rebecca sargent’s posts

A different economic system.

[Dear readers,

I am still currently ill and as such will be holding back the This Week in Conflict Reports until I feel better.

In the meantime, I have been having the great pleasure of taking a course at Transcend Peace University and as such I am currently reading Johan Galtung's new Peace Economics: From Killing to Life-Enhancing Economy that is due to be released later this year (please be sure to buy it when it comes out-- it's awesome and well worth the read!). This short essay was one of my assignments from class where I summarized many of the concepts from Part 1 of the book. The book discusses some of the causes of the current economic crisis, and discusses paths to alternatives systems that would be more life-sustaining and peaceful.

Peace!
-- Rebecca]

The economic crisis is far more long-running and far more complex than the simple narrative widely splashed across the media would have us believe. The dominant global economic system, hypercapitalism, is focused towards capital and growth, often at the expense of the welfare of human beings. In this system, there is a necessity for people to have a minimum level of purchasing power simply to satisfy their basic needs. Some live well below this level, others have such great wealth that they can’t possibly spend all they have within the real economy (made up of cycles of production-distribution-consumption). Instead they invest their surplus into the finance economy (made up of the buying-selling cycles of financial objects—with no end consumption), essentially betting with other people’s money, pocketing the gains and letting others take any losses that occur. This allows for magnificent growth in an economy that is based upon pure speculation and non-material products. As the finance economy has grown wildly, it has created a large gap between the growth of the real economy and the growth of the finance economy, increasing with it, the likelihood of an eventual crash as the two widen even further apart.

The inequality within this system goes farther than simply the difference in wealth. It encompasses inequality in military force, political power, and cultural values that are based upon attributes, actor interactions and the structure of the system itself. The cultural values of society legitimize the political power, that authorizes the military force, to protect the wealth of the super rich, who reinforce the cultural values; completing the vicious cycle that keeps the poor poor and the rich rich. Equalizing the system creates a better chance of dialogue among the population, creating better opportunities to find real solutions and increasing the likelihood that those solutions will be more equitable.

Essentially the economic crisis can be broken down into four separate crises. For those at the bottom of the wealth spectrum, the crisis manifests as the (1) under financing and the (2) undersupply of affordable necessities. For those at the top of the wealth spectrum, the crisis manifests as the (3) overfinancing and the (4) oversupply of normalities and luxuries. The crises all feed upon each other, with a crisis at the top creating a crisis for the bottom, and a crisis at the bottom, in turn creating a crisis for the top. The media has directed almost all of its attention to the crisis of only those at the top of the wealth spectrum to the detriment of real dialogue on the overall system, since discussion upon the financing of unprofitable goods is somehow an absurdity, but a system that allows people to starve is not.

A system with a floor for economic activity that ensures that basic human needs are met and a ceiling for economic growth, ensures that excess wealth is redistributed to where it is necessary, lessening the gap between rich and poor, between the real economy and the finance economy, and hopefully stop some people from starving while others live in lavish hedonism. An economy based not upon individual self-benefit, but rather upon ensuring that needs are met, and supply of basic needs is sufficient before enriching ourselves with normalities and luxuries.

That need to do “something”.

When conflict or disaster strikes, often our first instinct is that “something” needs to be done to help those impacted. It’s an essential part of who we are as human beings, as a species with the capacity for empathy. But is this idea of just doing “something”– without serious consideration into the potential consequences that could arise from that “something”, “anything” to “help” mentality — unintentionally causing more harm on the very people we meant to help in the first place?[1] This does not speak, in the slightest to one’s dedication or compassion or intention towards any cause or action, or make them any less truthful or intelligent or meaningful or human for wanting to take action. It’s a good thing that people feel disgusted and motivated to want to take action, to do “something” about other human beings’ suffering—because that suffering deserves nothing less than disgust and motivation directed towards changing it.

The recent Kony 2012 campaign is great for one specific reason—more people hear about some important global issues. Hopefully, that will empower them to dig deeper into some of the root causes of this conflict and how many outside powers have ties to the violence. Hopefully, it will make them question the way their own purchases, and lifestyles, and governments, and corporations, and organizations, are impacting this conflict and adding unnecessary fuel to the fire. Be the change, as they say.

If we look at some of the different causes of the conflict—the political, economic, social, security, international, regional and local forces that are driving it; that are profiting from continued conflict; that have stakes in the conflict; that will keep conflict going in the region long after Kony is captured or killed—we see that the Kony 2012 narrative is incredibly simplistic. The region’s turmoil is not all in the hands of Joseph Kony. Nor will stopping Joseph Kony completely eradicate violence or child abduction/conscription in the region.

I will not go into the full analysis of all the many problems with Invisible Children’s video. They are widely available at the present moment. Some suggest it lacks context and nuance; that it demonstrates the privilege in the social justice world that enables this organization to be heard over other local ones or ones making positive drastic differences on the ground; that it misspent money or isn’t as accountable as it should be; its patronizing tone; the critiques of an all American Board of Directors, Directors of Programming, Executive Staff—basically all the people actually running the organization, despite claims of Ugandan inspired and led programming; of interviewing and using vulnerable children in their advertising against all good ethical practices; the “white man’s burden” messiah complexes; the way it paints human beings as “invisible” and voiceless; the excessive self-aggrandizing nature of those involved; the focus on Uganda, when the LRA has now moved to neighbouring countries; reducing Kony’s eluding capture to claims that “nobody knows” who Joseph Kony is, and that if they did–this would somehow magically change; how they ignore the voices and needs of Ugandans and those actually affected by the LRA and Joseph Kony; that those working for the organization are media professionals and not development professionals; how they call on supporting the Ugandan army, accused of massive abuses, as the best way to stop the conflict; how they push people to contact their government and encourage more international involvement towards intervention purposes, falsely claiming that the current American intervention is under threat; photos of the founders posing with SPLA members and weaponry; possible donor links to far-right, anti-gay groups; how one of their founders likened the organization to a business, a company over a non-profit organization or charity in an interview;  and going as far as claims of a grand international conspiracy, involving numerous players; of American chiefs conspiring to stop China from taking over the continent or of trying to cash in on oil deposits. What I will go into, are some of the potential consequences a campaign like this could have on the ground and why it is important to think about these things before blindly supporting a cause.

Some fifty percent of Uganda’s governmental budget has been cited to come directly from foreign aid.  The institutions involved in funding have not always ensured that this money has gone to where it is most needed or that it isn’t lining the pockets of leaders so that they can use it to further commit crimes against their own populations. The current President of Uganda, Yoweri Museveni has been in his position since 1986, and is just beginning to serve yet another term in office after a highly controversial election where dissent was allegedly stifled and voter fraud was rampant. Bill Clinton once described him as the head of a new breed of African leaders. Uganda was labelled a “development darling” by much of the world under Museveni, and international money flowed in with very little accountability.

Accusations of Museveni and his government and army’s involvement in war crimes and other abuses subsequently ensued and international parties have at times, even assisted them by giving more weaponry, hardware and military support. [2] Transparency International has accused Museveni’s government, most specifically the Uganda Revenue Authority, [3] of widespread graft. Yet, our Western governments continue to provide more money and support despite these accusations.

Best estimates suggest that there are currently only between 200-400 LRA fighters fighting and by all recent reporting—those fighting are no longer even in Uganda and haven’t been for several years. Rather, they are in neighbouring countries that have all been battling in a regional war that has been ongoing for decades, involving numerous armed forces and militias in a highly entangled and complex conflict. A high percentage of the fighters in the LRA are children, and many of the regional governments’ armies, including the armed forces in Uganda– who Invisible Children advocates supporting as the “best” option to tackle the problem– have also been accused of conscripting children. The parties, in many cases, have been accused of using child fighters essentially as human shields. Any increased support for militarization in this area, as advocated by Invisible Children, means more armies potentially wreaking havoc on the population, as there is little keeping them from continued corruption and abuses. The LRA currently enjoys very little support in the region– and they are already scattered and on the run. Increased militarization risks ramping up their abduction drive to recruit more children into the LRA to better fight off those hunting them down, and actually increasing the level of violence and suffering for those on the ground. Sending in military to try to stop an armed force stacked with children also severely risks the lives of those child soldiers as battles ensue.

Killing or stopping Kony isn’t going to magically solve all the problems in the area, because the narrative is much more complicated than a simple “good guys” versus “bad guys” situation. In “bringing to justice” one man, you potentially cause and support massive human rights abuses by other parties. There are numerous other strategies to employ here that do not involve military intervention. That do not involve firing on human children. That do not involve supporting dubious regional players.

To stop violence, you must look at its roots, not at its manifestations. Why did the LRA take up arms in the first place? How did Kony get supporters and why do they continue to fight with him?

Many of the abducted children have been forced to do horrific things like kill neighbours or rape their own parents, so that they would be left with a stigma of never being able to go back to their homes, and incentive to stay with the army. They are also often drugged. The strategy to get them out of the bush then, is obviously very complicated. There have been many positive efforts at targeting the children conscripts via radio, via leaflets (which is more difficult since many don’t necessarily read) and other measures to try to dispel the belief that they can never go home after the wrongs they have committed. Amnesty programs have had some effect as well, and have resulted in several senior commanders coming out of the bush in previous years. There are numerous highly respected organizations working in the region that have other plausible nonviolent strategies that are worthy of being considered before declaring military options as the only resort left. Many are locally driven initiatives that know the full background, the context, the nuances, and they are making a real difference on the ground.

If we are all so suddenly keen to focus on justice in the region[4]– why do we in the west still prop up Museveni, and other controversial leaders’ governments? Why do we still make shady trade deals stealing away resources from the region for Canadian and American and other western consumption? Why do we still give the leaders assistance year after year, even when we know it is being squandered away to line the leaders’ and cronies’ pockets and to commit further atrocities on the populations? Why do our governments repeal laws banning military aid to those that arm and recruit child soldiers? These problems can be addressed without resorting to military action and are something the western world should be thinking more carefully on, because these are directly within the western world’s control. We can lobby our governments not to provide money or equipment or training or assistance to take part in abuses, instead of potentially causing further ones with increased militarization. These are things we CAN do without taking the lead in distant problems.

Even the best of intentions can easily go awry and wind up causing greater human rights abuses and violence. Doing “something” is not always better than doing nothing. Doing something, just for the sake of doing something– can kill people. Can cause death and destruction. Can make the problem worse. People don’t watch a 30-minute video of a surgery and suddenly think they are now skilled enough to perform surgery. That is a life and death matter. And so is the security situation in a foreign country or doing humanitarian work[5]. It is also a life and death matter. It is not something that can be easily directed by people with little knowledge or background or insight into cultural nuances and historical issues that may be driving it. Almost all the experts in the region are against this strategy for good reason. It takes up resources that could go towards more effective advocacy, and takes up rhetorical space that could be used to develop more effective advocacy. It will likely also actually decrease the amount of assistance that goes into Central Africa as people assume that by tweeting, watching, and buying, they have fulfilled their duty and are now absolved of all further responsibility. Many Ugandans in the field are also rightfully upset at the narrative that erases their efforts and relegates them to a position of dependence and victim hood, reliant upon outside forces.

The amount of consumerism in the campaign is also extremely troubling. It calls upon people to buy products to support the cause. Some of these products are made with metals. Some are made from polyester and rayon. Some are made with timber. There are tons of products for sale on their site, manufactured with tons of raw materials. None specify where they have come from, who made them, or what environmental problems or human rights abuses they may have caused or will cause along their manufacture, usage and disposal. Wouldn’t it be interesting if the metal on the Kony 2012 bracelet came from regional sources embroiled in conflict? How incredibly ironic that those tweeting and texting, and using electronics to pass the Kony 2012 message are also potentially indirectly supporting the regional conflict, other global conflicts and other significant human rights abuses to make these very gadgets that make it all possible!

And supporters are asked to “blanket every street, in every city until the sun comes up” with Kony’s face and the cause, with no word about the sheets of paper this message will be printed on; whether it will be taken as timber from somewhere on the continent, likely spurring land conflicts in its wake as the leaders we continually prop up steal ancestral lands from underneath their own people, sell off its timber and turn the rainforests into mono-field crops that enslave child workers. And what of my city this morning, that was littered with these falling posters, soaked by rain; likely to wind up filling a landfill somewhere shortly?

I don’t mean to discourage people from wanting to do good in this world, or wanting to be a part of something that is doing good– but that should never stop us from looking at things with a critical eye. We should not be so easily swayed by petitions or flashy campaigns outright without knowing the consequences of them. We could be doing more harm than good in the process, and none of us wants that.

There are TONS of good LOCAL peacebuilding programs that are worthy of support in the region. If you feel compelled to donate—why not take a look into what they are doing:

http://www.insightonconflict.org/conflicts/dr-congo/peacebuilding-organisations/

http://www.insightonconflict.org/conflicts/sudan/peacebuilding-organisations/

http://www.insightonconflict.org/conflicts/uganda/peacebuilding-organisations/

http://www.insightonconflict.org/conflicts/burundi/peacebuilding-organisations/


[1] Or others.

[2] A document released in 2010 by WikiLeaks revealed that the US allegedly told Uganda to let it know when its army was going to commit war crimes using American intelligence within the country, without dissuading it from doing so. They were already providing information and $4.4 million worth of military hardware a year.

[3] The law and enforcement sector, the health and education sectors have also been accused of bribery by the organization.

[4] Not to mention the rest of the world. One could easily make a case for several western leaders and their involvement in war crimes worldwide.

[5]After watching the film, I’d say I am now informed about the situation in Uganda.”

_______________________________________________________________________________

UPDATES: March 10:

UPDATE: March 16:

  • Interesting turn of events. One of the founders of Invisible Children was reportedly arrested last night for lewd behaviour for being drunk and masturbating in public and possibly vandalizing cars.

 

UPDATE: March 17:

  • Reportedly Jason Russel was not actually arrested, but rather detained and then sent for mental evaluation following the incident. Sorry for the error.
  • Also, this video came to light for me for the first time and raises some serious questions in my mind about Invisible Children spending so much on production values over on-the-ground programming. This one as well, and many others that have since been removed.

 

This Week in European Conflict… February 25th-March 3, 2012.

