DR CONGO (EAST): The Congolese armed forces take the main localities controlled by the M23
At the end of October, the Congolese army captured the locality of Bunagana, the main base of the armed group M23, in what may come to be a turning point in the armed conflict. The Congolese troops entered the region, bordering on Uganda, following the withdrawal of the armed group. Various sources had stated that the political leader of the M23, Bertrand Bisimwa, had crossed the frontier and had sought refuge in Uganda in the face of the army's advance towards the group's base, handing himself over to the Ugandan authorities. Prior to that, the UN had alerted about the military escalade that was occurring around Goma and about the areas controlled by the armed group M23, stressing the urgency of reaching a peace agreement between the parties in order to avoid a further worsening of the situation. It is estimated that some 800,000 people had abandoned their homes since the last escalade in the conflict, and that 10,000 of them had sought refuge in Uganda in the last days of October, according to UNHCR. The special representative of the UN secretary general, Martin Kobler, has stated that the M23 was on the point of disappearing as a threat following the capture of five localities controlled by the M23, among which was Rumangabo, where the group had a large military training base. The clashes in various parts of the North Kivu have caused the death of dozens of people. The army has had the support of the UN Intervention Brigade in the operations, 3,000 soldiers from Tanzania, South Africa and Malawi, who by mid-October had been completely deployed in the rebel zone. The Congolese government has reiterated the accusation of support from Rwanda for the M23, and in recent days has accused it of recruiting combatants among the Rwandan civil population alongside the advances in the peace process. Attacks have also occurred between various Mai Mai militias in localities in the province of North Kivu, while a new armed group has arisen, the Armed Forces for the Liberation and Resistance for Peace (FALRP), in the sector of Tshanika and Ndwali, close to Lake Edward. The group is said to have a hundred or so combatants and to have clashed with the army and forest guards in Virunga park. (Le Potentiel, 22/10/13; AFP, 22 and 23/10/13; BBC, 30/10/13)
CHINA (XINJIANG): Five people die and a further 38 are injured in an attack in Tiananmen Square
Five people died and a further 38 were wounded in Tiananmen Square in Beijing, after a car bore down on the crowds of people in the central square. Although the police have not made public the details of the investigation they are conducting nor revealing the motives or possible authorship of the presumed attack, they have made public that five people had been arrested, that it was a coordinated terrorist attack and that the registration plate of the car with which the attack was carried out is from the region of Xinjiang. Some media sources suggested that one of the people was from Xinjiang, where 37 people had died in an episode of violence at the end of June. Some specialists in security and terrorism have declared that in recent times Uyghur insurgents may have received military training in Syria, or even that Syrian activists could have infiltrated into Xinjiang, which according to such experts would explain why the Uyghur opposition's armed groups had decided to carry out armed actions not only in Xinjiang but also in other Chinese provinces. During the month of October, for example, some 100 people of the Uyghur ethnic group were detained in the province of Yunnan, very far from Xinjiang. The Uyghur organisation in exile, the World Uyghur Congress (WUC), has called for caution when it comes to attributing responsibilities for the attack and has warned that the government may have invented a version of the events in order to step up the repression on the Uyghur community. The WUC considers that there has been a recent increase in repression against the Uyghur community, and upholds that over 100 people had died since the start of 2013 as a consequence of political conflict in Xinjiang. (BBC, CNN, 30/10/13; Xinhua, 29/10/13)
INDIA – PAKISTAN: Exchanges of fire continue between the two countries along the Line of Control despite high-level exchanges of viewpoints
The armed forces of India and Pakistan accused each other mutually throughout the month of October of repeated violations of the ceasefire along the Line of Control (LoC, de facto frontier dividing the two countries) in spite of the undertaking made in September by the prime ministers of both countries to put an end to the confrontations. As a result of the violence several people have lost their lives, at least two civilians, eight insurgents and two members of the security forces, while others had been wounded. India has denounced the infiltration of dozens of insurgents from Pakistan, who India claims have Pakistani military support, an accusation rejected by Pakistan. Alongside this, the Pakistani prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, showed himself ready to make an additional effort to make progress in the negotiation process, including the question of Kashmir. There is also expected to be a meeting in the coming weeks among high-ranking military men in order to draw up a plan to re-establish the ceasefire, although mutual accusations and mistrust have grown in recent weeks and both parties have shown their scepticism concerning a possible resumption of the peace negotiations. (The Express Tribune, 14, 21, 23/10/13; AFP, 19, 22/10/13)
