This week in conflict… October 16th-22nd.

World

  • Are women in war-torn countries faring any better today than they did a decade ago? The UNFPA’s 2010 State of World Population report, released on Wednesday attempted to answer this question inconclusively. The report suggests taking a broader look at the relationships between women and conflict, paying special attention to the role of women in preventing conflict and the role of women in rebuilding after conflict.

Africa

  • The African Union, with support of the European Union and Canada, launched non-combat military exercises in Addis Ababa on Wednesday to improve the continent’s capacity to respond to conflict and enhance peace-keeping operations. The exercises will last ten days and will be attended by more than 200 senior military officers from across Africa.
  • The Chinese government is fighting hard to prevent the publication of a report showing the flow of weapons it sold into Darfur last year despite a ban imposed by the UN Security Council. China has responded angrily to the revelations, insisting that they will block the public release of the report unless its finding are rewritten. Russia and Belarus were both also reported to be supplying weaponry, using signed end-user agreements with both governments guaranteeing that the weapons would not be used in Darfur. The Sudanese army was angered with the UN peacekeeping chief’s announcement last week that they intend to deploy peacekeepers in the south to Abyei and other hotspots along the border ahead of the referendum to create limited buffer zones. The UN announced on Monday that it is sending 100 more troops to the Abyei region  to step up security. South Sudan’s army complained on Tuesday that the UN failed to report a massive build-up of northern troops around sensitive border areas, warning that war could erupt. One senior official of the Sudanese government said that it is “not possible” to hold a referendum on Abyei on time. The Sudanese government removed the special prosecutor for Darfur crimes on Sunday in an apparent bid to deflect the ICC case against President Al-Bashir for war crimes. On Wednesday it was announced that the Doha peace talks on Darfur peace are moving from negotiations to decision-making in order to finalize a peace agreement. The government announced that they are willing to continue peace talks with other rebel groups that currently boycott the peace process in Doha, but stressed that they must join the negotiation before the end of the year.  UN Security Council diplomats visiting the country witnessed the sight of ground attack jets in Sudan that are a clear violation of the arms embargo. Though the presence of the Russian-made Sukhoi Su-25 Frogfoot jets does not prove they have been used in attacks on Darfuris, their presence was highly suspicious. Sudanese security officials have also been accused of arresting two Darfuri refugees who were seen speaking to the UN envoys during their visit to the region, although, the Sudanese Foreign Ministry denies the claims. 
  • Heavy clashes between Somali forces and insurgent fighters left at least 20 people dead on Saturday, but resulted in the government forces defeating the insurgents and taking back the town of Bulo Hawo on Sunday. Al-Shabaab banned the transfer and receipt of cash by mobile phone this week in an effort to weaken Western capitalism in the country, a move that the government said would stifle the economy and hurt entrepreneurs in a country where few hold bank accounts. On Monday, the government security forces initiated an operation of searching for al-Shabaab in the Galgala hills in northern Somalia, apparently seizing four prisoners and two trucks. On Wednesday, the parliamentary speaker postponed a vote to endorse the newly appointed PM after the nation’s assembly descended into chaos with lawmakers shouting at each other whether the vote should be conducted in secret or in the open. It has been announced that the vote will be held on Saturday in secret. On Friday, the African Union asked the UN Security Council to approve a no-fly zone and naval blockade of Somalia in an effort to deter pirates and prevent fighters and shipments from reaching al-Shabaab and other rebel groups. They also announced that Somali soldiers killed at least 27 al-Shabaab militants in clashes along the Kenyan border.
