PSR: March 16, 2018

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March 10 – March 16

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

This week at IPSI

Train with Search for Common Ground – 2018 Nobel Peace Prize Nominees – at the DC Symposium!


This week in Sub-Saharan Africa

DR CONGO: Dozens killed in Ituri province

Congo dozens killed in Ituri  

On Tuesday, at least 40 people died in the Ituri province, located in the Northeastern part of the country, following a new outbreak of ethnic clashes between Hema cattle herders and Lendu farmers. The violence happened in the village of Maze, some 50 miles north of Bunia. At least 130 people have been killed in an outbreak of violence that started in Ituri in December 2017. Comment: The decades-old conflict between Hema and Lendu killed tens of thousands between 1998 and 2003. In recent years, the two groups have maintained low-levels of conflict with occasional flare-ups in violence forcing 200,000 people to flee their homes. (Aljazeera, BBC, France24 News)


SOUTH AFRICA: Government slams Australian visa plan for white farmers


On Wednesday, the South African government criticized the Australian Minister for Home Affairs for suggesting that white farmers should get special visas so they can flee “horrific circumstances” in the country. Australian Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton said he was exploring giving white farmers access to fast-track visas on humanitarian grounds. The suggestions were made amid calls by South Africa to transfer land ownership from white to black farmers in the country. Dutton cited reports of land seizures and violence targeting the minority white farmers, who control a disproportionate share of the country’s land, to defend the visa plan. Comment: Land ownership is a sensitive subject in South Africa 24-years after the end of apartheid rule. White farmers still own around 72 percent of individually-owned farms, with the black majority holding just four percent. The land expropriation without compensation motion, which was brought forward by the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) party, seeks to change the constitution to allow for it. The African National Congress (ANC) has backed the motion. President Cyril Ramaphosa has vowed to escalate the pace of redistributing land from the wealthy whites to poorer blacks using “legal channels.” (New York Times, BBC NewsAljazeera, News24)


SOUTH SUDAN: Government requests to join Arab League

  South Sudan Arab League

On Monday, the Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shukry met South Sudan president Salva Kiir to discuss Juba’s request to join the Cairo-based Arab League. According to the ministry statement, the two leaders discussed means of enhancing South Sudan-Egypt relations and regional issues of common concern including ongoing negotiations over Ethiopia’s Grand Renaissance Dam project. Comment: Since 2013, South Sudan, which seceded from Sudan following a 2011 popular referendum, has remained the scene of a civil war pitting government forces against armed opposition groups. A split between South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir and his former deputy Riek Machar escalated into a military conflict in December 2013. Despite a 2015 peace deal signed between the two sides, the conflict – in which some 10,000 people are estimated to have been killed – remains ongoing. South Sudan is also a member of the East African Community alongside Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, and Tanzania. If successful, South Sudan will join Algeria, Comoros, Djibouti, Egypt, Mauritania, Somalia, Sudan and Tunisia as the League’s ninth African country. (Aljazeera, Sudan Tribute, The East African)

Researched/Written by Brian Adienge


This week in the Americas & Caribbean

COLOMBIA: Peace talks between government and ELN to resume


On Monday, President Juan Manuel Santos announced he will send Colombia’s chief negotiator, Gustavo Bell, back to Quito in an effort to resume talks towards a bilateral cease-fire. Peace talks were suspended toward the end of January after multiple ELN attacks culminated in the deaths of at least seven people with more than 40 others injured. The ELN responded positively to Santos’ call for negotiations, stating their desire for another cease-fire. The President’s main goal for these negotiations is, “to save lives and achieve total peace in Colombia.” Comment: With the Presidential elections in May and several candidates opposing the talks, the resumption of negotiations may only be temporary. If successful, these peace talks would end over five decades of armed conflict. (BBC, Reuters, Telesur)


