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Showing posts tagged as "Peace and Conflict"
Showing posts tagged Peace and Conflict
NPR | Despite Protests, Bahrain Hosts Grand Prix Race
A year after an uprising threatened Bahrain’s monarchy, the royal family is hosting a Formula One Grand Prix race this Sunday as it attempts to show life has returned to normal.
But racing fans will have to make their way through ranks of police and soldiers who are part of a heavy security presence. And riot police have been using tear gas, stun grenades and birdshot to hold back demonstrations around the capital city, Manama.
The Global Post | New approach needed to end Afghanistan’s insurgency
The current effort to negotiate with the insurgency in Afghanistan is not working. Nor is it ever likely to work as long as Washington continues to dominate the process while President Hamid Karzai and the Taliban are dragged along without enthusiasm.
The signs are about as grim as they can be. The Taliban suspended talks in March with US officials in Qatar. There is ever more speculation about an accelerated drawdown of US and NATO forces. The differing parties — from the Afghan government to the Taliban leadership, to key regional and wider international actors — are looking ahead to the intense political competition sure to follow in the wake of NATO’s withdrawal.
In short, Afghanistan is on course for another civil war unless we see a major shift in policy. The only solution, itself a long-shot, is for the UN Security Council to mandate UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to appoint a dedicated team of negotiators to help lead the way toward a political settlement.
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No matter how much the US and its NATO allies want to leave Afghanistan, and to leave it relatively secure, it is unlikely that a Washington-brokered power-sharing agreement will hold long enough to ensure that the achievements of the last decade are not reversed. As the recent chilling killings in Kandahar illustrate, US and NATO forces have been transformed in the eyes of many from liberators to occupiers. The vast majority of Afghans view the US in particular as a full party to the country’s decades-long war.
To make matters worse, the Afghan government is so crippled by internal political divisions and external pressures from regional actors like Pakistan and Iran, that it is poorly positioned to cut a deal with leaders of the insurgency. Afghanistan’s security forces are likewise equally unprepared to handle the power vacuum that will occur following the exit of international troops. In the coming years, the government is likely to face even greater challenges to its legitimacy, as regional and global rivalries play out in its backyard.
President Barack Obama’s pursuit of a “responsible end” to the war in Afghanistan will require the US to drop its traditional resistance to UN involvement and recognize that negotiations must be led by a neutral third-party. A lasting peace accord will ultimately require far more structured negotiations, strong guidance and sustained engagement from the UN.
The UN is the only organization capable of drawing together the necessary political support and resources for what will undoubtedly be a lengthy and complex negotiating process followed, if successful, by an equally lengthy supervised implementation phase. As NATO prepares to draw down its forces, coalition partners must begin to incorporate the UN more in the overall dialogue around transition and a negotiation team should be appointed well before the end of 2013, when many decisions around NATO’s continued presence and role will have already been decided.
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Some have suggested the appointment of a UN-backed “super envoy,” tasked with overseeing the negotiations process, but the conflict is too complex for a single envoy, and there is a danger that concentrating too much power in the hands of a single negotiator would result in damaging and long-lasting misunderstandings between critical parties.
The facilitation process should be designed to allow parties to the conflict to draw on a wide range of resources and expertise. The UN Secretary-General should expand consultations with Kabul and key regional and extra-regional players, particularly the US, Pakistan and Iran, on the formal appointment of a mutually acceptable panel of mediators who are internationally recognized and respected for their knowledge of both international and Islamic law and regional political realities. The Security Council should adopt a resolution to appoint a team of negotiators and an individual to lead it as soon as possible.
Hundreds of billions of dollars, thousands of lives and two fraudulent elections later, it has become abundantly clear that the cost of a political settlement in Afghanistan will be very high. The current political order in which Kabul’s political elites dictate provincial realities and corrupt government officials remain unaccountable to their constituents will not survive for long once NATO troops have gone.
What will emerge in the years after 2013-14 will be determined in very large part by what happens right now. Amid the dwindling legitimacy of all the current actors, only the UN has a chance of forging a deal that will avoid the looming new civil war.
Louise Arbour is president of the International Crisis Group. She is the former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and a former justice of the Supreme Court of Canada.
The New York Times | As Sudanese Clashes Escalate, So Do Bellicose Exchanges
Less than a year after the nation of South Sudanwas born out of a delicate peace agreement with Sudan, the two countries have plunged into war, a Sudanese government spokesman said Thursday.
Recent fighting between Sudan and South Sudan has grown from a struggle over the contested, oil-rich region of Heglig to inflame a number of areas along the border and beyond.
This week, Sudanese planes struck “deep into South Sudan,” hitting an important town, according to Susan E. Rice, the American ambassador to the United Nations. A United Nations compound inside South Sudan was also hit by bombs.
For its part, South Sudan has claimed to have shot down Sudanese jets and killed hundreds of Sudanese soldiers in battles over Heglig, which it said it captured from Sudan last week.
The African Union has condemned South Sudan’s seizure of Heglig as illegal, and theUnited Nations Security Council has demanded an immediate end to the fighting, a withdrawal of the South’s troops from Heglig, an end to Sudanese aerial bombardments and a halt to repeated cross-border violence.
Photo: Al Jazeera English/ Flickr
The Huffington Post | Sudan-South Sudan Conflict: Sudan Launches Border Attacks, Says Official
The Arab League said Thursday it would hold an emergency meeting over the increasing violence between Sudan and South Sudan. The south reported new skirmishes even as Sudan’s president increased his threats of war toward the south.
Sudan President Omar al-Bashir said the recent violence has “revived the spirit of jihad” in Sudan. South Sudan said it had repulsed four attacks from Sudan over a 24-hour period as fighting on the border showed no signs of slowing.
Acting on a request by Sudan, the Arab League scheduled an emergency meeting of foreign ministers in Cairo next week to discuss the violence, Deputy Arab League Secretary-General Ahmed bin Helli said. The league earlier called on South Sudan to withdraw from the oil-rich Heglig area that southern troops invaded and took over last week.
Despite the threats from Sudan, a southern government spokesman said South Sudan was only defending its territory and considers Sudan a “friendly nation.”
International Crisis Group | Conflict Risk Alert: Bahrain
16 April 2012: Beneath a façade of normalisation, Bahrain is sliding toward another dangerous eruption of violence. The government acts as if partial implementation of recommendations from the November 2011 Independent Commission of Inquiry (the Bassiouni Report) will suffice to restore tranquillity, but there is every reason to believe it is wrong. Political talks – without which the crisis cannot be resolved – have ground to a halt, and sectarian tensions are mounting. A genuine dialogue between the regime and the opposition and a decision to fully carry out the Bassiouni Report – not half-hearted measures and not a policy of denial – are needed to halt this deterioration.
Clashes between young protesters and security forces occur nightly, marked by the former’s use of Molotov cocktails and the latter’s resort to tear gas. Several have died, in most cases reportedly due to tear gas inhalation. The 9 April explosion of a handmade bomb in al-Akar, a Shiite village in the east of the Kingdom, which injured seven policemen, crossed a significant threshold and could be followed by worse. Already, even before authorities could investigate, pro-government Sunni vigilante groups retaliated, vandalising two cars and a supermarket owned by a Shiite firm accused of supporting the February 2011 protests.
Amid these and other violent events – including the death of a young protester apparently shot from a civilian car – there are two potential time bombs. The first concerns Bahrain’s scheduled hosting of a Formula 1 race on 22 April. On 8 April, the Coalition of the Youth of the February 14 Revolution, an umbrella for an array of opposition groups that commands the loyalty of Shiite neighbourhoods, warned that it would consider participants, sponsors and spectators as regime allies and declared that it would not accept blame for “any violent reaction” during the event. The Bahrain Centre for Human Rights has pledged to use the expected presence of foreign tourists and journalists to highlight human rights violations; the government’s 15 April arrest of human rights activists shows that it will try hard to prevent this.
Despite internal disagreements over the wisdom of proceeding with the Grand Prix, and amid repeated opposition calls to cancel, the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile, the Formula 1 governing body, gave its definitive go-ahead on 13 April. The regime is trying to make the competition a symbol of national unity and is banking on it symbolising a return to stability. Instead it is underscoring deep divides and risks further inflaming the situation.
The second time bomb relates to the fate of Abdulhadi Alkhawaja, a well-known human rights activist. Charged with attempting to overthrow the regime due to his participation in last year’s demonstrations, he has been on a hunger strike since 8 February to protest his conviction and obtain his release. Despite a groundswell of support for his cause in Bahrain and around the world, the regime has not relented. His death likely would spark a serious intensification in anti-regime activism.
The only path out of the current crisis is a return to dialogue and negotiations over real political reforms, much as the Bassiouni Report suggested. The regime has shown little enthusiasm for talks – not least because its Sunni supporters oppose them, fearing that any accommodation of the opposition’s proposals could jeopardise their privileged status. Both of them insist that violence must end before dialogue can begin. The opposition argues in turn that the regime is unserious about resuming talks, let alone reforms; that it torpedoed secret negotiations held in February by leaking them to the public; and that it failed to follow up on demands put forward by the opposition a month later at the government’s request.
To break this stalemate and move forward, the government should fully implement the Bassiouni Report’s recommendations, releasing all political prisoners (including Alkhawaja) and holding senior officials accountable for excessive force and torture. It also must begin reforming the security forces, ensuring they fully reflect Bahrain’s make-up by integrating members of all communities. For its part, the opposition should abjure violence more explicitly than in the past and declare its readiness to participate in a dialogue on reform without preconditions.
The alternative is a serious escalation in violence and the empowerment of hardliners on both sides. It is quite clear where such a process would begin. It is far less clear where it might end.
Photo: Al Jazeera English/Flickr
The Irish Times: Festering sore that is northern Kosovo
Not so long ago the smoke-filled La Dolce Vita bar next to Mitrovica’s flashpoint bridge was synonymous with Serb vigilantes known as “bridge watchers” whose job it was to keep ethnic Albanians out of their enclave.
Its position overlooking the Ibar river that marks the dividing line between the town’s Serb-dominated northern flank and its ethnic Albanian south provided the bar’s patrons with a birds-eye view, but also made it a target for attack. The “bridge watchers” are still there, but La Dolce Vita’s customers are now a more diverse bunch. They include university students such as Alexandra and Sasha who chain-smoke while bemoaning the lack of opportunity in this grimy former industrial town.
“We have cafes like this and nothing else,” says Alexandra. “Sometimes it feels like we have been forgotten.”
Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008 and has since been recognised by the US and 22 of the EU’s 27 member states. But the fate of the Serb-dominated pockets of northern Kosovo, whose residents effectively live as if still forming part of Serbia, remains a festering sore, while their resentment of the Pristina government continues to bubble.
Nowhere is the divide between Kosovo’s ethnic Albanian majority and its Serb minority as obvious as in the hinterland that surrounds this contested northern town. Local Serbs set up barricades and block the movement of Kosovo officials and the EU’s rule of law mission, known as Eulex.
ABC News: Syria Scuttles Truce Plan With New Demands
A U.N.-brokered plan to stop the bloodshed in Syria effectively collapsed Sunday after President Bashar Assad’s government raised new, last-minute demands that the country’s largest rebel group swiftly rejected.
The truce plan, devised by U.N.-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan, was supposed to go into effect on Tuesday, with a withdrawal of Syrian forces from population centers, followed within 48 hours by a cease-fire by both sides in the uprising against four decades of repressive rule by the Assad family.
But on Sunday, Syria’s Foreign Ministry said that ahead of any troop pullback, the government needs written guarantees from opposition fighters that they will lay down their weapons.
The commander of the rebel Free Syrian Army, Riad al-Asaad, said that while his group is ready to abide by a truce, it does not recognize the regime “and for that reason we will not give guarantees.”
Annan’s spokesman had no comment on the setback. The envoy has not said what would happen if his deadlines were ignored.
The Arab Spring, that is still blowing over the Middle East a year after it began, has had a limited impact on Jordan where a “siege mentality” is hindering much-needed reform, analysts say.
The International Crisis Group said Jordan is “dallying with reform”, triggering debate among analysts in the kingdom, but the government insists the process “is on the right track”.
"The season of Arab uprisings has not engulfed Jordan, but nor has it entirely passed the nation by," the ICG, a Brussels-based think-tank, said in a report it issued last week.
"Pillars of the regime are showing cracks, and it ultimately will have to either undertake sweeping change or experience far-reaching turmoil."
Analysts as well as the powerful opposition Islamists agree, saying the country’s rulers lack the political will to introduce reforms.
Rights groups have welcomed the guilty verdict for former Congolese militia leader Thomas Lubanga at the International Criminal Court, but say he should have faced more charges. Analysts also say the ruling could be a sign of things to come for other African ICC suspects.
Labunga was found guilty of recruiting child soldiers — under the age of 15 — during the conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo in 2002 and 2003.
And while the conviction could put him in prison for the rest of his life, rights groups say the prosecution left out some important charges.
Lubanga’s main role during the conflict was as president of the Union of Congolese Patriots (UPC), an armed political group which, backed by Ugandan forces, battled a rival ethnic group for control of the gold-rich Ituri region.
Human Rights Watch said the UPC massacred civilians, executed or tortured those they captured, and burned down villages in their path. The group says at least 60,000 people were killed across Ituri in inter-ethnic fighting.
In a statement, Amnesty International said it is “disappointed” the ICC prosecutor did not pursue other crimes Labunga’s forces are accused of, including sexual violence against girls and other civilians.
There is also the question of what impact the verdict will have in the DRC, said Thierry Vircoulon, the Central Africa Director for International Crisis Group.
“It’s a victory for the ICC, it’s definitely good news,” said Vircoulon. “I don’t know if this will impact much on Congolese politics, but it’s definitely good news for international justice.”
Vircoulon pointed out that the UPC, which began as a rebel group, is a recognized political party in the DRC.