CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC: The UN assumes leadership of peacekeeping operations amidst an atmosphere of instability and division among Séléka militias
On 15 September, the UN assumed the responsibilities for the peacekeeping operation in the country by relieving MISCA, the African Union force that had been trying to deal with the serious situation there. Several organisations have warned that this handover will not bring substantial change to the country and merely means a swap of uniforms that will have no impact on ending the serious atmosphere of violence. The 4,800 soldiers and 1,000 police officers of the MISCA contingent in the country were joined by 1,800 UN soldiers and police. However, the current force only stands at two-thirds of the total planned size for the mission, which is set at 12,000 troops, and it is estimated that this figure will not be reached until April 2015. This situation of standstill has sparked criticism. Some of the contingents of the previous African mission (MISCA) have withdrawn and the EU is discussing a possible three-month extension of the EUFOR mission in the country. Finally, with regard to the climate of instability and violence, a deep division prevails between the different players and groups that make up Séléka, which still controls more than half the territory of the north central part of the country. Its main leaders, Michel Djotodia and Noureddine Adam, are strongly challenged. However, the former rebellion oversees the trade in natural resources (despite being expelled from the Kimberley process, the country continues to engage in diamond trafficking), controls the main roads and occupies government buildings. In early September, significant troop movements were reported in the triangle consisting of Kaga Bandoro-Sido Batangafo (north) and Bambari (central), which set off panic in Bangui about rumours of an imminent offensive under way. For a week, Bambari, where nearly 400 fighters were gathered, was watched over by the French military's Operation Sangaris, which strengthened its presence on the road to Bangui. However, the threat came to nothing, since Séléka does not currently command the 10,000 well-equipped combatants that menaced Bangui in December 2012 and that took the capital in March 2013. (The Guardian, 16/09/14; Jeune Afrique, 27/09/14; 30/09/14)
CHINA (XINJIANG): Various simultaneous attacks with explosives cause the death of 50 people
The government said that 50 people died and around 100 people were wounded as a result of various attacks with explosives on two police stations, a market and a warehouse in Bugur county (Luntai in Chinese) in late September. Most of the 40 or so casualties were part of the group that carried out the simultaneous attacks. So far, neither the identity nor the motives of those that carried out the attacks have been disclosed. The Chinese government, which initially said that only two people had been killed, imposed a curfew in the region. According to press reports, in the last year and a half more than 300 people have lost their lives in Xinjiang province in episodes of violence that the government has blamed on groups it considers separatists and terrorists. In weeks prior to the aforementioned attacks, three people were sentenced to death and a fourth to life imprisonment for their participation last March in an attack on the train station in Kunming (Yunnan province) in which 31 people died and more than 140 were injured. (Radio Free Asia and Huffington Post, 25/09/14; Voice of America, 16/9/14; AsiaOne, 17/09/14, Reuters, 12/09/14)
NIGERIA: A grave atmosphere of violence persists, with clashes between government forces and Boko Haram that cause dozens of fatalities in the north of the country
Many attacks and military actions took place in northern Nigeria involving government forces and the armed Islamist group Boko Haram. In early September, Boko Haram killed 24 government soldiers in Bazza (Adamawa State) and also left dozens wounded, including Lieutenant Colonel Adeboye Obasanjo, the son of former President Olesegun Obasanjo. Local sources stated that the towns of Bazza, Michika, Gulak and Madagali are still under the control of Boko Haram. In another suicide attack in Kano in mid-September, 20 people were killed and another 34 were wounded, and in Kawuri the Nigerian Army announced the death of 52 insurgents in the middle of the month. The Nigerian Army also reported the death of the leader of Boko Haram, Abubakr Shekau. Since this is not the first time that this story has been told, the United States said that it did not view the news as credible. It is suspected that the name Shekau is being used as an alias by other members of the armed group and it is believed that another member of Boko Haram, Bashir Mohammed, has featured in several videos released by the group in which he passes himself off as Abubakr Shekau. The Nigerian Army also denied that any of the girls kidnapped last April in Chibok have been freed, as military sources had previously announced. Meanwhile, the United Nations has been forced to relocate about 5,000 Nigerian refugees in Cameroon to areas farther from the border due to continuous attacks by Nigerian insurgents. Finally, the government announced that some 300 fighters of the group have surrendered to the Nigerian authorities. (Allafrica, 11/09/14; UN, 23/09/14; BBC, 23 and 25/09/14)
