The Week That Was: Global News in Review

Foreign Policy Brief #99 | By: Ibrahim Castro | November 19, 2023

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Crisis in Congo

Growing conflict and escalating violence has now uprooted a staggering 6.9 million people in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Years of warring rebel groups and frequent natural disasters have helped fuel one of the largest humanitarian crises in the world today. Most of those forced to flee their homes live in the eastern provinces of North Kivu, South Kivu, Ituri and Tanganyika. The conflict in the DRC dates back to the the Rwandan genocide of 1994. Since then, the eastern DRC, bordering Rwanda, has been facing insurgency perpetrated by rebel militant groups. One such group responsible for the current fighting and displacement of civilians is the mainly Tutsi ethnic M23 rebels, which the DRC claim are backed by the Rwandan government. Rwanda’s current president, Paul Kagame, is a Tutsi and former opposition military commander, is credited with stopping the genocide. Though in recent years he has become a polarizing figure, and is also accused of helping back conflict in the eastern DRC. Rwanda repeatedly denies supporting M23, though a 131 page report by United Nations Security Council found that Rwanda has launched military interventions inside Congolese territory.The conflict is also in part fueled by the scramble for control of Congo’s vast mineral wealth, which is rich not only gold but minerals used in laptops, smartphones, and electric vehicles, and is thought to be worth up to $24 trillion. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has urged Rwanda and Congo to de-escalate tensions and withdraw troops from their border regions.

Malaysia’s Cross Border Air Pollution Law

Malaysia’s parliament last week rejected a draft law aimed at stopping cross-border air pollution. The reasons given for not advancing the law, which would be the first of its kind, are the difficulties in obtaining information for prosecutions when done in territory that does not belong to the aggrieved party. Malaysia’s environmental ministry said evidence such as location maps, coordinates, landowner information and companies operating in the location of fires was difficult to obtain since the smog entering the country comes from Indonesia, outside of its borders and jurisdiction. Environmental groups are still pushing for the law to pass as air quality in the country continues to decline, last month pollution climbed to concerning unhealthy levels. Malaysia has called on Indonesia to stop the fires within its borders and even asked the regional Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), of which both it and Indonesia are members, to take up the issue. The law would have a large effect on climate responsibility and if passed may pave the way for similar legislation in other countries.

Panama Protests

Panama has experienced protests in the last two weeks that have shaken the small Central American country for the first time in decades. The grievances, at least on the surface, are due to a government contract that allows a Canadian company to expand its copper mining operations in Panama. Two protesters were killed this past Tuesday, authorities said, bringing the total deaths during the demonstrations to four. Panama’s constitution declares all mineral deposits the property of the state, to be extracted only by concession, yet this current contract was negotiated without the public’s knowledge, giving the company, First Quantum, the right to mine copper across a staggering 32,000-acre expanse on the country’s Caribbean coast for at least 20 years. The deal has resulted in the largest protests since Panama’s National Civic Crusade of 1987. The protesters say the government should instead of extractive mining, be promoting industries such as sustainable agriculture, fishing and tourism.


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