Month: December 2010

This week in conflict… December 25th-31st, 2010

Hello all! Hope everything is well with you!

Just a reminder that if you have any information about conflicts (or efforts towards peace) happening each week, I would love your feedback and inclusions. As the weekly conflict update is done on a volunteer basis, I cannot independently verify all reported stories. Therefore my scope is limited to what is found in outside news sources. If you disagree with any of the information provided, or have any stories to submit, please use the comments below or email me to let me know! I will happily retract inaccurate information or provide alternative reports when necessary.

Wishing a happy and peaceful New Year to all my readers!

Peace!
Rebecca


World

  • Reporters Without Borders put out their annual report, noting that fewer reporters were being killed in war zones and more were being targeted by criminals or traffickers. The death toll was down 25% from 2009′s 76 journalists killed; while kidnappings are up to 51 from 33 in 2009. Pakistan was the deadliest country with 11 killed; seven in Mexico, seven in Iraq and four in the Philippines.
  • Debate over the governing of the internet flared this week as officials from 18 countries held an impromptu meeting at the UN to staff a working group on the future of Internet Governance Forum. The UN hopes to create a “cyber peace treaty” to prevent the Internet from becoming another domain for countries to wage war against each other, while techies fear that the UN could become a forum where authoritarian governments work to stop the free flow of information.
  • The Global Food Security yearly review highlighted that the number of the world’s hungry decreased in 2010 from approximately 1.023 billion to 925 million. They discussed the humanitarian crises in Haiti, Pakistan and the Sahel which put great stress on global food security.

Africa

  • Clashes between armed Christian and Muslim groups in Jos, Nigeria broke out on Christmas, following  Christmas Eve bombings that killed more than 80 people. On Monday, the Special Task Force charged with maintaining security in Jos reportedly intercepted a group trying to plant another explosive. Some thirty suspected Boko Haram armed members are said to have attacked two churches in Maiduguri, killing at least six people on Friday. On Monday, youths from two communities clashed leading to the deaths of 18 people in what is believed to have been ignited over a premiership football match. On Tuesday, Boko Haram claimed responsibility for the series of Christmas Eve bombings, though experts are skeptical of the claim, as the group has never attacked outside the country’s north and three more people were killed in a fresh attack in Borno State after armed assailants fired shots into a teaching hospital. On Wednesday, two bombs exploded during a political rally in Bayelsa State, resulting in several injuries. On Thursday, seven people were killed after suspected Boko Haram militants attacked a police vehicle in northeastern Nigeria.
  • Opposition president Ouattara called on his supporters to participate in a general strike on Monday, that was largely a failure; while some 20 supporters took over the Ivorian embassy in Paris for 6 hours. Gbagbo supporters torched a UN convoy car and injured one soldier, chanting “ONUCI out!” on Tuesday. Several African leaders threatened Gbagbo with military action should he not leave peacefully, a move that would surely only result in greater bloodshed. On Thursday, ECOWAS suspended the option of using military force to overthrow Gbagbo, and instead declared the option of using dialogue. The UN vowed to protect Ouattara and his government, as Ouattara’s newly appointed UN ambassador described the country as “on the brink of genocide”.
  • On Sunday, delegations from the Sudanese government met with the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) to discuss areas of difference in a draft agreement for a ceasefire to be signed before peace talks. The Sudanese government claimed to have killed 40 rebels in clashes in northern Darfur on Friday. The Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) are preparing to rule a potential new state in Southern Sudan and are apparently having second thoughts about the whole referendum. On Wednesday, a high-profile Muslim cleric called on Muslims in southern Sudan not to vote for secession in the January 9th polls. On Thursday, the government announced that they had withdrawn from peace talks with Darfur rebels, insisting however, that they are still committed to the peace process. JEM responded by calling the announcement “a declaration of war”.
  • A senior al-Shabaab rebel leader in Somalia threatened on Monday to attack the US, calling on Obama to join Islam. The al-Shabaab rebels have allegedly merged with Hizbul Islam, parties that previously battled. The merged parties are now said to control most of central and southern Somalia, and much of the capital, leaving the UN backed government only a few blocks of control. The groups announced they would increase attacks on Uganda and Burundi. On Tuesday, fighting between Somali government forces backed by AU peacekeepers and al-Shabaab fighters resulted in three dead and seven injured in Mogadishu. Later reports cited as many as 17 dead during Tuesday’s clashes. On Thursday, a Somali soldier and a civilian were said to have been injured in clashes between the transitional government and Ethiopian military troops in central Somalia.
  • Six Russians were charged and sentenced to jail in Somaliland for illegally entering the country and landing a plane carrying illegal military supplies, including military uniforms and other equipment destined for Puntland. The Russians are said to have an option to buy out their prison terms.
  • Police in Tunisia used force to disperse a rare demonstration calling for jobs in the capital. Protests have spread to several cities over the past week and resulted in two public suicide attempts, one successful.
  • The Senegalese army said that seven soldiers were killed in a firefight with suspected separatists on Tuesday. Officials say that the MFDC (Movement of Democratic Forces of Casamance) is much more heavily armed that previously thought, with rocket launchers, mortars and machine guns.
  • At least 64 billion CFA (approx. $128 million) was stolen from Niger’s state coffers under the government of former President Mamadou Tandja it was announced this week by the junta launched to investigate potential graft. Tandja was overthrown by a military coup last February.
  • The UN is concerned about Congolese still being expelled from neighbouring Angola back into the DRC, many reporting mistreatment including sexual violence and torture. Over the last several months there have been reports of thousands arriving after facing severe attacks on their human rights and dignity.
  • Protests in Algeria over inadequate housing led to at least 53 injuries and dozens of arrests on Wednesday. Protesters are said to have burnt tires, thrown stones and Molotov cocktails at police, who responded with tear gas and arrests.
  • Political rallies were banned in the Comoros Islands on Thursday, following a disputed presidential vote that saw the ruling party candidate handed victory. The opposition has claimed that the elections were marred with irregularities.

Asia

  • India is on a state of alert following warnings that Lashkar-e-Taiba, a Pakistan-based militant group, is planning an attack over the New Year weekend. Police have been searching since Friday for four men believed to have entered Mumbai to commit terrorist attacks.
  • At least 43 people were killed in a suicide bombing in northwestern Pakistan on Sunday near an aid distribution centre where a large crowd was waiting for World Food Program food rations. The program was shut down for part of the week because of the attack. On Monday, five missiles fired by suspected US drone aircraft killed at least four suspected militants (some reports say as many as 15), and authorities found the body of a tribesman killed by suspected militants with a not lying near the body that said “anyone found to be spying for America will meet the same fate”. On Tuesday, two suspected US missile strikes killed another at least eight people in the northern Waziristan region, including civilians who went to collect the bodies of dead in between strikes. On Thursday, gunmen attacked two NATO fuel trucks in Quetta, killing a driver; and military helicopter gunships attacked Taliban positions in the northwestern region, killing 13 suspected militants and destroying one hideout.
  • A bomb in a church during a Christmas mass in the southern Philippines on Saturday wounded 11 people. An al-Qaeda linked group was blamed for the attacks. On Sunday, a Maoist group threatened more attacks, despite looming peace talks with the government.
  • Four reporters in Palu, Indonesia were injured after members of an ethnic youth group allegedly attacked them over an “unfavorable report” against their leader. A new report indicated that law enforcement officials from police to prison wardens routinely torture suspects and convicts to extract confessions and obtain information. Torture is said to be so commonplace that they are considered the norm.
  • A Chinese journalist died from injuries sustained in a gang beating that is suspected to be linked to his investigative work. The reporter had linked a demolition of a dairy company’s building to the building of government officials’ homes. A Chinese man was crushed to death by a truck, in what many are saying was an attempt to silence his six-year campaign to protect his fellow villagers in a land dispute.
  • On Saturday, Afghan and coalition forces killed two suspected insurgents in two separate night raids in Kabul, and two men in another raid after receiving a “credible threat” to attack the US embassy in the capital. Afghan authorities later accused foreign troops of violating a security deal by conducting the raid, which they say was done without their knowledge and approval. On Sunday, four Turkish engineers were kidnapped in Kabul by unidentified gunmen. On Monday, a car bomb exploded near a police compound in Kandahar, Afghanistan killing a man and wounding some 26 others and an ISAF service member was killed by a roadside bomb in Kabul. On Tuesday, an ISAF service member was killed by a roadside bomb in Kabul. On Wednesday, three suicide bombers stormed a police headquarters killing the commander in Mosul. On Thursday, more than 10 civilians were killed in a roadside bombing in Helmand province; and an Afghan civilian and one suspected insurgent were killed in a clash between militants and ISAF troops. Experts warn that the inauguration of a new Parliament in a few week’s time threatens to worsen ethnic tensions and instability and drive part of President Karzai’s political base into the arms of insurgency.
  • A car bomb exploded in southern Thailand on Wednesday, injuring at least seven people, a day after the government moved to end emergency rule in another part of the restive region. In a separate incident, suspected militants detonated a roadside bomb, trying to ambush patrolling security officials, with no injuries.
  • South Korean President Lee Myung-bak called for a renewal of international negotiations to shut down North Korea’s nuclear weapons program on Wednesday. The talks broke down in April 2009 after the North ejected inspectors and withdrew from the process. A report has stated that the 1.1 million strong North Korean military has bolstered its special-forces units during the past two years, deployed a new battle tank, and expanded its tank brigades.
  • The UN is winding down its Nepalese mission despite concerns over issues that could lead to fresh conflict. 19,000 Maoist army personnel are still remaining to be integrated in the country which has been working towards a peace process with the UN since 2007.

