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 …
President & CEO
Nine conflict situations around the world deteriorated in November 2005, according to the new issue of CrisisWatch,* released today. In Ethiopia, opposition protests over the results of the May parliamentary elections provoked a massive crackdown by security forces with at least 46 deaths and thousands of arrests. Tensions also rose between Ethiopia and Eritrea, as both countries deployed high concentrations of troops to their disputed border, risking a return to war. In Azerbaijan, parliamentary elections on 6 November failed to meet international standards and provoked street protests. Suspected Islamist militants intensified attacks on the judiciary in Bangladesh. And in Jordan, three coordinated suicide bomb attacks at Western hotels killed 60. The situations also deteriorated in Chad, Sierra Leone, Turkey and Uganda.
Three conflict situations improved in November 2005. Nepal’s Maoist rebels announced their acceptance of multi-party democracy and renounced violence against civilians in a landmark deal with seven political parties. Macedonia and Bosnia & Herzegovina advanced further towards EU membership: the European Commission recommended Macedonia receive candidate status and Bosnia & Herzegovina was authorised to begin negotiations on its Stabilisation and Association Agreement.
For December 2005, CrisisWatch identifies Iraq and Ethiopia/Eritrea as Conflict Risk Alerts, or situations at particular risk of new or significantly escalated conflict in the coming month. No new Conflict Resolution Opportunities are identified for December.
NepalBosnia And HerzegovinaMacedonia
UNSG Annan recommended downsizing UN mission (ONUB) from December, with drawdown of 2,000 troops (40% of authorised presence) by April 2006. Proposal came after newly elected Burundi government urged shift in emphasis from peacekeeping to reconstruction and development. Security Council extended UNOB mandate to 15 January 2006. UNOB condemned allegations linking it to FNL rebels after media reported rebels wearing peacekeepers’ uniforms. Clashes between FNL and security forces continued, killing 41 rebels. New commission began identifying political prisoners held throughout country.
Civil servant strike continued: agreement reached with government 14 November offering 2 of 45 months owed in salary arrears, but government failed to pay by 25 November deadline.
Situation tense between government and army deserters calling themselves Rally for Change, National Unity and Democracy (SCUD). SCUD said possessed means to topple President Deby. President reshuffled top military posts after gunmen raided army bases in N’djamena 14 November. Chad accused Sudan of using deserters to help fight Darfur rebels and destabilise Chad, sparking accusation from Khartoum of Chadian support for Darfur rebels. Sudanese army claimed it clashed with deserters in Darfur.
Preparations continued in run-up to 18 December constitutional referendum. Nearly 23 million voters registered, but questions raised about accuracy of voter list as electoral commission announced 150,000 registered twice. Joint UN-Congolese army operation to drive out rebels in east began early November; 4 soldiers and 90 rebels were killed, 350 Mai Mai and Rwandan Hutu rebels (FDLR) surrendered, while thousands fled to avoid fighting. Scepticism about effectiveness of operation, as rebels reported to have advance knowledge of impending attacks. In northern and central Katanga province, 50,000 reportedly fled homes after DRC army launched operation to forcefully disarm Mai Mai militia. UN imposed travel ban and assets freeze on 15 individuals and 1 organisation for violating arms embargo.
Former PM Kolelas, in exile since 1997, given amnesty for 2001 war crimes death sentence.
During proceedings at UN tribunal on Rwandan genocide, former army colonel Theoneste Bagosora denied accusations he masterminded 1994 slaughter. Former interior minister surrendered to tribunal but likewise denied directly participating. Rwanda and Burundi signed communiqué classifying Rwandans seeking asylum in Burundi as “illegal immigrants”.
Border tensions continued to rise with high concentrations of troops deployed on both sides. Ethiopian soldiers breached demilitarised zone, withdrawing 23 November. UN Security Council passed resolution threatening sanctions if sides failed to reduce troop numbers and if Eritrea refused to lift restrictions on UNMEE monitors, including ban on helicopter flights; also called on Ethiopia to respect boundary commission ruling on border demarcation, but did not threaten punishment. Eritrea dismissed resolution as biased.
