Weekly Analysis 16 September
Paraguay: EPP attack weakens government’s security strategyThe presence of insurgency groups in Paraguay has once again become a significant concern. After several months without major reported incidents, on 27 August, members of the Paraguayan People’s Army (EPP) attacked a police convoy travelling around Concepcion, killing eight officials. Despite the government’s previous reassurance that the group had significantly weakened, this was the deadliest attack in almost a decade. The incident has not only highlighted how the group has changed its tactics, but also triggered criticism against the administration of Horacio Cartes for failing to demobilise the small group.
The Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) has confirmed that a 5.3-magnitude seismic event recorded near Punggye-ri on 9 September was a result of the successful underground detonation of a nuclear warhead. The test is North Korea’s fifth successful nuclear weapons test and its second of 2016. Early indications suggest the yield of the explosion was between 10-30 kilotons (kt), making the blast the largest test explosion on record. The international community has heavily denounced the new round of testing, condemning the DPRK’s self-proclaimed ability to launch long-range ballistic missiles equipped with miniaturised nuclear warheads. The exact nuclear and missile capabilities of the DPRK remain unknown; however, this new test will likely lead to increased sanctions and intensify already heightened regional hostilities.
On 15 September, the General Confederation of Labour (CGT) union, one of the largest and most militant French labour unions, began a one-day national day of protest and strike action to denounce the controversial labour reform. The strike action comes despite opposition to the reform, which was officially implemented on 5 July, declining since the legislation was passed. This latest action appears to be an attempt to rejuvenate opposition to the reform as unions also consider legal action against the reform, which was pushed through without a vote.
A Russian and US brokered ceasefire came into effect at 1900hrs local time on 12 September following months of negotiations. The foreign-backed cessation of hostilities has largely held in the first few days, although terrorist organisations, namely Islamic State (IS) and Jabhat Fatah al-Sham (JFS), are exempt from the truce. The ceasefire will be renewed every 48 hours if it holds. Worryingly, the US appears to be moving towards showing support for President Bashar al-Assad’s aerial campaign, with US Secretary of State John Kerry hinting at possible cooperation with government airstrikes against IS and other terrorist groups. Assad has vowed to fight all terrorists and regain control of all of Syria, highlighting the unlikelihood that the ceasefire will help facilitate a political solution to the conflict.
South Africa: ANC infighting set to bring volatility and surging graft
The African National Congress (ANC)'s recent relative loss in municipal elections has accelerated the pace of power struggle within the former liberation movement. Tensions have set in between two main factions in its leadership. On the one hand is the dominant grouping led by the president, Jacob Zuma, whose critics characterise as a would-be monarch treating the state as his personal fiefdom for patronage. On the other is his finance minister, Pravin Gordhan, who has won the support of investors for his efforts to rein in graft and uncontrolled spending in state companies. With both leaders encircled by enemies, the country's future will be determined by whether Zuma is able to hold on to his position in the face of internal party opposition ahead of general elections in 2019.