Americas

  • Mexico’s Los Zetas drug gang has threatened to launch a war in northern Guatemala, following last week’s “state of siege”. The group took over several radio stations by force to broadcast, threatening violence unless the Guatemalan president fulfills unspecified promises. Authorities say they have seized hundreds of weapons and made several arrests.
  • The only remaining police dispatcher in Mexico’s drug-plagued northern town of Guadalupe has disappeared, almost a week after a dozen gunmen burned down her house and torched two cars outside. The 12 other cops she worked with were either killed or quit over the past year. Armed men in southern Mexico are said to have kidnapped nine migrants just a week after 50 disappeared. On Monday, Acapulco officials announced they had found the decapitated bodies of two men in front of a bar where 11 men were abducted early in the month.
  • Students at the state-run University of Puerto Rico clashed violently with police, resulting in several arrests. The students oppose the imposition of a annual tuition fee and are citing increased government repression and concentration of power in the governing party.
  • Two former Presidents in the Americas have died this week. Carlos Andres Perez from Venezuela has died of a heart attack in Florida and Salvador Jorge Blanco of the Dominican died after suffering a cerebral hematoma. Both leaders faced corruption scandals during their time in office.
  • At least 45 people have been killed across Haiti by lynching, being set on fire or attacked with machetes. The spread of cholera has led to accusations of the use of “black magic” and retaliation for this suspected usage.
  • Brutal Colombian drug lord Pedro “the Knife” Oliverio Guerrero was killed in clashes with security forces on Wednesday. Guerrero had a $2.5 million bounty on his head.

Middle East

  • Nine French activists were arrested in the West Bank on Sunday for demonstrating in a pro-Palestinian protest and Israeli forces, backed by tanks and helicopter gunships killed two Islamic Jihad members allegedly trying to place a bomb along the Gaza border. Following their deaths, Israeli and Palestinian armed groups traded threats. Representatives for the Palestinians will ask the UN Security Council to condemn Israeli settlement construction, it was announced on Wednesday, in an effort to send a tough message to Israeli PM Netanyahu. Netanyahu ruled out the possibility of any apology to Turkey over the deaths of nine Turkish activists during the May Israeli flotilla raid. Israeli troops have shot dead a suspected Palestinian militant in the Gaza Strip who approached the border fence on Tuesday. At least one other person was wounded in the incident. An independent West Bank journalist is questioning the extent of freedom of speech permitted by the Palestinian Authority after being detained for five days for broadcasting about frictions within the ruling Fatah party. On Thursday, Israel’s former president Moshe Katsav was found guilty of rape and sexual harassment that took place during his terms as president and minister of tourism.
  • Iran announced it hanged an Iranian convicted of spying for Israel on Tuesday. The man was accused of providing Israel with classified information on military capabilities, including details about military manoeuvres, operational jet fighters, military flights, air crashes and missiles. Three more senior Iranian clerics have come out with criticisms of government policy, calling the current regime neither a republic nor Islamic and other violations of the Koran and Shari’a law.
  • On Saturday, a roadside bomb exploded in eastern Mosul, Iraq, wounding an army officer, a soldier and a civilian; a gunman attacked an Iraqi army checkpoint and was killed by soldiers; Iraqi soldiers mistakenly killed a civilian at a security checkpoint in Mosul; a roadside bomb went off near an Iraqi patrol in Mosul, wounding a soldier and two civilians; a roadside bomb targeting an Iraqi patrol in northwestern Baghdad wounded three policemen and a civilian; and gunmen opened fire on a police checkpoint wounding two policemen in southwestern Baghdad. On Sunday, gunmen opened fire on the vehicle of the head of the Interior Ministry’s Vehicles Department, wounding him and his driver in western Baghdad. On Monday, twin suicide bombings killed 17 people and wounded some 47 others at a local government compound in Ramadi; a roadside bomb killed a woman and her husband north of Baghdad; and gunmen wounded two police officers when they opened fire on the Interior Ministry’s anti-crime department in Baghdad. On Tuesday, a US soldier was wounded when a roadside bomb hit a US military convoy in northwestern Baghdad; a sticky bomb killed an off-duty Iraqi soldier in Mosul; a roadside bomb targeting an Iraqi army patrol wounded a soldier in western Mosul; gunmen shot a Baghdad municipality employee, wounding him; a bomb attached to a car wounded a foreign ministry employee in Baghdad; gunmen killed an Iraqi parliament employee in central Baghdad; and gunmen attacked an Iraqi army checkpoint, killing one soldier and wounding another in Tal Afar. On Thursday, a roadside bomb is said to have killed two people and wounded three others in eastern Baghdad; a roadside bomb is said to have wounded three people in central Baghdad; two roadside bombs exploded without casualties in southern Baghdad; Iraqi security forces arrested an al-Qaeda member who they say confessed to orchestrating a suicide attack from Wednesday on a police compound in Mosul; two Katyusha rockets landed in and around an amusement park in west-central Baghdad, wounding three people; and gunmen killed a man in northern Kirkuk.
  • The Yemeni government announced that it has released hundreds of Houthi rebel prisoners as part of a ceasefire. In return, the rebels are expected to surrender their weaponry seized during the armed conflict.

Europe

  • Danish and Swedish police arrested five men suspected of planning a gun attack on the Danish newspaper which printed the controversial prophet Mohammed (pboh) cartoons on Wednesday. The men had allegedly planned to storm the offices, killing as many as possible.
  • A rally against racism and ethnic violence took place in Moscow, Russia on Sunday, as protesters condemned attacks on ethnic minorities and the recent ultra-nationalist riot in the city. Two dissident journalists living in Germany are suspected to have been poisoned in a politically motivated crime committed by Moscow. German authorities have launched an investigation. France’s Sarkozy has said that Russia has agreed to purchase at least two French Mistral-class warships, that can carry up to 16 helicopters and scores of armored vehicles. The purchase has severely angered neighbouring Georgia, Estonia and Lithuania, who are concerned of the possibility of Western countries now selling Russia whatever they have to offer from high tech military equipment to rights for oil pipelines.  Russian PM Putin praised the New START nuclear arms treaty with the US, calling the pact an “unconditional success” and suggesting that it would bolster international security and help Russia develop its economy by improving the investment climate.
  • Several bomb threats at embassies in Italy have security officials on guard. Experts defused a letter bomb at the Greek embassy on Monday, days after two people were seriously wounded at two other embassies; and authorities responded to false bomb alarms at the embassies of Albania, Denmark, Egypt, Finland, Monaco, Slovenia, Sweden and Venezuela.
  • The Greek capital was on edge after an anonymous call to a newspaper warned of a second bomb attack at a tax office. A previous attack, hours earlier, had damaged several cars and buildings.
  • British police on Monday announced they had charged nine of the 12 men they arrested for engaging in conduct in preparation for acts of terrorism. The men were accused of reconnoitering targets, conspiring to cause explosions and testing incendiary material. Similarly, the Netherlands said they had arrested 12 men suspected of plotting a terrorist attack, with six later released.
  • At least four former Presidential candidates in Belarus have been arrested and are facing up to 15 years in prison after being charged with organizing mass disorder for protests over the disputed election. Supporters of the accused call the alleged crimes trumped up and an attempt to suppress dissent.

Update:

Thanks to a kind reader for the following submissions:

[Editorial] Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s disappointing end


The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Korea (TRCK), which was founded with the goal of establishing ethnic legitimacy and achieving citizen unity through determining the truth of Korean history, concluded its operations yesterday with a report summarizing five years of activity. Established in December 2005 according to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Act, this commission has delved into the truth of incidents related to the anti-Japan independence movement, civilian massacres around the time of the Korean War, and illegal human rights infringements by public authorities.

 

 

Sri Lanka allows UN war crime visit
Colombo modifies position on UN panel of experts by allowing them to present evidence on alleged war crimes.

Sri Lanka has announced that it will allow the UN to present evidence in an investigation into war crimes alleged to have taken place during the country’s civil war. Colombo had previously said that it would not allow a three-member UN panel appointed by Ban Ki Moon to enter Sri Lanka to look into the alleged war crimes. Instead Mahinda Rajapaksa, Sri Lanka’s president, set up the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC), a national body to carry out investigations. Doubts over the LLRC’s impartiality prompted major human rights groups to refuse to work with it. Doubts over the LLRC’s impartiality prompted major human rights groups to refuse to work with it. The foreign ministry on Sunday announced that foreign representatives were welcome to present evidence to the LLRC.

 

Bangladesh opposition leader faces trial for ‘war crime’

 

Dhaka, Dec 30 (IANS) Bangladesh’s war crimes tribunal Thursday began the trial of an opposition lawmaker accused of killing over a hundred people during the country’s liberation war in 1971.

The three-judge panel of the International Crimes Tribunal has fixed Jan 17, 2011, for hearing the charges against Salauddin Quader Chowdhury for committing ‘crimes against humanity’. 

 

 

Chowdhury, 58, a Standing Committee member of the main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), who has been under remand, was brought before the tribunal amidst tight security, the Daily Star reported.

 

The charges against him, to be read out Jan 17, include Chowdhury’s alleged involvement in the killings of Nutan Chandra Singh, an entrepreneur and philanthropist belonging to the minority Hindu community, and 106 others in different localities of Chittagong port town in April 1971.

 

Bangladesh was carved out of Pakistan in December 1971. The panel headed by Justice Nizamul Huq was constituted after Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s government amended a 1973 legislation and received guidance from the US, Britain and Germany on how to conduct the trial for ‘war crimes’.

This week in conflict… December 18th-24th, 2010

World

  • The Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty between the US and Russia appears it will be approved and ratified in both countries shortly. The treaty is said to enhance leadership to stop the spread of nuclear weapons and seek the peace of a world without them.

