This week in conflict… January 29th- February 4th, 2011.

World

  • The head of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) warned politicians on Tuesday that while recovery is under way, it is beset by tensions and strains which could even sow the seeds of the next crisis. He argued that allowing emerging markets to grab the lion’s share of the global growth at a time when developed nations are weighed down by debts would create unsustainable imbalances.
  • It may not be new this week, but it’s new to me. The Great News Network focuses on news stories that see solutions to the world’s problems, where people are making a difference or how things are getting better.
  • Oxfam UK has recently assembled a helpful list of recent publications relating to land rights issues. Land rights issues are frequently cited as an underlying cause of many conflicts around the world.
  • The UN Security Council will devote a high-level session this month to some of the root causes underlying conflict in the world, like poverty and underdevelopment. The Council has stated that they would like to take a broader view on peace and security, explore the inter-linkages and focus on how it can best operate with other organs in dealing with conflict.
  • UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon announced on Wednesday that action to protect people from man-made or natural calamities stands at the centre of the UN purposes and principles, reminding nations of their “responsibility to protect”. Ban Ki-moon stressed that human protection matters as much as security of states.
  • The controversial whistle-blowing website WikiLeaks has been nominated for the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize it was announced on Wednesday. The nominating MP said the site was one of the most important contributors to freedom of speech in the 21st century.
  • The World Social Forum (WSF) kicks off in Senegal next week to discuss food security, lack of water rights and unemployment, among other issues of social struggles taking place across the globe. the WSF was launched in 2001 in Brazil as a non-political, non-partisan space for democratic debate of ideas.

Africa

  • A new report by the International Institute for Environment and Development suggests that African nations risk giving investors access to large areas of land in rushed, secretive and one-sided deals that fail to deliver real benefits or create new social and environmental problems. Several contracts reviewed appear to be heavily biased in favor of the investors, requiring little in the form of benefits for the local people and safeguards to protect the environment.
  • A good piece about the difficulties faced by the African Union appeared in the Economist. The AU budget runs at about $260m (compare that to the $1.8 billion the UN spends for the Darfur peacekeeping mission alone), with some countries paying as little as $20,000 a year, making it dependent on China, the EU and the States to pay nearly 60% of their budget.
  • France’s President Sarkozy urged Ban Ki-moon to reform the UN Security Council this year, stressing immediate action should be taken to make African countries permanent members. Sarkozy noted that as Africa is home to over one billion people, it should be entitled to a permanent seat. By that logic, India too, should be entitled to one. Perhaps a more equitable solution would be to abolish the permanent seats and veto power altogether, though it will probably never actually happen.
  • The African Union’s (AU) peacekeeping force in Somalia announced on Saturday that they are ready to attack militants bent on toppling the government should they receive authorization from the UN. A discussion took place on whether to lodge a formal request with the UN to change the mandate from a peacekeeping mandate to one of attack on Sunday. On Monday, fighting between Somali government troops and police killed 20 people in Mogadishu, after police allegedly executed a plainclothes soldier they suspected of being an Islamist insurgent. The Somali parliament, whose 500 members receive $300 a month from the UN, has voted overwhelmingly to extend its term for three years, despite failing to pass any laws in the past six years. Severe drought has left nearly one third of children acutely malnourished in severely areas and caused a sharp rise in food prices. The UN and aid groups are raising concern because of a lack of access to many of the worst-affected areas, as al-Shabaab rejects outside aid, which has resulted in the World Food Programme suspending distribution in many areas. The independent region of Somaliland has experienced an increase in landmine and unexploded ordnance (UXO) explosions recently, with children said to be the main victims. At least one person was killed and half a dozen wounded after anti-Somaliland protests turned violent on Monday.
