global conflict

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

Hello all! Hope all is well!

I wrote this post several weeks ago, and although it is now slightly out of date, I thought better late than never since there are several interesting links to be found here.

Peace!

Rebecca

  • The head of UN peacekeeping operations, Alain Le Roy of France will step down from his post after his term expires in August. Le Roy has been the head of the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations for three years, and has expressed his wish to devote more time to his family in France.
  • The IMF elected French Finance Minister Christine Lagarde to the position of managing director on Tuesday, replacing scandalized Dominique Strauss-Khan (DSK). Meanwhile, the DSK case has taken an unsurprising turn, as reports attacking the credibility and personal life of his accuser began to surface, with allegations ranging from her being involved in prostitution to lying on immigration forms about a gang-rape causing her to flee Guinea. I’ll just reiterate two points here I think are important: one– a person is supposed to be innocent until proven guilty (why I believe there should be some media restraint until a verdict is issued); and two– even if a person has engaged in prostitution or has lied in the past, they can still be raped or abused and the typical characterizations and credibility attacks made in rape cases is something that needs to be seriously examined. DSK was released from house arrest and hopes were lifted among the French Socialist party of his possible return to the 2012 Presidential race, after his accuser’s “credibility” was tarnished by the released personal information regarding her past.
  • The OSCE called on all European and Central Asian states to join the Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Convention. Forty-six members states are currently party to the convention, though Armenia, Azerbaijan, Finland, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Polan, the Russian Federation, the USA and Uzbekistan are not.
  • A recent article I read regarding the pacification of a troop of baboons and other peaceful primate species raises questions about the inherence of violence in humans. Hopefully, humanity will not need to have all our aggressive members of society die of tuberculosis from eating in a garbage dump for us to achieve peace.
  • A key jihadist Internet forum was kicked off the Internet after apparently being hacked. The cyber attack appears to have hit not only the website, but also the server of what counterterrorism experts call “a key al-Qaeda propaganda forum”.
  • UN SG Ban Ki-moon welcomed a meeting of five nuclear non-proliferation treaty States in Paris on Thursday, where they were to discuss transparency, verification, and confidence building measures. The US, China, Russia, the UK and France all attended the meeting.
  • A new article entitled Dilemmas and Difficulties in Peace and Justice: Considerations for Policymakers and Mediators discusses emerging trends relating to peace and justice during peace processes .
  • The Collaborative for Development Action (CDA) came out with a new issue paper that highlights the perspectives of aid in conflict afflicted-areas .
  • The US Institute of Peace (USIP) came out with a new article that discusses improving the evaluation of peacebuilding programs, in an effort to hold organizations accountable for using good practice and avoiding bad practices, while the Norwegian Peacebuilding Resource Centre released an article on measuring the effectiveness of peacebuilding operations. USIP also came out with an article that discusses trends in communication in peacebuilding ; the various forms of communication used to prevent conflict, improve early warning, monitor peace and promote peacebuilding in the post-conflict.
  • National Geographic came up with a fantastic article and stunning graphics that demonstrate the dwindling food varieties over the past century. Food insecurity is a major conflict trigger and the mass extinction of our food heritage is concerning to our future as humans.
  • An interesting article discussed a recent economic study that found that though real national income in the US had increased, aggregate real wages and salaries rose by only a meagre amount (and in some cases actually declined), while corporate profits soared. The study suggests that since 2009, 88% of income growth went directly to corporate profits and that just 1% went to wages.
  • Both Al Jazeera and the British Guardian newspapers published stories about water wars, with detailed maps showing major conflict zones. Studies suggest that as many as 1.2 billion people live in areas of physical water scarcity, and that by 2030, 47% of the world’s population will be living in areas of high water stress.
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This Week in the World of Conflict… June 13th-20th, 2011

Hello all! Hope all is well!

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

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

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

Peace!

Rebecca

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

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

Hello all! Hope all is well!

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

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

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

Peace!

Rebecca

 

World

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

Africa

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

Asia

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

Americas

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

Middle East

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

Europe

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

 

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

Hello, hope all is well with you!

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

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

Peace!

Rebecca

 

World

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

Africa

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

Asia

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

Americas

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

Middle East

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

Europe

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

 

This week in conflict… February 19th-25th, 2011.

Hello all! Hope everything is well with you!

My internet has been intermittent due to escalating fighting within Abidjan this week, where I am currently living. Due to this, I may have difficulty posting and searching out stories for This Week in Conflict in upcoming weeks.

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 World Food Programme estimates that every 10% increase in the cost of food adds an extra US$200 million to their budget for purchasing food commodities, and that since November, their costs have risen by some 14%. Should the prices continue to rise, the WFP would be forced to reduce rations, decrease beneficiaries or seek additional resources.
  • A new communications aid program for natural disasters, called JamiiX, is being touted as the next Ushahidi. Developed in South Africa, JamiiX is a messaging management system to be used to provide information and advice for citizens during national disasters.
  • The UN Under-Secretary General for Peacekeeping announced this week that too many of their missions lack critical assets necessary to properly fulfill their mandates, calling on Member States to provide military helicopter units that are in short supply. They predict a shortfall of 56 out of a required 137 helicopters for missions particularly in Sudan, Darfur and the DRC.

Africa

  • Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir, who has been in power for the past 22 years, has reportedly decided not to stand for re-election in 2015 in order to broaden democracy. North Sudan has asserted its claim to the Abyei region, stating it is “northern and will remain northern” and accusing the south of intransigence over the issue. Juba has been chosen as the venue for the declaration and celebrations of independence for the south in July of this year. Armed south Sudanese police are said to have raided an independent newspaper on Tuesday, raising fears of a media crackdown ahead of independence. The New York Times revealed that over the course of training as many as 100 Southern Sudan police recruits died from severe punishment and harsh conditions, including torture and sexual assault, prompting the UN to investigate. Hundreds gathered in East Khartoum on Thursday blocking the main roads for nine hours to protest removing traffic lights and turning the street into a highway, claiming that over 200 people weer killed in road accidents over the last two months and throwing stones at riot police who surrounded the demonstration. . A female activist claimed she was raped by three members of Sudan’s National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS), kidnapped nearly two weeks after she participated in anti-government protests.
  • Fighting in Somaliland killed upwards of 50 people on Sunday, prompting Puntland’s President to announce that his government would “not remain on the sidelines” if the violence continued.  A suicide bomb attack targeting a police station in Mogadishu, Somalia, killed more than 10 people on Monday. Fighting continued between the Somali Transitional Federal Government forces supported by AU peacekeepers and al-Shabaab, killing at least 25 civilians and injuring at least 80. On Wednesday, Somali and AU troops are said to have seized three rebel bases in Mogadishu in a new offensive against al-Shabaab, concerning the UN who voiced alarm over civilians caught in the fighting. The interim President rejected Parliamentarians’ decision to extend their mandate to three more years, three weeks after they had unanimously extended the term.
  • Hundreds took to the streets in Nouakchott, Mauritania on Friday, calling for better living conditions and more jobs. The PM announced that the government will create thousands of new jobs, develop infrastructure and boost local food production capacity before the rally.
  • A journalist covering the Presidential and parliamentary elections in Uganda was said to be shot and seriously injured by a body guard of the Minister for the Presidency at a polling station on Friday, in an election that the opposition said was tainted with fraud. On Sunday, the electoral commission announced that President Museveni won another five year term winning an apparent 68.38% of the votes, after ruling for 25 years. The result excluded tallies from 117 polling stations that had yet to be received by the commission, who declared the incomplete results to beat the 48 hour constitutional deadline. The Commonwealth observer mission described the polls as largely peaceful, with vote tallying done with relative transparency, but decried widespread incidents of voter bribery, missing voter names on the register and late arrival of voting materials. Challenger Besigye rejected the results, calling the election fraudulent and has threatened Egypt-style protests in the past. The US was quick to congratulate Museveni on his win, despite the claims of fraud and his 25 year leadership role, in stark contrast to their recent cries for democracy in other African nations. On Thursday, mayoral elections in Kampala were canceled because of reported cases of severe malpractice, with some ballot boxes already full by 9 am and at least 34 were injured and 100 arrested.
  • President Kibaki of Kenya has withdrawn four nominations (for chief justice, attorney general, director of public prosecutions and controller of budget) that threatened to split the country’s fragile power-sharing government. On Tuesday, the President said he invited the PM for further consultations, as required by the new constitution. The Kenya Red Cross Society in Mandera came under fire during heavy fighting on the Somali and Ethiopian borders.
  • Protests continued in Libya this week, with up to 400 feared dead over the weekend alone. Security forces and mercenaries were said to be shooting into crowds “without discrimination”, and snipers targeted protesters from rooftops. The protests were largely covered by citizens, as the international media lacked access. On Sunday, Gaddafi’s son, Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, went on state TV to address the uprisings, citing the mass media as exaggerating the situation, and warning the people that their actions would result in civil war. He also promised a programme of reforms and acknowledged that the police and army made mistakes in dealing with the protesters. On Monday, it was rumoured that Muammar Gaddafi had fled the capital after angry anti-government protesters breached the state television building and Parliament, setting both on fire and army units were said to have defected to the opposition. The justice minister and interior ministers are said to have resigned over the “excessive use of violence” against protesters, while Libya’s UN ambassadors are said to have called for Gaddafi to step down as the country’s ruler. Two air force jets are also said to have landed in Malta, their pilots asking for political asylum; and a military ship off the coast was also thought to soon be defecting, while diplomats are resigning en mass. The security forces are said to have besieged parts of the capital using helicopters and warplanes to fire upon protesters. Egypt’s army claimed that the Libyan border guards had withdrawn from their posts on Monday, leaving control in the hands of people’s committees. On Tuesday, Qaddafi made a TV address to challenge rumours that he had fled the country, vowing to “fight to the last drop of blood”, cleansing “Libya house by house” if protesters don’t surrender, and citing that those who challenged his government “deserved to die”, as clashes intensified within the capital. Many residents believed that massacres had taken place overnight. Time magazine reported that Gaddafi had ordered his security forces to sabotage the country’s oil facilities to send the message: It’s either me or chaos. The first foreign news organization visited Benghazi on Wednesday, and described the city as being in the hands of the anti-government demonstrators who flew monarchy-era flags from government buildings and celebrated in the streets, amid defecting troops who poured into the courtyard of a ransacked police station.  By Wednesday, reports were indicating that Qaddafi was losing his grip on the capital Tripoli, with thousands of soldiers deployed to the town of Sabratha only 50 miles to the west. The Department of Defense and Military Veterans in South Africa stopped short of denying the sale of South African arms to Libyan forces, saying that they were unaware of any sale. A Libyan Arab Airlines aircraft, suspected of carrying Gaddafi’s daughter (who vehemently denied this claim), was refused permission to land in Malta and turned back to Libya, while governments around the world scrambled to send planes and ships to evacuate their own citizens from the country. On Thursday, it was reported that Benghazi was being run by a makeshift organizing committee of judges, lawyers and other professionals who sent out young people to help restore basic order. Thousands of mercenary and other forces tried to fend off the uprising that was circling in around Tripoli, while Qaddafi blamed the revolt on “hallucinogenic” drugs and Osama bin Laden. The British government contacted several senior Libyan figures directly to persuade them to desert Gaddafi or face crimes against humanity charges. On Friday, the residents of Benghazi began a search among the ransacked military base for the throngs of missing persons, while mercenaries and army forces resisted attempts at protest in Tripoli, opening fire on crowds. Human Rights Watch warned members and commanders of the Libyan security forces that they can be punished under international law for the unlawful use of force or firearms against protesters, regardless of rank, also citing widespread reports of security forces inside hospitals.
  • Algerian police clashed with hundreds of opposition supporters over the weekend. Train services are reported to be shut down completely, and road blocks have been set up on the highways linked to the capital. The cabinet adopted an order to lift the 19-year-old state of emergency on Wednesday, but protesters said the measure did not go far enough.
  • Security forces in Madagascar fired teargas to disperse crowds of supporters of exiled leader Ravalomanana who camped out near the capital’s airport on Saturday, expecting his return. The government is said to have blocked Ravalomanana’s departure from his exile in South Africa.
  • The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in Nigeria confirmed that it would discard the N40 billion Direct Data Capture (DDC) machines in the upcoming election, causing rage among opposition political parties. The army is said to have discovered several high profile arms, including machine guns, RPGs, an anti-aircraft launcher, explosives and hand grenades, concealed in an abandoned car on Saturday. Three unknown gunmen were killed on the same road in a gun battle after attacking a detachment of the military in the area. On Tuesday, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) cleared 20 candidates to contest the April 9, 2011 Presidential election; and the campaign office of the Labour Party candidate experienced several explosions suspected to be dynamite. At least twelve people were killed in an attack in Plateau early on Tuesday, by unknown assailants, while the military blamed the villagers for not contacting the forces on time to help. On Wednesday, five powerful ruling party state governors won a court ruling that could prevent them from having to stand for re-election in April after they argued their states should be exempted because they had not yet completed full four year terms.
  • Around 50 people were arrested at a meeting to discuss the North African uprisings in Zimbabwe on Sunday on charges of “subverting the government” and “conspiring against the state”. The Defense Minister warned last week that any attempt to emulate the events in Egypt would be crushed. By Thursday, 46 of those arrested were charged with treason, some allegedly beaten by police.
  • Three leading opposition politicians were detained in Djibouti on Saturday, in an apparent move to quash opposition protests triggered from the wave of political unrest across North Africa. Anti-government protesters clashed with riot police who used teargas to disperse crowds who demanded the President step down.
  • Protesters in Morocco reportedly attacked a police station and several French firms in Tangiers late on Friday in a dispute over the local utility firm’s management. Riot police intervened to break up the protest, after a peaceful sit-in in front of city hall turned into a march that gathered into hundreds of protesters. Several thousand people marched in fourteen Moroccan cities on Sunday, demanding political reform and limits on the power of the King. The demonstrations were largely reported as peaceful, though five people were said to have been burned to death inside a bank on Sunday, more than 100 people were reported wounded and some 120 arrested.
  • Thousands of demonstrators in Tunisia gathered in downtown Tunis on Sunday to call for the replacement of the interim government, despite a ban on rallies. Security forces are said to have watched, but not intervened in the protests. The interim government asked Saudi Arabia to extradite deposed President Ben Ali and inquired into his health situation, following reports that he had fallen into a stress-induced coma. The Interior Minister called for the Tunis Court of First Instance to dissolve the former ruling party, the Constitutional Democratic Rally on Monday. On Friday, the transitional government said it would hold elections by mid-July at the latest while tens of thousands of protesters rallied calling for the PM’s resignation.
  • State television in Egypt announced the release of 108 political prisoners on Sunday, following a pledge by the PM. The PM was quoted as saying that 222 prisoners would soon be freed and that 487 political prisoners remained, though rights groups say thousands were detained without charge under the emergency laws and that many of them might be classified as political prisoners. The military and civilian leadership currently in charge took several high-profile steps on Monday to reassure the population that the move to full civilian rule would be rapid, including requesting governments to freeze Mubarak’s assets. On Tuesday, the military rulers swore in 11 new Cabinet ministers, with three former members of the Mubarak regime retaining their posts. On Wednesday, former Egyptian police officers protesting outside the interior ministry in Cairo were said to set fire to an adjacent administration building, injuring some four protesters. Thousands gathered in Tahrir Square on Friday to celebrate one month since the protests that forced Mubarak to resign.
  • Some 50 human rights groups within the DR Congo have signed a communique to publicize their concerns of growing violence and intimidation against them used to undermine their work. Many cite that they have received death threats from government officials. A military court investigating the case of New Year’s mass rape in Fizi, has sentenced Lt. Col. Kibibi Mutware to 20 years in jail after being found guilty of crimes against humanity. Community leaders are now trying to persuade Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) fighters to abandon the group and return home using radio programmes and posters pinned to trees. More than 40 people– men, women and children, were raped over the last two weeks near Fizi in an eastern area mostly inaccessible to aid organizations or UN peacekeepers. All UN Formed Police Units (FPU) deployed in missions are now required to undergo in-country mobile techniques training to better adapt their operational capacity to the reality on the ground.
  • Three soldiers in Senegal were killed and six wounded over the weekend by suspected separatist rebels in the southern Casamance region, after they attacked an army observation post. Rebels have been waging a low-level insurgency since the early 80s. The government announced it was cutting diplomatic ties with Iran over alleged Iranian weapon supplies to the rebels suspected of killing the soldiers. Gambia has also cut ties with Iran over the arms shipment.
  • The situation in Cote d’Ivoire has deteriorated this week, with rebels and government forces fighting across the country,  several reports painting the situation as government forces firing on unarmed protesters. Curfews and roadblocks halted most of the attempted protests before they even began, though there were reports of security forces firing live rounds to disperse protesters who had set up barricades and were burning tires. By Wednesday, however, the media was reporting the loss of at least 10 army soldiers, who were killed by rebel forces, locally being described as “invisible” commandos who were impervious to government bullets through mystical powers.  The northern Abobo district of Abidjan was overtaken by these commandos by mid-week, giving them control of the highway’s access to the north rebel-strong area. The FDS security forces cordoned off the district and are said to have suffered an ambush by the commandos. At least two other districts within the city experienced fighting as well with buses and gbakas (minibuses) burned down by opposing groups, as the commandos calling themselves “Mouvement de libération des populations d’Abobo-Anyama” vowed to move into the Koumassi, Yopougon and Adjame districts of Abidjan. The financial system is in collapse, following last week’s bank closures and the population is finding it difficult to secure any money. The five African mediators were due to meet in Mauritania on Sunday, before arriving in country to give propositions to the two Presidential camps, though Burkina Faso’s Compaore decided not to make the trip due to “security reasons” as more than 1,000 Gbagbo supporters are said to have gathered at the airport to oppose Compaore, accusing him of being against Gbagbo. Angry pro-Ouattara youths are said to have mobbed South African President Zuma during his visit as well, accusing him of siding with Gbagbo.  On Tuesday, Ouattara extended the ban on cocoa and coffee for another month, even though the current ban is having devastating effects on the population, amid continued protests by cocoa growers.  On Wednesday, Amnesty International reported on the extensive human rights abuses being committed by both the government forces and the Forces Nouvelles rebel group around the country. Kenyan PM Odinga announced on Wednesday that ECOWAS is holding planning meetings to remove Gbagbo and will use force if the sanctions don’t result in a change of regime, but did not say when force would be used. The Gbagbo government confirmed on Friday that the western town of Zouan-Hounien had fallen to the rebels, while fighting raged on in other parts of the country. Human Rights Watch suggested that both sides were recruiting young men and re-mobilizing others for fighting within Abidjan, and the notorious Ble Goude called on the Young Patriots to set up “self-defense” units to protect themselves from the rebels. Groups of menacing looking thugs barricaded off different sections of the city, making travel more difficult than normal.
  • Four people were killed in clashes between police and demonstrators in Koudougou, Burkina Faso this week, with demonstrations started over the death of a jailed student who the government claimed died of meningitis. Fellow students say he died because he had been mistreated.

