This week in conflict... February 19th-25th, 2011.

Hello all! Hope everything is well with you!

My internet has been intermittent due to escalating fighting within Abidjan this week, where I am currently living. Due to this, I may have difficulty posting and searching out stories for This Week in Conflict in upcoming weeks.

As always, just a reminder that if you have any information about conflicts (or efforts towards peace) happening each week, I would love your feedback and inclusions. As the weekly conflict update is done on a volunteer basis, I cannot independently verify all reported stories. Therefore my scope is limited to what is found in outside news sources. If you disagree with any of the information provided, or have any stories to submit, please use the comments below or email me to let me know! I will happily retract inaccurate information or provide alternative reports when necessary.

Peace!
Rebecca

World

  • The World Food Programme estimates that every 10% increase in the cost of food adds an extra US$200 million to their budget for purchasing food commodities, and that since November, their costs have risen by some 14%. Should the prices continue to rise, the WFP would be forced to reduce rations, decrease beneficiaries or seek additional resources.
  • A new communications aid program for natural disasters, called JamiiX, is being touted as the next Ushahidi. Developed in South Africa, JamiiX is a messaging management system to be used to provide information and advice for citizens during national disasters.
  • The UN Under-Secretary General for Peacekeeping announced this week that too many of their missions lack critical assets necessary to properly fulfill their mandates, calling on Member States to provide military helicopter units that are in short supply. They predict a shortfall of 56 out of a required 137 helicopters for missions particularly in Sudan, Darfur and the DRC.

