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My First Blog Post

Political events are part of everyday life.

— Doris Salcedo.

Politics…

For most people, politics is a dull and tedious subject. In fact, when I told some people what I wanted to study at university, I got asked if I was just a boring person who wanted to become the next member of parliament. This is because when people think of politics, they think of the politicians on television who say that they are ‘different’ and are going to change things and make the country a better place. The lies and deceit of politicians gives a bad reputation to politics as a subject. However, what people fail to realise is that politics is more than the government and politicians. It is a vast subject that affects everyone, no matter who you are. Politics shapes our morals and how we go about our daily life. It stretches from crime to the economy. Still think it is boring?

Within this blog, I want to share my enjoyment for politics. Whilst it is a very complicated and opinion based subject, I hope to make it as simple as possible so that anyone can read and understand it. Perhaps, I may teach some people a thing or two so that they can feel confident in political discussion. I hope to do this by discussing current affairs, social issues and political books. By no means am I an expert at politics, I learn new things all the time through my degree, discussions and books. In fact, a few years ago, before I studied politics for my International Baccalaureate, I can honestly say that politics was not a passion or even strong interest of mine. However, I didn’t realise how vast the subject is. In particular, I found myself to be fascinated by security politics. I believe that, with knowledge, everyone will find their interest within the subject which is my reason for doing this blog.

2020

One year ago today, we all waited in anticipation for the new year. With a new decade upon us, we were all excited to see what was to come. Unfortunately, it seemed to all go downhill with the year of 2020 being one that will never be forgotten- after all, it did last a decade itself! To celebrate the end of it, I have decided to pick 3 news headlines from each month in order to review just how much has happened this year.

January:

  1. January 8th: Megxit. Prince Harry and Meghan Markle sent shockwaves as they announced that they would no longer be a part of the Royal Family.
  2. January 11th: China reported its first death caused by COVID-19. The 61 year old man was a regular customer at the market in Wuhan.
  3. January 31st: Brexit. The UK formally left the European Union and entered an 11-month transition period.

February:

  1. February 2nd: Streatham attack. 2 people were stabbed in what police termed a terrorist incident.
  2. February 5th: The Senate acquitted Trump on both impeachment articles.
  3. February 24th: Harvey Weinstein is found guilty of rape in the third degree and a criminal sexual act in the first degree.

March: 

  1. March 13th: Breonna Taylor was shot and killed by police officers executing a no-knock warrant on her flat in Kentucky.
  2. March 23rd: UK are sent into lockdown as they are urged to stay at home and not meet people from other households.
  3. March 24: Japan’s Prime Minister announces postponement of Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic games until summer of 2021 due to the virus.

April:

  1. April 4th: Sir Keir Starmer is announced the new leader of the Labour Party.
  2. April 5th: Boris Johnson admitted to hospital after catching COVID-19.
  3. April 22nd: Sudan bans Female Genital Mutilation and makes it a criminal offence.

May:

  1. May 22: China unveils new national security legislation against Hong Kong at its annual legislative session.
  2. May 25: Video of George Floyd’s arrest and murder whilst restarined in Minneapolis police custody shows he was pinned to the ground by police officer Derek Chauvin’s knee for 8 mins 46 sec ignites widespread condemnation and nationwide protests.
  3. May 26: Costa Rica becomes the first country in Central America to legalise same sex marriage.

June:

  1. June 7th: Black Lives Matter protests continue worldwide in large numbers. Bristol statue of Edward Colston, a 17th Century slave trader, was pulled down.
  2. June 16th: Support from Marcus Rashford and others force the UK government to make a U turn on summer school meal vouchers.
  3. June 20th: Reading attack where 3 men were stabbed to death and 3 others were injured.

July:

  1. July 6: America officially begins withdrawing from the World Health Organisation. 
  2. July 25: Cargo ship MV Wakashio runs aground off the coast of Mauritius and begins leaking oil.
  3. July 28: Former Malaysian PM Najib Razak found guilty of corruption, sentenced to 12 years and fined 50 million dollars.

August:

  1. August 4: A giant explosion in Beirut kills 135 people and injures another 5,000. The cause of the explosion is said to be a result of stored ammonium nitrate.
  2. August 12: Three people die in southern India’s Bengaluru city after protesters clashed with police over a provocative social media post about Prophet Muhammad
  3. August 20th: Russian opposition figure Alexei Navalny falls into a coma after a suspected poisoning, which was later confirmed as Novichok.

September:

  1. September 8th: 2 ex Myanmar soldiers testify they were ordered to rape and kill Muslim Rohingya villagers. It is the first public confession of army-directed crimes against Rohingya
  2. September 8th: Moria refugee camp, Europe’s biggest migrant camp burns down on the Greek island of Lesbos, leaving 13,000 without shelter.
  3. September 24th: Report shows China is continuing to expand Uighur detention centers, with more than 380 suspected facilities housing 1 million people in Xinjiang.

