EGYPT: An unprecedented ISIS attack in Sinai sets off an escalation of violence that kills over 100 people
In July, the ISIS branch in Sinai (a group formerly known as Ansar Beit al-Maqdis, which renamed itself Sinai Province in late 2014) launched a series of coordinated attacks on 15 checkpoints in the Sinai Peninsula in an offensive that was unprecedented due to the number of militiamen mobilised and the type of weaponry used. The offensive led to clashes with the Egyptian security forces that went on for several hours and also involved attacks by the Air Forces against ISIS positions in the area. According to official figures, around 100 combatants of the armed group and 17 soldiers died in the fighting. However, security sources quoted in the press claimed that the death toll was much higher. Given the situation, both Israel and Hamas announced that they would strengthen their monitoring of the border with Egypt. The escalation of violence, considered the worst in Sinai in four decades (since the Yom Kippur War), came days after the assassination of the public prosecutor of Egypt in late June and was followed by new acts of violence throughout July. These included air strikes against ISIS militants that killed at least 23 people at the start of the month and an alleged attack on an Egyptian coast guard ship for which ISIS claimed responsibility at the end of the month. Also during July, the security forces reportedly killed 13 prominent members of the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) accused by the government of plotting attacks in the country. The organisation denied the accusations and ensured that the leaders were part of a group that coordinates aid for families of MB members currently in prison or dead because of the repression of recent years. The MB denounced the act as cold-blooded murder, called for the population to revolt and warned of “serious consequences”. In this context, the government presented new proposals for anti-terrorist laws that were denounced by various human rights NGOs and civil society groups, since they increase sentences for many offences linked to terrorist activities to life imprisonment and capital punishment. Experts warned that the government is promoting an ambiguous concept of “terrorism” that can be used with political criteria. One of the most controversial provisions is aimed at punishing the publication of what the authorities consider false news or information about anti-terrorist operations that contradict official reports. In late July, Human Rights Watch also warned of the disappearance of hundreds of people detained by the Egyptian security forces. (Le Monde, 02, 03/07/15; Reuters, 02, 16/07/15; BBC, 02, 22/07/15; al-Jazeera, 02, 18/07/15; El País 02/07/15; The Guardian 05/07/15)
INDIA (NAGALAND): Clashes with the NSCN-K continue
New clashes took place between the armed opposition group NSCN-K and Indian security forces. In the most serious episode, seven suspected insurgents were killed by Indian forces in a firefight in an area bordering Myanmar. Two civilians also lost their lives. Days later, two other members of the armed group died and a third was wounded in a security force operation. The clashes took place after patrols intensified their pursuit of the armed group following the kidnapping of two minors, allegedly by insurgents. Meanwhile, a rising chorus of politicians urged the armed group to reconsider its decision to abandon the ceasefire agreement. Nagaland Chief Minister TR Zeliang complained that the Indian government had not informed him previously that the armed group intended to break the ceasefire agreement, saying that if he had known, he would have tried to persuade the insurgents not to do so. Zeliang said that the Nagaland Legislators’ Forum on Naga Political Issues, which brings together the Naga MPs for the purpose of strengthening the peace process, will send a civil society delegation to a meeting with Khaplang, the leader of the armed group, in an attempt to patch up the ceasefire agreement. (Indian Express, 12 and 16/07/15; NDTV, 17/07/15)
NIGERIA (BOKO HARAM): Boko Haram’s escalation of violence continues, pending the deployment of the regional force (MNJTF)
In July, Boko Haram’s attacks shook northern Nigeria and the neighbouring countries. Dominated once again by suicide attacks committed by women and children, they have been framed by different analysts as part of the campaign waged by Islamic State (ISIS) to increase violence during the month of Ramadan. The various attacks reported during the month included a wave of them during the first week. Body counts estimated around 429 people killed in the chain of attacks unleashed by the militia in northern Nigeria, including one on the community of Mussaram, near the city of Kukawa, in which approximately 48 people were killed, followed the next day (1 July) by different attacks on mosques in Kukawa that claimed around 97 lives and attacks on 2 and 4 July in Borno State against different communities in Askira Uba, Biu and Konduga, in which 53 people died. Likewise, in the city of Jos in central Nigeria, two bombs in a restaurant and a mosque left 44 people dead and 48 wounded on 5 July and around 50 people were killed and 32 wounded in two bomb attacks in the city of Zaria in Kaduna State on 7 July, the day after a 13-year-old girl conducted a suicide attack in a mosque in Kano. In the middle of the month, different attacks on four villages near Monguno in Borno State killed 43 people, two bombs in Gombe claimed 30 lives and two other suicide attacks perpetrated by women against mosques in Damaturu killed at least 50 people. Some media outlets indicated that between the inauguration of Muhammadu Buhari last 29 May and mid-July, 625 people lost their lives and hundreds were wounded in attacks conducted by Boko Haram in Nigeria. In addition to the attacks in Nigeria, incidents also took place in Chad, killing at least 41 people in three attacks, and in Cameroon, which reported 44 fatalities in four attacks. Faced with the rising violence, the Nigerian president has requested the deployment of the regional force to combat the insurgency as soon as