AFGHANISTAN: April becomes the most deadly month of 2013, with further attacks, including the death of 12 civilians due to a NATO bombardment.
Various attacks with numerous victims have occurred in this month of April in Afghanistan. At least 54 people died in an attack perpetrated by a group of Taliban insurgents in the Afghan province of Farah on April 3rd; on April 7th, a NATO bombardment caused the death of 12 civilians in Shigal, among them 11 children; on April 13th, seven people died as a result of a bomb detonation in the province of Zabul; and on April 15th, another seven people died as a result of a bomb placed on a road near Herat. Apart from such attacks, following the publication of an article in The New York Times stating that the CIA had secretly paid millions of dollars to the Afghan president Hamid Karzai, the latter acknowledged that the National Security office in his country had indeed received over the last decade monthly cash payments from the CIA, though he described them as "small amounts". (BBC, 03/04/13; Reuters, 07/04/13; CNN, 17/04/13; Wall Street Journal, 29/04/13)
CHINA (XINJIANG): An attack in Xinjiang causes the death of more than 20 people.
The Government declared that 21 people (25 according to some sources) had died in an episode of violence in the locality of Selibuya, in the province de Xinjiang. The Government stated that 19 of the dead were police officers or "community workers" and that the attack had been carried out by a local terrorist group created at the end of 2012. Despite initial speculations, Beijing finally declared that the authors of the attack had no links with foreign groups. The governor de Xinjiang tried to deny that the episode of violence was connected with ethnic and religious tensions in the region and to restrict it to the struggle against secessionism that the Chinese government is waging. Thus far, 19 people have been arrested, eight of them on the day of the incident itself. For its part, the Uyghur organisation in exile, the World Uyghur Congress (WUC), declared that the episode of violence had been motivated by the killing of a young Uyghur at the hands of the Chinese security forces and called for an independent investigation of the events. The WUC stated that following the confrontation the Government had cut off telephone and Internet connections and redoubled the presence of soldiers and police officers in Xinjiang. (Reuters and South China Morning Post, 24/04/13; BBC, 26/04/13; Xinhua, 29/04/13; ABC, 02/05/13)
IRAQ: Multiple episodes of violence cause the death of more than 700 people, making this April the month with the highest balance of victims since 2008.
Numerous episodes of violence in Iraq caused the death of 710 people, among them 595 civilians, making this last month of April the most bloody since 2008, according to the UN mission in Iraq (UNAMI). A prior balance drawn up by the organisation Iraq Body Count put the figure at more than 560 fatalities. Some of the violence was focused in the north of the country and was the result of clashes between the security forces and Sunni demonstrators that caused over 200 deaths in one week. Sunni groups have been keeping up protests since December at what they consider to be discriminatory government policies. The repression of demonstrations appears to be motivating an increasing militarisation of the demonstrators. The prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, blamed the incidents on remaining sectors of the Ba'ath party and alerted to an intensification of sectarian violence, which he linked to the regional context, in an allusion to the Syrian crisis. In addition to those clashes, the violence also took the form of suicide attacks, car bombs and assassination of dozens of candidates who had presented themselves for the provincial elections held throughout most of the country on April 20th. During the month Kurdish troops also advanced positions in Kirkuk, one of the areas in dispute between Baghdad and the Kurdish regional government. Faced with that climate of instability and violence, at the end of April the parliamentary spokesman raised the possibility of the government stepping down and calling early elections. (Al-Jazeera, 25, 27, 28, 29/04/13; Iraq Oil Report, 30/04/13; Iraq Body Count, 01/05/13; BCC, 02/05/13)
NIGERIA (BOKO HARAM): One of the most serious combats between governmental troops and Boko Haram causes the death of 180 people, among them many civilians.