PANAMA: Protest over infrastructure turns violent

Panama Pallets  

On Wednesday, violent clashes with police were seen in Panama’s second largest city, Colon. Demonstrators were angry at what they believe to be a slow pace in an effort to solve issues with the city’s sewer system, water supply, and housing. Protests began non-violently, and protest leader Edgardo Voitier declared that the strike would continue on through Wednesday. On the second day of the protest, splinter groups began throwing rocks at police, lighting fires, looting businesses, and vandalizing patrol cars. The initial reports from the national police said four officers were injured and 18 civilians arrested; no report has been released on civilian injuries. Comment: Despite being a major port city on the crucial Panama Canal, Colon has faced serious neglect over the past few decades. As of 2014, President Juan Carlos Varela started a USD 1.2 billion project to improve public and social works in the city. (ABC, BBC, Costa Rica News, WaPo)


UNITED STATES: Secretary of State Rex Tillerson fired

  Rex and Donny

On Tuesday, President Trump ousted Secretary of State Tillerson to replace him with CIA chief Mike Pompeo, a former Congressman from the right-wing Tea Party.  The President and the former Secretary of State repeatedly clashed on numerous issues such as how to handle negotiations with North Korea. Gina Haspel will succeed Mike Pompeo at the CIA, becoming the first female chief of the agency. Comment:  Analysts are warning that U.S. influence in meetings with foreign leaders will diminish from a perceived lack of consistency in this administration’s staff. Both political and media officials are skeptical of Gina Haspel’s appointment due to her documented involvement in “black site” prisons, torture, and orders to destroy evidence about the previous two points. (Aljazeera, BBC, CNBC, Guardian, National Review, NYTimes)

Researched/Written by Connor Murnane


This week in East Asia & Pacific

MYANMAR: UN cites Facebook role in Rohingya crisis

Facebook and Myanmar  

On Monday, UN human rights investigators said that Facebook played a role in spreading hate speech against the Rohingya. Marzuki Darusman, chairman of the UN Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar, stated that Facebook played a “determining role” in the acts of violence against the Rohingya, and the UN human rights chief said these acts may constitute “genocide.” The mission´s chairman explained that some ultra-nationalist Buddhist monks are using social media to advocate and encourage violence against the minority group. Comment: Last October, a New York Times report found that the platform played a crucial role as a microphone for ultra-nationalist Buddhist monks to spread hate speech against Rohingya. (Aljazeera, CBS NEWS, The Guardian)


PHILIPINES: Duterte announces “immediate” withdrawal from the International Criminal Court

  Duterte withdrawl from ICC

On Wednesday, President Duterte announced that the country will withdraw from ICC “effective immediately.” Duterte said that The Hague-based court  “has no jurisdiction and will not acquire jurisdiction over him.” His statement comes a month after the court announced its preliminary examination of whether crimes against humanity were committed during Duterte’s “war on drugs.” Duterte, who had initially welcomed the investigation, accused the court of being “a political tool” against him. Comment: If the ICC finds evidence of crimes against humanity, the sudden withdraw would not protect Duterte. Article 127 of the Rome Statute specifies that “withdraw shall not affect any cooperation with the court in connection with a criminal investigation.” (CNN, Aljazeera, Reuters, The Guardian)


SOUTH KOREA: Former President Lee Myung-bak questioned over corruption


On Wednesday, prosecutors questioned former president Lee Myung-bak over a number of corruption charges allegedly ocurred during his time in office. Lee is accused of stealing around USD 10 million from a number of institutions including the government’s National Intelligence Service and Samsung Group. Two of Lee’s former aides have already been arrested. Lee has denied wrongdoing and criticized the investigation as “regressive attempts.” Comment: The investigation into Lee adds to the list of former presidents facing charges in criminal inquiries. Lee’s successor, Park Geun Hye, was ousted last year over a corruption scandal. Her verdict is due next month, with prosecutors demanding her sentence to be 30 years in jail. (New York Times, Channel NewsAsia, South China Morning Post, Reuters)

