AFGHANISTAN: Security worsens in an atypical winter season
This winter, the open fronts have continued to increase. Military operations are under way in the provinces of Nangarhar, Helmand, Wardak, Kandahar, Kunduz and Baghlan. The battle in Helmand province has intensified in such a way that the United States has decided to send a battalion of soldiers in late February to help the Afghan Armed Forces. Afghan troops control the government buildings and two Army bases, while the Taliban have taken the city centre and rural areas. The land front has been strengthened by air strikes conducted by both Afghan and US forces. In Nangarhar, air and drone strikes have undermined the forces of ISIS (Islamic State-Khorasan Province) and the Afghan Army also deployed a substantial amount of soldiers. According to government sources, 28 towns that were under ISIS control were regained. In Dand-e-Ghori (Baghlan), the government signed a non-aggression pact with the Taliban in 2015. However, local sources have stated that the Taliban used it to rearm and entrench themselves in the area. The battle to recapture the city was more difficult because the insurgents had spread anti-personnel mines throughout the area. According to the United Nations, 500,000 km2 of Afghan territory are covered with mines, which have caused a rise in civilian victims. In Baghlan, insurgents managed to blow up electricity pylons, cutting power to Kabul for several days. Meanwhile, the UN mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) published its 2015 security report, which confirms the increase in violence in previous years. According to the report, 3,545 people were killed and 7,457 were injured in operations led by the Taliban (62%) and the Afghan Armed Forces (14%), as well as in violence not attributed to any side (17%). Women and children are the most vulnerable victims of this violence. Human Rights Watch warned that the Taliban are recruiting children around six years old and sending them into battle when they are between 13 and 16. Meanwhile, both the United States and NATO demonstrated their long-term support. The United States has announced an increase in financial aid for 2017, amounting to $3.4 billion USD. According to Transparency International, the National Unity Government (NUG) has lost billions of dollars in the fight against corruption with no results to show for it. In fact, the NUG has still not agreed to appoint a mayor for Kabul, sign the electoral reforms (which also endanger the holding of parliamentary and local elections on 15 October 2016), appoint a director for the High Peace Council (which has cost it the withdrawal of funds from USAID and the United Kingdom) or appoint 50,000 government posts nationwide. Despite the situation, the Quadrilateral Coordination Group (United States, China, Pakistan and Afghanistan) ended the four rounds of meetings in which they agreed on the road map to resume the peace talks with the Taliban. Various countries have joined this group in asking the Taliban to sit down and negotiate with the Afghan government, including Russia. This meeting is planned for early March. (ToloNews, 01-25/02/16; The New York Times, 02, 07/02/16; The Guardian, 08/02/16)
CHAD: The climate of political and social mobilisation rises ahead of the presidential election next 10 April
On 9 February, the ruling party, the Mouvement Patriotique du Salut (MPS), held an extraordinary congress to make the unsurprising announcement that Idriss Déby Itno would run in the presidential election on 10 April. Déby has been president since 1990, when he seized power by force, ousting Hissène Habré. Déby has announced that if he is re-elected, he promises to limit the number of presidential terms and to make the country a federal state. In the days prior, two demonstrations were suppressed by force in the capital, N’Djamena, with around 20 students arrested. Two civil society organisations, Trop C’est Trop (Enough Is Enough) and Iyina (We’re Tired) have demanded the immediate release of the detained youths. Meanwhile, the call to shut down (operation “ville morte”) all activity in the country on 24 February was a great success, according to opposition sources. The call was made by the opposition platform Ça Suffit (That’s Enough), composed of around 20 civil society associations, including the Ligue Tchadienne des Droits de l’Homme and the Unions des Syndicats du Tchad. Both in N’Djamena and in Moundou, the second-largest city in the country, activity was shut down completely. This operation “ville morte” is part of an overall context of protest against the power of Idriss Déby, triggered by part of the students who have been holding various demonstrations across the country since 15 February to protest the rape of the Chadian teenager Zouhoura by a group of sons of some senior officials, an attack that even Déby was forced to condemn. A young man was killed in N’Djamena when the police violently broke up a demonstration. Two students were killed and five others were injured as a result of the Chadian Army and police’s use of force in the city of Faya Largeau, in the far north of the country. (Jeune Afrique, 08, 09, 22, 24/02/16)
LIBYA: The UN condemns multiple cases of human rights abuse in the country while reports intensify about more active international intervention to curb ISIS
