- A new American initiative to improve the notoriously poor LGBT rights in sub-Saharan Africa is reportedly inspiring a large backlash. Sub-Saharan Africa is marked by widespread homophobia as well as chronic dependence on foreign aid, in particular from the US, and the idea that the two issues might now be linked seems to upset a lot of people.
- The Lord’s Resistance Army has reportedly recently launched a new spate of attacks in the DRC after a lull in the second half of 2011; and the UN peacekeeping chief spoke of the role of UN peacekeepers in tackling the LRA. A video produced by the organization Invisible Children went viral this week demanding the removal of LRA leader Joseph Kony (#Kony2012), reaching more than 70 million hits and raising some $5 million in less than a week, amid much criticism. Frankly, I’m with the critics on this one; the idea of increased military intervention to stop a small rebel group (best estimates suggest 200-400 fighters left) that is heavily made up of children, when there are already several armed groups after them (including 100 American soldiers) strikes me as a bad idea, as do the claims/tone of the video itself, the organization’s past behaviour and the grandiose attitude of its founders. I have written my own response to the Kony 2012 campaign, which can be viewed here. Following the Kony 2012 campaign, Uganda announced it would catch Kony dead or alive, eventually.
- A senior American official urged the President of Malawi on Friday to respect his citizens’ right to freedom of expression, days after he accused Western donors of funding an opposition protest movement in his country; while the State House warned Malawian journalists, editors and human rights defenders that they risk facing unspecified action if they continue “twisting information”.
- One year after the start of several months of popular revolts in Burkina Faso, the situation has settled down, but reportedly remains fragile. The government has adopted a number of measures to appease its critics, including upping civil servant salaries, intensifying the fight against corruption and subsidizing food prices.
- A court in Tunisia reportedly fined a newspaper publisher 1,000 dinars ($665) on Thursday for printing a photograph of a footballer frolicking with his nude girlfriend, raising fears of a media crackdown.
- One police officer in Mozambique was reportedly killed on Thursday after clashes with members of the former Renamo guerrilla movement, highlighting tensions that still exist in the country despite a 1992 peace accord.
- The European Court of Human Rights ruled on Wednesday that the rights of a group of Somali and Eritrean nationals who were intercepted by Italian Customs boats and returned to Libya in 2009 were violated under several provisions of the European Convention on Human Rights; the government called announced plans for greater autonomy in Benghazi a foreign-inspired plot to break up the country; while American President Obama hosted the Libyan PM at the White House, encouraging him to follow through on plans to hold national elections in June and stressing the importance of transparency and engagement with civil society, along with discussion cooperation on border management, weapons security and regional counterterrorism concerns. On Wednesday, Libyan leader Jalil vowed to use force to stop the country dividing into autonomous regions. On Friday, thousands of people took to the streets in the two biggest cities to protest moves by groups in the east to declare autonomy from central rule; Russia criticized UN investigators for failing to adequately probe deaths caused by NATO bombs during the uprising against Gaddafi last year; the government reclaimed possession from Saadi Gaddafi of a London mansion worth some 10 million pounds after a British court ruled it had been bought using stolen Libyan state funds; while investigators probing violations committed during the country’s conflict said that they were giving the UN’s human rights chief a list of people who should face international or national justice. On Monday, damaging new claims emerged linking French President Sarkozy’s 2007 election campaign and former Libyan leader Gaddafi, who is said to have contributed up to 50 million euro to his election fund; the government called upon its neighbours to toughen up border security, concerned about the large numbers of people who have been smuggled across the border since the end of fighting last year; while the UN Security Council extended the UN mission assisting Libya with its democratic transition for another 12 months, adjusting their mandate to support national efforts to promote the rule of law, protect human rights, restore public security and hold free and fair elections.
- A popular music video making rounds in Senegal calls upon hard-up citizens who are offered cash for their vote in the upcoming Presidential election to pocket the money and vote as they wish anyway. On Monday, Belgium launched a bid in the UN’s highest court to force Senegal to bring former Chadian President Hissene Habre, dubbed “Africa’s Pinochet”, to trial for crimes against humanity.
- The Trade Union Congress of Swaziland announced on Monday that it will boycott the 2013 national elections in the kingdom because political parties are banned. Political parties are banned in the country, and only individuals are allowed to stand as candidates.
- Protests erupted in Khartoum, Sudan on Tuesday after a woman was reportedly killed by police; police responded by firing tear gas and using batons to break up the demonstrations. On Friday, armed Murle tribesman reportedly raided cattle camps, resulting in the disappearance of 500-800 people who are feared dead or abducted. On Sunday, a former senior UN official accused the Sudanese government of launching a genocidal campaign against non-Arab villagers in South Kordofan, by bombing civilians and using tactics reminiscent of the Darfur conflict—a charge the government dismissed. On Monday, the UN mission in South Sudan announced that it will provide support by collecting weapons at a civilian disarmament that were held illegally and monitoring the process. On Tuesday, the UN peacekeeping mission in South Sudan said it sent patrol units and a medical team to an area on the Ethiopian border after unidentified raiders reportedly attacked several cattle camps over the weekend, wounding some 63 people and causing some 15,000 to flee into Ethiopia.
- Human Rights Watch released a report urging the government of Cote d’Ivoire to urgently address the rising violent crime in and around the central town of Bouake, to takes steps to disarm former combatants widely believed to be implicated in the attacks, adequately equip the police and gendarmes to protect the population and investigate violent crimes. A former warlord, Cherif Ousmane, was appointed by the army high command as the head of an “anti-armed gangs unit” responsible for cracking down on bandits operating on the country’s highways. On Monday, local newspapers suggested that PM Guillaume Soro had resigned from his position during an extraordinary cabinet meeting in Abidjan.
