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
Seven actual or potential conflict situations around the world deteriorated and none improved in September 2010, according to the latest issue of the International Crisis Group’s monthly bulletin CrisisWatch released today.
BurundiMozambiqueGuineaKashmirSri LankaRussia/North CaucasusEcuador
Guinea saw increased political and ethnic divisions, exacerbated by controversies related to the presidential elections. Two days of violent clashes in the capital between rival supporters of the two presidential candidates, Alpha Conde and Cellou Diallo, left one person dead and dozens injured. Continued delays in the timing of the run-off and Diallo’s rejection of the appointment of the election commission’s new head led to further tensions between the two camps.
In Sri Lanka moves by President Rajapaksa to consolidate his power through a de facto constitutional coup transformed the political terrain. On 8 September the parliament passed the 18th Amendment to the Constitution, which gives the President nearly unbridled power by scrapping term limits on the presidency, abolishing the Constitutional Council and allowing the President to appoint directly officials to the judiciary, police and electoral bodies.
More protesters were killed by police in Kashmir as anti-India demonstrations continued and spread to new areas, bringing the death toll from the demonstrations since June to over 100. The Indian government on 25 September announced an eight-point plan aimed at calming the situation. Separatist leaders rejected the initiative and said that protests will continue.
The situation in Burundi deteriorated as violent clashes between security forces and armed groups increased, alongside kidnappings and fatal attacks on civilians. There are increasingly credible indications that elements disgruntled with elections held earlier this year have re-established bases and taken up arms in the Rukoko and Kibira areas. However, local authorities deny that former rebels are regrouping and insist that bandits are behind the recent attacks.
The month saw a new upsurge of violence in Russia’s restive North Caucasus region, demonstrating the growing ability of guerrillas to carry out major operations. In the deadliest terrorist strike anywhere in Russia since the March subway bombings in Moscow, a suicide attack killed at least 17 at a market in the capital of North Ossetia. A spate of bold guerrilla attacks also struck security personnel and infrastructure in Dagestan.
The situation in Ecuador took a dramatic turn at the end of the month when disaffected members of the police and armed forces staged a protest against proposed austerity measures, taking control of the National Assembly building and airport and laying siege to a hospital where President Correa had sought refuge. President Correa later said the revolt amounted to an attempted coup. Meanwhile, in Mozambique 13 people were killed and over 170 injured in three days of riots that took place early in the month over food and energy price increases.
Month saw escalating violent clashes between security forces and armed groups, as well as kidnappings and fatal attacks on civilians; increasing reports that, in fallout of opposition boycott of June presidential poll, former rebels rearming and recruiting, establishing new movement north of Bujumbura. Attacks included 8 Sept killing of 7 sugar factory workers in Rukoko marshes; discovery 11-12 Sept of 7 mutilated bodies in same area. No group claimed responsibility; authorities deny new rebellion forming, blame “unknown bandits” for incidents. 14 bodies found mid-month in Rusizi river, 4 of which identified as National Liberation Forces (FNL). Political situation remains unsettled despite opposition coalition Democratic Alliance for Change formal recognition of President Nkurunziza 2 Sept. Opposition arrests continue including 27 Sept arrest of Movement for Solidarity and Development spokesman Francois Nyamoya.
Preparations ongoing for Jan 2011 presidential, parliamentary elections; voter registration began slowly 22 Sept. UNSG Ban 20 Sept called on regional, international partners to provide aid to consolidate fragile peace gains, prevent resumption of conflict. Convention of Patriots for Justice and Peace (CPJP) rebels mid-month took control of Yalinga, E Haute-Kotto. Ugandan LRA carried out several attacks early, late month on villages in north east; attacks included burning estimated 100 houses in Ouanda Djalle. Former rebel Union of Democratic Forces for Unity (UFDR) - authorised by govt since 2007 to secure specified zone - FACA and self-defence groups fell into LRA ambush 11 Sept; 2 UFDR killed, 7 wounded.
Progress in Chad-Sudan relations continued with 31 Aug return of Chadian rebel groups Union of Resistance Forces (UFR) and United Front for Democratic Change (UFDC) from Darfur in line with Jan agreement between two govts. Chad 21 Sept assumed command of joint force deployed since March 2010 to end cross-border rebel attacks. Election commission 25 Sept pushed back election calendar to 2011, announcing 20 Feb legislative, 27 March local and 8 May first round presidential polls; said delays due to lack of preparation, consensus between political parties.
UN DPKO Asst SGAtul Khare 7 Sept reported more than 500 rapes in Walikale and Uvira areas from late July to early Aug, admitted UN response inadequate. UN report 24 Sept confirmed at least 303 raped in Walikale territory alone 30 July-2 Aug by Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), Mai Mai rebels; MONUSCO 1 Sept launched operation “shop window” to enhance civilian protection in N Kivu. President Kabila 6 Sept attended inauguration of Rwandan President Kagame, reportedly discussed military operations in East including possible suspension of FARDC General and ICC indictee Bosco Ntaganda. FARDC 3 Sept launched second phase of Operation Ruwenzori against Allied Democratic Forces. Kabila 9 Sept declared suspension of mining in Walikale territory; ban extended 11 Sept to entire N/S Kivu and Maniema provinces. Ugandan police 2 Sept arrested leader of Ituri rebel group Popular Front for Justice in Congo (FPJC) Shariff Manda in Arua town bordering DRC, handed over to Congolese authorities. Small scale sporadic LRA attacks against civilians, including killings and kidnappings continued in Haut-Uélé, Province Orientale.
Following Aug poll victory, President Kagame sworn in for second term 6 Sept. UNSG Ban in Kigali 7 Sept to discuss UN mapping report detailing rights violations committed in DRC 1993-2003. Kagame 26 Sept withdrew threat to pull out 3,500 Rwandan troops from international peacekeeping operations; FM Mushikiwabo 30 Sept presented to UN 7 objections to report. 4 senior former RPF allies now in exile, including Kayumba Nyamwasa and Patrick Karegeya, released report late Aug warning of chaos unless Kagame shares more power with majority Hutu; called on international community to exert pressure to end rights violations, avert conflict.
