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
Conflict situations deteriorated in thirteen countries in October 2004 according to November's CrisisWatch bulletin. The 10 October election of Abdullahi Yusuf as president of Somalia proved divisive; clashes between Yusuf's Puntland territory and breakaway Somaliland killed over 100 on 30 October, with further violence likely. In Liberia, UN forces struggled to contain a flare-up in inter-communal fighting in Monrovia. Separatist violence in India’s northeast was the worst in years, leaving 73 dead in Assam and Nagaland. Ethnic conflict broke out in central China after a Han Chinese girl was killed by a Muslim Hui taxi driver; nearly 150 have been reported killed in subsequent violence. And tensions in southern Thailand increased after 79 protesters suffocated in police vans following their arrest for rioting. The situations in Cote d'Ivoire, Egypt, Guinea-Bissau, Haiti, Myanmar/Burma, Nigeria, Pakistan and Peru also deteriorated in October.
Six conflict situations showed improvement in October. The first ever direct presidential election in Afghanistan came off successfully, largely free of expected violence. The leader of Zimbabwe's opposition MDC party, Morgan Tsvangirai, was acquitted of trumped-up high treason charges. And Burundi's peace process took a significant step forward as five Tutsi parties dropped their opposition to the country's draft constitution. There was also improvement in the Basque Country (Spain), Colombia, and Guinea.
For November 2004, CrisisWatch identifies Haiti, Somalia, and Thailand as Conflict Risk Alerts, or situations at particular risk of further conflict in the coming month; the only Conflict Resolution Opportunity identified is Burundi.
SomaliaCôte d’IvoireGuinea-BissauLiberiaNigeriaChina (internal)India (non-Kashmir)PakistanMyanmarThailandHaitiPeruEgypt
BurundiZimbabweGuineaAfghanistanBasque Country (Spain)Colombia
Constitutional crisis alleviated 31 October by agreement of 5 of 6 so-called Tutsi parties to support draft constitution. Tutsi parties previously opposed constitution approved by transitional parliament 20 October, threatening boycott. Parties objected to counting of Tutsis in so-called Hutu parties in power-sharing quotas for parliament. UPRONA, main Tutsi party, remained opposed. Regional leaders endorsed 6-month extension of President Ndayizeye’s transitional government 15 October in recognition of expected failure to meet 2000 Arusha accords’ 31 October election deadline. Presidential elections delayed to 22 April 2005; local elections to be held February and legislative elections March 2005. Meanwhile, clashes killed 15 members of Hutu FNL group opposed to peace deal south of Bujumbura 28 October.
Darfur crisis and presence of 200,000 refugees eastern Chad continued to destabilise President Déby’s regime, though fears of cross-border violence declined with French air patrols. Déby’s own Zagawa tribe critical of president for failure to protect Sudanese kinsmen.
President Kabila visited Kisingani, eastern DR Congo, amidst tight security 16 October, claiming country secure; but trips further east and Kisingani meeting were cancelled. 3,000 refugees fled to Kilwa Island, Zambia, after Portuguese-speaking Tigres or Diabolos fighters took Kilwa mining town, Katanga province, 15 October. Army retook town days later, killing 30; captured rebel leader died 17 October. DR Congo recalled ambassador to Belgium 22 October following Belgian foreign minister’s comments disparaging transitional government. In positive development, International Criminal Court signed agreement with DR Congo 6 October to investigate war crimes in Ituri province. Ugandan President Museveni suggested “provisional immunity” for Ituri warlords needed until DR Congo peace process secured. Human Rights Watch claimed Uganda- backed FAPC militia responsible for torture of 18 and death of 6 civilians Ituri province 14 October.
Rwandan and DR Congo governments agreed 5 October to deployment of joint monitoring teams to Bukavu and Goma, eastern DR Congo, as part of Joint Verification Commission (JVC) agreed September. European Union criticised Rwandan parliamentary report on NGO genocide ideology, fearing attempt at intimidation of opposition to government; Rwandan government criticised outside intervention. Rwanda, Uganda and DR Congo signed agreement 26 October to set up mechanism for addressing regional security concerns.
Tensions with Ethiopia remained over unresolved issue of Badme; new Ethiopian settlements in Badme reported. Eritrea’s relations with Sudan deteriorated with 19 October claim of Sudanese plot to assassinate President Isaias; Sudan denied report and claimed Eritrea backs insurgency in eastern Sudan. Eritrea later claimed to have captured terror network.
