ARMENIA – AZERBAIJAN (NAGORNO-KARABAKH): Several dozen lives are lost in the most serious episodes of violence since the mid-1990s
Scores of people (from 40 to over 60, according to the source), most of them soldiers but including some civilians, were killed in the first few days of April in serious ceasefire violations that were considered the worst incidents of violence since the end of the conflict in the mid-1990s. The incidents, which began on 2 April, involved the use of tanks, helicopters and artillery. Both sides traded blame for starting the incidents and threatened to carry out large-scale operations. In the first few days, six people were reported killed and at least 24 others were wounded, according to the Azerbaijani government. Following foreign calls for containment, a ceasefire was reached on 5 April. However, despite the truce, both sides traded blame for various ceasefire violations and fresh casualties. The OSCE Minsk Group, the mediating body in the peace process, blasted the large-scale violations and the “unprecedented” escalation of violence and later welcomed the cessation of hostilities, urging the parties to respect it. (Reuters, RFE/RL, OSCE, 1-30/04/16)
BANGLADESH: Several secular activists killed
Several Islamist opposition armed groups carry out a series of selective killings in the country. The first case was a student who had openly expressed his atheism on social networks, who was knifed to death by three men riding a motorcycle in Dhaka. The armed opposition group Ansar al-Islam, with ties to al-Qaeda, claimed authorship of this killing, declaring it was an operation to punish blasphemy. After his death, hundreds marched in protest throughout the Bangladeshi capital denouncing impunity and the killing of atheist activists in the country. At a later date, a university professor and cultural activist was murdered in an attack claimed by ISIS. According to sources close to the victim, the professor hadn’t openly expressed his views against Islam, but was a cultural activist. Several assailants riding a motorcycle stabbed him to death. After this attack a protest demonstration was organised at the university where he worked. Days later, two LGBTI activists were murdered and a security guard was injured at the building where the magazine they worked for is located. This is the only magazine for the LGBTI community in Bangladesh, and one of those murdered was its editor. These killings were also claimed by Ansar al-Islam. Before these killings, in April, six secular activists were murdered in a similar way. (Al Jazeera, 8, 9, 23 & 26/4/16)
INDIA (JAMMU & KASHMIR): Protests against a sexual assault lead to riots with four killed
Four people died during riots unfolding in several cities around the State after demonstrations were called to protest against an attempted sexual assault on a girl by a soldier of the Indian armed forces. Initially, a small demonstration was organised in the city of Handwara calling for the end of impunity and for the soldier to be arrested. Hundreds joined the protests and the police intervened repressing the demonstrators, shooting two youths, who died. Two days later, another man and an elderly woman died, also due to the actions of the Indian security forces. Tens of people were injured in the protests. The local population denounces that sexual assaults are not investigated or prosecuted and that security forces often resort to sexual aggression against the local population, especially women and girls. Also, a strike was called as well as new protests against the Indian Government. (Al Jazeera, 12 & 14/4/16)
KOREA, DPR: UN condemns North Korea’s launch of several ballistic missiles
This month saw no let-up in tensions in the Korean peninsula, which heightened last month due to joint military drills conducted by South Korea and Japan and particularly owing to new sanctions being imposed on North Korea by the UN Security Council in the wake of nuclear and ballistic tests by Pyongyang in January and February. Indeed, in early April, on the day the Korean peninsula was declared in a state of semi-war, Pyongyang launched a short-range ballistic missile off its east coast. A number of days later, China stated that the resolution passed by the Security Council in early March had to be complied with and announced sanctions on its neighbouring country. At the middle and end of the month, the government of North Korea unsuccessfully launched three long-range missiles, although the action arousing the greatest anxiety and condemnation was the launching of a ballistic missile from a submarine, which was strongly denounced by the UN Security Council as breaching several UN resolutions. Countries such as Japan and the USA expressed their fear that in light of recent developments announced by Pyongyang in its nuclear and arms programme, North Korea would have the capacity to hit most Japanese and South Korean territories with short- and medium-range missiles on which miniaturised nuclear warheads could be mounted. Along these lines, several analysts indicated that activity observed via satellite images over the country’s key