CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC: Violence, insecurity and serious human rights violations with total impunity persist in the country
In a new report, Amnesty International highlighted the developments of the situation, with persisting violence, insecurity and human rights violations with total impunity in the country despite the deployment of the UN peacekeeping mission (MINUSCA) in September. A new outbreak of violence in the capital in mid-October killed dozens of people and displaced thousands. In mid-November, a surge in intercommunal violence in Zémio, a town on the border with South Sudan, resulted in the deaths of at least ten people and the displacement of 16,000 others. The area had not been affected by violence since the beginning of the last crisis in 2012, according to OCHA. In addition, violence was committed and roads were blocked by Séléka combatants stationed in Bangui that refused to allow some of their militias and leaders to be transferred outside the capital to improve security in implementation of the cessation of hostilities agreement. Finally, the sixth meeting of the International Contact Group on the Central African Republic was held on 11 November, bringing together around thirty countries and international organisations. The meeting concluded by highlighting various aspects, including the persisting violence, slow progress in terms of security, which is still highly precarious, and attacks against MINUSCA. The countries insisted on the need to implement the cessation of hostilities agreement reached on 23 July, especially regarding Articles 4 and 8 (mechanism for monitoring and stationing of combatants). (Amnesty International, 06/11/14; AU, 11/11/14; Jeune Afrique, 13/11/14; Angolapress, 14/11/14; US Department of State, 17/11/14; UN, 21/11/14)
DR CONGO (EAST – ADF): The ADF steps up attacks in the area of Beni, killing more than 200 people
Starting in early October, the armed group ADF carried out attacks against civilians that killed more than 200 people in the area around Beni, a city in the northern part of North Kivu province, in the eastern part of the country. The attacks on towns near Beni also forcibly displaced thousands of people. Since January, after its defeat of the M23, the Congolese Army and MONUSCO Intervention Brigade have been conducting Operation Sokola (clean) against ADF combatants, which expelled the group from its strongholds and practically destroyed its bases, but the military offensive was suspended in June, giving the group time to reorganise. Furthermore, various analysts and civil society activists added that the ADF have benefitted from significant support from youth recruited in Uganda, where former M23 combatants have taken refuge. M23 sources denied that their members participated in the ADF, claiming that the ADF are still in Uganda. The area around Beni attracts insurgent activity because it is densely forested, mountainous and rich in natural resources. Armed groups have traditionally extracted timber and minerals from the land, especially gold. (Amnesty International, 31/10/14; Jeune Afrique, 04, 24/11/14)
HAITI: Protests increase after the announcement of further delays in holding local and legislative elections
The number and intensity of anti-government protests increased shortly after President Michel Martelly announced that municipal and legislative elections (to elect a third of the Senate and Chamber of Deputies) would finally not be held. The elections had already been postponed since 2011, but a political agreement between the government and the legislature facilitated by the Catholic Church led to the declaration that they would be held in October. However, after this deal was struck, a part of the Senate opposed to processing the legislation necessary to hold elections, which had been approved by the lower chamber, plunged the country into a kind of institutional paralysis. According to some analysts and political opponents, the prospect that Martelly could begin to govern the country through presidential decree once the mandate of the courts ends (on 12 January) may worsen the political and social crisis in the country. One person was killed and others were injured in the demonstrations, which were staged in many cities of the country in mid and late November. There were clashes between the police and protestors during the demonstrations, as well as between government supporters and opponents. The opposition believes that the president has no intention of reaching any agreements to solve the crisis and has therefore declared that it plans to continue calling for anti-government protests in the immediate future. (AP and ABC News, 18/11/14; Foreign Policy, 24/11/14; UN News Centre, 25/11/14)
IRAQ: The United States doubles its military presence in the country to support local forces in their fight against ISIS, which claims many lives in November
The Obama Administration has authorised the deployment of 1,500 additional troops to Iraq in order to support local forces in their fight against the armed group Islamic State (ISIS). The troops, which bring the size of the US contingent in the country to 3,100 personnel, will focus on training and advising local forces, mainly Iraqi security forces and peshmergas (Kurdish combatants). Obama announced the measure as the beginning of a new phase in the fight against ISIS. The Iraqi president welcomed the troops, though he said that they had arrived too late. Some in Iraq had criticised the air strike strategy of the US-led coalition as insufficient, arguing that it has had a very limited impact on ISIS. Meanwhile, some in the United States raised concerns about corruption and patronage networks in the Iraqi Armed Forces, which have hampered the US strategy in the region and have resulted in some of the arms intended for Iraqi troops in Baghdad appearing on the black market. New Iraqi Prime Haider al-Abadi