  • European Union leaders confirmed that Herman Van Rompuy will serve a second term as President of the European Council on Thursday. Van Rompuy has served as the President since December 2009.
  • A remote-controlled bomb injured 15 police officers and one civilian on Thursday in Istanbul, Turkey targeting a police bus close to the headquarters of the ruling AK Party. There was no immediate claim of responsibility.
  • A controversial system of mobile euthanasia units were started on Thursday in the Netherlands. The scheme will send teams of specifically trained doctors and nurses to the homes of people whose own doctors have refused to carry out patients’ requests to end their lives.
  • The government of Ireland passed into law controversial copyright legislation that Internet freedom groups called a new form of censorship.
  • Serbia took a large step towards integrating with mainstream Europe on Monday as European Union foreign ministers called for the country to be made a candidate for union membership; while the European Union mission in Kosovo said six suspected operatives of Serbia’s Interior Ministry were arrested in Kosovo and five of them ordered held for 30 days. On Thursday, EU leaders formally endorsed Serbia as a candidate for membership into the bloc.
  • Hundreds of angry protesters forced President Sarkozy to take refuge in a cafe during his campaigning in France’s Basque country. Sarkozy denounced the “violence of a minority and their unacceptable behaviour”.
  • Senior EU officials agreed on fresh sanctions against Belarus on Monday in response to the President’s continued repression of his political opponents. On Tuesday, jailed hunger-striking opposition activist Syarhey Kavalenka received a visit from his wife at the detention centre, who said he looked “half-alive”; while EU members announced they would recall their ambassadors to Minsk—a move Belarus said was “escalating tensions”— after Belarus asked the ambassadors to leave and recalled its own envoys “for consultations” in a tit-for-tat response to an expansion of sanctions. On Friday, EU officials expressed their “serious” concern over the “deterioration of the situation” in the country, as the European Council adopted a statement endorsing the recent EU sanctions and called on the bloc to continue work on “further measures”.
  • Tens of thousands of people took to the streets in Russia on Sunday, wearing white scarves and ribbons or carrying white balloons or flowers, and lined the Garden ring holding hands to form a human chain to protest the likely return of Putin to the Presidency. On Monday, the opposition accused the Kremlin of playing up a purported assassination attempt against PM Putin to boost his popularity ahead of the Presidential elections; while an activist in the opposition Solidarity movement was reportedly arrested and sent to a psychiatric clinic for alleged antigovernment action. On Tuesday, authorities announced their plans to modernize the Kalashnikov AK-47 assault rifle to include detachable equipment, such as an optical sight and a lamp. On Wednesday, PM Putin said his enemies were planning dirty tricks including ballot stuffing and even murder to tarnish the elections; opposition political blogger Aleksei Navalny said that he and other opposition protesters would not recognize the results of the March 4th Presidential election if Putin wins; while the Legislative Assembly in St. Petersburg passed a bill banning propaganda to minors about homosexuality or pedophilia, angering critics by tying sexual violence against children to homosexuality. On Thursday, Putin said he had not yet decided whether he wants to stay in power beyond 2018, when the Presidential mandate he is expected to win expires, showing his confidence in an upcoming win; the top investigative body says it launched an investigation into several video clips allegedly containing fake evidence of vote-rigging; authorities accused the US of trying to influence its election process by funding opposition groups; while Human Rights Watch says authorities are cracking down on critics during the protests. On Friday, the Guardian ran an article suggesting that although anti-Putin protests are rampant in Moscow, outside the capital, his support is much greater; election monitors complained of harassment and revealed alleged plans for mass fraud, prompting the opposition to plan protests no matter the results on Monday; Russia expressed a willingness to restore diplomatic relations with neighbouring Georgia, after the Georgian President offered to established visa-free travel to Georgia for Russians; Putin said that protests made him a stronger candidate; while the Russian Interior Ministry announced it plans to send 6,300 police officers from central Russia to Moscow for the election and subsequent days.
  • Police and protesters fought in the streets of Barcelona, Spain on Wednesday as more than 30,000 people joined students in demonstrations against cuts in education spending.
  • Police in London, England announced they arrested 20 people in an operation to dismantle the Occupy protest camp outside St. Paul’s Cathedral on Tuesday. The protesters were refused permission to appeal against a High Court decision to allow their eviction to proceed.
  • Two dozen Azerbaijani and Turkish protesters gathered outside the Armenian Mission near the UN on Monday to mark the 20th anniversary of Azerbaijan’s war with Armenia over the disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh and to demand an apology for what Baku calls“genocide” in the village of Khojaly. On Tuesday, France’s Constitutional Council ruled that the recent law concerning the mass killings of Armenians a century ago violates the country’s constitution, a move Turkey welcomed.
  • An inactivated explosive device was discovered on an empty subway train at an Athens metro station in Greece on Saturday. Police say they believe the device was likely linked to a far-left group.  
  • A former interior minister and close ally of jailed opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko in the Ukraine was sentenced to four years in jail for embezzlement and abuse of office. Critics dismissed the charges as politically motivated. On Monday, the EU criticized the court decision, saying the verdict casts doubt on the independence of the judiciary.

Internet Difficulties

Hello all! Hope all is well!

I just wanted to let you know that I will not be posting for another few weeks still as my internet is giving me difficulty and I will also unexpectedly be in transit during this time.

Please check back some time after the 20th of January for the return of the This Week in Conflict reports and other articles.

Peace!

Rebecca

Semantic shifts in “terrorism”: the demonization of Muslims in the mainstream media.

The recent terrorist tragedy in Norway has garnered major attention in the news as of late, and also sparked much outrage at the instant accusations launched against Muslims for the attack. The media ran purely on speculation that the attacks were linked to an Islamist group based on incomplete and unverified information, and although the real culprit, a blonde and blue eyed Norwegian, has now been caught, the vast majority of the media has shown that so-called “Islamic” terrorists and terrorists of European descent are treated very differently within their pages. By following the media’s tone and usage of language, one can easily see that the word “terrorist” is now a label that is primarily reserved for Muslims.

On July 22nd, reporters were quick to speculate that Islamists, notably an al-Qaeda linked faction, were likely responsible for the attacks on Oslo that killed some 76 people; that the attack was to “punish Norway for deploying troops in Afghanistan” or Libya and for “unspecified insults to the Prophet Muhammad” (PBUH), including the reprinted series of offensive Danish cartoons in a Norwegian newspaper. Some reporters even went so far as to use the opportunity to defend Defense Spending against jihadists, make outrageous accusations that the “presence of so many Muslims in… Europe… is (in fact) leading to ‘cultural annihilation’”; that those attacked essentially deserved to be targeted because they “sided with Islamic terrorists”, and other strong and rather ridiculous anti-Muslim propaganda.

After it was learned that the terrorist, Anders Behring Breivik, was actually Norwegian, wide speculation began that he was in fact a convert to Islam, a radical Islamist, influenced by Islam, or learned the techniques from Islamic terrorists, as if Islamists were the only ones capable of terrorism. Islam was still seen as somehow to blame for this horrendous terrorist action, ignoring Breivik’s claims that he was influenced by a small group of American bloggers and had clearly copied multiple passages of his Manifesto from Ted Kaczynski, the American Unabomber. Former UN ambassador John Bolton even noted how “(t)his kind of behavior is very un-Norwegian” and that it was classic “Islamist terrorism”. As could be expected, the commentary and public reaction was quick to turn this assumed blame into bigoted ramblings about “rag heads“, “Muzzie scum”; calling for borders to be shut against all Muslims, lumping all Muslims together and labeling Islam as a violent hypocritical religion. A few commenters realized the dangers of the impulse to place blame without full knowledge, and spoke out against the biased attacks and rush to judgment, but the vast majority across the media seemed to be intent on anti-Islamic hatred.

A UN human rights expert was quick to condemn the unverified reports, calling them “revealing” and “embarrassing” examples of “the powerful impact of prejudices and their capacity to enshrine stereotypes”, while reiterating that “proper respect for the victims… should have precluded the drawing of conclusions based on pure conjecture”. Despite printing incorrect information, many of the papers issued no public retractions or apologies for their mistake, and some even went so far as to defend the error by suggesting that it was “not unreasonable to suspect the atrocities in Norway were committed by Islamists” under the assumption that Muslims are “predominant” in committing “mass-atrocity”. Many left their publicized mistakes as is, while others quickly changed their previous content without offering apologies, retractions, or even noting the changes publicly, contrary to good journalistic practices.

Besides the initial reaction to blame Muslims, the language used by the vast majority of the media in describing the attacks and the attacker shows how the words “terrorist” or “terrorism” seem now almost exclusively reserved for describing attacks committed by Muslims. A survey of the evolution of articles following the attacks clearly demonstrates this.

For example, Reuters, an incredibly popular and reputable news site that is widely known as a first line of reporting, who describes itself as “the world’s leading source of intelligent information”, fell into the trap of relaying incorrect information and has yet to apologize or retract their mistake. Since the identity of the accused has been released, they have also, subconsciously or not, used language that avoids the “terrorist” or “terrorism” label when describing the Norwegian events.  On July 22nd, Reuters issued an article with the headline “Islamist militant attacks in Europe”, that described all the recent Islamist terrorist attacks in Europe and painted the Norwegian event by clearly framing it as a “terrorist” attack. There were six stories filed about Norway that day by Reuters, five of them extensive in their language suggesting Islamist terrorists, and describing terrorism in general. Only one, with the headline “Man arrested after shootings is Norwegian”, which came out much later in the evening, had no mention of the words “terrorist” or “terrorism”, and instead described the accused as “a gunman” and was now labelling the terrorist attack “shootings”, and “a bombing”.

The next day, on July 23rd, after it was clear that the terrorist attack had been committed by a Norwegian and not an Islamist group, Reuters ran twenty-two articles about the event, of which only two even mentioned the word “terrorism”. In the first case, “terrorism” was only mentioned when describing that Breivik could be convicted of terrorism charges; and in the second case, terrorism was only mentioned to say that the terrorism threat level was not going to be raised, despite a lack of clarity of the attack. Instead of labeling the attack as “terrorist”, it was continually described as “a shooting spree and bomb attack” and the terrorist who committed the attack was constantly referred to as “a gunman”, “an assailant” or “the killer”.

On July 24th, Reuters printed eighteen articles on the Norway terrorist attack, and of those eighteen, only two had mention of “terrorism” or “terrorist” within them. In the first case, the word “terrorist” was only present from an excerpt of the attacker’s diary, where he ironically wrote, “(t)hey would probably get the wrong idea and think I was a terrorist, lol”. In the second case, the word “terrorism” only appeared when talking about the special anti-terrorism unit of the police that responded to the crisis.

On July 25th, Reuters ran an article about the news media’s quick blaming of Muslims, describing the numerous faults other media committed, without one mention that they themselves did the exact same thing, and without apology or retraction of their previous errors. They also ran eighteen other articles about the terrorist attack, of which, only two had mention of the words “terrorism” or “terror attack”. In the first case, the words “terror attack” appear only in a quote from a Norwegian who said “Ninety-nine percent of Norwegians immediately believed this was a Muslim terror attack. When it turned out not to be, that was the second shock”. In the second case, the word “terrorism” only appeared as a description for a “terrorism expert” who was quoted within the article. The attacks were repeatedly described in the articles as a “bombing and mass shooting”, a “shooting spree and bomb attack” or the “massacre”; and the suspect as a “lone wolf”, “the killer”, “mass killer” or “the gunman”.

On July 26th, Reuters filed ten articles, of which, only two had any mention of “terrorism”. In the first instance, which had the headline “Norwegian killer is probably insane, his lawyer says”, “terrorism” was only mentioned to describe that the threat level for terrorism was not being raised. In the second instance, “terrorism” was only used within the context of a quote by a woman of Arab nationality, that said “(i)t turns out that terrorism doesn’t have a nationality or a religion—they’re people who are sick inside”. Again, the articles described the attack as a “bombing and shooting massacre”, a “shooting rampage”, a “bomb attack”, and the suspect as a “killer” or a “gunman”. It was around this time that articles began questioning the sanity of the attacker, with six out of the ten articles mentioning that the accused was likely mentally unstable.

On July 27th, Reuters again filed ten articles about the Norway attack, of which, only two mentioned “terrorism”. The first only mentioned that Breivik would be charged under the terrorism act, while referring to the terrorist attack as the “killings”, and the “bombing and shooting attacks”. In the second, the word “terrorism” is only used to describe a professor who teaches at the Centre for the Study of Terrorism and Political Violence and the word “terrorists” shows up in a quote only after a discussion of al Qaeda and other Islamic terrorists. Again, the mentions of insanity showed up in three out of ten of the articles.

On July 28th, Reuters filed two articles on Norway, neither which mentioned terrorism nor called Breivik a “terrorist”. In one of the articles, the charge of terrorism was now referred to as “terror counts”.

On July 29th, Reuters filed six articles, this time four of the six mentioned “terrorist” or “terrorism”. In the first instance, the word “terrorist” was found in a quote by police that called the attacks “terrorist actions”, the first and only time that they were called as such in a Reuters article after Breivik had been identified by the media. In the second, the word “terrorist” shows up when describing efforts by the police to stop “terrorist networks” following 9/11; but that was careful to group Breivik into the less dangerous “lone wolves” category. The word “terrorism” was also used in that article but only to describe the Centre for the Study of Terrorism and Political Violence. In the third and fourth instances, the word “terrorist” is only used in the context of a quote that again reiterated that the terrorist threat has not been elevated.

On July 30th, Reuters issued three articles, two of which carried mention of “terrorists” or “terrorism”. In the first instance, the word “terrorist” was used only within a quote from a police attorney who suggested that the target locations were of “natural interest to a terrorist” without linking Breivik to the word in the slightest. In the second instance, the word “terrorism” occurs three times within the article, once within a quote and with all three cases talking about the threat of global terrorism and immigration.

Between August 1st and 3rd, there were four articles on the situation, only one of which mentions “terrorism” and only in the context of Breivik facing possible charges of terrorism. The other three articles again discuss Breivik’s possible insanity.

For the sake of comparison, let’s look at the terrorist attack in Sweden on December 11th, 2010 that injured two people, and killed the attacker, and how that attack was framed by Reuters. On December 11th, before the suspect was known, Reuters ran six articles, two of which talked of “terrorism” or “terrorists”, and another three that were only short headline clips with updates and not full articles. On December 12th, of the five articles Reuters ran, all five talked of “terrorism” or “terrorists”, while four described the attacker as a “militant” or referred to “militant Islamists”. Three of those articles also had a variation of “terror” within the headline. On December 13th, seven of the ten articles spoke of “terrorism” or “terrorists” and six spoke of the attacker being a “militant” or an “Islamist militant”. On December 14th, one of three articles posted spoke of “terrorism”, while painting the attacker as an “Islamist militant”. From December 15th to 17th, three out of four articles referred to “terrorism” or “terrorists”, while three spoke of “Islamist militancy” or “militants”. Not one of the articles discussed the sanity of the attacker. Reuters was not alone in this type of semantic slanting as many other reputable news sites discussed the situation in a similar context.