IRAN (SISTAN BALUCHISTAN): An escalade of violence in the province culminates in the death of more than 30 people, following an attack claimed by a new armed group
The province of Sistan Baluchistan, bordering on Pakistan, was the scenario of an escalade in violence at the end of October. Clashes between militiamen and border guards ended in the death of 14 Iranian guards, while another five were wounded. Other sources assured that the number of fatalities ranged between 17 and 20. The attack was claimed by a recently created armed group, Jaish al-Adl (Army of Justice), which announced that its action was in response to Iran's role in the conflict in Syria and to the repression of the Sunni community in Iran. In its declaration, the group accused the Iranian Republican Guard of committing massacres in Syria and denounced Tehran for the execution of young Baluchis and Kurds. In reprisal for this offensive, the Iranian authorities executed 16 prisoners accused of belonging to groups hostile to the Islamic republic. The detainees were hanged at the gaol in Zahedan, the provincial capital of Sistan Baluchistan. Jaish al-Adl announced that it would revenge those deaths. It should be noted that some days before the offensive the commander of the Republican Guard, Mohamed Ali Jafari, had announced that his forces had managed to deter 11 suicide attacks. The leader stated that according to his information, armed groups had planned large-scale operations in Sistan Baluchistan. Press information pointed out that Jaish al-Adl had already perpetrated one attack with an explosive artefact on a Saravan road at the end of February in which several members of the Republican Guard were said to have died. Tehran was thought to have asked Pakistan to round up the group, being the place to which the militiamen had fled after taking part in the attack. (BBC and al-Jaseera, 27/10/13; Le Monde, AFP and Reuters, 26/10/13; Trend, Mehr, 21/10/13)
RUSSIA: A suicide attack in the southern city of Volgograd causes seven deaths and some thirty wounded, while unleashing violent incidents against the Muslim population in the region
Seven people died and some thirty were wounded due to a suicide attack in a passenger bus in the city of Volgograd (south), which according to the authorities was perpetrated by a woman from the Russian republic of Dagestan (north of the Caucasus). By the end of October nobody had claimed the attack, nor from the Islamist insurgency in the north of the Caucasus, which warned in July that it had put an end to the moratorium on attacks against civilians. Some local media pointed out that the attack came on the fourteenth anniversary of the multiple attacks with missiles by Russian forces in the Chechen capital, Grozny, including against the central market and the maternity hospital, causing some 140 fatalities. The attack in Volgograd unleashed some incidents against the Muslim population, including an attack against a mosque and another against the home of a local Muslim clergyman. The Union of Muslims in the region of Volgograd also received many notifications of complaints from Muslim people who had suffered reprisals. (RFE/RL, Caucasian Knot, 21-24/10/13)
SYRIA: The situation in Syria continues to deteriorate with a serious impact on the civil population, while the UN negotiator faces difficulties in involving the actors in the peace dialogue
The armed conflict in Syria continues to seriously affect the civil population. In addition to the direct impact of the violence (such as the death of several children following a car bomb attack on a mosque in Damascus) during October many sources informed of other dramatic situations. Among them might be mentioned the rejection of hundreds of refugees at the frontiers of neighbouring countries (particularly people of Palestinian or Iraqi origin who had been living as refugees in Syria); an alert concerning new cases of poliomyelitis, a disease that had been eradicated from the country for more than 14 years; and reports of the use of starvation as a war tactic. The Syrian government was accused of blocking the entry of medicines and food to rebel zones under military siege, presumably aimed at obtaining their surrender. According to the UN, more than a million people remained trapped in areas in which it was not possible to access humanitarian aid, half of them in rural areas of Damascus and 310,000 in the province of Homs, in central Syria. In the meantime, the UN and Arab League envoys held a series of meetings with relevant actors in the region, among them Iran, in order to get their undertaking to attend peace talks planned for 23 November in Geneva. Lakhdar Brahimi acknowledged that there were enormous difficulties due to the lack of confidence between government and opposition in Syria. The diplomat held a meeting with the Syrian president, who insisted that the talks could prosper only if the foreign powers suspended their support for the Syrian armed rebel groups. By the end of the month, 19 country groups, among them armed organisations, announced that they would not be participating in the dialogue because negotiating with the Bashar al-Assad regime would constitute a betrayal. (BBC, 22, 25, 29, 31/10/13; al-Jaseera, 27, 30/10/13; Jeune Afrique, Al-Monitor, 28/10/13)