PAKISTAN: The government states that more than 1,000 combatants and over 100 soldiers have died since mid-June
In mid-September, the Pakistani government declared that more than 1,000 combatants and over 100 soldiers had died in North Waziristan since mid-June as part of its counterinsurgency operation, which has forcibly displaced around one million people. Also in connection with this counterinsurgency operation, the government noted that the TTP (Pakistani Taliban) is not disposed to carry out significant attacks. Previously, in early September, the Punjabi faction of the TPP had announced its intention to focus its armed actions in Afghanistan and not Pakistan, which could mean that it had reached an agreement with the Pakistani Armed Forces. Despite these declarations by the Pakistani government, in the second half of September various episodes of violence took place in North Waziristan that claimed the lives of at least 53 people. Among them were around 40 combatants that Islamabad claimed died in a series of air strikes on 17 September. Moreover, US drone strikes in late September killed at least 14 people in North and South Waziristan. (CNN and Washington Times, 24/09/14; International Business Times, 03/09/14; The Hindu, 17/09/14)
SOMALIA: The leader of al-Shabaab is killed while a serious crisis grips the government
Clashes continued between Somali government forces backed by the troops of the African mission in the country (AMISOM) on one hand and the armed Islamist group al-Shabaab on the other in different central and southern parts of the country. Though the government offensive managed to dislodge al-Shabaab from different areas, there was still an acute atmosphere of insecurity and attacks continued, causing dozens of fatalities. In the final days of September, the strategic southeastern town of Adale was captured by government forces supported by AMISOM. Meanwhile, the Pentagon announced that it killed the leader of al-Shabaab, Ahmed Abdi Godane, in an air strike near the coastal town of Barawe on 1 September. The armed group acknowledged the loss of its leader and various sources pointed to power struggles within it, though Ahmed Omar Abu Ubayda was officially appointed as its new leader. The government, which decreed a 45-day amnesty for al-Shabaab members that lay down their weapons on 3 September, warned that the death of the leader of al-Shabaab could trigger an escalation of retaliatory activity by the group. Dozens of people were killed by a car bomb on the road linking Afgoye to Mogadishu. Finally, divisions within the Somali government remain: President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud has expressed his readiness to force his prime minister to resign after he ordered the departure of the head of national intelligence, an ally of the president. (Garowe Online, 06, 07 and 08/09/14; 24/09/14, 01/10/14)
SOUTH SUDAN: Violence and the serious humanitarian crisis in the country drag on
The country remains engulfed by a serious atmosphere of instability even though a good harvest has brought some relief to the grave humanitarian crisis, according to many experts. However, 1.5 million people still depend on humanitarian aid in the country. Many organisations, including OXFAM, warn that the situation could worsen next year, when another million people could end up in a serious humanitarian situation and face famine. Furthermore, opposition forces have accused the government of South Sudan of bombing internally displaced population camps in Jonglei (Pigi State), which may have triggered a massacre of civilians and aid workers. The harsh living conditions in these camps were also denounced by the organisation. Of the more than 1.8 million people that abandoned their homes in December 2013 when the latest phase of the conflict broke out, around 1.4 million are internally displaced within the country, staying in camps in remote areas that are difficult to access and more than half are minors. Finally, the South Sudanese government has minimised rumours about possibly replacing Vice President James Wani Igga. This action would be part of the plan designed to be applied after signing the peace agreement, which would also include dissolving Parliament and holding general elections in which President Salva Kiir could win re-election. (Sudan Tribune, 24 and 29/09/14; UN, 30/09/14)
