Hello all! Hope everything is well with you!
As always, just a reminder that if you have any information about conflicts (or efforts towards peace) happening each week, I would love your feedback and inclusions. As the weekly conflict update is done on a volunteer basis, I cannot independently verify all reported stories. Therefore my scope is limited to what is found in outside news sources. If you disagree with any of the information provided, or have any stories to submit, please use the comments below or email me to let me know! I will happily retract inaccurate information or provide alternative reports when necessary.
- This amazing video features a digital world map that shows when, where and how many nuclear experiments each country has conducted between the period 1945-1998. Severely disturbing.
- World prices of food staples rose to a new record in December, passing the 2008 levels when food costs sparked riots around the world. Experts warn that prices could still go higher due to droughts, floods and cold weather. The environment minister of the UK announced that it should be illegal to halt food exports even at times of national crisis, citing no country should be allowed to interfere with the global food commodity market.
- At least one person was killed and as many as 130 arrested after an attack on opposition-aligned Henri Bedie’s headquarters in the Cote D’Ivoire on Tuesday. Five people are said to have died in fighting between Gbagbo and Ouattara supporters on Monday. ECOWAS officials claimed Gbagbo had agreed to further talks and promised to lift the blockade around the Golf Hotel where opposition Ouattara is held up. The blockade remained in place the following day and Gbagbo’s foreign minister said that he only promised to look at conditions for lifting the blockade, not remove it. The UN called upon 2,000 extra peacekeepers to bolster its existing force of 9,800, and to try and investigate claims of up to 80 bodies in alleged mass graves. I have analyzed some of the possible “solutions” being offered to this ongoing crisis here.
- The Tunisian man who set off a wave off protests after setting himself on fire last month in protest has died from third-degree burns. The protests, which continued this week and brought clashes between police and protesters, are bringing light to the rampant problem of unemployment in a country often portrayed as a tourist haven and economic success. Thousands of Tunisian lawyers have since gone on strike to demand an end to what they say are beatings by security forces.
- The Ugandan parliament has more than doubled its allocation of funds to the president’s office ahead of next month’s elections. The opposition is accusing Museveni, who has been in power since 1986, of using state coffers to fund his re-election. The Ugandan High Court has banned the country’s media outlets from outing people as gay, following recent published lists of homosexual people that called for them to be hanged or reported to police in local tabloid The Rolling Stone. Threats of al-Shabaab violence forced the transfer of many patients in Mulago hospital. The hospital hoped to be more prepared than it was during an attack last year that resulted in the deaths of over 70 people.
- Many fear for freedom of the press in Zimbabwe after the government warned journalists that they could be prosecuted if they fail to comply with new registration fees that have increased as much as 300%. It is illegal in for journalists to work in the country without accreditation. President Mugabe’s hopes of having a parliamentary election by June of this year may have been quashed, following reports that the country must postpone the poll to make constitutional reforms first. The PM Tsvangirai now faces a treason inquiry following a Wikileaks report that revealed his talks with US embassy officials about possible sanctions. If found guilty, Tsvangirai could face the death penalty.
- Some hope for chiefs’ courts in southern Sudan was reported this week, which are the only functioning part of the judicial system in much of the region. The courts are said to be accessible, well-known, efficient, flexible and relatively cheap, and take into account the particular social contexts of disputes instead of just rigid application of written laws. Experts suggested on Sunday that the referendum may be relatively peaceful. An estimated 100,000 migrants have returned from northern Sudan into their southern homeland over the past three months to take part in the long-awaited referendum on whether southern Sudan should become an independent nation and the Sudanese President, Omar al-Bashir arrived in the regional capital of Juba to deliver what could be his final address to the region and meet with local ministers. Al-Bashir also warned south Sudan not to assist fighters from the western Darfur region who have been rebelling against his government since 2003, calling any cooperation a “violation”. Al-Bashir is accused of skimming a fortune from his country’s oil income, with a recent Wikileaks cable estimating that he had a secret $9 billion. Southern Sudan signed a cease-fire on Wednesday with a renegade general, who presented a significant security threat for the referendum. A leader from one of the two dominant tribes in Abyei said his people will not accept joining the south following the January 9th referendum, warning there will be war without excuse should the other tribe vote to annex Abyei to the south. Here is an overview of some of the various technical efforts in place to help monitor the referendum.