possible. According to the agreement reached in Abuja, Nigeria on 11 June, the Multi-National Joint Task Force (MNJTF) should be fully operational and deployed by 30 July. Amidst the escalating attacks, Buhari has opened the door to potential dialogue and negotiation with the insurgency, an offer that he raised again at the end of the month in an attempt to end the captivity of the girls of Chibok. In this context, the Nigerian president visited his US counterpart. On 20 July, Obama received Buhari in the White House, where they discussed subjects such as the strategy to combat terrorism and insecurity in northern Nigeria. In his diplomatic visit, Buhari also met with US Vice President Joe Biden, Secretary of State John Kerry and Attorney General Loretta Lynch to focus on security issues and the national democratic process. (Daily Independent 01, 06, 07, 08/07/15; Al Jazeera 02, 06, 08/07/15; Le Monde 03/07/15; Daily Trust 04, 17, 19/07/15; Cameroon Tribune 06/07/15; This Day 06, 07, 16, 24/07/15; Premium Times 07, 08/07/15; Deutsche Welle 07, 11, 16/07/15; Leadership 08/07/15; Vanguard 11, 21/07/15; UN News 12/07/15; AP 20/07/15)
SYRIA: Many are killed in intense fighting in Aleppo and in the area of Zabadani, bordering Lebanon, while the refugee crisis caused by the conflict worsens
The war in Syria continued to rage along different fronts across the country, with a severe impact on the population and infrastructure. Significant fighting was reported in early July in Aleppo, where a coalition of over a dozen rebel groups, including al-Qaeda’s branch in Syria, al-Nusra Front, launched a coordinated attack in areas controlled by government forces. Media reports described the offensive as the most important since the battle for Aleppo began and said that some Western-supported groups also participated in it. During the month there were also reports of intense fighting between Kurdish YPG militias and ISIS combatants in the area of Ain Issa, a key supply route to the major Islamic State stronghold of Raqqa. Operations were also reportedly conducted by the forces of Bashar Assad in an attempt to recover Palmyra, controlled by ISIS since late May. There were also serious incidents around Zabadani, in the area bordering Lebanon. In Zabadani, government troops and militiamen belonging to the Lebanese Shia group Hezbollah undertook a joint action to try to dislodge rebel forces from the Qalamoun Mountains. In late July, the UN envoy for Syria warned that the regime’s attacks in the area were causing unprecedented levels of death and destruction, partially due to the use of barrel bombs. Days later, Bashar Assad admitted that Syrian troops have been forced to concentrate on fighting in some areas of the country and approved amnesty for deserters in an attempt to strengthen his forces. Meanwhile, the United States reported that the anti-ISIS coalition was intensifying its operations in Syria. US President Barack Obama has ruled out sending troops and stressed the need for an effective partner on the ground. However, according to data released by the US Secretary of Defence, only 60 combatants have been approved for training. Around 7,000 recruits have volunteered, but they have still not passed selection tests and could be vetoed because of the future threat they could pose to Washington. Alongside developments on the battlefield, the humanitarian impact of the conflict remained clear. New figures from UNHCR confirmed that over four million people (one sixth of the population) have fled the country. The refugees are facing dramatic conditions, as highlighted in a report by UNICEF and Save the Children on the high rates of child labour for Syrian boys and girls. (Al-Jazeera, 02/07/15; BBC, 03, 06, 07, 08, 09, 17, 21, 22, 26/07/15; Reuters, 09/07/15; Foreign Policy, 08/07/15; The New York Times, 21/07/15)
SOMALIA: New AMISOM offensive alongside various attacks by al-Shabaab
The AMISOM military force announced the launch of a joint new military operation with the Somali Army, Operation Juba Corridor, against the al-Shabaab Islamist insurgency in the regions of Bay and Gedo, west and south of the capital, Mogadishu. Various sources have reported fierce fighting in different strongholds of the armed group in Dinsor and Bardera. A strategic town, Bardera was finally liberated by AMISOM forces, according to the vice president of the region of Jubaland, General Abdullahi Sheikh Ismael (Fartag). Ufurow, another strategic farming town in the region of Bay, also fell into the hands of the Somali Army. The capture of Bardera coincided with a meeting held by various al-Shabaab commanders and ideologues in the town of Jilib, in the region of Middle Juba. Some sources indicated the possibility that al-Shabaab may have been considering potential union with Islamic State (ISIS). This recent offensive came after the Kenyan authorities’ announcement that a US drone strike in the south of the country had killed around 30 al-Shabaab combatants, including several commanders. Meanwhile, Somali government forces fighting alongside AMISOM troops withdrew from areas under their control in the southern region of Lower Shabelle despite threats that they could be retaken by al-Shabaab. Notably, an attack on two hotels in Mogadishu on 10 July killed at least six people, including three of the assailants. Finally, Somali Army commander Adan Ahmed Hirsi accused Kenya of causing the death of around 50 people (Somali military personnel and civilians) in various air strikes in the middle of the month. (Garowe Online, 02-24/07/15)
TUNISIA: The government declares a state of emergency following the worst attack in the recent history of the country, which claimed 38 lives in late June
