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Haiti’s deadly descent, Libya’s flare-up, and an African diplomatic lovefest: The Cheat Sheet

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Our editors’ weekly take on humanitarian news, trends, and developments from around the globe.

On our radar

Hundreds killed as Haiti gangs run riot

Haiti’s gang violence has been an escalating problem for months but recently became even more deadly and chaotic. Between 8 and 17 July, at least 209 people were killed and 254 were injured during clashes between the rival G9 and G-Pèp gangs in the capital Port-au-Prince, according to the UN. Around half of the casualties were people with no known links to gangs. Fierce gun battles were also reported in the heart of the capital on 27 July, spilling out of usual hotspots like Martissant or shantytowns like Cité Soleil. Thousands have been displaced, but the full impact of the fighting – including casualty figures – is difficult to confirm. “No one knows how many people have been killed or wounded… nor the exact number who have fled the area,” according to a Médecins Sans Frontières report about the escalation of violence in Martissant over the past year. For more, take a look at this roundup of our recent reporting.

Anti-peacekeeper protests in Congo

Three UN staff and at least a dozen locals have died during protests against the peacekeeping mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Demonstrators attacked UN bases in several eastern cities and called on the mission, known as MONUSCO, to leave the country as it had failed to protect civilians. The protests come amid a rebellion by the previously dormant M23 group – which we have covered extensively in recent weeks. Politicians have been blamed for stoking the protests, though MONUSCO (which is now in a drawdown phase) has become increasingly unpopular among Congolese. UN troops have operated in DRC since 1999, but a humanitarian crisis has only worsened and the number of armed groups in the east has mushroomed. Peacekeepers have also worked alongside the Congolese army even as its troops have committed countless rights abuses. Accounts of this week's protests vary: A Reuters reporter witnessed blue helmets firing at protesters, though MONUSCO said it did not shoot on crowds, and the UN described attacks against its staff as possible war crimes.

Clashes flare up again in the Libyan capital

Fighting between militias broke out in the Libyan capital of Tripoli on 22 July, killing at least 13 people, including three children. The clashes – between forces backing the same Tripoli-based Presidential Council – were the worst in the city since a late 2020 ceasefire ended more than a year of war. Elections originally set for last December have been indefinitely postponed. Libya is currently controlled by two rival administrations, both supported by a bevy of militias. This week, despite recent talks in Geneva, a UN peacekeeping official told the Security Council that the various sides have still not been able to agree on the eligibility requirements for presidential candidates, so polls remain on hold. Candidates who put themselves forth for the top job in December included several people accused of war crimes and human rights violations.

Africa is getting wooed, but to what effect?

Africa is finally getting a little bit of love – wooed by Russia and the West looking for international support in the fallout over the Ukraine war. Visiting Egypt, Ethiopia, Uganda, and Congo-Brazzaville this month, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov made sure to note that the food crisis hurting African countries is down to Western sanctions complicating grain deliveries, not the Ukraine invasion. But he made no offer to help, allowing the US to trumpet an additional $1.2 billion in drought aid for the Horn of Africa. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken is also heading to the continent, visiting the Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda to mediate in an escalating dispute – a reminder, perhaps, of Washington’s continued sway. That’s in contrast to France. Visiting Cameroon, Benin, and Guinea-Bissau this month, President Emmanuel Macron is trying to counter growing anti-French sentiment. Meanwhile, Washington is planning an African leaders' summit for December. With Africa fairly non-aligned geopolitically – 17 African countries abstained in the UN vote to condemn Russian “aggression” – we’ll have to wait and see how many leaders show up.

Nigeria’s bandits reach Abuja

Nigeria’s opposition senators began a push this week to impeach President Muhammadu Buhari over the country’s jaw-dropping scale of insecurity. “Bandit” attacks have now reached the capital, Abuja. On 22 July, eight soldiers of the elite Guards Brigade were ambushed and killed inside the city. On 28 July, there were clashes again at a checkpoint leading into Abuja. Schools have closed in the city as a precaution against a burgeoning kidnap-for-ransom business. The lawlessness was underlined by a video this week of armed men beating train passengers they had abducted, and then vowing to kidnap Buhari as well – a man elected largely on his promise to end the insecurity. So who are the “bandits”? A distressing BBC documentary talked to some of them, and tells a complex story of grievance and ethnicised conflict that has spread across northern Nigeria. With seemingly no clue how to end the crisis (should the gunmen be placated or hunted?) – not to mention no real awareness of its scale – the government is punishing the messenger instead, promising “consequences” for the BBC for “encouraging terrorism”.

In Türkiye, Afghan deportations and rising anti-refugee sentiment

In the first six months of this year, Türkiye deported around 32,000 Afghans, including more than 12,000 in June alone, according to the Turkish government. Anti-refugee and migrant sentiment is running high in Türkiye ahead of presidential and parliamentary elections next June. Türkiye hosts the largest refugee population in the world, at around 3.8 million. The vast majority – some 3.7 million – are from neighbouring Syria. Around 320,000 people of other nationalities have international protection in the country. The majority are from Afghanistan – although many Afghans struggle to register for protection. In the midst of the worst economic crisis in Türkiye in decades, the government has said it plans to return up to one million refugees to Syria, and since the Taliban returned to power in Kabul last August, Türkiye has reinforced security along its eastern border to deter the arrival of refugees. A four-year-old Afghan child was killed earlier this month when Turkish security forces opened fire on a vehicle carrying asylum seekers and refugees in the eastern border region. 

