The President's Take
In my second monthly column to accompany CrisisWatch, our unique conflict tracker, I look at how outside actors are now openly fighting not for Syria, but over it. I also note more bad news from Venezuela, and flag our upcoming report on how the outside world and regional governments can avert disaster there. Read more …
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President Nkurunziza 5 June nominated senior FNL officials to administration, including former FNL head Agathon Rwasa as head of social security institute. Former rebel group MSD recognised as 43rd political party 8 June. UNSC 9 June commended progress on peace, supported UNSG’s proposal to shift UN mission (BINUB) focus to political dialogue, elections.
Officials from Cameroon, Nigeria met with UNSG Ban 17 June to discuss remaining steps for handover of Bakassi Peninsula to Cameroon, reportedly focusing on dispute over demarcation of common border. President Biya 30 June undertook major cabinet reshuffle, replacing PM Inoni with Philemon Yang and changing 9 other ministers; no reason given. Govt continued anti-corruption Operation Sparrowhawk: Energy Minister Alphonse Siyam Siwe sentenced to life 11 June for embezzling $75m during tenure as administrator of Douala port; 12 others also sentenced.
Former president Ange-Felix Patasse announced from Togo exile readiness to contest 2010 presidential elections. MPLC 12 June selected ex-PM Martin Ziguele as candidate. Former rebel UFDR military base in N East’s Birao town twice under attack by suspected Kara ethnic group militants: UFDR reported 27 killed in attack by some 60 gunmen 6 June, 10 militants killed in further assault 21 June. At least 18 killed in fighting between govt forces and CJPJ rebels around N West’s Ndélé town 12 June. CPJP demanded release of leader Charles Massi, arrested in Chad late May for “attempted destabilisation”. ICC 15 June ordered former Congolese opposition MLC party leader Jean Pierre Bemba to stand trial for war crimes during support for then-president Patasse in quelling attempted coup 2002-3.
N’Djamena and Khartoum continued to exchange accusations over May attacks; Chadian troops early month crossed into Sudan but no direct confrontations with Sudanese troops reported. UFR rebels, following May offensive, 6 June claimed aim not to topple regime but test defenses. President Déby 6 June signed decree creating electoral commission ahead of parliamentary elections late 2009. Govt 12 June reported it handed 84 child soldiers used by UFR to UNICEF
President Kabila, in letter to PM published 5 June, ordered all public spending be subject to presidential pre-approval; no-confidence vote in PM Muzito tabled by opposition, expected when parliament re-opens Sept; follows reports of growing strains between Kabila and Muzito. Several small-scale clashes: army claimed 5 soldiers, 27 FDLR and others killed in 3 days of fighting near Nyabiondo town, N West of Goma, from 17 June. 27 soldiers arrested after firing on nearby UN base 17 June, one of several mutinies in N Kivu. MONUC said fighting sparked by ex-rebel combatants dissatisfied at army integration process. UNHCR 22 June issued call for $38m in emergency humanitarian aid, citing worsening security for 1m displaced following launch of anti-FDLR operations in Jan, May. Another surge in attacks by suspected LRA rebels in N East: at least 11 killed, 135 others kidnapped in 2 raids on villages in and around Dakwa, 5-6 June; aid groups report 1,500 newly displaced.
Signs of tension ahead of 12 July presidential elections. Constitutional Court 19 June barred 4 opposition candidates, including former PM Poungui, from contesting elections for failure to meet constitutional conditions on age and residency. Thousands rallied in Brazzaville to protest ruling 20 June; leader of main opposition party, Pascal Tsaty Mabiala, accused govt of failure to prepare for polls. President Nguesso will stand with 13 others.
Following 8 June death of President Omar Bongo, in power since 1967, civil society groups demanded no current or former govt member stand in new presidential elections; reflects fears Bongo’s son, Defence Minister Ali-Ben Bongo, planning to take over. In accordance with constitution, Senate leader Rose Francine Rogombe confirmed by Constitutional Court as new interim leader 9 June, sworn in 10 June; constitution requires elections within 45 days, but date unclear amid concerns over planning, logistics.
ICTR 22 June sentenced former interior minister Callixte Kalimanzira to 30 years for genocide. Human Rights Watch 1 June urged more action to prosecute genocide crimes committed by RPF in 1994. In Finland, former preacher Francois Bazaramba, held since seeking asylum in 2003, charged with genocide crimes and 15 counts of murder 1 June. Rwanda-DRC, consolidating new cooperation, agreed joint gas exploitation deal in Lake Kivu.
U.S. 8 June joined AU call for Eritrea to halt arms support to Somali Islamist militia. U.S. Asst Sec State Carson 17 June announced U.S. ready to improve relations with Asmara “if they are transparent on Somalia”.
Reports 12 June of heavily-armed Ethiopian troops in Galgudud region, central Somalia; Addis Ababa alleged reports fabricated by Islamist militants, 3 June acknowledged “reconnaissance” missions into Somalia.
ODM and PNU delegates travelled to Geneva earlymonth for UN Human Rights Council debate on UN rapporteur Alston report into systematic violence by Kenyan police; in contradictory statements ODM praised report’s exposure of violence, PNU claimed findings unsubstantiated. Mediator Kofi Annan early-month announced govt has until Aug to establish special tribunal into election violence before suspect list handed to ICC. UNHCR announced some 7,000 Somali refugees crossing into Kenya per month to heavily overcrowded camps in Dadaab. 17 Somalis charged with piracy by Mombasa court 11 June. 5 managers from Triton Petroleum Company charged in anti-corruption court for $100m regional fraud scandal.