nuclear testing sites (the Punggye-ri complex) lead to suspicions of a potential fifth nuclear test. The fourth took place in January, when Pyongyang stated it had tested a miniaturised hydrogen bomb, technology that would entail a substantial qualitative development in North Korea’s nuclear programme. Although several scientific figures and a number of governments cast doubts as to whether it was in fact a hydrogen bomb, the nuclear test–the second under Kim Jong-un’s authority–heightened alarm in the region and was unanimously condemned by the international community, deeming it a brazen breach of UN resolutions concerning nuclear proliferation and violating a declaration passed in 2005 as part of multilateral talks on nuclear disarmament of the Korean peninsula in which Pyongyang undertook to abandon its nuclear programme and return to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons. (BBC y Korea Times, 08/04/16; Reuters, 28/04/16; Washington Post, 29/04/16; CNN, 23/04/16; Guardian, 24/04/16; Telegraph, 25/04/16)
PAKISTAN (BALOCHISTAN): Security Forces announce the death of 34 insurgents in an operation and human rights organisations denounce extrajudicial killings
An operation led by the Pakistani security forces in the province of Balochistan ends with the death of 34 insurgents, including Abdul Nabi Bangulazi, the leader of the armed opposition group United Baloch Army. The operation took place in Kalat district, some 200 kilometres from Quetta, the provincial capital. A spokesperson of the Baloch Government said that, since December, the security forces had killed almost 100 insurgents in different security operations carried out especially in the most remote areas of the province. However, the human rights organisation Voice of Baloch Missing Persons expressed its concern over the fact that these deaths may not have taken place in combat, but could rather be extrajudicial killings under custody. The organisation has denounced this as a habitual practice carried out by Pakistani security forces in operations carried out in the province. The organisation denounced that, in March, security forces announced the death of 12 insurgents in an operation in the Sibbi area, but that those killed were unarmed civilians who had previously been arrested. (Al Jazeera, 10/4/16)
PHILIPPINES (MINDANAO-ABU SAYYAF): Clashes between the government and Abu Sayyaf result in the death of 18 people
On 9 April, 18 soldiers were killed and more than 50 injured in the Tipo-Tipo region following an attack by a contingent of 100 Abu Sayyaf fighters, the biggest death toll involving this group suffered by the armed forces since 2011. In the week following the attack, in which five combatants also died and four of the dead soldiers had been decapitated, the armed forces deployed some 2000 soldiers to fight against factions of the group led by Furuji Indama and Isnilon Hapilon, for whom the USA is offering a US$5 million bounty. Previously, the other leader of the group, Radullan Sahiron, had been wounded in a firefight in mid-March in the Patikul region. In the days after the 9 April attack, 37 members of Abu Sayyaf died and an unspecified number were wounded. Furthermore, in April the armed forces overran three of the group’s camps. At the end of the month, the government declared that the group was holding 18 hostages: fourteen Indonesians who were abducted in March and four Malaysians who were kidnapped in a boat attack on 3 April off the coast of the Malaysian State of Sabah. On the day before the attack, Abu Sayyaf released an Italian priest after six months of captivity. In late April, the group murdered one of the two Canadian hostages who were abducted in late 2015, and on 1 May, 10 Indonesians were released. (BBC, Inquirer, 09/04/16; Philippine Star, 19/04/16; GMA News, 22/04/16)
SYRIA: Intensifying hostilities and air strikes, mainly in Aleppo, kill many civilians in April and call the fragile truce in the country into question
After a month of March that witnessed a relative drop in violence as part of the cessation of hostilities agreement signed in late February, fighting and attacks increased significantly in April, killing many civilians and seriously damaging infrastructure. The incidents intensified in the last two weeks of April and mainly took place in the areas of Idlib, Damascus, Deraa, Homs, al-Hasakah and especially in Aleppo, which was the target of a growing offensive launched by government troops and militias supported by Iran. Aleppo reported the worst levels of violence, which according to UN estimates killed at least 180 civilians. Other sources raised the figure to 250 people. Some of the most serious incidents during the period included an air strike on a hospital by the forces of Bashar Assad’s regime that killed around 50 people and an attack on the Maarat al-Nauman market in a rebel-controlled area in Idlib governorate. The latter episode took place when the market was at its busiest and claimed at least 44 lives. Other incidents included fighting between Kurdish YPG forces and pro-government militias in the area of Qamishli and continuous attacks by