A new UN report warns of multiple crimes and human rights violations committed in the country and requests urgent measures to address the total impunity that persists with regard to these abuses. The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights stressed that the reports indicate that all the parties to the conflict in Libya are responsible for war crimes, including summary executions of detained or abducted persons, indiscriminate attacks in civilian areas, torture, arbitrary arrests, disappearances and violence against women, especially activists. Meanwhile, reports persisted during the month about more active international intervention in Libya in order to curb the spread of ISIS. According to US government sources cited by the media, ISIS may have expanded its contingent in the North African country from 2,000-3,000 to 5,000 fighters. Countries like France and the United Kingdom ruled out sending combat troops, although London did not discard the possibility of providing another type of assistance to a new consensus government in Libya, including by delivering intelligence or sending troops to train local forces, an effort in which Italy would also participate. Meanwhile, the United States launched an attack on ISIS targets in Libya that caused the deaths of between 40 and 50 people. Serbia announced that two of its citizens who had been kidnapped by ISIS in November were among the fatalities. The attack in the western city of Sabratha had targeted a senior Tunisian leader who had been involved in the attacks in Tunisia in 2015. In February, efforts to set up a unity government continued. Amidst some disagreements, the Presidential Council unveiled an 18-member cabinet, including three women, but the ratification vote by the Tobruk Parliament was postponed and had still not taken place by late February. Finally, two months after the UN called to collect $166 million USD to provide humanitarian aid to 1.3 million people in Libya, only 1% of the required funds had been received. (The Guardian, 02, 15/02/16; UN News, 25/02/16; Reuters, 19, 20/02/16; Le Monde, 19/02/16; BBC, 11/02/16; Jeune Afrique, 05/02/16; All Africa, 02/02/16)
MALI: Attacks by jihadist armed groups increase against domestic and foreign security forces
Attacks by jihadist armed groups against the Malian security forces and the UN mission in the country (MINUSMA) have risen considerably, reporting at least nine actions in the month of February. Two incidents were reported on 28 January, one in Timbuktu and the other south of Gao, which claimed the lives of two Malian soldiers. On 5 February, two other attacks took place in Timbuktu, for which al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb claimed responsibility. One was a car bomb attack on a MINUSMA base and the other targeted a Malian Army checkpoint that killed four assailants and one soldier. In another incident reported on 9 February, three Malian soldiers were killed and two were injured when their vehicle passed over a land mine in Mondoro, Mopti, near the border with Burkina Faso, although no group claimed responsibility for it. On 12 February, an attack on the MINUSMA base in Kidal claimed by the armed group Ansar Dine killed seven Guinean soldiers and wounded around 30 people. In a separate incident on the same day, three Malian soldiers were killed and two more were wounded in an ambush on a military convoy near Timbuktu. Finally, on 24 February, another anonymous attack on Malian forces in Lere killed at least four soldiers, wounded three and led to the abduction of two more. Meanwhile, the German Parliament has approved plans to boost the number of troops that the country has deployed in Mali through MINUSMA. The German contingent has consisted of 14 troops to date and will now expand to 650, of which 400 will be deployed in June. The decision was backed by 502 MPs, with 72 voting in opposition on 28 January. (Jeune Afrique, 28-29/01/16; El País, Al Jazeera, 05/02/16; Reuters, 06/02/16; BBC, 09, 13/02/16; Maliactu, 16/02/16; RFI, 17/02/16; Malijet, 24/02/16)
NIGERIA (BOKO HARAM): Boko Haram keeps up its offensive in the Lake Chad region in response to the actions of the MNJTF
The wave of attacks produced by Boko Haram (BH) in Nigeria, killing 150 people in January, and in Cameroon, where at least 88 people lost their lives, persisted in February. On 30 January, BH perpetrated a massacre in the village of Dalori, Borno State, which claimed 85 lives. The next day, two suicide attacks were reported on the Chadian side of the Lake Chad region that killed three people and wounded 56. Three days later, a Nigerian Air Force drone destroyed a base belonging to the jihadist organisation in Sambisa forest. On 9 February, a BH commando unit seized the village of Kwanar Duts for two hours, killing 23 people and wounding 12 more. The following day, a double suicide attack on a funeral in the village of Nguetchéwé, in northern Cameroon, killed eight people and wounded around 30. That same day, BH attacked the refugee camp in Dikwa, killing 67 people and wounding around 78. The suicide attack was carried out by two of three youths who infiltrated the camp, the third of which was unable to blow herself up. The Nigerian Army foiled a second attack in the