Showing posts tagged as "conflict"

Showing posts tagged conflict

24 Jul
Israel Says That Hamas Uses Civilian Shields, Reviving Debate | Anne Barnard and Jodi Rudoren
Militant rockets can be seen launching from crowded neighborhoods, near apartment buildings, schools and hotels. Hamas fighters have set traps for Israeli soldiers in civilian homes and stored weapons in mosques and schools. Tunnels have been dug beneath private property.
With international condemnation rising over the death toll in Gaza exceeding 650 in the war’s 16th day, Israel points to its adversaries’ practice of embedding forces throughout the crowded, impoverished coastal enclave of 1.7 million people.
“Hamas uses schools, residential buildings, mosques and hospitals to fire rockets at Israeli civilians,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told his Canadian counterpart in a call over the weekend, according to a statement from Mr. Netanyahu’s office. “Hamas uses innocent civilians as a human shield for terrorist activity.”
Nothing is ever so clear in the complex and often brutal calculus of urban warfare. There is no evidence that Hamas and other militants force civilians to stay in areas that are under attack — the legal definition of a human shield under international law. But it is indisputable that Gaza militants operate in civilian areas, draw return fire to civilian structures, and on some level benefit in the diplomatic arena from the rising casualties. They also have at times encouraged residents not to flee their homes when alerted by Israel to a pending strike and, having prepared extensively for war, did not build civilian bomb shelters.
FULL ARTICLE (New York Times)
Photo: Tijen Erol/flickr

Israel Says That Hamas Uses Civilian Shields, Reviving Debate | Anne Barnard and Jodi Rudoren

Militant rockets can be seen launching from crowded neighborhoods, near apartment buildings, schools and hotels. Hamas fighters have set traps for Israeli soldiers in civilian homes and stored weapons in mosques and schools. Tunnels have been dug beneath private property.

With international condemnation rising over the death toll in Gaza exceeding 650 in the war’s 16th day, Israel points to its adversaries’ practice of embedding forces throughout the crowded, impoverished coastal enclave of 1.7 million people.

“Hamas uses schools, residential buildings, mosques and hospitals to fire rockets at Israeli civilians,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told his Canadian counterpart in a call over the weekend, according to a statement from Mr. Netanyahu’s office. “Hamas uses innocent civilians as a human shield for terrorist activity.”

Nothing is ever so clear in the complex and often brutal calculus of urban warfare. There is no evidence that Hamas and other militants force civilians to stay in areas that are under attack — the legal definition of a human shield under international law. But it is indisputable that Gaza militants operate in civilian areas, draw return fire to civilian structures, and on some level benefit in the diplomatic arena from the rising casualties. They also have at times encouraged residents not to flee their homes when alerted by Israel to a pending strike and, having prepared extensively for war, did not build civilian bomb shelters.

FULL ARTICLE (New York Times)

Photo: Tijen Erol/flickr

23 Jul
LINK

How the West Chose War in Gaza: Crisis Tied to Israeli-U.S. Effort to Isolate Hamas & Keep the Siege

Democracy Now! interviewed Crisis Group senior analyst Nathan Thrall about the current violence in Gaza, and the obstacles to ending the conflict.

22 Jul
South Sudan Ceasefire in Tatters as Rebels Try to Retake Former Headquarters | Samuel Oakford
Defying a ceasefire agreement, rebels in South Sudan launched intense attacks over the weekend on the northeast town of Nasir in an attempt to recapture their former base of operations.
“This attack is a clear violation of the Cessation of Hostilities Agreement,” the UN Mission in South Sudan said in a statement released Sunday, referring to a January pact that has been all but ignored by both sides in the conflict. Between steady eruptions of violence, the rival forces had recommitted to the pact in May and again in June.
The rebels, who became known as the “Sudan People’s Liberation Army in Opposition” after breaking away from government forces in December, were originally headquartered in Nasir, which is located in a predominantly Nuer area near the border with Ethiopia. Fighting has since fallen largely along ethnic lines, pitting mostly Dinka forces loyal to President Salva Kiir against Nuers nominally led by Riek Machar, Kiir’s former vice president.
FULL ARTICLE (VICE News)
Photo: UNHCR/flickr

South Sudan Ceasefire in Tatters as Rebels Try to Retake Former Headquarters | Samuel Oakford

Defying a ceasefire agreement, rebels in South Sudan launched intense attacks over the weekend on the northeast town of Nasir in an attempt to recapture their former base of operations.

