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Weekly News Highlights

Compiled by Alex Hsu, Hayes Orr, Quinn Phillips

Edited by Sara Anis Ali, Meagan McColloch, Niamh Dempsey

Asia and the Pacific 

Bangladesh Rejects Request to Accept Additional Rohingya Refugees

Bangladesh has refused a United Nations request to accept more Rohingya refugees fleeing Myanmar. Dhaka officials stated the country is already overwhelmed by the more than 1.2 million existing Rohingya refugees. The Rohingya are an ethnic group from the Rakhine state of Myanmar. Often described as one of the most persecuted minorities in the world, the Rohingya are a stateless people, legally denied citizenship in their home country. Since the start of the Rohingya genocide in 2017, over 700,000 have fled to Myanmar, finding refuge primarily in Cox’s Bazar, a coastal region on the eastern border of Bangladesh. Now, over 1.2 million refugees are concentrated there, mostly living in camps along the Bangladeshi side of the coastal Bangladesh-Myanmar border. 

With the ongoing conflict and genocide in Myanmar, Bangladesh has become the primary destination for refugees. Despite limited financial resources, with help from donors and NGOs, Bangladesh has tried to provide shelter, food, and medical care for these refugees. However, Bangladesh, with a GDP of 416.3 billion USD, is a less-developed nation with a large population and few resources. Thus, the nation is unable to effectively provide the necessary aid to these refugees, resulting in the squalid conditions of these packed camps. The influx of refugees also comes at a hard time for Bangladesh. Inflation has skyrocketed, unemployment among young people is at a high level, and remittance incomes have declined. Because of these factors, Bangladeshi officials like Road Transport and Bridges Minister Obaidul Quader have come out and stated that they will stop allowing any more Rohingya to enter Bangladesh. 

As the Tatmadaw, the military of Myanmar continues its genocide against the Rohingya, refugees are bound to keep fleeing the area, and Bangladesh will face difficulties in addressing the humanitarian crisis. 

South America

Peace Talks Between Colombian Government and Guerrillas at Risk 

As of this week, ongoing peace negotiations between the Colombian government and the National Liberation Army (ELN), one of the country’s oldest and most powerful insurgent groups, are in crisis. The ELN accused the government of participating in regional talks with communities in the province of Nariño—breaching its guarantee to only hold talks meditated by bodies like the United Nations. In a statement, ELN leadership said, “Now this farce, dressed up as regional dialogue, is public, the process enters into open crisis and we are obliged to recall our delegation for consultations.” Though the group promised to halt further talks on account of perceived dishonesty, the Colombian government maintains that it is holding conversations with local communities at their request.

The National Liberation Army (ELN) is Colombia’s last remaining far-left insurgency and one of Latin America’s most powerful criminal organizations. The group was founded in 1964 by a group of leftist guerillas trained in Cuba. Despite being influenced by the same ideals that motivated the Cuban revolution, in recent years it has become deeply involved in the highly lucrative international drug trade. As of 2023, the group is estimated to have around 5,000 active members. 

In June of 2023, the ELN and the Colombian Government agreed to a 6-month ceasefire. On February 6, the ceasefire was extended for an additional six months. Recent disruptions threaten President Gustavo Petro's policy of "total peace" meant to end the country's six-decade conflict, in which more than 450,000 people have been killed. If the peace talks with the government are successful, experts are doubtful as to whether or not the ELN will show a real commitment to laying down its arms and demobilizing. 

Sub-Saharan Africa

Somalia and Turkey Sign Defense Deal

Turkish officials announced a defense agreement with Somalia to enhance Somalia’s maritime security on Wednesday. The ten-year-long deal, which will see Turkey supplying arms and training to Somalia’s navy, comes one month after Ethiopia signed a memorandum of understanding with Somaliland, an unrecognized breakaway region of Somalia. The exact contents of the memorandum between Ethiopia and Somaliland are, as of yet, undisclosed. Various government officials have indicated that the agreement involves granting Ethiopia access to the sea through Somaliland’s coast in exchange for a stake in Ethiopia’s airline company. Somalilander officials have also mentioned the possibility of Ethiopia extending recognition of Somaliland’s statehood.

Somalia was quick to censure the memorandum, passing a law declaring the deal illegal and stating that Somalia was prepared to go to war over the issue. Given Somalia’s preoccupation with fighting the militant al-Shabaab group, its military would be stretched thin if it attempted to enter a conflict with Ethiopia, however, the deal with Turkey could increase its capabilities and signal its firm stance against the memorandum to the administration in Addis Ababa.

Turkey’s involvement with Somalia follows a long history of engagement in the Horn of Africa, and a push this century to deepen ties with countries across the continent. In 2017, Turkish President Erdogan announced the opening of a military base in Somalia, which would train Somali security forces. Turkey has also provided millions in foreign aid to the continent, as well as courted the friendship of leaders such as former Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, before his eventual ousting by coup d'etat in 2019.



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