In early July, one week after the attack on a complex in the city of Sousse that killed 38 foreign tourists, most of them from the United Kingdom, Tunisian President Beji Caid Essebsi declared a state of emergency in the country. The measure will remain in force for one month and grants special powers to the security forces and the authorities. This was the government’s reaction to an attack considered the worst in Tunisian recent history, which came only two months after another attack on the Bardo Museum in the capital that killed 22 people in March. After the attack in Sousse, the Tunisian authorities were repeatedly criticised because two similar attacks had taken place in so little time and because of the agents’ slow response in Sousse. The assailant, a 23-year-old Tunisian man identified as Saifdin Rezgui, continued walking and shooting his Kalashnikov rifle along the beach of the Marhaba Imperial hotel for half an hour before being killed by police. The Tunisian president admitted that the incident was a surprise, because no attacks were expected on the beach, while Prime Minister Habib Essid acknowledged that the police had been slow to act. According the British media, in May the Tunisian minister of the Interior had been warned of a possible attack in Sousse. In July, the government reported the arrest of a dozen people suspected of collaborating with Rezgui, who had received training in the Libyan city of Sabrata (around 100 kilometres from the Tunisian border), possibly at the same time as the perpetrators of the Bardo Museum attack. Announcements were made throughout the month that mosques would be closed and a 168-kilometer wall would be built along the border between Tunisia and Libya, from the northern town of Ras Ajdir to Dehiba in the south. At the end of July, the Assembly of Representatives also approved a draft bill providing for use of the death penalty, which has been suspended in the country since 1991, for crimes of terrorism. Finally, media outlets reported the death of five suspected militants in a security force action in mid-July and stressed the impact of recent attacks on tourism. The sector is estimated to have lost 550 million USD, representing 15% of the country’s GDP. (EFE, 02/07/15; El País, 04, 25/07/15; Le Monde and AFP, 02, 03, 05, 08, 23/07/15; BBC, 10/07/15, The Independent, 05/07/15)
TURKEY (SOUTHEAST): An attack on a pro-Kurdish cultural centre kills 32 people and triggers an escalation of military tension as the PKK terminates the ceasefire
Military and political tension soared in Turkey after a suicide attack on 20 July against a cultural centre managed by the Kurdish movement in the city of Suruç, near the border with Syria, which killed at least 32 people and wounded over 100, most of them young socialists volunteering to travel to Kobane (Syria) to support the reconstruction process. Turkey blamed ISIS for the attack, while the Kurdish movement claimed that the ruling AKP party was responsible and was collaborating with ISIS. Other Turkish political parties, like the CHP, also accused the AKP of negligence in dealing with ISIS. The attack led to massive protests in various places and prompted significant shifts in the positions of the political and military actors of Turkey. The PKK claimed responsibility for the retaliatory killing of two police officers in Ceylanpinar (on the border with Syria) two days after the suicide attack. Another police officer was shot dead in Diyarbakir a day later. The youth organisation YDG-H claimed responsibility for the death of an alleged ISIS supporter in Istanbul. Altogether, these events spelled the end of the PKK’s unilateral truce in 2013. Prior to the attack in Suruç, in a statement on 12 July, the PKK had warned that it would conduct attacks against work to build hydroelectric dams and military outposts on the grounds that they threatened to displace the population, which some media outlets interpreted as the end of the truce. In addition, in mid-July the KCK affirmed that it could not speak of a ceasefire until the conditions were created for the release of the leader of the PKK, Abdullah Öcalan, and for peace negotiations. The events in Suruç raised tensions, with many massive protests put down by the security forces, the PKK’s aforementioned retaliation and the government’s announcement of measures against ISIS and the PKK, preceded by a telephone conversation on 22 July between US President Barack Obama and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. An ISIS attack on 23 July against a border post in the region of Kilis that killed one soldier and wounded two others was met with a response from the Turkish Army that killed one Islamist militant. That same day, it emerged that measures of cooperation would be implemented between the United States and Turkey, including approval of Washington’s use of Turkish military bases such as Incirlik, and that the agreement could partially include a no-fly zone. The Turkish government confirmed these aspects days later. On 25 July, Turkey conducted a massive operation against suspected members of ISIS and the PKK (as well as other organisations it considers terrorist), which lasted for days in 22 provinces and resulted in nearly 600 arrests and the death of one DHKP-C militant killed by the police. That same day, the Turkish Army bombarded ISIS in Syria and the PKK in northern Iraq. The bombardment continued over the weekend, causing the death of one PKK combatant and injuring three more. The PKK said that there were no conditions for a ceasefire after the Turkish Army’s bombardments and claimed responsibility for an explosion in Diyarbakir that killed two soldiers and wounded two others. Turkey called for a NATO meeting in Brussels on 28 July. (AFP, Dicle, Hürriyet, Today’s Zaman, Firat, 01-27/07/15)
AFGHANISTAN: The official phase of the peace process begins with no end to the violence