the US-led international coalition against ISIS positions (ISIS and the al-Nusra Front are excluded from the truce). The clashes between ISIS and opposition organisations and some government forces also forcibly displaced more than 40,000 people in northern Aleppo governorate. Sieges continued throughout the month, which could be affecting over half a million people, according to data from the UN. Faced with the evolution of the hostilities, in mid-April US President Barack Obama called his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, to ask him to use his influence to pressure Damascus to stop his attacks against opposition forces and uphold his commitment to the ceasefire. In this context, near the end of the month the special envoy of the UN and the Arab League for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, made urgent appeals to prevent the total collapse of the truce and keep the path of political negotiation open. De Mistura asked the United States and Russia for support to help to save the cessation of hostilities and warned that the violence in Syria was causing the death of one person every 25 minutes. (ICG, 01/05/16; BBC, 10, 19, 13/04/16; The New York Times, 19/04/16; UN News, 28, 29/04/16)
SOUTH SUDAN - ETHIOPIA: South Sudan’s Murle militia carries out a massacre in Ethiopia
On 15 April, armed members of the South Sudanese Murle ethnic group, located in the Jonglei region, crossed the border and attacked 13 Nuer communities in the Gambella region of western Ethiopia. In the simultaneous attacks, 208 people were killed, including women and children, and at least 80 people were wounded. In addition, 102 children were kidnapped and around 2,000 heads of cattle were stolen, according to Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn. In response, the Ethiopian government has asked the South Sudanese government for permission to enter its territory to rescue the abducted minors and has requested a joint military operation. The African Union has endorsed the decision and strongly condemned the massacre. So far, the operation launched by the Ethiopian Army with the support of South Sudanese troops has resulted in the deaths of at least 50 suspected Murle assailants. (NYT, 17/04/2016; AFP 18/04/2016; The Guardian, 18/04/2016; Sudan Tribune, 20/04/2016; BBC News, 21/04/2016)
TURKEY (SOUTHEAST): The PKK threatens to escalate the war in Turkey
PKK leader Cemil Bayik stated in an interview that given Turkey’s policy to force it to surrender, the PKK would step up the intensity of the war across the country and ruled out negotiations under current conditions. In turn, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said during the month that the solution to the conflict consisted of eradicating the PKK and its sympathisers from the region and the country. All of this took place against a backdrop of violence that remained active in March. Incidents in April included a joint suicide attack near the Grand Mosque in the city of Busra that wounded 13 people and for which the Kurdish armed group TAK, considered linked to the PKK, claimed responsibility. In late April, the armed youth organisations YPS and YPS-Jin, parts of the Kurdish movement, claimed to have killed around 20 members of the Turkish security forces around these dates in Nusaybin and Sirnak. The states’ special operations continued against PKK-affiliated Kurdish armed groups in urban centres in various districts in the southeast, as did Turkish air strikes against PKK targets in other parts of Turkey and northern Iraq and attacks and actions led by the armed group. According to the ICG, the death toll for the month of April included 50 members of the security forces, 80 militiamen belonging to the PKK or related groups and around 23 civilians. Throughout the month, the government reported the death of dozens of PKK militants. In addition, the creation of a new armed front, Halkların Birleşik Devrim Hareketini (Peoples’ United Revolutionary Movement – HBDH) was announced in March. Led by the PKK, the HBDH includes nine organisations, mostly with a Communist bent. (BBC, Hürriyet, BBC, Firat, 1-30/04/16)
BURUNDI: UN Security Council opens the door to UN police presence in the country
The UN Security Council approved resolution 2279 on April 1, which, in consultation with the Government of Burundi and in coordination with the AU, requested that the UN Secretary-General present alternatives for the deployment of a UN police force that would bolster the organization's ability to monitor the security situation, promote respect for human rights and advance the rule of law. Nonetheless, the Government rejected the deployment of a police mission and military observers and has succeeded in extending the negotiations with the argument that the presence of AU observers is sufficient to guarantee stability in the country. However, as the United States noted, Burundi had agreed to allow 200 AU observers into the country, but has not yet signed the memorandum of understanding with the AU and deployment has thus not yet taken place. The International Organization of La Francophonie has suspended