ordered the removal of 36 senior military officers in an initial attempt to effectuate changes in the security forces. On the military front, in November local Iraqi troops, peshmergas and Shia militias fought against Islamic State (ISIS) in Ramadi (capital of Anbar) and in the governorate of Diyala and managed to take back the strategic refinery in Baiji. Furthermore, ISIS pursued its policies of aiming to win obedience and collaboration in Sunni areas (which the Iraqi government and United States are also trying to co-opt), stamping out any attempt at an uprising and reacting ferociously to all threats. Thus, in early November it was reported that more than 300 members of the same Sunni tribe had been killed by ISIS. In the middle of the month, ISIS also claimed responsibility for beheading US citizen Peter Kassig, the fifth American hostage executed by the armed group. Finally, UNHCR warned of the lack of protection menacing hundreds of thousands of people displaced by violence in Iraq and Syria, especially with winter coming on. (BBC, 02, 16, 22/11/14; The New York Times, 06, 12, 15, 18, 24/11/14; Al Jazeera, 08, 09, 13, 17, 21, 23, 24/11/14)
ISRAEL – PALESTINE: Jerusalem becomes the epicentre of a new escalation of violence and tension between Israelis and Palestinians
The city of Jerusalem was the scene of growing episodes of violence between Palestinians and Israelis, including incidents with various fatalities that were considered the worst in the symbolic city since 2008. The background to the violence was the recent offensive in Gaza, the blockage in the negotiations and mounting tensions regarding access for Jews and Muslims to the complex that houses the al-Aqsa Mosque, known as Haram al-Sharif to Muslims and the Temple Mount to Jews. In this context, episodes of violence took place throughout November, such as two people killed after being hit by a car in Jerusalem in an action that also killed the attacker and for which Hamas claimed responsibility, and an attack on a synagogue that killed five Israelis and led to the shooting death of the assailants. Since the escalation of violence centred on places of worship, there were warnings about the need to prevent the conflict from taking on religious overtones and talks were held in Jordan in an attempt to lower tensions in Jerusalem. Other incidents in Tel Aviv, Gaza and the occupied territories of the West Bank caused the deaths of at least four other people, in addition to dozens wounded in clashes between Palestinian demonstrators and Israeli forces in places like Ramallah, Qalandia and Silwan, among others. Some observers cautioned that a third Intifada could break out, but others described the recent acts of violence perpetrated by Palestinians as sporadic. During the month, the Israeli government took measures that aggravated the tense climate. For example, it approved of the construction of new settlements in East Jerusalem, restarted its policy of demolishing the homes of Palestinians involved in attacks against Israelis (a practice that has been internationally condemned on the grounds of being a collective punishment) and authored a law defining Israel as a Jewish state where national rights are reserved for Jews. This legal controversy, which must be voted on by the Knesset and has caused rifts within the cabinet, gave rise to much criticism for being discriminatory against the Arab minority (20% of the eight million inhabitants of Israel). In other significant events in November, the United Nations announced the establishment of a commission to investigate Israeli attacks on UN shelters and facilities during the latest war in Gaza. The hostilities ended in August after a truce agreement was achieved that was supposed to lead to indirect talks between both parties on more heated issues one month later. However, the talks were repeatedly postponed. (BBC, 05, 07, 10, 14, 18, 23/11/14; The New York Times, 10, 19, 25/11/14; Al Jazeera, 13, 17, 19, 20, 21, 24, 26/11/14)
LIBYA: The Supreme Court declares the internationally recognised Parliament and government to be unconstitutional, worsening the political crisis amidst ongoing violence
In early November, the Libyan Supreme Court ruled that the Parliament and government elected in June were illegal due to unconstitutional problems related to holding the elections. The decision of Libya’s highest tribunal worsened the crucial political impasse in the country, characterised by the existence of two parallel governments and parliaments vying for control. Supporters of the government based in Tripoli, the capital, which has been controlled by Islamist militias since August, hailed the ruling. However, the government based in the eastern city of Tobruk, internationally recognised as the legitimate authority in Libya, considered it politicised and adopted under duress. The United Nations declared that it would study the court’s decision and remained committed to consulting with various players from across the Libyan political spectrum in search of a solution. The efforts of UN Special Envoy Bernardino León had not made any progress in finding a diplomatic solution to the conflict. León warned that the country was near the point of no return. Many episodes of violence were reported throughout November, including air strikes in Tripoli, incidents in Benghazi (as part of the operation launched by the Tobruk government and former General Khalifa Haftar, which combined their forces in mid-October to combat Islamist forces in the city), bomb attacks (in Tobruk as well as in the embassies of Egypt and the United Arab Emirates, countries accused of supporting the offensive against the Islamists), killings and beheadings of activists, among others. At the end of the month, the UN Security Council issued a statement expressing its deep concern about the drift of events in Libya, and particularly by the extensive use of violence against the civilian population and many human rights abuses. The prosecutor of the International Criminal Court stressed that various facts indicated that war crimes had been committed in Libya. The violence has forcibly displaced nearly 400,000 people since May, according to the UNHCR. Also during November, the UN included the Libyan armed group Ansar al-Sharia Benghazi and its branch Ansar al-Sharia Derna on its list of terrorist organisations. Both stand accused of being linked to al-Qaeda and ISIS and of running training camps for jihadists heading for Iraq and Syria. (Reuters, 29/10/14; Al Jazeera, 07, 08, 12, 13, 19, 20, 24/11/14; AFP, 12/11/14; UN News, 26/11/14)