Asia

  • A US drone attack is said to have killed seven alleged militants near the Afghan border in Pakistan on Sunday night. Many in Karachi took to the streets on Sunday calling for the execution of US consulate employee Raymond Davis who has been jailed for killing two Pakistanis. Pakistani troops are reported to have killed up to 15 suspected militants in the northwestern region along the Afghan border after 100 militants attacked a security checkpoint with heavy weapons, triggering a clash that continued for several hours. On Tuesday, a roadside bomb hit a paramilitary vehicle in the southwest, wounding four soldiers; and an explosion wounded five people in a market in Peshawar. On Wednesday, Pakistani troops bombed and destroyed two alleged militant hideouts, killing 8 insurgents in the northwest region. On Thursday, suspected American drone missiles hit a house and a car in North Waziristan, killing at least six people. On Friday, at least four people were reported killed in an attack in northwestern Pakistan after militants targeted at least 11 NATO fuel tankers; and Pakistani authorities arrested a US government security contractor, with Pakistani intelligence calling on the Americans to “come clean” about its network of covert operatives in the country. Raymond Davis’ murder trial also began on Friday. 
  • Seven soldiers were killed on Sunday in Azerbaijan after a soldier allegedly opened fire on his fellow servicemen. A similar attack occurred in January of last year after two soldiers opened fire on a group of officers. The President dismissed and demoted a military commander following the deaths.
  • Thailand‘s anti-government “red shirts” have announced they will respect the result of an upcoming election, providing the polls are fair and that they see no reason to stage protracted protests. On Tuesday, some of the leaders of the group were released from jail. The group says it will still hold regular, brief and peaceful rallies to call for the release of more than 100 still jailed supporters and to demand a comprehensive, transparent investigation into the deaths of demonstrators.
  • North Korea is reportedly digging tunnels at a site where it has launched two nuclear tests in the past, suggesting it is preparing for a third. On Sunday, the South Korean President renewed calls for dialogue between the two countries, though military talks broke down earlier this month.
  • Gunmen and suicide bombers dressed as border police killed at least 18 people and wounded more than 70 in an attack on a bank in Jalalabad, Afghanistan on Saturday; and an ISAF service member was killed in an insurgent attack in Kabul. On Sunday, ISAF forces are said to have killed six family members in an air strike that also killed three suspected militants in eastern Afghanistan, and have announced that they will investigate the accidental deaths. Karzai was furious at the attack and spoke out to strongly condemned recent raids that are said to have killed some 50 people on Friday alone, mostly women and children, while NATO claimed it would probe the incidents.  Also on Sunday, a French solider was killed in an insurgent attack northeast of Kabul; a German soldier succumbed to his injuries and died after a person wearing an Afghan army uniform opened fire on ISAF troops from Friday; and two civilians and one policeman were killed and two wounded in a roadside bomb attack in Herat. A suicide attack in a northern government office killed at least 31 people and injured 42 others on Monday. On Thursday, at least 24 people were wounded when a suicide bomb detonated in a busy market in Kandahar. The US is said to have entered into direct talks with Taliban leaders, but contacts are exploratory and not yet a peace negotiation.
  • Authorities in China quashed online calls for a “jasmine revolution”, and quickly dispersed small crowds in Beijing and Shanghai apparently attempting to spark an uprising similar to those in the Middle East and North Africa. Dozens of activists are said to have been detained, mass text messages were jammed and specific searches were blocked. On Wednesday, human rights campaigners announced that they feared for six high-profile activists and lawyers, as they remain unaccounted for after they were seized on Sunday. On Thursday, the family of a Sichuan writer and scholar Ran Yunfei was reportedly notified that Ran had been officially charged with subversion. Police had also detained a dissident for “incitement of subversion” in a bid to crack down on dissent in the face of calls to emulate Middle East protests. On Friday, authorities announced that they had dropped the death penalty for more than a dozen non-violent crimes and banned capital punishment for offenders over the age of 75. The country executes more people every year than any other country. Organizers of the “Jasmine Revolution” have called for protests in 23 cities on Sunday, prompting authorities to block the networking site LinkedIn.
  • The President of Kyrgyzstan said this week that she does not intend to run in the next Presidential election scheduled for later this year. President Otunbaeva was named transitional President following the ouster of incumbent Bakiev after anti-government demonstrations in April. A journalist was severely beaten and hospitalized in Bishkek after the attack by several men near her house.
  • President Rahmon of Tajikistan has replaced the head of the Central Election Commission and two of his deputies as well as a forth commission member “in connection with their transfer to other posts”. The replacements come amid rumours that Rahmon may be considering holding a nationwide referendum that would restructure his powers and needs an energetic and competent team to “prove the legality” of the proposed changes. Some 30 women staged a protest outside the Presidential palace against the unannounced demolition of their homes.
  • Philippine security forces and Maoist guerrillas both accused each other of violating a ceasefire ahead of peace talks on Monday. The two sides have held closed door negotiations that started again on February 15th, the first in more than six years. The two parties agreed to an 18-month timetable for formal peace talks.
  • The military rulers in Myanmar/Burma appear to be taking a harder line toward pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi and her party. The government demanded over the weekend, through the state controlled media, that the party apologize for acting against what it said were the interests of the nation.
  • A MP in Bangladesh who has been behind bars for more than two months has alleged that he was detained and tortured by a paramilitary unit trained by the British government in a letter from prison. Amnesty International said it considered the allegations credible and has called upon the Bangladeshi government to investigate.
  • The UN said it will extend its peacekeeping mandate in East Timor for another year on Thursday, saying the country needs to take action to strengthen the “credibility” of its police force. The UN wants to end their mission, but is wary of the fallout from the 2006 unrest that led to its creation.

Americas

  • The US will be cutting off all funding to the UN climate science panel under sweeping Republican budget cuts that seek to gut spending on environmental protection. The budget cuts set on Saturday are said to be extreme, setting the stage for a confrontation between Democrats and Republicans. At least 55,000 demonstrators took to the streets in Madison, Wisconsin on Saturday over union rights and taxes that are being discussed in new legislation, with protests continuing during the week.  Boeing aerospace firm has won a $30 billion contract for 179 new US air force mid-air refueling aircraft to replace 50-year-old Boeing-manufactured KC-135 Stratotankers to be delivered by 2017, beating out the European Aeronautic Defence and Space (EADS) company and casting doubt over the fairness of the contract award procedure. Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates told an audience of West Point cadets on Friday that it would be unwise for the US to ever again fight another war like Iraq or Afghanistan, saying that any future defense secretary who “advise the president to again send a big American land army… should have his head examined”.
  • A majority of students of the main campus of the University of Puerto Rico are reported to have voted in favour of ending their strike for one month, but declared a one day walk out on Wednesday. Some students are said to have barricaded the entrances of the campus to prevent others from trying to enter.
  • Protesting students ended a three-week hunger strike on Tuesday in Venezuela, saying they stopped because the Organization of American States is discussing their allegations of human rights abuses by their government. Venezuelan authorities are also said to have agreed to review the cases of people considered “political prisoners” by protesters.
  • Gunmen opened fire on six children playing in the yard of a home in the border city of Ciudad Juarez, Mexico on Wednesday, killing three young girls. The state prosecutors’ office said that the gunmen were apparently targeting the father of two of the dead girls in a dispute that may have involved low-level drug dealing.

Middle East

  • Bahrain’s opposition group rejected an offer of national dialogue to end days of unrest on Saturday until certain conditions, including a demand for the PM to resign, the release of political prisoners and an investigation into the deaths of protesters, were met. The crown prince is said to have ordered the withdrawal of all military from the streets, leaving law and order to the police force, who subsequently attacked anti-government protesters. On Sunday, protesters reoccupied the capital city’s main square and vowed not to enter into talks until a list of demands were met. On Monday, some 10,000 demonstrators packed into Pearl Square, joined by some 1,500 striking teachers demanding a true constitutional monarchy that gives citizens a greater role in a directly elected government. On Tuesday, tens of thousands of supporters of the Shi’ite led opposition poured into the capital in the largest rally since protests first began last week. On Wednesday, authorities said they had released 23 Shi’ite activists held on terrorism charges and pardoned two others living abroad.
  • Iran‘s opposition is said to have begun renewed protests in Tehran and several other cities to fight against “religious dictatorship”. On Sunday, there were reports of clashes between protesters and security forces, and that many people were arrested, including the daughter of ex-President Rafsanjani. Many protested in silence in order to reduce the level of tension and violence, as security forces tended to confront protesters who were chanting, while foreign media were not provided with the required permits to cover the protests from the streets. Ironically, on Wednesday, President Ahmadinejad condemned state brutality against demonstrators in Libya and urged governments to listen to their people. On Tuesday, Suez Canal officials said that two Iranian naval vessels entered the strategic waterway en route for the Mediterranean Sea, the first time in three decades. Israel made it clear it views the passage as a provocation.
  • The US has vetoed a UN Security Council resolution condemning the Israeli settlements on Palestinian territory as “illegal”. All other 14 council members voted in favour of the resolution. On Wednesday, a rocket was said to have struck the southern Israeli city of Beersheba for the first time in two years, damaging a house, but causing no physical injury. Israel responded by carrying out an airstrike.  Israeli tank fire killed a suspected Palestinian militant and wounded another and two civilians in the Gaza Strip. Young Palestinians have organized a call for protests on March 15th, aimed at unifying Hamas and Fatah to fight their common enemy, Israel.
  • Unrest continued in Yemen over the weekend, with some 3,000 university students gathering in the capital and thousands of others across the country, protesting to demand the President step down. The President has said that only defeat at the ballot box will make him quit. On Monday, security forces shot and killed one protester and wounded four others in Aden, as thousands continued to protest. Protests intensified on Tuesday, as at least two protesters were shot dead during a street battle between pro and anti-government demonstrators at the gates of Sana’a University. Seven (to nine) members of parliament resigned in protest on Wednesday against what they described as government violence against demonstrators. On Thursday, the state news agency said that the President had ordered his security forces to protect demonstrators who were trying to end his 32-year rule, and also instructed the forces to thwart all clashes and prevent direct confrontation between pro- and anti-government protesters. On Friday, tens of thousands of demonstrators massed in several cities, holding the largest demonstration thus far against corruption and oppression.
  • Police in Kuwait fired teargas at hundreds of stateless Arabs demanding citizenship on Saturday, injuring around seven people. Many are descendants of desert nomads who are denied citizenship under strict nationality laws.
  • Hundreds of protesters took to the streets in northern Iraq on Sunday, resulting in at least 48 injuries; gunmen are said to have raided and set fire to a television station in the city; and two civilians were killed and six wounded by a suicide car bomber north of Baghdad. On Monday, a suicide car bomb targeting a police building in Samarra killed at least 10 people, mostly police officers and wounded some 15. On Tuesday, thousands of people took part in anti-government protests in Sulaimaniya, under heavy security presence, with at least three deaths were reported; and two roadside bombs exploded near a police patrol in eastern Baghdad, wounding three policemen and two civilians. On Wednesday, the top Shi’ite religious leaders called for Iraqis to defer their Friday “day of rage” protests; a roadside bomb targeting an Iraqi army patrol exploded killing a soldier and wounding two others in eastern Mosul; attackers stormed the home of a man in central Baghdad, stabbing him to death; a bomb blew up and wounded four people including two soldiers in western Mosul; a roadside bomb went off in a market wounding ten in eastern Mosul; two roadside bombs went off separately, wounding five in Ramadi; and a police officer was wounded trying to defuse a roadside bomb in Shirqat. The Iraqi military claimed security forces had killed the top military leader of the Islamic State of Iraq, an Al-Qaeda linked group responsible for bombings and suicide attacks across the country on Thursday. On Friday, at least 10 were killed in clashes with Iraqi police as thousands protested against the government in many cities across the country. Thousands of mostly university students filled the central square in Kurdistan this week calling for change and reflecting long-festering anger with government corruption and partisan politics, with at least 4 people killed and scores wounded.
  • Shi’ites in Saudi Arabia held a small protest in the eastern province on Saturday to demand the release of fellow Shi’ites held in prison without trial. The protesters are said to have stayed silent and avoiding holding up posters so as not to provoke authorities. Hundreds have so far backed a Facebook campaign calling for a “day of rage” across the country next month to demand an elected ruler, greater freedom for women and release of political prisoners.

Europe

  • The North Caucasus experienced a wave of attacks as masked gunmen shot and killed three Muscovite tourists and injured two others traveling to a resort ski mountain on Friday, an explosion blew up several cabins without injury, and three more bombs were defused on Saturday. The attacks were thought to be likely orchestrated by Islamic militants who have been increasingly violent over the last two years. On Tuesday, police killed five suspected militants near the ski resort, thought to possibly be the bandits who shot the tourists.
  • Georgia and South Ossetia have completed an exchange of detained prisoners, eight from South Ossetia who were arrested for minor crimes before and after the regions military conflict in August 2008, and eight Georgians arrested for “illegally crossing the border”. More exchanges are expected soon. Georgian police discovered three unexploded bombs outside a TV station in the capital on Wednesday, suspected to be planted by a gang of Georgian suspects run by a Russian military officer.
  • An opposition leader warned Armenia‘s leadership to hold fresh elections or face similar unrest to the Arab states, during his largest rally since the bloody suppression of post-election protests in 2008. Some 10,000 people gathered in the city centre, while ongoing small anti-government protests continued around the country.
  • Bosnia‘s state prosecutor charged former Bosnian Serb soldier, Vesselin “Batko” Vlahovic, on Saturday with murder, rape and intimidation of non-Serbs in the capital of Sarajevo during the 1992-5 war. The indictment is said to be the most extensive issued by the Bosnian war crimes court, detailing 56 counts of the most brutal war crimes and crimes against humanity.
  • Kosovo‘s parliament re-elected Hashim Thaci to a second term as PM and businessman Behgjet Pacolli as President, despite recent international allegations linking Thaci to organ-trafficking and other heinous crimes. Pacolli was the only candidate running for President after his party aligned with Thaci’s party. The main opposition parties boycotted the Presidential vote.
  • The British PM strongly defended the presence of UK arms companies accompanying his visit to the Middle East this week citing that Kuwait, one of the countries visited during the visit, had a level of democracy and that Britain has tough controls to prevent the equipment from being used on civilians.  This is the wake of a recent police crackdown in the country at an opposition gathering that was criticized by Human Rights Watch.
  • Clashes broke out in Athens, Greece on Wednesday between young demonstrators and riot police during a mass rally against austerity measures. Police are said to have fired tear gas and flash grenades at protesters, blanketing part of the city in smoke.
  • The Supreme Court in Belarus has suspended hearings into a lawsuit filed by a non-registered opposition party against the Justice Ministry. The opposition was fighting the Justice Ministry’s refusal to register their party.
  • The ruling Irish Fianna Fail party appeared likely to be voted out of power on Friday in Ireland in the first vote since leaders negotiated a bailout deal with the EU and the IMF to rescue the country from budget deficit and economic collapse. As a result of the rescue deal, the country faces years of austerity measures to repay the bailout and must also deal with plummeting property values among other economic woes.

This week in conflict… February 12th-18th, 2011.

World

  • The World Bank (WB) estimates that 44 million people have been pushed into poverty since last summer by soaring commodity prices. Food prices are said to have risen by almost 30% over the past year.
  • The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) pledged to increase their cooperation with the UN this week, from stabilizing Afghanistan to boosting cyber security. The OSCE contains 56 States from the US, across Europe and Central Asia to the borders of China.
  • A new academic paper finds that countries with IMF programmes failed to increase public health spending when receiving additional health aid, responding to a recent article in the Lancet that argued that routing health aid through NGOs rather than developing country governments might be more effective in increasing actual expenditure on health services. The IMF denounced the study as having serious methodological problems.
  • A new Web-based database and research tool will expand what academic researchers, international human rights advocates, journalists, students and the public know about government repression. The Illustrative Information Interface allows anyone with Internet access to register his or her view of the scope and severity of government abuse for a particular geographic area from 1900 to the present.
  • A new report published by Universities UK, suggests that vice-chancellors should reject demands to ban controversial speakers, and engage with, rather than proscribe” extreme political views on campuses. The report is expected to emphasize how seriously universities take their responsibility for the security of students, alongside obligations to promote free speech and academic freedom.
  • A UN report concludes that there is a need to find a new way to describe the “fluid and changing” ways in which men care for and support children, redefining the concept of fatherhood. More men are taking on a parenting role more accurately described as “social fatherhood”.

