Over one million people have died as a result of the “Global War on Terror”
A report by various constituent groups of the coalition International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War conducted a joint assessment of the impact that the “Global War on Terror” has had since its inception in terms of human lives, indicating that 1.3 million people have died in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan in the last 13 years. The country that reported the highest number of victims was Iraq, where approximately one million people are calculated to have died (including indirect victims of the armed conflict), followed by Afghanistan with 220,000 fatalities and Pakistan with 80,000. The report states that from 2003 to 2011, around 110,000 civilians were killed as a direct result of the armed conflict in Iraq. The report notes the difficulty of conducting a body count in Afghanistan, using partial estimates that put the figure at 220,000, though this is far from conclusive. It highlights that 81,000 people died as a consequence of the armed conflict in Pakistan between 2005 and 2013, of which 48,000 were civilians. The report also says that from 416 to 951 people have died in the country as a result of US drone strikes. (Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, March 2015)
AFGHANISTAN: The Taliban launches its spring offensive and still refrains from deciding on peace talks
The insurgent group declared the start of new attacks on foreign embassies and state officials, but still did not mention peace talks that the government claims are imminent. China and Pakistan reaffirmed their support for the peace process. President Ghani’s spokesman denied that secret talks had taken place and the second vice president said that the rights of citizens, and especially of women, would be respected in the negotiations. Meanwhile, ISIS claimed responsibility for an attack on Afghan security force posts in the province of Badakhshan that killed 28 people and prompted harsh criticism against the national unity government, in addition to an attack in the city of Jalalabad that claimed the lives of 34 people and wounded 25. The governor of the province of Paktika declared that 200,000 USD intended for displaced families ended up in the hands of ISIS. UNAMA’s first quarter report concluded that civilian victims rose by 8%, reaching record numbers. The European Union extended the mission in Afghanistan (EUPOL) by two years. The national unity government appointed 16 new ministers, leaving only the post of minister of defence vacant. (Reuters 22/04/2015; TOLOnews 9, 12, 13, 18, 21, 23/04/2015)
KENYA: An attack claimed by al-Shabaab on Garissa University College causes the deaths of 148 people
At least 148 people died as a consequence of an attack claimed by the Somali armed Islamist group al-Shabaab on Garissa University College on 2 April. A group of five gunmen killed both guards in charge of security on campus, which had received threats. The attack lasted 16 hours, during which the assailants held 400 of the more than 800 students. Some of those injured are suspected to have succumbed to their wounds after going hours without receiving medical attention. Finally, Kenyan security forces stormed the campus and the assailants detonated the explosives they carried on their bodies. This attack is considered the most serious in Kenya since 1999. The mastermind behind the massacre is of Kenyan origin, which highlights the volatility of the borders in the conflict affecting the neighbouring country, Somalia, in which Kenya is increasingly involved. Al-Shabaab announced that Kenya would not enjoy security “if there was no security in Somalia”. Kenya’s military offensive in Somalia, launched in conjunction with other countries in the AU mission to the country, has been blasted by some Kenyan opposition leaders, including veteran politician Raila Odinga, especially in the northeastern region, the area most affected by the bombings and attacks. The assault on Garissa sparked vociferous demonstrations by students demanding more security in the country and protests against the government of Uhuru Kenyatta, whose policy on al-Shabaab and Somalia has so far only caused the situation in Kenya to worsen. Days later, Kenya conducted a new air operation against possible al-Shabaab military bases in Somalia that was also criticised harshly by international organisations because these air strikes often produce civilian casualties. One of the militants that participated in the Garissa massacres is the son of a Kenyan official in the eastern region of Mandera, who had warned of his son’s disappearance. Meanwhile, initiatives were launched to provide local support and demonstrate international solidarity to the victims of the attack. For now, five suspects have appeared before the court on charges of having links to the assailants, while a sixth suspect remains in custody in Garissa. Finally, 13 money transfer companies were ordered closed in order to cut off possible sources of funding for the Somali group and announcements that the Dadaab refugee camp could be closed were reversed. The camp is located in northeastern Kenya and is home to half a million Somalis. (El País, Guardian, BBC, Reuters, 02-20/04/15)