Africa

  • Disputes between senior members of the Somali insurgent group al-Shabaab escalated as the leaders condemned each other publicly on Saturday. On Thursday, the group announced they would increase attacks on Uganda and Burundi.
  • Fresh fighting between the Sudanese army and Darfur rebels that are moving towards overcrowded camps and settlements have caused as many as 12,000 people to flee. On Thursday, Darfur rebels clashed with government troops, only days after announcing they had resumed ceasefire negotiations. Forces loyal to a renegade south Sudanese general clashed with government troops, killing at least 14 people on Tuesday.
  • Zimbabwe’s President, Robert Mugabe, threatened to act against companies from Western countries that have imposed sanctions on his party over suspected elections fraud and human rights abuses with retaliation. Companies such as Anglo American, Rio Tinto, Barclays Plc, Standard Chartered and Nestle are some of the companies in the country.
  • The DR Congo has passed a law seeking to reform its underfunded and corrupt police force. The DRC has appealed to the international community for donations to implement standardized training across the force. The funding appears necessary for the army as well, as a new report implicated army officers of forcibly recruiting hundreds of youths and boys in an effort to bolster their ranks.
  • An unknown armed group attacked the Nigerian embassy in Cote D’Ivoire on Tuesday. Sanctions and assets freezing have begun against Laurent Gbagbo and ECOWAS threatened to use force against the country if incumbent Gbagbo does not surrender power to his rival. Gbagbo has invited an international committed to re-examine the results of the disputed election, a move his opposition rejected, calling it a political “game”. Opposition leader Ouattara asked the Hague to investigate claims of serious human rights violations happening throughout the country.
  • One civilian was killed and several other injured after Tunisian police opened fire on protesters on Friday. The clashes broke out a week ago after a man committed suicide in a protests about unemployment. Tunisian government did its best to downplay the clashes and rioting during the week by claiming its opponents were blowing the disturbances out of proportion.
  • Lawmakers in Kenya passed a motion on Wednesday urging the country to withdraw from the Rome Statute that established the International Criminal Court in an effort to block trials at the Hague of post-election violence suspects. The PM said that he was opposed to the idea, reminding them even if they pull out, the process takes one year and does not affect cases that are ongoing. On Monday, a Uganda-bound bus exploded injuring dozens of people. Somali nationals now say they are fearing increased harassment by the police, as the explosion was linked to Somalian group al-Shabaab.
  • Four bombs went off in Jos, Nigeria on Friday, killing some twenty people and injuring at least seven. Leaders confirmed rumours of the plan to disrupt Christmas celebrations in the state.

Asia

  • On Friday, an ISAF service member was killed by suspected insurgents in Kabul, Afghanistan. A suicide bomb killed at least two civilians and wounded some 11 more on Saturday in the outskirts of Kandahar. At least 10 members of the Afghan army were killed on Sunday after Taliban militants launched two coordinated attacks. On Tuesday, an ISAF service member was killed in a roadside bomb in Kabul. On Wednesday, a ISAF service member was killed by a roadside bomb in Kabul.  On Thursday, a suicide bomber blew himself up near a police station in the north, killing one officer and wounding three civilians; an air strike led by NATO killed a Taliban leader and two suspected insurgents in Kabul. Security forces killed a suspected al Qaeda militant and arrested another one on Friday after one of them opened fire at a checkpoint.  Hamid Karzai announced on Friday that his government would be willing to join in talks with the Taliban facilitated by Turkey, after “dignitaries” close to the Taliban suggested Turkey could become a viable venue for talks. Foreign troops were accused of raiding a compound belonging to a private security firm in Kabul and killing two Afghan guards and seizing weapons on Friday. Civilian casualties rose by 20% this year compared to 2009.
  • A series of CIA drone missile attacks killed at least 54 people in Pakistan on Friday, making them among the bloodiest so far this year. The CIA has recalled its top officer from the country after his cover was blown by the man who has threatened to sue the CIA over the death of his son and brother in a US missile strike. On Friday, insurgents attacked five security checkpoints in the northwest, killing 11 soldiers and some 24 militants.
  • South Korean troops prepared to launch a live-fire drill on a small island close to the North, despite warnings of by the North fierce retaliation if the military exercises are carried out between December 18-21. The South wrapped up its live firing drills on Monday without incident. It is suspected North Korea will probably carry out a third atomic test next year in an effort to improve its nuclear weapons production capability, keep tensions high and promote Kim Jong-un’s status, after nuclear threats were made in the current standoff.
  • Thailand lifted the state of emergency on Wednesday after eight months following the Red Shirt protests. The government will still retain broad powers to detain suspects and impose order. On Thursday, two paramilitary rangers in the deep south were shot dead by suspected separatist insurgents during a patrol.
  • Turkey, Afghanistan and Pakistan agreed to hold joint military exercises this week that will be staged in April 2011.

Americas

  • The US Senate voted to repeal the ban on gay people serving openly in the military on Saturday. The bill passed by a vote of 65-31. The US Senate also voted this week (by 67 to 28) to limit the debate on ratification of the US-Russian treaty to reduce nuclear arsenals. It was reported this week that the US Treasury Department approved nearly 10,000 exceptions for American companies to do business with Iran over the past decade, despite trade embargoes.
  • Three laws were approved by the Venezuelan legislature that pose serious threats to free speech and the work of civil society. The laws include sweeping restrictions on internet traffic, reinforcing existing restrictions on radio and tv content, allowing the government to terminate broadcasting licenses on arbitrary grounds, and prohibit human rights groups from receiving foreign funding.
  • Armed men kidnapped about 50 Central American migrants in southern Mexico after holding up a cargo train they were riding on. El Salvador’s foreign ministry condemned the acts and demanded investigation, but Mexico’s interior ministry said it found no evidence backing the claims of disappearance.
  • Guatemala declared a “state of siege” in a remote state as it sent in troops and police to fight Mexican drug gangs that are running rampant. The siege will result in a limiting of the freedom of movement and assembly in the region for a month.
  • Former Argentine dictator Jorge Videla was sentenced to life in prison on Wednesday for the torture and murder of 31 prisoners in the months following his military coup. Videla led the military coup that installed his dictatorship that ran from 1976-83.
  • The Organization of American States (OAS) has requested Haiti postpone announcing the election results until an international panel of experts can review the vote. The first poll on November 28th resulted in mass violence and allegations of fraud and irregularities and the runoff round between the top three candidates is scheduled for January.

Middle East

  • Some 38 people were arrested in Medina, Saudi Arabia  after violent clashes broke out near Islam’s oldest mosque. Several people are reported injured in the clash between Sunnis and Shi’ites. 
  • At least four suspected Palestinian militants were killed in an Israeli airstrike in Central Gaza on Saturday. On Tuesday, a rocket out of Gaza had a near miss as it exploded near an Israeli kindergarten without killing or severely injuring anyone. Israeli officials are claiming an increase in the rate of rocket fire out of Gaza in the past three months. The Israelis retaliated by conducting a series of 14 air strikes into the Gaza Strip. Palestinians have prepared a draft resolution condemning Israel’s West Bank settlement activity for the UN Security Council. The resolution is expected to be put to a Security Council vote in February after the US ends it presidency of the council. The Israeli army announced it will deploy tanks with a miniature missile defense system near the Gaza border in response to the alleged use of Russian-made Kornet tank-piercing missiles used by Palestinian fighters.
  • Iraq’s parliament has lifted the ban on three Sunni Muslim politicians who have been kept from running for national elections for their suspected ties to Saddam Hussein’s government. Nouri al-Maliki was sworn in on Tuesday for his second term as PM and named 29 ministries. On Sunday, Iraqi army forces found the bodies of 11 badly decomposed bodies in a mass grave in Mosul; three policemen and three Iraqi soldiers were wounded by two roadside bombs in western Baghdad; gunmen stabbed a policeman to death outside his southern Baghdad home; a sticky bomb wounded a driver in northeastern Baghdad; gunmen killed a security guard in Abu Ghraib; and four people were wounded by a roadside bomb in central Baghdad. On Monday, a roadside bomb wounded three police officers and two civilians in eastern Baghdad; a roadside bomb wounded four policemen and one civilian in southeastern Baghdad and another roadside bomb wounded three civilians in central Baghdad. On Tuesday, a roadside bomb targeting a police patrol wounded three people in central Baghdad and armed men opened fire on an employee of the Shi’ite Endowment, seriously wounding him in northwestern Baghdad. On Wednesday, a bomb attached to the car of a senior official at the Ministry of Health wounded him in Baghdad; and gunmen killed one Iraqi soldier and wounded three others in an attack on a military checkpoint in central Baghdad. On Thursday, a roadside bomb exploded near an Iraqi army vehicle, wounding two soldiers in Shirqat; gunmen killed a Kurdish civilian in Kirkuk; gunmen killed a surgeon in Baghdad; gunmen shot a prominent leader in Abu Ghraib; a roadside bomb targeting an army patrol wounded an Iraqi soldier in Kirkuk; armed men opened fire on the car of an Iraqi army brigadier, killing him and wounding his daughter in Baghdad; armed men wounded a policemen in western Baghdad; two roadside bombs exploded near a fuel station, wounding a policemen in northeastern Baghdad; and armed men shot and killed a policeman in Mosul. On Friday, suspected al Qaeda militants bombed the home of a family, killing five people and wounding four others in Haswa; and a roadside bomb struck a police patrol, killing two policemen in Samarra.

Europe

  • A minister in the former Greek conservative government was attacked in broad daylight during the country’s biggest ever anti-austerity demonstrations. The situation prompted the Greek PM to call an emergency session of his MPs on Saturday. 
  • The killing and beating of immigrants in Russia has increased since the shooting of a football fan during a brawl on December 6th. Racist and anti-Semitic graffiti is said to have proliferated and made the atmosphere tense. Police in Moscow detained dozens of people in order to prevent a race riot. Some reports say as many as 500 people were detained.
  • Belarusians went to the poll this week on December 20th, amid allegations of fraud that is expected to extend current President Alyaksandr Lukashenka’s hold on power. By Sunday, at least 600 opposition activists and 7 or the 11 presidential candidates were arrested following the announcement of Lukashenka’s win by the Electoral Commission after erupting into violent protests. On Thursday it was announced that the police had detained five of the presidential candidates on suspicion of organizing protests.
  • An anarchist group claimed responsibility for parcel bombs that injured two people at the Swiss and Chilean embassies in Rome, Italy on Thursday. The country remains on alert for new attacks.


This week in conflict… December 11th-17th, 2010.

Hello all!

I was unable to access several sites on Thursday and Friday due to internet problems, so this week’s roundup is missing several stories from these two days. Please feel free to add anything I missed in the comments below!