Opposition protests over disputed May elections sparked massive crackdown by security forces; at least 46 dead. Over 8,000 detainees later released after calls from U.S and EU, but as many as 3,000 remain in custody, including top opposition Coalition for Unity and Democracy party officials. PM Zenawi said opposition leaders and newspaper editors would face treason charges - which carry death penalty - for role in protests.
President Kibaki suffered heavy setback after voters rejected draft constitution in referendum 21 November. Run-up to poll marred by violence: police killed 2 “no” supporters while attempting to disperse rioting crowd. Kibaki dismissed divided cabinet 23 November; later rejected opposition calls for elections and banned planned opposition rallies.
IGAD regional body called on UN to lift arms embargo, saying Jowhar-based transitional government has right to arm its security forces to establish authority. Statement angered faction of dissident parliamentarians based in Mogadishu and sparked fears dispute could escalate into violence. Mogadishu group had earlier agreed to hold talks with Jowhar government on condition international observers attend. Interim PM Gedi’s convoy attacked during Mogadishu visit 7 November, killing 5. Puntland region began demobilisation program to reduce number of military personnel in order to finance development.
First session of newly elected parliament ended in fist fight after MPs not permitted to elect speaker. Students protested alleged killing of peer by police.
Situation in Darfur remained dire. New round of AU- sponsored talks postponed until 29 November “for logistical reasons”; growing rifts in main Darfur rebel group Sudan Liberation Army (SLA) believed reason for delay. Secretary- General Minnawi elected new SLA president 3 November during Unity Conference boycotted by current President El- Nur. AU and U.S. mediators pressed SLA to resolve internal disputes: factions agreed on common position before resumption of Abuja talks. UNSG Annan warned Darfur descending into complete lawlessness: clashes in south displaced 15,000, while 62 Justice and Equality Movement rebels killed in attacks involving SLA and armed tribesmen. Rebel National Movement for Reform and Development demanded to participate in peace talks after attacking West Darfur town 29 November, killing 37. Fighting in Western Equatoria state between Dinka and Zande tribes left several dead and forced humanitarian agencies to evacuate.
Zanzibar President Karume sworn in after being re-elected 30 October with 53.2% of vote. International observers reported elections generally ran smoothly, despite violent clashes and fraud claims. Opposition Civic United Front (CUF) boycotted first session of parliament 11 November. 100 opposition supporters fled to Kenya allegedly to escape police persecution. CUF rally on Zanzibar ahead of 14 December nationwide elections, earlier postponed due to death of presidential running mate, dispersed by police.
Opposition leader Kizza Besigye, seen as President Museveni’s main challenger in first multi-party polls March 2006, arrested 14 November soon after returning from exile: accused of treason, rape, terrorism and weapons offences. Arrest sparked worst riots in decades and strong police response; 1 killed, 57 arrested. 14 of Besigye’s co-accused granted bail, but returned to jail for fear of being killed outside court. Government banned public demonstrations 23 November prior to Besigye’s court appearance. Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) reportedly made overture for talks with government. LRA killed 23 in attacks in north Uganda and south Sudan, including aid worker. Sudan extended agreement allowing Ugandan troops to pursue LRA into Sudanese territory. Commanders of Ugandan and Sudanese forces as well as Sudanese People’s Liberation Movement agreed joint strategy to execute International Criminal Court arrest warrants against top LRA commanders.
Government passed guidelines for NGOs, likely to improve response to HIV/AIDS and poverty. Arson attacks on government buildings continued.
President Mugabe’s Zanu-PF party won elections to new 66-member senate, taking 43 out of 50 elective seats (16 appointed by government). But turnout estimated at just 15-20%. Divisions within opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) worsened: members defying election boycott expelled. Rival faction suspended MDC president Tsvangirai pending disciplinary action, fuelling fears of defections to new party, United Peoples’ Movement. U.S. ambassador returned to Washington after Mugabe government threatened expulsion for criticising regime: U.S. widened sanctions against officials, freezing assets of those hindering democratic reforms. Government evicted over 300 families in Mbare in defiance of High Court order. President Mugabe later granted UN permission to build emergency housing following Operation Murambatsvina.
Deadlock continued over appointment of new PM despite mediation efforts, including visit by Presidents of Nigeria, Niger and South Africa. Rebel Forces Nouvelles accused international mediators of bias and rejected 4-name shortlist. UN warned government its efforts to rebuild air force, destroyed by French forces 2004, may breach arms embargo; accused government of using cocoa to buy banned arms.