On 7 July, an Afghan government delegation composed of Haji Azizullah Din Mohammad, Hikmat Khalil Karzai, Faizullah Zaki, Eng. Asim, Mohammad Nateqi and Farhadullah met with a Taliban delegation that included members of the Haqqani network (Mullah Mohammad Hassan Rahmani, Mullah Abdul Jalil Akhund, Mullah Mohammad Abbas Akhund, Haji Ibrahim Haqqani, Mullah Abdul Razaq Akhund, Mullah Eisa Akhund and Maulvi Abdul Latif Mansour) in Murri, near Islamabad, Pakistan. Not only is Pakistan’s involvement in the process crucial, but the meeting was attended by observers representing the United States and China. The most important items on the Taliban’s agenda were related to prisoners, the removal of its members from UN blacklists, the withdrawal of foreign troops and amendments to be made to the Constitution. In some unusual remarks made on 15 July, Mullah Omar gave his support to the process “to end the occupation”. Alongside the peace negotiations, the campaign of violence proceeded. An attack on the Afghan Parliament on 22 June was followed by two car bomb attacks on two passing NATO convoys in Kabul on 1 and 7 July, respectively, and an attack on the headquarters of Afghanistan’s intelligence service, the National Directorate of Security (NDS). The NDS blamed Pakistan’s own Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) of orchestrating the attack on Parliament. Various clashes between Pakistani and Afghan soldiers in Angur Adda (an administrative division split between South Waziristan and Afghanistan’s Paktika province) claimed the lives of an Afghan police officer and eight Pakistanis on 1 July. Mortar fire from the Afghan side of the border had been reported. On 12 July, a car bomb killed 33 people and wounded 15 in the vicinity of the US base Camp Chapman, in Khost province. Another car bomb exploded near a mosque in the capital of Baghlan on 13 July where 500 people had congregated while awaiting iftar supper. They had been invited by the governor of the province, Sultan Mohammad Ibadi. A suicide attack on a market in Faryab province killed over 20 people and left scores wounded. Meanwhile, the United States stepped up the number of air strikes on Taliban and ISIS positions. It what seems to have been an information error, one of these strikes killed seven Afghan soldiers in Logar. (Pajhwok Afghan News, ToloNews, 07-22/07/2015)
BURUNDI: The elections are held in an atmosphere of violence and instability despite a new diplomatic initiative from Uganda
The presidential election was held in Burundi on 21 July and was marked by an atmosphere of violence and instability across the country and by the boycott of the opposition and civil society. At first it was supposed to be held on 15 July, but it was postponed for a week. The initial partial results handed a broad victory to Pierre Nkurunziza. Election day was calm, but the atmosphere was tense. The legislative and local elections on 29 June were won by the ruling party, the CNDD-FDD, and were boycotted by the opposition. Mediation efforts carried out in mid-July by Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, who began talks with the Burundian government and opposition leaders against letting President Pierre Nkurunziza run for a third term of office, including Agathon Rwasa, came to nothing and highlighted the failure of various regional initiatives to remedy the situation. The pressure exerted by the regional organisation EAC and the AU to encourage dialogue between the contending parties has been weakened by the leaders of neighbouring countries, who have followed similar strategies to remain in power, including Yoweri Museveni, Robert Mugabe and Paul Kagame, so their ability to influence Nkurunziza has waned. The AU deployed military experts and human rights observers in an attempt to prevent the situation from getting worse. Museveni, who was appointed chief mediator for Burundi by the heads of state of the EAC on 6 July, stressed the importance of working for the unity of the country and abandoning sectarianism, and congratulated the government for promoting the disarmament of the pro-government youth group Imbonerakure, responsible for committing extra-judicial executions, harassment and abuse against political opponents. Amidst the prevailing atmosphere of instability, reports of the emergence of a new armed group in the north of the country made the situation even more uncertain. In mid-July, the government announced the death of 15 possible insurgents and the capture of another 170 in various firefights in the north, though the leadership of the rebels remains unclear. Since Nkurunziza announced that he would run for a third term in April, demonstrations have caused dozens of fatalities and the last estimates by UNHCR on 22 July raised the number of people that have sought refuge in neighbouring countries to 178,023. (EAC Communiqué, 06/07/15; AU, 08/07/15; UN, 09/07/15; Africa Focus, 14/07/15; Al Jazeera, 15/07/15, Jeune Afrique, UNHCR, 22/07/15)
DRC (east – ADF): The offensive against the ADF continues and a trial begins for its leader, charged with crimes against humanity
The Congolese Army announced that it had recovered a strategic position that had thus far been held by the Congolese-Ugandan Islamist ADF rebels. Located 80 kilometres northeast of Beni in North Kivu province, the Mutara Valley was the scene of fierce fighting with insurgents that claimed an undetermined number of lives. Meanwhile, nine people were executed in three villages near Beni and 70 homes were burned down. It is estimated that the ADF has executed over 400 civilians since October, most of them with bladed weapons. Moreover, the leader of the armed Islamist group ADF, Jamil Mukulu, captured in Tanzania in April and extradited to Uganda in early July, was accused by a Ugandan court of being responsible for crimes against humanity. The special representative of the UN Secretary-General and head of MONUSCO, Martin Kobler, said that the decision to invite Uganda to fight the Congolese-Ugandan Islamist ADF rebels is up to the Congolese government and that MONUSCO has launched significant offensives against the armed group in collaboration with the Congolese Armed Forces that have severely weakened it. In saying this, he contradicted the position of Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, who asserted that MONUSCO had failed in its attempt to neutralise the group. Kobler remarked that the ADF is difficult to fight due to its terrorist origins and that the West has enormous problems in fighting its own “terrorist” insurgency. (Agence Ecofin, 13/07/15; Jeune Afrique, 15/07/15; Xinhua, VOA, 21/07/15; Radio Okapi, 22/07/15; AFP, 21 and 22/07/15)
LESOTHO: Political tension rises in the country following the assassination of former Army chief Maaparankoe Mahao