  • An overwhelming majority of southern Sudanese (99%) are said to have voted for secession to break away from the north in the independence referendum that took place last month. On Monday, the Sudanese government declared that it accepted the preliminary results of the referendum.  Several dozen people were arrested on Sunday in protests demanding the end of “injustice and humiliation” that were initiated using social networks. Police are said to have beaten students with batons as they chanted anti-government slogans, resulting in the death of at least one. Reporters without Borders expressed concern over recent worsening conditions of press freedom in the country, following the censoring of news by the government who are said to have intimidated journalists and dissuaded them from covering any protest movements. Human Rights Watch also spoke out against the excessive use of force against protesters and called upon the government to release any detained by the security forces. On Tuesday, rebels from the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) launched attacks for the second time in less than a week on civilians, kililng one man, wounding two others and abducting two girls. IDPs in a Darfur camp expressed fears of a reportedly imminent attack by the government on their camp to search for weapons, and called upon the UN -AU Mission in Darfur to intensify their presence and welcomed them to come and search for weapons themselves. Hundreds of people in the Darfur region are said to have fled a recent surge of violence, following battles between rebels and government troops.
  • Hundreds of weapons used in a revolt on one of the three islands in the Comoros remain unaccounted for, causing the government to change its strategy for disarmament, demobilization and reintegration. The head of the DDR program suggested it was not the role of DDR to “investigate” where the missing weapons were.
  • The African Union has endorsed Kenya’s bid for a deferral of an International Criminal Court prosecution of six alleged sponsors of the 2007-8 post-election violence. The African leaders voted unanimously to endorse the deferral. The High Court said that Presidential appointments of top judicial figures was unconstitutional this Thursday, following an application to stop the process that has recently caused a political storm in the country.
  • Food insecurity in southern Madagascar has gotten so severe as of late that people have resorted to eating cattle-feed and have taken to selling off their livestock and possessions to survive, a move that will only create further poverty, problems and possible conflict in the future. Drought caused two successive years of crop failures.
  • A new surge of political violence is said to be happening in Zimbabwe ahead of possible national elections. The ruling ZANU-PF party’s youth militia is allegedly intimidating and attacking possible opponents and their supporters. PM Tsvangirai has warned that Zimbabwe may experience mass uprisings similar to Tunisia and Egypt . On Saturday, a MDC-T treasurer was shot by an alleged ZANU-PF supporter. 14 MDC-T youths were arrested on allegations of perpetrating violence over the weekend, though eyewitnesses say they were arrested after going to the police station to report that they had been assaulted by soldiers last week. Dozens of other suspected MDC-T activists were also arrested on Saturday on similar allegations. On Wednesday, PM Tsvangirai confronted President Mugabe over politically-motivated violence and intimidation allegedly being perpetrated by Mugabe’s ZANU-PF party in a meeting between the two leaders at Zimbabwe House, while nine supporters of Tsvangirai were said to have been assaulted with logs and stones by ZANU-PF supporters.
  • On Saturday, soldiers in a central Nigerian city opened fire on university students protesting continuing violence between Christians and Muslims, killing at least 9 people. Reports suggest that as many as 15 people were killed in illegal roadblocks in Jos over the weekend, while rioters burned fuel stations and homes. On Sunday, police reported fresh violence from the previous week, including the death of 35 people on Thursday, riots that killed four people, arson attacks that destroyed 5 mosques and 50 houses, and the death of more than a dozen people in clashes sparked by the stabbing of university students by Muslim villagers. Nineteen suspects were arrested on Sunday for the killing of a gubernatorial candidate in Borno State along with six others from last week. On Monday, a stray bullet fired by a policeman guarding a bank in Abuja, Nigeria killed a pregnant women. An unruly mob soon responded to the shooting by setting the bank on fire. More concern over the upcoming election came this week, as the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) claimed that DDC machines being used for registration lacks the capacity to detect double or multiple registration and ongoing problems with non-functioning machines and materials shortages. Six foreign nationals from Niger were arrested by the immigration service trying to obtain voter cards during the registration process. On Tuesday, suspected members of a radical sect in the northeast shot and killed a senior police officer. On Wednesday, Boko Haram threatened to embark on full blown war against the government, just a week after it claimed responsibility for killing of a prominent local politician, while Igbo leaders in the area threatened to retaliate. On Thursday, the Niger Delta Liberation Force threatened to mount new attacks on oil facilities in the Niger Delta, saying that peace negotiations with the military have collapsed.