YEMEN: The Houthis' advance on the capital pushes the country to its worst crisis since 2011 and results in a peace agreement that fails to reduce uncertainty
Yemen is facing its worst crisis since the episodes of violence in 2011 that led to the ouster of Ali Abdullah Saleh. The escalation began in late July, after the government decreed an end to fuel subsidies, an unpopular move in the country. In this context, the Houthi movement called for disobedience, demanded the resignation of the government and promoted protest campaigns in the capital, Sana'a, which were answered by pro-government demonstrations. In September, the tension led to shooting during demonstrations and to battles between Houthi militias and armed groups supporting the Sunni Islamist party Islah and groups close to General Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar. According to government estimates, the violence caused more than 270 fatalities and forcibly displaced some of the population. At the end of the month, the Houthis, who over the course of the last year have expanded their control in the regions of northern Yemen, seized the capital, set up checkpoints in the city, encircled the main government buildings and forced the government to step down. President Abdo Rabbo Mansour Hadi, who had described the Houthi offensive as an attempted coup d'état, accepted the resignation of Prime Minister Mohamed Basindwa, which preceded the signing of the peace agreement promoted by the UN special envoy for Yemen, Jamal Benomar, on 21 September. Called the Peace and National Partnership Agreement, it establishes a reduction in the price of fuel and urges the election of a new prime minister and the formation of a new inclusive government within a month. Thus, it provides for greater Houthi influence in the government. The Houthis were reluctant to sign an annex providing for the disarmament of the parties, for the government to regain authority in areas under militia control and for weapons seized during fighting to be returned. The five-point annex, which committed the warring parties to stopping the violence (including clashes in the provinces of Maarib and al-Jawf), was signed a week later, but did not end the incidents. In late September, new clashes were reported around the presidential palace, as well as actions against the Houthis' political enemies and a suicide attack against a Houthi base in Sana'a that killed 15 people. Responsibility for this last attack was claimed by the armed group Ansar al-Sharia, linked to AQAP. In this context, analysts and observers considered the peace agreement a deal that has only temporarily lowered the risk of civil war in the country and warned that the crisis could facilitate the progress of al-Qaeda in southern Yemen. (Yemen Times, 23/09/14; BBC, 20, 22, 24, 27/09/14; UN News, 22-24, 29/09/14; al-Jazeera, 26, 28, 29/09/14; IRIN, 23, 29/09/14)
COLOMBIA: The government and the FARC create a subcommittee on disarmament and disclose the agreements reached to date to counter opposing criticism of negotiation
In September a public discussion began when the negotiating parties (FARC and the Colombian government) decided to create an "End of Conflict" subcommittee formed by up to 10 members for each of the delegations, which would include the surrender of weapons and a bilateral ceasefire and cessation of hostilities. For the government, this entailed the creation of a "Strategic Command for the Transition" made up of active military and police officers led by General Javier Flórez that would take care of all technical issues related to disarmament. Upon the government's initiative, the FARC responded that they were ready to create a Guerrilla Command for Normalisation, which would study the military's return to its constitutional role and the dismantlement of counterinsurgency battalions. In the second half of September, the second group of victims travelled to Havana. Meanwhile, victims of the FARC declared that they would create their own historical committee. Days earlier, the government and the FARC had created a subcommittee on gender as part of the talks (planned in the agreement on 7 June). This is third subcommittee that has been created, after the one on disarmament and the expert committee on the history of the conflict. To counter some criticism from groups opposing the negotiations, at the end of the month the government and the FARC decided to disclose all the agreements reached thus far. At the same time, the country was concerned about the increase in threats to human rights activists, left-wing politicians, demobilised former guerrilla fighters and leaders and important social figures in clear defiance of groups that support negotiating with the insurgency. To add to the problem, it was discovered that the telephone line and email account of the chief of the government's negotiating team, Humberto de la Calle, and of the head of communication for the FARC, had been illegally hacked by unknown parties that were probably opposed to letting the negotiations run smoothly. (El Tiempo, El Espectador, El Colombiano and Semana, 01 – 31/09/14)