Peace!

Rebecca

 

World

  • The UN Climate Change Conference ended on Saturday with the new Cancun Agreements, a so-called “balanced package of decisions that set all governments more firmly on the path towards a low-emissions future and support enhanced action on climate change in the developing world”. The agreements are non-legally binding.

Africa

  • Libyan leader Gaddafi is calling on African nations to join forces to create a one-million strong army to protect the continent and confront outsiders, much like NATO or China. Gaddafi has been pushing for an African unity government for years, claiming it is the only way Africa can develop without Western influence.
  • Eight Darfur rebel groups have formed a coalition preparing for either peace or war. The Justice and Equality Movement, United Revolutionary Forces Front, Sudan Liberation Movement, Liberation and Justice Movement, United Resistance Front, Democratic Justice and Equality Movement, SLM and Democratic Revolutionary Forces Front have signed the alliance in London and have said they are committed to the Qatari sponsored mediation.  Minni Minnawi, the only Darfur faction leader to have signed the Darfur Peace Agreement with the Sudanese government has abandoned his government office this week, announced the failure of the 2006 deal and that he is ready to do battle. Two people were killed in fighting between Minnawi’s forces and Sudanese troops in Darfur on Friday and Saturday. A UN investigation team confirmed on Monday that warplanes from the Sudan Armed Forces had attacked some locations in southern Sudan near the border this month. On Sunday, Sudan Armed Forces accused the Sudan People’s Liberation Army of entering the Abyei area with tanks, an accusation that was later denied by the chief administrator of the region. A video showing a women being whipped by Sudanese uniformed policemen has been widely circulating on the internet.
  • Violence has escalated following the November 28th election in Cote D’Ivoire that saw two Presidents being sworn into power. Some 30 people were killed as opposition-backed protesters took to the streets following the call to take over the government offices and state-run television.
  • A special summit on the illegal exploitation of natural resources in the Great Lakes region took place this week in Zambia. The summit is expected to adopt a number of measures to combat the illegal exploitation.
  • An African Union military tank deliberately rammed into the building of a radio station in Mogadishu, Somalia on Monday. Al-Shabaab fighters have repeatedly threatened to target the radio station, but all requests for protection from AU troops have so far been ignored. At least 15 died over the weekend in Mogadishu, as fighting continued between Somali forces backed by African Union peacekeepers and Al-Shabaab insurgents. More than 100 suspected al-Shabaab militants were arrested by Puntland security forces on Wednesday.
  • Eight camps in the Niger Delta were handed over to the military this week by a former Nigerian militant in an effort to prevent new gangs from emerging. The move is part of the amnesty agreement brokered by President Goodluck Jonathan.
  • The UN has ordered 900 new peacekeepers to a remote location of the DR Congo in an attempt to head off a much feared Christmas attack by the Lord’s Resistance Army. The LRA killed more than 1,000 adults and children at Christmas in 2008 and 2009, and kidnapped hundreds more.
  • The ICC has named six members of parliament in Kenya as major perpetrators of ethnic-based crimes against humanity from the post election violence of 2007-8. The prosecutor has asked for summonses instead of requesting arrest warrants.
  • Israel has begun to build a new separation wall, this time in an effort to keep migrants from Africa out. The new wall will go along the Egyptian border with Egyptian support.

Asia

  • Two separate weapons caches were found in the southern Osh region of Kyrgyzstan on Sunday and Tuesday in private homes. On Wednesday, it was announced that three political parties, the Respublika party, the Social Democratic Party and the Ata-Jurt Party, have agreed to form a governing coalition.
  • The chief of the South Korean army resigned this week, reportedly over a property investment. The General was only named to his current post in June. The Defense Minister resigned only weeks ago following the shelling from North Korea. South Korea ran the country’s biggest-ever evacuation drill on Wednesday, in an attempt to prepare the citizens for a possible attack by North Korea.
  • Protests over low wages in the garment industry in Bangladesh have left at least 3 people dead and dozens others injured. Police are said to have fired tear gas and rubber bullets into the crowd during demonstrations. Security forces captured five outlawed militants following a gunfight during a raid of a hideout on Monday. Several bombs, explosives and bomb making materials were found.
  • Maoist-led New People’s Army guerrillas raided and torched equipment at a copper and gold mine in the southern Philippines ahead of the Christmas ceasefire. Police suspect the rebels were raiding companies who refused to pay extortion money.
  • On Saturday, Pakistani security forces killed five suspected militants in the Swat valley and security forces killed another four militants in a clash that erupted after insurgents attacked a military check post near the Afghan border. A bomb exploded on a school bus in Peshawar on Monday. The blast killed a passer-by and wounded at least four people. Also on Monday, security forces killed three suspected militants and wounded five in the northwest after they attacked a paramilitary post. On Tuesday, militants killed two Pakistani soldiers and wounded six more in Ghalanai and gunmen attacked a Sufi shrine killing two caretakers in Peshawar. Militants in parts of Pakistan are increasingly targeting teachers, college professors and other school personnel, and are said to have killed some 22 teachers in the past two years over unfair advantages between educational resources in the provinces.
  • At least 15 Afghan civilians were killed when their vehicle hit a roadside bomb in Kandahar on Saturday. At least six ISAF soldiers were killed in an attack by suspected Taliban forces on Sunday. On Monday, an ISAF service member was killed by a homemade bomb in Kabul; Afghan and foreign troops killed more than 10 suspected insurgents in Baghlan; ISAF forces carried out an air strike in Ghor; and Afghan troops killed a number of suspected insurgents in Nimroz in an attack that killed three soldiers. Germany, the third-largest troop contributor in Afghanistan, has announced that they will begin withdrawing troops at the end of 2011 this week.

Americas

  • South African Denel Aviation sold 12 Cheetah C supersonic fighter aircraft to Ecuador. 
  • On Sunday, three people were killed in Monterrey, Mexico in cartel fights; the bodies of three separate decapitated victims of drug violence were found near Acapulco; the remains of two beheaded men were found in a supermarket in Mazatlan, marked with the letter Z, a reference to the powerful Zetas drug gang; and investigators dug up five bodies in a series of mass graves in Chihuahua state. On Monday, gunmen killed the owner of a nightclub in Monterrey; six suspected hitmen died in a shootout with the Mexican Army in Diaz Ordaz, with the army seizing grenades, grenade and rocket launchers, and several armored vehicles; and suspected drug gangs burnt down a nursery school in Ciudad Juarez just before children began to arrive for failing to pay extortion money.
  • Two of the top three candidates in Haiti’s presidential election rejected a plan to retally vote sheets by a new commission. Opposition parties are claiming outgoing President Preval and his protege rigged the vote. On Tuesday, candidate Michel Martelly said the second round of Haiti’s presidential election should be open to all 18 candidates rather than a runoff between the top two candidates and that the Provisional Electoral Council should be replaced.
  • A Cuban dissident who helped pressure Cuban authorities to release political prisoners this year with his hunger strike, has been denied permission to travel to accept the European Parliament’s top human rights prize. The European Parliament said it would leave an empty chair to represent him at the ceremony.

Middle East

  • Two Palestinians were killed and an Israeli soldier wounded in an exchange of gunfire near the Gaza Strip border on Saturday. Earlier in the day, a rocket fired from the Gaza Strip hit southern Israel without causing damage. The Israeli ambassador to the US this week announced that “settlements have never been an obstacle to making peace”, in response to the Palestinians stopping the peace talks until all building has been halted.  The EU have announced that they will recognize the Palestinian state “when appropriate”, and “noted with regret” Israel’s failure to extend a moratorium on settlement construction. The US is trying to resuscitate the peace talks with its new special envoy, but has given up trying to persuade Israel to freeze its settlement construction. A damning report released on Monday by the Israeli rights group B’Tselem details the numbers of Palestinian minors who have been arrested by Israeli security in recent years, some as young as 5 years old. More than 900 rabbis from around the world have signed a letter upset at a ruling backed by scores of Israeli rabbis that forbids Jews from renting or selling property to non-Jews.
  • On Saturday, gunmen killed an off-duty police officer in Mosul, Iraq; and a roadside bomb wounded three civilians in Baghdad. A suspected suicide car bomb attack on a government building in Iraq killed at least 17 people in Ramadi on Sunday, while another attack northwest of Baghdad killed at least two people; and a suicide bomber killed a man and his son and wounded three others in Baquba. On Monday, four people were killed and dozens wounded in attacks on three groups of Shiite Muslims observing Ashura; and gunmen opened fire on a police checkpoint in Mosul. On Tuesday, a roadside bomb targeting a Shiite procession killed three and wounded 18 in western Baghdad and a bomb exploded near another Shiite procession wounding 14 north of Baghdad. The US is pushing for the UN Security Council to lift restrictions on the import of nuclear technology to Iraq, despite the fact that Baghdad has not yet ratified a UN agreement on atomic inspections.
  • Armed men captured seven Yemeni soldiers over two days this weekend during protests in Daleh. The abductions are said to have occurred to try and pressure authorities to free prisoners as an exchange.
  • Kuwait shut down al-Jazeera in the country and has withdrawn its accreditation after it broadcast news of an opposition National Assembly member in defiance of government warnings. The station says it will continue to cover news in the country, despite its reporters being barred from working there.
  • An Iranian human rights lawyer has received new criminal charges against her, for “not wearing the hijab” and “not observing Islamic standards of conduct”, added to the charges of “acting against national security”, “assembly and collusion to disrupt security” and “cooperation with the Defenders for Human Rights Centre”. The lawyer represented a number of political prisoners who were arrested during the presidential election unrest last year.