INDIA (JAMMU AND KASHMIR): Tension rises after two youths are killed by security forces
Tension rose in the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir after the Indian Army killed the brother of a prominent member of the armed opposition group Hizb-ul-Mujahideen and another man. The security forces indicated at first that the victims were insurgents, but local sources stated that they were civilians. After the young men died, protests began that led to violent clashes with security forces, during which another youth died from police gunfire. The authorities said that they would investigate the events, since the demonstrators could have been dispersed by means other than live ammunition. Moreover, separatist leaders Syed Ali Shah Geelani and Masarat Alam were arrested during the protests and placed under house arrest, stoking the tension even more. The leaders’ arrest was followed by a call for a general strike to shut down the government. Furthermore, three police officers died in clashes with insurgents in the village of Amshipora. (AFP, 06/04/15; The Hindu, 14/04/15; The New York Times, 18/04/15; PTI, 20/04/15)
UKRAINE: Ceasefire violations increase alongside appeals for implementation of the Minsk II agreement
After the escalation of violence that initially gave rise to the Minsk II agreement reached on 12 February, alarms sounded in April over the rise in ceasefire violations, with various fatalities and injuries during the period. The violence mainly originated around the Donetsk Airport, an area already affected by combat between September and January, as well as near the town of Shyrokyne, barely 10 kilometres from Mariupol in the Donetsk region. The OSCE monitoring mission noticed a “massive” increase in the number of ceasefire violations around mid-April and said that it had observed the movement of heavy weapons again, even though it should have been fully withdrawn from the established buffer zone. Among other incidents, on 5 April six Ukrainian soldiers died in two separate incidents, in Schastye (170 km north of Donetsk) and near Shyrokyne. Six other soldiers were killed and 12 were wounded in just 24 hours between 13 and 14 April during intense bombardment in the towns of Shyrokyne and Pavlopil, near Mariupol, as well as in areas near the cities of Donetsk and Luhansk, according to Ukrainian Army sources. The uptick in violence near Mariupol generated new fears about a possible spring offensive by the rebels. As such, incidents continued to occur in places outside the areas under rebel control, in addition to arrests of several dozen people (40 detained as suspected saboteurs in Odessa on 10 April, according to the Ukrainian authorities). Moreover, important pro-Russian figures were murdered in April, including a prominent pro-Russian journalist and former pro-Yanukovich MP. Their deaths join others and alleged suicides of other pro-Russian figures in previous months. Amidst the new rise in violence, the foreign ministries of Germany, France, Russia and Ukraine held talks in Berlin on 13 April. The leaders agreed to make an appeal to continue with the withdrawal of heavy weapons and to include weapons under 100 mm calibre, mortars, armoured vehicles and tanks, as well as to establish four working groups to address the following issues: security, the process to organise local elections in areas under rebel control, the exchange of prisoners of war and improvement of the economic situation in eastern Ukraine. They also displayed willingness to give more financial support and lend staff to the OSCE to monitor the ceasefire. They indicated that the talks had been intense and at times controversial, but said that there was no alternative to the Minsk II agreement. Furthermore, problems continued regarding implementation of the other aspects of the agreement. The rebel authorities criticised legislation to give insurgent areas special status that was approved by the Ukrainian Parliament in March, whose implementation depends on holding local elections according to Ukrainian legislation and under international supervision. According to the rebel institutions, such conditionality is a misrepresentation of the Minsk agreement. In turn, the Ukrainian president came out against the possible federalisation of Ukraine and said that the government would continue with his decentralisation plan, according to statements made during the first meeting of the commission set up to prepare for reform of the Ukrainian Constitution. The rebel authorities criticised the fact that they had not been invited to this commission and accused Kiev of not wanting to engage in direct dialogue with them, while Ukraine said that until legal local elections were held in the Donbas, it would not speak with any actors in the area. The Ukrainian government also approved a controversial law banning and condemning communist and Nazi propaganda and symbols, ideologies that it views as equivalent. According to data collected by the United Nations, over 6,100 people, including military personnel and civilians, died in the conflict between April 2014 and April 2015. (The New York Times, El País, RFE/RL, IWPR, Eurasia Daily Monitor, 1-30/04/15)