DR CONGO: Demonstrations against constitutional reform
The climate of tension surrounding President Joseph Kabila's intention to reform Article 220 of the Constitution persisted, which would allow an extension of the presidential term limit and pave the way for him to remain in power. Thus, the political opposition staged two demonstrations on 13 and 27 September attended by thousands of people in the capital, Kinshasa. These protests were joined by statements by the Catholic Church in the country, which repeated its calls for President Kabila to step down in 2016. Kabila intends to extend his presidency in the election to be held in 2016, when his second term as the country's leader ends (2006-2011 and 2011-2016), in addition to the transitional period when he was also at the helm of government (2003-2006). Furthermore, the president told the UN General Assembly that the election will be held according to the schedule established by the Independent National Electoral Commission. The country is undergoing a serious political crisis after the legislative and presidential elections of 2011, the results of which were not accepted by the opposition. None of the elections that should have been held since 2011 have taken place. In order to complete the electoral cycle of the upcoming presidential election scheduled for 2016, the authorities revoked the schedule with the announcement that local elections would be held in 2015, prior to the provincial and senatorial elections. The opposition and many civil society activists denounced this change to the election timetable and rebelled against the proposed constitutional reform. The UN, the EU and other players in the international arena have called on the government to hold talks with the opposition in order to agree on a credible, comprehensive and consensual electoral calendar with a detailed budget so the donor community can assist in the process. (Jeune Afrique, 18, 26/09/14; AFP, 27/09/14)
IRAQ, SYRIA: The United States broadens its offensive against ISIS in Iraq and decides to expand its attacks against targets of the armed group inside Syria
The Obama administration decided to broaden its offensive against the armed group Islamic State (IS or ISIS) to include new targets inside Iraqi territory and expand its aerial bombardment of the organisation in Syria. The offensive against ISIS in Syria began on 23 September and combined US forces with those of five allied Arab countries: Bahrain, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates. Dozens of ISIS combatants died as a result of the first strikes in Raqqa and the area around Aleppo, which also claimed the lives of fighters for the armed group al-Nusra Front, linked to al-Qaeda. Days later, the strikes targeted oil refineries that were under the control of ISIS in Syria and bases belonging to the group near the city of Kobane, where in a few days the advance of ISIS caused the mass exodus of 100,000 people of Kurdish origin. The Syrian government reported that it had been "notified" by the United States of its intention to attack, a decision criticised by Russia. In September, the White House said that the United States is at war with ISIS in the same way that it is with al-Qaeda and the US Congress backed the plan to arm Syrian opposition groups that are fighting both ISIS and the Damascus regime. Obama stressed that the US will not send combat troops to Iraq or Syria and stated that the aim is to degrade and destroy ISIS through a strategy of sustained air strikes. Obama admitted that the country had underestimated the threat of ISIS and had placed too much confidence in the ability of Iraqi forces to contain it. Washington's decision to intervene came after ISIS released videos of the beheading of two American journalists that it was holding hostage. In September, the group executed a third hostage, a British man, while a French citizen was beheaded by a group that declared itself a branch of ISIS in Algeria. The United States tried to enlist the support of countries in the region in its fight against ISIS and obtained pledges of support from a dozen states in the region after a meeting in Jeddah (Saudi Arabia). Shortly thereafter, at a conference held in Paris, a total of 30 countries (including Arab countries, EU states and the permanent members of the UN Security Council) promised to help Iraq in its struggle with ISIS. The United States ruled out including Iran in the anti-ISIS coalition due to the support it gives to the regime of Bashar al-Assad. (Al-Jazeera, 11-13, 15, 16, 21, 23, 26, 29/09/14; The New York Times, 1-30/09/14)
LIBYA: Rival groups begin meetings at the behest of the UN in an attempt to find a solution to the serious conflict in the country, though amidst scepticism due to the absence of key players
