Month: January 2011

This week in conflict… January 22nd-28th, 2011

World

  • A new theory about hunger charges that traders in the global commodity markets are making billions from speculating on food while causing food prices to yo-yo and inflate. Changes to “hedging” rules in the mid-90s caused foods to be turned into “derivatives” that could be bought and sold among traders that had nothing to do with agriculture, while the 2006 sub-prime disaster in the US caused billions of dollars to be moved into safe commodities, especially foods. Some suggest that the food markets are now heavily distorted by investment banks, to the detriment of the world’s poor. In light of the recent demonstrations across northern Africa, experts are advising policymakers to better control food prices and have released a new guide on how to properly do that.
  • A new report suggests that electronics company Apple is polluting and poisoning the environment, despite their claims of environmental stewardship. The report was put out by a Chinese activist group IPE.
  • The United States Institute of Peace has released a report on gender in conflict, that discusses masculinity concerns in conflict and peacebuilding. The report suggests that the narrow approach to gender (which is often synonymous with women) fails to include masculinity issues in analysis, having important consequences on policy interventions. Women may be combatants or direct participants in sexual violence, though this is often overlooked.
  • Human Rights Watch’s annual report was released on Monday, and was particularly critical of Ban Ki-moon, the Secretary General, for failing to speak out more forcefully against human rights abuses. The report suggests that Ban sometimes went out of his way to portray repressive governments in a positive light and that this has filtered down through the system and made people reticent to speak out on abuses in places like Zimbabwe and Sri Lanka. This year again, I speak my concerns that the report does not address western countries, aside from the US, who are also guilty of human rights abuses but often go unpunished and unnoticed.
  • More than 2,000 business, government, civil society and academia leaders met in Switzerland to discuss a wide array of issues, including the rise of India and China as global powers, anxieties about European debt, austerity, joblessness, the risk of runaway inflation in fast-growing economies, and the failings of the global economic system (such as poverty and inequality), at the 41st World Economic Forum. The meeting is said to be protected by tight security of some 4,000 troops. The head of JP Morgan delivered an angry speech against “banker bashing”, complaining that the entire industry is being tarred with the same brush and implying that bankers have become political whipping boys. On Wednesday, police evacuated a building and removed a suspicious object after a group said they had targeted the St. Gallen business school to coincide with the Forum. A small blast thought to be caused by fireworks at the hotel close to the Forum shattered two windows on Thursday; was later claimed by an anonymous poster who said it was directed at the Swiss government officials and senior executives of the Swiss bank UBS staying at the hotel. UN Secretary-General called the world’s current economic model an environmental “global suicide pact” that will have disastrous results if not reformed at the forum on Friday.
  • The FAO, IFAD, and ILO released a new report on gender dimensions of agricultural and rural development that gives trends and statistics about proportions of women in agriculture versus men. The report argues that women are hampered by persistent gender inequalities.
  • A biologist at Colorado State University is developing a plant that can detect explosives. The biologist has done so by engineering the plant’s DNA so that it turns white when it comes into contact with certain chemicals found in explosives.

Africa

  • Sudan Armed Forces announced late Friday that it had killed 13 rebels and lost 8 soldiers in  clashes with armed groups in North Darfur. On Sunday, the AU-UN Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) announced that the Sudanese authorities conducted a raid on internally displaced people (IDPs) to search for weapons and other illegal items, that violated the Status of Force Agreement in place and that the UNAMID forces had stepped up their presence in a camp for IDPs in North Darfur in response. UNAMID also confirmed reports of intense fighting between the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and Sudan Liberation Army/Minni Minnawi in Tabit, though they have been prevented from entering the area by SAF forces invoking security concerns. Provisional results and documents on the referendum vote suggest that their were irregularities, with more than 100% of people registered in seven of the 76 counties in the south voting, but that they were small and unlikely to change the overall results. The ICRC organized a transfer of 31 released soldiers between the Sudanese government and the Justice and Equality Movement. The satellite mapping project launched by human rights activists says images captured during South Sudan’s referendum this month confirm reports that Sudanese troops were deployed in strategic areas along the North-South border during the vote. Sudanese President al-Bashir vowed on Tuesday to step down if he ever felt that the people do not want him during a rally in reference to the recent uprisings in other African nations. An independent south Sudan has announced it will consider joining the International Criminal Court (ICC), the body that has indicted Sudan’s president for war crimes and genocide. Fighting between the government and rebel groups in North and South Darfur is said to be returning to past patterns of violence, displacing tens of thousands of people. On Thursday, it was reported that Sudan’s army had bombed rebel positions in Darfur and later surrounded and threatened to burn down a refugee camp. UN peacekeepers are also said to have been threatened by the forces.
  • The Central African Republic voted on Sunday, amid voting delays with around 1.8 million out of 4.8 million registered voters voting. Results are to be announced within 8 days, with either incumbent Bozize (who seized control in 2003), Ange-Felix Patasse (the ex-President ousted by Bozize returning from exile) or Martin Ziguele (a former PM of Patasse) being the top runners. On Monday, the opposition party denounced irregularities and presented a long list of grievances, including alleged fictitious and displaced polling stations and problematic voter rolls. By Wednesday, three of the five candidates in the election were calling on the polls to be annulled.
  • The protesting continued in Tunisia, with police using teargas to try and disperse them, as protesters gathered at the PM’s office in an effort to remove the government linked to ousted President Ben Ali. On Saturday, the PM pledged to leave Tunisian politics after elections, and that all undemocratic laws would be scrapped in the transition to democracy. On Sunday, the owner of a private TV station and his son were arrested for “grand treason” for allegedly inciting violence and working for ousted leader Ben Ali’s return, concerning several rights activists who said the move was a sign that the protests were unnerving authorities. On Monday, the general of the army spoke publicly for the first time since Ben Ali’s ousting, pledging to uphold the revolution and urging patience until elections can be held; and the Paris prosecutor’s office said it was opening a preliminary investigation to determine Ben Ali’s assets in France. On Wednesday, Tunisian authorities asked for international arrest warrants to be issued for Ben Ali and members of his family for possession of expropriated property and transferring foreign currency abroad. Rival protests continued in the capital, with hundreds rallying in favour of the interim government, and another part demonstrating against the government. It is said that “speakers’ corners” are now flourishing within the country. By Wednesday, the Minister of Justice announced that nearly 700 people had been arrested during the unrest on suspicions of “sabotage, violence, and looting”, while some 74 prisoners are said to have died in the uprising. Authorities had also dissolved an agency which acted as an effective censor of foreign media during the rule of Ben Ali, and suggested that the Interior, Defence and Foreign Affairs Ministers would all be replaced as part of the cabinet reshuffle. The reshuffle resulted in the replacement of five key ministers from the Ben Ali government on Friday.
  • The fifth round of UN-backed informal talks on the Western Sahara dispute concluded on Sunday, with Morocco and Frente Polisario agreeing to continue the talks in March. Morocco has presented a plan for autonomy while the Polisario’s position is that the territory’s status should be decided in a referendum on self-determination that includes independence as an option.
  • Civil society organizers in Liberia are expressing grave concern over corrupt practices that they say are marring the voter registration process. They fear that the flawed registration process could lead to a chaotic election.
  • The extra-judicial killings of three suspected criminals by police that was caught on tape last Wednesday has Kenyan rights groups outraged. Despite denials by the government, many suggest that the police have been systematically executing suspected criminals, with the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights saying it received 55 cases of alleged police shootings last year.
  • Voter registration problems continued to plague Nigeria this week, with claims that some Direct Data Capture machines used to register were already loaded with over 1,000 names, thumb-prints and pictures before they were even unpacked. Several regions had yet to be supplied with the machines five days into the process, some received medical scanners instead of registration machines, some witnessed protests, some people had fears that HIV/AIDs victims would be rejected by the machines and refused to expose themselves, while other regions had to spend long times registering each person and suggested that the time frame for the registration may need to be extended. On Monday, the army said that gunmen killed a soldier guarding a church in the northeastern part of the country, but did not confirm who was behind the shooting. A new bomb, which allegedly dropped by parachute from an unidentified aircraft, was reportedly found at a primary school in Enugu State on Monday night. On Tuesday, the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission and the commissioners were reviewing the performance of the registration exercise and exploring the possibility of an extension, which is deemed likely.  On Wednesday, House Representatives okayed a four week extension on voter registration and members of the late President Yar’Adua’s family denounced their membership with the ruling PDP party and moved to the opposition CPC party; while renewed violence in Bauchi killed 10. On Thursday, 14 were killed in new violence in Jos, and 29 armed Fulani herdsmen were arrested.
  • Tanzanian MP David Kafulila announced he would table a motion on a vote of no confidence in the government if it pays the firm Dowans over breach of contract. Last year, the ICC ordered Tanzania Electricity Supply Company to pay Dowans TSh 106 billion (some $70 million USD) for the breach. A civilian reader of A Peace of Conflict in Tanzania sent information that there was chaos, threats of demonstration and riots over the concern among the general population.
  • ECOWAS’s leaders are saying they have little option left in Cote d’Ivoire but to deploy ECOWAS standby force to remove Gbagbo from office and install opposition Ouattara after the disputed Presidential elections. The Nigerian Foreign Affairs Minister  has urged the UN to sanction the use of force. A new delegation from ECOWAS will meet with US President Obama and the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to discuss the crisis. On Saturday, the Banque Central des Estats d’Afrique de l’Ouest (Central Bank of West African States), forced an alleged Gbagbo crony to resign his post as governor of the bank under pressure from the region’s leaders and instead requested Ouattara nominate a new candidate. On Monday, Ugandan leader Museveni described the UN’s recognition of Ouattara’s win “simplistic” and called upon an independent investigation, suggesting that the UN had overstepped its role in selecting a winner. On Wednesday, it was reported that Gbagbo had moved to seize local branches of the regional central bank in face of the increasing financial sanctions and that utilities were also seized. A growing number of African nations are said to be backing away from calls for military intervention as African Union leaders are divided about how to continue. Human Rights Watch reported that security forces have carried out torture, rape, forced disappearances and extra-judicial killings, and that militiamen loyal to Gbagbo are imposing a “reign of terror” against Ouattara supporters, though their research was focused only within Abidjan.
  • Uganda’s upcoming elections are facing possible crisis, as opposition leaders demanded they be postponed on Tuesday until more than four million newly-registered voters were issued their voting cards. They charged that the official figure of 13.9 million voters on the provisional register don’t add up in a country of 32 million where 56% of the population is under 18. The government responded that it would not be possible to postpone the vote and dismissed the case to issue voting cards before the elections. Incumbent Museveni said in an interview with the BBC that he would retire if he lost in the democratic process but that he expected to win by a big majority. Security chiefs have assured Ugandans of peace and stability during the February 18th elections, while 34 observers from the EU Election Observer Mission arrived in the country ahead of the polls. One of Uganda’s most prominent gay rights activists was bludgeoned to death in his home on Wednesday, just weeks after winning a court victory over a tabloid that called for homosexuals to be killed. Meanwhile a lesbian being deported back to the country from Britain have been told by a Ugandan MP that she must “repent or reform” when she returns home, sparking fears for the safety of those being deported.
  • Anti-government protesters in Egypt clashed with police this week (you can follow the live updates here), inspired by the Tunisian demonstrations. At least 30 had been reported as arrested on Tuesday, but this number was reported as high as 500 by Wednesday and listed as over a thousand by Thursday. A British journalist with the Guardian describes a telling story of the abuse he received at the hands of the police. The President’s son and family are said to have fled to London on Tuesday, as some four people died in protests that went well into the night. On Wednesday, it appears Egyptian access to facebook, facebook and live vide streaming site Bambuser were denied in order to prevent activists from using those websites used extensively to coordinate their efforts, while later there were reports that the country had descended into a complete internet and SMS blackout with the possibility of landlines even being cut. Despite the outlawing by authorities on Tuesday of any public gatherings and promise of “immediate” arrest, the protests continued. On Thursday, angry demonstrators torched a police post in Suez, while police are said to have responded by firing rubber-coated bullets, water cannons and teargas. The Egyptian dissident Mohamed ElBaradei warned the President on the fourth day of protests (Friday) that his regime was “on its last legs”, while the President announced a curfew in the main cities to run from 6pm to 7am.
  • UN investigators are said to have many more women than previously thought who were raped by Congolese soldiers during a New Year’s rampage. A senior army commander accused of ordering the rapes was arrested on Friday. Investigators have so far documented at least 67 women, including a teenager and two pregnant women. Medicins Sans Frontieres (Doctors without Borders) expressed their concern this week that some 600 nomadic herders in the Northern Congo were being forced to continually flee after being targeted by the FADRC (Congolese Army). The French police handed over Rwandan rebel leader Callixte Mbarushimana to the ICC in the Hague on Tuesday, on charges of rape, murder, torture, and other atrocities committed during a terror campaign against Congolese citizens. On Friday, it was reported that armed men had raped 60 people, men, women and children, in the eastern part of the country in the last ten days.
  • The African Union peacekeepers in Somalia apologized for Mogadishu civilian casualties after AU soldiers opened live gunshots on civilians who rushed to help a boy accidentally hit by a vehicle. On Tuesday, at least 4 civilians were said to be wounded when their bus came under fire by the AU forces. At least 10 people, mostly fighters, are said to have been killed in central Somalia on Tuesday in battles between al Shabaab and a pro-government militia. The UN and the AU held a high-level meeting this week to review efforts to achieve peace, security and reconciliation in the country in Ethiopia. At least 10 people, including six civilians, were killed in Mogadishu on Wednesday in street battles between al-Shabaab and Somali government forces and AMISOM as the civil war marks its 20th year. The government canceled an agreement with Saracen International, a private security company linked to Blackwater, to train Somali forces on Thursday.
  • Australia is warning of the possibility of a terrorist attack in Ethiopia during the 16th Ordinary Session of the African Heads of State and Government.
  • Zimbabwe’s Mugabe has threatened to dissolve parliament and prepare the country for elections if the coalition government doesn’t come to an agreement on when to hold the poll. PM Tsvangirai has called for elections only when the new constitution is in place, at least a year away. Mugabe has also threatened to revert to the old constitution, that gives him rights as President to dissolve parliament.
  • Gabon faces difficulties after opposition parliamentarian Andre Mba Obame declared himself as the country’s President on Tuesday. On Wednesday, the government dissolved his National Union party and relinquished him from public duties. Mba Obame took refuge in a UN office citing that he would not leave under the UN responded to his demand for recognition. The AU was deeply concerned about Mr. Obame’s announcement and called on the opposition leaders to act responsibility. On Thursday, security forces clashed with anti-government protesters demanding Obame is recognized as President.
  • The San of the Botswana Kalahari won an appeal on Thursday allowing the to now drill water wells within the Kalahari Game Reserve, overturning a previous decision. The government had argued that their presence was not compatible with preserving wildlife, even though new wells have been drilled for wildlife and luxury tourist lodges.
  • Several debates over the future of democracy in Africa were launched this week. With 20 national votes during 2011, some analysts are concerned that the messy aftermath of Cote d’Ivoire would spark trouble elsewhere. Others  talked about the international spread of the Tunisian protests and the role technology is playing in democratic movements.