Clashes between Nigerian troops and Boko Haram (BH) militiamen in the northern locality of Baga, the state of Borno, between 16 and 17 April led to the destruction of most of the city and caused the death of over 180 people, among them many civilians. Various sources stressed that the events revealed the brutal tactics used by the security forces in their struggle against the group, since troops had set fire to more than 2,000 dwellings during the fighting. The army accused BH militants of using civilians as human shields and of starting the fires after firing grenades, though residents of the locality reported that the soldiers had started the fires deliberately in order to hem in the rebel militiamen, and that they had also opened fire against the civil population. The Nigerian president announced an investigation. Previously he had announced the creation of a committee to investigate the causes of the insurgency and the conditions for disarmament and an amnesty for BH. The armed group rejected the possibility of taking up an amnesty. At the end of the month, further clashes between BH and the security forces in the state of Yobe caused another 25 fatalities. During the month the insurgent group MEND, which operates in the Niger Delta, threatened to launch a campaign of attacks against Islamic institutions in reprisal for BH attacks on Christian churches. (New York Times, 22/04/13; ICG, 01/05/13; BBC, 11, 27, 30/04/13)
SYRIA: Alarm grows at signs of the use of chemical weapons, alongside a progressive internationalisation of the conflict.
The high levels of violence persist in Syria, with explosive attacks in Damascus and other cities, and armed confrontations between rebels and governmental forces in various parts of the country. The combats caused the death of dozens of people and damaged some iconic sites, such as Aleppo mosque. The prime minister, Wael al-Halqi, survived a car-bomb attack against his convoy in the Syrian capital. Alongside this, over the course of the month information increased concerning the presumed use of chemical weapons in the conflict. The president of the United States raised his concern on the subject to his Russian counterpart and called for an international investigation. Washington had earlier warned that the use of chemical weapons was a red line that would have an influence on its approach to the conflict. According to press information, the CIA is already helping several countries in the region –among them Qatar, Turkey and Saudi Arabia– to increase the quantity and quality of military supplies to the Syrian opposition. The United States is also thought to be secretly training members of the opposition Free Syrian Army (FSA) in Jordan. There are also growing signs of an increasing involvement of Hezbollah militiamen in the conflict in support of Damascus. The leader of the group, Sheik Hassan Nasrallah, asserted that Syria had allies that would not allow it to fall before the United States, Israel or Islamist radicals. In parallel, the al-Nusra Front denied having merged with the al-Qaeda subsidiary in Iraq, but declared its loyalty to the leader of al-Qaeda, Ayman al-Zawahiri, who urged the group to create an Islamic state in Syria. (BBC, 12, 22, 24, 30/04/13; Foreign Policy, 04/04/13)
VENEZUELA: Tension increases over the refusal of the opposition to recognise Nicolás Maduro as president and over its decision to challenge the election results.
Social and political tension increased following the decision of the opposition leader, Henrique Capriles, not to recognise Nicolás Maduro as winner of the 14 April elections or as president of the country, to challenge the election results and not to participate in the audit of the National Electoral Council (CNE) if some of his conditions were not met. The CNE acknowledged that it had received numerous reports of irregularities, but that the opposition had not presented evidence to back its accusation of fraud. For his part, Maduro himself accused the opposition of the incidents of post-electoral violence in which eight people died and over 70 were wounded. Following the arrest of the retired general Antonio Rivero, leader of the opposition Voluntad Popular (Will of the People) party and accused of instigating those episodes of violence, the opposition denounced governmental sectors of having started a political persecution against it. A further element of tension took the form of acts of physical aggression between government and opposition parliamentarians who were protesting at the decision of the Assembly to withdraw their speaking rights and their salary. Some opposition deputies were hospitalised with severe bruising. Amidst that scenario, the Spanish government offered to mediate to solve the crisis, but the offer was rejected by Nicolás Maduro. (El País, 01, 02/05/13; BBC, 29/04/13; AP, 28/04/13)
BAHRAIN: Protests intensify ahead of the Formula 1 race and within a context of human rights violations.
Tens of thousands of people took part in protests in the capital, Manama, blocking the country's main road ahead of the holding of the Formula 1 race in Bahrain. The demonstrators were calling for the suspension of the competition, which they consider part of a strategy by the authorities to lend an appearance of normality in the country, despite abuses of human rights and a repression of dissidence. Local human rights and opposition organisations denounced the arrest of over a hundred people in the days preceding the race, during which period there also occurred the explosion of a vehicle, claimed by an opposition group calling itself 14 February. The protests during March arose out of the use of force by some members of the security forces, while those opposing them had recourse to stones and home-made bombs to confront the police. Alongside those incidents, the Government was once again criticised on the subject of human rights. The UN Special Rapporteur on Torture denounced that the authorities had indefinitely postponed their visit to the country, which should have taken place a year ago. The US State Department also issued a report in which it denounced significant violations of human rights in Bahrain, including arbitrary arrests of opposition activists, trials without guarantee of due process and torture during detention. Manama denied the assertions made in the report. (BBC; 15, 20, 21, 22 and 24/04/13; al-Jazeera, 25/04/13)
BOSNIA: The president of the Bosniak-Croat entity under suspicion of corruption.