- Two Malians were injured after a gas cylinder exploded in the French embassy of Bamako on Wednesday. The alleged al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb culprit was arrested immediately and said to be of Tunisian descent.
- Four MPs in Tanzania were detained by police following a demonstration called by the opposition on Tuesday. A section of a busy highway is said to have been turned into a battlefield as heavily armed riot police broke up demonstrations, with dozens of injuries and at least two deaths. On Thursday, the government released Freeman Mbowe, the chairman of the Chadema opposition party, who urged his followers to continue to fight for their rights.
- The Republic of Congo is set to become the first African country to provide specific legal protection for its indigenous peoples. A government backed bill was passed by both the senate and national assembly and will take effect once signed into law by the President.
- Violence, protests and defection marred the State Assembly congresses in Nigeria early this week, including an assassination, and hundreds of armed youths engaged in a free for all fight. Armed police and soldiers were drafted into Nigeria’s oil-producing Delta state for a governorship election on Thursday, which is reported to have passed without major unrest and only isolated acts of sabotage. The run-up to the vote was marred by disputes over voter registration, and an attack on a local office of the electoral commission. The federal government has declared zero tolerance of any hindrance to oil production increase in the area in the coming year. A group in Jos complained over reported silent killings and missing persons and called upon the state government to improve the security apparatus.
- Moroccan officials say they have arrested a cell of militants who were planning to launch attacks on security services with a large cache of weapons. Weapons were seized in the disputed Western Sahara.
- The son of retired Zambian President Kaunda has warned that the country risks bloodshed during elections this year if the government does not put in place measures to stop political violence. The government in turn, accused the younger Kaunda, a colonel in the Zambian army during his father’s presidency, of inciting violence.
- Some 21 people were killed after a bomb was detonated within the Coptic church in Alexandria, Egypt during the New Years service. Seven people were later arrested and said to be connected to al-Qaeda. Egyptian authorities were on guard before the Coptic Christmas Eve Mass in an effort to prevent another attack like the New Year’s suicide bombing.
- A well-known Mauritanian anti-slavery campaigner has been held in custody since mid-December, charged with assaulting two police officers. Many human rights organizations have condemned his detention, citing its only purpose was to punish his activities of upholding human rights within the country. It is estimated that nearly 40% of the population lives in a state of slavery or have relatives who are slaves.
- An Eritrean rebel group (Red Sea Afar Democratic Organization) has vowed to increase military attacks this year in an effort to overthrow the government. Some 8 political groups have allegedly joined together to depose the President.
- At least 19 people, including many civilians, were killed during heavy clashes in Mogadishu, Somalia on Saturday between al-Shabaab and Somali government forces and their AMISOM allies. At least 3 soldiers were killed after Somali soldiers mutinied over nonpayment of salaries. African Union peacekeepers (AMISOM) spoke on Sunday of their performance in Somalia over the past year, highlighting their “victory” over combats with Islamist insurgents.
- Three policemen were killed on Tuesday in Kyrgyzstan while carrying out identity checks in the capital. Two of the three suspects thought responsible, who were also allegedly responsible for several terrorist attacks, were later killed along with one member of a special security unit during a security operation.
- South Korean activists rallied against North Korea on Sunday, criticizing Kim Jong-il’s artillery attack. North Korea called for unconditional and early talks with South Korea on Wednesday in an attempt to end the months of escalating tensions. South Korea quickly dismissed the offer as insincere. The US envoy for policy on North Korea called for serious negotiations over the North Korean nuclear program to start soon.
- Japan will soon be visiting South Korea with several proposals aimed at strengthening military ties between the two countries. The Japanese defense minister will also propose that the two sign separate agreements to cooperate in supplying each other’s armed forces during peacekeeping and other international operations.
- Tajik security forces announced they tracked down and killed eight suspected Islamist militants, including an al Qaeda linked warlord on Tuesday. Security forces launched retaliatory operations against the rebels in eastern Tajikistan following the Sept. 19th attack on government troops that killed 28. At least two Tajik servicemen were killed in a gun battle with some 30 suspected drug smugglers who entered from Afghanistan last week.
