BURUNDI: President Pierre Nkurunziza aborts an attempted coup d’état amidst demonstrations against his bid for re-election to a third presidential term
An attempted coup d’état was led in the country on 13 May by the former head of the secret services, General Godefroid Nyombare, who initially announced the dismissal of Burundian President Pierre Nkurunziza while he was in Dar es Salaam (Tanzania), attending a meeting of the East African Community (EAC) on the crisis gripping the Central African country due to his intention to run for a third term in the election on 26 June. Nyombare had been dismissed in February after advising Nkurunziza against running for a third term, viewed as unconstitutional by his political opponents. The government considered the attempt failed and even though Nkurunziza was at first unable to return to Burundi because the participants in the coup had blocked the airport, the Burundian special forces and the youth militias of the CNDD-FDD, the Imbonerakure, remained loyal to Nkurunziza, triggering heavy fighting in the capital that left an unknown number of fatalities. The government of Pierre Nkurunziza was restored and the three generals that led the coup were delivered to the authorities. Government sources close to the president have warned the population against joining in the demonstrations, claiming there were still coup-related arrests to make and the demonstrations could be linked to the coup. Major demonstrations were staged in the days before the attempted seizure of power in which the police were accused of an excessive use of force and in which, according to the opposition, around a dozen people were killed by the Imbonerakure, though security forces claimed half this amount. Scores of people were injured and hundreds were arrested. Demonstrations continued in the country after the failed takeover, leading to at least 30 fatalities in different clashes between the Imbonerakure youth militias, the police and the political opposition. Days after the attempt, the opposition resumed dialogue with the government, promoted by the UN mission in the country (BNUB) in an attempt to stabilise the situation, but the death of opposition leader Zedi Feruzi of the minor party UPD prompted the coordination of the anti-third term campaign to quit the talks. In a joint statement on 27 May, the opposition parties said it was impossible to hold scheduled legislative and municipal elections in the country on 5 June as a prelude to the presidential election at the end of the month due to the atmosphere of violence. Alongside these declarations, there were clashes between the Imbonerakure and demonstrators in the provinces of Cibitoke and Buterere, which may have left casualties at the end of May. The EAC announced that it would hold a new summit to address the situation on 31 May. Over 50,000 people have fled to neighbouring countries due to the serious deterioration of the situation. Burundi has denounced the diplomatic pressure under which it has been coming. Belgium, the AU and the EU have raised protests and expressed their concern while France has suspended its military cooperation. (Guinguinbali, 28/04/15; VOA, 07/05/15; Reuters, 06, 07/05/15; UNHCR, 08/05/15; BBC, 13/05/15; EP, 14 and 15/05/15; AFP, 24/05/15; Jeune Afrique, 15, 22, 26, 28/05/15)
DRC (EAST-ADF): The ADF ramps up violence following the capture of its leader in Tanzania, Jamil Mukulu
The defence ministers of the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR) confirmed the arrest of the leader of the armed group ADF, Sheikh Jamil Mukulu, in late April on the border between Tanzania and Kenya, after rumours arose about the identity of the man in custody. At a meeting on 12 May in Luanda (Angola), the ministers of defence discussed the situation in the DRC following the ADF’s escalation of military actions and violence against the civilian population, especially around the cities of Beni and Butembo, in the northern part of North Kivu province. The UN Office of Human Rights in the DRC has said that the attacks that the armed group is carrying out could be described as war crimes and crimes against humanity under international law. According to the director of the office, José María Aranaz, the ADF has summarily executed at least 237 people in a systematic, planned and premeditated way. Aranaz also stated that at least 49 people had their physical integrity violated and at least two were raped while 25 towns in the area suffered attacks during the period of analysis of the report, between October and December 2014. It is estimated that between 2014 and April 2015, the ADF executed over 300 civilians. In this regard, there were reports of new attacks resulting in casualties in different villages in the northern part of the province that killed scores of people. The most prominent took place on 14 May, when 23 civilians were executed by the ADF in Mbau, 20 km from Beni. In late April, the Congolese Army announced the deaths of 16 ADF rebels and four Congolese soldiers during a military operation. In early May, MONUSCO suffered two attacks by the ADF, one against a helicopter transporting the commander of the MONUSCO force, Brazilian General Carlos Alberto dos Santos Cruz, in which nobody was killed, and other against a unit of Tanzanian soldiers from the international MONUSCO support force that killed two Tanzanian soldiers and two civilians, while wounding 16 UN peacekeepers. Following these attacks, the mission announced a major military offensive against the ADF. Various analysts said that the arrest of Mukulu and the death in battle of Kasade Karume, one of the main leaders of the group (he was estimated to be the organisation’s third in command) in late April, provoked the escalation of action by the ADF. The UN Secretary-General’s special representative in the country, Martin Kobler, said that these attacks demonstrate the need to relaunch cooperation between MONUSCO and the Congolese Army to deal with the ADF. Cooperation remains blocked for the time being, although UN sources have said that the Security Council has authorised the mission to carry out unilateral military missions. The bishops of the provinces of Maniema, North Kivu and South Kivu have denounced the authorities’ silence about the massacre and growing insecurity in the territory of Beni. (IRIN, AFP, Reuters, 30/04/15; RFI, La Croix, L’Observateur, 07/05/15; AFP, 30/04/15, 07 and 09/05/15; BBC, 08/05/15; Jeune Afrique, 13/05/15; VOA, 06, 14/05/15; Radio Okapi, 25/05/15)
INDIA (NAGALAND): Tension rises after the NSCN-K breaks the ceasefire and an attack against soldiers leaves eight dead