cooperation with Burundi due to the situation in the country, although it has not suspended its participation. The EU suspended financial aid to the country in mid-March. At the same time, despite statements that the Government has the situation under control, several analysts remarked that violence is on the rise, pointing to the military operations launched by DRC and Burundi on April 9 in their respective territories to dismantle the armed group FNL, which is present on both sides of the border. Local Congolese civil society groups stated that four Burundian insurgents were arrested in March and they revealed to the Congolese Armed Forces that a group of about 200 insurgents had crossed the border into DRC from Burundi. Congolese military sources reported that a group of 40 rebels, including six children, had been arrested over the last three months, and that the operations would continue for the next three days. (UNSC S/RES/2279 de 01/04/16; RFI, 08/04/16; Xinhua, 12/04/16)
CHAD: Idriss Déby once again wins the election
President Idriss Déby won the presidential election on April 10 with 62% of the vote compared to his closest opponent, Saleh Kebzabo, who got 13%. Déby thus avoided a second round. The opposition denounced that the elections had been plagued by massive fraud. Eight candidates, including Kebzabo, stated that they did not recognize the results published by the electoral commission (CENI). They cited evidence of manipulation and trafficking of ballots and voter registration cards, the disappearance of hundreds of ballot boxes, and, as AP reported, the fact that about 60 soldiers who tried to vote against Déby were missing. Beginning in February, demonstrations were banned after the rape of a young woman by the sons of high-ranking members of the regime. Prime Minister Albert Pahimi Padacke announced the results on April 22 and Déby, in power since 1990, will begin his fifth term leading the country. The opposition parties stated that the elections were not credible. The opposition achieved good results in the poor neighbourhoods of the capital and in the country’s populous south. The Government established a strong military presence in the capital, N'Djamena, before the results were announced. The AU observation mission declared that the elections had been free and transparent, although it noted some irregularities, including that the staff at the polls had received no election training, secret voting was not guaranteed and the ballot boxes were not checked to see if they were empty before the process began. Four civil society leaders were sentenced to four months in prison in early April for organizing anti-government protests. On election day, Internet access was cut off and mobile phones could not send text messages. 12 candidates competed against Idriss Déby and the turnout rose to 71%. Chad has become the main bulwark in central Africa against the Islamist insurgency, and the headquarters of the regional multinational force fighting the Boko Haram Islamist group is based in Chad. Also, Chad is the French base of operations in Africa. In this regard, on April 25 Chad’s Parliament extended for another six months the state of emergency in the Lake Chad region, the zone where military operations against Boko Haram are being conducted. (Reuters, 10/04/16; France24, BBC, 22/04/16; AFP, 26/04/16)
DJIBOUTI: President Ismail Omar Guelleh wins elections contested by the opposition and human rights groups
President Ismail Omar Guelleh, 68, in power since 1999, won the April 8 presidential elections with 87% of the votes in the first round. Guelleh achieved his fourth term as head of the country. The elections were criticized by the opposition and human rights groups, who pointed to interference during voter registration, lack of independence of the election commission, poor security at the polls, intimidation and brutality by the Police and bias in the government-controlled media. Guelleh ran against five candidates, but three other opposition parties boycotted the election. Guelleh had previously stated that he would not run for another term. His main rival was Omar Elmi Kaireh, a leader during the bid for independence, who represented the coalition Union for National Salvation (USN), which achieved 7% of the vote. A quarter of the population, 180,000 people, was eligible to vote. The AU mentioned some irregularities, but finally declared that the results were credible, and the process free and transparent. Djibouti hosts military bases for the US, France and Japan. Other countries such as China and Saudi Arabia are planning new military bases in the country in the coming months. (FT, 31/03/16; BBC, 04, 09/04/16)
EQUATORIAL GUINEA: Teodoro Obiang Nguema is re-elected with 93.7% of the votes
