This week in conflict... February 12th-18th, 2011.

World

  • The World Bank (WB) estimates that 44 million people have been pushed into poverty since last summer by soaring commodity prices. Food prices are said to have risen by almost 30% over the past year.
  • The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) pledged to increase their cooperation with the UN this week, from stabilizing Afghanistan to boosting cyber security. The OSCE contains 56 States from the US, across Europe and Central Asia to the borders of China.
  • A new academic paper finds that countries with IMF programmes failed to increase public health spending when receiving additional health aid, responding to a recent article in the Lancet that argued that routing health aid through NGOs rather than developing country governments might be more effective in increasing actual expenditure on health services. The IMF denounced the study as having serious methodological problems.
  • A new Web-based database and research tool will expand what academic researchers, international human rights advocates, journalists, students and the public know about government repression. The Illustrative Information Interface allows anyone with Internet access to register his or her view of the scope and severity of government abuse for a particular geographic area from 1900 to the present.
  • A new report published by Universities UK, suggests that vice-chancellors should reject demands to ban controversial speakers, and engage with, rather than proscribe" extreme political views on campuses. The report is expected to emphasize how seriously universities take their responsibility for the security of students, alongside obligations to promote free speech and academic freedom.
  • A UN report concludes that there is a need to find a new way to describe the "fluid and changing" ways in which men care for and support children, redefining the concept of fatherhood. More men are taking on a parenting role more accurately described as "social fatherhood".