Eight Indian soldiers were shot dead in the district of Mon. Responsibility for the attack was claimed by a recently created platform of insurgent organisations, including the armed groups NSCN-K, ULFA-I, NDFB-S and KLO, though it was carried out directly by the NSCN-K. In March, the NSCN-K broke the ceasefire agreement that it had upheld with the government since 2001 and in late April the Indian government said that it was also giving up on any rapprochement with the armed group. The NSCN-K said that it would no longer honour the ceasefire agreement on the grounds that made no sense if the issue of sovereignty remained excluded from political dialogue and because the Indian government had never shown any desire to discuss the subject. However, after this announcement by the NSCN-K, two of the group’s leaders, Wangtin Konyak and P. Tikhak, declared the formation of a new faction, the NSCN-R, which would stand by the ceasefire agreement. The attack on the soldiers was one of the most serious in the state in recent years, since clashes between the insurgency and security forces had virtually vanished, and the armed opposition group NSCN-IM condemned it. Meanwhile, the Indian Armed Forces announced a large-scale security operation. Furthermore, a nighttime curfew was imposed in the district of Mon. Different demonstrations were called by the civil society organisation Eastern Nagaland People’s Organization to protest the suspension of the ceasefire agreement. (The Assam Tribune, 02/04/15 and 04, 21/05/15; The New York Times, 03/05/15; Times of India, 04/05/15)
IRAQ: ISIS takes control of Ramadi, the capital of Anbar governorate, amidst persisting violence and new forced displacements of the population
Islamic State (ISIS) militants managed to take control of the city of Ramadi, the capital of Iraq’s Anbar governorate (bordering Baghdad and Jordan), in what is considered the group’s greatest feat in Iraq thus far in 2015 and a strategic blow for Iraqi forces. In mid-May, ISIS combatants moved to advance their positions around Ramadi, taking advantage of a sandstorm that limited US capacity to give aerial support to the Iraqi troops. Over 500 people died in the fighting and another 25,000 people were forced to flee the violence in the area. The failure of the campaign to stop ISIS prompted public criticism of the Iraqi forces by senior US officials, including the secretary of defence, who accused them of lacking effort and the will to fight. Meanwhile, the ISIS victory in Ramadi invited questioning about the US strategy regarding ISIS, including by Iraqi commanders and US officials, and fresh criticism of Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, with some calling for him to resign. Al-Abadi has been accused of favouring Kurdish and Sunni forces in the strategy to combat ISIS, at the expense of the Shia. However, at the end of the month, a new offensive was launched to try to expel ISIS from Ramadi with the participation of Sunni combatants and Shia militia. Also in May, the remains of at least 470 people were exhumed that had been executed by ISIS in the area of Tikrit in June 2014. It is believed that most of the victims were Shia soldiers that were at Camp Speicher when ISIS took control of the city and up to 1,700 people may have died in the area. Some bodies were tossed into the Tigris River and others were discovered in mass graves after Iraqi troops recovered control of the city in March. Other acts of violence were reported throughout the month, including suicide attacks against Shia mosques and Iraqi security forces. Also, the UN drew attention to the government’s responsibility for the nearly three million people displaced in the country because of violence and denounced restrictions on movement, unjustified arrests and a biased approach to the delivery of aid. (The New York Times, 09, 18, 19, 21, 25, 27/05/15; Foreign Policy, 19, 26/05/15; BBC, 27, 28/05/15; IRIN, 19/05/15)
SOUTH SUDAN: Escalating violence in the states of Upper Nile and Unity aggravates the humanitarian crisis and makes a negotiated solution to the conflict more difficult
In April, the largest clashes reported since August 2014 took place in the northeastern states of Upper Nile and Unity, according to the International Crisis Group. The government’s offensive against the SPLM/A-in Opposition rebels, loyal to Riek Machar, heightened the humanitarian crisis in the area, cutting off emergency aid to 650,000 people and provoking many reports of rape, arson and looting committed by the South Sudanese Army. Weeks later, rebel forces responded by launching a counter-offensive in the state of Upper Nile, seizing the capital, Malakal, in an attempt to cut off the government’s petrol supply. Rebel spokesman James Gadet Dak explained that the objective of the offensive was to “deny Salva Kiir the possibility of using oil revenue to conduct the war”. The rebels were backed by the commander of the local Shilluk militia, Johnson Olony, a powerful military figure in the oil-producing state of Upper Nile. Salva Kiir’s government accused the government of Sudan of being behind the rebel offensive, while announcing that it had recovered Malakal and control of all oil facilities, though the rebels denied this claim. The hostilities left more than 300,000 people in a serious food and health emergency, displacing more than 60,000 in Bentiu and another 25,000 in Malakal, according to OCHA and UNMISS. Amnesty International, Doctors without Borders and UNICEF denounced the human rights violations that government troops were committing against the civilian population. The serious deterioration in security forced humanitarian organisations and UN agencies to evacuate their staff and to interrupt emergency aid. OCHA called on the parties to the conflict to guarantee the work of aid organisations so they could continue with their emergency operations. Meanwhile, Ellen Margrethe Løj, the UN special representative for South Sudan, visited some of the affected areas in Unity state and urged accountability for the serious human rights violations that the conflict is generating, an idea seconded by Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. The United States and China also condemned the intensification of violence and called for an immediate cessation of hostilities. They were joined in their criticism by other important players like the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD), the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR), the World Council of Churches (WCC) and the South Sudan Council of Churches (SSCC), among others. In turn, the Peace and Security Council of the African Union reacted by urging the UN Security Council to designate people and entities to be sanctioned and immediately requested the imposition of an arms embargo on the warring parties. President Salva Kiir responded by rejecting the proposed measures, claiming that the sanctions were unproductive and warning that they would only intensify the conflict. (AU, Reuters, 11-12-15/05/15; Oxfam, 14/05/15; AFP, 16, 20, 22 and 23/05/15; UNICEF, HRW, 18/05/15; Amnesty International, 21/05/15; AP, 22/05/15; UN, 24/05/15; All Africa, 25-27/05/15; Aljazeera, 26/05/15; ICG 30/04/15)
YEMEN: Hostilities resume after a five-day truce and efforts to launch negotiations fail