“This attack is a clear violation of the Cessation of Hostilities Agreement,” the UN Mission in South Sudan said in a statement released Sunday, referring to a January pact that has been all but ignored by both sides in the conflict. Between steady eruptions of violence, the rival forces had recommitted to the pact in May and again in June.

The rebels, who became known as the “Sudan People’s Liberation Army in Opposition” after breaking away from government forces in December, were originally headquartered in Nasir, which is located in a predominantly Nuer area near the border with Ethiopia. Fighting has since fallen largely along ethnic lines, pitting mostly Dinka forces loyal to President Salva Kiir against Nuers nominally led by Riek Machar, Kiir’s former vice president.

FULL ARTICLE (VICE News)

Photo: UNHCR/flickr

18 Jul
How the West Chose War in Gaza | Nathan Thrall
Nathan Thrall is a senior analyst at the International Crisis Group covering Gaza, Israel, Jordan and the West Bank.
As Hamas fires rockets at Israeli cities and Israel follows up its extensive airstrikes with a ground operation in the Gaza Strip, the most immediate cause of this latest war has been ignored: Israel and much of the international community placed a prohibitive set of obstacles in the way of the Palestinian “national consensus” government that was formed in early June.
That government was created largely because of Hamas’s desperation and isolation. The group’s alliance with Syria and Iran was in shambles. Its affiliation with the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt became a liability after a July 2013 coup replaced an ally, President Mohamed Morsi, with a bitter adversary, Gen. Abdel Fattah el-Sisi. Hamas’s coffers dried up as General Sisi closed the tunnels that had brought to Gaza the goods and tax revenues on which it depended.
Seeing a region swept by popular protests against leaders who couldn’t provide for their citizens’ basic needs, Hamas opted to give up official control of Gaza rather than risk being overthrown. Despite having won the last elections, in 2006, Hamas decided to transfer formal authority to the Palestinian leadership in Ramallah. That decision led to a reconciliation agreement between Hamas and the Palestine Liberation Organization, on terms set almost entirely by the P.L.O. chairman and Palestinian Authority president, Mahmoud Abbas.
Israel immediately sought to undermine the reconciliation agreement by preventing Hamas leaders and Gaza residents from obtaining the two most essential benefits of the deal: the payment of salaries to 43,000 civil servants who worked for the Hamas government and continue to administer Gaza under the new one, and the easing of the suffocating border closures imposed by Israel and Egypt that bar most Gazans’ passage to the outside world.
Yet, in many ways, the reconciliation government could have served Israel’s interests. It offered Hamas’s political adversaries a foothold in Gaza; it was formed without a single Hamas member; it retained the same Ramallah-based prime minister, deputy prime ministers, finance minister and foreign minister; and, most important, it pledged to comply with the three conditions for Western aid long demanded by America and its European allies: nonviolence, adherence to past agreements and recognition of Israel.
Israel strongly opposed American recognition of the new government, however, and sought to isolate it internationally, seeing any small step toward Palestinian unity as a threat. Israel’s security establishment objects to the strengthening of West Bank-Gaza ties, lest Hamas raise its head in the West Bank. And Israelis who oppose a two-state solution understand that a unified Palestinian leadership is a prerequisite for any lasting peace.
Still, despite its opposition to the reconciliation agreement, Israel continued to transfer the tax revenues it collects on the Palestinian Authority’s behalf, and to work closely with the new government, especially on security cooperation.
But the key issues of paying Gaza’s civil servants and opening the border with Egypt were left to fester. The new government’s ostensible supporters, especially the United States and Europe, could have pushed Egypt to ease border restrictions, thereby demonstrating to Gazans that Hamas rule had been the cause of their isolation and impoverishment. But they did not.
Instead, after Hamas transferred authority to a government of pro-Western technocrats, life in Gaza became worse.
Qatar had offered to pay Gaza’s 43,000 civil servants, and America and Europe could have helped facilitate that. But Washington warned that American law prohibited any entity delivering payment to even one of those employees — many thousands of whom are not members of Hamas but all of whom are considered by American law to have received material support from a terrorist organization.
When a United Nations envoy offered to resolve this crisis by delivering the salaries through the United Nations, so as to exclude all parties from legal liability, the Obama administration did not assist. Instead, it stood by as Israel’s foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman, called for the envoy’s expulsion on the grounds that he was “trying to funnel money” to Hamas.
Hamas is now seeking through violence what it couldn’t obtain through a peaceful handover of responsibilities. Israel is pursuing a return to the status quo ante, when Gaza had electricity for barely eight hours a day, water was undrinkable, sewage was dumped in the sea, fuel shortages caused sanitation plants to shut down and waste sometimes floated in the streets. Patients needing medical care couldn’t reach Egyptian hospitals, and Gazans paid $3,000 bribes for a chance to exit when Egypt chose to open the border crossing.
For many Gazans, and not just Hamas supporters, it’s worth risking more bombardment and now the ground incursion, for a chance to change that unacceptable status quo. A cease-fire that fails to resolve the salary crisis and open Gaza’s border with Egypt will not last. It is unsustainable for Gaza to remain cut off from the world and administered by employees working without pay. A more generous cease-fire, though politically difficult for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, would be more durable.
The current escalation in Gaza is a direct result of the choice by Israel and the West to obstruct the implementation of the April 2014 Palestinian reconciliation agreement. The road out of the crisis is a reversal of that policy.
ORIGINAL COMMENTARY (New York Times)
Photo: Israel Defense Forces/flickr