FM Saleh 28 Sept said UN “continues to ignore” Ethiopia’s failure to comply with international commission delineating border between countries. IGAD 22 Sept called on UN to execute sanctions against Eritrea condemning its role in providing arms, recruits to Somali insurgents. Ethiopia 29 Sept accused Eritrea of arming insurgents in Somalia.
Ethiopian official 15 Sept said 123 Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF) fighters killed, 90 surrounded in Somali Region; followed reports that around 200 rebels landed on Somaliland coast 11 Sept, denied by ONLF.
Controversy lingered following Aug visit by ICC-indicted Sudanese President Bashir. FM Wetang’ula 19 Sept told ICC President of Assembly of States Parties Christian Wenaweser Kenya bound by July AU Summit decision not to arrest Bashir. Govt 3 Sept granted ICC permission to set up offices for 2007 post-election violence investigations. Justice Minister Mutula Kilonzo 18 Sept argued ICC should call off process, stated new constitution would allow for suspects to be tried in Kenyan courts; prompted angry response from lobby groups. Kenyan Human Rights Commissioner Hassan Omar said recent developments call into question govt’s commitment to ICC process.
Month saw continued fighting between al-Shabaab militants and Transitional Federal Government (TFG) and AMISOM forces, suicide attack on airport targeting international delegations, internal govt tensions resulting in PM resignation. After brief lull in heavy fighting, al-Shabaab shelling resumed in Mogadishu 2 Sept. At least 9 people killed by suicide blast on airport 9 Sept; al-Shabaab claimed responsibility, declaring targets were UN, AU and IGAD delegations meeting President Sheikh Sharif; no delegation members harmed. UNSG Ban urged UN member states to provide urgent military, financial support to TFG, organised high-level meeting on Somalia 23 Sept. PM Sharmarke 21 Sept resigned following weeks of tension with President.
Month dominated by increased U.S. diplomatic engagement ahead of Jan 2011 S Sudan self-determination referendum and continued fighting in Darfur. U.S. Sec State Clinton 8 Sept announced Washington to step up diplomatic efforts to prepare Sudan to peacefully accept “inevitable” secession following Jan vote; described situation as “ticking time-bomb”. UNSG Ban 21 Sept announced appointment of 3 panel members to monitor S Sudan and Abeyi Area referenda. Attacks by unidentified men early Sept at Hamidiya IDP camp, W Darfur and Tabarat village N Darfur resulted in more than 50 killed. SLA claim govt war planes bombed villages in Jebel Marra area, South Darfur 22-23 Sept killing 18 people. UN-AU-Doha committee 21 Sept produced preliminary draft document aimed at ending Darfur conflict; document to form basis of 29 Sept Doha negotiations between govt and rebel Liberation and Justice Movement. 7 LRA attacks reported during first week of Sept; religious leaders from LRA-affected areas in DRC, CAR, S Sudan, Uganda met 8-10 Sept in Yambio to discuss LRA; signed joint statement criticising international community’s failure to develop plan to tackle regional threat, called on UN to provide peacekeepers with capacity to deploy quickly, insisted negotiated settlement preferred sustainable solution.
Ruling party National Resistance Movement (NRM) primary elections for parliamentary and local candidates suspended late Aug and again early Sept amid widespread irregularities, poor organisation, alleged voter intimidation and violent clashes in parts of country. President Museveni reacted angrily, accused NRM officials of self-interest. Opposition Forum for Democratic Change 20 Sept primaries also marred by irregularities. Defence Minister Crispus Kiyonga met with Congolese counterpart 18-19 Sept, discussed operations against LRA and Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) in DRC, agreed on continued cooperation to neutralise threat, offered use of military academies to train DRC troops. In leaked letter to UN, FM Kutesa described mapping report leaked Aug as “deeply flawed”; warned publication could threaten commitment to peacekeeping missions in Africa. Ambassador to UN Ruhakana Rugunda said Uganda’s commitment to Africa would not be derailed.
First round of presidential, governors elections scheduled for 7 Nov delayed 28 Sept for financial reasons. General Salimou Amiri, suspected of involvement in June murder of army colonel Combo Ayouba, arrested early Sept; Amiri’s lawyer claimed scheme to oust him from army.
13-18 Sept national conference attended by some 4,000 civil society members and politicians; boycotted by opposition. Participants agreed de facto leader Rajoelina to remain as transitional president and appoint PM from coastal regions, mayors and regional chiefs to be replaced through elections 20 Dec; 2 legislative chambers to be set up for rest of transition; minimum age to run in presidential elections reduced from 40 to 35; selective amnesty covering 2002-2008. National civil society umbrella group said conference should have been delayed until political agreement was reached, is preparing another round of mediation and possibly a second national conference; position supported by international mediator Joaquim Chissano. Cabinet passed revised finance law allocating $100mn received from Chinese mining company directly to president’s office.
13 killed, 175 injured during 1-3 Sept riots against food, energy price increases. Government agreed to food, energy price reductions and govt spending cuts.
Crackdown on civil society and media intensified as police 6 Sept arrested at least 50 people, day before planned protest against human rights abuses. Some 250 marched through Manzini 7 Sept, while 350 participated in pro-democracy march in capital 8 Sept; 2 leading activists, 1 unionist briefly detained. PM Barnabas Dlamini 9 Sept warned govt would consider using torture to crush dissent. SADC-CNGO 14 Sept expressed concern over regime’s repression of rights, political freedom.
With majority of scheduled meetings completed in ongoing constitutional outreach process, actions to disrupt consultations, including violence and intimidation, continued. PM Tsvangirai demanded urgent meeting with President Mugabe to address violence threatening the legitimacy of exercise. Tsvangirai met South African President Zuma 7 Sept to express discomfort about failure to resolve Global Political Agreement outstanding issues during the 30-day deadline set by SADC 17 Aug. Police launched manhunt for MDC-T treasurer Roy Bennett, the yet to be sworn in deputy agriculture minister, without disclosing nature of alleged crime. Secret second diamond auction held 11-12 Sept, supervised by Kimberley Process monitor Abbey Chikane. Addressing UNGA 24 Sept, Mugabe called for end to Western sanctions; U.S. 26 Sept said greater respect for rights, political freedoms, rule of law needed before sanctions can be removed. EU 2 Sept approved €16mn aid package. South Africa announced will begin expelling Zimbabweans again from 31 Dec.
