Up to Speed, Issue 11: Murder of a Kidnapped Bride Sparks Protest in Kyrgyzstan

(Collage by Anna Sazonov)

In the midst of non-stop reports, statistics 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 biweekly current affairs summary helps you stay up to speed. In today’s edition: Amongst others, the dispute over the Blue Nile and a controversial cultural practice in Kyrgyzstan.

Deadlock on the Blue Nile Dam Continues for Egypt, Sudan, and Ethiopia

Last week, delegates from Egypt, Sudan, and Ethiopia concluded the latest round of talks regarding the The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam in the Blue Nile. The delegates from the concerning countries met in Kinshasa, in the Democratic Republic of Congo, but without any progress in coming to a resolution about how the three countries will distribute water from the Nile river. 

After the talks, Sudan and Egypt have made their frustration clear. Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi commented: “I am telling our brothers in Ethiopia, let’s not reach the point where you touch a drop of Egypt’s water, because all options are open” while Sudan’s Irrigation Minister made a similar remark: “For Sudan, all options are possible including returning the matter to the UN Security Council and hardening policy …. [if] Ethiopia embarks on a second filling [of the dam] without agreement.” 

Ethiopia has continued to justify the filling of the dam for energy and development purposes providing electricity. Water Minister, Seleshi Bekele, confirmed that Ethiopia would continue filling the dam during the upcoming rainy season despite criticisms from both Egypt and Sudan. 

(Source: Al Jazeera, African News) 

A Foreseen Election Outcome for Citizens of Chad 

President Idriss Déby of Chad looks set to be elected for his sixth term in Chad following the presidential election on April 11th. Déby came to power in 1990 after a coup and has ever since consolidated his power through amending the constitution. Therefore, while the election results were mostly assured, he did face significant opposition from protesters and opposition leaders. 

In February, protests sparked after his nomination as the flag bearer of his ruling political party, Patriotic Salvation Movement. These demonstrations have been organized by a coalition of NGOs, labour unions, and opposition parties but they have been met with force. They have arrested hundreds of protesters and have also imposed a blanket ban on protests. Furthermore, the government has also arrested several opposition politicians for planning “terrorist attacks”. Crackdowns on protesters, human rights defenders, and officials have forced Saleh Kebzabo, the main opposition leader to drop from the presidential race last month after two people were killed as authorities attempted to arrest fellow opposition leader Yaya Dillo. 

Long-running leaders like Idriss Deby are not uncommon in the region. Other countries like Cameroon, The Republic of Congo, and Gabon have seen leaders in power for over a decade and in some cases several decades. The consolidation of power in these countries has among others been made possible by international complicity. Cameroon, Congo, and Gabon are former French colonies with strong economic ties while Chad is a strategic US ally in the campaign against Islamist insurgencies in the Chad Basin. 

(Source: All Africa, Al Jazeera) 

Lasso takes on a troubled Ecuador 

Guillermo Lasso, a conservative right-wing banker, has won Ecuador’s presidential election on Sunday. He was up against a 36-year-old left-wing economist, Andrés Arauz, but managing to obtain 52.51% of total votes, he narrowly won the race. A surprising result considering the first-round vote in February when Arauz won 32.7% of the votes while Lasso lagged behind at 19.7%. 

However, underneath the race between the two candidates was the nation’s divided opinion on Rafael Correa, who was a socialist president from 2007 to 2017 after which he fled to Belgium for being convicted of corruption. Arauz is Correa’s chosen successor and many of those who wanted a “government that is for everyone” hoped to see Correa’s return after Arauz took the seat. Therefore, the election of Lasso represents a win for Washington and US-aligned governments such as Chile, Brazil, and Colombia that would have had problems with a left-wing leader. 

In his winning speech, Lasso commented that he will work for “the prosperity that we all long for”. A task that may be more difficult than his statement suggests. Ecuador saw a 7.8% GDP contraction last year with an external debt of USD 45 billion. The nation’s healthcare sector has also been overwhelmed with over 340,000 covid-19 infections and 17,000 total deaths. Furthermore, his supporters in the National Assembly only tally 31 of 137 seats while he also needs to gain the support of 1.8 million Ecuadorians who voided their votes, many including from indigenous communities. 

(Source: Al Jazeera, Buenos Aires Times) 

A Cultural Practice Sparks Protests in Kyrgyzstan

Last Thursday, a crowd of roughly 500 people protested in front of the Interior Ministry in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. The protesters were demonstrating against alleged police inaction over the murder of Aizada Kanatkebova, a young woman who was “bride-kidnapped” for marriage. According to reports, her body was found in a car in a rural area with her suspected murderer who had died from self-inflicted knife wounds. In response to the police inaction, protesters have demanded senior ministry officials to resign. 

Bride kidnapping (“Ala Kachuu” in Kyrgyz) ranges from consensual elopement to non-consensual kidnapping and is a cultural practice from ancient nomads that has resurged after Kyrgyzstan’s independence from Soviet Union in 1991. It was outlawed in 2013 after authorities recognized it could lead to marital rape, domestic violence, and psychological trauma. 

The prevalence of the practice is not concrete. The UN Women’s Office in Bishkek reports that one in five marriages in the country is a result of Ala Kachuu while other reports put that lower to 15%. Furthermore, within those cases of Ala Kachuu, there are disputes between the proportions that are consensual and thus arranged compared to non-consensual incidents. 

(Source: Al Jazeera, CNA)

*Please note that these news summaries are simplified and compressed for a quick read. For a more contextualized and nuanced read, we would suggest for you to read further through the hyperlinks or search the web yourself. 

Author: Koh Okuno

Political Science and Economics Major

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