peacebuilding

A new direction

During the last two years, I have truly enjoyed writing my This Week in Conflict reports, but alas, the time has come for me to take an extended, and perhaps permanent, break from it.

My goal for the reports was to learn more about what was going on in some of the more obscure conflicts on our planet and try to share that news in the most concise way. The real challenge I found was trying to get at the reality of the situation via news reports, and to try and verify the content. One thing I found was that frequently, 90% of the news I was coming across was a summary of one original report. Another difficulty came in trying to find more views of the situation, particularly local views, especially when I don’t speak the language(s) in that area or region. I thank the many people who sent in news stories, accounts or content to help me better understand.

Another setback of constantly reading bad news and reporting on it is the moral and emotional toll it takes on you. Though there were many positive stories on peace over the years, the vast majority was on the violent aspect of conflicts. Sometimes the stories were difficult to stomach.

The biggest challenge however, I found personally, was to try to be neutral over conflicts I had seen on the ground and lived through. I found myself remembering the situations I had lived and being much more selective with my choice of news stories to try and ensure a balance in what I wrote. I’m not sure I always succeeded.

My knowledge of global affairs has increased greatly to an extent that I started to recognize patterns in the conflicts. I began to expect to see stories on certain types of violence and abuses in certain regions. I would have loved to do a more thorough backgrounder for each of the countries/territories/areas if I had had the time. The layers are so deep—I think it would have been helpful to have started with that just so I would have been more prepared to know where to look for stories and content.

I’m back to living in Canada again, after several years in the Ivory Coast/Cote d’Ivoire. I’m happy to be home. With any luck, I will be returning to school again in the fall, but this time, with a direction in peacebuilding, and a more positive outlook on how the future can look.

Maybe for now a peaceful world is only a theoretical utopia studied and philosophized about in the academic world, but so is the ideal of capitalism, or communism or any other global system we’ve thought of before. For the longest time, I felt that the human world was doomed; that we would just continue to be violent with each other until the end of our time simply because it’s “human nature”. It’s not human nature. Humans are actually mostly programmed towards positive social behaviour. We spend most of our day collaborating or working or talking or sometimes even just tolerating others. It’s a necessary part of society.

Peace studies is only still in its infancy. Since really delving into it over the past year or so, I have found that I now envision other options. I can see a distant future with better systems, more happiness; a world where resources are more equitably shared and perhaps even a world where all have enough of what they need to not only survive, but thrive. It will take time, little by little, but I now see it as a real possibility; human beings actually working together for the betterment of our species and our planet, instead of fighting amongst each other and destroying all of the world’s wonders.

There will always be conflict. It’s unavoidable. When it happens, we can choose to be violent, we can choose to see ways to transform the conflict non-violently, we can choose to try to avoid it altogether; there’s a whole host of responses that are possible. Sometimes it’s extremely difficult to choose how to handle the conflict around us. Human emotions are a powerful thing. Giving people options by teaching and constantly reinforcing more positive conflict resolution skills in our societies, especially from childhood, to me is of utmost importance to take us in this direction and something I hope to seriously study and be more a part of in the future.

As I move on to the next, hopefully more peaceful period in my life, my priorities have changed and so I must give up this daily writing on conflict to move on to new ideas. I will still write in the blog, but likely less regularly and hopefully more positively from now on.

Thanks to all my kind readers and those who sent many thoughtful comments my way over the years to help make the reports better! Your assistance has been much appreciated!

Peace to all!

Rebecca

 

 

This Week in the World in Conflict… March 12th-19th, 2012.

  • A new Oxford University study has found that a beta-blocker drug may possibly reduce “subconscious” racism. The drug is thought to work by clocking activation of the peripheral autonomic nervous system and in areas of the brain involved with formulating emotional responses, including fear.
  • The Transitional Justice Institute announced its 5th annual Summer School on Transitional Justice on the theme of Gender, Conflict and UN Security Council Resolution 1325 in Ulster, Northern Ireland from June 25th-29th. Deadline for applications is May 4th, 2012.
  •  I’m not sure if this is actually newsworthy or merely conspiracy, and haven’t had a chance to look into it in any great depth, but it appears that there are mass resignations from world banks, investment houses and money funds; reportedly 320 in the last 4 months alone. The latest wrote a scathing resignation letter against Goldman Sachs in the New York Times.
  • The Center for International Peace Operations released a new report on partnerships in peace operations around the world.
  • The competition for the Presidency of the World Bank is heating up, as the current President ends his term on July 1st. For the first time, a normally behind-the-scenes election was shaken up after economist Jeffrey Sachs decided to shatter the ancient taboo and campaign openly for the job.
  • Oxfam released a new report discussing the progress in promoting local participation and empowerment in humanitarian responses, particularly in light of the Sphere Project, the Red Cross, and the Humanitarian Accountability Project.
  • The OECD released a new report warning that pollution will become the biggest cause of premature death, killing an estimated 3.6 million people a year by 2050 and overtaking such mass killers as poor sanitation and lack of clean drinking water.