Over 100 killed end October in clashes between Somaliland and Puntland forces around village of Adi-Addeye. Followed divisive election of Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed as Somali president 10 October. President Yusuf accused Somaliland of waging “all out war” of secession in letter to UN 29 October; Somaliland warned against infringement of borders by Yusuf, himself former president of neighbouring semi-autonomous Puntland. Yusuf elected to 5-year term, beating rival 189-79 in run-off; one third of parliament did not attend 14 October inauguration and groups including militant Islamists voiced opposition. Yusuf recognised president by neighbouring countries 15 October; called for 20,000 African Union (AU) peacekeepers to assist disarmament process; UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan suggested first security steps must be made by Somalis.
Diplomatic manoeuvring over Darfur crisis continued. Sudan accepted African Union (AU) force expansion 1 October; negotiations on mandate and size resulted in 20 October announcement of force of 3,320, including 815 police, with monitoring and monitor-protection role. Government of Sudan retained primary security responsibility, disappointing hopes for more pro-active AU role. EU to bear half $220 million cost. Billeting problems and political disagreements likely to slow deployment, planned for completion within 3 months; Sudan refused entry to 237 Rwandan AU soldiers on U.S. planes 25 October. Parallel AU-backed government and Darfur rebel talks on Security Arrangements and political issues began Abuja 25 October; divisions between rebel groups threatened break-up of talks. Summit between Chad, Egypt, Libya, Nigeria and Sudan rejected “foreign intervention” 17 October. Aid convoy attacked 6 October and 2 aid workers killed by landmine 10 October in attacks attributed to 2 new Darfur militias. Meanwhile, rebel group emerged neighbouring West Kordofan seeking changes to Naivasha accords between government and southern SPLA insurgents. Final government/SPLA talks restarted 7 October; broke up 1 November and will reconvene 26 November. SPLA leader John Garang said deal possible by year-end, suggesting “solution to Darfur…through…Naivasha”. UN Security Council voted to hold November 18-19 session in Nairobi in attempt to provide impetus to conflict resolution.
Briefing UN Security Council 21 October, UN Under-Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs Jan Egeland called northern Uganda biggest neglected humanitarian emergency in world. Meanwhile, army claimed continuing success of military campaign; 15 Lord’s Resistance Army insurgents killed near Kitgum 16-17 October. Uganda Human Rights Commission criticised impunity for torture committed by army.
Dispute threatening access of World Food Program to Angola resolved 25 October as suspended aid flights resumed. Deepwater oil reserves discovered off coast of Republic of Congo and Angola’s separatist Cabinda province.
Morgan Tsvangirai, leader of Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) opposition movement, acquitted of trumped-up high treason charges 15 October; though further charges remain. Following acquittal Tsvangirai made first trip outside country since 2001, meeting South African President Mbeki 25 October to discuss planned March 2005 elections and application of South African Development Community (SADC) election guidelines; MDC says application is condition of participation; Tsvangirai suggested election delay until June 2005 to allow for reform. Tsvangirai met SADC chairman and Mauritian PM Berenger 27 October. Meanwhile, South African trades union (COSATU) mission to Zimbabwe deported 26 October; COSATU threatened barricade of Zimbabwe’s border.
After month of rising tension Forces Nouvelles (FN) rebel leader Guillaume Soro claimed “war isn’t over” 28 October, ordered FN ministers out of government and declared state of emergency in rebel-held north. Following close of parliamentary session 28 September without passage of promised reforms, FN refused to disarm from 15 October as scheduled. Typically measured leader of President Gbagbo’s Ivoirian Popular Front, Affi N'Guessan, subsequently urged moderate PM Seydou Diarra to resign, threatening “military solution” to impasse with rebels. Gbagbo ruled out return to war 19 October and Diarra refused to resign, saying he had president’s support. Earlier in month, demonstrations led by pro-Gbagbo “Young Patriots” outside UN and French army bases dispersed with shots and tear gas; similar demonstrations in northern Bouake town. Unprecedented fire-fight in rebel-held north between unknown assailants and UN/French troops 50km south of Korhogo 26 October.
Twelve detainees arrested December 2003 on suspicion of planning coup against ailing President Conté released 6 October; fears for Conté’s succession remain. Talks between government and EU on development resumed.
Situation fragile after 2-day mutiny by 600 soldiers demanding payment of salary arrears and improved conditions in barracks. Two senior military officers killed, including head of armed forces, General Seabra; other officers took refuge in Western embassies. Soldiers deny having political agenda. Mediators from Portuguese-speaking nations and ECOWAS helped resolve dispute. Memorandum of understanding signed 10 October, allowing for immediate return to barracks, army reform and possible amnesty. New chief-of- staff General Wai, member of Balanta ethnic group associated with overthrown President Yala’s Social Renovation Party, chosen by mutineers and appointed by government 28 October. UN agreed to pay $2.2m in arrears to army mutineers.