Europe

  • Some 250 Russian soldiers were hospitalized, most with acute respiratory infections of unknown origin this week. A Russian human rights activist claims he was beaten for his professional activities as the head of the Voskhod human rights organization.
  • The leader of Chechnya called on Chechen youths to avoid clashes with extremists following rumours of a planned confrontation between extremist groups and minorities. The tension was sparked by the death of a soccer fan shot dead in a street fight with natives of the North Caucasus.
  • Two Belarusian activists working for opposition presidential candidates were attacked in Belarus on Sunday while distributing leaflets. The presidential election is to happen on December 19th.
  • The German Interior Ministry ordered simultaneous raids in three states on Tuesday against Islamic groups. The groups are suspected of trying to change Germany and make it Islamic.
  • Kosovo’s first general elections since Independence saw Hashim Thaci win the Prime Minister position on Sunday. The turnout was cited as some 47.8%.
  • Two suspected militants and one man were killed in a raid in Daghestan on Sunday. One of the militants is said to be suspected of involvement in several August attacks in the region.
  • Greek anti-austerity strokes turned violent this week, resulting in police firing tear gas outside the Greek parliament. Greek parliament has approved reforms and spending cuts that would include slashing salaries in public utilities only months after civil servants have had their wages and pensions cut.
  • The Prime Minister of Kosovo was found to be the head of a “mafia-like” Albanian group responsible for smuggling weapons, drugs and human organs through eastern Europe, according to a Council of Europe report. Hashim Thaci, who just on Sunday won elections proceedings, is said to have held powerful sway over the country’s government since the 1998-9 war.
the remains of two beheaded men were found in a supermarket in Mazatlan, marked with the letter Z, a reference to the powerful Zetas drug gang;

This week in conflict… December 4th- 10th, 2010

World

  • In an attempt to reduce the risks of nuclear weapons proliferation, the International Atomic Energy Agency voted to set up a global nuclear fuel bank that aspiring nations could turn to for reactor fuel instead of making it themselves. Billionaire Warren Buffett pledged $50 million towards the project. 
  • December 10th was Human Rights Day, a day for the promotion and protection of human rights that marks the anniversary of the signing of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
  • December 9th was International Anti-Corruption Day at the UN headquarters. Recent reports suggest that one in four people in the world paid a bribe over the past year to government institutions.
  • WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange turned himself in and was arrested on Tuesday following an Interpol arrest warrant for sexual crimes. Assange denies the charges and has so far been denied bail. So-called “hactivists” have began a cyber war attacking MasterCard, PayPal, Visa and a Swiss bank for blocking payments to Wikileaks.
  • Nineteen countries have declined invitations to attend the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony in Norway on December 10th, which is allegedly tied to Chinese pressure over the awarding of political dissident Liu Xiaobo. Afghanistan, China, Colombia, Cuba, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Kazakhstan, Morocco, Pakistan, the Philippines, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Serbia, Sudan, Tunisia, Ukraine, Venezuela and Vietnam were all absent. The Nobel committee left a symbolic empty chair for Xiaobo on stage during the ceremonies.
  • Canada, Russia and Japan were under intense pressure to soften their opposition to the Kyoto Protocol during the Cancun climate summit, which ended this week. Details of a deal are to be released shortly.
  • UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon appointed Yukio Takasu of Japan as the special adviser on human security this week, after the General Assembly issued a resolution to continue discussions on the issue earlier this year.

Africa

  • The African Union (AU) has appointed Guinea’s outgoing military leader Sekouba Konate to head its standby  military force, it was announced on Tuesday. Konate would be put in charge of peacekeeping and intervention for a proposed African Standby Force.
  • The UN mission in Chad and Central African Republic (MINURCAT) is wrapping up by the end of the year at the request of the Chadian government. The 5,550 peacekeepers in the area were charged solely with protecting civilians.
  • Seven people were killed in a fresh attack in Nigeria late Friday. The attack was reported to be a suspected reprisal of the alleged killing of a Fulani herdsman. On Sunday, the Borno State police command said five people including two suspected Boko Haram gunmen died in a gun battle on Saturday night. The Nigerian military acknowledged on Monday that civilians died in recent battles with criminal gangs in the oil-rich south and parts of the north in the military offensive against the Niger Delta Liberation Force.
  • WikiLeaks brought to light evidence that two companies, drugmaker Pfizer and oil-giant Shell, are both collecting information on the Nigerian government in an effort to ensure their respective activities go on in the country without interference following major scandals. Shell took it one step further with it’s Wikileaks cable claiming the company to have actually inserted staff into the main ministries in the government.
  • Unrest continued in Cote D’Ivoire following last week’s elections results that left the country’s constitutional court announcing separate results from the electoral commission that resulted in two Presidents being sworn in by separate bodies. South African leader Thabo Mbeki was called in to mediate, but left days later without success. The AU and ECOWAS have suspended incumbent Gbagbo from activities and several international bodies are preparing sanctions. By Friday, Gbagbo gave hints that he might be willing to talk.
  • Egypt faced its second round of parliamentary elections on Sunday, a week after the first round was condemned for alleged fraud. The National Democratic Party is said to have won with a massive majority, amid allegations of fraud, after the Muslim Brotherhood and Wafd party pulled out. The UN refugee agency is urging Egypt to intervene to secure the release of about 250 Eritreans who have been held hostage for at least a month by human traffickers in the Sinai. The hostages are said to be bound by chains around their ankles, deprived of adequate food, tortured and branded like cattle.
  • At least 22 people were killed and more than 35 others wounded in two days of fighting between the African Union and the al-Shabaab fighters in Mogadishu, Somalia. The AU backed government troops claimed to kill some 43 fighters as well.
  • In 2008, Somali pirates discovered a Ukrainian freighter packed with weapons, including 32 Soviet-era battle tanks, headed for the regional government in southern Sudan. The Ukrainian and Kenyan governments both insisted that the tanks were intended for the Kenyan military. WikiLeaks documents have just confirmed that the pirates were telling the truth.
  • Kenyan police announced that they have arrested 346 foreigners after two separate grenade and gun attacks last week that killed three policemen. The suspects are allegedly of Ethiopian and Somali origin.
  • Opposition MPs have claimed the government is arming people in northern Uganda, and the the Inspector General of the Police is recruiting 100 youths from each village to form brigades to aid cheating in the upcoming elections. The government denies all allegations.
  • Local leaders in southern Sudan are calling on the government to arm the local Arrow Boys militia to protect civilians from attacks by the LRA during the January referendum. The militia promises they will return the weapons once the “job” is done. The Sudanese army clashed with troops loyal to a former Darfur rebel leader in southern Sudan on Thursday. The rebel leader is accused of moving his troops to southern Sudan in order to prepare for war. The Sudanese government is claiming that Darfur’s largest refugee camp, protected by the UN and the AU forces, is hiding rebel fighters. The military has threatened to take action. On Friday, the South Sudan army accused the north of bombing its territory in three air attacks in a week, dropping some 18 bombs.

Asia

  • A blast in eastern an Afghanistan army base killed at least two coalition troops and two civilians on Sunday.  On Monday, the ISAF announced they were investigating a possible “friendly-fire” incident in Helmand province from Sunday where an ISAF service member had been killed; and 2 ISAF service members were killed in alleged separate insurgent attacks in Kabul. On Wednesday, two ISAF service members were killed in an attack by insurgents in Kabul; and an air strike by international forces in southern Kabul killed two Afghan soldiers and wounded five more. On Friday, an ISAF service member was killed by a roadside bomb in Kabul.
  • Thousands of people were dispersed by tear gas and a water canon on Sunday in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia following an opposition-backed rally against the federal government’s involvement in a dispute over drinking water. Some 48 people were arrested.
  • Russian airplanes are said to have flown in the region of a joint US-Japanese military drill this week, heightening tensions between Tokyo and Moscow. Military exercises between the US and Japan took place from December 3rd to 10th, with some 44,500 personnel.
  • Land tensions in the Indonesian half of Timor island have recently led to outbreaks of violence. Large numbers of former refugees complicate the issue, as access to precious little cultivable land is in short supply.
  • Wikileaks cables have brought to light the possibility that Myanmar/Burma might be building missile and nuclear sites with North Korean support. Surface-to-air missiles are said to be being built and Burmese workers are constructing a concrete-reinforced underground facility. One of the largest rebel groups in the country say that fighting will escalate if the new government fails to start talks with major ethnic groups, following the recent problematic elections that say the military-backed party win with an overwhelming victory.
  • Sri Lankan rights groups reported that a five-minute video clip that showed blindfolded, naked men being shot dead at close range last month warranted a UN investigation. The government denies that the video, leaked by a Tamil Tiger rebel tv station, is authentic.
  • The International Criminal Court announced on Monday that they have opened a preliminary investigation into possible war crimes by North Korea regarding the recent clashes with South Korea. South Korea began live-fire artillery drills on Monday, ignoring the North Korean warning of war. The North Koreans in return launched apparent artillery drills.
  • Hundreds of protesters in Hong Kong protested this week for China to free dissident Liu Xiaobo so that he can formally be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in Norway. The award was denounced by the Chinese, who had their own peace prize to award on December 9th.
  • Two suicide bombers attacked a meeting of pro-government elders in northwest Pakistan on Monday killing at least 40 people and injuring dozens more. US drone missile attacks are said to have killed another at least five people on Monday. On Tuesday, suspected twin suicide blasts killed at least 50 people and injured many more at a government compound in northwest Pakistan and police say another suicide bomber attacked a convoy carrying the top official in a southwestern province. On Wednesday, a suicide bomber blew himself up beside a crowded bus, killing some 14 people, and wounding many others in Kohat.  On Thursday, four suspected militants were killed after insurgents attacked a check post killing a paramilitary soldier.  On Friday, a suicide bomber blew up a trailer packed with explosives outside a hospital in northwestern Pakistan, killing at least 15 people and wounding many others; and Pakistani security forces are said to have killed 5 suspected militants in a clash.
  • A bomb hidden in a metal canister exploded as thousands gathered for a Hindu ceremony in India, killing a toddler and triggering a stampede that left many wounded. The Indian Mujahideen allegedly sent a five-page claim of responsibility for the attack.