Chief editor of weekly newspaper arrested for “defamatory” article about PM Diallo. President Conte retired 2,000 soldiers including head of Armed Forces. Police and students clashed in protests over economic depression. Security forces killed 3 during protest over education in Telimele 24 November.
President Vieira named close ally Aristides Gomes as PM 2 November. PAIGC, main party in parliament, challenged move, citing constitutional provision for parliamentary approval of appointment. Army guarded government buildings after street protests against appointment. PM named new cabinet 9 November, ending fortnight of institutional paralysis, but exclusion of PAIGC raised fears of further instability. IMF delegation left Bissau, saying lack of interlocutor would block discussions on financial assistance.
Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf confirmed first female elected head of state in Africa 23 November after 8 November run-off vote. Announcement delayed 2 weeks as elections commission investigated fraud claims by opponent George Weah. International observers said vote, with 60% turnout, was free, fair and transparent. Johnson-Sirleaf received 59.4% of vote; Weah 40.6%. In days following election, peacekeepers used tear gas after violent clashes between Weah supporters and security forces; government banned unauthorised street protests. Month ended with general calm as formal inquiry into fraud allegations continued.
High Court allowed 2 torture victims to challenge asylum status of former Liberian President Charles Taylor. Biafran separatist Ralph Uwazurike charged with treason 4 November; supporters clashed with police. Former police inspector Gen. Tafa Balogun pleaded guilty to corruption charges; first senior official to be convicted in anti-corruption drive. Bayelsa state Governor Alamieyeseigha charged with money laundering, skipped UK bail and returned to Nigeria, claiming immunity as sitting governor; now faces impeachment. Extra troops deployed to Bayelsa state as tensions rose in capital Yenagoa with protests for and against impeachment.
Tensions escalated between Vice President Berewa and opposition leader Margai, threatening political turmoil. Margai arrested on charges of provoking instability after his supporters reportedly harassed Berewa 21 November, later released on bail. Violent protests after arrest; situation somewhat defused upon Margai’s release. Media censorship continued but journalist Paul Kamara released 30 November. Anticorruption Commissioner Val Collier sacked; considered blow to commission’s independence. UN Security Council authorised UNMIL to arrest Charles Taylor and transfer him to Sierra Leone Court if he returns to Liberia.
National Commission of Inquiry report on April 2005 violence issued 10 November: stated 154 killed, 654 injured. Discrepancy in fatality figures with September UN report citing over 400 deaths. Government and opposition met in Rome to discuss political reform 11 November.
Joint Electoral Management Body certified National Assembly (upper and lower houses) and provincial election results marking end of election process; President Karzai still to appoint 34 seats in upper house. National Assembly, due to open in December, to be largely conservative and dominated by former mujahidin commanders. New and increasing phenomenon of suicide attacks killed 6 in Kabul and Kandahar, including German peacekeeper. Portuguese, Swedish and U.S. soldiers also killed in separate incidents adding to NATO security fears ahead of expansion to southern areas in 2006. November aerial attack. India pressed King Gyanendra to restore multi-party democracy at South Asian regional summit. Supreme Court refused to block law banning criticism of king and barring private radio stations broadcasting news; thousands protested new law. FM radio station that rebroadcasted BBC interview with Prachanda raided by government but reopened after Supreme Court intervention.
Suspected Islamist militants intensified attacks on judiciary: at least 9 killed in Chittagong and Gazipur blasts 28 November, while 2 senior judges killed 14 November. Lawyers and judges held widespread protests against violence. General strike held by main opposition Awami League 24 November calling for government’s resignation. World Bank and other donors conditioned further aid on improved anti-corruption efforts and legislation aimed at improving government transparency.
Separatist violence in northeast continued: grenade attack on market in Manipur state, and ongoing ethnic clashes in Assam state’s Karbi Anglong district between Dimasa and Karbi ethnic groups killed 2. Maoists launched 2 large-scale operations: 700 Maoist rebels stormed jail in Bihar state, killing 2 and freeing 350 prisoners; later stormed police training centre in eastern Jharkhand state, killing 5. Toll from 29 October Delhi blasts rose to 66. FM Natwar Singh stripped of post after allegations he benefited from UN oil-for-food program in Iraq.
