PSR: April 14, 2017

April 14, 2017
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This week in: Peace & Security Publications |
IPSI | Africa | Americas | East Asia | Middle East | South Asia

Featured Report

Peace and Security Funding Index: An Analysis of Global Foundation Grantmaking

The Peace and Security Funders Group (PSFG) has released the April 2017 edition of the Peace and Security Funding Index. Tracking funds across 23 diverse issue areas, including areas that overlap with other sectors, PSFG recognizes the interconnectedness of peace and security with other issues. Their data illustrates the long-term evolutionary nature of peace and security work, while bringing examples to life.

This week in Sub-Saharan Africa

 NIGERIA: Boko Haram attack against embassies thwarted

On Wednesday, Nigeria’s state security agency said it had thwarted plans by Boko Haram militants to attack the British and United States embassies in the country’s capital, Abuja. The statement reported that the group had “perfected plans,” but no further details on the prevented attacks were released. Six suspects were arrested in connection to the plot in late March. Comment: Last week, the U.S. State Department issued a travel warning for Nigeria, cautioning that Boko Haram had targeted government institutions. This announcement came on the same day as UNICEF reported a surge in the number of children, mostly girls, used by Boko Haram in suicide attacks, citing 17 children used in suicide attacks in 2017. Sources attribute the delay in releasing the alleged plot as due to risks associated with releasing information that could have jeopardized the investigations. (Al Jazeera, BBC, France24, The Guardian, Reuters)

SOMALIA: al-Shabbab claims to step up attacks

On Monday, Somalia-based al-Shabbab posted a statement vowing a “doubled response” to both President Trump’s proposed expansion of military operations in Somalia and Somalia President Mohamed’s declaration of a new offensive against the group. In the statement, al-Shabbab highlighted its suicide car bomb attack on the new military chief on Sunday that killed 13 people and its suicide bombing at a military academy in Mogadishu that killed five soldiers as proof of its aim to escalate attacks. Comment: President Trump’s proposal allows the U.S. military to pursue more aggressive airstrikes against al-Shabbab and special forces to increase assistance to Somali forces. Last week, President Mohamed instructed the army to prepare a new offensive against al-Shabbab and offered militants a chance to surrender within 60 days. (Shabelle Media Network, AllAfrica, Al Jazeera, AP, SITE)

SOUTH SUDAN/UGANDA: Insecurity forces thousands to flee to Uganda

On Friday, the UNHCR expressed alarm at the deteriorating security situation in South Sudan, which caused more than 6,000 refugees to flee to neighboring Uganda since Monday. Fighting broke out between government forces and the main armed opposition group, the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-in-Opposition (SPLM-IO) in the town of Pajok, killing more than 100 and prompting the exodus. Refugees interviewed claimed that the government’s armed forces indiscriminately attacked people, and looted and burned homes. Comment: The influx of refugees is straining Uganda, which is touted as one of the world’s most refugee accommodating states. According to the UNHCR, Uganda only has 15 percent of the USD 500 million needed to provide for the number of arrivals. The Bidi Bidi refugee camp in Uganda has become the world’s largest despite it only having opened last year. (Al Jazeera 1, 2, The Guardian, NPR, Relief Web, Reuters, UNHCR)

Researched/Written by Jessica Himelfarb

This week in the Americas & Caribbean

Brasilia ARGENTINA: Macri faces first national workers strike

Last Thursday, President Mauricio Macri faced the first national strike of his administration, when labor unions coordinated a shut-down of the country’s major metropolitan centers to protest the government’s economic policies. The 24-hour strike started at midnight on Wednesday, halting all public transport, airports, customs, schools, universities, factories, and some government offices. Security Minister Patricia Bullrich ordered the national guard to remove the picketers from the Panamericana highway with pepper spray and water cannons, leaving seven injured and four arrested. Comment: The strike came as Macri welcomed hundreds of potential investors and foreign officials to the World Economic Forum in Buenos Aires. The protesters demanded wage increases in line with inflation, which was 40 percent last year and expected to be about 20 percent in 2017. (Clarín, La Nación, El País, Telesur 1, 2, Al Jazeera, The Guardian, Reuters)

BRAZIL: Supreme Court authorizes new corruption investigation of top government officials

On Tuesday, Brazil’s Supreme Court revealed the names of several politicians to be investigated over their alleged involvement in a large-scale bribery scandal. The list of politicians includes one-third of sitting ministers and scores of top politicians for alleged corruption. The announcement threatens to destabilize President Michel Temer’s reform program to boost market confidence and attract foreign investment. Comment: The release of the list is part of a broader ongoing investigation known as Operation Car Wash, which has escalated public discontent over political corruption. Political analysists argue that this new set of corruption allegations will have negative consequences for the political coalitions and alliances facing the presidential election in 2018. (Folha de Sao Paulo, O Globo 1, 2, Al Jazeera, BBC, Financial Times, Wall Street Journal)

