AFGHANISTAN: As the conflict rages, the Taliban split and Islamic State acquires new prominence
US military sources announced the dismantling of what was probably al-Qaeda’s largest training camp. Located in the district of Shorabak in Kandahar province, the camp covered 77.7 km2. Losses of territory to the Taliban in some districts have been offset by gains in others. In Helmand, an offensive lasting several months pitted Afghan forces against the Taliban for control of the districts of Marjah and Nad-e-Ali, where over 200 Taliban and 85 soldiers were killed, according to the provincial government. In Kunduz, Afghan forces recovered a base in the district of Dasht-e-Archi, but lost a district in the province of Badakhshan. Government forces confirmed that alongside the Taliban, over 1,300 foreign insurgents (Pakistanis, Tajiks, Uyghurs and others) participated in the battle of Kunduz. Furthermore, in Nangarhar, where there is a group loyal to Islamic State, over 30 insurgents were killed in drone strikes. The local provincial government has stated that around 200 university students there are linked to Islamist groups. In fact, Islamic State banners were waved during an anti-government demonstration. In Zabul, Islamic State executed seven members of the Hazara (Shia) ethnic group that it abducted in September. Among them were three women, the first to be victims of beheading. Their families carried their bodies to Kabul, where they were joined by thousands of people (20,000 according to some media outlets) in one of the largest protests ever seen in the capital. The demonstrators tried to enter the presidential palace, but were repelled by police gunfire. However, kidnappings of Hazara are common. Thirty-one Hazara were abducted in February and this month, after the demonstration in Kabul, 20 were kidnapped, once again in Zabul. Islamic State has been increasing its influence, partially thanks to clashes with the Taliban. In Zabul, Mullah Rasool Akhund was chosen to be leader of a Taliban faction opposed to the faction led by Mullah Akhtar Mansoor. This Taliban faction is fighting alongside Islamic State (composed mainly of members of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan). As a result of this division, a well known leader of the new group, Mullah Mansoor Dadullah, was assassinated by a Taliban loyal to Akhtar Mansoor. Concerning the reconciliation process with the government, Akhtar Mansoor’s group appointed a Taliban veteran that has participated in various rounds of talks, Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanekzai, to be spokesman of the political bureau of Qatar. However, the Afghan government is reluctant to return to dialogue. Meanwhile, in the Taliban-controlled province of Ghor, a woman was sentenced to be stoned by a tribal court. (The Washington Post, 31/10/15, 08/11/15; Al Jazeera, 4/11/15;ToloNews, 05-24/11/15; The New York Times, 25/11/15)
CHAD: Faced with escalating violence by Boko Haram, the government declares a state of emergency
On 9 November, the government proclaimed a state of emergency in the Lake Chad region, which was extended by Parliament for four months (until 22 March 2016) on 19 November, the day after a new suicide attack was committed by two women who blew themselves up, killing themselves and two other people and injuring 14 in the Chadian village of Ngouboua. On 1 November, 11 civilians died in the same region, this time at the Bougouma military base during another suicide attack that killed two members of Boko Haram and wounded a third. On 3 November, according to military sources, another attack was committed that killed 11 Boko Haram combatants. The declaration of this state of emergency bans the movement of people and vehicles at locations and times to be set soon and orders the registration of homes 24 hours per day, among other prerogatives. In recent months, Boko Haram has multiplied offensives and suicide attacks in villages around the lake, located a few kilometres from the Nigerian border. The most serious attack took place on 10 October, with a triple suicide bombing committed in the prefecture of Baga Sola that claimed 41 people’s lives and wounded another 48. In this regard, on 20 November the heads of state of the Sahel, known as the G5 (Burkina Faso, Chad, Niger, Mali and Mauritania) met in N’Djamena and announced the creation of a joint regional military force to combat the actions of the armed groups. They also announced the creation of a regional military school in Mauritania, a regional airline, the construction of a railway linking all five countries and the abolition of visas among them. (Jeune Afrique, 01, 08-10, 19 and 20/11/15)
EGYPT (SINAI): The bombing of a plane travelling from Sinai to Russia claims 224 lives in an attack claimed by the armed group ISIS