24 Indian Kashmiris became first in 60 years to cross to Pakistani side but growing dissatisfaction more not allowed after 8 October earthquake. Pakistani PM Shaukat Aziz and Indian counterpart Manmohan Singh discussed normalisation process in side meeting at SAARC summit. All 5 promised crossing-points officially opened. 3 profile Srinagar attacks killed 14, 16-23 November.
Opposition Maldivian Democratic Party held ever internal political party elections in Maldives’ history.
Landmark deal announced between 7 political parties and Maoist rebels 22 November: Maoists agreed to accept multi-party democracy, stop terrorising civilians and accept democratic process. Maoist chief Prachanda committed to “march ahead peacefully” into new political mainstream and work with political parties to end absolute powers of monarchy. Maoists’ 3-month unilateral ceasefire to end 2 December. 2 high-level Maoist commanders reportedly killed in 30 November aerial attack. India pressed King Gyanendra to restore multi-party democracy at South Asian regional summit Supreme Court refused to block law banning criticism of king and barring private radio stations broadcasting news; thousands protested new law. FM radio station that rebroadcasted BBC interview with Prachanda raided by government but reopened after Supreme Court intervention.
Responding to domestic criticism over government’s response to earthquake, President Musharraf deferred procurement of F-16s from U.S. International donors pledged $5.8 billion in aid amid growing concerns for estimated 3.5 million homeless. 15 November blast outside Karachi offices of state-run petroleum company killed 3; 3 alleged Baloch Liberation Army members arrested. Interior Minister Khan Sherpao announced new force to tighten security at national installations in Balochistan province.
PM Rajapakse, known for hard-line approach to Tamil Tiger rebels (LTTE), won 17 November presidential election with 50.3% of vote. Low turnout in Tamil areas due to internal LTTE divisions and reported intimidation of Tamils helped Rajapakse defeat Wickramasinghe, who pledged to uphold current peace agreement. 3 killed and 17 wounded in bomb and grenade attacks in east, but election-related violence generally lower than expected. LTTE leader Prabhakaran issued ultimatum to new government for political settlement within year. Rajapakse declared intention to re-negotiate peace deal and joint mechanism for aid distribution. New president named new cabinet 23 November; kept defence and finance portfolios, gave new Wickremanayake disaster relief.
Aceh peace process continued: GAM ended third round of disarmament program 22 November, again handing over required weapons. Violence continued in Poso with 2 more schoolgirls (1 Christian, 1 Muslim) shot in head, both survived: but no new conflict. Malaysian bomb-maker Azhari Husin, suspected chief technician behind Bali bombs, killed in East Java police operation 9 November. Noordin Mohamad Top, main strategist behind JI attacks, remains at large. Police identified all 3 suicide bombers from October attacks, 2 from West Java and 1 from Central Java. 42 indigenous Papuans inaugurated as members of long-awaited Papuan People’s Council (MRP) 31 October by Interior Minister Mohammad Ma’ruf. Meetings between central government, leaders of MRP, Papuan and West Irian Jaya provincial government leaders 24-25 November resulted in agreement to settle legal status of controversial new province. U.S. State Department lifted Congress-approved arms embargo against Indonesia. Crisis Group South East Asia Project Director Sidney Jones refused entry to country 24 November, but allowed to return within week.
UN special rapporteur on human rights in Myanmar condemned human rights violations ranging from torture, rape and forced labour to violation of political and civil liberties. Military junta announced capital to be moved to Pyinmana, 300 km north of Yangon, suggesting growing paranoia of leadership. Convention to draft constitution due to resume 5 December. National League of Democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi’s house arrest extended for 1 year. Karen villages near Thai border reportedly attacked by Burmese troops 26 November.
Violence flared as military battled on 2 fronts: against Islamic militants in Jolo and Communist rebels in central and northern areas. At least 31 killed 11-15 November in fighting between military and Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) in southwestern island province of Sulu where military searching for ASG leader, Radullan Sahiron. Communist New People’s Army (NPA) continued assault on military. At least 30 killed in series of clashes throughout month. Military launched offensive against NPA 21 November in Barangay San Agustin, Palo Leyte, with reports of civilian casualties.