  • The African Union announced on Saturday that it has made a decision to push for a negotiated settlement in Cote d’Ivoire, as a proposal to threaten military intervention could not be agreed upon. African leaders held talks in the Ethiopian capital to reach a common strategy on resolving the Ivorian crisis on Sunday. Ban Ki-moon was cited as saying at the summit that reopening the results of the election “would be a grave injustice and set an unfortunate precedent”. He also suggested that the number of refugees fleeing into Liberia could top 100,000 by the end of April.  ECOWAS stood firm saying that recognizing Gbagbo as President is out of the question. On Monday, the Presidents of South Africa, Tanzania, Mauritania, Burkina Faso and Chad formed a panel charged with solving the stand-off between Gbagbo and Ouattara who have set a one-month deadline to solve the crisis. A recent report suggested that the Zimbabwe government clandestinely transferred arms to Gbagbo’s administration on January 23rd. On Tuesday, the country missed its interest payment on a bond debt held by European institutions, while the French Chamber of Commerce estimates that a quarter of all its small and medium-sized businesses will go bust over the next month should the crisis continue. Police officers are said to have raided supporters of Ouattara in the east on Tuesday, killing one and wounding at least nine. Two Ivorian journalists seized by soldiers last week have alleged that they have been beaten and burned with cigarettes and are being held illegally without charges. The question remains whether sanctions will have the desired results on Gbagbo, as cocoa growers face hardship over the cocoa ban and citizens have difficulty accessing money at their banks.
  • Mauritanian forces are reported to have captured suspected members of al Qaeda’s north African wing on Tuesday, seizing their vehicle containing explosives and weapons. There was no word on how many individuals were captured. The government said it is stepping up attacks against the al-Qaeda terrorists across the Malian border this week, and that they had killed 3 suspected terrorists on Wednesday.
  • Despite claims of another majority vote for Museveni in Uganda, opposition candidate Dr. Kizza Besigye says he can win the upcoming elections with 60%. Besigye also claims the elections are certainly not fair and free, citing incidents of denial of media access in some regions, intimidation of supporters, and the use of money to disrupt activities. The Ugandan government is said to still be studying a Court judgment where all Independent MPs (some 70 of them) who moved from one party to another, different from the tickets they were elected under must vacate their seats in Parliament. Presidential candidate Besigye said that Museveni is stoking unprecedented anger against his own ethnic group who are generally perceived as having benefited from perks under his rule, who may face reprisals once he leaves. On Thursday, Besigye is said to have ordered the withdrawal of the security detail stationed at his residence, but still suggested they would be responsible if the candidate were to come under any harm. The Inspector General of Police cautioned the public and anti-homosexual pastors against being insensitive to the gay community in the country, following the recent murder of a prominent homosexual activist. Police announced on Wednesday that a man had confessed to the murder after a “personal disagreement” that had nothing to do with him being an activist for gay rights.
  • Niger went to the polls this week, almost a year after military officers kidnapped the President. The electoral commission says it could take a week to tally and announce provisional results which would need to be confirmed by the Constitutional Court within two weeks. Reports cited the election to be calm and orderly.
  • Riot police in Gabon clashed with around 5,000 opposition supporters on Saturday, with up to 20 people injured. The protests in the Gabon have failed to make a real dent in the international news who are focusing on Egypt.
  • The recent election in the Central African Republic was marred by massive fraud and contested results, dampening hope of a return to peace. Opposition representatives were pulled from the election body on Saturday, alleging fraud after early partial results from last weekend’s poll put Bozize in the lead. The election commission announced on February 1st that the incumbent Bozize, who came to power in a 2003 military coup, won the election with 66% of the vote. Two prosecution witnesses testified this week that the number of atrocities carried out by troops in the country decreased after a visit by former Congolese vice-President Jean-Pierre Bemba, who is on trial at the International Criminal Court over his alleged failure to control his troops and stop them from carrying out mass rape, killings and plunder in 2002 and 2003.
  • A grenade attack in Kigali, Rwanda killed two people and wounded at least 28 during the Friday rush hour in a busy bus terminal. Four people have been arrested in connection, though no details of the suspects or their motives was given.