- Kazakhstan plans to hold its first referendum tabled by a people’s initiative, a move already voted for in parliament. They aim to change the constitution to enable President Nazarbayev to stay in power until at least 2020 to save the expense of an election. The outgoing US ambassador to Kazakhstan criticized the plans for a national referendum to extend the Presidential term, calling on Kazakhs to be able to have a choice between ideas and personalities instead of just “yes” or “no”.
- On Saturday, strikes and rallies were staged across Pakistan against proposed changes to the country’s blasphemy laws. There were also several people killed in drone attacks and a raid by security forces. The governor of Pakistan’s wealthiest province was killed by one of his own bodyguards, apparently for speaking out against the country’s controversial blasphemy laws. Thousands of Pakistanis attended the funeral of Salman Taseer despite calls from a number of religious scholars warning against honouring him. On Tuesday, a bomb ripped through a bus carrying children of paramilitary soldiers, wounding 15; and gunfire was heard at a shopping centre popular with foreigners. On Friday, the second largest political party in the governing coalition reversed its decision to join with the opposition restoring the alliance’s parliamentary majority and saving the government from possible collapse. The MQM however, has not rejoined the federal cabinet. A suspected US drone strike is said to have killed at least five alleged militants.
- Philippine security forces shot and arrested a senior Maoist guerrilla the day after a cease-fire ended. The move put planned resumptions of peace talks next month into question.
- At least four people were killed and up to 10,000 left homeless following ethnic clashes between two rival tribes in northeastern India. Around 40 people are said to be still missing. Violence is said to have sparked on New Year’s Eve after one group accused the other of failing to adhere to a strike.
- On Saturday, three alleged insurgents were killed during an operation targeting a Taliban leader in Kabul, Afghanistan; and three other alleged insurgents were killed during a precision air strike in Kabul. On Sunday, an ISAF service member was killed in an insurgent attack in Kabul. On Monday, one Afghan civilian was killed and another five wounded in an explosion in Herat. On Tuesday, a bomb exploded on a road in downtown Kabul, killing a policeman and wounding two civilians; and several alleged insurgents were killed in an operation in central Ghazni province. On Wednesday, two alleged insurgents were killed during an operation by Afghan and NATO troops in Kabul. On Thursday, several alleged insurgents were killed by a NATO-led air strike in Kunar; ISAF forces carried out an air strike, killing two alleged insurgents and wounding several others in Helmand; and ISAF forces killed two other alleged insurgents during a raid in Ghazni. At least 17 people were killed in a suicide attack at a bath house in southern Afghanistan on Friday; and three NATO troops were killed in roadside bombings. The US is said to be sending more than 1,400 additional Marines to Afghanistan this month to try and solidify progress before troop reductions begin in July, despite recent protests involving hundreds of people who say the US-led foreign forces disregard local culture, enter residents’ homes, arrest civilians, and desecrate the Holy Quran. A new Afghan tv program is hoping to provide a forum for local women to speak out against widespread abuse, rape and other issues. The women will keep their anonymity by covering their faces with a half-blue and half-white mask. A tribal uprising in the notoriously violent district of Sangin is bringing hopes of peace among Afghan and western officials, as elders, backed by some local insurgents, have agreed to stand up to the Taliban.
- China staged a runway test of its first radar-evading stealth fighter on Wednesday. Also on Wednesday, rare gun violence bared its face, as two men shot and killed three police officers and an assistant and staged a series of carjackings in the northeast. The attacks also left five others wounded. On Thursday, it was revealed by Wikileaks that Chinese officials announced to Western diplomats that they will not sit still for human-rights lectures anymore. A leading campaigner for the victims of Tienanmen Square protesters and long time democracy activist Szeto Wah died of lung cancer this week. Chinese scientists say they have developed a technology for reprocessing nuclear fuel that could dramatically increase the efficiency of nuclear-fuel reserves, stretching them to 3,000 years, up from the current estimates of 50-70 years.
- Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez suggested an end to the diplomatic standoff with the US that last week saw him rejecting Obama’s ambassador Larry Palmer. Chavez instead suggested Bill Clinton, Sean Penn, Noam Chomsky or Olive Stone take the role.
