Trump meets Kim in historic Singapore summit

US President Donald J. Trump held a historic summit with the leader of North Korea, Kim Jong-un in Singapore after much back and forth during the planning stage. The event dubbed the “summit of the century” was the first such meeting between the sitting leaders of both countries since the end of the Korean War in 1953. Amidst the pomp and pageantry that included the very first handshake, the summit was still lacking in terms of substance as specifics for denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula were largely absent. Although Trump has defended the final agreement by calling it “comprehensive”, the vagueness of the words used in the piece signified that it might take a while before both sides can dismantle the sticking points concerning the permanent peace in the Peninsula. This is as Trump made a key concession by calling off the joint military drills with its ally, South Korea, which was also stunned by the announcement.

While President Moon Jae-in did not reject the notion, his government also stated that it will carefully review those drills and asked Washington to provide co-operation if necessary. Apart from North Korea, it is likely that China will be very pleased with the move as it augurs well with the dual suspension proposal it pushed for previously. As such, it is therefore not surprising that the agreement was hardly impactful as it contained the repetition of pledges made by Pyongyang during the Inter-Korean summit in April. As the excitement goes away, the Trump administration would have to figure out ways to proceed with the agreement to which high-level officials from both sides as well as other stakeholders decide on a mechanism to completely denuclearize the Korean Peninsula.

Curfew imposed in Nigeria’s Plateau amid deadly clashes between farmers and herders

The inter-communal conflict in central Nigeria took to new level of brutality in June amid deadly clashes between farmers and herders that resulted in at least 135 deaths. The clash in Plateau was one of the most serious incidents in recent years between the two groups amidst a rivalry that has been traditionally linked to land and grazing rights. Although a dusk to dawn curfew was imposed in parts of the state, it is very unlikely that it will abate the conflict that has also been evolving into religious tension between the farmers, who are mostly Christian and the herdsmen, who are largely made up of Muslims. While security forces are busy fighting the Boko Haram insurgents in the northeast, critics have argued that more attention should be given to the conflict as it does not only involve land rights but also religious, political and criminal elements. The country’s president, Muhammadu Buhari for instance had been accused of remaining silent despite the slaughter by the herdsmen. Without strong law enforcement by the federal government, it has been argued that the crisis could spiral out of control and such clashes will be more common. Another suggestion is to draw up new cattle colonies as designated grazing areas though some have argued that it is too little too late for a conflict that is becoming more religious in nature.

Saudi-led coalition begins assault on Houthi-held Hodeidah port in Yemen

The Saudi-led coalition that backs the Aden-based government launched an assault on Houthi-held port of Hodeidah in mid-June.  Although the United Nations (UN) has warned against carrying out the assault, the coalition went ahead as the battle for the city could be a game-changer in the four-year conflict. This is because the city plays a key role in ensuring the flows of aid and supplies for the Houthis amidst a blockade by the Saudis on the country’s land borders. Additionally, the port also serves as the main source of outcome for the Houthis as it connects Yemen to the rest of the world via shipping lines that pass through it. From a strategic point of view, the fall of the main rebel supply route in Hodeidah could also pave ways for Saudi-backed forces to retake the Yemeni capital, Sana’a on a longer term. Despite this, it is not going to be an easy ride for the Saudi-led coalition as the city is heavily-mined, thus slowing down the force’s progress to capture it. More importantly, the latest siege could also potentially put millions of people at risk and is likely to escalate the four-year civil war that already killed thousands of people and significantly damaged the country’s economy.

Erdogan’s re-election raises “one-man” rule concerns in Turkey

Turkish President Reccep Tayyip Erdogan secured another five-year term after winning the country’s presidential election in June. While the outcome was greeted by large rallies in Ankara and Istanbul, critics have also argued that the election was anything but “free and fair” as it was held under a state of emergency and tight media restrictions. More importantly, this result also meant that Erdogan can now consolidate his power further as the president would possess great amount of authority under a new constitution endorsed by a referendum in 2017. Without a proper check and balance, there are also widespread concerns that the country could slip into a “one-man” rule as Erdogan becomes the most powerful leader in the country since Mustafa Kemal Ataturk. Despite all the cheers, much work remains to be done for Erdogan especially on the economic and security fronts.

With a falling Lira (Turkish currency) and high inflation, Erdogan would need to solve the continuing macroeconomic woes and realigned his relationship with the country’s central bank. On the security front, the Kurdish threat will likely to top the agenda for Erdogan, who had previously vowed to defeat the alleged militant group in the southeast. Interestingly, the pro-Kurdish party, HDP also managed to secure the 10% threshold needed to enter parliament, forming the second largest opposition faction in the chamber.

Ban on female drivers ends in Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia officially ended its ban on female drivers beginning late June. The lifting of the ban was marked with jubilations on the kingdom’s streets as women drivers got behind their wheels and posted their experiences on social networking sites. Prior to that, Saudi Arabia was the only country that banned women from driving. The latest development could potentially mean that three million women will be receiving their driving licenses by 2020. In addition to that, the move is also another indication that the country is slowly edging toward greater social liberalization under the leadership of 32-year old Crown Prince Salman, who was appointed in 2017. Not only that, it also juxtaposes well with the prince’s vision of making the country more open and inclusive to women’s participation in the workforce and economy. Despite this, such move does not come without risks in a kingdom that tolerates little dissent. Additionally, the push for reforms could also draw ire from the ultraconservative quarters that have been associated with the Wahhabism ideology, thus resulting in a split among the ruling elites. capital, Freetown.