Americas: Unionised workers launch strike at Colombia’s Cerrejon coal mine
Key Risks: strikes; business interruption
In Colombia, Sintracarbon, the largest union at Cerrejon’s coal mine, began an indefinite strike at the facility owned by BHP, Anglo American and Glencore as efforts to avert industrial action failed. On 20 August 99 per cent of the union’s members voted to strike following failed contract negotiations which were followed by Labour Ministry mediation. Cerrejon stated that it had a contingency plan in place to protect assets while operations shut down. The last strike at the open-pit coal mine, which is located in La Guajira department close to the border with Venezuela, took place in February 2013 and lasted for 32 days. Coal is the country’s second largest foreign currency earner after oil. Although further efforts to avoid a lengthy strike are likely, the risk of significant business disruption should be expected.
Asia Pacific: At least 14 people arrested a year after violent subway station clash
Key Risks: political instability
In Hong Kong, several hundreds gathered in the Prince Edward neighbourhood to commemorate the one-year anniversary of the Prince Edward subway station attack that stirred accusations of police brutality during anti-government rallies. The incident saw riot police entering train carriages and beat demonstrators with batons and pepper spray. At least 14 people were arrested on offenses ranging from unlawfully assembly to assaulting police officers. The latest gathering came a day after pro-democracy demonstrators held a rally inside a shopping mall to commemorate the violent confrontation, although no arrests were made. At least 11 people were fined for breaching COVID-19 restrictions. Further protests cannot be ruled out.
Eurasia: Protests continue in Belarus; rare unrest in Georgia’s Russian-controlled breakaway state
Key Risks: political stability; civil unrest
On 28-30 August thousands of protesters marched once again demanding Belarusian President Lukashenko’s ouster in Minsk and other cities. Hundreds were arrested and the authorities stripped most foreign media correspondents of accreditation. Russian President Vladimir Putin re-emphasised his willingness to send in security forces to Belarus if civil unrest escalates, which risks exacerbating tensions although there is little anti-Russian element to the demonstrations thus far. Large anti-government protests also erupted in Tskhinvali, de facto ‘capital’ of the Russian-controlled breakaway state of South Ossetia in Georgia, following reports 28-year-old Inal Jabiev died in police custody. Jabiev was arrested over the 17 August assassination attempt against the region’s ‘interior minister’. Moscow backs the South Ossetian regime and has a significant troop presence in the region, something highly unlikely to change despite Bibilov’s government reshuffle.
Europe: Montenegro’s opposition has first chance to form a government since independence
Key Risks: political stability; external tensions
Montenegro’s 30 August elections saw the incumbent Democratic Party of Socialists (DPS) fall short of a majority in parliament, potentially setting the stage for the party – in power since 1990 under President Milo Djukanovic – to fall out of government for the first time. DPS won 31 of 81 seats. Two smaller parties seen as DPS instruments won five seats. Minority parties that traditionally ally with DPS also won five seats. However, 41 seats went to the opposition. The Democratic Front (DF), the main opposition party, finished narrowly behind DPS. The Peace is Our Nation Alliance and the green-liberal United Reform Action won 12.5 and 5.53 per cent, respectively. Divisions over geopolitics and economic reform will prove a challenge. Some DF leaders have called for Montenegro to leave NATO, which it joined in 2017. Such an effort could cause a major crisis.
MENA: France seeks reform assurances in Lebanon; Tunis votes on premier’s cabinet
Key Risks: political instability; economic and political risks
On 31 August Lebanese President Michel Aoun designated little known former ambassador to Germany Mustafa Adib to form a new cabinet. The same day French President Emmanuel Macron began a second visit to Beirut amid the fallout of the 4 August Beirut port blast which critically exacerbated the political, economic and social crises Lebanon faces. Macron threatened to sanction politicians seen to be blocking reform. In Tunis, a confidence vote is being held on new prime minister-designate Hisham Mechichi and his proposed government as the country faces a deep economic crisis worsened by COVID-19 and after a conflict-of-interest scandal ousted Elyas Fakhfakh in July. Should Mechichi win his government becomes the third since October 2019 and the ninth since the 2010/11 uprisings. Reform will not come fast enough. Tunisia will require further international support.
Sub-Saharan Africa: Sudan’s government signs peace deal with Darfur, Kordofan rebels
Key Risks: internal conflict; political violence; political instability
Sudan’s General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, head of the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) and member of the governing Sovereignty Council, signed an historic peace deal with the Sudan Revolutionary Front, a rebel coalition operating in Darfur, Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile regions. Under the deal, rebel signatories will receive 40 per cent of regional government posts and a quarter of seats in the yet to be formed transitional legislature. Not in attendance were the Sudan Liberation Movement branch led by Abdelwahid al-Nur (SLM-AW) – Darfur’s most active rebel group – and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North led by Abdulaziz al-Hilu, both of which refused to cooperate with Dagalo, whose RSF are accused of severe human rights abuses. The agreement could pave the way for peace in western and southern Sudan, although its lack of comprehensiveness and inclusivity threatens to undermine its effectiveness.