Air strikes and clashes persisted in Yemen throughout the month of May, with the exception of a brief, five-day period during which a truce allowed the delivery of humanitarian aid to the population, which suffers from enormous need. In early May, Saudi Arabia, which leads the international coalition against the Houthi forces and their allies in Yemen, proposed a temporary ceasefire to facilitate aid access and distribution. This offer by Riyadh, which has been subject to harsh criticism for the naval and aerial blockade it has imposed on Yemen and for the civilian victims of its offensives, was accepted by the Houthis. In the hours leading up to the truce, the coalition led by Saudi Arabia intensified its attacks on the positions of its adversaries in Yemen, causing the deaths of at least 70 people. Hostilities resumed hours after the deadline of the five-day truce expired, despite the calls from humanitarian agencies and the UN to extend the ceasefire. Thus, new air strikes and clashes took place in various parts of the country, in addition to incidents on the border area between Yemen and Saudi Arabia. According to UN figures in late May, at least 1,850 people had lost their lives and over 7,390 had been injured since the start of the military campaign led by Riyadh on 20 March. Over half a million people were forced to abandon their homes due to the violence. In this context, Saudi Arabia promoted a conference on the Yemeni crisis that brought together political and trial leaders, though only from the side of deposed Yemeni President Abdo Rabbo Mansour Hadi. The leaders of the Houthis and his allies refused to participate in the meeting, rejecting both its objective (the restoration of Hadi to power) and the place of the meeting, bearing in mind that Saudi Arabia is leading the campaign against the group. After a series of efforts by the UN special envoy, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, the UN announced that it would encourage the various Yemeni players to hold peace talks in the last week of May in Geneva. However, the meeting was not specified and it was uncertain whether or not it would be held. Representatives of Hadi’s government insisted that the Houthis must recognise his authority, withdraw from the cities and disarm before they are authorised to participate in the dialogue. Other prominent events linked to the conflict included criticism by Human Rights Watch of the Saudi coalition for its use of cluster bombs provided by the United States as part of the conflict. (BBC, 20, 27/05/15; The New York Times, 02, 04, 12, 15, 17/05/15)
AFGHANISTAN: Meeting in Doha between members of the Taliban, Afghan political parties, groups and civil society organisations and the UNAMA, while the number of fatalities rises
Taliban representatives and people related to the Afghan government and Afghan civil society met in Doha (Qatar), though the participants denied that the meeting involved peace negotiations or dialogue and defined it as a mere “conference”. It is expected to be repeated in the coming months in the United Arab Emirates. Likewise, there was rapprochement with the government of Pakistan, as Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif visited Kabul to meet with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani. Among other indications of progress, an agreement was reached for Pakistan to train Afghan cadets in their barracks in Abbottabad. The agreement aims to overcome the suspicions of the Pakistani government that Afghan troops tend to be pro-Indian. Traditionally, the cadets have received training in barracks in India. The intelligence services of both countries signed a Memorandum and Understanding (MoU) to share intelligence and coordinate in joint counter-terrorism operations. Abdullah Abdullah and the Afghan Parliament are opposed to the MoU. The number of civilian and insurgent deaths has increased as a result of the reactivation of the attacks since the beginning of the spring campaign. The provinces of the north (especially Kunduz) are undergoing a significant deterioration in security, according to some Afghan officials, due to the infiltration of thousands of foreign insurgents (basically Uzbeks, Tajiks and Turkmen) through the border with Pakistan. The United States continued to carry out counter-terrorism operations on Afghan soil. US control of Afghan airspace ends on 30 June, which could prevent international airlines from operating in or flying over Afghanistan. The dispute between the Afghan Parliament (whose term ends on 22 June) and President Ghani continued regarding the holding of legislative elections. An inability to carry out electoral reform and hold elections on the appointed date (June 2015) may lead the UN and other donors to withdraw funding for the Electoral Commission. (ToloNews, The New York Times, Reuters, BBC, Pajhwok, 02-25/05/15)
EGYPT: Authorities receive criticism for the growing use of sexual violence against detainees and for the many death sentences, including for former President Mursi
The Egyptian authorities were subject to much criticism in May, indicating the human rights situation in the country. A report warned about an increase in the use of sexual violence by the security forces against people detained since the coup d’état that ousted Mursi in July 2013. An investigation by the International Federation of Human Rights (FIDH) found that the victims included opponents of the government of Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, but also NGO members, women and students. The acts of violence, which included rape, sexual abuse, rape with objects and genital torture and other practices, involved members of the police, the intelligence forces and the military, calling into question the commitments announced by the government of al-Sisi against sexual violence. The FIDH underlined that the measures taken by the government have had little impact on the epidemic nature of the phenomenon in Egypt. Meanwhile, the Egyptian authorities faced questioning from human rights organisations, the United States and the EU, among other players, after a court issued a death sentence to deposed President Mohamed Mursi and over one hundred other people for their alleged responsibility for a prison break that occurred during the revolt against Hosni Mubarak in 2011. The head of foreign affairs for the EU, Federica Mogherini, described the punishment as “cruel and inhumane” and said that the trial had not complied with international standards. The sentence, which must be reviewed by the grand mufti, also prompted criticism from the Muslim Brotherhood and Turkey. Amnesty International questioned the sentence, as well as the execution of six men in early May for their responsibility for an attack perpetrated by ABM, currently the ISIS branch in the Sinai Peninsula. Media reports also highlighted that the Egyptian press has begun to denounce abuses committed by the regime, which according to the NGO include the existence of secret prisons and the deaths of over 150 people in police custody and torture, among other practices, especially those committed by agents of the security forces. In addition, during the month President al-Sisi and his circle were involved in a controversy over leaked recordings that allegedly mocked allied Gulf countries and commented on attempts to manipulate judges and the media. One of the recordings also revealed cooperation between Egypt and the United Arab Emirates in transferring weapons to General Khalifa Haftar, the leader of one of the warring bands in Libya. (Al-Jazeera, 17, 22/05/15; BBC, 19/05/15; FIDH, 19/05/15; The New York Times, 12, 17/05/15; El País, 19/05/15)