Africa

  • Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir, who has been in power for the past 22 years, has reportedly decided not to stand for re-election in 2015 in order to broaden democracy. North Sudan has asserted its claim to the Abyei region, stating it is "northern and will remain northern" and accusing the south of intransigence over the issue. Juba has been chosen as the venue for the declaration and celebrations of independence for the south in July of this year. Armed south Sudanese police are said to have raided an independent newspaper on Tuesday, raising fears of a media crackdown ahead of independence. The New York Times revealed that over the course of training as many as 100 Southern Sudan police recruits died from severe punishment and harsh conditions, including torture and sexual assault, prompting the UN to investigate. Hundreds gathered in East Khartoum on Thursday blocking the main roads for nine hours to protest removing traffic lights and turning the street into a highway, claiming that over 200 people weer killed in road accidents over the last two months and throwing stones at riot police who surrounded the demonstration. . A female activist claimed she was raped by three members of Sudan's National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS), kidnapped nearly two weeks after she participated in anti-government protests.
  • Fighting in Somaliland killed upwards of 50 people on Sunday, prompting Puntland's President to announce that his government would "not remain on the sidelines" if the violence continued.  A suicide bomb attack targeting a police station in Mogadishu, Somalia, killed more than 10 people on Monday. Fighting continued between the Somali Transitional Federal Government forces supported by AU peacekeepers and al-Shabaab, killing at least 25 civilians and injuring at least 80. On Wednesday, Somali and AU troops are said to have seized three rebel bases in Mogadishu in a new offensive against al-Shabaab, concerning the UN who voiced alarm over civilians caught in the fighting. The interim President rejected Parliamentarians' decision to extend their mandate to three more years, three weeks after they had unanimously extended the term.
  • Hundreds took to the streets in Nouakchott, Mauritania on Friday, calling for better living conditions and more jobs. The PM announced that the government will create thousands of new jobs, develop infrastructure and boost local food production capacity before the rally.
  • A journalist covering the Presidential and parliamentary elections in Uganda was said to be shot and seriously injured by a body guard of the Minister for the Presidency at a polling station on Friday, in an election that the opposition said was tainted with fraud. On Sunday, the electoral commission announced that President Museveni won another five year term winning an apparent 68.38% of the votes, after ruling for 25 years. The result excluded tallies from 117 polling stations that had yet to be received by the commission, who declared the incomplete results to beat the 48 hour constitutional deadline. The Commonwealth observer mission described the polls as largely peaceful, with vote tallying done with relative transparency, but decried widespread incidents of voter bribery, missing voter names on the register and late arrival of voting materials. Challenger Besigye rejected the results, calling the election fraudulent and has threatened Egypt-style protests in the past. The US was quick to congratulate Museveni on his win, despite the claims of fraud and his 25 year leadership role, in stark contrast to their recent cries for democracy in other African nations. On Thursday, mayoral elections in Kampala were canceled because of reported cases of severe malpractice, with some ballot boxes already full by 9 am and at least 34 were injured and 100 arrested.
  • President Kibaki of Kenya has withdrawn four nominations (for chief justice, attorney general, director of public prosecutions and controller of budget) that threatened to split the country's fragile power-sharing government. On Tuesday, the President said he invited the PM for further consultations, as required by the new constitution. The Kenya Red Cross Society in Mandera came under fire during heavy fighting on the Somali and Ethiopian borders.
  • Protests continued in Libya this week, with up to 400 feared dead over the weekend alone. Security forces and mercenaries were said to be shooting into crowds "without discrimination", and snipers targeted protesters from rooftops. The protests were largely covered by citizens, as the international media lacked access. On Sunday, Gaddafi's son, Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, went on state TV to address the uprisings, citing the mass media as exaggerating the situation, and warning the people that their actions would result in civil war. He also promised a programme of reforms and acknowledged that the police and army made mistakes in dealing with the protesters. On Monday, it was rumoured that Muammar Gaddafi had fled the capital after angry anti-government protesters breached the state television building and Parliament, setting both on fire and army units were said to have defected to the opposition. The justice minister and interior ministers are said to have resigned over the "excessive use of violence" against protesters, while Libya's UN ambassadors are said to have called for Gaddafi to step down as the country's ruler. Two air force jets are also said to have landed in Malta, their pilots asking for political asylum; and a military ship off the coast was also thought to soon be defecting, while diplomats are resigning en mass. The security forces are said to have besieged parts of the capital using helicopters and warplanes to fire upon protesters. Egypt's army claimed that the Libyan border guards had withdrawn from their posts on Monday, leaving control in the hands of people's committees. On Tuesday, Qaddafi made a TV address to challenge rumours that he had fled the country, vowing to "fight to the last drop of blood", cleansing "Libya house by house" if protesters don't surrender, and citing that those who challenged his government "deserved to die", as clashes intensified within the capital. Many residents believed that massacres had taken place overnight. Time magazine reported that Gaddafi had ordered his security forces to sabotage the country's oil facilities to send the message: It's either me or chaos. The first foreign news organization visited Benghazi on Wednesday, and described the city as being in the hands of the anti-government demonstrators who flew monarchy-era flags from government buildings and celebrated in the streets, amid defecting troops who poured into the courtyard of a ransacked police station.  