At the end of April the police arrested Zivko Budimir, president of the Bosniak-Croat Federation, one of the two entities into which the country is divided, thereby aggravating the political crisis the territory is undergoing. Along with Zivko Budimir a further 18 people were detained in various operations, including an advisor to Budimir and the president of the federation's commission on amnesty. The investigation under way relates to suspicions of accepting bribes in exchange for obtaining amnesties (a suspicion said to lie upon Budimir), as well as abuse of power, illegal drug trafficking and organised crime. The scandal comes on top of the prolonged political crisis that has affected the Bosniak-Croat Federation following the break-up of the governmental coalition 2012, in addition to obstacles at state level in the relations between the representatives of the three main communities (Bosniaks, Croats and Serbs) and intra-community rivalries. For his part, Budimir, of Croat origin, came out in April against the creation of a third (Croat) entity in the country, considering it to be unrealistic, in reference to the stances of other Croat parties. (B92, 26/04/13; Balkan Insight, 22, 26/04/13)
CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC: Insecurity and violence persist one month after the rebels taking power.
The climate of insecurity remains in the country, and particularly in the capital, one month after the Séléka rebel coalition overthrew the regime of François Bozizé and installed itself in power. Although the military presence in the streets of Bangui has reduced and in some places the climate of security has improved, abuses and exactions in the capital and in the interior of the country continue. The recovered weapons are accumulating, and some Séléka members are confined to barracks. But schools remain closed, the offices of the Administration show no signs of activity and public buildings are often assaulted at night by groups of bandits. The rebel coup leader and new Central African president, Michel Djotodia, is trying to obtain funds in order to set up the combatants in the interior of the country, which would allow the capital to be relieved of thousands of combatants. As an example of the climate of insecurity, in the last few days abuses by Séléka members in the Mbrès-Kaga Bandoro axis against the civil population ended with the death of a Séléka combatant, which led to reprisals in the form of setting fire to dozens of houses and the death of at least 11 civilians. Alongside this, the new prime minister, Nicolas Tiangaye, went on a tour to Paris, Brussels and Pretoria to collect funds, though with poor results. (RFI, 23, 26, 28 and 30/04/13)
CHAD: The rebels aim to renew their fight against the government of Idriss Déby, while a frustrated coup is announced.
The leader of the rebel UFR coalition, Timane Erdimi, in refuge in Doha, Qatar, announced at the end of March his wish to take up arms again in order to overthrow the regime of the president, Idriss Déby. Erdimi has also announced that he does not plan to go to the terrain, since his General Staff was taking care of the situation on the border between Chad and Sudan. Erdimi was elected leader of the UFR in 2009. The UFR, an alliance of politico-military movements, has been affected by many divisions since it was founded. In 2009, the country's other major rebel leader, Mahamat Nouri, withdrew from the UFR in order to create the ANCD, which signed agreements with the Government. In parallel with this increase in tension deriving from Erdimi's communiqué, the Government announced that it had disbanded an attempted coup d'état on 1 May. According to the Government, the coup members included an opposition parliamentarian, Saleh Makki. Linked with the attempted coup some combats have taken place between soldiers and civilians which are thought to have caused between three and eight fatalities and some fifteen wounded, according to military sources. (Jeune Afrique, 21/03/13; RFI, 02/05/13)
COMOROS: The authorities manage to disband an attempted coup d’état.