Asia

  • Several military officials and experts have suggested that China’s recent stealth fighter jet may have been borrowed from downed US technology. China dismissed this possibility entirely, while Pentagon officials said they were unsure, but doubted that much could have been gleaned from the debris of a plane developed in the 1970s. The Chinese premier was said to sit in an unusual meeting with workers, farmers and other disgruntled citizens this week to listen to complaints of unpaid wages, land grabs and forced demolitions. It is said that this is the first time a central leader has done this. A prominent newspaper columnist who challenged government censors by writing about corruption and political form was fired on Thursday from one of the country’s best-known newspapers. The columnist said he was forced out because his bosses were under pressure from the government.
  • Several Asian countries were cited as having worsening human rights violations by Human Rights Watch’s annual report. The Cambodian government was said to have tightened restrictions on fundamental freedoms in 2010, making it increasingly difficult and risky for human right defenders, land rights activists and trade unionists to operate. Singapore is said to have restricted freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly and frequently used defamation laws and preventive detention to silence political critics and human rights defenders in 2010. Vietnam is said to have intensified its repression of activists and dissidents and cracked down harshly on freedom of expression, association and assembly during 2010. While, Malaysia’s government’s pledge to “uphold civil liberties” was seen as little more than an empty promise. Bangladesh’s Awami League government was said to not keep its promise after its election victory in December 2008 to show “zero tolerance” for abuses by its security forces, as new extrajudicial killings have been reported and those responsible not brought to justice.
  • A government official was said to have been burnt alive in the Malegaon District of India on Tuesday while conducting a raid on black marketeers. The UN called upon India to repeal a controversial law that gives security forces sweeping powers to search, arrest or shoot people in Kashmir this week. Leaders of India’s main opposition Hindu nationalist party were stopped from traveling in Kashmir to hoist the national flag on Monday for fear of provoking violence. The gates to the terminal were locked, preventing them from leaving, and hundreds of supporters blocked the roads in protest.
  • Three Indonesian soldiers who were captured on video torturing suspected separatists last year were sentenced on Monday to up to ten months in prison, to the anger of rights activists who saw the lenient verdict as continuing the military’s impunity. The footage showed three men in uniform in an eastern region of Papua burning the genitals of one unarmed separatist who lay bound and naked on the ground, and then running a knife across the neck of another.
  • North Korean leader Kim Jong-il has apparently said that he is opposed to continuing the family dynasty into a third generation, but named his youngest son as heir to keep the country stable. The eldest son Kim Jong-nam talked of his father in a Japanese newspaper.
  • A man was killed and nearly 100 others wounded after police fired rubber bullets and tear gas to disperse protesters demanding higher wages in Bangladesh on Sunday. Workers at a pharmaceutical company blockaded a major highway and are said to have vandalized vehicles.
  • Suspected Muslim separatists in southern Thailand shot and killed a Muslim defence volunteer in a roadside ambush, while two other similar attacks wounded a villager and another Muslim defence volunteer on Saturday.  A roadside bomb killed nine civilians and wounded two on Tuesday. The victims are said to all have been Buddhists who were traveling to hunt wild pigs. The bomb is believed to be the work of ethnic Malay militants, though no group made a credible claim.
  • A blast from a suspected bomb ripped through a bus in Manila, Philippines on Tuesday. Four people were killed, and another 14 wounded. Communist rebels are said to have shot and killed a police chief and four other officers in the northern Philippines on Sunday using roadside bombs.
  • Nepal’s Maoists are said to have relinquished control of at least 19,000 former fighters to government control in a move expected to boost the country’s peace process. The Maoist fighters are to be integrated into the security forces or rehabilitated into civilian life.
  • Recent fighting between government forces and armed ethnic groups in eastern Myanmar/Burma has increased the risk of civilian landmine injuries. According to a report released by Geneva Call, there are landmines in 10 out of 14 states with more than 10% of all townships are contaminated. The highest court rejected a move by pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi to overturn a ruling that dissolved her political party on Friday. Her party remains an “unlawful association” for its failure to register before last November’s election.
  • Sri Lanka’s jailed former army chief, Sarath Fonseka, lost his appeal to retain his parliamentary seat on Tuesday. A court martial verdict found him guilty of arms procurement offenses prohibits him from being qualified to be a member of Parliament. Fonseka said the government was seeking revenge on him for his decision to stand against the President in the January 2010 elections.
  • The OSCE’s Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights released its final report on last November’s election in Azerbaijan on Tuesday, saying that serious efforts were needed to create the environment for genuine elections with equal and fair conditions. The President’s party won more than 70 seats in the 125 seat parliament, the almost all the rest going to so-called independent candidates loyal to the President.
  • Local authorities in Tajikistan detained two groups of the banned Salafi strain of Islam, claiming the leaders of two groups organized classes on Islam for some 60 children and planned to send them abroad illegally to study. In an effort to fight extremism authorities currently prohibit sending children to study at religious schools abroad, and allow licenses for only a limited number of imams to teach Islam or the Arabic alphabet.
  • Explosives planted beneath a car exploded killing three people and wounded four in Orakzai, Pakistan on Saturday. On Sunday, a US drone aircraft killed at least four suspected militants on the Afghan border; a policeman was killed and another wounded in a roadside bomb attack near Peshawar; and another drone attack killed two suspected militants on a motorbike. On Monday, suspected militants blew up two natural gas pipelines in the southwest, disrupting supplies to a gas purification plant. On Tuesday, a suspected suicide bomber blew himself up near a religious procession of Shi’ites, killing at least ten and wounding more than 50 in Lahore; while a motorcycle bomb in Karachi killed as many as four and caused numerous injuries. On Thursday, security forces killed 11 suspected militants in clashes along the Afghan border; and a US Consular worker was involved in a shooting that killed three, claiming he fired in self defense to prevent an attempted robbery. He is in police custody, and could be charged with both murder and illegally carrying a weapon. Human Rights Watch’s report suggested that Taliban violence and religious extremism grew in 2010, with the government doing little to improve the situation and often making it worse.
  • Two ISAF troop members were killed by a homemade bomb in Kabul, Afghanistan on Saturday; while a rocket fired by alleged insurgents on a coalition patrol in Ghanzi province hit a house killing two children and wounded six others. Also on Saturday President Karzai was said to have reached a tentative deal with politicians who threatened to start parliament without him, and had conditionally agreed to inaugurate parliament. Parliament was inaugurated later in the week, despite Karzai’s wishes to delay it by a month to allow a special court to investigate claims of election fraud, angering many losing candidates who held a protest at the move. On Sunday, NATO troops were said to have killed 14 suspected insurgents in separate operations. On Tuesday, it was speculated that US President Obama would soon announce plans to expand Afghan security forces by roughly 70,000 ahead of the July 2011 start of US troop draw-down; an ISAF service member was killed by a bomb in Kabul; and ISAF forces said they killed two alleged insurgents in an airstrike in Ghanzi. An attack by a suicide bomber on a busy Kabul supermarket killed eight and wounded six on Friday. The Netherlands has signed the approval to send troops and police to norther Afghanistan to train new police recruits, despite polls in the country that show a majority of voters were opposed to the mission. A security advice group said that foreign military assertions that security in the country is improving are intended to sway Western public opinion ahead of the troop withdraw, but that there is “indisputable evidence” that conditions are deteriorating , including a two-thirds rise in insurgent attacks in 2010, averaging 33 incidents a day.

Americas

  • US Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice is asking that a UN expert on Palestinian human rights who suggested that there was a cover up over the September 11th attacks be fired. The Secretary-General condemned the remarks, but said it was not up to him to fire the expert. US House of Representative Republican members have criticized the UN for being “bloated” and “ineffective” and vowed to press for reforms and a reduction in US funding in a January 25th meeting. Obama addressed the country in his annual state of the union address, in which he warned of the threat to US economic power and global influence from China and appealed to Republicans to abandon demands for budget cuts. He asked instead that they back the biggest government investment programme since the 1960s space race, that would focus on research, infrastructure and education that could be paid for, in part, by eliminating subsidies to profitable oil companies. The call was swiftly rejected by opponents, but was backed by more than 3/4 of respondents in an instant polling on CNN. The US may have more difficulty enforcing the death penalty after the sole American manufacturer of the drug sodium thiopental, used in lethal injections, announced it was ending production. Germany’s health minister is also now urging it’s leading drug companies and distributors to ignore requests from the US for supplies of the drug, as American supplies grow extremely short.  Investigators in the Army PFC Bradley Manning case could not find a direct link connecting Manning to WikiLeaks. A judge has sentenced the first Guantanamo detainee to have a US civilian trial to life in prison, saying anything he suffered at the hands of the CIA and others “pales in comparison to the suffering and horror” caused by the bombing of two US embassies in 1998. An 13 year old boy who shot and killed his father’s fiance in Pennsylvania two years ago could possibly be tried as an adult and held for life in prison without the possibility of parole in violation to international laws. 20 people in Phoenix were indicted on firearms charges, accused of participating in a ring that allegedly brought more than 700 guns into Mexico for use by a drug cartel. An alarming story of the vigilante shooting of a family, including the murder of a 9 year old girl, demonstrates the possible consequences of the staunch anti-immigration stance.
  • Former Haitian dictator “Baby Doc” Duvalier offered his sympathies to those who suffered abuse under his rule, but stopped short of a clear apology for the killings and torture committed during his 15 years of power. Haitian President Preval said that Duvalier had every right to return, but must now face an investigation of his alleged abuses. Duvalier said he was prepared to face “persecution”. The ruling party candidate has decided to abandon the Presidential election race in order to break the deadlock that has paralyzed the government since the November 28th poll. An angering account of Haiti’s aftermath tells of how government relief funds were not only squandered, but actually ended up funding “spiritual need” within the country to help eradicate voodoo (through Billy Graham’s son’s charity), and corporate greed (through Monsanto), instead of helping to rebuild.
  • Mexican federal police announced that they arrested seven drug gang members in Acapulco on Sunday, including the man they claim is behind the murders of 22 people in the resort earlier this month. On Monday, officials in Ciudad Juarez announced that armed men had killed seven people at a park that was built as an anti-violence measure.
  • Canada unveiled a new national equipment standard for emergency workers facing chemical, biological or nuclear weapons this week in an unused subway station in Toronto. The standard provides guidelines for gear and procedures to be used when faced with various kinds of terrorist incidents.
  • Civil disobedience continued at the University of Puerto Rico this week. Nearly 100 students have been arrrested.

Middle East

  • On Sunday, a roadside bomb in Taza, Iraq, wounded the leader of a government backed militia and three of his guards; a car bomb went off near a bus carrying Iranian pilgrims, killing one and wounding seven in northwestern Baghdad; a car bomb exploded near a hotel, killing one and wounding six others in central Baghdad; a car bomb killed two and wounded four in Taji; a car bomb near a police patrol killed on policeman and one civilian and wounded 8 others in southern Baghdad; and a car bomb exploded near a police patrol wounding four people in central Baghdad. On Monday, four gunmen wounded a provincial oil official at his home in Mosul; gunmen killed the imam of a mosque in Falluja; armed men opened fire on the car of a police colonel, killing him in southwestern Baghdad; a car bomb killed at least 8 people and wounded 92 others in Kerbala; two bodies were found showing signs of torture in Riyadh; a roadside bomb killed a brigadier general and wounded an intelligence officer in western Baghdad; a roadside bomb wounded 8 people in northwestern Baghdad;and  a roadside bomb attack targeting a governor wounded five in Tikrit. On Tuesday, a roadside bomb wounded seven pilgrims on a minibus in northern Baghdad. On Wednesday, gunmen killed an employee at the Foreign Affairs Ministry in northwestern Baghdad; armed men shot another Foreign Affairs Ministry employee in central Baghdad; a mortar round killed one civilian and wounded another in their home in Mosul; gunmen killed a civilian in Mosul; gunmen killed a member of a government-backed militia in Tarmiya; and gunmen killed an employee at the National Security ministry in central Baghdad. On Thursday, a car bomb exploded at a funeral, killing at least 50and wounding another 65 in northwestern Baghdad; a bomb in a minibus killed two passengers and wounded seven pedestrians in western Baghdad; a roadside bomb killed one policeman and wounded seven others in central Baghdad; a roadside bomb killed one civilian and wounded four others in northern Baghdad; and a roadside bomb killed one and wounded three others in north-central Baghdad.
  • Demonstrations broke out all across Yemen last week, inspired by the recent ousting of Tunisia’s President. 19 anti-government activists were arrested on Sunday in clashes with police. The protests continued throughout the week, with some 10,000 at the Sanaa University and at least 6,000 elsewhere in the capital.
  • Thousands of Jordanians joined in the demonstrations that have been spreading across the North African and Arab world on Friday against the government. An estimated 3,000 people marched to the capital, along with another 2,000 in other cities.
  • WikiLeaks revealed the largest cache of confidential documents in the history of the Middle East conflict that created quite a stir this week. The cables revealed an insight into the relationship between the Palestinian Authority and the Israeli state, including concessions offered by Palestinian negotiators, and the covert cooperation between the two armed forces. Palestinian officials are denying the accuracy of the reports that have been very damning towards them. A Turkish inquiry into Israel’s Gaza flotilla raid deemed the act a violation of international law this week, following Israel’s report that determined the Israeli forces had acted legally, despite the deaths of nine activists aboard the vessel. Peru became the seventh South American country to recognize Palestine as a state this week, rapidly following decisions by Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Ecuador and Guyana.
  • Iran carried out the first executions of activists detained in street protests following the disputed 2009 elections. Around a dozen others have been sentenced to death for their role in the unrest. Iran announced it was open to holding further talks with six world power over its nuclear program, following the expressed disappointed over the recent talks in Istanbul by world powers.
  • Lebanon’s President formally appointed a Hezbollah-backed candidate as PM, defeating incumbent Hariri, following the walk-out of Hezbollah MPs that brought down Hariri’s government earlier this month. Sunnis protested the rising power of Hezbollah within their government in a “day of rage”, burning tires and torching vehicles, that continued over the following day.