The city of Ghadames, in western Libya, became the site of the first meetings between rival Libyan groups in order to find a political solution to the crisis in the country that has worsened since last May. Lawmakers in the House of Representatives, the internationally recognised legislative body elected in June that had to relocate to the port of Tobruk (near the Egyptian border) in order to flee the violence, met with the MPs that had thus far boycotted the sessions and continued to support the assembly based in Tripoli, which governed until before the elections. According to press reports, the meeting was attended by 12 representatives of each of the parties, who promised to overcome their differences peacefully. The talks in Libya are being facilitated by the UN mission in Libya (UNSMIL), led by the UN special envoy for Libya, Bernardino León. Also attending the meeting in Ghadames were representatives of the United Kingdom and Malta. However, the fact that members of the militias that have taken control of the main cities in the country, including the capital, Tripoli, did not participate in the recent negotiations led some observers to follow the process with some scepticism. In fact, in late September, the militia coalition Dawn, which controls Tripoli, rejected the UN's call for a ceasefire and demanded that its adversaries disarm. Hundreds of people have died so far in 2014 as a result of clashes between rival armed groups, especially after the escalation in Benghazi in May. This trend has exacerbated the Libyan government's lack of authority and control over wide swathes of territory. More than 300,000 people have been forced to flee their homes due to the violence, which has also seriously damaged the infrastructure in Libya, including airports and government buildings. The United Nations, the EU and a group of 13 countries have called for an immediate and comprehensive ceasefire in Libya, urging that there is no military solution to the conflict. This group of countries includes Egypt and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), accused in August of launching air strikes to support the armed struggle against the militias controlling Tripoli. Meanwhile, Qatar and Sudan have been accused of lending support to Islamist militias in Libya, whereas Algeria is trying to promote a national dialogue there. (UN News, 29/09/14; BBC, 29/09/14; al-Jazeera, 17, 23, 29, 30/09/14; Foreign Policy, 15/09/14, Al-Monitor, 01/10/14)
MALI: Attacks against the UN mission in the country increase in September as talks in Algiers continue
There was a rise in attacks by armed Malian Islamist groups in September against contingents of the UN mission in the country (MINUSMA) that claimed the lives of 10 Chadian peacekeepers. The UN condemned these attacks and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon declared that the actions would not deter the international organisation from carrying out its mandate and supporting the peace process in the country. The UN convened a high-level panel during a period of UN General Assembly sessions to study the political process in Mali. Attending the meeting was the president, various ministers and senior government officials, members of the Algerian mediating team participating in the peace talks in Algiers and the UN Security Council, in addition to representatives from Germany, Spain, the Netherlands, Portugal, the World Bank, the IMF and the Islamic Development Bank as observers of the process. Moreover, the internal Malian peace talks resumed in Algiers on 1 September. Around forty Malian civil society organisations and associations participated in a demonstration that brought together 2,000 to 3,000 people in Bamako to denounce any division of the country at could result from the peace talks being conducted in Algiers between the Malian government and armed opposition groups. Other similar demonstrations took place in Gao and Timbuktu to show opposition to any possible fragmentation of the country resulting from the negotiations. As part of the peace talks being held with Malian government representatives in Algiers, representatives of Tuareg opposition groups said that federalism could be a possible solution to the conflict while President Keita has proposed regionalism and decentralisation as a remedy for the country's conflict. (Reuters, 24/09/14; UN, 28/09/14)
MYANMAR: A new round of negotiations between the Burmese government and various armed groups to achieve a nationwide ceasefire ends with no agreement