INDIA (JAMMU AND KASHMIR): Statements by Pervez Musharraf on the Kargil War and Pakistan’s commissioner in Delhi strain the atmosphere further
India and Pakistan have entered a dynamic of mutual recrimination that prevents a new approach. While Pakistan continues to denounce Indian human rights violations in Kashmir, the Indian government accuses Pakistan of continuing to support various terrorist groups in both India and Afghanistan. The prime minister of Pakistan declared that India has not reacted to its proposal for dialogue. The meeting in March 2015 between the separatist leader of the party Tehrik-e Hurriyat, Syed Ali Shah Geelani, with the High Commissioner of Pakistan in Delhi, Abdul Basit, seems to be the reason for the cooling of relations. To make the situation worse, former Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf made statements boasting of having caught the Indian Army red-handed during the Kargil War of 1999. Meanwhile, the Indian defence minister said that the terrorists should be neutralised with other terrorists, and not with Indian soldiers. India has intercepted a call confirming that Indian mafia don Dawood Ibrahim is in Pakistan. The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party is pushing ahead with its intention to build settlements in the Kashmir Valley to promote the return of Pandits displaced by the rise of violence in the Valley since in 1989. (Times of India, Dawn, PTI 05-25/05/15)
MACEDONIA: The country is mired in a severe political and social crisis, with mass demonstrations against the government, in addition to an episode of violence that kills around 20 people and involves former KLA combatants
Macedonia entered a serious political and social crisis spurred on by anti-government complaints and mass demonstrations in May to demand the resignation of the government, raising the intensity of the atmosphere of tension linked to the scandal that emerged in January regarding mass illegal wiretaps by the government and other forms of abuse. Since then, the social democrat opposition party SDSM, which has been boycotting Parliament for nearly a year to denounce the fraud committed during the elections in April 2014, has presented evidence of the alleged calls, including some that hid cases of severe violence perpetrated by the police. At least 19 people, including 15 police officers, were injured in anti-government protests in the capital, Skopje, in early May. Tens of thousands of people demonstrated on 17 May. In this context, the ministers of the interior and transport resigned. The intensity of the crisis led to the opening of various rounds of internationally facilitated talks, the last of which took place in Skopje on 26 May, with the participation of the prime minister and leader of the VMRO-DPMNE, Nikola Gruevski and the leader of the SDSM, Zoran Zaev, as well as other local politicians and the ambassadors of the United States and the EU. The round ended without a solution to the crisis. Meanwhile, the political and social opposition was joined by a second source of tension. In Kumanovo, the police launched what was described as an anti-terrorist operation to prevent an alleged plan to conduct a terrorist attack and in response to a previous attack on a police station near the border with Kosovo. The operation led to clashes on 9 and 10 May and the deaths of eight police officers and ten other men. In addition, around 30 people were wounded and many houses destroyed. The fatalities included various men originally from Kosovo and former combatants of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) and of the subsequent National Liberation Army, which fought in the brief armed conflict in Macedonia in 2001. (BBC, Balkan Insight, The New York Times, 01-27/05/15)
MALI: The government and opposition groups sign a peace agreement, but the absence of the CMA casts doubt on the impact of the deal
After eight months of negotiations, a peace and reconciliation agreement was signed in Bamako, the capital of Mali, on 15 May, to resolve the crisis in the north of the country. The document was backed by representatives of the government of Mali, the political and military movements of the north participating in the Algiers Platform and the international mediation team headed by Algeria, as well as two member groups of the Coordination of Movements of Azawad (CMA), the Coalition for the People of Azawad (CPA) and the Coordination of Movements and Fronts of Patriotic Resistance (CMFPR). The absence of the CMA, the largest anti-government coalition in the region, cast doubt on the impact of the agreement and made the application of any measure difficult. While the CMA has not signed any agreement, it has promised to continue participating in the talks and negotiations. The signing of the agreement led to another meeting, held in Algiers on 25 May, where they established the mechanisms to make a ceasefire possible in northern Mali, as well as procedures to monitor it. Algerian Minister of State, Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Ramtane Lamamra said that at least three cessation of hostilities agreements had been reached and underlined the importance of the parties’ commitment to respect the conditions agreed on and to help to isolate the armed groups operating in the north. The agreement was hailed by Germany and Canada, countries that have played an active role in the international mediation team. However, the UN Secretary-General’s special representative for Mali and head of MINUSMA, Mongi Hamdi, said that it was vitally important for peace that the CMA ratify and observe the agreement in order to establish the peace and reconciliation process. In other developments, the French ministry of defence reported that French special forces killed four suspected militants in an operation conducted in northern Mali, including Amada Ag Hama, alias “Abdelkrim the Tuareg”, and Ibrahim Ag Inawalen, “Bana”, two of the main leaders of AQIM and Ansar Dine, respectively. (EuropaPress, 14, 20/05/15; Algerie Presse Service 20, 21, 25 and 27/05/15; ICG, 22/05/15)
MYANMAR: The signing of the ceasefire agreement remains pending while clashes continue with various insurgencies