Army adopted more aggressive posture in response to rising southern violence; began retraining southern troops for offensive operations. Violence showed no sign of abating: family of 9 of defected militant killed in Narathiwat province 16 November in revenge for cooperation with government; coordinated bomb attacks in Narathiwat and Yala 2 and 7 November; suspected insurgents decapitated local government worker in Pattani province 22 November. Former Malaysian PM Mahathir Mohammad met PM Thaksin Shinawatra on unofficial trip to Thailand to ease diplomatic tensions over southern violence; both sides agreed to refrain from “megaphone diplomacy”.
Country paralysed by power cuts in worst energy crisis in 5 years. Greek president cut short visit to Albania after Cham minority group held Tirana protests.
Representatives of leading Bosnian parties agreed in principle - under heavy U.S. and EU pressure - to constitutional amendments strengthening central institutions of government. Declaration signed in Washington 22 November; many details still to be worked out. Agreement came day after Brussels authorised negotiations on Stabilisation and Association Agreement as step towards EU membership; expected to start by year-end. UN Security Council extended EU Stabilisation Force (EUFOR) mission for 12 months.
Former Finnish President Marti Ahtisaari appointed as Special UN Envoy to lead Kosovo final status talks. Contact Group elaborated guiding principles which process and outcome must satisfy. Ahtisaari travelled to Pristina, meeting with Kosovo Albanian and Kosovo Serb leaders, as well as Belgrade, where President Tadic proposed reshaping Kosovo within Serbia along dual entity model of Bosnia. Belgrade also announced negotiating team for talks: President Tadic and PM Kostunica to be co-presidents; minimal Kosovo Serb representation. U.S. Under Sec. State Burns called on constructive participation of all sides, emphasised Kosovo Albanians responsible for making convincing case for independence, warned against use of violence. 4 injured in market bomb in mainly Serb town Strpce 17 November.
EU Commission recommended candidate status for Macedonia 9 November. Negotiations start date announcement expected at 15-16 December EU Summit. EU established EU Policy Advisory Team (EUPAT) to replace police mission Proxima on 15 December.
Serbian parliament adopted resolution authorising government to enter talks with Kosovo Albanians on province’s final status. Serbia sought international support for stance with high-level visits to Russia and China: President Tadic put to Russian President Putin proposal to reshape Kosovo within Serbia along dual entity model of Bosnia; warned of destabilisation if independence granted. In first PM visit to Zagreb since 1991, Kostunica pledged with Croatian PM to resolve legacy of 1991-95 conflict,
Referendum on package of constitutional amendments held 27 November; central election commission stated more than 93% approval. Official turnout figure of 65% challenged by opposition who, claiming 16.3% turnout, staged protests; had previously called for boycott. Only international observation came from 14 Council of Europe observers who said vote marred by “serious abuses” putting “credibility” of result in doubt.
Police used violence to break up peaceful rally in Baku 26 November. Hundreds injured, 24 detained. Around 10,000 protesting 6 November parliamentary elections that failed to meet OSCE and Council of Europe standards. Protest was latest in series of moves by opposition who claimed election fraudulent, also announced boycott of seats in parliament. Ruling New Azerbaijan Party (YAP) won overwhelmingly: preliminary results indicated YAP won 58 of 121 seats, supported by number of pro-government independents. Turnout low at 46.8%. Election Commission annulled results in 4 constituencies and 460 polling stations; 2 extra seats awarded to opposition. Government fired 7 officials for illegal interference in voting.
Preliminary results of 27 November parliamentary elections indicated pro-Moscow United Russia Party victorious with over 61% of vote. Human rights activists criticised poll as rubber-stamping exercise by Kremlin and local pro-Russian elite; EU hailed it as “important step towards broader representation” in region. Chechen President Alkhanov said ready to talk with exiled separatist leaders. Violence continued as Russian soldier and 3 suspected militants killed in clashes, while mayor of Avtury killed by unidentified assailants. Russian military admitted killing 3 civilians 16 November while in separate incident, 6 injured in allegedly accidental army mortar attack on village.
Situation in Abkhazia deteriorated with reports of at least 2 Georgians killed in separate incidents. UN observers expressed concern and urged sides to convene high-level meeting. Dispute topped agenda of 19 November meeting between UNSG Annan and President Saakashvili. OSCE talks held 15-16 November on South Ossetia conflict. Georgian PM argued for broadening of Joint Control Commission to include U.S. and EU, saying current format futile.