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.

Women, Peace and Security

Hello all!

Reader Tim Symonds sent the following interesting information regarding women’s peace and security issues that I’d like to share with you! Thank you Tim for your contributions!

Peace!

Rebecca

A new post-conflict/peacebuilding Routledge publication

Of particular interest to students and researchers of peacebuilding for the second decade of UNSCR1325, particularly Gender/post-conflict studies, UN Agencies, International Donors, Foreign Offices, Parliamentarians, Departments of International Development/Stabilisation Units, Defence Departments, Humanitarian Agencies,  international security and International Relations specialists.

Women, Peace and Security: Translating Policy into Practice

Edited by  ‘Funmi Olonisakin, Director of Conflict, Security & Development Group, King’s College London, and Karen Barnes and Eka Ikpe

Case Studies include

Nepal and the implementation of UNSCR1325, by Lesley Abdela

Lost In Translation? UNAMSIL, UNSCR1325 and women building peace in Sierra Leone, by Karen Barnes

Nigeria and the implementation of UNSCR1325, by Eka Ikpe

At the start of the second decade of UNSCR1325, Women, Peace and Security draws together the findings from eight countries (Nepal, Kosovo, Liberia, Rwanda, Timor-Leste, Nigeria, Sudan, Sierra Leone) and four regional contexts (ECOWAS, European Union, African Union, SADC) to provide guidance on how the impact of this pioneering Resolution can be measured, and how peacekeeping operations could improve their capacity to engender security.

  • ISBN: 978-0-415-58797-6 (hbk)
  • Pages: 246 pages
  • first published 2011

Also, Tim sent this CARE report which discusses women’s meaningful participation in peacebuilding and governance.

CARE Report Nepal

Executive Summary

CARE Nepal has been working on 1325 with the poorest and most marginalised
women from the grassroots up. When poor, vulnerable and socially excluded
women are empowered and given the opportunity, they show themselves ready
and able to begin untangling the knots of politics, Gender- and Caste-based
prejudice to work out their own solutions. In Nepal an immense gap exists
between the Capital and the people who live in the rest of Nepal, especially
the millions outside the Kathmandu Valley. Hierarchies in various forms
prevent women’s meaningful participation, especially PVSE women. There are
parallel universes with the women mostly in one universe, the men in
another.

This week in conflict… October 30th-November 5th, 2010

World

  • The UN Development Programme (UNDP) has released its 2010 Human Development Report entitled “The Real Wealth of Nations: Pathways to Human Development” that examines progress in health, education and income. The report uses a “human development index” (HDI) which ranks 135 countries for comparable data. The report warned that a continued failure to tackle climate change was the biggest challenge to the anti-poverty drive. It listed Norway, Australia and New Zealand as the best countries in the world to live, while Zimbabwe, Niger, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo were listed as least desirable places to live. Japan was listed as the country with the highest life expectancy (83.6 years), and Afghanistan had the lowest life expectancy (44.6 years).
  • The first comprehensive report into cluster bombs around the world was released by Cluster Munition Monitor on Monday. The report found that Norway, Belgium, Spain, Portugal, Colombia, Moldova and Montenegro have destroyed their weapons and that 11 other countries were in the process of doing so. The UK is said to have destroyed more than a third of its stockpile.
  • Several bombings targeting embassies and major world leaders, including  US bound packages found in Dubai and Britain, a spate of mail bombs in Greece, suspicious packages to France’s Nicholas Sarkozy, Italy’s Silvio Berlusconi and Germany’s Angela Merkel were intercepted this week. Intelligence agencies have cited both domestic terrorists (in some of the Greek cases), and the Yemen-based group al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula as possible suspects, and are conferring with the other bomb cases to determine if they were built by the same people.
  • The International Food Policy Research Institute released its 2010 Global Hunger Index this week. Four nations ranked “extremely alarming” were all based in sub-Saharan Africa.
  • UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called for generous contributions to the UN peacebuilding fund, that was set up in 2006 to support efforts to augment peace and stability in countries emerging from conflict. The Fund has so far received $342 million, exceeding its initial target of $250 million, with 46 countries contributing.
  • Companies and states investing in large-scale land deals must be held to standards of transparency and accountability to ensure that their deals are not threatening human rights or food security a new report released by the Centre for Human Rights and Global Justice at NYU School of Law announced on Monday. The report analyzes the immediate and anticipated impacts of large-scale land deals in parts of Africa and South Asia.
  • A report by the Open Society Justice Initiative was released on “Corporate War Crimes“. The report details how corporate pillage can be tried as a war crime as both the Hague Regulations of 1907 and the Geneva Conventions prohibit pillage, as well as most domestic jurisdictions and international courts.

