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Weekly Spotlight: 10 September 2023


1. Jamaican Financial Services Commission Suffers Cyber Attack

In a statement issued on 06 September, Jamaica’s Financial Services Commission (FCS) reported that it had suffered a cyber-attack against its systems. Whilst details regarding the perpetrator, extent, and nature of the attack remain unknown as of writing, the FCS did admit to processing services operating at reduced capacity because of the attack. The agency is reportedly working alongside cybersecurity experts from the Jamaica Cyber Incident Response Team (Ja-CIRT) and Major Organised Crime and anti-Corruption Agency (MOCA) to further investigate the incident, and to protect any personal data stored on its systems. In their official statement, the FCS expressed its wish to “assure our staff, licensees, registrants, and other stakeholders that all efforts are being made to protect their personal information and data.”



2. General Nguema Inaugurated as Gabonese Head of State Following Military Takeover

On 04 September, General Brice Clotaire Oligui Nguema was officially inaugurated as Gabon’s head of state in the capital city of Libreville following a military coup the previous week. The coup was staged against President Ali Bongo, previously in power since 2009, due to a culmination of years of discontent regarding the President’s corruption, and widespread reports of vote rigging during the country’s recent election.


Prior to the military takeover, the Bongo family had ruled since 1967, exerting an apparent stranglehold on Gabonese politics. Their rule was marked by widespread corruption and cronyism, as evidenced by the fact that despite the country earnt USD $6 billion in export revenue in 2022 from their large reserves of oil and gas, roughly a third of its population still live below the poverty line. The subsequent resentment held by the Gabonese public towards the extremely small circle of enriched elites close to the Bongo family was further exacerbated by the 26 August election of 2023, which was described by observers as rife with irregularities and lacking transparency.


Gabon’s new leader, General Nguema, previously served as a member of the Republican Guard, an elite military unit close to the presidential office. Despite his previous ties to President Bongo, General Nguema has promised to “return power to the people by organising free, transparent, and credible elections,” supposedly within two years. This promise has earnt the junta relative support from the Gabonese public thus far.


CSG Comment:

As the Cold War started to thaw, and systems of patronage built up during the post-colonial era began to evaporate, waves of small conflicts rippled through Africa, Asia and Europe. Unstable factionalism replaced governments previously buttressed by great powers. Groups realised that foreign intervention was no longer a geostrategic necessity as part of the Cold War dance, and seized their moment to push for power. In some respects the ripple of military coups taking place in francophone Africa is a result not simply of internal or external security pressures, from food insecurity to terrorism to mercenary antagonism, it is also reflective of a growing belief that there will be no external consequences, no hitherto great power riding in to bolster a beleaguered leader. If a coup attempt can garner popular support and momentum, the multipolar geopolitics of the 2020s, guarantees that there is a seller's market of influence, and the coup might succeed. This new reality changes the nature of international relations, and highlights the need for governments to invest in and secure their legitimacy. And as much as governments can be secured by ensuring they are subject to popular endorsement of one form or another, security sector reform is vital to ensure political and popular endorsement of military action.


It is too early to tell whether the new government in Gabon will see through their promise to secure authentic popular endorsement, and to defeat corrupt practice for the benefit of the Gabonese people. Early indications offer cautious optimism. What is not in question is the central importance of all levers of good governance to security. Economic, political, and military good governance will create a stronger and more stable society. It is up to the leaders of the day to set their timeframes and their goals, and it can only be the subject people who can offer their endorsement of the relative successes. Countries across the Commonwealth have immense experience and expertise in undertaking these journeys and supporting them. Placing good governance at the forefront of Commonwealth dialogues and interactions can help support security throughout the association.



3. India Hosts 2023 G20 Summit

From 09-10 September, India played host to the G20 summit for the first time in the bloc’s history. The summit was held in the Bharat Mandapam International Exhibition Centre in New Delhi, and covered global issues such as cryptocurrency regulation, human-centred development, and technological transformation. Speaking last month, Prime Minister Narendra Modi outlined a “vision of inclusiveness” for the summit, and in a significant outcome of the summit invited the African Union to be permanent delegates of the bloc.


For India, the agreed communique can be seen as a huge diplomatic success, managing to bridge schisms in G20 members over several items, perhaps most profoundly, the enduring Russian invasion of Ukraine. Independent of specific references to the Russia-Ukraine conflict, the communique touched on a great number of issues, proving that international cooperation is vital to tackling issues such as terrorism, climate change, frameworks for AI, transnational crime and many issues besides.



4. Canada-Singapore Cybersecurity Agreement Set for Renewal Following Bilateral Visit

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau travelled to Singapore from 07-8 September, where he conducted bilateral discussions with counterpart Lee Hsien Loong regarding technological, economic, and security cooperation between the two nations. Alongside broader explorations of how Canada and Singapore could work together to uphold principles such as the rule of international law and multilateralism, the two nations also signalled their intent to renew the Canada-Singapore Cybersecurity Memorandum of Understanding. This agreement outlines methods of facilitating information exchange, skills development, and capacity building programs between the two nations, and remains an important roadmap for developing robust joint cybersecurity capabilities. Furthermore, whilst details remain scarce as of writing, reports indicate that both nations also discussed establish a General Security Agreement, which aims to encourage Canadian-Singaporean cooperation in more tradition spheres of defence.



5. Fiji and Solomon Islands Discuss Closer Security Cooperation

Ahead of the upcoming Pacific Island Leaders Forum meeting in the Cook Islands, diplomats from Fiji and Solomon Islands conducted separate discussions regarding bilateral security cooperation and air service agreements. Dr Lesikimacuata Korovavala, Fiji’s Permanent Secretary for Foreign Affairs, met with the Solomon Islands’ High Commissioner to Fiji Joseph Maáhanua for initial talks regarding the outline of a potential bilateral defence framework akin to the one currently in use between the Solomon Islands and Australia. Indeed, as of 03 September, Australia has provided further police reinforcements to the Solomon Islands to assist with their preparations for the upcoming Pacific Games, indicating the popularity and effectiveness of bilateral security agreements within the pacific islands region.

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