On 28 June, the former commander of the Armed Forces of Lesotho, Maaparankoe Mahao, was killed in his hometown, Maseru, by the Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) in an operation orchestrated to stop suspected collaborators with a coup d’état, according to the LDF. Mahao had survived a previous attack in August 2014, which according to local media was related to internal struggles over control of the military. The incident raised political tensions in the country and stoked fears of a return to violence and instability. The assassination is related to the inauguration last February of new Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili, who won the disputed national elections and unseated Tom Thabane. One of the first measures adopted by Mosisili was to dismiss Mahao as commander of the military and replace him with Tlali Kamoli, who had been chief of the LDF until the failed coup attempt in August 2014 against President Tom Thabane, who expelled him from the Armed Forces and gave the position to Mahao. The new government has begun politically persecuting members of the LDF close to Mahao, arresting 45 soldiers suspected of planning a revolt against the government. The climate of tension has resulted in the flight from the country of three opposition leaders, including former Prime Minister Thabane, who has taken refuge in South Africa. Members of the opposition protested the assassination and climate of tension at the national Parliament. They were joined by national lawyers when an attorney representing the detained soldiers’ families also had to flee the country after receiving death threats from some members of the military. These developments were condemned by the countries of the region and others, like the United States, which have expressed concern about the situation and have requested urgent measures to reform the security sector. The South African Development Community (SADC) sent its deputy chair and facilitator to Lesotho, Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, as well as South African Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, to mediate and consult with Prime Minister Mosisili. After the SADC mediator held different bilateral meetings with the presidents of Lesotho, Zimbabwe and Botswana, the organisation convened an extraordinary session called the SADC Double Troika (Organ on Politics, Defence and Security Cooperation) to analyse the situation in the Kingdom of Lesotho. Held in Pretoria on 3 July, the meeting was attended by the presidents of South Africa, Zimbabwe and Botswana, as well as representatives from Malawi and Namibia and Lesotho’s Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili. A series of agreements was reached, including the creation of an independent commission to investigate the circumstances of the death of General Mahao. The investigation’s report is planned to be finished in two months. The session was also used to call on Lesotho to reform its security sector, as well as to introduce constitutional measures to restore political stability in the country. (News 24 24, 30/06/15, 01/07/15; SAnews 30/06/15, 01, 02, 04, 06/07/15; Deutsche Welle 01/07/15)
MOZAMBIQUE: The Mozambican government and RENAMO begin the round to negotiate the fourth item of the peace talks amidst serious doubts and tension regarding the previous items
After 11 rounds of dialogue in over two years, the government, led by President Filipe Nyusi’s FRELIMO party, and the opposition party and former armed group RENAMO, headed by Afonso Dhalakama, announced the start of negotiations related to the fourth and final item on the agenda, focused on economic aspects and the distribution of resources in the country. Dinis Sengulane, a retired Anglican bishop who acts as a spokesman for the mediation team, said that the beginning of negotiations over the fourth item means that the process is bearing fruit. However, tension returned in July over other items on the agenda that have not yet been specified. The third item, on the separation of the political parties of the state, ran aground when RENAMO insisted that the related agreement reached last month between both parties, which they signed in a statement of principles, must be passed by Parliament and enacted as law, which has not yet happened. Meanwhile, no progress was reported on the second item, related to defence and security issues. On this point, RENAMO demands the equal distribution of security commands (in the police and Mozambican Army) before it submits a list of its militia fighters for their integration into the security forces. However, the government resists this distribution of power among the senior officers of its security forces, so the issue remains unresolved. In this scenario, Dhalakama repeated his request for the government to establish the provincial municipalities in the six provinces (Manica, Sofala, Tete, Zambezia, Nampula and Niassa) where RENAMO claims to have won the elections, threatening the government with seizing them by force if it does not comply. In visits made during the month to the provinces of Zambezia and Niassa, the Mozambican president responded to RENAMO’s leader by saying that the country will not be divided and will not bow to pressure. The issue is fuelling tension and fears of a return to violence and instability in the north of the country. (Agência de Informação de Moçambique 30, 06, 07, 09, 13/07/15)
MYANMAR: Negotiations end with no progress on the ceasefire agreement