MYANMAR: Escalation of violence in Kachin State after the Burmese Armed Forces attack the KIA
The situation in Kachin State worsened after the Burmese Armed Forces attacked a training camp run by the Kachin armed opposition group KIA, killing 23 members of different armed organisations that were training there. The organisations in question were the All Burma Students’ Democratic Front, Arakan Army, Chin National Front and Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA). Four KIA commanders were also wounded. The Burmese Armed Forces said that the attack was a response to another previous attack by the KIA, but the rebel group denied this. It was the bloodiest incident since armed hostilities resumed between the KIA and the Burmese Army in 2011, which has led to rising alarm about a possible escalation of the armed conflict. After attacking the training camp, the Burmese military later attacked KIA positions and camps of displaced people. Since 2011, more than 100,000 civilians have been forcibly displaced as a result of the violence, many of them residing in areas under the control of the Kachin armed opposition group. (The Irrawaddy, 22/11/14)
PAKISTAN: A serious attack claims 60 lives in the main border crossing with India
At least 60 people were killed and 110 were wounded in an attack at the Wagah crossing, on the border with India. The armed opposition group Jamaat-ul-Ahrar, a dissident faction of the Taliban group TTP that split off in September and pledged allegiance to the armed organisation ISIS, claimed responsibility for the attack. This is the main border crossing between both countries and a point of huge influx, since every day a military ceremony is performed that draws hundreds of people from both sides of the border. According to official sources, the suicide bomber tried to kill people on the Indian side of the border as well, but did not succeed. Days later, the armed group confirmed that its main leader, Abu Jandal, had died as a result of the bombardments carried out by the Pakistani Armed Forces in the Tirah Valley, in Khyber Agency, as part of the counterinsurgency operation under way in the area since October, known as Operation Khyber-1. More than 200 insurgents have died as a consequence of the Pakistani Army’s bombardments since then. This operation is unfolding alongside another one being conducted in North Waziristan, Operation Zarb-i-Azb, in which the Pakistani military has killed over 1,200 insurgents in its first five months. Intense clashes and attacks in various parts of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and the province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in November left dozens of people dead, especially in the Tirah Valley, Orakzai Agency and North Waziristan. (Dawn, 3, 5, 10, 11, 14, 16, 21/11/14)
SYRIA: The UN warns that half the Syrian population requires assistance, denounces the regime’s humanitarian blockade and warns of crimes committed by ISIS in the country
Media and UN reports confirmed that civilians continue to be the main victims of the armed conflict in Syria. In late November, the United Nations said that over 12 million people, close to half the population of the country, required assistance due to the situation of violence and deteriorating living conditions. This is two million higher than the figure cited in July. A UN report also stated that the government of Bashar Assad has not responded to at least ten requests by the WHO in October to deliver aid. Damascus continued its operations against rebel areas with a high civilian death toll, including dozens of people killed in the ISIS-controlled city of Raqqa. According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, the US air strike campaign against the armed jihadist group and another al-Qaeda affiliate organisation (Khorasan) in Syria has led to over 900 deaths since September. ISIS was denounced by the United Nations for the abuses it is committing in areas under its control in Syria. According to a report released in November, ISIS has carried out massacres, beheadings, torture, sexual slavery and abuse and has forced children to witness mutilation and corporeal punishment, which also constitute war crimes and crimes against humanity. Throughout the month, ISIS also released images of the decapitation of an American aid worker and a dozen Syrian soldiers. Meanwhile, fighting raged in the country between the government and the rebels, especially in the areas of Aleppo and Damascus. In this context, UN Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura proposed a ceasefire agreement for Aleppo to allow for the entry of humanitarian aid. The Syrian government said that it would study the initiative, but the Free Syrian Army (FSA) in Aleppo later rejected it, arguing that it would serve the interests of the regime. (BBC, 05, 14, 10, 11/11/14; The New York Times, 10/11/14; Al Jazeera, 11, 12, 14, 22 26/11/14)
AFGHANISTAN: The United States could authorise its troops to retain an active combat role following the withdrawal
