News Timeline: April 2019


April 2 – Africa: ALGERIA
Algeria’s ailing 82-year old president, Abdelaziz Bouteflika, who stayed in power for the last 20 years, steps down amid weeks of peaceful demonstrations calling for his resignation. Seventy-seven year-old Speaker of the House Abdelkader Bensalah takes over as an interim president and promises to hold new elections within the next 90 days. The protesters see him, however, as part of the old structures and vow to stay on the streets until more radical changes are made.[1] 

April 10 – Middle East: ISRAEL
In the elections to the 120-seat Israeli parliament (Knesset), Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud Party receives 36 seats. His main contender, former military chief Benny Gantz, the leader of the Blue and White Alliance receives 35 seats. The Labor Party, once Israel’s powerful center-left party of Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres receives only six seats.[2] Netanyahu is expected to form a new government with his right-wing nationalist and religious parties and serve as prime minister for the fifth term. Despite facing three indictments of corruption, bribery, and fraud, Netanyahu was able to rally far right votes behind him promising that the new government would annex Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank, which are considered illegal under international law.[3]

April 10 – Latin America / North America:
Hundreds of Hondurans form a new migrant caravan and set off on a 2,500 mile-long journey to reach the United States. They will join thousands of other migrants from Central America, mainly El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras, who have been fleeing persecution, poverty and violence in their countries. They are traveling in caravans, large groups, that include many women and children for safety reasons and to avoid paying high fees to smugglers known as “coyotes.” Some of these migrants will ask for asylum in Costa Rica, others will receive humanitarian visas in Mexico, but some will be deported. The US government has limited the number of people allowed to apply for asylum each day and many are sent back to the Mexican side of the border until their papers are processed.[4]

U.S. President Donald Trump has been pressuring Mexico to stop the flow of people heading north to the US border and has threatened to close the border with Mexico. He also orders the suspension of US aid to El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras to put pressure on these governments to do more to prevent people from migrating. The critics of his decision say his decision is counterproductive as the aid stimulates economic development and finances programs that encourage people to stay in their countries.[5]
Migrant desperation at the U.S. border (NYT video: 05:09 min)

April 11 – Africa: SUDAN
After months of anti-government protests, Sudan’s military topples President Omar al-Bashir after 29 years in power. The demonstrations began as a protest against a rise of costs of living, but quickly turned into a call for the president to step down. The army announces a three-month state of emergency during which the constitution will be suspended. It also says that after a two-year transitional period elections will be held. President Bashir, former army officer himself who seized power in a military coup in 1989, is imprisoned and General Abdel Fattah Abdelrahman Burhan is named as head of the transitional military council. The main organization behind the protests, the Sudanese Professionals Association (SPA), says that the coup represents the same type of government with different faces, and urges people to continue demonstrations until the civilian rule.

Omar al-Bashir is wanted by the International Criminal Court (ICC), for war crimes and for crimes against humanity in Sudan’s western Darfur region.[6]
Omar al-Bashir ousted: How Sudan got here
History of military coups in Africa

During a summit in Brussels, the European Union agrees to extend the deadline for Brexit by six months until October 31. The agreement averts the possibility of the UK leaving the EU without a deal, but it also means that the UK has to hold elections to the European Parliament in May and there would be no renegotiations of the withdrawal agreement with the EU.[7]

April 16 – North America / Middle East:
United States President Donald Trump vetoes a bill ending U.S. support for Saudi-led coalition in the Yemen war. The bill was previously passed by members of both chambers of Congress in response to the humanitarian disaster in Yemen. President Trump says that the resolution is an attempt to weaken presidential powers.[8]

April 21 – Europe: UKRAINE
In a second round of presidential elections in Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelensky defeats current President Petro Poroshenko in a landslide victory gathering more than 73 percent of the votes with a turnout of more than 62 percent. Poroshenko conceded showing an orderly democratic and peaceful transfer of power in a country that was once part of the Soviet empire. Zelensky has no previous experience in politics and is best known for his satirical TV show, Servant of the People, where the main character accidentally becomes president. He ran his election on the platform of a party of the same name as his TV series. Zelensky vows to cleanup the country’s corruption and weaken the power of the oligarchs in Ukraine. His main challenges are rocky relations with Russia, continued tensions in Crimea, which was annexed from Ukraine by Russia in 2014, which Ukraine never recognized, and the difficult situation in eastern Ukraine, where Russia-backed rebels are fighting the Ukrainian government demanding closer relations with Russia.[9]
What Zelensky’s TV show might say about how he will govern the country

April 21 – South Asia: SRI LANKA
On Easter Sunday, a series of suicide bombings in several Sri Lankan luxury hotels, churches during the holiday services and other sites in the country’s biggest city, Colombo, kill 359 and injure more than 500 people. Among the victims are many foreigners.[10] This is the country’s deadliest attack since the end of the decades-long violent conflict between the Sinhalese majority (70.2 percent of the population) and the Tamil minority (12.6 percent) that ended in 2009. Muslims and Christians are small minorities in Sri Lanka, with 9.7 and 7.4 percent respectively.[11]