By Wednesday, reports were indicating that Qaddafi was losing his grip on the capital Tripoli, with thousands of soldiers deployed to the town of Sabratha only 50 miles to the west. The Department of Defense and Military Veterans in South Africa stopped short of denying the sale of South African arms to Libyan forces, saying that they were unaware of any sale. A Libyan Arab Airlines aircraft, suspected of carrying Gaddafi's daughter (who vehemently denied this claim), was refused permission to land in Malta and turned back to Libya, while governments around the world scrambled to send planes and ships to evacuate their own citizens from the country. On Thursday, it was reported that Benghazi was being run by a makeshift organizing committee of judges, lawyers and other professionals who sent out young people to help restore basic order. Thousands of mercenary and other forces tried to fend off the uprising that was circling in around Tripoli, while Qaddafi blamed the revolt on "hallucinogenic" drugs and Osama bin Laden. The British government contacted several senior Libyan figures directly to persuade them to desert Gaddafi or face crimes against humanity charges. On Friday, the residents of Benghazi began a search among the ransacked military base for the throngs of missing persons, while mercenaries and army forces resisted attempts at protest in Tripoli, opening fire on crowds. Human Rights Watch warned members and commanders of the Libyan security forces that they can be punished under international law for the unlawful use of force or firearms against protesters, regardless of rank, also citing widespread reports of security forces inside hospitals.
  • Algerian police clashed with hundreds of opposition supporters over the weekend. Train services are reported to be shut down completely, and road blocks have been set up on the highways linked to the capital. The cabinet adopted an order to lift the 19-year-old state of emergency on Wednesday, but protesters said the measure did not go far enough.
  • Security forces in Madagascar fired teargas to disperse crowds of supporters of exiled leader Ravalomanana who camped out near the capital's airport on Saturday, expecting his return. The government is said to have blocked Ravalomanana's departure from his exile in South Africa.
  • The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in Nigeria confirmed that it would discard the N40 billion Direct Data Capture (DDC) machines in the upcoming election, causing rage among opposition political parties. The army is said to have discovered several high profile arms, including machine guns, RPGs, an anti-aircraft launcher, explosives and hand grenades, concealed in an abandoned car on Saturday. Three unknown gunmen were killed on the same road in a gun battle after attacking a detachment of the military in the area. On Tuesday, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) cleared 20 candidates to contest the April 9, 2011 Presidential election; and the campaign office of the Labour Party candidate experienced several explosions suspected to be dynamite. At least twelve people were killed in an attack in Plateau early on Tuesday, by unknown assailants, while the military blamed the villagers for not contacting the forces on time to help. On Wednesday, five powerful ruling party state governors won a court ruling that could prevent them from having to stand for re-election in April after they argued their states should be exempted because they had not yet completed full four year terms.
  • Around 50 people were arrested at a meeting to discuss the North African uprisings in Zimbabwe on Sunday on charges of "subverting the government" and "conspiring against the state". The Defense Minister warned last week that any attempt to emulate the events in Egypt would be crushed. By Thursday, 46 of those arrested were charged with treason, some allegedly beaten by police.
  • Three leading opposition politicians were detained in Djibouti on Saturday, in an apparent move to quash opposition protests triggered from the wave of political unrest across North Africa. Anti-government protesters clashed with riot police who used teargas to disperse crowds who demanded the President step down.
  • Protesters in Morocco reportedly attacked a police station and several French firms in Tangiers late on Friday in a dispute over the local utility firm's management. Riot police intervened to break up the protest, after a peaceful sit-in in front of city hall turned into a march that gathered into hundreds of protesters. Several thousand people marched in fourteen Moroccan cities on Sunday, demanding political reform and limits on the power of the King. The demonstrations were largely reported as peaceful, though five people were said to have been burned to death inside a bank on Sunday, more than 100 people were reported wounded and some 120 arrested.
  • Thousands of demonstrators in Tunisia gathered in downtown Tunis on Sunday to call for the replacement of the interim government, despite a ban on rallies. Security forces are said to have watched, but not intervened in the protests. The interim government asked Saudi Arabia to extradite deposed President Ben Ali and inquired into his health situation, following reports that he had fallen into a stress-induced coma. The Interior Minister called for the Tunis Court of First Instance to dissolve the former ruling party, the Constitutional Democratic Rally on Monday. On Friday, the transitional government said it would hold elections by mid-July at the latest while tens of thousands of protesters rallied calling for the PM's resignation.