- Nigeria expelled some 56 South Africans from their country for “lack of proper documentation” on Tuesday in an apparent retaliation for the expulsion of 125 Nigerians from South Africa the previous weekend. On Thursday, Italian politicians and newspapers accused of giving them “a slap in the face” by allegedly not informing it of the special-forces raid in Nigeria that left one Italian and one British hostage dead; a Boko Haram spokesman denied any link to the kidnapping; police in Lagos State denied rumours that Boko Haram members has snuck into the state, advising residents to discard such report and go about their legal businesses without fear; suspected Boko Haram insurgents attacked a police station and two banks in a remote part of the north, shooting dead some four policemen and three civilians; while some 20 people were said to have been killed and several others injured when Fulani herdsmen reportedly invaded Kadarko town in Nasarawa State. On Friday, suspected Boko Haram militants reportedly set fire to the Bulabulim Ngarnam Police Station in Maiduguri, killing at least one person; a gun battle broke out between suspected militants and police in Kano, wounding at least three police officers; while some 120 Nigerians were deported from Britain back to the country for various offenses. On Saturday, Boko Haram warned some journalists to stop or desist from misrepresenting their views at a Media Telephone Conferencing. On Sunday, a car laden with explosive detonated outside a Catholic church in Jos, killing at least nine people and injuring others; while some six people were killed by unidentified gunmen in the Delta State area. By Monday, the death toll from the explosion in Jos had risen to 19; while suspected Fulani herdsman were accused of killing two people and injuring three others in Jos.
- Tens of thousands of people reportedly took to the streets in South Africa on Wednesday in a nationwide strike to demonstrate for improved workers rights and against plans to introduce unpopular road tolls. The House of Representatives mandated its Committee on Foreign Affairs to liaise with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to review Nigeria’s bilateral relations on Thursday, following the previous week’s deportations of South Africans.On Monday, expelled youth leader Julius Malema made a surprise apology and begged to be allowed back into the governing party.
- Police in Angola announced they are investigating a clash that occurred over the weekend in the capital between young anti-government protesters calling for the resignation of President Eduardo dos Santos and pro-government supporters who confronted them. On Tuesday, rights groups and activists warned of a rapidly deteriorating political climate in the country following a police raid on a private newspaper and a violent crackdown on anti-government protests.
- The UN peacekeeping mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo received tactical helicopters to support their mission from the Ukraine on Wednesday. On Friday, the UNHCR expressed concern that more than 3,000 Congolese civilians have fled into Uganda from the DRC’s North Kivu to escape fresh fighting since the beginning of the year. On Wednesday, the International Criminal Court issued its first judgment against Thomas Lubanga, an alleged warlord accused of enlisting and conscripting child soldiers.
- The UN humanitarian office announced on Wednesday that it had deployed a team to the Republic of Congo to support authorities following last week’s explosions at an ammunition depot that killed some 200 people and injured 1,500.
- Gunmen reportedly shot dead two policemen at a checkpoint near the capital in Burundi late on Wednesday and one attacker was killed in an exchange of fire. The Standard wrote an article about the revitalization of the once violent city of Bujumbura that is now peaceful.
- The MDC-T party in Zimbabwe announced on Sunday that it will go it alone if ZANU-PF decides to pull out of the coalition government in the hope of forcing early elections before the implementation of reforms as required under the Global Political Agreement. On Monday, a deadline for the Information Minister to implement media reforms ordered by the three principals to the inclusive government was reportedly ignored.
- Muslim Brotherhood leaders in Egypt announced they were likely to declare they had lost confidence in the PM’s government via a formal vote, a move that will add to pressure on the ruling military council to appoint a cabinet led by the group on Thursday; while a judge said he was delaying the trial of civil society activists including the 16 Americans accused of receiving illegal foreign funds until April 10th. Candidates for the “first ever free” Presidential elections began this weekend, with candidates now able to submit their applications. On Sunday, the leader of the Freedom and Justice party revealed that the Muslim Brotherhood and the ultraconservative al-Nour Party will support the head of the Supreme Judiciary Council, Hossam Al-Gheryani, for President; and an army doctor accused of carrying out forced “virginity tests” on female protesters last year was acquitted of all charges.
- At least 23 people were reportedly killed in an attack on Ethiopian troops by al-Shabaab insurgents near the border of Somalia on Saturday, with al-Shabaab claiming to have killed 73 Ethiopian soldiers and recovering 20 guns; while the African Union announced that Ethiopia was set to withdraw from Somalia by the end of April with Djibouti, Uganda and Burundi poised to step in. On Sunday, Ethiopia denied reports that its soldiers had been killed or captured. On Monday, the President of the Puntland government welcomed proposed talks between the Transitional Federal Government of Somalia and the Somaliland separatist region, but warned against denying the role of Puntland.
- Public hospitals in Kenya face a potentially devastating health worker shortage after the government reportedly fired on 25,000 nurses on Friday who had been on strike since March 1st to protest the government’s failure to implement a salary increase; while the ICC rejected appeals from the former finance minister and three others to have charges against them dropped relating to the country’s 2007 election violence. As many as six people were reportedly killed and scores others injured when multiple grenade explosions rocked downtown Nairobi on Saturday, in attacks linked to the al-Shabaab militia. On Sunday, the VP urged Kenyans to remain calm as the government continues to fights terror. On Monday, PM Odinga accused Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto of hatching a plot to avoid standing trial at the ICC, after documents purporting to be from the British Foreign Office was tabled in Parliament.
- Tuareg rebels in northern Mali reportedly took control of the key garrison town of Tessalit follow a weeks-long siege on Sunday.
- Kazakhstan addressed the UN General Assembly on Saturday to repeat its idea of the creation of a global currency under UN control that would significantly decrease the odds of a future financial crisis. The Minister said he believed “all the world’s economic problems are rooted in the inefficiency of the existing world monetary system, which no one controls and is not democratic.”
- The World Bank (WB) recently released it much anticipated report on farmland grabbing, which has been in controversy since 2008 because it threatens global food security. Governments and corporations are accused of buying up mass amounts of farmland (often illegally) in other countries to grow their own food or simply to make money. Critics have denounced the report as flawed and corrupted by the fact that the Bank’s commercial investment arm is a major investor in numerous private equity firms that are buying up rights to farmland while its Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency is providing land grab projects with political risk insurance.
- The UN refugee agency announced on Friday that they would be revising their policies to protect people fleeing persecution due to their sexual orientation or gender identity. Recent surveys highlighted the dangers and prejudice faced by lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transsexuals, and intersex asylum-seekers and refugees.
