News Timeline: July 2019


July 2 – Europe: EUROPEAN UNION
The European Parliament confirms the selection of Germany’s Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen for the European Union’s top job. She is the first woman to take the job of the European Commission president. She will replace Jean-Claude Juncker on November 1. The Commission drafts EU laws, enforces EU rules and has the power to impose fines on member states. The nominees for other EU top jobs include Christine Lagarde from France to become head of the European Central Bank, Charles Michel from Belgium for European Council President, Josep Borrell from Spain for EU foreign policy chief, and David-Maria Sassoli from Italy to become President of the European Parliament.[1]

July 10 – International Organizations / East Asia:
The ambassadors of 22 mostly Western countries (including Britain, Canada and Japan) sign a statement to the United Nations Human Rights Council urging China to stop arbitrary detentions of ethnic Uighurs who are Muslim and other minorities in its northwest Xinjiang province. They cite reports by China scholars and human rights groups of “large-scale places of detention, as well as widespread surveillance and restrictions, particularly targeting Uighurs and other minorities in Xinjiang”.[2] These reports estimate that more than a million people have been forced into these re-education camps.
(Jul 12): In a rebuke to the critical letter, ambassadors of 37 states from Asia, Africa, the Middle East and Latin America jointly sign a letter to the president of the United Nations Human Rights Council praising China in its contributions to the international peace by fighting terrorism, separatism and religious extremism in Xinjiang. The larger number of signatories supporting China shows Beijing’s growing global influence.[3]
Inside China’s ‘thought transformation’ camps

The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) confirms its first case of the deadly Ebola virus in the city of Goma, south of the epicenter of the previous Ebola outbreak. The concern is that in the city of two million people and a major commercial hub, the disease might quickly spread. More than 1,650 people have died since the outbreak of Ebola in the eastern part of the DRC a year ago (mostly in the provinces of North Kivu and Ituri), where about 12 new cases are reported every day. However, with the help of the United Nations, the authorities claim they are prepared and can contain the spread of the disease in Goma. Almost 3,000 health workers have so far been vaccinated against the disease in Goma.[4]

Background: Ebola spreads rapidly through contact with even small amounts of bodily fluid of those infected – or indirectly through contact with contaminated environments. Patients who contract Ebola virus suffer gruesome symptoms and often die. The areas of Ituri and North Kivu provinces affected by Ebola are characterized by poor infrastructure, political instability and ongoing conflict involving scores of armed militia groups and community mistrust of national authorities and outsiders. The outbreak of Ebola five years ago in West Africa claimed more than 10,000 lives.[5]
Ebola outbreak in five graphics

July 17 – Africa: SUDAN
After weeks of deadly protests, Sudan’s interim military government sign a power-sharing agreement with the opposition. According to the deal, the ruling council will consist of five civilians, five military figures, and an 11th civilian, who will be picked by the 10 members. For the first 21 months, a military general will be in charge of the council; after that the power will be handed over to the civilian council for the next 18 months, followed by elections.[6]

Background: When in December 2018 Sudan’s former President of 30 years, Omar al-Bashir, imposed emergency austerity measures, his move met with mass months-long protests. In April 2019, the military overthrew the president and established an interim ruling council. However, demonstrations continued, demanding the military transfer the power into civilian administration. In response, a paramilitary group under the command of the ruling council moved in to quell the protests, which resulted in a massacre and more protests. This forced the junta to open talks with the opposition.

July 24 – Europe: UNITED KINGDOM
UK Prime Minister Theresa May steps down after her failure to secure an exit from the European Union and losing her Cabinet’s support. At the same time, former London Mayor, former British Foreign Secretary, and a controversial and provocative politician, Boris Johnson, becomes new prime minister after winning the country’s Conservative Party leadership. He inherits a deeply divided Parliament caused by the Brexit vote. If he is unable to negotiate a new exit deal with the European Union, he vows to exit Britain with no deal by the new deadline of October 31. It is believed that no-deal exit would be seriously damaging to the UK’s economy.[7]
About Boris Johnson