US President Barack Obama may authorise the troops that will remain deployed in the country after the withdrawal planned for late 2014 to also play an active role in combat in operations against the Taliban insurgency and other armed groups, according to information revealed in The New York Times. Although Obama had previously declared that US troops in Afghanistan would not participate in combat in 2015, developments in Iraq and the impact of armed activity conducted by ISIS, as well as the recent election of Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, who is more receptive to a more active US military presence, have led him to give in to those pressuring for US troops to continue to actively fight the Taliban insurgency. In response to this information, Afghan government sources said that the US presence in the country is regulated by the Bilateral Security Agreement, which only covers the tasks of training, advising and supporting Afghan troops. This agreement was recently ratified by the Wolesi Jirga, the lower house of the Afghan Parliament. The final number of troops remaining in the country had not yet been agreed and could be higher than initially planned. (The New York Times, 21/11/14; ToloNews, 23 and 24/11/14; Reuters, 25/11/14)
ARMENIA – AZERBAIJAN (NAGORNO-KARABAKH): Tension increases between both countries after a military helicopter belonging to Nagorno-Karabakh is downed
Tension rose between Armenia and Azerbaijan due to the downing of a military helicopter belonging to the Armenian military of Nagorno-Karabakh and the deaths of all three on board. According to analysts, this is the first time that a military aircraft has been shot down in the conflict zone in at least 20 years. Azerbaijan stated that two military helicopters conducting combat manoeuvres over Azerbaijani positions attempted to open fire at them, but the Azerbaijanis fired back and shot down one of the helicopters. An Armenian defence ministry spokesman described the incident as unprecedented provocation and rejected Azerbaijani allegations that the helicopter had tried to attack their forces. After the incident, Baku declared that it was closing the airspace over the region of Nagorno-Karabakh and notified the International Civil Aviation Organisation of the same. The authorities in Nagorno-Karabakh downplayed the event. (RFE/RL, Reuters, 12-13/11/14)
BURUNDI: The UN special advisor on the prevention of genocide warns of possible regression ahead of 2015 if dialogue is not promoted and the current security situation does not improve
Various international figures warned of the seriousness of the situation in the country and the risks of it deteriorating even further in the coming year. Adama Dieng, the UN special advisor on the prevention of genocide, said at the International Criminal Court for Rwanda in Arusha that political violence in the country is rising and called for dialogue and openness of the space of freedom of expression to avoid regression in the country ahead of the elections in 2015. The best way to break with the tendency to aggravate the situation, he said, is to begin a dialogue between all political players. Even though the government is mainly responsible for the security situation, it is an issue in which all parties should be involved. Léonce Ngendakumana, chairman of the parties FRODEBU and ADC Ikibiri, argued that the government intends to destroy the political parties and their leaders. Vital Nshimirimana, a general delegate of the Forum for Strengthening Civil Society (FORSC), expressed similar views. Meanwhile, the UN special rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, Michel Forst, said while visiting the country that human rights activists in Burundi are considered political opponents, affirming that they promote civil rights and liberties. Forst has stressed that the country has a dynamic civil society and sizable free press that the authorities are trying to restrict by accusing them of political opposition. Finally, the UN Secretary-General appointed Cassam Uteem to be his new special envoy and head of the UN electoral observation mission in the country (MENUB). (Iwacu, 18/11/14; UN, 10 and 25/11/14)
CENTRAL AFRICA (LRA): Various organisations report that the LRA is trafficking in natural resources to finance itself and obtain weapons
The organisations Enough Project, Resolve and Invisible Children claimed that the insurgent group LRA, which currently mainly operates in the southeast of the Central African Republic and to a lesser extent in the northeastern DR Congo, is boosting its trafficking in ivory, diamonds and gold to obtain weapons and ammunition, food and other supplies. According to a new report, this illicit trade could be linked to the armed group’s efforts to improve relations with other armed groups, like the former Central African coalition Séléka, members of the Sudanese Armed Forces and herders in the region. In December, the UN Security Council will discuss developments in the situation regarding the LRA. Several LRA deserters have recently said that the group’s leader, Joseph Kony, had ordered his fighters to steal gold and diamonds from artisanal miners operating in the eastern part of the Central African Republic and sell them to Séléka and the Sudanese Army. The group, which according to studies consists of approximately 200 combatants, has kidnapped around 500 people so far in 2014, more than in 2013. (Enough Project, Resolve and Invisible Children, 19/11/14)
CHINA (XINJIANG): The Chinese government declares that it has dismantled 115 terrorist cells in Xinjiang in the last six months