Armed ethnic opposition groups met for three days to address the signing of the ceasefire agreement reached with the government in March. Following the meeting, in which armed opposition groups that had been excluded from the ceasefire agreement by the government also participated, the rebels urged the government to carry out constitutional reforms and to fully halt hostilities in Kachin, Kokang, Ta’ang and Arakan territories. The armed groups said that violence in these areas, where clashes have taken place repeatedly in recent weeks, undermined the chances of achieving peace in the country. The chief negotiator of the Nationwide Ceasefire Coordination Team (the NCCT, which brings together the armed groups) repeated its support for the three armed groups that the government is battling (the AA, MNDAA and TNLA) and said that they would not be left behind. Although the first two form part of the NCCT, the government of Myanmar refuses to recognise them as such. Moreover, while the TNLA does form part of the NCCT, it has not signed a bilateral ceasefire agreement with the government. A new meeting of insurgent organisations is planned for June to discuss the signing of the ceasefire agreement. The armed group UWSA, the main insurgent organisation in the country with 20,000 combatants, said that it will not participate in the NCCT summit, even though it is planning to participate in the political negotiations that will come after the ceasefire agreement. Furthermore, in recent weeks clashes between the Burmese Armed Forces and the armed opposition group KIA have occurred on almost a daily basis in Kachin State, despite the support that the KIA gave to the preliminary ceasefire agreement. (The Irrawaddy, 01, 05, 07, 26/05/15)
NIGERIA (BOKO HARAM): Boko Haram intensifies its response to the regional offensive against the group
The escalation of violence perpetrated by Boko Haram (BH) in Nigeria continued in May, reporting many attacks inside the country and in neighbouring countries that claimed around one hundred lives. These incidents included clashes with the Nigerian Army, especially on Karamga Island in Lake Chad, where BH combatants killed scores of soldiers and civilians during an ambush on the island, forcing Niger to evacuate over 4,000 Nigerian refugees; attacks by the militia in Niger and Cameroon that claimed seven lives; the siege of the city of Maiduguri (Borno State), with more than 15 fatalities; suicide attacks conducted in Damaturu (Yobe State) and Garkida (Adamawa State) with six and at least seven civilian casualties, respectively; the capture of the city of Marte (Borno) by BH militiamen; and the attack on the city of Gubio (Borno) in which 37 people were killed and 400 homes were burned down. Meanwhile, the Nigerian Army reported on the offensive against the militia’s camps in Sambisa forest, where it destroyed 10 camps and freed around 20 women and children. The events demonstrate that BH remains active, despite the advances made by troops from Nigeria, Niger, Chad and Cameroon, which have taken large swathes of territory from the militia. Nevertheless, the alliance between these countries seems to be weakening day after day and Chadian President Idriss Déby acknowledged that they were encountering difficulties in the fight against the terrorist group due to failures of cooperation between the Nigerian and Chadian militaries. Even so, on 20 May the Parliament of Chad voted on a measure to prolong indefinitely the participation of its troops in the regional mission to combat the insurgency. UNICEF warned of the increase in suicide attacks as part of BH’s war strategy, three-fourths of which have been carried out by women and sometimes even by girls. UNICEF indicated that so far this year, 27 attacks with these characteristics have been reported, compared with 26 in all of 2014. BBC analyst Naziru Mikailu argued that BH may increasingly resort to this strategy due to its losses of territory to the joint intervention of regional forces. Meanwhile, the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) reported that 200 of the 700 women and girls that had been freed by the Nigerian Army in late April were pregnant. They also told of the horrors they suffered during their captivity. (Reuters, 02-05, 07, 11-19, 24/05/15; Leadership, 21, 27/05/15; BBC, 26/05/15; Daily Independent, 26/05/15; VANGUARD, 28/05/15)
PALESTINE: Hamas is accused of taking advantage of the war with Israel in Gaza to torture political adversaries and execute 23 Palestinians
The Islamist organisation Hamas committed a series of abuses during the 50 days of open war with Israel, between 8 July and 26 August 2014, in Gaza. This was reported by the NGO Amnesty International, highlighting that the group took advantage of the chaotic situation motivated by the conflict and the assault on the Gaza Strip during Israel’s Operation Protective Edge to execute at least 23 Palestinians accused of collaborating with Israel. Most of the people that were summarily executed were being tried or waiting to appeal death sentences issued against them before the escalation of hostilities in Gaza. Additionally, people perceived as political opponents of Hamas, especially members of Fatah and former members of the Palestinian Authority’s security forces in Gaza, were captured, kidnapped and/or tortured. Amnesty International highlighted that these abuses continue to enjoy impunity and demanded that the Palestinian authorities open an impartial and independent investigation into the events, stressing that thus far neither Hamas, which de facto governs Gaza, nor the Palestinian “consensus government” have taken any measures to punish those responsible. In turn, Hamas accused Amnesty International of politicisation and inaccuracy in its investigations. In this context, media outlets stressed that one year after the last reconciliation agreement between Hamas and Fatah, the unity government is still not coordinated and relations between both Palestinian factions are blocked over various issues, including controversial disagreement about payments for civil servants close to both of them. The Palestinian Authority has been accused of deliberately delaying the reconstruction of Gaza in order to force Hamas to make political concessions. The growing distance between both factions may have led the Islamist group to authorise demonstrations in Gaza to support Fatah leader Mohamed Dahlan, a political rival of President Mahmoud Abbas. In this context, some media reports suggest that Israel is bypassing the PA to secretly negotiate a long-lasting truce with Hamas that would include measures to reduce the blockade on Gaza. According to the German agency Deutsche Welle, several intermediaries are involved in these meetings, including European officials, the UN and Qatar. In addition, former US President Jimmy Carter is allegedly involved in efforts to mediate between Hamas and Fatah as part of an initiative supported by Saudi Arabia. (BBC, 27/05/15; The New York Times, 26/05/15; Amnesty International, May 2015; Deutsche Welle, 11/05/15; Middle East Eye, 06/05/15)
PAKISTAN: One hundred prisoners are executed after a moratorium is lifted on the death penalty