AZERBAIJAN: Ilham Aliyev wins his third mandate in presidential elections criticised by international observers and denounced by the country
The incumbent president Ilham Aliyev, in power since 2003 when he succeeded his father, achieved his third presidential mandate after winning the elections of 9 October with nearly 85% of the votes, according to the official results. The unitary opposition candidate, Camil Hasanli, obtained 5% of the votes. The OSCE, which deployed an observation mission, considers there to have been many failings, a context of restrictions on the media and allegations of intimidation. For its part, the opposing front National Council of Democratic Forces, which groups together various opposition parties united for the elections around the unitary candidate Hasanli, denounced that the results were fraudulent and illegitimate and staged protest demonstrations in the capital. According to the organisers, some 10,000 people took part in the march at the end of October, a figure that the police reduced to only 1,000. In that protest, the demonstrators called for fresh elections. A previous protest in the middle of October had congregated 20,000 people according to the opposition front, and between 7,000 and 8,000 according to the Caucasian Knot. Ten people were arrested following that protest. (RFE/RL, 19, 27/10/13, Caucasian Knot, 12, 27/10/13)
CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC: The UN Security Council approves the creation of a protection force for UN personnel in the country in the face of an escalade in the violence
At the end of October confrontations took place between peasant self-defence militias and the Central African security forces, causing the death of 40 combatants and more than twenty civilians in Bouar, near the frontier with Cameroon. Those confrontations, which according to various sources may have been coordinated, came after various clashes in the localities of Bossangoa, Bouca and Bangassou. The self-defence militias, known as anti-balakas (anti-machete) are in confrontation in various zones with the former rebellion, of Muslim confession, that has members of the Central African security forces. Michel Djotodia is the first Muslim president in the country. The UN Security Council has approved the creation of a special military force composed of 250 soldiers to protect the UN workers in the country. The unit of 250 soldiers come from a previously existing peacekeeping force and will be based in the capital, Bangui. The size of the mission will later be increased to 560 soldiers so that it can be deployed outside the capital in the zones with UN presence. The director of the OCHA, John Ging, who was recently in the country, has pointed out that the situation is chaotic. Ging had affirmed that the conflict was taking on a very disturbing religious dimension, with armed groups inciting the Christian and Muslim communities to engage in mutual confrontation. The AU is in the process of deploying a peacekeeping mission of 3,600 soldiers, and France announced at the beginning of October the sending of further troops to the country, where it already has a base with 400 soldiers at Bangui airport. (Jeune Afrique, 26 and 27/10/13; BBC, 30/10/13)
DR CONGO (EAST): New suspension of the negotiations between the Congolese government and the M233
The peace process between the Congolese government and the armed group M23 was suspended again despite international pressures and the advances made towards reaching a final agreement final. The UN special envoy for the Great Lakes region, Mary Robinson, informed the UN Security Council that the parties had reached agreement on eight of the twelve articles of the draft peace agreement. The parties reached consensus on the question of the release of prisoners; the disappearance of the M23 as an armed group and its conversion into a political party; the return and resettlement of the refugee and displaced populations; the return of the properties sacked during the taking of Goma in November 2012; the establishment of a national reconciliation commission; reforms in the government and in the economic sector; and the implementation of the 2009 peace agreement and of the current agreement awaiting closure. They have nevertheless agreed to convene the negotiation table shortly in order to try to overcome differences. The main discrepancies between the parties revolve around an amnesty for the combatants, disarmament and the agreements on integration and security for the M23. In relation to the amnesty, the Congolese government has reiterated that it will not accept measures that imply total impunity and breach of the Constitution and of international commitments. The special representative of the UN secretary general, Martin Kobler, has stated his disappointment at agreement not having been