Equatorial Guinea's President Teodoro Obiang Nguema, 73, has been re-elected with 93.7% of the vote in the April 24 elections, according to the official results. Several observers and experts said that the elections were peaceful and free from incidents, in the country considered by many to be governed by one of the continent's strongest dictatorships. The turnout was also 93.7% and the results were pending confirmation by the Constitutional Court on May 2, although no surprises were expected. The president of the electoral commission, Clemente Ngonga, did admit irregularities in some cases where the votes obtained exceeded the number of registered voters. One of the opposition candidates, Bonaventura Monsuy Asumu, who together with the other candidates were not able to win even 1.5% of the votes, declared that they were the most poorly organized elections ever held in the country. In 2009 Obiang won 95.37% of the vote. Days before the election, the Army and the Police conducted an operation against the house of one of the other candidates, Gabriel Nse Obiang Obono, and used real ammunition against the backers of his party that were gathered there. Obono stated that 200 of his voters were prohibited from voting. 15 of his supporters were arrested in the economic capital, Bata, and no information is available regarding their situation. Obiang has governed the country since 1979, when he staged a coup, and has become the longest-serving African president in power. He is being investigated by French courts for allegedly using public funds to buy luxury cars and houses in France. In turn, his son and vice-president, Teodoro "Teodorín" Nguema Obiang, has resisted attempts by the US administration to seize his assets, denying charges that they were bought with embezzled state funds. (BBC, PANA, 28/04/16)
GEORGIA (SOUTH OSSETIA): South Ossetia plans to hold a referendum to ask Russia to incorporate the region, which Georgia rejects as illegal
South Ossetian leader Leonid Tibilov announced the region’s plans to hold a referendum before August on constitutional changes that would allow it to ask the Russian government to incorporate South Ossetia into the Russian Federation. According to Tibilov, this referendum would employ a more flexible formula than a possible referendum with a direct question about incorporation into Russia. The proposed vote on a constitutional change had already been raised in February, and prior to that as a direct referendum, although it lacks clear support from Russia, which formally recognised the independence of South Ossetia in 2008. The Georgian government criticised the announcement, which it described as provocative and a continuation of the “illegal” processes being conducted in the territories of Abkhazia and South Ossetia effectively controlled by Russia. In addition, it urged Russia to abstain from taking measures that might lead to deterioration in the security and humanitarian situation. Russian President Vladimir Putin indicated that the Russian government would issue an opinion once the basis for the referendum and the final question were clarified. (Civil Georgia, The Moscow Times, 11-15/04/16)
HAITI: Presidential election postponed once again
The presidential election has been postponed for the third time this year, as reported on 5 April by Léopold Berlanger, president of the new Provisional Electoral Council (CEP). The election, which was scheduled to be held on 24 April, was cancelled again following security concerns amidst growing violence and continued disagreement over the validity of the legislative and presidential elections held on August and October of the previous year. Berlanger had initially announced that these could be held the end of May, with the CEP determining the final date to ensure that they did not generate new crises. Interim President Jocelerme Privert, who took office on 14 February 2016, doubts that they could take place with guarantees at the end of May and has requested the start of a national dialogue to establish a verification commission for the elections. However, the opposition parties have refused to participate in the debates. At the end of the month, Privert announced that the elections could be held on the last Sunday of October, a date that would help to respect the constitutional date of 30 October to renew a third of the seats in the Senate. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon voiced concern about the ongoing failure to hold elections on time and reiterated the UN’s commitment to give its full support to the Haitian people in fulfilling their democratic aspirations, calling on all Haitian stakeholders to ensure a prompt return to constitutional order. US Ambassador Peter F. Mulrean also stressed the cost of the electoral delays, but repeated the United States’ willingness to provide financial support to the country. In late April, President Privert proceeded to set up the Commission of Electoral Evaluation and Verification, whose mission will seek to restore confidence in political actors in the electoral process. (Haiti Libre, 05-06, 08, 19, 25-26, 30/04/2016)
IRAQ: Hundreds of demonstrators invade Baghdad’s Green Zone to protest against corruption