So what is “terrorism” exactly, and why has the media been avoiding using this term when describing Breivik’s actions?

The US Department of Defense defines terrorism as “the calculated use of unlawful violence or threat of unlawful violence to inculcate fear; intended to coerce or to intimidate governments or societies in the pursuit of goals that are generally political, religious, or ideological”. Breivik’s actions were an unlawful use of violence to inculcate fear, with the intention of coercing or intimidating the society to pursue political and ideological goals, clearly falling within the definition of terrorism. So why are his attacks not being labelled as such? Why are they frequently referred to only under other terms and without the qualifier “terrorist”? Why does the media seem to preserve this term for only those of purported Islamic faith? Why does the media not look into the possible mental instability of Islamic terrorists after their attacks, but automatically assumes that a white European must be insane to carry out such an attack? Why are the terms “gunman”, “killer” or “attacker” used when discussing Breivik and not “militant”?  As Ibrahim Hooper, spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations noted “(u)nless it has been committed by a Muslim, it’s not terrorism. If a non-Muslim commits an act of terrorism, they don’t call him a terrorist. They say he was ‘a madman’”.

So what? What difference does it make if the situation is framed in these terms? What danger did this speculation do?

Besides spreading fear and loathing for Muslims in general, which can clearly be seen by the ignorant commentary that follows most of the initial news stories, this type of language essentially assigns collective guilt to an entire group of people. Following 9/11 or the Stockholm, Sweden attack in 2010, racial profiling became more prevalent, as did violence against those of Islamic faith. Following the Norway attacks, Muslims faced increased harassment, or outright attacks on their person, even though, those who commit such terrorism in the name of Islam are a fringe, and mostly disrespected, teeny-tiny percentage of global Muslims. In fact, anyone who has actually read the Qur’an or studied it in any great depth can tell you that it clearly states that it is wrong to kill innocents and also wrong to kill oneself. Yet, the actions of a small few is manipulated and misunderstood by the general Western public, who prefers to frame all Muslims as their enemy and Islam as a religion of violence, without actually researching enough to dispel themselves of their own ignorance.

What about that common axiom that “not all Muslims are terrorists, but all terrorists are Muslims”, there must be something to that that leads to the necessity of profiling against Muslims in the Western world, right?

Despite data to the contrary, many are still under the impression that Muslims are responsible for the bulk of terrorist activity in Europe and North America. The FBI Terrorism Report that covered acts of terrorism in the United States from 2001-2005, reported that twenty-three of the twenty-four recorded terrorist incidents were perpetrated by domestic terrorists. Eight of the fourteen recorded terrorist preventions (when a terrorist activity is successfully interdicted by investigative activity) stemmed from “right-wing extremism”; while of the remaining six preventions only  three stemmed from foreign terrorist organizations and only one from a “Muslim” group.  In both their 2006 and 2007 reports, not one US fatality was reported as the result of a terrorist attack on American soil. According to Europol reports on European terrorism, in the years 2007, 2008 and 2009, there were only three recorded acts of terrorism by “Islamist” terrorists out of a total of 1,316 terrorist attacks, while domestic “separatist” movements were responsible for some nearly 90% of attacks.“Islamist” suspects were only arrested in 110 of the total 587 arrests for suspicion of terrorism, while 413 suspects were considered domestic “separatists”. In fact, their report showed that “leftist” groups accounted for over sixteen times as many terrorist attacks as radical “Islamic” groups during this time on European soil. A recent study has also suggested that the actual  terrorist threat posed by radicalized Muslim-Americans has been severely exaggerated and that only approximately 17 Muslim-American individuals could be classified as becoming radicalized per year. Despite this information and  threat assessment reports that had warned that “right-wing extremism” was on the rise in Europe and that there was some in Norway, the Norwegian PST police security service concluded that “far right groups pose(d) no ‘serious threat’ to Norway”, instead claiming that their number one priority was with “Islamic extremism”.

So why are those in the Western world so willing to place the blame squarely at Muslims? Clearly, if it was ok to profile against Muslims following previous attacks, we can now ““start racially profiling blond, blue-eyed white guys… Fair is fair.” Right?

Europol's 2006 Terrorist Attack by Type of Terrorist

Europol's 2006 Terrorist Attack by Type of Terrorist

Europol's 2007 Terrorist Attacks by Type of Terrorist

Europol's 2007 Terrorist Attacks by Type of Terrorist

Europol's 2008 Terrorist Attacks by Type of Terrorist

Europol's 2008 Terrorist Attacks by Type of Terrorist

Europol's 2009 Terrorist Attacks by Type of Terrorist

Europol's 2009 Terrorist Attacks by Type of Terrorist

Islamophobia seems to be rising with the decline in domestic economic conditions. It’s a typical scape-goat senario—things aren’t going well at home—someone is responsible, and it can’t be us. Germany, France and Britain have all recently declared multiculturalism in their respective countries as a failure. In all three cases, these leaders cited a lack of a strong nationalist identity as fostering “Islamist extremism”. This trend also seems to be happening in Sweden, the Netherlands, Canada, the US, Australia and all across Europe, with anti-immigrant political parties gaining steam in elections and intolerance for immigrants or Muslims moving more into the mainstream. Obviously, the military and political interference throughout the Middle East has very little to do with fostering Islamist extremism; multiculturalism, the acceptance and tolerance of other cultures and diversity, is clearly at fault here. Sadly, a political editor for a Norwegian newspaper points out that, “It’s impossible to discover a person like Breivik. If you see his blogs, he sounds quite normal. He’s anti-multi-culturalism, anti-Islam, but strange to say it, … I’ve seen much crueler words and slogans on the Internet than his blogs”. It’s unsurprising that this type of hatred and scapegoating can lead to violence.  Constantly being told that a certain group is going to attack  and that your very way of life is threatened can tend to have this effect. Norway, was no exception and there were a number of warning signs that these hateful sentiments were beginning to escalate into physical violence.

In June 2007, Pamela Geller, posted an “email from Norway” that talked of a Norwegian anti-immigration extremist who was “stockpiling and caching weapons, ammunition and equipment” to ward off the Islamist “threat”. In March of 2011, the Norwegian Police Security Service published in its annual threat assessment that “a higher degree of activism in groups hostile to Islam may lead to an increased use of violence”, though was still viewing Islamist extremism as a larger threat to society. In May of 2011, a junior high school in Bergen, west Norway, received a threat that a student, claiming to have a weapon, had the intention of shooting others, “especially Muslims”. Luckily, the incident did not escalate past the initial threat, but it clearly showed that anti-Muslim sentiment was becoming more violent. Weeks before the Oslo attack, in late June, Pat Condell made a public claim that “all the rapes in (Oslo) over the past three years—all of them—were committed by Muslim immigrants using rape as a weapon of cultural terrorism”, after a news report on Norwegian TV station NRK reported that all rapes were committed by men of “foreign origin”. The police report that they cited shows that their information was in fact, faulty, as more than 50% of all rapes were committed by those of Norwegian, other European or American origin, but the damage had already been done. Just as it is hard to put the toothpaste back in the tube once it has been squeezed out, it is hard to dispel the stereotypical myths of evil and perceived threats once claims have been made, no matter if they are untrue.

While humans are certainly fallible and capable of making mistakes, the lack of apology  for or retractions of those mistakes, especially in a profession like journalism that supposedly seeks “the truth” of a situation, is unforgivable. Journalistic standards call for the verification of sources, not that personal or cultural biases can’t slip in, but that a consistent method be used to test information to ensure it is as accurate as possible. Journalists also have the responsibility, as much as possible, to avoid misrepresenting a situation or using stereotypes. In this case, the media ran with a single source of information that was based upon a single, unverified posting on a closed forum by an unknown author that even the expert who discovered it cautioned against trusting.

Language is everything in the media, and semantics and word choice makes a huge difference to the quality of the story that is being told. The media was blamed for its quick accusation of Muslims in the Oslo terrorist attack, but what has been largely ignored is the continual semantic culpability that is lumped on Muslims and the long-term effects that this can have in demonizing the Muslim population. If the media continually frames Muslims as the only ones capable of committing terrorism, it can be no surprise if public opinion is also swayed in this way.

UPDATE: “The National Secular Society” has been replaced by “Pat Condell” as the source of a quote after a reader corrected this error.

 

See Stephen Colbert and his incredibly appropriate “Norwegian Muslish Gunman’s Islam-Esque Atrocity” video:

Note about the This Week in Conflict Reports.

Hello, hope all is well!

Just a quick note to let  readers know that I will be holding off on posting any new This Week in Conflict Reports for the next couple months. My internet has been incredibly unreliable lately here in Abidjan, going down for days or weeks at a time, making it incredibly difficult to methodically search out news. I will also be traveling from early September until mid- November and won’t be regularly nearby a computer.

But check back here in mid-November, as I will start up the reports again at that time. In the meantime, I will be posting only if I get the time.

Peace!

Rebecca

The over-simplified narrative of the Somali famine.

The recent attention afforded to the Somali famine has mostly infuriated me. It’s not because I don’t care about those who are starving, quite the contrary; it’s more that I am angered with the way that the crisis is being painted in the media. For example:

The way it is so constantly referred to as a “natural disaster”, the result of drought or climate change, or some other ecological problem, as opposed to being primarily a political or socio-economic problem.

The way access to markets, finances, other entitlements and freedom of movement seem to have no bearing on the recent crisis in the slightest, as if at least one third (if not much more) of all food produced worldwide isn’t wasted after production each year and as if there isn’t more than enough food on this planet for every human being to avoid malnutrition.

The way the popular narrative degrades the dignity of those who are suffering, as if the journalists flocking to the refugee camps by the butt-load to snap a shot of the most pathetic-looking, swollen-bellied child, and trying to get the most convenient narratives from the chosen few “poster” women of the famine isn’t incredibly exploitative of their situation. As if the small children who are filmed or captured on camera have a real choice in whether they are branded across the news in the wider world and can easily say no to their own exploitation. As if repeatedly questioning someone in a refugee camp who has just trekked hundreds of miles, under terrible conditions, about their experiences of rape and violence and hardships experienced in their home country in front of their traumatized children, isn’t re-traumatizing for all of them.

The way so many comments on the crisis in the newspapers and forums seem to point directly to a “population problem”, as if the problem of starvation here was simply a Malthusian problem of Somali women having too many babies. As if a typical family of three in North America or Europe doesn’t use at least double the amount of food a Somali family of eight does. As if the mortality rate in the average Somali family of eight will allow all of that family to actually make it to adulthood, old age or to survive pregnancy, war or illness. As if it is so easy to ignore aspects of history that clearly demonstrate that population isn’t the determining factor in famine, for example the situation in the most populous country, India, where between 1800 and 1947 close to 38 million people died from a series of famines when the population level was less than 350 million, and that since that time, when the population has more than tripled now exceeding 1.21 billion people, the amount of deaths from famine has been comparatively non-existent.

The way the world seems to think that handouts are somehow magically going to solve this problem, as if the vast majority of those who are currently starving aren’t still going to starve to death or live with malnutrition for years to come, despite the money that’s now being collected. As if humanitarian or development aid weren’t incredibly problematic to begin with. As if the dumping of surplus grain in the form of “food aid” from donor countries isn’t actually being done to keep their own domestic grain prices low; and as if it is really about feeding the poor and isn’t essentially increasing the problems in the receiving countries instead of actually helping them; undercutting the local farmers, lowering the prices they receive for their own produced goods and discouraging the real development of a local market.  As if these donor countries weren’t spending numerous times more for their shipping costs, dumping these surpluses, than they are spending in agricultural or production assistance to these recipient countries.

The way the dialogue seems to focus only on the aspect of starvation, as if long term malnutrition, which the majority of those now starving have likely faced for years and will likely face for years to come, wasn’t debilitating and detrimental to the development of those who face it. As if those who are now at risk aren’t mostly the same people who have suffered through the last series of droughts and who have been kept barely alive by insufficient feeding programmes for years.

The way many articles have entirely ignored the aspect of war in the country and the lack of an actual functioning government who controls anything more than a few suburb areas in Mogadishu and who continually receives millions in aid with little to no accountability. That the contributions of aid to Somalia have been primarily in emergency humanitarian assistance and not directed in any significant way into long term projects or agricultural projects and that even if they were, that appeals for aid to the country have come up short for many, many years, instead going to more “popular” crises that attract more donors.

The way the crisis is painted as affecting the entire country and the vast majority of Somalis, rather than being restricted to certain regions only. As if the famine were raging in the same manner in the Ethiopian Highlands, Somaliland, Puntland, or the north eastern parts of the country as it is in the southern areas. As if the rains haven’t also failed in other parts Somalia, and parts of both Kenya and Ethiopia, and yet these regions, for some seemingly unknown reason, aren’t facing the same severity of a crisis as others.

The way the Ogaden region in the Ethiopian Lowlands, that is almost entirely populated by Somalis, is likely suffering or has been suffering for some time now in the same manner or worse than those in Somalia, though is almost entirely ignored, as if it hasn’t been fenced off and closed to outsiders for years, as if the population here were non-existent.

The way most neglect to mention the logistics of how this food aid will actually be delivered in an area that has seen the death of countless aid workers in the last several years, as if the World Food Program hasn’t previously stated that the “food supply line to Somalia is effectively broken”. As if the al-Shabaab group who is in control of much of the affected area doesn’t distrust those delivering the aid, regarding them as foreign “spies”.

The way everyone seems to be talking as if this crisis were new, as if the world wasn’t alerted to the fact that mass starvation would be likely in this area for quite some time, and how the UN itself warned in 2008 that one in six were at serious risk of starvation. The way reporters constantly refer to the “swift action” of international organizations to react to the crisis, even though, in reality, most assistance will come too little, too late to actually help most of those who are starving. As if aid agencies and governments haven’t known for almost a year now that the food would run out by now; that they failed to make a real appeal to the public until only after people begin to die in large numbers, even though it will take months for any of the aid currently being collected to actually reach these populations, if they ever even do. As if the US hadn’t severely restricted the UN’s ability to deliver food in Somalia over the past few years, by politicizing the situation and imposing strict conditions, even going so far as to suspend and hold millions of dollars in food aid and is only now, rather hypocritically, calling upon a need to “solve” the problem only after it is really too late.