  • There was a breakthrough in peace negotiations between the Congolese national army and the Forces Republicaines Federalistes (FRF) in the Kivus. The FRF apparently agreed to hand over all their stocks of weapons and ammunition, and a peace ceremony was held in Minembwe where 500 FRF soldiers are reportedly on their way to integrate with the Congolese army. The six national police officers who were recently kidnapped by rebels were rescued this week by UN peacekeepers without paying a ransom or firing a shot. Parliament recently rejected a bill seeking to abolish the death penalty in the country, leaving human rights defenders divided on the issue. On Friday, 20-30 armed men are said to have launched an assault against an ammunition deport used by airport security in Lubumbashi, forcing the airport to close for five hours.
  • The head of Tunisia’s main Islamist movement, Rachid Ghannouchi, has returned to Tunisia after more than 20 years in exile with hopes that his movement would be able to participate in a new multiparty political system. Human Rights Watch called upon police to end their violence against protesters, citing several abuses that they had witnessed. On Monday, the EU agreed to freeze the assets of ousted President Ben Ali and his wife, while some 2,000 people are said to have attacked the Interior Ministry. On Tuesday, the interior ministry announced they had replaced 34 senior security officials in the first step towards overhauling the police, security forces and spies and a synagogue was set on fire by arsonists, while sporadic acts of looting and sabotage continued. The UN announced that at least 147 were killed and 510 wounded during last month’s uprising.
  • The Algerian government warned the opposition that it would be their fault if pro-democracy protests this month turn violent, as the scheduled march is “officially banned”. Pro-government members of Algeria’s parliament proposed lifting the 19-year-old state of emergency, in light of the demands of opposition groups.
  • Thousands of Egyptians defied a second night of state-ordered curfews to remain protesting on the streets on Saturday, while hundreds of members of the banned Muslim Brotherhood were among thousands of prisoners who escaped during an overnight mass breakout from four jails. Vigilante groups began to pop up to defend homes from looters after police disappeared from the streets. The US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton called upon Mubarak to hold fair and free elections, and said that they US was not yet considering a cutoff of aid. The government shut down pan-Arab satellite TV channel Al-Jazeera in Egypt, cancelling its licenses and withdrawing accreditation of its entire staff. A large mass of demonstrators gathered again in Tahrir Square on Sunday, following the death of more than 100 in clashes with security forces on Saturday.  On Monday, the military vowed not to use force to crush anti-government protests acknowledging the people’s demands as “legitimate”.  More than a million protesters flooded central Cairo’s Tahrir (Liberation) Square on Tuesday, while similar demonstrations took place across numerous other cities within the country. Several valuable public buildings were kept safe from lawless bands of thugs by young people during the unrest who organized themselves into groups to direct traffic, protect neighbourhoods and guard public buildings. Google and twitter launched a service to allow Egyptians to send Twitter messages by leaving a voicemail on a specific number after Internet service was cut. It was announced on Tuesday that the reviled former interior minister Habib al-Adli was going to be referred to military prosecutions, following calls from protesters for him to be fired after police beat, tear-gassed and fired rubber bullets, while President Mubarak announced he would seek changes to the constitution and would not be running in the coming presidential elections in a speech to the nation. President Obama spoke to Mubarak saying that an orderly transition “must begin now”. The UN’s Ban Ki-moon announced on Wednesday that any political transition should take place sooner rather than later and urged restraint by all sides in the protests. The online hacker group Anonymous announced that it had paralyzed the Egyptian government’s websites in support of the anti-government protests. Tony Blair, the former UK PM and current envoy to the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, praised Mubarak calling him “immensely courageous and a force for good”, noting that the west was right to back him despite his authoritarian regime because he had maintained peace with Israel. Blair also warned that a rush to elections could bring the Muslim Brotherhood into power. Waves of Mubarak supporters armed with clubs, rocks, knives and firebombs were unleashed on Tahrir Square on Wednesday, and many were concerned where the army stood on its pledge to not fire on protesters. More than 1,500 people were said to be injured in Cairo alone on Wednesday in clashes that took place between Mubarak supporters and protesters. The new PM Shafiq apologized on Thursday for violence in central Cairo that is reportedly instigated by the government and promised an investigation. A number of protesters were reportedly killed at Tahrir Square in Cairo in gunfire battles between pro-Mubarak forces and anti-government protesters. Some reports suggest that the pro-Mubarak demonstrators were bused in and possibly sent by the government as a destabilizing effort, as they were marching alongside armed and uniformed police, undercover police, and vigilantes. Attacks aimed at journalists and TV crews forced media off the streets and reduced the coverage of the events in Cairo. Hundreds of thousands of anti-government protesters again packed Cairo’s central square on Friday, for the “day of departure” rally, after passing through military checkpoints apparently designed to keep away pro-Mubarak demonstrators to prevent more violent clashes.

