In at least five locations, South Sudanese seeking protection have been targeted and killed by armed actors in or around [UN] bases. — from today’s report, South Sudan: A Civil War by Any Other Name
A Late-Night Phone Call Between One Of Syria’s Top Extremists And His Sworn Enemy | Mike Giglio
A rebel commander named Mohamed Zataar sat on a living room couch in the ancient Turkish city of Antakya one recent night, taking a short break from the war across the border with Syria some 15 miles down the road. He was eager to return. “There is a new battle starting,” he said, staring at the door. Instead Zataar, who leads a battalion of moderate rebels called Wolves of the Valley, decided to call his enemy from his iPhone.
He dialed the number for the shadowy jihadi known as Abu Ayman al-Iraqi, one of the most notorious men on the chaotic battlefields of northern Syria. Abu Ayman doesn’t fight for the Syrian regime. He’s a leader in the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, the al-Qaeda-inspired force that has upended the rebellion with its fanaticism and brutality — while also kidnapping Western journalists and raising global alarms that the foreign fighters who fill out its ranks will return to sow terror at home. Other rebel groups turned on ISIS at the start of the new year, sparking an internal war that men like Zataar, a former dealer of fake antiques who despises extremists, were happy to join. “We are fighting a war against terror,” Zataar said.
Someone answered on the other line, and Zataar asked to speak with Abu Ayman, whom he referred to as “sheikh.” Then he hung up, saying it wasn’t uncommon for the two men to speak. An hour later, Abu Ayman called back.
FULL ARTICLE (BuzzFeed)
South Sudan: A Civil War by Any Other Name
Addis Ababa/Juba/Nairobi/Brussels | 10 Apr 2014
Refocusing international engagement as well as the peace negotiations is essential to stop South Sudan’s raging civil war from claiming ever more lives.
South Sudan’s four-month civil war has displaced more than a million and killed over 10,000; an escalating humanitarian crisis threatens many more. In its latest report, South Sudan: A Civil War by Any Other Name, the International Crisis Group looks at the longstanding political and military grievances behind spiralling violence and examines the steps necessary for peace and reconciliation. Communal conflicts cannot be separated from political disputes, and resolving both requires sustained commitment from South Sudanese and international actors.
The report’s major findings and recommendations are:
The dispute within the governing Sudan Peoples’ Liberation Movement (SPLM) that led to the conflict was primarily political, but ethnic targeting and communal mobilisation quickly led to appalling levels of brutality against civilians. As peace talks between the government and the SPLM/A in Opposition stalled, both sides sought gains on the battlefield to strengthen their position in negotiations.
Peace talks and reconciliation efforts must expand considerably beyond deals between political elites to include other militarised actors as well as community-based organisations, religious groups, women’s associations and others.
To address the rapidly growing humanitarian crisis, armed actors must permit unconditional humanitarian access to civilians in areas they control. Aid providers must prepare to scale up humanitarian service delivery to prevent an avoidable famine.
Plans by the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) to deploy a Protection and Deterrent Force raise the prospect of even greater regional involvement. IGAD should only do so with a clear mandate that supports a political resolution of the conflict.
The UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) is called upon to be an impartial actor in conflict-affected areas and to carry out state-support tasks in others. This dual mandate creates confusion and should urgently be amended to focus on the protection of civilians, human-rights reporting, support for IGAD’s mediation and logistical help to the African Union Commission of Inquiry.
“Many communities are aligning themselves with military factions, giving the conflict a dangerous ethno-military nature”, says Casie Copeland, Consulting South Sudan Analyst. “To prevent further catastrophe, South Sudan’s leaders and its international partners need to consider a radical restructuring of the state. New constituencies have to be admitted to a national dialogue, including armed groups previously not included, civil society actors and disaffected communities”.
“The conflict that broke out on 15 December 2013 was decades in the making. Resolving it requires not a quick fix but sustained domestic and international commitment”, says Comfort Ero, Africa Program Director. “The democratic space that was closed after independence in July 2011 must be reopened to enable peace and reconciliation processes to take hold”.
Policing urban violence | Tariq Khosa
While political, ethnic, religious and socio-economic tensions contribute to conflicts, escalating urban violence is largely a product of poor governance, inappropriate security policies and neglected police reforms.
This is the crux of a recent report by the Brussels-based International Crisis Group (ICG). “The police are demoralised and paralysed by political interference, and a lack of adequate resources and political support,” says Samina Ahmed, ICG’s South Asia project director. “But they could become effective if properly authorised and given institutional and operational autonomy.”
