Weekly Roundup: August 15, 2016

Republic of the Congo ∙ Eritrea ∙ Aruba ∙ Egypt ∙ Tuvalu ∙ Liberia ∙ Nauru ∙ Mauritania ∙ The Bahamas ∙ South Sudan

Once weekly I share the top stories from ten countries based on a simple random sample from the U.S. Department of State’s list of countries, from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe. If you like what you read, please subscribe to receive these Roundups weekly in your mailbox: http://eepurl.com/b-SrOb.

Republic of the Congo

Courts are expected to finish hearing the bail application of General Jean Marie Mokoko, who has been in detention since mid June on charges of “endangering the state’s security” and illegal possession of weapons and ammunition. A viral video of him allegedly planning a coup probably did not help. To be fair, the presidential election that angered him was one that he had lost…to Denis Sassou Nguesso who hasn’t lost an election since 1997.


President Isaias Afwerki, who has been president of the country since its independence, wants to use the occasion of its 25th anniversary to analyze Eritrea’s master plan, so to speak. At a meeting of the Cabinet of Ministers last week, he presented a large paper outlining progress made and goals to work toward in sectors from monetary policy, trade, governmental bureaucracy cleanliness, water, transportation, and education.


This concerns more what exactly is news in Aruba. Though it largely feels like the Las Vegas version of Playbill, the oddest part is not the advertisements masked as articles or the pieces congratulating Marriott on its four-star AAA rating, but instead the recurring stories — multiple each day — on “Happy” and “Loyal” guests who have returned to the island’s sunny beaches for 10–19 or 20–34 consecutive years. The Ministry of Tourism gives framed awards and, apparently, a feature in the daily newspaper to these guests.


At a time when the United States is stubbornly refusing to better itself in the manner of handling police brutality, Egypt’s Parliament has seized the spotlight, approving a new set of laws that will help to protect against police abuse of power. “Police officers will be required to ensure they do not abuse the rights of citizens or treat them in a way that might harm their dignity and tarnish the image of the security apparatus,” said Deputy Interior Minister Ali Abdel-Mulla.


Not much day-to-day news out of the world’s fourth-smallest country. In late July, it was announced that Taiwanese artist Vincent J.F. Huang (黃瑞芳) intended to plant 7,000 mangrove trees on the Tuvalan coastline in the form of a massive QR code. The code, once the trees are grown, will link to information on climate change and coastal erosion. Tuvalu is expected to be the first country swallowed by rising sea levels in the (not too distant) future. If you want to help fund this effort, you can contribute to its funding here.


Some sad news in the intense rivalry between Liberia and Japan that you didn’t know existed: The world’s oldest human, Liberia’s own Madam Bleaorplue, passed away on August 2 at the ripe age of 153. President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf is being urged to take the fight to the Guinness Book of World Records, “because it is a distinct credit to Africa and to Liberia in particular, since this oldest African republic was able to produce the world’s oldest living person, far ahead of the Japanese woman that was 117 years on her recent birthday celebrated in Japan.” Note that said Japanese woman has also died. The reigning oldest human is Italian Emma Morano at 116.


Tuvalu is small, but still decently larger than Nauru, the world’s third-smallest country. Which is why it was with great excitement that the Minister of Education congratulated nine students for their reception of the Queensland Certificate of Education — equivalent to a high school diploma. Of particular note was the graduation of Rahil Azari, a refugee scholar. Nauru will open its new “learning village” within the month, where all of its higher education institutions will be located in close proximity with each other.


Mauritanians are still coming off of the high of hosting the 2016 Arab League Summit in late July. Much like Rio de Janeiro after Paralympic Closing Ceremony, the country is returning to a less-than-perfect reality. Power struggling, political discontent, and unanswered calls for dialogue plague the Maghreb country. Of course, there’s also instances like the Tasiast Gold Mine, where contracts are routinely awarded to relatives of government officials

The Bahamas

Minister of Labour Shane Gibson is rightly outraged that the Sandals Royal Bahamian Resort on Cable Beach is shutting its doors tomorrow, August 16, without any warning, laying off more than 600 workers. The resort says the shut-down is only temporary, and they plan to reopen “sometime in October.” The Ministry is skeptical, noting that neither it nor the labor union representing all now-unemployed employees were given any warning. The union had already been having difficulties with Sandals, filing criminal complaints against hotel management on August 10. Management was released from detention on a $5,000 USD bail.

South Sudan

Some civilians are concerned that the South Sudanese National Army isn’t actually all that interested in returning the items it looted from the civilians during the July fighting in Juba. Among the stolen items are generators, cars, and jewelry. The army has said it would love to return the items, but demands that the owners can be identified “beyond a reasonable doubt.” For a stolen car, for instance, the army requires claimants to know the “engine number, serial number and the power number, the capacity.” So next time you’re being looted by an army, be sure to ask them to give you just a sec so you can find your refrigerator’s serial number before they whisk it away.