reached in spite of the intense four days of negotiations and pressures in which, in addition to Robinson and Kobler, envoys from the AU, EU and the United States also took part. Kobler has asked for the total support of the UN Security Council for the negotiation process. The UN and the United States have expressed their concern at this new standstill in the process. Chrispus Kiyonga, the Ugandan government minister charged with mediation in the talks, stated his belief that a final agreement would be reached shortly. The vice-head of communications of the M23, Lawrence Kanyuka, said that the Congolese government negotiators withdrew from the negotiation table demanding that it expel Roger Umbel, of the M23 negotiating team, for having insulted the Congolese president Joseph Kabila a month earlier in Burundi. (AFP, 28/09/13, 22/10/13; AP, 21/10/13; Radio Okapi, 18, 23/10/13; Xinhua, 23/10/13)
ETHIOPIA: The police torture political prisoners and subject them to abuse, as reported by Human Rights Watch
The international NGO Human Rights Watch (HRW) denounced that the Ethiopian authorities were subjecting those detained for political reasons to acts of torture and mistreatment in order to extract confessions. The US organisation has pointed out that former prisoners from the main detention centre in Addis Ababa had described the abuses, torture and mistreatment to which they had been subjected during interrogation. The government has classified the report as one-sided and has accorded it no credibility. HRW has pointed out that the authorities used torture routinely against journalists and political detainees. Among the detainees who after their release revealed torture and mistreatment are a Swedish journalist who was jailed for having entered the country illegally in order to gain information on the situation in the region of Ogaden. In Ogaden the army is carrying out a military campaign against the independence movement and the armed group ONLF. The protests that have been taking place in the country since the beginning of the year have been calling for the release of political prisoners and have been growing, as has the repression that the authorities have been exercising in the course of the protests. (BBC, 16, 18/10/13)
GUINEA: Alleged irregularities in voting during the elections increase tensions between the opposition and the party in power
Supposed irregularities in the voting process and vote counts in the parliamentary elections of 28 September have unleashed an internal political crisis in the country. Observers from the opposition parties withdrew from the vote counting process due to "futility" of their presence, in the words of their spokesperson, who also called for cancellation of the elections. The president, Alpha Conde, denied those accusations of fraud and asked the opposition to solve any doubts it harboured about the legitimacy of the results of the elections by legal channels in the Supreme Court. International observers from the United States, France, the EU, the UN and ECOWAS had already identified problems in the voting in several districts, stating that they could potentially have affected the credibility of the results. The UN nevertheless decided to maintain confidence in the process, and in mid-October, two weeks after the elections, announced that the party of Conde, Rally of the Guinean People, had won the elections, obtaining 53 of the 114 seats. Abubacar Sylla, spokesperson of the coalition of opposition parties, (formed by UFDG, UFR and two smaller parties), announced that they had decided to file a complaint to the Supreme Court and enclosing all the evidence needed to demonstrate fraud. (All Africa, 4/10/2013; VOA, 8/10/2013; Reuters, 9, 19/10/13, Al-Jazeera, 19/10/2013; Europa Press, 20/10/2013)
HAITI: Protests increase in order to demand the resignation of president
Numerous incidents took place in the country's main cities after hundreds of people went out onto the streets to demand the resignation of the president, Michel Martelly, of the prime minister, Laurent Lamothe, and of the whole government. The main focuses of the protests were the capital, Puerto Príncipe, and Cabo Haitiano, the country's second city. The mobilisations were mainly called by the opposition Lavalas parties (founded by former president Jean Bertrand Aristide) and by the Movimiento Patriotico de la Oposición Democratica (MOPOD). The protests, which occurred in mid-October, coincided with the anniversary of the death of Jean Jacques Dessalines, the hero of Haitian independence. A few days later the protests increased in intensity after the police arrested a well-known opposition lawyer for his role in the protests. At the time the lawyer was detained, many clashes had already taken place between the police and the people, among whom were several members of parliament opposed to his arrest. The president of the Chamber of Deputies called upon the citizens to mobilise because he felt that the present government was unravelling the democratic advances that had been gained in recent years. Human rights organisations also called the arrest arbitrary and illegal, due to considering the reason for the arrest as being the critical spirit of the lawyer towards the government. Protests have increased notably in recent months in Haiti, along with institutional confrontation between the executive and legislative powers. (EFE, 17 and 18/10/13; The Universal, 17/10/13; AFP, 23/10/13)