Africa

  • The overthrow of Ben Ali and Mubarak has inspired unrest throughout the Middle East, including new violence in Bahrain, Yemen, Iran, and Algeria. On Sunday, the Egyptian military dissolved parliament, suspended the constitution, and called for an election to be held within six months. Police in Cairo, Egypt dismantled remaining tents in Tahrir Square on Monday, in an attempt to get the country back to work. While anti-government protests have quieted down, workers strikes and protests calling for better worker conditions still rage on. Military leaders met with opposition leaders to discuss constitutional amendments for approval in a national referendum within two months, giving them 10 days to finish the revisions. Critics argue that the constitution needs to be rewritten from scratch. Engineers began to assess the Internet blockage they faced during the uprisings, concerned that similar methods could be spread to other places of unrest.  The new army rulers have appointed a retired judge, respected in legal circles for his independent views, to head a committee set up to propose constitutional changes. Some of the organizers of protests announced on Wednesday that they had formed a “Council of Trustees” to negotiate the country’s transition to democracy. On Friday, Egyptians gathered in Tahrir Square in Cairo to celebrate the ousting of President Mubarak.
  • The National Congress Party (NCP) and the Sudan People Liberation Movement (SPLM) must now decide on the future of the UN peacekeeping force established in the country before the referendum for monitoring the Comprehensive Peace Agreement. Several advocacy groups have warned of the pitfalls of shifting the focus away from the peace agreement for Darfur, as the region has seen escalating levels of violence in the last two months.  At least 80% of the border between North and South has been so far demarcated, though in several regions, such as Abyei, the demarcation remains a contentious issue. On Saturday, three traders were killed in Abyei by an angry mob after a soldier allegedly attempted to enter the town market. On Tuesday, authorities said that at least 211 people were killed in the attacks by a renegade militia in Jonglei last week. The UN-AU peacekeeping mission in Darfur (UNAMID) is said to have significantly stepped up its patrols as a response to an upsurge of violence and adopted a new approach on movement and access in order to help protect civilians.
  • Hundreds of anti-government protesters clashed with police on Tuesday night in eastern Libya, reportedly triggered by the arrest of a human rights campaigner. Government supporters had reportedly taken over the square where demonstrators met by Wednesday. Thursday was scheduled as a “Day of Rage”, and saw hundreds of anti-government protesters again clashing with police and government supporters, as the unrest spread to more cities. Security forces are said to have killed at least 24 in the crackdown of protesters. On Friday, the protests continued, with video showed protesters knocking over a statue of Muammar Gaddafi.
  • At least 20 people are dead following explosions at Tanzania People Defense Forces arms’ depot in Dar es Salaam on Wednesday night. Twenty-three depots were razed in the explosions, along with at least two residences and a secondary school.
  • An elderly couple was beheaded while their two grandchildren were beaten to death in an attack on a village in central Nigeria on Saturday, in what is suspected to be a ritual killing done in the belief that sacrifices will bring social success and political power. At least six people were killed on Tuesday in Jos during the Eid’l Maulud celebration. The chief judge in Borno State cited that at least 109 have been lost to extrajudicial killings this past year.
  • Analysts predict the demise of Zimbabwe‘s Government of National Unity approaching, as the country is expected to have a national poll sometime this year. On Wednesday, the EU decided to remove 35 people from the visa ban and asset freeze list and to extend the validity of the remaining measures. On Tuesday, police are said to have seized cars belonging to PM Tsvangirai’s official escort and arrested his drivers for possessing beacon lights usually found on police vehicles. Independent newspaper vendors report they are being harassed by suspect ZANU-PF thugs.  PM Tsvangirai threatened to boycott a rushed election this year, arguing that it was important to create conditions for a free and fair election first.
  • The new Tunisian foreign minister resigned from his post this week, after anger at compliments paid to his French counterpart. There are also reports that ousted President Ben Ali is in a coma, after suffering either a stroke or a heart attack and is listed as in critical condition. Thirty-five inmates of a Tunisian prison escaped after assaulting their guards on Wednesday, though most were recaptured.
  • The opposition in Uganda expressed their fears of vote rigging prior to Friday’s vote, as the Electoral Commission announced it would dispatch ballot papers to selected districts 48 hours before the vote. The army is also said to be more involved than previously anticipated, even though the police are legally mandated to provide security during the elections process. On Tuesday, the Parliamentary Speaker ordered 77 lawmakers who changed their political platforms ahead of this year’s election to vacate Parliament, calling their actions unconstitutional. Disputes over land in northern Uganda are reported to be escalating, affecting the resettlement plans of former internally displaced people. President Museveni dismissed predictions of an Egypt-inspired protest erupting after elections on Friday and repeated threats to arrest the main opposition leader. A record turnout is expected. Authorities ordered phone companies to intercept text messages with certain key words or phrases for fear of elections violence.
  • Algerian civil society groups organized thousands to protest on Saturday, despite a ban on marching and are said to be planning for another protest next Saturday. Police are said to have briefly detained several hundred, but that there were no reported injuries. The government said it will soon end its 19 year-old state of emergency. One of the founders of the state, Abdelamid Mehri, called upon the President to replace the undemocratic system of rule and reform the government.
  • Protests continued in Gabon, with demonstrators saying their president also stole an election and has presided over corruption. Troops are said to have suppressed the protests with tear gas and arrests.
  • Demonstrators protesting against the chronic fuel crisis in Malawi were stopped by police on Monday, but have vowed to continue. The protesters are frustrated by the government’s reluctance to tell the people the true reasons for the crisis.
  • Eighty-nine people were arrested on Tuesday in South Africa for public violence in Wesselton, after protesters allegedly raged, firing live ammunition, burning tires, throwing stones and blocking roads. On Thursday, two men were seriously injured after their truck was petrol bombed in Durban in the fourth day of the road freight workers countrywide strike.
  • Incumbent Ivorian President Gbagbo has asked the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Community Court of Justice to declare the threat of force against him by ECOWAS Heads of State illegal, calling the proclamation a clear violation of the ECOWAS treaty that respects sovereignty of Member states.  Around 1,000 cocoa farmers and cooperative managers protested inside the regulatory body in Abidjan on Tuesday demanding an end to the cocoa export ban that many fear will ruin the industry and continued to protest on Thursday at the EU offices. On Wednesday, the UN Security Council decided to extend the temporary redeployment of peacekeeping units from Liberia to Cote d’Ivoire for up to three month. Long lines were seen outside several banks with people eagerly awaiting to withdraw their savings amid rumours of a cash shortage, after several international banks shut this week. By Friday, all banks closed as a result of international sanctions and Gbagbo announced that all major banks that had suspended business would be nationalized. The UNHCR has begun to relocate Ivorians in Liberia to a newly established camp further west of the border and hopes to move an estimated 15,000 into the camp over the next couple of weeks.
  • A man set himself on fire in front of the presidential palace in Senegal on Friday. A private radio station reported that the man was a soldier wearing his military fatigues when he set himself on fire. It was not immediately clear why he set himself on fire, but many suspect it is related to the similar protests in Tunisia and Egypt.
  • At least five people were killed and an additional 10 wounded on Tuesday after government forces fired on a demonstration against al-Shabaab in Somalia. On Thursday, Somaliland police announced they had seized a Somali Transitional Federal Government minister, under order from the break away republic of Somaliland.
  • Madagascar‘s exiled former leader Ravalomanana plans to return home on Saturday to help work on a solution to the leadership row triggered by his overthrow two years ago. The President dismissed the talk of return as a rumour aimed at dividing popular opinion and announced on Wednesday that if the ousted President enters the country he will be arrested.
  • The UN peacekeeping force in the DR Congo reported on Wednesday that Lt.-Col. Samuel Bisengimana, a senior member of the Forces democratiques de Liberation du Rwanda (FDLR) defected yesterday after year-long negotiations and has turned himself in under the DDR program. The FDLR has faced a major blow to its forces after three other Majors with the FDLR defected last month, and some 1,881 rebels, including 64 officers defected last year.
  • The last UN troops in Sierra Leone left the country on Thursday after 12 years in the country.
  • The parliament in Kenya ruled the nomination of top judicial figures by President Kibaki was unconstitutional on Thursday, reigniting a row that has pushed the coalition cabinet to the brink of collapse. Kibaki’s allies promised to contest the decision that is seen as a symbolic victory for PM Odinga.

Asia

  • On Saturday, the Taliban are said to have attacked a police headquarters in Afghanistan’s Kandahar city, killing at least 15 and wounding some 40. On Monday, a suicide bomber killed at least three people and wounded several others in an attack on a Kabul hotel in Afghanistan. The Afghan government announced it will be taking over the running of women’s shelters despite concerns from human-rights groups that the move could put lives at risk. The UN released a report on Monday citing that an increasing number of children have been killed and injured in the conflict, mostly by Taliban and other anti-government groups. In 2010, the report said women and children made up a greater proportion of those killed and injured than in 2009, with child casualties increasing 55%.  On Tuesday, a Finnish soldier was killed in an explosion in the north. On Thursday, NATO said it had detained three senior members of the Hizb-ul-Islami Gulbuddin insurgent group in separate operations; an Afghan police officer on a bike was run over and killed by an ISAF vehicle in Kabul; and an ISAF service member was killed during an insurgent attack in Kabul. On Friday, a suicide car bomb killed at least 8 people and injured scores of others in the eastern city of Khost.
  • The Kazakhstan opposition party says it intends to boycott the country’s presidential polls in April, as they complain the quick call does not allow them sufficient time to prepare an effective campaign. The leader of an environmental group however, says he will run despite the fact that he has “no chance” of winning.
  • An anti-terrorism court judge in Pakistan issued an arrest warrant for former military ruler Pervez Musharraf for his alleged connection in the 2007 assassination of Benazir Bhutto. Newsweek ran an interesting perspective on the record number of Predator drone strikes with an exclusive interview with a man who approved the operations.
  • A car-bomb exploded in southern Thailand, injuring 18 people on Sunday. Fighters have waged a violent campaign since 2004 that has left more than 4,440 dead.
  • Cambodia announced that it will ask the UN Security Council to help secure a “permanent ceasefire” with Thailand to help stop the deadly border dispute. The UNSC met in a closed-door meeting with foreign ministers from both countries to discuss the fighting. Cambodia has also asked the Southeast Asian group ASEAN to send observers to monitor the fragile ceasefire, a move thought likely to be resisted by Thailand. On Tuesday, the Thai and Cambodian troops are said to have clashed before dawn by Thailand, wounding one soldier, though Cambodia said it was unaware of any clash. Thousands of residents displaced by the recent fighting began to return to their homes on Wednesday.
  • North Korea‘s Kim Jong-il is said to have appointed his son Kim Jong-un to the second most powerful position within the regime, as vice chairman on the National Defense Commission. According to the US defense secretary, North Korea also appear close to finishing a new inter-continental ballistic missile launch site. Proliferation experts were skeptical noting that they have been largely unsuccessful for years. A North Korean has walked across the heavily mined border into South Korea during the “Dear Leader” birthday celebrations to the amazement of South Korean authorities. North Korea has allegedly asked all its 40 embassies to appeal to foreign governments for aid as it struggles to feed millions in an usually direct approach for the highly secretive regime. China told the UN Security Council members it plans to block the publication of the special report that accuses North Korea of violating sanctions on its nuclear programme.
  • Thirteen people were sentenced behind closed doors to between 6 and 10 years in prison for their alleged membership in the Islamic group called Jihadists in Uzbekistan. The verdict was only made public this week after relatives of the defendants appealed to seek information. Local and international rights group estimate that more than 10,000 practicing Muslims in the country are currently serving long prison sentences on charges of attempting to overthrow the constitutional order and install a theocracy.
  • The  government of Tajikistan intends to distribute copies of the Qu’ran translated into Tajik and the country’s constitution to 400,000 households in the southern province in a bid to stop the spread of radical Islam among young people. Homes would also be given copies of a law on national traditions and a proposed law that could ban children under 18 from attending prayer at mosques. Tajik and Russian border guards are discussing a new draft agreement on control of the Tajik-Afghan border, after a cooperation agreement has now expired.
  • A top member of Myanmar/Burma‘s junta has resigned from his seat in Parliament less than three weeks after he was sworn in. No reason was given for the move.
  • The Philippine government and Maoist communist rebels sat down for the first formal peace negotiations in more than 6 years on Tuesday despite the arrest of a senior insurgent on the eve of the talks. The government and the rebels have been in stop-start negotiations for nearly 25 years, during which some 40,000 people have been killed.
  • A human rights lawyer in China was detained by police after seeking to help another legal activist on Wednesday. His friends and family are concerned because he is still missing and they are unsure where he is being held.
  • The Interior Minister of the Azerbaijani enclave of Naxcivan has been accused of torturing a man who criticized police tyranny. Officials dismissed the claims as “nonsense”.

Americas

  • A US immigration and customs agent was killed and another wounded while driving through northern Mexico, in a suspected drug cartel attack. On Saturday, armed men opened fire and hurled a grenade into a crowded nightclub in Guadalajara, killing at least 6 people and wounding some 37.  On Sunday, eight people were gunned down by suspected drug gang hitmen in two incidents just outside Mexico City, while the police chief was killed in Monterrey.  On Monday, seven bodies were dumped in a northern town’s main square, while a further five people were shot to death inside their cars, and another person was killed in an attack on a bus. Five others were also reported as killed and the city hall and police headquarters damaged as a turf war raged between two drug cartels.
  • Two Cuban political prisoners have been released from prison, despite the fact that both men said they wanted to remain in jail until other opposition leaders were freed and other demands met. Sources say around 100 political prisoners remain jailed in Cuba.
  • Colombia‘s FARC rebels freed six  long-held hostages to a Red Cross commission this week, calling the move a humanitarian gesture to show their willingness to work towards peace. The rebels are still holding 15 police and soldiers for political leverage.