Africa

  • The overthrow of Ben Ali and Mubarak has inspired unrest throughout the Middle East, including new violence in Bahrain, Yemen, Iran, and Algeria. On Sunday, the Egyptian military dissolved parliament, suspended the constitution, and called for an election to be held within six months. Police in Cairo, Egypt dismantled remaining tents in Tahrir Square on Monday, in an attempt to get the country back to work.  While anti-government protests have quieted down, workers strikes and protests calling for better worker conditions still rage on. Military leaders met with opposition leaders to discuss constitutional amendments for approval in a national referendum within two months, giving them 10 days to finish the revisions. Critics argue that the constitution needs to be rewritten from scratch. Engineers began to assess the Internet blockage they faced during the uprisings, concerned that similar methods could be spread to other places of unrest.  The new army rulers have appointed a retired judge, respected in legal circles for his independent views, to head a committee set up to propose constitutional changes. Some of the organizers of protests announced on Wednesday that they had formed a "Council of Trustees" to negotiate the country's transition to democracy. On Friday, Egyptians gathered in Tahrir Square in Cairo to celebrate the ousting of President Mubarak.
  • The National Congress Party (NCP) and the Sudan People Liberation Movement (SPLM) must now decide on the future of the UN peacekeeping force established in the country before the referendum for monitoring the Comprehensive Peace Agreement. Several advocacy groups have warned of the pitfalls of shifting the focus away from the peace agreement for Darfur, as the region has seen escalating levels of violence in the last two months.  At least 80% of the border between North and South has been so far demarcated, though in several regions, such as Abyei, the demarcation remains a contentious issue. On Saturday, three traders were killed in Abyei by an angry mob after a soldier allegedly attempted to enter the town market. On Tuesday, authorities said that at least 211 people were killed in the attacks by a renegade militia in Jonglei last week. The UN-AU peacekeeping mission in Darfur (UNAMID) is said to have significantly stepped up its patrols as a response to an upsurge of violence and adopted a new approach on movement and access in order to help protect civilians.
  • Hundreds of anti-government protesters clashed with police on Tuesday night in eastern Libya, reportedly triggered by the arrest of a human rights campaigner. Government supporters had reportedly taken over the square where demonstrators met by Wednesday. Thursday was scheduled as a "Day of Rage", and saw hundreds of anti-government protesters again clashing with police and government supporters, as the unrest spread to more cities. Security forces are said to have killed at least 24 in the crackdown of protesters. On Friday, the protests continued, with video showed protesters knocking over a statue of Muammar Gaddafi.
  • At least 20 people are dead following explosions at Tanzania People Defense Forces arms' depot in Dar es Salaam on Wednesday night. Twenty-three depots were razed in the explosions, along with at least two residences and a secondary school.
  • An elderly couple was beheaded while their two grandchildren were beaten to death in an attack on a village in central Nigeria on Saturday, in what is suspected to be a ritual killing done in the belief that sacrifices will bring social success and political power. At least six people were killed on Tuesday in Jos during the Eid'l Maulud celebration. The chief judge in Borno State cited that at least 109 have been lost to extrajudicial killings this past year.
  • Analysts predict the demise of Zimbabwe's Government of National Unity approaching, as the country is expected to have a national poll sometime this year. On Wednesday, the EU decided to remove 35 people from the visa ban and asset freeze list and to extend the validity of the remaining measures. On Tuesday, police are said to have seized cars belonging to PM Tsvangirai's official escort and arrested his drivers for possessing beacon lights usually found on police vehicles. Independent newspaper vendors report they are being harassed by suspect ZANU-PF thugs.  PM Tsvangirai threatened to boycott a rushed election this year, arguing that it was important to create conditions for a free and fair election first.
  • The new Tunisian foreign minister resigned from his post this week, after anger at compliments paid to his French counterpart. There are also reports that ousted President Ben Ali is in a coma, after suffering either a stroke or a heart attack and is listed as in critical condition. Thirty-five inmates of a Tunisian prison escaped after assaulting their guards on Wednesday, though most were recaptured.
  • The opposition in Uganda expressed their fears of vote rigging prior to Friday's vote, as the Electoral Commission announced it would dispatch ballot papers to selected districts 48 hours before the vote. The army is also said to be more involved than previously anticipated, even though the police are legally mandated to provide security during the elections process. On Tuesday, the Parliamentary Speaker ordered 77 lawmakers who changed their political platforms ahead of this year's election to vacate Parliament, calling their actions unconstitutional. Disputes over land in northern Uganda are reported to be escalating, affecting the resettlement plans of former internally displaced people. President Museveni dismissed predictions of an Egypt-inspired protest erupting after elections on Friday and repeated threats to arrest the main opposition leader. A record turnout is expected. Authorities ordered phone companies to intercept text messages with certain key words or phrases for fear of elections violence.
  • Algerian civil society groups organized thousands to protest on Saturday, despite a ban on marching and are said to be planning for another protest next Saturday. Police are said to have briefly detained several hundred, but that there were no reported injuries. The government said it will soon end its 19 year-old state of emergency. One of the founders of the state, Abdelamid Mehri, called upon the President to replace the undemocratic system of rule and reform the government.
  • Protests continued in Gabon, with demonstrators saying their president also stole an election and has presided over corruption. Troops are said to have suppressed the protests with tear gas and arrests.
  • Demonstrators protesting against the chronic fuel crisis in Malawi were stopped by police on Monday, but have vowed to continue. The protesters are frustrated by the government's reluctance to tell the people the true reasons for the crisis.
  • Eighty-nine people were arrested on Tuesday in South Africa for public violence in Wesselton, after protesters allegedly raged, firing live ammunition, burning tires, throwing stones and blocking roads. On Thursday, two men were seriously injured after their truck was petrol bombed in Durban in the fourth day of the road freight workers countrywide strike.
  • Incumbent Ivorian President Gbagbo has asked the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Community Court of Justice to declare the threat of force against him by ECOWAS Heads of State illegal, calling the proclamation a clear violation of the ECOWAS treaty that respects sovereignty of Member states.  Around 1,000 cocoa farmers and cooperative managers protested inside the regulatory body in Abidjan on Tuesday demanding an end to the cocoa export ban that many fear will ruin the industry and continued to protest on Thursday at the EU offices. On Wednesday, the UN Security Council decided to extend the temporary redeployment of peacekeeping units from Liberia to Cote d'Ivoire for up to three month. Long lines were seen outside several banks with people eagerly awaiting to withdraw their savings amid rumours of a cash shortage, after several international banks shut this week. By Friday, all banks closed as a result of international sanctions and Gbagbo announced that all major banks that had suspended business would be nationalized. The UNHCR has begun to relocate Ivorians in Liberia to a newly established camp further west of the border and hopes to move an estimated 15,000 into the camp over the next couple of weeks.
  • A man set himself on fire in front of the presidential palace in Senegal on Friday. A private radio station reported that the man was a soldier wearing his military fatigues when he set himself on fire. It was not immediately clear why he set himself on fire, but many suspect it is related to the similar protests in Tunisia and Egypt.
  • At least five people were killed and an additional 10 wounded on Tuesday after government forces fired on a demonstration against al-Shabaab in Somalia. On Thursday, Somaliland police announced they had seized a Somali Transitional Federal Government minister, under order from the break away republic of Somaliland.
  • Madagascar's exiled former leader Ravalomanana plans to return home on Saturday to help work on a solution to the leadership row triggered by his overthrow two years ago. The President dismissed the talk of return as a rumour aimed at dividing popular opinion and announced on Wednesday that if the ousted President enters the country he will be arrested.
  • The UN peacekeeping force in the DR Congo reported on Wednesday that Lt.-Col. Samuel Bisengimana, a senior member of the Forces democratiques de Liberation du Rwanda (FDLR) defected yesterday after year-long negotiations and has turned himself in under the DDR program. The FDLR has faced a major blow to its forces after three other Majors with the FDLR defected last month, and some 1,881 rebels, including 64 officers defected last year.
  • The last UN troops in Sierra Leone left the country on Thursday after 12 years in the country.
  • The parliament in Kenya ruled the nomination of top judicial figures by President Kibaki was unconstitutional on Thursday, reigniting a row that has pushed the coalition cabinet to the brink of collapse. Kibaki's allies promised to contest the decision that is seen as a symbolic victory for PM Odinga.

Asia

 

[continued at http://apeaceofconflict.com]

Views: 31

Comment by Jeff Thompson on February 19, 2011 at 9:47am

Rebecca,

 

Thanks for this comprehensive update!

Comment

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