UN forces struggled to contain flare-up in inter- communal violence Monrovia 29 October; at least 5 killed. Daylight curfew imposed and UN soldiers told to “shoot on sight”. Revenge attacks 31 October. 95,000 former fighters considered disarmed in Liberia as of 31 October deadline for full disarmament, but UN Special Representative Jacques Klein warned of funding shortfall for reintegration. UN said disarmament around Harper in southeast Liberia slower than expected as former MODEL fighters believe greater compensation available from neighbouring Côte d’Ivoire. UN Security Council declined to lift sanctions on Liberia 7 October.
Four-day general strike 11-14 October over 25% fuel price hike led to arrest of Adams Oshiomhole, president of Nigerian Labour Congress. Nineteen bodies exhumed Kaduna, central Nigeria; locals claimed bodies of those killed by police in strike riots. Further strikes threatened. Five men, including Obasanjo using Stinger surface-to-air missile. In separate developments, self-styled “Taliban” militants attacked 60 policemen near Kala-Balge, northeastern Nigeria, 8 October, killing 3. Situation in Rivers State remained volatile, though 30 September truce holding. Delays over handover of oil-rich Bakassi peninsula to Cameroon continued in face of opposition from Bakassi residents and Nigerian parliamentarians. State government-appointed committee said 53,000 died in inter-communal violence Plateau state September 2001 to May 2004.
Sierra Leone remained generally quiet. Paul Kamara, editor of For Di People newspaper, jailed for 2 years for sedition against President Kabbah.
Clashes between minority Hui Muslims and majority Han Chinese killed 148 in central Henan province after Hui taxi driver killed 6-year-old Han girl. Beijing agreed to reopen human rights dialogue with U.S. after visit from Secretary of State Colin Powell.
U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell visited East Asia in attempt to revive 6-party talks. Negotiations remained on hold as Pyongyang awaits U.S. election results. U.S. President Bush signed North Korean Human Rights Act of 2004 18 October, law that paves way for $24 million per year from 2005 to 2008 in humanitarian aid and makes refugees eligible for asylum in U.S.
Beijing rejected Taiwanese president Chen Shui-bian’s “conciliatory” 10 October speech in which he called for renewed cross-Strait talks, saying speech was yet further move toward independence. Chinese officials also later rebuffed U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell’s suggestion that they use Chen’s speech as basis for restarting talks. Proposed $18 billion arms purchase from U.S. continues to incite controversy, as pro- and anti-arms purchase groups held rallies and protests across Taiwan. Purchase has yet to be approved by Taiwanese legislature.
First-ever direct presidential election successfully held 9 October, largely free of expected violence. President Hamid Karzai won by near 40% margin despite voter registration irregularities, problems with indelible ink, early boycott threats from candidates and accusations of fraud. Results exposed ethnic split in electorate, with Karzai's challengers leading in most northern and central provinces. U.S.-led forces in south killed at least 40 in operations leading up to poll. Kidnapping of 3 UN election workers by ex-Taliban faction Jaish-e-Muslimeen in Kabul 28 October and suicide bombing 24 October that killed 2, raised concerns about post- election security in Kabul. Five killed in Paktika province as election commission vehicle targeted 18 October; 6 died, including 2 U.S. soldiers, in separate 16 October incidents in Kunar and Uruzgan province. NATO nations agreed rota for leadership of International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) up to 2007 in attempt to improve coordination; Turkey, Italy, Britain and Spain to lead ISAF for 6 to 8 months each after multinational Eurocorps hands over in February 2005.
Internal situation remained fragile, while tensions with India increased over rebel groups and border incursions. Bangladeshi and Indian border troops exchanged fire 26 October after Indian attempt to force Bangla-speakers into Bangladesh. Border police detained 18 suspected Indian rebels 12 October in response to Indian accusations of Bangladesh refuge for northeastern separatists. Two senior opposition politicians attacked in northern Rangpur town 19 October; assault blamed on ruling BNP party. Petition filed in High Court challenging formation of Rapid Action Battalion (RAB), seeking injunction on activities of elite anti-crime unit. Rights groups claim RAB responsible for extra-judicial killings. For 4th year running Bangladesh came bottom of Transparency International’s global corruption ranking.