YEMEN: The escalation of the conflict after the involvement of an international coalition led by Saudi Arabia causes the deaths of over 1,200 people and leaves 5,000 wounded
Five weeks after the crisis in Yemen worsened when a military coalition led by Saudi Arabia intervened, the situation in the country had deteriorated considerably. According to provisional estimates, 37 days after the operation began, the escalation of violence had killed at least 1,244 people, while over 5,000 had been wounded. These figures could rise, bearing in mind that they are only based on data collected from hospitals. In addition, more than 334,000 people were forced to flee and tens of thousands risked their lives attempting to escape the violence by crossing the Gulf of Aden. The naval and aerial blockade on Yemen restricted access to food, water and medicine. Throughout April, the international coalition kept up its air strikes against Houthi positions. The Houthis had taken control of Aden at the beginning of the month after intense fighting with forces loyal to Yemeni President Abdo Rabbo Mansour Hadi, who has taken refuge in Riyadh. The chaos and instability facilitated the advancement of the local al-Qaeda branch (AQAP) in different parts of the country, including in Mukallah (in Hadramout, in the southeast). Hostilities also raised regional tensions between Saudi Arabia and Iran, accused of giving the Houthis support. Meanwhile, the United States accelerated the delivery of weapons to the Saudi authorities and sent a dozen warships near Yemen in what was seen as a move to block a potential shipment of Iranian weapons to the Houthis. Tehran insisted on denying that it supported the Houthis and proposed a four-point plan to halt the Yemeni crisis. In mid-April, the UN Security Council passed a resolution that imposed a weapons embargo on the Houthis and sanctions on the circle of former Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh. Russia abstained from voting on the resolution. In public statements, the leader of the Houthis ruled out surrendering. Riyadh announced the end of the aerial campaign over Yemen on 22 April, but hostilities resumed shortly thereafter. Given these developments, the UN special advisor on Yemen, Jamal Benomar, resigned after more than four years working in the country, amidst criticism from Gulf countries. Benomar was replaced by Mauritanian diplomat Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed (The New York Times, 02, 04, 15, 17, 21, 22, 24, 27/04/15; Reuters, 14, 15/04/15; IRIN, 01/05/15)
BURUNDI: Tension rises in the country as a result of the president’s insistence on his intention to run for a third term
Current President Pierre Nkurunziza’s desire to run for a third term of office is increasing tension in the country, and even within the ruling party. Although the Burundian Constitution limits presidential terms to two, in order to run in the upcoming election in June, Nkurunkiza argues that he did not serve his first term through direct election but through parliamentary selection. The government has decreed bans on demonstrations or acts of protest, threatening to send in the Army if any occur. The upcoming election will be the third since the end of the civil war. The European Union has announced that it will provide financial and technical support to make it happen and will send around 80 observers to evaluate whether it takes place under conditions of equality, fairness and freedom. In parallel, a sign of the seriousness of the situation is the exodus of people from Burundi towards neighbouring countries (especially Rwanda), fearing violence and conflict ahead of the election. Over 10,000 people have crossed the border and even thought President Nkurunkiza ordered their return within one month, government envoys could not convince the refugees to return to their homes. Some of them reported threats from the youth wing of the ruling party, the Imbonerakure, who have committed dozens of extrajudicial executions and exerted pressure against the political and social opposition. (AFP, 20/04/15; Daily Mail, 24/04/15; Allafrica, 24/04/15)
EGYPT: A series of attacks in Sinai cause the deaths of more than 50 people in April and the authorities decide to extend the state of emergency in the area for another three months