VENEZUELA: Anti-Government protests continue in Venezuela

On Saturday, tens of thousands of people took to the streets to demand the resignation of President Nicolas Maduro and the dismissal of several Supreme Court judges. The demonstrations occurred in several cities across the country, the largest of them in the capital, Caracas. Saturday’s demonstration in the capital started peacefully, but ended with National Guard officers in riot gear using tear gas and water cannons to prevent marchers from proceeding. Comment: Demonstrations have increased in the past weeks sparked by the Supreme Court’s decision to strip the country’s Parliament of its powers, and the government’s decision to ban opposition leader Henrique Capriles from doing any political work for 15 years. The opposition has organized protests and demonstrations in more than 335 municipalities to take place during Holy Week in Venezuela. (Infobae 1, 2, Al Jazeera, CNN, Reuters)

Researched/Written by Silvina Zbikoski

This week in East Asia & Pacific

INDONESIA: Six suspected terrorists killed by police

On Sunday, Indonesia’s police shot dead six suspected members of an armed group after they attempted to attack a police post in East Java. The six gunmen are believed to be members of the Jemaah Anshorut Daulah (JAD) group, which claims allegiance to the self-proclaimed Islamic State and is designated as terrorist organization by the United States. The police say they were monitoring the vehicle used by the gunmen before the attack, in connection to Friday’s arrest of three suspected members of the group, who were planning an attack on a police post. Comment: JAD is estimated to have drawn hundreds of recruits in Indonesia, a country that has the world’s largest Muslim population (87.2 percept of its total population). Despite Indonesia’s success in tackling militant terrorist organizations, there has recently been resurgence of violent extremist activities, some tied to the rise of the self-proclaimed Islamic State. (Channel News Asia, News Corp Australia, Al Jazeera)

MYANMAR: Three displacement camps to shut down

On Tuesday, Myanmar began shutting down three internal displacement camps in Rakhine state. The camps were set up as a result of the 2012 violence. The decision to close the camps came after the Rakhine Advisory Commission, led by former UN chief Kofi Annan, called on the government to dissolve them as part of a set of measures meant to diminish ethnic tensions in the country. According to regional news agencies, it is still uncertain where the inhabitants will be relocated. The majority of inhabitants are members of the Rohingya or Kaman Muslim minority groups. Comment: Myanmar has faced international condemnation over its treatment of minority groups, especially of the Rohingya population, who have been denied citizenship and face severe restrictions in movement, access to education, and healthcare. (Asia Times, Southeast Asia Globe, The Strait Times)

NORTH KOREA: Warning over U.S. Navy presence

North Korea has warned of “catastrophic consequences” and said it will defend itself “by powerful force of arms” in response to deployment of a US Navy strike group over the weekend. The US forces, comprised of an aircraft carrier and three other warships, has been diverted from a scheduled visit to Australia to the West Pacific. North Korea’s state-run Korean Central News Agency quoted a foreign ministry spokesman, saying North Korea “is ready to react to any mode of war desired by the U.S.” Comment: North Korea ignored the UN resolution banning it from developing ballistic missile technology a number of times this year, with the latest test taking place just last week, on the eve of the United States – China summit. North Korea has justified the missile launches as response to the ongoing joint military exercises between U.S. and South Korean forces. (NK News, Asia Nikkei Review, Al Jazeera, BBC, The Guardian)

Researched/Written by Kanstantsin Ivanou

This week in Europe & Central Asia

GERMANY/SERBIA: German leader praises Serbia’s handling of protests, encourages EU bid

On Wednesday, German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel stated that Germany is ready to support Serbia joining the EU, calling Serbia an “anchor of stability” within the Balkans. Gabriel referred to the ongoing protests in Serbia as a part of democracy, and reinforced that developing positive relations with Kosovo was essential to joining the EU. Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic also supported the protests, calling them “an expression of Serbia’s democratic strength.” Comment: Thousands of Serbians have participated in protests for over a week demanding President Vucic’s resignation, accusing him of autocracy and election-rigging. President Vucic received 55 percent of the votes during the election, enough to prevent a runoff. (b92, DW, Reuters, AP)

TURKEY: Kurdish rebels bomb police station

On Tuesday, a blast inside a police complex killed a police officer and two civilians, injuring at least ten others. The following day, the Kurdish Workers’ Party (PKK) claimed responsibility for the attack, which occurred in the predominantly Kurdish city of Diyarbakir. Turkish police forces have detained five suspects. Comment: The PKK is labeled as a terrorist organization by the Turkish government and has been engaged in an insurgency for at least three decades. The conflict reignited in 2015 after the collapse of an attempted peace process. (Anadolu Agency, Middle East Eye, AP)

REGIONAL: Finland hosts new EU-NATO disinformation center

On Tuesday, Britain, Finland, France, Germany, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Sweden, and the U.S. established the European Center of Excellence for Countering Hybrid Threats in Finland to combat foreign propaganda and misinformation campaigns. The operation will be managed by researchers from the participating countries and have an initial annual budget of USD 1.6 million, half of which will be provided by Finland. The center will coordinate with the NATO Strategic Communications Centre of Excellence in Latvia and the NATO Cooperative Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence in Estonia. Comment: All three NATO centers are stationed in countries that border Russia. Russia has been accused by several European countries of engaging in propaganda warfare. On February 22, Russia established an information warfare military task force. (NATO, Reuters, AP)