The recommendations are timely and deserve immediate attention at the federal, provincial and district levels of government. Similarly, the legislature, executive and judiciary must not only contribute to improving governance but also display a vision for ensuring that the criminal justice system upholds the rule of law by encouraging police officers, prosecutors and judges who are honest and efficient. This may entail massive purges to weed out the corrupt and the callous.
FULL ARTICLE (Dawn)
Voter anger, parties’ disarray could bring change in Bissau | Bate Felix and Alberto Dabo
Disarray in Guinea-Bissau’s political parties and frustration among voters could open the way for a Harvard-educated political outsider to win a presidential election next week aimed at turning the page on years of coups and crime.
Guinea-Bissau - a transit route for South American cocaine into Europe which has been dubbed Africa’s first ‘narco-state’ - was plunged into chaos two years ago when soldiers stormed the presidential palace days before an election for that post.
FULL ARTICLE (Reuters)
Photo: Gabor Basch/Flickr
Guinea-Bissau: Elections, But Then What?
Brussels | 8 Apr 2014
Guinea-Bissau’s elections are an important first step, but to address its economic and political fragility, the country needs strong international help, as well as political and military will for reform.
In its latest briefing, Guinea-Bissau: Elections, But Then What?, the International Crisis Group examines the bumpy road to the 13 April 2014 elections and the challenges a new government will face. Redistributing power and resources in a country where participation in government has been the main method for acquiring wealth will threaten a fragile balance of forces.
The briefing’s major findings and recommendations are:
International pressure and a crippled economy have finally forced the military and its political allies – two years after the April 2012 military coup – to hold legislative and presidential elections. But much like in 2012, they are concerned with a potential hegemony of the African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde (PAIGC). They could be tempted to resort to violence again, should their access to the formal and informal benefits associated with power be removed.
Peaceful elections and, more broadly, the fate of the ongoing transition, will depend largely on the leverage of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), which has supported the transition authorities from the start but is tired of paying the bills for a regime that is close to bankruptcy.
The elections are only the first stage of a long-term effort to solve problems that have undermined progress for years. Given the country’s fragility, the political stakes in play, a suspicious military and a weak economy, real transformation will only be possible with strong international involvement, political and financial.
The international community should closely monitor the crucial post-elections period. It should use the lifting of individual sanctions on coup makers as an incentive to cooperate. Donors should be ready to help the government pay immediate expenses, including public sector wages, provide long-term funding for development programs and push for improved economic governance.
The new authorities will need to promote consensus as well as ethnic and political pluralism. This includes passing the proposed amnesty law for the coup makers agreed during the transition.
“The new government will have to call into question the privileges enjoyed by senior military officers and carefully resume the security sector reforms that prompted the army to stage the coup” says Vincent Foucher, West Africa Senior Analyst. “This time round, the government should proceed with caution and seek compromise to avoid a violent reaction from the army”.
“The election winners will face numerous challenges”, says Comfort Ero, Africa Program Director. “Nonetheless, this is an opportunity for a new generation of politicians, who are more willing to compromise internally and internationally and are able to manage the country well enough to allow the re-legitimisation of the state and convince the military to consent to the modernisation needed”.
South Korea finds images of presidential residence on Kim Jong-un’s drones | Julian Ryall
Two North Korean drones that crashed in South Korea had taken hundreds of aerial photos of military installations as well as the official residence of President Park Guen-hye, authorities in Seoul have revealed.
Presidential security has been stepped up after one of the unmanned aerial vehicles, which crashed near the town of Paju last week, was found to contain images of the Blue House, the target of a 1968 assassination attempt by Pyongyang against the then South Korean leader.
Another, which crash-landed on Baeknyeong Island, off the west coast of the Korean peninsula on Monday, had photographed the defences on the island and the neighbouring islands of Socheong and Daecheong.
FULL ARTICLE (The Telegraph)
Apathy and Fear of Taliban Combine to Keep Rural Voters Away From the Polls | Azam Ahmed
While polling centers across Kabul and other Afghan cities were celebrating record turnouts on Saturday, Tahir Khan, a tribal leader in rural Nangarhar Province, experienced a very different Election Day.
“It was a dead zone,” he said, referring to the eastern province’s Shinwar district. “All the polling centers were closed, and people hardly left their homes.”
The truth in Shinwar, and in some other rural areas of southern and eastern Afghanistan where the insurgency is strongest, is that the Taliban did not have to pick up their rifles to disrupt the vote on Saturday.
In some districts that were still nominally open for polling, residents were too frightened about the Taliban’s threat to punish voters, too dubious about the security forces’ ability to protect them or too disenchanted with the national government in general to turn out to vote.