Africa

  • Fresh fighting is said to have erupted in southern Darfur on Wednesday between fighters from the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) and security forces, as rebels ambushed a government food and supplies convoy. JEM spokesmen announced that at least 50 people were killed in the attack. The spokesperson for the South Sudan referendum commission announced on Monday that he was resigning and spoke of deep disagreements with the head of the commission and its secretary general. He also expressed skepticism that the vote will be held on time, suggesting instead it be moved to April or May so that it can be more effective. Sudan’s southern army accused soldiers from the north of ambushing its men on its territory on Sunday, in violation of the 2005 peace deal. The northern army denied it had any troops south of the border. On Tuesday, the government shut down the Khartoum office of Radio Dabanga and arrested 13 of the staff for reporting negatively on Darfur. On Thursday, three people in a Latvian helicopter crew working for the World Food Programme in South Darfur were kidnapped at gunpoint.
  • In a strange move, Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf ordered her entire cabinet to take “administrative leave”, a euphemism for suspension, until further notice. She implied in her order that those not ordered back to work, within an unspecified time, should consider themselves dismissed.
  • Guinea’s run-off elections are in threat of being delayed again, as thousands of Guinea voters have been displaced from last month’s violence and will be denied their voting rights. The Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect issued a statement on Thursday saying the situation in the Guinea requires international action to prevent mass atrocities from happening during the second round.
  • Ivory Coast will be heading to a run-off election next month, after it failed to determine a majority candidate in its first Presidential election in more than a decade. Laurent Gbagbo will now face off against Alassane Ouattara on November 28th. Some 80% of registered voters peacefully cast ballots on Sunday. Third place candidate Henri Bedie called for a recount as the results went against his favor, although the elections have been widely regarded as fair and free. Experts fear an escalation of violence in the upcoming run-off elections.
  • At least 57 Muslim Brotherhood candidates have been barred from Egypt’s upcoming parliamentary election, it was announced on Wednesday. The group, who won 88 out of 444 seats in the 2005 elections, have claimed that the authorities are doing whatever they can to limit challenges to the ruling National Democratic Party, although the government has said the candidates will have an opportunity to appeal the decisions.
  • Tanzania participated in its presidential election on Sunday, with incumbent Jakaya Kikwete reported as the winner with a landslide 61% of the votes. The parliamentary polls were contested by the main opposition leader on suspected fraud, whose claims were later rejected by election officials. A second opposition party criticized the poll on Thursday after the National Electoral Commission admitted on Wednesday that there could have been irregularities in vote tallying. Clashes erupted between opposition supporters and riot police during the delay of vote counting. Some voters were shocked to find their names listed as dead on voter lists while they were still very much alive, along with other irregularities such as missing names, claims of malpractice and protests.
  • A new round of informal talks of fighting parties in the Western Sahara will take place in New York next week. Morocco and Frente Polisario will both send delegates, as well as neighbouring states Algeria and Mauritania. Moroccan authorities say they dismantled two al-Qaeda terrorist cells this week.
  • At least 15 people are dead following an attack by militants on government soldiers in Mogadishu, Somalia on Sunday. On Monday, the African Union Mission in Somalia announced it will train an additional 800 policemen to provide security to Mogadishu. Somalia’s parliament approved a new Prime Minister on Sunday, in a vote of 297 to 92. The new PM, Mohamed Abdullahii Mohamed is considered as someone who could potentially bridge the gap between various groups.
  • An explosion rocked a government guest house in Nigeria’s Niger Delta on Wednesday. Officials were not immediately clear on the cause of the blast or who was responsible.
  • A Ugandan newspaper again published photographs, along with names and home addresses of gay Ugandans on Monday. A human rights group is now seeking a legal injunction against the publication.
  • The Central Intelligence Organization in Zimbabwe is said to have seized donated portable radios from villagers in Chitowa district. The radios were distributed by a civil society organization to help improve access to information for marginalized groups in the area. Violence was said to mar the conclusion of the constitutional outreach meetings, as a MDC supporter was stabbed in the head by ZANU-PF thugs. Around 52 meetings have so far been abandoned or disrupted because of ZANU-PF sponsored violence.
  • At least 21 census agents are said to have been abducted while updating votes’ rolls for upcoming elections it was announced on Monday in the Central African Republic. The agents were intercepted by members of the Convention of Patriots for Justice and Peace (CPJP) who confiscated the information that had been gathered and destroyed it and are holding the agents hostage.
  • More than 600 women and girls were raped during the mass expulsion of illegal immigrants across the Congo-Angola border, the UN announced this week. Many of the victims were locked in dungeon-like conditions for several weeks and raped repeatedly by security forces. Many rape victims in the DRC, keen to keep their family reputation in tack and lacking confidence in the police, opt to take justice into their own hands and come to amicable settlements with their attackers.