Worst bloodshed in northeast for years killed at least 73 in Assam and Nagaland 2-4 October. Separatist groups National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB) and United Liberation Front of Assam (ULFA) blamed for spate of 18 explosions and gun attacks. Central government offered to join 3-way talks with Assam government and NDFB to end violence. National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN) separatist leaders agreed to go to Delhi for next round of peace talks with federal government. Talks in Hyderabad between Maoist People's War Group (PWG) and Andhra Pradesh government ended 18 October with no progress. 31 October clashes between Muslims and police in Hyderabad killed 1, led to further violent protests. PWG and Maoist Communist Centre merged 8 October to create Communist Party of India (Maoist). Border troops exchanged fire with Bangladeshi counterparts 26 October after attempt to force Bangla- speakers into Bangladesh.
Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf made unexpected public calls for “rethink” on Kashmir; ideas included defining, demilitarising and changing status of areas of Pakistan- and Indian-administered sections of Kashmir and some form of joint India-Pakistan or U.N. control. Indian official reaction muted; received mixed reactions from domestic and Indian press. Talks between Pakistan and India on proposal to start bus link in Kashmir set for 7-8 December in New Delhi. Team of Pakistani journalists visited Indian-administered Kashmir 4-6 October for first time since 1947. Sporadic violence continued included killing of former Kashmir minister 21 October; suicide bomb attack on Indian army convoy 9 October, killing 5; and failed assassination attempt on Jammu and Kashmir opposition leader and former chief minister Farooq Abdullah. Pakistani PM Shaukat Aziz to meet Indian PM Manmohan Singh in November in capacity as chairman of South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation. Pakistan tested nuclear-capable “Hatf-V Ghauri” missile 12 October; India tested medium-range nuclear-capable “Prithvi-III” missile 27 October.
Government restored some rights removed under state of emergency (declared August), including right to know reasons for arrest; allowed Red Cross access to political prisoners (78 of 185 protesters remain in jail). Pro-democracy activists dismissed move as superficial.
Fighting resumed after Maoists and government observed truce from 20-28 October for Dasain festival. At least 12 Maoists killed in clashes after truce ended. Earlier incidents 2 and 14 October reportedly killed 16 rebels. Political tension and manoeuvring continued with talk of new split in Rashtriya Prajatantra party, member of governing coalition. PM Deuba refused to extend truce and insisted general elections will be held if Maoists do not come for talks. King Gyanendra approved revised anti- terrorism law 13 October allowing preventive detention for 6 months without recourse to judiciary.
Sectarian violence erupted: at least 75 killed in series of retaliatory attacks following 1 October bombing of Shia mosque in eastern city of Sialkot, killing 30; 40 killed in Multan city 7 October when 2 car bombs targeted meeting of banned radical Sunni group; Sunni cleric shot dead 9 October in Karachi; and Shia mosque in Lahore attacked by suicide bomber 10 October, leaving 4 dead. Military operations continued in South Waziristan tribal region. Attempt to free 2 Chinese engineers held hostage resulted in death of 1 hostage and all 5 kidnappers 15 October, prompting widespread search by security forces for militant leader Abdullah Mehsud, who orchestrated kidnapping. Investigation underway into 28 October Islamabad Marriott hotel explosion that injured 7. 342- member National Assembly (lower house of parliament) passed controversial bill 14 October by simple majority allowing General Pervez Musharraf to remain as both president and head of army until 2007.
Peace process remained stalled and sporadic factional violence continued. Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) repeated position that talks can go forward only on basis of Interim Self-Governing Authority plan. Breakaway LTTE leader V. Muralitharan, a.k.a. Karuna, reportedly launched new political movement, Tamil Eelam People's Liberation Tigers party, 12 October. President Kumaratunga inaugurated National Advisory Council for Peace and Reconciliation 4 October as all-party forum for peace process, boycotted by opposition parties and dismissed by LTTE as time-wasting tactic. Opposition United National Party led by former PM Ranil Wickremesinghe indicated possibility of conditional support for government should they initiate peace talks with LTTE.
Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono sworn in as Indonesia’s first directly elected president 20 October; said priorities are fighting corruption, creating jobs and bringing peace to Aceh and Papua, though has yet to articulate concrete policies. West Sulawesi communal violence killed at least 3 as Muslim sub-districts rejected incorporation into newly created Christian-majority Mamasa district. Central Sulawesi violence killed 3 in Poso and Donggala districts. In Papua, 2 attacks allegedly by Free Papua Movement rebels killed 5 civilians in Puncak Jaya 12,14 October - 800 residents evacuated from area; 2 suspects detained by police for questioning; 4 killed, including priest, reportedly by shots fired from army helicopter. Investigations into 9 September Australian embassy blast indicated joint operation by Malaysian JI members Noordin Mohamad Top and Azhari Husin, in collaboration with Darul Islam splinter group from Banten, West Java. Police hunting 4 men after small explosion and discovery of live bombs in house in Sukabumi, West Java 14-15 October. Clashes continued in Aceh, reportedly killing 35 Free Aceh Movement rebels, 1 soldier 28-31 October. Man arrested in Sukabumi 21 October for possession of explosives. Second trial of Abu Bakar Ba'asyir on charges relating to Bali and Marriott attacks began 28 October.