The way the media ignores how large land lease “land grabs” by foreign governments and companies for the creation of export crops have further exacerbated this problem. As if governments and developing banks encouraging the population to participate in the market economy by buying grain and growing cash crops instead of growing self-sustaining crops didn’t massively deter people from storing excess grain for potentially bad years and make them more vulnerable to rising grain prices. As if the majority of plans for the limited agricultural development being done haven’t stressed the importance of the new “Green Revolution” that is almost completely unaffordable to the poorest of the poor who are most likely to starve, neglecting more self-sustaining agricultural techniques that could actually help those who most need it.

The way the huge spike in global food prices seems to be non-existent to the problem, as if rising grain prices aren’t a big part of the reason people are starving. As if the increasing diversion of grain to the production of biofuels and other non-feed uses and export restrictions weren’t a factor in this crisis.

The way most ignore the fact that the Kenyan government is largely refusing to allow people to cross into northern Kenya and has kept a nearly completely prepared refugee camp able to accommodate almost 40, 000 people empty to deter others from flooding into the country. As if the governments of Uganda, Kenya, Ethiopia and Somalia (what little of it there is), haven’t been marginalizing and discriminating against pastoralists in the region for years, now depicted as “archaic” or “outmoded”, or haven’t been promoting only large-scale farming projects, the expansion of national parks, game reserves and conservation, blocking access to traditional routes to pasture land.

The way the media largely depicts the typical “whites in shining armour” tripe, as if westerners are the only ones capable of “solving” the problems in Somalia.  As if Somalis are perpetual victims and as if there weren’t Somalis and members of the Somali diaspora making a tremendous effort to lessen this crisis themselves.

So what is to be done? Frankly, I don’t know. I don’t know what to suggest that will actually make any real difference here. But I do know that this crisis is not going to be solved by simple increases in aid or handouts, as most seem to be calling for. I know that continually painting the crisis in limited terms is only going to lead people to put in place the same “band-aid solutions” for years to come and will only ensure that this type of crisis will happen again and again. If anyone has any positive and concrete suggestions, I’d be very interested to hear them, but personally, I’m at a loss.

I’m sure I’ve missed many other factors with my own fairly simple narrative, and encourage others who have more experience in the area to fill in any significant factors I have missed.

This Week in the World of Conflict… June 27th- July 3rd, 2011.

Hello all! Hope all is well!

I wrote this post several weeks ago, and although it is now slightly out of date, I thought better late than never since there are several interesting links to be found here.

Peace!

Rebecca

  • The head of UN peacekeeping operations, Alain Le Roy of France will step down from his post after his term expires in August. Le Roy has been the head of the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations for three years, and has expressed his wish to devote more time to his family in France.
  • The IMF elected French Finance Minister Christine Lagarde to the position of managing director on Tuesday, replacing scandalized Dominique Strauss-Khan (DSK). Meanwhile, the DSK case has taken an unsurprising turn, as reports attacking the credibility and personal life of his accuser began to surface, with allegations ranging from her being involved in prostitution to lying on immigration forms about a gang-rape causing her to flee Guinea. I’ll just reiterate two points here I think are important: one– a person is supposed to be innocent until proven guilty (why I believe there should be some media restraint until a verdict is issued); and two– even if a person has engaged in prostitution or has lied in the past, they can still be raped or abused and the typical characterizations and credibility attacks made in rape cases is something that needs to be seriously examined. DSK was released from house arrest and hopes were lifted among the French Socialist party of his possible return to the 2012 Presidential race, after his accuser’s “credibility” was tarnished by the released personal information regarding her past.
  • The OSCE called on all European and Central Asian states to join the Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Convention. Forty-six members states are currently party to the convention, though Armenia, Azerbaijan, Finland, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Polan, the Russian Federation, the USA and Uzbekistan are not.
  • A recent article I read regarding the pacification of a troop of baboons and other peaceful primate species raises questions about the inherence of violence in humans. Hopefully, humanity will not need to have all our aggressive members of society die of tuberculosis from eating in a garbage dump for us to achieve peace.
  • A key jihadist Internet forum was kicked off the Internet after apparently being hacked. The cyber attack appears to have hit not only the website, but also the server of what counterterrorism experts call “a key al-Qaeda propaganda forum”.
  • UN SG Ban Ki-moon welcomed a meeting of five nuclear non-proliferation treaty States in Paris on Thursday, where they were to discuss transparency, verification, and confidence building measures. The US, China, Russia, the UK and France all attended the meeting.
  • A new article entitled Dilemmas and Difficulties in Peace and Justice: Considerations for Policymakers and Mediators discusses emerging trends relating to peace and justice during peace processes .
  • The Collaborative for Development Action (CDA) came out with a new issue paper that highlights the perspectives of aid in conflict afflicted-areas .
  • The US Institute of Peace (USIP) came out with a new article that discusses improving the evaluation of peacebuilding programs, in an effort to hold organizations accountable for using good practice and avoiding bad practices, while the Norwegian Peacebuilding Resource Centre released an article on measuring the effectiveness of peacebuilding operations. USIP also came out with an article that discusses trends in communication in peacebuilding ; the various forms of communication used to prevent conflict, improve early warning, monitor peace and promote peacebuilding in the post-conflict.
  • National Geographic came up with a fantastic article and stunning graphics that demonstrate the dwindling food varieties over the past century. Food insecurity is a major conflict trigger and the mass extinction of our food heritage is concerning to our future as humans.
  • An interesting article discussed a recent economic study that found that though real national income in the US had increased, aggregate real wages and salaries rose by only a meagre amount (and in some cases actually declined), while corporate profits soared. The study suggests that since 2009, 88% of income growth went directly to corporate profits and that just 1% went to wages.
  • Both Al Jazeera and the British Guardian newspapers published stories about water wars, with detailed maps showing major conflict zones. Studies suggest that as many as 1.2 billion people live in areas of physical water scarcity, and that by 2030, 47% of the world’s population will be living in areas of high water stress.

Illness

Dear Readers,

This is just a note to inform you that Rebecca is in hospital recovering from cerebral malaria. This blog and all emails will be temporarily halted until she is fully recovered.

Thanks.

UPDATE JULY 12, 2011:

Hello all! Hope all is well!

I am out of the hospital, but still feeling groggy and not quite myself– so I am going to take a break for the next couple weeks or so to recuperate. I will try to return emails sometime next week if I can.

Peace!

Rebecca

This Week in the World of Conflict… June 13th-20th, 2011

Hello all! Hope all is well!

Since the This Week in Conflict report has gotten so incredibly long in recent weeks, I thought it might be easier to digest as 6 shorter reports highlighting the different regions on separate days. The World report, which will highlight different news at international organizations, human rights research and other aspects of peace and conflict that affect global situations, will be posted each Monday. The Africa report will be posted on Tuesdays; the Asia report will be posted on Wednesdays; the Americas report will be posted on Thursdays; the Middle East report will be posted on Fridays and the Europe report will be posted on Saturdays. If you have any news to report for a region, please submit it to apeaceofconflict@gmail.com the day before the report is to be posted. Any reports of conflict for Australia or Oceania will be posted within the Asia report.

These changes will begin as of Monday the 20th of June. As such, the news for the World section for this week will only highlight those stories reported from Friday the 10th until Monday the 13th; the Africa report from Friday until Tuesday the 14th; and so on, so that there will be week-long content for each of next week’s reports.

I hope readers find the reports easier to read and comprehend in this manner, and would love any feedback on this change, either positive or negative.

Peace!

Rebecca

  • The 2011 Global Peace Index Report for 2011 was released recently, and demonstrated that the world is less peaceful for the third year straight. This fabulous compilation shows that violence has cost the global economy more than $8.12 trillion in 2010 at a time when most of the world was in severe economic crisis. Iceland moved into the #1 spot, as the world’s most peaceful, overtaking New Zealand and Japan; while Somalia moved to become the least peaceful country on Earth, along with Iraq and Sudan. No big surprise here– despite the “war on terror”, 29 nations experienced a rise in potential for terrorist acts. One disappointment is the lack of recognition of Palestine on the list.
  • On Friday, the UN endorsed the rights of gay, lesbian and transgender people for the first time ever, passing a resolution that expressed “grave concern” about abuses due to sexual orientation and commissioned a global report on discrimination against gays. The declaration barely passed through the Human Rights Council with 23 votes in favour to 19 against. The declaration established a formal UN process to document human rights abuses against gays, including discriminatory laws and acts of violence, which would include laws against consensual same-sex relations in 76 countries worldwide.
  • An export poll listed Afghanistan, Congo and Pakistan as the world’s most dangerous countries for women due to a barrage of threats ranging from violence and rape to dismal health care and “honour killings”. The poll asked 213 gender experts from five continents to rank countries by overall perceptions of danger as well as by six risks: health threats, sexual violence, non-sexual violence, cultural or religious factors, lack of access to resources and trafficking.
  • The International Trade Union Confederation welcomed the historical adoption of the Domestic Workers Convention and Recommendation by the International Labour Organization on Thursday that would call upon ratifying governments to provide laws to protect domestic workers’ rights in their economies. Oppression and violence against migrant domestic workers is reported to be widespread.
  • An interesting article discussed the continued relevancy and future of the United Nations, by dissecting its failure to meet its core values and objectives of forging global understanding, keeping peace, fostering development, ensuring human rights and human equality. As a long time defender of UN peacekeeping, I must say that I have recently lost my ability to believe they are a positive force in the world and have a hard time seeing a future where they are capable of living up to their values and objectives without a major overhaul of the system.
  • On Friday, the Security Council of the UN unanimously recommended that Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon be elected for a second five-year term beginning in January 2012. The UN General Assembly will formally re-elect him on Tuesday, considering no other candidate was even proposed. The decision was delayed for one day because the Latin America and Caribbean regional group had not agreed to endorse him, though endorsement is not technically necessary.
  • A team of 18 International Atomic Energy Agency experts  released a report on Friday calling on all nuclear power plants to be designed and located so that they can withstand rare and “complex combinations” of external threats, in the first outside review of the Fukushima disaster. The report called for simple alternatives forces to compensate for the total loss of off-site power, the physical separation and diversity of critical safety systems and that “nuclear regulatory systems should ensure that regulatory independence and clarity of roles are preserved in all circumstances in line with IAEA Safety Standards”. There will be a major international meeting June 20th- 24th, hosted by the IAEA that will launch a push to strengthen reactor standards as some 150 nations begin mapping out a strategy on boosting nuclear safety.
  • A new report by the OECD and the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has reported that higher food prices and volatility in commodity markets are here to stay. The reports suggests that real prices for cereals may average up to 20% higher and meats as much as 30% higher in coming years, raising concerns for economic stability and food security in many countries.
  • A new paper on tackling violence against women was released this week by the Geneva Declaration on Armed Violence and Development working group. The paper calls on the gender dimensions of armed violence to be taken into account and gives five initiatives that researchers can take to fill the knowledge gaps.

This Week in Conflict… June 11th-17th, 2011.

Hello all! Hope all is well!

Since the This Week in Conflict report has gotten so incredibly long in recent weeks, I thought it might be easier to digest as 6 shorter reports highlighting the different regions on separate days. The World report, which will highlight different news at international organizations, human rights research and other aspects of peace and conflict that affect global situations, will be posted each Monday. The Africa report will be posted on Tuesdays; the Asia report will be posted on Wednesdays; the Americas report will be posted on Thursdays; the Middle East report will be posted on Fridays and the Europe report will be posted on Saturdays. If you have any news to report for a region, please submit it to apeaceofconflict@gmail.com the day before the report is to be posted. Any reports of conflict for Australia or Oceania will be posted within the Asia report.

These changes will begin as of Monday the 20th of June. As such, the news for the World section for this week will only highlight those stories reported from Friday the 10th until Monday the 13th; the Africa report from Friday until Tuesday the 14th; and so on, so that there will be week-long content for each of next week’s reports.

I hope readers find the reports easier to read and comprehend in this manner, and would love any feedback on this change, either positive or negative.

Peace!

Rebecca

 

World

  • The International Monetary Fund (IMF) was hit by a large and sophisticated cyber-attack last week, but did not make a public announcement regarding the attack. The IMF database contains potentially market-moving information and includes communications with national leaders as they negotiate, often behind the scenes, on terms of international bailouts. In response, the World Bank (WB) cut the computer link that allows the two institutions to share information. On Saturday, the Bank of Israel Governor, Stanley Fischer, announced that he will be running against Christine Lagarde for the top job at the IMF.
  • A New York Times report discussed a global effort to deploy “shadow” Internet and mobile phone systems, led by the US, which dissidents can use to undermine repressive governments seeking to silence them by censoring or shutting down telecommunications networks.
  • Russia became the last permanent member of the UN Security Council to back Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s re-election bid. The UN General Assembly is expected to hold a formal vote before the end of the month on the position.