Middle East

  • The Palestinian Authority cabinet resigned on Monday in a move seen by some as a response to calls for democratic reform echoing around the Middle East, while the Palestinian leadership promised to hold long-overdue elections by September. Hamas said it would not take part in the elections, nor recognize their outcome. Elections have not been held since January 2006, where Hamas won an overall majority, but Abbas’s term as President expired two years ago. On Thursday, thousands of Palestinians rallied in Ramallah calling for unity between Hamas and Fatah factions. Libyan leader Gaddafi called on Palestinian refugees to capitalize on the wave of popular revolt in the Middle East by massing peacefully on the borders of Israel until it gives into their demands.
  • Turkey will insist on an apology from Israel for the blood flotilla raid from last year as a condition for mending ties, regardless of the findings of a UN investigation. Israel has broached the issue of compensation, but has not admitted it was at fault and both countries have come to contradictory conclusions in their reports over the handling of the situation. Israeli soldiers are said to have killed three Palestinians along the Gaza-Israeli border on Wednesday, with Gaza saying the men were fishermen working on nets on the short,  the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine claiming one men as a member of their group and the Israeli army saying the men were plotting to plant explosives.
  • Activists in Iran protested in central Tehran on Monday, despite a ban on the rally by authorities. They accused the government of hypocrisy in voicing their support for Egyptian and Tunisian protests while refusing to allow their own people to participate in a peaceful demonstration at home. Sporadic clashes erupted between hundreds of Iranians and security forces, while mobile phone connections were reportedly down in the area. Security forces also cut phone lines and blockaded the home of the opposition leader to prevent him from attending, while the former head of the state-controlled News Agency and another prominent opposition politician were both detained. The government is said to have established a special prosecutor’s office for those in the media and cultural fields found violating the strict Islamic codes of behaviour. Some relatives of the demonstrators who were arrested during protests in Tehran on February 14th are said to have been beaten or detained by special police units. Reports say that anywhere from dozens to some 1,500 protesters were arrested, and that several well-known political figures, activists and journalist are among those being held. On Tuesday, Iran’s parliament erupted with cries calling for the execution of opposition leaders thought to have directed Monday’s rally, as some 221 legislators signed a petition to this effect. The head of the judiciary rejected the demands on Thursday. One of the main opposition leaders was reported missing on Thursday, having been missing for two days already. Two Iranian warships withdrew their application to sail through the Suez canal after Israel described the move as a provocation on Wednesday night. Clashes between anti-government protesters and government supporters continued on Wednesday at Tehran University during the funeral of one of two students killed during Monday’s protests. On Friday, participants in a government-sponsored rally called for the two main opposition leaders to be executed.
  • Thousands of students have taken to the streets this week in Sanaa, Yemen, demanding the ousting of President Saleh, with security forces preventing the crowd from reaching its destination with razor wire only to disperse them throughout the city. On Wednesday, 2,000 policemen were dispersed within the capital to try and put down continuing protests. President Saleh has said he will not run for another term in elections in 2013, nor will he set up his son to succeed him. Clashes between police, protesters and government loyalists continued on Thursday, with more than a dozen people reported wounded and at least one confirmed death. Riots flared on Thursday night, with protesters in Aden setting fire to a local government building and security forces killing one demonstrator. Tens of thousands turned out for anti-government demonstrations across the country on Friday, resulting in at least three deaths after a hand grenade was thrown at protesters. Pro-government rallies are also said to be held in several cities.
  • Small-scale clashes were reported in two villages in Bahrain ahead of planned “Day of Wrath” protests on Monday. Police are said to have used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse protesters. More than 10,000 people taking part in a funeral procession for a man killed by security forces, found themselves under a barrage of police pellet bullets, that killed another young man. The main Shia party, al-Wifaq, announced that it was withdrawing from parliament, where it has 18 of the 40 seats. Army patrols and tanks are said to have locked down the capital on Thursday, with security forces forcefully cleared the camp of protesters in Pearl Square, killing at least four and causing hundreds of injuries.  Around 60 people are said to be missing after the raid on the protest camp. Thousands of mourners took to the streets calling for the downfall of monarchy on Friday. Reports, however, say that not everyone is thrilled about the prospect of democracy in the country, specifically many of the minority Sunni population who fear that this will mean the Shiite will then dominate.
  • The Iraqi defector, codenamed Curveball, who convinced the White House that Iraq had a secret biological weapons programme has admitted that he lied about his story and was shocked that it was used to justify the war. Curveball claimed that officials said his pregnant wife would not be able to join him in Germany if he didn’t cooperate. Germany’s former foreign minister has accused the former head of the CIA George Tenet of lying about the Curveball case, saying there were doubts about Curveball telling the truth far before the war began, despite Tenet’s assertion that he only found out in 2005. On Saturday, authorities unearthed more than 150 bodies in an area northeast of Baghdad that are thought to be from some of the worst fighting from the war; a roadside bomb wounded two sons of a government-backed militia leader outside his home near Tikrit; a roadside bomb went off near a police patrol, wounding three in southwestern Baghdad; a suicide bombing on a bus carrying Shi’ite pilgrims killed at least 33 in Samarra; and a roadside bomb wounded two civilians in Taji. On Sunday, gunmen opened fire on a police patrol, killing one policeman and wounding two others north of Baghdad; and a local government-backed militia leader was wounded in a roadside bomb attack. On Tuesday, Iraqis protested against corruption and joblessness across the country; a hand grenade targeting the central bank’s Mosul branch wounded two security guards and two civilians; a roadside bomb and a mortar shell exploded in southeast Baghdad wounding two civilians; a roadside bomb killed a civilian and wounded four others in Baghdad; a roadside bomb wounded a civilian in central Mosul; gunmen killed a civilian in front of his house in Kirkuk; and a grocery store owner was stabbed to death inside his shop in Kirkuk. On Wednesday, a bomb planted near a police station wounded two policemen south of Baghdad; gunmen in Mosul shot dead the head of the provincial government’s property registry office; and a roadside bomb exploded near a local police chief’s vehicle, wounding him and two others north of Baghdad. On Thursday, three people were reported killed and at least 14 wounded in clashes between protesters demanding better jobs and improved services and security forces in the eastern city of Kut; some 13 people were killed and 33 wounded when a bomb exploded at a car showroom in Muqdadiya; at least five people killed in Kurdistan after they tried to storm the political offices of the region’s leader; a leading cleric in the Sadrist movement was assassinated in Kerbala; gunmen killed a journalist near his home in Mosul; a roadside bomb wounded six Iranian pilgrims and one Iraqi in Taji; attackers stormed the house of a university professor and hanged him in western Baghdad; three mortar rounds landed in the Green Zone; and gunmen opened fire on a guard near an amusement park in west-central Baghdad, wounding him. Protests are also said to have spread to several Iraqi cities and continued through to Friday. Female university students in Baghdad are complaining about attempts being made by administrators to introduce the hijab as part of a compulsory uniform, a flagrant infringement on personal freedom as guaranteed by the Iraqi Constitution.
  • Clashes broke out on Friday between government supporters and opponents at a protest calling for more freedom and lower food prices in Jordan, injuring some 8 people. Jordanians protested the entire week.
  • Hezbollah’s leader told group members in Lebanon on Wednesday to be prepared to invade northern Israel if war breaks out, illustrating the fragile situation along the border over the past few years. Nasrallah warned Israel that Hezbollah would avenge the death of slain commander Imad Moughniyeh. Israel’s PM responded by saying that no one should doubt Israel’s determination to defend itself. The sixth anniversary of the assassination of former PM Hariri saw Beirut’s Martyrs’ Square largely empty, in striking contrast to past years when tens and sometimes even hundreds of thousands crowded the square. Many sense this demonstrates a shift in political momentum within the country following the recent government collapse that forced the younger Hariri out of office in January.

Europe

  • Police in Belarus have detained two young activists for distributing leaflets calling for the immediate release of other activists in jail. The two face charges for hooliganism. The campaign manager of a former opposition candidate was also arrested, charged with organizing mass unrest. 
  • Four military personnel in the Armenian Defense Ministry were arrested in connection with another noncombat death within the army after a 19-year-old conscript was found beaten to death by fellow soldiers. On Thursday, it was reported that Armenia and Georgia formally agreed to plans to jointly operate their three border crossings in an effort to facilitate trade and transport.
  • On Monday, two suicide bombers blew themselves up in front of police stations in Dagestan, killing three and injuring 26. At least 10 people died on Tuesday in clashes between police and militants in Chechnya.
  • The Italian PM Berlusconi faces trial on charges he paid for sex with a 17-year-old girl and then used his political position to try to cover it up, following massive protests across the country. Last month a court partially removed Berlusconi’s right to political immunity.
  • Belgium marked a near world record of 249 days without a government, due to political deadlock following June elections last year that failed to produce a clear winner. Many took to the streets in protest and celebration.

This week in conflict… February 5th-11th, 2011.

Hello all! Hope all is well with you!

Just a quick, WOW, to express my feelings over the happenings in Egypt this week. Our brothers and sisters in Tunisia and Egypt have given me great hope that a determined group of people really are capable of making change. It’s a great lesson for us all. I hope that the transitions come peacefully and that the people can find a new government that better represents them in the coming months. We are all very proud of your sacrifice! If there are any Egyptian or Tunisian readers out there who would like to share their personal stories of the events of the past few weeks with us, please feel free to send them my way! We’d be delighted to hear your thoughts and experiences.

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 World Social Forum kicked off this week in Senegal. The World Social Forum defines itself as an open space where those “opposed to neo-liberalism and a world dominated by capital or by any form of imperialism come together to pursue their thinking”. 
  • Former colleagues of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange have created an alternative website for leaks to be governed by what they characterize as a revised vision of radical transparency. The organization OpenLeaks, will begin work this summer.

Africa

  • On Saturday a series of mass resignations of the leadership of the leading party including Mubarak’s son Gamal did not shake the protesters in Egypt, who said it would not distract them from their core demand of Mubarak’s resignation. Mubarak resigned as the head of the ruling party, though announced he would be staying on as President until elections could be held.  An explosion rocked a gas terminal in the northern Sinai Peninsula, with mixed reports as to the cause, though the regional governor told the media he suspected “sabotage”. Another explosion hit a church in Rafah, although the cause was unclear. Egyptian opposition groups met with the VP on Sunday, stating that the meeting was positive, but yielded nothing specific to meet their demands. The government pledged to form a committee to propose political reforms and that it would not harass those protesting. US Secretary of State Clinton warned that removing the President too hastily could threaten the country’s transition to democracy. Protests continued with thousands of demonstrators camping out overnight in Tahrir Square on Monday, some barring access to the square’s administrative building and others sitting in the path of military tanks to prevent their retreat. The government announced a 15% increase in salaries and pensions for government employees and a date for opening the stock market, while Google executive and activist Wael Ghonim was released from prison. The leading opposition groups said they are standing by their demand that President Mubarak resign before there can be a political agreement to end the protests, and the Muslim Brotherhood said it would quit talks if demands were not met. A two hour battle ensued in Rafah between security forces and attackers with rocket-propelled grenades, after the security forces barracks were attacked. On Tuesday, the demonstrations swelled to hundreds of thousands, the largest to date. A few hundred Telecom Egypt workers protested for higher wages about a km from the square; while tens of thousands marched in Alexandria; thousands took to the streets of Nile Delta city; around 6,000 protested in central Suez; 3,000 in Ismailia; 2,000 outside a petroleum company demanding jobs; 3,000 Suez Canal company workers demanding better wages and conditions; and around 1,300 employees from a steel firm began a strike over pay. Authorities released 34 political prisoners from jail in the face of the uprising. Hundreds of government employees, musicians and university professors staged separate protests demanding better pay and conditions in Cairo on Wednesday, along with thousands of others from different state owned and private companies in several other cities. Thousands kept the demonstrations alive in Tahrir Square, Christians and Muslims protesting as one, while tens of thousands marched along the corniche in Alexandria and other protesters blocked parliament. A protester was killed and several suffered gunshot wounds after clashes erupted between security forces and protesters in a western province, while around 3,000 protesters demanding cheaper housing set ablaze the governorate headquarters in Port Said. The Foreign Minister warned of a possible army crackdown if protests continued. Four people were killed and several suffered gunshot wounds in clashes between security forces and protesters in a western province.  A member of the Muslim Brotherhood said he feared the army was staging a military coup on Thursday, but later retracted the comment. Thousands remained in Tahrir Square, joined by workers and union members who staged strikes, sit-ins and protests at firms and government agencies. Unidentified assailants attacked security force barracks in the border town of Rafah, opening fire and using rocket-propelled grenades. The Supreme Council of Egyptian Armed Forces met to discuss the ongoing protests, announcing that they would support the “legitimate demands of the people”, pledging to guarantee democratic elections and to lift emergency laws once the arrest was over. Mubarak addressed the nation with many suspecting his upcoming resignation, and instead announced he would hand over some power to his deputy, but would not stand down until elections could be held. Protesters were enraged and began planning even bigger protests in response.  On Friday, VP Suleiman announced that Mubarak was stepping down and handing over power to the armed forces, as jubilant demonstrators celebrated in the streets.
  • A riot broke out in a small Tunisian town, after police opened fire on demonstrators, killing four and wounding around 15 people. The next day, young protesters set a police headquarters on fire and tried to break open the local prison in the town in retaliation. In a west-central town, the new governor was forced to leave office in an army vehicle in the face of protests, while a young man was killed after he was hit by a tear gas canister during overnight clashes with security forces in another small town on Sunday. On Monday, the interior minister announced the suspension of ousted President Ben Ali’s Constitutional Democratic Assembly party, saying all meetings and gatherings by its members would be banned and offices throughout the country be shut down. On Tuesday the government asked military reservists to report for duty in a new drive to help restore order. The EU announced its targeted sanction measures had come into effect against persons responsible for embezzling Tunisian public funds, including the ousted Ben Ali and his wife, and 46 others. Authorities announced on Friday that they had detained an armed group linked to ousted President Ben Ali, suspected of involvement in a recent wave of violence.
  • The Nigerian Army has vowed to rise up to tackle the growing security concerns in the country and attempt to nip them in the bud. The rebel group Boko Haram gave conditions this week to enable its members to stop slaughtering innocent Nigerians in the North, which include the State Governor stepping down from office immediately and allowing its members to reclaim their mosque in the state capital. Voter registration has been wrapped up with more than 70 million Nigerians eligible to register and campaigning is now underway for April’s election.
  • Religious leaders in the Acholi region of Uganda have expressed concerns over alleged irregular deployment of the Uganda People’s Defence Forces ahead of the elections. An army captain suggested that the movements were tactical to counteract problematic candidates and their supporters who could cause commotions after the polls. The police have suggested that they believe terrorists are targeting Kampala before the elections, saying they have received “credible information” of a plan. The Chief of the Defense Forces said the army will respect the poll results and uphold constitutional provisions.
  • The UN said it would be investigating claims that Zimbabwe sent weapons to Cote d’Ivoire last month as part of an arms-for-oil exchange agreement. Several thousand pro-Gbagbo youths took to the streets on Saturday in Abidjan to protest the presence of Burkina Faso’s president on the AU mediation team, who they accuse of abetting the 2002 rebellion. On Monday, a scuffle broke out at a police station in a northern Abidjan district after demonstrators took to protest alleged abuses by security forces,  ransacking two police stations. Witnesses suggest as many as six were killed by paramilitary gunfire, though authorities claimed to have no information about any deaths. On Wednesday, Gbagbo’s government officially banned UN radio broadcasts, though the broadcasts could still be heard on unofficial frequencies.
  • A ZANU-PF mob is said to have destroyed property worth thousands of dollars, mainly those belonging to foreign owned companies on Monday in Zimbabwe. Police are said to have stood by watching as shop owners and civilians were being abused and brutalized. On Thursday, Mugabe purported that the official time for the government of national unity had ended, in his continued plot to force early elections.
  • Some 66 people were killed in fighting between factions of Sudan’s northern army in Southern Sudan on Saturday over whether they and their weapons should transfer to the north or mutiny. The semi-autonomous regional government in South Sudan has started to make its preparations to declare its independence, following the final result announcement on Monday. Northern Sudan’s president al-Bashir has said he accepts the results of the referendum and that he is committed to good relations with the south.  Experts are still concerned however, of the unresolved crisis in Abyei that continues to pose a major security threat in the contested borderlands, as the promised referendum could not be held due to a heated debate between the north and south over which populations should be eligible to vote. A coalition of Sudanese opposition parties has voiced its support for the ongoing protests in Egypt on Wednesday. On Thursday, a government force backed by local militias is said to have launched attacks against villages in Dar es Salaam in North Darfur, carrying out searches, beatings, torture, pillage, looting and widespread destruction of the villages. A south Sudan minister and his bodyguard were shot dead in an apparent personal dispute. Security forces are said to have briefly detained and beaten an opposition leader while she traveled to petition for the release of protesters detained two weeks ago.  At least 16 people were said to have been killed in clashes between rebels and the army in south Sudan’s Jonglei state on Wednesday, breaking a ceasefire agreed upon last month. On Friday, the death toll from these clashes rose to 105 fighters and civilians reported as killed. On Thursday, the Khartoum government announced that it will return to Doha to resume constultations to reach a peace in Darfur with rebel groups one month after it had withdrawn from negotiations.
  • Kenyan PM Odinga demanded on Saturday that investigations be conducted on politicians who encourage ethnic politics, fearing that it could spark fresh violence in the country. Land conflicts continue to simmer in the Rift Valley, as plans to resettle IDPs has led to a standoff between the government and Maasai leaders who oppose the resettlement. Authorities have launched their campaign at the UN to defer prosecution of the Ocampo Six (those believed most responsible for crimes against humanity during the 2007-8 post-election violence) by the International Criminal Court, citing that the transformation of key institutions have renewed confidence in the domestic prosecuting capabilities .
  • Cape Verde held its parliamentary elections on Sunday, with voters optimistic of a smooth outcome. The nation has long been a haven of stability in a region prone to coups and wars. On Monday, the main opposition party conceded defeat, but technical problems prevented official results from being published.
  • A suspected al-Qaeda member blew himself up in southern Mauritania on Saturday, after being cornered by security forces. A second suspect was captured alive.
  • Charles Taylor’s lawyer stormed out of his war crimes trial this week after judges refused to accept a written summary of the former Liberian President’s defense because it was filed 20 days after the January 14th deadline. Taylor is the first former African head of state to be tried by an international court on 11 charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity, including murder, torture and using child soldiers. Taylor and his defense lawyers then boycotted the final stage of the proceedings, contending that the court was unfair and driven by politics. Judges were forced to adjourn the trial on Wednesday and have threatened to take action against the defense counsel for storming out of the courtroom. On Thursday, the judges issued an order for the lawyer to appear before them on Friday and that unless he apologizes for his actions they will impose sanctions on him. On Friday, Taylor and his lawyer were granted the right to appeal over key documentation.
  • The Rwandan Hutu FDLR in the DR Congo is said to be weakening and the threat it poses could ultimately disappear. A UN envoy said that for the first time the outlines can be seen of an eventual resolution. The pioneering “mobile gender court” in the DRC has gone to trial with 11 government soldiers accused of raping more than 60 women on New Year’s Day in Fizi. The court travels to remote communities that have little access to conventional courts and has so far recorded 94 rape convictions and trained 150 judicial police officers, 80 lawyers and 30 magistrates.
  • More than 3,000 people were displaced following a five-hour-long battle on Monday between the Somaliland National Army and militia groups in Hargeisa, Somalia. The clashes are said to have killed at least 32 and injured as many as 60.