Americas

  • Dozens of people were injured on Easter Island after evicted islanders clashed with riot police. About a dozen buildings are being occupied by native Rapa Nui who say Chile illegally took their family’s ancestral homes. 
  • Protesters in Haiti clashed on Sunday with riot police demanding the annulment of last week’s elections. The police responded with tear gas that left stinging gas clouds blowing over a large camp of homeless survivors from the Jan 12 earthquake. By Wednesday, the violent protests had essentially shut down the country, closing businesses, schools and shops. On Thursday, election officials announced they would review the disputed results in an effort to diffuse the violence.
  • Gunmen ambushed and killed four policemen in their patrol car on Saturday in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico. On Wednesday, an 8 month old, a 16 year old girl and federal officer were gunned down in a series of shootouts between police and suspected La Familia gunmen. On Thursday, gunmen forced drivers from their cars, and set vehicles on fire in the middle of major intersections in Morelia. The suspected leader of La Familia is thought to have been killed in a resulting shootout.
  • An Argentine energy company operating in Brazil has suspended production at several sites after labor protests are said to have gotten violent over the weekend.
  • San Diego demolition teams burned down a house on Thursday that is said to have the largest cache of homemade bomb-making materials ever found in the US. The occupant of the home has so far pleaded not guilty to all charges, and police are unsure what plans he had with the explosives.
  • Guatemala’s Congress passed a bill that would allow the government to confiscate property from convicted criminals in an effort to tackle the wealth of drug traffickers. The bill will allow the state to use, donate or auction seized goods.

Middle East

  • Several Iranian pilgrims were killed in Baghdad on Saturday in separate bomb attacks, with some reports saying at least 16 were dead and more than 100 injured. On Sunday, gunmen killed a couple in their home in eastern Baghdad; gunmen in a speeding car killed a civilian in west-central Baghdad; and gunmen attacked a police checkpoint and killed two policemen in Mosul. On Monday, a roadside bomb exploded in central Baghdad wounding two civilians and another roadside bomb exploded killing two and injuring several others in Baquba. On Wednesday, a bomb targeting Iraqi army patrol killed two civilians and wounded 17 others in Taji; seven Iranian pilgrims were wounded in a roadside bomb attack near Baghdad; a roadside bomb near a police patrol wounded two policemen in southwestern Baghdad; and gunmen opened fire on the home of an Iraqi interior minister, killing his daughter and wounding two other family members. On Friday, a roadside bomb targeting Iraqi police wounded two policemen in southern Baghdad; another roadside bomb killed one civilian and wounded five others in southern Baghdad; and gunmen in a speeding car opened fire at an Iraqi police checkpoint, killing two policemen and wounding two others in Tikrit.
  • Mahmoud Abbas, the President of the Palestinian Authority, announced that his governing body may be dissolved if a peace deal cannot be agreed upon with Israel and the international community. US-brokered peace talks have been deadlocked since September. Brazil has decided to recognize a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders, much to Israel’s disappointment and days later Argentina followed suit. It appears the US has given up its effort to persuade Israeli PM Netanyahu to renew the expired freeze on Jewish settlement construction, leaving Middle East peace talks in limbo.
  • Iran claimed on Sunday that it was now able to use domestically mined uranium to produce nuclear furl, giving it complete control over its process. The move would allow Iran to bypass UN sanctions on import of the material. Nuclear talks began on Monday between Iran and several other global powers, and ended on Tuesday with no agreement but the parties agreeing to meet again in Istanbul next month. Iran, however, is refusing to talk about stopping its enrichment of uranium at the next meeting. On Tuesday, three journalists and the financial manager of a leading Iranian daily were arrested in Tehran with unknown charges, after releasing a special edition containing articles and interviews by critics of the government.
  • Syria’s interference in Lebanon and alleged increasingly sophisticated weapons shipments to Hezbollah have prompted Israel’s military to consider a strike against a Syrian weapons depot. Israel has said they have tracked nighttime missile shipments by Syrian personnel to the Lebanese border.
  • A rally west of Kuwait City on Wednesday injured at least five people, and has put the Prime Minister under questioning. Opposition MPs accuse the government of trying to undermine the status of the constitution in a bid to suppress freedom and democracy.
  • A football game turned violent in Amman between two Jordanian clubs on Friday. Some 250 people were injured after a metal fence collapsed during clashes, and eyewitnesses say that several people were beaten to death by police trying to prevent an escalation of violence.

Europe

  • Thousands of supporters of Macedonia’s leading opposition protested in the capital on Sunday to call for early elections. They accuse the conservative government of mismanaging the economy and criticize its failure to bring the country closer to the EU and NATO. 
  • Police and demonstrators clashed in Greece, after thousands of people gathered to mark the anniversary of a police shooting.
  • Protests in Britain over drastically increasing university tuition fees got violent this week. Police have been accused of “kettling”, a practice that hold demonstrators in small periods of space for long periods of time.
  • All the top police officials in a town east of Moscow, Russia were fired after locals complained of police ignoring crimes. The prosecutor-general announced that four criminal cases were opened against policemen suspected of intentionally obstructing the investigation of numerous crimes.

Something’s rotten in the state of Cote D’Ivoire…

Something didn’t sit right with me while watching this second round of the Presidential vote here in Cote D’Ivoire. The international community jumped on the bandwagon of unconditional, almost unanimous support for Ouattara, without real scrutiny into the results being released by the CEI (electoral commission). The UN, France, the US, the EU, the AU and ECOWAS all congratulated Alassane Ouattara for his “win” early on without question. I think the reasoning behind this move can be attributed to the on-air physical blocking of the reading of the provisional results on Tuesday (two days after the vote) that would have allowed the CEI to read its judgment within its mandated time before the vote was handed off to the Constitutional Council. I believe that they suspected this as a move to block the reading in order to prevent the results from being determined before the Wednesday night deadline and thus was essentially a coup on Gbagbo’s part. This may or may not be true. The Council figures have Gbagbo ahead with a convenient 51% of the vote, only after invalidating 500,000 ballots from Ouattara-supporting regions in seven districts.

The international media has taken occasion to one-sidedly point out flaws with the situation. They have cited that the President of the Constitutional Council is pro Gbagbo and that allowing the Constitutional Council to decide the results would sway the reality. What they aren’t saying is that the President of the CEI as well as the Permanent Secretary and Spokesman are all pro Ouattara and so their reading is also suspect. However, the statement given prior to the election by the Carter Centre would suggest that the “formal adjudication of elections petitions is the responsibility of the Constitutional Council”. There is clearly some imbalance in reporting.

There were several teams of international observers, most notably led by the EU, the Carter Centre and secured by the UN military observers. The EU sent in approximately 120 observers who assisted in observing approximately 4.7% of the polling stations, who may or may not have spoken French, the official language in Cote D’Ivoire. Speaking the local language is incredibly important in order to make impartial and accurate observations. The Carter Centre sent in 10 long term observers to help cover the 322,460 square kilometers and the UN had approximately 192 observers from 42 different countries, who again, may or may not have spoken French.

Three days prior to the vote, the EU electoral observers noted that they had seen a “lack of respect by the CEI (independent electoral commission) of its agreements with observers,” and that “(d)espite a number of requests addressed to the CEI, the EU mission continues to face significant obstacles accessing electoral operations”. The head of the EU electoral monitoring mission, Cristian Preda, then noted shortly after the vote that “(o)ur observers saw irregularities, some obstacles on the day of the vote and serious tension”.

The day after the vote, both sides were complaining of serious intimidation, such as the following statement from opposition Alassane Ouattara’s RDR party, “We have had lots of calls telling us of cases of serious human rights violations, intimidation and prevention of voting,” and statements of several voters such as, “People have not come out today because of the election…We are very afraid about the violence.” It was also reported that the EU had left the administrative capital of Yamoussoukro days before the polls after receiving death threats, making them unable to monitor this largely populated area and the EU themselves announced that barriers were observed blocking people from voting in several places on Sunday, including in Gbagbo’s hometown of Gagnoa and that some ballots were stolen.

The Carter Centre released a report on November 30th citing many problems with the conduct of the vote, which included:

  • documented incidents of violence and intimidation across the country;
  • important procedural irregularities such as the management of the voter lists, failure to check consistently for indelible ink on voter’s fingers (in over half the polling stations visited), and inking the voter’s fingers after they voted;
  • serious election crimes committed such as the destruction of election materials, and ballot box theft;
  • the slow manner which the CEI communicated the important procedural revisions adopted on November 13th, including refusing to admit the existence of the revisions;
  • significant delays in the Sassandra Valley region amid political tension and violence the night of the election;
  • confusion over last minute changes in polling station staff with replacements who did not appear to have received training;
  • following improper steps for voter signature of the voters’ list or use of indelible ink to mark fingers in at least one of ten stations visited;
  • the lack of the “ordre de mission” certificates establishing the rights of voters that was to be retained by polling staff after the voter cast his or her ballot to prevent multiple voting was absent in at least one quarter of the stations visited;
  • the potential for voter intimidation in at least five percent of the stations visited;
  • and serious election day irregularities after the closing of polling stations

The Carter Centre also stated in that report that it “believes it is essential for there to be an investigation of these incidents,” and noted that the “formal adjudication of election petitions is the responsibility of the Constitutional Council”. So why then, is the Constitutional Council no longer responsible for the formal adjudication? Why has the international community taken it on themselves to declare a winner without their consultation or without investigation into the serious irregularities noted by all parties?

There were also several local civil society organizations charged with elections observations that spoke the language fluently and had intimate knowledge of the local terrain and customs. The COFEMCI-NCEP, COSOPCI, WACSOF-CI RAIDH WANEP-CI coalition had 938 observers in both the Cote D’ivoire and France. They found significant violence, intimidation and voting impediments, particularly in the North, South and forest zone; that the presence of intrusive law enforcement was likely to intimidate voters; the confusion caused by the release of the Ministry of the Interior and that of the Prime Minister’s office showed a lack of coordination and monitoring of the process at the government level; the barring of observers from certain polling stations in Vallee du Bandama; the intrusive presence of law enforcement and disappearance of six ballot boxes in Dix-Huit Montanges; the violence against LMP activists in the Savannah region; the assault in the town of Daloa in Bas Sassandra and the snatching of ballot boxes; massive disorder in Kumasi; that counting was conducted in haste; that sometimes ballot boxes were completely abandoned after the process; and that overall it was difficult to conduct peaceful elections that would be considered free, fair and transparent. These findings were largely ignored by the international media.