Scores dead in fighting between Islamists and govt forces in South and Centre. 123 reportedly killed in clashes between pro-govt Islamic group and hardline Islamists in Webho town north of Mogadishu early-June; Islamist militia Hizbul Islam denied reports leader Aweys killed in attacks. Security minister Omar Hashi Aden and at least 34 others killed in 18 June suicide attack on hotel in Beledweyne. In Mogadishu: 22 killed including police Chief Colonel Said in heavy fighting 17 June, director of Shabelle radio station murdered. 6 AlShabaab fighters killed in attack on govt checkpoint north of capital in Galgalato 14 June. UN reported some 122,000 civilians displaced from Mogadishu since fighting escalated early-May. Parliamentary speaker 20 June announced “state of emergency”, called for external assistance; call backed by AU Chair Ping 21 June. Ethiopia responded announcing readiness to return but only with international mandate. AlShabaab threatened to “invade” Kenya unless it reduces its heavy troop presence on Somali border. EU 15 June authorized extension of anti-piracy operation Atalanta to end- 2010, expansion to Seychelles.
North/South tensions continued to escalate. Former FM Lam Akol early month split from South’s ruling SPLM to form new party, SPLM-Democratic Change. SPLM leadership accused Khartoum of manipulating Southern politics, distributing arms; NCP accused SPLM of training JEM fighters, threatened to ban SPLM activities in North unless GoSS “open up” South to NCP. GoSS leader Salva Kiir 18 June announced military preparing for possible war in 2011. Electoral commission 30 June announced postponement of presidential elections from Feb to April 2010 amid continuing dispute over census results for South. At CPA conference in Washington 23- 24 June, U.S. Sudan envoy Gration and Northern delegation claimed solid progress on CPA implementation talks, including NCP agreement to accept “final and binding” arbitration ruling in July on Abyei; SPLM said no progress made. Some 40 S Sudanese soldiers and civilians killed in 12 June ambush by Jikany Nuer on UN aid boats in Upper Nile State. In Darfur: UN humanitarian chief Holmes announced Khartoum authorized return of 4 international aid agencies under modified names. Gration 17 June said Sudan no longer engaged in “coordinated genocide” in Darfur. Doha peace talks between govt and JEM rebels adjourned for 2 months mid-June, with sides trading accusations of military aggression.
Opposition PPP called for electoral reform to introduce presidential age limits, which would bar incumbent President Museveni from standing again; dismissed by Museveni. Army early month said 11 fighters seeking to form new rebel group arrested in north; reportedly includes former senior LRA officers later integrated into armed forces. Suspected LRA rebels launched further raids in north east DRC early month, causing fresh displacement (see DRC).
UN- and AU-mediated talks between political leadership collapsed 16 June over amnesty clause to facilitate return of former presidents Ravalomanana and Ratsiraka, rejected by current leader Rajoelina. Followed verdict by Antananarivo court sentencing Ravalomanana – currently in South Africa – to 4 years and $70m fine for corruption; former finance minister Haja Razafinjatovo also sentenced. SADC leaders convened 20 June for emergency summit in 4 Johannesburg, announced new coordinated international strategy to broker negotiated solution, appointed former Mozambican president Chissano to lead dialogue. Regional bloc COMESA 8 June stated military intervention to restore constitutional order should not be ruled out; France and UN envoy Tiebile Drame condemned statement; Armed Forces Minister Rakotonandrasana announced military on maximum alert. In Antananarivo, pro-Ravalomanana protests held in Tiko and Magro stores over month; 11 June street protest forcefully dispersed by police amid continued ban on public assembly.
MDC leader and PM Tsvangirai 7-26 June visited Europe and U.S. to generate donor support, announced acrimony with President Mugabe “over”. Elicited some $115m additional humanitarian aid from EU, Netherlands, U.S., Germany, UK to be channeled through Consolidated Appeal Process (CAP), well below requested $8-9b; capitals stressed direct funding to govt contingent on further reforms, amid continuing criticism of Mugabe’s intransigence. China late month committed $950m in credit lines, largest loan from single country since unity govt formed. 3rd IMF assessment mission began 15 June. Reconciliation Minister Sekai Holland (MDC) early-month announced MDC opponents preparing for fresh violence at national elections (expected in 18 months), claimed 39,000 anti-MDC militiamen operating within and outside govt civil service. Hearings for 18-month constitutional review process started 24 June after parliament approved $36m budget 4 June; civil society groups still demanding more significant role in preparatory process. UN humanitarian coordinator for Zimbabwe Agostinho Zacarias 1 June launched revised CAP for Zimbabwe, expanded by 30% to $719m in humanitarian plus-type assistance; came amid spike in food insecurity and 100,000 cholera infection level. ICRC announced food distribution to 6,300 prisoners, amid reports of severe overcrowding, malnutrition and disease in prisons.
Voter registration period ahead of Nov elections ended 30 June. President Laurent Gbagbo undertook 4-day visit to west 8 June, announced deployment of 800 troops to secure population ahead of Nov elections. French Operation Licorne announced force gradually downsized over past 3 months to 900 troops.
Junta chief Moussa Dadis Camara 11 June announced presidential elections would be held as scheduled in Nov and that he would not stand despite earlier indications. Armed forces chief in 8 June televised statement requested Camara delay vote. Over 300 judiciary staff 8 June launched general strike to protest parallel military tribunals under Camara; minister for conflicts sacked 13 June. 20 people, including army chief General Camara, his son and other exsenior officers, arrested for drug trafficking 11 June. Ex-PM Souare reportedly arrested late month for embezzlement. International Contact Group meeting 20-21 June in Conakry condemned deteriorating security and economy.
Soldiers killed or arrested several politicians 5, 8 June as part of alleged operation to foil coup. Presidential candidate and minister Baciro Dabo shot dead in home after reportedly resisting arrest; wife claims he was shot in sleep. Ex-defense minister Helder Proenca, driver and bodyguard also killed; former PM Faustino Fudut Imbali detained, beaten; Baciro’s brother arrested 8 June. In 11 June radio address, military chief José Zamora Induta denied rumours of his own assassination and that coup plot fabricated to eliminate opponents. EU, UN and AU condemned killings, called for public inquiries; ECOWAS dispatched contact mission to mediate. Presidential poll held 28 June without incident, results yet to be announced; turnout reportedly low.
Operations against Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) stepped up amid further attacks. AQIM 3 June announced murder of UK hostage Edwin Dyer, captured Jan in Niger; 1 Swiss national still held. Senior intelligence officer investigating AQIM murdered at Timbuktu home 10 June. Army responded with assault on AQIM base near Algerian border, reportedly killing 23 alleged terrorists.