same camp at the end of the month, killing 26 BH insurgents. A soldier and a member of the civilian self-defence militias were also killed and four people were wounded. Between 12 and 13 February, BH attacked two villages in Borno, Kachifa and Yakshari, claiming a total of 30 lives. Between 11 and 14 February, a cross-border operation conducted by Cameroonian special forces in the Nigerian village of Goshi killed 162 BH militiamen and led to the release of 100 people held by the Islamist group. Four mine factories were also dismantled. A few days later, on 19 February, a double suicide attack claimed the lives of 17 people in a market in the town of Mora, in northern Cameroon. That same day, the Nigerian Army reported the rescue of 195 people captured by BH and asserted that it had killed an undetermined number of militiamen. On 23 February, 23 BH fighters were reported killed and 150 people were rescued in another military operation against BH in Talala and Kumshe. Amidst this wave of attacks, religious leaders under the auspices of the Northern Inter Faith and Religious Organisations of Nigeria (NIFROM) urged the federal government to expand the presidential amnesty programme granted to militants in the Niger Delta to include members of Boko Haram. On the other hand, the donor conference held by representatives of the international community in the headquarters of the African Union collected a total of $250 million USD to fund the MNJTF’s operations against BH, according to Smail Chergui, the AU Commissioner for Peace and Security. Finally, on 23 February, a violent episode involving militias linked to Fula herdsmen in four communities of Agatu was reported in Benue State. The number of casualties was unclear, but over 100 people may have been killed. (Leadership, 01, 25/02/16; BBC, 01/02/16; El País, 02/02/16; This Day, 15, 22/02/16; The Guardian, 25/02/16; Vanguard, 24-25/02/16)
PHILIPPINES (MINDANAO): Over 30 BIFF fighters are killed in a counterinsurgency operation
The Philippine Armed Forces declared that over 30 fighters belonging to the BIFF, a MILF splinter group opposed to the peace process, were killed in counterinsurgency operations begun by the government after the group attacked a military detachment in the province of Maguindanao on 5 February. The Philippine Army also declared that more than 100 explosive devices belonging to the group were seized as part of these operations. One MILF combatant was killed and three more were wounded in a clash between the MILF and the Philippine Armed Forces in the province of Maguindanao. The MILF declared that soldiers who were carrying out a special operation against the BIFF penetrated a MILF camp without the necessary coordination or previous notice. The group also declared that this armed incident was not related in any way to the rise in tension with the government caused by the delays and problems in passing the Bangsamoro Basic Law. Both parties stated that the Coordination Committee on the Cessation of Hostilities (CCCH) and the Ad Hoc Joint Action Group (AHJAG) were investigating the armed incident. (Inquirer, 10 and 11/02/16; Manila Bulletin, 23/02/16)
TURKEY (SOUTHEAST): The Turkish Army extends its siege operations to more urban centres and a group close to the PKK claims responsibility for a suicide attack in Ankara
The conflict is deteriorating in Turkey with a serious impact on the Kurdish civilian population in urban centres in the southeast. The government announced the end of the 59-day operation in the district of Cizre, while in February it expanded military operations into other districts, like Idil (Sirnak province) and Nusaybin (Mardin province). The expansion of the operations forcibly displaced thousands of civilians, who joined the movements of people since the escalation in December, which had been preceded by violence since the war resumed in late July. According to figures kept by the Turkish Army, 612 members of the PKK and 29 soldiers and police officers were killed in Cizre between mid-December and 11 February. However, these figures remain controversial in a context of information and psychological warfare in which the Turkish Army and government defend an “antiterrorism campaign” and the Kurdish movement denounces “massacres against civilians” and calls for “resistance to those massacres”. Local and international human rights organisations have condemned the serious impact on civilians and the lack of proportion of the military operations in the southeast. The deaths of scores of people (around 110, according to Kurdish politicians) trapped in two basements in Cizre between late January and February caused particular consternation and controversy. The Kurdish movement denounced the security forces’ killings and refusal to provide medical attention, as well as attempts to avoid autopsies and the burning of houses to conceal evidence. The pro-Kurdish party HDP has warned the government that the war crimes will not be forgotten. Meanwhile, the government stated that the victims trapped in the basements were PKK members and announced that it would continue its operations until the group is destroyed. Organisations like HRW have indicated the difficulties in ascertaining the truth about the violence in the southeast. The new war scenario also included the