Asia

  • NATO has claimed that some 30 insurgents were killed in an overnight raid on Saturday in eastern Afghanistan in an attack that wounded five coalition soldiers. Also on Saturday, two ISAF troops were killed in separate incidents in Kabul; and more than 10 suspected insurgents were killed in Helmand. On Sunday, the ISAF announced it had killed as many as 78 insurgents in air strikes. On Monday, Afghan and foreign troops announced that they had seized nearly 24 tonnes of ammonium nitrate, to be used in homemade bombs, killing at least 15 insurgents in the process; two ISAF service members were killed in a roadside bomb in Kabul; a large number of insurgents attacked and seized Khogyani district in Ghazni province; and two female Afghan aid workers were killed in Kandahar. On Tuesday, a NATO troop member was killed in an insurgent attack in Kabul; Afghan and ISAF troops killed several insurgents in the east in an operation targeting a Taliban leader; and an armed suspected insurgent was shot dead and two suspects arrested in an ISAF/Afghan raid in Helmand. On Wednesday, insurgents firing on NATO troops killed five Afghan civilians and wounded nine others in Helmand; five insurgents were killed while trying to plant a roadside bomb west of Kabul; two ISAF troops were killed in separate attacks in Kabul; and Afghan and ISAF troops killed “several” insurgents and detained several more during an operation in Helmand. On Thursday, two ISAF service members were killed following an attack in Kabul; ISAF forces fired a hellfire missile from the air at two people appearing to be carrying weapons by motorcycle in Kandahar; four insurgents were killed in an Afghan and foreign patrol in Helmand; and an ISAF service member was killed in an insurgent attack in Kabul. On Friday, a teenage suicide bomber killed at least 9 people and wounded some 30 others at a bazaar in the west; six ISAF service members were killed in insurgent attacks and roadside bombs; and a senior leader of the al-Qaeda linked Haqqani network and several insurgents were killed in a coalition air strike.  The US special envoy on Afghanistan and Pakistan has down played reports of reconciliation talks with the Taliban, announcing that while more were coming forward, the leaders were not. The US military’s claim that it had a successful campaign fighting the Taliban in Arghandab Valley infuriated local people who said the conflict destroyed their harvest this week. A US led campaign is also said to have destroyed or damaged hundreds of houses this week, despite a US strategy designed to weaken support for the Taliban by limiting harm to civilians. The UN mission in Afghanistan announced on Sunday that it had set up a group of experts to support the work in the newly-formed peace council. NATO faces a shortage of specialist instructors to train Afghan forces, so has begun to send hundreds to study outside Afghanistan. The Taliban’s ability to produce large numbers of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) has been reported to be severely constrained this week due to an apparent shortage of ammonium nitrate. The Taliban claimed this week to have struck a deal with as many as 19 police officers who are said to have defected to the Taliban, leaving behind a burning police station.
  • On Monday, a US drone attack killed at least five people in northwest Pakistan, bringing the US drone attack count to 21 in Pakistan in the last month alone. On Tuesday, gunmen kidnapped seven employees of a state-owned oil and gas company in Pakistan. Three attacks by US drones are said to have killed at least 12 suspected fighters in northwestern Pakistan on Wednesday. Also on Wednesday, a bomb blast damaged a building of an Islamist party in Peshawar. On Friday, a suicide bomber demolished a mosque in the north-west during prayers, killing at least 66 people; and a grenade blast killed at least three people at another mosque on the Afghan border.
  • Indian troops in Kashmir shot dead six separatist militants in firefights on Tuesday. Concerns were raised that militants may be stepping up violence ahead of US President Barack Obama’s visit this week.
  • Protesters in southwestern China overturned and torched dozens of vehicles over what they say is an illegal land grab for a construction project on Thursday. Around 2,000 paramilitary and riot police were eventually deployed and around 20 people were said to have been injured.
  • The Philippines was on heightened alert this week for possible terrorist attacks after American, British, Australian, Canadian and New Zealand governments warned their citizens of potential attacks. The Philippine military said it did not have similar information on an immediate threat, but took the advisories seriously.
  • Japan issued a warning to Russia following President Medvedev’s November 1st visit to disputed islands in the North Pacific that both countries make claims to. Russia rejected the warning claiming it does not take advice from anyone when traveling within Russian territory.
  • The results of the Kyrgyzstani elections were released on Monday, and were assessed by observers as positive, transparent and well organized. The parliamentary elections took place on October 10th.
  • Last week’s exchange of gunfire across the Korean border was likely an accident and not a provocation, a top lawmaker and former army general announced on Monday. Media reports have downplayed the skirmish, and there have been no signs of escalation. On Wednesday, a North Korean fishing boat allegedly straying across the Korean border in the Yellow Sea, was fired upon by the South Korean Navy with warning shots.
  • Two main opposition parties in Burma/Myanmar have accused the political group of the military government of “cheating” and “threatening” voters ahead of this weekend’s elections. The election has so-far been considered a sham, as reporters and observers are to be denied access to the country during the vote.
  • The government of Cambodia demanded the removal of the director of the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) in the country and stated that the government intends to force the office’s closure. The government is claiming that the office acted as a “spokesperson for the opposition party”.

