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Musings From Abroad

US sanctions Wagner-linked firms in CAR 



According to the United States Treasury Department, the US on Thursday placed penalties on two businesses in the Central African Republic that were connected to both illegal mining operations and the Wagner mercenary group in Russia.

Washington claimed the firm and its businesses had “established a vast security and business network” in the African nation, accusing Wagner of supporting what it called Russia’s “malign activities” there.

“This network has advanced Russia’s destabilizing activities at the expense of the Central African Republic’s sovereignty,” the department said in a statement.

Among the businesses impacted is a mining consortium that, according to Washington, imports chemicals frequently utilized in the industry. Wagner also hired aeroplanes to transport staff and equipment.

The other is a company that got material shipments from a Russian organization connected to Yevgeny Prigozhin, the founder of the group who was killed in an aircraft crash in August of last year.

According to the Treasury, financial institutions and other individuals conducting specific business or activities with the companies may be subject to sanctions.

The sanctions, it was stated, mean that all of the companies’ assets and interests in the country, or the possession or control of Americans, are blocked. The US has imposed sanctions on many organizations and people worldwide that back the Wagner Group.

Wagner has been active in politics and the military in West African countries, particularly in Mali and Libya more recently. The mercenary group is accused of killing 500 civilians in Mali in May 2023 during its raid against al-Qaeda members ravaging the town of Moura.

Wagener’s growing involvement in West Africa is a subject of international politics, with Russia and Washington both competing for the soul of Africa, while China holds grip on the continent in international economic relations.

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Musings From Abroad

UN joins Sudan’s warring sides with Israel, Hamas in global list of child rights violators



The United Nations Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, on Wednesday, added the Palestinian militant groups Hamas and Islamic Jihad, the Israeli armed forces, and the warring parties in Sudan to an annual global list of entities that violate children’s rights and are responsible for the deaths and injuries of children in 2023.

In a report to the U.N. Security Council, Guterres also denounced Hamas and Islamic Jihad for kidnapping children and the armed forces of Israel and Sudan for targeting hospitals and schools.

In addition, the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces—which have been engaged in combat with the Sudanese military since April of last year—were accused of raping and abusing minors, targeting hospitals and schools, and recruiting and exploiting youngsters.

Last year, a civil war broke out in Sudan between the Sudanese Army (SAF) and the rebel Rapid Support Forces (RSF) which has caused the biggest refugee crisis in the history of the world. In the past few days, the U.N. has been worried that the RSF might soon attack al-Fashir in Sudan’s North Darfur area.

Six serious violations are covered in the study, which was put together by Virginia Gamba, Guterres’ envoy for children and armed conflict. These include attacks on hospitals and schools, sexual assault, kidnapping, recruitment and usage, and killing and maiming.

The list that is included with the report tries to put parties to disputes to shame in the hopes that it would force them to take action to protect children. It only covers transgressions that the UN has confirmed.

“In 2023, violence against children in armed conflict reached extreme levels, with a shocking 21% increase in grave violations,” the report read. “The number of instances of killing and maiming increased by a staggering 35%.”

“The highest numbers of grave violations were verified in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Myanmar, Somalia, Nigeria and Sudan,” found the report, describing verification as “extremely challenging.”

After being put to the list last year, Russia’s armed forces and allied groups were still there for targeting hospitals and schools in Ukraine, killing and maiming children. A request for a response was not immediately answered by Russia’s U.N. mission; however, Moscow has consistently denied that it has targeted civilians since its invasion of Ukraine in 2022.

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Musings From Abroad

US asks Kenya to strengthen anti-wildlife trafficking laws



As talks to negotiate a new trade agreement between the two countries heat up, the United States wants Kenya to enforce stricter laws protecting the environment and conserving natural resources.

The US is requesting more commitments from Kenya to fortify environmental protection laws and regulations, with a particular emphasis on natural resource conservation, in the third and most recent set of proposed texts in the targeted trade agreement.

“The proposed text includes provisions to address air quality, marine litter, and plastic pollution, to combat wildlife trafficking, to promote sustainable forest management, to conserve marine species, and to prevent the loss of biodiversity,” the office of the US Trade Representative wrote in the summary of its proposals on environment chapter.

“The proposed text also includes provisions on fisheries-related matters, such as addressing illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing and fisheries subsidies that contribute to overfishing and overcapacity.”

In the aftermath of Washington’s introduction of additional texts on combating wildlife trafficking, reducing pollution, and tackling unregulated fishing, the teams negotiating a new trade agreement between Kenya and the US will hear opinions from interested parties.

Groups and individuals will have the chance to offer their opinions on the controversial sections of the proposed US-Kenya Strategic Trade and Investment Partnership during the virtual public engagement event. This has happened during a period of protests by some lobby groups about the Kenyan side’s lack of openness and public involvement.

Lobbies in the agriculture sector such as Kenya Small Scale Farmers Forum and Poultry Breeders Association of Kenya (PBAK) have publicly complained to Kenya’s Trade Ministry for failing to disclose draft texts they have tabled before their American counterparts.

The Trade Department has cited a “confidentiality agreement” with the American negotiators for not sharing the draft text, according to the groups.

“It is inconceivable that draft texts with far-reaching sectoral and economy-wide ramifications can be deemed confidential and hence deny industry players the opportunity to promote and protect their interests during the text-based negotiations,” PBAK wrote in a memorandum to Trade Principal Secretary Alfred K’Ombudo.

Conversely, Washington has been using the USTR’s office to release a synopsis of the texts they are negotiating with Kenya. Between August and September of 2022, the agency solicited public opinions on the planned agreement with Kenya from American stakeholders.

Following their discussions in Washington last month, the negotiating teams are gathering in Mombasa this week for their sixth round of negotiations.

The sixth round of negotiations will centre on advancing and supporting climate change and environmental goals, supporting workers’ rights, improving customs process efficiency, and cooperating on enforcement.

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