The Sinai Peninsula was the scene of a series of attacks against Egyptian security forces, most of which were claimed by the armed group Ansar Beit al-Maqdis, which changed its name to “Sinai Province” after declaring allegiance to ISIS. The attacks killed more than 50 people, mainly members of the security forces, but also civilians, and left over 100 people wounded. One of the most significant attacks took place in early April, when a double offensive against Egyptian Army checkpoints killed 17 people around the town of Sheikh Zuweid. A week later, two other police officers and 11 civilians lost their lives in another armed attack in Sinai. In the middle of the month, on 12 April, two car bomb attacks on the Egyptian security forces, one in Sheikh Zuweid and the other in the provincial capital, al-Arish, claimed 14 lives. The group Sinai Province claimed responsibility for these attacks on social media. At least five assailants died in the attacks. According to local media, another 17 rebels lost their lives in late April as a result of military operations in the northern part of Sinai. Local sources and analysts specialised in the situation in Sinai have highlighted that the militiamen exploit security breaches at military facilities in the area to carry out their attacks and use distraction manoeuvres. In addition to attacking military and police facilities, their armed activity includes planting bombs along roads in the region. One roadside bomb killed three students at a military academy in the middle of the month. In this context, in late April the authorities announced a three-month extension of the state of emergency in the northern part of Sinai, imposed last October after another attack that killed 33 Egyptian soldiers. In April, the United States decided to lift its suspension of arms sales to Egypt, which it imposed following the ouster of Mohamed Mursi in mid-2013. (Reuters, 12, 26/04/15; El Cairo Post, 26/04/15; ICG, 01/05/15; al-Monitor, 21/04/15)
GUINEA: The opposition mobilises against the election schedule and clashes between demonstrators and police kill three people and injure around 50
The announcement by the electoral commission in March that local elections would take place in 2016, after the presidential election slated for October 2015, and not before, generated stiff protest from wide swathes of the social and political opposition, which staged anti-government demonstrations in the capital and other places in April. Some protests led to clashes between police and demonstrators that claimed the lives or three people and wounded around 50. Twelve were injured by firearms. The opposition accuses President Alpha Condé of reneging on promises made in 2013 to hold local elections before the presidential one. Condé has affirmed that the election schedule unveiled by the commission will be followed and that there will be no changes. At the same time, the government says that it is open to dialogue without preconditions, but accuses the opposition of imposing them. The opposition has announced new protests, while the security forces have increased their presence in the capital. Opposition groups complain that holding the presidential election first and breaking the aforementioned agreement strengthens the position of the president and his party. (AFP, All Africa, Jeune Afrique, 1-30/04/15)
MYANMAR: Clashes continue between Kokang groups and the Burmese Army while rebel groups plan to meet to evaluate the development of the peace process
Fighting resumed between the Burmese Army and Kachin, Kokang and Palaung rebels in the north and northeast of the country. According to the Burmese Army, 126 soldiers and 74 Kokang rebels have been killed since the start of fighting with the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA), while the number of civilian casualties is unknown. In the west of the country, the Arakan Army resumed combat with the Burmese Army. Meanwhile, the first six-party meeting took place involving President Thein Sein, opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, the speakers of both houses of Parliament and ethnic minority spokesman Maung Aye to discuss reform of the military Constitution of 2008 and organisation of the presidential election. The participants described the first round as “successful” and agreed to attend more meetings, although no dates were specified. Suu Kyi said that the talks would only be valid if they led to free elections, while the ethnic minority spokesman ruled out the possibility of holding a referendum on the Constitution in May. Moreover, from 1 to 3 May, 12 of the 16 ethnic groups of the Nationwide Ceasefire Coordination Team (NCCT) were expected to meet on territory held by the United Wa State Army (UWSA) to discuss the evolution of the peace process with insurgent groups not belonging to the NCCT. This meeting will not be final for deciding whether the ethnic groups accept the conditions of the draft ceasefire agreement reached with the government last March, for which no date has yet been set and which will be held on land controlled by the KIA or the KNU. (The Irrawaddy 30/03/2015; 8, 10, 20, 23/04/2015)
NIGERIA: Over 700 people kidnapped by Boko Haram, mostly women and children, are released amidst an intensified offensive against the armed group