Researched/Written by Kenneth Davis

This week in the Middle East & North Africa

EGYPT: State of emergency declared

On Sunday, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi declared a three-month state of emergency after two bombings on Coptic Christian churches in Tanta and Alexandria killed dozens. The self-proclaimed Islamic state took responsibility for the attacks. President Sisi announced the state of emergency, which now must be approved by the House of Representatives, after a National Defense Council meeting. Under emergency law, police powers are expanded in regard to arrests, surveillance, seizures, and ability to limit freedom of movement. Comment: This is the second time Egypt has declared a state of emergency since independence. The first was after Mohammed Morsi was ousted in 2013, which was lifted in most of Egypt a few months later, with the exception of the North Sinai, where the self-proclaimed Islamic State Egyptian affiliates are based. Egypt was governed under state of emergency from 1981 to 2012. (Al Jazeera 1,2, Egyptian StreetsMada Masr)

LIBYA: African migrants sold in slave market

On Tuesday, the United Nations International Organization for Migration (IOM) stated that hundreds of African refugees and migrants that were passing through Libya are being bought and sold in slave markets. According to interviews the IOM conducted with West Africans who were able to escape, refugees are being sold for USD 200 to 500 in garages and car parks in the southern city of Sabha, one of Libya’s largest human-smuggling centers. Refugees, mostly from Gambia, Nigeria, and Senegal, are being caught by armed groups and smuggling networks on their way to the Libyan port along the Mediterranean, to get to Italy. Most of those sold are forced to work construction and agriculture jobs without pay, while many women are forced into prostitution. Captors often set a price for their release, which increases in price each time they’re bought, and those who can’t be sold are killed or left to starve to death. Comment: Libya is the main gateway to Europe by sea, as such, the IOM is broadcasting testimonies of victims on social media and through radio to discourage migrants from crossing through Libya. (International Organization for Migration, Al Jazeera, Daily Sabah)

SYRIA: U.S. strikes Syrian Army airbase

On Friday, the United States launched approximately 60 missiles at a government-controlled Syrian airbase, which President Donald Trump claimed was retaliation for the suspected chemical weapons attack in Idlib that killed dozens of civilians. Two U.S. warships in the Mediterranean Sea fired the missiles at the Shyrat airbase in Homs from which the U.S. believes the chemical weapons were launched. At least six people were killed in the strike. The Syrian government has stated the strike is a violation of international law and made the U.S. a “partner of terrorist groups.” The Russian government made similar remarks, stating that the strikes have inflicted “major damage on US-Russia ties.” Comment: The U.S. claims Russia was informed prior to the strike, which Russia denies. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov issued a warning to the U.S. to not repeat the strike during his meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. This was the first direct U.S. military action taken against Assad’s forces since the conflict started seven years ago. (Al Jazeera 123Press TV, CTV News)

Researched/Written by Raghda Karajah

This week in South Asia

AFGHANISTAN: Self-proclaimed Islamic State attacks near presidential palace

On Wednesday, a suicide bomber detonated approximately 100m from the gates of the presidential palace in Kabul’s second district, killing five and injuring 10. Kabul’s second district is considered one of the safest areas of the city and houses many government offices, including the defense ministry.According to a defense ministry spokesperson, two presidential palace guards were among the dead. The self-proclaimed Islamic State took responsibility for the attack in its online communications. Comment: The self-proclaimed Islamic State of the Khorasan province formed in 2015 and operates in northeastern Afghanistan. On Thursday, the U.S. dropped a bomb in Nangarhar province, targeting caves and tunnels the self-proclaimed Islamic State uses to mobilize. (ToloNews, Al Jazeera, BBC, Reuters)

BANGLADESH/INDIA: Government accepts investments and loans from India

On Monday, in a remote area of central India, more than 300 Maoist insurgents ambushed paramilitary forces deployed to guard the construction of a road through Sukma, a stronghold for the Maoists. Indian officials believe the attack aimed to thwart the construction of the road, which will provide security forces more mobility through the region. Comment: The attack is the most severe to be carried out by the rebels in the past seven years. Maoist rebels have been fighting against the government in the area for more than three decades claiming to protect the rights of tribal people and farmers who are opposed to the increased mining in the mineral-rich region. (Hindustan Times, Times of India, Al Jazeera)

INDIA: Eight killed in election violence in Kashmir

On Sunday, eight civilians died when Indian security forces fired bullets and pellets into crowds of protesters who swarmed polling stations near Srinigar. Thousands of protestors gathered at poling stations across the Budgam district in India-administered Kashmir, part of the voting boycott called by separatist leaders. The local elections were held to replace an empty parliamentary seat after a politician resigned over what he called the “anti people” agenda of the Indian government. Comment: Prior to polling, the Indian government deployed 20,000 additional troops in the area and shut down Internet access in attempts to secure a peaceful election. Srinigar, where the protests occurred, registered a low voter turnout of only 7 percent. (Hindustan Times, BBC, Reuters)

Researched/Written by Kaleigh Thomas