Up to Speed, Issue 1: a Peace Conference, a UNHRC Report on Venezuela, Letters from North Korea and Gorillas

By Thea Bladt Hansen

Collage by Emma Kappeyne van de Copello

In the midst of dizzying reports, numbers and exclamations about the Coronavirus pandemic, other events and news from around the world may have escaped your attention. But fear not – The Herring’s monthly Current Affairs Recap is here to brief you on the things you may have missed, from the ongoing gorilla baby boom in Uganda to Kim Jong Un’s penpalship with Donald Trump. 

Historical Peace Conference in Qatar

On Saturday, September 12th an Afghan peace conference began in Qatar. The Kabul-located government of Afghanistan met with the Taliban to discuss how to achieve a peaceful future for the country after more than 40 years of coups, occupation and war. It will be difficult to reach a peace agreement because of inherent differences between the democratically elected Kabul-government and the Taliban, a fundamentalist political movement and military organisation.

Foreign powers also play a role in the negotiations as both US and NATO troops are still present in Afghanistan. However, the aim of the conference is to figure out how the two parties can coexist and share power to ensure peace in Afghanistan. The conference is still ongoing and no outcomes have been made public yet. (Source: New York Times)

Venezuelan Government Accused of Crimes Against Humanity

A United Nations Human Rights Council report released on 16 September pressures the Venezuelan government led by Nicolás Maduro to explain its commission of what the report determines to be “crimes against humanity.” The report states that UN investigators found “reasonable grounds to believe that arbitrary detentions were used to target individuals based on their political affiliation, participation, views, opinions or expression, throughout the period under review.” 

The report also describes how SEBIN, The Bolivarian National Intelligence Service, in the period 2014-2018, arrested or tortured 33 people due to their political beliefs. According to the report, the torture included “asphyxiation with plastic bags, chemical substances or water; beatings; electric shocks; death threats; rape threats against either the victim and/or relatives; psychological torture including sensorial deprivation, constant lighting and extreme cold; and forced nudity.” (Source: UNHRC)

Journalist Publishes Letters from Kim Jong Un to Trump

American journalist Bob Woodward’s latest book titled “Rage” sparked international attention by illustrating inside information relating to President Trump’s relationship with North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un. The book was released on September 15th and is partially based on interviews with Trump conducted by Woodword.

The book includes 27 letters exchanged between the two leaders. Only two of the letters have hitherto been accessible to the public and according to Woodward, the letters describe a “diplomatic courtship” between Trump and Jong Un. The letters bear witness to Trump’s changing relationship with Jong Un, shifting from mockingly referring to Jong Un as “Little Rocket Man” to being the first US president to have a meeting with a leader of North Korea while still in office. 

The following is an excerpt from a letter from Jong Un to Trump sent on 25 December 2018: “I also believe that the deep and special friendship between us will work as a magical force that leads the progress of the DPRK-US [Democratic People’s Republic of Korea-United States] relations, clearing all the hurdles we face in the process of bringing about the developments we seek to achieve.” Critics argue that Trump’s meetings with Jong Un are problematic as they provide the North Korean leader with international legitimacy. (Sources: Washington Post,  CNN)

Gorilla Baby Boom in Uganda

We will finish off this week’s news recap with a joyous story from Uganda. The Coronavirus  pandemic has led to a decline in tourism around the world. The lack of noisy and intruding tourists in Uganda has resulted in a true gorilla baby boom. Seven new primates have been added to the country’s  population of mountain gorillas since January. The species is classified as endangered; only three mountain gorillas were born in Uganda in 2019. This year’s increase in births is therefore essential to the future existence of the animal. (Source: The Telegraph)

These were our picks for the news of the month you may have missed. Keep informed and stay tuned for next month’s Current Affairs Recap!

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