News Timeline: March 2015


March 3 – North America / Middle East:
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addresses a joint session of U.S. Congress on the invitation of Republican leaders. The invitation is controversial because it was not consulted with the White House, further straining the relationship between the prime minister and U.S. President Barack Obama. Prime Minister Netanyahu’s speech focuses on portraying Iran as a terrorist state and his opposition to the deal with Iran, currently in negotiations, aiming at preventing it from gaining nuclear weapons. Fifty-eight Senate and House Democrats — including Vice President Joe Biden— boycott the event.

March 4 – Latin America: BRAZIL
Brazil’s Supreme Court approves the chief prosecutor’s request to investigate 54 people for their involvement in a massive corruption scheme in the state-run oil company Petrobras. It is alleged that high-profile politicians and others took huge bribes in exchange for lucrative contracts for the firm. Officials under investigation include Senate President Renan Calheiros, former Energy Minister Edison Lobao and Brazil’s former President Fernando Collor de Mello.

March 8 – Latin America: COLOMBIA
The Colombian government and the armed group Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) reach a groundbreaking agreement to work together to remove landmines.  According to the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL), almost 10,000 Colombians have been killed or injured by mines and explosive remnants of war. However, it might take decades to complete this complicated project; many FARC mine specialists who would know where the mines have been planted are gone. Also, over time, the mines have shifted away from their original spots.

March 11 – Europe / Former Soviet Republics / International Organizations:
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) approves a $17.5 billion rescue package for Ukraine to help stabilize its economy. Last month, the European Union agreed to provide $2 billion in loans to Ukraine, while the United States has pledged $2 billion in loan guarantees. As a prerequisite for the loan, the Ukrainian parliament approved a reform package that modifies tax and energy laws, as well as introduces changes to the government’s budget. Due to the military operations in the east, deteriorating relations with Russia, Ukraine’s largest trading partner, and plunging foreign investment, inflation in Ukraine skyrocketed and its currency, the hryvnia, lost 80 percent of its value since last April.

March 17 – Middle East: ISRAEL
Israel votes in the second parliamentary election in two years after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu dissolved the parliament in December 2014 due to disagreements within the governing coalition. Prime Minister Netanyahu’s Likud party wins a surprising victory as it was seriously challenged by the center-left Zionist Union led by Isaac Herzog. During the campaign, Netanyahu promised more homes for settlers in the occupied territories and said that he would not allow for the formation of a Palestinians state. The Likud party won 30 seats in the 120-seat parliament while the Zionist Union 24 seats.

March 18 – Africa: TUNISIA
Three militants with connections to the Islamic State (IS) extremist group storm the Bardo Museum in Tunisia’s capital, Tunis, killing 21 people, mostly foreign tourists. The attack strikes a serious blow to the country’s critical tourism industry. (March 29): Thousands of people show up for a rally against terrorism.

March 18 – Europe / Former Soviet Republics:
Russia signs a treaty on “alliance and integration” with Georgia’s breakaway region of South Ossetia. According to the agreement, Russia will incorporate the South Ossetian military into its armed forces, integrate South Ossetian customs service into that of Russia’s, and pay state worker salaries in South Ossetia. The treaty comes after Russia signed a similar treaty with Georgia’s another breakaway region of Abkhazia in November last year. Georgia condemns both treaties, describing them as a step towards annexation of its occupied territories.

March 20 – Africa: ETHIOPIA / KENYA
Ethiopia’s government officials join the ceremony of burning the country’s entire stock of poached ivory, over 6 tons, in an effort to curb poaching of elephants, black market ivory trading and trafficking. Ethiopia follows Kenya, which destroyed 15 tons of its own ivory stockpiles in March. Also, last month China imposed a one-year ban on importing ivory. Ethiopia has lost 90 percent of its elephant population due to poaching.

March 21 – Europe / Middle East: TURKEY
The jailed leader of Turkey’s Kurdish minority and the Kurdish Workers’ Party (PKK), Abdullah Ocalan, renews his call for his fighters to put an end to their armed insurgency.  The Turkish Kurds have fought for their independent homeland in the country’s southeast for 30 years. A ceasefire that Ocalan called in 2013 still holds and brings hopes for a long-term agreement.

March 25 – Middle East: YEMEN / SAUDI ARABIA
Yemeni President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi flees the country after Houthi rebels advance on the southern city of Aden, the government’s temporary stronghold. He settled there after forced to flee the capital, Sanaa, last month after it was taken over by the Houthis. He calls for the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and the Arab League to intervene. Houthis, who are Zaidi Shia and backed by Iran and former President Ali Abdullah Saleh, aim to replace President Hadi and his government, accusing them of corruption. President Hadi, however, is supported by the Sunni population in the south of Yemen and its militia. Both, however, President Hadi and the Houthis, oppose al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, which controls the south-east of the country and launches attacks on Yemeni targets from its stronghold. (March 26): A Saudi-led coalition of Arab states, which consists of Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Morocco, Egypt, and Sudan, begins air strikes against Houthi targets.

March 28 – Africa: NIGERIA
General Muhammadu Buhari, Nigeria’s former military ruler wins the country’s presidential elections, defeating the incumbent Goodluck Jonathan. Buhari was in power between January 1984 and December 1985 and was deposed in a coup. For the first time in Nigeria’s history, an opposition candidate wins an election, which is seen as a sign of strengthening democracy. Many voters see General Buhari as a better candidate to combat the Boko Haram militants.

March 31 – North America: CANADA
The Canadian parliament authorizes the government’s plan to expand air strikes into Syria against the Islamic State’s (IS) strongholds. The mission will be extended to the end of March 2016. Canadian air force already takes part in U.S.-led bombing attacks against Islamic State in Iraq.