Asia

  • Suspected Muslim separatists shot and killed five Buddhists in Thailand’s south on Thursday, while a family of four were murdered execution-style. Two Cambodian soldiers and a Thai villager were killed in a two-hour border clash on Friday, in an ancient feud over the land surrounding a 900-year-old Hindu temple.
  • Nepal’s legislature elected a new PM on Thursday, ending a stalemate that had paralyzed the country for months. A self-imposed deadline to complete a peace process within the country and draft a new constitution, went unmet, and the country was left in the hands of a caretaker PM until lawmakers could elect someone for the job. The process became deadlocked in 16 previous votes, causing a political stalemate.
  • Burma/Myanmar opened its first parliament in more than two decades this Monday. It later appointed the PM of the outgoing military government, Thein Sein, as its new President. The appointment by parliament is the latest step in the country’s self-declared transition to democracy, following November’s elections process that has largely been called a sham aimed at cementing military rule. Military delegates in parliament are said to hold an 80% majority in the new legislature.
  • UN Secretary-General Ban-Ki moon recommended a 12 month extension to the mandate of UNMIT in Timor-Leste, to support the fledgling nation through the transition phase. The handover of responsibilities began in May 2009, to help establish a professional and credible police force, but a number of violent incidents between youth groups have occurred that could necessitate continued assistance.
  • Many fear that a new multi-billion dollar natural gas project in Papua New Guinea could lead to social unrest. Disputes between landowners and the international owners of a copper mine in a northeastern island led to a 10-year civil war which ended in 1997, and many predict the recent gas project could end similarly.
  • Dozens of activists protested the Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan city council’s reelection of the mayor, saying it is unconstitutional. The protesters are angry that the vote went to the city council instead of directly to the citizenry.
  • The Kazakhstani Constitutional Council has rejected the planned referendum that would extend President Nazarbaev’s rule until 2020. The President himself rejected the proposal just hours later, calling for early presidential elections. On Wednesday, the parliament approved amendments to the constitution that would allow the President to call an early election. The date was tentatively set for April 3rd, angering many opposition members who say the early date gives no possibility for any other candidate to win with only two months time to prepare.
  • Unidentified people torched the Sri Lankan office of a British-based website that regularly criticizes that Sri Lankan government in the latest in a series of assaults on media outlets or personnel. At least 14 journalists have been killed and many more attacked or threatened since 2006.
  • China Central Television was said to have tried to pass off an aerial combat sequence from the 1980s movie Top Gun as an air force training drill involving a Chinese J-10 fighter plane. The footage was subsequently removed. A Chinese court convicted and sentenced a driver to jail for running over a village leader who was earlier blockading the road to prevent the construction of a power plant. Many suspect the killing was connected to his advocacy work.  The Chinese government has once again censored out violent uprisings in Egypt, by blocking all searches for the word “Egypt” and painting the issue as a chaotic affair that embodies the pitfalls of trying to plant democracy in countries that are not quite ready for it.
  • On Tuesday, South Korea announced that it would hold military talks with the North in the upcoming week. South Korean President Lee Myung-Bak has urged the North to seize a “good chance” to improve relations, as the two sides prepare for the talks on February 11th aimed at easing months of increased tensions. A UN Security Council committee has been told that North Korea may have additional secret atomic facilities.