A bomb attack against a Russian plane that was travelling from Sharm el-Sheikh, in Sinai, to Moscow killed 224 people on 31 October. The action was claimed by the armed group Sinai Province, a branch of ISIS in the region known as Ansar Beit al-Maqdis (ABM) before pledging allegiance to Islamic State in late 2014. According to the group, the attack was a response to Russia’s campaign against ISIS in Syria. At first, both the Egyptian and Russian authorities denied the possibility of an attack, but following the attacks in Paris on 13 November, also claimed by ISIS, the government of Vladimir Putin acknowledged that it was an attack and announced harsh punishment for those responsible. In this context, Moscow intensified its air strikes against ISIS positions in Syria, where Russia has become actively involved in supporting the regime of Bashar Assad. In late November, an attack attributable to Sinai Province killed four other people in the provincial capital of Sinai, al-Arish. Militiamen attacked a hotel where judges who had participated in monitoring the second round of the parliamentary elections in the country were staying. Also during the month, Ashraf Gharabli, a leader of Sinai Province, was reportedly killed in a shootout in Cairo. At least 20 people were also reportedly shot dead, allegedly while trying to enter Israel from the vicinity of Rafah. Media outlets reported that they were African immigrants and that at least five of them, of Sudanese origin, had been shot dead by Egyptian security forces. (BBC, 09, 23, 24/11/15; The Guardian, 02, 05, 17, 24/11/15)
FRANCE: ISIS claims responsibility for a series of attacks in Paris that kill 130 people and the French government responds by stepping up attacks against the group in Syria
A string of shootings and suicide attacks in Paris caused the deaths of 130 people and wounded over 350 in an offensive claimed by the armed group Islamic State (ISIS) in retaliation for France’s participation in the air campaign against ISIS in Syria and Iraq. The coordinated attacks took place on the night of 13 November near the Stade de France stadium, where a match was underway that was attended by French President François Hollande, in the Bataclan concert venue and in restaurants and bars in Paris. Seven assailants died in the attacks, while an eighth member, identified as Salah Abdeslam, remained missing. The French government considered the attacks an act of war, declared a state of emergency for three months and imposed border controls to try to prevent the perpetrators from escaping. Investigations into the events spread to Belgium. Days after the attacks, the French security forces stormed a flat in Sant Denis that left three people dead, including the presumed mastermind behind the attacks, Abdelhamid Abaaoud. Meanwhile, French forces intensified their air strikes against ISIS positions in Syria, especially around Raqqa, a stronghold of the armed group. Combined with the bombing of a Russian plane in Sinai and the attacks in Lebanon, the ISIS attacks in France were considered evidence of the group’s determination to act globally, since thus far it has focused its strategy on controlling territory in Iraq and Syria. Other analysts opined that the attacks aimed to revitalise the group following its defeats on the ground, especially after the loss of Sinjar, in Iraq, to Kurdish forces. ISIS also threatened to attack the United States, Russia and Saudi Arabia. After formally requesting EU assistance for France, Hollande began a tour of several countries to try to strengthen the international coalition against ISIS. At the end of the month, Brussels (Belgium) was placed on maximum alert after the threat of attack was considered imminent. (Le Monde, The Guardian, 13-16/11/15; L’Orient Le Jour, 17/11/15; Reuters, 22/11/15)
LEBANON: A double suicide attack claimed by ISIS kills 41 people in Beirut in the bloodiest attack in the Lebanese capital in 2015
At least 43 people were killed and over 200 were injured in a double suicide attack on 12 November in the Burj al-Barajneh district of Beirut, a Shia-majority suburb considered a stronghold of Hezbollah. One of the three suicide assailants (identified as two Palestinians and one Syrian) detonated the explosives near a Shia mosque and the second blew his up at a nearby bakery, while the third died without managing to set off his charge. The armed group Islamic State (ISIS) claimed responsibility for the attack, the bloodiest in the Lebanese capital in 2015. After the attacks, the authorities arrested around 20 people and seized 330 kilos of explosives in Tripoli and other areas. Lebanon has suffered the effects of the war in neighbouring Syria. Hezbollah has been directly involved in supporting the regime of Bashar Assad and has sometimes faced off with ISIS militiamen. Lebanese Prime Minister Tammam Salam called for unity after the attacks and stressed that the return to political stability in the country would help to lessen the risk of terrorist attacks. The parliamentary session to select a president failed once again in November due to a lack of quorum. The office has been vacant since April 2014. The tenth and eleventh sessions of the national dialogue were also held, which discussed the subject of security but made no headway in resolving the institutional crisis. Local media outlets reported that after the attacks, the leader of Hezbollah proposed a formula to resolve the presidential crisis, which would include a global commitment to the figure of the new leader, the formation of a new government and the approval of a new election law. (BBC, 13/11/15; The Guardian, 16/11/15; Orient Le Jour, 17, 19, 21, 25, 26/11/15)