Central and North America

  • Four Americans were killed in separate attacks in Ciudad Juarez between Friday and Sunday, and the charred body of a Canadian businessman was found on Saturday inside the trunk of a car in Guerrero. Suspected drug hitmen tossed grenades at four police stations across Monterrey on Saturday, killing one civilian and wounded 17 others. Mexican authorities found at least 18 bodies in a mass grave near the resort city of Acapulco on Wednesday. Police have not yet confirmed whether the bodies are those of the tourists who went missing in late September.
  • The US military’s ban on openly gay troops is to remain in place while the Obama administration challenges a court ruling overturning the policy. Obama says he supports ending the “don’t ask, don’t tell” rule, but argues that congress and not the courts should make the decision. For the first time, US human rights practices will be under review by the UN Human Rights Council on Friday. The US has announced that it is open to fair criticism of its human rights record. On Friday it was reported that the US defended its “proud” human rights record, which included the Guantanamo scandal, obstacles to Hispanic immigration, discrimination of Muslims and children’s rights and was largely unapologetic for its behaviour.
  • Gunmen in Honduras opened fire on a group of people in a neighbourhood sports fiend, killing at least 14 on Saturday. It was not immediately clear what triggered the attack, but drug trafficking between rival gangs was suspected.

South America

  • Colombia has suspended seven army officers and soldiers for failing to control their troops in connection with the brutal murders of three impoverished children last month. One of the officers has acknowledged raping the young 14 year old girl before she was killed, and has also confessed to having raped a 13 year old girl in a separate incident on October 2nd.
  • Dilma Rousseff won Brazil’s Presidential election to become the first woman to lead the country by beating rival her rival with 55.5% of the vote in the run-off election. Rousseff vowed to eradicate poverty affecting 20 million people in the country.
  • A Peruvian blogger was sentenced to three years in prison, a fine and 120 days of social work for “aggravated defamation” of a politician after posting an article that linked to several media outlets that discussed criminal accusations against a former minister and congressman. The sentence has generated political and media uproar in the country and has been called unprecedented and unconstitutional.