The government blames the attacks on the National Thowheed Jamath (NTJ), a small home-grown Islamist group. The ruthlessness and sophistication of the latest bombings indicate that there was help from international terrorist networks. Two days after the attacks the Islamic State (IS) group takes responsibility, although it does not provide direct evidence of this. All the suicide bombers are well educated and come from well-off families. The Sri Lankan government is highly criticized for ignoring the detailed intelligence it received before the bombings. Police detains around 60 suspects in connection with the attacks.[12]
History of the conflict in Sri Lanka between the Sinhalese and the Tamils (video 04:14 min)

April 22 – Africa: EGYPT
In a referendum, Egyptians approve the changes to the country’s constitution that will allow President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi stay in power until 2030. Sisi is due to stand down in 2022, when his second four-year term ends. But the amendments lengthen his current term to six years (until 2024) and allow him to stand for one more term. Egypt’s National Election Authority says the participation was 44.3 percent and 88.8 percent of those approved the changes. The Parliament that is dominated by Sisi’s supporters approved the amendments earlier this month.

The constitutional amendments also expand the military’s power allowing it to intervene in politics and give Sisi more power over the judiciary, including a selection of the chief justice and the public prosecutor threatening its independence. Egypt’s opposition dismisses the referendum as a sham saying the government suppressed the freedom of peaceful opposition to the changes.[13]

April 25 – International Organizations / Middle East:
Human rights organization Amnesty International issues an investigative report about the impact of the US-led coalition’s military campaign on the civilians in the Syrian city of Raqqa. Between June and October 2017, the coalition that includes the U.S., UK, and France, launched thousands of air and artillery strikes to oust the Islamic State (IS) from its self-designated capital in Raqqa. The report states that the Coalition claimed it had taken all necessary measures to spare civilians and admitted killing 159 civilians; however, Amnesty says that four months of relentless and reckless bombardment of Raqqa reduced the city’s homes, businesses and infrastructure to rubble, killing and injuring thousands of civilians. The report also states that such conduct violates the principles of distinction and proportionality – fundamental requirements of international humanitarian law. Disproportionate or indiscriminate attacks are war crimes.[14]
Report: War in Raqqa: Rhetoric versus Reality


[1] Ashitha Nagesh. “Young Algerians on the man in power for their entire lives.” 4 April 2019. BBC News. Web. Accessed 27 April 2019 and “Algeria sets presidential election for 4 July after protests.” BBC News. 10 April 2019. Web. Accessed 27 April 2019.
[2] Larry Kaplow. “Analysis: Does Netanyahu’s Win Maintain Status Quo Or Push Israel Further Right?” NPR. April 12, 2019. Web. Accessed April 15, 2019.
[3] “Israel election: Netanyahu set for record fifth term.” BBC News. 10 April 2019. Web. Accessed 15 April 2019.
[4] “Migrant caravan: Hundreds of Hondurans leave on new trek.” BBC News. 10 April 2019. Web. Accessed 24 April 2019 and “Migrant caravan: Mexico detains hundreds in raid.” BBC News. 24 April 2019. Web. Accessed 30 April 209119.
[5] “Dismay after Trump moves to cut aid to Central America.” BBC News. 31 March 2019. Web. Accessed 24 April 2019.
[6] “Omar al-Bashir: Sudan military coup topples ruler after protests.” BBC News. April 11, 2019. Web. Accessed April 15 2019 and “Sudan crisis: Ex-President Omar al-Bashir moved to prison.” BBC News. April 17, 2019. Web. Accessed April 17, 2019.
[7] “ Brexit: UK and EU agree delay to 31 October.” BBC News, April 11, 2019. Web. Accessed April 20, 2019.
[8] Deb Riechmann. “Trump vetoes bill to end U.S. involvement in Saudi-led Yemen war — the second veto of his presidency.” The Chicago Tribune. 16 April 2019. Web. Accessed 17 April 2019.
[9] “Ukraine election: Comedian Zelensky wins presidency by landslide.” BBC News. 22 April 2019. Web. Accessed 29 April l2019.
[10] “Sri Lanka attacks: Bomber ‘studied in UK and Australia’.” BBC News. 24 April 2019. Web. Accessed 24 April 2019. and “Sri Lanka attacks: What we know about the Easter bombings.” BBC News. 24 April 2019. Web. Accessed 24 April 2019 and Anbarasan Ethirajan. “Sri Lanka attacks: What led to carnage?” BBC News, Colombo. 23 April 2019. Web. Accessed 24 April 2019.
[11] Central Intelligence Agency. The World Factbook, “Sri Lanka.” April 03, 2019. Web. Accessed 24 April 2019.
[12] Ibid 10.
[13] “Egypt president could rule until 2030 as constitutional changes backed.” BBC News. 24 April 2019. Web. Accessed 25 April 2019 and “Egypt constitutional changes could mean Sisi rule until 2030.” BBC News. 16 April 2019. Web. Accessed 25 April 2019.
[14] Amnesty International. “War in Raqqa: Rhetoric versus Reality.” n/d. Web. Accessed 2 May 2019 from