The intensification of the offensive launched by the Nigerian Army and various countries in the region (Niger, Chad and Cameroon) against Boko Haram (BH) forced the armed group to retreat from some of its positions. In this context, hundreds of people that had been held by the organisation were released, most of them women and children. In late April, press reports indicated that around 700 people had escaped, found or been freed by the Nigerian Army primarily in the Adamawa area and near the Sambisa Reserve in Borno State. Sambisa has been the target of air strikes since February and of a ground offensive since April, but the terrain is difficult to access and full of mines. According to various analysts, the caretaker government of Goodluck Jonathan wants to step up its offensive against the group to the maximum before handing over power to his successor, Mohammadu Buhari, in late May. Notably, the women and children freed in recent weeks did not include any of the more than 200 girls kidnapped by BH in Chibok in 2014, a case that gave global visibility to the conflict. According to a report published by Amnesty International in mid-April, over 2,000 women and girls have been captured by BH since early 2014 and reduced to sexual slavery or trained to participate in armed attacks. According to the report, BH has committed war crimes and crimes against humanity, including the killing of 5,500 civilians in 2014 and early 2015. In this regard, in April mass graves and grave episodes of violence were reported around Lake Chad where the death toll included 28 civilians, at least 46 Nigerien soldiers (local sources indicated a higher number of casualties) and around 150 BH combatants. In April, other organisations stressed the strengthening of ties between ISIS and BH. Videos released by the organisation based in Iraq and Syria praised the actions of the Nigerian-based group, referring to it as Islamic State’s West African Province. ISIS accepted the pledge of allegiance made by BH’s leader, Abubakar Shekau, last March. (BBC, 22, 24, 29/04/15; Reuters, 03/05/15; Amnesty International, 14/04/15)
PHILIPPINES (ABU SAYYAF): Around 14 people are killed and 25 are wounded in fighting in Sulu
The government declared that 14 people were killed and at least 25 were wounded in a firefight between the Philippine Armed Forces and Abu Sayyaf in the region of Patikul (Sulu province). According to the Philippine Army, the battle involved around Abu Sayyaf fighters, a high number taking the group’s usual modus operandi into account, prompting suspicions that it was preparing for a major attack, or else was celebrating a wedding. A few days after the incident, the Armed Forces declared that they were temporarily cancelling a counter-insurgency operation whose main objective was to capture the leader of Abu Sayyaf, Radullan Sahiron, one of the people most wanted by the United States government. According to government sources, Sahiron avoided the operation and managed to escape to the region of Indanan (Sulu province). Furthermore, the Armed Forces declared that the mayor of Zamboanga Sibugay, who was abducted from his home in early April, is currently being held by Abu Sayyaf in one of its strongholds in Sulu province. According to military sources, Abu Sayyaf is demanding a ransom of almost 2.3 million USD for him. However, other sources state that organised crime outfits frequently deliver hostages to Abu Sayyaf to maximise the ransom obtained. (GMA, Philippine Star, Japan Times, 09/04/15)
PHILIPPINES (MINDANAO-MILF): Ameril Umbra Kato dies, the leader and founder of the BIFF
The Philippine Armed Forces announced the death of the leader and founder of the BIFF, Ameril Umbra Kato, whose health was very unstable since suffering a heart attack in late 2011. Despite uncertainty about the accuracy of the information (Kato’s death had been announced at least three times in recent years), it was finally confirmed that he died in the town of Datu Hofer, in Mindanao province. The chief of the Armed Forces declared that Katos’ death greatly weakened the BIFF because he was its political, military and spiritual leader. Kato founded the BIFF in 2010 after being replaced by one of the most important MILF factions and having expressed his opposition to the peace process between the government and the MILF on various occasions. A few days after Kato’s death, the group’s spokesman announced that the new head of the BIFF would be Sheik Ismail Abubakar, also known as Commander Bungos, who until then had been the second-in-command of political issues within the BIFF. According to media accounts, the Philippine Army was surprised by the low profile of the new BIFF leader. Abubakar had pursued Islamic studies in the Middle East and was a top official of the same MILF faction led by Kato, with whom he had family ties. The same media sources claimed that one of the reasons why Abubakar was chosen could be due to the fact that the other main contender for the position, Kagi Karialan, was too close to ISIS. (CNN, 15/04/15; Inquirer, The Wall Street Journal, GMA, 14/04/15)
RUSSIA (NORTH CAUCASUS): The leader of the regional insurgency dies while new rebel leaders declare their loyalty to Islamic State