Middle East

  • On Saturday, gunman attacked an Iraqi army checkpoint in Abu Ghraib killing two soldiers and wounding five people; gunmen wounded a policeman in Kirkuk; a sticky bomb attack killed a driver in Baghdad; an 8 year old boy was killed and two of his family wounded after a grenade he found exploded in the southwest; and a roadside bomb targeting an Iraqi army patrol wounded three civilians in Mosul. More than 50 people are said to have been killed after Iraqi security forces stormed a Catholic church in Baghdad on Sunday to free hostages being held by gunmen. Also on Sunday, four Iraqi soldiers were wounded after two mortars landed at an Iraqi army base in Mosul; a car bomb exploded in the north, killing one leader of a government-back militia and wounding three passers-by; a roadside bomb wounded one policeman and two civilians in Baghdad; and another roadside bomb wounded two civilians in Baghdad. On Monday, the chief of a northern police station was killed and his driver wounded in a sticky bomb attack; and Kurdistan security forces killed a gunman carrying around 25 kg of explosive materials at a checkpoint. On Tuesday, more than 36 people were killed (later reported to be as many as 63 people) in a series of apparently coordinated blasts in Baghdad; an off-duty policeman was killed in a roadside bomb in Falluja; a roadside bomb targeting a police patrol wounded four policemen in Mosul; a roadside bomb targeting another police patrol wounded three policemen in Mosul; a man was found suffocated and torched to death in Kirkuk; gunmen shot and killed a merchant in Kirkuk; gunmen shot and killed a government backed militia leader in front of his house north of Baghdad; and gunmen shot and killed a civilian in Kirkuk. On Wednesday, armed men killed a 17 year old boy in front of his home in Mosul; a roadside bomb on a motorcycle wounded two firemen in Ramadi; another roadside bomb in Ramadi wounded two civilians; a car bomb targeting an Iraqi army patrol wounded three soldiers in the north; and gunmen threw a hand grenade at a police patrol, wounding a woman in Mosul. On Thursday, four soldiers and two policemen were wounded in three roadside bombs in the west; three children were wounded in a bomb attack in Mosul; police found the body of a man riddled with gunshot wounds to his chest and head in Mosul; three policemen were killed and six wounded during a bomb detonation in the north; two roadside bombs killed a driver in the west; three policemen were wounded in an attack on a police checkpoint near Falluja; three other policemen were wounded in a roadside bomb attack in Falluja; and two interior ministry officers were wounded in a sticky bomb attack in Baghdad. On Friday, nine civilians were killed in a bomb attack in Baquba; and a roadside bomb killed a government-backed Sunni Sahwa militia leader in Kirkuk.
  • Iran has arrested four men it claims were paid by a British based man with Kurdish sympathies to carry out a series of assassinations. The arrests are thought to put further strain on the already troubled relations between Britain and Iran.
  • The government of Yemen has launched a major offensive against al-Qaeda, and in particular a Saudi bomb maker behind a year-long wave of bombing attempts, and is suspected of the bombing of a  major oil pipeline this week. At least two Yemeni soldiers and one attacker were said to have been killed after anti-government fighters attacked a military checkpoint on Wednesday. On Thursday, a car bomb in the south killed two people and wounded at least 13 others; a masked gunmen shot and wounded a soldier manning a checkpoint; and southern secessionists took to the streets in a weekly demonstration to protest against the detention of separatists.
  • A Palestinian leader of an extremist group was killed in an apparent Israeli airstrike in Gaza City on Wednesday. Also on Wednesday, a Hamas police officer shot dead a Palestinian salesman and wounded his assistant in a market in a refugee camp west of Gaza City. Israeli undercover agents have been accused by human rights group B’Tselem of abusing Palestinians during questioning at a detention centre. Israel rejected the allegations.
  • Israel has suspended dialogue with the UK in protest over a British law that allows UK courts to prosecute visiting Israeli officials for alleged war crimes. The UK has said that the law needs to be changed, but have not suggested when.

Europe

  • At least 32 people were injured after a suspected suicide bomber detonated an explosive device in Istanbul, Turkey on Sunday. Kurdish fighters have denied responsibility and announced the extension of a unilateral ceasefire. On Thursday, a group connected with the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), the Kurdistan Freedom Hawks (TAK) claimed responsibility for the attack.
  • An Arab woman on vacation in France was attacked by a French retiree for wearing a full-face veil. The case has highlighted potential problems with the recent law enforcing a veil ban.
  • A suspected militant detonated an improvised grenade during a raid on a suspected rebel hideout on Monday, killing himself, and injuring at least 10 police officers in Chechnya.
  • Kosovo’s parliament voted overwhelmingly to oust the governing coalition this week and announced that its first elections since declaring independence from Serbia would be held December 12th. Kosovo entered a political deadlock when the President resigned in September.
  • Anti-government protesters were allowed to rally on Sunday in Moscow’s Triumph Square for the first time in years after authorities granted them permission. Opposition attempts at rallying have previously been broken up, with protesters detained or arrested. Russian police officers conducted an armed raid on Tuesday of a bank belonging to a billionaire. The billionaire suggested that the raid was connected to his support of opposition newspapers. Investigators said they were searching for evidence for a criminal case that was opened some time ago.
  • Georgia announced on Friday that it had detained some 15 undercover agents working in Georgia. The spies are said to have been passing on information about Georgia’s armed forces, weapons purchases, military communications and coordination with foreign armies. Relations between the two countries have remain mostly frozen since the war in August 2008.
  • Britain and France signed defense agreements on Tuesday to expand their cooperation, including the creation of a joint expeditionary force, shared use of aircraft carriers and combined efforts to improve safety and effectiveness of nuclear weapons. The cooperation pact is set to last 50 years and will transform the way the two countries fight wars and compete for defense contracts.

The DR Congo, MONUC and Joseph Kabila.

MONUC, the UN’s mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) will sadly soon be coming near an end, even though the country is arguably home to one of the most deadly and violent humanitarian crisis the world has ever seen. In December 2oo9, the UN extended their mission to run until May 2010 and have spent this time discussing plans for withdrawal. Recent talks suggest the troops will most likely stay past Congolese president Joseph Kabila’s hopeful June 30, 2010 deadline until the least devastating exit strategy can be fully devised. This will probably delay a full withdrawal until at least 2011.  The UN troop’s effectiveness and the necessity of their continuation in the country has been hotly debated. Congolese President Joseph Kabila calls for their immediate departure. Human Rights Watch has accused MONUC of complicity in massive abuses against the local population. Locals protest the UN headquarters, tell rumors of lizard-eating UN troops, and the abandonment of many bastard children parented by MONUC workers should they pull out of the country. Yet there is an obvious necessity for some stability as the local population is in desperate need of protection from wide-spread violence and an incredibly corrupt government system.