The round of negotiations held between the government of Myanmar and the ethnic insurgencies of the country ended without achieving a ceasefire agreement. A new senior delegation headed by the leader of the KNU, Naw Zipporah Sein, represented the insurgent groups on this occasion, replacing the previous Nationwide Ceasefire Negotiation Team. The main sticking points that prevented the deal were the disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration (DDR) process, the management of natural resources and whether the president and the legislature can be signatories to the final agreement. These three issues are included in a list of 13 amendments to the text of the draft agreement reached in March. Furthermore, the matter of the inclusion of the three armed opposition groups TNLA, AA and MNDAA is still pending. These groups have not signed bilateral ceasefire agreements with the government and are currently clashing with the Burmese Armed Forces in the area of Kokang. The government has rejected their incorporation into the comprehensive agreement. Representatives of the Myanmar Peace Centre, which supports the government in the process, noted that the bilateral agreements are necessary because they demonstrate a “deep commitment” to peace. The two-day meeting took place in Yangon after a previous preparatory meeting that took place in Thailand. As the negotiations continued, so did armed clashes in the country. In early July, around 100 civilians had to flee their homes in the area of Hpakant, in Kachin State, due to fighting between the KIA and the Burmese Armed Forces. Clashes were also reported with the DKBA in Karen State, where four insurgents and an undetermined number of soldiers were killed. (The Irrawaddy, 01, 03, 06, 13, 15, 22, 24/07/15)
PAKISTAN: Instability intensifies in Karachi
As part of the National Action Plan’s (NAP) goal to end “the discourse of hatred”, the Rangers of Sind province stormed the headquarters of the United National Movement (Muttahida Qaumi Movement, or MQM) led by London-based exile Altaf Hussain in the city of Karachi. The assault came after various complaints were made to police accusing leaders of the party (three of whom were arrested) of inciting hatred against the Pakistani Army with their statements. Hussain accused the Rangers of torturing and murdering members of his party and of using the NAP for political purposes. However, the local authorities have decided to expand the powers of the Rangers for another year (until July 2016). The city’s atmosphere was especially troubled this month after the impact of the heat that killed 1,250 people and left 65,000 in treatment. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif ordered an investigation to clarify the reasons for the tragedy. One reason, in addition to the law banning displays of food and drink during Ramadan, is the constant cuts in the power supply that also affect the water supply. In the province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, the population took to the streets indignant about the lack of electricity and attacked the headquarters of the electricity authority. Also under the NAP, one of whose objectives is to end funding of the insurgency, the police confiscated 1,200 tax collection tins from illegal organisations and arrested 72 people connected to them. The previous spokesman for the Pakistani Taliban movement (TTP) was killed by a drone strike in the Afghan province of Nangarhar. The leading figure abandoned the TTP in order to join Islamic State (ISIS), which rejected reports of his death. So far this year, Pakistan has already repatriated over 139,000 Afghan refugees. (Geo TV, Dawn, The Express Tribune, 01-18/07/2015)
PHILIPPINES (MINDANAO – MILF): The MILF warns of the risk of radicalisation in Mindanao if Parliament does not pass a law that includes the content of the peace process
The leader of the MILF, Ebrahim Murad, declared that the group will continue demanding full implementation of the peace agreement reached in 2014 if approval of the Basic Law of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region is not possible before President Benigno Aquino’s term ends in mid-2016 after all, as was originally planned. Although Murad guaranteed the MILF’s commitment to the peace process, he also said that if the aforementioned law does not pass, it will increase the possibility of radicalisation in Mindanao, admitting that he cannot ensure his control over all the armed groups opposed to the peace process. Legislative proceedings to ratify the Basic Law of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region have suffered various setbacks in recent months. Nevertheless, the Senate has already indicated that the discussion and possible approval of the draft bill will be one of its top priorities in the next six months. Likewise, on various occasions Benigno Aquino has urged the Senate and the House of Representatives to approve the draft bill. Furthermore, uncertainty about the peace process rose again during the quarter due to an announcement by the minister of justice that over 100 MILF and BIFF combatants will be investigated for their alleged participation in an episode of violence last January in which 70 people, including 44 police officers, were killed in the town of Mamasapano in the province of Maguindanao. Moreover, several MPs expressed doubt that the MILF was sincere about disarming and echoed some reports indicating that the MILF still had various facilities in central Mindanao where they manufactured firearms, ammunition and explosives. However, the Philippine Armed Forces declared that they had conducted investigations into the matter and later publicly denied the reports. (Philippine Star, 16/07/15; Rappler, Inquirer, InterAksyon, 25/07/15; Anadolu Agency, 11/07/15)
PHILIPPINES (NPA): The speaker of the House of Representatives meets with the leaders of the NDF
The speaker of the House of Representatives, Feliciano Belmonte, met in Amsterdam with a delegation of 10 people from the NDF led by the founder of the NPA and the Communist Party of the Philippines, Jose Maria Sison, and the NDF’s chief negotiator, Luis Jalandoni. Even though Belmonte had no authority to negotiate on behalf of the government, both parties and the government appreciated the meeting and Belmonte called it a confidence-builder and a step in the right direction towards resuming the peace talks. According to Belmonte, who was accompanied to the informal meeting by other senior parliamentary officials, Sison said that the NDF had told the government of its desire to resume the peace talks, but was still waiting for a response from Manila. A few days after the meeting in Amsterdam, the head of the Presidential Office for the Peace Process, Teresita Deles, said that she had not yet been able to speak directly with Belmonte and that the government’s desire to restart the peace talks depended on whether they were feasible and limited in time. She added that the NDF could not impose conditions on the talks, in clear reference to the NDF’s demand to free various consultants for the group and political prisoners. In this regard, Deles said that she thought it premature to address any potential releases with no knowledge of the conditions under which a resumption of the dialogue would occur. Also notable were the statements made by the new chief of the Armed Forces, Hernando Iriberri, showing his support for any negotiating effort started by the government. (Philippines Daily Inquirer, 11, 14 and 15/07/15; ABS-CBN, 20/07/15; Philippine Star, 19/07/15)