Pakistan has already executed one hundred prisoners in four months since the moratorium on the death penalty was lifted after the attack on a school in Peshawar in December 2014. A large number of these prisoners had not been convicted of crimes related to terrorism. Therefore, it is thought that the Anti-Terrorism Law is possibly being used for political purposes. This is the case of the conviction of Zulfiqar Mirza (the husband of the former speaker of the National Assembly) and at least 70 or 80 other people related to him. A jirga has decided to deny the right to vote to women in the upcoming mid-term elections in Gilgit-Baltistan, a move supported by candidates from various political parties (LMP-N, PPP, PTI and JUI-F) and 40 religious figures. The same fear exists in relation to the mid-term elections in the district of Dir in the province of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa. An attack on a bus killed 45 Ismaili Shia in Karachi. A Pakistani Taliban splinter group called Jundullah and Islamic State claimed responsibility for it. The Karachi police, which are investigating the attack, say that the suspects are linked to the death of activist Sabeen Mahmud. The governor of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and military officers ensured that they have eliminated the Taliban presence in the tribal areas, though only a trickle of those displaced from Waziristan have returned. Finally, US journalist Seymour M. Hersh published an article affirming that Pakistan collaborated with the United States to locate Osama bin Laden. (Dawn, The New York Times, Express Tribune (01-15/05/15)
SUDAN (DARFUR): Inter-ethnic clashes between the Rizeigat and Ma’aliya peoples leave 100 dead and increase tensions in East Darfur
Hundreds of people were affected by clashes reported on 12 May between Rizeigat and Ma’aliya Arab tribes in the Sudanese province of East Darfur. According to local sources, the Rizeigat group attacked the city of Abu Karinga, killing around 84 members of the Ma’aliya tribe, including women, children and elderly persons, wounding many others and displacing an unknown number of people. Faced with the sharp deterioration of the security situation in the area, Governor Al-Tayeb Abdelkarim held an emergency meeting to discuss the impacts of the clashes amidst fears of a large-scale conflict between both tribes if the right measures are not taken. The government of Sudan is considering the possibility of deploying two battalions with the backing of two warplanes to monitor movements on the ground of the parties to the conflict, and the mission of the United Nations and the African Union in Darfur (UNAMID) and the European Union have expressed their concern about the escalation of violence between both tribes and have asked both to exercise maximum restraint and engage in dialogue to resolve their disputes. The national press also mobilised to demand an end to the violence between both groups. Moreover, most of the population in the areas of Tabit, Shangil Tobaya and Tawila in East Jebel Marra abandoned their homes after seven villages in the southern part of the town of Tawila were looted by Sudanese paramilitary forces known as the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), who told the residents that the town was now a military zone. Witnesses explained that the RSF tortured inhabitants and stole their property, possessions and livestock, forcing a large part of the population to flee in fear of the violence. (Sudan Tribune 12 and 13/05/15; Reuters, 12/05/15; Radio Dabanga, 12, 20 and 22/05/15; SudaNow, 16/05/15; All Africa, 20/05/15)
THAILAND: The military junta again postpones the election date in order to hold a referendum on the new Constitution
The government announced that the elections have been postponed until August or September 2016 at the earliest due to the need to hold a referendum on the new Constitution that is being drafted by a committee appointed by the military junta. After the coup d’état in May 2014, the new authorities promised to call elections in 15 months, but that deadline was later pushed back to early 2016. The new postponement of the date planned for holding the elections has led to so much criticism that Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha had to publicly repeat his commitment to reinstituting democracy in Thailand and rule out any intention to remain in power. Likewise, some of the content included in the draft of the Constitution that is being written also generated controversy, especially when it appears expressly designed to prevent the return of the Shinawatra family to politics or to make political activity difficult for groups linked to it, which has won every election since 2001. In this regard, former Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra pleaded not guilty during the trial against her for negligence in granting subsidies to the rice sector, a charge that could sentence her to ten years in prison. In January, it already cost her a five-year disqualification from exercising political activities. (CNN, 21/05/15; The China Post, 20/05/15; Xinhua and Bangkok Post, 19/05/15)
TURKEY (SOUTHEAST): The Kurdish movement denounced the suspension of the dialogue process in a context of rising tension ahead of the general elections in June
The pro-Kurdish political party HDP and the umbrella structure of the Kurdish movement KCK accused the Turkish government of suspending the dialogue process, imposing a policy of isolation on their leader, Abdullah Öcalan, preventing visits by the Kurdish delegation participating in the dialogue and instigating provocations against the Kurdish movement in the pre-electoral context. They also said that the Turkish Army is not respecting the ceasefire. Since the Kurdish delegation visited Öcalan on 5 April, no new visits were authorised until late May. Sirri Sürreyya Önder, a member of the HDP delegation, did not provide details on the meeting in late May, but did indicate that the AKP was attempting to curb the HDP’s pre-electoral push through Öcalan, something that the latter denied. Previously, the delegation met on 18 May with the military leadership of the PKK in Qandil. During the month, the KCK said that it had put an end to preparations regarding a possible congress to halt its armed activity in Turkey. Öcalan had called for the conference in February and March. The KCK justified it as a response to the position of the AKP, which had recently made statements denying the Kurdish issue and the existence of a negotiating table or involved parties and engaged in provocations and military actions against the PKK, among other factors. Even so, it kept the door open to call the conference on the condition that the AKP adopt measures including those announced in recent months (a committee to monitor the dialogue, a historical memory committee under a parliamentary umbrella and a negotiating process leading to a new democratising Constitution). It noted that Öcalan’s isolation was crossing a red line for the Kurdish movement. Meanwhile, political and social tensions linked to the pre-electoral context rose. Some media outlets reported 122 attacks on HDP offices in 60 provinces. The most serious included two explosions in the HDP headquarters in Adana (the fourth-largest city in Turkey) and Mardin. The explosion in Mardin took place a few minutes before the arrival of HDP leader Selahattin Demirtas. Several people were wounded in both incidents. (Turkish Daily News, Al-Monitor, DIHA, 01-28/05/15)