OSCE Minsk Group co-chairs stated intention to relaunch talks with Azerbaijan and Armenia FMs at 5-6 December OSCE Ministerial Council meeting in Slovenia.
Crackdown on suspected militants continued: Dagestan police said 2 militants killed, 1 wounded and 8 detained. Islam expert Ruslan Nakhushev reported missing in Kabardino-Bakaria after 4 November police questioning; prosecutor said Nakhushev suspected of instigating major October raid on Nalchik. Local inquiry into September 2004 Beslan school siege blamed Russian security forces for failings over prevention and rescue operation.
EU warned of “restrictive measures” unless 2006 presidential election free and fair. Growing concerns over media freedom: UN human rights envoy urged government to investigate recent murders of 2 journalists and end systematic harassment of non-state media, while state postal services excluded 3 periodicals from distribution in move interpreted as “cleansing” of opposition media. Belarus parliament gave initial approval to legislation aimed at preventing Ukraine-style revolution.
Russian foreign minister defended military presence in Transdniestrian region, arguing essential to region’s stability. EU launched 2-year Border Assistance Mission on Moldova-Ukraine border 30 November.
Controversy over position of prosecutor-general continued: parliament approved President Yushchenko’s nominee, Oleksandr Medvedko, but Kiev court ruled dismissal of previous prosecutor-general illegal and reinstated him. FM Tarasyuk accused Russia of violating terms of its Black Sea fleet presence at Ukrainian port.
Spain’s largest ever trial started in High Court 21 November with 56 defendants charged with belonging to ETA support network. Spokesman for banned nationalist Batasuna party, Arnaldo Otegi received 1-year prison sentence for defamation of king. ETA suspects for 3 blasts in region, no injuries.
EU-funded project to open symbolic roadblock dividing main street of Nicosia since 1963 began with Turkish Cypriot clearance work 24 November. Greek Cypriot government withdrew consent on issue 28 November, saying Turkish troops violated ceasefire line in buffer zone. Greek- Cypriot presidential aide Tzionis controversially stated Annan Plan could not be basis for Cyprus solution.
Northern Ireland Secretary Peter Hain announced plans to overhaul local government in region, including reduction of number of local councils from 26 to 7. All parties except Sinn Fein warned move could lead to repartition along sectarian lines; Sinn Fein dismissed warnings. House of Commons passed bill on amnesty for returning fugitive paramilitaries by 310 votes to 262 despite concerns raised by many MPs and criticism of bill by victims’ families. County Armagh man shot dead 7 November reported to have republican dissident connections.
Situation in southeast deteriorated after claims state security services involved in 9 November bomb attack on Semdinli bookshop and drive-by shooting at crime scene. 3 gendarmerie officers and 1 ex-PKK militant detained. Several days of rioting over incident in Hakkari province, Istanbul and elsewhere. At least 5 killed in clashes with police. PM Erdogan visited Semdinli 21 November promising justice. Sporadic violence continued across Turkey, including bombing in Istanbul that killed 2. EU cautioned Turkey on freedom of speech after prosecution of several authors and academics.
Former Emergency Situations Minister Zamanbek Nurkadilov found shot dead 12 November: fired 2004 for accusing government of corruption, later joined opposition and was reportedly planning to disclose high-level corruption. Official investigation ruled death suicide. EU urged Kazakhstan to let opposition candidates and media operate freely ahead of 4 December presidential election. Opposition newspaper Juma Times 3 November issue seized. Televised debate between presidential candidates held without participation of president.
Situation in prisons normalised after October- November unrest. President Bakiev presented constitutional drafting committee with ready-made constitution in move seen as attempt to use Constitutional Conference to rubber-stamp his amendments, including abolition of position of PM. May Revolution leader Azimbek Beknazarov won parliamentary by- election, while former FM and revolutionary leader Roza Otunbaeva defeated. Head of National Security Service presented report into recent murders of 2 MPs, saying deaths due to business dispute and drug deal. Asan Erkinbaev, whose MP brother killed September, hospitalised after setting self on fire to demand killers’ capture.