Chairman of military junta General Than Shwe further tightened grip on government with removal of PM Khin Nyunt and his reported arrest for corruption. Nyunt replaced by Lieutenant-General Soe Win, close ally of Than Shwe. Khin Nyunt had led ceasefire agreements with several ethnic rebel groups, including Karen National Union and United Wa State Army. National Convention remained adjourned, with National League for Democracy (NLD) leader Aung San Suu Kyi and NLD deputy chairman Tin Oo under continued house arrest.
Soldiers from Brunei joined 50 Malaysian observers 20 October to monitor truce between rebel Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and Philippine government. Ceasefire and International Monitoring Team are MILF preconditions for peace talks with government - expected to resume after Ramadan. Talks with New People’s Army, armed wing of Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), remain stalled after President Gloria Arroyo ordered review of peace negotiations with leftist groups because of their links with international terrorist organisations, sparking accusations of peace-talk sabotage from National Democratic Front, political arm of CPP.
Situation in south extremely volatile after 79 protesters died in custody of security forces 26 October,following violent riots in TakBai,Narathiwat province,which killed 7. Protesters crammed into army trucks suffocated on way to barracks. Insensitive reaction of PM Thaksin sparked international condemnation. Exploitation of situation by jihadist groups risks further bloodshed - 5 killed in separate bomb attacks and shooting incidents in southern provinces after 26October. Army commander, Lieutenant-General Pisarn Wattanawongkhiri, declared indefinite curfew in southern provinces of Yala, Pattani and Narathiwat;authorities deployed additional 1,000 security personnel. Almost daily killings of security personnel, teachers, village officials and businessmen continued unabated.
8th round of EU Stabilisation and Association Agreement talks dealing with reform efforts and preparations for 2005 parliamentary elections concluded 22 October.
EU foreign ministers agreed 12 October to take over peacekeeping duties in Bosnia from NATO. 7,000-strong "Althea" force will replace NATO-led Stabilisation Force (SFOR) 2 December. Serbian Democratic Party lost ground to more moderate Alliance of Independent Social Democrats in 2 October local elections. Bosnian Serb president Dragan Cavic said Republika Srpska would freeze assets of ICTY fugitives Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic. Police operation to arrest Bosnian Serb Gojko Jankovic, indicted by ICTY, failed 30 October.
Peaceful, well-conducted 23 October parliamentary elections marred by Kosovo Serb boycott. Pro-boycott stance of Serbian government, Orthodox Church and Kosovo Serb hardliners resulted in less than 1% of Serbs voting – humiliating moderate Kosovo Serb politicians who took part, and sweeping aside Serbian president Tadic’s 5 October call to vote. President Ibrahim Rugova's Democratic League of Kosova won 45% of vote; Hashim Thaci's Democratic Party 28%; Ramush Haradinaj's Alliance for the Future of Kosova 8%; Veton Surroi's new political party, ORA, 6%. Results suggest lengthy coalition talks needed to form new government. Britain's minister for Europe, Denis MacShane, enunciated international policy shift towards Kosovo as standards ‘and’ status, rather than standards ‘before’ status.
Official campaigning began for 7 November referendum on controversial decentralisation plans. World Macedonian Congress, which initiated poll, and opposition parties held rally in Skopje 8 October. PM Hari Kostov vowed to resign should referendum succeed. Armed group of approx. 20, led by Agim Krasniqi, former NLA commander, reportedly restricting police access to Skopje village of Kondovo.