Asia

  • Fighting continued this week along the Thai-Cambodian border, near an 11th century temple that has been caught in the crossfire. The temple belongs to Cambodia under a 1962 World Court ruling, but is highly disputed among many Thais. Thailand announced a ceasefire on Saturday after clashes killed at least 5 people, while Cambodia called for UN peacekeepers to help end the fighting on Monday. Thailand announced plans on Tuesday to invoke special security laws in Bangkok to cope with political rallies, which include curfews, checkpoints, and restricting movements of protesters. “Yellow Shirt” protesters are currently gathered outside the PM’s office and have called an anti-government rally for Friday.  On Thursday, suspected Muslim separatists shot and killed three Buddhists in the south. Around 20,000 stateless people living along the southern Thai-Burmese border may receive Thai nationality after nearly 20 years without when the amendments to the Thai nationality bill are reviewed by parliament on February 15th.
  • Bangladesh’s main opposition party has called a general strike against the government’s alleged failure to run the country effectively. Schools, businesses and transportation are said to have been disrupted. Police say that at least 8 buses were set on fire Sunday night, and that a homemade bomb exploded on a university campus, injuring two people. The strike continued on Monday, with scores wounded, and at least 70 activists detained.
  • Myanmar/Burma’s pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi has urged the west to maintain sanctions on the country, saying the embargo affected the military more than the general population.
  • Six civilians were killed in a feud between two rebel groups in the southern Philippines, police announced on Monday. 19 are said to have died since the clashes erupted a month ago as rival groups battle for control of valuable rice farming land on Mindanao island. Police say the emergence of a splinter group in the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) separatist movement is a serious risk to sustaining a ceasefire ahead of peace talks to be held in Kuala Lumpur.  On Thursday, the government resumed peace talks with MILF, amid reports of dissent and some fighters eager to leave the ranks. The Philippino armed forces allegedly illegally diverted some $55 million in UN payments for peacekeepers to an account at a private bank.
  • Kazakh police detained two Al-Jazeera journalists, confiscating their videotapes that recorded interviews of the wives of jailed Uzbek refugees. On Wednesday, it was reported that the wives of two young Uzbek asylum seekers face imminent deportation from Kazakhstan, while their husbands are held in jail.
  • Three people were killed and two wounded in a car bomb attack near the Afghan border in Pakistan on Saturday; while authorities found the bodies of four men killed by militants on the suspicion of spying for the US. On Monday, two separate explosions at police stations caused damage, but no injuries in Karachi; gunmen attacked five NATO fuel supply trucks near the Afghani border; and militants are said to have opened fire on a police patrol in the northwest, wounding 8 policemen. On Tuesday, a policeman was killed and three others wounded in a bomb attack in Peshawar; four NATO fuel supply trucks caught fire after small bombs planted underneath exploded in a market near Peshawar; and two paramilitary soldiers were killed and another two wounded in a roadside bomb attack near Bannu. On Wednesday, a bomb killed one person and wounded five others in the northwest; four low-intensity bombs exploded near police stations and government buildings in the central city of Gujranwala with no reported casualties; and a Greek national was found dead in a hotel in Karachi.  On Thursday, a teenage suicide bomber in a school uniform blew himself up at an army training camp in the northwest, killing at least 27 soldiers and wounding up to 40; Taliban militants shot and killed two policemen, a school teacher and a construction worker alleged by the killers to be American spies; and India and Pakistan announced that the two countries would resume peace talks that have been stalled since 2008.
  • Two ISAF service members are said to have been killed in separate homemade bomb attacks on Saturday in Kabul, Afghanistan. A teenage suicide blew himself up near a group of US soldiers and Afghan officials inside a customs office near Kandahar on Monday, killing an interpreter and wounding five others, while a gunmen shot dead a district chief in the east. Also on Monday, an ISAF service member was killed by a homemade bomb in Kabul; and an Afghan child was killed in a NATO airstrike in Helmand. A NATO official announced on Monday that nearly 900 militants are said to have quit fighting and enrolled in an Afghan government program. On Tuesday, an ISAF service member was killed by a homemade bomb in Kabul; one person was killed and another 9 wounded in two separate bomb attacks in Jalalabad; and a mine attached to a police car exploded in Kabul with no injuries. The Afghanistan Rights Monitor released a report on Wednesday claiming that of the 2,421 civilians the group registered as casualties in conflict-related incidents last year, about 739 were under the age of 18– approximately 2 a day. President Karzai urged the US to release a Taliban official being held at Guantanamo Bay back to Afghanistan to join in reconciliation talks, while the US expressed reluctance to release the prisoner. Also on Wednesday, two ISAF service members were killed in an insurgent attack in Kabul; and a retired US Customs and Border Protection officer working in a civilian capacity was killed alongside an Afghan interpreter in a suicide bombing at a customs office in Kandahar, while three other retired CBP officials and two ISAF service members were wounded. On Thursday, a suicide bomber blew himself up inside a government building, killing a district governor and two other people; while NATO-led troops killed a man identified as a Taliban militant in Kabul.  A cell of suicide bombers active in Kabul is said to have been run for three years by a Taliban commander operating from inside the city’s main prison. New evidence of offers by the Taliban leadership to reconcile with the Karzai government after the fall of the Taliban in 2001 released this week challenged the central justification for the US-NATO war inthe country.
  • A gruesome video depicting hundreds of shouting villagers carrying machetes and sticks, then killing at least 3 people and wounding half a dozen others while police officers look on has created great controversy in Indonesia. Advocates say that the attack, in full view of the authorities is a clear sign that the government is turning a blind eye to mob violence against a range of religious minorities. On Tuesday, hundreds of radicals set two churches on fire and attacked a court in central Java, calling for harsh punishment for a Christian on trial for blasphemy.
  • Senior military officials from the two Koreas met for talks this week in a border village. The talks, the first meeting since tensions escalated in November, are supposed to lay the foundations for higher-level discussions later in the year.  On Wednesday, it became clear that the talks were to end in failure, after North Korea allegedly refused Seoul’s demands to apologize for shelling Yeonpyeong island and both parties simultaneously walked out without scheduling further talks. On Thursday, North Korea reacted angrily to the breakdown of talks, calling the South “scoundrels” and “traitors” who were not interested in genuine dialogue, and releasing a statement that they would no longer participate in military talks with the South.
  • Eight alleged members of the banned Hizb ut-Tahrir organization were detained in Kyrgyzstan. Kyrgyz and Tajik defense ministers met this week to discuss regional security, days after the Kyrgyz President expressed concern that terrorists could cross into the country from Tajikistan. The Kyrgyz President replaced the controversial chief of the National News Agency on Thursday following a strike of journalists who refused to work with him.
  • A leading figure in the Tajikistan Islamic opposition party was hospitalized after being beaten up on his way to work this week. The leader is an outspoken critic of the government. The main opposition party in Tajikistan accused the government on Wednesday of violating civil rights and neglecting its people.
  • Taiwan has detained a major general on charges of providing classified military information to rival China. The alleged spy was supposedly recruited in 2004 and many worry that China may have intensified its espionage despite the recent reconciliation between the two countries.
  • A few thousand opposition supporters marched in Colombo, Sri Lanka on Wednesday to demonstrate against higher food prices. Protesters say that most eat only one meal a day because they cannot afford more.
  • A high-profile Chinese grassroots lawyer and his wife were allegedly severely beaten after secretly filming a video documenting their house arrest. Chen Guangcheng describe their experience of being smuggled out of his family’s village and being held in house arrest for the past five months, but are now said to be beaten so severely they cannot move from bed and are not allowed to go to a hospital.

Americas

  • Former US President George W. Bush has been indicted for torture by the Berlin-based European Centre for Constitutional and Human Rights and the Paris-based International Federation for Human Rights, who prepared a 2,500 page torture case against him for deciding the Geneva Conventions didn’t apply to “enemy combatants”. Some Vermont towns have also followed suit by voting to arrest Bush or Cheney for “crimes against the Constitution” should they visit the region. 
  • Haitian President Preval announced on Monday that he would stay in office for three extra months, until after the March 20th runoff can choose his successor. His term had been scheduled to end Monday. Several hundred protesters clashed with riot police on Monday to demand that Preval leave office immediately. On Tuesday, Haitian officials issued a diplomatic passport for former President Aristide to return to the country after years in exile.
  • Hundreds of indigenous Brazilians have been protesting the capital, Brasilia, against the construction of a hydro-electric dam in the Amazon river basin. Environmentalists say the dam will harm the rainforest. Leaders delivered a petition signed by more than 600,000 people demanding the government scrap the $10 billion project.
  • Amnesty International has petitioned the government of Puerto Rico to investigate the use of excessive force against students protesting against a special tuition fee at the University of Puerto Rico by police. On Thursday, the Puerto Rican Association of University Professors held a walk out in protest against the police’s occupation of the campus. Protests have been ongoing on campus for several weeks.
  • Legislators from the socialist party of President Hugo Chavez and their rivals exchanged punches in parliament on Thursday in Venezuela after the Socialist party legislator tried to remove an opposition member from the speaker’s podium. The brawl was broadcast live on television and radio stations, but was pulled abruptly from most networks after the violence began.

Middle East

  • A parked car bomb exploding wounding nine civilians in Samarra, Iraq on Saturday; while gunmen wounded four Iraqi soldiers at a checkpoint in Abu Ghraib; a car bomb wounded two civilians north of Baghdad; a roadside bomb targeting a provincial council member wounded two of his guards north of Baghdad; and a roadside bomb wounded an Iraqi soldier in Mosul.  On Monday, a roadside bomb wounded two government workers in Taji; a roadside bomb wounded two security guards and a civilian in Baquba; two policemen were wounded in a roadside bomb attack in Mosul; two roadside bombs exploded south of Baghdad, killing an Iraqi army officer and a woman; a roadside bomb wounded two soldiers and two civilians in northeastern Baghdad; and two people were wounded in a roadside bomb in western Baghdad. On Tuesday, two bombs went off near a police patrol, wounding two people in Mosul; police found the body of a man with a gunshot wound to the head in Kirkuk, while another was found seriously wounded; and a roadside bomb killed a Brigadier General outside his house in western Baghdad, while a second bomb exploded at the scene when police and army arrived, wounding two soldiers, one policeman and one civilian. On Wednesday, car bombs are said to have killed at least 7 and wounded as many as 80 in Kirkuk; a roadside bomb killed two Iraqi soldier and wounded two others on patrol in the northwest; a bomb wounded six people in eastern Baghdad; and a bomb wounded two people in northern Baghdad. On Thursday, hundreds of lawyers took to the streets in cities across the country to protest widespread corruption and unemployment; a car bomb exploded near a procession of Shiite pilgrims in Samarra, killing nine and wounding some 39; the body of a tortured man was found in northern Baghdad; a roadside bomb exploded near an Iraqi army patrol, wounding one soldier in Mosul; another roadside bomb went off near a police patrol wounding a policeman in western Mosul; and a girl was wounded in a roadside bomb attack in western Mosul. Amnesty International released a new report where they allege that Iraqi security forces use torture and other ill-treatment to extract confessions when detainees are held incommunicado, and that dozens of detainees have died as a result.
  • Syrian authorities have announced they will be lifting a five-year ban on Facebook in an apparent “appeasement” measure aimed at staving off unrest. The President also said he would push through political reforms this year aimed at initiating municipal elections, granting more power to NGOs and establishing a new media law.
  • The Palestinian Authority has set July 9th as the date for their local elections. No elections have been held since 2006.
  • Iranian opposition leader Mehdi Karroubi was placed under house arrest after he allegedly called for renewed street protests against the government. Demonstrations were to be held Monday in solidarity with Egypt and Tunisia.
  • Jordanian King Abdullah swore in a new government on Wednesday, led by a former general who has promised to widen public freedoms in response to anti-government protests. The new 27-minister cabinet is dominated by conservative politicians and tribal loyalists as opposed to western leaning, pro-business reformists who held sway in previous administrations.
  • Ten moderate Saudi Arabian scholars say they’ve formed the first political party within the country and have asked the king for recognition. Following the turmoil in Egypt and Tunisia, there have been demands for reforms in the country which follows strict Islamic rule.  The group has stated that it’s time to endorse political rights, including the right to elect a government, promote the role of women in society and preserve women’s rights.

Europe

  • The leader of Russia’s Islamist rebel movement vowed to make 2011 “a year of blood and tears” by stepping up attacks on the Russian heartland. A new US-Russian nuclear arms control treaty, known as START, went into effect on Saturday. The treaty is said to be the first major revamping of nuclear disarmament deals since the late Cold War era and marks significant progress towards a world without nuclear weapons. A journalist at the Guardian was expelled from the country after reporting on the WikiLeaks cables that Russia had become a “virtual mafia state” under the rule of Putin. Russian police say they have arrested the leaders and a few dozen members of two organized criminal groups in the eastern region. President Medvedev ordered the deployment of additional weaponry on the disputed Kurile Islands claimed by both Japan and Russia on Wednesday; while a blast of unknown origins was heard in Grozny, Chechnya.
  • Tens of thousands of nationalist supporters in Serbia protested on Saturday against their pro-Western government, demanding early parliamentary elections. The opposition leaders announced they would “blockade” the capital if their demands are not met within the next two months.
  • Thousands of Albanian opposition supporters are said to have taken to the streets last Friday, demanding that the government step down over corruption and electoral fraud allegations. The opposition has vowed to demonstrate every Friday. A protester shot in the head during protests died in hospital on Saturday, bringing the death toll to four.
  • Experts warn that escalating violence, a spiraling arms race and a slowdown of peace talks have increased the risk of war between Armenia and Azerbaijan. The International Crisis Group reported that skirmishes could easily spiral out of control, causing devastating regional consequences.
  • The banned political wing of the Basque separatist group ETA announced it had formed a new political party that rejects the use of violence and that it intends to contest upcoming municipal elections. The group has not carried out an attack since its announcement of a ceasefire in September.
  • Turkish police detained 35 suspected members of the outlawed Turkish Islamist militant group Hizbullah on Monday. The group (not connected to the Lebanese Hezbollah group) emerged in the late 80s and is said to have killed scores of people, targeting mainly Kurdish separatist rebel sympathizers.
  • Greek police clashed with residents protesting a planned landfill dump close to an archaeological site on Tuesday. Police fired several rounds of teargas at residents, who hurled petrol bombs and stones at them. More protests happened on Wednesday in Athens, as Greek doctors, health workers and pharmacists walked off the job and marched to parliament to protest against an EU/IMF reform aimed at reducing debt by cutting health care spending.
  • The KGB in Belarus searched the office of a lawyer representing a jailed opposition leader on Thursday, demanding to see all documents pertaining to his professional activities. The search is said to be in violation of Belorussian law.
  • The Ukrainian President is said to be overseeing a broad crackdown on the pro-Western opposition, and carrying out investigations into opposition leaders. Opposition leaders are calling the inquiries a political witch hunt, as former PM Tymoshenko was barred from leaving Kiev, even though she has not been arrested.

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.

    This week in conflict… January 22nd-28th, 2011

    World

    • A new theory about hunger charges that traders in the global commodity markets are making billions from speculating on food while causing food prices to yo-yo and inflate. Changes to “hedging” rules in the mid-90s caused foods to be turned into “derivatives” that could be bought and sold among traders that had nothing to do with agriculture, while the 2006 sub-prime disaster in the US caused billions of dollars to be moved into safe commodities, especially foods. Some suggest that the food markets are now heavily distorted by investment banks, to the detriment of the world’s poor. In light of the recent demonstrations across northern Africa, experts are advising policymakers to better control food prices and have released a new guide on how to properly do that.
    • A new report suggests that electronics company Apple is polluting and poisoning the environment, despite their claims of environmental stewardship. The report was put out by a Chinese activist group IPE.
    • The United States Institute of Peace has released a report on gender in conflict, that discusses masculinity concerns in conflict and peacebuilding. The report suggests that the narrow approach to gender (which is often synonymous with women) fails to include masculinity issues in analysis, having important consequences on policy interventions. Women may be combatants or direct participants in sexual violence, though this is often overlooked.
    • Human Rights Watch’s annual report was released on Monday, and was particularly critical of Ban Ki-moon, the Secretary General, for failing to speak out more forcefully against human rights abuses. The report suggests that Ban sometimes went out of his way to portray repressive governments in a positive light and that this has filtered down through the system and made people reticent to speak out on abuses in places like Zimbabwe and Sri Lanka. This year again, I speak my concerns that the report does not address western countries, aside from the US, who are also guilty of human rights abuses but often go unpunished and unnoticed.
    • More than 2,000 business, government, civil society and academia leaders met in Switzerland to discuss a wide array of issues, including the rise of India and China as global powers, anxieties about European debt, austerity, joblessness, the risk of runaway inflation in fast-growing economies, and the failings of the global economic system (such as poverty and inequality), at the 41st World Economic Forum. The meeting is said to be protected by tight security of some 4,000 troops. The head of JP Morgan delivered an angry speech against “banker bashing”, complaining that the entire industry is being tarred with the same brush and implying that bankers have become political whipping boys. On Wednesday, police evacuated a building and removed a suspicious object after a group said they had targeted the St. Gallen business school to coincide with the Forum. A small blast thought to be caused by fireworks at the hotel close to the Forum shattered two windows on Thursday; was later claimed by an anonymous poster who said it was directed at the Swiss government officials and senior executives of the Swiss bank UBS staying at the hotel. UN Secretary-General called the world’s current economic model an environmental “global suicide pact” that will have disastrous results if not reformed at the forum on Friday.
    • The FAO, IFAD, and ILO released a new report on gender dimensions of agricultural and rural development that gives trends and statistics about proportions of women in agriculture versus men. The report argues that women are hampered by persistent gender inequalities.
    • A biologist at Colorado State University is developing a plant that can detect explosives. The biologist has done so by engineering the plant’s DNA so that it turns white when it comes into contact with certain chemicals found in explosives.