In an episode reflecting the deep political crisis shaking Iraq, hundreds of demonstrators stormed the fortified Green Zone and Parliament building in Baghdad on 30 April to demand the end of corruption in the country. The incident led the authorities to decree a state of emergency and to deploy additional forces in the Iraqi capital. The protestors, most of whom were followers of the Shia cleric Muqtada al Sadr, demanded that Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi adopt measures to fight against corruption and end sectarian quotas in politics. In the weeks prior, the political tensions in the country had been made clear on various occasions, including confrontations in Parliament, the request of the resignation of several senior officials by political forces and different actions to curb Prime Minister al-Abadi’s attempts to replace some party-affiliated ministers with technocrats. Various political groups rejected the first list of names for the cabinet proposed by Hadi in late March, leading him to present a new list in early April. The delay of the vote provoked a sit-in by around 100 MPs in mid-April. Amidst this political deadlock, thousands of people took to the streets to demonstrate. At the end of the month, interruption of the session by various MPs blocked al-Abadi from submitting a third list for his cabinet. The incidents in Baghdad occurred a few days after a visit by US Vice President Joe Biden to the country in an attempt to soften the political crisis and ensure maintenance of the campaign against ISIS. Washington announced that it will send another 200 troops to assist Iraqi forces in their fight against the armed group. (The New York Times, 28, 30/04/16; al-Jazeera, 01/05/16; ICG, 01/05/16; Washington Post, 30/04/16)
LIBYA: The new Government of National Accord receives support from the West, but faces resistance from rival powers
In April, the new UN-backed Government of National Accord (GAN) continued trying to impose its authority on the country with Western support, but kept on facing resistance from rival powers. Days after the Presidential Council, the highest authority of the GAN, arrived at a naval base in Tripoli in late March along with Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj, the EU announced the imposition of sanctions on three Libyan leaders who form part of the two rival administrations that have been vying for power in the country in recent years and that have opposed the installation of the GAN. These men include Agilah Saleh, the leader of the House of Representatives, based in the eastern city of Tobruk; Khalifa Ghweil, the leader of the National Salvation Government (GSN) in Tripoli, which is supported by the Libya Dawn alliance; and Nouri Abusahmen, the leader of the General National Congress (GNC), the former Parliament backing the GSN. In mid-April, the foreign ministers of France and Germany paid a joint visit to Libya in a demonstration of support for the GAN, which is expected to act to stabilise the country and to promote a campaign against the armed group ISIS. Throughout the month, the GAN, which has been operating from a naval base, expanded its presence in Tripoli and several armed groups in the city declared allegiance to it. Several municipalities in the western part of the country also recognised Prime Minister al-Sarraj’s authority. However, other factions and leaders in Tripoli ratified their opposition to the GAN, describing it as illegitimate. On 5 April, it was announced that the GSN was ceasing its functions and transferring power to the GAN, but the next day the authority’s unrecognised prime minister, Khalifa Ghweil, denied this development and called on the ministers of the GSN to remain in office. Meanwhile, the Tripoli-based House of Representatives continued to postpone the vote that should approve the installation of the unity government. Resistance in the eastern part of the country has been led by former General Khalifa Haftar. Media reports state that the most reluctant groups in eastern Libya do not agree with the GAN’s prerogatives regarding the military. In this context, in late April the GAN announced plans to establish a joint military command to coordinate the fight against ISIS and asked different armed factions operating in the country to avoid launching a campaign against Sirte, a city controlled by ISIS since 2015, until the new command is created. The head of the UN mission in Libya, Martin Kobler, also expressed concern about incursions by ISIS into the oil-producing region and reminded all armed actors in Libya that UN Security Council Resolution 2278 of March 2016 has condemned attempts to illegally export crude oil from the country. Finally, US President Barack Obama acknowledged that the lack of preparation for the period following the overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi from power was the worst foreign policy mistake of his presidency. (BBC, 01, 16/04/16; ICG, 01/05/16; Reuters, 28/04/16; UN News, 27/04/16)
MEXICO: The GIEI completes its mandate without finding the missing students of Ayotzinapa