In highly publicised break with PM Vojislav Kostunica, President Boris Tadic called on Kosovo Serbs to vote in Kosovo's parliamentary elections and ignore Kostunica's boycott call - caused governmental crisis and beginning of parliamentary effort to recall Tadic. Highly influential "Godfather" of Greater Serbian nationalist ideology, Dobrica Cosic, published new book calling for partition of Kosovo. Democratic Party (DS) candidate Nenad Bogdanovic won Belgrade mayoral race in second round elections. More than month after local elections, discussions continued on forming municipal governments - Kostunica's Democratic Party of Serbia (DSS) seeming to show preference for coalitions with SRS and Milosevic's SPS. Milosevic trial adjourned 22 October due to lack of witnesses, and his court-appointed defender Steven Kay resigned, throwing entire proceeding into disarray. Justice minister Zoran Stojkovic said Serbia will not arrest 4 generals indicted by ICTY. Bosnian Serb war crimes suspect Ljubisa Beara appeared before ICTY 12 October after Serb police apprehended and transferred him to Hague.
Journalist Samvel Aleksanian of “Syuniats Yerkir” weekly claimed was attacked and office ransacked after he ran articles questioning government policies.
Court sentenced 7 opposition leaders to prison terms ranging from 2.5 to 5 years for role in October 2003 post-election riots. Rights groups criticised trials, saying suspects tortured in detention. OSCE called sentences “severe”. Thirty-three other opposition members have been similarly sentenced to date for their involvement in 15-16 October 2003 events.
Political crisis following 3 October presidential election in breakaway region of Abkhazia led Abkhaz Supreme Court to order repeat election within 2 months. Controversial decision came 29 October, just after Court had declared opposition candidate Sergei Bagapsh winner with 50.32% of vote, defeating government candidate Raul Khajimba. Court’s reversal allegedly came after pressure from Khajimba’s supporters. In South Ossetia, 2 Ossetian peacekeepers killed 12 October. Media reported deaths came after Georgian security forces conducted special operation in conflict zone to stop group sabotaging Georgian electric lines. Joint Control Commission co-chairs met Tbilisi 20 October; agreed talks between Georgian PM Zurab Zhvania and South Ossetian leader Eduard Kokoity to take place in Sochi no later than 10 November.
No progress reported in dispute.
Russian troops killed Magomed Khashiyev, top lieutenant of rebel warlord Shamil Basayev, in neighbouring republic of Ingushetia 10 October. Russian officials said killing demonstrated new resolve of Russian forces following Beslan massacre. Alu Alkhanov sworn in as new Chechen president 5 October, replacing Akhmed Kadyrov, who was assassinated in May.
EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana said OSCE likely to sign President Vladimir Voronin’s Stability and Security Pact for Moldova (SSPM) at December ministerial meeting Sofia. Defence minister Victor Gaiciuc sacked after officials allegedly found evidence of his involvement in significant thefts from national weapons depots. Russian defence minister, meanwhile, said Russian troops to remain in Transdniester until evacuation of Russian ammunition complete. No armaments have been withdrawn in past 6 months.
ETA expressed willingness to negotiate with government if no pre-conditions; followed 5 October arrest of 21 ETA suspects in major French-Spanish police operation. Small explosions San Sebastian 16 and 22 October, Bilbao 23 October, blamed on ETA.
Turkish Cypriot government under PM Mehmet Ali Talat resigned 20 October after months of political deadlock. Dervis Eroglu of National Unity Party struggled to form new government coalition. UN Security Council voted in favour of sharp cutback in UN peacekeeping force, while extending force's mandate to 15 June 2005.
Efforts to restore devolution – suspended since October 2002 – continued; British and Irish officials declared coming weeks critical. September 2004 negotiations at Leeds Castle appeared to resolve issue of IRA decommissioning but not shape of nationalist– republican power-sharing arrangements. Sinn Fein president, Gerry Adams, accused Democratic Unionist Party of making unwarranted demands on IRA. Delegation of Ulster Unionists met Irish foreign minister 21 October.
European Commission made qualified recommendation 6 October to begin EU accession talks with Turkey. December summit of EU leaders to officially set start date for talks. Sporadic clashes between army, leftist rebels and Kongra-Gel insurgents (formerly Kurdistan Workers Party, PKK) in Tunceli, Diyarbakir and Bingol provinces killed 12. Kongra- Gel called off 5-year ceasefire in June.
Following disastrous results for opposition in 19 September parliamentary elections (only 1 candidate won seat in parliament), main opposition parties announced would form coalition to contest 2006 presidential election. Possible candidate to challenge President Nazarbayev is Jarmakhan Tuyakbai, who recently resigned from powerful post as speaker of parliament after calling September elections “farce”.
Local elections 10 October proceeded smoothly, with 61% turnout. But reports of irregularities at polls put in doubt government's commitment to free and fair parliamentary and presidential elections in 2005. New dispute over press freedom as opposition newspaper Moya Stolitsa Novosti again under attack from authorities, this time for allegedly selling paper below cost.