    Africa

    • Sudan Armed Forces announced late Friday that it had killed 13 rebels and lost 8 soldiers in  clashes with armed groups in North Darfur. On Sunday, the AU-UN Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) announced that the Sudanese authorities conducted a raid on internally displaced people (IDPs) to search for weapons and other illegal items, that violated the Status of Force Agreement in place and that the UNAMID forces had stepped up their presence in a camp for IDPs in North Darfur in response. UNAMID also confirmed reports of intense fighting between the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and Sudan Liberation Army/Minni Minnawi in Tabit, though they have been prevented from entering the area by SAF forces invoking security concerns. Provisional results and documents on the referendum vote suggest that their were irregularities, with more than 100% of people registered in seven of the 76 counties in the south voting, but that they were small and unlikely to change the overall results. The ICRC organized a transfer of 31 released soldiers between the Sudanese government and the Justice and Equality Movement. The satellite mapping project launched by human rights activists says images captured during South Sudan’s referendum this month confirm reports that Sudanese troops were deployed in strategic areas along the North-South border during the vote. Sudanese President al-Bashir vowed on Tuesday to step down if he ever felt that the people do not want him during a rally in reference to the recent uprisings in other African nations. An independent south Sudan has announced it will consider joining the International Criminal Court (ICC), the body that has indicted Sudan’s president for war crimes and genocide. Fighting between the government and rebel groups in North and South Darfur is said to be returning to past patterns of violence, displacing tens of thousands of people. On Thursday, it was reported that Sudan’s army had bombed rebel positions in Darfur and later surrounded and threatened to burn down a refugee camp. UN peacekeepers are also said to have been threatened by the forces.
    • The Central African Republic voted on Sunday, amid voting delays with around 1.8 million out of 4.8 million registered voters voting. Results are to be announced within 8 days, with either incumbent Bozize (who seized control in 2003), Ange-Felix Patasse (the ex-President ousted by Bozize returning from exile) or Martin Ziguele (a former PM of Patasse) being the top runners. On Monday, the opposition party denounced irregularities and presented a long list of grievances, including alleged fictitious and displaced polling stations and problematic voter rolls. By Wednesday, three of the five candidates in the election were calling on the polls to be annulled.
    • The protesting continued in Tunisia, with police using teargas to try and disperse them, as protesters gathered at the PM’s office in an effort to remove the government linked to ousted President Ben Ali. On Saturday, the PM pledged to leave Tunisian politics after elections, and that all undemocratic laws would be scrapped in the transition to democracy. On Sunday, the owner of a private TV station and his son were arrested for “grand treason” for allegedly inciting violence and working for ousted leader Ben Ali’s return, concerning several rights activists who said the move was a sign that the protests were unnerving authorities. On Monday, the general of the army spoke publicly for the first time since Ben Ali’s ousting, pledging to uphold the revolution and urging patience until elections can be held; and the Paris prosecutor’s office said it was opening a preliminary investigation to determine Ben Ali’s assets in France. On Wednesday, Tunisian authorities asked for international arrest warrants to be issued for Ben Ali and members of his family for possession of expropriated property and transferring foreign currency abroad. Rival protests continued in the capital, with hundreds rallying in favour of the interim government, and another part demonstrating against the government. It is said that “speakers’ corners” are now flourishing within the country. By Wednesday, the Minister of Justice announced that nearly 700 people had been arrested during the unrest on suspicions of “sabotage, violence, and looting”, while some 74 prisoners are said to have died in the uprising. Authorities had also dissolved an agency which acted as an effective censor of foreign media during the rule of Ben Ali, and suggested that the Interior, Defence and Foreign Affairs Ministers would all be replaced as part of the cabinet reshuffle. The reshuffle resulted in the replacement of five key ministers from the Ben Ali government on Friday.
    • The fifth round of UN-backed informal talks on the Western Sahara dispute concluded on Sunday, with Morocco and Frente Polisario agreeing to continue the talks in March. Morocco has presented a plan for autonomy while the Polisario’s position is that the territory’s status should be decided in a referendum on self-determination that includes independence as an option.
    • Civil society organizers in Liberia are expressing grave concern over corrupt practices that they say are marring the voter registration process. They fear that the flawed registration process could lead to a chaotic election.
    • The extra-judicial killings of three suspected criminals by police that was caught on tape last Wednesday has Kenyan rights groups outraged. Despite denials by the government, many suggest that the police have been systematically executing suspected criminals, with the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights saying it received 55 cases of alleged police shootings last year.
    • Voter registration problems continued to plague Nigeria this week, with claims that some Direct Data Capture machines used to register were already loaded with over 1,000 names, thumb-prints and pictures before they were even unpacked. Several regions had yet to be supplied with the machines five days into the process, some received medical scanners instead of registration machines, some witnessed protests, some people had fears that HIV/AIDs victims would be rejected by the machines and refused to expose themselves, while other regions had to spend long times registering each person and suggested that the time frame for the registration may need to be extended. On Monday, the army said that gunmen killed a soldier guarding a church in the northeastern part of the country, but did not confirm who was behind the shooting. A new bomb, which allegedly dropped by parachute from an unidentified aircraft, was reportedly found at a primary school in Enugu State on Monday night. On Tuesday, the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission and the commissioners were reviewing the performance of the registration exercise and exploring the possibility of an extension, which is deemed likely.  On Wednesday, House Representatives okayed a four week extension on voter registration and members of the late President Yar’Adua’s family denounced their membership with the ruling PDP party and moved to the opposition CPC party; while renewed violence in Bauchi killed 10. On Thursday, 14 were killed in new violence in Jos, and 29 armed Fulani herdsmen were arrested.
    • Tanzanian MP David Kafulila announced he would table a motion on a vote of no confidence in the government if it pays the firm Dowans over breach of contract. Last year, the ICC ordered Tanzania Electricity Supply Company to pay Dowans TSh 106 billion (some $70 million USD) for the breach. A civilian reader of A Peace of Conflict in Tanzania sent information that there was chaos, threats of demonstration and riots over the concern among the general population.
    • ECOWAS’s leaders are saying they have little option left in Cote d’Ivoire but to deploy ECOWAS standby force to remove Gbagbo from office and install opposition Ouattara after the disputed Presidential elections. The Nigerian Foreign Affairs Minister  has urged the UN to sanction the use of force. A new delegation from ECOWAS will meet with US President Obama and the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to discuss the crisis. On Saturday, the Banque Central des Estats d’Afrique de l’Ouest (Central Bank of West African States), forced an alleged Gbagbo crony to resign his post as governor of the bank under pressure from the region’s leaders and instead requested Ouattara nominate a new candidate. On Monday, Ugandan leader Museveni described the UN’s recognition of Ouattara’s win “simplistic” and called upon an independent investigation, suggesting that the UN had overstepped its role in selecting a winner. On Wednesday, it was reported that Gbagbo had moved to seize local branches of the regional central bank in face of the increasing financial sanctions and that utilities were also seized. A growing number of African nations are said to be backing away from calls for military intervention as African Union leaders are divided about how to continue. Human Rights Watch reported that security forces have carried out torture, rape, forced disappearances and extra-judicial killings, and that militiamen loyal to Gbagbo are imposing a “reign of terror” against Ouattara supporters, though their research was focused only within Abidjan.
    • Uganda’s upcoming elections are facing possible crisis, as opposition leaders demanded they be postponed on Tuesday until more than four million newly-registered voters were issued their voting cards. They charged that the official figure of 13.9 million voters on the provisional register don’t add up in a country of 32 million where 56% of the population is under 18. The government responded that it would not be possible to postpone the vote and dismissed the case to issue voting cards before the elections. Incumbent Museveni said in an interview with the BBC that he would retire if he lost in the democratic process but that he expected to win by a big majority. Security chiefs have assured Ugandans of peace and stability during the February 18th elections, while 34 observers from the EU Election Observer Mission arrived in the country ahead of the polls. One of Uganda’s most prominent gay rights activists was bludgeoned to death in his home on Wednesday, just weeks after winning a court victory over a tabloid that called for homosexuals to be killed. Meanwhile a lesbian being deported back to the country from Britain have been told by a Ugandan MP that she must “repent or reform” when she returns home, sparking fears for the safety of those being deported.
    • Anti-government protesters in Egypt clashed with police this week (you can follow the live updates here), inspired by the Tunisian demonstrations. At least 30 had been reported as arrested on Tuesday, but this number was reported as high as 500 by Wednesday and listed as over a thousand by Thursday. A British journalist with the Guardian describes a telling story of the abuse he received at the hands of the police. The President’s son and family are said to have fled to London on Tuesday, as some four people died in protests that went well into the night. On Wednesday, it appears Egyptian access to facebook, facebook and live vide streaming site Bambuser were denied in order to prevent activists from using those websites used extensively to coordinate their efforts, while later there were reports that the country had descended into a complete internet and SMS blackout with the possibility of landlines even being cut. Despite the outlawing by authorities on Tuesday of any public gatherings and promise of “immediate” arrest, the protests continued. On Thursday, angry demonstrators torched a police post in Suez, while police are said to have responded by firing rubber-coated bullets, water cannons and teargas. The Egyptian dissident Mohamed ElBaradei warned the President on the fourth day of protests (Friday) that his regime was “on its last legs”, while the President announced a curfew in the main cities to run from 6pm to 7am.
    • UN investigators are said to have many more women than previously thought who were raped by Congolese soldiers during a New Year’s rampage. A senior army commander accused of ordering the rapes was arrested on Friday. Investigators have so far documented at least 67 women, including a teenager and two pregnant women. Medicins Sans Frontieres (Doctors without Borders) expressed their concern this week that some 600 nomadic herders in the Northern Congo were being forced to continually flee after being targeted by the FADRC (Congolese Army). The French police handed over Rwandan rebel leader Callixte Mbarushimana to the ICC in the Hague on Tuesday, on charges of rape, murder, torture, and other atrocities committed during a terror campaign against Congolese citizens. On Friday, it was reported that armed men had raped 60 people, men, women and children, in the eastern part of the country in the last ten days.
    • The African Union peacekeepers in Somalia apologized for Mogadishu civilian casualties after AU soldiers opened live gunshots on civilians who rushed to help a boy accidentally hit by a vehicle. On Tuesday, at least 4 civilians were said to be wounded when their bus came under fire by the AU forces. At least 10 people, mostly fighters, are said to have been killed in central Somalia on Tuesday in battles between al Shabaab and a pro-government militia. The UN and the AU held a high-level meeting this week to review efforts to achieve peace, security and reconciliation in the country in Ethiopia. At least 10 people, including six civilians, were killed in Mogadishu on Wednesday in street battles between al-Shabaab and Somali government forces and AMISOM as the civil war marks its 20th year. The government canceled an agreement with Saracen International, a private security company linked to Blackwater, to train Somali forces on Thursday.
    • Australia is warning of the possibility of a terrorist attack in Ethiopia during the 16th Ordinary Session of the African Heads of State and Government.
    • Zimbabwe’s Mugabe has threatened to dissolve parliament and prepare the country for elections if the coalition government doesn’t come to an agreement on when to hold the poll. PM Tsvangirai has called for elections only when the new constitution is in place, at least a year away. Mugabe has also threatened to revert to the old constitution, that gives him rights as President to dissolve parliament.
    • Gabon faces difficulties after opposition parliamentarian Andre Mba Obame declared himself as the country’s President on Tuesday. On Wednesday, the government dissolved his National Union party and relinquished him from public duties. Mba Obame took refuge in a UN office citing that he would not leave under the UN responded to his demand for recognition. The AU was deeply concerned about Mr. Obame’s announcement and called on the opposition leaders to act responsibility. On Thursday, security forces clashed with anti-government protesters demanding Obame is recognized as President.
    • The San of the Botswana Kalahari won an appeal on Thursday allowing the to now drill water wells within the Kalahari Game Reserve, overturning a previous decision. The government had argued that their presence was not compatible with preserving wildlife, even though new wells have been drilled for wildlife and luxury tourist lodges.
    • Several debates over the future of democracy in Africa were launched this week. With 20 national votes during 2011, some analysts are concerned that the messy aftermath of Cote d’Ivoire would spark trouble elsewhere. Others  talked about the international spread of the Tunisian protests and the role technology is playing in democratic movements.

    Asia

    • Several military officials and experts have suggested that China’s recent stealth fighter jet may have been borrowed from downed US technology. China dismissed this possibility entirely, while Pentagon officials said they were unsure, but doubted that much could have been gleaned from the debris of a plane developed in the 1970s. The Chinese premier was said to sit in an unusual meeting with workers, farmers and other disgruntled citizens this week to listen to complaints of unpaid wages, land grabs and forced demolitions. It is said that this is the first time a central leader has done this. A prominent newspaper columnist who challenged government censors by writing about corruption and political form was fired on Thursday from one of the country’s best-known newspapers. The columnist said he was forced out because his bosses were under pressure from the government.
    • Several Asian countries were cited as having worsening human rights violations by Human Rights Watch’s annual report. The Cambodian government was said to have tightened restrictions on fundamental freedoms in 2010, making it increasingly difficult and risky for human right defenders, land rights activists and trade unionists to operate. Singapore is said to have restricted freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly and frequently used defamation laws and preventive detention to silence political critics and human rights defenders in 2010. Vietnam is said to have intensified its repression of activists and dissidents and cracked down harshly on freedom of expression, association and assembly during 2010. While, Malaysia’s government’s pledge to “uphold civil liberties” was seen as little more than an empty promise. Bangladesh’s Awami League government was said to not keep its promise after its election victory in December 2008 to show “zero tolerance” for abuses by its security forces, as new extrajudicial killings have been reported and those responsible not brought to justice.
    • A government official was said to have been burnt alive in the Malegaon District of India on Tuesday while conducting a raid on black marketeers. The UN called upon India to repeal a controversial law that gives security forces sweeping powers to search, arrest or shoot people in Kashmir this week. Leaders of India’s main opposition Hindu nationalist party were stopped from traveling in Kashmir to hoist the national flag on Monday for fear of provoking violence. The gates to the terminal were locked, preventing them from leaving, and hundreds of supporters blocked the roads in protest.
    • Three Indonesian soldiers who were captured on video torturing suspected separatists last year were sentenced on Monday to up to ten months in prison, to the anger of rights activists who saw the lenient verdict as continuing the military’s impunity. The footage showed three men in uniform in an eastern region of Papua burning the genitals of one unarmed separatist who lay bound and naked on the ground, and then running a knife across the neck of another.
    • North Korean leader Kim Jong-il has apparently said that he is opposed to continuing the family dynasty into a third generation, but named his youngest son as heir to keep the country stable. The eldest son Kim Jong-nam talked of his father in a Japanese newspaper.
    • A man was killed and nearly 100 others wounded after police fired rubber bullets and tear gas to disperse protesters demanding higher wages in Bangladesh on Sunday. Workers at a pharmaceutical company blockaded a major highway and are said to have vandalized vehicles.
    • Suspected Muslim separatists in southern Thailand shot and killed a Muslim defence volunteer in a roadside ambush, while two other similar attacks wounded a villager and another Muslim defence volunteer on Saturday.  A roadside bomb killed nine civilians and wounded two on Tuesday. The victims are said to all have been Buddhists who were traveling to hunt wild pigs. The bomb is believed to be the work of ethnic Malay militants, though no group made a credible claim.
    • A blast from a suspected bomb ripped through a bus in Manila, Philippines on Tuesday. Four people were killed, and another 14 wounded. Communist rebels are said to have shot and killed a police chief and four other officers in the northern Philippines on Sunday using roadside bombs.
    • Nepal’s Maoists are said to have relinquished control of at least 19,000 former fighters to government control in a move expected to boost the country’s peace process. The Maoist fighters are to be integrated into the security forces or rehabilitated into civilian life.
    • Recent fighting between government forces and armed ethnic groups in eastern Myanmar/Burma has increased the risk of civilian landmine injuries. According to a report released by Geneva Call, there are landmines in 10 out of 14 states with more than 10% of all townships are contaminated. The highest court rejected a move by pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi to overturn a ruling that dissolved her political party on Friday. Her party remains an “unlawful association” for its failure to register before last November’s election.
    • Sri Lanka’s jailed former army chief, Sarath Fonseka, lost his appeal to retain his parliamentary seat on Tuesday. A court martial verdict found him guilty of arms procurement offenses prohibits him from being qualified to be a member of Parliament. Fonseka said the government was seeking revenge on him for his decision to stand against the President in the January 2010 elections.
    • The OSCE’s Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights released its final report on last November’s election in Azerbaijan on Tuesday, saying that serious efforts were needed to create the environment for genuine elections with equal and fair conditions. The President’s party won more than 70 seats in the 125 seat parliament, the almost all the rest going to so-called independent candidates loyal to the President.
    • Local authorities in Tajikistan detained two groups of the banned Salafi strain of Islam, claiming the leaders of two groups organized classes on Islam for some 60 children and planned to send them abroad illegally to study. In an effort to fight extremism authorities currently prohibit sending children to study at religious schools abroad, and allow licenses for only a limited number of imams to teach Islam or the Arabic alphabet.
    • Explosives planted beneath a car exploded killing three people and wounded four in Orakzai, Pakistan on Saturday. On Sunday, a US drone aircraft killed at least four suspected militants on the Afghan border; a policeman was killed and another wounded in a roadside bomb attack near Peshawar; and another drone attack killed two suspected militants on a motorbike. On Monday, suspected militants blew up two natural gas pipelines in the southwest, disrupting supplies to a gas purification plant. On Tuesday, a suspected suicide bomber blew himself up near a religious procession of Shi’ites, killing at least ten and wounding more than 50 in Lahore; while a motorcycle bomb in Karachi killed as many as four and caused numerous injuries. On Thursday, security forces killed 11 suspected militants in clashes along the Afghan border; and a US Consular worker was involved in a shooting that killed three, claiming he fired in self defense to prevent an attempted robbery. He is in police custody, and could be charged with both murder and illegally carrying a weapon. Human Rights Watch’s report suggested that Taliban violence and religious extremism grew in 2010, with the government doing little to improve the situation and often making it worse.
    • Two ISAF troop members were killed by a homemade bomb in Kabul, Afghanistan on Saturday; while a rocket fired by alleged insurgents on a coalition patrol in Ghanzi province hit a house killing two children and wounded six others. Also on Saturday President Karzai was said to have reached a tentative deal with politicians who threatened to start parliament without him, and had conditionally agreed to inaugurate parliament. Parliament was inaugurated later in the week, despite Karzai’s wishes to delay it by a month to allow a special court to investigate claims of election fraud, angering many losing candidates who held a protest at the move. On Sunday, NATO troops were said to have killed 14 suspected insurgents in separate operations. On Tuesday, it was speculated that US President Obama would soon announce plans to expand Afghan security forces by roughly 70,000 ahead of the July 2011 start of US troop draw-down; an ISAF service member was killed by a bomb in Kabul; and ISAF forces said they killed two alleged insurgents in an airstrike in Ghanzi. An attack by a suicide bomber on a busy Kabul supermarket killed eight and wounded six on Friday. The Netherlands has signed the approval to send troops and police to norther Afghanistan to train new police recruits, despite polls in the country that show a majority of voters were opposed to the mission. A security advice group said that foreign military assertions that security in the country is improving are intended to sway Western public opinion ahead of the troop withdraw, but that there is “indisputable evidence” that conditions are deteriorating , including a two-thirds rise in insurgent attacks in 2010, averaging 33 incidents a day.