  • The first ever Local Council Elections are to be held in the Maldives on March 10th, but are said to be marred by mistrust, low level of voter education and the backtracking of transparency standards. Transparency Maldives anticipates a high percentage of invalid ballots and believes that this will contribute to raising tensions.
  • An elderly journalist and his wife were found murdered in their home in Bangladesh last Friday with their throats slit. Police are uncertain of the motive of the attack. Angry protesters clashed with police on Monday over a government plan to acquire their land for a new airport. The clashes resulted in the death of one policemen and dozens of injuries.
  • On Saturday, a car bomb blast inside a road tunnel in Pakistan killed five people and wounded 15; and security forces killed nearly a dozen suspected militants near the Afghan border. On Monday, a suspected suicide bomber blew himself up near the car of a senior police officer in Peshawar, killing the officer and wounding three men; while other reports list at least five people dead in twin attacks in the city. On Tuesday, suspected militants fired on a NATO fuel supply truck, killing the driver and wounding his companion; and a Pakistani court ordered the government to not release the American official arrested in the shooting of two Pakistanis last week, despite US insistence that he has diplomatic immunity. On Wednesday, suspected militants killed five policemen in a shootout in the southwest; one Pakistani soldier was killed in a shootout between Afghan and Pakistani troops; and a car bomb killed nine people near Peshawar. On Thursday, gunmen attacked two NATO tankers near the Afghan border, killing the driver and injuring another. More than 20,000 villagers are said to have fled military operations against armed fighters near the Afghan border.  New American intelligence assessments have concluded that Pakistan has steadily expanded its nuclear arsenal, putting it on a path to overtake Britain as the fifth largest nuclear weapons power in the world.
  • Two ISAF service members were killed by a homemade bomb in Kabul, Afghanistan on Saturday; and a suicide bomber killed the deputy governor of Kandahar and wounded at least five civilians. On Monday, an ISAF service member was killed by a homemade bomb in Kabul; and an Afghan civilian was killed and two insurgents wounded in an air raid. On Wednesday, another ISAF service member was killed by a bomb in Kabul. On Thursday, a roadside bomb killed a father and his two sons in the north. A recent UN survey suggests that the Afghani police force is only slightly more popular than the Taliban in the southern part of the country.

    Americas

    • The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights announced on Tuesday that she has offered the Haitian authorities technical assistance to help prosecute the crimes committed under “Baby Doc” Duvalier’s leadership. Duvalier returned to Haiti on January 16th after years abroad, and now faces charges of corruption, theft and crimes against humanity including torture. The provisional electoral council has set a new date for the second round of presidential elections, to be March 20th, and have reversed the results of the first round of polls. The government has announced that it was ready to issue a new passport to exiled former President Jean-Bertrand Astride, who last month said he was ready to return to his homeland “today, tomorrow, at any time”. Returned former dictator “Baby Doc” Duvalier claimed in an interview on Tuesday that he introduced democracy to the country, dismissing claims that he was a tyrant. The Swiss government announced on Wednesday that it would start legal proceedings to confiscate Duvalier’s assets, which have been frozen in Switzerland since 1986, and return them to the Haitian people.
    • A fire at a military arms depot in Venezuela set off a series of explosions on Sunday, killing one person and resulting in nearly 10,000 people being evacuated. The cause of the fire was unclear. On Wednesday, President Chavez said in a televised speech that he was prepared to campaign for six more years in office.
    • A former fire chief turned himself in to face allegations that he killed at least eight drug uses in the neighbourhood where his son was killed by robbers in 2009 in Brazil. Police are investigating the possibility of this being a crime of vengeance. Several lawmakers have introduced a bill to amend the Brazilian constitution to make the search for happiness an inalienable right, that is expected to be approved by the Senate.
    • Mexican authorities say they found six bodies burned so badly that investigators couldn’t determine the cause of death or the victims’ gender outside Monterrey on Sunday. Police suspect drug cartels were responsible for the killings. The gubernatorial election in the Pacific coast state of Guerrero opened on Sunday, over-shadowed by corruption scandals, political violence and the drug war. The left held onto the governor’s seat, with Angel Aguirre of the Party of Democratic Revolution won 56% of the vote. On Wednesday, authorities in Guadalajara said that suspected drug cartel gunmen hurled grenades, burned vehicles and blocked streets in a series of seven attacks within two hours on Tuesday. On Thursday, a newly selected police chief, two of his bodyguards and his personal assistant were killed by a barrage of bullets, in what authorities say “bore the hallmarks of an organized crime attack”.