The top leader of the regional insurgency of the north Caucasus, Aliaskhab Kebekov, a native of Dagestan, was killed in a special security force operation in the district of Buinaksk in April, in which four other people also died, including two insurgent commanders, according to Russia’s national anti-terrorist committee. Several websites linked to the insurgency also reported that Kebekov had died. Kebekov had been the rebellion’s top leader since early last year and was the first one that did not come from Chechnya. His first decisions included an order to halt attacks against civilians and a ban on women’s participation in suicide attacks. Furthermore, new violent incidents took place in Dagestan and other republics during the quarter, including Chechnya and Kabardino-Balkaria. Division within the insurgents’ ranks continued, with new rebel commanders from Kabardino-Balkaria joining Islamic State (ISIS). Previously, various commanders from Dagestan and Chechnya had joined the armed Islamist organisation. Kebekov had declared his opposition to ISIS and other leaders have said that they would prevent groups loyal to ISIS from carrying out activity in areas under their control. (The New York Times, RFE/RL, Jamestown Foundation, Caucasian Knot, 1-30/04/15)
RWANDA: The 21st anniversary of the 1994 genocide is commemorated amidst presidential silence regarding a third term
On 7 April, Rwanda commemorated the 21st anniversary of the genocide committed in 1994. Marches and demonstrations occurred not only inside the country, but also among Rwandan communities in exile abroad. These celebrations coincided with the closing arguments before the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) of six defendants that appealed their sentences, including Pauline Nyiramasuhuko, the first woman convicted of genocide and incitement to rape. A final ruling on the appeals is expected in late 2015. In the political arena, President Kagame had not spoken clearly about his intention to run for a third term of office despite current constitutional restrictions, like other African leaders in the region. Some opposition leaders have publicly expressed their fear of reprisals and death threats from groups close to the president, referring to the failed attacks they have experienced recently. Meanwhile, the government is reaching an agreement with Israel to take illegal immigrants that have entered the Jewish state fleeing from wars and instability in exchange for advantageous conditions for contracts and investments in the country. This issue, which has caused considerable worry for international humanitarian and human rights organisations, primarily affects hundreds of Sudanese and Eritrean citizens. (Forward, 05/04/15; CBC, 19/04/15; BBC, 22/04/15; Allafrica, 24/04/15)
SUDAN: Boycotted by the opposition, the presidential election experiences low turnout and hands another victory to Omar al-Bashir
Presidential and parliamentary elections were held on 13-15 April with no incidents, a boycott by the main opposition parties and low turnout. The results were released on 27 April and Omar al-Bashir was reconfirmed as the country’s leader. In office for 25 years (after a bloody coup d’état in 1989 and three election victories), the re-elected president is wanted on an arrest warrant issued by the International Criminal Court in The Hague for war crimes and genocide committed in Darfur in 2008. The leaders of the countries of the region, as well as traditional allies like Egypt, Ethiopia, Saudi Arabia and China congratulated al-Bashir on his victory. The main opposition parties boycotted the elections, which pitted al-Bashir against 15 independent candidates whose parties are poorly known in the country of 38 million. These are the first elections since South Sudan seceded from Sudan in 2011. Around 70,000 police officers were deployed at the nearly 7,000 polling stations set up throughout the country to prevent potential unrest, according to the local daily Sudan Tribune. The EU warned that the vote “cannot produce a credible result viewed with legitimacy across the country”. Meanwhile, violence rose in the border regions of South Kordofan and Blue Nile during the month. Committed by the SPLM-N, the violence was aimed at interfering in the elections. The group bombed the city of Dilling and seized election materials. (Sudan Tribune, 13, 28/04/15; Reuters, 16/04/15; EP, 13/04/15)
THAILAND: The government announces the lifting of martial law, but imposes new legislation that guarantees extraordinary powers for the prime minister
Prime Minister and General Prayuth Chan-ocha announced the lifting of martial law that prevailed in the country since the coup d’état in May 2014, but also announced the establishment of new legislation that some voices, including the United Nations, criticised as being even more authoritarian than martial law. The new legislation (Article 44 of the interim Constitution) authorises the prime minister to approve measures without the approval of Parliament when he deems it necessary for national security. The human rights organisation Human Rights Watch urged Thailand’s neighbours to exert concerted pressure on the current military junta to stop what it sees as a drift towards a dictatorial regime. The new measure approved by the government has also drawn criticism from some groups that viewed as inevitable the coup d’état perpetrated by the Thai Armed Forces to end the social and political crisis gripping the country for over a decade. Moreover, the government announced that the National Reform Council began the period for discussing and proposing amendments to the draft of the new Constitution created by a committee appointed by the military junta. Although some groups have acknowledged that most of the document is anti-democratic in nature, none (including those closest to the Shinawatra family) has announced any intention to stage demonstrations against it for fear of causing greater instability and violence. (Reuters, 20 and 23/04/15; The Washington Times, 01/04/15; The Wall Street Journal, 07/04/15)