Turkish Army’s large-scale bombing of PKK positions, also in northern Iraq. Meanwhile, the most serious incidents included a suicide attack with a car bomb against a military bus in the capital, Ankara. The attack killed 29 people, 20 of whom were high-ranking officers, and wounded 61 in the city centre close to important military facilities. The Kurdish armed group TAK claimed responsibility for the attack. The TAK is considered to fall under the umbrella of the PKK, thereby helping the PKK to avoid appearing responsible for serious attacks. The TAK described its car bomb attack as an act of retaliation for the operations in the southeast. The Turkish government blamed the attack on the Kurdish PKK-linked guerrilla group YPG amidst the worsening impact of the Syrian crisis and the Kurdish issue in Turkey and vice-versa, as Turkey bombarded the YPG in Syria. The PKK called for “resistance”, while the government announced a new action plan related to the situation in the Kurdish region of Turkey that rules out any dialogue with the PKK and the Kurdish movement and focuses on “public order” and economic issues. (Hürriyet, Firat, AFP, Reuters, 1-25/02/16)
CAR: A climate of calm prevails during the presidential and legislative elections, handing victory to Touadéra
The runoff round of the presidential election and the first round of the legislative elections took place on 14 February in a calm atmosphere and with a lower turnout than the different political forces and the transition government expected, according to different sources. The first round of the legislative elections was cancelled last 30 December after many irregularities were detected. Some of these irregularities also affected the development of the presidential election, but were not determinative enough to modify the provisional results. The National Electoral Authority (ANE) announced the official results on 20 February, which handed victory to Faustin-Archange Touadéra, with 62.71% of the vote, over his rival Anicet-Georges Dologuélé, who won 37.29%. Dologuélé, who had complained of mass fraud organised by his opponent Touadéra over the course of the day of the vote, acknowledged his defeat and declared that he would not file an appeal before the Constitutional Court. After the first round of the legislative elections, the ANE declared that 45 of the 140 districts had elected an MP, although the figures are provisional and must be validated by the Court. Saturnin Ndomby, the spokesman for Dologuélé’s party, Union pour le Renouveau Centrafricain (URCA), announced that he had received information about many cases of intimidation by the heads of armed militias near the polling stations and centres to influence the vote. He also indicated that ballot boxes were found in some neighbourhoods after partial results had been announced. The results are to be validated by the Constitutional Court in the days to come. After learning of the results, Touadéra, the last prime minister of former President François Bozizé, said without gloating that the people had spoken freely and transparently and that he would try to assume the challenge. Among other issues, Touadéra successfully conducted the inclusive political dialogue held in 2008. Meanwhile, new accusations emerged against MINUSCA peacekeepers, as four new cases of sexual aggression and abuse were allegedly committed by Congolese peacekeepers between 2014 and 2015. In this regard, starting on 25 February a battalion of soldiers from the DRC will be repatriated and replaced by a contingent from Mauritania. (RFI, 14 and 23/02/16; Jeune Afrique, 16, 17, 20, 21 and 22/02/16)
MOZAMBIQUE: The number of Mozambican refugees in Malawi rises to 6,000 due to insecurity and violence
UNHCR has reported that the number of Mozambican refugees in the village of Kapise, in Malawi, rose to 6,000 in February. According to Human Rights Watch, the forced displacements of people were caused by the start of the Mozambican Army’s operations in Tete province in October 2015 under the pretext of disarming the militias linked to the main opposition party, RENAMO. HRW has asserted that the government of Mozambique must investigate summary executions, alleged sexual abuse and mistreatment reported by the civilian population at the hands of the Mozambican Armed Forces in Tete province, which were the reasons for the forced displacement. In February, the government of President Filipe Nyusi resent a delegation to the refugee camp to evaluate the situation. The NGO Doctors Without Borders has also denounced the increase in internal displacement due to the intensification of the tension and violence in the areas of Tete, Sofala and Zambezia. New incidents continued to be reported in the country in February, such as the blocking of major roads in Sofala province and at least three attacks that killed four people in Gorongosa, Nhamapadza-Caia and Sofala (in Sofala, RENAMO murdered a FRELIMO official). Amidst this tense atmosphere, the peace talks remained broken because RENAMO leader Afonso Dhlakama refuses to meet with the government if it does not agree to grant self-government to six provinces, as he has demanded. Dhlakama has also called for mediation by Jacob Zuma and the Catholic Church as a precondition for meeting with President Filipe Nyusi. (Agencia de Informacao de Mocambique, 2, 4, 8-9, 11, 14, 16, 22/02/16; Médecins Sans Frontières, 17/02/16; ACNUR, 18/02/16; News24Wire, 18/02/16; Human Rights Watch, 22/02/16)