The sixth round of negotiations in Rangoon between the Burmese government, the Armed Forces and the Nationwide Ceasefire Coordination Team (NCCT), which represents most of the ethnically-affiliated armed groups in Myanmar, ended without an agreement or any significant progress. In a joint statement issued by the parties after the five days of negotiations drew to a close, the government and the NCCT called for a new round of negotiations for October and announced that they had agreed to a new version of the draft ceasefire agreement, but also recognised that a final peace agreement is still a long ways off and also highlighted the differences over criteria between both sides. According to some press reports, the government is trying to achieve a historic agreement before November, when many heads of state and government will visit Myanmar as part of an ASEAN summit. The government that succeeded the military junta that had ruled the country for five decades has signed cessation of hostilities agreements with 14 of the 16 main armed groups in the country, but not with the KIA, in Kachin State, or with the TNLA, in Shan State. In recent years, it is estimated that more than 100,000 people have been forced to abandon their homes due to clashes between the Burmese Armed Forces and the KIA. In this regard, in late September combat was reported on the border between Myanmar and Thailand that involved the Armed Forces and the groups DKBA and KNU. Following these clashes, the government of Thailand closed some border crossings and put its troops in the border area on a state of maximum alert. (Bangkok Post, 22/09/14; Naharnet, 26/09/14; Kachin News Group, 29/09/14; Burma News International, 01/10/14)
PALESTINE: Hamas and Fatah reach an agreement to allow the Palestinian Authority to return to Gaza
The two main Palestinian factions, Hamas and Fatah, announced a deal aimed at allowing the Palestinian Authority (PA) to return to the Gaza Strip seven years after the territory came under the control of the Islamist group. The agreement was announced in late September after two days of negotiations in Cairo and assumes that officials of the unity government led by President Mahmoud Abbas will take over the administration of Gaza. In the past, other agreements between Hamas and Fatah were unsuccessful. During the first quarter, both groups had agreed on a unity government and Hamas had formally announced it would cede Gaza in June, but at the time Abbas accused the Islamist group of maintaining a de facto parallel government. Hamas denounced that the PA refused to pay the salaries of 45,000 employees hired by the Islamist group in Gaza. The agreement ended up getting thwarted by the escalation of the conflict with Israel. It is hoped that the agreement signed this time will assist the reconstruction of Gaza after seven weeks of war with Israel and will help to ease the blockade imposed on the territory. However, doubts persisted about whether Hamas, which controls the police forces in Gaza, would relinquish control over security there. The agreement provides no details about the fate of the military wing of the Islamist group. Sources close to the negotiations said that the PA would manage border crossings with Israel and Egypt. Some voices also raised questions about how the deal would materialise regarding Hamas' relations with Egypt. After the agreement between the Palestinian factions, the Palestinian authorities are expected to resume negotiations with Israel, which are planned for late October and could result in a definitive ceasefire in Gaza. A study conducted by the PA estimated that rebuilding Gaza after the recent conflict with Israel will cost 7.8 billion USD. (Washington Post, 25/09/14; Reuters, 24/09/14; The Guardian, 25/09/14; Haaretz, 28/09/14)
TURKEY (SOUTHEAST): The PKK ends the "non-conflict" period and accuses Turkey of collaborating with Islamic State
The dialogue between Turkey and the PKK has entered a stage of complication and serious mutual suspicion, largely due to the developing situation of violence in Syria and Iraq. The PKK accuses Turkey of slowing down talks with Öcalan, of collaborating with Islamic State (ISIS) and of blocking attempts by Turkish Kurds to enter Syria to fight alongside Kurdish militias against ISIS. Meanwhile, Turkey denies giving any support to the jihadist group and says it is wary of the risks that international support for the Kurds of Iraq may end up strengthening the PKK, in a context in which Iraqi Kurdish peshmergas, pro-Öcalan Syrian Kurdish militias (PYG) and the PKK are fighting together against Islamic State, despite the profound differences between Iraqi Kurdish leadership and the Kurds of Syria and Turkey. Islamic State's assault on the Syrian Kurds worsened in September, sending a great exodus of around 160,000 refugees to Turkey in just a few days. Meanwhile, hundreds of Turkish Kurds crossed into Syria to fight against ISIS. The border was the scene of incidents between Turkish security forces and the Kurdish population of Turkey. The top leader of the PKK, Abdullah Öcalan, called on Kurds everywhere in the world to enter Syria to battle against the jihadist group. Öcalan also criticised Turkey for not providing specific answers about the peace process. In