How the West Chose War in Gaza | Nathan Thrall

Nathan Thrall is a senior analyst at the International Crisis Group covering Gaza, Israel, Jordan and the West Bank.

As Hamas fires rockets at Israeli cities and Israel follows up its extensive airstrikes with a ground operation in the Gaza Strip, the most immediate cause of this latest war has been ignored: Israel and much of the international community placed a prohibitive set of obstacles in the way of the Palestinian “national consensus” government that was formed in early June.

That government was created largely because of Hamas’s desperation and isolation. The group’s alliance with Syria and Iran was in shambles. Its affiliation with the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt became a liability after a July 2013 coup replaced an ally, President Mohamed Morsi, with a bitter adversary, Gen. Abdel Fattah el-Sisi. Hamas’s coffers dried up as General Sisi closed the tunnels that had brought to Gaza the goods and tax revenues on which it depended.

Seeing a region swept by popular protests against leaders who couldn’t provide for their citizens’ basic needs, Hamas opted to give up official control of Gaza rather than risk being overthrown. Despite having won the last elections, in 2006, Hamas decided to transfer formal authority to the Palestinian leadership in Ramallah. That decision led to a reconciliation agreement between Hamas and the Palestine Liberation Organization, on terms set almost entirely by the P.L.O. chairman and Palestinian Authority president, Mahmoud Abbas.

Israel immediately sought to undermine the reconciliation agreement by preventing Hamas leaders and Gaza residents from obtaining the two most essential benefits of the deal: the payment of salaries to 43,000 civil servants who worked for the Hamas government and continue to administer Gaza under the new one, and the easing of the suffocating border closures imposed by Israel and Egypt that bar most Gazans’ passage to the outside world.

Yet, in many ways, the reconciliation government could have served Israel’s interests. It offered Hamas’s political adversaries a foothold in Gaza; it was formed without a single Hamas member; it retained the same Ramallah-based prime minister, deputy prime ministers, finance minister and foreign minister; and, most important, it pledged to comply with the three conditions for Western aid long demanded by America and its European allies: nonviolence, adherence to past agreements and recognition of Israel.