President Tandja 5 June announced referendum on removal of presidential term limits to be held 4 Aug, 26 June assumed wide-ranging emergency powers and 30 June dissolved Constitution Court, after Court 12 June reaffirmed his bid to extend term was unconstitutional. Tandja’s moves provoked widespread outcry: his main support base Convention démocratique et sociale 25 June withdrew 8 ministers from govt; opposition denounced move as coup d’état; 231 political parties and NGOs joined to form Front pour la Défense de la Démocratie (FDD) as tens of thousands rallied in capital Niamey. FDD leader Marou Amadou arrested 29 June and main opposition leader PNDS briefly detained 30 June. Electoral commission (CENI) 19 June announced parliamentary elections for 20 Aug. EU 20 June warned Tandja efforts to prolong tenure could threaten aid.
Military operations against Niger Delta militants continued into June, but scaled down. MEND launched string of attacks on oil targets over month, pledged in mid-month statement to extend focus from Delta to Bayelsa and Rivers States. Chevron-run flow station in Abiteye under fire 15 June; 3 Shell sites across Rivers State attacked 21 June; further attacks on ENI sites late month. Prompted ENI to declare force majeure on crude exports, while Shell suspended operations across western Niger Delta. Crude oil supplies to country’s 3 refineries also halted. President Yar’Adua 25 June announced amnesty program for Delta militants, valid until 4 Oct. MEND rejected; 4 leaders of other militant groups 26 June accepted but called for govt to clarify terms. Shell agreed $15.5m out-ofcourt settlement to families of Ogoniland environmental rights campaigners Ken Saro-Wiwa and 8 others hanged by military govt in 1995; case due to open for trial in U.S. mid-June; Shell denies complicity, claims payment designed to support reconciliation.
UNSC 12 June unanimously adopted Resolution 1874, condemned NK’s May nuclear test, toughened sanctions to include inspection of NK ships, total NK arms sales ban, financial measures. NK 13 June responded with threat to “weaponise” remaining plutonium stocks, pursue enrichment and take military action against a blockade. At 16 June with S Korean President Lee, U.S. President Obama said would “vigorously” pursue end to NK’s nuclear programme. Pyongyang 17 June threatened “thousandfold” military retaliation if sovereignty infringed. U.S. 30 June applied asset freeze, trading ban to 2 companies aiding NK nuclear programme; 1 July tracked NK ship suspected of transporting weapons to Burma; ship returned to NK. EarlyJune reports indicated Kim Jong-il selected youngest son, Kim Jong-un, as successor, reportedly visited China mid-June. 2 U.S. journalists found guilty 8 June of “hostile acts”, illegal entry into NK; sentenced to 12 years hard labour.
President Ma Ying-jeou 17 June denied drift toward reunification with China, said supports status quo unless majority of islanders voted for change. Govt 1 July partially lifted ban on Chinese investment on island.
High level of violence continued with string of insurgent attacks across country, including 8 killed in 13 June suicide blast in Helmand province. 12 June ISAF report stated insurgent attacks in early 2009 up 59% compared to same period 2008; U.S. General Petraeus said attacks now at highest level since 2001. New head of U.S. forces and ISAF Lt. Gen. Stanley McChrystal said will focus on limiting civilian deaths, especially from airstrikes. Official campaigning Crisis Group Asia Reports N°169, North Korea: Getting Back to Talks, 18 June 2009; N°168, North Korea’s Nuclear and Missile Programs, 18 June 2009; N°167, North Korea’s Chemical and Biological Weapons Programs, 18 June 2009. UNSC Resolution 1874 was an appropriately strong and united condemnation of North Korea’s second nuclear test and should be accompanied by strong containment measures, continued military deterrence and diplomacy. North Korea: Getting Back to Talks examines the international community’s options. Two background reports explore the country’s military capabilities. 6 for Aug presidential elections began 17 June, 41 candidates registered. Most of 17,000 new U.S. troops expected to be deployed by mid-July, almost all based in southern provinces.
29 May govt report on Feb Bangladesh Rifles (BDR) border patrol force mutiny inconclusive on root cause, called for further investigation. Security forces 21-22 June arrested 20 Islamist militants.
Suspected Maoist rebels killed 24 police in 2 separate attacks in Jharkhand 10, 12 June. Maoists 16 June took control of Lalgarh region in West Bengal. Over 1,000 govt paramilitary troops deployed, 20 June retook Lalgarh, clashes continued nearby late month. 12 police officers killed in 21 June Chhattisgarh landmine attack by suspected Maoists. Indian govt 22 June banned Maoist Communist Party of India as terrorist group, giving security forces enhanced powers of arrest.
Month-long violent protests over 2 women found dead late May, allegedly raped, killed by Indian troops: at least 2 killed, hundreds injured in frequent clashes with police. Taliban suicide bomber 26 June killed 2 troops in Pakistanadministered Kashmir, first such attack in region. 16 June India PM Singh and Pakistan President Zardari in 1st meeting since Nov 2008 Mumbai terrorist attack. Pakistani court 2 June released founder of Lashkar-e-Tayyba (LeT) militant group, Hafiz Muhammad Saeed, said not enough evidence to link him to Mumbai attack. Indian govt 23 June issued arrest warrants for 22 Pakistanis, including Saeed, other LeT members, for allegedly masterminding Mumbai attack.
Tarai-based Madhesi Janadhikar Forum (MJF) party split in 2 factions following 4 June appointment of MJF’s BK Gachchhadar as Deputy PM in govt. Anti-Gachchhadar MJF Chairman Upendra Yadav 5 June withdrew his opposing faction’s support to govt. 13 June coalition partners CPNUML, NC and MJF (Gachchhadar faction) agreed Cabinet portfolio deal. Cabinet 18 June reversed earlier Maoist-led govt decision to sack army chief Katawal; Maoists disrupted Constitutional Assembly proceeding in protest.
