penna rivers and caused cracks in one of the largest reservoirs in the Tirupati district. The Indian Navy, state police and Disaster Response Forces have all been used in rescue efforts across 1,366 villages across the state. 35,000 people have been placed in relief camps in the city of Nellore. Essential food supplies, including rice and cooking oil, are also to be distributed to each family affected by the floodwater, as announced by the Andhra Pradesh government.
2. Gun attack in southwest Cameroon school kills 4.
A school in Ekondo Titi, located in Cameroon’s south west region, was the target of a gun attack on Wednesday as at least 3 children and a French-language teacher were killed. English-speaking separatists have been attempting to establish a brakeaway state in the region - which is predominantly French-speaking - since 2017, though there are yet to be any claims of responsibility for this particular attack.
So far, the conflict between the two ethnic groups is thought to have killed more than 3,000 people, displacing nearly one million. This is not the first time a school has been the target of such attacks; in October last year, 7 children died and 12 more were injured in the town of Kumba, which sits in a region of high separatist activity.
3. President of Seychelles emphasises importance of secure maritime links in address to COMESA heads of state.
As the 21st summit of the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) took place on Tuesday, Seychelles President Wavel Ramkalawan spoke of the need for strong maritime security to protect trading routes. ‘There is no doubt that regional and international trade are drivers of development’, he stated, ‘with over 80 percent of the world’s trade transported by sea… maritime security is of paramount importance’.
Wavel Ramkalawan was addressing officials from 21 member states in Eastern and Southern Africa, including Kenya, Malawi, Mauritius, Rwanda, and Uganda. He also praised the amount of investment from member states, despite the recent challenges of COVID: ‘We are working diligently towards ensuring that the multilateral system as a whole is credible, transparent and efficient.’ COMESA - which covers almost two thirds of the African Continent - is largely focused on promoting economic prosperity among its members, with this year’s summit being held in Cairo, Egypt.
4. India and Sri Lanka coast guards involved as Trilateral ‘Dosti’ is held in the Maldives.
The ‘Dosti’, a biennial exercise in which coast guard vessels from the Maldives, India and Sri Lanka try to enhance interoperability, took place on Saturday as the three nations look to secure further stability in the Indian Ocean. Cooperation between the nations’ coast guards is essential, research analyst Dr. Gulbin Sultana explained, as ‘if there is a maritime accident, or if there is an ecological disaster… sometimes the coast guard of one nation cannot tackle it alone’.
This year marks the Dosti’s 30th anniversary, though it was not until 2012 that Sri Lanka joined what was the bilateral exercise between India and the Maldives. Having agreed to work together on marine security, human trafficking, counter-terrorism and cyber security in August this year, the Dosti can be seen as just one part of an effort by the three nations to synchronise on a wide range of security issues.
5. Protesters attempt to storm Solomon Islands’ parliament in Honiara.
The Solomon Islands’ national parliament in its capital Honiara has been the target of protests since Wednesday, prompting the government to place the city under curfew. It is thought the unrest was sparked by a simmering anger amongst the country’s population in Malaita - a province neighbouring Honiara - towards the national government, partly due to its decision to switch allegiances from Taiwan to China in 2019. Malaita has had strong ties with Taiwan for decades, and even announced plans for an independence referendum last year in the wake of a pro-Beijing shift in government policy.
Upon the request of the Solomon Islands under a security pact signed in 2017, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced on Thursday that more than 100 police and military personnel would be deployed to the islands after the curfew had been ignored in the second day of protests. Meanwhile, the Chinese embassy in the Solomon Islands, which opened in September last year, expressed ‘serious concerns’ about the unfolding events.