Europe

  • Human rights violations in Turkey’s southeast are said to have risen by 16% last year as fighting between guerrillas and government forces escalated, according to a new report by the Human Rights Association (IHD).
  • Tens of thousands of protesters marched in Brussels, Belgium on Sunday in support of national unity and to demand that rival political groups form a coalition following seven months without a government. The rally of between 20-30,000 was said to be peaceful.
  • The “New START” nuclear reduction treaty between the US and Russia passed through the upper house of Russian parliament on Wednesday, and will now go to President Medvedev for signature. On Monday, a suspected suicide bombing at the busiest Moscow airport killed at least 35 and wounded more than 150. PM Putin later vowed revenge for the bombing, as lax security was blamed for allowing it to happen. France concluded a deal with Russia to sell it four Mistral assault ships on Tuesday. The deal was criticized by the US and NATO allies in the Baltics for providing Russia with a modern carrier for helicopters or tanks.
  • Inadequate prosecution of crimes from the 1990 wars is said to have hampered European integration of the Western Balkans according to the Human Rights Watch Report released on Monday. The report criticized the human rights situation in Bosnia, Croatia, Kosovo and Serbia.
  • The recently resigned Irish foreign minister Micheal Martin was elected as head of the Republican Fianna Fail party just a week after his failed attempt to oust the prime minister from the party leadership. He will lead until the general election campaign on the 25th February. The lower house averted the immediate collapse of government by passing a crucial finance bill. On Wednesday, a bomb was found near a police station in northern Belfast apparently intended to target police officers, the latest in the increasing attacks since nationalist splinter groups seeking a united Ireland killed two soldiers almost two years ago.
  • The UK government is set to change controversial counter-terrorism measures following a review of procedures. The control orders, which impose 16 hour curfews on suspects, would be replaced by an alternative supervision system that would require them to stay at home up to 10 hours, but only overnight, and allowed to use a mobile phone and be given limited access to the internet. Some experts have called the measures a form of “internal exile” and say it violates basic civil liberties. The rules only apply to terrorism suspects who cannot be prosecuted or deported, either because the evidence against them is inadmissible or sensitive or for fear of their torture abroad.
  • Portugal has re-elected its President Anibal Cavaco Silva in an election largely overshadowed by the country’s economic difficulties. The political conservative obtained around 53% of the vote, with a record low voter turnout of less than 50%.
  • Four people were killed and six injured in a car bomb attack in Daghestan that occurred outside a cafe. No further details were immediately available.
  • Three anti-government protesters were killed last Friday in Albania, while a special session of Parliament on Sunday night saw deputies voting for an inquiry into the causes of violence. On Tuesday, the main opposition politician, who has been accused by the PM of trying to stage a coup, threatened to hold more protests, while calling on the international community to mediate the political crisis. A EU envoy was sent on Wednesday, while the US called on government and opposition supporters not to stage demonstrations planned for the end of the week. The opposition said they planned to continue to protest despite all warnings.
  • A group of Belarussian protesters staged a demonstration outside the Palace of the Republic, just hours after the inauguration of longstanding leader Alexander Lukashenko, resulting in several arrests. Activists claim they are having their homes raided by fake police officers. On Thursday, the EU said they would reinstate a visa ban on President Lukashenko and other Belarusian officials next week in response to their crackdown on protests following the December elections, though said they would widen the measure to include around 150 individuals. On Friday, the US announced they would strengthen existing sanctions and increase their financial support to the country’s civil society in response to a crackdown on democracy activists.
  • More than 200 illegal immigrants on a hunger strike in Greece ended a five-day occupation of a university after a tense standoff with police. Police are usually barred from entering university campuses under Greek law, but academic authorities had lifted the ban to give police power to intervene.

2nd Anniversary

Hello all! Hope all is well!

I just wanted to say a big thank you to all the readers here at A Peace of Conflict. It’s been two years since I first came online to blog and during that time,  much has changed. I am now living on a new continent– enjoying the warm tropical weather– and have started some new projects on the blog that I hope you are enjoying.

Over the last few months, I have started writing  This Week in Conflict… that summarizes issues of peace and conflict from around the world that have been reported each week. It is usually posted on Friday or Saturday and reflects the week from Saturday to Friday. Just a reminder, that if you have any stories or reports to add to the summaries, please email it to me (preferably Thursday or Friday if you’d like to make it in the post for the week) or write it in the comments below the post. I am also willing to accept personal stories of witnessed violence in conflict zones to add to the reports and will respect everyone’s wishes for anonymity in this situation. All personal reports will be marked as such to distinguish them from publicly reported news, and just a warning that any clear attempts at false propaganda or incitements to further violence will not be posted.

A collaborative peace and conflict dictionary was also started during the past year, which was set up to assist those working in the conflict, human rights or international sphere. It’s been a slow start, but I have been trying to add new terms regularly. Please be sure to send any suggestions for terms or modifications to previously defined terms.

When I first started, I was very nervous writing and having my opinions out there for all to see. I wanted to try and stay as objective as possible in my writing, something that can very difficult when discussing conflict and human rights abuses, so as not receive any harsh criticism. Sometimes it’s easy to demonize those who have committed terrible acts, and sanctify those who are the victims of those acts. But most of the times, it’s not as clear cut as that. Every conflict has its root, every evil has its weakness and every innocent has its flaws. I found it has become easier with time to express my opinions (sometimes looking back with a groan over what I have written previously), and have come to learn that criticism is often times incredibly useful. Being challenged allows us to delve deeper into an issue and look at it in new light. I encourage all readers to speak out if you feel I have misrepresented an issue, though to please due so in respectful language in the spirit of healthy debate, as any comments inciting violence or attacking any other users will be removed.

Here are some highlights from last year’s posts:

January

February

  • I discussed the theatre of the oppressed, that looks to address cultural violence by allowing an open dialogue on root problems of a conflict within the safety of a theatrical event.

March

April

May

  • I returned to Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire, where I would spend most of the rest of the year researching human rights issues.

June

  • The Israeli flotilla incident was all over the news and I weighed in on it.
  • I had a change of heart about what to do about conflict minerals in the DR Congo, after many years of researching and pushing for change and discussed the problems with current legislative initiatives.

July

  • I expressed my frustrations about the justice system (or lack thereof) in Cote d’Ivoire.

August

  • The story of the SHONA cooperative in the DR Congo touched my heart. Disabled persons not only finding ways to be self-sustaining in a conflict economy, but getting to the point where they are able to support their extended families as well.

September

October

  • A critique of western democracy; how government is not really representative, and how technology can help to change that.
  • A look at the coming elections in Cote d’Ivoire.

November

December

 

I hope to soon be able to post some more detailed posts about my research into the exploitation of resources and their connection to violence, but am leery to print anything until the research is more conclusive. In the meantime, I would love to hear your personal stories, your academic papers, your rants and your writings (or other art) on violence, conflict, or peace.

Thanks again to all the readers here. I hope you have enjoyed reading the posts as much as I have enjoyed writing them!

Peace to you all!

Rebecca

 

This week in conflict… January 15th-21st, 2011.

Hello all! Hope all is well with you!

This week’s roundup is being posted a little later than normal and sadly only contains reports from January 15th-18th instead of the full week because I had a few personal issues to deal with and didn’t have time to finish.

As always, 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.

Peace!
Rebecca

 

World

  • The UN report on the World Economic Situation and Prospects 2011 was released this week. The report highlights the continued challenge posed by high unemployment rates in many economies and outlines a number of risks and uncertainties for the economic outlook. Slower growth is expected to continue into 2011 and 2012.
  • Swiss banking whistleblower Rudolf Elmer has given offshore bank account details of 2,000 high net worth individuals and corporations that allegedly detail massive potential tax evasion to WikiLeaks. The list allegedly includes British and American individuals and companies as well as approximately 40 politicians.
  • A new website launched to help nonprofits learn from their mistakes and stop fearing failure has been developed. The website admittingfailure.com has so far received stories from Engineers Without Borders Canada and GlobalGiving. Bravo for those who can admit when they are wrong and learn from those mistakes so they can providing better services in the future!
  • The ICT4Peace Foundation has begun releasing a series of papers looking at the increasingly important role of information and communication technology (ICT) in conflict prevention, peacebuilding, peacekeeping and crisis response.
  • A new study on food waste in Canada has revealed that nearly $27 billion worth of food winds up in a landfill or compost each year, even though many go hungry each and every day. If you are concerned about your food waste, please check out this useful site for tips on how you can change. There are also concerns about whether there will be enough food for the world’s population in 2050. Meanwhile a senior official at the UN’s food agency played down concerns that tighter supplies of food could lead to a repeat of the 2008 food crisis, saying stocks were ample.

Africa

  • The National Democratic Coalition in Liberia has directed its lawyers to cause the courts to issue a prohibition against the National Elections Commission to halt the voter registration process, to prevent the 2011 elections from future contentions and violence.
  • On Saturday, Tunisian President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali was ousted from his role, while PM Ghannouchi announced he had taken control of the country following weeks of protests and unrest. Ben Ali signed a decree handing interim presidential powers to the PM, then fled to Saudi Arabia. The parliamentary speaker was sworn in as caretaker of the Constitutional Council and declared that the PM did not have the right to assume power. The government has announced that new elections would be held in six months time. Some groups are claiming as many as 70 deaths in the protests since the unrest began and saying that unrest has cost nearly $2 billion dollars in damages and lost business. Dozens of inmates are also reported to have been killed in breakouts at two prisons, and another 42 dead in a riot and fire at another. On Sunday, major gun battles erupted outside the palace of the deposed President, and police arrested dozens, including the top presidential security chief. On Monday, authorities were struggling to restore order and stop violence, while the PM promised to announce a new coalition government.  By Tuesday, the new coalition government had four ministers quitting, and an opposition party threatening to walk out as key figures from the old guard kept their jobs.
  • A spate of self-immolations across North Africa appears to have followed the suicide that helped bring down the Tunisian president last week. Over the weekend, an Egyptian, a Mauritanian and at least four Algerians set themselves on fire in protest against their governments. Another two people set themselves on fire on Tuesday in Egypt in similar incidents as the Tunisian self-immolation to protest poor living conditions.
  • On Sunday, Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi condemned the uprising in neighbouring Tunisia, saying protesters had been led astray by Wikileaks disclosures about corruption of Ben Ali’s family and his regime. Many suggest that Gaddafi’s comments reflect a nervousness among long-serving Arab leaders in the region, as there were reports of unrest in the streets of Libya. Libyan citizens occupied hundreds of homes that are still under construction and ransacked the offices of foreign contractors building them, as the country faces struggles to meet a rapid rise in housing demand from younger citizens.
  • Ten corpses were found in Ogida quarters, Benin on Friday, said to be victims in clashes between members of the Eiye Confraternity and the Black Axe. Three more were killed on Saturday, allegedly in revenge for Friday’s attacks.
  • Cote d’Ivoire’s Alassane Ouattara cited that the end of January would be an important benchmark in the struggle to oust incumbent President Gbagbo from power, as he believed salaries would not be paid on time. Some sources say Gbagbo’s officials met with representatives of the cocoa industry to press them to pay advances on export taxes and strong-arming banks to keep the credit flowing. Gbagbo is said to still be withdrawing from the local banks and the regional central bank, despite a freeze from ECOWAS. Gbagbo’s camp suggested the sanctions would be ineffective and only hurt the regional economy, as they could merely go outside Europe or North America to get funding if necessary, whereas those countries have to come to Cote d’Ivoire for their cocoa. On Wednesday, the UN sent 2,000 extra peacekeepers to reinforce its 9,000 strong mission.
  • Rwanda’s Military High Court sentenced Kayumba Nyamwasa and Theogene Rudasingwa to 24 years in prison for forming a terrorist group, threatening state security, undermining public order, promoting ethnic divisions, deserting the Army and insulting the person of the President of the Republic. Also charged was Patrick Karegyeya and Gerard Gahima, for a 20 year sentence. A UN Security Council Group of Experts’ report confirmed that the men were working closely with the FDLR militia in an effort to destabilize the region. Germany opened its first trial related to the Rwandan genocide this week, as a former mayor accused of ordering three Tutsi massacres stood trial.
  • The polling period for the referendum on self-determination in the Sudan came to an end on Saturday with a seal of approval from international observers. Preliminary results expected to be announced by February 2nd and are largely expected to be in favor of secession. The Adviser to the President warned the Sudan People Liberation Movement (SPLM) from unilaterally entering Abyei on Saturday, after pointing out in a meeting with former US President Carter that the region was a northern area and would not be resolved through the referendum. On Sunday, the President of Southern Sudan called for his people to forgive the north for the death of Southerners during the 1983-2005 war that killed over two million; and the opposition in the north threatened to take to the streets if the government did not remove its finance minister and dismantle parliament over a decision to raise prices on a range of goods to redress its budget deficit. On Monday, he was arrested.
  • The autonomous region of Puntland in Somalia announced that it will break with the federal government on Sunday, after a special meeting of the presidential cabinet. The statement released criticized Mogadishu for its “unwillingness to actively support federalism for Somalia in violation of the Transitional Federal Government”.
  • Voter registration for the April Presidential elections in Nigeria was off to a poor start on Saturday, as many centers opened late and had trouble linking computers with fingerprint scanners, cameras and printers to produce the voter cards. The current President Goodluck Jonathan came to power eight months ago following the death of the President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, who came to power in a highly criticized 2007 election, and will be running in the upcoming election. The voting problems continued over the weekend with many waiting for hours unable to be registered, resulting in several protests and arrests in certain areas. On Monday, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) fired three of its Directors, supposedly due to the demonstrated incompetence and insubordination to constituted authorities amid more protests over the Presidential primaries that took place last week. Three people were killed in Jos on Monday, allegedly after soldiers opened fire to stop a fight between Christian and Muslim youths over voter registration. On Tuesday, the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) warned people living near fuel depots to evacuate immediately or face attacks in protest of the arrest and detention of fellow militants.
  • The Ethiopian government freed 402 leaders and members of the Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF) rebel movement, that has been fighting for secession since 1984. The move is based on the peace accord signed between ONLF and the government.
  • Zimbabwe’s MDC-T released a statement on Friday detailing a series of recent incidents of violence, illegal arrests and abductions of party officials and supporters around the country. The groups alleges the crimes were mostly perpetrated by state security agents and ZANU-PF supporters, and that there has been a sharp increase in these incidents as of late.
  • The Ugandan government is said to have imported more than a dozen new tear-gas vehicles, water cannons and pepper sprayers for crowd control, along with 50 plus automobiles, including troop carriers and buses from a Chinese-based firm in preparations for the upcoming February 18th Presidential elections. Many fear that the new equipment was bought to help keep current President Yoweri Museveni, who has been in place since 1986, in power.