The Government of the archipelago managed to frustrate an attempt coup d'état staged between 20 and 21 April. Some fifteen former soldiers belonging to the Comoran armed forces, along with Congolese and Chadian mercenaries, were arrested near Moroni. The political leader and son of the former president Abdallah, Mahmoud Ahmed Abdallah, is suspected of being behind the destabilisation operation. The authorities have also stated that those who took part in the coup had the complicity of an arms dealer who had supplied arms to the country's army, who had been entrusted with buying arms to mount the coup. The director of president Ikililou Dhoinine's cabinet has called the leaders of the political parties together to give them an account of the events. Opposition sectors have shown scepticism about the revelations, at a time when the current president, Dhoinine, has distanced himself from his promoter in the post, the former president Sambi. Alongside this, the former strongman of the Island of Anjouan, Mohamed Bacar, who has been living in exile since 2008 for having attempted to carry out another coup, has announced that he will return to the country shortly. (RFI, 22 and 25/04/13)
DR CONGO (EAST) – RWANDA: The rebel M23 group announces its withdrawal from the peace talks with the Congolese Government, while the nationality debate is reopened.
No advances have been made in the peace talks taking place in Kampala between representatives of the Congolese government and the M23 armed group, backed by Rwanda. The M23 has stated that it feels frustrated by the lack of commitment of the Congolese government in the peace talks, and has announced that it is withdrawing from the negotiations. The leader of the M23, Bertrand Bisimwa, had proposed an amnesty for M23 combatants, but the Government did not wish to offer one, which the group understands as a refusal of peace. The Government has denied that it is not committed to the process, and states in relation to the amnesty that the rank and file soldiers can have one and rejoin the army, but no so the commanders. Alongside this, the debate has reopened on Congolese nationality, one of the underlying causes of the conflict in the country and within the regional framework, since Rwanda aims to ensure that the entire Rwandan population in refuge in the rest of the world either returns to the country or their host countries naturalise them. UNHCR and the countries with Rwandan population issued a decision in 2011 that by 30 June 2013 the refugee Rwandan population that had fled before 31 December 1998 would lose their refugee status. The most important case is that of the Rwandan population in RD Congo, where the concession of Congolese nationality to the hundreds of thousands of Rwandans there would mean a demographic imbalance in a zone where that issue had already brought conflict during the 20th century. (VOA, 28 and 29/04/13, Africa Review, 29/04/13)
MOROCCO-WESTERN SAHARA: The UN renews the mandate of the mission in the Western Sahara without incorporating a mechanism for supervising human rights.
Discussions on the conflict over the Western Sahara are focusing on the possibility of the UN mission, MINURSO, incorporating into its mandate the supervision of the human rights situation. At the beginning of April the UN secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, presented his annual report on the conflict, in which he recommended "independent, impartial, wide-ranging and sustained" monitoring of the human rights situation in the Western Sahara and in the Tindouf refugee camps, controlled by the POLISARIO Front in the south of Algeria. Within this context, the United States presented to the Friends of the Western Sahara group of countries a proposal for broadening the mandate of the MINURSO for the purposes of incorporating that dimension, in an initiative well-received by human rights organisations and by the AU. The proposal was criticised by Morocco, which considered it an interference in its sovereignty and which, as a signal of its discontent, cancelled some military exercises with USA. In the face of pressure from France and Russia, Washington raised the idea of the High Commission for Human Rights assuming the supervision, but that proposal was also watered down. At the end of April the UN Security Council approved extending the mandate of the MINURSO, though without attributing it competency in that regard. The decision led to protests in the Western Sahara in which 40 people were injured, among them ten security agents. (El País, 20, 23, 28/04/13; Report of the Secretary General on the Western Sahara, 08/04/13)
MYANMAR: The EU lifts sanctions against the country, while criticism persists against the Government over human rights abuses.
The European Union lifted all sanctions against Myanmar, with the exception of the arms embargo, on the same day as Human Rights Watch published a report in which it accused the authorities of Myanmar of having recently committed crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing of Rohingya Muslims in the state of Arakan, in the north of the country. According to HRW, in June and October 2012 various attacks coordinated by functionaries of the Government of Myanmar, leaders of the Rakhine community and Buddhist monks caused the forced displacement of over 125,000 people of the Rohingya ethnic group. Those displaced people have so far had no access to humanitarian aid, nor have they been allowed to return to their homes. However, on the day following the EU lifting of sanctions against Myanmar, the president Thein Sein announced an amnesty for 100 prisoners, 56 of whom were considered to be political prisoners. Finally, a new round of peace talks scheduled to be held in China between the Government and the KIO were suspended because, according to information from various local NGOs, the mediator, China, did not agree with members of the United Nations, the United States and the United Kingdom being present at the meeting. (The Irrawaddy, 8/04/13; Reuters, 22/04/13; Human Rights Watch, 22/04/13; al-Jazeera, 23/4/13).