    Americas

    • US Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice is asking that a UN expert on Palestinian human rights who suggested that there was a cover up over the September 11th attacks be fired. The Secretary-General condemned the remarks, but said it was not up to him to fire the expert. US House of Representative Republican members have criticized the UN for being “bloated” and “ineffective” and vowed to press for reforms and a reduction in US funding in a January 25th meeting. Obama addressed the country in his annual state of the union address, in which he warned of the threat to US economic power and global influence from China and appealed to Republicans to abandon demands for budget cuts. He asked instead that they back the biggest government investment programme since the 1960s space race, that would focus on research, infrastructure and education that could be paid for, in part, by eliminating subsidies to profitable oil companies. The call was swiftly rejected by opponents, but was backed by more than 3/4 of respondents in an instant polling on CNN. The US may have more difficulty enforcing the death penalty after the sole American manufacturer of the drug sodium thiopental, used in lethal injections, announced it was ending production. Germany’s health minister is also now urging it’s leading drug companies and distributors to ignore requests from the US for supplies of the drug, as American supplies grow extremely short.  Investigators in the Army PFC Bradley Manning case could not find a direct link connecting Manning to WikiLeaks. A judge has sentenced the first Guantanamo detainee to have a US civilian trial to life in prison, saying anything he suffered at the hands of the CIA and others “pales in comparison to the suffering and horror” caused by the bombing of two US embassies in 1998. An 13 year old boy who shot and killed his father’s fiance in Pennsylvania two years ago could possibly be tried as an adult and held for life in prison without the possibility of parole in violation to international laws. 20 people in Phoenix were indicted on firearms charges, accused of participating in a ring that allegedly brought more than 700 guns into Mexico for use by a drug cartel. An alarming story of the vigilante shooting of a family, including the murder of a 9 year old girl, demonstrates the possible consequences of the staunch anti-immigration stance.
    • Former Haitian dictator “Baby Doc” Duvalier offered his sympathies to those who suffered abuse under his rule, but stopped short of a clear apology for the killings and torture committed during his 15 years of power. Haitian President Preval said that Duvalier had every right to return, but must now face an investigation of his alleged abuses. Duvalier said he was prepared to face “persecution”. The ruling party candidate has decided to abandon the Presidential election race in order to break the deadlock that has paralyzed the government since the November 28th poll. An angering account of Haiti’s aftermath tells of how government relief funds were not only squandered, but actually ended up funding “spiritual need” within the country to help eradicate voodoo (through Billy Graham’s son’s charity), and corporate greed (through Monsanto), instead of helping to rebuild.
    • Mexican federal police announced that they arrested seven drug gang members in Acapulco on Sunday, including the man they claim is behind the murders of 22 people in the resort earlier this month. On Monday, officials in Ciudad Juarez announced that armed men had killed seven people at a park that was built as an anti-violence measure.
    • Canada unveiled a new national equipment standard for emergency workers facing chemical, biological or nuclear weapons this week in an unused subway station in Toronto. The standard provides guidelines for gear and procedures to be used when faced with various kinds of terrorist incidents.
    • Civil disobedience continued at the University of Puerto Rico this week. Nearly 100 students have been arrrested.

    Middle East

    • On Sunday, a roadside bomb in Taza, Iraq, wounded the leader of a government backed militia and three of his guards; a car bomb went off near a bus carrying Iranian pilgrims, killing one and wounding seven in northwestern Baghdad; a car bomb exploded near a hotel, killing one and wounding six others in central Baghdad; a car bomb killed two and wounded four in Taji; a car bomb near a police patrol killed on policeman and one civilian and wounded 8 others in southern Baghdad; and a car bomb exploded near a police patrol wounding four people in central Baghdad. On Monday, four gunmen wounded a provincial oil official at his home in Mosul; gunmen killed the imam of a mosque in Falluja; armed men opened fire on the car of a police colonel, killing him in southwestern Baghdad; a car bomb killed at least 8 people and wounded 92 others in Kerbala; two bodies were found showing signs of torture in Riyadh; a roadside bomb killed a brigadier general and wounded an intelligence officer in western Baghdad; a roadside bomb wounded 8 people in northwestern Baghdad;and  a roadside bomb attack targeting a governor wounded five in Tikrit. On Tuesday, a roadside bomb wounded seven pilgrims on a minibus in northern Baghdad. On Wednesday, gunmen killed an employee at the Foreign Affairs Ministry in northwestern Baghdad; armed men shot another Foreign Affairs Ministry employee in central Baghdad; a mortar round killed one civilian and wounded another in their home in Mosul; gunmen killed a civilian in Mosul; gunmen killed a member of a government-backed militia in Tarmiya; and gunmen killed an employee at the National Security ministry in central Baghdad. On Thursday, a car bomb exploded at a funeral, killing at least 50and wounding another 65 in northwestern Baghdad; a bomb in a minibus killed two passengers and wounded seven pedestrians in western Baghdad; a roadside bomb killed one policeman and wounded seven others in central Baghdad; a roadside bomb killed one civilian and wounded four others in northern Baghdad; and a roadside bomb killed one and wounded three others in north-central Baghdad.
    • Demonstrations broke out all across Yemen last week, inspired by the recent ousting of Tunisia’s President. 19 anti-government activists were arrested on Sunday in clashes with police. The protests continued throughout the week, with some 10,000 at the Sanaa University and at least 6,000 elsewhere in the capital.
    • Thousands of Jordanians joined in the demonstrations that have been spreading across the North African and Arab world on Friday against the government. An estimated 3,000 people marched to the capital, along with another 2,000 in other cities.
    • WikiLeaks revealed the largest cache of confidential documents in the history of the Middle East conflict that created quite a stir this week. The cables revealed an insight into the relationship between the Palestinian Authority and the Israeli state, including concessions offered by Palestinian negotiators, and the covert cooperation between the two armed forces. Palestinian officials are denying the accuracy of the reports that have been very damning towards them. A Turkish inquiry into Israel’s Gaza flotilla raid deemed the act a violation of international law this week, following Israel’s report that determined the Israeli forces had acted legally, despite the deaths of nine activists aboard the vessel. Peru became the seventh South American country to recognize Palestine as a state this week, rapidly following decisions by Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Ecuador and Guyana.
    • Iran carried out the first executions of activists detained in street protests following the disputed 2009 elections. Around a dozen others have been sentenced to death for their role in the unrest. Iran announced it was open to holding further talks with six world power over its nuclear program, following the expressed disappointed over the recent talks in Istanbul by world powers.
    • Lebanon’s President formally appointed a Hezbollah-backed candidate as PM, defeating incumbent Hariri, following the walk-out of Hezbollah MPs that brought down Hariri’s government earlier this month. Sunnis protested the rising power of Hezbollah within their government in a “day of rage”, burning tires and torching vehicles, that continued over the following day.

    Europe

    • Human rights violations in Turkey’s southeast are said to have risen by 16% last year as fighting between guerrillas and government forces escalated, according to a new report by the Human Rights Association (IHD).
    • Tens of thousands of protesters marched in Brussels, Belgium on Sunday in support of national unity and to demand that rival political groups form a coalition following seven months without a government. The rally of between 20-30,000 was said to be peaceful.
    • The “New START” nuclear reduction treaty between the US and Russia passed through the upper house of Russian parliament on Wednesday, and will now go to President Medvedev for signature. On Monday, a suspected suicide bombing at the busiest Moscow airport killed at least 35 and wounded more than 150. PM Putin later vowed revenge for the bombing, as lax security was blamed for allowing it to happen. France concluded a deal with Russia to sell it four Mistral assault ships on Tuesday. The deal was criticized by the US and NATO allies in the Baltics for providing Russia with a modern carrier for helicopters or tanks.
    • Inadequate prosecution of crimes from the 1990 wars is said to have hampered European integration of the Western Balkans according to the Human Rights Watch Report released on Monday. The report criticized the human rights situation in Bosnia, Croatia, Kosovo and Serbia.
    • The recently resigned Irish foreign minister Micheal Martin was elected as head of the Republican Fianna Fail party just a week after his failed attempt to oust the prime minister from the party leadership. He will lead until the general election campaign on the 25th February. The lower house averted the immediate collapse of government by passing a crucial finance bill. On Wednesday, a bomb was found near a police station in northern Belfast apparently intended to target police officers, the latest in the increasing attacks since nationalist splinter groups seeking a united Ireland killed two soldiers almost two years ago.
    • The UK government is set to change controversial counter-terrorism measures following a review of procedures. The control orders, which impose 16 hour curfews on suspects, would be replaced by an alternative supervision system that would require them to stay at home up to 10 hours, but only overnight, and allowed to use a mobile phone and be given limited access to the internet. Some experts have called the measures a form of “internal exile” and say it violates basic civil liberties. The rules only apply to terrorism suspects who cannot be prosecuted or deported, either because the evidence against them is inadmissible or sensitive or for fear of their torture abroad.
    • Portugal has re-elected its President Anibal Cavaco Silva in an election largely overshadowed by the country’s economic difficulties. The political conservative obtained around 53% of the vote, with a record low voter turnout of less than 50%.
    • Four people were killed and six injured in a car bomb attack in Daghestan that occurred outside a cafe. No further details were immediately available.
    • Three anti-government protesters were killed last Friday in Albania, while a special session of Parliament on Sunday night saw deputies voting for an inquiry into the causes of violence. On Tuesday, the main opposition politician, who has been accused by the PM of trying to stage a coup, threatened to hold more protests, while calling on the international community to mediate the political crisis. A EU envoy was sent on Wednesday, while the US called on government and opposition supporters not to stage demonstrations planned for the end of the week. The opposition said they planned to continue to protest despite all warnings.
    • A group of Belarussian protesters staged a demonstration outside the Palace of the Republic, just hours after the inauguration of longstanding leader Alexander Lukashenko, resulting in several arrests. Activists claim they are having their homes raided by fake police officers. On Thursday, the EU said they would reinstate a visa ban on President Lukashenko and other Belarusian officials next week in response to their crackdown on protests following the December elections, though said they would widen the measure to include around 150 individuals. On Friday, the US announced they would strengthen existing sanctions and increase their financial support to the country’s civil society in response to a crackdown on democracy activists.
    • More than 200 illegal immigrants on a hunger strike in Greece ended a five-day occupation of a university after a tense standoff with police. Police are usually barred from entering university campuses under Greek law, but academic authorities had lifted the ban to give police power to intervene.

    2nd Anniversary

    Hello all! Hope all is well!

    I just wanted to say a big thank you to all the readers here at A Peace of Conflict. It’s been two years since I first came online to blog and during that time,  much has changed. I am now living on a new continent– enjoying the warm tropical weather– and have started some new projects on the blog that I hope you are enjoying.

    Over the last few months, I have started writing  This Week in Conflict… that summarizes issues of peace and conflict from around the world that have been reported each week. It is usually posted on Friday or Saturday and reflects the week from Saturday to Friday. Just a reminder, that if you have any stories or reports to add to the summaries, please email it to me (preferably Thursday or Friday if you’d like to make it in the post for the week) or write it in the comments below the post. I am also willing to accept personal stories of witnessed violence in conflict zones to add to the reports and will respect everyone’s wishes for anonymity in this situation. All personal reports will be marked as such to distinguish them from publicly reported news, and just a warning that any clear attempts at false propaganda or incitements to further violence will not be posted.

    A collaborative peace and conflict dictionary was also started during the past year, which was set up to assist those working in the conflict, human rights or international sphere. It’s been a slow start, but I have been trying to add new terms regularly. Please be sure to send any suggestions for terms or modifications to previously defined terms.

    When I first started, I was very nervous writing and having my opinions out there for all to see. I wanted to try and stay as objective as possible in my writing, something that can very difficult when discussing conflict and human rights abuses, so as not receive any harsh criticism. Sometimes it’s easy to demonize those who have committed terrible acts, and sanctify those who are the victims of those acts. But most of the times, it’s not as clear cut as that. Every conflict has its root, every evil has its weakness and every innocent has its flaws. I found it has become easier with time to express my opinions (sometimes looking back with a groan over what I have written previously), and have come to learn that criticism is often times incredibly useful. Being challenged allows us to delve deeper into an issue and look at it in new light. I encourage all readers to speak out if you feel I have misrepresented an issue, though to please due so in respectful language in the spirit of healthy debate, as any comments inciting violence or attacking any other users will be removed.

    Here are some highlights from last year’s posts:

    January

    February

    • I discussed the theatre of the oppressed, that looks to address cultural violence by allowing an open dialogue on root problems of a conflict within the safety of a theatrical event.

    March

    April

    May

    • I returned to Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire, where I would spend most of the rest of the year researching human rights issues.

    June

    • The Israeli flotilla incident was all over the news and I weighed in on it.
    • I had a change of heart about what to do about conflict minerals in the DR Congo, after many years of researching and pushing for change and discussed the problems with current legislative initiatives.

    July

    • I expressed my frustrations about the justice system (or lack thereof) in Cote d’Ivoire.

    August

    • The story of the SHONA cooperative in the DR Congo touched my heart. Disabled persons not only finding ways to be self-sustaining in a conflict economy, but getting to the point where they are able to support their extended families as well.

    September

    October

    • A critique of western democracy; how government is not really representative, and how technology can help to change that.
    • A look at the coming elections in Cote d’Ivoire.

    November

    December

     

    I hope to soon be able to post some more detailed posts about my research into the exploitation of resources and their connection to violence, but am leery to print anything until the research is more conclusive. In the meantime, I would love to hear your personal stories, your academic papers, your rants and your writings (or other art) on violence, conflict, or peace.

    Thanks again to all the readers here. I hope you have enjoyed reading the posts as much as I have enjoyed writing them!

    Peace to you all!

    Rebecca

     

    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.

    This week in conflict… January 8th-14th, 2011

    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.

    Peace!
    Rebecca

    World

    • The International News Safety Institute announced on Wednesday, that an average of almost two journalists died each week as a result of their work. The global number 97 is down from 2009’s 133 deaths.
    • The Guardian’s Simon Tisdall wrote an interesting piece on how the UN was originally envisaged as a war-fighting machine.