Military offensive against Taliban in northwest continued: army 22 June claimed operation in Swat valley “near its end”; 14 June announced new offensive in S Waziristan, targeting Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud. 60 militants reportedly killed in 23 June U.S. drone strike in S Waziristan; Taliban N Waziristan militant group 30 June withdrew from govt peace deal, said will launch attacks on security forces. Desperate humanitarian situation remains for close to 3m displaced by fighting, and 10,000s remaining in Malakand Division, including Swat district, with little access to basic supplies. Wave of Taliban suicide bombings in response to offensive continued: 11 killed, including 2 UN staff, in 10 June terrorist attack on Peshawar hotel; some 40 killed in 5 June attack on mosque in Upper Dir district; 9 killed in 2 separate 13 June bombings in Lahore and Nowshera. 1st ever EU-Pakistan summit held mid-month, EU pledged US$27m in immediate aid to current crisis in northwest. U.S. Senate 24 June approved bill increasing aid to US$1.5b per year for next 5 years.
Death toll from final weeks of govt-LTTE war in May still unclear: govt denied early-month media reports some 20,000 civilians killed, rejected UNSG Ban’s 5 June call for independent war crimes investigation. Some 280,000 who fled combat zone still held in tightly-controlled govt-run internment camps; UN humanitarian chief Holmes 19 June said UN now has full aid access to camps, but criticised lack of free movement for those held. Reports of poor conditions in camps: lack of adequate water, sanitation, food supplies, widespread disease; lack of registration lists has led to fears of “disappearances”. More than 10,000 held in unknown conditions in special detention centres for LTTE suspects or surrendered fighters, access highly restricted. Govt 25 June announced 8 Aug local elections in Jaffna and Vavuniya, first polls since defeat of LTTE; opposition parties complained of intimidation by pro-govt armed groups. Rights groups criticised govt’s mid-month closing of Presidential Commission of Inquiry into high-profile political killings during civil war without any published reports or announced prosecutions
Campaigning for 8 July first round presidential election began 11 June; incumbent Yudhoyono continues lead in polls. Tensions with Malaysia rose, focussed on disputed Crisis Group Asia Report N°171, Afghanistan’s Election Challenges, 24 June 2009. The enormous international resources and attention now focused on Afghanistan’s elections must be channelled into strategically strengthening the country’s political institutions. In particular, outstanding constitutional questions need to be resolved, and there must be a better balance between the branches of government to ensure more equitable representation and increased accountability. Crisis Group Asia Briefing N°93, Pakistan’s IDP Crisis: Challenges and Opportunities, 3 June 2009. Following the recent upsurge of jihadi violence in Pakistan, dismantling extremist Sunni-Deobandi groups must become the core of the government’s counterterrorism policy. The international community, particularly the U.S., must reverse course and help strengthen civilian control over all areas of governance, including counter-terrorism operations. Crisis Group Asia Report N°172, Sri Lanka’s Judiciary: Politicised Courts, Compromised Rights, 30 June 2009. The Sri Lankan government must reform the country’s judicial system urgently if military defeat of the Tamil Tigers is to lead to a lasting peace. The courts have corroded the rule of law and worsened ethnic tensions. The appointment of a new chief justice is an opportunity for reforms to begin. 7 Ambalat oil-rich territorial waters. Both sides accusing other of trespass; govt 10 June offered joint patrols in disputed waters, 20 June proposed July resumption of talks. Localised violent incidents continued in Papua. At least 3 killed after anti-terror police stormed isolated airstrip in Mamberamo 7 June, occupied since May by some 150 gunmen linked to Papua Free Movement. Army reported leaders were former army (TNI) deserters. Reports of further minor clashes in Central Highlands, including 24 June attack on convoy of police officers leaving 1 dead. Counter-terrorist police 21 June arrested 2 men on suspicion of terrorism.
Final hearing in trial of NLD leader Aung Sun Suu Kyi postponed 3 June to allow defence appeal against late-May motion barring defence witnesses. Court 9 June readmitted 1 witness, ban on 2 others upheld; trial to resume 3 July. Donors meeting 10 June in Bangkok warned of trial’s effect on post-Nargis cyclone aid. Army launched new offensive against pro-independence Karen National Union (KNU) 3 June; Thai army reported 3,000 Karen fled to Thailand. UN Special Advisor Ibrahim Gambari visited latemonth, prior to planned 3 July visit by UNSG Ban.
Regular clashes between security forces and Islamist militants continued in Maguindanao, with govt 15 June reporting 93 guerrillas killed since 4 June start of offensive against MILF rebel bases and MILF “rogue” commanders; figures denied by MILF. MILF blamed for 28 June bomb at bus terminal wounding 9 and 29 June bomb café killing 3, both in Mindanao. Clashes also continuing on Jolo Island between Abu Sayyaf and govt forces, casualties reported on both sides. Sri Lankan aid worker held for 4 months freed by Abu Sayyaf 3 June. President Arroyo 12 June announced govt working with Malaysia to re-open peace talks stalled since Aug 2008, but little optimism for resumption of talks in near future.
17-19 June national dialogue on truth, reconciliation and justice brought together President, PM, political leaders, NGOs, clergy. President reportedly sought consensus to offer amnesty for crimes committed 1975- 1999, ahead of 10th anniversary of 1999 referendum. Investigation launched into 7 June confrontation between F-FDTL and UNPOL in which soldiers allegedly turned weapons on international police following disagreement over F-FDTL intervention in clash between 2 martial arts groups in Maliana.
Inter-communal tension rising as violence in Malay Muslim-dominated deep South flared. Unidentified gunmen opened fire on Muslims praying in mosque 8 June, killing 10, injuring 12. 7 June car bomb killed 1, injured 19. Almost daily incidents included 2 Buddhist monks shot, 1 killed 12 June; 4 govt teachers killed in 3 separate incidents. Followed late-May ruling by Songkhla court that security forces acted in full accordance with law during 2004 Tak Bai case, when 78 protestors died after being stacked on military trucks. PM Abhisit 14 June said will use development aid rather than security measures to tackle insurgency in south; will not negotiate with insurgents; willing to consider some form of special administrative structure in South to better address Malay Muslim concerns; also exploring use of Sharia law to govern inheritance, family affairs in region. People’s Alliance for Democracy 2 June selected new name – New Politics Party – and new leader Somsak Kosaisuk. Some 25,000 rallied in support of former PM Thaksin 27 June.
