PSR: February 03, 2017

February 03, 2017

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

Featured Report

In the Shadow of “No”: Peace After Colombia’s Plebiscite

The International Crisis Group explores how the public voted against the comprehensive peace process that had been designed to end 52 years of conflict in Colombia. With the passing of a revised comprehensive peace process – ratified in Congress – parties and candidates are set for a polarized 2018 election.

This week in Sub-Saharan Africa

REGIONAL: Chad’s foreign minister to head the African Union

On Monday, heads of government cast secret ballots at the 28thSummit of the African Union (AU) in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia for its new chairperson, electing Chadian Foreign Minister Moussa Faki Mahamat. After months of intense lobbying, Mahamat defeated four other contestants, including his closest contender, Kenyan Foreign Minister Amina Mohamed. He will replace Nkosozana Dlamini-Zuma of South Africa, who stayed in the position an extra six months because AU leaders failed to elect her successor last July. Comment: Mahamat has served as the foreign minister of Chad since 2008.  He is not new to the AU, having formerly been the chairman of the AU’s Economic, Social, and Cultural Council. (Africanews, AllAfrica, Reuters)      

REGIONAL: AU leaders plan withdrawal from ICC

After a closed-door meeting on Tuesday, leaders at the African Union (AU) Summit backed a “strategy of collective withdrawal” from the International Criminal Court (ICC). The non-binding resolution calls for AU members to push for reforms of the ICC.  AU leaders will make a final decision about complete withdrawal at the next summit in six months. Comment: The mandate of the ICC is to prosecute individuals who commit crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes. Set up by the Rome Statute in 2002, the ICC has 124 signatories including 34 African members, though South Africa, the Gambia, and Burundi gave notice last year for their withdrawal. According to analysts, a mass withdrawal could cripple the court. (BBC, The Guardian, Reuters)

REGIONAL: AU launches Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention

On Wednesday, in what has been hailed as a major milestone by World Health Organization and the U.S. CDC, the African Union launched a continent-wide public health agency called the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC). Africa CDC aims to prevent, detect, monitor, and respond to public health emergencies such as Ebola, and push for immunization availability across Africa by 2020. Africa CDC plans to set up regional health centers in Zambia, Gabon, Kenya, Nigeria, and Egypt to establish early-warning and response systems. Comment: The Ebola crisis in West Africa, which began in 2014, drew attention to the need for a public health initiative across the continent. In addition, one in five children in Africa lacks access to basic immunizations, making this a priority of the new initiative. (Africa Times, BBC, The Guardian)

Researched/Written by Jessica Himelfarb

This week in the Americas & Caribbean

CANADA: Quebec Mosque reopens four days after shooting

On Wednesday, Quebec City Mosque opened its doors to the media and the public after six people were killed and another 8 wounded in a mass shooting by a Quebecois national on Sunday, January 29th. Mohamed Labdi, vice president of the Quebec Islamic Cultural Center, decided to open the doors to show all Canadians what happened. A public funeral was held on Thursday for three of the victims in the Maurice Richard Arena in Montreal, Quebec. The three victims will be buried in their home countries of Morocco and Tunisia as requested by their families. The services for the other three victims will be conducted by the end of the week in Quebec City. Comment: The Center for the Prevention of Radicalization Leading to Violence reported an increase in propaganda targeting Muslim population and that hate crimes towards Muslims have been in an upward trend in Canada. (Montreal Gazette, 1, 2, 3, BBC, New York Times, Al Jazeera)

COLOMBIA/PERU: Latin American Presidents vow to stand with Mexico

On Friday, the Presidents of Colombia and Peru attended the Binational Cabinet meeting in Arequipa, Peru, where they expressed their support to their Mexican counterpart in his confrontation with the new U.S. administration. The Peruvian President, Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, stated that Latin America must double down on efforts to open markets and strengthen commercial ties among them as a response to the U.S.‘ protectionist rhetoric. In addition, Colombias President, Juan Manuel Santos, called upon the countries of the region to adhere to the principles of free trade, respect for treaties, and multilateral solutions. Comment: The statements of support and the encouragement to create a united front in the region came as a result of the Unites States decision to withdraw from the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement. (El Comercio, Prensa Latina, Telesur, Reuters)

UNITED STATES: President Donald Trump signs Muslim ban

On Friday, President Trump issued an executive order banning the entry of nationals from seven majority-Muslim countries: Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen, for 90 days. John Kelly, Secretary of Homeland Security, announced that some legal permanent residents who pose no serious threat to the U.S. would be allowed in on a case-by-case basis. Additionally, the executive order suspends the admission of refugees for 120 days, the decision is based on the need for a more rigorous vetting system. Comment: The decision to ban more than 218 million people from entering the U.S. had immediate consequences. Approved refugees, valid visa holders, non-U.S. dual citizens, and legal U.S. residents were detained and denied access at International Airports. The restrictions incited thousands of U.S. citizens to protest at airports for 48 hours.  (The Atlantic, CNN, DHS, The Guardian, 1, 2, 3, Reuters)