MALI: A new jihadist attack in the capital shows the persistence of instability in the country
On 20 November, the country was rocked again by fresh attacks committed by jihadist groups, this time in the capital, Bamako. The Radisson Blu hotel was stormed by commandos who at first held around 170 people of different nationalities hostage. At first the jihadist group Al-Mourabitoun, led by the Algerian Mokhtar Belmokhtar, said that it had carried out the attack in collaboration with al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), though later another jihadist group, Macina Liberation Front, also claimed responsibility. The capture of the hotel ended with the intervention of Malian forces, which were accompanied by French and US special forces. Most of the people held hostage were released, while according to data provided by the Malian government the final death toll reached 27, including two of the jihadists, although other sources cited 19 fatalities. The Malian government declared a 10-day state of emergency due to the escape of some of the jihadists, who are presumed to still be in the capital. Furthermore, on 24 November, MINUSMA suffered a new attack in the north of the country that caused the death of a civilian member of the mission. MINUSMA also reported the death of a French soldier who had been wounded in October. OCHA has condemned the attacks suffered by humanitarian organisations in the northern region, which have restricted humanitarian aid from reaching local populations. (Reuters, 18/11/15; Deutsche Welle, 20/11/15; News 24 Wire, Al Jazeera, 21/11/15; Africa France 24, 23/11/15; AFP, 25/11/15)
TUNISIA: The state of emergency in the country is restored after a bomb attack against the presidential guard kills over a dozen people
President Beji Caid Essebsi declared a state of emergency in Tunisia after a new attack in the capital in late November. The bomb attack targeted a presidential guard bus as it travelled through a central part of the city, killing at least 13 people and wounding around 20. The armed group ISIS claimed responsibility, saying it was a suicide attack carried out by a militant identified as Abu Abdullah al-Tunisi. The authorities ordered the border with Libya closed for 15 days and announced that they would dedicate 6,000 security force members to confront the threat of Tunisian militants returning from Syria. In October, the government had lifted the state of emergency imposed after the attack on the tourist resort in the coastal city of Sousse that claimed 38 lives in June. Previously, the country had suffered another attack by armed militants at the Bardo Museum, which claimed 21 lives in March. Notably, a week before the attack against the presidential guard, the Tunisian government announced the dismantling of a network aiming to attack security and political forces and historical sites. Moreover, in early November, Jund al-Khilafa, an armed group allegedly allied with the ISIS, claimed responsibility for the murder of a 16-year-old in the southern area of Jebel Mghila after accusing him of being an informant for the security forces. (The Guardian, Le Monde, al-Jazeera, 25, 26/11/15)
CAR: The authorities agree a new electoral timetable on the eve of the historic visit of Pope Francis despite the situation of insecurity
On 9 November, the National Election Authority (ANE) proposed a new electoral timetable setting 13 December for holding a constitutional referendum, followed by the first round of the presidential and legislative elections on 27 December. The second round is planned for 31 January 2016. The referendum to ratify the new Constitution was approved by the National Transition Council (CNT) on 30 August, which provides for a two-term limit to the presidency. After this decision, the ECCAS heads of state summit held in Libreville (Gabon) agreed to extend the transition period in the country from 31 December to 31 March 2016, according to ECCAS Secretary General Ahmad Allam-Mi. The ECCAS leaders decided to provide financial support to cover the budget for the upcoming elections, as Bangui is 3.68 million USD short in organising them. Moreover, a MINUSCA official speaking anonymously reported that five women, three of them under 18 years of age, have been raped by UN peacekeepers of the mission and that two of them are pregnant as a result of the situation, which lasted several months. The official added that a mission team would travel to Bambari to gather information about the case. The visit of Pope Francis to the country at the end of his tour of Africa, which has taken him to Kenya and Uganda, prompted an appeal by the former coalition Séléka for the people to show their hospitality and demonstrate that the problems facing the country have no religious origin. The document signed by the general political coordinator of the Front Populaire pour la Rénaissance de la Centrafrique (FPRC), Moustapha Saboune, underlined the need to promote dialogue between the different social and political actors to strengthen governance in the country. Pope Francis travelled to the country on 29 November in an apostolic visit and met with religious leaders, political authorities and the diplomatic corps, despite the situation of insecurity and violence. Furthermore, according to a UN report examined exclusively by Reuters, various people accused of witchcraft were captured, set on fire and burned alive by anti-balaka groups in various parts of the country between December 2014 and early 2015. These cases of torture were ordered by militia leaders that use witchcraft as a way to intimidate, extort money and exercise authority in lawless areas. The report contains testimonies of 13 cases that have occurred in the Nana-Bamberé prefecture and cite three anti-balaka leaders. To avoid being tortured or burned alive, the accused were extorted by the anti-balaka groups and had to pay between 20,000 and 50,000 CFA (from 30 to 75 euros). Belief in witchcraft is deeply rooted in the country and the absence of state authority creates a favourable environment for implementing any type of popular justice instrumentalised by the anti-balaka militias. In mid-September, 17 cases of sexual exploitation were reported by MINUSCA. The UN Secretary-General, who replaced the head of MINUSCA in August and later began to suspend the pay of peacekeepers implicated in the exactions, has condemned the events. The UN has promised to increase the peacekeepers in the country to 1,140 to deal with possible new situations of violence during the election period, and to deploy drones in Bangui. Senegal, Egypt and Mauritania have pledged to send additional military and police contingents to reinforce the 12,000 members of MINUSCA. (Jeune Afrique, 09, 12, 16, 19 and 26/11/15; Xinhua, 26/11/15)
CHINA (XINJIANG): HRW calls for an independent investigation after 28 people are killed in a counterinsurgency operation
The Chinese government stated that 28 people were killed in a police and military operation launched after the attack on a coal mine in mid-September that claimed 16 people’s lives, according to official sources. However, some media outlets maintain that over 50 people died and scores more were wounded in the attack, which took place in Aksu prefecture. Beijing indicated that the operation to capture those allegedly responsible for the attack was extended for virtually two months and led to the dismantling of a terrorist cell under the command of a foreign extremist group. According to some sources, the Chinese security forces had arrested over 1,000 people and had forced the civilian population to participate in the operation. The government acknowledged the participation of some civilians in efforts to search for the fugitives, though it said they were volunteers. Media outlets like Radio Free Asia reported that most of those killed during the operation were children. In this regard, the organisation Human Rights Watch urged the Chinese authorities to conduct an independent investigation into the counterinsurgency operation and allow neutral observers access to the region. (Radio Free Asia, 17, 20 and 24/11/15; BBC and ABC News, 19/11/15; The New York Times, 20/11/15)
CONGO – BRAZZAVILLE: President Denis Sassou-Nguesso proclaims a new Constitution, which the opposition rejects
President Denis Sassou-Nguesso proclaimed a new Constitution on 6 November after a constitutional referendum held on 25 October was approved with 92.96% of the vote and 72.44% turnout, according to the official results announced by Minister of the Interior Raymond Mboulou on 27 October. The Constitution extended the age limit to be president and extended term limits from two to three, allowing incumbent President Denis Sassou-Nguesso to run for a new term of office after 30 years in power. The opposition boycotted the referendum and rejected the results, lowered turnout and called for civil disobedience to demonstrate rejection of the new Constitution, although the acts of disobedience were later called off. According to different AFP journalists in the two largest cities in the country, Brazzaville and Pointe-Noire, and information gathered in other major cities, the population does not appear to have participated to the extent claimed by the authorities. The US State Department has announced that the credibility of the constitutional referendum has been compromised by violence, intimidation and serious restrictions on basic freedoms, revealing many shortcomings. In light of this, the US has urged all parties to assemble peacefully to carry out a political dialogue open to all, which should lead to agreed electoral reforms. France has taken a more lukewarm stance, according to various analysts, and its position has evolved from one of “equilibrium” to one critical of the results, questioning the high turnout. The social and political opposition has staged several demonstrations to show its disagreement with the situation, led by the two main platforms of the anti-DSN front: the Front Républicain pour le respect de l’ordre constitutionnel et l’alternance démocratique (Frocad) and the Initiative pour la Démocracie au Congo (IDC). According to these platforms, the proclamation of the Constitution violates the 2002 Constitution and confirms the coup long denounced by these coalitions. Different opposition leaders have been placed under house arrest. (Jeune Afrique, 25, 27, 29 and 30/10/15; Jeune Afrique, 03, 06 and 08/11/15)