Military ruler Bainimarama 9 June extended martial law for another 30 days – originally imposed during April illegal takeover of govt.
Month saw rising tensions between Republika Srpska (RS) and international community following RS Assembly’s controversial 14 May resolution opposing transfer of competencies from RS to state level. RS PM Dodik rejected calls by HR Inzko to withdraw “unconstitutional” resolution, said will apply resolution even if Inzko annuls it; resolution entered into force 16 June. Inzko used Bonn powers 20 June to abolish resolution; strongly supported by U.S., EU, Bosniak politicians, condemned by Serbia. 22 June visit by Serbian President Tadic to RS aroused further criticism. Responding to RS actions, Bosniak leader Tihic boycotted Prud process talks aimed at constitutional reform. Dodik refused to be questioned by State Investigation and Protection Agency on corruption 12 June. Mustafa Mujezinovic approved 25 June as new Federation PM. Parliament adopted protectionist law 19 June, violating regional free trade agreement and provoking criticism from EU, neighbours. Meeting late month, Peace Implementation Council urged govt to meet requirements for transition to EU mandate swiftly, repeated support for HR.
UNMIK 8 June announced 507 personnel to remain in Kosovo, amid reports the mission planning for at least 2 more years in Kosovo. UNSG Ban 10 June reported situation “relatively peaceful”, UNMIK to remain to help situation in North. NATO 11 June announced reduced KFOR presence, from current 13,800 troops to 10,000 by Jan 2010, and 2,200 over 2 yrs. Some 500 Kosovo Serbs protested against EULEX customs, taxes at border point with Serbia 9 June, later in month erected roadblocks. 3 Serbians arrested 12 June, suspected members of Serbian intelligence services; denied by Belgrade. Former PM Agim Ceku, wanted by Serbia for war crimes, arrested in Bulgaria 23 June; released 2 days later. Local elections set for 15 Nov. Kosovo officially joined IMF, World Bank 29 June.
President Ivanov 8 June voiced support for referendum on name dispute with Greece, backing earlier calls by PM Gruevski. UN 11 June announced name talks to be resumed, announced July visits to Skopje and Athens by UN mediator Nimetz. New round of talks in Geneva 22 June ended reportedly without progress, no new proposals. Ruling VMRO DPMNE party reportedly attempting to persuade members to accept compromise on name dispute. EU FMs 15 June recommended European Commission annul visa requirements by end-2009 for Western Balkan countries meeting requirements; Macedonia judged to have made most progress on conditions. Deputy PM Bocevski resigned late month.
Issue of unblocking Serbia’s Stabilisation and Association Agreement with EU reportedly removed from agenda of 18-19 June EU summit at request of Netherlands. Serbia 21 June rejected “partial” implementation of interim trade accord. EU Enlargement Commissioner Rehn 22 June said EU seeking way to unfreeze deal. EU gave Serbia positive assessment on visa liberalization (see Macedonia). Serbian war crimes court sentenced 4 former paramilitaries to 15-20 years for killings of 14 Kosovo Albanians in 1999, 26 June indicted 17 former ethnic Albanian guerrilla fighters for 1998-99 war crimes.
President Sarkisian’s Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) won 31 May Yerevan municipal election with over 46% of vote (35 of 65 Council seats), defeating coalition member Prosperous Armenia (22%, 17 seats) and opposition Armenian National Congress (HAK) candidate Ter-Petrosian (3rd with 17%, 13 seats). 2 main opposition groups claimed fraud; HAK 1 June vowed to boycott municipal council in front of rally of some 10,000. President Sarkisian 8 June dissolved task force investigating March 2008 post-election violence citing problems due to members’ political differences. Following 19 June parliamentary approval of general prisoner amnesty, some 28 opposition members released. U.S. reduced foreign assistance to Armenia citing slow progress on democratization.
Parliamentary committee 9 June approved package of controversial amendments to NGO laws envisioning severe restrictions on NGO activity and registration, including no more than 50% of funding to come from foreign sources. Amid domestic, international criticism, these proposals eliminated from eventual law passed by parliament 30 June. Azeri-Iranian relations strained by Baku’s invitation to Israeli President Peres who visited late month for business, energy talks. Following visit by Russian President Medvedev, Baku signed agreement with Russia 29 June on sale of Azerbaijani gas.
Following recent increase in rebel activity, President Kadyrov 17 June ordered military to defeat militant groups within 2 weeks, 23 June said Russian President Medvedev had ordered him to conduct counter-insurgency operations in Ingushetia (see North Caucasus). 8 June rebel leader Doku Umarov reported severely wounded in special operation.
Month saw continued tensions with Russia, OSCE and UN missions forced to withdraw, violence targeted at EU observers, explosions in west and heightened domestic political tensions. Political deadlock continued amid ongoing opposition protests, several violent incidents against opposition supporters and ruling lawmakers and their supporters, several imprisonments of supposed “opposition activists” on unclear charges. 10 June meeting between President Saakashvili and key opposition figure Levan Gachechiladze produced no results. Russia 15 June vetoed UNSC resolution extending UN Observer Mission in Georgia, forcing closure of 16-yr old 150-strong mission. EU monitoring mission patrol targeted by mine on Georgia-Abkhazia administrative border 21 June, refused access to Abkhazia and South Ossetia (SO) 28 June. Mandate of 20-strong OSCE monitoring mission in SO expired 30 June. Govt reported grenade-launcher attacks from Abkhazia on police post 22 June. Pro-Russian parties won 31 May SO parliamentary elections. Abkhazia, SO participated in Russian military drills starting 29 June in North Caucasus. Early-June explosions on Zugdidi railway line in western Samegrelo region blamed on terrorists; one person injured. 1st bilateral meetings between U.S., Georgia 22 June under U.S.-Georgia Charter on Strategic Partnership.