ISRAEL – PALESTINE: The Israeli government releases 26 Palestinian prisoners and activates plans to build 3,500 homes in settlements in order to placate critical Israeli sectors
Fulfilling its commitment to reactivate the peace negotiations, the government of Benjamin Netanyahu ordered the release of 26 Palestinian prisoners. All except one of them had been imprisoned for assassinations committed before the signing of the Oslo agreements of 1993 and had served sentences of between 19 and 28 years in prison. That was the second of the four groups of prisoners whose release was planned over a period of nine months. The prisoners were received as heroes upon their return to Gaza and the West Bank. The measure was rejected by one sector of Israeli public opinion and led to demonstrations around Ofer prison, on the outskirts of Jerusalem among relatives of the Israeli victims who accused Netanyahu of betrayal. Shortly after the release of the Palestinian prisoners, the Israeli press announced that the government planned to build 1,500 new homes in the Ramat Shlomo settlement, in East Jerusalem, and that it had given instructions to draw up plans for a further 2,000 in other areas of the West Bank. According to the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, the number of new dwelling may reach 5,000. The announcement was seen as a strategy of Netanyahu to placate criticisms from the ultra-right members of his coalition reluctant about the reactivation of negotiations, as well as from Israeli sectors opposed to the release of Palestinian prisoners. The PA felt that the measure would have negative effects on the peace efforts. It should be stressed that at least three Palestinians and one Israeli died in acts of violence connected with the conflict during October. (BBC, 11, 18, 22, 30/10/13; Reuters and Le Monde, 30/10/13; Haarets, 31/10/13)
MADAGASCAR: The first presidential elections in the country since 2009 were held peacefully
On 25 October the first round of the presidential elections were held, with 33 candidates standing. These first elections since the 2009 military coup took place amidst a "generally peaceful" climate, according to the UN secretary general, Ban Ki-moon. Some of the media nevertheless informed of minor incidents at electoral colleges in various parts of the country. Two electoral colleges on the outskirts of the capital, Antananarivo, and in the city of Benenitra were burned in an allegedly intentional manner. Early results accorded to the initial leadership to Richard Jean-Louis Robinson, an ally of Marc Ravalomana, followed by Hery Martial Rakotoarimanana. The final results will not be made public until a week after the elections. The second round of elections is to be held on 20 December, coinciding with the legislative elections, if none of the candidates obtains 50% of the votes. According to international observers the elections proceeded "freely and fairly". Even so, according to the EU observation mission the lack of any limit on campaign expenses and the fact that a quite significant percentage of voters had been excluded from the voting lists increased the inequalities between candidates. (BBC, 25-27/10/13; UN News, 25/10/13; Reuters, 27/10/13)
PHILIPPINES (MINDANAO-MNLF): A court issues an arrest warrant against the leader of the MNLF for the serious confrontations in the city of Zamboanga
The minister of Justice announced that a court had issued arrest warrants against four people accused of rebellion and serious violations of human rights and of international humanitarian law for their presumed responsibility in the clashes registered for three weeks in the city of Zamboanga, in Mindanao. In the clashes, the most serious since the government and the MNLF signed a peace agreement in 1996, more than 200 people died, more than 100,000 people had to abandon their homes and thousands of houses were destroyed. Among the four people against whom the aforesaid warrant had been issued was Nur Misuari, founder of the MNLF and leader of one of its factions. The other people were Habier Malik, Bas Arki and Assamin Hussin. Despite the measures adopted by Manila to detain Misuari, his whereabouts remain unknown. Some information declared him to have gone to Indonesia or some Middle Eastern country, though the armed forces stated their conviction that he was still in the archipelago of Sulu. Also according to the army, the events of Zamboanga were thought to have lead Misuari into enmity with his closest collaborator, Habier Malik, and with many of the present combatants of the MNLF. According to several media organs, Misuari was said to have told the MNLF combatants who had attacked Zamboanga that it would be a speedy operation and that the United Nations would declare the independence of Mindanao. Alongside this, the justice department began formalities to move more than 200 detained MNLF combatants away from Zamboanga, as it feared certain reactions by the local population if the trial were held in that city. (Al-Jazeera.com, 03/10/13; Global Post, 09/10/13; The Star Online, 14/10/13; Philippine Star, 18/10/13)