Asia

  • Renmin University in China has begun to train Masters students on investigating corruption within the country, the first of its kind. Chinese President Hu Jintao hinted at tough negotiations ahead with the US during his planned visit this week, citing that they had “sensitive issues” to discuss and that differences that need to be properly managed. The People’s Daily website cited that the Xinjiang region of China tried 376 people in 2010 for “crimes against national security” and their involvement in violence that left six dead in an attack on military police in August. Exiles accuse China of escalating the threat posed by armed separatists and “terrorists” to justify harsh crackdowns.
  • An Azerbaijani soldier was killed and two Armenian conscripts wounded in skirmishes at the Armenian-Azerbaijani “line of contact”. The Armenian Defense Ministry accused Azerbaijan of deliberately breaking the ceasefire, while the Azerbaijani Defense Ministry blamed the Armenians for the truce violations.
  • Taiwan tested 19 missiles on Tuesday with mixed results. Six of the air-to-air and surface-to-air missiles missed their mark, prompting the President to say he was unhappy with the results.
  • The Constitutional Council examined the proposed referendum that would prolong Kazakhstan’s President’s rule until 2020. The Council is said to be made up entirely of presidential and parliamentary appointees and is itself headed by the President.
  • Tajiki government officials announced on Monday that four suspected members of the banned Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) were killed and another 50 arrested in the north last year. It was reported that the militants were particularly active in autumn when the Tajik army conducted operations against them in the central part of the country.
  • Militants in Pakistan torched 18 trucks carrying fuel and other supplies for NATO forces, in a predawn attack on Saturday that wounded one man. Gunmen shot and killed at least 17 people in Karachi in three days of violence that was blamed on the rivalry between the two main parties, the Muttahida Qaumi Movement and the Awami National Party.  On Sunday, gunmen attacked and burned two more trucks carrying fuel for NATO forces in Kalat. On Monday, a bomb exploded on a bus killing 17 people and injured another 11 in a northwest town.
  • A US Marine shot and killed an Afghan police officer following a dispute in Helmand province on Saturday; eleven Afghans, including seven civilians and four policemen were wounded in Kandahar in an explosion; and Afghan and foreign forces announced they killed 13 alleged insurgents southwest of Kabul. On Sunday, a roadside bomb killed six civilians and wounded three more in Kandahar; a roadside bomb destroyed a car carrying nine people to a wedding in the north, killing all inside; and three children were among the dead following an airborne attack on two houses in Kunar that NATO led forces reported killed “numerous” insurgents. A biographer of General Petraeus eerily described the destruction of an entire Afghan town by American-led forces with more than 25 tons of explosives. A mine-clearing line charge, using rocket-propelled explosives created a path to the centre of town, followed by airstrikes from A-10s and B-1s combined with ground-launched rockets, but allegedly killed no civilians even though the town was effectively pulverized.

Americas

  • US President Obama plans to ease the travel restrictions to Cuba to allow students and church groups into the country. The new policy will also let any American send as much as $500 every three months to Cuban citizens who are not part of the Castro administration or members of the Communist Party. The changes are said to not need congressional approval and will be put into place within two weeks. The Obama administration also ended a high-tech border fence project along the border with Mexico.
  • A member of Canada’s elite special forces unit has suggested that the chain of command helped create an atmosphere that tolerated war crimes. The soldier alleges that his reports of crimes went uninvestigated and that “more and more of his peers are being encouraged to commit war crimes by the chain of command”. The Canadian Forces National Investigation Service has said it has now launched its own investigation.
  • Haiti had a surprise on Sunday, after former dictator Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier returned from exile after nearly 25 years claiming to want to “help (his) country”. Rights groups demanded on Monday that the government arrest him for crimes against humanity. Even though four years ago Haitian President Preval said Duvalier would face charges and trial if he ever came back, the current PM said that since Haiti’s constitution bans exile, Duvalier had the right to return to his homeland even though his diplomatic passport had expired. The timing of his return is suspicious however, as it coincides with the scheduled run-off election that was canceled due to disputes from the first round. Speculations as to the motivations of his return at such a time ranged from a plot from the PMs office to shift the spotlight away from presidential elections to his connection with presidential candidate Martelly to French or international community plots.
  • Student strikes at the University of Puerto Rico continued this week, with acts of vandalism and intimidation across campus. Several students were arrests for distributing leaflets in the classrooms, while the vandals escaped prosecution.
  • A leftist group reportedly attacked a police station in northern Paraguay with explosives on Sunday, injuring four police officers. The Paraguayan People’s Army (EPP) said it was avenging the kiling of rebel leaders under the President.

Middle East

  • Russia has reaffirmed during a recent visit to the West Bank that it recognized an independent Palestinian State in 1988 and is not changing its position.
  • Thousands of Israelis marched in Tel Aviv over the weekend in protest against a series of attacks on civil and human rights organizations and a rise in anti-Arab sentiment. Two South African groups launched a move to obtain an arrest warrant for Tzipi Livni, who will be visiting their country next week, for her role in alleged war crimes that were committed during the three week Israeli war on Gaza in 2008-9.  Israel’s defense minister Barak quit as leader of the Labour party to form a breakaway faction, prompting three Labour cabinet ministers to walk out of government. There has been growing criticism of the party’s continued support for the rightwing coalition government of Netanyahu. The director of the UN Relief and Works Agency in Gaza and the director of operations in the West Bank both resigned from their posts, allegedly under pressure over certain controversial comments made on Israel and Hamas. A new Save the Children report warns that children in Gaza are coming under regular gunfire from Israeli soldiers and that 26 children were shot near the border in 2010.
  • Hezbollah leader Nasrallah delivered his first speech on Sunday since ministers from his party and its allies toppled the Lebanese government last Wednesday. Prosecutors investigating the assassination of ex-premier Hariri  are expected to issue indictments, which will likely include Hezbollah members, on Monday, though Hezbollah has long claimed that Israel was responsible. Nasrallah said his group would not support Saad Hariri, the son of the assassinated premier, to return to his post as PM. Talks scheduled for Monday to name a new PM were postponed for a week, after President Sleiman decided that they needed to assess the positions of various parties.
  • The US sent its first ambassador to Syria since 2005 this week  in an effort to help persuade Syria to change its policies regarding Lebanon, Israel and Iraq and end its support for extremist groups. Robert Ford, former ambassador to Algeria, will hold the position in Damascus.
  • Iran opened the doors of two atomic facilities to several foreign diplomats this week, though the EU declined the invitation saying that the UN nuclear inspectors, not diplomats should do the inspection. Iran is under four sets of UN sanctions over its refusal to suspend uranium enrichment, that are feared could be used to create material for atomic weapons by western powers.
  • Two US soldiers were killed and a third injured after two Iraqi soldiers allegedly opened fire on US troops during a training session in Mosul on Saturday; a US service member was killed while conducting operations in Baghdad; a roadside bomb targeting a police patrol wounded four in southwestern Baghdad; and a bomb wounded two in northern Baghdad. On Sunday, a roadside bomb wounded two guards of an official of the Ministry of Science and Technology in central Baghdad; two people were wounded by a roadside bomb in another area of central Baghdad; and two people were wounded by random celebratory gunfire over the Asia Cup soccer tournament in Kirkuk. On Monday, police say they found the body of a man with gunshot wounds to the head in Mosul; eight policemen and one civilian were wounded during clashes between police and protesters over electricity shortages in Kirkuk; a bomb in a supermarket killed one person in western Baghdad; a roadside bomb wounded three in southern Baghdad; a suicide bomber tried to blow up the governor of Anbar province, killing one bodyguard and wounding five west of Baghdad; and an armed man stormed a private hospital wounding a doctor in Mosul. On Tuesday, a suicide bomber targeting a police recruitment line in Tikrit killed at least 60 people.

Europe

  • An undercover policeman in Iceland who posed as an environmental activist for seven years and helped found the protest movement in the country, accused the police of brutality and inciting “potentially fatal” violence towards protesters.
  • Far-right protesters threw stones at a pro-migrant march in Greece on Saturday and had to be disbursed by teargas by police. More than 1,000 members of anti-racism groups were marching to protest a controversial plan to build a fence at the Turkish border to stop illegal immigration.
  • The UK has moved to ban the Pakistani Taliban as a terrorist organization, which would make it illegal to belong to or raise funds for the organization with Britain. The measure was introduced into Parliament on Tuesday and still needs legislative approval.
  • Armenia was angry at the Turkish government suggestion to remove a giant monument meant to promote reconciliation between the two countries. The Turkish PM described the monument as a monstrosity earlier this month and ordered the mayor of the town to replace it with a park.
  • Turkish police detained 32 members of the Turkish Hezbollah movement in night raids in four cities in southeast Turkey on the weekend. Some members of Hezbollah and the PKK militant group who were freed earlier this month after spending over a decade in prison without sentence failed to report to police stations.
  • A rights activist and his wife were injured after an attack in Moscow, Russia. Their car was fired upon by two gunmen.
  • The wife of a jailed former Belarusian presidential candidate said the KGB searched her home to prevent her meeting with a US Senator. Several other opposition activists homes were searched as well. State media has been loud in voicing its criticism of Western countries, accusing them of seeking to overthrow president Lukashenko who won last month’s disputed elections.

This week in conflict… January 8th-14th, 2011

Hello all! Hope everything is well with you!

As always, 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.

Peace!
Rebecca

World

  • The International News Safety Institute announced on Wednesday, that an average of almost two journalists died each week as a result of their work. The global number 97 is down from 2009′s 133 deaths.
  • The Guardian’s Simon Tisdall wrote an interesting piece on how the UN was originally envisaged as a war-fighting machine.

Africa

  • At least 8 people were reported killed in the continuing protests about joblessness and other social ills over the weekend in Tunisia, although other reports claim as many as 14 in under 24 hours. Another 4 civilians were killed in clashes between riot police and protesters on Monday, though other reports claim as many as 12 deaths. The President promised that an extra 300,000 jobs would be created. On Monday, all schools and universities were temporarily shut. On Wednesday, army troops were called in as the protests spread to the capital and the interior minister, who was held responsible for the ruthless police response, was fired. Protesters are also said to have been released. Despite a curfew, clashes were reported Wednesday night between youths and security forces. The President announced on Friday, following the death of two men shot dead by police,  that he would not seek re-election in 2014 to try and calm the growing violence and even dismissed his government, calling for early legislative elections in six months time. Hundreds of protesters continued their march and despite the president’s announcement that live ammunition would not be used, three people were killed less than an hour after the speech from shots. Shortly thereafter, the President imposed a state of emergency, and reports came out that the airspace had been closed with troops taking over the airport in Tunis. Unions planned to hold a general strike on Friday. The death toll was cited as 66 since December 17.
  • The presidential election campaign began in the Central African Republic on Monday, with the vote scheduled for January 23rd. Opposition candidates have issued a memorandum saying that the electoral process in its current form is “neither transparent, legal nor equitable” and are threatening boycotts if demands are not met.
  • Zambia’s upcoming election process is looking complicated, as President Banda has told his party members to take bribes during the elections but “vote with your conscience”. Banda last year declared that he would run for a second and final term of office this year.
  • Algerian authorities vowed to punish those responsible for nationwide food riots that killed at least four people and injured more than 800. Around 1,000 protesters have been arrested and the government has said it will cut taxes and import duties on some staple foods.
  • Two French hostages abducted in Niger were found dead following a failed rescue operation. No group has yet claimed responsibility for the kidnapping, but authorities suspect al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb links.
  • Former Nigerian president Obasanjo was the latest mediator to visit Cote d’Ivoire to try and convince Gbagbo to step down. Ethnic clashes are said to have killed some 33 people and wounded 75 in the western town of Duekoue as fighting broke out between rival tribes, though there is some speculation that this latest outbreak is unrelated to the election.  At least five people, said to be two protesters and three police officers all with gunshot wounds, are said to have been killed in clashes in Abidjan on Tuesday. On Wednesday, the clashes continued, with at least five security forces said killed on a raid of a suspected arms cache. The violence continued on Thursday, which resulted in Gbagbo imposing a curfew on the Abobo neighbourhood. The UN claimed that six attacks on their vehicles resulted in an ambulance driver and a doctor being injured.
  • Southern Sudanese are said to have flocked to the polling stations to case their vote in the referendum this weekend, many waiting overnight to be among the first to vote; though polling stations in Khartoum were said to be empty on the first day of voting. The second day of voting was also said to have brought out voters in huge numbers in the south. Some 9 were killed in Abyei, after militiamen attacked a village on Sunday, in clashes that are said to have been ongoing for since Thursday. Another at least 6 were killed and 26 taken hostage in clashes between rebel militias and the SPLA in Unity state. At least 10 southern Sudanese traveling to the south were killed on Monday, after some 30 buses and seven trailers carrying southerners from Khartoum were ambushed. By Monday it was reported that some 36 people had died in clashes between Arab nomads and southerners near the border and further attacks were feared. On Tuesday, UN peacekeepers intensified their patrols of the border areas. On Wednesday, senior officials in southern Sudan reported that the 60% turnout threshold required for the vote to be valid had been reached. On Thursday, three Bulgarian crew members working for the UN Humanitarian Air Service were said to have been abducted in Darfur.
  • At least 11 people were killed in different locations around Jos on Saturday as various clashes erupted in the city. The Igbo Community Association in Plateau State claimed over 40 Igbos were killed in the clashes. The violence is being linked to an opposition political meeting, as well as anger over an attack on two passenger buses on Friday night. On Tuesday, an attack on a Christian village in Plateau State left at least 13 people dead, though some reports say as many as 18.
  • The UN called on authorities in the DR Congo to immediately investigate reports of a large number of rapes in South Kivu on New Year’s Day. There are some suggestions that the rapes stemmed from a bar fight where a soldier shot a man, who was then lynched by a mob. The local army was then said to go on a rampage throughout the town raping between 10-29 women. A group of government soldiers were detained over the allegations of sexual violence. Several electoral problems are being revealed, as opposition members were said to have been prevented from holding rallies in Goma and Bukavu, and a journalists facing arrest for political reasons. The Congolese Senate passed constitutional revisions this week making the President more powerful by changing the electoral system from a two round run-off system to a one round, plurality-win election; giving the president the ability to dissolve provincial assemblies, remove governors and call referenda; and giving the minister of justice official control over the prosecutor’s office.  There is some debate as to whether such moves are even legal.
  • A Muslim police officer shot and killed an Egyptian Christian on a train on Tuesday, while wounding five others. Experts suggest the shooting is likely to stoke tensions following the recent bombings of Christians in the country.
  • The next round of informal talks in the Western Sahara conflict will happen January 21st-23rd the UN announced on Friday. Morocco and the Frente Polisario, Algeria and Mauritania will be at the talks, with Morocco said to be presenting a plan for autonomy, and Polisario suggesting a referendum on self-determination. Morocco said that five of its soldiers will face trial for allegedly helping to smuggle weapons into the Western Sahara for the al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb.
  • The high court in the Comoros rejected the opposition’s accusations of widespread fraud on Thursday, ruling that the ruling party had won in last month’s Presidential election. A ban on public rallies has been in place over the past month amid fears of violence.