Another group of civil society monitors from the CSCI (funded through the EU) had 1100 observers throughout the country who visited on average seven polling stations each or around 38% of the stations. They noted an absence of some election officials in polling stations; the late arrival and lack of election material in the polling stations; the notable absence or delay of Security Forces officials for protection in several locations; several incidents of violence at polling stations; the destruction and removal of ballot boxes; multiple voting in several locations; the impediment of voting in several locations; the absence, late arrival or departure of certain candidate representatives in several regions; the barring of monitors from observing the counting process in some locations; the insecurity of some convoys transferring results, including attacks on some of the convoys; poor quality elections ballots spotted; polling booths that breached confidentiality; insufficient ballots in some locations; and ballot boxes unsealed or only partially sealed. They also noted that the voter turnout was around 70%. Again, these findings were largely ignored in the international media, even though the local monitors had nearly ten times more observers in the country and were accessing far more stations than the international monitors were capable of. These observers are there to represent the voice of the Ivorian people (whose election this is) through their own civil society and they are being almost totally ignored.

Considering that all in all, probably less than half the stations were actually monitored at all, most for only short periods of time throughout the day, and that there were significant reports of irregularities and violence in those stations actually monitored, this election can hardly be counted as “fair and free”.

Looking through the official tally sheets provided by the CEI (electoral commission) and comparing the results for the first and second rounds, some things strike me as very odd…

  • There are 64,290 extra registered voters in the second round (5,783,349 in the first and 5,847,639 in the second) though the official total tally printed on the top of the results from the second round is still listed as the same as the first. When one actually adds up the “inscrits” in each region though, it is easily shown that the numbers don’t add up to the reported total. The Special Representative of the Secretary-General set out the criteria for the official certified final voter list as 5,725,720, yet there are clearly more than that present in the CEI’s reported second round.
  • The entire foreign French vote was removed from the second round. France had 13,881 registered voters in the first round, and Gbagbo received 53.2% of the French vote in the first round, with Ouattara receiving only 25.4% and Bedie with 16.5%.
  • They must have gotten significantly better at filling out the ballots in the second round, despite the lack of education or public awareness to this end in the country, as there were 124,957 less “null” votes counted in the second round from the first round. In fact, there was more than double the amount of “null” votes in the first round compared to the second (225,624 and 101,476 respectively). There are some reasons that *might* account for less nulls in the second round, such as the change from 14 candidates to 2 candidates on the ballot, but when one considers that in some regional cases they had nearly 15 times less null votes in the second round than in the first, it does become rather suspect. In 2000, 12.40% of votes were invalidated, in the first round of these elections there were 4.59% invalidated and only 2.16% in the second round.
  • Voter turnout was originally cited in foreign press and by observers as between 65-70%. Local reports set the turnout at 71.28%, and local observers noted an approximate 70% turnout. Despite this, the final tally of voter turnout as documented by the CEI was cited as 80.19%, only slightly (3.4%) less than the first round (83.63%). When one tallies up the actual number of counted votes, there are actually 63,327 more votes in the second round than in the first (counting “suffrages exprimes”). If there was voter intimidation in many districts, as was reported by all elections monitors, then one would expect that the voter turnout and number of votes would be significantly less than the first. By comparison voter turnout in 2000 was only 28.06%.

While I am certainly not making the case for Gbagbo’s victory, I do believe that the international community’s announcement of a winner in this case is severely flawed and is only exacerbating tensions and violence in the region. The Special Representative to the Secretary-General himself set the criteria for benchmarks to assess the fair and free nature of the vote as whether there was a secure environment that allows for the full participation of the population, that the electoral process is inclusive, that the voters lists are credible and that the results are determined through a transparent counting process and are accepted by all or are challenged peacefully through the appropriate channels. These criteria were CLEARLY not met, and instead of calling for the challenging through appropriate channels, the international community has taken sides without questioning the results one side is offering in the slightest. The international community’s response has only ensured that dialogue between the parties will now be next to impossible (when a unity government could have been proposed if a winner had not been announced), and that mediation will now be extremely suspect for any solution.

The Ivorian people should be in charge of their own destiny and international bodies should remember their place—to act as mediators, diplomats and not adjudicators.

 

 

 

 

 

This week in conflict… November 27th- December 3rd, 2010

World

  • Whistle-blowing website WikiLeaks released some 250,000 diplomatic cables from the US government this week, amid much controversy. The site then faced cyberattacks, attempts to shut it down, attempts to arrest its spokesman Julian Assange, and the blocking of its paypal financial account. Ecuador offered Julian Assange refuge within their borders.
  • Foreign Policy came out with its 2nd annual Top 100 Global Thinkers list. In my opinion, the list leaves much to be desired as I would like to see more peacemakers or revolutionary thinkers, instead of the heavy focus on bankers, corporate leaders and policy makers who have a knack for spreading and continuing cultural violence under a false guise of humanitarianism.
  • Wednesday, December 1st, was World AIDs day. Around 2.7 million new HIV infections still occur each year, and despite scaled-up treatment, there are still five new HIV infections for every two who gain access to treatment.
  • UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said he was in favor of adding more members to the UN Security Council this week, and that it was the prevailing view among UN members that the current format is in need of reformation. If only reformation meant removing the veto and the privilege of permanent membership in favor of a more balanced, equal system…
  • The two week long UN Climate Change conference is underway in Cancun, Mexico, and many are hoping that real change can be negotiated this time around, though most are still doubtful. Canada stepped up to win the 1st, 2nd and 3rd place Fossil of the day awards, which are given to those who have done the most to disrupt or undermine negotiations, on Tuesday.

Africa

  • Egypt’s November 28th parliamentary elections were marred by widespread allegations of fraud that eventually led to the Muslim Brotherhood and Wafd opposition groups withdrawing. The electoral commission dismissed the fraud allegations. Turnout was said to be only around 15%, although other sites claimed as high as 35%. On Monday, protesters clashed with police and setting fire to cars, tires and schools and riots broke out in several cities.
  • Cote’s D’Ivoire’s elections were marked by violence and coup allegations. Please read my recent articles about the elections and the international response.
  • The UN issued a warning that armed groups in the eastern Congo, including the army, have formed criminal networks to exploit the country’s mineral wealth. The UN sought to extend its mandate of the Group of Experts in the country who are monitoring the arms embargo and sanctions. The UN Group of Experts have also released their latest report on the troubles in the DR Congo. The UN Security Council ordered sanctions and blacklisting of an army commander in the DRC on Wednesday, which amounted to a travel ban and freeze of their financial assets.
  • Kenya’s Prime Minister Odinga ordered the arrest of gay couples on Sunday on the grounds that their behaviour is “unnatural”. The PM asserted that a recent census showed that there were more women than men and that there were “no need” for same sex relationships. On Friday, two Kenyan police officers were killed in a gun and grenade attack in Nairobi by two men on a motorbike.
  • At least 1,500 south Sudanese civilians have fled the north-south border area fearing aerial attacks by the Sudan Armed Forces. The SPLA accused Khartoum of using newly-acquired Chinese planes to try and disrupt the upcoming referendum, which is to happen on December 8th. On Thursday, the south accused the northern-backed militias of killing 10 soldiers and 2 civilians in an ambush, which the north denied.
  • Two Islamist fighters are said to have died in a clash with the Algerian army on Sunday. Algerian troops are said to have surrounded the group and made an assault after residents alerted them to the presence of armed elements in the wooded region.
  • Guinea’s Supreme Court has declared Alpha Conde as President, finally confirming the results after a two-week wait. Rival candidate Cellou Dalein Diallo’s supporters had taken to the streets claiming the vote was tainted by fraud.
  • At least 40 people were killed in Mogadishu, Somalia in three consecutive days of fighting this week between al Shabaab and Hizbul Islam against the troops from the Transitional Federal Government and the African Union peacekeepers. The Bakara Market was heavily shelled in the fighting, killing and injuring many civilians. On Thursday, it was reported that another at least 35 people were killed in intense violence after two insurgent groups fought each other.
  • The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission in Nigeria has announced that they will be charging former US Vice-President Dick Cheney over the bribery scandal involving an engineering firm, KBR, a subsidiary of Halliburton. Cheney was chief executive officer of Halliburton when the KBR firm had admitted to bribing Nigerian government officials over the construction of a liquefied natural gas plant in Nigeria.

Asia

Americas

  • Haiti voted on November 28th in an election that was denounced as a “massive fraud” by 12 out of 18 presidential candidates, although international observers considered the vote “valid” despite the irregularities. Protests and demonstrations flared across the capital, resulting in the death of at least 2 people. Results are to be made public starting December 5th, with the official tally announced December 20th. The UN and international support are rumoured to leave Haiti if the government fails to honour the elections results.
  • Brazilian security forces seized control of Rio’s most notorious slum on Sunday following a week of attacks by drug gangs in retaliation for the pacification campaign. The police say they confiscated 40 tons of marijuana, 50 assault rifles and 9 antiaircraft guns.
  • A 15-year-old student armed with a handgun held nearly two dozen students and a teacher hostage in a Wisconsin school on Tuesday. The standoff ended when the gunman shot himself, and there were no other reported injuries.
  • A new report released by Disability Rights International revealed tragic conditions in Mexican institutions for the mentally and physically disabled that included lobotomies performed without consent, children missing from orphanages, widespread filth and squalor and lack of medical care. The report has been called particularly galling because Mexico had championed human rights for the disabled and helped to write the international standards in response to earlier damaging reports. On Monday, Mexican soldiers found the bodies of 18 people buried on a ranch near the Texan border, and gunmen killed a female police chief.