Several Chinese media outlets reported the results of the first six months of the antiterrorist campaign launched by the government in late May to reduce levels of violence in the Xinjiang region. According to these reports, 115 terrorist cells have been dismantled since then (40% of them thanks to information obtained from interrogating detainees), 117 centres of religious education have been closed and 238 people in charge of them have been arrested. The government campaign, which will continue until June 2015, is focused on four types of groups and activities: use of the Internet to spread content that encourages terrorism or holy war, membership in terrorist groups or groups that promote religious extremism and the commission of multiple lesser offences related to violence or public safety. Around 18,000 documents have also been seized in the last six months. Moreover, some human rights organisations indicated that the number of collective sentences has also risen significantly over the same period. Thus, 40 death sentences have been made public and 21 executions have been reported since June alone. In early November, for example, 12 people were sentenced to death for participating in an act of violence in July that killed 96 people. (Radio Free Asia and The Diplomat, 24/11/14)
GEORGIA (ABKHAZIA) – RUSSIA: Tension rises with the signing of a treaty of integration between Abkhazia and Russia
The unresolved conflict between Georgia and the region of Abkhazia, and by extension relations between Georgia and Russia, worsened even further after Russia and Abkhazia, which have become closer since the war between Russia and Georgia in 2008, signed a treaty of integration in late November that further deepens relations between them, establishing Russia’s formal recognition of Abkhazia’s declaration of independence and cooperation agreements in various areas since then. The new treaty, whose initial draft generated criticism among various groups in Abkhazia on the grounds that it could jeopardise national sovereignty, included most of the proposals of Abkhazia’s revised text and partially softened the language of the Russian draft. However, according to some analysts, the new treaty did not dispel the Abkhazian people’s concerns regarding possible absorption. Georgia described Russia’s policy towards Abkhazia as one of annexation. International players such as the United States, the European Union and NATO criticised the new treaty in a context of highly deteriorated relations between Russia and the West regarding the crisis in Ukraine. Meanwhile, Russia announced that it would double financial aid to Abkhazia. Among other aspects, the new treaty includes the creation of a common defence and security zone, clauses on collective defence and the creation of a group of combined forces. The treaty addresses many areas, including trade, customs, citizenship, security, defence and others. (EurasiaNet, Civil Georgia, 1-27/11/14)
IRAN: Tehran and the G5+1 agree to extend negotiations on the Iranian nuclear programme until July 2015
After the one-year deadline for negotiations over the Iranian nuclear programme expired, Tehran and the G5+1 powers (the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Russia, China and Germany) agreed to extend the talks for seven months in order to give a chance for an agreement. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani stressed that various obstacles had been avoided, while the Iranian foreign minister and head of the negotiating team, Mohammed Javad Zarif, said that he hoped it would be possible to reach an agreement before the new deadline expires in July 2015. US Secretary of State John Kerry praised the progress made and said that new ideas had emerged from the negotiations in recent days that were worth exploring. Despite these statements, observers stressed the difficulties entailed in achieving an agreement, linked to disagreements between the Iranian delegation and Western diplomatic teams regarding the reduction of Tehran’s abilities to enrich uranium, the tempo of lifting sanctions on Iran and the duration of the agreement, among other issues. Analysts also pointed out that both the Rouhani government and the Obama Administration were taking increasingly defiant positions towards their respective hardliner groups. After the talks were extended, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said that the West had failed to bring Iran to its knees. Meanwhile, Kerry asked US lawmakers not to approve new sanctions against Iran. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hailed the lack of an agreement, arguing that no agreement is better than a bad one. Russia agreed with Iran on building two new reactors at Bushehr, under IAEA supervision. The decision to extend the negotiations over Iran’s nuclear programme was made following intense diplomatic activity in Vienna (Austria) at the end of the month and previously in Muscat (Oman), where Kerry met with Zarif and the former head of European diplomacy, Catherine Ashton, who is leading the talks with the G5+1. According to press reports, at the beginning of the month (after the Republican election victory) Obama sent a letter to Khamenei urging him to take advantage of the opportunity to come to an agreement on the nuclear issue, mentioning the United States and Iran’s common interests in the Middle East regarding the fight against the armed group ISIS. (The New York Times, 08, 17, 24, 25/11/14; Al Jazeera, 25/11/14; BBC, 06, 11, 24/11/14; The Wall Street Journal, 06/11/14)
NORTH KOREA: North Korea threatens to conduct a new nuclear test after the UN denounces the human rights situation in the country
South Korean media indicated that the North Korean government had expressed its willingness to resume multilateral talks on the denuclearisation of Korea without preconditions and based on a joint statement issued in 2005 by the countries participating in the talks (the United States, South Korea, Japan, China, Russia and North Korea). Pyongyang informed the Russian government of its willingness in a meeting in Moscow between Choe Ryong-hae, a special envoy of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, and Russian President Vladimir Putin and Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. The multilateral talks began in 2003 and ended in 2007, though it was not until 2009 that North Korea formally abandoned them. This information surfaced shortly after the North Korean government threatened to conduct a fourth missile test and referred to the spectre of nuclear war on the Korean Peninsula. These statements were interpreted as a reaction to the resolution that had emerged during the General Assembly of the Third Committee (human rights), where the UN Security Council was urged virtually unanimously to bring human rights violations committed by North Korea to the attention of the International Criminal Court. In April, a UN-led commission of inquiry issued a report that denounced massive and systematic violations of human rights. (Reuters, 21/11/14; UPI, GlobalPost and New York Times, 25/11/14)