New Economic Reform and Agrarian Parties registered, bringing total number of official political parties to 8. Opposition Social Democratic Party accused regime of campaign to eliminate President Rahmonov’s potential rivals ahead of November 2006 presidential poll. Independent media under pressure as government enforcing tougher registration procedures.
President Niyazov fired several top energy officials for alleged abuse of office and misappropriation of funds prior to gas deal with Ukraine. UN General Assembly committee passed resolution expressing concern about Turkmenistan’s repression of opposition groups, censorship of media and corrupt legal system.
Supreme Court completed show trial of 15 suspects accused of instigating May Andijon violence, convicting all 15 and handing down sentences of 14 to 20 years in prison. New trials begun in near-secrecy for others linked to May events. EU imposed arms embargo and visa bans on 12 top Uzbek officials linked to Andijon events, including Interior Minister Almatov. Despite ban, Germany admitted Almatov for medical treatment on “humanitarian grounds”. Meanwhile, Uzbekistan banned European NATO members from using its airspace to support Afghanistan peacekeeping operations. In Moscow, Presidents Karimov and Putin signed unprecedented mutual defence treaty, giving Russia broad latitude to intervene against “threats to peace”.
Interim President Rodriguez settled long-standing dispute over distribution of parliamentary seats by basing rules on latest census; set election for 18 December. Organisation of American States to oversee poll. Energy minister resigned after failing to renegotiate international oil contracts in line with new hydrocarbons law.
President Uribe announced candidacy for May 2006 elections after constitutional court cleared him to run for second term. AUC paramilitaries agreed to resume demobilisation, after suspending cooperation in October for fear their leader would be extradited to U.S. Washington agreed to provide up to $20 million for demobilisation. Up to 2,000 fled, many to Ecuador, to escape upsurge in violence in southern Putumayo and Narino departments; 24 guerrillas surrendered to authorities 16 November. Security forces continued forced eviction of indigenous protestors from farms in Cauca.
Congress debated whether to accept President Palacio’s request to hold constitutional referendum. New Supreme Court sworn in after being disbanded following ouster of former President Gutierrez. Indigenous groups marched on Congress demanding new constitution and protesting trade talks with U.S; police responded violently.
Opposition parties withdrew ahead of 4 December legislative elections, accused electoral body of favouring pro-government candidates. President Chavez called Mexican president “puppy” of U.S. imperialism sparking diplomatic row. Government-controlled Citgo Petroleum Corp. announced plan to sell discounted heating oil to low-income areas of U.S.
Presidential and legislative elections postponed for third time to 8 January due to security, logistics and likely shortage of international observers over Christmas period. Schedule provides for second round 15 February and local elections early March. UN troops established permanent presence in Cite Militaire slum to quell gang violence after 4 killed in clashes with peacekeepers. Police fired or jailed 50 officers in effort to clean up force, including 14 formally changed in connection with killings at August football match.
U.S. Sec. State Rice brokered deal with Israel and Egypt to reopen Gaza-Egyptian border under Palestinian control with EU monitors. Major shakeup of Israeli domestic politics with Labour Party’s withdrawal from governing coalition after early November election of new leader, Amir Peretz. PM Ariel Sharon later announced resignation from Likud to form own centrist party, “Kadima”; former Labour head Peres left party to back Sharon. President Katsav dissolved parliament, set election for 28 March 2006. Israeli troops killed head of al-Qassam Brigade during West Bank clash; Hamas vowed to avenge death. Earlier in month Hamas declared would not extend informal ceasefire at year-end because Israel has failed to reciprocate. Palestinian Fatah party suspended primary election due to violence and fraud.
Iraqi suicide bombers launched 3 coordinated attacks on Western hotels in Amman 9 November, killing 60 and wounding over 115. Al Qaeda in Iraq, led by Jordanian-born militant al-Zarqawi, claimed attack retaliation for Jordanian assistance to U.S. in Iraq. Fourth would-be bomber detained by police. King Abdullah II dismissed government and top officials of royal court, including national security adviser. Former military intelligence officer and ambassador to Israel and Turkey Marouf Bakhit named PM, given strong mandate to fight Islamist militancy.