THAILAND (SOUTH): Various analysts express doubt about the current viability of the peace negotiations
Based on intelligence reports leaked to the press, media outlets indicated that the government is trying to organise a meeting in Malaysia in August with different insurgent organisations in order to agree on a road map by the end of 2015 or early 2016. Yet according to these reports, the two main leaders of the main armed group in the region, the BRN, are opposed to the negotiations on the grounds that such a strategy clearly benefits the government. This information is consistent with a report recently published by the think tank International Crisis Group (ICG), which states that the current political climate in Thailand makes any progress in the peace negotiations unlikely, primarily due to the authoritarianism and growing centralisation of power by the military junta and the lack of commitment, ability and political consistency shown by insurgent organisations. Moreover, the interim nature of the current government and the insurgent groups’ doubts about whether or not they want to continue the dialogue with the next government are also significant obstacles to building trust between both sides. Given these circumstances, the ICG thinks that it would be more realistic to concentrate on achieving modest agreements that could lay the foundations for the start of a solid dialogue process once the political conditions are more suitable. For example, these could include agreements on negotiating teams, communication protocols and other procedural aspects. (Benar News, 13/07/15; AFP, 13/07/15; ICG, 08/07/15)
UKRAINE: The rebel authorities consider the constitutional amendments to decentralise the country insufficient and announce unilateral elections
Disagreements and difficulties in implementing the political aspects of the Minsk II agreement of February continued, while the security situation remained highly unstable. On 1 July, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko announced amendments to the Constitution related to decentralising the country that would be discussed by Parliament. The changes did not include any reference to a special status for the rebel zones. Poroshenko indicated that the amendments consolidated Ukraine as a unitary country under a decentralised system. He also said that a specific law would establish the specific procedures for decentralisation in some districts. Russia and the rebel authorities criticised the amendments, saying that they had not taken the rebels’ proposals into account and were insufficient. Western partners of Ukraine like Germany and France welcomed the announced reforms during the month, but pointed out that they should respond to the Minsk II agreements and refer to the special status of the territories. Thus, meetings intensified between Ukraine and its allies, the United States, France and Germany. Poroshenko finally submitted a new version to Parliament that included references to the law on the specific aspects of decentralisation in the section of temporary provisions within the Constitution, instead of outside it. Parliament is supposed to debate the proposed amendments in August. Moreover, in mid-July the Ukrainian Parliament approved the convening of local elections on 25 October, excluding Crimea and the areas under rebel control because it said that the necessary democratic conditions were not present. Meanwhile, the rebel leaders of Donetsk and Luhansk announced that they would organise local elections in October and early November. The military situation remained very fragile, with ceasefire violations and several fatalities in July. There were also incidents in the western town of Mukacheko between police agents and members of the paramilitary group Right Sector that wounded several people. The militia combatants of Right Sector fight against rebel groups under the umbrella of Ukraine. (The New York Times, El País, Reuters, RFE/RL, 01-22/07/15)
IRAN: After 20 months of negotiations, Tehran and the G5+1 powers reach an agreement on the Iranian nuclear programme
Las negociaciones iniciadas en noviembre de 2013 y que definieron el llamado Plan de Acción Conjunto desembocan finalmente en un acuerdo final sobre el programa nuclear iraní el 14 de julio. Tras veinte meses de intensas gestiones diplomáticas, Teherán y los países del G5+1 (Reino Unido, Francia, China, Rusia, EEUU y Alemania) llegaron a un consenso que levanta las sanciones contra la república islámica a cambio de la imposición de estrictas limitaciones a su capacidad atómica, incluyendo la reducción en un 98% de sus reservas de uranio enriquecido y el desmantelamiento de dos tercios de las centrifugadoras en sus principales instalaciones. Estas medidas suponen que la eventual adquisición de una bomba nuclear por parte de Irán –que niega tener esta ambición– tardaría unos diez años. Según el acuerdo, inspectores de la ONU podrán solicitar el acceso a instalaciones militares iraníes, aunque su ingreso no será inmediato y deberá ser aprobado por una comisión conjunta. En uno de los puntos más complejos en las últimas horas de negociación –y que fue considerado como una de las principales concesiones de Washington–, el pacto también da luz verde al levantamiento del embargo de armas de la ONU sobre Irán, que podrá comprar y vender armas convencionales en un plazo de cinco años. Una semana después del anuncio, el acuerdo recibió el apoyo del Consejo de Seguridad de la ONU, en una votación unánime. Cabe destacar que las conversaciones entre Irán y el G5+1 se extendieron más allá del