MYANMAR: Clashes intensify between the insurgent organisations TNLA and RCSS/SSA-S
Armed clashes between the armed opposition groups TNLA and RCSS/SSA-S intensified severely in Shan State. The clashes that began in November increased in February, forcibly displacing over 4,000 civilians, in accordance with the figures reported by the UN agency OCHA. Most of the population has taken refuge in nearby towns. Meanwhile, the TNLA also reported that it had been targeted by helicopter attacks by the Burmese Armed Forces for several days, wounding several rebels. On several occasions, the TNLA has accused the RCSS/SSA-S of cooperating with the Burmese Army, something that the group has always denied. The Ta’ang armed group was excluded from the negotiations to sign the ceasefire agreement reached in 2015, but the San group RCSS/SSA-S did in fact sign it. Alongside the fighting, the UNFC, a coordinating body of armed ethnic groups, held a meeting in Thailand to define its position in the political negotiations with the new government headed by the NLD party, which won the most recent elections. The subjects addressed at the meeting included the issue of reforming the security sector and of disarming, demobilising and reintegrating the combatants, as well as the importance of designing an inclusive negotiating process. (The Irrawaddy, 11, 17 and 18/02/16)
SAUDI ARABIA/YEMEN: Pressure intensifies to block the supply of weapons to Saudi Arabia due to its armed actions in Yemen
In late February, the European Parliament passed a motion that calls on the EU to impose a weapons embargo on Saudi Arabia because of its military campaign in Yemen, which has killed many civilians. Previously, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon had firmly condemned the indiscriminate attacks of the coalition led by Riyadh in Yemeni territory and had demanded an end to the flows of weapons to parties that violate international humanitarian law. According to a report by a UN panel of experts that was revealed to the media, the attacks of the Saudi-led coalition have affected many civilian targets, including camps of internally displaced people, gatherings of civilians (including weddings), residential areas, buses and other civilian vehicles, medical centres, schools, markets, food stores and other elements of civilian infrastructure. Riyadh had announced the launch of a high-level committee to assess the incidents involving civilians and to develop mechanisms to prevent them, but various international human rights organisations stressed that the incidents must be investigated by an impartial international commission. Though the European Parliament’s motion is not binding, it increases pressure on EU countries that are some of the main suppliers of arms to Saudi Arabia, including the United Kingdom, Spain, France and Germany. The vote took place days after new information emerged about global weapons transfers that rank Saudi Arabia second among the main weapon-importing countries in the world. According to data from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), Saudi Arabia’s arms purchases rose by 275% between 2006-10 and 2011-15. Arms sales to the Middle East increased by 61% during the same period. (SIPRI, 22/02/16; The Guardian, 27/01/16 and 25/02/16; Reuters, 25/02/16)
SYRIA: A fragile cessation of hostilities is implemented after intense violence in the country
A cessation of hostilities in Syria began at midnight on Friday, 26 February in an initiative whose terms were defined by Russia and the United States and which was accepted by the regime of Bashar Assad and armed opposition groups. The United Nations backed the proposal shortly before it entered into force. Although some incidents were denounced in the hours that followed, overall the cessation of hostilities held up in late February. The truce, which in principle will last two weeks and may be renewed, excludes the armed groups ISIS and the al-Nusra Front, which could continue to be targeted by attacks. Syrian armed opposition groups feared that government forces would use this clause to continue its attacks on areas under rebel control. Various analysts have underscored the fragility of this agreement, which is less binding than a formal ceasefire agreement. In recent weeks, another truce agreed on during a meeting of the International Syria Support Group (ISSG) that was supposed to enter into force in the middle of the month never came to pass. Meanwhile, multiple acts of violence took place throughout February, including intense Russian air strikes in support of the Syrian regime in the provinces of Latakia and Aleppo (in Aleppo, the violence forcibly displaced around 50,000 civilians), two suicide attacks in Homs and Damascus perpetrated by ISIS that killed over 120 people and armed actions by Turkey against positions of the Kurdish militia YPG. The UN also condemned the deliberate destruction of hospital facilities in the country by government forces and ISIS. Meanwhile, rumours emerged during the month that Turkey and Saudi Arabia were considering the possibility of intervening on the ground in Syria. In this context, the cessation of hostilities was expected to facilitate the delivery of humanitarian aid and access to besieged areas, while simultaneously creating a more conducive environment for the next round of peace talks planned for 7 March in Geneva. The negotiations had been suspended on 3 February due to the disagreements between the parties amidst the regime’s continuous bombardment of rebel positions. (The Guardian, The New York Times, BBC, UN News, 01-29/02/16)