UKRAINE: Frequent ceasefire violations continue with scores of fatalities in May, while international talks restart
Despite the ceasefire included in the Minsk II agreement of February, the truce was affected by continuous ceasefire violations in May that claimed at least two dozen lives and wounded scores of others, including armed actors from both sides and civilians. Between February, when the ceasefire entered into force, and mid-May, 83 Ukrainian soldiers lost their lives, according to data collected by the Ukrainian president’s office. Both parties have recurrently accused each other of non-compliance. As in April, sources of special tension included areas near the cities of Donetsk and Mariupol and the village of Shyrokyne. Episodes of violence included the deaths of senior rebel commander Aleksei Mozgovoi and six other insurgents in an attack near the rebel-controlled town of Alchevsk. New incidents occurred outside the conflict area, such as the explosion near the city of Odessa that damaged a railroad. Some analysts spoke of risks of a rebel offensive in the summer. Alongside the continuation of the violence, some progress was made in the dialogue. Ukrainian government representatives and rebel forces maintained closed-door talks with the participation of Russia and the OSCE in early May in an atmosphere that the Ukrainian representatives described as constructive. The parties established the working groups stipulated in the Minsk II agreement, which will operate under the umbrella of the Contact Group (Ukraine, Russia and the OSCE, with the participation of rebel forces). These four groups will respectively address military, security, political, economic and humanitarian issues. Decision-making will be the responsibility of the Contact Group. Regarding issues related to the dialogue, the rebel leaders of Donetsk and Luhansk presented their proposed amendments to the Ukrainian Constitution on 12 May, sending them to the Ukrainian Parliament and the Minsk Contact Group. Some analysts said that the proposals overstepped what was considered in Minsk II. (01-27/05/15, The New York Times, El País, Reuters, Jamestown Foundation, RFE/RL)
CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC: The Bangui Forum for National Reconciliation ends successfully
The Forum for National Reconciliation was successfully held in Bangui from 4 to 11 May, bringing together around 700 representatives and leaders of different Central African civil society groups and activists that reached a historic peace agreement known as the Republican Pact for Peace, National Reconciliation and Reconstruction. Those present included the transitional government, the different political parties, the main armed groups in the country (members of the former Séléka coalition and the different anti-balaka militias), trade associations, civil society representatives, community leaders and religious groups that attempted to define what the future of the country should be like. Various meetings and thematic committees were held on the key elements of the peacebuilding agenda in the country, including the areas of peace and security, justice and reconciliation, economic and social development and governance. The main results and recommendations adopted during the Forum included: 1) the signing of a new cessation of hostilities and disarmament agreement among the 10 factions of Séléka and the anti-balaka militias, which establishes the integration of its members into the security forces that did not commit war crimes or makes them beneficiaries of community development projects; 2) the release of the 6,000 to 10,000 child soldiers estimated to be fighting for the rebels and free access to humanitarian workers and programmes to support the displaced and refugee population; 3) an election schedule, an extension to the current term of Catherine Samba-Panza and postponement of the elections, which came as no surprise due to requirements that have yet to be fulfilled; 4) reform of the Constitution (and a subsequent referendum) and of the citizenship law, which allows Muslims to become citizens of the country; 5) the establishment of local and national justice and reconciliation committees; and 6) an agenda of priorities for the economic and social development of the country, the revitalisation of the agricultural sector (distribution of agricultural inputs), livestock (to assist in the return of herds to the country) and mining (negotiating the lifting of sanctions for exploiting and trading diamonds through the Kimberley Process). The Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue has been providing technical support and advice for the national reconciliation process since 2014. It should be noted that five national discussions on reconciliation have taken place since 1980, which have not prevented the return of instability. Despite the success of the call and the results, the challenges and difficulties are immense; this became clear at the end of the Forum when several Séléka and anti-balaka representatives expressed their rejection of some recommendations and left the premises doing the closing ceremony, and when between 200 and 300 supporters of both armed rebel groups staged protests around the Forum to voice their frustration about the fact that many of their peers were under house arrest or were facing trial for crimes committed during the conflict. Funding the main projects (child soldiers and DDR), as well as leaders’ ability to control their soldiers, were the main challenges confronted. (Jeune Afrique, HD, 12/05/15; Brookings, 15/05/15)
CYPRUS: Negotiations restart and the leaders of both communities approve measures to build trust and create a committee on gender equality in the peace process
The formal process of negotiations over the reunification of Cyprus restarted in May after an eight-month suspension and in a new atmosphere of local and international optimism following recent efforts at rapprochement and the willingness of the leaders of both communities (Greek leader Nikos Anastasiadas and the recent winner of the Turkish Cypriot presidential election, Mustafa Akinci, mayor of the Greek part of Nicosia between 1976 and 1990 and a promoter of cooperation projects at this stage). The UN Secretary-General’s special advisor, Norwegian diplomat Espen Barth Eide, held separate meetings with both leaders on 5 May in which they expressed their commitment to resolving the conflict; a joint dinner on 11 May; and an initial joint meeting on 15 May that marked a new beginning to the process. At the meeting on 15 May, the parties agreed to meet at least twice per month and to adopt confidence-building measures such as eliminating the visa requirement to cross the island, which entered into force on 16 May. The negotiating teams met five times in the two weeks that followed. On 28 May, Barth Eide announced the adoption of new commitments, including an agreement that the conflict may only be properly resolved by taking the perspectives of men and women into account and an agreement to create a committee on gender equality. Four other specific measures included work to open new crossing points, beginning with Lefka-Aplici and Deryneia; practical measures to advance towards interconnecting the power grid; the start of discussions and proposals for mobile telephone interoperability; and the prevention of radio interference. (UN News, Turkish Daily News, Reuters, 1-28/05/15)