Africa

  • Almost ironically, US Secretary of State Clinton warned Africans during an address in Zambia on Saturday of the “new colonialism” they face, as China expands ties and helps build productive capacity on the continent. China responded on Tuesday saying it was far from a coercive and exploitative force in Africa and that it too had been a victim of colonial occupation and oppression.
  • A new report by the International Peace Institute looks at the problems of the security sector in Cote d’Ivoire; how it contributed to the electoral crisis and how security-sector reform is the key to preventing a return to armed conflict in the future. Ongoing insecurity is preventing the return of at least 300,000 civilians who were internally displaced during the post-election crisis, as well as some 200,000 refugees in several neighbouring West African countries. Many have lost their livelihoods during the crisis and are still at serious food insecurity risk.
  • African leaders met in Zimbabwe on Saturday to lay out a roadmap for the country’s upcoming Presidential elections. Members of the Southern African Development Community want to delay elections until a new constitution is adopted, while Mugabe and his ZANU-PF party insist they must be held this year.
  • President Al-Bashir of Sudan and President Kiir of South Sudan met in Addis Ababa on the weekend to discuss the issue of Abyei, four weeks prior to the independence of the South. On Saturday, the ICRC facilitated the transfer of two Sudanese armed forces who had been held by the Liberation and Justice Movement to government authorities; fighting continued in the Southern Kordofan border state between the North Sudanese Army and southern-aligned troops for the seventh day and the airport was closed, hampering humanitarian operations into the region. The SPLM claimed fighters had downed two northern warplanes, though on Sunday, Khartoum denied that any military aircraft were shot down in Southern Kordofan. On Sunday, President al-Bashir agreed “in principle” to pull northern troops out of the disputed Abyei region before the south’s independence on July 9th while Ethiopia agreed to send two battalions deployed under the UN flag as peacekeepers for the region during the discussions in Addis Ababa. On Monday, the UN voiced alarm over continuing clashes in Southern Kordofan, with bombardments and artillery shelling in 11 of 19 localities, while the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs estimated that some 53,000 people were displaced by fighting and that food insecurity was growing.
  • At least three people were killed and another four other injured after armed bandits opened fire on a civilian bus in southern Somalia on Saturday; and the PM announced he would not resign unless Parliament endorsed an agreement signed by the President and Speaker that stipulates he must leave office within 30 days. The PM announcement comes following negotiations in Uganda that more than 200 MPs complained took away Parliament’s oversight of the government.
  • On Saturday, Libyan troops loyal to Gaddafi fought gun battles with rebels in Zawiyah, shutting the road to Tunisia completely and killing some 13 rebels and civilians and also said to have encircled the city of Zlitan; several explosions from NATO airstrikes were heard in Tripoli throughout the afternoon, reportedly wounding a senior Gaddafi aide; and rebels expressed frustration at NATO tactics that prevented them from moving forward. On Sunday, six rebel fighters were reported killed by government artillery barrages near Misrata which were followed by air strikes. On Monday, another member of the Gaddafi regime, Sassi Garada, was reported to have defected and fled the country, while six rockets are said to have hit an oil refinery in Misrata.
  • The Central African Republic (CAR) signed a ceasefire agreement on Sunday with the last big active rebel group, the Convention of Patriots for Justice and Peace (CPJP) paving the way for a peace deal to end years of conflict. The CPJP agreed to enter a disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration (DDR) campaign joining several other rebel groups.
  • Uganda has announced that it will give away free pepper spray to young women to help them fight off rapists, in an attempt to fight a high sex-crime rate. A police spokeswoman said the force would help the government train women how to use the weapon.
  • Madagascar has announced that it will reject a call from South African leaders to allow all political exiles, including former President Ravalomanana who was ejected from the country in a 2009 military coup, to return home to end a crisis. The Southern African Development Community (SADC) called on the government to allow Malagasy people in exile for political reasons to be allowed to return to the country unconditionally, and for political role players to create an inclusive process to hold free and fair elections. The government said former President Ravalomanana will not be allowed to return home until the country is stable and he can be held accountable for acts committed during his rule on Tuesday.
  • Two people died and six were wounded in a clash between security forces and bandits on Sunday in northern Niger. The army is also said to have recovered a four-wheel drive vehicle containing 640 kilos of explosives, 435 detonators, various military arsenal and tens of thousands of dollars in cash.

Asia

  • Several hundred people gathered in Tokyo, Japan on Saturday to demonstrate against the use of nuclear power, marking three months since the powerful earthquake and tsunami triggered one of the world’s worst nuclear disasters.
  • Foreign Ministers from Armenia and Azerbaijan met on Saturday to discuss their long-running dispute over the Nagorno-Karabakh region. On Wednesday, it was announced that the two countries could soon possibly reach a framework agreement on their lingering dispute; while an American journalist and a British human rights activist were reportedly attacked and beaten in Baku, Azerbaijan.
  • On Saturday, the commander of a police rapid reaction forces was killed and 23 others wounded in a suicide attack in Khost, eastern Afghanistan; a roadside bomb hit a bus in Kandahar province, killing 15, including 8 children; an ISAF service member was killed in an insurgent attack in Kabul; six civilians were wounded when insurgents fired mortar rounds at police headquarters in Khost; two policemen were killed and nine wounded by an explosion in Laghman; while Afghan President Karzai met with Pakistani PM Gilani to discuss a range of issues including the fight against the Taliban. The UN announced that May was the deadliest month for civilians in the country since 2007 when the organization started recording civilian casualties. On Sunday, a NATO air strike is said to have killed more than five suspected insurgents in western Badghis province. On Monday, four suspected insurgents were caught and killed by police in Kabul; the death toll from the firefight in western Badghis grew to at least 32 suspected insurgents and four Afghan soldiers; an ISAF service member was killed in an insurgent attack in Kabul; and another ISAF service member was killed by a homemade bomb in Kabul.
  • At least 34 people were killed in a suspected suicide bombing in Peshawar, Pakistan on Saturday. On Monday, a suicide bomber killed at least one person at a bank in Islamabad; a roadside bomb hit a military convoy killing three soldiers and wounding another four in South Wazirstan; suspected militants detonated a roadside bomb killing one paramilitary soldier and wounding four in Orakzai; a bomb explosion wounded two people in Quetta; two rockets fired by suspected militants landed inside a military camp in North Waziristan with no damage or injuries reported; and a bomb blast destroyed four NATO fuel supply trucks in the north-western region of Khyber. On Tuesday, a woman was reportedly stripped down and paraded naked as a punishment for her son, who was found guilty of rape in the northwest.
  • Another 36-hour general strike called by the opposition disrupted life across Bangladesh on Sunday. The strike aims to amend the constitution, denouncing a government proposal to rescind constitutional provisions under which the government is temporarily handed over to a non-party administration before an election. As many as 100 were injured in clashes with law enforcement and around 150, including two former ministers are said to be detained.
  • Some 25 people were arrested in clashes between residents and security forces in the city of Guanghzou, China on Sunday following a dispute between the police and two street vendors. In a separate incident, hundreds of people laid siege to local government offices in Lichuan city following the death in custody of a respected local official who had been arrested for allegedly taking bribes linked to land seizures and forced demolitions of homes. On Monday, thousands of riot police were called to Zengcheng to quell angry mobs torching government buildings and demonstrating in the thousands against building social pressures, corrupt local officials and economic problems. Authorities later detained a person on suspicion of spreading rumours that led to the three days of rioting and unrest in Guanghzou.
  • On Monday, Vietnam staged live-fire drills in the South China Sea after weeks of rising tensions between Vietnam and China. China said it would not resort to the use of force to resolve maritime border disputes, and warned other countries not to become involved in an escalating border dispute, though days later it sent one of its biggest civilian maritime patrol ships into the South China Sea to “protect its rights and sovereignty”.
  • The UN declared Nepal free of landmine fields on Tuesday, after the last of the anti-personnel weapons planted by the army during the Maoist rebel revolt was destroyed. The clearing began in 2007 after the signing of a peace deal, though there are still areas where homemade bombs were planted by both sides and efforts to clear those still continue.
  • A mass grave with what is believed to be the bodies of some 14 Maoist rebels was found in eastern India on Monday. Police say they believed the rebels died in clashes with security forces and were buried by the Maoists. India’s popular yoga guru ended his 8 day old hunger strike against government corruption on Sunday after being admitted to hospital for dehydration and low pulse rate. On Wednesday, dozens of journalists went on a hunger strike to demand justice for their colleague who was slain by unidentified assailants on Saturday.
  • Two inmates at a notorious prison in central Kazakhstan threatened to self-immolate themselves after allegedly being beaten by prison guards on Sunday. Striking oil workers in the western part of the country were joined by several visiting activists from opposition groups, who were then detained and threatened with arrest if they don’t leave the area.
  • Various sources reported on Tuesday that the military in Myanmar/Burma had clashed for several days with a militia controlled by the ethnic Kachin minority in a remote but strategic region near the Chinese border. By Wednesday, there were rising fears that fighting could spread to other areas on the heavily militarized border, with thousands of people fleeing the area. By Thursday, China was urging the warring sides to defuse the outbreak and begin talks.

Americas

  • Colombia has passed a controversial law aiming to compensate an estimated 4 million victims of the country’s long-running armed conflict. The Victims’ Law allows damages to be paid to relatives of those killed and seeks to restore millions of hectares of stolen land to its rightful owners. There are fears that some armed groups which still occupy much of the stolen land may respond violently to attempts to repossess the land. On Tuesday leftist rebels are reported to have clashed with security forces at a checkpoint in the southwest and other guerrillas briefly kidnapped a security contractor of an oil company in the east.
  • A “peace caravan” spent the week traveling through Mexico to protest against drug-related violence and crossed the border into the US. The leader of the convoy said the US bore “grave responsibility” for failing to tackle the drugs crisis as Mexico’s drugs gangs are battling for control of the lucrative US drug market. On Tuesday, police say a gang hung a man from an overpass in Monterrey and set fire to him, in the same spot where a youth was found last week, hung by his hands with a gunshot wound. On Wednesday, it was reported that US firearms agents sat by and watched as hundreds of American guns were bought, resold and sent to Mexican drug cartels during an Arizona sting operation, as they were ordered not to intervene, resulting in no arrests of any major traffickers; while some 33 people were killed within a 24 hour period in Monterrey in drug gang violence. Police also found the dismembered bodies of two bodyguards charged with guarding the governor of the state of Nuevo Leon.
  • The complete Pentagon Papers were made public on Monday, describing top-secret American involvement in Vietnam, though much has previously been released through leaks published by the New York Times. The 7,000 page report was commissioned in 1967 by Robert McNamara. Hackers broke into the US Senate’s website over the weekend, leading to a review of all of its websites. Lulz Security claimed to have done the hack “just for kicks”, causing much embarrassment for the American government. On Wednesday, the group claimed to have briefly brought down the public site for the CIA. Ayman al-Zawahiri was appointed as the new leader of al-Qaeda’s General Command and the US vowed to hunt him down and kill him as it did Osama bin Laden.
  • Riots broke out in Vancouver, Canada following the 4-0 loss in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final (hockey) on Wednesday night. At least two people were reported injured, two police cars were burning, and some fires were out of control, after some looters came armed with Molotov cocktails and other weapons. Windows were smashed, vehicles overturned, and looters ravished department stores in the downtown core.
  • Some 19 people died and many more were injured in a prison riot in Venezuela after two rival gangs confronted each other on Sunday. Prisons are notoriously overcrowded, with reports suggesting they are three times over capacity. By Wednesday, the death toll was listed as 22.
  • A landless peasant activist was found dead in Brazil’s Amazon state of Para, in the fifth murder in a month believed to be linked to conflict over land and logging in the rainforest region. The activist was killed by a gunshot to his head outside his home.