- A moderate Islamist group that signed a power sharing deal with Somalia’s government earlier this year has walked out of the Somali government. The group has accused the administration of planning to abolish the power sharing deal signed in March. On Sunday, an unidentified helicopter fired on houses of al-Shabab commanders. In an unprecedented agreement Somaliland and Puntland, once-warring territories in northern Somalia, have agreed in principle to work together to tackle common security threats. Gunmen killed one man and kidnapped three others in Somaliland on Wednesday, while another 11 (mostly civilians) were killed in an artillery battle in the main Bakara Market by Somali government backed by AU forces in Mogadishu.
- Political violence in Ghana has increased this past week, as riots and minor clashes rock the country following Parliamentary by-elections. Political analysts are concerned for the upcoming 2012 elections.
- Sudan’s vice president urged UN member states to forgive their debts in an effort to strengthen prospects for peace. The IMF has said that Sudan has nearly $38 billion in external debts. Sudanese officials from both the north and the south accused each other of deploying troops along their joint border amidst mounting tensions in the build-up to a referendum on southern independence. Both sides dismissed the other’s allegations. South Sudan has said they will provide community militia groups with weapons to fight the Lord’s Resistance Army, as the mainstream armed forces are already stretched to thin. North Sudan’s dominant party has threatened to reject the results of a southern Independence referendum unless the south withdraws its troops from disputed areas and allows free campaigning in the vote. A central Sudanese tribe has also warned it would fight anyone who prevented its member from voting in the referendum. Darfur rebels accused Sudan’s army of killing 27 people in a week-long campaign of air and ground assaults this week, although the Sudanese army dismissed the accusation.
- 15 children were hijacked on a school bus in Nigeria by gunmen on Tuesday. The kidnappers are demanding a ransom from the school in the amount of 20 million naira. The children were said to have been released on Friday, with no ransom paid and no physical injuries. Also on Friday, the 50th anniversary of Nigerian Independence from Britain, three bombs killed at least eight people. The attackers sent emails threats about the devices approximately an hour before they were detonated.
- There has been increasing violence in Zimbabwe during community meetings leading up to the constitutional referendum, including new arrests of civil society activists. The violence and intimidation has been mainly done by supporters of the ZANU-PF, the former sole ruling party.
- Eritrea criticized the UN General Assembly for continuing to ignore Ethiopia’s failure to comply with the international commission ruling that delineated the border between the two countries following the 1998-2000 war.
- The UN Security Council deployed 500 additional troops to Cote D’Ivoire in advance of the end of October elections. The elections had been repeatedly delayed in the past. Concerns over election violence have been elevated in the past several weeks, after several militia leaders have spoken out against demobilization payments made to former rebels, claiming that their members, who fought to protect the government deserve equal treatment and even taking over a government building to demand the same demobilization payment as the rebels. The UN mission in Cote D’Ivoire has asked the Security Council to lift the arms embargo on the country so that crowd control equipment can be bought for the upcoming elections. The opposition is concerned of how this equipment will be used.
- The UN Security Council lifted its 12 year arms embargo and other sanctions imposed on Sierra Leone on Wednesday. The Council also decided to extend their mandate of the Integrated Peacebuilding Office in Sierra Leone (UNIPSIL) for another year until September 15, 2011.
- The Tunisian government ratified the international treaty banning cluster munitions on Tuesday, becoming the first country in the Middle East or North Africa to do so. Tunisia is the 42nd country to ratify the convention which prohibits the use, production, transfer, and stockpiling of cluster munitions.
- Uganda has warned that the UN report implicating it, and several other countries’ armies in war crimes in the DRC, jeopardizes its commitment to regional peace missions and demanded that it not be published. Rwanda had previously warned the UN about its possible withdrawal from peacekeeping missions if the report was not changed, and later announced that it had the right to review future engagements with the UN. The report was released on Friday amid much criticism from some of the implicated countries.
- Two NATO soldiers were killed by an improvised explosive device in Afghanistan on Saturday, and another two on Sunday, while 70 insurgents died in separate clashes with coalition troops. Local residents complained that civilians were among the victims. A suicide attack on Tuesday killed a provincial deputy governor and five others in the east of the country. A NATO raid in the east killed four children and wounded three adults on Wednesday. A suicide bomber reportedly targeted a NATO military convoy near Kandahar, killing and injuring several civilians on Thursday. Four Georgian soldiers were said to be killed in the attack. Afghan and NATO forces began attacking Taliban strongholds on Saturday in Kandahar in a bid to bolster control of the area. Afghani election officials have ordered a partial recount of votes from seven of the country’s 34 provinces following countless complaints of fraud during last week’s elections. A former top-ranking UN official called upon the UN to investigate into alleged war crimes happening in Afghanistan to identify and prosecute individuals responsible. Three former Australian soldiers will be charged with manslaughter over the deaths of six civilians during a military operation in Afghanistan last year. On Monday, A US court began its trial of American soldiers accused of murder during an Afghani killing spree. Afghan President has announced the formation of a 70-member negotiation council that will push for peace with the Taliban and other insurgent groups, which the Taliban subsequently rejected.
- The Indian government decided on a major policy shift in Kashmir on Saturday, calling for the release of jailed student protesters, easing security strictures in major cities, reopening schools and universities, and offering financial compensation to the families of more than 100 civilians killed in protests in June. They were hoping the concerns would address the concerns of the protesting Kashmiris, however, the separatist leaders later rejected the shift. On Wednesday, authorities in Indian Kashmir said they will free jailed protesters and reduce the number of checkpoints in the main city, but put off a decision over whether to limit the scope of a hated security law used by the Indian military in the Muslim-majority region to curb the persistent unrest. Indian security forces killed 8 militants on Friday in two separate gunbattles.
- Pakistan’s minister for defense production has resigned after the PM summoned him to explain why he criticized Pakistan’s military. The move comes just after the PM had canceled its trip to Europe amid media speculation about a possible change of government. There is speculation that the military could remove the civilian government. On Friday, Pakistan’s army chief handed a list of corrupt or allegedly incompetent ministers to the President, demanding their removal. An Internet video showing men in Pakistani military uniforms executing six young men in civilian clothing has heightened concerns about unlawful killings by Pakistan soldiers. The Pakistani military said it was faked by militants, although CIA intelligence suggests otherwise. Pakistan was furious with NATO-led troops upon learning that US helicopters had crossed into its territory from Afghanistan to attack militants. Pakistan’s foreign ministry called the incursions a “clear violation and breach of the UN mandate” and suggested that Pakistan may consider response options. At least 30 militants were killed in the attack. On Thursday, Pakistan blocked a vital supply route for US and NATO troops in Afghanistan, and on Friday suspected militants set fire to more than two dozen tankers carrying fuel for NATO troops in retaliation.