Middle East

  • Bomb attacks killed a prominent Iranian nuclear scientist and wounded another in Tehran on Monday. Iranian President Ahmadinejad accused Israel and Western governments of the assassinations. A new round of nuclear talks on Iran are to begin on December 5th. 
  • Israel’s cabinet voted to build a facility to hold thousands of illegal immigrants who enter the country, mostly from Africa. The centre, which Israel stipulates is not a jail, would provide the basic needs for the migrants until they can be expelled from the country.
  • Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) released a statement this week labeling Houthi rebels in Yemen as “legitimate targets” and claiming that new attacks were being prepared against them. The statement vowed to kill Sunnis, destroy their homes and displace their families and are said to have increased Sunni-Shiite tensions in the northern areas.
  • In Iraq, on Sunday, a sticky bomb killed one person and wounded four in western Baghdad; three people were wounded in another sticky bomb attack in southern Baghdad; and US forces opened fire and killed an Iraqi engineer on a road after he allegedly failed to slow down at the US patrol. On Monday, police found the bullet-riddled bodies of a policeman and a member of a government backed militia north of Baghdad; police found the bullet-riddled body of a woman in Mosul; police found the body of a policeman shot in the head south of Baghdad; gunmen shot dead a taxi driver in Mussayab; gunmen shot dead a man near his home in Mosul; and militants bombed three electrical transmission towers in Anbar province, cutting power to numerous cities and towns for months. On Tuesday, a sticky bomb killed a driver in western Baghdad; and a roadside bomb wounded at least three civilians in central Baghdad. On Thursday, Iraqi soldiers killed three armed men and arrested another in Mosul; Iraqi soldiers killed an attacker who allegedly tried to throw a hand grenade at an army patrol in eastern Mosul; gunmen shot dead a civilian near his house in western Mosul; gunmen stormed a house and killed a teenage girl in western Mosul; a roadside bomb at an Iraqi police patrol wounded one policeman and two civilians in eastern Baghdad; gunmen shot dead a human rights ministry employee in Baghdad; a roadside bomb targeting Iraqi police patrol wounded two policemen in Baghdad; a roadside bomb exploded and wounded three civilians in central Baghdad and a sticky bomb wounded a driver in northern Baghdad.

Europe

  • On Sunday, Swiss voters approved a plan for automatic deportation of foreigners who commit serious crimes or benefit fraud. Anti-racism groups complained of racist posters showing white sheep kicking black sheep off a Swiss flag.
  • Moldova voted on November 28th in its general elections. The ruling pro-Europe alliance was reported as ahead of the opposition Communists, but it is still unclear whether the three-party Alliance for European Integration will gather enough mandates to allow it to elect a president and end a long-running political deadlock.
  • Two explosions in the Georgian capital of Tbilisi killed at least one person on Sunday. No cause or possible motive have yet been released.
  • Government security forces killed two suspected militants in Daghestan. The militants were described as ideologues of an underground terrorist group.
  • Russian President Medvedev warned on Tuesday that if the West and Russia cannot agree upon a joint European missile defense program, it will trigger a new arms race. The President also pledged his support for the NATO suggestions of an alliance missile shield that will be a topic of discussion at the upcoming NATO summit. However, on Wednesday, Vladmir Putin warned that Russia would be forced to deploy new nuclear weapons if the US does not agree to a partnership with Russia over the plans for a missile defense shield. On Wednesday, police in Moscow detained 10 HIV-positive protesters who were congregated outside the government buildings holding placards demanding medical care to mark World AIDs day. On Thursday it was reported that the prosecutor’s office in a central Russia city has asked the local Muslim leader to provide detailed information about the people who attend the local Islamic centre following a months-long court battle to build a mosque in the city.
  • Belarus has announced it will give up its stockpile of nuclear weapons materials by 2012. Belarus gave up its Soviet-era inherited nuclear weapons in 1994, but still retained highly enriched uranium stocks.
  • Immigrants in Greece have been subject to increasing violent attacks by suspected right-wing extremists in recent weeks. Experts say that this reflects a growing general trend of hate crimes against Muslims throughout Europe. On Thursday, police fired teargas at protesting university students demonstrating against increasing tuition fees and austerity reforms, injuring at least 3 demonstrators. A controversial bid to build a mosque in Athens have increased tensions as open-air services resulted in clashes between police and protesters from the extreme-right.
  • British students continued their demonstrations against proposed university tuition hikes amid hundreds of arrests.

International community’s response to the Ivorian situation.

I have no access to foreign tv news and radio at the moment, as it has been cut off through the government in an attempt to stop what is being termed “illegal” announcements of a Presidential winner. I have been trawling the internet searching for the international response to the current situation trying to gauge international opinion and what information is being released where.

The election happened last Sunday, and since then things have gone severely downhill. What most frustrates me about what I have so far read in the international news is that several states and bodies (the UN, the EU, the US, the French, etc.) have taken it upon themselves to declare who the winner should be. I see major problems with this bold assertion.

The elections have been marred with political intimidation and violence– and conflicting evidence has been found that makes the election at least suspect. Declaring a winner smacks of colonial imperialism. The Special Representative of the Secretary-General and head of the UN peacekeeping mission in Cote D’Ivoire earlier expressed that the tally sheets were being transported normally, while EU electoral commission was suggesting that there were many irregularities and serious tension at the vote. Then they seemingly unanimously stand with Ouattara and announce him as rightful President without finding the full facts first. Instead of automatically declaring a winner, I feel that a more democratic approach would have been an appeal for peace, an investigation, release of the actual results from each district and recounts or investigation into contested areas so that the true voice of the Ivorian people can be represented. By asserting a winner, the international community is overstepping its role and only increasing tensions.

I have also been inundated with email messages since posting my last entry only a few hours ago, which was quite surprising to me as I don’t usually receive so many comments immediately following a post. There are clearly very strong feelings about both candidates. Frankly, it is not for me to say which candidate should have won here and I would never make that suggestion, I am merely trying to paint the situation as I have observed from local media so far. I am saddened to see the strong cultural violence that has been reiterated in many of these messages and comments, and have to say, that unfortunately– if your comment is one-sided without a proof to back it up or contains insults or disrespect directed towards one group– I will not be re-printing your message. I am willing to engage in conversation about the subject, and if you feel I have wrongly withheld your comments, please try messaging me again and provide some backings for your claims. Sorry to anyone that this offends.

All I can hope for is peace and calm and for the voice of the Ivorian people to be respected, and that no more deaths come from this election.

Peace!

Rebecca

Return to the coup d’etat status quo: Elections in Cote D’Ivoire

Here’s a piece I just wrote for STAND Canada. I was going to write a second piece exclusively for this blog, but am still tired and weakened from my recent bout with malaria that I didn’t feel quite up to it yet. I’ll have some new pieces for you soon and should have the weekly conflict roundup posted sometime tomorrow!

Since this piece was written last night, we have had some more news: the Constitutional Council has overturned the CEI’s election results and announced that Gbagbo has won the elections with 51% of the vote, after eliminating seven regions in the Ouattara-supported North.

Peace!

Rebecca Sargent


It looked promising. A face to face debate between the two candidates days before the second round of elections featured set two minute response times to each question to curtail any cutting off or interruptions and ended in a handshake and gentle embrace between Laurent Gbagbo and Alassane Ouattara. They laughed and joked with each other, even telling of friendly phone conversations between them over the past years, and calling for an end to some escalating violent tones within street campaigning. Onlookers might think they were old friends and not longstanding political rivals who had previously battled each other in civil war. I watched while the days progressed as people who had repeatedly talked of peace and patience quickly turned to spread hype-filled rumours, enhancing cultural violence and tensions. Today, we know a new coup was born and democracy was again denied for the people of Cote D’Ivoire.

The night before the election, tensions boiled over and clashes broke out in the streets, resulting in at least six reported deaths and many injuries. Current President Gbagbo announced a five-day curfew, later extended indefinitely, that would run from night until mornings in an attempt to reduce the violence happening in the streets. Ouattara subsequently stated that the curfew was illegal, unconstitutional and that it would open the door to electoral fraud, preventing election results from being properly delivered and counted. Angered, he and many of his supporters refused to respect the curfew and that night many youth supporters took to the streets in Abidjan against it, clashing with police as demonstrations turned violent. At least three people were reported killed.

The day of the vote was tense. Polls opened late in many areas, and eager voters were restricted from lining up at first light as they had in the previous round because the curfew prevented it. Voter intimidation was cited several regions, and many people chose to simply stay home to avoid the violence or threats. Despite the intimidation and several early complaints of irregularity, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General and head of the UN peacekeeping mission in Cote D’Ivoire, Y.J. Choi, expressed that he had “no doubt that no (sic) candidate will resort to undemocratic means to express his position on the results of the poll”; citing that the tally sheets were being transported normally despite the rumours and false alarms. The EU electoral commission head suggested otherwise, announcing early on that their “observers saw irregularities, some obstacles on the day of the vote and serious tension”. The streets became ghost towns and the majority of shops were closed.

Originally, we were told results would be released within 48 hours of the vote, though the CEI (electoral commission) constitutionally had until Wednesday at midnight to make their announcements before it would be turned over to the Supreme Court’s decision. On Tuesday, glued to the tv, we watched as a Gbagbo supporter within the CEI physically seized the papers of the provisional results out of the commission spokesman’s hands and tore them up in front of a crowd of journalists, claiming the results were not valid. Ouattara alleged Gbagbo was attempting to confiscate power by preventing the results from being read, while Nigerian President and head of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) asked both candidates to “tone down their rhetoric and maintain peace”.  Results were to be read the following day, but as the day came and went, no new news was released. Rumours of more clashes in the street were abundant, but unconfirmed as we called our friends around the country asking for information on the happenings in their neighbourhoods. At this point the CEI constitutional right to announce the results had expired, leaving the tallying in the hands of the Ggbagbo-appointed Supreme Court. It seemed that the CEI was forbidden from making any further announcements on state television after the confiscation earlier in the day.

[continue reading]

This piece is an afterthought of a series I wrote for STAND on the elections process in Cote D’Ivoire which can viewed here:

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3