PAKISTAN: Nawaz Sharif reconfirms his power and continues with the National Action Plan
The ruling party won local elections in the provinces of Punjab and Sind. These elections, which had not been held in 10 years and were considered a referendum on the central authorities, bolstered Nawaz Sharif and his party (Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz, LMP-N). However, in the district of Jairpur (Sind), a clash between rival political groups killed 11 people and wounded 25 others. As part of the National Action Plan (NAP), the government has banned media coverage of 60 insurgent groups, plus 12 others banned by the United Nations, including Jamaat-ud-Dawa, Falah-i-Insaniya and Lashkar-e-Toiba. This measure was motivated by widespread media coverage of the activities of the insurgent groups’ humanitarian branches to aid victims of the earthquake in October. The government also declared its will to proceed with the full integration of Afghan refugees in its territory. At first, it said that it would not renew their residency permits (which expire on 31 December), although a government spokesman ensured that they would be gradually expelled within two years. There are currently around 1.5 million Afghan refugees, but is it estimated that another million are unregistered. Furthermore, the government suspended an agreement with the EU to repatriate illegal Pakistani emigrants convicted of terrorism. The interior minister denied that they would be admitted and accused the EU of deporting thousands of its citizens without hard evidence of their charges and nationality. To resolve the problem, the EU sent the commissioner of migration to Islamabad. Finally, the government agreed once again to accept the deported citizens. With regard to the prison population, the number of prisoners has increased exponentially after the operation in Karachi. For example, the central prison in the city has a capacity of 2,400 inmates, but is holding over 6,000. Pakistan continues to execute prisoners after lifting the moratorium on the death penalty, also as part of the NAP. Though there are no official data, according to Amnesty International, 300 executions may have taken place in 2015. Complaints from several human rights groups helped to postpone the execution of Abdul Basit, an inmate who became paraplegic after acquiring meningitis in prison. (The Washington Post, Voice of America, News 03/11/15; Dawn, 16-24/11/15; The New York Times, 23/11/15; The Express Tribune, 25/11/15)
SUDAN (DARFUR): Various human rights organisations denounce the systematic rape of women and minors as a weapon of war
Hostilities persisted in all regions of Darfur during the month, especially in attacks carried out by Janjaweed militias and the government paramilitary group Rapid Support Forces (RSF) against civilians. The British NGO Waging Peace has published research claiming that the practice of sexual violence in the Darfur conflict has become “rampant” among all armed groups, including the Sudanese Army. The NGO has alleged that the rapes are part of a deliberate strategy by all parties to the conflict, with the vast majority of them being gang rapes. In this regard, the NGO has denounced the total defencelessness experienced by women in the region, where neither justice, the security forces nor the UN mission in the country, UNAMID, have been able to protect the population. In this regard, the NGO Sudan Social Development Organisation (SUDO), based in the United Kingdom, has reported that 38 rapes of women were reported in October, including nine minors. In November, the local media outlet Radio Dabanga reported at least 24 rapes that took place in different attacks committed by the RSF paramilitary forces, the Sudanese Army and the Janjaweed militias in all regions of Darfur. These events occurred while UNAMID organised different working sessions in the region with local actors on measures to implement UN Security Council Resolution 1325 to address the Women, Peace and Security agenda. In these sessions, the importance of the effective participation of women in mechanisms of reconciliation, decision-making institutions and the peace process under way in Darfur was emphasised. The need to take measures to prevent violence against women was also addressed. (Radio Dabanga, 03-22/11/15)
SOUTH SUDAN: Some progress is made on commitments to the peace agreement in an extremely fragile atmosphere