On 24 April, the Interdisciplinary Group of Independent Experts (GIEI), composed of five international experts (Ángela Buitrago, Claudia Paz, Francisco Cox, Carlos Beristáin and Alejandro Valencia) appointed by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), presented its final report on the investigation into the disappearance of 43 students from Ayotzinapa (Guerrero) in September 2014. Entitled Ayotzinapa II: forward steps and new conclusions on the investigation, search and care for victims, the report made 22 recommendations to Enrique Peña Nieto’s government and validated criticism of how it handled the case. The members of the GIEI complained that their work in Mexico had been hampered by the authorities and dismissed the official theory that the university students were incinerated at the Cocula trash dump. According to the report, the police forces of municipalities in Guerrero such as Iguala, Cocula and Huitzuco acted in a coordinated way to prevent the Ayotzinapa students from leaving Iguala. The GIEI experts lamented the security forces’ lack of solidarity towards the victims by carrying out a “mass and indiscriminate attack on the civilian population”. They also asserted that 70% of the detainees in the case were tortured to obtain their statements. The report urged the Mexican authorities to investigate all the circumstances surrounding the fifth bus, which would open a new line of investigation linked to heroin trafficking between Iguala and Chicago (United States), which they have blocked thus far. James Cavallaro, the president of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), regretted that the Mexican authorities did not allow extra time for the GIEI to continue the investigation and find the 43 students. President Peña Nieto announced that the PGR will analyse the report and follow the recommendations of the GIEI. (Aristegui Noticias, 24/04/2016; BBC, 24/04/2016; Excelsior, 25/04/2016)
NIGERIA: Instability persists due to the different crises in the country
Nigeria continued to experience several crises in its northern, central and southern regions that are aggravating the situation of insecurity. Muhammadu Buhari’s government continued its combat operations against the Boko Haram insurgency in the northern state of Borno, where military sources have reported clashes resulting in the deaths of 120 combatants, the arrest of several rebel commanders and the rescue of around 2,000 people held captive by the militia. Following reports of his removal, which gave rise to perceptions of internal divisions, Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau reappeared in a video on 1 April, claiming that he is still in command of the insurgency. The Nigerian Army reported the arrest of Khalid al-Barnawi, the leader of Ansaru, a Boko Haram splinter group founded years ago. This operation is regarded as a significant military accomplishment in the fight against the armed group. Security continued to deteriorate in the Nile Delta region, prompting Buhari to announce the deployment of a multinational force to patrol the Gulf of Guinea to counteract piracy and what he considers vandalism against oil facilities. Finally, clashes between pastoralist and agricultural communities in central states left a death toll of between 30 and 44 people in various incidents on 10 April in Taraba State; killed 18 people on 18 April in Moor, in Benue State; and claimed 40 lives on 24 April in Nimbo, Enugu State. (Vanguard, 12, 24/04/2016; AFP, 13, 17, 26/04/2016)
REPUBLIC OF CONGO: The Government cracks down on protests after the disputed March elections
Violence was on the rise after the March presidential elections. The Government stifled protests after the disputed March elections and there were clashes and exchanges of gunfire in the capital, Brazzaville, after the constitutional court announced on April 4 that it was ratifying the election results. The Government blamed former members of Rev. Ntumi's Ninjas militias for the fighting and the attacks on government, military and police buildings. The Congolese security forces managed to contain the armed group’s offensive by blocking access to the south of the capital, which is an opposition stronghold. The Government announced an investigation to determine if any links exist between the offensive and opposition candidates. The Government did not reveal if there were any casualties during the clashes, although thousands fled from the south of the capital to the much safer north. The clashes reminded residents of the capital of the wave of violence in 1997 when Denis Sassou-Nguesso returned to power after months of guerrilla warfare between rival militias in the city, including the Ninjas militias led by the then Prime minister, Bernard Kolélas, the father of candidate Guy Brice Parfait Kolélas. However, Parfait Kolélas denied any relationship with the group. Rallying under the cry of “#Sassoufit”, thousands of people marched in the streets of the capital demanding the end of Sassou-Nguesso mandate. #Sassoufit is a movement that was created in 2014. Sassou-Nguesso ruled the country from 1979 until 1992, when he was defeated in the elections. Five years later he regained power and has been in office to date. Ntumi backed Guy Brice Parfait Kolélas, who was defeated in the March elections by Sassou-Nguesso. (Reuters, Al Jazeera, 04/04/16; IBT, 07/04/16; Africa Confidential, 15/04/16)
UKRAINE (EAST): Security incidents increase in the conflict zone