Researched/Written by Edgar Peter Mutta


This week in Europe & Central Asia

SERBIA: President will consider compromise with Kosovo


On Wednesday, Serbian President Aleksander Vucic stated his plans to resolve the country’s dispute with Kosovo during a meeting in Belgrade with U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs Wess Mitchell. Mitchell expressed the U.S.’s interest in assisting Serbia to reach a compromise through the renewed dialogue with Kosovo, but Vucic warned that, although he was ready to discuss compromises, he would not do anything that will result in a “humiliation of our own people.” One major issue to be addressed in the dialogue is the legality of a Kosovar army, which Vucic opposes. Comment: This change of Serbia’s position is primarily the result of the country’s efforts to join the EU. The EU requires West Balkan countries to normalize relations before gaining membership. According to Balkan Insight and AP News, the U.S. also wants to prevent west Balkan conflicts from escalating. (Balkan Insight, Independent Balkan News Agency, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, AP)


SPAIN: Thousands of Catalans march in support of secession

Spain Catalans march  

On Sunday, the Catalan National Assembly (ANC) led a march in Barcelona calling for “Republic Now” with 45,000 protestors supporting Catalonia’s secession from Spain. ANC Vice President Agusti Alcoberro said the purpose of the march was to move forward with the Republic the protestors voted for in a controversial referendum in October. His goal is to convince the separatist parties to unite. Comment: Since the October referendum, separatist parties won a small majority of seats in the Catalan parliament in December’s snap elections, but have been unable to form a new government. Many leaders of the pro-secessionist movement are in exile or prison. A scheduled debate to appoint a new regional president was halted on Monday because the only candidate, Jordi Sanchez (former ANC president), is in jail for charges of sedition. (The Local Spain, DW, Al Jazeera)


UK / RUSSIA: UK expels 23 Russian diplomats after alleged Russian attack on ex-spy

  UK Russia conflict over spy

On Wednesday, Prime Minister Theresa May announced a list of retaliatory measures, including the expulsion of 23 Russian diplomats, after the Russian government refused to assist in the UK’s investigation of the poisoning of a former Russian spy in Salisbury. Ten days ago, Sergei Skripal, a former double agent, and his daughter were found unconscious on a park bench after they were poisoned by a nerve agent. May said she considered the act “an unlawful use of force by the Russian state against the United Kingdom.” Russia denied any involvement in the attack, and a spokesman for Putin said that May’s accusations are “unfounded.” As a response to the measures, Russia is considering removing UK diplomats from Russia. Comment: Skripal reported more than 20 Russian agents to British intelligence before he was caught by Moscow in 2004. The list of proposed UK punitive measures also includes freezing Russian state assets held in the UK, boycotting the World Cup in Russia, and halting a high-level meeting planned with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. (BBC 1, 2, The Guardian, Al Jazeera, NY Times, Reuters)

Researched/Written by Daniel Boerger


This week in the Middle East & North Africa

IRAQ: International flights to Kurdistan’s region resume


On Wednesday, Iraq’s Interior Minister Qassim al-Araji announced that a month-long federal ban on international flights to and from the northern Iraqi semi-autonomous region of Kurdistan had officially been lifted. The ban had been imposed after a controversial referendum that overwhelmingly voted for independence from Baghdad. According to Reuters, Kurdish authorities welcomed the decision and had agreed that the airports should come under federal control and report to Baghdad’s interior ministry. Comment: The ban was part of a series of punitive measures that the federal government imposed after the September referendum. Baghdad considered the referendum to be unconstitutional.  (Daily Sabah, Fox News, Reuters)