    • The Republican leaders in the American House of Representatives have offered new legislation that would nullify all the steps the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has taken on the issue of greenhouse gases, stripping them of their authority to crack down on emissions from factories, utilities and other sources. A new Defense Department report claimed the military paid a total of $285 billion to more than 100 contractors between 2007-9, even though those same companies were defrauding taxpayers in the same period and many had been either suspended or debarred for misusing the taxpayer funds. The US is concerned that massive unrest spreading across the Middle East could stop billions of dollars of arms sales that are being negotiated with countries in that region. A new arms race is discussed in this article which details the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and its $3 billion a year budget.
    • Retired Uruguayan military officers are pushing for human rights cases stemming from the 1973-85 dictatorship to be scrapped. The President has urged Uruguayans not to dwell on the brutality of military rule, while some residents have taken to the streets banging pots and pans to demand the trials go ahead. In 1986 the government passed an amnesty law protecting officers from prosecution, but in the last 6 years some leftist coalitions are claiming that some cases fall outside the provisions of the law.
    • A journalist in the Dominican Republic was shot by police in the stomach and an eye while covering a funeral. The journalist is said to have previously been threatened by a police captain while covering a conflict over land. There have also been eight other reports of violence against journalists so far this year in the country.

    Middle East

    • Tehran University in Iran has announced that it will segregate male and female students in the upcoming academic year. Gender segregation first became popular in 2009, after the representative of Iran’s Supreme Leader said they have dangerous consequences for student and is like “putting meat in front of a cat”. An influential think tank says Iran may be able to make a nuclear weapon in as little as one or two years if it chose to do so. UN Human Rights chief Navi Pillary announced on Wednesday that Iran witnessed a dramatic increase in executions in 2011, nearly three times that of last year.
    • Jordan’s King Abdullah has fired the government following weeks of opposition protests demanding change in the country. King Abdullah also gave orders to carry out “true political reforms” in the country. On Wednesday, the new PM began consultations with key political groups, including the Muslim opposition, trying to stave off growing public unrest. Around a thousand protesters gathered outside the PM’s office to demand reforms, then marched to the Egyptian Embassy nearby on Friday.
    • Activists calling for the ouster of Yemen’s president clashed with government supporters in Sanaa on Saturday. Protests are said to be happening daily since mid-January. Also on Saturday, the deputy leader of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula urged Sunnis to take up arms against Shi’ite Houthis; and a group of armed men attacked a police vehicle, killing one and injuring four in Marib. On Sunday, a group of armed men kidnapped two soldiers. On Monday, a woman was wounded by a rocket-propelled grenade in Habilayn. On Wednesday, the President said he would not be seeking to extend his three-decade rule when his current presidential term expires in 2013. On Thursday, tens of thousands of Yemenis showed up for an opposition-led “day of rage”, on both the anti– and pro- government sides.