PAKISTAN: A climate of insecurity marks the campaign leading up to the legislative elections of 11 May.
Since the start of the election campaign, officially inaugurated on 21 April, various armed Taliban groups have perpetrated over 20 attacks against candidates of political parties and activists, killing 46 people and injuring nearly 200. The three main secular parties who had entered for the elections were the main targets of the attacks: the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) party, the Pakistan People's Party (PPP) and the Awami National Party (ANP). In the meantime, in Quetta, capital of Balochistan, eight bomb attacks occurred between 23 and 25 April, claimed by the Sunni armed group Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ). The aim in one of the attacks was to assassinate Abdul Khaliq Hazara, leader of the Hazara Democratic Party, who was not injured. The High Court of Peshawar issued an order banning the former president Pervez Musharraf from taking part in any kind of elections in the country. That verdict led to an appeal being lodged by Musharraf, following rejection of the documents he had filed to present himself in the forthcoming elections on 11 May. (Human Rights Watch, 29/4/2013; Dawn, 30/4/2013)
RUSSIA (DAGESTAN): The Dagestani insurgency denies its participation in the attacks on the Boston marathon in the United States, while instability continues in the Caucasus republic.
The Dagestan insurgency publicly denies having had any role in committing the 21 April attacks against the Boston marathon, stating that it is not involved in military hostilities against the United States. In its communiqué it alludes to reports in the US media that one of the suspects had spent several months in Dagestan and may have had contacts with insurgents in the north of the Caucasus. In any case, April saw a continuation of the climate of conflict in the republic, linked to the conflict confronting the Islamist insurgency and the local and federal authorities, with an impact on the civil population. Residents in the locality of Gimry (district of Untsukul) reported abuses by the security forces during a special operation, with fires and destruction of property. Some 300 people presented a complaint about the case to the human rights NGO Memorial. (RFE/RL, 22/04/13; Caucasian Knot, 16/04/13).
SUDAN (KORDOFAN, BLUE NILE): A rebel attack on Um Rawaba hinders the peace negotiations between the FRS and the Sudanese Government.
On 27 April rebel groups belonging to the FRS coalition made a surprise entry into the city of Um Rawaba, in North Kordofan, launching an attack that caused concern among the Sudanese authorities. Over a hundred vehicles invaded the streets of the city, destroying communication towers, power stations, banks and markets. Nine Sudanese policemen were killed during the confrontations. The spokesman of the Sudanese armed forces, al-Sawarmi Khalid Sáad, explained that confrontations had already occurred earlier in South Kordofan when the Sudanese security forces tried to halt the rebels on their way north. The JEM, together with other member groups of the FRS (SPL-M, SLM-MM, SLM-AW), declared to Agence France Presse that the attack formed part of the rebel strategy whose end objective was to overthrow president al-Bashir. The attack signifies a backward step in talks that had begun between the Sudanese Government and the SPAM-N. (Sudan Tribune, 27/4/2013; Al-Jazeera, 27/4/2013).
THAILAND (SOUTH): The armed opposition group BRN puts five demands to the Thai Government for discussion in the recently started peace negotiations.
The armed BRN opposition group made public a video in which it set out five demands to the government of Thailand to be discussed in the peace negotiations that began at the end of March. The demands included designation of the Government of Malaysia as mediator (and not as facilitator), the presence of ASEAN members at the talks, and that of the Islamic Conference organisations as observers, the release of all detained insurgents and the withdrawal of all charges against them, and consideration of the group as a national liberation movement. In the video mention was also made of continuation of the insurgent struggle to get rid of colonial domination and oppression, as well as a desire to achieve a state of its own for the Pattani nation. The video was shown the day before the start of the second round of talks in Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia). Some analysts consider that the BRN demands cannot be accepted by the Government, and can therefore be seen as a strategy to put an end to the negotiations. Others, however, believe that the positing of maximalist demands forms part of the BRN negotiating strategy. The Government made no specific comments about the video, but had on previous occasions stated its rejection of independence for the south of the country and of the release of prisoners. (Bangkok Post, 27, 30/04/13; Thailand National News Bureau, 30/04/13; The Irrawaddy News, The Statesman, 29/04/13)
COLOMBIA: Ombudsman supports the framework for peace.