Following 6 month deadlock in electoral process, breakthrough 9 Sept with presidential decree confirming electoral lists, agreed early month by political parties. Also progress on election conditions as former rebel Forces Nouvelles 18 Sept completed disarmament and reintegration of 5,000 of estimated 17,000 former fighters; long-awaited demobilisation payments commenced 22 Sept. Fears persist that 31 Oct presidential poll may spark violence. Army Col N’Guessan Yao arrested early Sept in U.S. for allegedly plotting to export $3.8mn of small arms to Cote d’Ivoire, violating 2004 UN arms embargo; Defence Minister Bertin Kadet claimed purchase was for crowd control armaments, opposition say arms intended to keep govt in power.
Planned 19 Sept second round of presidential election thrown into disarray following slow progress addressing technical problems that marred first round. Charges against election commission (CENI) President Ben Sekou Sylla and director of planning Elhaj Boubacar Diallo 10 Sept raised both legal, political controversies; both sentenced to 12 months in prison. Election campaign in Conakry saw violent clashes 11, 12 Sept between rival supporters of presidential candidates Alpha Conde and Cellou Diallo: 1 killed, dozens injured. Interim govt suspended campaigning, banned demonstrations. Following 13 Sept death in Paris hospital of CENI President Sylla, election commission 15 Sept postponed run-off election citing lack of preparation; interim Guinean President Konate claimed “republic in danger” due to ethnic, political divisions. UNSC 17 Sept, heads of UN peacekeeping missions across W Africa 30 Sept urged prompt announcement of new date; ECOWAS 17 Sept called on candidates to honour 3 Sept agreement to run peaceful campaigns. 24 Sept nomination of new CENI head Lounceny Camara and announcement of 10 Oct run-off date sparked renewed controversy late month as Cellou Diallo refused to participate claiming Camara supports rival candidate Alpha Conde; date yet to be confirmed by Konate.
Following Aug withdrawal of EU support for security sector reform, govt early month requested Angolan assistance to reform military, prevent coup attempts and tackle drug trafficking. ECOWAS heads of state summit in Abuja 17 Sept on Guinea-Bissau political, security crisis called on EU, U.S. to resume support to defence and security sector.
Govt 20 Sept said 2 civilians killed in Mauritanian airforce raids on suspected al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) militants in north; followed clash between AQIM, Mauritanian troops on border (see Mauritania). Mauritania 27 Sept extradited AQIM suspects to Mali.
7 expat workers (including 5 French) kidnapped 15 Sept by al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) in Arlit, believed to be held in Mali. French forces flew Sahara reconnaissance missions starting 20 Sept to find hostages; AQIM 22 Sept repeated warnings to France not to attempt rescue by force; Paris 24 Sept stated diplomatic avenues rather than military intervention being pursued.
President Jonathan 15 Sept confirmed will run in 2011 elections ending months of speculation. Electoral Commission 7 Sept announced 22 Jan date for presidential, 15 Jan for legislative, 29 Jan for gubernatorial elections, but later called for postponement of all elections until April, citing need for credible voter register. Jonathan late month requested legislature to delay elections. Boko Haram Islamic sect members 7 Sept stormed Bauchi Federal Prison, freeing 105 sect members, forcing other inmates to leave. Police 14 Sept reported 10 suspected Boko Haram members arrested, including 3 escaped prisoners, others involved in police killings. 15 school children kidnapped 27 Sept by gunmen, Abia State; released 1 Oct. Police 18 Sept arrested suspected killers of notorious former Niger Delta militant Soboma George murdered Aug. Nigeria hosted ECOWAS summit on Guinea Bissau (see Guinea Bissau). At least 8 killed by 1 Oct bomb blasts in Abuja.
Easing in tensions as first inter-Korean military talks in almost 2 years held 30 Sept however negotiations stalled over disagreements about March sinking of S Korean naval ship. N Korea 7 Sept released 7-member crew of S Korean fishing boat seized 8 Aug for illegal fishing; 11 Sept proposed discussions on resumption of family reunion program. N Korea 28-29 Sept held Workers Party of Korea conference, first major gathering since 1980; Kim Jong-Un, youngest son of leader Kim Jong-Il, announced as vice-chairman of Central Military Commission, reportedly confirming him as heir apparent. Seoul 13 Sept released report into March ship sinking, reaffirmed May interim report that ship sunk by N Korean torpedo; N Korea denies. At fifth N Korea-UN Command meeting 16 Sept N Korea proposed joint investigation with U.S. into March sinking of ship. U.S. Special Envoy Bosworth 15 Sept said U.S. wants evidence N Korea will take negotiations seriously before 6-party talks can resume; N Korean Vice FM Pak 29 Sept told UNGA needs to strengthen nuclear deterrent because of threat from U.S.
Officials reported 4.3 million people voted 18 Sept in second parliamentary poll since 2001. Observers cited widespread irregularities; Electoral Complaints Commission 22 Sept reported almost 4,000 complaints on and before polling day. Preliminary results expected 9 Oct; electoral commission 26 Sept ordered recount of some votes. Taliban 5 Sept warned civilians against voting. 1,300 out of 6,900 polling centres closed due to security fears; over 20 civilians, 9 police killed in attacks on polling centres. President Karzai 3 Sept condemned early month NATO airstrike that allegedly killed 10 campaign workers in Takhar province. Govt 28 Sept named 70-member High Peace Council, created to pursue demobilisation of low-level Taliban. Karzai in Pakistan mid month to discuss tackling Taliban. ISAF’s long-delayed Kandahar offensive began 15 Sept. 9 American troops killed in 21 Sept helicopter crash in South. Taliban 26 Sept kidnapped 4 aid workers including UK national.