    • Armed men opened fire killing a lieutenant colonel of the police force in western Baghdad, Iraq on Saturday; while a policeman was killed in his car by a gunmen in northwestern Baghdad. On Sunday, a roadside bomb wounded a traffic police official in southern Baghdad; a roadside bomb wounded three civilians in eastern Baghdad; a roadside bomb wounded two civilians in northern Baghdad; gunmen killed an Electricity Ministry engineer in western Baghdad; a sticky bomb wounded the driver of a car in southern Baghdad; gunmen opened fire on a car killing one employee of a private security company and wounding another in southwestern Baghdad; and a sticky bomb attached to a car wounded a cleric in western Baghdad.  On Wednesday, a roadside bomb wounded three policemen in northern Baghdad; gunmen in a car killed a police captain inside his car and wounded his passenger in Rabea; gunmen opened fire at an army checkpoint, killing two soldiers in Abu Ghraib; gunmen killed an official of Iraq’s National Intelligence Service in his car and wounded two of his relatives near Taji; a sticky bomb killed a father and wounded his wife in western Baghdad; gunmen attacked and wounded an off-duty policeman near his home in Mosul; and gunmen wounded a civilians in front of his home in eastern Mosul. On Thursday, a roadside bomb wounded five policemen and four civilians in Ramadi; gunmen attacked the vehicle of a local police captain, killing one of his kids and wounding him and two of his other children north of Baghdad; two roadside bombs killed two civilians and wounded another 12 in northern Baghdad; gunmen killed an employee of a government bank in western Baghdad; a roadside bomb wounded two policemen in eastern Baghdad; a roadside bomb killed two civilians and wounded four others in eastern Baghdad; another roadside bomb killed two civilians and wounded three others in another part of eastern Baghdad; a suicide bomber killed himself and wounded three civilians north of Baghdad; and at least three were wounded when police opened fire to disperse angry protesters calling for better services in a southern city, amid power and water shortages. A new Human Rights Watch report claims that elite security forces controlled by the military office of PM al-Maliki are operating a secret detention site in Baghdad and are torturing detainees with impunity at another facility in Baghdad. A government statistics report released on Tuesday, claimed that the number of civilians, police and soldiers killed climbed sharply in January, with civilian deaths up nearly 80% over December. Donald Rumsfeld’s new autobiography reveals that the former US defence secretary believed the war in Iraq is worth the cost and remains unapologetic about his handling of the conflict.
    • Oman claims to have uncovered a United Arab Emirates spy network that has targeted its government and military. A number of nationals are said to have been arrested, including some who worked for the government.
    • Syrians have begun using Facebook and Twitter to call for their own “day of rage”, following the inspiration from the Egyptian and Tunisian uprisings. The day of rage is said to begin on Friday. Human Rights Watch urged Syrian authorities to respect the right of Syrians to assemble peacefully, following a violent incident on Wednesday where a group of demonstrators were beat and dispersed while police officers looked on.

    Europe

    • Investigations into the January 24th Russian airport suicide bombing suggest that it was carried out by a 20-year-old male from the Caucasus, and was aimed particularly at killing foreigners. Police detained several dozen people during anti-Kremlin rallies in Moscow and St. Petersburg on Monday as they tried to protest against limits to freedom of assembly and demand the ousting of PM Putin and his “rule of thieves”. Two masked gunmen burst into a cafe in the Caucasus on Wednesday, killing four traffic policemen on their lunch break.
    • The main opposition party in Armenia said it will resume regular rallies in Yerevan on February 18th aimed at unseating the government, which they consider “illegitimate, incompetent and corrupt”.
    • Ireland’s parliament has been dissolved as PM Cowen announced a long-awaited election. Cowen agreed to an early election, rather than trying to serve his full term to mid-2012, after suffering a string of political humiliations and losing his parliamentary majority.
    • Bosnian police have arrested a Bosnian Serb accused of murder, rape and intimidation of Muslims during the 1992-5 war. Sasa Baricanin was arrested last year in Spain and delivered to the Bosnian court.
    • At least 82 people were arrested following bitter clashes between police and demonstrators against the evictions from one of east Berlin, Germany’s last former squats. 61 police officers are said to have been injured in the clashes.
    • Human rights activists are concerned about two alleged suicides in police custody in the last 10 days in the Ukraine. The activists say police have physically abused or tortured detained suspects in the past, but that the situation is getting worse. In the last 13 months, more than 50 Ukrainians have died while in police custody.
    • Some of the Belorussian officials who were sanctioned by the EU and the US say the measures will not hurt them. The officials were sanctioned as punishment for the mass arrests and beatings of opposition activists following the December vote.
    • Greek police defused another parcel bomb on Wednesday that was addressed to the Justice Minister Kastanidis. No group has yet claimed responsibility.
    • Turkish police fired water cannons and tear gas to force back thousands of demonstrating workers and students trying to march on parliament on Thursday in a union-led demonstration against a draft labour law. The new labour law is said by the workers to reduce their rights and allow employers to exploit unregulated labour.
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