  • Nigerian security forces have arrested the brother of Henry Okah, who was arrested in connection to the deadly October 1st bombings in Abuja, for his suspected funding involvement. Nigerian authorities have also announced that they are beefing up their efforts to contain a radical Islamic sect in the north by launching joint army and police exercises and using attack helicopters with patrols.
  • Guinea’s scheduled October 24th run-off elections remained uncertain for most of the week due to political fighting and violence in the streets. Police opened fire on people in Conakry on Tuesday, killing at least two, after supporters of Presidential candidate Diallo reportedly threw stones at police. The electoral body was said to have lost all credibility and needed to be rebuilt before an election could be held. On Wednesday it was announced that the run-off would be delayed until October 31st, but then later in the day the two candidates announced that they were ready to take part in the vote after authorities named a new election body chief. On Thursday, they again announced that they would not be ready by Sunday as planned.
  • Thousands of women have taken to the streets in eastern DR Congo on Sunday against rising sexual violence in the country. The UN Population Fund reported that there had been more than 17,507 cases of sexual violence attacks in 2009, including more than 9,000 in North and South Kivu. Despite increasing violence, the UN’s pleas for helicopters to patrol the impassable areas of the country, have fallen on deaf ears.
  • Western Sahara’s Polisario independence group sought UN protection from alleged Moroccan repression on Monday as a UN envoy toured the region. Several human rights organizations have expressed concern over the fate of Polisario’s police chief, who was arrested on allegations of treason and espionage.
  • President Robert Mugabe from Zimbabwe has threatened retaliation if the European Union countries heed the advice of this political rival PM Tsvangirai to expel diplomats that the ruler appointed unilaterally. The current political impasse is threatening the inclusive government formed last February.
  • The government of Ethiopia released leaders and members of the Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF), the country’s most active rebel movement on Saturday as part of the peace accord signed last week in Addis Ababa. The peace deal represents only one part of the fractured ONLF group, with the other rebel faction calling it “irrelevant” and vowing to continue its armed struggle against the government. The Canadian government announced that it was deeply concerned over a report that found that its foreign aid to Ethiopia was being used as a weapon to crush political dissent and bolster the power of the ruling party. Canada provided more than $150 million to Ethiopia in 2008 and is now calling for a full investigation. Ethiopia rejected these claims on Thursday, saying that “Aid is not wasted in Ethiopia and is distributed effectively to all who require it”.
  • Central African nations affected by the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) have agreed to form a joint military force to strengthen the fight against the group. The region also agreed on the steps required to declare the LRA a terrorist group, instead of a rebel group, in line with the relevant instruments of the African Union.
  • A Ugandan newspaper published a story featuring the names and photographs of 100 homosexuals under the headline: “Hang Them”. Many of those on the list have since faced violence.
  • Ivorian newspapers are reporting rumours of attack in Cote D’Ivoire from ex-fighters of the Movement for Democracy in Liberia (MODEL) who are demanding what they say is their war allowance from Gbagbo’s government. Some reports detailed that the militiamen in the western part of the country were threatening to sabotage the political campaign and the October 31st elections.
  • The Rwandan government dismissed a media watchdog report by Reporters without Borders (RSF) on Thursday which ranked press freedom within the country alongside authoritarian states such as Burma and North Korea. Rwanda placed 169 out of 178 nations, its worst position since the founding of the index.