Azerbaijani and Armenian presidents met in St. Petersburg 4 June, 5th such meeting in past year. Both sides reported progress, OSCE Minsk Group said meeting constructive. N-K Azerbaijani congress elected Bayram Safarov as new leader.
Severity of insurgent attacks escalating, including 3 high-profile killings over month and 22 June assassination attempt on Ingushetia President Yevkurov, badly wounded by suicide car bomb attack on his convoy; Riyadus Salikhin group claimed responsibility. Assassinations included Daghestan interior minister Magomedtagirov 5 June; deputy chair of Ingushetia Supreme Court Aza Gazgireyeva 10 June; former Ingushetia deputy PM 13 June. Security forces and rebels killed in other attacks over month. President Medvedev during Daghestan visit 9 June reported over 300 terrorist acts in republic in 2009, 75 security officers and 48 locals killed. Chechen President Kadyrov 22 June claimed Medvedev ordered him to conduct counterinsurgency operations in Ingushetia.
Further signs of souring relations with Russia as Belarus refused to attend 14 June Collective Security Treaty Organization summit and sign agreement on joint rapid reaction force, after Russia banned import of Belarusian dairy products 6 June – ban lifted 17 June. Followed President Lukashenka statement that Russia retracted a $500m loan offer when Minsk refused to recognize independence of Georgian breakaway republics. Russian energy company Gazprom 17 June demanded payment of $230m debt, denied by Belarus. IMF increased Belarus loan from $2.5b to $3.5b.
After first parliamentary vote to select new president failed in May due to opposition boycott, Communists again failed to win 61 votes required to approve their candidate in second vote 3 June, gaining only 60 votes. Former president Voronin to continue as interim president; 15 June dissolved parliament, called new general legislative election 29 July.
Touted deal between parties of PM Tymoshenko and former PM Yanukovich, paving way for coalition that would lead to cancellation of Jan 2010 presidential election, collapsed early-month. European Commission President Barroso 19 June said EU cannot provide $4bn loan to pay Russian gas bills. Ukraine 5 June settled $657m gas debt, safeguarding supplies for July. Defence minister Yevkhanurov sacked by Parliament 5 June.
Policeman killed in suspected ETA car bomb attack near Bilbao 19 June. 2 suspected ETA members arrested in Usurbil 23 June; 2 arrested in Paris 25 June; 10 detained in SW France 29 June.
Greek Cypriot leader Christofias 11 June said sides reached agreement on economic issues; Christofias and Turkish Cypriot leader Talat continued to discuss border and territory issues 15 June. After 34th round of peace talks, leaders 26 June announced agreement on terms for opening Limnitis/Yesilirmak border crossing. European Commission President Barroso, visiting both community leaders 23-24 June, said EU will finance new road at Limnitis/Yeşilırmak if required. Following meeting with UN special envoy Downer, Turkish Cypriot FM 19 June said may consider other options if talks fail. Greek Cypriot opposition party Democratic Rally and Tala’s Republican Turkish party agreed 22 June to join forces to support ongoing talks. Christofias’ AKEL and procompromise rival DISY both drew strong support in European Parliament elections. Cypriot govt 17 June requested UN, EU help to stop Turkish/Turkish Cypriot military exercise in northeast, amid ongoing dispute over rights to offshore oil and gas fields. Downer 3 June denied rumours of UN plan to reunify Cyprus.
Taraf newspaper 12 June revealed alleged plot by senior military officers for covert action to discredit ruling AKP, Fethullah Gulen Islamic movement, in order to protect Turkey’s “secular order”. AKP govt called for judicial investigation; PM Erdogan 16 June held talks with army head Basbug. Parliament approved extension of civilian courts’ jurisdiction to military personnel 26 June. Prosecutor 9 June requested justice ministry dismissal of fraud case against President Gul. Ankara court 15 June ordered reopening of case against DTP leader Turk for Feb illegal Kurdish speech in parliament. PKK 1 June announced extension of unilateral ceasefire to 15 July. 3 soldiers, 1 PKK member killed in 4, 13, 19 June clashes; air force bombed PKK in northern Iraq 7 June. Turkish, Iraqi military heads signed cooperation agreement 10 June. PM Erdogan 26 June said Turkey would not accept “partnership” as alternative to full EU membership. Taxation chapter of EU negotiations opened 30 June. Illegal immigration, military flights in Agean Sea increased Greece-Turkey tensions; Turkish PM Erdogan cancelled Greece visit for health reasons.
Following late-May arrest of head of state nuclear company Kazatomprom, high-profile arrests continued, including early-June arrest of chairman of Statistics Committee. Defence minister and former PM Danial Akhmetov sacked 17 June. President Nazarbaev 13 June said Kazakhstan suspended WTO talks, wants WTO membership as single Customs Union with Russia, Belarus. Govt 25 June said Kazakhstan won’t participate in Nabucco gas pipeline project. Parliament 25 June amended internet law ruling online resources to be considered mass media. President marked 20 years in power 22 June
Govt reached deal with U.S. 23 June allowing U.S. to continue use of Manas airbase to resupply troops in Afghanistan; revised lease terms include annual fee more than tripled to $60m, plus increased aid. Russian FM described move as “exceedingly unpleasant surprise”, said Moscow not consulted. Followed protracted negotiations, letter from U.S. President Obama, request from Afghan president Karzai to keep airbase open. 5 members of Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan and 1 security forces officer reportedly killed during 24 June shoot-out in Jalal-Abad region. Campaign for 23 July presidential election started 18 June; 6 candidates approved. 4 alleged members of Islamic Jihad Group killed by govt forces late month in Osh region.
Military operation in East continued; govt claims operation fighting drug dealers, but contradicted by reports it is targeting Islamist rebels. Defence ministry 22 June announced military to be deployed near Afghan border in east. Economic situation worsening; following Tajik gas distributor’s failure to pay $17m debt by mid-June deadline, Uzbekistan cut gas supply by 50%, causing suspension of some industrial activity, partially resumed later in month. Former interior minister Solehov died during police attempt to detain him 18 June; officials claim suicide, family allege murder. Police arrested 11 suspected members of outlawed Hizb ut-Tahrir group 2 June.