SERBIA – KOSOVO: Several explosions that left no wounded in Serbian areas of Kosovo caused concern in the prior phase of the first local elections to be held in November in the whole of Kosovar territory
The Serbian area of the divided city of Mitrovica was the scenario in mid-October of several explosions directed against Serbian targets, causing material damage but leaving none wounded. Official local sources attributed the explosions to radical Serbian sectors thought to have been trying to intimidate the Serbian population so that it would not take part in the local elections on 3 November. Among those affected by the attacks were a Serbian election candidate who finally withdrew from the elections following various threats. Furthermore, a report from the UNDP stated that around 40% of the Serbian population in the north of Kosovo would not be prepared to take part in the elections, despite calls from the government of Serbia for them to do so. Meanwhile, in October Serbia and Kosovo reached an agreement to allow politicians from Serbia to enter Kosovo in the run-up period to the elections on the condition that requests to do so would be formalised by following certain administrative processes. Some days later, however, the Kosovar police detained the Serbian minister for Kosovo, Aleksandar Vulin, under suspicion that he had entered Kosovo illegally. (Balkan Insight, 14-23/10/13)
SUDAN – SOUTH SUDAN: The presidents of both countries negotiate the final statute of Abyei amidst controversy surrounding the non-binding referendum held in the region
The presidents of Sudan and South Sudan, Omar al-Bashir and Salva Kiir respectively, held a meeting in Juba to discuss the statute of the region of Abyei. The two presidents agreed the general conditions for the administration of Abyei. Among other matters, questions were decided concerning the Council and the police of Abyei, as well as payment of 2% of the price of the oil, including payments pending, to the government of Abyei. The final statute of the region has been in dispute since 2005. At present, it is under UN administration. Khartoum has so far opposed the holding of a referendum due to the fact that the nomads of the Misseriya ethnic group, citizens of Sudan and supporters of union with Khartoum, would not be allowed to vote. Indeed, thousands of people had returned to the region to vote in the unofficial referendum held at the end of October. The referendum convened by the Kngok Dinka community, in favour of union with Juba, was considered illegal by both countries involved in the dispute and by the AU. In the context of the preparations for the referendum, the UN Security Council made public a communiqué calling on the governments of Sudan and South Sudan to refrain from any illegal action that might increase tensions between the two countries. For its part, the AU announced that it would send a mission to Abyei between 5 and 6 November to mediate in the negotiations for determining the statute of the region, reducing the tensions in the zone and preventing any unilateral action being carried out. (VOA, 18/10/13; BBC, 22/10/13; Sudan Tribune, 27/10/13; EFE, 27/10/13; Europa Press, 30/10/13)
TUNISIA: Government and opposition begin a national dialogue to form a new government of independents, while the episodes of violence intensify in the country
In an attempt to get round the crisis in the country, which had become more acute following the assassination of a parliamentarian in July, government and opposition embarked upon a national dialogue with a road map centring on three axes: the formation of a government of independents within a period of three weeks, approval of the new Constitution within a month, and a speedy holding of elections. The agreement was announced at the beginning of October, thanks to the mediation of civil society organisations –mainly the UGTT trade union– after the Islamist party Ennahda had announced its readiness to abandon power. The national dialogue did not begin until 25 October, once the opposition had received written guarantees from the Islamist prime minister, Ali Larayedh, that he would stand down. Alongside this, mobilisations against the government continued during the quarter, as well as various episodes of violence in which at least 19 people died, among them eight police officers. In the middle of the month, two members of the security forces died at the hands of armed men in the zone of Beja, 70 kilometres to the west of the capital. The security forces launched a painstaking search operation in the region that ended in the death of nine presumed Islamist militants. According to official sources, the militiamen belonged to the Ansar al-Sharia group, declared a terrorist organisation by the Government. The protests of members of the security forces obliged the prime minister and the president to abandon the funerals of those police officers. At the end of the month another seven police officers died in clashes with armed men in the central region of Sidi Bousid, giving rise to further protests by the opposition. The authorities also informed of a suicide attack at the town of Soussa, in the south, as well as the disbandment of a attempted attack on the tomb of the former president Habib Bourguiba. (BBC, 03, 05, 18, 19, 30/10/13; al-Jazeera, 24, 25/10/13; Le Monde 25/10/13; Jeune Afrique, 30/10/13)