- North Korea’s Kim Jong-il has promoted his youngest son to military general, which analysts are calling a clear sign that he is in line to succeed his father as the country’s leader. The ruling Workers’ Party held a rare meeting on Tuesday stating that a new supreme leadership body would be elected. The two Koreas held military talks on Thursday, which ended without progress as the North rejected the South’s demands for an apology over the sinking of a South Korean ship. North Korea also vowed to bolster its nuclear deterrent in response to the threat posed by the US, but promised to never use its atomic arsenal to attack or threaten any nation.
- New Delhi, India has cleared out the city’s poor in an effort to ensure visitors to the upcoming Commonwealth Games remember the games and not the poverty surrounding it. Three Indian judges ruled on Thursday that the disputed religious site in Ayodhya, claimed by both Muslims and Hindus, should be shared by both communities. Authorities have ramped up security measures over the week for fear of escalating violence over the decision, although it appears to have been taken relatively peacefully in the Hindu community and with non-violent rallies among the Muslim community.
- Indonesia sent an army battalion and hundreds of paramilitary police into Borneo on Wednesday to quell an ethnic clash in an eastern province that has killed at least three people. Offices in the area have been closed, and some houses burned as local people armed with machetes and spears searched for an immigrant ethnic group. An international film festival celebrating gay cinema was targeted by masked Islamic hardliners in Jakarta on Tuesday. The protesters chanted homophobic slogans and accused organizers of blasphemy, threatening to burn down the venue if the screenings were not halted.
- Thailand has lifted its state of emergency in some parts of the country, with the exception of the capital. The laws included bans on public gatherings of more than 5 people and gave security forces the right to detain suspects for 30 days without charge and were introduced in April amid mass anti-government rallies by the “Red Shirt” movement.
- A bomb blast rocked a rural Myanmar/Burmese election commission office on Friday, stirring fears of violence during the first election to be run in two decades. The election is to happen next month and is largely criticized as a “sham” to create a military-dominated system run by generals and their proxies with little change in the status quo.
Central and North America
- A mayor in a small Mexican town was found stoned to death on Monday in the third attack on a public official in less than a week. It was not made clear whether the killings were yet related to drug violence.
- More than one in four US veterans of the Iraq and Afghan wars say they have suffered service-related head injuries and two-thirds reported depression. Experts assert that real numbers may be significantly higher as many are afraid to admit suffering PTSD because they are afraid it would keep them from their families or hurt their careers.
- The Obama administration is said to be drafting a bill that would require online communications services to be “technically capable of complying” with a wiretap order. The bill is said to make it easier for the US government to spy on Internet communications. The US has also announced unprecedented economic sanctions on Iran, aimed at punishing 8 Iranian officials for human rights abuses in the country. The sanctions ban Americans from doing business with certain officials, and freezes and US assets held by them. The Pentagon has also announced that the US are going to be resuming military contacts with China that were cut off earlier this year.
- Canada’s House of Commons ruled on Wednesday that Iraqi war resisters from the US will not be allowed shelter in Canada. More than three dozen Americans moved to Canada to avoid military duty in Iraq and sought to stay on humanitarian grounds.
- Unrest erupted in Ecuador on Thursday as soldiers took control of the main airport, police protested in the streets and looting the capital while the President considered dissolving a deadlocked Congress. The President denounced what he called “a coup attempt”, and was allegedly hospitalized due to the effect of tear gas. He was later said to being held hostage there by police. The following day, the President vowed to punish protesters who rebelled saying there would be ‘no forgiving nor forgetting’. The police chief quit his post on Friday after failing to stop the rebellion by his officers.
- The winner of Iraq’s March elections has ruled out participating in any new government that would be led by the current Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki. The heavily fortified Green Zone in Baghdad has come under an intensifying barrage of rocket attacks in recent weeks. A senior American military commander suggested that Iranian-backed militias were responsible. Officials say three police officers were killed in late night attacks in two northern Iraqi cities, and that a car bomb on Tuesday night killed another 2 officers. An American serviceman is being held in Iraq in connection with the shooting of two soldiers last week. A roadside bomb near Baghdad on Friday killed 3 people and wounded another seven at a checkpoint.
- Israel announced on Monday it would not extend the 10-month moratorium on new settler homes in the West Bank to the disappointment of world leaders. The Palestinians who previously vowed to quit peace talks if the moratorium was not extended have expressed desire to remain in the talks. An Israeli strike in Gaza strip on Monday killed 3 gunmen belong to an Islamic Jihad group. The Israeli navy boarded a yacht carrying 10 Jewish activists who were attempting to break the sea blockade of Gaza and forcibly diverted the vessel to the nearby port of Ashdod. Five of the activists were released from police custody on Wednesday, and five others are set to be deported. The Israeli PM has distanced himself from the foreign minister’s speech at the UN this week after the minister told the General Assembly that an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement would take decades and dismissed the current talks as unrealistic. The UN Human Rights Council endorsed last week’s critical report on Israel’s raid of the May aid flotilla, but stopped short of pressing for an international criminal inquiry. The report also highlighted that US citizen Furkan Dogan and five other Turkish citizens were murdered execution-style by Israeli commandos in the raid.
- Two Iranian doctors were mysteriously killed outside their workplaces this month. Critics suspect that at least one was linked to a politically motivated cover-up of prisoner abuses last summer following Iran’s disputed presidential elections. President Ahmadinejad’s closest aide has called for more rights for Iran’s “oppressed” women in an interview with the semi-official ILNA news agency, in a move thought likely to fuel controversy.
- Syria has said it is willing to resume peace talks with Israel if they are geared towards Israeli withdrawal from the Golan Heights this week. Israel has said it will not enter into any talks with Syria that have pre-conditions.