Asia

  • An important cross-border communications channel has been reinstated between the two Koreas this week. The Red Cross communication line was cut off last year, and is normally used for exchanging messages on humanitarian issues. On Saturday, the North reiterated its proposal for unconditional talks with the South. US Defense Secretary Gates warned on Tuesday that North Korea was within five years of being able to strike the continental US with an intercontinental ballistic missile.
  • Around 30,000 supporters of Thailand’s red shirt movement were back in the capital this weekend, demanding the release of the group’s leaders who were detained in last year’s violence. The protest was rather peaceful, aside from a brief scuffle between police and water-bottle-throwing protesters.
  • The largest single day loss in the Bangladesh stock exchange in its 55 years resulted in protests on Monday. The exchange halted trading after the benchmark index plunged 9.25% within the first hour of trading. Some protesters are said to have burned vehicles and riot police fired tear gas and charged the crowd with batons.
  • US-Chinese military defense chiefs are working towards mending military relations between the two countries. Robert Gates met with Liang Guanglie on Monday in Beijing to set up a working group to explore more formal, regular dialogue on strategic issues. The US has also stated that it will enhance its military capabilities in response to Chinese advances in technology. Gates has stated that he has no doubt that China’s President remains in control of the military, despite some indications of a possible lack of communication between the military and the civilian leadership. A Chinese human rights lawyer who has been missing for almost two years is reported to have detailed a description of torture and abuses at the hands of police. Xie Zhigang, a former police chief who was falsely arrested for his wife’s death (she later turned up alive), is suspected to have died in custody after being tortured.
  • One of the Pakistan’s most famous jihadi leaders has been freed from custody due to a lack of evidence. Many cases go nowhere because of a lack of police evidence, judges fearing being killed, and the influence of the Inter-Services Intelligence agency that has historic ties with most militant groups. On Wednesday, a suicide bomber killed at least 17 people in the northwest in an attack on a police station and adjacent mosque. The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack, which they say was in retaliation for drone attacks by the US. A US drone fired into a house in North Waziristan on Wednesday is said to kill three suspected militants. On Thursday, a roadside bomb hit a police van killing at least two policemen and wounding many others in Bannu; and a separate bomb attack killed another officer and wounded four more in Bara. On Friday, police said suspected militants raided the house of a female police officer, killing her and five of her relatives. The US has decided to offer more military, intelligence and economic support to Pakistan in response to complaints from government officials that the US doesn’t understand Pakistani strategic priorities.
  • On Sunday, a ISAF service member was killed by a homemade bomb in Kabul, Afghanistan; and a NATO airstrike killed three Afghan police officers in Kabul. On Monday, two more police officers died in a suicide car bomb attack in Kandahar province. On Tuesday, a leader of the Haqqani militant network and two suspected insurgents were killed in Kabul; and three suspected insurgents, including leader Mirwais Sabri, were killed in an ISAF air strike. On Wednesday, five coalition troops were killed in roadside bombs and an insurgent attack; four Afghan intelligence service members were killed in a pair of attacks; at least two people were killed and more than 20 wounded in a suicide bombing in Kabul; a bomb killed two Afghan civilians in Farah; and ISAF troops killed two alleged insurgents in southern Helmand. On Thursday, a child was killed and three other people were wounded after a bomb exploded in Jalalabad. Germany has announced that it does not plan to support a request made by field commanders for more AWACS reconnaissance aircraft for Afghanistan. Germany’s government is said to be asking parliament this month for the approval to start withdrawing troops by the end of the year. Britain’s former top diplomat to Afghanistan severely criticized the conduct of UK military operations in the country, citing that the war gave the army a raison d’etre it lacked for years and resources on an unprecedented scale. He also added that at one time, nearly 30% of all British helicopter movements in the south were for “senior military tourists from London”. Afghan officials announced that the Taliban is prepared to drop its ban on girls’ schools, though the Taliban has yet made any public statements to back up this claim.
  • The Nepali government and Maoist rebels are said to have struck a deal which will lead to the formation of a new government within three months, after consensus was reached on how to take the peace process forward. The announcement came as the UN peace mission to Nepal ends its four year engagement on Friday, which some fear will create a vacuum of potential chaos.
  • India announced it planned to reduce its security forces by a quarter in Kashmir to ease conditions for locals. A Kashmiri separatist leader dismissed the government’s plan saying India was trying to “hoodwink” the international community by that announcement.
  • The Kazakh opposition weekly newspaper was confiscated by police on Thursday and staff members detained on suspicion of spreading false information. A newspaper spokesman said the issue contained articles criticizing the proposed national referendum to keep the current President in office until 2020. The upper and lower chambers of parliament voted on Friday in favor of holding the referendum.

Americas

  • An independent review of Haiti’s recent presidential vote by the Center for Economic and Policy Research suggests that the results could not be salvaged due to “massive irregularities”. The report suggests that about 156,000 votes were not counted, and that it is impossible to fairly decide which candidates should make it to the second round scheduled for late February.
  • Ex House Leader and American Republican legislator Tom DeLay has been sentenced to three years in prison after being convicted of money laundering and conspiracy in a scheme for a political campaign. Obama has signed a new bill into law that would prevent detainees held at Guantanamo Bay for terrorism from being brought to the US for criminal trial and restricts their potential transfer to foreign countries. A gunman opened fire outside a supermarket in Tucson, Arizona where politician Gabrielle Giffords was meeting with constituents. Some 18 people were shot and six dead. Debate over the escalating violent rhetoric of political campaigns has since become a subject of debate, as Sarah Palin’s website featured a map with a cross hair target over Giffords that many are attributing to inciting violence. Others are debating the lax gun laws in the US that allowed alleged gunman Jared Lee Loughner, man who was considered too mentally unstable to attend community college and was rejected by the army, access to firearms.
  • Police in Acapulco, Mexico found the bodies of 15 slain men, 14 of them decapitated. Handwritten signs left with the bodies suggests a link to Mexico’s drug cartels. Drug gangs fighting in Monterrey have launched a wave of attacks against police and rivals since New Year’s Eve and have killed at least 10 police, attacked a prison, shot up police stations, killed bystanders, and threatened local journalists.  More than 15,000 people have lost their lives in drug violence in 2010.

Middle East

  • Separatists in Yemen are said to have killed at least 3 soldiers and wounded another in an attack on an army checkpost on Sunday. Six assailants are also said to have been wounded in the attack. On Saturday, 8 soldiers were injured when their vehicle came under attack. Other reports say four soldiers were killed on Saturday.
  • Hezbollah and its allies threatened to quit the Lebanese government on Wednesday, after months of wrangling over how to deal with criminal indictments over the Hariri assassination. Later in the day it was announced that 11 cabinet ministers resigned, and that the government of PM Saad Hariri had toppled. President Michel Suleiman is now forced to form a new government.
  • It was reported that Hamas held talks over the weekend with other militant factions in Gaza to urge them to stop firing rockets into Israel after receiving warning from Egypt that Israel may launch an offensive. By Wednesday, the Palestinian militant leaders promised to stop firing rockets and pledged to observe a truce, which seems will be enforced by Hamas who deployed forces near the border. On Monday, a 65 year old Palestinian farmer was reported to have been killed by Israeli troops in Gaza Strip after being hit by a tank shell and gunfire. The tank shell and gunfire are thought to be in retaliation to three rockets that are said to have landed in the outskirts of Ashkelon, with no injuries or damage. An Israeli missile killed a suspected Palestinian militant in Gaza on Tuesday who is said was planning to carry out an attack inside Israel. Islamic Jihad threatened retaliation in a written statement. A dozen Israeli companies working on a Palestinian construction project have signed contracts that stipulate they must not use Israeli products originating in the West Bank, East Jerusalem or the Golan Heights, prompting a counter-boycott from Jewish settler groups and their supporters. Both Chile and Guyana joined Brazil, Argentina, Bolivia, Cuba, Venezuela, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Ecuador in recognizing Palestine as an independent state within the borders that existed before Israel captured the West Bank this week. Uruguay and Paraguay are expected to join the recognition in the coming weeks.
  • Iran is claiming it is capable of making its own nuclear fuel plates and rods of the kind needed to power a research reactor that makes medical isotopes, though the US claimed that Iran’s ability to produce a nuclear weapons had been delayed by sanctions.  Authorities have announced that more than 10 people have been arrested for espionage after the assassination of a nuclear physicist last year. The alleged spies are said to have been Mossad agents. A prominent human rights lawyer was sentenced to 11 years in jail and a 20 year ban on practicing law or traveling abroad after being convicted of “acting against national security”, “propaganda against the regime” and “membership of Human Rights Defenders Centre”. Other political prisoners were also handed heavy sentences for their participation in the aftermath of the disputed Iranian presidential election in 2009.
  • Saudi Arabia has issued international arrest warrants for 47 suspected al-Qaeda fighters who are thought to be building terrorist cells in the country. 16 of the suspects are said to be in Yemen, 27 in Pakistan or Afghanistan and 4 in Iraq.
  • On Saturday, a roadside bomb went off near an Iraqi army patrol wounding 8 in Abu Ghraib; gunmen killed an off-duty policeman in Taji; an Iraqi soldier was killed and another wounded in a roadside bomb attack north of Baghdad; a bomb killed a woman and her 4 year-old nephew in Baquba; and gunmen killed a Health Ministry employee in southwestern Baghdad. On Sunday, gunmen killed a member of the Badr organization outside his house in northwestern Baghdad, and a roadside bomb targeting a police patrol wounded a policeman in southern Baghdad. On Monday, two roadside bombs exploded in central Baghdad wounding four passers-by; armed men on foot killed two in two separate incidents in Mosul; a roadside bomb killed a police chief of Hit and wounded three other policemen when it struck a convoy; police found the body of an unidentified man with bullet wounds to the head in Hilla; a sticky bomb on a car wounded the driver and two passengers in Tuz Khurmato; and a roadside wounded two guards protecting public infrastructure when it went off near their patrol in Tikrit. On Tuesday, a roadside bomb near a market wounded three civilians in Latifiya; a sticky bomb attached to a mini-bus went off near a gas factory wounding three civilians in Taji; a roadside bomb wounded seven civilians in north-central Baghdad; a car bomb near a police patrol killed one police officer and wounded another eight in Shirqat; a bomb planted near the house of a university professor wounded him in western Baghdad; a sticky bomb attached to a car wounded four in southern Baghdad; and a bomb in a mini-bus killed the driver in Mahmudiya. On Wednesday, a bomb planted near a judge’s home wounded him in southern Baghdad; a bomb attached to a truck killed the driver in Taji; a roadside bomb killed three civilians in Taji; a roadside bomb killed a civilian in eastern Mosul; and gunmen killed a civilian after chasing him from house to house in eastern Mosul. On Thursday, gunmen killed a goldsmith and wounded another in southwestern Baghdad; a roadside bomb wounded four civilians in northern Baghdad; a roadside bomb killed one civilian and wounded four others in central Baghdad; and a roadside bomb killed one person and wounded five others in central Baghdad. On Friday, a dozen terror suspects disguised in police uniforms broke out of an Iraqi jail, prompting a manhunt for what officials say are top-ranking insurgents linked to al-Qaeda.

Europe

  • Russian police detained at least 20 people in Moscow on Tuesday in an effort to curb neo-nationalist groups. The groups have been cited as sparking racial violence over the past month. The Lower House of the Russian legislature approved the second reading of a ratification bill for the New START nuclear disarmament pact with the US with a vote of 349 in favor out of 450. The 123 Agreement of civilian nuclear cooperation between Russia and the US entered into force on Tuesday. The deal allows the two countries to exchange nuclear energy technology, engage in joint commercial nuclear ventures and work more closely in combating nuclear proliferation.
  • Belarus accused EU members Poland and Germany of seeking a coup against President Lukashenka by organizing the mass protests in December over his reelection. The apartments of four opposition activists were searched in connection with last month’s protests, along with dozens of offices and homes of journalists, pro-democracy activists and members of opposition parties as the police crackdown on opposition continues.
  • An early morning brawl left three dead and three others with gunshot wounds in Southern Ukraine on Saturday. The man was arrested and is under investigation.
  • Reports of an explosion at a Georgian military training base in Tbilisi say several servicemen were killed and wounded on Tuesday. On Thursday, a former member of the pro-Georgian South Ossetian leadership warned that a new conflict between Russia and Georgia could erupt if talks are not immediately made.
  • The armed Basque separatist group Eta has declared a ceasefire it called four months ago is now “permanent and general” and open to verification by international observers. Observers warn that the group has called for a permanent ceasefire before and later called them off.
  • The party of Kosovo’s PM is expected to see its overall national margin of victory go down slightly in the rerun elections on Sunday. The first election was marred by allegations of fraud and irregularities last month.
  • The Web site for the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party has published a manifesto that includes a demand for democratic autonomy. Some experts suggest that the Turkish President recent travels to the Kurdish region was the latest sign that the government is continuing its outreach with the minority. Yet violent protests broke out on Thursday as a trial of 152 Kurdish activists and politicians resumed in the southeast. The PKK has called a unilateral ceasefire until June when Turkey holds a general election.

This week in conflict… January 1st-7th, 2011.

Hello all! Hope everything is well with you!

As always, 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.

Peace!
Rebecca

World

  • This amazing video features a digital world map that shows when, where and how many nuclear experiments each country has conducted between the period 1945-1998. Severely disturbing.
  • World prices of food staples rose to a new record in December, passing the 2008 levels when food costs sparked riots around the world. Experts warn that prices could still go higher due to droughts, floods and cold weather. The environment minister of the UK announced that it should be illegal to halt food exports even at times of national crisis, citing no country should be allowed to interfere with the global food commodity market.