FM Rashid Meredov in Brussels for talks with EU officials early June, fuelling speculation Turkmenistan seeking closer EU relations after deterioration in Russia relations over natural gas exports. Later in month visited Washington, reportedly to discuss energy issues. Russian energy company Gazprom 2 June said Turkmenistan needs to lower price of its natural gas in line with contracting demand. Govt signed 30-year agreement with China increasing gas exports to PRC by 40%.
Following late-May insurgent attacks in Ferghana Valley, authorities started digging trenches along Kyrgyz border where they allege attacks originated, prompting Kyrgyz criticism, growing tension. Govt 9 June erected checkpoint in disputed area alongside Tajik border. 14 June summit of Collective Security Treaty Organization saw Uzbekistan along with Belarus refuse to sign rapid reaction force agreement. EU representatives met in Tashkent 10 June for human rights dialogue with govt. Month marked 20th anniversary of President Karimov rule.
Increased tension ahead of 9 Dec general elections: indigenous pro-govt supporters early-June threatened to prevent opposition candidates from campaigning in La Paz, Potosí departments. UN report 19 June stated Bolivian potential cocaine production grew 9% in 2008, highest among Andean countries.
Govt-judiciary relations deteriorated further: Supreme Court (SC) early month sentenced 2 ex-congressmen to prison for accepting govt favours in return for supporting law allowing President Uribe to run for re-election in 2006. SC opened investigation into 86 congressmen over irregularities in Dec 2008 Congress vote; pro-Uribe lawmakers criticised investigation as politicised, said could delay legislative process over referendum on whether to allow Uribe to run for 2nd re-election May 2010. UN Special Rapporteur 18 June said army extrajudicial killings “systematic”, widely practiced; full report expected Oct-Nov. 25 FARC rebels, 7 police killed in 22 June Cauca department clash. UN report 19 June stated Colombian coca crops dropped 18% and potential cocaine production 28%.
Govt 11 June brought Colombia in front of OAS human rights commission over death of Ecuadorean citizen in Colombia’s March 2009 airstrike on FARC camp inside Ecuador; Colombia claims he was a FARC member. Opposition accused President Correa of violating press freedom after govt 4 June fined private TV station Teleamazonas.
Govt 5 June fined pro-opposition TV-station Globovisión US$2.3m over “media terrorism”; 16 June increased fine to US$4.6m, threatened criminal investigation. Various opposition parties, groups 8 June created “united democratic coalition” to stand against govt.
President Zelaya ousted in 28 June military coup: culmination of weeks of controversy over his push for referendum on abolition of presidential term limits, which both Congress and Supreme Court (SC) had declared unconstitutional. Zelaya expelled to Costa Rica 28 June, Congress subsequently swore in speaker Roberto Micheletti as interim president. Micheletti said his appointment “absolutely legal”; imposed curfew 28-29 June after thousands of Zelaya supporters demonstrated in capital Tegucigalpa. EU, U.S., UN, govts across Latin America condemned coup; OAS called for return of Zelaya, said would not recognise any other govt.
President Preval’s Lespwa party won 5 of 11 seats in 21 June Senate run-off elections; preceded by occasional violence, at least 2 killed; turnout very low. 1 civilian killed 18 June as demonstrators clashed with MINUSTAH peacekeepers after funeral of ex-President Aristide ally in Port-au-Prince; UN denied reports peacekeepers shot at demonstrators.
Protests by indigenous groups over decrees encouraging private oil, mining and agricultural development in Amazon turned violent: 22 police and some 30 protesters killed, dozens injured in 5 June clash in Amazonas department. Congress 18 June repealed 2 of most controversial decrees; PM Simon 16 June announced will resign when situation “calm”. 1 soldier killed, 4 injured in 6 June suspected Shining Path rebels attack in Ayacucho department; military 9 June launched new offensive against rebels in coca-growing VRAE region.
PM Netanyahu accepted prospect of Palestinian state for first time in 14 June speech, conditioning acceptance on demilitarisation, recognition of Israel as Jewish state; insisted on “natural growth” for West Bank settlements, Jerusalem to remain undivided Israeli capital, rejection of return for Palestinian refugees. U.S. hailed as “step forward”, but continued to call for settlement freeze; Palestinian Authority (PA) officials rejected Netanyahu’s conditions. U.S. envoy Mitchell held talks with Israeli, Palestinian leaders 9-10 June. Policeman, 2 Hamas gunmen killed 4 June in PA arrest operation in Qalqilya. Fatah, Hamas leaders began 6th round of Cairo reconciliation talks 28 June, amid tension over continuing reciprocal arrest campaigns in Gaza, West Bank. Israel released Hamas speaker of PA parliament Abd al-Aziz Dweik 23 June. Israeli troops killed 1 at protest against West Bank barrier near Ramallah 1 June. 4 Palestinian gunmen killed in 8 June clash with Israeli troops, northern Gaza border. Several Israeli checkpoints near West Bank cities lifted during month; Israeli military 24 June stated plan to “limit” incursions in Bethlehem, Ramallah, Jericho, Qalqilya. Egypt opened Rafah border with Gaza to students, medical cases 27 June.
7 June parliamentary elections won by proWestern March 14 alliance, capturing 71 seats to opposition 57. Observers praised transparent, calm election, with only minor clashes. Future Movement leader Hariri appointed PM 27 June, began consultations aimed at forming unity govt. 1 killed in 28 June Beirut clashes between Hariri supporters and followers of Shiite Amal movement. Hizbollah officials met UK ambassador 22 June, in first contact since 2005; EU HR Solana also met Hizbollah representative 14 June. Masked gunman killed Fatah member 22 June in Ain el-Hilweh Palestinian camp; explosives-laden car found at camp entrance 16 June. Grenade thrown 22 June at Fatah member’s house in Rashdieh camp. Israeli army set up outpost on Lebanese territory in Kfar Shouba area 19 June. Syria 23 June released 23 Lebanese prisoners, including 8 formerly classified as missing.