    Africa

    • At least 8 people were reported killed in the continuing protests about joblessness and other social ills over the weekend in Tunisia, although other reports claim as many as 14 in under 24 hours. Another 4 civilians were killed in clashes between riot police and protesters on Monday, though other reports claim as many as 12 deaths. The President promised that an extra 300,000 jobs would be created. On Monday, all schools and universities were temporarily shut. On Wednesday, army troops were called in as the protests spread to the capital and the interior minister, who was held responsible for the ruthless police response, was fired. Protesters are also said to have been released. Despite a curfew, clashes were reported Wednesday night between youths and security forces. The President announced on Friday, following the death of two men shot dead by police,  that he would not seek re-election in 2014 to try and calm the growing violence and even dismissed his government, calling for early legislative elections in six months time. Hundreds of protesters continued their march and despite the president’s announcement that live ammunition would not be used, three people were killed less than an hour after the speech from shots. Shortly thereafter, the President imposed a state of emergency, and reports came out that the airspace had been closed with troops taking over the airport in Tunis. Unions planned to hold a general strike on Friday. The death toll was cited as 66 since December 17.
    • The presidential election campaign began in the Central African Republic on Monday, with the vote scheduled for January 23rd. Opposition candidates have issued a memorandum saying that the electoral process in its current form is “neither transparent, legal nor equitable” and are threatening boycotts if demands are not met.
    • Zambia’s upcoming election process is looking complicated, as President Banda has told his party members to take bribes during the elections but “vote with your conscience”. Banda last year declared that he would run for a second and final term of office this year.
    • Algerian authorities vowed to punish those responsible for nationwide food riots that killed at least four people and injured more than 800. Around 1,000 protesters have been arrested and the government has said it will cut taxes and import duties on some staple foods.
    • Two French hostages abducted in Niger were found dead following a failed rescue operation. No group has yet claimed responsibility for the kidnapping, but authorities suspect al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb links.
    • Former Nigerian president Obasanjo was the latest mediator to visit Cote d’Ivoire to try and convince Gbagbo to step down. Ethnic clashes are said to have killed some 33 people and wounded 75 in the western town of Duekoue as fighting broke out between rival tribes, though there is some speculation that this latest outbreak is unrelated to the election.  At least five people, said to be two protesters and three police officers all with gunshot wounds, are said to have been killed in clashes in Abidjan on Tuesday. On Wednesday, the clashes continued, with at least five security forces said killed on a raid of a suspected arms cache. The violence continued on Thursday, which resulted in Gbagbo imposing a curfew on the Abobo neighbourhood. The UN claimed that six attacks on their vehicles resulted in an ambulance driver and a doctor being injured.
    • Southern Sudanese are said to have flocked to the polling stations to case their vote in the referendum this weekend, many waiting overnight to be among the first to vote; though polling stations in Khartoum were said to be empty on the first day of voting. The second day of voting was also said to have brought out voters in huge numbers in the south. Some 9 were killed in Abyei, after militiamen attacked a village on Sunday, in clashes that are said to have been ongoing for since Thursday. Another at least 6 were killed and 26 taken hostage in clashes between rebel militias and the SPLA in Unity state. At least 10 southern Sudanese traveling to the south were killed on Monday, after some 30 buses and seven trailers carrying southerners from Khartoum were ambushed. By Monday it was reported that some 36 people had died in clashes between Arab nomads and southerners near the border and further attacks were feared. On Tuesday, UN peacekeepers intensified their patrols of the border areas. On Wednesday, senior officials in southern Sudan reported that the 60% turnout threshold required for the vote to be valid had been reached. On Thursday, three Bulgarian crew members working for the UN Humanitarian Air Service were said to have been abducted in Darfur.
    • At least 11 people were killed in different locations around Jos on Saturday as various clashes erupted in the city. The Igbo Community Association in Plateau State claimed over 40 Igbos were killed in the clashes. The violence is being linked to an opposition political meeting, as well as anger over an attack on two passenger buses on Friday night. On Tuesday, an attack on a Christian village in Plateau State left at least 13 people dead, though some reports say as many as 18.
    • The UN called on authorities in the DR Congo to immediately investigate reports of a large number of rapes in South Kivu on New Year’s Day. There are some suggestions that the rapes stemmed from a bar fight where a soldier shot a man, who was then lynched by a mob. The local army was then said to go on a rampage throughout the town raping between 10-29 women. A group of government soldiers were detained over the allegations of sexual violence. Several electoral problems are being revealed, as opposition members were said to have been prevented from holding rallies in Goma and Bukavu, and a journalists facing arrest for political reasons. The Congolese Senate passed constitutional revisions this week making the President more powerful by changing the electoral system from a two round run-off system to a one round, plurality-win election; giving the president the ability to dissolve provincial assemblies, remove governors and call referenda; and giving the minister of justice official control over the prosecutor’s office.  There is some debate as to whether such moves are even legal.
    • A Muslim police officer shot and killed an Egyptian Christian on a train on Tuesday, while wounding five others. Experts suggest the shooting is likely to stoke tensions following the recent bombings of Christians in the country.
    • The next round of informal talks in the Western Sahara conflict will happen January 21st-23rd the UN announced on Friday. Morocco and the Frente Polisario, Algeria and Mauritania will be at the talks, with Morocco said to be presenting a plan for autonomy, and Polisario suggesting a referendum on self-determination. Morocco said that five of its soldiers will face trial for allegedly helping to smuggle weapons into the Western Sahara for the al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb.
    • The high court in the Comoros rejected the opposition’s accusations of widespread fraud on Thursday, ruling that the ruling party had won in last month’s Presidential election. A ban on public rallies has been in place over the past month amid fears of violence.

    Asia

    • An important cross-border communications channel has been reinstated between the two Koreas this week. The Red Cross communication line was cut off last year, and is normally used for exchanging messages on humanitarian issues. On Saturday, the North reiterated its proposal for unconditional talks with the South. US Defense Secretary Gates warned on Tuesday that North Korea was within five years of being able to strike the continental US with an intercontinental ballistic missile.
    • Around 30,000 supporters of Thailand’s red shirt movement were back in the capital this weekend, demanding the release of the group’s leaders who were detained in last year’s violence. The protest was rather peaceful, aside from a brief scuffle between police and water-bottle-throwing protesters.
    • The largest single day loss in the Bangladesh stock exchange in its 55 years resulted in protests on Monday. The exchange halted trading after the benchmark index plunged 9.25% within the first hour of trading. Some protesters are said to have burned vehicles and riot police fired tear gas and charged the crowd with batons.
    • US-Chinese military defense chiefs are working towards mending military relations between the two countries. Robert Gates met with Liang Guanglie on Monday in Beijing to set up a working group to explore more formal, regular dialogue on strategic issues. The US has also stated that it will enhance its military capabilities in response to Chinese advances in technology. Gates has stated that he has no doubt that China’s President remains in control of the military, despite some indications of a possible lack of communication between the military and the civilian leadership. A Chinese human rights lawyer who has been missing for almost two years is reported to have detailed a description of torture and abuses at the hands of police. Xie Zhigang, a former police chief who was falsely arrested for his wife’s death (she later turned up alive), is suspected to have died in custody after being tortured.
    • One of the Pakistan’s most famous jihadi leaders has been freed from custody due to a lack of evidence. Many cases go nowhere because of a lack of police evidence, judges fearing being killed, and the influence of the Inter-Services Intelligence agency that has historic ties with most militant groups. On Wednesday, a suicide bomber killed at least 17 people in the northwest in an attack on a police station and adjacent mosque. The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack, which they say was in retaliation for drone attacks by the US. A US drone fired into a house in North Waziristan on Wednesday is said to kill three suspected militants. On Thursday, a roadside bomb hit a police van killing at least two policemen and wounding many others in Bannu; and a separate bomb attack killed another officer and wounded four more in Bara. On Friday, police said suspected militants raided the house of a female police officer, killing her and five of her relatives. The US has decided to offer more military, intelligence and economic support to Pakistan in response to complaints from government officials that the US doesn’t understand Pakistani strategic priorities.
    • On Sunday, a ISAF service member was killed by a homemade bomb in Kabul, Afghanistan; and a NATO airstrike killed three Afghan police officers in Kabul. On Monday, two more police officers died in a suicide car bomb attack in Kandahar province. On Tuesday, a leader of the Haqqani militant network and two suspected insurgents were killed in Kabul; and three suspected insurgents, including leader Mirwais Sabri, were killed in an ISAF air strike. On Wednesday, five coalition troops were killed in roadside bombs and an insurgent attack; four Afghan intelligence service members were killed in a pair of attacks; at least two people were killed and more than 20 wounded in a suicide bombing in Kabul; a bomb killed two Afghan civilians in Farah; and ISAF troops killed two alleged insurgents in southern Helmand. On Thursday, a child was killed and three other people were wounded after a bomb exploded in Jalalabad. Germany has announced that it does not plan to support a request made by field commanders for more AWACS reconnaissance aircraft for Afghanistan. Germany’s government is said to be asking parliament this month for the approval to start withdrawing troops by the end of the year. Britain’s former top diplomat to Afghanistan severely criticized the conduct of UK military operations in the country, citing that the war gave the army a raison d’etre it lacked for years and resources on an unprecedented scale. He also added that at one time, nearly 30% of all British helicopter movements in the south were for “senior military tourists from London”. Afghan officials announced that the Taliban is prepared to drop its ban on girls’ schools, though the Taliban has yet made any public statements to back up this claim.
    • The Nepali government and Maoist rebels are said to have struck a deal which will lead to the formation of a new government within three months, after consensus was reached on how to take the peace process forward. The announcement came as the UN peace mission to Nepal ends its four year engagement on Friday, which some fear will create a vacuum of potential chaos.
    • India announced it planned to reduce its security forces by a quarter in Kashmir to ease conditions for locals. A Kashmiri separatist leader dismissed the government’s plan saying India was trying to “hoodwink” the international community by that announcement.
    • The Kazakh opposition weekly newspaper was confiscated by police on Thursday and staff members detained on suspicion of spreading false information. A newspaper spokesman said the issue contained articles criticizing the proposed national referendum to keep the current President in office until 2020. The upper and lower chambers of parliament voted on Friday in favor of holding the referendum.

    Americas

    • An independent review of Haiti’s recent presidential vote by the Center for Economic and Policy Research suggests that the results could not be salvaged due to “massive irregularities”. The report suggests that about 156,000 votes were not counted, and that it is impossible to fairly decide which candidates should make it to the second round scheduled for late February.
    • Ex House Leader and American Republican legislator Tom DeLay has been sentenced to three years in prison after being convicted of money laundering and conspiracy in a scheme for a political campaign. Obama has signed a new bill into law that would prevent detainees held at Guantanamo Bay for terrorism from being brought to the US for criminal trial and restricts their potential transfer to foreign countries. A gunman opened fire outside a supermarket in Tucson, Arizona where politician Gabrielle Giffords was meeting with constituents. Some 18 people were shot and six dead. Debate over the escalating violent rhetoric of political campaigns has since become a subject of debate, as Sarah Palin’s website featured a map with a cross hair target over Giffords that many are attributing to inciting violence. Others are debating the lax gun laws in the US that allowed alleged gunman Jared Lee Loughner, man who was considered too mentally unstable to attend community college and was rejected by the army, access to firearms.
    • Police in Acapulco, Mexico found the bodies of 15 slain men, 14 of them decapitated. Handwritten signs left with the bodies suggests a link to Mexico’s drug cartels. Drug gangs fighting in Monterrey have launched a wave of attacks against police and rivals since New Year’s Eve and have killed at least 10 police, attacked a prison, shot up police stations, killed bystanders, and threatened local journalists.  More than 15,000 people have lost their lives in drug violence in 2010.

    Middle East

    • Separatists in Yemen are said to have killed at least 3 soldiers and wounded another in an attack on an army checkpost on Sunday. Six assailants are also said to have been wounded in the attack. On Saturday, 8 soldiers were injured when their vehicle came under attack. Other reports say four soldiers were killed on Saturday.
    • Hezbollah and its allies threatened to quit the Lebanese government on Wednesday, after months of wrangling over how to deal with criminal indictments over the Hariri assassination. Later in the day it was announced that 11 cabinet ministers resigned, and that the government of PM Saad Hariri had toppled. President Michel Suleiman is now forced to form a new government.
    • It was reported that Hamas held talks over the weekend with other militant factions in Gaza to urge them to stop firing rockets into Israel after receiving warning from Egypt that Israel may launch an offensive. By Wednesday, the Palestinian militant leaders promised to stop firing rockets and pledged to observe a truce, which seems will be enforced by Hamas who deployed forces near the border. On Monday, a 65 year old Palestinian farmer was reported to have been killed by Israeli troops in Gaza Strip after being hit by a tank shell and gunfire. The tank shell and gunfire are thought to be in retaliation to three rockets that are said to have landed in the outskirts of Ashkelon, with no injuries or damage. An Israeli missile killed a suspected Palestinian militant in Gaza on Tuesday who is said was planning to carry out an attack inside Israel. Islamic Jihad threatened retaliation in a written statement. A dozen Israeli companies working on a Palestinian construction project have signed contracts that stipulate they must not use Israeli products originating in the West Bank, East Jerusalem or the Golan Heights, prompting a counter-boycott from Jewish settler groups and their supporters. Both Chile and Guyana joined Brazil, Argentina, Bolivia, Cuba, Venezuela, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Ecuador in recognizing Palestine as an independent state within the borders that existed before Israel captured the West Bank this week. Uruguay and Paraguay are expected to join the recognition in the coming weeks.
    • Iran is claiming it is capable of making its own nuclear fuel plates and rods of the kind needed to power a research reactor that makes medical isotopes, though the US claimed that Iran’s ability to produce a nuclear weapons had been delayed by sanctions.  Authorities have announced that more than 10 people have been arrested for espionage after the assassination of a nuclear physicist last year. The alleged spies are said to have been Mossad agents. A prominent human rights lawyer was sentenced to 11 years in jail and a 20 year ban on practicing law or traveling abroad after being convicted of “acting against national security”, “propaganda against the regime” and “membership of Human Rights Defenders Centre”. Other political prisoners were also handed heavy sentences for their participation in the aftermath of the disputed Iranian presidential election in 2009.
    • Saudi Arabia has issued international arrest warrants for 47 suspected al-Qaeda fighters who are thought to be building terrorist cells in the country. 16 of the suspects are said to be in Yemen, 27 in Pakistan or Afghanistan and 4 in Iraq.
    • On Saturday, a roadside bomb went off near an Iraqi army patrol wounding 8 in Abu Ghraib; gunmen killed an off-duty policeman in Taji; an Iraqi soldier was killed and another wounded in a roadside bomb attack north of Baghdad; a bomb killed a woman and her 4 year-old nephew in Baquba; and gunmen killed a Health Ministry employee in southwestern Baghdad. On Sunday, gunmen killed a member of the Badr organization outside his house in northwestern Baghdad, and a roadside bomb targeting a police patrol wounded a policeman in southern Baghdad. On Monday, two roadside bombs exploded in central Baghdad wounding four passers-by; armed men on foot killed two in two separate incidents in Mosul; a roadside bomb killed a police chief of Hit and wounded three other policemen when it struck a convoy; police found the body of an unidentified man with bullet wounds to the head in Hilla; a sticky bomb on a car wounded the driver and two passengers in Tuz Khurmato; and a roadside wounded two guards protecting public infrastructure when it went off near their patrol in Tikrit. On Tuesday, a roadside bomb near a market wounded three civilians in Latifiya; a sticky bomb attached to a mini-bus went off near a gas factory wounding three civilians in Taji; a roadside bomb wounded seven civilians in north-central Baghdad; a car bomb near a police patrol killed one police officer and wounded another eight in Shirqat; a bomb planted near the house of a university professor wounded him in western Baghdad; a sticky bomb attached to a car wounded four in southern Baghdad; and a bomb in a mini-bus killed the driver in Mahmudiya. On Wednesday, a bomb planted near a judge’s home wounded him in southern Baghdad; a bomb attached to a truck killed the driver in Taji; a roadside bomb killed three civilians in Taji; a roadside bomb killed a civilian in eastern Mosul; and gunmen killed a civilian after chasing him from house to house in eastern Mosul. On Thursday, gunmen killed a goldsmith and wounded another in southwestern Baghdad; a roadside bomb wounded four civilians in northern Baghdad; a roadside bomb killed one civilian and wounded four others in central Baghdad; and a roadside bomb killed one person and wounded five others in central Baghdad. On Friday, a dozen terror suspects disguised in police uniforms broke out of an Iraqi jail, prompting a manhunt for what officials say are top-ranking insurgents linked to al-Qaeda.

    Europe

    • Russian police detained at least 20 people in Moscow on Tuesday in an effort to curb neo-nationalist groups. The groups have been cited as sparking racial violence over the past month. The Lower House of the Russian legislature approved the second reading of a ratification bill for the New START nuclear disarmament pact with the US with a vote of 349 in favor out of 450. The 123 Agreement of civilian nuclear cooperation between Russia and the US entered into force on Tuesday. The deal allows the two countries to exchange nuclear energy technology, engage in joint commercial nuclear ventures and work more closely in combating nuclear proliferation.
    • Belarus accused EU members Poland and Germany of seeking a coup against President Lukashenka by organizing the mass protests in December over his reelection. The apartments of four opposition activists were searched in connection with last month’s protests, along with dozens of offices and homes of journalists, pro-democracy activists and members of opposition parties as the police crackdown on opposition continues.
    • An early morning brawl left three dead and three others with gunshot wounds in Southern Ukraine on Saturday. The man was arrested and is under investigation.
    • Reports of an explosion at a Georgian military training base in Tbilisi say several servicemen were killed and wounded on Tuesday. On Thursday, a former member of the pro-Georgian South Ossetian leadership warned that a new conflict between Russia and Georgia could erupt if talks are not immediately made.
    • The armed Basque separatist group Eta has declared a ceasefire it called four months ago is now “permanent and general” and open to verification by international observers. Observers warn that the group has called for a permanent ceasefire before and later called them off.
    • The party of Kosovo’s PM is expected to see its overall national margin of victory go down slightly in the rerun elections on Sunday. The first election was marred by allegations of fraud and irregularities last month.
    • The Web site for the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party has published a manifesto that includes a demand for democratic autonomy. Some experts suggest that the Turkish President recent travels to the Kurdish region was the latest sign that the government is continuing its outreach with the minority. Yet violent protests broke out on Thursday as a trial of 152 Kurdish activists and politicians resumed in the southeast. The PKK has called a unilateral ceasefire until June when Turkey holds a general election.

    This week in conflict… January 1st-7th, 2011.

    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.

    Peace!
    Rebecca

    World

    • 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.

    Africa

    • 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.

    Asia

    • 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.

    Americas

    • 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.

    Middle East

    • 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.

    Europe

    • 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.

    This week in conflict… December 25th-31st, 2010

    Hello all! Hope everything is well with you!

    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.

    Wishing a happy and peaceful New Year to all my readers!

    Peace!
    Rebecca


    World

    • Reporters Without Borders put out their annual report, noting that fewer reporters were being killed in war zones and more were being targeted by criminals or traffickers. The death toll was down 25% from 2009’s 76 journalists killed; while kidnappings are up to 51 from 33 in 2009. Pakistan was the deadliest country with 11 killed; seven in Mexico, seven in Iraq and four in the Philippines.
    • Debate over the governing of the internet flared this week as officials from 18 countries held an impromptu meeting at the UN to staff a working group on the future of Internet Governance Forum. The UN hopes to create a “cyber peace treaty” to prevent the Internet from becoming another domain for countries to wage war against each other, while techies fear that the UN could become a forum