  • State television in Egypt announced the release of 108 political prisoners on Sunday, following a pledge by the PM. The PM was quoted as saying that 222 prisoners would soon be freed and that 487 political prisoners remained, though rights groups say thousands were detained without charge under the emergency laws and that many of them might be classified as political prisoners. The military and civilian leadership currently in charge took several high-profile steps on Monday to reassure the population that the move to full civilian rule would be rapid, including requesting governments to freeze Mubarak's assets. On Tuesday, the military rulers swore in 11 new Cabinet ministers, with three former members of the Mubarak regime retaining their posts. On Wednesday, former Egyptian police officers protesting outside the interior ministry in Cairo were said to set fire to an adjacent administration building, injuring some four protesters. Thousands gathered in Tahrir Square on Friday to celebrate one month since the protests that forced Mubarak to resign.
  • Some 50 human rights groups within the DR Congo have signed a communique to publicize their concerns of growing violence and intimidation against them used to undermine their work. Many cite that they have received death threats from government officials. A military court investigating the case of New Year's mass rape in Fizi, has sentenced Lt. Col. Kibibi Mutware to 20 years in jail after being found guilty of crimes against humanity. Community leaders are now trying to persuade Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) fighters to abandon the group and return home using radio programmes and posters pinned to trees. More than 40 people-- men, women and children, were raped over the last two weeks near Fizi in an eastern area mostly inaccessible to aid organizations or UN peacekeepers. All UN Formed Police Units (FPU) deployed in missions are now required to undergo in-country mobile techniques training to better adapt their operational capacity to the reality on the ground.
  • Three soldiers in Senegal were killed and six wounded over the weekend by suspected separatist rebels in the southern Casamance region, after they attacked an army observation post. Rebels have been waging a low-level insurgency since the early 80s. The government announced it was cutting diplomatic ties with Iran over alleged Iranian weapon supplies to the rebels suspected of killing the soldiers. Gambia has also cut ties with Iran over the arms shipment.
  • The situation in Cote d'Ivoire has deteriorated this week, with rebels and government forces fighting across the country,  several reports painting the situation as government forces firing on unarmed protesters. Curfews and roadblocks halted most of the attempted protests before they even began, though there were reports of security forces firing live rounds to disperse protesters who had set up barricades and were burning tires. By Wednesday, however, the media was reporting the loss of at least 10 army soldiers, who were killed by rebel forces, locally being described as "invisible" commandos who were impervious to government bullets through mystical powers.  The northern Abobo district of Abidjan was overtaken by these commandos by mid-week, giving them control of the highway's access to the north rebel-strong area. The FDS security forces cordoned off the district and are said to have suffered an ambush by the commandos. At least two other districts within the city experienced fighting as well with buses and gbakas (minibuses) burned down by opposing groups, as the commandos calling themselves "Mouvement de libération des populations d'Abobo-Anyama" vowed to move into the Koumassi, Yopougon and Adjame districts of Abidjan. The financial system is in collapse, following last week's bank closures and the population is finding it difficult to secure any money. The five African mediators were due to meet in Mauritania on Sunday, before arriving in country to give propositions to the two Presidential camps, though Burkina Faso's Compaore decided not to make the trip due to "security reasons" as more than 1,000 Gbagbo supporters are said to have gathered at the airport to oppose Compaore, accusing him of being against Gbagbo. Angry pro-Ouattara youths are said to have mobbed South African President Zuma during his visit as well, accusing him of siding with Gbagbo.  On Tuesday, Ouattara extended the ban on cocoa and coffee for another month, even though the current ban is having devastating effects on the population, amid continued protests by cocoa growers.  On Wednesday, Amnesty International reported on the extensive human rights abuses being committed by both the government forces and the Forces Nouvelles rebel group around the country. Kenyan PM Odinga announced on Wednesday that ECOWAS is holding planning meetings to remove Gbagbo and will use force if the sanctions don't result in a change of regime, but did not say when force would be used. The Gbagbo government confirmed on Friday that the western town of Zouan-Hounien had fallen to the rebels, while fighting raged on in other parts of the country. Human Rights Watch suggested that both sides were recruiting young men and re-mobilizing others for fighting within Abidjan, and the notorious Ble Goude called on the Young Patriots to set up "self-defense" units to protect themselves from the rebels. Groups of menacing looking thugs barricaded off different sections of the city, making travel more difficult than normal.
  • Four people were killed in clashes between police and demonstrators in Koudougou, Burkina Faso this week, with demonstrations started over the death of a jailed student who the government claimed died of meningitis. Fellow students say he died because he had been mistreated.

Asia

A US drone attack

 

[continued at http://apeaceofconflict.com]

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