- Yemen has stepped up a crackdown on the media that is said to have created the worst climate for press freedom in decades. Some new legislative proposals would set prohibitive financial barriers for broadcast and online news outlets, expand the definition of criminal defamation to include virtually any form of criticism of the President and increase prison terms.
- At least 2 Islamist insurgents were killed and 42 injured after a suicide bomber blew himself up in Daghestan on Saturday. Russian security forces said they killed 15 suspected rebels in clashes on Wednesday, and another 17 policemen are said to have been injured after explosives rocked their convoy. Russia claimed to have found and defused a car bomb on Thursday in the North Caucasus.
- Angry protesters took to the streets in Iceland’s capital on Friday, forcing MPs to run away from those they represent. The protests were sparked due to renewed anger about the impact of the financial crisis. Demonstrations also happened in Greece, Portugal, Slovenia and Lithuania.
- The Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) in Turkey extended its unilateral ceasefire by one more month on Thursday. The militants’ jailed leader has been in talks with Turkish officials and encouraged the group to continue the ceasefire.
- The UK has awarded 12 million pounds in “special payments” including compensation to asylum seekers who were traumatized after being locked up in detention centres in the UK. Asylum seekers are protected under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights article 14, and the European Union’s Charter article 63 CE.
- France is now seeking to crack down on the Cirque Romanes, or the “Gypsy Circus” in the latest case of Roma discrimination. French authorities have refused to validate work permits for musicians crucial to the performances. The European Commission ordered France to comply with an EU directive on the free movement of European Union citizens or face legal action over its expulsion of thousands of Roma on Wednesday.
- The UN Refugee Agency has expressed concern over the growing number of deportations of Iraqi asylum-seekers from Western Europe over the last two months. The deportations are in contravention of UNHCR guidelines for handling Iraqi asylum applications.
- Eta, the Basque separatist group has said it is willing to declare a permanent, verifiable ceasefire with the Spanish government in a bid to settle its long-running conflict. The group did not specify its conditions.
- The President of Kosovo resigned on Monday after a court ruled he cannot serve as head of state as well as leader of a political party. Analysts are concerned that the resignation could delay peace talks with Serbia, which are expected to start in October.
- Russian President Dmitry Medvedev sacked Moscow’s longtime mayor Yuri Luzhkov on Tuesday, citing a lack of presidential confidence. The two had been feuding for some time, with the Russian government commissioning a series of negative TV documentaries about Luzhkov. Luzhkov retaliated by accusing the President of promoting a climate of repression and censorship reminiscent of the Stalin era and is said to be ready to challenge the dismissal.
- US, UK, French and German intelligence agencies claim to have foiled a plot to launch “commando-style” attacks on Britain, France and Germany through done attacks on militants based in Pakistan. One has to wonder whether this claim would help “justify” the controversial attacks on Pakistan, which have been increasingly protested.
- Workers from around Europe held rallies and strikes this week to protest the tight austerity programs being implemented by several EU countries. Marches in Belgium were relatively peaceful, whereas the Spanish general strike erupted into clashes between strikers, non-strikers and police. In Ireland, a man was arrested after ramming a cement truck into the gates of Irish Parliament in protest of an expensive bank bailout. Protests in Germany over the Stuttgart 21 rail project also turned violent with more than 100 injuries after their attempts to protect trees were broken up by police with water cannons and teargas.
- A Croatian parliament deputy who fled Bosnia last year was sentenced to eight years in prison by a Bosnian court for war crimes. Branimir Glavas was the first senior Croatian official convicted of war crimes committed against the Serbs.
- Serbia has announced it will end conscription to the military starting January 1st next year. The move is part of a 2004 strategy aimed at a gradual introduction of a professional army capable of tackling insurgencies and peacekeeping missions abroad.
- The New Economics Foundation found that the earth is using up resources faster than ever. The study monitors nature’s capital and concluded that this year the earth was using up its own natural resources to support itself a full month earlier than in the previous year.
- August 19th was World Humanitarian Day. The once respected profession that aids those affected by war, natural disasters, sickness and malnutrition, is now facing increasing attacks in the field. The world thanks you for your tireless sacrifices!
- A cheap and effective filtering device developed in South Africa could provide safe drinking water for millions of people around the world. Commercial production of the tea bag like device could begin as early as this year.
- A Thai court has ordered the extradition of Russian arms smuggler Viktor Bout, the “Merchant of Death”, to America to face charges of supplying weapons to terrorist groups. Viktor Bout, who was the inspiration for the movie “Lord of War”, is said to have fueled civil wars in South America, the Middle East and Africa.
- Clashes between Somalia’s Puntland forces and militants led to the death of 9 people and a Somali journalist received a six year jail sentence for interviewing warlords there. South Africa is looking into the possibility of deploying troops to the war torn country following an African Union request. Another 9 people were killed and at least 53 others were wounded following renewed fighting in the capital on Monday. Most of the dead and injured came from a nearby displacement camp. Kenya has also complained of increased cross-border raids of hardline Somalian Islamists in the northern part of their country.
- Jailed Rwandan opposition leader Victoire Ingabire has called on the international community to reject the recent Rwandan election, saying that “endorsing the results of this masquerade would be to reward violence as a means to access and maintain power in Rwanda”. Graphic pictures of a beheaded opposition leader have been released. The US, a long-time supporter of Kagame, expressed concern over the “disturbing events” which surrounded the election but neglected to take any further actions. In good news, many FDLR militia members have volunteered to put down their arms and return home in a repatriation program.
- UN humanitarian chief John Holmes urged Sudanese authorities to allow humanitarian aid workers into the Kalma camp in Darfur, home to approximately 50,000 refugees, only to instead have five UN and ICRC workers expelled from the country days later for failing to respect Sudan’s authority and two more abducted by armed men and later set free. Aid agencies have been bared from the camp since August 2nd in a stand-off between international peacekeepers and the Sudanese government. Sudan’s electoral body has announced that the independence referendum vote for next January might be delayed. Voter registration problems and escalating tensions are cited as the reasons for the stall.
- Ethiopian troops clashed with Somalis on Tuesday morning in an Ethiopian controlled area of Somalia. The Ethiopian troops are said to have opened fire on Somali civilians, resulting in the deaths of at least 10 people.