October:

  1. October 20th: Nigerian police open fire on protesters in Lagos amid escalating protests against police violence around the country.
  2. October 29th: Former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn is suspended from the party after saying a report into antisemitism in the party was overstated.
  3. October 29th: Three people stabbed to death in a church in Nice, France, in a terrorist attack.

November:

  1. November 2nd: Gunmen storm Kabul University, Afghanistan, shooting at least 22 people. IS claimed responsibility for the attack.
  2. November 7th: Joe Biden declared winner of the US Presidential race, 4 days after the election.
  3. November 24th: Scotland’s parliament votes to become the first country to make period products free.

December:

  1. December 2nd: The UK becomes the first western country to authorise a vaccine for COVID-19.
  2. December 11th: Gunmen storm a school in Kankara, Northern Nigeria, kidnapping more than 300 students. Boko Haram claimed responsibility for the attack. The schoolboys were later rescued on the 17th December.
  3. December 30th: Argentina legalises abortion.

This year has been an interesting one to say the least. Although it hasn’t been the one that we all hoped and prayed for, at least we can say that we survived it and because of that, we can survive anything.

See you in 2021!

Swimming in Oil

Imagine waking up every day to a view of the Indian Ocean, the beautiful translucent waves creeping gently to shore as if to protect the diverse and unique ecosystems beneath. As a Mauritian, the water is your livelihood: it is a place of work, for fishermen and activities; a place for food, to feed the country’s 1.29 million residents; and a place to explore and discover, as a biodiversity hotspot. Further to this, the alluring sea attracts over 4,600 high net worth individuals to Mauritius, as a place to relax and do business, which has made it the fastest-growing wealth market in Africa. Alongside these wealthy individuals, everyday tourism occurs which, between 2007 and 2017, made the total wealth held by Mauritius rise by 195%, in US terms. These reasons combined, make the country rely on the sea for the security of the economy.

However, on the 25th of July, this dependency was destroyed after a Japanese-owned ship ran aground offshore of Pointe d’Esny, in the south of Mauritius. About a week later, it began spilling oil near the biodiversity hotspot which left Mauritius devastated about the future of the coastal region. To make matters worse, the wind and water currents began to drift the oil towards the area that has vital marine ecosystems. The region is home to 1700 species including 800 types of fish, 17 kinds of marine mammals, and 2 species of turtle, according to the UN Convention of Biological Diversity. All of which will be affected due to the vast amount of oil in the region, if not directly, then indirectly through the food chain or the habitat. Around 25% of fish in the ocean depend on healthy coral reefs according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration of the US. However, the toxic hydrocarbons released from spilled oil will bleach the coral reefs and they will eventually die. This will have an impact across the food chain. Not only this but Mauritius, as an island, are already at risk due to climate change. By wetlands and coral reefs dying, the island is more at risk due to rising sea levels.

The carrier was believed to be carrying around 4,000 tonnes of fuel, whereby 1,200 tonnes of fuel is believed to have spilled into the lagoon. The type of fuel that the carrier was transporting was a new low-sulfur oil which is being introduced to reduce air pollution. This type of oil has never been spilled before so there have been no long-term studies on the impacts of the fuel on marine life. After news about the oil spread, the local and international community rushed to help the island control the matter. The island called on the international community in order to help them with the spill due to not having the facilities and knowledge to deal with the clear up of an oil spill. The first response was from the local French island, Reunion. They were able to erect ocean booms in order to contain the oil spill. In addition to this, the United Nations sent a team that involved experts in oil spills and crisis management. By working with the government, the UN has been able to coordinate clean-up efforts to quickly return the island back to reality. In as little as one weekend, 80km of make-shift oil booms were created out of cane trash- the leftover leaves and waste from sugar-cane processing- to contain the oil. This, in combination with empty bottles, aided them to float whilst anchors stopped them from drifting away.

But what caused the ship to run aground? There are currently three main theories as to why the ship ran aground. The first theory is poor weather theory. This theory was suggested by Panama’s Maritime Authorities (where the Japanese-owned vessel was registered). They state that poor weather conditions caused the ship to go off route, which led to it running aground. However, when looking at satellite images around the time, no other ship or vessel was impacted or changed trajectory due to adverse weather at the time. In observing this, the theory of poor weather leading to the spill is not satisfactory. The second theory is to do with internet signals and suggests that the ship changed course slightly in order to get a stronger internet signal. Due to the current context of the coronavirus, crew members would have wanted to get in contact with their families to make sure that they are okay. However, this theory is also weak as in 2019, Mitsui OSK Lines confirmed that all vessels that operated in its fleet had access to free and unlimited internet. This would have meant that they would not have needed to change course for ‘stronger signals’. The final theory is the alcohol theory. It is said that there could have been a possible party onboard the ship when it ran aground. However, this theory is bad for the reputation of Mitsui OSK Lines whose CEO committed to a strict alcohol management program being enforced across all vessels. This was in response to a serious crash at a US Naval Base on the island of Guam in December 2018, by a Mitsui OSK Lines cruise ship. The transport company aimed to tackle alcohol abuse through rigorous training, mental health support, crew monitoring, and having breathalyzers on board.