Ruzi Nav newspaper said would seek printing house in neighbouring Kyrgyzstan after government closure of Tajik printer for tax violations left several independent papers without printing facilities. Independent press under increasing pressure in Tajikistan. Russian and Tajik presidents signed agreement officially opening military base for Russia’s 201st Motorised Rifle Division, which has been in Tajikistan since 1989.
OSCE said Turkmenistan not planning to invite international observers to monitor 19 December parliamentary elections. Country remains most closed in Central Asia.
Court handed down severe sentences to 23 more suspects in connection with spring attacks in Tashkent and Bukhara, bringing total number of convictions to almost 100. Rights groups criticised trials, saying suspects tortured in detention. Authorities have cracked down on Muslims in wake of attacks, which killed 47 in March and April. Controversial UK ambassador Craig Murray sacked; Murray criticised U.S., British use of information obtained under torture by Uzbek security forces, although FCO claimed dismissal unconnected to his policy stance.
Calls for complete nationalisation of gas continued even after parliament passed amended version of President Mesa’s bill proposing tougher conditions for multinational gas companies 4 October. 5,000 gathered in La Paz to commemorate killing of at least 56 during 17 October 2003 violent ousting of President Sanchez de Lozada.
AUC leader ordered demobilisation of 3,000 paramilitary fighters starting 3 November. EU changed stance on AUC demobilisation process, pledging financial support under strict conditions including establishment of legal framework for demobilisation and AUC's full compliance with ceasefire and international law. ELN call to FARC for political alliance against President Alvaro Uribe put into question government-ELN talks. Government proposed negotiations on hostage exchange with FARC to be held in foreign embassy. U.S. Congress authorised doubling of number of U.S. troops and contractors.
Results from 18 October municipal elections left President Lucio Gutierrez’s political fate uncertain. Majority of Ecuadorians revealed lack of confidence in Gutierrez, with massive show of support for main opposition parties.
Delayed gubernatorial and mayoral elections held 31 October. Both OAS and Carter Center declined invitation by National Electoral Council to observe polls due to time and resource constraints.
Over 60 dead, including 12 police officers, in shoot outs and series of brutal beheadings since police reportedly killed 2 protesters during 30 September pro-Aristide demonstration. Police and UN soldiers entered Bel-Air slum – pro-Aristide stronghold – in capital, cleared street barricades. Ex-soldiers, many of whom participated in Aristide overthrow, have taken several towns; issued plans for entering capital to confront pro-Aristide armed groups and bring end to violence. Only half pledged UN peacekeepers have arrived; national police outmanned and outgunned by armed gangs. Lack of security at ports delaying food aid delivery; unsafe situation led IMF to postpone visit to Port-au-Prince.
Violent clashes between coca farmers and police killed 3 in troubled southern department of Puno 19 October. Protesters briefly took over hydroelectric power station, demanding suspension of forced eradication of coca in southern border province of Carabaya. Thirty-day state of emergency declared in 2 municipalities (San Gaban and Antauta); government agreed to set up discussions with coca farmers. Jailed Shining Path leader Abigael Guzman and 17 other Shining Path leaders back to court 5 November after their 1992 trial by military tribunal was ruled unconstitutional by Supreme Court.
In historic vote 26 October, Israeli parliament approved (67-45) PM Ariel Sharon’s plan to dismantle Israeli settlements in Gaza Strip. White House hailed vote as step forward in peace process. But rifts within Sharon’s Likud party and continued resistance from settlers and religious right pose major obstacles to plan’s implementation. Finance Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and 3 other ministers threatened to resign if plan not put to national referendum within 2 weeks; Sharon rejected call. Yasser Arafat airlifted to Paris for treatment of reported serious blood disorder; Palestinians met to determine who would take over during his absence. Bombing of Taba Hilton and tourist camps at Ras Shaitan on Sinai Peninsula killed at least 34 people 7 October, including 12 Israelis. Israeli ground operations and airstrikes continued in Gaza: UN said 17-day “Days of Penitence” incursion killed 107 Palestinians, left nearly 700 homeless and caused over $3 million in damage.
Authorities charged 13 suspected militants, including wanted terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, for involvement in foiled April plot to attack Jordanian and American targets in kingdom. Four of 13 remain at large.
PM Rafik Hariri resigned along with cabinet in protest at parliament’s extension of President Emile Lahoud’s term in office. Pro-Syrian parliamentarian Omar Karami named new PM. Former economy minister Marwan Hamadeh, who also stepped down to protest Lahoud’s extended term, wounded in assassination attempt 1 October. Hariri’s resignation came day after UN Security Council adopted unanimous statement urging Syria to withdraw its 14,000 troops from Lebanon. (See also Syria below.)