Further signs of thaw in U.S.-Syria relations, as U.S. 24 June announced would send ambassador to Damascus after 4-year absence. U.S. Mid-East envoy Mitchell said Syria has “crucial role” in reaching comprehensive peace after 13 June meeting with President Assad. U.S. military delegation in Damascus for 12 June talks on Iraq security. IAEA 5 June reported traces of undeclared uranium found at second site; Syria denied allegations of illicit nuclear activities. Assad 22 June said ready to cooperate with UN court investigating murder of former Lebanese PM Hariri “within conditions”.
Victory of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in 12 June presidential election, widely denounced as fraudulent, sparked largest mass protests since 1979 accompanied by increasingly harsh crackdown and open splits in ruling elite. Amid massive polling day turnout, Ahmadinejad and reformist Mir-Hossein Musavi both claimed first round victory; official results gave Ahmadinejad 63% of vote, record 85% turnout. Supreme Leader Khamenei rapidly endorsed Ahmadinejad victory as “divine miracle”. Tens of thousands of reformist candidates’ supporters joined protests in Tehran and other cities from 13 June; up to 1m estimated at 15 June Tehran rally. Ahmadinejad supporters held Tehran victory rallies 14, 16 June. State media reported at least 17 killed in 15, 20 June clashes with security forces, pro-govt militias, Tehran; unconfirmed reports of higher death toll including other cities. Hundreds arrested, including leading activists, former senior officials; media coverage and communications severely restricted, defeated candidates under heavy surveillance. Increasing force used to suppress protests following Khamenei’s 19 June warning against further demonstrations; Musavi called for protest to continue, but demonstrations dwindled. Guardian Council, charged with election oversight, 29 June confirmed Ahmadinejad victory after partial recount. Reformist candidates Musavi, Karrubi questioned council’s neutrality, maintained call for election annulment; conservative candidate Rezai dropped complaint 23 June. Amid govt accusations of foreign complicity in unrest, 9 Iranian UK embassy employees arrested 27 June; 5 released 29 June.
Series of deadly bombings marked run-up to 30 June U.S. pullout of combat troops from cities, formal handover of urban security to Iraqi control. Over 30 killed 10 June by car bomb in al-Bathaa, near Nasiriya; truck bomb killed at least 75 in Turkmen town near Kirkuk, 20 June; at least 78 dead in 24 June Sadr City bombing; bomb killed at least 34 in Kirkuk, 30 June. Tens killed in smaller attacks, including 15 in Shiite districts of Baghdad, 3, 8 June; at least 24 in 7 separate attacks, Baghdad, 22 June; 7 in Mosul fighting 22 June; around 20 in 24 June Baghdad bombing. Cabinet 4 June agreed to delay referendum on U.S.-Iraqi security agreement, scheduled end July, until Jan 2010; delay needs parliament approval. Harith al-Obaidi, leader of Sunni Consensus Front parliamentary bloc, killed 12 June; alleged al-Qaeda member arrested for murder 17 June. U.S. forces 8 June released Sadr ally Laith alKhazaali. Campaigning began 24 June for Kurdistan regional parliament elections. Oil contracts auction 30 June ended with only one deal.
Clashes between security forces, secessionist protesters in southern regions continued with early-month protests in Abyan, Lahj, Mukalla; 2 killed at 8 June funeral march for 6 dead from May protests, Radfan. Further clashes reported in Mukalla 15 June, Abyan 22 June; pro-govt, unity rally in Dhali’ clashed with counter-demonstration 24 June. In Saada, 24 hospital workers kidnapped 11 June, freed next day; 9 foreign hospital workers kidnapped 12 June, 3 later found killed. Govt blamed abduction on Houthi rebels; Houthis denied involvement. Govt, Houthi spokesmen 15 June traded accusations of conflict escalation; ICRC 16 June reported 500 families displaced by recent fighting. Houthis released 25 captured soldiers 24 June. Authorities announced 2 Saudis suspected of al-Qaeda links arrested 12, 18 June.
Deadly attacks by Islamic insurgents continued. 8 police and 2 teachers killed by some 30 suspected Islamic militants in attack on police convoy in Boumerdes region 3 June; 24 paramilitary police killed by insurgents in ambush on convoy 180km east of Algiers 18 June; authorities 24 June reported 11 of attack perpetrators killed. 5 paramilitary police reported killed, 2 kidnapped during ambush in Khenchela province 23 June; 1 soldier killed in search operation 29 June. Reports emerging on increasing consensus among political elite in favour of amnesty for al Qaeda militants who renounce violence.
U.S. President Barack Obama gave 4 June speech at Cairo University addressing Muslim world, calling for new beginning in U.S.-Muslim relations. Speech well received by many in audience; some opposition groups, including banned Muslim Brotherhood (MB), more cautious in response. 7 MB members arrested 28 June, including senior figures; release of 13 detained MB members ordered by court 28 June. Deal signed 23 June with visiting Russian President Medvedev on strategic cooperation in defence, trade and energy, including nuclear. Mob attacked Coptic church in village south of Cairo 21 June.
Military junta and political parties 2 June agreed to postpone presidential election to 18 July, after opposition parties threatened to boycott original 6 June date. Agreement reached with facilitation of Senegalese President Wade, includes transitional interim administration with posts shared by junta nominees and opposition. Ousted president Abdallahi formally resigned 26 June. Deal welcomed by international observers; AU, UN and EU said ready to assist with July poll. Opposition figures declared candidacy in days following agreement. AU 1 July lifted sanctions against Mauritania. U.S. aid worker shot dead in Nouakchott 23 June by 2 unidentified gunmen in suspected kidnapping attempt; al-Qaeda in Islamic Maghreb claimed responsibility 25 June.
Polisario representative in Algeria 11 June denounced extension of Moroccan local elections to Western Sahara as “serious provocation”, “illegal”, called for UNSG intervention. Newly-formed reformist Authenticity and Modernity Party campaigned widely in territory. UN envoy Ross made second tour of states in region end June.