President Rahman 7 Sept pardoned 20 members of ruling Awami League on death row over 2006 murder of opposition Bangladesh National Party (BNP) activist; criticised by BNP.
Maoists 13 Sept called 2-day strike across 7 eastern states; 13 Sept killed 8, including 5 police in 3 separate attacks. Maoists 6 Sept released 3 of 4 police held in Bihar since July, after killing fourth officer; 19 Sept in Chhattisgarh killed 3 police, abducted 4, released 30 Sept. 6 rebels, 3 police killed 27 Sept in Jharkhand clash. Some 15 United Liberation Front of Assam (ULFA) rebels in hiding in Bangladesh handed over to India late month; govt said talks with ULFA to start within 2 months. In long-running dispute over ownership of Babri mosque site in Uttar Pradesh, court 30 Sept ruled site to be split between Muslims and Hindus.
Police killed at least 20 protesters as violent anti-India demonstrations continued, including at least 15 on 13 Sept when tens of thousands marched in Srinagar. Violence spread to new areas, with killing of 3 protesters by police in Mendhar in South 15 Sept. Police 12 Sept charged Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, leader of main separatist group All Parties Hurriyat Conference, with treason over allegedly inciting violent protests. All-party delegation visited Kashmir as part of govt peace initiative, met with 3 main separatist leaders 20 Sept. Delhi 25 Sept announced 8-point plan to defuse tensions, including release of students detained for throwing stones, opening of dialogue with Kashmiris. Schools re-opened 27 Sept after 3-month closure. Pakistan condemned crackdown on protesters, 26 Sept asked India to change policy as precondition for any discussion on Kashmir. Security forces killed several militants mid month in Pulwama, Bandipora districts.
Political crisis continued as Constituent Assembly (CA) again failed to pick new PM, with neither Maoist leader Prachanda nor Nepali Congress candidate Ram Chandra Poudel winning required majority in 7 Sept vote. Maoists 17 Sept announced Prachanda withdrawing candidacy after agreement with Communist Party. Poudel again failed to gain majority in eighth CAvote 26 Sept, as Maoists and communists abstained, and again in 30 Sept vote. Govt and Maoists 13 Sept agreed integration and rehabilitation of Maoist combatants to be completed within 4 months. UNSC extended UNMIN mandate until 15 Jan 2011, after which mission will leave Nepal.
Scores killed in string of Taliban suicide blasts, including at least 65 in 3 Sept attack on Shiite procession in Quetta. 29 killed in 1 Sept Lahore suicide blast targeting Shias; Lashkar-e-Jhangvi Al-Alami militant group claimed responsibility. Dozens of suspected militants killed as govt intensified drone strikes in north-west during month. Over 50 insurgents reported killed in ISAF helicopter raid in Pakistan, following 24 Sept Taliban attack on Afghan security outpost, Khost. Islamabad called incident “unacceptable”; comes amid increase in U.S. drone attacks in NW Pakistan, including 21 Sept strike reportedly killing at least 14 militants in S Waziristan. 3 Pakistani soldiers killed 30 Sept in fourth NATO helicopter strike in month; govt responded closing NATO supply route to Afghanistan, demanded full explanation. Suspected militants torched 27 NATO fuel tankers in Sindh 1 Oct. At least 16 people killed reportedly in political violence in Karachi 20-21 Sept, following 17 Sept murder of founding member of MQM party Imran Farooq in London. U.S. 1 Sept added Pakistani Taliban to terrorist blacklist. UN OCHA reported continued severe flooding in Sindh province; UNSG Ban launched revised appeal for July flood aid, seeking $2bn in recovery assistance. Army chief General Kayani 27 Sept criticised incompetence, corruption in govt.
Parliament 8 Sept approved constitutional amendment removing presidential term limits, abolishing Constitutional Council, and granting president power to directly appoint officials to judiciary, police, electoral bodies; main opposition group UNP boycotted vote, said amendment opens way for “dictatorship” under President Rajapaksa. U.S. 11 Sept registered concern over consolidation of presidential power. Hearings before govt panel investigating civil war continued, including in North, where panel heard from Tamils whose family members serving with Tamil Tigers went missing after surrendering to army May 2009; other witnesses accused army of killing civilians, urged govt to apologise to war victims. UNSG Ban’s panel of experts for Sri Lanka war crimes began work 16 Sept. Ex-army chief Sarath Fonseka sentenced by court martial to 3 years’ jail 17 Sept for corruption; said would fight sentence. IMF 24 Sept agreed to release $213mn loan instalment.
Mounting communal tensions in several areas. In Bekasi outside Jakarta, long-running standoff between Protestants and Muslims ended in confrontation 12 Sept, with 2 church leaders injured, local leader of Islamic Defenders Front arrested for incitement with 9 others. Clash in Tarakan, E Kalimantan 26-27 Sept between 2 ethnic groups threatened to fall out along religious lines; tensions also mounting between ethnic Chinese and Muslim Malays in Singkawang, W Kalimantan. Amid rising concerns over their tactics, counter-terror police in N Sumatra 19 Sept killed 3, arrested 15 believed involved in Aug bank robbery and linked to Aceh jihadi training camp; 3 police killed by suspected militants 3 days later. 11 police investigated, later cleared for opening fire on protesters attacking precinct in Buol district, Central Sulawesi 1 Sept, killing 8, after motorcyclist involved in traffic accident with police found hanged in cell, believed to be staged suicide. In Manokwari, W Papua, 2 killed as Brimob troops fired at rioting crowd 15 Sept; 3 military units brought in to restore order, 7 Brimob men declared to have violated police procedures.
State media announced voting in 7 Nov election to be cancelled in 6 out of 1,163 constituencies, all of them in insurgency-plagued ethnic areas in East, including 4 Wa areas, 2 regional legislative seats in Kachin and KIO areas. Move criticised as excluding millions from poll already seen as undemocratic; media also reported decision to refuse to register Kachin independent candidates. State media 14 Sept reported main opposition NLD officially dissolved for failing to register on time; 9 other parties also banned. Junta 30 Sept announced will release NLD leader Aung San Suu Kyi 13 Nov. Junta leader Than Shwe met with Chinese President Hu Jintao 8 Sept during state visit to China.