Colombian Generals confirm that legal benefits which will be part of military justice are being analized. In rejecting the "black propaganda" that some Colombian sectors are making of the peace process, president Juan Manuel Santos announced legal benefits for members of the security forces if they sign a peace agreement with the FARC. The president stressed that it was absolutely false all the propaganda that is circulating about the negative consequences that will reduce the forces to a minimum, that all those under investigation will suffer legal consequences. Moreover, Attorney General Alejandro Ordonez broke his silence on the government's measures to strengthen an eventual peace process in Colombia and made a strong statement against the constitutional reform approved by Congress in its last term of office, which set the legal framework for implementing transitional justice processes. Furthermore, Attorney General, Eduardo Montealegre, said that there must be balance between victims' rights and peace. He also said that the country will know the truth of the crimes committed in the conflict and that those responsible will have to answer for their crimes, often with alternative sentences. With an appeal to the Constitutional Court to give its endorsement to the legal framework for peace, the Ombudsman Jorge Otálora, came to mediate in the debate. The Ombudsman considered that the formula that sets the standard to select crimes and prioritize their prosecution in an eventual peace process does not replace the Constitution, as stated in a claim that is being considered by the court. Moreover, the Constitutional Court established 10 points for full compensation on the part of the Government for the victims of forced displacement in Colombia in order to solve dozens of cases. Moreover, Supreme Court president said that the legal status of FARC leaders, and consequently their participation in politics following the signing of a peace agreement, is completely different from the movements arising from the signing of a peace agreement, who should be offered political and security guarantees. This was made clear by the head of the government negotiating team in the talks with the guerrillas, Humberto de la Calle. (El Tiempo, 04, 05, 09, 14, 29/04/13, El Espectador, 25/04/13)
GUINEA: The main political actors agree on a declaration of non-violence following further violent incidents and opposition protests within the pre-electoral context.
The country's main political actors, including the Government and the opposition, agreed on a declaration by which they committed themselves to resolving their differences by non-violent channels, and urged the judicial system to deal equitably with all violations of human rights. The declaration arrives within a context of strong pre-electoral tension, with fresh protests from the opposition, which criticises the fact that the date of the delayed parliamentary elections had been set unilaterally (for 30 June) and denounces that the electoral procedures, including the company that draws up the electoral roll, favoured the party of the current president, Alpha Condé. Various protests during the month April resulted in episodes of violence, including the death of one person and several left injured. Condé has committed himself to ensuring the transparency and credibility of the process and to accepting the results. (UN, 29/04/13; All Africa, 27/04/13; BBC, 18/04/13)
MADAGASCAR: A process of national dialogue begins in the country.
The country began a process of national dialogue facilitated by the Council of Christian Churches (FFKM, by its initials in the national Malgache language). The dialogue involves 180 entities who are taking part in the mediation. The international community, which supports this reconciliation process, fears that the setting under way of a new transition will mean another postponement of the elections, a scenario that many analysts feel is ever closer. According to diplomatic sources, if that is what is decided, the financing of the electoral process and of other international national aid may be frozen, thereby deepening still further the current crisis. UN sources point out that those who brought about the present crisis are poorly positioned to solve it. This Malgache dialogue could expose the country to fresh sanctions. (RFI, 21/04/13; 01,02/05/13)
PHILIPPINES (MINDANAO-MILF): The Transition Commission, the body that will have to draft the Constitution of the new Bangsamoro entity in the south of the Philippines, holds its first meeting.