- The presidential runoff election in Haiti will be postponed until late February election officials announced on Tuesday. The officials said the need more time to prepare after the results of the recount are released.
- On Sunday, a police officer was shot and killed by suspected drug gang members in Monterrey, Mexico; and armed gunmen threw a grenade at a police station. On Saturday, gunmen killed two men in a rural part of the central western coastal state, and were later blamed for shooting up a village celebration that left another five dead. A gang of mostly 15 year-old teenagers were detained after a shootout with police in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico on Wednesday. Police found packages containing 10 pounds of marijuana and a pistol. A letter allegedly signed by La Familia drug cartel announced a one-month truce in the western state of Michoacan, to demonstrate that it is not responsible for the criminal acts federal authorities are reporting.
- A grenade thrown into a rum shop in Georgetown, Guyana on Wednesday killed at least one person and injured another 17 others. Full details of the incident have yet to be released.
- Several gangs have seized control of parts of northern Guatemala. The government has suspended civil liberties and declared a state of siege on the area.
- The US Defense Secretary announced on Thursday that the nation’s “extreme fiscal duress” required him to call for cuts in the size of Army and Marine Corps, reversing the growth of military spending that followed the 9/11 attacks. Gates said that the Pentagon’s budget will be reduced by $78 billion, not counting the costs of combat operations and some 6% of Army and Marine Corp troops (or 47,000) would be cut.
- Dilma Roussef was sworn in as Brazil’s first female President. Rousseff is a former Marxist guerrilla and trained economist who has made poverty reduction a goal for her Presidency.
- Squatters in Argentina moved onto a soccer field on federal land in Villa Soldati, angering neighbours who fear that crime will rise with their presence. The neighbours have been clashing nightly, burning tires and beating drums, with squatters protected behind a metal barricade and police officers. Land grabs are said to be a major challenge in the country.
- A Wikileaks cable from 2008 allegedly said Israel told US officials it would keep Gaza’s economy on “the brink of collapse” while avoiding a humanitarian crisis. The Palestinian Red Crescent Society have accused Israeli forces of violating international law in 161 incidents against their crews and medical teams in 2010, including blocking access to those in need, preventing the transfer to specialized medical centres, holding ambulances and crews at checkpoints for hours and even attacking its staff and ambulances. A group of young Palestinian cyber-activists has launched Gaza Youth’s Manifesto for Change, where young Gazans make it clear that they have had enough, tearing into many factions within the region and the human rights violations that they have perpetrated. PM Netanyahu has said that he did not reject the talks to halt a settlement freeze, but rather the US stopped pressing for it. On Saturday, a Palestinian woman died after inhaling tear gas fired by Israeli forces during a protest against Israel’s separation barrier in the West Bank. Two civilians were injured in air raids on Gaza by Israeli forces, who claim they were acting in retaliation of a projectile fired on Israel. On Sunday, Israeli troops shot and killed a Palestinian man who approached a checkpoint carrying a bottle. On Monday, Israel charged two Palestinian employees of the British consulate with arms trafficking for Hamas. On Thursday, Israeli troops are said to have killed two Palestinians who allegedly tried to cross the border fence at the Gazan border. Also on Thursday, Israeli PM Netanyahu is said to have met with the Egyptian President as part of an effort to revive peace talks. Israeli troops are alleged to have mistakenly shot and killed a 65-year-old Palestinian man who lived on another floor of the same building on Friday during a raid to arrest a Hamas militant in the West Bank.
- On Monday, Iran invited Russia, China and several EU members to visit its nuclear facilities, but pointedly snubbed the US. The US dismissed the invitation, calling it a “clever ploy”, and several European diplomats said the invitation was unlikely to be accepted, if at all, until after the next round of negotiations. The EU says it believes such inspections should be conducted by the International Atomic Energy Agency. Iran arrested the fourth American woman in less than two years on charges of spying, after she allegedly entered the country illegally on foot. Iran claims it has shot down western “spy planes” in the Persian Gulf, a claim the Pentagon denied saying it found no evidence of such an attack. Three Sufi dervishes are said to be held in custody after a raid, in what Sufi officials and human rights groups say are examples of the increasing harassment of Sufis since President Ahmadinejad took office.