- Madagascar’s President Andry Rajoelina signed a deal with dozens of minor parties in Madagascar aimed at ending political crisis, however the main opposition leaders rejected the deal. Rajoelina took the country through coup nineteen months ago.
- A new wave of violence erupted in Chimanimani in Zimbabwe on Sunday after ZANU PF militias attacked MDC activists.
- Ugandan President Museveni’s son along with the commander of the elite Special Forces Lt. Col. Muhoozi Kainerugaba have been accused of leading the Ugandan army to a massacre of approximately a dozen people in Karamoja, while many more were branded, abused or tortured.
- The Shell Petroleum Development Company in Nigeria has claimed 3 sabotage attacks on its pipelines so far in August, causing increasing spills in the region. The company has less than an attractive environmental record in the region with oil spill quantities that exceed that of the Exxon Valdez disaster on a yearly basis for the past 40 years. Shell is currently facing charges at court in the Hague over spills in Nigeria.
- Six children under the age of two have recently been reported raped or sexually molested in the Lubumbashi region of the DR Congo as part of black magic rituals aimed at increasing fortune. Many believe that fetishists (witch doctors) in the region have been encouraging this practice for some time, but that it is only now emerging because authorities are stepping up their efforts to protect women from sexual violence. Three Indian UN peacekeepers were killed in a surprise attack at their base in the DRC by 50 fighters armed with machetes, spears and traditional weapons on Wednesday. Three people were killed on Tuesday night after clashes between Rwandan FDLR, Mai Mai Cheka and some Mubi persons and at least 150 women are believed to have been targeted for mass sexual violence in a remote village in the east.
- The youth leader of the Union for Peace and Development was arrested and tortured by Burundi intelligence after being accused of being a security threat to the state in the run-up to the recent election. At least 200 member of opposition parties have been arrested, tortured or threatened in the country according to human rights organizations. There have also been several recorded political murders and disappearances of opposition members, and many are simply in hiding or exile. The legislature is now dominated 95% by the presidential party, the CNDD-FDD. The last areas suspected to be contaminated by landmines or unexploded ordnance in north-west Burundi will be surveyed thanks to funding from the Swiss government.
- Insecurity in the Niger regions led to the evacuation of Western staff of several aid groups. This evacuation comes days after the World Food Programme had launched its operations to feed nearly a quarter million children.
- The Central African Republic pledged that it would arrest Ugandan rebel Joseph Kony, leader of the LRA. Kony has been charged with war crimes but has evaded prosecution and capture since 2008.
- More than a million South African state workers have gone on an indefinite strike. Police responded to the protesters by firing rubber bullets and water canons in an attempt to disperse the crowd.
- NATO has claimed that more than 20 Islamic militants were killed their fire this week, as they ramp up operations in southeastern Afghanistan. They have also claimed to find and release 27 men from a Taliban prison in Helmand province. Security concerns have caused the Afghan government to decide not to open more than 900 polling stations during next month’s parliamentary elections, affecting nearly 15% of the country’s polling stations. The Taliban fighters are said to be “spreading like brush fire” into the remote and defenseless northern parts of Afghanistan, but an air strike led by NATO forces has slowed that spread slightly by killing one al Qaeda leader there on Monday. The spread of the Taliban in the north may have been eased by their apparently more just court systems. NATO will have to continue their operations without the help of private security firms, as Hamid Karzai ordered all such firms dissolved over the next four months. On Monday, a insurgent IED strike killed a child and wounded 3 others in Kunduz province. On Wednesday, hundreds of villagers blocked an eastern highway to protest a night raid by NATO and Afghan soldiers that left 2 people dead. More than 2,000 foreign troops have died since the start of the war in 2001, but alas, new found oil deposits totaling 1.8 billion barrels on top of the $1 trillion dollars of newly discovered resources should give them the incentive to continue fighting.
- The US is concerned over China’s extending military reach. The Chinese are said to have increased their military spending by roughly 7.5% from the previous year. A electric three-wheeled vehicle exploded in the Xinjiang region on Thursday killing 7 people.
- Gunmen have shot dead at least 10 people in southwest Pakistan after an attack on a passenger bus. The Pakistani president is concerned that recent flooding in the region could encourage armed groups to gain new recruits by taking advantage of the chaos and misery.
- Kashmiri residents have been again subject to curfew imposed by the Indian government and thousands of police officers, only 3 days after the original curfew was lifted. At least two people were killed on Friday after police opened fire again into protesters. At least 61people have been killed in protests in the past two months.
- Three people were killed in south Thailand in attacks blamed on Muslim separatists. More than 4,000 people have been killed in the last six years in the border region.
- Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) in Turkey announced that it would begin a ceasefire against Turkish forces on September 20th conditional on Turkey stopping its military operations, releasing 1,700 political detainees and starting a peace process. Turkey has rejected the PKK’s previous unilateral ceasefire declarations.
- The US warned Turkey that it has little chance of obtaining the weapons it wants without major policy changes, although this was later denied by US officials. This comes after Turkey voted against fresh UN sanctions on Iran and concerns that weapons could wind up in Iranian hands.
- Human Rights Watch has concluded that the government of Kyrgyzstan played a role in facilitating the violent attacks against ethnic Uzbeks this past June, after a lengthy investigation. At least 400 people were killed as attacks against Uzbeks left several neighbourhoods burned to the ground.
- Cambodia’s PM has decided that multinational corporations and other local enterprises will now be able to hire out the country’s royal armed forces, in a “sponsorship” program in return for guarding of “large-scale private land concessions” or to “evict the rural poor for business developments”.
- The US and South Korea began their war drills amid North Korean threats of counter measures on Monday. The drills will last 11 days and are the largest joint exercise between the Americans and South Koreans.
- Indonesia’s president has spoken out for religious tolerance amid calls for him to act against extremists regularly attacking minorities in the country. Violence has been rising in the country between the 80% Muslim population and a minority Christian population.
- At least 2 people were killed in northern India on Saturday after clashes over poor government compensation for land erupted between police and farmers. Police are said to have opened fire on the protesters after they were attacked with stones.