UKRAINE: Kiev steps up pressure on pro-Russian regions while complaints multiply about Russia’s growing military support for rebel groups
The armed conflict in eastern Ukraine continued to worsen, with nearly 1,000 fatalities in the ceasefire period that began in September (an average of 13 per day) and more than 4,000 since April. The political and security scene deteriorated and both parties’ positions grew even further apart after unrecognised elections for senior leaders and regional legislatures were held in early November in parts of the provinces of Donetsk and Lugansk under the control of pro-Russian military and political structures. Ukraine denounced the illegal nature of the elections, which Russia recognised. In turn, Ukraine claimed that in early November, around 30 tanks and a similar number of trucks with troops and military equipment had entered the country from Russia. The OSCE monitoring mission also reported the presence of more than 40 unmarked military trucks whose origin could not be identified in a convoy that it said included five bearing howitzers and five carrying missile launching systems. Although Russia denies having any direct presence in eastern Ukraine or giving support to the insurgents there, many analysts indicated that the convoy either came directly from Russia or had been delivered to the insurgents by Russia. Moscow partially criticised the OSCE mission, viewing it as benefitting Ukraine. Meanwhile, NATO said that it had spotted several military columns of Russian origin. Meanwhile, Ukraine’s position became increasingly belligerent towards the eastern regions. Thus, the Ukrainian president announced a decree that urged Parliament to strike down the law on self-government for the eastern regions that was passed in September as part of efforts to resolve the conflict. The president also ordered a halt to state funding for the regions, including pensions and funds for schools and hospitals, the withdrawal of state companies from the regions and the closure of banking services at the central bank, arguing that the goal was to prevent the money from ending up in rebel hands. These measures were criticised by some in Kiev as well as in the affected regions. The president said that Ukraine was prepared for all-out war. In the diplomatic arena, Western leaders pressured Putin during the G-20 summit in Australia in November, while Russia demanded total guarantees that Ukraine was not planning to join NATO, describing it as a red line. In late November, the Ukrainian president announced that the country was hoping to meet the criteria to join NATO and that its possible entry would be subject to a referendum, though analysts said that NATO was unlikely to accept Ukraine due to the level of instability there. Meanwhile, the foreign ministers of Germany and Russia met in Moscow on 18 November and expressed support for the Minsk agreement reached in September, despite the lack of practical implementation. Frank-Walter Steinmeier also said he was open to new approaches to lowering tensions, such as meetings between the European Union and the Eurasian Union. (BBC, El País, Reuters, The New York Times, 1-26/11/14)
BURKINA FASO: The Burkinabe Army, political parties and civil society agree on a framework for transition and appoint a new civilian president following Compaoré’s departure
The transition process in Burkina Faso began after the massive popular revolts in late October against President Blaise Compaoré remaining in office, the subsequent seizure of power by the Burkinabe Army and Compaoré’s departure. After starting out under military control, the transition process bolstered civilian mechanisms of control. Initially, the chief of staff proclaimed himself the new head of state and announced the imminent creation of a transitional body. Later, on 1 November, the Army designated Lieutenant Colonel Isaac Zida to be the new leader for the transition process. The Burkinabe Army’s seizure of power sparked new civic protests and criticism from the African Union, ECOWAS, the UN and other international actors. The African Union threatened to impose sanctions if civilian rule was not restored and set a two-week ultimatum for the handover, while Zida shrugged off the warnings. Still, in early November talks began between the Army, political parties, civil society organisations and tribal leaders under the mediation of three African presidents (from Ghana, Nigeria and Senegal). The attendance of members of Compaoré’s party led sectors of the opposition to abandon the talks at first, though they were later resumed. On 13 November, military, political and civil society leaders finally signed a transition framework agreement under civilian leadership that provided for a special panel of political, religious, civic, traditional and military leaders to appoint a new interim civilian president and for the creation of 90-member legislative body. The transition framework also included presidential and legislative elections to be held one year into the transition. The joint panel selected Michel Kafando to be president. The Army’s candidate, Kafando was the former foreign minister and representative of Compaoré’s government to the UN. Some civil groups had supported candidates with no links to Compaoré. In compliance with what is stipulated in the transition framework agreement, Kafando had to appoint a prime minister and named Lieutenant Colonel Zida. This prompted various reactions, with some analysts saying that the military was trying to control the transition process as much as possible. The new transitional government was unveiled in late November, with four portfolios given to military officers. Two of the posts (prime minister and minister of defence) were assumed by Zida and Colonel Auguste Denise Barry was appointed the equivalent of the minister of the interior (the minister of territorial administration and security). (All Africa, Jeune Afrique, BBC, UN, 1-28/11/14)