TURKEY (SOUTHEAST): The Kurdish movement demands that the government and president of Turkey re-evaluate their position on the dialogue process in a context of growing pre-electoral political tension
After an April of growing political tension due to the upcoming general elections in June and the military tension, with various episodes of violence, the Kurdish political delegation that periodically meets with PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan (in prison since 1999) demanded that the government and president of Turkey re-evaluate the pace of the peace process as a final warning. The delegation issued its appeal on 1 May on behalf of Öcalan, said that the dialogue process was difficult and referred to divisions between the Turkish government and the president as obstacles. It said that the negotiating table had lost validity regarding the president’s hostile campaign towards what it describes as the Dolmabahçe agreement, in reference to the joint appearance in late February of Turkish government and Kurdish delegation representatives in which the Kurdish delegation read a 10-point text that Öcalan considers key for negotiations. According to the delegation, there was also an agreement between the government and the Kurdish movement on a local third party, but the Turkish president blocked the measure. Furthermore, it said that Öcalan’s status must be determined and publicly announced and that until it was clarified, it would not allow the process to be used. Previously, in late March, the KCK (the structure that brings together the political, guerrilla and social structures of the Kurdish movement) had set out the following conditions for abandoning armed struggle: the start of negotiations with Öcalan based on the 10 points he raised, the creation of a commission overseeing the process as a third party, the establishment of a truth commission under the umbrella of Parliament and a new Constitution. At the same time, the KCK added that laying down weapons and ending armed activity were two different things and that in the current context of the Middle East, with attacks against the Kurds in the region, asking the Kurds to disarm was equivalent to asking them to die. According to the KCK, if Turkey takes the necessary steps, the PKK is ready to put an end to the armed struggle “today”. In late March and April, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan affirmed that the government will take no more steps towards peace if the PKK does not lay down its arms and denied that an oversight committee was going to be created, despite statements by the deputy prime minister that an agreement had been reached to that effect. Meanwhile, social and political tensions rose. Two people were killed (a former co-chair of the HDP in Diyadin, Agri, province, and a PKK militiaman) and four soldiers were wounded in clashes in Diyadin involving the Turkish Army, PKK combatants and Kurdish civilians that rushed to the area as human shields to prevent the fighting and support the ceasefire. According to the Turkish Army, the death toll included four PKK fighters, while the Kurdish movement and a delegation of the Turkish party CHP said that only two were killed. The Turkish Army said that it was deployed to prevent acts of pro-PKK propaganda in later incidents involving civilians and that it was attacked by the PKK during deployment. The PKK denied having attacked first and accused Ankara of provocations linked to the pre-electoral period while indicating that it continued to back the ceasefire. (AFP, Turkish Daily News, Firat, Dicle, Today’s Zaman, MESOP, 1-30/04/15, 1/05/15)
UGANDA: The government increases pressure on the Muslim community and NGOs in the country
The Ugandan government is working on a new law to regulate the activities of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) on its soil. According to the draft bill, organisations will require administrative permission to pursue activities on national territory. Moreover, this permission may be refused or revoked, as appropriate, for reasons of “public interest or whenever the authority considers convenient”. Thus, it establishes a series of obligations for organisations, such as non-involvement in activities against the security and dignity of the people of Uganda. NGOs criticised the legal document because its interpretation is open to arbitrariness and contains many poorly defined concepts. This law is allegedly aimed at groups that work especially on issues of transparency, human rights, land ownership, governance, corruption and other sensitive subjects and that already face many difficulties working