- Azerbaijan refused to allow a NATO plane carrying Armenian soldiers from Afghanistan to fly over its territory. This is the second time the country has refused such an action.
- Eleven police officers in the Philippines have been relieved of duty after the release of video footage showing the apparent torture of a naked detainee, said to have later died in the hands of the police.
- Five countries, including the US, are now backing a Commission of Inquiry into war crimes and crimes against humanity in Burma.
- A Yemeni intelligence officer was gunned down by two men suspected to be linked to al Qaeda late Friday evening. Another five policemen were seriously injured when an attacker on a motorbike threw a grenade at them. Al Qaeda appears to now be targeting government forces instead of high-impact strikes against Western and Saudi targets.
- Al Qadea is warning its supporters and sympathizers to prepare for a new war which it says it will pit Israel against Iran.
- A tv mini-series was canceled from Lebanese television stations this week for fear of stirring up sectarian violence. The program described Jesus from an Islamic point of view, upsetting Christians. They also announced that they had set up a special account to receive donations towards supplying their country’s ill-equipped army with new weapons for defense against Israeli attack and began the process to approve the ratification of the cluster munitions treaty. Following the violence earlier this month, Israel and Lebanon have voiced interest in accelerating the process of marking the Blue Line between their two countries.
- Two mortal bombs sent from the Gaza Strip into Israel injured two soldiers. Hamas claims that they bombed after six Israeli tanks crossed into the territory with one firing a shell at a home. In retaliation, Israel carried out air strikes against the Gaza Strip on Tuesday. Israel has approved the purchase of 20 US built radar-evading stealth fighters in a deal worth $2.75 billion dollars which are expected to be delivered between 2015-2017.
- Gunmen in Baghdad killed 4 policemen in shootings, burning two of the bodies in public. Attacks have escalated during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, with 19 deaths from Saturday to Sunday alone, five deaths from a car bomb on Monday and another 57 or so on Tuesday after a bomber blew himself up at an army recruitment centre. The latest death tolls for Iraq are as follows: United States 4,415; Britain 179; Other nations 139; Iraqis military between 4,900 and 6,375; Iraqis civilians between 97,106 and 106,071. Sadly, it appears civilians have taken the brunt of the military intervention in the country. Hopefully, that will change as the last US combat brigade has now left Iraq as part of President Obama’s pledge to end combat operations in the country. Sadly, it appears that the withdrawal of troops will only double the number of private security contractors.
- Clashes between Shi’ite villages and government forces in Bahrain resulted in several arrests on Saturday and Sunday. Shi’ites are protesting for a larger role in governing the Sunni Muslim-led state.
- A bomb threat saw thousands of people evacuated from the shrine at Lourdes in southern France on Sunday. The threat was later determined “unfounded”. French authorities began deporting hundreds of Roma to Romania and Bulgaria in a move that many feel could spark further racism and discrimination against a vulnerable communty.
- A suicide bomber in North Ossetia killed one police officer and injured three others on Tuesday.
- Russia reportedly plans to sell two of its S-300 Favorit air-defense systems in Azerbaijan to be used to protect energy extraction projects and pipeline networks. The Russian government has also agreed to extend their lease of a military base in the South Caucasus to Armenia and assist them in updating their military hardware.
- Belarusian media has experienced increasing harassment in the lead-up to the upcoming spring presidential election. One media outlet may be shut for suggesting that the President was involved in the disappearances of several political opponents.
- Serbia is looking to renew negotiations over the future of Kosovo with the UN, after last month’s decision that the unilateral declaration of independence of Kosovo was within international law.
- Israel and Greece are seeking to expand their military ties including sharing military know-how and holding joint war games.
- A well-known activist journalist in the Ukraine has disappeared. Vasyl Klymentyyev frequently spoke out in criticism against the authorities, who critics claim have been increasingly oppressive of the media.
North and Central Americas
- At least 19 suspected drug gang members have been arrested in a series of raids across Mexico this week. A mayor was kidnapped, only to later be confirmed dead and at least a dozen people killed. Escalating drug violence has killed thousands in recent months and stunted tourism, commerce and investment. Mexican government ruled that same-sex couples are entitled to adopt children in Mexico City, by a vote of 9-2. This comes after last week’s ruling that the country recognize same-sex marriage.
- The west end of Kingston, Jamaica was put under new curfews after 10 people were killed in gang violence in a shootout with police. The drug trade has fueled one of the world’s highest murder rates with 1,660 homicides last year for a population of just 2.8 million people.
- Indigenous inhabitants in Rapa Nui (otherwise known as Easter Island) are protesting the Chilean government, who claimed the island as their own province in 1888, over suspected land deals that are using ancestral land to build state buildings. Police have been sent with authorization of force against the peaceful, unarmed protesters, but have so far remained as observers.
- Colombia’s air force bombed a rebel camp on Wednesday that killed seven guerrillas from the National Liberation Army (ELN).
- Luiz Antonio de Mendonca, a top election official survived an assassination attempt on Wednesday. Violence is relatively rare in Brazillian elections.
I decided to start a new type of post on a Peace of Conflict reviewing conflict situations in the world on a somewhat weekly basis. I figured, I read this stuff every week anyway– I might as well share it with readers in condensed form.
Here’s some of what’s happening in the world of conflict this week:
- The UN General Assembly voted to recognize the right to safe and clean drinking water and sanitation in a landmark victory with 122 “for”, 0 “against”, and 41 countries abstaining from the vote. How they will work to guarantee this right is yet to be seen.
- The Convention on Cluster Munitions, which completely prohibits the use, production and trade of cluster munitions, is to become binding in international law as of August 1, 2010. So far 107 governments have signed the convention, with only 37 ratifying. The law calls for all cluster munitions to be cleared within ten years, all stockpiles to be destroyed within eight years and assistance and compensation given to those affected. Brazil, China, India, Israel, Pakistan, South Korea, Russia, and the United States have yet to adopt the convention.
- The first conviction against one of the lead perpetrators of mass murder under the Khmer Rouge saw ‘Comrade Duch’ sentenced to 35 years in prison. It is said that Duch will file an appeal on the ruling.