INDIA (NAGALAND): The Indian prime minister seeks a definitive solution to the conflict within no more than 18 months
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi urged the head of the government’s team for the peace process with the Naga insurgent group NSCN-IM to make a proposal to reach a definitive solution to the conflict in Nagaland within a period of one year to 18 months. The intention is to float a proposal that would shift responsibility for acceptance to the armed group. Furthermore, it would not be about political dialogue so much as about creating an administrative framework for managing a solution to the conflict. Modi will discuss the issue of the Naga conflict with the chief ministers of Nagaland and Manipur during his visit to the region at the end of November. (DNA, 20/11/14; Zee News, 21/11/14; E-Pao, 21/11/14)
FILIPINAS (MINDANAO-MILF): The MILF announces the creation of a new political party
The MILF announced the creation of the United Bangsamoro Justice Party (UBJP) for the purpose of running in the elections planned in Bangsamoro in 2016. The leader of the MILF, Ebrahim Murad, said that the MILF would retain an active structure to facilitate social and financial aid programmes in its areas of influence. Moreover, while Congress deliberated over the Bangsamoro Basic Law, the government and the MILF’s negotiating teams created a Coordination Team for the Transition that will coordinate the transfer of responsibilities from the current Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) to the Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA), which will govern Bangsamoro once the Bangsamoro Basic Law is passed and until elections are held there in 2016. It is estimated that the BTA will be operational for around one year. The Coordination Team for the Transition will be composed of five members of the central government and the current ARMM and by five MILF representatives. Concerning the acts of violence reported in November, the Philippine government accused the BIFF, a MILF splinter group, of being behind the explosion of a bomb in the town of M’lang (North Cotabato province) at the end of the month that killed three people and wounded 22. Days before, in the same province, one person was killed and 17 were wounded when a device detonated in a school. The police found two other unexploded devices near the same school. (Al Jazeera, 16/11/14; News24, 24/11/14; South China Morning Post, 15/11/14; Rappler, 25/11/14)
SUDAN (SOUTH KORDOFAN AND BLUE NILE): The government and the armed group SPLM-N resume peace talks to put an end to the armed conflict
The government and the SPLM-N resumed peace talks in Addis Ababa. Indirect meetings between the parties resumed on 12 November and on 14 November direct meetings were convened in the seventh round of negotiations under the auspices of the African Union High-Level Implementation Panel (AUHIP). Thus far, the government of Omar al-Bashir had tried to separate its negotiations over the Two Areas (as the peace process in South Kordofan and Blue Nile is known) from its negotiations over Darfur and the national dialogue it backs, while the SPLM-N wanted to include aspects of the national dialogue (the Paris Declaration) in the talks and see the Darfur peace process move towards a unified one coordinating both sets of negotiations and culminating in a nationwide dialogue. On 17 November, the head of mediation efforts, South African politician Thabo Mbeki, decided to postpone discussions to allow the parties to consult and to allow the inclusion of additional elements to the framework agreement that could be signed soon. Both parties accepted all Mbeki’s comments that cleared the way for achieving an agreement. Mbeki asked both parties to give a clear answer on how to coordinate a two-speed peace process that includes a cessation of hostilities and humanitarian aspects linked to the Two Areas process, as well as a road map that includes a preparatory meeting for the national dialogue. Thus, in line with the decision adopted at the 456th meeting of the African Union’s Peace and Security Council, AU mediation has negotiated two processes (the Two Areas and Darfur) for the purpose of ending the war in both regions and later convening a national meeting in Addis Ababa to prepare for the constitutional process that will take place in Sudan (the national dialogue). The government plans to hold national elections in April 2015, but the political opposition refuses to participate in them and proposes the formation of a transitional government and a national conference involving all armed groups to discuss a negotiated solution to the conflicts in the Darfur region and the states of South Kordofan and Blue Nile. On the other hand, the electoral commission and ruling party, the NCP, refuse to postpone the elections, arguing that doing so would create a constitutional vacuum in the country. Along with Yasir Arman, the chief negotiator of the SPLM-N, the SPLM-N delegation included Minni Minawi, of the Darfuri armed group SLM-MM, and el-Tom Hajo, of the Democratic Unionist Party, who took advantage of the opportunity to denounce the violence in Darfur. Asked about this issue, a member of the governmental delegation anonymously said that the SPLM-N delegation could include whomever it wanted, but the matters for discussion were limited to those of the Two Areas. (Sudan Tribune, 12-15, 24, 26/11/14)