UN Security Council adopted unanimous statement 19 October calling for withdrawal of Syria’s 14,000 troops from Lebanon. U.S. threatened to strengthen sanctions if Damascus did not comply. (See also Lebanon above.)
France, Germany and Britain offered package of economic incentives to Iran, including access to nuclear fuel, in exchange for suspension of uranium enrichment. Tehran gave mixed signals as to whether would consider deal. Outright rejection would likely lead EU to support U.S. call to refer matter to UN Security Council at 25 November IAEA meeting. Ongoing negotiations could buy Tehran sufficient time to sound out new U.S. administration before taking decision.
Uncertainty surrounding January elections continued amid spiralling violence. Rebel control of Fallujah, Ramadi, and other towns cast doubt on possibility of nation-wide vote, while potential boycott by Sunni groups threatened to further jeopardise election’s legitimacy. UN Secretary-General Annan said Iraq on track for elections if security situation holds; but in response to Iraqi requests for increased UN election-monitoring presence, said could not bolster civilian staff without more troops to protect UN workers. U.S. said to be planning troop increase ahead of elections. U.S. also reportedly preparing major offensive against Fallujah, despite threat from Sunni clerics to boycott election if town invaded. Security situation remains fragile: twin bombings killed 10 inside heavily guarded Baghdad Green Zone 14 October; 49 Iraqi National Guard troops massacred by gunmen 23 October; car bomb near Fallujah 30 October killed 8 U.S. Marines. CARE suspended operations after director Margaret Hassan kidnapped 19 October. 832 Coalition soldiers, including 750 Americans, and thousands of Iraqis killed by hostile fire since declared end of combat operations on 1 May 2003. American research group estimated 100,000 Iraqi civilians killed since 2003 invasion.
Authorities said women would not be allowed to vote in country’s first nation-wide municipal elections, now scheduled for February 2005 after being pushed back from November 2004.
Sporadic violence continued: 16 civilians killed 22 October in attack south of Algiers; 2 policemen, 2 soldiers and 1 civilian died in ambush 25 October in Kabilya. Attacks blamed on Islamic militants marking Ramadan. Group for Salafist Preaching and Combat terrorist Amar Saifi, a.k.a. Abderrezak El Para, in Algerian custody after capture by Chadian rebels March. African Union anti-terrorism research unit opened Algiers 13 October. President Bouteflika visit to South Africa resulted in combined call for independence referendum in Western Sahara.
Bombing of Taba Hilton and tourist camps at Ras Shaitan on Sinai peninsula killed at least 34 people 7 October, including 12 Israelis. Israel suggested international terrorists to blame, with possible al-Qaeda link. Egyptian authorities suggested Palestinian and Egyptian terrorists carried out attacks to protest Israeli-Palestinian conflict; 5 suspects arrested 25 October. Egypt offered 750 elite border troops to guard Gaza Strip border with Israel following any Israeli withdrawal; accepted by Israel outside Israel-Egypt peace treaty framework. Egypt said Palestinian groups in Gaza would agree to 1-year ceasefire with Israel.
European Union lifted sanctions and eased arms embargo 11 October as part of ongoing improvement in relations. Germany and Italy expressed keenness to set up immigration “holding” camps in Libya. Tripoli hosted summit meeting on Darfur rejecting “international intervention” in Sudan. Libya claimed to have arrested 17 al-Qaeda-linked individuals 11 October.
Saleh Ould Hanenna, mastermind behind 2003 coup attempt and accused of planning 2 attempts in 2004, arrested. Three Islamist leaders arrested for suspected involvement with Hanenna, but later released. Four unidentified gunmen opened fire on house of Mauritania's national security chief, Deddahi Ould Abdallahi, 3 October.
Only 52 countries in UN General Assembly decolonisation committee voted in favour of Baker Peace Plan for Western Sahara 19 October, which Morocco opposes; 89 abstained; claimed by Morocco as diplomatic victory.
Leader of Polisario front insurgent group Mohamed Abdelaziz warned insurgents’ 13-year ceasefire could not continue indefinitely in face of Moroccan intransigence. War of words as Morocco and Algeria blamed other for situation; Algeria accused Morocco of “pressure” to obtain 89 abstentions in UN General Assembly decolonisation committee vote on Baker Peace Plan 18 October; 52 voted in favour. UN Secretary-General report on Western Sahara suggested situation “stalemate” 22 October, but recommended renewing UN mission mandate for 6 months from 31 October 2004.