Asia

  • On Saturday, a Swedish soldier was killed in an IED attack and a NATO service member was killed in a separate IED attack in Kabul. Gunmen killed nine Afghan workers who were guarding a NATO supply convoy in south Afghanistan on Sunday night. On the same evening, collation forces killed four suspected Taliban fighters in an air strike. A series of explosions killed at least two civilians in Kandahar, and two coalition troops were said to have been killed in separate attacks on Sunday.  On Monday, eight Afghan security guards were killed when insurgents attacked their compound in Helmand; three civilians were killed after homemade bombs exploded under a bridge in Herat; three more civilians were killed in a roadside bomb in Ghazni; 10 insurgents were reported killed and several more detained after they fired on a joint NATO and Afghan army patrol; and insurgents kidnapped 20 employees of a construction company in Farah, resulting in the death of  two insurgents. On Tuesday, three NATO service members were killed in militant attacks; four Taliban commanders were reported killed in three separate incidents; and 40 Taliban fighters are said to have deserted to the government. Afghan elections officials have announced that ballots from 571 different polling stations in last month’s parliamentary elections may now been disqualified by fraud. On Wednesday it was announced that nearly one-quarter of the ballots were thrown out due to fraud. Also on Wednesday at least nine people, including eight children, were killed when a school bus was hit by a roadside bomb in Nimroz; an ISAF service member was killed by a homemade bomb in Kabul; and Afghan and foreign troops killed more than 10 insurgents during an operation in the Ziruk district. On Thursday, a NATO service member was killed in an insurgent attack in the east; four Afghan policemen were killed when their vehicle struck a roadside bomb in Herat; and insurgents ambushed a group of Afghan border police in Herat, resulting in the death of one insurgent and one policemen. A detainee being held by NATO troops was found dead in his holding cell on Sunday, and by Tuesday a US soldier was in custody in regards to his death. Top Taliban commanders are said to have continued in peace talks with Afghan leaders with the help of NATO troops who brought them from their sanctuaries in Pakistan this week, although some claimed that the negotiations were exaggerated, believing that the peace talks were a ploy to sow distrust among the insurgents.
  • US drone attacks in Pakistan killed nine suspected militants in Pakistan on Saturday. A special election held on Monday to replace a lawmaker who was gunned down in August resulted in the death of between 25-30 people as violent clashes rocked Karachi.  The rival party is boycotting the elections saying they are rigged. On Tuesday at least 27 people were killed in shootouts in Karachi and militants on motorcycles attacked and torched three NATO fuel tankers destined for Afghanistan. On Wednesday, Karachi, Pakistan’s commercial hub, was shut down for a day of mourning; while six soldiers were wounded after their vehicle hit a landmine in Kalaya; six Taliban were killed by security forces; security forces killed a militant who threw a hand grenade at a police checkpoint in Peshawar; two suspected militants and one police officer were killed in a shootout in Bannu; and a roadside bomb killed two soldiers on the Afghan border.  On Thursday, Pakistani police in Quetta rounded up nearly 50 people on suspicions of links with militants and a roadside bomb in the northwest killed six suspected militants. Nearly 150 members of the Pakistani parliament have been suspended by the election commission for not declaring their assets, removing them from attending sessions or voting, in the growing tensions between the government and the judiciary. On Friday, the US announced a $2 billion arms sale with Pakistan to help boost the fight against the Taliban and al-Qaeda. The deal would be spread out over the next five years and represents about a 30% increase in US funding for weapon sales to the country. Also on Friday, a roadside bomb killed six paramilitary soldiers in Kalaya and a bomb blast in a mosque killed two people just outside of Peshawar.
  • Tajik security forces claimed to have killed three suspected Islamist militants near the Afghani border on Monday. Tajik government forces have been carrying out operations targeting militants since a September attack on a military convoy. The Tajik government has been accused of increasing repression against independent media in the country.
  • Indian troops in Kashmir shot and killed two separatist militants on Thursday in a fierce nine-hour firefight. There has been a recent spike in violence after a period of relative decline, and security agencies suspect that it may signal a new rebel strategy to back popular street protests with increased militant attacks on Indian forces. Five policemen were killed in India when Maoist rebels blew up a security patrol on Friday.
  • Thousands of Chinese joined in on sometimes violent protests over a simmering territorial dispute with Japan on Saturday. Chinese authorities are said to have allowed the rowdy demonstrations to prevent the frustrations from being turned against the Chinese regime itself. China’s one child policy has resulted in the forced abortion of many fetuses, with an estimated 13 million reported abortions each year. Women who violate the policy usually pay a fine, but are often sterilised to prevent them from having another child. Activists in China are attempting to create a Chinese “WikiLeaks” project to share secret government documents in an attempt to increase transparency and lead to political reform. Critics worry that project is naive given China’s strict secrecy laws.
  • Thousands of Tibetan students in western China peacefully protested this week against proposals to curb or eliminate the use of the Tibetan language in local schools. The protests are said to be the largest in Tibetan areas since the March 2008 uprising.
  • Officials announced on Monday that foreign journalists will not be allowed into Myanmar/Burma to cover the country’s first election in 20 years. The election is widely criticized as a sham.
  • Thousands of anti-government “red shirts” demonstrated in Thailand on Sunday demanding the release of their leaders and comrades detained since the April and May protests. The capital is still under a state of emergency, following the deaths of 91 people in the earlier protests.
  • A video allegedly showing Indonesian soldiers torturing indigenous Papuans, including burning the genitals of one man, were released on Monday. The chief of the Indonesian military said the military would investigate, but given that soldiers cannot be tried in civilian courts and military courts only give lenient sentences, those responsible are unlikely to be punished. On Friday, the Indonesian government confirmed that the video was authentic and that the soldiers involved had been “unprofessional”.
  • An opposition party in Kyrgyzstan rallied in Bishkek on Tuesday accusing authorities of cheating it of seats in last week’s parliamentary elections and warning of possible upheavals and violence. The central election commission has yet to announce the final official results after calls for verification delayed the announcement.
  • South Korea announced on Wednesday that they have arrested a North Korean spy who posed as a political defector with the intention of assassinating a former member of the ruling North Korean regime. South Korean officials announced on Thursday that there have been continual movements of personnel and vehicles at North Korea’s main nuclear test site, however, they ruled out the possibility that the country is preparing for its third atomic bomb test soon.
  • At least ten people were killed after a bomb exploded on a passenger bus in the southern Philippines on Thursday. The bomb comes just two weeks ahead of the local village elections and is thought may be part of an attempt at extortion. The government named a human rights lawyer to head peace talks with Maoists to end more than 40 years of conflict that has killed about 40,000 people. New President Aquino has said his government would negotiate in good faith as peace was needed to lift economic growth and investor confidence.

