Trouble in the DRC, Last Prime Minister of the UK, New Silk Road and the Week in Review

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Trouble in the DRC, Last Prime Minister of the UK, New Silk Road and the Week in Review

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The fall of the Democratic Republic of Kabila? The Democratic Republic of Congo’s (DRC) National Assembly censured and dismissed Prime Minister Sylvestre Ilunga Ilunkamba from his position by a 367-7 margin. 123 MPs, presumably supporters of former DRC President Joseph Kabila, abstained from the vote.

What it means: The DRC is blessed with ample reserves of many important metals and minerals crucial to advanced battery technology. In addition, its position at the heart of the African continent connects the DRC to many of Africa’s disparate regions. It is probably the most important country in the world that you don’t think about on a regular basis, and that makes huge shifts in its internal politics not just a matter of regional interest, but global import.

Kabila was ruler/president of the DRC for 18 years before stepping down in January 2019. Kabila’s successor, current DRC President Félix Tshisekedi, has not been able to govern with a free hand because the Common Front for Congo (FCC) has enjoyed a majority in the DRC’s parliament and has remained loyal to Kabila, including Kabila loyalist Ilunkamba. Tshisekedi managed to convince enough of Kabila’s supporters in parliament to come around to his side for the no-confidence vote.  Ilunkamba appears to have come around to relinquishing his position after some reluctance.

Kabila agreed to a peaceful transition of power in 2019 presumably because he still enjoyed a strong political position due to the loyalty of so many in parliament, but now that Tshisekedi has neutered Kabila’s supporters (for now), will Kabila remain on the sidelines? Or were the physical altercations that broke out in the DRC’s parliament last month over this very issue a sign of ominous things to come?

The last Prime Minister of the United Kingdom? During a visit to Scotland to shore up support for the union, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson described Scottish desires for independence as “completely irrelevant to the concerns of most people.” The Scottish National Party (SNP) published an 11-point roadmap to independence it will pursue should it win a commanding majority in Scottish parliamentary elections on May 6 as polls currently suggest.

What it means: Scotland is already feeling like the British government thinks the desires of its people are irrelevant because 62 percent of them voted against Brexit and Scotland had to leave the European Union anyway. So much so, in fact, that polls now consistently show a slight majority of Scots would vote for independence if a referendum was held today. If this is the best Prime Minister Johnson has to convince Scots they should value the union, support for independence is bound to rise still further.

The New Silk Road: Uzbekistan and South Korea launched negotiations of a bilateral free trade agreement.

What it means: First, a fun fact: Uzbekistan has a large Korean population because Stalin deported many of the Koreans in the Soviet Union to Uzbekistan.

Uzbekistan is the linchpin of Central Asia, the important connective tissue of Mackinder’s geopolitical heartland and China’s Belt and Road ambitions. These days, Uzbekistan is a little bit like the bar in Mos Eisley – everyone is there. The U.S., the EU, the UK, Russia, China, India, South Korea, you name it – any country thinking geopolitically is interested in deepening ties with Uzbekistan and its new government, which has been very cautiously opening up this once closed and state-dominated frontier economy since former dictator Islam Karimov passed away in 2016.

Honorable mention

Colombia has a cocaine hippo problem.

Vietnam’s Communist Party is holding its 13th National Congress and Vietnamese state media reports Nguyen Phu Trong is being nominated for a rare third term.

European Union foreign ministers could not agree on further punitive sanctions against Russia for the imprisonment of opposition figure Alexei Navalny.

Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte resigned.

Poland’s government implemented an October 2020 court ruling that imposes a near-total ban on abortions.

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro thanked China for agreeing to send active pharmaceutical ingredients necessary for COVID-19 vaccine production.

China and New Zealand agreed to widen the scope of their 2008 free trade agreement.

The Russian government plans to lower oil exports to European countries by roughly one-third beginning in February.

In India, fuel prices breached record-highs.

Indian media reported that Chinese and Indian troops engaged in another physical brawl at Naku La in Sikkim.