All three theories as to why the ship ran aground have weakened considerably after further research has been conducted. Whilst a public investigation continues to go on about what happened on the ship, the international community continues to support the island and islanders as they attempt to clear up after the disaster. Reports suggest that the Japanese and Mauritian governments have entered into talks for the Japanese government to pay 3.6 billion Yen (equivalent to 34 million USD) to the Mauritian government in order to support local fisherfolk who have been impacted. Although money will not reverse the clock, it is of considerable aid to a community with an unknown future.

The Cycle of Slavery in Libya

“Does anyone need a digger? This is a digger, a big strong man, he’ll dig”

When asked about slavery, the majority of people’s minds drift back to their history lessons on the slave trade, whereby around 12 million Africans were shipped to various parts of the world in order to become slaves. However, the dissolution of the trade in the 19th century was not the end of slavery. When Walk Free, the International Labour Organisation, and dozens of other state and non state actors came together in 2016 to form Alliance 8.7, there was an estimation of 40 million people enslaved. 16 million of these were said to be enslaved through forced labour in the private sector, whilst a further 15 million were said to be enslaved through forced marriage. Yet, the world is silent.

When footage appeared from CNN in 2017, the world became outraged. The video appeared to show several African migrants being sold at an auction at a property outside Tripoli, Libya. The UN Security Council condemned the video as “heinous human rights abuses which may also amount to crimes against humanity.” In addition to this, they encouraged cooperation between the European Union and African Union so that they could protect the lives of migrants and refugees along migration routes. Whilst the EU demanded swift action to occur, they didn’t take it much further. In fact, it is the EU who adds to the problem. After the migration crisis in 2015, the EU, particularly Italy, implemented a series of measures aimed at closing off the migration route through the Mediterranean. Instead of thinking about the consequences this may have on the migrants, they only cared about restricting migration into Europe. 

Primarily, the EU committed to providing technical support and assistance to the Libyan Department for Combating Illegal Migration. By doing this, they are supporting the detention centres where refugees and migrants are arbitrarily and indefinitely held. Within these camps, individuals are exposed to a poor standard of life, with cramped rooms and poor sanitation. To add to this, they are routinely exposed to serious human rights violations including torture. One migrant told his story about being in a detention centre. He said that the rooms were cramped and he was sometimes given as little as one piece of bread a day. In order to get out of the camps, individuals would have to pay extreme amounts of money. If they were unable to pay, they would get routinely tortured. Not only this, but within the camps, women and men would be kept separate. This made it easier for guards to sexually abuse the women. 

Secondly, through training and equipment, the EU has enabled the Libyan Coast Guard to intercept people at sea. By giving them the assistance they need, and turning migrants away, they have facilitated their exposure to abuse. Those who get intercepted at sea are then taken back to Libya to be put into centres like the ones described above. This creates a cycle of abuse which is facilitated by the EU.

Finally, the EU has created deals with Libyan local authorities and the leaders of tribes and armed groups. These deals encourage them to stop the smuggling of people and to increase border controls. However, these deals do not mean that these groups stop giving hope to migrants. They continue to sell the dream of a better life in Europe to these vulnerable individuals, in exchange for money. However, instead of helping them get to Europe, these groups take these vulnerable people and exploit them. They keep them trapped in detention centres unless they are able to pay their way out. For the majority of migrants, they do not have enough money to be able to do this which leaves them trapped, in the hands of these corrupt groups. Many of whom go on to sell them as slaves.

Whilst the EU may condemn slavery in Libya, they are not actually doing anything to stop it. Instead of spending millions to prevent migrants coming to Europe, which leaves them in the hands of corrupt groups in Libya, they could be utilising their money to improve the standard of living within Africa. The reason that so many migrants flee to Europe each year is because they are looking for a better life, a life where they can provide for their family. They want to escape countries filled with poverty, war and corruption. Libya happens to be the main transit point for refugees and migrants trying to reach Europe by sea. By travelling to Libya, a country that has been in a state of civil war since the death of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, individuals are driven into the hands of these corrupt groups who can go on to sell them as commodities. Even if they make it into the Mediterranean, the majority of migrants either die during the journey or are caught by the Libyan coast guard. 

This cycle will not stop until powerful organisations like the UN or the EU do something to address the problem. Whilst they may condemn the act of slavery, this is not enough. They need to be actively doing things to stop it. Whether this be, addressing the problem of migration and funding projects in Africa, or communicating better with Libya and holding these groups accountable. These organisations are the only ones who have the power to do so yet when the trend dies, they no longer address the problem as they themselves, are not being held accountable.