MILF 13 Sept announced 5-member negotiating panel for peace talks; indicated will propose Muslim sub-state once talks resume. Communist New People’s Army (NPA) violence continued. 7 NPA fighters killed in separate clashes in Masbate 7 Sept and Camarines Sur 12 Sept. Top NPA leader Elmer Osila killed 22 Sept in Camarines Sur; military 7 Sept announced arrest of senior NPA leader in Compostela Valley. Govt troops killed Abu Sayyaf militant during 19 Sept clash on Basilan island stronghold. Maguindanao massacre trial began 8 Sept.
PM Xanana Gusmão’s coalition govt weakened after deputy PM Mario Carrascalão resigned 8 Sept in response to public comments by PM that he was “stupid” for trying to follow up on report that $3mn was missing from state coffers. UN 24 Sept handed over tenth district to Timorese police control; responsibility for immigration, border patrol and Interpol units handed back 28 Sept.
Thousands of anti-govt “red shirt” protesters rallied in Bangkok 19 Sept despite continuing state of emergency in capital and elsewhere, marking fourth anniversary of coup removing former PM Thaksin and demanding release of those arrested during May military crackdown. Early month saw several bombs defused in Bangkok and elsewhere. In restive South, 7 Sept slaying of 2 teachers in Narathiwat prompted 3-day school closure. Also in Narathiwat 4 Buddhist civilians killed 18-19 Sept; police blamed insurgents trying to evict non-Muslims from province. 5 villagers shot dead in Pattani 28 Sept. Thai, Cambodian PMs 24 Sept discussed Preah Vihar temple on border.
Republika Srpska parliament 14 Sept adopted law transferring former Yugoslav state property to regional authorities, in defiance of 2005 OHR ban on use of state property by entities. Ahead of 3 Oct election, electoral commission warned parties against anti-state, nationalist rhetoric.
UNGA 9 Sept adopted Serbian resolution backed by all EU member states paving way for EU-led dialogue between Kosovo and Serbia, after intense diplomatic pressure from Brussels to drop condemnation of Kosovo’s independence. Meeting with EU foreign policy chief Ashton 20 Sept, PM Thaci said talks between Pristina and Belgrade “represented a new chapter in relations in the region”. Belgrade said expects status to be on agenda; ruled out by Thaci who said U.S. mediation also vital, rejected UN involvement. Constitutional Court 24 Sept found President Sejdiu in violation of constitution by holding office and DLK party leadership simultaneously; Sejdiu resigned presidency 27 Sept. Assembly speaker Jakup Krasniqi took over as interim president; early-2011 presidential elections likely. NATO SG Rasmussen 16 Sept said Kosovo troop reductions considered by alliance members are too big.
UN mediator Matthew Nimetz and European Commission President Barroso made upbeat remarks about prospects of resolving ongoing name dispute with Greece, despite lack of progress in talks in New York.
Following UNGA’s 9 Sept adoption of Serbian resolution calling for talks between Belgrade and Pristina (see Kosovo), Serbian President Tadic in Brussels 23 Sept to discuss format of talks and Serbia’s EU integration process with EU foreign policy chief Ashton. EU Council of Ministers 14 Sept decided Serbia’s EU application to be forwarded to European Commission in Oct. ICTY Chief Prosecutor Brammertz said Serbia must do more to arrest war crimes suspects Ratko Mladic, Goran Hadzic.
Turkey 19 Sept allowed one-off religious service for first time in nearly a century at historic Armenian church on island in Lake Van, eastern Turkey. Event marred by Armenian religious leaders’ boycott over Turkish failure to place cross on church’s dome. Turkish President Gül 21 Sept reportedly congratulated Armenia on 19th anniversary of declaration of independence in letter expressing hope for Turkish-Armenian normalisation.
In meeting seen as mending ties on sidelines of UNGA, U.S. President Obama 24 Sept acknowledged country’s contribution to ISAF troops in Afghanistan, urged democratic reform, pressed case of 2 youth bloggers detained on charges widely perceived as politically motivated. Russian President Medvedev 2 Sept visited Baku for cooperation talks, reached agreement to double Azerbaijani gas exports to Russia.
Parliament in emergency session 24 Sept approved draft amendments to constitution largely rejecting proposals made by Council of Europe Venice Commission in their preliminary assessment 17 Sept. Changes to constitution, denounced by opposition, will allow President Saakashvili to run for PM post and retain leadership of country after end of second and last term as president. Abkhaz de-facto VP Aleksandr Ankvab 23 Sept survived fourth assassination attempt since 2005; motive, perpetrator of attack unclear.
Clash on line of contact early month with NK reporting 2 Azerbaijani soldiers killed. During monitoring visit to region 6-9 Sept, OSCE Minsk group mediators denounced recent truce violations, announced plans to undertake fact-finding mission to Armenian-controlled territories around NK in Oct.
Spike in insurgent violence over month with major attack in North Ossetia, steady clashes in Dagestan, other fatal incidents in Ingushetia, Kabardino-Balkariya. In deadliest terror attack in Russia since March subway bombing in Moscow, at least 17 killed, over 100 injured 9 Sept in suicide bombing at market in North Ossetian capital Vladikavkaz. In Dagestan 4 reported killed, 35 injured 5 Sept in suicide attack on military training camp; bomb found in Irganayskaya hydroelectric station 7 Sept after serious fire; chief of Dagestan police anti-extremism unit killed 12 Sept in capital Makhachkala; 2 killed, 42 injured 25 Sept in suicide bombing during counterterrorism operation in Makhachkala; commander of local anti-extremism unit, 3 other officers killed 28 Sept. Close to 30 militants reported killed during month, mostly in Dagestan, including 29 Sept at least 15 in operations near Makhachkala and Kaspiysk. President Medvedev 11 Sept announced plan to establish local military units composed of ethnic Dagestanis, following Chechen example of fighting insurgency.