FULL ARTICLE (New York Times)
Photo: Helmand PRT, Lashkar Gah/flickr
Fresh Thinking Needed on Cyprus | Hugh Pope and Scott Malcomson
A new round of talks has begun in Cyprus and the key parties seem eager to reach a settlement. However, the official goal — a bizonal, bicommunal federation — has stymied negotiators for decades. It is possible that the time has come to consider a mutually agreed separation, within the European Union, of the Greek and Turkish parts of the island.
The closest the two sides have come to an agreement on federal reunification was a decade ago under the Annan Plan, named after United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan. It built on decades of work and won the support of the UN, EU, United States, Turkey, and even Greece. Indeed, any federal deal will have to look pretty much like the one hammered out in those years of intense negotiations.
Yet the reality of public sentiment bit back. 76 percent of Greek Cypriots said no to this plan at referendum. As Annan wrote to the Security Council afterwards, “what was rejected was the [federal] solution itself rather than a mere blueprint.”
Today the two sides — whose infrastructure and administrative systems are almost completely separate — are, if anything, further apart. The numbers of people crossing the border have fallen, while polls show weakening support for a federal outcome. In 2004, the Turkish Cypriot side supported the Annan Plan with 65 percent of the vote. But in 2010, they firmly voted back to power a leader whose whole career has been dedicated to a two-state settlement.
Miracles may happen — and there are many on the island who remain desperate for a settlement — but my judgment is that any federal deal will have an even tougher time succeeding now.
Fresh thinking is needed.The two sides should broaden the agenda alongside the well-worn process of UN-hosted talks between Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot negotiators.
One idea that should be fully explored is what the terms might be if Greek Cypriots — the majority of the island’s population — were to offer Turkish Cypriots citizens full independence and fully support them to become members of the European Union.
Such a deal would have to be agreed to by Greek Cypriots, voluntarily and through a referendum. This will be hard. Greek Cypriot public opinion still, in theory, absolutely rejects any partition. But even senior Greek Cypriot officials agree in private — especially around the dinner tables of business leaders seeking a way out of Cyprus’s crushing banking crisis of 2013 — that there is an increasingly urgent need for a new way forward for the economy and for society.
There is also a growing drumbeat of expert opinion urging Greek Cypriots to consider outcomes beyond the traditional federal goal, which has become so discredited that few on Cyprus are paying much attention to the new talks. International Crisis Group has just published Divided Cyprus: Coming to Terms on an Imperfect Reality, while the U .S. Congressional Research Service concluded last year that “a ‘two-state’ solution seems to have become a more prominent part of the Turkish Cypriot/Turkey rhetoric and unless a dramatic breakthrough occurs early in the negotiations… that reality may gain more momentum.”
Polls show that key parts of what Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots really want can look surprisingly similar. The Greek Cypriots have long wanted a solution securely embedded in European values and structures. That is what Turkish Cypriots say they want too: to become part of the European Union, not part of Turkey, even if they do wish that, in extremis, Turkey would protect their small community. The European part is crucial.
This can only happen with voluntary Greek Cypriot agreement, something that will have to be persuasively won by Turkey and the Turkish Cypriots. They will need to offer convincing terms: withdraw all or almost all of Turkey’s 30,000 troops on the island; end the demand to continue the 1960s “guarantorship” so hated by Greek Cypriots; guarantee compensation of Greek Cypriots for the two-thirds of private property in the north that is owned by them; return the ghost resort of Varosha to its original owners; and pull back to hold 29 percent or less of the island.
After what will necessarily be a multi-year transition, this will also produce the European solution that Greek Cypriots so often say they want. The two sides will share the same basic legal norms and regulations, the same currency, and the same visa regime. Secure and confident in their new sovereign rights, the Turkish Cypriot side will likely waive the un-European demand for “derogations,” or limits on property purchases by Greek Cypriots in the new entity.
Nobody is completely right on Cyprus: all parties share responsibility for the frozen conflict on the island. At the end of the day, an independent Turkish Cypriot state within the EU is not rewarding one side or another. Europe will doubtless flinch at accepting a small new Turkish, Muslim state in its midst.
But Europe helped create this situation, since Brussels breaking its own rules contributed to the clumsy 2004 accession of the disunited island to the EU.
Moreover, at least 100,000 of the 170,000 Turkish Cypriots are already EU citizens through their Republic of Cyprus passports.
Europe will also be among those who gain from resolving a dispute that has for four decades burdened so many local and regional processes, not least the long-hamstrung relationship between the EU and NATO, and the new question of how the countries of the East Mediterranean can most quickly, profitably and safely exploit new offshore natural gas reserves. This is not partition: it is reunifying Cyprus within the EU.
Photo: UN Geneva/Flickr
After the politicians created the monster…they lost control of it. — from our latest report on Boko Haram, northern Nigeria’s Islamist insurgency.