Africa

  • At least one person was killed and as many as 130 arrested after an attack on opposition-aligned Henri Bedie’s headquarters in the Cote D’Ivoire on Tuesday. Five people are said to have died in fighting between Gbagbo and Ouattara supporters on Monday. ECOWAS officials claimed Gbagbo had agreed to further talks and promised to lift the blockade around the Golf Hotel where opposition Ouattara is held up. The blockade remained in place the following day and Gbagbo’s foreign minister said that he only promised to look at conditions for lifting the blockade, not remove it. The UN called upon 2,000 extra peacekeepers to bolster its existing force of 9,800, and to try and investigate claims of up to 80 bodies in alleged mass graves. I have analyzed some of the possible “solutions” being offered to this ongoing crisis here.
  • The Tunisian man who set off a wave off protests after setting himself on fire last month in protest has died from third-degree burns. The protests, which continued this week and brought clashes between police and protesters, are bringing light to the rampant problem of unemployment in a country often portrayed as a tourist haven and economic success. Thousands of Tunisian lawyers have since gone on strike to demand an end to what they say are beatings by security forces.
  • The Ugandan parliament has more than doubled its allocation of funds to the president’s office ahead of next month’s elections. The opposition is accusing Museveni, who has been in power since 1986, of using state coffers to fund his re-election. The Ugandan High Court has banned the country’s media outlets from outing people as gay, following recent published lists of homosexual people that called for them to be hanged or reported to police in local tabloid The Rolling Stone. Threats of al-Shabaab violence forced the transfer of many patients in Mulago hospital. The hospital hoped to be more prepared than it was during an attack last year that resulted in the deaths of over 70 people.
  • Many fear for freedom of the press in Zimbabwe after the government warned journalists that they could be prosecuted if they fail to comply with new registration fees that have increased as much as 300%. It is illegal in for journalists to work in the country without accreditation. President Mugabe’s hopes of having a parliamentary election by June of this year may have been quashed, following reports that the country must postpone the poll to make constitutional reforms first. The PM Tsvangirai now faces a treason inquiry following a Wikileaks report that revealed his talks with US embassy officials about possible sanctions. If found guilty, Tsvangirai could face the death penalty.
  • Some hope for chiefs’ courts in southern Sudan was reported this week, which are the only functioning part of the judicial system in much of the region. The courts are said to be accessible, well-known, efficient, flexible and relatively cheap, and take into account the particular social contexts of disputes instead of just rigid application of written laws. Experts suggested on Sunday that the referendum may be relatively peaceful. An estimated 100,000 migrants have returned from northern Sudan into their southern homeland over the past three months to take part in the long-awaited referendum on whether southern Sudan should become an independent nation and the Sudanese President, Omar al-Bashir arrived in the regional capital of Juba to deliver what could be his final address to the region and meet with local ministers. Al-Bashir also warned south Sudan not to assist fighters from the western Darfur region who have been rebelling against his government since 2003, calling any cooperation a “violation”. Al-Bashir is accused of skimming a fortune from his country’s oil income, with a recent Wikileaks cable estimating that he had a secret $9 billion. Southern Sudan signed a cease-fire on Wednesday with a renegade general, who presented a significant security threat for the referendum. A leader from one of the two dominant tribes in Abyei said his people will not accept joining the south following the January 9th referendum, warning there will be war without excuse should the other tribe vote to annex Abyei to the south. Here is an overview of some of the various technical efforts in place to help monitor the referendum.
  • Two Malians were injured after a gas cylinder exploded in the French embassy of Bamako on Wednesday. The alleged al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb culprit was arrested immediately and said to be of Tunisian descent.
  • Four MPs in Tanzania were detained by police following a demonstration called by the opposition on Tuesday. A section of a busy highway is said to have been turned into a battlefield as heavily armed riot police broke up demonstrations, with dozens of injuries and at least two deaths. On Thursday, the government released Freeman Mbowe, the chairman of the Chadema opposition party, who urged his followers to continue to fight for their rights.
  • The Republic of Congo is set to become the first African country to provide specific legal protection for its indigenous peoples. A government backed bill was passed by both the senate and national assembly and will take effect once signed into law by the President.
  • Violence, protests and defection marred the State Assembly congresses in Nigeria early this week, including an assassination, and hundreds of armed youths engaged in a free for all fight. Armed police and soldiers were drafted into Nigeria’s oil-producing Delta state for a governorship election on Thursday, which is reported to have passed without major unrest and only isolated acts of sabotage. The run-up to the vote was marred by disputes over voter registration, and an attack on a local office of the electoral commission. The federal government has declared zero tolerance of any hindrance to oil production increase in the area in the coming year. A group in Jos complained over reported silent killings and missing persons and called upon the state government to improve the security apparatus.
  • Moroccan officials say they have arrested a cell of militants who were planning to launch attacks on security services with a large cache of weapons. Weapons were seized in the disputed Western Sahara.
  • The son of retired Zambian President Kaunda has warned that the country risks bloodshed during elections this year if the government does not put in place measures to stop political violence. The government in turn, accused the younger Kaunda, a colonel in the Zambian army during his father’s presidency, of inciting violence.
  • Some 21 people were killed after a bomb was detonated within the Coptic church in Alexandria, Egypt during the New Years service. Seven people were later arrested and said to be connected to al-Qaeda. Egyptian authorities were on guard before the Coptic Christmas Eve Mass in an effort to prevent another attack like the New Year’s suicide bombing.
  • A well-known Mauritanian anti-slavery campaigner has been held in custody since mid-December, charged with assaulting two police officers. Many human rights organizations have condemned his detention, citing its only purpose was to punish his activities of upholding human rights within the country. It is estimated that nearly 40% of the population lives in a state of slavery or have relatives who are slaves.
  • An Eritrean rebel group (Red Sea Afar Democratic Organization) has vowed to increase military attacks this year in an effort to overthrow the government. Some 8 political groups have allegedly joined together to depose the President.
  • At least 19 people, including many civilians, were killed during heavy clashes in Mogadishu, Somalia on Saturday between al-Shabaab and Somali government forces and their AMISOM allies. At least 3 soldiers were killed after Somali soldiers mutinied over nonpayment of salaries. African Union peacekeepers (AMISOM) spoke on Sunday of their performance in Somalia over the past year, highlighting their “victory” over combats with Islamist insurgents.

Asia

  • Three policemen were killed on Tuesday in Kyrgyzstan while carrying out identity checks in the capital. Two of the three suspects thought responsible, who were also allegedly responsible for several terrorist attacks, were later killed along with one member of a special security unit during a security operation.
  • South Korean activists rallied against North Korea on Sunday, criticizing Kim Jong-il’s artillery attack. North Korea called for unconditional and early talks with South Korea on Wednesday in an attempt to end the months of escalating tensions. South Korea quickly dismissed the offer as insincere. The US envoy for policy on North Korea called for serious negotiations over the North Korean nuclear program to start soon.
  • Japan will soon be visiting South Korea with several proposals aimed at strengthening military ties between the two countries. The Japanese defense minister will also propose that the two sign separate agreements to cooperate in supplying each other’s armed forces during peacekeeping and other international operations.
  • Tajik security forces announced they tracked down and killed eight suspected Islamist militants, including an al Qaeda linked warlord on Tuesday. Security forces launched retaliatory operations against the rebels in eastern Tajikistan following the Sept. 19th attack on government troops that killed 28. At least two Tajik servicemen were killed in a gun battle with some 30 suspected drug smugglers who entered from Afghanistan last week.
  • Kazakhstan plans to hold its first referendum tabled by a people’s initiative, a move already voted for in parliament. They aim to change the constitution to enable President Nazarbayev to stay in power until at least 2020 to save the expense of an election. The outgoing US ambassador to Kazakhstan criticized the plans for a national referendum to extend the Presidential term, calling on Kazakhs to be able to have a choice between ideas and personalities instead of just “yes” or “no”.
  • On Saturday, strikes and rallies were staged across Pakistan against proposed changes to the country’s blasphemy laws. There were also several people killed in drone attacks and a raid by security forces. The governor of Pakistan’s wealthiest province was killed by one of his own bodyguards, apparently for speaking out against the country’s controversial blasphemy laws. Thousands of Pakistanis attended the funeral of Salman Taseer despite calls from a number of religious scholars warning against honouring him. On Tuesday, a bomb ripped through a bus carrying children of paramilitary soldiers, wounding 15; and gunfire was heard at a shopping centre popular with foreigners. On Friday, the second largest political party in the governing coalition reversed its decision to join with the opposition restoring the alliance’s parliamentary majority and saving the government from possible collapse. The MQM however, has not rejoined the federal cabinet. A suspected US drone strike is said to have killed at least five alleged militants.
  • Philippine security forces shot and arrested a senior Maoist guerrilla the day after a cease-fire ended. The move put planned resumptions of peace talks next month into question.
  • At least four people were killed and up to 10,000 left homeless following ethnic clashes between two rival tribes in northeastern India. Around 40 people are said to be still missing. Violence is said to have sparked on New Year’s Eve after one group accused the other of failing to adhere to a strike.
  • On Saturday, three alleged insurgents were killed during an operation targeting a Taliban leader in Kabul, Afghanistan; and three other alleged insurgents were killed during a precision air strike in Kabul. On Sunday, an ISAF service member was killed in an insurgent attack in Kabul. On Monday, one Afghan civilian was killed and another five wounded in an explosion in Herat. On Tuesday, a bomb exploded on a road in downtown Kabul, killing a policeman and wounding two civilians; and several alleged insurgents were killed in an operation in central Ghazni province. On Wednesday, two alleged insurgents were killed during an operation by Afghan and NATO troops in Kabul. On Thursday, several alleged insurgents were killed by a NATO-led air strike in Kunar; ISAF forces carried out an air strike, killing two alleged insurgents and wounding several others in Helmand; and ISAF forces killed two other alleged insurgents during a raid in Ghazni. At least 17 people were killed in a suicide attack at a bath house in southern Afghanistan on Friday; and three NATO troops were killed in roadside bombings. The US is said to be sending more than 1,400 additional Marines to Afghanistan this month to try and solidify progress before troop reductions begin in July, despite recent protests involving hundreds of people who say the US-led foreign forces disregard local culture, enter residents’ homes, arrest civilians, and desecrate the Holy Quran. A new Afghan tv program is hoping to provide a forum for local women to speak out against widespread abuse, rape and other issues. The women will keep their anonymity by covering their faces with a half-blue and half-white mask. A tribal uprising in the notoriously violent district of Sangin is bringing hopes of peace among Afghan and western officials, as elders, backed by some local insurgents, have agreed to stand up to the Taliban.
  • China staged a runway test of its first radar-evading stealth fighter on Wednesday. Also on Wednesday, rare gun violence bared its face, as two men shot and killed three police officers and an assistant and staged a series of carjackings in the northeast. The attacks also left five others wounded. On Thursday, it was revealed by Wikileaks that Chinese officials announced to Western diplomats that they will not sit still for human-rights lectures anymore. A leading campaigner for the victims of Tienanmen Square protesters and long time democracy activist Szeto Wah died of lung cancer this week. Chinese scientists say they have developed a technology for reprocessing nuclear fuel that could dramatically increase the efficiency of nuclear-fuel reserves, stretching them to 3,000 years, up from the current estimates of 50-70 years.

Americas

  • Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez suggested an end to the diplomatic standoff with the US that last week saw him rejecting Obama’s ambassador Larry Palmer. Chavez instead suggested Bill Clinton, Sean Penn, Noam Chomsky or Olive Stone take the role.
  • The presidential runoff election in Haiti will be postponed until late February election officials announced on Tuesday. The officials said the need more time to prepare after the results of the recount are released.
  • On Sunday, a police officer was shot and killed by suspected drug gang members in Monterrey, Mexico; and armed gunmen threw a grenade at a police station. On Saturday, gunmen killed two men in a rural part of the central western coastal state, and were later blamed for shooting up a village celebration that left another five dead. A gang of mostly 15 year-old teenagers were detained after a shootout with police in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico on Wednesday. Police found packages containing 10 pounds of marijuana and a pistol. A letter allegedly signed by La Familia drug cartel announced a one-month truce in the western state of Michoacan, to demonstrate that it is not responsible for the criminal acts federal authorities are reporting.
  • A grenade thrown into a rum shop in Georgetown, Guyana on Wednesday killed at least one person and injured another 17 others. Full details of the incident have yet to be released.
  • Several gangs have seized control of parts of northern Guatemala. The government has suspended civil liberties and declared a state of siege on the area.
  • The US Defense Secretary announced on Thursday that the nation’s “extreme fiscal duress” required him to call for cuts in the size of Army and Marine Corps, reversing the growth of military spending that followed the 9/11 attacks. Gates said that the Pentagon’s budget will be reduced by $78 billion, not counting the costs of combat operations and some 6% of Army and Marine Corp troops (or 47,000) would be cut.
  • Dilma Roussef was sworn in as Brazil’s first female President. Rousseff is a former Marxist guerrilla and trained economist who has made poverty reduction a goal for her Presidency.
  • Squatters in Argentina moved onto a soccer field on federal land in Villa Soldati, angering neighbours who fear that crime will rise with their presence. The neighbours have been clashing nightly, burning tires and beating drums, with squatters protected behind a metal barricade and police officers. Land grabs are said to be a major challenge in the country.