late September, the highest executive body of the PKK (the executive council of the KCK) said that it had decided to end the non-conflict period due to Turkey's lack of response in the dialogue process and its alleged support for ISIS. The KCK also rejects Turkey's insistence that Kurdish guerrillas withdraw to northern Iraq, which depends on the opening of negotiations and serious practical measures. Therefore, the announcement could be interpreted as an end to the truce. In its decision, the KCK approved "increasing the struggle in all areas and taking any type of reciprocal measure in the war waged by the government". In early September, Öcalan said that the talks were still active, though he criticised the government for a lack of specific measures and urged the establishment of a secretary, a democratic delegation and a delegation of observers. Meanwhile, ISIS released the 49 Turkish hostages (Turkish diplomats and family members, including children) that it had held since June after its attack on the Turkish consulate in Mosul (Iraq). (Hürriyet, AFP, Firat, 1-30/09/14)
UKRAINE: The ceasefire agreement holds, but incidents of violence continue
The Ukrainian government and pro-Russian separatist militias upheld the ceasefire reached on 5 September, which gave rise to a memorandum later in the middle of the month, while many incidents took place throughout it. For example, nine Ukrainian soldiers were killed in the vicinity of the Donetsk Airport on 29 September, a day in which three other civilians died in the provincial capital, making for the highest death count in one day since the ceasefire took effect. Ten civilians died on 1 October in Donetsk when missiles hit a bus and a schoolyard, though none of the fatalities were students. More than 3,000 people have been killed since April in the provinces of Donetsk and Luhansk. Despite these incidents in September, the parties still considered the OSCE-observed ceasefire to be in force. Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said in late September that Ukraine and Russia converse almost every day about the ceasefire. The ceasefire agreement was reached on 5 September in Minsk (Belarus) after weeks of great tension and military progress made by pro-Russian militias. The agreement of 5 September contained 12 points: an immediate and bilateral ceasefire declaration; monitoring and verification of the ceasefire by the OSCE; the decentralisation of power in certain districts of the provinces of Donetsk and Luhansk through a Ukrainian law on their status; the immediate release of all hostages and people held illegally; the approval of a law to prevent the persecution and punishment of the population with regard to the events that have taken place in parts of the regions of Donetsk and Luhansk; the continuation of the inclusive national dialogue; the taking of measures to improve the humanitarian situation in Donbas (Donetsk and Luhansk); the holding of early local elections in accordance with the future law on the territorial status of various areas of Donetsk and Luhansk; the withdrawal of illegal military formations from Ukraine, including military equipment and illegal militia fighters and mercenaries; the approval of an economic development programme for the area of Donbas and guarantees of personal safety for participants in the talks. The Minsk agreement had been reached as part of the talks held with the Contact Group (Ukraine, pro-Russian militias, Russia and the OSCE). The Minsk agreement was followed by the signing of another memorandum on 19 September, also in Minsk, which included the creation of a 30-kilometre demilitarised zone (each party to the conflict must pull back artillery, armoured vehicles and cannons larger than 100 mm by 15 kilometres), the demining of the entire security zone, a ban on placing new landmines and a ban on the flight of military aircraft, except that belonging to the OSCE. Meanwhile, on 16 September the Ukrainian Parliament passed a legislative package on the second vote that gives special status to the areas controlled by pro-Russian militias in the provinces of Donetsk and Luhansk: provisional self-government that could last three years. The package also includes an amnesty law that gives immunity to pro-Russian combatants, except those implicated in serious crimes. The separatists are given one month to lay down their arms, the door has been opened to integrate them into local police forces and the evacuation of occupied government buildings is required. Even though the Ukrainian Parliament passed this law, however, the issue and scope of self-government is still pending discussion and agreement in the Contact Group and will be addressed in future meetings. (BBC, Reuters, El País, 01-30/09/14, 01/10/14)
AFGHANISTAN: The presidential candidates reach an agreement to form a unity government whose first task was to sign the bilateral security agreement with the United States
