Following are some of major events that have been dominating the global headlines in the month of August:
Outcry in Zimbabwe amidst controversial election results
Unrest broke out in Zimbabwe following a controversial election results that gave a victory to incumbent, President Emmerson Mnangagwa. The violence occurred as security forces launched a crackdown on opposition supporters who cried foul over the results, which they claimed were rigged in favour of the ruling Zanu-PF party. For the opposition, the historic election since the fall of Robert Mugabe would have served as a golden opportunity for the country to emerge from its troubled past and the return to Zanu-PF rule could only dampen the hope for real reforms. As anger grew over the delayed election results, protesters took to the streets of Harare and confrontations with security forces soon erupted. While leaders from both sides called for calm, clashes took place and deaths were reported. Although law and order were eventually restored, the political wrangling continued as the opposition leader Nelson Chamisa filed an application to the constitutional court to challenge the election results.
Despite this, there have been calls for the opposition to move forward and begin a process of reconciliation as most local and international observers have already accepted the results. Moving forward, the opposition some said, would need to broaden their appeal toward the more rural voters who supported the incumbent as well as addressing their weaknesses in tackling an electoral system that is flawed. For the ruling party, it will also need to go beyond the shadow of Robert Mugabe and chart its own narrative for the country that has been battered by worsening economic and social challenges.
Travel disruptions in Lombok amid series of earthquakes
A series of earthquakes rattled much of Lombok and Sumbawa regions in Indonesia since early August, causing a significant number of casualties and damage. As a country that is located on the Pacific Ring of Fire, Indonesia is no stranger to earthquake and the events in Lombok were also linked with Mount Rinjani volcano located on the island. The series of earthquakes in the span of few weeks however did send locals and tourists alike to scramble for their lives. Besides the hundreds of casualties, damage to infrastructures also hampered travelling on the popular tourist spot with flights suspended while roads being clogged with vehicles heading to safer locations. At some point, landslides caused by the earthquake also stranded dozens of foreign tourists though they were ultimately rescued by authorities later. Significant travel disruptions are likely in the region for the weeks ahead as authorities begin the process of reconstruction and further tremors should also be taken into consideration when planning a trip to the island.
Genoa bridge collapse ignites infrastructure gap debate in Italy
The Morandi Bridge (Ponte Morandi) in Genoa partially collapsed in mid-August, killing dozens of people who were travelling on it. While the outpour of grief was enormous, public anger also grew with many questioning how such structure would collapse and kill that many in the process. It eventually put spotlight on Italy’s infrastructure spending that some said have been lacking over the years amid a slew of austerity measures. The collapse also triggered a blame game between the government, highway management company and even the European Union (EU). Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said as immediate measures, his government will revoke Autostrade’s concession of highway management in the country and at the same time promising major infrastructure spending to ensure that motorways, bridges and schools are adequately maintained. However, that is unlikely enough to regain public confidence as Italy remains bogged down with bureaucratic loopholes and the frequent change of governments also prevented continuity in terms of infrastructure planning and implementation. Italy current ranks 17 out of 28 countries in the EU in terms of road infrastructure. As the investigation continues, it is likely that attention will be directed toward addressing the systemic weaknesses in order to prevent another tragedy in the future.
Flooding in Kerala causes loss of lives and damage
The Indian state of Kerala was hit by its worst flooding in decades amid an unusually intense monsoon season. The continuous flooding since June left at least 360 people dead and thousands more displaced as houses were swept away. A major relief operation was mounted, and the event was being declared as a “calamity of severe nature”. Although monsoon typically hits Kerala between June and September, the rainfall this time around was relatively higher in terms of intensity with the state recording 37% of excess rainfall in just two-and-a-half months instead of the usual four. While natural causes are unavoidable, attention was also shifted to the preparatory works by the federal and state-level agencies. It was being pointed out that the effects of the flooding could have been mitigated if state authorities started to release water at major dams earlier instead of during the height of the crisis. The federal government also had its shares of shortfalls when the Central Water Commission (CWC) failed to issue a flood warning at key dam locations such as at Idukki and Idamalayar. With occurrences of disaster of such magnitude more likely than ever before, the Indian government will be required to take a leading role in developing proactive measures in preventing the large loss of lives and properties. The decision to set up a Cyclone Warning Centre in Kerala for flood forecasting among others is a good start, though co-ordination among various agencies would be paramount in ensuring timely assistance for those in need across the state.
US reimposes sanctions on Iran
The United States reimposed sanctions on Iran in August following President Donald Trump’s move to withdraw from an international nuclear deal signed in 2015. While Washington insisted that the move would allow the deal with Tehran to be renegotiated, its European allies differed sharply and were noticeably agitated with Trump’s decision. Countries such as France, United Kingdom and Germany said the deal is necessary for their national security and they jointly issued a strongly-worded statement, vowing to defend their interests in the Islamic Republic. Trump on the other hand believed that the sanctions will be useful in forcing the Iranians to completely halt their uranium enrichment capabilities, something international inspectors said Tehran is complying with. While the diplomatic bickering continued, western businesses in Iran have also been affected as they need to decide whether to operate in the tiny Iranian market or the huge one in the US. For instance, the German automaker, Daimler said it had suspended its Mercedes Benz car and truck operations in Iran in order to comply with the sanctions. Not only that, several European airlines including British Airways, Air France and KLM have also announced plans to terminate flights to and from Tehran, citing “commercial viability”. Such announcements are a clear sign of things yet to come for many western businesses operating in the country amid the strong stance taken by Trump.