Insurgent leader Doku Umarov 24 Sept dismissed 4 Chechen commanders who withdrew allegiance to him in Aug; 27 Sept accused veteran Arab commander and former aide Mukhannad of responsibility for split in Chechen guerrilla ranks. Dissidents now claim Umarov virtually devoid of armed followers in Chechnya. President Ramzan Kadyrov 25 Sept announced major offensive across republic’s mountainous areas. Move seen as response to late Aug guerrilla attack on his home village, Tsentoroy. Continued intimidation of women not observing strict Islamic dress code.
Prominent opposition activist Aleh Byabenin found dead 3 Sept; authorities reported suicide, but European Parliament President and OSCE called for investigation. Parliament 14 Sept approved 19 Dec date for presidential election; President Lukashenka 24 Sept announced will seek fourth 5-year term. Opposition leader Alyaksandr Milinkevich 17 Sept announced will not participate in elections, claiming they will be rigged.
5 Sept referendum on whether president should be elected by popular vote, rather than current system of parliamentary vote, failed due to low 29% turnout. Acting President Ghimpu 28 Sept dissolved parliament, set early elections for 28 Nov. Ghimpu 15 Sept announced intent to start legal proceedings against former president Voronin over role quelling Apr 2009 anti-govt protests. OSCE, Russian, Ukrainian mediators held talks with govt and Transdniestrian officials 21-22 Sept.
Constitutional court expected to rule 1 Oct on application by parliamentary allies of President Yanukovych to overturn 2004 constitutional reforms transferring powers from president to parliament, govt.
Armed separatist group ETA announced unilateral ceasefire 5 Sept; PM Zapatero said announcement “worth nothing” unless group lay down arms forever. ETA 26 Sept said ready for permanent truce if certain conditions met. 16 Sept bomb explosion near regional capital Vitoria blamed on ETA-linked youth groups. Police arrested 9 suspected leaders of ETA-linked separatist group Ekin and 7 alleged members of ETA offshoot Askapena.
Greek Cypriot President Christofias met Turkish Cypriot President Eroğlu 3 times for latest round of talks on property chapter, submitted proposals; Eroğlu 20 Sept complained Greek Cypriot proposals bring “nothing new”. Greek Cypriot FM Kyprianou 12 Sept threatened to block all Turkey’s EU negotiations if European Parliament approves Direct Trade Regulation (DTR) with northern Cyprus; Eroğlu 14 Sept accused Greek Cypriot side of “insincerity” for lobbying EU against DTR, 18 Sept said Turkish Cypriots will start considering “other options” if no solution by year-end; European Parliament 20 Sept debate on DTR postponed. UNSG Ban met President Christofias 21 Sept at UNGA, reiterated support for reunification talks; 21 Sept met Turkish President Gül, urged Turkey to continue to work toward Cyprus agreement.
UK domestic intelligence agency 24 Sept announced “strong possibility” of dissident republican attack on mainland, raised threat level to “substantial” due to increasing activity and sophistication of attacks.
12 Sept referendum on changes to 1982 military-drafted constitution passed with 58% voting in favour; 77% turnout despite Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party’s calls for Kurdish boycott. 26 amendments proposed by PM Erdoğan’s AKP govt include making military more accountable to civilian courts and greater executive authority over judiciary. EU praised changes as “step in the right direction”, urged undertaking other reforms. PKK’s 1 month unilateral ceasefire extended 29 Sept by another month. Despite ceasefire 9 militants killed 6 Sept in clash with security forces in Hakkari in south east. Roadside bomb in Hakkari 16 Sept killed 9 civilians, injured 4; PKK denied responsibility. Govt 23 Sept met pro-Kurdish party BDP for negotiations; raised hopes for disarming PKK insurgency. Turkey 1 Sept submitted report on Israel’s 31 May deadly raid on Gaza-bound flotilla to 4-member UN panel. Israeli President Peres 20 Sept said meeting with Turkish counterpart Gül on sidelines of UNGA cancelled after Turkey set “unacceptable” preconditions; Gül denied meeting was scheduled. UNHRC fact-finding mission 22 Sept concluded Israeli raid on Gaza flotilla “unlawful”; Turkey welcomed report, Israel dismissed as “biased”.
Advisor to President Nazarbayev 16 Sept announced he will run for another term in 2012 presidential elections. In late month visit UN Special Rapporteur on Torture criticised state of penitentiary system following more self-mutilation cases by inmates.
Trials against ethic Uzbeks in south fuelled suspicions of ethnic bias in investigations into June violence. Court in Nooken 15 Sept sentenced prominent ethnic Uzbek rights activist Azimjon Askarov to life in prison, 7 other ethnic Uzbeks received 9 years to life for involvement in killing of Kyrgyz policeman. International rights groups, Kyrgyzstan rights ombudsman said court case against Askarov fabricated, politically motivated. In Karasuu district 4 Uzbeks sentenced to 4 years 21 Sept for inciting violence through call for prayer; 2 Uzbeks received 3-year sentences 23 Sept for writing “SOS” on private property. President Otunbayeva repeatedly threatened to cancel 10 Oct parliamentary election if parties stir ethnic tensions by using nationalist rhetoric in campaigns. In 24 Sept meeting with U.S. President Obama, Otunbayeva pledged international investigation into June violence.
String of deadly incidents over month signalled growing instability. Explosion at police station in north 3 Sept killed 2, wounded 25 police; previously unknown militant group Jamaat Ansarullah in Tajikistan claimed responsibility. Blast at Dushanbe nightclub 5 Sept wounded at least 7. Govt 11 Sept claimed 20 militants killed after troops clashed with Taliban fighters on border with Afghanistan. Secret negotiations between govt and former United Tajik Opposition (UTO) leaders in Garm 15 Sept aimed to defuse possible clashes. At least 25 killed in ambush of 80-strong military convoy 19 Sept in Rasht district. Govt alleged UTO commanders from 1992-1997 civil war Mullo Abdullo and Ali Bedak and militants who escaped from high-security prison 23 Aug responsible for attack. Govt 22 Sept said at least 5 UTO fighters killed in counter-terrorism operation; later reported many others detained. 2 fugitives of Aug prison break reported killed, 7 detained over month.
