Key Global Events to Watch in October

At the start of every month, the Global Observatory posts a list of key upcoming meetings and events that have implications for global affairs.

October 1: Colombia, ELN Rebels Begin Ceasefire

A bilateral ceasefire between the Colombian Government and the National Liberation Army (ELN) came into force on October 1, set to run through January 9, 2018, after which it can be renewed with consent from both sides. The ELN has been in negotiations since January to end its part in the conflict, although the group has stepped up bombings on oil companies in recent weeks and continued to take hostages for ransom. Colombian officials have already expressed doubts regarding the ceasefire’s durability, with Defense Minister Luis Carlos Villegas warning that Colombia’s military will continue to pursue ELN affiliates for any criminal activities.

October 1: Cameroon Independence Day Protests Turn Violent

On Cameroon’s independence day, thousands of secessionists rallied across English-speaking regions of the country to demand independence from the French-speaking majority, prompting a heavy-handed response by the Cameroonian military that resulted in 15 reported protester deaths. President Paul Biya has asserted that he will not entertain any negotiations on the issue of secession, instead stifling opposition by restricting internet access in the country’s English-speaking north and southwest regions.

October 2: Palestinian Prime Minister Visits the Gaza Strip

For the first time in two years, Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah travelled to the Gaza Strip on October 2 as part of renewed reconciliation efforts with Hamas—a designated terrorist group by Israel, the US, EU, the UK and other powers—which runs the enclave. The visit comes on the coattails of a meeting between Hamas and the Egyptian government last month in which the group announced the discontinuation of Gaza’s administrative committee, viewed by the Palestinian Authority as a parallel government. Hamas and Fatah have ruled the Gaza Strip and the West Bank respectively since 2007, with sporadic violence and intransigence by both parties sabotaging attempts at reconciliation in the years since.

October 2: Protests in Barcelona after Catalan Referendum

The Catalan government claims to have earned the right to split from Spain after a referendum held on October 2 in which 90% of participants voted in favor of independence. The Spanish government claims that the vote is unconstitutional, and has conducted raids on the offices of Catalan separatists and arrested Catalan officials. Thousands of angry Catalans have taken to the streets.

October 3: Trump Hosts Thai Prime Minister

US President Donald J. Trump hosted Prayuth Chan-ocha, the head of Thailand’s ruling military junta, on October 3 in Washington. This marks a shift in White House’s position on the Chan-ocha’s rule, after President Barack Obama shunned the former Thai general following a military coup in 2014. Mr. Chan-ocha is one of several world leaders with controversial human rights records scheduled to meet with Mr. Trump since January, including Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte.

October 3: Myanmar Agrees to Rohingya Repatriation

In a statement issued October 3 by the State Counsellor’s Office, the Myanmar government announced its intent to repatriate Rohingya refugees resettled in Bangladesh in accordance with a 1992 agreement between the two countries. Bangladeshi Foreign Minister Abul Hassan Mahmud Ali is expected to visit Myanmar later this month to discuss the repatriation process. It is estimated that 400,000 of Myanmar’s 1.1 million Rohingya have fled to Bangladesh in the past two weeks alone. The violence against the Muslim minority in the country’s Rakhine State has been labelled as ethnic cleansing by the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, and spurred outcries from across the Muslim world.

October 10: Increased Security Risk on Significant North Korea Day

Officials in Japan and South Korea have issued separate warnings over the potential for aggressive action by North Korea on October 10, the anniversary of the founding of the country’s ruling party. These suspicions are based on North Korea’s past pattern of making a military show of force around important dates—its very first nuclear test occurred on October 9, 2006. Russian and North Korean leaders met in late September in Moscow for discussions on the nuclear crisis.

October 12: Decision on US Sanctions on Sudan

By October 12, Washington will decide whether the steps Sudan has taken qualify it for a permanent lifting of some U.S. economic and trade sanctions temporarily suspended since January 2017. But to push forward will require a new roadmap that ties further sanctions relief and improved bilateral relations to political reform and human rights. Many disagree, raising concerns about any move that might appear to rehabilitate President Omar al-Bashir or suggest an easing of pressure on Khartoum to improve its human rights record.

October 15: Venezuela Gubernatorial and State Elections

Campaigning for October 15 gubernatorial and state elections in Venezuela has begun with large-scale gatherings organized across the country by the major political parties. Elections were originally scheduled for last year but were scrapped as the country’s economic problems escalated and polls showed Venezuelans heavily favored removing Maduro before the end of his term.

October 15: Trump Revisits the 2015 Iran Nuclear Deal

It is unclear if the the Trump administration will certify to Congress on October 15 that Iran is in compliance with the Iran nuclear deal (also know as the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action). Trump used his UN General Assembly speech in late September to call the Iran nuclear deal brokered with Britain, France, Germany, Russia, and China “one of the worst and most one-sided transactions the United States has ever entered into.” Mr. Trump’s position directly contradicts with his European partners in the deal, including French President Emmanuel Macron who used his speech at the General Assembly to reaffirm France’s commitment to the agreement.

October 18: National Congress of the Communist Party of China

Beijing has vowed to crack down on political rumors to protect the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China, which opens on October 18. Domestic media coverage in recent months has been dominated by officially sanctioned propaganda on the key political meeting, but due to the opaque structures of the party it remains unclear what form the major leadership reshuffle will take. Chinese authorities appear to have severely disrupted the WhatsApp messaging app in the latest step to tighten censorship as they prepare for a major Communist Party congress next month.

October 22: Japan Holds Parliamentary Elections

In a bid to boost his mandate, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced Monday that Parliament will be dissolved this week and snap elections held on October 22. Abe also unveiled an $18 billion economic package that includes increased education spending.

October 26: Proposed Rerun of Kenyan Presidential Election

Kenya’s Supreme Court ordered a repeat presidential election, following an annulment of its August 8 result. The country’s ruling Jubilee party seeks legal changes ahead of a proposed October 26 vote. Hopes of holding the repeat presidential election this month are fading, after talks between the Jubilee Party and the opposition coalition to agree on sticky issues fell through. If passed, amendments that President Uhuru Kenyatta’s Jubilee’ party introduced in Parliament would make it almost impossible to invalidate a presidential election.

Expected consideration in October: Yemen Bill in US Congress

A bipartisan group of US lawmakers introduced a bill on September 27 to halt US military assistance to the Saudi-led campaign in Yemen amid the country’s worsening humanitarian crisis and international scrutiny over Saudi Arabia’s handling of the war. The bill would require the removal of US forces from the war until Congress approved military involvement.