On 21 September, presidential candidates Ashraf Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah reached an agreement to form a national unity government according to which Ghani would assume the presidency of the country and Abdullah would occupy the new post of chief executive officer. That same day, the electoral commission declared Ghani the winner of the elections held in June. Days later, the formation of the new government entailed the signing of the security agreement with representatives of the United States government, according to which US troops may remain in the country beyond the 2014 deadline. The agreement was achieved by the new government on its first day of work after being officially formalised by National Security Advisor Hanif Atmar and the US Ambassador to Kabul, Jim Cunningham. Outgoing President Hamid Karzai had refused to sign the bilateral security agreement with the United States, which had strained relations between both countries and increased fears about the security situation that could result from the possible withdrawal of US troops from the country. Most NATO troops will depart the country this year, leaving only 9,800 US soldiers there. Meanwhile, there has been an escalation of violence, with dozens of people killed in various actions and attacks in different parts of the country. (Reuters, 21/09/14; BBC, 30/09/14)
NORTH KOREA: Diplomatic efforts intensify to resume multilateral conversations on the denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula
After meeting with his North Korean counterpart, the Russian foreign minister said that it is possible to resume six-party multilateral talks on the denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula. This was the first visit to Russia by a senior North Korean official in several years. Since his appointment to the office in April, the North Korean foreign minister has exerted intense diplomatic effort and visited various countries. Shortly before the Russian minister's statement during the UN General Assembly, the Chinese government had also urged the resumption of multilateral talks, which it views as the sole mechanism capable of resolving the Korean crisis. Also at this time, the top US official in charge of the nuclear situation on the Korean peninsula visited North Korea, Japan and China to close the gap between positions ahead of a possible resumption of negotiations, which began in 2003 but have been interrupted since 2009. (The Straits Times and The Wall Street Journal, 27/09/14; DPA, 01/10/14; AFP, 28/09/14)
PHILIPPINES (MINDANAO-MILF): The process to disarm the MILF begins
The process to lay down weapons and disarm the combatants of the MILF began, which will be supervised by the Independent Decommissioning Body, a commission composed of four Filipinos and three people from Brunei, Turkey and Norway. One of the first steps in this process is the MILF's delivery of a list of weapons and combatants. Although the MILF has never revealed the capacity of its arsenal or the number of its combatants, some estimates put the figure at around 10,000. The MILF declared that the disarmament process will be conducted gradually and based on the degree of compliance with the commitments contained in the peace agreement of 27 March. The disarmament process started in early September, after several months of delay, when President Benigno Aquino urgently sent the draft of the Bangsamoro Basic Law to Congress for review and approval. The ratification of this law should lead to the establishment of a new administration in Mindanao (known as Bangsamoro) before President Aquino's term expires in mid-2016. Congress has already begun the discussion and hearings process, during which some MPs have expressed their opposition to the content of the draft bill. Nevertheless, some analysts believe that it will enjoy the support of the congressional majority and will be passed in early 2016. (Inquirer, 28/09/14; Philippine Star, 24/09/14; AFP, 29/09/14)
To subscribe to the monthly observatory or to receive information from the School for a Culture of Peace, https://llistes.uab.es
To unsubscribe, click here
For any comments or suggestions, please write to:
Tel. +34 93 586 88 42   |   http://escolapau.uab.cat   |   pr.conflictes.escolapau@uab.cat
Plaça del Coneixement - Edifici MRA (Mòdul Recerca A), Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, 08193 Bellaterra (Barcelona)
The FDLR continues to disarm and engage in talks with the Congolese government under the auspices of the Community of Sant’Egidio If you cannot see the image, please click here

In compliance with Law 15/1999, of 13 December, on Protection of Personal Data, the School for a Culture of Peace informs that personal information is treated in strict confidence and incorporated into our general database in order to keep you updated on our activities.

With the support of: