PSR: February 17, 2017

February 17, 2017
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This week in: Peace & Security Publications |
IPSI | Africa | Americas | East Asia | Middle East | South Asia

Featured Report

Tracking the Trends and Numbers: Islam, Terrorism, Stability, and Conflict in the Middle East

What the trends and data actually driving unrest and extremism in MENA? CSIS reveal how much of the current U.S. debate over immigration and terrorism is focused on fear, rather than an effort to understand the forces shaping the region. Through analyzing the data, they provide several key points about what the data does reveal about MENA.

This week in Sub-Saharan Africa

DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO: Escalating militia-military clashes

Between February 9 and 13, Congolese soldiers targeting the militia group Kamwina Nsapu killed at least 101 people near the town of Tshimbulu, including 39 women who were caught in the crossfire. In these clashes, armed forces open fired with machine guns on militia fighters armed with machetes and spears. The head of the UN Organization Stabilization Mission in the DRC condemned the militia’s consistent violent actions and use of child soldiers and expressed concern about the military’s disproportionate use of force. Comment: Recent clashes in central DRC have been exacerbated by the Kamwina Nsapu militia’s claim to be avenging the death of their leader killed last August by Congolese forces, and by President Joseph Kabila’s refusal to step down when his constitutional mandate expired in December. Analysists say militia-military clashes in recent months have displaced thousands and caused the deaths of several hundred. (CAJ News, Al Jazeera, Reuters)

SOUTH SUDAN/UGANDA: Mass exodus of refugees

Increasing insecurity in recent weeks has caused an exodus of people from Central Equatoria region, on the southern border of South Sudan, to flee to neighboring Uganda. Violence has escalated in and around the town of Kajo-Keji between the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA), who are loyal to the president, and opposition forces loyal to the former vice president. Between February 3 to 9, Uganda received a total of 25,400 new arrivals at a rate of nearly 4,000 per day. Newly arrived refugees report that the SPLA are systematically attacking civilians traveling towards the Ugandan border, forcing them to hide in the bush and use informal border crossings. Comment: Since last November, UN officials have warned of ethnic cleansing in Central Equatoria and raised concerns that conditions for genocide are present, which the South Sudanese government denies. According to the UNHCR, “South Sudan is now Africa’s largest refugee crisis and the world’s third after Syria and Afghanistan” since the number of refugees fleeing South Sudan reached the 1.5 million mark this month. To deal effectively with the influx, refugees are registered upon arrival by the government at temporary reception centers and then transferred to camps along the border. (Sudan Tribune, Al Jazeera 1, 2, Reuters)

MALAWI: Ban on child marriage

On Tuesday, Malawi’s parliament passed an amendment to the constitution fully outlawing child marriage by raising the age of a child from 14 to 18 and eliminating a loophole that allows child marriage with parental consent. The amendment, which was hailed as “a great day for Malawian girls,” follows a year-long campaign led by youth groups and Plan International. Women’s rights campaigners hope the move will reduce school dropout rates of girls due to early marriage and the number of deaths and injuries due childbirth. Comment: Malawi has one of the world’s highest rates of child marriage with half of girls married by 18 years old and one in eight before age 15. (Nyasa Times, All Africa, Reuters)

Researched/Written by Jessica Himelfarb

This week in the Americas & Caribbean

MEXICO: Massive demonstrations in more that 20 cities

On Monday, an estimated 20,000 people joined massive protests against U.S. President Donald Trump in more than 20 cities in Mexico. Trump’s treatment of undocumented immigrants and his plan for Mexico to pay for the border wall were the primary complaints of the protesters. Protesters were also concerned about the possibility of new taxes on Mexican goods and remittances, as well as the prospect of the U.S. withdrawal from NAFTA. Comment: Analysts have stated that U.S.-Mexican relations have plunged to their lowest point in decades since Trump took office in January. Experts have explained that Trump has also affected the Mexican economy with his threats to terminate the country’s trade relationship with the U.S., blaming Mexico for the loss of jobs in the country. (Infobae,Prensa LibreUnivision, Al Jazeera, CNN, NBC News)

UNITED STATES: Trump’s national security advisor resigns

On Tuesday, Michael Flynn, the national security advisor to President Trump, presented his resignation over revelations of his potentially illegal contact with the Russian ambassador to the United States. The Justice Department warned the White House last month that Flynn misled senior administration officials about the nature of his communications with the Russian ambassador and cautioned that the national security adviser was potentially vulnerable to Russian blackmail. Comment: According to local media, intelligence officials suspect that Flynn could be in violation of a U.S statute known as the Logan Act, which bans U.S. citizens from interfering in diplomatic disputes with another country. (CNN, NBC NewsWashington Post)

VENEZUELA: The U.S. imposes sanctions on Venezuelan vice president

On Tuesday, the U.S Treasury imposed sanctions on the vice president of Venezuela, Tareck El Aisssami, based on accusations of alleged involvement in international drug trafficking. According to the U.S. Treasury, El Aissami facilitated shipments of narcotics by air and sea, and had an agreement with Walid Makled, a convicted Venezuelan drug lord, for the protections of drug shipments. The sanction adds El Aissami to the U.S list of “kingpins,” arguing that he is “playing a significant role in the international narcotics trafficking.” El Aissami is now barred from entering the U.S., and his assets in the country have been frozen. Comment: Local media reported that Mr. El Aissami dismissed the allegations as an “imperialist aggression,” responding via Twitter in Spanish that he interpreted “this miserable and infamous aggression as a recognition of his status as an anti-imperialist revolutionary.” (El Pais,El Universal, TeleSur, BBC)

Researched/Written by Silvina Zbikoski 

This week in East Asia & Pacific

CHINA: Warning against naval patrols in South China Sea

On Wednesday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang warned Washington against conducting new naval patrols in the South China Sea. The warning came after a report surfaced on Sunday stating that U.S. Navy and Pacific Command leaders were considering freedom of navigations patrols in the region, patrols carried out under international law of the sea. Shuang stated that tensions in the South China Sea had been stabilized due to the work conducted between China and Southeast Asia countries and urged foreign nations to respect current agreements. Comment: China lays claim to most of the resource-rich South China Sea with Malaysia, Philippines, Taiwan, and Vietnam claiming parts of the waters. The last freedom of navigation operation in the area was conducted by the United States in October. (The Diplomat, Navy Times, Reuters)

INDONESIA: Jakarta’s governor election heading to second round

After Wednesday’s vote, Jakarta’s incumbent governor Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama is advancing into the second round of voting in April. The divisive election campaign saw Ahok face blasphemy charges and has been characterized by religious intolerance and racial bigotry. Ahok, a Christian governor, currently holds a slight lead over his Muslim opponent, former education minister Anies Rasyid Baswedan. Comment: A candidate needs to get more than 50 percent of the votes to win the election in the first round. Polling shows Ahok at 43 percent and Baswedan at 40 percent. Third contender Agus Harimurti Yudhoyono, son of a former president, was in third place with 16.8 percent of the vote. (The Jakarta Post, Al Jazeera, The Guardian)

NORTH KOREA: UN condemns missile launch

On Monday, the United Nations Security Council condemned North Korea’s ballistic missile test, urging its members to redouble efforts to enforce sanctions. North Korea violated UN resolution banning ballistic missile tests by launching the Pukguksong-2 missile on Sunday. The missile travelled for 500 km and was powered by a solid fuel engine. Following the launch Japan, South Korea, and the U.S. asked for an urgent meeting of the Security Council. Comment: UN sanctions over nuclear and ballistic missile tests were first place in 2006. The missile test was seen as a challenge to the international community since the new administration took office in the U.S. (Al Jazeera, The Guardian, Reuters)

Researched/Written by Kanstantsin Ivanou

This week in Europe & Central Asia

FRANCE: French Minister warns Russia of retaliation against potential election interference

On Wednesday, French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault issued a warning in following allegations by centrist French presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron’s En Marche movement that Russia was engaging in cyberattacks and distributing “fake news” in order to discredit the candidate. Ayrault clarified that the warning is in response to the alleged Russian interference in the U.S. election, and applies to any country that attempts to influence the electoral process. The Kremlin has dismissed the allegations of tampering as “absurd.” Comment: Conservative candidate Francois Fillon was the early frontrunner for the election, but following a series of corruption allegations has quickly fallen in the polls. Far-right candidate Marine Le Pen of the National Front party is now expected to beat him in the first election, with centrist Macron expected to win in the runoff election. (France 24, The Local fr, RadioFreeEurope, Reuters)

ROMANIA: Parliament agrees to hold anti-corruption referendum amidst continued protests

On Monday, the Romanian Parliament unanimously agreed to hold a referendum to fight corruption proposed by President Klaus Iohannis following tens of thousands of anti-government protesters gathering nationwide Sunday night. Despite this, protests continued for the 15thconsecutive day Tuesday night. The protests have involved hundreds of thousands of people across the country, the largest since the 1989 fall of communism, and have remained overwhelmingly nonviolent. Comment: The protests began following a January 31st emergency ordinance passed by the government to partially decriminalize government corruption. Since then, the ordinance has been repealed, the government survived a vote of no-confidence, and the justice minister resigned. (Romania-Insider, Euronews, AP 1, 2)

RUSSIA: Kremlin asserts to the U.S. that Crimea is a permanent territory of the Russian Federation

In response to comments made by U.S. White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer that U.S. President Donald Trump expects Crimea to be returned to Ukraine, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova asserted “we don’t give back our own territory.” Trump later tweeted that Crimea was “TAKEN” by Russia, implying that it was because Obama was “too soft” on Russia. Speaker of the Russian State Duma Vyacheslav Volodin clarified that any discussion of Crimea’s status was equivalent to challenging Russian territorial integrity. Comment: The White House’s comments follow a hard stance by U.S. ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley for U.S. sanctions to remain in place until Russia withdraws from Crimea. On Monday, former U.S. national security adviser Michael Flynn stepped down following revelations that he had discussed the sanctions prior to his appointment under the Trump administration. (RT, CNN, Reuters)


Researched/Written by Kenneth Davis

This week in the Middle East & North Africa

EGYPT: Egypt cracks down on Human Rights NGOs

On Thursday, human rights organizations claimed the Egyptian government has been restricting their operations, citing threats to national security. The government is mostly targeting non-government organizations associated with human rights violations specific to violence and torture. Egyptian authorities physically sealed shut the doors of the Al Nadeem Centre for the Rehabilitation of Victims of Violence and Torture, a registered clinic with the Health Ministry that has been operating for 24 years. The clinic helps victims of security force brutality and has been a source of information about deaths in detention, denial of medical care, and abuse by law enforcement officers. Human Rights Watch accused the government of suspending Al Nadeem’s operations to silence victims of police brutality. Comment: The restrictions on NGOs comes after the Egyptian parliament passed a bill that required NGOs of all types to re-register themselves as NGOs under the ministry of social affairs, regardless of what services they offer. President Sisi is set to sign a decree known as the “NGO Law” which would further restrict NGOs and the formation of civil society organizations by making them subject to security intervention. (The Cairo Review of Global Affairs,Al Jazeera, Middle East Monitor)

IRAQ: Protest rally in Baghdad turns violent

On Saturday, thousands of supporters of Muqtada al-Sadr, an influential Shia leader, protested near the Green Zone of Baghdad for an overhaul of the electoral process. Iraqi security forces fired tear gas and rubber-coated bullets at the protesters and used live fire to dispel the crowds. The violence resulted in seven dead, two security personnel and five protesters, as well as over 200 injuries. The head of the electoral commission, Serbat Mustafa, has refused to resign. Later that night, several rockets were fired from Baghdad into the Green Zone but police were not able to identify who was behind the attack or the intended target. Comment: Sadr’s supporters protested after he accused the elections commission of being corrupt and demanded the commission’s members to be changed before an upcoming provincial vote in September. The Green Zone of Baghdad houses international organizations and is where the homes of prominent politicians are. Last year, Sadr’s supporters breached the green zone twice during protests regarding other matters. (Press TV Iraq, Kurdistan 24Al Jazeera)

LIBYA: U.S. blocks appointment of former Palestinian PM as UN envoy to Libya

On Friday, the United States blocked the appointment of Salam Fayyad, former Palestinian prime minister, to be the new UN envoy to Libya over Israeli concerns, despite his would-be role being unrelated to Israel. UN Secretary-General Guterres informed the Security Council of his intention to name Fayyad to lead the UN support mission in Libya and help broker talks on a faltering political deal, but the U.S. objected. U.S. Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley stated that the objection was due to the UN’s “outrageous” bias against Israel and because the US does not recognize a Palestinian state and does not agree with the signal his appointment would send to the UN.Comment: The U.S. objection to Fayyad’s appointment is based on his nationality and not his ability to do the job. Ambassador Haley has vowed to defend Israel’s interest in the UN. The harder position of the U.S. on Palestine is a response to the UN adopting a resolution in December that demanded an end to Israeli settlement building.(Libyan ExpressMiddle East Eye, Haaretz)

Researched/Written by Raghda Karajah

This week in South Asia

INDIA: Protests erupt after clash between militants and Indian soldiers

On Sunday, an operation conducted by the Indian army in the southern Kulgam district of Kashmir left two civilians, two soldiers, and four militants dead. Protests soon began the same day, and 25 civilians were injured when, according to eyewitnesses, the security forces fired into the crowd. Comment: Protests are expected to continue as Kashmiri separatists have called for a march towards Kulgam. The southern districts of Kashmir are the same districts that saw a five-month-long period of violent unrest in the fall of 2016 after the killing of militant Burhan Wani.(The Hindu, The Wire, Al Jazeera)

NEPAL: Tenure of two transitional justice bodies extended for an additional year

Last week, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) and Commission of Investigation of Enforced Disappeared Persons (CIEDP) were set to expire. The two commissions, originally established in February 2015, sought an extension, which was granted in an emergency cabinet meeting. The purpose of the TRC is to bring justice to the victims of the country’s war. The purpose of the CIEDP is to find individuals who disappeared during the war. Comment: The president of the Conflict Victims Common Platform calls the extension a formality. The government has yet to pass laws in accordance with the orders of the Supreme Court to criminalize torture and disappearances, remove the statue of limitation on conflict-era cases, and to revoke amnesty for human rights abuses. (The Kathmandu Post, The Nepali Times, The Dhaka Tribune)

PAKISTAN: Multiple Taliban bombings across the country

On Monday, Jamaat-ul-Ahrar (JA), a splinter group of the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan, bombed a rally in Lahore killing 13 and injuring over 60. On Wednesday, a suicide bomber targeted a van carrying four civil judges in Peshawar, killing the driver and injuring the four judges, three of whom are women. The Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan claimed responsibility for this attack.  Earlier on Wednesday, a suicide bomber blew himself up outside the gate of a housing colony of the local political administration in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas of Pakistan. The JA, executers of the Lahore attack, also claimed responsibility for this suicide bombing. Comment: In a call to Reuters, a spokesman for Jamaat-ul-Ahrar warned that these attacks were the start of a new campaign against government agencies. (The Dawn, The Nation 1, 2, Times of India, BBC, Reuters)

Researched/Written by Kaleigh Thomas