OSCE late month expressed serious concern over judicial pressure on media in relation to recent libel cases against independent journalists.
President Morales 20 Sept announced intention to stand for re-election in 2014 arguing he had only served only 1 term under new constitution, drawing criticism from opposition groups. Morales accused 7 Sept of attempting to “silence opposition” and politicise judiciary, following controversial jail sentence for former president Quiroga for supposed 2009 defamation of majority state-held bank. Reporters’ organisation 14 Sept accused govt of attempting to curb press freedom through new anti-racism law, sparking controversy ahead of senate vote.
Army 23 Sept killed FARC supreme military commander “Mono Jojoy”, alongside at least 20 other rebels, days after 19 Sept raid on Putumayo camp killed 27 others. Early month FARC ambushes on security forces left 38 dead, including in 3 Sept attack killing 14 police in Caqueta. U.S. 15 Sept freed $30mn frozen military aid, citing improvements in rights record. Senator Piedad Cordoba 16 Sept called on EU to pressure govt to initiate political dialogue with FARC; public prosecutor 27 Sept banned Cordoba from public office for 18 years accusing her of exceeding role as mediator, “promoting and favouring” FARC. President Santos 27 Sept presented Victims Bill to Congress.
Disaffected members of police, armed forces 30 Sept staged protest, took control of National Assembly building, airport amid growing resistance to proposed austerity measures which have caused deadlock in Congress. Protesters surrounded hospital where President Correa, attempting to negotiate, forced to seek refuge. Correa rescued by military; 2 dead, dozens injured in standoff; later said revolt amounted to coup attempt. Following 9 Sept FARC attack on Colombian police near Ecuadorian border, countries reactivated COMBIFRON border commission to improve exchange of information between security forces. Following Aug revocation of Ecuador’s arrest warrant for Colombian President Santos, Ecuadorian regional court 3 Sept charged former Colombian army Chief of Staff Montoya with murder, but desisted from demanding international arrest warrant.
Despite polarisation ahead of poll, 26 Sept legislative elections unfolded peacefully. President Chávez claimed victory, announced deepening of Bolivarian Revolution; opposition parties celebrated achieving crucial one-third of seats returning to parliament after 5 years’ absence, allowing them to block major legislation. Chávez 8 Sept accused opposition of being behind attacks on power infrastructure leading to electricity shortages, announced intention to “neutralise” all attempts to create further unrest. Govt 21 Sept formally rejected U.S. Ambassador-designate Palmer, FM Maduro accused Palmer of violating Venezuela’s sovereignty with controversial Aug remarks.
Constitutional Court 20 Sept authorised President Colóm to intervene in RENAP, body charged with issuing voter registration cards for 2011 general elections, following recent investigations of mismanagement. Parliament 9 Sept voted to hold referendum on sending Belize border dispute to ICJ. Corruption trial against former President Portillo began 3 Sept.
UN 1 Sept warned of violence in context of Nov elections, citing increased arms trafficking and gang control over IDP camps, 13 Sept announced program to curb spiralling gender-based violence in camps. Election campaign officially began 27 Sept amid continued controversy over electoral council’s independence. Political organisations and candidates from across political spectrum registered for elections; 4 groups along with Fanmi Lavalas factions announced intention to call for boycott. 24 Sept storm killed 6, affected 11,000 families, 162 IDP camps, Port-au-Prince.
Murders of 2 mayors in north increased to 10 number of mayors killed by organised crime in 2010. Clashes between security forces and drug cartels in region reportedly saw at least 50 cartel members killed. Following U.S. university report detailing arms trafficking to Mexico, President Calderon denounced “irresponsible arms sales”.
Police 3 Sept killed high ranking member of Paraguayan People’s Army Gabriel Zárate Cardozo.
12-month U.S.-mediated direct peace talks launched 2-3 Sept in Washington; sides agreed to meet every 2 weeks beginning 14-15 Sept in Egypt. Future of talks in balance after Israeli PM Netanyahu 26 Sept declined to extend 10-month moratorium on settlement construction despite international pressure, urged PA President Abbas to continue talks; Abbas 27 Sept delayed decision on continuation of talks until 4 Oct Arab League meeting. Leaders of Hamas and 12 other armed groups 2 Sept threatened new wave of attacks against Israel. Increased rocket and mortar fire from Gaza into Israel. 8 rockets, 1 mortar fired 15 Sept, highest daily total in over 1 year; at least 9 Palestinians killed in Israeli military responses. PA security forces arrested hundreds of Hamas-linked operatives in West Bank early Sept following 31 Aug Hamas killing of 4 Israeli civilians, 1 Sept wounding of 2 civilians. UNHRC 22 Sept accused Israel of violating international law in 31 May raid on Turkish-owned aid flotilla; Israel denounced accusations.
Increased political tensions between PM Saad Hariri’s Future Movement and Hizbollah over Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) investigation into 2005 murder of PM Rafiq Hariri. PM Saad Hariri 6 Sept retracted 2005 charge that Syria responsible for father’s assassination, said it was politically motivated. Former General Sayyed, jailed for 4 years following assassination and freed 2009, 12 Sept said people should overthrow govt, accused Hariri, judiciary, security forces of supporting “false witnesses” who misled investigation. General prosecutor Mirza 13 Sept summoned Sayyed for questioning over statements, Sayyed 18 Sept received armed Hizbollah escort on arrival in country, said Mirza’s actions illegal. Hariri 20 Sept reaffirmed commitment to STL, Hizbollah MP Ali Fayyad called for official Lebanese stance accusing Israel of assassination. President Sleiman 21 Sept called for calm, UNSG Ban urged parties to cooperate with STL. Hizbollah 29 Sept announced will try to block Lebanon’s funding for STL, 30 Sept denied STL request to interview Hizbollah members.