Israel strongly opposed American recognition of the new government, however, and sought to isolate it internationally, seeing any small step toward Palestinian unity as a threat. Israel’s security establishment objects to the strengthening of West Bank-Gaza ties, lest Hamas raise its head in the West Bank. And Israelis who oppose a two-state solution understand that a unified Palestinian leadership is a prerequisite for any lasting peace.

Still, despite its opposition to the reconciliation agreement, Israel continued to transfer the tax revenues it collects on the Palestinian Authority’s behalf, and to work closely with the new government, especially on security cooperation.

But the key issues of paying Gaza’s civil servants and opening the border with Egypt were left to fester. The new government’s ostensible supporters, especially the United States and Europe, could have pushed Egypt to ease border restrictions, thereby demonstrating to Gazans that Hamas rule had been the cause of their isolation and impoverishment. But they did not.

Instead, after Hamas transferred authority to a government of pro-Western technocrats, life in Gaza became worse.

Qatar had offered to pay Gaza’s 43,000 civil servants, and America and Europe could have helped facilitate that. But Washington warned that American law prohibited any entity delivering payment to even one of those employees — many thousands of whom are not members of Hamas but all of whom are considered by American law to have received material support from a terrorist organization.

When a United Nations envoy offered to resolve this crisis by delivering the salaries through the United Nations, so as to exclude all parties from legal liability, the Obama administration did not assist. Instead, it stood by as Israel’s foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman, called for the envoy’s expulsion on the grounds that he was “trying to funnel money” to Hamas.

Hamas is now seeking through violence what it couldn’t obtain through a peaceful handover of responsibilities. Israel is pursuing a return to the status quo ante, when Gaza had electricity for barely eight hours a day, water was undrinkable, sewage was dumped in the sea, fuel shortages caused sanitation plants to shut down and waste sometimes floated in the streets. Patients needing medical care couldn’t reach Egyptian hospitals, and Gazans paid $3,000 bribes for a chance to exit when Egypt chose to open the border crossing.

For many Gazans, and not just Hamas supporters, it’s worth risking more bombardment and now the ground incursion, for a chance to change that unacceptable status quo. A cease-fire that fails to resolve the salary crisis and open Gaza’s border with Egypt will not last. It is unsustainable for Gaza to remain cut off from the world and administered by employees working without pay. A more generous cease-fire, though politically difficult for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, would be more durable.

The current escalation in Gaza is a direct result of the choice by Israel and the West to obstruct the implementation of the April 2014 Palestinian reconciliation agreement. The road out of the crisis is a reversal of that policy.

ORIGINAL COMMENTARY (New York Times)

Photo: Israel Defense Forces/flickr

17 Jul
LINK

Concessions required for resolution to Gaza Crisis

ABC’s Jim Middleton speaks with Nathan Thrall, a senior analyst with the Middle East program of the International Crisis Group, about the ongoing violence in Gaza.

16 Jul
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)
Photo: UNAMID/flickr

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)

Photo: UNAMID/flickr

14 Jul
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:
Anchoring a ceasefire in a political framework is the only way to prevent it from unravelling as fast as previous ones. No lasting arrangement can be reached without Egypt. Despite Hamas’s poor relations with Egypt, the sooner Cairo accelerates its role, the sooner the conflict can end. 
Israel should give the reconciliation agreement signed in April by Hamas and the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) a chance to work. If implemented, it offers the best chance of alleviating Gaza’s misery and therefore reducing Hamas’s incentives to fight. The U.S., along with the European Union and regional allies, should encourage the Palestinian Authority (PA) to return to the Gaza Strip and assume the responsibilities of governance. 
Hamas should ensure, in tacit cooperation with the new government, acceptance and maintenance of the ceasefire by all Palestinian factions in the Gaza Strip. 
The PA should help arrange for payment of the roughly 43,000 Gaza government employees hired under Hamas who are not receiving their salaries. PA security forces should be deployed at border crossings to facilitate the movement of goods to Gaza and of people to Israel and Egypt. 
The U.S. should continue to support the reconciliation government, and Israel should cooperate with it to resolve Gaza’s most pressing problems, including energy, water and sanitation.
“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”.
FULL REPORT