President Kabila has been asking the troops to leave now for years, claiming things are getting better and that the government can manage on their own, however the poor human rights record in the DRC would suggest otherwise. The atrocities happening in the DRC rival any crisis and brutality our planet has ever seen, yet seems hidden in the media behind violence in Afghanistan, Iraq or the Sudan. The DRC has been wracked with war for more than a decade, pushed to the brink after colonial independence, decades of poor despotic governance, enormous global theft of resources, and the violent militias fueled by ethnic hatreds spilling into the country following the Rwandan genocide. It is still enraged in severe violence with as many as 45,000 people dying each month from war or war related causes.  The violence has not diminished over these last few years. In fact, if anything, it seems to be increasing. According to OSCHA (the UN office for the coordination of Humanitarian affairs), violent incidents against aid workers increased 26% in the first six months of 2009 compared to 2008. They also report that security incidents in Goma were up 44% and up 63% in North Kivu over the past year. People are still dying at alarming rates, with mass violent atrocities regular, daily occurrences. One would be hard-pressed to find a person who hasn’t been personally affected by violence in the country. Yet, it seems to drop from our view here in North America so easily.

The UN mission in the Congo is the largest and most expensive in history with now more than 20,000 personnel on the ground. 150 UN personnel have lost their lives since the mission’s inception in 1999.   These troops have been accused of atrocities ranging from rape and murder, to assisting local militias and rebel groups in their massacres and have faced protests at the UN doorstep in extreme anger and frustration by local populations who feel they are not being fully protected. We cannot forget that despite all this negativity these troops have also been credited with protecting thousands of local Congolese on a daily basis who would surely die if not for their presence and assistance; they have also had their hands essentially tied by vague mandate and lack of funding. Millions and millions of locals have died (at least 5.6 million in the past decade and probably much more than that), millions more have been displaced, many tens of thousands have been raped (if not more) and these atrocities still continue daily in the most brutal fashion. More than half of the remaining 55 million people in the country are children who are vulnerable to recruitment into fighting factions, are subject to a lack of access to education, malnutrition, or other major human rights abuses, which makes long-term peace increasingly difficult. If these children grow up in constant violence and war, how can they ever know peace?

The peacekeepers’ are under a Chapter VII mandate which allows them to take “necessary action, in the areas of deployment of its infantry battalions and as it deems it within its capabilities, to protect United Nations and co-located JMC personnel, facilities, installations and equipment, ensure the security and freedom of movement of its personnel, and protect civilians under imminent threat of physical violence.” Their role on paper is essentially to provide stability, security and protection in the country while monitoring human rights abuses and assisting in disarmament, demobilization, resettlement and reintegration of rebel troops. The mission is clearly flawed as violence keeps increasing around them. By supporting the Congolese government, the UN peacekeepers are routinely found being complicit in operations that could be construed as war crimes. Peacekeeping is not enough for this mission. The corrupt government, police and army systems meant to protect are often accused of raid, rape, abuse and murder and the communities propagandized to continual vengeance by rumors that separate and demonize entire ethnic populations. Peacemaking, peacebuilding and regulation of government systems are a necessity on top of the peacekeeping force if any semblance of peace within the country is to be established.

President Joseph Kabila has been a controversial leader of the DRC since 2001. Taking control after his father’s assassination, he was elected as president three years later. His history (including even his age) is highly debated and the subject of great rumor. His lineage and parentage are also debated. Many local rumors claim he is the son of a Rwandan who was adopted by Laurent Kabila after his marriage to Joseph’s mother (Laurent was said to have as many as 13 wives and more than 25 children). There are also many claims of Joseph’s relation to and alliance to Rwandan forces, as he is feared as a puppet of Rwandan President Paul Kagame with an eventual plan to occupy and annex the eastern Kivu provinces from the Congo. Joseph spent many years of his life in neighbouring Tanzania and Uganda, making his life even more of a mystery to many Congolese citizens. He was commonly known as the commander of the famous army of kadogos (child soldiers) in his father’s campaign to oust the Mobutu regime. Kabila is also said to have studied at the Makerere University in Uganda and the PLA National Defense University in China. He had to change the Congolese constitution in 2006, lowering the eligibility age for elections from 35 to 30 so that he could himself run for office legally. His government troops have been accused of mass atrocities and continuing violence that seem to go unpunished. Despite this violence and lack of accountability, his government continues to receive extensive funding and assistance from many foreign sources.