Central and North Americas

  • Ten people were killed in the latest drug violence in Mexico. Six people were killed after armed men opened fire at a family party in Ciudad Juarez and another four people died in a shootout between marines and drug cartel members in Monterrey. 
  • The Pentagon experienced a temporary lockdown on Tuesday after shots were fired at the building. Authorities are still investigating. The nearly four year long murder and violent crimes case against private security firm Blackwater Worldwide is in collapse. Federal prosecutors are said to have failed to overcome a series of legal hurdles, including the difficulties of obtaining evidence in war zones, gaining proper jurisdiction for prosecution in American civilian courts, and overcoming immunity deals given to defendants by American officials at the scene.

South America

  • Bolivian President Evo Morales signed a deal on Tuesday with Peruvian President Alan Garcia allowing Bolivia to build and operate a small port, making landlocked Bolivia a new maritime nation. The 1.4 sq. mile patch of sand will be leased from Peru for 99 years. 
  • As you can see, my South American section is always a little under-reported. I would love suggestions on media sites covering South American news available in English! If you have a suggestion, please send it to apeaceofconflict@gmail.com or write it in the comments below. Thanks!

Middle East

  • Israel’s coalition government appears to be in danger of collapse following the failing peace talks and controversial “loyalty law”.  On Sunday, Israel supposedly resumed talks with Hamas rulers on the swapping of about 1,000 Palestinian prisoners for a captive Israeli soldier who has been held for more than four years. Two Palestinians were killed in a pre-dawn Israeli air raid north of Gaza City on Sunday, in the latest target of alleged terror operatives. The proposed loyalty oath, deemed racist by many critics, will now apply to all new citizens and not just non-Jews. The redrafting of the oath will have little impact, as it does not address the objections of the Palestinians.
  • The Palestinian leadership is increasingly focusing on how to get international bodies and courts to declare a Palestinian state in the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem. The Palestinians complain that the two-state peace process solution is disappearing, while Israel rejects the move as unacceptable and a violation of the 1993 Oslo accords. Israeli settlers are said to have begun building new homes at an extraordinary pace since the government lifted its moratorium on housing starts, more than four times faster than the last two years. Many of the new homes are also said to be in areas that would more than likely become part of a Palestinian state in any peace scenario.
  • Iran is said to have brokered a critical deal with its Iraqi neighbours that could see a pro-Iranian government installed in the country. The deal involved Syria, Lebanon’s Hezbollah and the highest Shia authorities. On Monday, the Iranian city of Esfahan announced that it was now a crime for women to bicycle, roller-skate, or play volleyball in public.
  • The United Arab Emirates has upheld a law allowing a man to “discipline” his wife and children providing that he does not leave physical marks on their bodies. Scholars differ on what constitutes a “beating” but agree it must not be severe.
  • On Saturday, two mortar rounds landed in southern Baghdad, wounding four; a bomb attached to a vehicle exploded in Balad, wounding four; and two people were wounded when a sticky bomb went off in Baghdad. At least 12 people are said to have been killed after gunmen stormed gold shops in Baghdad and ended up in a gunfight with security forces, police and military on Sunday; a man was killed after a sticky bomb attack on a car in Baghdad; at least six people were wounded, including three government employees, in separate sticky bomb attacks; a roadside bomb killed one soldier in Baaj; a mortar round wounded a father and son in Mosul; and a sticky bomb attack wounded a teenager in Mosul. A roadside bomb in Baghdad, Iraq on Monday morning killed a member of Baghdad’s Provincial Council. Also on Monday, a suicide car bomb exploded near a security patrol west of Mosul, killing one Iraqi soldier and wounding three others; two separate shootings in Diyala Province killed a man and one woman; a magnetic bomb in Baghdad killed one person; and a gunmen opened fire on an army checkpoint, killing one soldier in Mosul. On Tuesday, at least 11 people were killed after blasts ripped through the home of a senior Iraqi police commander in Tikrit; a roadside bomb hit a UN convoy, killing one policement in Najaf; gunmen opened fire on a speeding car killing an off-duty bank guard in Kirkuk; a roadside bomb killed three on a police patrol in Samarra; and a roadside bomb killed two policemen on a roadside patrol in Baghdad while two other bombs planted in buses wounded 15 Iranian pilgrims. On Wednesday, an off-duty border guard, his wife and three other relatives were killed after armed men forced their way into their house in Mosul; police found the body of an unknown man with bullet wounds in Daquq; armed men in a speeding car opened fire and killed a district mayor of Kirkuk; a bomb next to a railway in Mosul wounded two train drivers; a roadside bomb in Baghdad wounded five people; and three people were wounded by a second roadside bomb in Baghdad. On Thursday, a roadside bomb killed a member of a government-backed militia 100 km north of Baghdad and another roadside bomb went off near a police patrol in Baghdad, wounding one policeman and two civilians. On Friday, a sticky bomb killed a militia leader in Garma; gunmen opened fire at a checkpoint wounding two policemen and one soldier in Baghdad; a roadside bomb targeting an Iraqi army patrol killed one civilian in Mosul, while a second roadside bomb killed a soldier; gunmen opened fire at a police checkpoint, killing one policeman in Mosul; and a roadside bomb wounded a young girl west of Mosul.
  • At least three soldiers were killed in Yemen after armed men ambushed a military convoy in the south on Saturday. The air force responded by bombing the attackers to give the convoy cover on its journey. The following day Yemeni forces bombed suspected al-Qaeda positions killing three suspected militants.
  • The Obama administration has formally notified Congress of an arms deal with Saudi Arabia worth up to $60 billion that includes advanced fighter jets, helicopters, missiles and other weaponry and equipment. The deal is the largest US arms deal in history.
  • Bahrain is tightening down security ahead of next Saturday’s elections, making it tougher for the Shi’a majority to vote. The Shi’ite population is angered because they want more inclusion in decision making and government ministry jobs.