Some positive steps were taken regarding the commitments planned in the August peace agreement during the month, while hostilities and ceasefire violations continued to be denounced by both sides amidst political tensions that still put national stability at risk. The most significant progress includes the agreement reached by all parties related to chapter 2 on security, which the government and the SPLA-IO rebels have agreed in terms of the partial demilitarisation of the capital, Juba, limiting the military capacity of the National Security Service to only 170 units, of which 50 will be members of the SPLA-IO. Also during the month, it was reported that different rebel forces present in the state of Western Equatoria that did not sign the peace agreement joined some of the signatory groups, thereby implying their adherence to the pacification process. On the one hand, the SPLA-IO has announced two agreements to merge with rebel groups: one with the Movement For National Salvation (REMNASA) and the other with the local militia known as “arrow boys”, led by Alfred Karaba Futiyo Onyang. Both armed groups have become part of the structure of the SPLA-IO and have pledged commitment to the peace agreement by announcing the cessation of hostilities. On the other hand, the government has also announced the signing of a peace agreement with the militia South Sudan National Liberation Movement (SSNLM). This agreement was achieved through the mediation of Bishop Edward Hiboro, of the local diocese, and led to a ceasefire enacted by the militia. However, a highly tense atmosphere persisted. Both sides continued to accuse each other of violating the agreed ceasefire and denounced different incidents, the most prominent of which took place in the south of Malakal, in the state of Upper Nile; in the village of Mundri and area of Jambo, in the state of Western Equatoria; in Leer county, in the state of Unity; and in the south of Rubkotna county, in the state of Unity. Moreover, the government’s unilateral declaration to create a federal formula with 28 states, made in early October, has continued to strain the peace agreement and generated great opposition in the country. Riek Machar, the leader of the SPLA-IO, has re-emphasised that the measure could derail the agreement unless it is revoked. Meanwhile and in response, a new armed group, the Tiger Faction New Forces (TFNF) has emerged in Upper Nile, stating its intention not to disarm until the formula of administrative division is cancelled, as it grants greater power to the Dinka ethnic group to which President Salva Kiir belongs. In the middle of the month, Parliament voted for the reform without achieving the two-thirds needed to pass it. (Sudan Tribune, 29, 31/10/15; 02, 15, 17, 19, 20/11/15; Radio Tamazuj, 02, 04, 12, 18/11/15)
TURKEY (SOUTHEAST): The AKP wins a majority in the parliamentary elections in a context of violence and the PKK gives up its unilateral ceasefire
The atmosphere of violence between the Turkish government and the Kurdish armed group PKK that began in late June continued alongside military and police operations in urban environments targeting armed militias linked to the PKK, with serious impacts on the civilian population. In this context of rising tension, parliamentary elections were held on 1 November. These elections had been called after the failure to form a coalition government following the elections in June and were preceded by serious acts of violence, like the attack in Ankara in October. The ruling party (AKP) won 317 of the 550 seats (compared to 258 in June) and 49.5% of the vote (40.8% in June), interpreted as a landslide victory in the media. The pro-Kurdish party dropped from 13.12% of the vote in June (80 seats) to 10.7% (59 seats), keeping its parliamentary representation, but losing a significant amount of votes. The HDP welcomed the high turnout, but complained that the conditions were not free or fair amidst a climate of violence and specific attacks against Kurdish targets. After the elections, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said in early November that military operations against the PKK would continue and that the period beginning was not one of dialogue. Deputy Prime Minister Yalçın Akdoğan said that the priority now was to stop attacks by the PKK and that certain important conditions would be required for anything more than this, like the total inaction of the PKK and its full withdrawal from Turkey. AKP spokesman Ömer Çelik stated that the peace process could restart if public order is guaranteed. Violence remained at high levels in November. Meanwhile, the HDP announced that in the next parliamentary session it will focus on defending a democratic Constitution based on its proposal from 2011, including a decentralised system and regional parliaments. With regard to the armed conflict, on 5 November the PKK announced the end of its unilateral ceasefire (declared on 10 October), citing the AKP’s belligerent policies and recent operations as the cause. Attacks by the PKK were launched in November, including an attack near the district of Silvan (Diyarbakir) on 10 November that wounded 19 soldiers. Turkey conducted air strikes and land attacks against the PKK both inside and outside Turkey and continued its recent practice of imposing curfews and launching military and police operations in urban centres and cities in the southeast (Silvan and Nusaybin, among many others) with serious impacts on the civilian population. The district of Silvan was especially affected, with a curfew in three neighbourhoods and a large-scale operation with combat helicopters and tanks starting on 3 November. According to the NGO IDH, 20,000 people have abandoned the Silvan area due to this activity and various civilians have died during the curfew and large-scale operation. According to the HDP, 258 civilians lost their lives in acts of violence between 7 June and 1 November, including 33 minors. (Hürriyet, Firat, AFP, Bianet, 01-26/11/15)