Middle East

  • On Saturday, two car bombs exploded in Mosul, Iraq killing six people and injuring at least 50; the beheaded body of an activist from a local human rights NGO was found in his home in Abu Ghraib; and gunmen killed a teacher and four members of his family in their home in Samarra On Sunday, two roadside bombs killed three civilians and wounded some 14 others in southwest Baghdad; gunmen killed a government-back militia leader and his wife in Hilla; a roadside bomb wounded two near Mosul; one policeman was killed and another wounded in a roadside bomb attack near Mosul; a roadside bomb wounded three policemen in north eastern Baghdad; a sticky bomb wounded an army officer in southern Baghdad; and a roadside bomb wounded three civilians in northern Baghdad. On Monday, two civilians were wounded in a bomb explosion in northern Baghdad; a sticky bomb attack wounded another civilian in northern Baghdad; police found the beheaded bodies of two civilians who were kidnapped last week in Baaj; gunmen shot dead an off-duty Iraqi soldier in front of his house in Mosul; the imam of a mosque was wounded after gunmen stormed his house in Balad; five policemen were killed and 15 wounded in a suicide bomb attack at a police brigade compound in Basra; a sticky bomb attack killed a policeman in Mussayab; three people, including two policemen were killed when gunmen attacked a police checkpoint in Baquba; and a senior municipal official was wounded in a bomb attack in eastern Baghdad. On Tuesday, nine were killed and another 15 wounded in an insurgent attack on a provincial government compound in Baquba; gunmen killed an army lieutenant-general in northern Baghdad; gunmen killed two soldiers in western Baghdad; two US service members were killed in the south; gunmen killed the manager of the legal department of Baghdad provincial council in his car in central Baghdad; gunmen killed a policeman in western Mosul; and gunmen shot dead a former Iraqi army brigadier inside his car in Kirkuk. The US Pentagon and the Iraqi government close a funding program this month without determining the loss of $6.6 billion in cash to be used for reconstruction and other projects that has been under audit for several years. On Wednesday, a bomb killed one civilian and wounded nine others in Hilla; US military helicopters fired on suspected militia fighters in Basra, killing one and wounding two in response to a rocket attack on an airport; at least 10 Iraqi army soldiers were wounded when a mortar round landed at their checkpoint in Rashad; gunmen killed two soldiers at an Iraqi army checkpoint in Mosul; gunmen attacked an Iraqi military checkpoint in north-western Baghdad; a roadside bomb wounded two in southern Baghdad, and another bomb wounded four in the same area. On Thursday, a dead body showing signs of torture and gunshot wounds was found in Kirkuk; gunmen shot dead a porter in a market in western Mosul; gunmen shot dead a civilian in front of his home in eastern Mosul; gunmen stormed the house of an Iraqi contractor, killing him and two others in Hilla; and gunmen shot and seriously wounded an Iraqi policeman in northern Baghdad. A UN working group announced that Iraq should tightly regulate private security firms to prevent abuses by their employees when they stay on in the country after the scheduled US military withdrawal.
  • Youths in a poor southern town in Jordan began throwing stones at police in anger over their rough handling during a visit by King Abdullah II on Monday. On Sunday, King Abdullah said he was committed to pushing ahead with democratic reforms in a televised speech, but believed street pressure to change was a “recipe for chaos”.
  • Tanks and thousands of forces sealed the roads leading to Jisr al-Shugour, Syria on Saturday, while defecting soldiers and police officers remained behind to fight against an expected all-out government assault. At least 4,300 people have fled into Turkey, seeking refuge from violence, though the real number is suspected to be much higher as many cross the border unnoticed by the army. Russia and China are said to have snubbed the UN Security Council talks on Saturday that were set to discuss a resolution aimed at condemning the violence happening in Syria; the US is not sponsoring the resolution but made it clear that it supports the text and several sanctions have been placed on the country. On Sunday, state television was reporting heavy clashes between troops and armed men in Jisr al-Shughur, with a resident claiming as many as 150 tanks and armored vehicles rolling into the town and shelling non-stop. Many expressed anger upon learning they were duped by the story of the “Gay Girl in Damascus”, a supposed Syrian-American lesbian blogger who appeared to have been kidnapped by Syrian officials last week that garnered much international attention, after the blogger turned out to be a 40 year old American man living in Scotland. Sadly, this attempt to “get the story out” will only result in giving justification for the government and outsiders to deny “eye-witness” reports of violence experienced in the country. On Monday, Syrian troops reportedly pushed towards the northern town of Maarat al-Numaan after rounding up hundreds in a sweep through villages near Jisr al-Shughour.  On Tuesday, the UN issued a report condemning Syria for its crackdown on protesters, saying the troops are committing “alleged breaches of the most fundamental rights”, while Canada, speaking on behalf of 45 countries, called for credible and impartial investigation into the abuses.  On Wednesday, thousands fled Maarat al-Numaan to escape troops and tanks pushing into the north in the widening military campaign. On Thursday, Syria’s most powerful businessman, a confidant and cousin of President al-Assad announced he was quitting business and moving to charity work, in what many are calling a symbolic gesture of a change of heart in the regime. On Friday, security forces were accused of shooting dead at least 16 people, including a 16 year-old boy, during fresh anti-government protests that took place in several cities across the country and even in northern Lebanon.
  • Kuwait has allegedly arrested a man for publishing criticism of the ruling families in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia on the social media site Twitter. No charges have been pressed so far, though he has been held for several days.
  • Twenty-one al-Qaeda members and nine soldiers are said to have been killed on Saturday in southern Yemen in clashes between the army and the militant group who had previously seized the town. On Monday, opposition sources said they had met with the VP to discuss a transfer of power within a transitional period and the need to expand the truce negotiated by Saudi Arabia to the rest of Yemen, while fresh clashes broke out between pro-Saleh forces and anti-government protesters in Taiz and Yemeni authorities are said to have arrested several people in connection with the assassination attempt against Saleh. Three guards were shot dead on Wednesday when armed men stormed three state buildings in the country’s south. Protests continued on Thursday, as hundreds of Yemenis demonstrated in Sana’a calling on Saleh to step down; while masked gunmen attacked buildings in the country’s south.
  • Thousands took to the street for the first time since March on Saturday in Bahrain demanding political reform. The government said it granted permission for the rally, but still kept barbed wire and armoured vehicles guarding the Pearl Roundabout where protesters camped out in previous protests, to prevent it from becoming a focal point for protesters. The young Bahraini woman who staged a 10 day fast in April following the beating and arrest of her father, that led to the arrest of her husband and brother-in-law, was allowed just six minutes with her husband this week.  The woman was arrested by police while holding a sit-in protest at the UN offices in Manama on Wednesday, along with two other women, but all were later released by police, after the UNDP refused to press charges.
  • Hamas rejected Fatah’s nomination of Salam Fayyad as PM in a transitional government for Palestine on Sunday, potentially compromising foreign support for the new government, accusing him of co-operating with Israel’s blockade of the Gaza Strip. Fatah then expelled a former leader, Mohammed Dahlan, once seen as a possible successor to President Abbas, and referred him to the judiciary over alleged criminal and financial cases. A new report issued on Tuesday showed unemployment standing at 45.2% for the second half of 2010 in Gaza, a record high for a six-month period in the region, even though Israel eased its blockade during that period.  Palestinian officials announced on Tuesday that they would be ready to unveil a new unity government at a meeting between Fatah leader Abbas and Hamas leader Meshaal in Cairo next week. On Thursday, Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip are reported to have fired a rocket into southern Israel, causing no damage or injuries. Israel’s Justice Ministry recommended that police open investigations into two soldiers who posted on the Internet pictures and videos in which they humiliated prisoners last year. Pro-Palestinian groups are planning a new flotilla of humanitarian aid to Gaza, and Israel has reportedly planned to prevent the ship from reaching Gaza by any means necessary.
  • The UN Secretary General welcomed the formation of a new government in Lebanon on Monday, after nearly five months of disagreement between various political groups, though others were sceptical of Hizbullah’s influence over the administration.
  • Amnesty International condemned a sharp rise in beheadings in Saudi Arabia. There have been more than 27 people executed this year; more than put to death in all of 2010 and more than 100 others, many foreigners, on death row. On Friday, some Saudi women defiantly drove through the nation’s capital in protest of the male-only driving rules in the country. No arrests or violence were immediately reported.
  • A jailed journalist in Iran died on Sunday after going on a hunger strike to protest the death of an activist during her father’s funeral. Hoda Saber is said to have died from “cardiac complications” induced from his hunger strike.

Europe

  • Croatia was told on the weekend that it should be able to join the European Union in 2013, as long as it is able to reign in corruption and reform its judiciary. On Saturday about a dozen people were hurt and more than 100 arrested at a gay pride parade after hundreds of locals shouted insults and began throwing bottles and stones at marchers.
  • The head of the Armenian Apostolic Church made a week-long visit to Georgia in hopes of resolving disputes with the Georgian government and Georgian Orthodox Church over the country’s Armenian religious heritage. One of the biggest sources of Georgian-Armenian tensions lies over a 15th century church in Tbilisi that both countries insist is their own.
  • Vanuatu joined Nicaragua, Nauru, Venezuela and Russia in recognizing the breakaway region of Abkhazia this week after last week’s confusion where the Vanuatu ambassador to the UN denied the recognition. The countries have no recorded history of trade or other commercial activities.
  • More than 50 million people headed to the polls in Turkey on Sunday for parliamentary elections.
  • A regional counter-terrorism official from Russia was killed and another officer wounded during a shootout in the North Caucasus on Sunday.
  • The imam of a rual mosque in Daghestan was shot dead on Tuesday, in an unknown attack. Some five suspected militants were killed alongside the commander of an elite police unit in gunfights on Wednesday, while some four other suspected militants were killed by security forces in an exchange of gunfire south of Kaspiisk.
  • The UN Security Council extended the mandate of the UN peacekeeping force in Cyprus (UNFICYP) for another year on Monday. The force has been on the island since 1964 and is currently staffed with nearly 1,000 uniformed personnel and 150 international and national civilian staff.
  • The President of Belarus has vowed to “strike hard” against any further public protests in the country following a protest on Sunday that was forcibly broken up by police. The protest took place on the border with Poland, by motorists demanding that authorities revoke a decision to limit the amount of gasoline and other goods that can be taken out of the country. On Thursday, it was reported that a jailed activist had been “tortured” in prison. The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) suggested that Belarus uses fear, harassment, torture and blackmail to clamp down on its people in a system void of justice and the rule of law in a special report issued on Thursday.
  • Thousands came out dressed as clowns to protest against austerity measures introduced by the government in Hungary on Thursday, in the biggest rally since demonstrations began in April. Early retirement for public sector workers was repealed, and the government has abolished these rights retroactively.
  • It was reported that Greece is likely to get enough money from the EU to survive through the summer this Sunday; because the country’s economic troubles could eventually trigger the euro zone’s first debt default. Many are concerned that a default could send shock waves that would hurt stocks, banks and entire economies around the world. On Wednesday, protesters in Athens threw petrol bombs and clashed with police at buildings housing the finance ministry.
  • Thousands blockaded the parliament in Catalonia, Spain on Wednesday, protesting heavy cuts and austerity measures used to slash the deficit and forcing politicians to enter by helicopter or under police escort.

 

This Week in Conflict… June 4th- 10th, 2011

Hello, hope all is well with you!

I’ve finally returned to writing the This Week in Conflict report again after a nearly three month hiatus. In that absence, it seems that conflict has really begun erupting in many places across the globe. As such, it is incredibly difficult for me to remain abreast of all the details and nuances of each conflict, so I ask readers to please submit to me any reports or personal observations from conflict zones they find each week that they feel I have missed or overlooked or misunderstood. These reports are all made on a voluntary basis, using publicly available news reports and as such are subject to error or media bias. I would also appreciate any suggestions on how to make this weekly report better. You can add these to the commentary below, or send them via email.

Since there are soo many conflicts brewing, and this weekly report has gotten so long; the conflicts are separated into regions with each region and country highlighted with bold lettering to make it easier for you to skim to find details about the specific conflict or region you are looking for.

Peace!

Rebecca

 

World

  • Some discussion being floated regarding the IMF Strauss-Khan rape case caught my interest, particularly these two, which suggest that the IMF itself needs to be investigated and tried for crimes. Strauss-Kahn plead “not guilty” to the charges in a courtroom on Monday and will return to court on July 18th. Several civil society organizations, including ActionAid, Eurodad and Oxfam are demanding that the candidates looking to be the next leader of the IMF debate each other publicly instead of using backroom deals to secure the position.
  • Ban Ki-moon is seeking a second five-year term at his post of UN Secretary-General and has formally asked members of the UN to support his candidacy. Ban’s term ends on December 31st and he is so far running unopposed. Some see Ban as more than deserving of the position based on his work during his five year term, while others, myself included, are far more critical of his time as SG.
  • The UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of opinion and expression presented his report concluding that Internet access is a basic human right. The Rapporteur declared that disconnecting individuals from the Internet goes against international law.
  • Member States of the UN will sign a declaration on Friday calling for “universal access” to treatment for HIV-AIDS by 2015 at a special summit on the disease. Great in theory, but difficult in practice, especially considering the vague language on financial commitments for funding of such a project.
  • A new report explored for the first time the key character traits, skills and contexts needed for effective leadership in a humanitarian crisis. The report found that the qualities and experience of the individual are far more important in determining who emerges as an effective leader, than their job titles or formal status.
  • Robert Gates, the US Defence Secretary blasted European allies of NATO this week for risking “collective military irrelevance” unless NATO members bear more of the burden and boost military spending in operations such as Libya and Afghanistan. Gates warned of a “real possibility for a dim, if not dismal future for the transatlantic alliance”.