The security situation in the conflict zone deteriorated with a rise in ceasefire violations and skirmishes in the Donetsk region. The incidents included the continuing clashes around Avdiivka, an industrial city occupying a strategic location. Furthermore, the OSCE observation mission detected a rise in the use of heavy weaponry. These incidents included the bombing of a checkpoint in the settlement of Olenivka (on the road between Mariupol and Donetsk) in late April, claiming the lives of four civilians and wounding eight others. The monitoring work of the OSCE mission pointed to the Ukrainian military forces as the ones responsible for the attack. However, the conflict continued to claim less lives than in previous stages of the escalation, like in mid-2015. In late April, the parties to the conflict agreed to renew the ceasefire in order to celebrate Orthodox Easter. Meanwhile, complaints rose about the situation of infringement of freedoms and rights in Crimea. In mid-April, Russia announced a ban on the Tartar representative body called the Mejlis, describing it as an extremist organisation. Domestically, Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk resigned from office following months of political tension and pressure from his partners in the electoral coalition, who considered him responsible for the lack of progress in the fight against corruption and the failure to implement the reforms required by international institutions. Yatsenyuk denounced the politicians’ lack of desire for reforms. In order to apply pressure, the parliamentary coalition broke down, which led to a new government coalition (between Yatsenyuk’s party, People’s Front, and the Petro Poroshenko Bloc). In mid-April, Volodymyr Groysman was appointed the new prime minister. He is considered a member of the inner circle of the Ukrainian president and close to the oligarchs in the country. (OSCE, OHCHR, Huffington Post, RFE/RL, 1-30/04/16)
COTE D´IVORE: Conditions in the country allow the future withdrawal of the peace mission
The UN Security Council has decided to lift the sanctions on Côte d’Ivoire and announced that the peacekeeping mission in the country (UNOCI) will end in 2017. The UN Security Council believes that the UNOCI has achieved its objective after being created in 2004 to support the country at the end of its civil war. The mission was later adapted to react to the crisis unleashed by former President Laurent Gbagbo in 2010, when he refused to recognise his electoral defeat. The resolution adopted by the Security Council has set 30 June 2017 as the date for closing the mission and for finally withdrawing all troops from the country, which currently number nearly 7,000. (EFE, 28/04/2016)
MYANMAR: Myanmar Government appoints Aung San Suu Kyi as State Counsellor, Foreign Affairs Minister and Minister of the President’s Office
Aung San Suu Kyi is appointed State Counsellor to advise the executive and legislative power, as well as Foreign Affairs Minister and Minister of the President’s Office, after the adoption of specific legislation that was opposed by the military MPs, who called this measure unconstitutional. This was the first legislative action taken by the NLD-led Government. The post of Counsellor will allow Suu Kyi to work in close collaboration with the legislative assembly, which she had to leave after being appointed minister. The leader of the NLD party could not be elected as president of the country despite the overwhelming electoral victory because the Constitution forbids anyone with foreign children to take the post, as is the case of Suu Kyi. In March, Htin Kyaw, a close collaborator of Suu Kyi’s, was appointed President. Finally, Aung San Suu Kyi will only take two ministerial posts of the four announced initially and will be the only woman in the Burmese Executive. (The Guardian, 1/4/16)
SOMALIA: The National Consultative Forum reaches agreement on election calendar
The National Consultative Forum was held in Mogadishu on April 12 and 13. During the meeting, Government and regional political leaders reached an agreement on the specifics of the electoral process that will take place during 2016. The United Nations, the AU, the Intergovernmental Authority on Development, the EU, the United States, the United Kingdom, Ethiopia, Italy and Sweden welcomed the progress made and called on Parliament to include the agreed election calendar without delay. They also highlighted the celebration of the next meeting of the Forum in Garowe together with the Constitutional Conference in May. However, Somaliland did not participate in the meeting. Its Information Minister said that the country did not accept the outcome of the Forum and that Somaliland was not part of the agreement. UN Secretary-General special envoy Michael Keating said that the process will involve 100 times more voters than in 2012 and that it will be more structured and transparent than the previous election. He added that the 2016 process will be a stepping stone towards a one-person, one-vote election in 2020. (Shabelle Media, 13/04/16)
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