In the recent weeks the world had its eyes focused on the brutal conflict in Ukraine. However, that isn’t the only ongoing geopolitical crisis – from a brutal ethnic cleansing in Ethiopia to indescribable gang wars in El Salvador, the world is far from being at peace. In light of this, we analyze five crucial stories that you are likely to have missed while trying to keep up with the war in Ukraine.
Ever since February 24th the eyes of every global news outlet seemed to be placed on the ongoing war in Ukraine. But the incredibly violent conflict caused by Putin is not the only crisis that the world is experiencing. From China undergoing yet another Covid crisis and El Salvador failing to solve the never-ending violence, to Lebanon experiencing an economic collapse and Mali undergoing an ethnic cleansing – it seems like the world is immersed in geopolitical crises. With so much going on it may seem hard to keep up. So to help you keep in touch with the latest news, this article analyses five crucial stories that the world has cast a blind eye on but that demand attention of the international community.
China: an atypical strategy against Covid
Thought Covid was behind us? That’s not quite the case. Alarming news arrived in March and April from China where contagion is rising and the pandemic is spreading with unprecedented rapidity despite the government’s extremely rigid policy for virus containment. In Shanghai and Shenzhen new lockdowns have been declared. Public anger is rising as many seem to be running out of food while forced to stay in their homes. Meanwhile, in other Chinese cities similar types of restrictions are adopted, including school shutdowns and mass testings.
The majority of reported cases are those of the Omicron variant, and thus come with mild or no symptoms. Official governmental data report almost no increase in the number of covid-related deaths. Many are wondering why, then, such tough measures are being taken. Beijing’s hard line on Covid is, in fact, in net countertendency with the rest of the world’s where cohabitation with the virus has been accepted as the leading strategy. China, instead, seems to follow its initial commitment of complete eradication of the virus.
Experts claim this strategy may have a high price. Lockdown of Shanghai, China’s major financial center and home of 26 million people, and potential future closures in other cities, along with rising energy prices due to war in Ukraine, lead experts to decrease expectations over future GDP growth: if the virus will keep spreading and if China will not change its policy, the ambitious 5.5% growth target for 2022 is at very serious risk.
El Salvador: an endless spiral of violence
In El Salvador a new chapter in the decades-long fight between gangs and the state is being written. After a period of apparent stability, violence has in fact dramatically come back on the country’s streets. Already by the beginning of April, more than a hundred people have been killed by El Salvador’s criminal gangs, and the fragile hopes for the country to be on the path for peace have fallen apart. Such a sharp rise in the number of deaths is likely the result of complications in secret negotiations between criminal groups and the government.
Consequently, president Nayib Bukele has declared a state of emergency, aimed at making it easier for police to arrest suspects. The effect of this measure is the suspension of some of the citizens’ rights: the parliament has modified the penal code to raise maximum imprisonment time for gang affiliates from 9 to 45 years, and state of detention for the arrested can now last 15 days instead of the regular 72 hours. Even private mail can be investigated without a judge mandate. Thousands of people have been put in jail.
Doubts on the legitimacy of such draconian measures have been raised by some international organizations, as they may constitute a hard hit on the country’s already shaky democracy. Bukele is not the first Salvadoran president to use the iron fist, but the plague of criminality has never been eradicated: violence only seems to call for more violence.
Lebanon: economic collapse and social unrest
We all remember the 2020 explosion in Beirut’s port that caused over 200 deaths and damages for around $4 billion. That event turned a light on the incompetence and corruption of Lebanese ruling class. Since then the situation has been deteriorating, both socially and economically.
In a recent report the World Bank claimed the country to have a “zombie-like” economy. Lebanon’s GDP has fallen by 58.1% since 2019. Inflation is skyrocketing, and the Lebanese pound has arrived to losing 90% of its 2019 value. Public debt is today at around 183% of GDP.
This is the result of a decade of blind policy on liquidity and exchange rates. In fact, the country has not been able to attract the necessary capital and investment to maintain its peg with US dollar, forcing the Lebanese Central Bank in a set of unsuccessful operations of financial engineering, that lead to today’s situation.
With the financial crisis came the street protests. Lebanese people have publicly shown their anger from 2019. But it was only after the 2020 explosion that the country’s situation gained world resonance, and the government was forced to resign. Since then, the state has increasingly failed in delivering basic services.
Today the situation is just getting worse and worse: people have shortages in energy, electricity, food and many other basic commodities; social unrest is increasing, fueled by anger for the dramatic rise in cost of life. Lebanon is on the edge of a disaster.
Ethiopia: a regional conflict turned into an ethnic cleansing
The Western Tigray region in Ethiopia has long been an infinite source of border disputes. But the tensions intensified following the 2019 elections when Abiy Ahmed became the new Prime Minister of the country. Ever since he came to power, Abiy passed reforms that liberalized Ethiopia’s politics and removed long-standing Tigrayan leaders from the government. With an attempt to centralize power and defederalize the state, Tigrayans’ concerns grew to the extent that the region asked to hold its own election – in response, the central government declared the act illegal and cut its funding to the region. But the political dispute escalated to an enormous extent. In November 2020, when Tigrayan forces were accused of attacking the central government’s army bases, this place turned into a warzone characterized by brutal killings and human rights abuses.
One year in, Ethiopia is still at war with Abiy’s army and Amhara region’s forces are still trying to oust the Tigray People’s Liberation Front. But the conflict is much more brutal than one might think. The Amhara militia, at times with support of the federal forces, are carrying out mass killings against the Tigray people as well as human rights abuses that range from rape and sexual slavery to torture and persecution. With 2000 civilians killed in over 150 massacres, the Tigray region is undergoing an ethnic cleansing that the world proceeds to ignore.
Mali: the years-long civil war and the ongoing massacres
Ever since 2012, Mali has been involved in a brutal civil war that continues to this day. The conflict erupted when the northern part of Mali began a fight against the state’s official government in an attempt to achieve more autonomy and perhaps even independence. With radical Islamist groups such as Ansar Dine taking part, the extent and brutality of the war is getting out of control.
A series of attacks and coups d’etat have taken place ever since the end of the ceasefire with foreign actors getting involved as well. But that’s not all – both sides are using indescribable violence against one another: from the separatists and Islamists committing gang rapes and executions to the Malian Army carrying out ethnic attacks and mass killings, the brutality of this war does not have an end. Crucially, the most recent events point towards a presence of an ethnic cleansing. A recent report by HRW shows that the government forces committed a mass killing of 300 civilians this March but this is not the first attack of such kind in the past years. The recent news shed light on the fact that previous attacks, such as the Ogossagou massacre, have been largely ignored by the international community. So as the world closes its eyes and refuses to acknowledge the brutality of these events, the Malian ethnic groups continue to suffer and experience an ethnic cleansing on an almost daily basis.
From an explosive pandemic to political turmoil, unstoppable violence and economic crises – the world is clearly going through a lot. With a brutal war happening just across the bloc it is easy to get lost in the thousands of stories that get released every day. Nevertheless, we must keep trying to stay in tune with the global news. History has taught us how dangerous it is for the international community to cast a blind eye on crucial geopolitical events: if we keep ignoring all that’s going on, the danger of even more brutal conflicts and crises will be just behind the corner.