March in Review

Following are some of major events that have been dominating the global headlines in the month of March:

Horror in Christchurch as white supremacists attack mosques

The laid-back lifestyle that is often used to describe New Zealand was shattered in mid-March when white supremacists attacked two mosques in the city of Christchurch. The terror attack left at least 50 casualties and 50 others injured. All of the victims were Muslims from various countries including Pakistan, Bangladesh, Syria, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia and Indonesia among others. They were conducting Friday prayers as the gunmen stormed the mosques. The main suspect, Brenton Tarrant who was arrested after the shooting expressed several anti-migrant sentiments in his 74-page manifesto and said he had planned the attack for two years while Christchurch was chosen three months prior. His action was also broadcasted live on Facebook though questions have now been raised over the role of social media sites in the propagation of hate content. As the country mourned those who perished in the attack, its Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern also immediately announced the ban of sales of semi-automatic guns, earning praise for her swift decision. New Zealanders from all walks of life also came together in solidarity with Muslims, while the call for prayer was also observed nationwide one week after the attack.

 

Cyclone Idai causes devastation in Mozambique

Cyclone Idai tore through several countries in southern Africa in March, causing mass casualties as well as damage. The weather event was being regarded as one of the worst tropical cyclones on records to have hit the region and countries such as Mozambique, Malawi, Zimbabwe and Madagascar were affected the most. In Mozambique, most of the country were inundated in water as the cyclone made two landfalls in a span of ten days. Parts of the country reportedly turned into “inland oceans” with the city of Beira bearing the brunt of the cyclone. Official casualty figures stood at 200 though authorities at least 1,000 may have been killed. Desperate situations were also reported in Zimbabwe as heavy rains fell in Chimanimani district, causing the loss of 104 lives while leaving more than 217 others missing. Though less severe, there were also 56 fatalities in Malawi. Rescue efforts were mobilized following the disastrous cyclone, but medical agencies have warned that the risk of diseases was growing due to the shortages of food and clean drinking water. Some survivors have also struggled to leave from their destroyed homes as key infrastructures such as roads and bridges were badly damaged.

 

Kazakhstan President Nazarbayev in shock resignation

The President of Kazakhstan Nursultan Nazarbayev announced his resignation after 30 years in power. Once being regarded as the strongman in Central Asia, Nazarbayev’s resignation has come as a shock for many though he is likely to retain much of his influence behind the scene. Citing his intention to groom a new generation of leaders, Nazarbayev’s departure came at a time of growing discontent of his rule due to an ongoing economic crisis. Prior to his resignation, he had also sacked his government in end of February for its failure to improve the economy. But it is important to note that despite giving up the presidency, Nazarbayev has not given up his power as he will continue to helm the influential security council and will hold the formal title Leader of the Nation. As such, it is unlikely that the country will see drastic changes in the coming years as Nazarbayev’s successors will likely to carry on with his policies. The democratization of the political system will also be a long process despite a new generation of leaders coming into the picture. As the country waits for an election in 2020, it has been announced that Kassym-Jomart Tokayev will take over as acting president of the country.

 

Ethiopian Airlines crash grounds Boeing 737 MAX across the globe

Boeing’s latest flagship product, the 737 MAX had its safety reputation at risk in March following a crash involving an Ethiopian Airlines near Addis Ababa that killed all of its passengers and crew members. The crash happened barely five months after another of such aircraft belonging to Lion Air went down in Indonesia, again killing all onboard. Both incidents that happened in the span of such short time sent jitters across the airline industry, forcing aviation authorities to ground all 737 MAX 8/9 aircraft operating globally. The United States, where Boeing is headquartered, was initially reluctant to do, citing the lack of evidence but it eventually bowed down to pressure and announced similar suspension. An investigation was launched, and suspicions quickly fell on the plane’s new flight control system – MCAS, or Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System that can intervene to push the plane’s nose down automatically when it rises. As engineers scrambled to find a solution, aviation experts warned that the Chicago-based manufacturer’s profitability could be hit as airlines review orders for the plane. Indonesia’s national carrier, Garuda already announced the decision to cancel its order and more might do the same if Boeing failed to convince its clients in the near future that the aircraft is still air worthy.

 

UK misses Brexit deadline amid parliament impasse

The United Kingdom failed to meet its target to quit the European Union (EU) as scheduled on the 29 March following an impasse at the parliament that was being dragged for months. Following talks in Brussels, the EU agreed to extend the Brexit deadline to 22 May should the deal by Prime Minister Theresa May was accepted by end of March. The extension was granted so that all necessary legislations for the withdrawal process are being passed.  However, if no alternative plan is put forward, the country would need to leave the bloc on 12 April. Despite this, May still had a tough time at Westminster to secure enough votes to back her deal that she eventually offered to resign in return for support from members of parliament. Some of her Tory peers had altered their stance but that did little as her deal was rejected for the third time in the House of Commons. Eight other options were also presented during the so-called “indicative votes” process though none of them emerged as a preferred choice. A fourth vote is still possible for May’s deal while a second round of “indicative votes” was scheduled for early April. With parliamentarians struggling to narrow down their differences on a Brexit deal, concerns have also lingered if the UK would be able to meet the next departure deadline set by the EU.