Hello and Welcome to the Weekly Global Digest of Ytharth where we track the major geopolitical events across the world and compile them in one place.
In this edition of the digest, read the ongoing turmoil and protests in Kazakhstan and Sudan. It also contains the developments on the Korean Peninsula while also tracking the recent developments in the Ukrainian crisis. We hope you will like the digest.
Sudan: Quest For Democracy
Sudan’s PM Abdalla Hamdok, who became the Prime Minister of the African nation after striking a deal with the Army, has resigned amidst people protest. The Army had carried out a coup in Sudan in October last year. His resignation came after mass protests rocked the Sudanese capital Khartoum where people were demanding a return to full civilian rule.
Sudan’s long term authoritarian President had resigned in August 2019 and a new system of governance was evolved where military and civilian leaders were sharing power. Bashir was toppled by the military but people thronged to the streets demanding civilian rule. As a result, the army negotiated this plan of power-sharing with the civilian leaders. Since then the country has been struggling to make the transition to a democratic set-up and have seen large scale protests against the Sovereign Council which came into existence after Bashir was toppled. The civilian and military leaders have been at odds and since 2019 military had many attempts of the coup. The most recent coup took place in October 2021. Civilian PM Hamdok was detained by the military along with several other civilian leaders. However, Hamdok was reinstated in November 2021.
What followed was a massive anti-coup protest in Sudan. Protesters marched together against the military leaders chanting “people are stronger and retreat is impossible”. Coup leader Gen Abdel Fattah al-Burhan has defended last October's coup, saying the army had acted to prevent a civil war. He says Sudan is still committed to the transition to civilian rule, with elections planned for July 2023.
With the resignation of Hamdok, the country is now under the complete control of the Army. People are protesting and have not shown any sign of retreating. However, Sudan’s road to democracy looks bleak now and many expect that country will return back to authoritarian rule under the military this time. Given Sudan's economic struggles, that could have an even worse effect on the lives of Sudanese people. The pro-democracy activists have now announced fresh protests amidst the political crisis in the country. Since the protests began in October after the military coup at least 56 protestors have lost their life.
Hongkong: China’s clampdown continues
Citizen News is the latest victim of China’s crackdown on pro-democracy elements in Hong Kong. In its Facebook post late on Sunday, the outlet thanked readers for their support, before announcing "with a heavy heart" that it would cease operations from 4 January to "ensure the safety and well-being of everyone". "Regrettably, what was ahead of us [was] not just pouring rains or blowing winds, but hurricanes and tsunamis," the statement said.
"Sadly, we can no longer strive to turn our beliefs into reality without fear because of the sea change in the society over the past two years and the deteriorating media environment." In June last year, Apple Daily a popular tabloid newspaper founded by Jimmi Lai, too, shut down its operation. The Hong Kong Authorities had frozen the assets of the company citing the National Security Law. Founder of the paper Jimmy Lai is already in jail and now has been sentenced to 13 months in prison for participating in a vigil marking the 1989 Tiananmen massacre. On Tuesday, Chow Hang Tung, another pro-democracy activist was jailed for 15 months for organising a vigil to commemorate the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre by the Chinese Army on the orders of the Communist Party of China
Beijing’s clampdown is not restricted to the media sector only. Universities in Hong Kong are removing memorials of the bloody suppression of the 1989 Chinese pro-democracy movement centred on Beijing’s Tiananmen Square. The removal of the monuments testifies to the ruling Communist Party’s efforts to erase all accounts of the suppression from the public consciousness. It also comes as the party snuffs out democratic challenges in Hong Kong to its rule.
The Korean Peninsula: What do the leaders want?
Both the leaders in the two Koreas addressed their people on the occasion of New Year. While Moon Jae-in, in his last New Year’s address to the people vowed to bring normalcy between the two Koreas. He said that his government will pursue normalisation of inter-Korean relations and hoped that next government after the May elections this year will continue with the normalisation agenda.
Moon held multiple summits with Kim, including once in Pyongyang, during a flurry of negotiations in 2018 and 2019, before talks stalled amid disagreements over international demands that the North surrender its arsenal of nuclear weapons, and Pyongyang's call for Washington and Seoul to ease sanctions and drop other "hostile policies."
Moon is pushing an "end of war declaration" as a way to jumpstart those stalled negotiations and his administration has hinted at backchannel discussions. But North Korea has not publicly responded to the latest push, and the United States has said it supports the idea but may disagree with the South over its timing.