- The notorious website Wikileaks posted 92,000 classified US military reports regarding the Afghan war. News that the Taliban has been using portable heat-seeking missiles against the US and NATO aircraft (previously undisclosed), and of tax dollars funding the bribery of protection rackets in the narcotics-trafficking industry were mostly underplayed by main-stream media who touted it as suspected “old news”. The US has vowed to track down the person responsible for the leak with full force as confidence in the war wanes across the US, the EU and other allied countries. The killing of at least another 45 innocent civilians in a rocket attack led by the NATO forces this week only serves to worsen the mission’s already poor image.
- Five men were shot and killed in a series of insurgency attacks with government security forces in southern Thailand on Wednesday. The violence is said to often target Buddhists and Muslims associated with the Thai state.
- The Philippines are set to receive $18.4 million worth of precision-guided missiles this year from the US in their fight against Islamist militants in the south. The Philippines has received more than $73 million under the US National Defense Authorization Act to help boost counter-terrorism around the world and $500 million in military and development aid. This after the main rebel group said on Tuesday that they were willing to resume peace talks.
- Four Turkish police officers were killed on Monday after gunmen opened fire on their police station. It is suspected that the gunmen were rebels from the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). The following day, clashes between Turkish and Kurdish protesters surrounding the incident were barraged with tear gas by police.
- A bomb explosion in a Ukrainian church killed one person and injured 8 others. Officials are so far keeping quiet on suspected responsibility for the bomb as they investigate.
- Germany has charged a suspected former Nazi guard with helping to murder 430,000 Jews at a death camp in Poland during WWII. The 90 year old will also testify against suspected Nazi death camp guard John Demjanjuk. Samuel Kunz denies all charges and of ever working as a prison guard for the Nazis.
- A Russian police officer, tired of the constant corruption within the policing system, appealed to Putin for action via YouTube only to be immediately fired, arrested and charged last November. He recently gave the New York Times a tour of some luxury homes of top ranking police officers as he now regularly speaks out about the corruption within the force.
- Shootouts in Russia’s Dagestan resulted in the death of at least five people, including a village head and a policeman.
- Serbia asked the UN on Wednesday to review the independence of Kosovo, following last week’s World Court ruling that the 2008 secession from Serbia did not violate international law. A Serbian ex-policeman was indicted for crimes against civilians, including children, committed in Sarajevo during the 1992-5 war.
- The US Defense Department has apparently no trace of what happened to $8.7 billion in Iraqi oil money out of $9.1 billion (96%) that was to be used for rebuilding in the country according to a recent audit.
- Israel has demolished the homes of 300 Bedouins in the southern Negev desert claiming them as illegally built. Many more are expected to be demolished in the near future. The UN agency for Palestinian refugees suggest that Bedouins are facing tremendous suffering in the region and found that in Bedouin communities the rates of stunting are more than double those in Gaza.
- Jewish settlers clashed with Palestinians, injuring 6 people in stone-throwing and fistfights. Other violence in the region saw a rocket fired from Palestinian militants into Ashkelon on Friday. There were no reported injuries from the blast.
- The UN rights forum named a team of international experts on Friday to probe the flotilla fiasco and called for cooperation from all parties. They also told Israel it must lift its military blockade of the Gaza Strip in a non-binding recommendation.
- Four soldiers were killed in an ambush in south Yemen and Shi’ite rebels captured a north Yemen base on Monday, killing at least 10. Violence has increased in recent months in the country with separatists in the south, a fragile ceasefire with Shi’ite rebels in the north and a campaign against al Qaeda militants.
- 20,000 grenades were destroyed in Burundi by the Mines Advisory Group in an effort to reduce armed violence. Grenades are a popular choice for violence in the country involving nearly 22% of all armed violence registered in the country in 2008.
- Fighting continued in Somalia with reports of at least 17 civilians being killed in fighting between the Somali government and al-Shabab fighters in Mogadishu, 13 militia killed in clashes in Puntland and thousands displaced. The UN welcomed the African Union’s decision to send 2,000 more peacekeeping troops into the country.
- Former Congolese rebel leader Thomas Lubanga, the first person to be tried by the International Criminal Court will remain in jail after proceedings were suspended on July 15th. Lubanga is accused of enlisting and conscripting children under the age of 15 to his Union of Congolese Patriots. Calls for his release, after the prosecutor failed to comply with an order to turn over information to the defense were denied.
- Mali is up in arms about the recent French-backed Mauritanian raid of an al-Qaeda base within their country, calling it an “unannounced declaration of war”.
- Sudan’s army was accused of killing at least two civilians during a raid on a refugee camp on Wednesday and burning some of the camps full of internally displaced persons.
- Discussion around the recently passed Conflict Minerals legislation in the US has avid Congo bloggers a buzz. The Enough Project and Jason Stearns take a more positive approach with Laura at Texas in Africa (see her Mineral Week posts starting July 26, 2010 for full details), Dan Fahey and Resource Consulting Services seriously critiquing the legislation. Wronging rights did a great overview of the new legislation here.
- The US House of Representatives agreed to provide $37 billion to continue financing America’s two wars by a vote of 308-114.
- A ruptured underground oil pipe in Michigan leaked more than 800,000 gallons of oil into the Tallmadge Creek and Kalamazoo River, along with another spill in the Gulf a Mexico off the coast of Louisiana after a barge slammed into an abandoned oil well.
- Senator John Kerry put the New Start arms control treaty with Russia, which would prohibit the US and Russia from deploying more than 1,550 strategic warheads and 700 launchers each, on his panel’s schedule for next week.
Central and South America
- Paraguayan police killed the leader of an armed leftist group in a shootout on Wednesday after facing pressure to track down key figures in the Paraguayan People’s Army (EPP), a small armed group active in the northern regions.
- Mexican police found at least 51 bodies in a mass grave outside of Monterrey, suspected killed in escalating drug violence, along with the kidnapping of four Mexican journalists reporting on organized crime in northern Mexico. At least 26,000 people have been killed in drug violence in Mexico in the past 4 years, at least 30 of them journalists.
- Native Brazilians took 100 workers at a hydroelectric plant in the southern Amazon region hostage this week, after occupying the plant they say was built on an ancient burial site.
- A US federal court has paved the way for Guatemalan women to claim asylum status as a “social group” on the grounds that being a women there is sufficient reason to fear for your life.