About 115 migrants drown in the Mediterranean Sea during an attempt to cross it from the coast of Libya to Europe. The Italian coast guards were able to save 132 migrants.  Although the number of migrant journeys has declined dramatically since 2017, still thousands attempt to cross the Mediterranean to Europe on flimsy boats every year, with Libya being the main departure point. The decline is due to the deal made by Italy with Libya to stop migrants from leaving the Libyan coast. Also, the Italian coast guards return the migrants found at sea back to Libya.[8] The UN refugee agency reports that this was the deadliest shipwreck in the Mediterranean so far in 2019, with 164 migrants losing their lives in the first four months of 2019. These migrants come mostly from Africa and the Middle East.[9]
Migration to Europe in charts

July 27 – Europe: RUSSIA
Over a thousand protesters demanding fair elections who took to the streets despite rallies being officially unauthorized are arrested. The main opposition leader Alexei Navalny was jailed for 30 days a few days earlier after calling for Saturday’s unapproved demonstration. People are protesting the authorities’ decision to exclude about 30 opposition and independent candidates from taking part in local elections scheduled for September 8.[10] Ratings of both President Vladimir Putin and his United Russia party have plummeted and are at a record low.[11]

July 29 – Africa: ETHIOPIA
In a single day, people in Ethiopia plant more than 353 million trees as part of the national Green Legacy Initiative. The project aims to combat climate change and deforestation. The program has been dubbed Green Legacy. The goal of the initiative is to grow 4billion trees in the country this summer by encouraging every citizen to plant at least 40 seedlings. According to Dr. Dan Ridley-Ellis, the head of the center for wood science and technology at Edinburgh Napier University, “Trees not only help mitigate climate change by absorbing the carbon dioxide in the air, but they also have huge benefits in combating desertification and land degradation, particularly in arid countries. They also provide food, shelter, fuel, fodder, medicine, materials and protection of the water supply.”[12]


[1] “Germany’s Ursula von der Leyen nominated to lead EU Commission.” BBC News. July 2, 2019. Web. Accessed July 15, 2019 and “MEPs choose David-Maria Sassoli as new European Parliament president.” July 3, 2019. Web. Accessed July 15, 2019 and “Von der Leyen elected EU Commission head after MEPs vote.” BBC News. July 16, 2019. Web. Accessed July 17, 2019.
[2] Thomas Peter. “China’s Retort Over Its Mass Detentions: Praise From Russia and Saudi Arabia.” The New York Times. July 12, 2019. Web. Accessed July 15, 2019 from
and “China urged to end mass Xinjiang detentions by countries at UN.” BBC News. July 10, 2019. Web. Accessed July 15, 2019.
[3] Ibid 2.
[4] World Health Organization (WHO). “High-level meeting on the Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo affirms support for Government-led response and UN system-wide approach.” News release. July 15, 2019. Web. Accessed July 17, 2019 from
[5] Ibid 4.
[6] “Sudan military and civilians sign deal to end deadly turmoil.” BBC News. July 17, 2019. Web. Accessed July 18, 2018.
[7] Kara Fox and Sheena McKenzie. “Boris Johnson will be UK’s new Prime Minister.” CNN. July 23, 2019. Web. Accessed July 27, 2019.
[8] “Libya shipwreck: Scores of migrants feared drowned” and “Scores feared drowned in shipwreck off Libya.” BBC News. July 25, 2019. Web. Accessed July 28, 2019.
[9] UNHCR. “65 reported drowned after shipwreck off coast of Tunisia.” May 10, 2019.
[10] “Russia protests: Thousand arrests at Moscow rally.” BBC News. 27 July 2019. Web. Accessed July 30, 2019.
[11] Samuel Greene and Graeme Robertson. “Vladimir Putin’s approval ratings are dropping. This is why.” The Washington Post.  July 19, 2018. Web. Accessed July 30, 2019 from and Robert Coalson. “Managing To Win: Sagging Popularity Forces Russia’s Ruling Party To Dig Into Its Bag Of Election Tricks.” Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. July 04, 2019. Web. Accessed July 30, 2019 from
[12] Anna Ploszajski. “Ethiopia plants 350m trees in a day to help tackle climate crisis.” The Guardian. July 30, 2019. Web. Accessed July 31, 2019.