INDONESIA (WEST PAPUA): The president announces a new era for the region of Papua, releases five political prisoners and relaxes access restrictions for journalists
To mark his fourth visit to Papua in one year, Indonesian President Joko Widodo declared his intention to usher in a new era in relations between the government and West Papua, to pay special attention to the region and to improve the human rights situation and the welfare of the population. Shortly before the visit began, the government announced the release of five political prisoners (during the 10-year administration of the previous president, only one was released) and the lifting of restrictions on access for journalists. A few days prior, simultaneous demonstrations took place in 10 countries and 22 cities and around 47,000 signatures had been collected to demand free access for the press in Papua. Both the visit to Papua and the confidence-boosting measures taken by the government came a few days before the Melanesian Spearhead Group decided on the requests for admission made by the government of Indonesia (a country where around 11 million Melanesians live) and various Papuan organisations. The Papuan organisations have traditionally been supported by the government of Vanuatu and the organisation FLNKS (New Caledonia), while in recent weeks Indonesia’s admission has been backed by the governments of Fiji and Papua New Guinea. (The Guardian, 10/05/15; 9 News, 11/05/15; Jakarta Post, 19/05/15; Jakarta Globe, 22/05/15)
NATURAL RESOURCES AND ARMED CONFLICTS: The European Parliament passes a law to regulate the exploitation of natural resources by European importers to prevent them from helping to fund armed conflicts
On 20 May, the European Parliament passed a law making certification of four natural resources mandatory for European importers to prevent them from funding armed conflicts. Thus, following the proposal made by the European Commission in March 2014 for the responsible trade of minerals in the EU, which was voluntary in nature, and the report drafted by the European Parliament on international trade (INTA) in April 2015, which lessened the obligation to certify imports for companies acquiring gold, tungsten, tantalum (coltan) and tin, meaning 19 smelting companies and refineries based in the EU, the proposal that was finally approved extends control to all companies that produce any type of product containing any of these minerals, which expands control over the supply chains of around 880,000 companies in the EU. Now the EU member countries may attempt to modify this draft bill through the Council of Europe. It has been hailed by hundreds of human rights advocacy organisations from EU member countries that have been exercising political influence for the European Parliament to toughen the legislation. (European Parliament, 20/05/15; Radio Okapi, Xinhua, 21/05/15)
PHILIPPINES (MINDANAO-MILF): The political party created by the MILF to run in the Bangsamoro elections in 2016 requests authorisation from the electoral authorities
The United Bangsamoro Justice Party, created by the MILF, submitted an authorisation request to the competent electoral authorities in order to facilitate its participation in the elections scheduled for 2016 in the Bangsamoro region. The chief negotiator of the MILF and chair of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission, Mohaqer Iqbal, said that the MILF intends to turn into a humanitarian organisation that promotes implementation of some of the socio-economic content of the 2014 peace agreement. The governor of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, in addition to other prominent political leaders, declared that recognising the UBJP as a political party would be a step forward in the peace process. Another event in May that boosted trust between the government and the MILF was the killing by MILF members of Abdul Basit Usman, an explosives expert wanted by the governments of both the Philippines and the United States, who was one of the main targets of a special police corps operation that caused around 70 fatalities (44 of them police officers) in January. It was the most serious episode of violence in recent years and caused a major crisis of confidence between both sides, as did the suspension of parliamentary proceedings of the Bangsamoro Basic Law, which recently changed its name to the Basic Law of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region. The death of Usman, for which there had been a substantial reward for his capture due to his alleged involvement in various attacks, occurred in early May in the province of Maguindanao, although no further details have been disclosed about the circumstances of his death. In any case, the government stated that active participation in neutralising Usman, which had been one of its main priorities, shows sincerity and goodwill and strengthens the peace process. (Phil Star, 02, 07 and 09/05/15; Rappler, 21/05/15)
THAILAND (SOUTH): In early June, the government states that peace talks could resume with an umbrella organisation for six armed groups
The government stated that peace negotiations that were interrupted in December 2013 could resume in late May or early June. According to various sources, the talks would be between the government and a platform known as Majlis Syura Patani (MARA Patani, Patani Advisory Council), which groups together six insurgent organisations: the BRN, three different PULO factions, the BIPP and the GMIP. According to some sources, the Malaysian government, which is playing a mediating role, led the creation of this platform in order to close the gap among different insurgent organisations and to facilitate dialogue with the government. However, some analysts think that MARA Patani does not enjoy the support of the military wing of the BRN, the organisation allegedly responsible for most of the violence occurring in southern Thailand. Furthermore, the government believes that MARA Patani does not include all the actors relevant to ending the armed conflict or represent the insurgency’s key demands. In this regard, in mid-May, over 30 explosive devices detonated almost simultaneously in 28 towns in the south. A few days later, around 24 small bombs exploded in the southern city of Yala over three consecutive days, although nobody was killed. According to some analysts, these incidents, as well as the explosion of a car bomb in mid-April on the tourist island of Koh Samui, were aimed at expressing opposition to the BRN and MARA Patani and at reminding the government who has control over the combatants on the ground. (Bernar News and Thai Visa News, 13/05/15; Insider, 14/05/15; East Asia Forum, 09/05/15; The Nation, 22/05/15)
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