Kim Jong Un in his speech on the 10th anniversary of his regime in North Korea sounded different from his usual rhetoric. He capped off his 10th year in power with a speech that made more mention of tractor, factories and school uniforms than nuclear weapons or the United States, according to summaries by the state media. North Korea’s main goals for 2022 will be jump-starting economic development and improving people’s lives as it faces a “great life-and-death struggle,” Kim said in a speech on Friday at the end of the 4th Plenary Meeting of the 8th Central Committee of the Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK), which began on Monday. The Covid crisis has further deteriorated the economic conditions of the country and the people have suffered because of the complete shutdown of the borders that the North Korean regime enforced. The basic tasks facing the part and the people the next year are to provide a firm guarantee for implementing the five-year plan and make remarkable changes in the national development and the people’s living,” Kim was quoted as saying.
Days after talking about the economic and industrial growth of the country North Korea returned to its usual business of testing missiles. It fired a suspected ballistic missile into the sea off its east coast, in its first such launch since October. The missile landed in water between the Korean peninsula and Japan, bringing condemnation from Seoul and Tokyo. The UN prohibits North Korea from ballistic and nuclear weapons tests. Leader Kim Jong-un has vowed to bolster the North's defences. It tested a variety of missiles last year amid stalled talks with the South and US.
The latest launch - the first since a New Year speech in which Mr Kim set out policy priorities for 2022 - was first reported by the Japanese coast guard early on Wednesday, before being confirmed by defence authorities in Seoul. "South Korean and US intelligence are closely analysing for further detail," South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) said in a statement.
Source: Financial Times
Kazakhstan: People, Politics and Geopolitics
Largest of the Central Asian states, Kazakhstan has seen massive protests over fuel price hikes which is only the immediate cause. The deep-rooted autocracy, corruption and lack of political rights are, however, the main causes behind the anger of the Kazakh population. The fact that the protests have only intensified and spread to other parts of the country, even after the President brought back the price cap over LPG, is a testimony to the long-built anger among the population.
The President after dissolving the government and removing the long-term leader Nursultan Nazarbayev tried to control the situation but these were not able to satisfy the people’s anger. The consequences of the protests will not only be limited to the Kazakh territory if it is allowed to flourish. This is one of the reasons why Russia reacted sharply to the requests of the Kazakh President and dispatched peacekeeping paratroopers under the CSTO umbrella. Kazakhstan is strategically very significant for Russia as it not only shares a long boundary with Russia but also houses many strategic assets of Russia. Russia, too is keen on a peaceful boundary with Kazakhstan, as it is already in conflict with its western neighbour Ukraine and has already deployed its troops on the eastern border. The CSTO peacebuilders are now in Kazakhstan where the President had already ordered shooting the protestors, accused of colliding with the foreign powers, without warning while tension continues. In total, 5,135 people have been detained for questioning as part of 125 separate investigations into the unrest, according to the interior ministry quoted by local media. China, too, has joined in defending the actions of the Kazakh President calling is decisive and effective.
The Ukraine Crisis
The Ukraine crisis still looms large over Europe. While Russia continued with its military build-up on its border with Ukraine, US Secretary of State Antony Blinked has hoped for progress in the upcoming diplomatic talks between the US, European and Russian officials. Following a meeting with the NATO foreign ministers, he said that the United States and its allies are willing to address the legitimate concerns of Russia.
Next week's talks are occurring amid the backdrop of unrest in Kazakhstan, where the country's leader -- with the help of Russian forces -- has tamped down on protests that turned violent. The situation has the potential to complicate the upcoming talks, though so far White House officials say the Kazakhstan violence will not delay or otherwise change the three sets of talks set to begin in Geneva on Monday.
P5 Pledge to Prevent Nuclear Proliferation
On Monday the P5 Nuclear Powers of the United Nations pledged to prevent the proliferation of nuclear arms and said that nuclear war is not an option. In a rare statement issued jointly, China, France, Russia, the UK and the US said: “We believe strongly that the further spread of such weapons must be prevented.”
The statement went on to say: “A nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought.”
There was also an affirmation that “nuclear weapons — for as long as they continue to exist — should serve defensive purposes, deter aggression, and prevent war.”
The joint pledge was issued ahead of what was to be the latest review of the Treaty of the Non-proliferation of nuclear weapons (NPT). The tenth review session which was scheduled to take place at UN headquarters in New York this month was postponed to later this year.
The permanent five members of the United Nations Security Council (P5) agreed “to pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament, and on a treaty on general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control.”