SUDAN (DARFUR): Peace talks are held between the government and the insurgencies of the Darfur region
As part of the decision adopted at the 456th meeting of the African Union’s Peace and Security Council, peace talks about Darfur began in Addis Ababa on 23 November. The armed groups of Darfur that form part of the coalition Sudanese Revolutionary Front (SRF) declared that they are satisfied with the position reached by the group SPLM-N (also a part of the SRF, from South Kordofan and Blue Nile) and expressed their readiness to move forward in negotiations over Darfur. The groups that compose the SRF are involved in two parallel peace talks with the Sudanese government mediated by the African Union High-Level Implementation Panel (AUHIP). Days before the meeting with the government on 23 November, a coordination group of the SPLM-N for the peace talks sat down with the negotiating teams of the JEM and the SLM-MM. Meanwhile, the chief negotiator of the Darfuri armed group JEM, Ahmed Tugud Lissan, declared that he rejected any peace talks based on the Doha Document for Peace in Darfur (DDPD), an agreement signed in 2011 with the Darfuri armed group LJM, which has provided a framework for the subsequent peace negotiations, while the government’s main negotiator, Amin Hassan Omer, stressed that no discussion of any kind could take place outside the framework of the DDPD. The government and the ruling National Congress Party (NCP) have rejected the Darfuri groups’ demands that the talks be conducted as part of an overall peace process that includes national issues and have said that the process would only lead to a ceasefire in Darfur allowing them to participate in the national talks that Khartoum has been promoting since January 2014. The NCP has stated that before the armed groups can participate in the national dialogue, the ceasefire and security agreements must serve as the framework agreed with the AUHIP in line with the 456th meeting of the African Union’s Peace and Security Council. Finally, the Darfuri armed group SLM-AW, led by Abdel Wahid al-Nur, refused to participate in these peace talks in Addis Ababa and called for a popular uprising to overthrow the al-Bashir regime. (Sudan Tribune, 18, 20, 22-25/11/14)
TURKEY (SOUTHEAST): The Turkish government and Kurdish movement pledge to give new impetus to the dialogue following heightened political and social tensions
While protests in Turkey to support the Kurds of Syria and mutual political accusations had cooled the dialogue process and raised tensions between the Turkish government and the Kurdish nationalist movement in October, prompting new threats of a return to war, in November the parties announced their intention to reinitiate the peace process. The delegation of MPs that habitually visits PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan (in prison since 1999) held various meetings with state representatives involved in the process in November and 30 November was declared the date for the Kurdish delegation’s next meeting with Öcalan, which would be the first since 22 October. It emerged during the month that the government was studying the possibility of authorising new mechanisms for the process, apparently at the Kurds’ request, including the expansion of the Kurdish delegation visiting Öcalan, the creation of a “secretariat” to support Öcalan and the establishment of a monitoring or observation group composed of local figures such as opinion leaders, intellectuals, artisans and civil society activists accepted by both parties. The Kurdish delegation’s proposal included replacing the five current prisoners on the “secretariat” with new prisoners in the high-security Imrali prison. Meanwhile, some Kurdish representatives said that the monitoring group could consist of around fifteen members, while others said thirty, and that it would be in charge of observing the negotiations, although according to some Kurdish leaders it would also identify non-compliance and hindrances to the peace process caused by both parties, assign blame for such incidents and provide support for issues on which the parties failed to agree. In other words, there was no single clear description in the press of the exact mandate proposed for this potential group. According to the media, the possibility of direct communication between Öcalan and political and military leaders in the bases of the PKK (northern Iraq) was also being studied. However, it remained to be seen whether the parties would reach agreements on the mechanisms and procedures of the process, as well as their suitability and mandate. The leader of the pro-Kurdish party HDP, Selahattin Demirtas, said that an agreement to solve the conflict should be achieved before the general elections in 2015 and added that Öcalan agreed with the timeframe. According to Demirtas, Öcalan could call for disarmament in March 2015 if there is agreement between the Kurdish movement and the Turkish government at that time. Furthermore, one of the founders and military leaders of the PKK, Cemil Bayik, said that the PKK wanted a third international party to participate in the process, such as an international or US delegation. However, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan bluntly rejected international involvement and defended a local process as the only way. Moreover, on 1 November there were mass demonstrations in support of the Kurds in Syria. No violence was reported, unlike the violent turn taken by the protests in October, which claimed nearly 40 lives in clashes between Kurdish demonstrators and Islamist groups, as well as clashes with security forces. (Firat, Hürriyet, AFP, 1-27/11/14)
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