- Kuwaiti Prime Minister al-Mohammed al-Sabah has survived a no-confidence vote brought against him in parliament. The motion was filed after violent clashes last month between security forces and opposition supporters.
- Ten Yemeni soldiers were killed by al-Qaeda fighters in an attack of three military vehicles in the southern part of the country. The fighters used RPGs and machine guns and burned two of the vehicles in the attack.
- On Saturday, armed men opened fire on the car of an Iraqi police lieutenant colonel in Baghdad, killing him and his driver; and a roadside bomb killed a local official’s wife, and seriously injured him in Baquba. On Sunday, gunmen in speeding cars killed three police officers, an army officer and a local government worker in different parts of Baghdad; a car bomb went off near an Iraqi army patrol, killing one soldier and one civilian in Mosul; a roadside bomb went off near an Iraqi army patrol wounding one civilian in Mosul; police found the body of a man who appeared to have been tortured and strangled in Kirkuk; gunmen attacked a police checkpoint, killing one policeman and wounding three near Falluja; gunmen planted bombs near the house of a chief judge, wounding him and eight of his family and killing his nephew in Balad; and the Iraqi army is said to have foiled a suicide attempt against the head of a Nineveh provincial council in Mosul. On Monday, gunmen in a car wounded a police officer in northeastern Baghdad; armed men stormed a house, killing a Christian woman in Baghdad; and two US service members were killed in Baghdad. On Tuesday, a bomb wounded four members of a government backed Sunni militia in Tarmiya; gunmen in a speeding car wounded a police captain in eastern Baghdad; gunmen in a speeding car killed a female lawyer in central Baghdad; and two brothers were killed by a bomb in Balad. On Wednesday, a sticky bomb on a minibus killed one and wounded another in southwestern Baghdad; a roadside bomb targeting a police patrol wounded two policemen and a civilian in eastern Baghdad; a sticky bomb on a car wounded two people in southeastern Baghdad; gunmen in a car wounded a civilian in eastern Mosul; gunmen killed a government employee working for the Ministry of Housing and Reconstruction in northern Baghdad; and three Iranian pilgrims were wounded in a roadside bomb attack in Taji. On Thursday, an Iraqi army force foiled an attack against a church in Mosul, defusing six bombs and two explosive vests; and a sticky bomb on a car wounded an off-duty policeman in Hawija. Moqtada al-Sadr, the leader of Iraq’s Sadrist movement has returned to the country after three years in exile, after helping to usher in the new government.
- Four suspected militants were killed in a raid in Daghestan on Wednesday. A policeman and a suspected militant were killed in a separate attack on Tuesday when passengers of a car opened fire during a security check.
- Russian President Medvedev has signed a law on forming a joint venture with Mongolia to develop a large uranium deposit. The Russian state nuclear company has pledged to help with infrastructure in Mongolia, though it remains unclear how soon work can start since Canada’s Khan Resources is still claiming rightful ownership to 58% of the reserves. On Saturday, some 70 protesters, including opposition leaders were detained for participating in a sanctioned Strategy-31 rally. On Tuesday, at least 35 protesters in support of jailed Russian opposition leaders were detained; while on Wednesday, at least 10 protesters were detained.
- A Turkish Airlines flight from Norway to Istanbul faced an attempted hijack attempt, demanding the aircraft return to Oslo on Wednesday. Passengers tackled the suspect and he was arrested immediately on landing.
- Members of the Communist Party in the Ukraine say assailants have blown up a controversial monument to Josef Stalin. The bust is located outside party headquarters, which is said to have sustained serious damage. The same statue is said to have been damaged last week in another explosion.
- Belarus witnessed a violent regression following its landslide election victory this weekend, as riot police took to violently arresting opponents. The poll saw Alexander Lukashenko re-elected into power.
- Hungary’s Viktor Orban took over the presidency of the European Union on Saturday, which some fear is a worrying development. A media law, that many cited as the death of press freedom, came into effect over the weekend under Orban. Orban later said he would change the law if necessary, bowing to mounting anger.
- Greece has defended its plans to build a 12.5 km fence on its Turkish border to prevent immigrants from entering the country. A European Commission said that the measure will not help addressing and managing the migratory challenges.