Africa

  • An interesting article regarding the “resource curse” in Africa caught my eye this week. The article described how pollution is actually the real curse of resources in the continent, and how extraction of resources is poisoning the African landscape.
  • Attack Apache helicopters were reportedly used for the first time in Libya this week after being sent May 27th, destroying two military installations, a radar site and an armed checkpoint. On Saturday, at least six powerful explosions were heard in central Tripoli, allegedly stemming from NATO aircraft. Libyan opposition authorities were accused by Human Rights Watch of arbitrarily detaining civilians suspected of activities in support of Gaddafi and urged to bring the security groups under a recognized authority so abuses could be investigated. On Sunday, Russian Deputy PM Ivanov suggested that NATO is “one step” from sending ground troops into Libya to help remove Gaddafi, accusing the forces of taking sides in the conflict. On Monday, it was reported that Libyan rebels had entered the previously government-held, north-western town of Yafran, and the NATO chief expressed his confidence that Libyans would soon be rid of Gaddafi. Rebels expressed frustration at NATO for having to slow their progress in line with NATO bombing, even pulling back from areas they had already conquered. On Tuesday, Gaddafi’s daughter launched a lawsuit for murder of four members of her family during a NATO air strike and as many as 60 daytime explosions were reported from near the residential compound of Gaddafi in Tripoli, which are said to have killed at least 30. Gaddafi also took to the state TV vowing to fight to the death and claiming that Western leaders were not seeking a peaceful solution, but rather an escalation. On Wednesday, thousands of troops loyal to Gaddafi were reported to have advanced on the rebel-held city of Misurata, killing at least 12 rebels in heavy shelling, while certain governments (notably Spain) confirmed their recognition of the rebel National Transitional Council as the only representative. An interesting article posted this week showed another side of Gaddafi, as the “emancipator of women”, offering some of them high-profile roles in the police, military and government that were previously unavailable by breaking cultural taboos concerning women’s work and status. The International Criminal Court investigators announced that they had evidence linking Gaddafi to a policy of raping opponents and may be bringing separate charges on the issue, claiming that some of the troops were given anti-impotency medication in order to commit the crimes. The Special UN investigators also accused government forces loyal to Gaddafi of committing war crimes and crimes against humanity, a charge that Libya denies. The international Commission of Inquiry on the country also said they had evidence of war crimes being committed by opposition forces. . An estimated 10,000 to 15,000 people have been killed in the four months of fighting. On Thursday, the African Union called on Gaddafi to step down, a difficult move considering his involvement for decades in the organization lending finance, helping in peacekeeping operations, training, aid and infrastructure building across the continent; while Germany announced it would consider sending troops as part of a UN military force if Gaddafi is ousted and the US said that talks were under way with people close to Gaddafi and a potential for transition of power. On Friday, Libyan troops renewed shelling around Misrata, killing 17 and wounding at least 60; NATO war planes continued to bombard Tripoli; and a student loyal to Gaddafi was arrested in Italy, accused of planning to assassinate the rebels’ leading international representative and lead an attack on the Libyan embassy in Rome.
  • Burundian soldiers serving as peacekeepers with the Africa Union in Somalia say they are owed salaries for the past five months from the AU, some believing their money has been diverted by the government to be used for other purposes. AMISOM (African Union mission in Somalia) says it captured a strategic district in Mogadishu from al Shabaab on Saturday after heavy fighting and casualties. At least 8 civilians were killed in shelling on Sunday, and mass displacement was reported. On Friday, it was announced that Somali Interior Minister Sheikh Hassan was killed in a suicide attack at his home, allegedly carried out by his niece; while two people were said to have been killed during a protest in Mogadishu after troops fired on protesters.
  • Three people were killed and some 90 wounded after clashes in a mining town in central Tunisia on Saturday, though the death toll later rose to 11. The clashes are said to stem from access to jobs between rival clans. On Wednesday, Tunisia’s interim government announced that elections, due to be held in July, would be postponed for three months to ensure credibility.
  • Life remains difficult for many in Cote d’Ivoire, with retaliation violence still felt in parts of the country as many citizens attempt to rebuild their lives after months of violence. Many refugees are still waiting to return in neighbouring countries, afraid to go back. Forces loyal to new President Alassane Ouattara have been accused of continued violence against suspected supporters of former President Gbagbo.
  • The government of Burkina Faso announced on Saturday that six soldiers and a young girl were killed as they quashed the recent military mutiny. Soldiers were looting and shooting in the capital, demanding higher wages. Some 57 mutineers have since been arrested, though this number rose to 93 by Tuesday.
  • The UN is investigating Zambian peacekeepers in Sudan who allegedly stayed holed up in their barracks for two days during violent clashes between the northern and southern forces, instead of fulfilling their mandate to regularly patrol and protect civilians. On Saturday, the North Sudanese government dismissed calls by the UN Security Council to withdraw its forces immediately from Abyei, the disputed region seized on May 21st, saying that the dispute would only be resolved through north-south negotiations and not outside pressure.  On Sunday, it was reported that clashes had broken out in the Nuba region of South Kordofan, an area in northern territory that Khartoum authorities have threatened to clear of southern-allied armed groups. Reports indicated that at least were killed in the fighting, including four policemen and two civilians. On Tuesday, the UNHCR reported that the number of people displaced from the Abyei region had risen to nearly 100,000 from recent conflicts and that more than 1,500 had died this year in violence across southern Sudan. On Thursday, the Northern Sudan army was reported to have carried out intensive air attacks in South Sudan’s Unity state, while the Sudanese army announced they were ready to deal with an “armed rebellion” in the Southern Kordofan State, raising the possibility of more violence in the border region. On Friday, the South said the North had killed three civilians in bombing in Unity State and that they were preparing their army to face an imminent ground offensive from the north. The Government of Sudan (Khartoum) declared an end to the UN Mission in Sudan (UNMIS), ignoring the UNSC resolution to extend the mission’s mandate, and asking them to leave by July 9th.
  • A newspaper editor in the Central African Republic (CAR) has been arrested on charges of “inciting violence and hatred” in a series of articles about demonstrations by former soldiers that suggested that the President’s son had embezzled funds donated by the EU. The articles asked for an explanation into the disappearance of an estimated 3.8 billion CFA (5.15 million Euros) to pay retired soldiers as part of a reform program.
  • A senior UN official announced on Saturday that UN humanitarian agencies and their partners need to scale up aid to remote eastern and north-eastern areas of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), warning that as many as 1.7 million people remain displaced and in fear of daily attacks from armed groups. The official noted that the humanitarian support plan for the DRC has so far only received 41% of its target funding. On Wednesday, the UN Security Council was told that there had been significant improvements in security in the country, but that many challenges remained before stability could be ensured.  A coalition of 47 international and Congolese organizations called on the UN Security Council to ensure that they UN mission in the Congo has adequate and appropriate resources to protect civilians from attacks by the LRA and to avert election-related violence (scheduled for November 28th).
  • Fighting broke out this week between Turkana peoples in northwest Kenya, and Daasanach or Merille peoples in southern Ethiopia, over land and food scarcity. The two groups often compete for food found in and around Lake Turkana. Kenya has started screening more than 1,600 senior police officers as part of an anti-corruption program to restore public confidence in the police force that is widely viewed as the most corrupt in East Africa. On Sunday, an unknown explosion in Nairobi caused at least one death and many injuries. Conflicting reports suggest different causes of the explosion, including potential gas leaks and even a missile. The world’s largest refugee camp in the world, in Dadaab, Kenya, is now full, meaning there is no longer any space or access to water and other facilities, and is creating a humanitarian emergency that threatens hundreds of thousands of lives.
  • Thirty-seven farmers were detained by police and several hundred others blocked in Cameroon following protests over bad roads and poor support for agriculture. Frustrations have been mounting ahead of the October Presidential election. Security forces used water cannons to disperse rioting soccer fans angered by a draw against the Senegalese team that dimmed Cameroon’s chances of qualifying for the 2012 African Nations Cup on Saturday. Another riot also broke out in Senegal’s Dakar on Saturday, following a power outage that switched off televisions and radios mid-game.
  • Xenophobic violence is on the rise in South Africa in recent weeks with foreign traders this week finding mock eviction notices posted to their shops, and following last week’s tensions where more than 50 Somali-owned shops were attacked, burned and looted. A graphic video was also released this weekend showing a mob beating an innocent Zimbabwean man to death, only eleven hours after another Zimbabwean was killed by a different mob.
  • A leaked version of Zimbabwe’s voter’s roll allegedly contains some 2.5 million extra names, including 41,000 people over the age of 100 (four times more than in the UK, which has a far larger population and longer life expectancy); 16,800 of who, share the same birthday that would make them 110 years old and at least 230 under the age of 18 with some as young as 2 years old. President Mugabe has called for elections this year; while his PM in the power sharing government, Morgan Tsvangirai, wants to wait until 2012 until after a new constitution has been passed to ensure the vote is held in a fair and free manner. The Finance Minster Tendai Biti survived a suspected assassination attempt on Sunday morning after his home was hit by an explosive object.
  • Anti-government protests in Rabat and Casablanca, Morocco ended without any violence on Sunday after authorities appeared to soften their reaction by keeping riot police away, though Human Rights Groups alleged that police have started visiting protest organizers homes, attempting to intimidate them.
  • A suspected Boko Haram gunman has shot dead a prominent cleric in northern Nigeria on Monday, and at least five were killed after police stations were attacked in the northern city of Maiduguri on Tuesday. At least three explosions were heard during the attack, alongside gunfire, thought to have been committed by the Boko Haram sect.  At least 20 were killed on Sunday in Ibadan, as gunmen stormed the Iwo Road Motor Parks.
  • Many are expressing anger at the multi-million dollar deluxe “city” being built in Equatorial Guinea to house leaders during an African Union summit that will last just a week, calling it a “misplaced priority” by the government when 75% of the population lives on less than $1 a day. The government has also been accused of detaining young people and deporting them by bus to the villages in fear of disturbance during the summit.
  • The Supreme Court in Rwanda sentenced the exiled online editor of Umuvugizi to a two year and six month term in prison for allegedly insulting the President and inciting civil disobedience. Many believe the sentence may stem from an online article written by the editor in which he compared President Kagame to Zimbabwe’s Mugabe, concluding that Kagame was more tyrannical than Mugabe.
  • On Thursday, police are reported to have blocked an opposition rally in Uganda. The opposition claims their activities were being conducted within the law, and that prior notice of the assembly was sent, though police suggested they were “inciting the public”.
  • Discussions continued in New York regarding the electoral mechanisms for self-determination in the Western Sahara on Tuesday, though both Morocco and the Frente Polisario continued to reject the proposals of the other. Morocco presented a plan for autonomy, while the Frente Polisario insists that the territory’s final status should be decided in a referendum.

Asia

  • A popular yogi in India has started a “fast unto death” to push the government to deal with corruption in the country and called upon the death penalty for corrupt government officials. Thousands joined him in protest on Saturday. On Sunday, hundreds of police forcibly removed him and thousands of his supporters, detaining the yogi and later releasing him. By Wednesday, the yogi had restarted the fast, joined by some 500 supporters. On Friday, it was reported that the yogi’s condition had deteriorated and that he had been hospitalized.
  • Four ISAF members were killed by a roadside bomb in eastern Afghanistan on Saturday; one student was killed and three wounded in a bomb explosion in Kandahar; three children were killed and one wounded in a roadside bomb in Logar; an Italian man was shot and killed in a dispute with villagers in the northeast after himself shooting and injuring a local man. One Scottish member of the ISAF was shot dead by alleged insurgents on Sunday in Helmand Province. On Sunday, two ISAF service member were killed in a helicopter crash in Khost; an ISAF service member was killed in an insurgent attack in Kabul; and two security guards were killed in a suicide bomb attack in Wardak province. On Monday, gunmen killed 11 outside the capital of Logar province, including five Afghan soldiers and three government employees; and an ISAF service member was killed by a bomb in Kabul. On Tuesday, an ISAF service member was killed in an insurgent attack in Kabul; and a leading politician from what is normally one of the most stable regions in Afghanistan was killed. On Wednesday, a gunman killed some nine people in an attack on a wedding party in eastern Afghanistan; while one of the most powerful militant groups in Pakistan announced it plans to step up its fight against American troops in Afghanistan in response to US drone missile attacks. On Thursday, an ISAF service member was killed by a roadside bomb in Kabul. The President of the UN Security Council is in Kabul for the month of June to see the effect of armed conflict on Afghani children, ahead of the debate on a new resolution condemning attacks on schools and hospitals and the impact on children living in armed conflict.
  • Pakistani intelligence announced that a US drone strike killed a senior al Qaeda figure, Ilyas Kashmiri on Saturday in Pakistan; while some 75 alleged militants, 25 policemen and two paramilitary soldiers were killed in three days of fighting after Pakistani Taliban insurgents crossed from Afghanistan and attacked a security post in the north-western region. A bomb killed six, and wounded some 11 in Peshawar on Sunday at a bus terminal; another report suggested that at least 18 were killed and 35 wounded after a bomb blast erupted in a bakery near Peshawar; two gunmen attacked and torched a NATO fuel truck in Quetta; and a landmine explosion wounded a paramilitary soldier in the northwest. On Monday, three US missile strikes are said to have killed at least 19 people near the Afghan border, with one strike possibly hitting a religious school and again raising concern about civilian deaths. On Tuesday, a bomb blast hit four NATO fuel trucks in Khyber region. On Wednesday, it was reported that some 15 were killed in  US drone strikes in North Waziristan. On Thursday, officials say at least 8 Pakistani soldiers and 10 Taliban militants were killed in fighting and rocket attacks in the Waziristan region after some 150 militants attacked a security post; a bomb in a market near Peshawar killed four people and wounded three; a roadside bomb struck a vehicle carrying paramilitary troops in the southwest, killing two soldiers and wounding three; and a roadside bomb killed one person in the northwest.
  • Hundreds of anti-Chinese protesters came out in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam on Sunday in a rare demonstration against Chinese naval operations in disputed waters of the South China Sea. The protests follow a confrontation between a Vietnamese oil and gas ship and Chinese patrol boats last month. On Friday, Vietnam announced it would hold live-fire exercises in the South China Sea starting on Monday and warned vessels to stay out of the area.
  • Tens of thousands of people attended a candlelight vigil in Hong Kong, to mark the 22nd anniversary of the Tiananmen Square killings in China.  Many used the occasion to call upon the government to release activists and other dissidents who have recently been arrested. On Wednesday, the head of the General Staff of the People’s Liberation Army confirmed that China’s first aircraft carrier was under construction, while the UN human rights investigators called on the government to reveal the fate and whereabouts of more than 300 Tibetan monks who disappeared after being rounded up at a monastery by security forces in late April. The government denied the monks had been detained by security forces and instead claimed that some had been taken for “legal education”.  On Friday, one of China’s best-known human rights activists reported that she had been told by police that the end of her husband’s jail term could mean the start of tighter restrictions on her movements, and she feared she would be put under house arrest.
  • Dozens of senior police officials in Nepal were charged on Wednesday with embezzling millions of dollars of public funds during the procurement of military hardware for the country’s UN peacekeepers stationed in Sudan. The incident came to light in 2009 after the UN reported that the vehicles sent by Nepal were unsafe and did not meet UN specifications.
  • The defence ministry in Azerbaijan was quoted as saying that Azeri troops would eventually be sent back to seize the Armenian-backed breakaway territory of Nagorno-Karabakh. Azer officials accused Armenia of repeatedly obstructing talks to resolve the dispute, while Armenian officials accused the Azeris of “preparing ground for new provocations” by disseminating misinformation. On Thursday a senior Russian defence industry executive said that Armenia was looking to acquire Russian rocket artillery systems with a firing range of up to 90 km.
  • A nationwide strike in Bangladesh crippled the country’s capital on Sunday, as shops were closed and traffic was disrupted by thousands of security personnel. The general strike called by the opposition is in protest against the government’s move to throw out a provision that requires it to give power to a non-partisan administration to oversee elections at the end of its term. Over 60 people, who attempted to hold protests, were detained.
  • Dismantlement projects in Tashkent, Uzbekistan have angered the local population, as people are being evicted from their homes to make space. Residents are not being told why their homes are being demolished by the state.
  • Two protesting oil workers are in hospital after publicly slashing their stomachs during a police round-up in western Kazakhstan on Sunday. At least 37 protesters were detained seeking to obtain higher wages and the lifting of restrictions on independent trade unions, and alleged that police used violence to disperse them. Rights groups urged the Kazakh government on Tuesday, not to extradite 32 detainees to Uzbekistan, where they face a real risk of torture. Rights groups were also upset over the extradition of an ethnic Uighur schoolteacher who had been granted UN refugee status back to China, where he faces charges of terrorism and is likely to face torture.
  • A 16 year old boy in Tajikistan died while in police detention after reportedly being beaten this week. The Prosecutor-General has said it has launched an investigation into a “beating with a lethal outcome”, punishable under the Tajik Criminal Code. The sons of two prominent Tajik journalists claim that police detained and beat them for no reason and have since filed a lawsuit against the police.
  • Human Rights Watch called on Turkmenistan to heed calls by the UN Committee against Torture to address its “abysmal record” on torture and other serious abuses on Tuesday. The UN committee issued a report saying it was deeply concerned about the widespread practice of torture and ill-treatment of detainees.
  • Suspected militants shot and killed two grocery store owners in southern Thailand before setting off a bomb that wounded five police officials who arrived to investigate. The attacks were reported to have an ethnic component.
  • Amnesty International warned that a lack of justice for killings in last year’s rioting in Kyrgyzstan could possible spark more violence in the country. Amnesty declared that ethnic bias and corruption were behind the impunity. The UNHCR warns that tens of thousands are still displaced in southern Kyrgyzstan a year after deadly clashes there.
  • At least 11 people were injured after a scuttle between police and protesters in Cambodia on Thursday. About 300 villagers were resisting a court order to transfer their farmland to a Taiwanese businessman in a forced eviction. Violence over land issues has been increasing and rights groups say the government is driving people off their land to benefit cronies in cahoots with foreign firms.