Manila was the setting for the first session of the Transition Commission, the 15-person body charged with drafting the constitution of Bangsamoro, the new entity that is to replace the present Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao. During that session, held on 30 April and 1 May, agreement was reached on the internal rules of operation and the procedure for setting up the working groups, with the participation of outside experts on constitutions and political strategies. The Commission cannot make a start on its main task of drawing up the Bangsamoro constitution, however, until a peace agreement has been signed between the Government and the MILF. The negotiating panels of both parties will meet after the holding of elections on 13 May to tackle the three outstanding annexes of the agreement, while the Commission will meet again at the end of May. Commentators highlight the signing of an agreement between the MILF and the government to guarantee security and normality during the 13 May elections. (Philippine Star, 24/04/13; Sun Star, 23/04/13; Rappler, 02/05/13; Gulfnews, 17/04/13; Global Times, 03/04/13)
SERBIA – KOSOVO: The Serbian and Kosovar parliaments give the green light to a draft agreement on the future of Serbian zones of Kosovo and on the normalisation of relations.
The lower chambers of Serbia and of Kosovo approved the draft pact achieved by the delegations from both territories in mid-April within the framework of the negotiation process facilitated by the EU. The agreement for the normalisation of relations contains 15 points, and mainly tackles the future of the areas of Serbian majority, thus far outside the control of Pristina. The agreement contemplates the creation of an association of Serbian municipalities with extensive powers, which would include the north of Mitrovica, Leposavic, Zvecan and Zubin Potok. Under the agreement, the Serbian population of Kosovo will be able to elect their own police chiefs, and the police force will have a composition which reflects the ethnic structure of the population, while there will also be more Serbian judges. The government of Serbia has committed itself to calling a referendum on the pact in the Serbian zones of Kosovo — a consultation called for by the population of the zone — if there is an undertaking to abide by the result. Following the announcement of the agreement, the European Commission has recommended to the EU the start of negotiations for Serbia to join the EU, as well as the opening of talks with Kosovo on a stability pact for the Community block. (Balkan Insight, 19, 23, 26/04/13)
SUDAN – SOUTH SUDAN: Sudan and South Sudan reach another peace agreement.
With the signing of a 10-point agreement, Sudan and South Sudan expressed their determination to eradicate their border conflicts. The document was the result of a two-day meeting of the Joint Peace and Security Mechanism, which was held on 22 and 23 April in the capital of neighbouring Ethiopia, Addis Ababa. The main figures in the meeting were Abdulraheem Mohammed Hussein, Sudanese minister of Defence, and Paul Mayom Akec, South Sudan minister for Water Resources. The conference took place under the observation of Thabo Mbeki, member of the African Union High Level Implementation Panel. Among other issues, the ten points provided for the start-up of regular cross-border train services, promoted cross-border commercial development and facilitated the movement of people from one side of the border to another. On 30 April last, a Sudanese parliamentary delegation headed by Mohammed Al-Hassan Al-Haim, of the Overseas Relations, Defence and Security Council, visited Juba in order to express a firm determination to implement the agreement. (Sudan Tribune, 23/4/2013; Sudan News Agency, 30/4/2013).
TURKEY (SOUTH-EAST): The Kurdish PKK armed group sets the date for the start of its withdrawal from Turkish territory for 8 May and plans to complete it in the autumn.
The process towards peace in Turkey has taken a positive step following the historic announcement on 21 March of a ceasefire and the call for a speedy withdrawal of its fighters from Turkish territory. The PKK has set 8 May as the start date for the withdrawal process, which should be completed in autumn, though there is no precise timetable. The leader of the PKK, Murat Karayilan, has warned that if they are attacked by the army the process of withdrawal would come to an immediate halt and reprisals would be taken. In parallel, government sources have stated that the process is going ahead as envisaged and have shown themselves confident about the course it is taking. In addition, Karelia has declared that the withdrawal is taking place without conditions. He nevertheless stated that the process of democratisation following the withdrawal should include steps such as reforms in the law on political parties, in the electoral threshold and the abolition of the paramilitary units ("rural guards"), as well as the release of the people detained in the judicial process against the KCK (a Kurdish organisation the encompasses the PKK). Karayilan has repeated his request for the KCK to be able to hold a meeting with its leader, Abdullah Öcalan, in Imrali prison, and has called for the holding of a peace conference in Ankara that includes various sectors and groups, including representatives of women's groups and ethnic and religious minorities. (Hürriyet, Firat, 27/04/13; AFP, 25/04/13)
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