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:

  • Anchoring a ceasefire in a political framework is the only way to prevent it from unravelling as fast as previous ones. No lasting arrangement can be reached without Egypt. Despite Hamas’s poor relations with Egypt, the sooner Cairo accelerates its role, the sooner the conflict can end. 
  • Israel should give the reconciliation agreement signed in April by Hamas and the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) a chance to work. If implemented, it offers the best chance of alleviating Gaza’s misery and therefore reducing Hamas’s incentives to fight. The U.S., along with the European Union and regional allies, should encourage the Palestinian Authority (PA) to return to the Gaza Strip and assume the responsibilities of governance. 
  • Hamas should ensure, in tacit cooperation with the new government, acceptance and maintenance of the ceasefire by all Palestinian factions in the Gaza Strip. 
  • The PA should help arrange for payment of the roughly 43,000 Gaza government employees hired under Hamas who are not receiving their salaries. PA security forces should be deployed at border crossings to facilitate the movement of goods to Gaza and of people to Israel and Egypt. 
  • The U.S. should continue to support the reconciliation government, and Israel should cooperate with it to resolve Gaza’s most pressing problems, including energy, water and sanitation.

“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”.

FULL REPORT

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

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

11 Jul
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

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

10 Jul
Bosnia’s Future
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’s constitution (Annex 4 to the Dayton Peace Agreement) defines two state entities for three constituent peoples: Bosniaks, Croats and Serbs. It is based on a mix of ethnic and civic identity that is open to abuse and has led to paralysis in political and administrative institutions. The state’s political communities – self-defined groups of like-minded citizens that overlap but are not identical with the ethnically-based constituent peoples – are left without effective representation.
Bosnia needs to break from its system based on constituent peoples and implement a constitution based on a territorially defined federation, without a special role for constituent peoples but responsive to the interests of its three communities and the rights of all citizens.
The head of state should reflect Bosnia’s diversity, something a collective does better than an individual, and should be directly elected. Ethnic quotas should be abolished. Instead, representation should reflect self-defined regions and all their voters.
The ten cantons in the larger state entity, the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, are an under-performing, superfluous layer. They should be removed, together with a number of inefficient state-level agencies and institutions. The cantons should be replaced by a new form of autonomy for Croat regions, while the state will need new capacities as it prepares for European integration.
The European Union (EU) and the wider international community should support Bosnia without high-handed interventions. The UN should close the Office of the High Representative and dissolve the Peace Implementation Council. The EU should welcome a Bosnian membership application as a first step towards eventual accession.
“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”.
FULL REPORT

Bosnia’s Future

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’s constitution (Annex 4 to the Dayton Peace Agreement) defines two state entities for three constituent peoples: Bosniaks, Croats and Serbs. It is based on a mix of ethnic and civic identity that is open to abuse and has led to paralysis in political and administrative institutions. The state’s political communities – self-defined groups of like-minded citizens that overlap but are not identical with the ethnically-based constituent peoples – are left without effective representation.
  • Bosnia needs to break from its system based on constituent peoples and implement a constitution based on a territorially defined federation, without a special role for constituent peoples but responsive to the interests of its three communities and the rights of all citizens.
  • The head of state should reflect Bosnia’s diversity, something a collective does better than an individual, and should be directly elected. Ethnic quotas should be abolished. Instead, representation should reflect self-defined regions and all their voters.
  • The ten cantons in the larger state entity, the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, are an under-performing, superfluous layer. They should be removed, together with a number of inefficient state-level agencies and institutions. The cantons should be replaced by a new form of autonomy for Croat regions, while the state will need new capacities as it prepares for European integration.
  • The European Union (EU) and the wider international community should support Bosnia without high-handed interventions. The UN should close the Office of the High Representative and dissolve the Peace Implementation Council. The EU should welcome a Bosnian membership application as a first step towards eventual accession.

“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”.

FULL REPORT