in the country. The law would also restrict the ability to participate in local civil society and launch related initiatives, since it not only affects international NGOs. Meanwhile, the Muslim population of Uganda denounced an increase in police repression for religious reasons in recent weeks. The reason may be the recent murder of the attorney in charge of prosecuting 13 people arrested for belonging to the Islamist group al-Shabaab, suspected of involvement in bomb attacks in 2010 that killed 76 people. As no group claimed responsibility, suspicions fell first on fighters of the Somali armed group or bands close to it, though the police is investigating the possible participation of the Congolese Islamist group ADF, which has its origins in Uganda. (BBC, 30/03/15; WSJ, 08/04/15; HRW, 20/04/15; AP, 21/04/22; Sowetan Live, 22/04/15)
IRAN: Tehran and the P5+1 achieve a framework agreement on the Iranian nuclear programme and uphold their commitment to the negotiations, which will conclude on 30 June
After eight days of marathon meetings in Switzerland, as well as a number of multilateral and bilateral meetings among senior representatives of the USA and Iran in recent months, the delegations of Tehran and the P5+1 countries (the USA, the UK, France, China, Russia and Germany) have achieved a framework agreement on the Iranian nuclear programme. The announcement was made on 2 April, just 48 hours after the deadline originally set to agree on the general terms of the deal, which must be detailed and finalised in all respects prior to 30 June. The framework agreement involves limiting Iran’s nuclear programme for a period of between 10 and 15 years and includes new verification provisions that will allow international inspectors greater control of Iran’s nuclear activities. According to the parameters of the agreement, Iran will reduce its centrifuges by over two thirds (it will be allowed to keep 6,104 of the 19,000 it possesses and only 5,000 may be used for uranium enrichment); it will reduce its enriched uranium stockpile, key material for the potential production of a nuclear weapon; it will not conduct investigation activities or development at the Fordow plant for a period of 15 years; and it will allow the inspectors broad supervision, not only at key sites, but also at supply chains and places were possible clandestine activities are suspected, among other measures. These commitments will allow Tehran to maintain its atomic industry without closing any facility. In exchange for keeping its promises, it will benefit from the lifting of the sanctions imposed by the EU and the USA, although the timetable for doing so is unclear. This last point is one of the most problematic and was interpreted differently by the parties after the framework agreement was declared. Iran wants the sanctions lifted immediately once the final agreement is signed, whereas the USA has stressed that the suspension will be gradual and will depend on compliance with the deal. The issue will be taken up in future meetings between Iran and the P5+1, the first of which took place in late April in Vienna. Notably, in this context, the Iranian foreign minister expressed Iran’s willingness to address the various crises affecting the Middle East, including in Syria, Iraq and Yemen. In a letter published by The New York Times, Javad Zarif proposed establishing a forum for dialogue taking advantage of the convergence of interests between Iran and other players to tackle common challenges. The USA does not want to stoke mistrust among its Arab partners, which are wary of an agreement on the nuclear issue and Iranian ascendancy in the region, so it opted for an ambiguous response, distinguishing between the possibility of dialogue and working together with Iran. (BBC, 03/04/15; Reuters, 02, 20, 22/04/15; The New York Times, 20/04/15)
THAILAND (SOUTH): The government announces a possible resumption of the peace talks in May
The Thai Armed Forces announced that peace talks between the government and various insurgent groups operating in the southern part of the country will probably resume in Malaysia in May. The government acknowledged that secret meetings have been held between both sides to agree on the procedural aspects of the negotiations. Although the names of the people that will represent the southern insurgent organisations have not been released, a source close to the negotiations said that five armed groups will participate in the talks. The last negotiating process was between the government and the BRN and lasted from early 2013 until approximately March 2014, meaning that this will be the first attempt at negotiation by the current military junta. Some members of several insurgent groups have expressed scepticism about the peace talks’ chances for success for two reasons: first, because significant parts of the insurgency doubt the sincerity and political will of the government and second, because Bangkok has been unable to convince leaders capable of making political decisions or bring them to the negotiating table. (Benarnews, 22 and 26/04/15)
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