U.S. Special Envoy Mitchell 16 Sept met President Assad, affirmed U.S. commitment to Israeli-Syria peace deal; reiterated by U.S. Sec State Clinton in 27 Sept meeting with FM Muallem. Iranian President Ahmadinejad met with Assad 18 Sept. Israel President Peres 20 Sept said Israel ready for direct negotiations with Syria. Further IAEA and Western pressure mid-month over Dair Alzour alleged nuclear site. Russia 17 Sept said advanced missile sales to Syria to go ahead. Restoration of diplomatic ties with Iraq announced 24 Sept.
Public prosecution 5 Sept announced terrorism charges against 23 Shia activists including head of Haq opposition movement; opposition accuse govt of intimidation ahead of Oct parliamentary elections. Explosion 14 Sept in capital Manama targeting security officials: no casualties, but marked escalation in continuing clashes between Shiite dissidents, Sunni govt. Official media 7 Sept reported govt decision to reassert state control over mosques.
IAEA chief 13 Sept said cannot confirm all Iranian nuclear activity peaceful, Tehran barring inspectors. Amid worsening relations between Iran and IAEA, Tehran 20 Sept said IAEA in crisis of “moral authority and credibility”. U.S., EU urged Iran to return to negotiations; President Ahmadinejad said ready for nuclear talks. Iran 26 Sept admitted nuclear programme affected by computer worm, accused U.S. of launching cyber war; 28 Sept said activation of Bushehr nuclear plant delayed by months, denied link with virus. Former president Rafsanjani 13 Sept criticised Ahmadinejad for not overcoming impact of sanctions. U.S. 29 Sept ordered new sanctions on Iranian officials for alleged human rights abuses. Defection of 2 Iranian diplomats in protest against regime announced 13 Sept. 22 Sept bomb attack on military parade in W Mahabad killed 12. In cross-border raid in Iraq, Iran 25 Sept reportedly killed 30 Kurdish fighters it blamed for bombing; raid denied by Kurdish rebels. Opposition websites reported 1 Sept attack on opposition leader Mehdi Karrubi’s house by Basij militia, 16 Sept attack on opposition leader Hossein Musavi’s office by security forces. Bans on 2 major opposition parties, 2 newspapers announced late month. Rights activist Shiva Nazar-Ahari sentenced to 6 years’ prison 18 Sept on charges including “warring against God”. Blogger Hossein Derakhshan sentenced to 19 years prison 28 Sept.
Deadlock over govt formation continued. In early month visit U.S. VP Biden promoted coalition govt between PM Maliki’s State of Law and Allawi’s Iraqiya, with Maliki as PM with reduced powers, but Allawi 24 Sept rejected Maliki as PM. Shiite blocs Iraqi National Alliance and State of Law failed to agree on PM candidate after setting themselves 5-day deadline 21 Sept. FM Zebari 27 Sept urged U.S. to help end impasse on govt formation. Anbar officials 26 Sept said Awakening Council members to be dismissed from police following Interior Ministry order. Ongoing insurgent attacks: over 20 killed 19 Sept in car bombings in Baghdad, claimed by al-Qaeda; 12 killed in attack on Baghdad army base 5 Sept; 2 U.S. soldiers shot dead 7 Sept by Iraqi soldier in north; Sunni cleric beheaded and burned 9 Sept; 9 soldiers died in bombing in north 15 Sept; senior police official killed 28 Sept. At least 4 killed 11 Sept in clashes between security forces and militants in Diyala province; at least 6 killed 15 Sept in Iraqi-U.S. raid in Fallujah, reportedly targeting al-Qaeda leader. 4 prisoners with alleged al-Qaeda links escaped U.S.-guarded prison in Baghdad 8 Sept. Restoration of diplomatic ties with Syria announced 24 Sept.
Military 19 Sept launched 5-day offensive against al-Qaeda in the Arab Peninsula (AQAP) cell in southern town Hawta, Shabwa province; at least 5 militants, 2 soldiers killed, up to 15,000 civilians displaced. Govt promised second offensive following 29 Sept al-Qaeda ambush of Shabwa governor’s convoy. Continued violence in southern town Loder, where soldiers have been battling al-Qaeda militants since mid-Aug: 2 militants, 1 soldier killed in clashes; at least 14 suspected militants detained. 4 police, 2 separatist militants killed 4 Sept in clash at checkpoint in southern Lahej province. In first official confirmation, FM Kurbi 30 Sept acknowledged U.S. has launched strikes against al-Qaeda suspects in Yemen, claimed strikes suspended Dec 2009 by Sanaa.
At least 2 soldiers killed, several injured in 1 Sept suicide attack on military convoy in eastern Kabylie region, same area where security forces killed 10 insurgents late Aug. 2 police killed 21 Sept by suspected al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb bomb in Boumerdes region. Sahel region intelligence chiefs 30 Sept agreed establishment of joint intelligence centre to coordinate efforts against growing al-Qaeda threat.
Reformist Mohamed ElBaradei 6 Sept called for boycott of Nov parliamentary elections, warned of “civil disobedience” if political reform not forthcoming. Opposition Al-Ghad party 14 Sept joined boycott; Al-Wafd party 17 Sept voted to participate in election. Police 21 Sept arrested at least 55 protesters during anti-govt demonstrations in Cairo, Alexandria. Intelligence chief reportedly met Hamas leader Khaled Meshal in Saudi Arabia early Sept in attempt to reconcile group with Fatah ahead of 14 Sept second round of U.S.-brokered peace talks in Egypt (See Israel/OPT). Top Hamas internal security official arrested in Cairo airport 19 Sept over falsified travel documents, freed 24 Sept. Bedouin 24 Sept surrounded police station in remote Sinai village, set police vehicle on fire.
At least 12 al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) militants and 10 soldiers killed 17-18 Sept in army operation on border with Mali; followed warning from Malian security forces of planned AQIM attack on Mauritanian military post. 2 civilians reported killed in 20 Sept Mauritanian airforce raids on suspected AQIM militants in north of Mali. Justice Ministry 9 Sept announced presidential pardon of 35 repented Islamist extremists for end of Ramadan.