Europe

  • Anti-immigration sentiment in Germany has reached a new low after German chancellor Angela Merkel claimed that attempts to create a multicultural society have utterly failed this week and that immigrants must do more to integrate. Last week, the Bavarian premier called for a halt to all Turkish and Arabic immigration following polls that suggest that one-third of Germans believed the country was overrun by foreigners and that 55% of Germans believed that Arabs are “unpleasant people”.
  • Massive protests continued in France this week, as workers protested the government’s plan to raise the age of retirement. The protests resulted in fuel pipeline supplies to airports and many gas stations being shut down. The protests were labeled as relatively peaceful, until Tuesday, when youths clashed with riot police in cities across the country. The EU Justice Commissioner announced that the EU will suspend its legal action threatened against France for its expulsion of Romanian and Bulgarian Roma populations.
  • Opposition groups and human rights activists in Russia formally applied for permission to hold a mass gathering in Moscow’s Triumph Square on October 31st in their Strategy 31 campaign. Article 31 of the Russian Federation Constitution theoretically guarantees the freedom of assembly, but previous attempts by the opposition and activist groups have been thwarted by authorities. The European Court of Human Rights slapped a fine on Russia on Thursday for banning homosexual rallies in Moscow, stating that the government had denied the right of assembly, discriminated against sexual orientation and denied activists their right to redress. Russia has announced on Tuesday that it is considering a proposal to help develop a US led anti-missile shield for Europe.
  • Gunmen stormed Chechnya’s parliament on Tuesday, killing at least 6 people. The insurgents detonated a bomb at the gates, killing himself, then two insurgents ran into the building opening fire. They tried to enter the main parliamentary hall, but were unable to do so, and so barricaded themselves in the ground floor, eventually blowing themselves up.
  • One policeman and three militants were killed on Wednesday in a shoot-out in Russia’s Kabardino-Balkaria province. An Islamist insurgency is said to have spread out of Daghestan and Chechnya.
  • Russian troops have pulled out of a Georgian village that has been occupied for the past two years in South Ossetia. Both Georgia and the EU had objections to the occupation. Russia said it would withdraw after the latest round of internationally-mediated talks in Geneva, calling it an act of goodwill and a test of Georgian restraint.
  • Turkey has began the trials of more than 150 Kurds, including a dozen elected mayors, who have suspected links with the rebel group Kurdistan Associations Union (KCK). Critics say the trial is aimed at silencing Kurds who are fighting for autonomy in the country.
  • The junior partner in Kosovo’s ruling coalition announced on Saturday that it was quitting the government amidst a deepening political crisis. The political stalemate will delay EU sponsored talks with Serbia, which refuses to recognize the independence of its former province.
  • The British military announced severe budget cuts on Tuesday to the amount of 8% cut to the annual 37 billion pound defense budget over four years. These cuts will delay the program to upgrade its nuclear defenses, reduce the number of forces it can deploy on combat missions and cut thousands of troops.
  • A new survey in the Ukraine found that one in five Ukrainians are willing to sell his or her vote in the upcoming local elections scheduled for October 31st. Less than one in ten believe that the local elections will be fair.


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