TURKEY (SOUTH-EAST): The Kurdish nationalist movement deems the dialogue at an end due to a lack of measures by the government and the participation of a third party in the process
The co-president of the KCK, the body that groups together the organisations of the Kurdish nationalist movement, including armed PKK group, Cemil Bayik, stated at the end of October that the process of dialogue between the government and the highest leader of the KCK/PKK, Abdullah Öcalan, had come to an end and that the blame for it lay with the Turkish executive, which he accused of a lack of responses to Kurdish demands. According to Bayik, if the government does not accept the holding of substantive negotiations, there will be civil war in Turkey. The KCK has set three conditions for continuing the process of resolution: an improvement in the detention conditions of Öcalan, legal changes (and according to some media, also constitutional changes), and the participation of an independent third party to supervise the process of dialogue. For his part, Öcalan stated that the first phase in the process ended on 15 October and that he awaited a reply from the government to his proposal on continuation of the process, conveyed verbally and in writing. That communiqué came from representatives of the pro-Kurdish BDP party following a visit in October of two of its deputies to Öcalan, in prison since 1999. The government vetoed the attendance at the visit of the BDP co-president, Selahattin Demirtas, allegedly due to strong criticism by Demirtas of the democratisation reforms announced by the government at the end of September, which aggravated the tension between the government and the BDP. Öcalan stated that over the course of the year the dialogue had not advanced in the creation of a legal basis. He called for the second phase to be more substantive and deeper, given the fragility of the process. Alongside that, he took a positive view of the context of absence of violence, linked to the unilateral ceasefire of the PKK. Öcalan also urged the holding of an Islamic congress in Diyarbakir to provide a response to the use of violence by Islamist groups, including al-Nusra, against the Kurds in Syria. Cemil Bayik had also criticised Turkey's support for groups that combated Kurdish organisations in Syria. In another communiqué the KCK stated that the solution to the Kurdish question must provide a response to three demands: recognition of Kurdish existence, including its identity, cultural and legal dimensions, and freedom of thought and organisation; recognition of Kurdish self-determination; and recognition of education in the mother tongue. (AFP, Firat, 1-30/10/13)
AFGHANISTAN – PAKISTAN: The Afghan High Peace Council to meet the Taliban leader Mullah Baradar in Pakistan
The governments of the two countries agreed that a delegation of the High Peace Council, a body charged with leading the peace negotiations with the Taliban insurgency, would meet in Pakistan with the recently released Taliban leader Mullah Baradar. Although his release from prison was meant to boost the peace process, Taliban sources pointed out that Baradar remained under house arrest and unable to hold meetings. Following a meeting held in London between the Afghan president, Hamid Karsai, and the Pakistani and British prime ministers, Nawaz Sharif and David Cameron, the two parties agreed to facilitate the meeting. Sharif also committed his support to the holding of the next elections in Afghanistan in 2014 and announced that he would be visiting Kabul shortly. The Afghan government announced the holding in November of a Loya Jirga in which 3,000 tribal leaders would participate to discuss the details of the future security agreement with the United States to come into force following the withdrawal of the international troops from Afghanistan, expected to be completed next year. (AFP, 27 and 30/10/13; Pajwhok Afghan News and VOA, 29/10/13)
MYANMAR: Representatives of 18 armed ethnic groups meet to seek a consensus stance in negotiations with the Government
Leaders of 18 armed ethnic organisations, among them KIO, KNU and SSA-South, as well as the leaders of the umbrella organisation UNFC, met in Kachin state to discuss the government proposal for a generalised ceasefire throughout the entire country and to reach a consensus stance ahead of their negotiations with the government planned for the early days of November. Some leaders stressed that this meeting was more important than the Panglong agreement, which in 1947 had established ethnic autonomy. Of particular note was the absence of the armed group wa UWSA, which may be due to the group considering insufficiently represented its wish to create an autonomous Wa state, while it also showed its scepticism about the possibility of a generalised ceasefire. It should nevertheless be noted that in parallel with the meeting confrontations have continued between the government and the armed group KIO and have led to a major humanitarian crisis, since thousands of people have been caught up in the armed violence and several hundred have been displaced. Days before the outbreak of these new confrontations, the government and the KIO had held talks and had reached some partial agreements, though without achieving a ceasefire. Coinciding with the talks, the government released 56 political prisoners, most of whom had been jailed for belonging to various ethnic insurgent organisations. (The Irrawaddy, 15, 23, 25, 28, 29 and 30/10/13; Eleven Myanmar, 08/10/13)