plazo límite programado inicialmente para el 30 de junio, permitiendo así sortear algunos obstáculos de la negociación. El presidente de EEUU, Barack Obama, celebró el acuerdo y subrayó que no estaba basado en la confianza, sino en la verificación. El Congreso estadounidense tiene un plazo de 60 días para ratificar el pacto. La oposición republicana ha anunciado que pretende bloquear el acuerdo, pero Obama ha advertido que está dispuesto a utilizar el veto presidencial. En Irán, el presidente Hassan Rouhani también estaba trabajando para asegurar el apoyo doméstico al acuerdo, que debe ser aprobado por el Parlamento y por el líder supremo. La diplomacia iraní también apostó por buscar apoyos al pacto en la región. En un mensaje a sus vecinos árabes con motivo de la festividad del Eidr al-Fitr, al final del Ramadán, el ministro de Exteriores iraní, Javad Zarif, destacó que el acuerdo constituye una oportunidad para una mayor cooperación regional e internacional. Paralelamente, el Gobierno de EEUU intentó reducir los recelos de sus aliados en Oriente Medio. El secretario de Defensa, Ashton Carter, viajó a Arabia Saudita y a Israel, donde aseveró que una acción militar sigue siendo una opción para frenar las ambiciones nucleares iraníes. El primer ministro israelí, Benjamin Netanyahu, calificó el acuerdo como un “error histórico” y acusó a las potencias de hacer demasiadas concesiones a Irán. (Foreign Policy, 30/06/15, 14, 15, 17/07/15; Reuters, 17, 22/07/15; BBC, 20, 22/07/15; Wall Street Journal, 13/07/15; ABC.com, 14/07/15)
MACEDONIA: The government and the opposition reach an agreement on the details for a transition government and early elections, defusing the crisis of recent months
The main political parties of Macedonia reached a new deal in mid-July facilitated by EU Expansion Commissioner Johannes Hahn and three other MPs that was aimed at responding to the political and social crisis of recent months in which the opposition had demanded the resignation of the government, staging mass protests to denounce massive spying and other abuses of power. The agreement, which builds on another reached in June that lies in tatters due to the divergences and delay in holding further meetings, provides for the resignation of the current government “in due time” to allow the establishment of a new transition government on 15 January 2016, one hundred days before the start of the new elections on 24 April. The interim government will be in charge of organising early elections and its prime minister will be appointed by the ruling VMRO-DPMNE party, but it will also include opposition representatives. According to the deal, on 20 October the social democratic opposition party SDSM, in consultation with the rest of the political parties, will appoint the new interior minister as well as the new minister of labour and the deputy ministers of finance, agriculture, the information society and administration. All will remain on the government transition team, in which they will have the same rights as the offices linked to the VMRO-DPMNE regarding organisation of the elections, including the right to veto. The agreement also plans for changes of staff and the promotion of various state agencies to improve governance in the country, including the anti-corruption commission and the election commission. In addition, the SDSM ended its boycott of Parliament and will return to it on 1 September. The agreement defused the crisis, though difficulties persisted. In late July, the SDSM accused the government of cancelling meetings about implementing reforms. (Reuters, Balkan Insight, RFE/RL, 01-24/07/15)
SUDAN: The armed group SPLM-N becomes the first African non-state actor to sign a commitment to protecting children in situations of armed conflict
On 29 June, the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North’s (SPLM-N) secretary general, Yasir Arman, and its head of political training, Orwa Hamdan Zeid, signed the Deed of Commitment for the Protection of Children against the Effects of Armed Conflict in Geneva. The text is an initiative promoted and developed by the organisation Geneva Call to allow armed groups that are not recognised as parties in international treaties to ratify agreements on the protection of children. The SPLM-N is the first African armed non-state group to sign the deed and the move was considered a breakthrough for the civilian population caught in the conflict between the armed group and the Sudanese government in the regions of Upper Nile and South Kordofan. This was not the first agreement that the SPLM-N has signed based on humanitarian standards and the Geneva Convention, as in 2013 it also signed the ban on anti-personnel mines. After signing the new agreement, Arman stressed the SPLM-N’s commitment to protect civilians, saying that the group is open to receiving a UN verification commission. The announcement joined the agreement reached in May, when the three main insurgent groups of Darfur (the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM), the Sudan Liberation Movement led by Abdel Wahid El Nur (SLM-AW) and the SLM under the command of Minni Minawi (SLM-MM)) announced their commitment to exerting efforts to protect the rights of children and to adhere to current international standards. They reconfirmed their commitment during a consultative meeting held 27 and 28 May in Stadtschlaining, Austria, at the Austrian Study Centre for Peace and Conflict Resolution. (Radio Dabanga 30/05/15, 01/07/15)
To subscribe to the monthly observatory or to receive information from the School for a Culture of Peace, https://llistes.uab.es
To unsubscribe, click here
For any comments or suggestions, please write to:
Tel. +34 93 586 88 42   |   http://escolapau.uab.cat   |   pr.conflictes.escolapau@uab.cat
Plaça del Coneixement - Edifici MRA (Mòdul Recerca A), Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, 08193 Bellaterra (Barcelona)
The FDLR continues to disarm and engage in talks with the Congolese government under the auspices of the Community of Sant’Egidio If you cannot see the image, please click here

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

With the support of: