Nigerian Troops Say Corruption Saps Will to Fight Islamists | Ibrahim Abdul’Aziz and Dulue Mbachu
When Islamist militants raided the northeastern Nigerian village of Izghe, killing 90 people, some government troops dropped their weapons, stripped off their uniforms and fled in civilian clothes, according to two soldiers who were at the scene.
The soldiers said the troops were angry their monthly pay had been cut in half to 15,000 naira ($92) without explanation, heightening their belief that money meant for them and their front-line fight against the Islamist militant group Boko Haram was being siphoned off by officials in Abuja, the capital.
“Somebody is sitting comfortably in Abuja stealing our money, and we are here facing Boko Haram fire every day,” Shu’aibu, a lance corporal, said in a June 11 interview in Yola, capital of Adamawa state. He spoke on the condition that his surname wasn’t published because he’s not authorized to comment.
FULL ARTICLE (Bloomberg)
Gaza and Israel: New Obstacles, New Solutions
Jerusalem/Gaza City/Brussels | 14 Jul 2014
To break the violent impasse, Israel must change its policy toward Hamas and work toward a lasting ceasefire, recognising how much its own stability depends on the stability of Gaza.
After rounds of pyrrhic victories and weak ceasefires, Israel and Hamas are again locked in combat, with at least 168 Palestinian deaths, mainly civilian, in less than a week and Israeli civilians seeking shelter from rocket salvos. The policy of isolating Hamas has proved counterproductive and made reviving Gaza not just a humanitarian necessity but a requirement for calm and stability. In its latest briefing, Gaza and Israel: New Obstacles, New Solutions, the International Crisis Group examines scenarios that could result from the fighting and outlines the conditions necessary to ensure a more stable cessation of violence.
The report’s major findings and recommendations are:
“Given the choice between being slowly squeezed to death and going down fighting, and that between waiting for Israel to eliminate the stockpiles on the ground or shooting them into Israel, Hamas will take the latter both times. Knowing that it cannot best Israel militarily, it has opted for a psychological war of attrition”, says Nathan Thrall, Middle East Senior Analyst.
“Prime Minister Netanyahu is caught between Realpolitik and electoral considerations. Realpolitik dictates a controlled escalation followed by a renewed ceasefire, but any concession he makes to Hamas will be used against him by competitors to his right, who advocate a more extensive campaign and more ambitious objectives in Gaza”, says Ofer Zalzberg, Senior Analyst for Israel/Palestine.
“The policy of trying to topple or weaken Hamas was misguided when designed and remains so”, says Robert Blecher, Middle East and North Africa Acting Program Director. “The sooner it is reversed, the sooner Gazans can resume something like a normal life, Israelis can come out of bomb shelters and Palestinians can repair their internal affairs and prepare to enter a reformed peace process”.
United Nations top official goes to Haiti to promote cholera elimination, elections | Jacqueline Charles
In his strongest statement since a deadly cholera epidemic erupted in Haiti almost four years ago, the head of the United Nations said the global body bears “a moral responsibility” to help the Caribbean nation end the outbreak.
U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon made the declaration in an exclusive interview with the Miami Herald as he prepared to visit Haiti, where he will travel to the region where the contamination happened and meet with families hard hit by cholera. Detected 10 months after Haiti’s devastating Jan. 12, 2010, earthquake, the waterborne disease has killed 8,563 people and infected 704,245.
Since then, the U.N. has refused to admit responsibility for the outbreak, which scientific evidence and its own independent panel of experts suggested was brought to Haiti by Nepalese peacekeepers stationed at a military base in the Central Plateau region.
FULL ARTICLE (Miami Herald)
Photo: United Nations Photo/flickr
Civil Society and the South Sudan Crisis | Jerome Tubiana
Jerome Tubiana is the International Crisis Group’s Senior Analyst for Sudan.
The inclusion of civil society in efforts to defuse the South Sudan crisis has so far been fraught. The parties to the conflict (see our recent report South Sudan: A Civil War by Any Other Name) all have their own ideas about what civil society is; and each party tends to believe the most legitimate civil-society representatives are those that think just as it does. Most recently, unresolved questions of what civil society is and what role it should play helped cause the suspension late last month of talks between the major warring parties.
The regional precedents are not encouraging. Darfur civil society came out from the Doha process (2009-2011) considerably weakened by both internal divisions and external manipulations. Lessons should be learned from both this and the earlier (2002-2005) Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) processes to avoid repeating similar mistakes.
How ‘civil’ is civil society?
In early June 2014, the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) – East Africa’s peace and security organisation – invited notionally independent South Sudanese actors to a “multi-stakeholders symposium” meant to initiate an inclusive phase of IGAD-led peace talks in Addis Ababa. The symposium participants, including civil-society organisations, religious groups, political parties and formerly detained political leaders, nominated 28 members (seven for each group) to represent wider South Sudanese interests at the peace talks.
Those calling for civil-society inclusion in the talks hope unarmed South Sudanese can bridge divisions among armed parties and local communities now embroiled in a war that had a dangerous ethnic dimension from the start. IGAD’s inclusion of civil-society representatives is based on the widely held belief that they are broadly pro-peace and less ethnically divided and ‘political’ than others – but still able to influence armed actors. These were the same reasons civil society was afforded a large role in the Darfur peace process; however, Darfurian civil society proved to be politicised and ethnically divided. (See our recent report Sudan’s Spreading Conflict (III): The Limits of Darfur’s Peace Process.) South Sudanese civil society has shown similar tendencies and community-based leaders have strongly expressed their support for various armed actions.
Nevertheless, Darfur’s experience also proved these voices must be heard if the peace process is to be accepted on the ground. It showed, too, that inclusion should go beyond the usual civil-society organisations (CSOs) – often funded and even created by external donors – to include groups and individuals with more influence on the ground, such as community and religious leaders.
FULL ARTICLE (Crisis Group’s blog: In Pursuit of Peace)
Photo: Crisis Group/jerome tubiana
Kurdish Independence: Harder Than It Looks | Joost Hilterman
Joost Hilterman is the Chief Operating Officer at the International Crisis Group
The jihadist blitz through northwestern Iraq has ended the fragile peace that was established after the 2007-2008 US surge. It has cast grave doubt on the basic capacity of the Iraqi army—reconstituted, trained and equipped at great expense by Washington—to control the country, and it could bring down the government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, whose eight-year reign has been marred by mismanagement and sectarian polarization. But for Iraqi Kurds, the offensive by the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) and other groups has offered a dramatic opportunity: a chance to expand their own influence beyond Iraqi Kurdistan and take possession of other parts of northern Iraq they’ve long claimed as theirs.
At the heart of these “disputed areas” is the strategic city of Kirkuk, which the disciplined and highly motivated Kurdish Peshmerga took over in mid-June, after Iraqi soldiers stationed there fled in fear of advancing jihadists. A charmless city of slightly less than one million people, Kirkuk betrays little of its past as an important Ottoman garrison town. The desolate ruin of an ancient citadel, sitting on a mound overlooking the dried-out Khasa River, is one of the few hints of the city’s earlier glory. Yet Kirkuk lies on top of one of Iraq’s largest oil fields, and with its crucial location directly adjacent to the Kurdish region, the city is the prize in the Kurds’ long journey to independence, a town they call their Jerusalem. When their Peshmerga fighters easily took over a few weeks ago, there was loud rejoicing throughout the Kurdish land.
But while the Kurds believe Kirkuk’s riches give them crucial economic foundations for a sustainable independent state, the city’s ethnic heterogeneity raises serious questions about their claims to it. Not only is Kirkuk’s population—as with that of many other Iraqi cities, including Baghdad itself—deeply intermixed. The disputed status of its vast oil field also stands as a major obstacle to any attempt to divide the country’s oil revenues equitably. To anyone who advocates dividing Iraq into neat ethnic and sectarian groups, Kirkuk shows just how challenging that would be in practice.
The definitive loss of Kirkuk and the giant oil field surrounding it could precipitate the breakup of Iraq, and while the present government in Baghdad is in no position to resist Kurdish control, a restrengthened leadership might, in the future, seek to retake the city by force. For the Kurds, the sudden territorial gains may also not be the panacea they seem to think they are. The Kurdish oil industry is still much in development, and if the Kurdish region loses access to Baghdad’s annual budget allocations without a ready alternative, it is likely to face a severe economic crisis. Moreover, the same jihadist insurgency that has enabled Kurdish advances in the disputed territories is also a potent new threat to the Kurds themselves. So the taking of Kirkuk poses an urgent question: how important is Iraq’s stability to the Kurds’ own security and long-term aims?
I first visited Kirkuk some twenty-three years ago, driving from Baghdad and entering from the west. Coming up from the capital in those days one had little doubt that one was in Arab areas all the way to the outskirts of Kirkuk, while the city itself, like many urban conglomerations in the wider region, was home to many different ethnic and religious groups, none of them dominant. There were Shia mixed in with Sunnis, and along with three major ethnicities—Arab, Kurdish, and Turkic—the city contained a smaller population of Chaldo-Assyrian Christians, who claimed to be original inhabitants of what was known in ancient times as Arrapha. In fact, despite the Kurds’ strong presence in Kirkuk today, they were relatively late arrivals, having settled mostly in the years since the oil industry first took hold in the 1930s.
FULL ARTICLE (New York Times Review of Books)
Photo: Jorgen Nijman/flickr
Egypt Silent as Neighbors Wage Battles | Kareem Fahim
Again and again over decades, Egypt has leapt in to play the role of mediator during hostilities between the Palestinians and the Israelis, including the time two years ago when Egypt’s president, Mohamed Morsi, helped broker a cease-fire after eight days of bloodshed in the Gaza Strip.
But in the latest battle, the Egyptians appear to be barely lifting a finger, leaving the combatants without a go-between as the Palestinian death toll mounts.
Officials with Hamas, the Palestinian Islamist movement in Gaza, said on Wednesday they had seen almost no sign of an Egyptian effort to defuse the crisis, in sharp contrast to previous conflicts under Mr. Morsi and President Hosni Mubarak. Making matters worse, according to Palestinian officials, Egypt continued to keep its side of the border all but sealed on Wednesday, barring even humanitarian aid.
FULL ARTICLE (New York Times)
Sarajevo/Brussels | 10 Jul 2014
While the physical scars of the 1992-1995 Bosnia war have healed, political agony and ethnic tension persist. Real peace requires a new constitution and bottom-up political change.
Protests in February that led to the fall of four canton governments revealed deep popular disaffection and an urgent need for reform. But the Bosnian political elite’s lack of vision goes along with ineffective institutions and a constitution that impedes political change. A suffocating system of ethnic quotas contributes to bad governance and no longer meets any of the three communities’ interests. In its latest report, Bosnia’s Future, the International Crisis Group examines factors pushing the country toward disintegration and outlines alternative scenarios based on democratic reform from within.
The report’s major findings and recommendations are:
“Bosnia is torn between an outmoded ethnic model and an easily-abused civic model. It needs to find a new approach incorporating parts of both and based on federalism” says Marko Prelec, Executive Director of the Balkans Policy Research Group and former Crisis Group Balkans Project Director. “To survive as one state, Bosnia must conceive new foundations. Agreement may take years and much experimentation, but the search should begin”.
“Dayton acts as a mirror of the past, not a roadmap for the future. It keeps the country trapped in ill thought-out, internationally-imposed tasks”, says Hugh Pope, Europe and Central Asia Deputy Program Director. “It is time to treat Bosnia normally, without extraneous tests or High Representatives”.
Sri Lanka tells NGOs to keep quiet | Philip J. Victor
The government of Sri Lanka has issued a directive to NGOs operating in the country, telling them not to hold press conferences or conduct workshops and trainings for journalists, deeming such activities by organizations to be “beyond their mandate.”
The notice, issued by the National Secretariat for Non-Governmental Organizations, which operates under the Ministry of Defense & Urban Development, stated that all NGOs should steer clear of “such unauthorized activities with immediate effect,” a warning that was quickly condemned by NGOs as unconstitutional.
“All governments that respect democratic values respect the rights of citizens to engage in such lawful activities,” anti-corruption watchdog group Transparency International Sri Lanka (TISL) said in a release. “Only authoritarian regimes prevent such democratic engagements.”
Alan Keenan, senior Sri Lanka analyst at the International Crisis Group, told Al Jazeera that it’s a bit unclear what the directive, which was distributed to organizations Monday, was really intended to do.
FULL ARTICLE (Al Jazeera)
Photo: Hash Milhan/flickr
Battered By Civil War, South Sudan Falters Toward 3rd Birthday -
South Sudan is approaching the third anniversary of its independence. For more on the world’s newest country, its civil war and the resulting humanitarian crisis, NPR’s Melissa Block talks with E.J. Hogendoorn, the deputy director of Africa for the International Crisis Group.
FULL INTERVIEW (NPR)