MYANMAR: The opposition party NLD, led by Aung San Suu Kyi, obtains an important victory in the general elections
General elections were held in Myanmar for the first time since a civilian government was established in the country in 2011. The main opposition party, the NLD, led by Aung San Suu Kyi, obtained a resounding victory, winning two-thirds of the disputed seats. A quarter (25%) of the total number of seats is reserved for unelected military representatives who wield the power to veto any constitutional change. The result allows the NLD to select the person to serve as president, but for the time being Aung San Suu Kyi will not be able to fill the office. The Constitution blocks anybody with foreign children from being president, ruling out Suu Kyi. As such, it is still unclear who the NLD’s candidate will be. Furthermore, there is a 130-day transition period until a new government is formed and the head of the NLD has expressed concern about what could happen during this long period of time. Different international governments have expressed satisfaction with the outcome of the elections and stressed that remarkable progress has been made in terms of electoral transparency and propriety, though some glaring shortcomings persist. (The Irrawaddy, BBC, 13/11/15)
NORTH KOREA – SOUTH KOREA: Both governments sign a framework agreement to resume and sustain high-level talks
The governments of North Korea and South Korea signed a framework agreement to resume and sustain high-level talks. The agreement details the issues to address in the talks and regulates their procedural aspects, but does not establish a specific meeting schedule. The meeting to sign this framework agreement, which took place in the village of Panmunjon (in the Demilitarised Zone), was the first between both countries since the belligerent escalation in August. Days before, South Korean President Park Geun-hye had declared her willingness to hold a summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un if some turning point was reached in solving the conflict over North Korea’s nuclear programme first and if Pyongyang demonstrated that it was sincere and proactive in the talks. According to some analysts, the agreement between both countries came at a time of some weakness in North Korea stemming from the trilateral summit held in Seoul in early November between South Korea, Japan and China (the first in three years) in which all three countries publicly expressed their firm opposition to the manufacture of nuclear bombs on the Korean Peninsula. The other aspect that may have caused concern in the North Korean government is the UN General Assembly’s imminent vote on a resolution condemning serious human rights violations in North Korea, urging the Security Council to refer the matter to the International Criminal Court. (CNN, 18/11/15; AFP, 20/11/15; AP, 13/11/15, International Business Times, 26/11/15)
PHILIPPINES (MINDANAO): The MILF meets with MNLF founder Nur Misuari
The MILF and MNLF have confirmed that some MILF representatives met with the founder of the MNLF and current leader of one of its factions, Nur Misuari, in mid-November in an undisclosed location in Sulu province. Nur Misuari is currently a fugitive from justice and has gone missing. Although the details of the meeting were not revealed, both sides recognised that some peace initiatives for the region were discussed and agreed to meet a second time. The government welcomed this meeting, considering that it helps rapprochement between the MILF and the MNLF and gives continuity and meaning to the Bangsamoro Coordination Forum, created in 2010 under the auspices of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation to discuss the differences between both groups and achieve better coordination and convergence between the parallel negotiations that Manila is conducting with the MILF and MNLF. Moreover, the leaders of the government and MILF negotiating teams issued a joint letter urging Congress to immediately approve the Basic Law for the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region (BLBAR), listing the advantages that passing it would bring to Mindanao and the Philippines as a whole and how it would strengthen the peace process. In this regard, in early November the MILF’s leaders met with the UN resident coordinator in the Philippines and requested the organisation’s support in issues related to disarming and demobilising the MILF. (CNN, 26/11/15; Manila Bulletin, 01 and 25/11/15)
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