In case you missed it

AFGHANISTAN: In the year since the Taliban took control of Afghanistan, women and girls have faced systemic and worsening repression, according to a new report from Amnesty International. It details daily rights violations – restrictions on schooling, work, and movement – as well as the detention and torture both of protesters and those who violate the new restrictions. Under Taliban rule, the report says, rates of forced child marriage are “surging”. 

AID WORKER DEATHS: At least 140 aid workers were killed last year – the highest tally in eight years – according to new stats from the Aid Worker Security Database. The numbers continue to show who bears the most risk on the job: 98 percent of deaths were local staff, and more than half worked for local NGOs.

BURUNDI: Hundreds of Burundian troops have crossed into neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo since December, according to a report from The Burundi Human Rights Initiative. Bujumbura has not publicly acknowledged the deployment, which aims to counter an opposition rebel group. The operation has resulted in violations against Congolese civilians, and there have been significant casualties among Burundian soldiers and youth militia too.

ETHIOPIA: The president of MSF Spain, Paula Gil, was refused permission to travel to Tigray to pay respects to the families of two Ethiopian staff members murdered in the region last year. Gil was also unable to meet any federal state representatives. A New York Times investigation implicated government troops in the killing of the two aid workers and a third from Spain.

EU: The EU’s border agency Frontex knew about and helped cover up systematic pushbacks carried out by the Greek Coast Guard, according to the findings of a leaked report by the EU’s anti-fraud office published by Le Monde and Der Spiegel. Human rights organisations have accused Frontex of turning a blind eye to – and being complicit in – Greece’s forced expulsion of asylum seekers and migrants to Turkey, which has become systematic since March 2020

HEATWAVE: Nearly 70 cities have been put under the highest heat alert in China, as steep temperatures continue to scorch a large swathe of the country. In all, more than 900 million people face some level of heat warning, which scientists say has worsened amid global warming.

IRAQ/TÜRKIYE: The UN’s envoy to Iraq has described last week’s shelling of a park in the country’s north as “shocking disregard for human life”. Nine people were killed in an attack that has been blamed on Türkiye, which targets militants it considers terrorists in the area. Türkiye has denied involvement.

LEBANON: Lebanon’s parliament voted to spend a $150 million World Bank loan on wheat. The price of subsidised bread has drastically increased over the course of Lebanon’s economic collapse, worsened by the ongoing impact of the war in wheat-exporting Ukraine.

MONKEYPOX: The world would need 180,000 to 360,000 vaccine doses to immunise people recently exposed to monkeypox, World Health Organization officials said. It’s the agency’s first estimate of vaccine needs since it declared the monkeypox outbreak a global public health emergency, Health Policy Watch reported. Currently, vaccines and antiviral treatments for monkeypox are only available in about half the countries seeing cases, the WHO said.

MYANMAR: Four political prisoners were executed by Myanmar’s military junta, sparking protests within the prison, in Yangon, and globally. The execution of pro-democracy leader Ko Jimmy, former National League for Democracy lawmaker Phyo Zeya Thaw, and activists Hla Myo Aung and Aung Thura Zaw marked the first time the death penalty has been used in decades and underscores the violence of the nation’s military – which has been ruling since taking power in a February 2021 coup.

VENEZUELA: Thousands of Venezuelan migrants – now the leading nationality transiting through the dangerous Darién Gap from South America – set off on 25 July in human caravans from southern Mexico towards the US border. Many had been stranded for months awaiting authorisation to head north. Meanwhile, at least 13 Venezuelan migrants were killed when their speeding bus fell into a ravine in Nicaragua. As we recently reported, Venezuelans continue to flee a humanitarian crisis at home, while poverty and xenophobia in the South American countries they migrate to are driving more and more north in search of better lives.

Weekend read

Q&A: The EU’s ‘racist’ refugee system, and how to fix it

Tareq Alaows, 33, is a civil society activist and human rights advocate campaigning for the rights of refugees, asylum seekers, and migrants in the EU. He came to Europe in 2015 seeking safety from the Syrian civil war, and last year became the first Syrian refugee to run for a seat in the German parliament, but ended his campaign after facing a racist backlash. He recently sat down in Berlin with TNH Migration Editor-at-large Eric Reidy to discuss the EU’s differing treatment of Ukrainian and non-Ukrainian refugees and how to make a fairer system for all people seeking safety. “It is great to see that everyone is showing solidarity with the people coming from Ukraine,” said Alaows. But the glaringly different response to Ukrainian and non-Ukrainian refugees is also highlighting an uncomfortable reality. “This is an example of the racist asylum and migration politics that the EU has had for years,” Alaows said. “It’s nothing new, but now we have to change it.”

And finally…

Where an invite isn’t enough to get you in the door

“Unjust, racist!” That’s how Winnie Byanyima, the head of UNAIDS, described what people from the Global South are facing just trying to attend the International AIDS Conference in Montreal. In the lead-up to the 29 July-2 August summit, Canadian authorities denied or delayed visas for hundreds of invitees from African, Asian, and Latin American countries. The list of those forced to jump through immigration hoops includes respected grassroots activists, public health scholars, and even leaders of the global body hosting the conference. Byanyima, a key speaker, said she was nearly barred from boarding her flight in Geneva. It’s all another example of “passport privilege”, and how structural racism clouds international aid on multiple fronts – from bigger barriers for Global South researchers and aid workers, to power imbalances, differential treatment, and double standards. It’s not just discriminatory, but counter-productive: Excluding voices means sidelining expertise and solutions at a time when the global AIDS response is under threat. How to address this? Ayoade Alakija, a doctor, health advocate, and WHO envoy, has one answer: “Convene in the Global South,” she tweeted, “where we can fully participate without being humiliated along the way.”

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