TUNISIA: Women march for equal inheritance rights

Tunisia Women  

On Saturday, hundreds of women took to the streets in Tunis to demand inheritance rights equal to those held by men. While the North African country provides female citizens more rights than most other Middle Eastern nations, many women in Tunisia still feel discriminated against. “In terms of Tunisia’s gains in women’s rights, we managed to secure many, but it’s clear that our society is moving slowly while it can do better,” says Feriel Jradi Charfedine, a gender expert and one of the founders of a feminist movement called Calam. Comment: In August, President Beji Caid Essebsi, a secular politician, set up a committee to draft proposals to advance women’s rights, as well as examine “individual liberties” and “equality in all domains.” His move was met with anger and opposition by many Muslim clerics claiming that it was a violation of Islamic doctrine. (Sputniknews, TRTReuters)


QATAR: Gvoernment signs USD 3.7 billion deal to buy military helicopters from Italy

  Qatar military heli

On Wednesday, Qatar announced it will spend USD 3.71 billion to buy 28 military helicopters from the Italian defense contractor Leonardo. Mashout Faisal Al Hajri, the commander of the Emiri Air Force helicopter wing, said the deal “will contribute greatly to enhancing the capabilities and efficiency” of Qatar’s air force, according to Qatar News Agency. Comment: The deal is Qatar’s latest high-profile defense purchase during a bitter diplomatic crisis with its Gulf neighbors. Since the dispute erupted, Qatar has spent some USD 30 billion on military hardware. Among the purchases are F-15 planes from the U.S., a Rafale fighter jet deal with France, and another for Typhoon aircraft from Britain. (Aljazeera, hurriyetdailynews, Reuters)

Researched/Written by Mohamed Ismail


This week in South Asia

BANGLADESH: Plane with 71 on board crashes in Nepal

Bangladesh plane crash  

On Monday, a Bangladeshi aircraft crashed while trying to land at Kathmandu airport in Nepal, killing at least 49 people. The aircraft from US-Bangla Airlines made an unexpected turn, clipped a fence and burst into flames before finally stopping on a nearby field. Representatives from the airline and officials from the airport blamed each other for the crash after a transcript of the radio conversation with airport ground control and the pilots of the plane revealed confusion over the designated runway. Investigators retrieved the flight data recorder from the wreckage, and opened an investigation into the cause of the crash. Comment: A total of 71 people were on board the flight; 33 passengers were from Nepal, 32 from Bangladesh, 1 from China, 1 from the Maldives, and 4 crew members. (The Daily Star 1, 2, The Himalayan Times, The Guardian, Reuters


INDIA: Thousands of farmers protest demanding more government support

  India 1000 farmer

On Monday, thousands of farmers from the western Maharashtra region arrived in the capital, Mumbai, after a five-day non-violent protest march to demand government support. They walked 112 miles from the town of Nashik with the number of protestors, according to reports, ranging from 15,000 to 30,000. The protestors demanded that the government waive agricultural loans, offer better crop prices, and improve the chances for land ownership among tribal farmers who cultivate in the forests. Leaders of the protestors met state representatives who assured them the government would meet their demands. Comment: Protestors wore red caps and All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS), the farmers wing of the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPM), organized the protest. This is the second major protest by farmers in less than a year. (The Times of India, Al Jazeera, BBC News, Reuters)


PAKISTAN: Suicide bomb targeting police kills at least six people in Raiwind

On Wednesday, a suicide bomber on a motorcycle attacked a police checkpoint in Raiwind, a town near the eastern city of Lahore. The checkpoint was for the Raiwind Ijtema, a religious congregation gathering that takes place every year. The blast killed at least six people and wounded more than a dozen. The fatalities included both police personnel and civilians. According to the Deputy Inspector General, the police were the target of the attack. The Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) claimed responsibility for the attack. Comment: This is not the first-time  the Taliban targeted police in Pakistan. In July last year, the Taliban executed a similar attack – also involving a motorcycle – in Lahore where at least 26 people, including nine policemen, died. (Dawn, Geo News, The Nation, Al Jazeera, Reuters)

Researched/Written by Pamela Mhute

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