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

Hello all! Hope all is well with you!

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

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

Peace!
Rebecca

 

World

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

Africa

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

Asia

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

Americas

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

Middle East

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

Europe

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