Researched/Written by Silvina Zbikoski 

This week in East Asia & Pacific

MYANMAR: Thousands gather for funeral of murdered human rights lawyer

On Monday, an estimated 100,000 people gathered in northern Yangon for the funeral of Muslim lawyer and government adviser Ko Ni, who was shot on Sunday. The 63-year-old lawyer was a prominent member of Myanmar’s Muslim minority and was involved in efforts to amend the military-drafted constitution. A suspect in the shooting has been detained but there is not information as to the motive of the gunman. Comment: The assassination comes amid heightened tensions in Buddhist-majority Myanmar as a result of military operations in the Muslim populated northwest region. Ko Ni had been an outspoken critic of the power the military retains despite having handed off government control to civilian administration in April 2016. (Al Jazeera, BBC, The Guardian)

PHILIPPINES: Police suspend drug-war amid corruption allegation

On Monday, Director-General of the National Police Ronald dela Rosa publicly announced the disbandment of anti-drugs units, stating that the dismantling of those units is necessary to rebuild them. The decision to suspend the war on drugs comes after the murder of a South Korean businessman held for ransom inside police headquarters by the anti-drug police forces. Comment: On Sunday, despite the decision to disband the units, President Duterte vowed to continue the war on drugs until the last day of his term. Tackling drugs and crime has been at the center of president Duterte’s election campaign. More than 7,000 people have been killed since the war on drugs began, attracting criticism from human rights groups and Western countries. (The Inquirer, Al Jazeera, BBC)

SOUTH KOREA: Ex-UN chief drops presidential bid

On Wednesday, former UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon renounced a much-anticipated South Korean presidency bid. The renouncement came as a surprise and is a boost for liberal front-runner Moon Jae-in as the former UN chief had been considered a likely presidential candidate from the conservative camp. Since Mr. Moon’s return to Korea in January after 10 years of service at the UN, he had been exploring his options to officially begin a full-fledged presidential campaign. Comment: Mr. Ban blamed political slander and “various fake news” for his decision. The withdrawal comes after the former president was impeached due to a long-running corruption scandal. If impeachment is upheld by the Constitutional Court, elections will be held within two months. (The Korea Herald, Yonhap News, BBC)

Researched/Written by Kanstantsin Ivanou

This week in Europe & Central Asia

UKRAINE: Violence escalates between government troops and Russian-backed separatists

In a violation of the February 2015 peace deal, both sides moved heavy artillery to the frontline this week in response to mutual hostilities. The conflict, and particularly the use of heavy artillery, resulted in dozens of injuries and deaths, including civilian casualties. The shelling of Avdiyivka left residents without heat or electricity in the dead of winter. Comment: It is unclear exactly what started the escalation of violence, as both sides blame the other. The escalation comes following U.S. Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley reaffirming the annexation of Crimea by Russia as illegitimate. (Euractiv, Reuters, AP)

UNITED KINGDOM: House of Commons backs European Union Bill to exit EU

UK Prime Minister Theresa Mays EU exit plan has passed its first legislative hurdle after a vote of 498 to 114. The proposed amendment by the Scottish National Party seeking to delay exit talks until detailed plans had been disclosed was defeated as well. The bill will next be scrutinized at the committee level, where it may be amended still, and then passed to the House of Lords before it can become law. Comment: Many opposition party members wish to amend the bill in order to give parliament a greater voice in the EU exit talks. Most lawmakers have signaled they will ultimately support the bill, allowing EU exit negotiations to begin within weeks. (BBC, Reuters, AP)

REGIONAL: EU Leader names U.S. Trump Administration threat to EU

In a letter addressed to EU leaders, President of the European Council Donald Tusk referred to the Trump administration as an external threat” alongside Russia, China, and radical Islam. Tusk cites the new U.S. administrations declarations as counter to the previous 70 years of U.S. foreign policy, placing the EU in a highly unpredictable situation. In the same letter, Tusk argued that any nation tempted to leave the EU would not gain independence, but dependence on the great superpowers. Comment: U.S. President Trump has previously questioned the relevance of NATO, which works directly with the EU and shares a majority of member states. Trumps rhetoric and executive action to pull out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) have led to fears that the U.S. will embrace protectionism rather than a trans-Atlantic trade deal. (EUobserver, Reuters, AP)


Researched/Written by Kenneth Davis

This week in the Middle East & North Africa

ISRAEL: Setters of illegal West Bank settlement clash with police during evacuation

On Wednesday, Israeli police faced resistance from settlers while evicting them from an illegal West Bank settlement. The evacuation came after an Israeli court decision from 2014 that ruled the settlement is built on private Palestinian land. Approximately 330 Israeli settlers live in about 40 homes in the Amona settlement. Police said the settlers threw material at them that “made their eyes burn” and threw stones, wounding a few officers. The settlers have expressed their intention to challenge the court ruling and stated they will return to Amona to “build on this land legally.” Comment: The court’s decision came after right-wing government officials spent months trying to legalize the settlement. Within the last two weeks, Israel announced the construction of approximately 5,000 new settler homes in the occupied West Bank. The construction of settlements is illegal under international law, further denounced by a UN resolution passed on December 23 condemning the settlements as a violation of international law. (Times of Israel, Middle East Eye, Al Jazeera)

LIBYA: Trump’s Immigration ban may prevent Libyan officials from attending February conference

On Wednesday, the UN-backed Libyan Government of National Accord (GNA) criticized the U.S. immigration ban against the country, specifically because it may prevent government officials from attending the high-profile conference “Libya-U.S. Relations 2017: New Vision, Hope, and Opportunities,” which will be held on February 16. A GNA spokesperson, Ashraf al-Tulti, said the GNA will request exceptions to the executive order from the U.S. Department of State for the Libyan officials. Two former prime ministers and the head of the National Oil Corporation are slated to speak at the conference.Comment: Under President Trump’s executive order, travelers from seven countries including Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen are banned from entering the U.S. for 90 days. Last week, leaders from all sides of the Libyan conflict met with neighboring countries in Cairo to discuss forming a new government that is inclusive to all parties. (Middle East Monitor, Reuters,NPRNCUSAR)

YEMEN: Approximately 30 killed in first U.S. raid in Yemen under President Trump

On Sunday, a U.S. raid against al-Qaeda (A.Q.) in Yemen killed 16 civilians, one U.S. commander, and 14 suspected A.Q. militants, including Abdulraouf al-Zahab, a senior leader of A.Q. Military forces did not take any prisoners, but gathered “important intelligence that will assist the U.S. in preventing terrorism against its citizens and people around the world.” A USD 70 million military aircraft was disabled, which military forces bombed before leaving it behind.Comment: This was the first counterterrorism operation approved by President Trump, who deemed the mission a success. The U.S. Joint Special Operations Command had been planning the raid for months, which was heavily deliberated by the Obama administration but ultimately deemed too risky and left for the next administration to handle. (Libya HeraldAhram, VOA)

Researched/Written by Raghda Karajah

This week in South Asia

AFGHANISTAN: Heroin labs destroyed in raid in Helmand province

On Monday, the Ministry of the Interior reported the destruction of six heroin labs, 1,090kg of morphine, 15,175kg of ammonium chloride, and 2,000 liters of liquid opium in a special military operation in a Taliban-controlled area of Helmand over the weekend. Zabihullah Dayem, a senior adviser to the counter-narcotics minister, called the operation a successful part of the effort to fight drug production and addiction in Afghanistan. Comment: Afghanistan produces 80 percent of the world’s opium supply. Activist Laila Haidari says that destroying a few labs is not enough to combat the widespread drug production and drug use in Afghanistan. She claims the government’s touting of such hollow successes only distracts from their lack of effort to resolve the issue. (Kabul Tribune, Al Jazeera, UPI)

BANGLADESH: Concern increases over government plan to relocate Rohingya refugees

International aid officials working in Bangladesh raised concerns this week after the government announced the creation of a committee designed to assist coastal authorities to identify and relocate undocumented Rohingya immigrants. A main concern is the designated relocation site Thengar Char, a currently uninhabited island located in the Bay of Bengal, which is prone to flooding. Comment: A UN agency noted that a mass forced relocation effort of this kind would be “complex”. The Bangladeshi government originally designed and announced this plan in 2015 but did not execute the relocation due to concerns that the island was not suitable for human habitation. (The Dawn, The Daily Star, Al Jazeera)

PAKISTAN: Alleged terrorist under house arrest

On Monday, Pakistani authorities took Hafiz Saeed, the alleged mastermind of the 2008 Mumbai attacks, into custody at the headquarters of Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD), the humanitarian organization Saeed heads. The United Nations and United States list JuD as a front for the armed group Lashkare-e-Taiba (LeT), of which Saeed is considered the founder. Comment: Pakistani authorities detained Hafiz Saeed on house arrest for six months immediately following the attacks on Mumbai. He was released due to insufficient evidence. Indian officials are suspicious of the most recent arrest and speculate that Pakistan is posturing anti-terrorism efforts for the benefit of the new U.S. administration in order to continue to receive monetary assistance. (The Dawn, The Hindu, Al Jazeera)

Researched/Written by Kaleigh Thomas