Middle East

  • A Wikileaks cable from 2008 allegedly said Israel told US officials it would keep Gaza’s economy on “the brink of collapse” while avoiding a humanitarian crisis. The Palestinian Red Crescent Society have accused Israeli forces of violating international law in 161 incidents against their crews and medical teams in 2010, including blocking access to those in need, preventing the transfer to specialized medical centres, holding ambulances and crews at checkpoints for hours and even attacking its staff and ambulances. A group of young Palestinian cyber-activists has launched Gaza Youth’s Manifesto for Change, where young Gazans make it clear that they have had enough, tearing into many factions within the region and the human rights violations that they have perpetrated. PM Netanyahu has said that he did not reject the talks to halt a settlement freeze, but rather the US stopped pressing for it. On Saturday, a Palestinian woman died after inhaling tear gas fired by Israeli forces during a protest against Israel’s separation barrier in the West Bank.  Two civilians were injured in air raids on Gaza by Israeli forces, who claim they were acting in retaliation of a projectile fired on Israel. On Sunday, Israeli troops shot and killed a Palestinian man who approached a checkpoint carrying a bottle. On Monday, Israel charged two Palestinian employees of the British consulate with arms trafficking for Hamas. On Thursday, Israeli troops are said to have killed two Palestinians who allegedly tried to cross the border fence at the Gazan border. Also on Thursday, Israeli PM Netanyahu is said to have met with the Egyptian President as part of an effort to revive peace talks. Israeli troops are alleged to have mistakenly shot and killed a 65-year-old Palestinian man who lived on another floor of the same building on Friday during a raid to arrest a Hamas militant in the West Bank.
  • On Monday, Iran invited Russia, China and several EU members to visit its nuclear facilities, but pointedly snubbed the US. The US dismissed the invitation, calling it a “clever ploy”, and several European diplomats said the invitation was unlikely to be accepted, if at all, until after the next round of negotiations. The EU says it believes such inspections should be conducted by the International Atomic Energy Agency. Iran arrested the fourth American woman in less than two years on charges of spying, after she allegedly entered the country illegally on foot. Iran claims it has shot down western “spy planes” in the Persian Gulf, a claim the Pentagon denied saying it found no evidence of such an attack. Three Sufi dervishes are said to be held in custody after a raid, in what Sufi officials and human rights groups say are examples of the increasing harassment of Sufis since President Ahmadinejad took office.
  • Kuwaiti Prime Minister al-Mohammed al-Sabah has survived a no-confidence vote brought against him in parliament. The motion was filed after violent clashes last month between security forces and opposition supporters.
  • Ten Yemeni soldiers were killed by al-Qaeda fighters in an attack of three military vehicles in the southern part of the country. The fighters used RPGs and machine guns and burned two of the vehicles in the attack.
  • On Saturday, armed men opened fire on the car of an Iraqi police lieutenant colonel in Baghdad, killing him and his driver; and a roadside bomb killed a local official’s wife, and seriously injured him in Baquba. On Sunday, gunmen in speeding cars killed three police officers, an army officer and a local government worker in different parts of Baghdad; a car bomb went off near an Iraqi army patrol, killing one soldier and one civilian in Mosul; a roadside bomb went off near an Iraqi army patrol wounding one civilian in Mosul; police found the body of a man who appeared to have been tortured and strangled in Kirkuk; gunmen attacked a police checkpoint, killing one policeman and wounding three near Falluja; gunmen planted bombs near the house of a chief judge, wounding him and eight of his family and killing his nephew in Balad; and the Iraqi army is said to have foiled a suicide attempt against the head of a Nineveh provincial council in Mosul. On Monday, gunmen in a car wounded a police officer in northeastern Baghdad; armed men stormed a house, killing a Christian woman in Baghdad; and two US service members were killed in Baghdad. On Tuesday, a bomb wounded four members of a government backed Sunni militia in Tarmiya; gunmen in a speeding car wounded a police captain in eastern Baghdad; gunmen in a speeding car killed a female lawyer in central Baghdad; and two brothers were killed by a bomb in Balad. On Wednesday, a sticky bomb on a minibus killed one and wounded another in southwestern Baghdad; a roadside bomb targeting a police patrol wounded two policemen and a civilian in eastern Baghdad; a sticky bomb on a car wounded two people in southeastern Baghdad; gunmen in a car wounded a civilian in eastern Mosul; gunmen killed a government employee working for the Ministry of Housing and Reconstruction in northern Baghdad; and three Iranian pilgrims were wounded in a roadside bomb attack in Taji. On Thursday, an Iraqi army force foiled an attack against a church in Mosul, defusing six bombs and two explosive vests; and a sticky bomb on a car wounded an off-duty policeman in Hawija. Moqtada al-Sadr, the leader of Iraq’s Sadrist movement has returned to the country after three years in exile, after helping to usher in the new government.

Europe

  • Four suspected militants were killed in a raid in Daghestan on Wednesday. A policeman and a suspected militant were killed in a separate attack on Tuesday when passengers of a car opened fire during a security check.
  • Russian President Medvedev has signed a law on forming a joint venture with Mongolia to develop a large uranium deposit. The Russian state nuclear company has pledged to help with infrastructure in Mongolia, though it remains unclear how soon work can start since Canada’s Khan Resources is still claiming rightful ownership to 58% of the reserves. On Saturday, some 70 protesters, including opposition leaders were detained for participating in a sanctioned Strategy-31 rally.  On Tuesday, at least 35 protesters in support of jailed Russian opposition leaders were detained; while on Wednesday, at least 10 protesters were detained.
  • A Turkish Airlines flight from Norway to Istanbul faced an attempted hijack attempt, demanding the aircraft return to Oslo on Wednesday. Passengers tackled the suspect and he was arrested immediately on landing.
  • Members of the Communist Party in the Ukraine say assailants have blown up a controversial monument to Josef Stalin. The bust is located outside party headquarters, which is said to have sustained serious damage. The same statue is said to have been damaged last week in another explosion.
  • Belarus witnessed a violent regression following its landslide election victory this weekend, as riot police took to violently arresting opponents. The poll saw Alexander Lukashenko re-elected into power.
  • Hungary’s Viktor Orban took over the presidency of the European Union on Saturday, which some fear is a worrying development. A media law, that many cited as the death of press freedom, came into effect over the weekend under Orban. Orban later said he would change the law if necessary, bowing to mounting anger.
  • Greece has defended its plans to build a 12.5 km fence on its Turkish border to prevent immigrants from entering the country. A European Commission said that the measure will not help addressing and managing the migratory challenges.

Is peace a possibility for Cote D’Ivoire in 2011? Part 2

In the previous post I spoke about some of the underlying tensions and the general situation over the past few weeks in Cote D’Ivoire. In this post, I will discuss some of the “solutions” being proposed, the likelihood of their usage and the effect I believe they will have on the population.

Sanctions

The international community was quick to suggest sanctions and have since taken steps to freeze Gbagbo’s foreign assets. The IMF has cut Gbagbo off from some $800 million in development funding and instead handed over access to their former employee, Ouattara and many other countries have taken steps to freeze Gbagbo’s assets in their country. Cote d’Ivoire has already missed its coupon payment on its $2.3 billion Eurobond (though there is debate over which President should actually pay this) that was due last Friday, but will not default for another month. Default could have serious implications on the future of international debt relationships with the country, which has already restructured twice in the past. Travel restrictions on Gbagbo and several members of his camp have also been put into place. The intention here is to financially isolate Gbagbo and his net of loyal supporters and force him to step down peacefully.

Gbagbo has been accused of paying for foreign (mostly Liberian) mercenaries to help fight his battle, and has the public support of the army and police. Many feel that without money to pay the army, police force and mercenaries, Gbagbo will quickly lose his support from these entities, which may even turn on him. This is certainly a possibility, as some reports suggest Gbagbo has only enough money to pay these forces for three months, and many of the forces are living day to day without any savings to pull them through.  Without pay, they are likely to be angered and more susceptible to go with whoever can provide a salary. State run newspapers claim however, that Gbagbo’s signature is still being recognized on state accounts at the central bank and that salaries will be paid regularly and on time.

Several governments have refused to recognize ambassadors appointed by Gbagbo, resulting in Gbagbo announcing the removal of diplomatic privileges and immunity for those who refuse him in reciprocity. Britain, whose ambassador is actually based in Ghana rather than Cote d’Ivoire, rejected the move, saying it no longer accepted Gbagbo’s authority. Canada has called the removal “illegitimate”, but may be in a more difficult position as their embassy is located within Abidjan. The US treasury has barred Americans from doing business with any of Gbagbo’s inner circle.

Imposing sanctions also poses a risk. An armed force without a salary is a dangerous thing, as they may simply take to extracting their dues from the population as has been demonstrated in other conflicts. Civil workers, many living paycheck to paycheck, face the possibility of hunger without a salary, especially considering the rising prices of food staples. Another concern is the possibility of several eastern players funding and arming Gbagbo’s camp discretely. There are unconfirmed rumours of certain groups already doing so. China is said to have just recently given at least 3 billion CFA to Cote d’Ivoire, fulfilling their promise from a recent China-Africa summit and is unlikely to break the relationship that allows them access to raw materials– whoever is in charge. In this situation, Gbagbo would likely trade their funding for local concessions—and possibly use the funding to attempt to expel those who would have him ousted.

Dialogue or recount and investigation

Dialogue is only useful if both parties are willing to come to the table and work on a solution that is best for the country. Gbagbo is very skilled at the political manipulation game and has been announcing in public that he is open to the idea of dialogue and investigation. However, many feel that this is merely another stalling technique aimed at him finding ways to stay in power. Ouattara has been reported as saying he will not accept dialogue until Gbagbo admits he was defeated. Not a likely situation. This makes the possibility of a unity government (which is highly undesirable for much of the international community) or any sort of peace arrangement unlikely, or at the very least, a long way off.

International mediators have been attempting to diffuse the situation through a series of talks, and have been offering Gbagbo the option of comfortable exile and amnesty should he step down peacefully. This may be a valid option if the sanctions work as they are intended, but have so far fallen on deaf ears. Even still, this process should be continued as the stakes might change in the coming months. The international community should be careful in its choice of mediators however, as the AU choice of Odinga, who was one of the first to call on military action against Gbagbo, left slim chance for an opportunity of meaningful diplomacy.

Recounting and investigating the votes is no longer really an option, even though the monitors did cite irregularities and intimidation across the country. The international community’s previous announcement of an undisputed winner is extremely unlikely to be retracted, as it would bring into question their past partiality and neutrality. This would only give more fodder for Gbagbo to cite corruption should the recount not be found in his favour. In all likelihood, Gbagbo would not accept defeat even in the event of a recount in Ouattara’s favour. Ouattara has also dismissed this possibility entirely, saying that military intervention is now the only option.

Investigation, however, is something that should still be considered. Though it will have little change in the current situation, it will be helpful for the international community to review their process so they can better handle this type of situation in the future. Investigation into all allegations of violence is also extremely important, so that all parties responsible for inciting violence can eventually be brought to the International Criminal Court for justice. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights warned three top military leaders within Gbagbo’s camp that they could be liable for war crimes prosecution and reminded them of their obligations under international human rights law and humanitarian law.

Military Intervention by African parties

Intervention is an option that has been talked about, but mostly as an extreme last resort. Ouattara is strongly for it, saying that it need not trigger a civil war and although many Julas in Cote d’Ivoire are no doubt eagerly awaiting this possibility; many feel it is likely to bring a greater amount of violence upon the population.

The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and its Monitoring Group ECOMOG has been going back and forth over the possibility of intervening militarily, most recently shelving the idea in favour of diplomacy and attempts at dialogue.

There has long been a rivalry between Anglophone and Francophone parties within ECOWAS/ECOMOG, with the Francophone countries of West Africa in the past being vehemently opposed to intervention, which they see as a tool for Anglophone domination in the region. In previous interventions, ECOWAS has sent in troops only after being invited to intervene by governments already in place. The effectiveness of their force directly depends on the political consensus within the West African community, who will have to collectively decide on how the mission is engaged and handled. Burkina Faso’s President Compaore has previously declared his total disagreement with intervention, citing that the Standing Mediation Committee of ECOWAS has “no competence to interfere in member-states’ internal conflicts, but only in conflicts breaking out between member-countries”. Compaore feared of a possible expansion of any internal conflict to neighbouring countries should intervention be used. This is a legitimate fear.

At the moment, refugees are already pouring across the borders and armed groups have been cited crossing the Liberian border to intimidate them. Gbagbo is widely suspected of hiring Liberian mercenaries to do his dirty work within the country, and more Liberian mercenaries are said to be crossing the border willing to work for the highest bidder. This fluctuation of populations is likely to bring certain levels of violence into neighbouring Liberia should invasion take place or at the very least, result in violence against other West African nationals still living within Cote d’Ivoire.

ECOWAS member states are said to be lacking the economic resources necessary to sustain large-scale military operations. Past intervention missions have focused on securing cease-fires, creating an atmosphere conducive for negotiations or the protection of non-combatants. The countries are thus lacking the type of special operations forces capable of a “decapitation strike” that would be able to remove Gbagbo from power. That leaves only the option of full-scale invasion, which has serious implications for the civilian population. There has long been a difficulty trying to operate a unified command among ECOMOG troops because of a high level of distrust between member states, resulting in troop contingents that may arrive with different and sometimes conflicting instructions, different training standards, and excessive control by their home governments. A force facing these handicaps will likely have difficulty operating a swift commando-style mission. The ECOWAS missions are also highly reliant on non-regional state sponsorship for their operations and would require logistical support of the US and France.

Nigeria, the largest military power within the community and holder of the current presidency of ECOWAS, has little incentive to wage war in a year when it will be holding its own Presidential elections and is already bogged down with its own internal strife. Dozens of people protested in Nigeria against the use of intervention, fearing they could be targeted in retaliatory violence should they invade. The other countries most likely to be the core of any force– Ghana and Senegal– have millions of their own citizens in the country and also fear reprisals. (UPDATE: Ghanian President Atta-Mills has since announced that his country would not support a military intervention in Cote d’Ivoire and has allegedly even sent military equipment and financial assistance to Gbagbo). A Nigerian analyst questioned which country would want to send troops into an urban centre like Abidjan and face a national army instead of a rebel force; and also suggested that Nigeria would not be in the position to do anything until at least after their own elections scheduled for January 22nd and the later general elections in April. ECOWAS has only a 1,500 strong rapid reaction force and a further main force of 4,000 at their disposal, which would be outnumbered by Gbagbo forces in the case of a full-scale invasion.

Military Intervention by International Parties

The new American foreign policy in Africa has led it to develop partnerships with Mali, Ghana, Morocco and other states in its “war on terrorism” and increase funding to military operations in Africa. United States Africa Command (AFRICOM) has also conducted several large-scale military maneuvers and war games in West Africa. Despite America’s missions in Iraq and Afghanistan, it is said the US Navy does have an Amphibious Ready Group with three or four ships, including a large helicopter carrier, with a 2,000-man Marine Expeditionary Unit able to do the job in Cote d’Ivoire. This however, is extremely unlikely. The US has traditionally followed France’s lead within francophone Africa, and France would be unlikely to approve of  US assistance to install a new Ivorian leader. The Pentagon has just seen a tremendous slash in budget that would reduce its spending by $78 billion over the next five years, not including costs of combat operations and the cutting of approximately 47,000 troops from the Army and Marine Corps forces. They are now looking to scale back invasions and military operations, not increase them. Washington has also recently indicated it might accept Gbagbo if it would help defuse the crisis, demonstrating that they are trying to see other options than invasion. Intervention into Africa is also a highly undesirable political action for any US leaders, as many keenly remember the disastrous invasion in Somalia and fear “wasting” any military resources on a fight that serves little interest to American citizens.

African security analyst Peter Pham said there is “little chance” that the UN would allow its peacekeepers to get involved in a military strike, as the “precedent would make it very difficult to get future agreement for deployment of such missions by host countries”. It would also call into question the lack of response by the UN in several other flawed elections processes over the past few months. The UN has recently called on between 1,000 and 2,000 additional peacekeepers to augment the 9,800 troops currently in place; though these troops would be under the same mandate that disallows them from intervening.

The French Defense Minister Alain Juppe has said that France is only ready to intervene to protect French citizens and that any decision about military intervention would need to come from the UN or the AU. French President Sarkozy later announced that French troops were not in Cote d’Ivoire to interfere with internal affairs, saying that they are to “act by virtue of a UN mandate”. French intellectuals are insisting upon UN approval for any intervention to be considered legitimate. Given France’s history in Cote d’Ivoire, a military intervention would not be a politically popular choice. In 2004, in what can be described as analogous to the US’ Black Hawk Down incident, France lost nine soldiers in a bombing and retaliated on Gbagbo’s government by wiping out the entire Ivorian air force. Retaliation attacks saw much of the French population being removed militarily by helicopter and never returning. Popular French sentiment is strongly against further interfering in someone else’s fight. No other European nation is likely going to risk its forces in West Africa without France leading the charge.