THAILAND: The government announces that the referendum on the new Constitution will be held on 31 July and the general elections will take place in 2017
Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwan announced that the referendum on the new Constitution will be held on 31 July and that the general elections will take place in 2017, even if the draft of the new Constitution is rejected in the referendum. Prawit Wongsuwan said that the government has a plan if this happens, though he did not reveal what it is. The deputy prime minister also encouraged voices critical of the government or of the current draft of the Constitution to send their comments and opinions to the Constitution Drafting Committee and announced that both the defence minister and the Thai Armed Forces had already sent it their considerations. Meanwhile, several political parties demonstrated their firm opposition to the current government’s proposal that the Constitution Drafting Committee prolong the special powers of the National Council for Peace and Order, even after the elections are held and the new government has taken power. According to the current military junta, the aim of this proposal is to guarantee that the return to democracy in the country does not involve or encourage conflicts that may put the unity of the country at risk or hinder the implementation of reforms. (Bangkok Post, 11 and 19/02/16)
UGANDA: Yoweri Museveni is re-elected president for a fifth term amidst accusations of fraud and abuse by the political opposition
In power for 30 years, Yoweri Museveni has been re-elected president of the country for a fifth term of office, as announced by the Electoral Commission after confirming his victory in the presidential election held on 18 February. Museveni carried 60.75% of the vote while his main rival, Kizza Besigye, won 35.37%. The candidate who came in third place, Amama Mbabazi, obtained 1.43% of the vote. Turnout stood at 63.5%. The political opposition has accused the Electoral Commission of being biased by hiding the fraud committed by the regime. Besigye’s party, the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC), has called for condemnation of the fraud committed and has demanded that the Electoral Commission reveal its true scope. Election observation missions from the Commonwealth and the EU have also questioned the impartiality of the Commission. According to the United States, the elections did not meet international standards. Museveni has pointed out that he does not need to heed criticism from anyone, that the Europeans are not sincere and that if he had manipulated the results, he would have won in Kampala. The capital has been the main stronghold of the opposition. The EU’s election mission has asked the Commission to publish the details of the results in each polling station in order to verify them. Meanwhile, opposition leader Kizza Besigye was arrested four times in one week, three of them after the day of the election on 18 February. Besigye’s last arrest took place on 22 February and since then he has been under house arrest. The leader was detained when he planned to file an appeal with the Electoral Commission to invalidate the election. A significant police presence was deployed in front of the FDC’s main headquarters and in front of the home of the third candidate, Amama Mbabazi. (Jeune Afrique, 20, 22/02/16; BBC, 20/02/16; New Vision, 26/02/16)
UKRAINE: The Ukrainian Army and pro-Russian forces accuse each other of breaching the ceasefire while the political crisis in Ukraine grows
After months of relative calm, alarms are mounting over escalating incidents of violence around the ceasefire. In February, the Ukrainian Army and the armed forces of the self-proclaimed people’s republics of Donetsk and Luhansk blamed each other for breaching the ceasefire. Some media outlets reported attacks with mortar fire and pistols, but without heavy weaponry, while others indicated that heavy weapons had been used. One of the most affected areas was Maryinka, a town under Ukrainian government control in the Donetsk region. In February, UNICEF warned of the impact of the war that began in April 2014 on minors, indicating that it is profoundly affecting the lives of 580,000 children in areas under rebel control and near the front lines. In addition, it stated that 215,000 children are displaced in the areas of conflict and condemned the fact that one out of every five schools has been destroyed or damaged in the conflict zone. The warnings about the resumption of the fighting, as well as the prolonged impact of the conflict, have come amidst a political crisis in Ukraine and a lack of progress in the peace process. In a context of political tension centred on the tempo of the reforms promised by the government, with accusations of chronic corruption, President Petro Poroshenko called for a government shakeup and the departure of the prime minister and attorney general. The attorney general stands accused of slowing down court cases of corruption. Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk finally obtained enough support for a motion of censure in Parliament with the backing of Yatsenyuk’s pro-EU People’s Front party and part of Petro Poroshenko’s bloc, in addition to the abstention of the Opposition Bloc, created by former members of ex-President Victor Yanukovich’s Party of Regions. However, the government lost its parliamentary majority after two of its partners left the government coalition (the parties Fatherland and Self Reliance). Self Reliance condemned an alliance between the ruling class and oligarchic powers. The context of the political crisis produced uncertainty about the impact of the peace process and about the uncertain scenarios if new elections were to take place. During the month, Ukraine remained opposed to holding elections in Donetsk and Luhansk as long as a situation of security cannot be guaranteed, foreign troops have not been withdrawn (an allusion to Russia) and Kiev has not regained control over the Russo-Ukrainian border. Meanwhile, various incidents of violence involving Ukrainian nationalists took place, as did various attacks and looting of Russian bank offices. (The New York Times, RFE/RL, Reuters, 1-25/02/16; UNICEF, 19/02/16)
BURUNDI: President Nkurunziza agrees to hold talks with the opposition amidst a diplomatic offensive by the UN and the AU
Serious instability persisted, with a wave of bomb attacks in the capital and military operations that have killed scores of people in Burundi. During his visit to Burundi, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon toured the Great Lakes countries and met with different political stakeholders, especially President Pierre Nkurunziza, in an attempt to promote a political solution to the serious crisis rocking the country. This was the UN Secretary-General’s first trip to Burundi since the start of the crisis, which worsened in April 2015. Ban Ki-moon said that Nkurunziza has promised to hold unconditional inclusive talks with the opposition after their meeting on 23 February. The main issue is to find out who will be invited to participate in these political talks and Nkurunziza has referred to a UN Security Council Resolution adopted in November 2015 that called on the government to hold a dialogue with political partners who had not resorted to the use of force. Two days later, on 25 February, an AU delegation composed of South African President Jacob Zuma, Mauritanian President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz, Senegalese President Macky Sall, Gabonese President Ali Bongo Ondimba and Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn visited the country to promote a negotiated solution to the situation. This visit was part of the closing of the 26th AU summit held in Addis Ababa on 31 January. The AU had proposed a stabilisation mission in the country in December, but after it was categorically rejected by Bujumbura, it made Nkurunziza’s consent a condition for sending it. Meanwhile, as a result of charges made by the UN and the United States, Rwanda announced its intention to send Burundian refugees (amounting to around 75,000) to other countries after it was accused of interfering in Burundi’s affairs. UN experts had accused Rwanda of recruiting and training Burundian refugees for the purpose of overthrowing the Burundian president. (Jeune Afrique, 12, 22-25/02/16)
NEPAL: The border between Nepal and India reopens after months of blockade by Madhesi organisations
Madhesi organisations decided to end the blockade of the border with India that they had maintained in the last four months in protest of the new Constitution that was recently adopted in the country. These Madhesi organisations disagree with the new territorial configuration of the country, as well as other aspects of the Constitution that they think strengthens discrimination against Madhesi communities. The blockade of the border crossings had led to a serious shortage of fuel and other essential goods in the country. In addition to lifting the blockade, they also announced the end of their four-month general strike and closing of government offices. Nevertheless, they indicated that they carried out other forms of protest to show their disagreement with the proposals presented by the government to resolve the conflict. The Nepalese Prime Minister described this step as positive and said that he hoped to resolve the disagreements with the Madhesi organisations and parties through dialogue. After the border was opened, many trucks arrived with fuel and other essential goods. Also in February, various Madhesi stakeholders joined together in a single front, Samyukta Loktantrik Madhesi Morcha, to coordinate the protests and demonstrations. (Kathmandu Post, 8 and 12/02/16)
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. +35 93 586 88 42   |   http://escolapau.uab.cat   |   pr.conflictes.escolapau@uab.cat
Plaça del Coneixement - Edifici MRA (Mòdul ReceCAR A), Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, 08193 Bellaterra (Barcelona)
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.