Americas

  • Multi-million dollar compensation cases brought against Chiquita Banana Company by at least 4,000 Colombians who allege they or their relatives were tortured or killed by paramilitaries paid by the company, will continue after a ruling by an American judge. Chiquita denies all charges, claiming it was forced to make payments to the AUC paramilitary group in order to protect its employees, and not for violent purposes. On Saturday, the government announced that its soldiers had killed the security chief of the top commander of the FARC guerrillas, Alirio Rojas. On Wednesday, a gunman shot and killed a rights leader on a local bus.
  • Brazil has launched a new welfare scheme aimed at lifting millions out of extreme poverty by 2014, by building on current programs to direct more money to the poorest regions.
  • Peru headed back to the polls on Sunday for its second round of its Presidential elections. Keiko Fujimori, daughter of ex-President Alberto Fujimori (jailed for corruption and organizing death squads), and Ollanta Humala, who critics fear will embark on interventionist policies) were the two candidates. Polls suggested that around 10% of voters could abstain or spoil their ballots. By Monday, Fujimori had accepted defeat to Humala who had 51.4% of the vote.
  • American Defence Secretary Robert Gates announced on Saturday that the US is working to identify hackers who will be responded to in kind or using traditional offensive action. The speech was particularly aimed at the Chinese, who the US State Department had previously asked to investigate following the hacking of Google, Lockheed Martin and Sony Corp, whose attacks allegedly originated in China.
  • Authorities in Mexico announced on Saturday that they had detained the man who led the Zetas drug cartel operations near Cancun. Authorities in Guatemala also announced on Saturday that they had captured 15 alleged Zeta members, including five Mexicans, for alleged links to the killing and dismemberment of a Guatemalan prosecutor. On Monday, Mexican soldiers were said to have destroyed four “narco-tanks” thought to have been made for the Gulf drug cartel in a north-eastern state, killing two suspected drug cartel members in the process. On Tuesday, gunmen attacked a drug treatment centre in northern Mexico, killing 11 and injuring another two.

Middle East

  • Palestinians, angry at Egyptian officials who had closed the Rafah border crossing on Saturday for alleged maintenance, stormed the terminal and demanded it be reopened. The closing comes as Palestinians planned marches to the Israeli borders from neighbouring Arab countries to mark the June 5th anniversary of Israel’s capture of the West Bank and Gaza in 1967. By Sunday, Hamas had stopped travelers from crossing into Egypt over the restrictions and Palestinian President Abbas cautiously welcomed a French proposal to try and renew collapsed peace talks in Paris. The Rafah crossing reopened on Wednesday. On Sunday, Israeli troops are reported to have opened fire on Syrian protesters who stormed a ceasefire line in Golan Heights, killing six and wounding around 100. Similar protests were held in the West Bank. On Monday, Syrian police blocked dozens of pro-Palestinian protesters from approaching the Israeli frontier by setting up a pair of checkpoints near the border area. On Tuesday, arsonists damaged a mosque in a West Bank village, spraying Hebrew messages on the walls, compelling the UN envoy in the Middle East to call for “forceful” action by the Israeli Government against such attacks; and gunmen from a Palestinian faction said to be loyal to Syria shot dead at least 11 Palestinian refugees near Damascus in a dispute.  On Thursday, the UN agency assisting Palestinian refugees reported that Israeli home demolitions displaced 67 Palestinian children in May, a monthly record for the year.
  • The PM of Yemen  and other senior officials were transferred to Saudi Arabia for treatment after last Friday’s attack on the presidential palace, though the President reportedly received on minor wounds on the back of the head.  The government has called Friday’s attack an “attempted coup” amid warnings that the country is headed to all-out war. Sporadic shelling and rocket-fire allegedly continued on Saturday in northern Sana’a. Saudi Arabia is also said to have brokered a fresh truce in the country on Saturday, which appeared to be holding on Saturday night, though looting and scenes of chaos were reported accompanying the withdrawal of security forces. By Sunday, the Saudi royal court had announced that President Saleh had arrived in Saudi Arabia for treatment and possible surgery, though asserted that he would be well enough to return home in two weeks. The main opposition coalition said it would accept a transfer of power to the Vice-President, and offered to talk with the VP about a political transition, a move he dismissed as “ridiculous”, prompting thousands to protest in response outside his residence. Thousands of Yemenis took to the streets in celebration, rejoicing in the possibility that the President may never return. Explosions and gunfights continued on Sunday, disrupting the fresh ceasefire, only to be further unravelled on Monday as regime supporters opened fire on opposition fighters in renewed clashes, killing at least six. By Tuesday, reports were coming out that claimed President Saleh was more injured than originally thought, suffering from 40% burns across his body, bleeding inside his skull and shrapnel lodged near his heart.  Reports were also now indicating that a bomb and not a rocket may have hit the President inside the mosque in his palace. Nineteen people, including three children were reported dead in clashes in two Yemeni provinces; several explosions were heard in Taiz on Tuesday; and the military said it had killed some 30 al Qaeda and other Islamist militants who seized the city of Zinjibar. On Wednesday, hundreds of armed tribesmen were reported to have taken control of the city of Taiz, the second largest city in the country, and the ruling party was said to have opened talks with the opposition coalition while the US intensified air strikes on suspected militants to keep them from consolidating power as the government weakens. The World Food Programme also reported that fighting had disrupted food supplies, pushing the price of gas, water, fuel and other basic commodities skyward, causing many to be food insecure. On Friday, an estimated 100,000 took to the streets in Sana’a demanding that wounded President Saleh be removed from power, while a few kilometres away a large number of loyalists gathered to celebrate after state media claimed Saleh was making a quick recovery.
  • Mass funerals closed most shops on Saturday in Hama, Syria, following the death of some 60 people on Friday. Tens of thousands are said to have taken to the streets on Saturday in Hama in protest, with tanks looking on. Ali Abdullah, a leading opposition figure jailed since 2007, was also released on Saturday following a general amnesty made on Tuesday. Some 35 civilians and 10 security forces were reportedly killed over the weekend during a government security crackdown in a northern town. Mourners accused security forces of using snipers to pick off members of the procession from atop a post office, which the mourners than lit on fire. On Sunday, security forces were accused of shooting to death two teenage protesters in an eastern city after mourners of a 14 year old set fire to two Baath Party buildings. On Monday, unknown armed men attacked Syrian security forces in the north, killing some 120 policemen and security forces and apparently leading to residents of one town pleading for the army to intervene to stop the killing (though opposition activists see this as a government pretence to justify harsh military crackdown). France also announced it was ready to ask the UN Security Council to vote on a draft resolution condemning Syria for its brutal crackdown, claiming al-Assad had lost his legitimacy to rule, though Russia later rejected the measure. On Tuesday, French TV claimed that Syria’s ambassador to France resigned in protest of the violence in her country, though she later denied this was true, and Syrian authorities threatened to crack down on “armed groups” involved in the killing of security forces on Monday. By Wednesday, hundreds were fleeing the town of Jisr al-Shughour into Turkey ahead of an expected military assault following the 120 deaths on Monday and hundreds were taking to the street to mourn the death of a young Syrian boy, whose tortured body was captured and released on video. Thousands of elite troops later converged on the restive northern area. The head of the UN atomic energy agency picked the convenient moment amidst all the fighting to suggest that Syria has been engaging in undeclared nuclear activities, and that perhaps a nuclear facility was destroyed by Israeli air attack in 2007. The IAEA then referred Syria to the Security Council on Thursday.  On Friday, tanks are said to have opened fire on crowds in the northern town of Maarat al-Numan killing as many as 28 people; while the Syrian regime ordered its army to enter Jisr al-Shughour leaving more than 20 dead, while thousands continued escaping into Turkey. Syrian state TV claimed that the fleeing citizens were visiting with relatives across the border, that there were no demonstrations happening and that people shouldn’t trust “shoddy” eyewitness accounts, even though all foreign journalists are currently banned from the country.
  • Dozens of people were arrested at a funeral service for an Iranian activist who died at her father’s funeral last week on Saturday, following a scuffle with security forces. Opposition websites claim the activist was injured by security forces, though the government denies this claim. Reports suggest that Iran is stepping up the pace of its uranium enrichment, much to the worry of some of the international community who have concerns of weapons manufacture. The government insists the work is peaceful and only for electricity generating capabilities. And in an unfortunate decision, the international football association (FIFA) has banned the Iranian football team from participating in the 2012 London Olympics unless they remove their Islamic headscarves, citing safety concerns.
  • On Saturday, gunmen killed a civil defence force Lieutenant Colonel in western Baghdad, Iraq and a roadside bomb targeted a joint US/Iraqi military patrol in Fallujah.  On Sunday, three Iraqi soldiers were killed and one wounded in a roadside bomb attack in western Baghdad; gunmen killed a security guard of the speaker of Iraq’s parliament in western Baghdad; eight were injured in a roadside bomb in north-western Baghdad and another six in a southern district; a sticky bomb attack wounded a director general in the ministry of planning in western Baghdad; gunmen killed a member of a government-backed militia Sahwa south of Baghdad; and a roadside bomb attack killed one and wounded three south of Baghdad. On Monday, five American troops were killed when rockets slammed into their compound in Baghdad; at least 13 people were killed, including nine Iraqi military personnel and 15 wounded in a suicide bomb attack in Tikrit; a car bomb killed one civilian and wounded ten in eastern Baghdad; a local politician and three members of his family were killed in a bomb attack in their home near Ramadi; gunmen killed four government-backed militia members and wounded another four in north Baghdad; a roadside bomb near a police patrol wounded six in north Baghdad; and a roadside bomb wounded four civilians in central Baghdad. On Tuesday, a sticky bomb attack wounded a government employee and two others in northern Baghdad; gunmen attacked an Interior Ministry Colonel and his family, killing his son in western Baghdad; a sticky bomb attack killed an off-duty policeman in Ramadi; gunmen killed two policemen in central Baghdad; police found the body of an unidentified man with gunshot wounds to the head south of Baghdad; and a roadside bomb attack killed two shepards in northern Mosul. On Wednesday, a sticky bomb attack killed one person and wounded another in Falluja; a roadside bomb exploded, wounding one policeman and three others in southeast Baghdad; a US service member was killed in Baghdad; gunmen shot and killed an off-duty policeman near his house in eastern Mosul; police found the body of a kidnapped man with gunshot wounds west of Mosul; a bomb explosion wounded four in Baquba; a roadside bomb targeting a police patrol wounded two policemen and two others in central Baghdad; and a roadside bomb killed a member of a government-backed militia near Kirkuk. On Thursday, a sticky bomb killed a civilian in northern Baghdad; a roadside bomb wounded a policeman north of Baghdad; gunmen killed a restaurant owner in Kirkuk; a bomb wounded a passer-by in Baghdad; gunmen killed a judge in western Baghdad; gunmen killed the head of a company belonging to the Ministry of Industry in Taji; gunmen killed an off-duty policeman in west central Baghdad; police found the body of an unidentified man shot in the head in northern Baghdad; and a roadside bomb wounded two in west central Baghdad.
  • Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon reiterated his call on the government of Bahrain to uphold international human rights standards, following the lifting of the state of emergency in the country. National dialogue is set to begin on July 1st. Despite recent problems, Formula 1 announced it was set to reschedule its Nascar race for October 30, sparking a debate between many human rights activists as to whether or not this was appropriate. By Wednesday however, many teams had voiced opposition to having the race in the face of government crackdown on public demonstrations and it was deemed likely to be cancelled. On Monday, opposition members say police clashed with Shi’a marchers across the country, using tear gas, rubber bullets, sound grenades and birdshot, though the government vehemently denied this. Journalists have been unable to verify, as police have set up checkpoints sealing many Shi’a majority areas. By Tuesday however, the police admitted to arresting a number of Shi’ites over the weekend for shouting anti-government slogans during a religious festival.

Europe

  • Portugal went to the polls on Sunday to choose a new government, amidst tough austerity measures all parties endorsed to help the faltering economy. The Social Democrats (PSD) led by Pedro Passos are said to have won, while the governing Socialist Party admitted defeat and its leader Jose Socrates, accepting responsibility for the defeat, resigned.
  • Macedonia went to the polls over the weekend following an opposition boycott in parliament that forced snap elections. Poverty and high unemployment led to the accusations against the Gruevski government of spending millions on grandiose building projects while neglecting the poor. By Monday, it was announced that Gruevksi’s government had won again with 39% of the vote against the Social Democrats with 32.7%, meaning the Gruevski government will need to form a coalition in order to govern.
  • Tens of thousands of people came out to denounce politicians, bankers and tax dodgers on Sunday in Athens, Greece in the face of further austerity measures. Some 3,000 are said to have turned out as well in Greece’s second largest city, Thessaloniki.
  • A human rights worker in Russia was beaten in his apartment building on Monday, an attack his employer is linking to his work. Human rights groups say violence against their workers is increasing and attackers are rarely punished. On Tuesday, a bomb exploded on a railway line in Siberia. The bomb caused no injuries and authorities are unsure who carried out the attack. Also on Tuesday, the head of an Islamic theology institute in the North Caucasus was shot dead near his home, along with at least one other person. Russia unveiled new “indestructible”, bomb-proof public toilets in response to recent terror attacks. On Friday, a Russian colonel previously jailed for murdering a Chechen teenager was killed by an unidentified gunman in central Moscow.
  • Russia reportedly halved the electricity supplies to Belarus over unpaid bills this week, and warned it might stop completely on June 19th. The country is gripped by economic crisis and is seeking a bailout from Russia and emergency loan from the IMF.
  • Georgia accused Russia on Tuesday of sponsoring terrorist acts in Georgia and breakaway regions, warning that internationally mediated talks could collapse unless the “bombing campaign” was ceased. Russia in turn criticized the “aggressive behaviour” of the Georgian delegation and accused Georgia of engaging in illicit activities.
  • A car blast in the capital of Moldova killed one man, the chairman of the Moldovan tennis federation, on Tuesday. Moldovans took to polls on Sunday for local elections, with the Communist party maintaining its lead obtaining 23.78% in mayoral elections and 30.25% in local council elections.

 

Back from the brink.

Hello all,

After nearly three months, our internet and phones are finally up and running normally again (well, normally enough for me to post!). These past few months here in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire have been difficult and filled with much violence. It is still hard for me to fully talk about the situation here, but I will be up and researching again for my This Week in Conflict weekly conflict roundup that will begin to be posted starting next weekend (June 10th or 11th).

I am still getting caught on up on months of missed emails, news, conflict reports and work, so please excuse me if it takes me longer than normal to reply. If you have sent a message to me during these past few months, and I haven’t yet replied, please feel free to send me another and I’ll try to get back to you as soon as possible.

Peace to all!

Rebecca

Hiatus

Hello all! Hope all is well with you!

I just wanted to get a quick note out to all the readers. I am currently living in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire, and because of the increased fighting as of late, our internet, phones and power have been intermittent. This has made it difficult to research and post, especially the This Week in Conflict reports.

So, I have decided I will be taking a break from posting these reports until the situation changes. I will try to still post reader submissions, shorter opinion pieces and other  information when I can get online.

Peace to you all!

Rebecca