Response to Intervention

Two of Africa’s most respected peace-building and governance organizations, the West African Network for Peacebuilding (WANEP) and the Institute for Democratic Governance (IDEG), have expressed serious reservations about any proposed military intervention within Cote d’Ivoire. The response to any intervention must be strongly weighed because the move could result in great amounts of violence faced by civilians .

The notorious Ble Goude called upon his supporters to resist any foreign occupation, saying that “no army, however powerful, can come and remove Gbagbo in order to install (Ouattara)” in front of a crowd of 5,000 who shouted they would not accept that option. Some claim that a good number of officers within Gbagbo’s camp don’t feel like going to war since they have already enriched themselves in previous years, and don’t want to risk what they have accumulated. Some have even allegedly told Gbagbo they wouldn’t order their troops to fire upon unarmed civilians to avoid any prosecution at the International Criminal Court. The EU and France are deliberately avoiding sanctioning many of these generals (including General Philippe Mangou) in an effort to capitalize on this sentiment and avoid the wrath that may be enraged should they de-legitimize portions of the armed forces.

Ouattara has been claiming that 63% of Ivorian soldiers voted for him despite the belief that Gbagbo has support of the army, though this statement seems to contradict the reality of the situation on the ground. Since Gbagbo is “just one man” with a small group of supporters, Ouattara suggests that he could be easily removed through military intervention. This claim would have the army, long staffed along ethnic lines favorable to Gbagbo, voting in higher numbers for Ouattara than they did among the average population and if true, would have likely resulted in a nationally-run coup on Gbagbo weeks ago.

Gbagbo is said to have approximately 4,000 regular FDS troops, thousands of anti-riot police, the CESOS, the infantry, the navy and other paramilitary units at his disposal. The military forces are said to number over 30,000. They also have a tiny air force of Sukhoi warplanes, drones, Mi-24, Mi-8 and Puma copters, anti-aircraft batteries, rocket launchers and a dozen armored vehicles. Ouattara’s Force Nouvelles is said to have approximately 4,000 troops, with only a couple hundred currently in the capital and are said to be mostly lightly armed with machine guns and RPGs. There are also allegedly several heavily armed pro-Ouattara “sleeper cells” in the Abidjan neighbourhoods of Abobo, Port-Bouet 2, Koumassi and Adjame, and other rumours of armed cells of Gbagbo-supporters in other neighbourhoods.

Unless a quick, highly specialized “decapitation” mission is enacted, it is possible that Gbagbo supporters will fight back, or at the very least, the armed forces will resist the invasion. This would mean armed attacks within the most populous city in the country, with civilians likely caught in the crossfire. In this situation, the ports would likely close and transportation likely slow, making commerce nearly impossible. Many of those with wages would likely be unemployed for much of the armed conflict and food prices would skyrocket even further, making the population even more food insecure than it already is. Retaliations against pro-Ouattara populations and foreigners within the southern part of the country would become increasingly likely. The alleged armed sleeper cells would no doubt join the fight, bringing another layer of unrestrained violence upon the population.

The Forces Nouvelles could seize the opportunity while the FDS and other Gbagbo armed forces are busy fighting off an invasion to attempt to take the city. This would bring even more armed factions into the city, and with it, even more armed conflict. This type of situation would likely end in wholesale slaughter of many civilians.

Do Nothing

What if the international and African community just stands back and does nothing? Though this is not a popular option, it is likely the most probable (besides current sanctioning and attempts at dialogue).

On the streets, especially during the day, things within the city have relatively returned to normal. It is possible that the political killings and disappearances could wane off if the international community stopped pushing the country for action. The average Ivorian wants peace, and merely wants to go to work, and live in safety with their families– no matter who is in charge. In this case, Ouattara and his camp would no doubt have to seek exile in another country, and the Forces Nouvelles currently residing around the Golf Hotel would have to return back north. Lingering hatreds could fester underground, and result in later violence, but the country could remain functioning. The north and south would likely return to an ad hoc division. However, it is also possible that political killings and disappearances could continue and even increase, though this would likely result in increasing resentment from the civilian population. If this were the case, sanctioning and intervention would have a better chance of having the support of the Ivorian population, however, this could result in risking the wholesale slaughter of much of the population.

What’s next?

The international community has been quick to decide what’s best for the Ivorian people. They must remember that any move they make will have a lasting result on the population, and take every effort to consult the people to ensure Ivorian voices are not being lost in the process. It is easy to sit by in the US, France or another country and assert that one move is “best” for Ivorian people, but these people do not have to live with the outcomes of their decisions each and every day. They are not the ones who will have armed forces fighting in their streets.

Peace is a possibility in Cote d’Ivoire, as much of the population is everyday struggling to return there. They get up everyday, head to work, eat, take care of their children and hope that tomorrow something will change in the political situation. Many hope that the next generation will bring new leaders who haven’t been involved in past politics and who are more focused on ensuring they have jobs, food security and peace. Here’s hoping!

Paix pour la Cote d’Ivoire!

Is peace a possibility for Cote D’Ivoire in 2011? Part 1.

This past month or so has been a particularly stressful one for me. I have been living in Abidjan, Cote D’Ivoire for most of the past year and have watched as the country has been sinking deeper and deeper into violence and intense propaganda. Sadly, I’ve found I no longer believe a word I read in both local and international news, as I have read “news” that is in direct contrast to what I have seen and heard with my own eyes and ears. The stories seem to be escalating the situation further and further, and I’m finding myself extremely frustrated that everything seems to be so one-sided (either pro-Ouattara or pro-Gbagbo). It hurts me to think I have posted articles and comments that are seen as even slightly defensive of Gbagbo in the international sphere in an effort to elicit some form of balance in the reporting, as I have been (and still am) heavily critical of him. It hurts to try and have discussions with locals within Abidjan in defense of Ouattara, to try and bring reason to fervent Gbagbo supporters. I hate playing the “other-side” game in response to one-sided arguments, but I think it’s important to try to play devil’s advocate with those die-hard supporters who only paint one side of the story. Frankly, I wish both presidents would move on and allow a fresh batch of politicians that aren’t tainted with past violence to step forward to take the country to a more peaceful future, but this is not reality.

I was last here in 2004, during the previous civil war and saw the violence as it spread and resulted in the intense hatred of all things foreign. It was sometimes scary and devastating to watch. I heard many horrific personal stories from friends of the violence they experienced at the time. Despite this, I was ecstatic at the opportunity to come back here. I love this country. I love the mostly kind and friendly people I have encountered here. I love the rich culture and delicious food. I love the countryside, the beaches and the thick, lush forest. I love the way of life here, barring the corruption that sometimes makes things difficult. It’s a beautiful country with a lot of really amazing treasures.

The November 28th presidential elections resulted in a political crisis, with two different entities announcing two different results. Both Presidents were sworn in, in separate ceremonies and the country has been awash with reports of violence and violent-rhetoric ever since. The crisis didn’t really begin here; it has been festering for many years but it is now looking likely to outbreak into civil war, political assassinations or exiles and further inter-group hatreds.

Though I have been writing detailed personal notes throughout this situation, I must admit that I have been fearful to publish anything on the situation in the past few weeks. After writing a critique of the nearly unanimous support for Ouattara (the opposition) demonstrated by the international community on this site and several posts on the subject in a few other forums, I received some rather scary death threats from one person and many comments that broke my non-violence, non-discrimination, non-racism policy. I decided to take a bit of a break from posting on the subject.

The results of the elections sadly, is no longer even really relevant to the discussion. Whoever “really” won did so in a circumstance of intimidation and irregularity that can be attributed to both parties, depending on where one is situated in the country (with Gbagbo-supporters being intimidated mostly in the north, and Ouattara supporters being intimidated mostly in the south). The events that have happened since have only worsened the possibility of the “truth” being told. Propaganda has run wild, with increasingly violent-rhetoric being spread among both state and opposition media. Any probing of results or investigation at this point will be lost behind propaganda I’m afraid.

There has been acts of violence and the country is at real threat of returning to civil war, which it never fully recovered from in the first place. At least 150 are confirmed dead, and probably somewhere closer to several hundred. Dozens (and perhaps many more) have disappeared, and hundreds are said to have been arrested. Many thousands have fled to neighbouring Liberia, escaping violence in the south perpetrated mostly by Gbagbo-supporters, alleged mercenaries and the security forces; and violence in the north perpetrated mostly by Ouattara supporters and the Forces Nouvelles. Further investigation is needed to assess the refugees and their experiences of violence.

Some 120,000 Liberian refugees reside within Cote D’Ivoire, thousands of Burkinabes, and other West Africa refugees; and there have been hints from some sources within the UNHCR that suggest that many of those flooding out of Cote D’Ivoire are these long-term refugees who have long worked the system. They are appearing heavily at the UNHCR border office rather than being evenly distributed throughout Liberia or other neighbouring countries (this is taken from both personal communications with officials and comments made to Chris Blattman from a UNHCR official). I do however believe, that even if these refugees “know how to work the system”, they are still experiencing violence, as foreigners are often scapegoated during domestic troubles.

Regardless of who these refugees are and where they came from, they must be assisted and resettled with caution. The increase of people into Liberia, itself prone to instability, leaves an already burdened population with more mouths to feed and endangers peace in that country as well. Armed groups have been cited crossing borders to intimidate refugee populations and take the conflict to new populations as they do. Instability in the region could easily pass borders if things in Cote D’Ivoire worsen.

Besides the refugees, there are many foreigners with money who have decided to return to their home countries by more planned means (via plane with actual luggage) as their embassies sent messages urging them to quit the country before more violence came. This has had some effect on the local economy, although it appears many major business owners will be staying and instead sending their wives and families back home.

Nearly half the population was already unemployed before the conflict began and the vast majority lives on little more than $1 a day. Those that work often support large numbers of people on their meager salaries. Many workers have been laid off since the crisis, and the prices of food staples has doubled. As the population becomes more food and job insecure, so the risk for conflict increases. Strikes called by Ouattara’s camp affected some of the services of the buses, gbakas (minbuses) and taxis for a few days, but as most of the population is living day to day, long-term or full out striking is extremely unlikely. Most can simply not afford to take the time off without severe repercussions to themselves and their families.

Rallies have been held and marches planned. Ouattara’s march on the RTI television station ended without real success and resulted in much-expected clashes between security forces and protesters. Despite the violence, Ouattara was calling on his supporters to continue the attempt the following day, again without success. He has since repeatedly warned Gbagbo of imminent consequences should he not back down immediately, though it is difficult to administer consequences when one is backed into hiding and the consequences have yet to be seen. The notorious Ble Goude (Gbagbo’s Youth Minister) has been busy rallying up Gbagbo supporters and spinning them into an angry frenzy, readying them for the moment he can unleash them to try to take the Golf Hotel (where the Ouattara camp is currently residing under UN and Force Nouvelles protection) by force. Two major marches planned by Ble Goude have been canceled the night before they were even begun, allegedly to prevent further violence (though they were called using the extreme violent-rhetoric Goude is famous for).

The local political humour paper Gbich has taken the opportunity openly mock both candidates and their behaviours, much to my enjoyment. However, in the serious papers (both state and opposition); violent, inciting rhetoric makes me skeptical of the veracity of anything printed inside and angered that more peaceful dialogue is not the popular option. Rumours of local media intimidation by Gbagbo forces haven’t stopped most opposition papers from writing, as they can still be found daily in many places around the city. I’ve personally been threatened by a pro-Ouattara supporter, so I know that the intimidation definitely goes both ways, but I can also say that I fear writing anything hyper-critical of either candidate should the situation deteriorate further.

On the streets, during the day time, things are pretty normal. The streets and markets are crowded with people again going about their daily business, though people are still cautiously stocking up on supplies and keeping an eye out for any signs of coming danger. The police in many parts of the city have even returned to using radar to ticket speeders. I’ve found no trouble or signs of blatant violence while traveling throughout the city in the past two weeks, except for roadblocks and neighbourhood patrols in a few districts at night. In fact, on New Years eve, I traveled throughout several districts (including both known pro-Ouattara and pro-Gbagbo districts) and saw drunken partying, fireworks and dancing as if nothing was wrong.  I couldn’t sleep that night as the music, cheering and fireworks of those partying around my apartment blared in through my windows.

I have detailed some of the local situation and the underlying tensions that exist in this post. I will discuss in further detail some of the proposed “solutions” to the crisis and the effects I see coming from those in the next post.

Women, Peace and Security

Hello all!

Reader Tim Symonds sent the following interesting information regarding women’s peace and security issues that I’d like to share with you! Thank you Tim for your contributions!

Peace!

Rebecca

A new post-conflict/peacebuilding Routledge publication

Of particular interest to students and researchers of peacebuilding for the second decade of UNSCR1325, particularly Gender/post-conflict studies, UN Agencies, International Donors, Foreign Offices, Parliamentarians, Departments of International Development/Stabilisation Units, Defence Departments, Humanitarian Agencies,  international security and International Relations specialists.

Women, Peace and Security: Translating Policy into Practice

Edited by  ‘Funmi Olonisakin, Director of Conflict, Security & Development Group, King’s College London, and Karen Barnes and Eka Ikpe

Case Studies include

Nepal and the implementation of UNSCR1325, by Lesley Abdela

Lost In Translation? UNAMSIL, UNSCR1325 and women building peace in Sierra Leone, by Karen Barnes

Nigeria and the implementation of UNSCR1325, by Eka Ikpe

At the start of the second decade of UNSCR1325, Women, Peace and Security draws together the findings from eight countries (Nepal, Kosovo, Liberia, Rwanda, Timor-Leste, Nigeria, Sudan, Sierra Leone) and four regional contexts (ECOWAS, European Union, African Union, SADC) to provide guidance on how the impact of this pioneering Resolution can be measured, and how peacekeeping operations could improve their capacity to engender security.

  • ISBN: 978-0-415-58797-6 (hbk)
  • Pages: 246 pages
  • first published 2011

Also, Tim sent this CARE report which discusses women’s meaningful participation in peacebuilding and governance.

CARE Report Nepal

Executive Summary

CARE Nepal has been working on 1325 with the poorest and most marginalised
women from the grassroots up. When poor, vulnerable and socially excluded
women are empowered and given the opportunity, they show themselves ready
and able to begin untangling the knots of politics, Gender- and Caste-based
prejudice to work out their own solutions. In Nepal an immense gap exists
between the Capital and the people who live in the rest of Nepal, especially
the millions outside the Kathmandu Valley. Hierarchies in various forms
prevent women’s meaningful participation, especially PVSE women. There are
parallel universes with the women mostly in one universe, the men in
another.