PAKISTAN: The government maintains its offer of dialogue with the Taliban insurgency in spite of the latest attacks
The Pakistani prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, reiterated his offer of dialogue to the Taliban insurgency, stating that the minister of the interior, Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, would be charged with conducting the dialogue. The invitation, which had been presented in September at a conference convened by the government in which the main political parties in the country had taken part, including those who sympathised with the insurgency, was questioned by various political actors due to the spiral of attacks which followed it and caused dozens of deaths throughout the country. Particularly noteworthy was an attack that caused the death of a minister from the province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and member of the party PTI who had been favourable to negotiations with the insurgency, as well as a further seven people. Other attacks in various zones of the country caused several fatalities. The insurgency, and in particular its leader Hakimullah Mehsud, responded by stating that they were prepared to engage in negotiations, but that the government had not yet approached them directly and that they were awaiting the appointment of a government negotiating team. He also called for the end of attacks by drones. It should also be noted that the independent Human Rights Commission of Pakistan stated that 2,000 men from the province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa remained disappeared following military counter-insurgency operations, although civil society sources estimated the number at 6,000 disappeared. (BBC, 09/10/13; RFE/RL, 15/10/13; The Hindu, 29/10/13)
SUDAN (DARFUR): The government of Sudan and a faction of the JEM sign a framework agreement to establish peace negotiations
The government of Sudan and a faction of the JEM led by Mohamed Bashar Ahmed signed a framework agreement to establish an agenda for peace negotiations. The agreement comes under the auspices of the Doha pact of 2012 and established that both parties would abandon their hostilities and begin a peace process. According to a spokesperson of the Ali-El-Wafi faction the key issues identified for the negotiations are security, the distribution of power and refugees. For the time being, the JEM and other groups making up the Sudanese Revolutionary Front, SPLM-N and two factions of the SLM led by Abdel Wahid Al Nur and Minni Minnawi, maintain their refusal to establish partial peace negotiations, proposing instead an overall solution that eliminates the regime and establishes a democracy that respects the rights of the various regions. The JEM announcement was preceded by the death of three Senegalese soldiers who were members of UNAMID at the hands of an unidentified armed group. In total, 13 members of the UN mission have died this year in Darfur. (Sudan Tribune, 3, 15, 22/10/2013; CNN, 14/10/2013; VOA, 14/10/2013; Sudan Radio Service, 30/10/2013)
THAILAND (SOUTH): The government announces the restart of dialogue with the BRN after having definitively postponed the peace talks
The government made public its intention to recommence dialogue with the armed opposition group BRN in November, after having definitively postponed the peace talks in mid-October. The government had declared at the time that the reason for its decision was an apparent lack of control by the leadership of the BRN over the group factions presumably responsible for the numerous acts of violence that had been occurring in the south of the country. On 30 October, however, the executive itself acknowledged its fears that the BRN would have used the commemoration of the ninth anniversary of the Tak Bai incident (in which more than 80 people died under military custody) to call for the fulfilment of its demands. In the latest round of negotiation, the third, the BRN formalised in writing its five demands, which it had previously made public through a video. For its part, Bangkok undertook to study the demands. During October it also emerged that another two armed groups (the PULO and the BIPP) were thought to have expressed their wish to take part in the peace process and even to have held several meetings between the government and leadership of the PULO in Sweden, where many of the leaders of the group are living in exile. For its part, at the beginning of the month the BRN informed Malaysia, which is exercising facilitation tasks, of a change in its representatives in the peace negotiations, though neither the details nor the reasons have emerged. (MCOT; 04 and 19/10/13; The Nation, 02/10/13; Xinhua, 30/10/13)
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