Hezbollah and Israeli soldiers clashed in disputed Shebaa Farms area; 4 Hezbollah fighters killed 21- 23 November. UN Security Council expressed concern about hostilities, which it said Hezbollah initiated. President Lahoud interviewed by UN team investigating former PM Hariri’s assassination; denied any involvement.
Damascus agreed to allow investigators to question officials in Vienna, ending impasse with UN inquiry into killing of former Lebanese PM Hariri; denied reports UN wanted to question sixth official, Assef Shawkat, head of military intelligence and President Assad’s brother-in-law. Assad earlier agreed to cooperate with UN inquiry so long as Syrian national interests not “harmed”. Syria began own investigation into assassination and imposed travel ban on officials named in October UN report. Damascus freed 190 political prisoners in effort to strengthen national unity.
Series of demonstrations held throughout month protesting law on activities of political societies; unemployment; law to regulate marriage, divorce and inheritance rights for women; and U.S.-led “Forum for the Future” conference to promote democracy which ended without agreement on declaration.
International Atomic Energy Agency’s 35-nation board met 24 November, agreeing to give Tehran more time to accept nuclear compromise before pushing for UN Security Council referral. Proposal from Moscow to allow Iranian uranium enrichment activities in Russia, not on Iranian soil, agreed by U.S. and EU, but Iran continued to insist on right for indigenous fuel cycle capability. In move thought to be attempt to strengthen Tehran’s negotiating hand, Iranian parliament voted to begin uranium enrichment and end in-depth international inspections if referred to UNSC. Depth of support for President Ahmadi-Nejad questioned as his third nominee for oil minister rejected by parliament; his abrasive foreign policy and series of high- profile ambassadorial-level reshuffles having created concern even among conservatives.
Insurgency intensified as approach of 15 December parliamentary elections prompted fears of major escalation. Wave of suicide bombings included twin blasts at Shiite mosques in Khanaqin, near Iranian border, killing 80 and car bomb outside hospital south of Baghdad killing 30. Gunmen dressed in Iraqi army uniforms shot dead prominent Sunni Arab tribal chief and 4 family members 23 November. Escalation of violence coincided with opening of preparatory Iraqi reconciliation meeting run by Arab League in Cairo. Detainee abuse scandal emerged 13 November after U.S. troops found 173 prisoners, mostly Sunni Arabs and some reportedly tortured, in bunker in interior ministry building. U.S. military forces completed 17-day counter-insurgency operation in western province of Anbar near Syrian border, which left 139 insurgents and 10 marines dead. UN Security Council voted unanimously to extend mandate of U.S.-led multinational forces to end of 2006. 1666 Coalition soldiers, including 1548 Americans, and thousands of Iraqis now killed by hostile fire since declared end of combat 1 May 2003.
Women participated and voted in Chamber of Commerce election for first time in Kingdom’s history 28 November. Saudi Arabia became 149th member of World Trade Organisation after 12 years of talks. U.S. added country to list of violators of religious freedoms.
Clashes between security forces and Zaidi rebels continued in northern province of Saada with at least 16 rebels and 10 police killed.
Opposition parties in Berber Kabylia region won local elections called in June as part of reconciliation plan. President Bouteflika pardoned thousands of prisoners 1 November after October referendum approved plan. Police Chief Ali Tounsi announced plans to double force over next 3 years, while military completed destruction of landmine stock. 3 killed in Salafi Group for Preaching and Combat attacks.
Parliamentary elections began relatively peacefully but later stages marred by violence, widespread intimidation, hundreds of arrests and voting irregularities; 2 killed. National Democratic Party (NDP) won large majority of seats, while Muslim Brothers, running as independents, allowed to campaign openly despite ban; won 76 seats in first 2 rounds, nearly 5 times current representation in parliament. Opposition al-Ghad Party leader, runner-up in September presidential elections, lost to NDP candidate.
Military junta announced intention to reduce period of transition to constitutional rule by 5 months. Now to hold presidential elections in March 2007.
Morocco’s King Mohammed VI announced support for Western Sahara autonomy under Moroccan sovereignty on anniversary of 1975 Moroccan seizure of region, but continued to reject possibility of referendum on independence. Western Saharan Polisario Front dismissed proposal. Pro-independence riots throughout month in multiple townships sparked strong police response. Moroccan parliamentary delegation to Algeria sought to renew diplomacy over Western Sahara during 22 November visit.