The IMF has loaned over $502 million to the government of the Congo, requiring with it a roll-back of government services that have had some devastating effects. The World Bank and many other agencies continually supply the Congolese government with financial assistance, despite claims of massive human rights abuses by governmental parties. The DRC currently owes billions in debt from Mobutu’s dictatorial period with interest payments consuming more than 10% of the government budget each year, although talks are currently underway to try to reduce this debt. CIDA, Canada’s international development agency funnels over $30 million per year to “political and economic governance” programs with little accountability and transparency of where this funding actually goes. Natural resource wealth is the prime fuel for much of the violence including that earned from uranium, cobalt, coltan, gold, copper, tin, zinc, diamonds, and tantalite often found in many electronics products or packaging for products such as cans. Rebel and government groups battle it out for control of resources; a single mine able to provide them with upwards of $20 million per month in profit, enough to fund more weapons, power and control. The Chinese, Belgians, French, Canadians and Americans (among others) all have a vested monetary interest in the country and often take the opportunity to politically maneuver the government for their own interests.

Refugees returning to the Kivus are adding to the tensions as local politicians and rumor say the returnees are not Congolese Tutsi but rather Rwandans who have never even lived in the Congo. They are accused of throwing locals off their land, fueling further ethnic tensions and hatred in the region. Armed militias for several different ethnic groups who claim to “provide protection” for local and refugees populations are themselves accused of mass rape, murder, forced recruitment of soldiers (including child soldiers), and using slaves to illegally exploit minerals. There is little place to really turn for protection. The intense violence has caused dwindling humanitarian services (see also here, here, here, and here) that will surely diminish even further if the UN does withdrawal.

Something must be done to stop this violence. Proper oversight of natural resources is an absolute necessity combined with awareness in consuming nations to pressure the change within North American, Chinese and European consumption and lending habits. UN withdrawal will only bring more devastation, murder and abuse to the civilian population and must be avoided at all costs.

Please speak out against these crimes to anyone who will listen and be aware of what you purchase as you may be much more connected to this war than you might think. If you would like to read more about conflict resources in the Congo, please read about my quest for a conflict free laptop.

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Some hope for the future.

In Canada:

Act respecting Corporate Accountability for the Activities of Mining, Oil or Gas in Developing Countries

In the US:

Conflict Minerals Trade Act of 2009

Congo Conflict Minerals Act of 2009

In the EU:

Global Witness pushes for legislation

Some of the corporations:

Congo tracking project aims to end IT industry’s use of “blood tin”

Supply chains unite to start iTSCi mineral traceability project in DRC

Global e-Sustainability Initiative


Israel-Palestine.

Until you have lived it, it’s hard to really understand the full complexities of this war (or any war for that matter). People read or are told all kinds of untruths about this war and seem keen on spreading them further, with such anger and hate in their voices. There are MANY guilty parties in this war, who have committed tremendous wrongs against other human beings. It is no longer a matter of who started what. Deciding blame is no longer an option. This war needs to stop and some sort of peace must begin to be built. The major human rights abuses need to stop.

What I find so frustrating about the whole situation is the veil of propaganda that surrounds this war, and the way cultural violence is like gasoline on the fire to an extent that atrocities are spinned to be some sort of a positive.

The civilians living in this area, whether Palestinian or Israeli (and others), should not have to live in fear. They should not have to endure bombings or terror attacks or the denying of any human right. These atrocities need to stop.

I feel that I have to say that I was very nervous printing our first Middle East Issue of A Peace of Conflict. It’s not that I don’t really know about the conflict. I have read extensively on the subject for many years now and visited the region, and know some of the destruction that is capable with my own eyes. As a Canadian, it shocked me beyong belief to see the bullet holes and bombed out bulidings on my first arrival. In Canada, I had always lived a peaceful existence, and war was this distant thing I had only really read about or watched on tv. So I asked Heather, my co-editor if she would write the Israel-Palestine briefing for the issue, because I was sure that in the 200 words alloted that I would have trouble staying neutral, which is something we try to do in the country briefings. And I was also very afraid.

I was afraid to write a piece about the conflict directly, because where do you begin? And how do you avoid the angry backlash that always seems to follow any words about this conflict? How do you avoid spreading propaganda, and how do you keep from hurting others with your statements?

I felt it’s necessary to discuss the fear that I feel in writing about the issue, because that’s part of the cultural violence. It stems dialogue. It stops relationships. It closes minds. It needs to stop.

Cultural violence surrounds the people living in this region. It is ensuring the conflict continues. The people face it in the media, at home, at work, at school, on the streets. It propagates and angers and creates hate. Many Israeli and Palestinians are trying to demand more peaceful solutions to this conflict, and their voices must be heard. Our government must listen to their needs and assist them in developing a peacebuilding solution that can be lasting. Transformation processes must be done to simmer the conflict that rages on between the Israeli state and Hamas.

Peace in the Middle East!


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