Showing posts tagged as "madagascar"

Showing posts tagged madagascar

19 May
A Cosmetic End to Madagascar’s Crisis?
Africa Report N°218 | 19 May 2014
EXECUTIVE SUMMARY AND RECOMMENDATIONS
Madagascar is on the cusp of exiting a five-year political crisis compounded by economic disorder and international isolation. Presidential elections in late 2013 were endorsed as credible following the victory of Hery Rajaonarimampianina. The return to democracy paves the way for renewed international support. However, division entrenched by former President Marc Ravalomanana’s exile has polarised the country. The coup regime of Andry Rajoelina was characterised by socio-economic malaise, rampant corruption, institutional decay and the breakdown in the rule of law. The political system, which is the primary obstacle to sustained recovery, needs much more than a cosmetic makeover; fundamental reform is necessary. The African Union, Southern African Development Community and International Support Group for Madagascar must support Rajaonarimampianina’s efforts to balance political interests in a marked departure from the traditional winner-take-all approach; reform and strengthening of key democratic institutions; and reform and professionalisation of the security sector.
The elections were a major step forward, but they did nothing to resolve the underlying causes and impact of the 2009 coup. Laws and institutions matter less than personal relationships and zero-sum politics. The malleability of political alliances again came to the fore over the formation of the new government and the battle over control of the National Assembly, as independent parliamentarians gravitated toward whichever political bloc seemed closest to forming a dominant coalition. The military remains outside civilian control in one of the world’s most coup-prone countries. The political chasm between Ravalomanana and Rajoelina and their respective movements, which started the crisis, has not been bridged. Old divides remain, but are now surpassed and complicated by new mutating rivalries generated by the 2013 elections, both between political movements and within them.
Nonetheless, Madagascar is being reincorporated into the international fold, led by the African Union, which lifted its suspension shortly after the president’s inauguration in January 2014. The International Monetary Fund and World Bank have already reestablished ties, while others (notably the European Union and U.S.) have indicated that they will resume direct development assistance when a government is in place – a development that is imminent following the appointment of a new prime minister, Kolo Roger, on 11 April and the formation of a new administration on 18 April. The Southern African Development Community, which has been instrumental in chaperoning the political negotiations leading to elections, closed its liaison office in Antananarivo at the end of April, but should maintain an active presence.
Further development assistance is expected, but there is a risk that long-term political challenges will be swept aside by seemingly more pressing development concerns. Doing so would be a grave error, as structural and institutional weaknesses are the root cause of underdevelopment and cyclical political crises. A long-term development strategy that incorporates reconciliation and reform, as well as an emphasis on conflict prevention and peacebuilding, should be adopted. A post-election dispute in late 2001 and early 2002 almost triggered a civil war, and there have since been frequent military interventions in politics, including two failed coup attempts since the army brought Rajoelina to power in 2009. It would be a mistake to assume that the current government has sufficient foundations for lasting peace and stability or that elections ended the country’s fragility.
President Rajaonarimampianina faces immense challenges: establishing an inclusive government he can work with to reform the political system and culture; building institutional integrity; fostering national reconciliation; averting political misuse of the security services by addressing realistic professional demands; resuscitating development and service delivery; addressing a public health crisis (both in terms of food security and disease outbreaks); and restoring government control in the south, which is rife with bandits and weapons. Unless there is a fundamental transformation that addresses Madagascar’s structural challenges, the current period will be little more than the calm before the next inevitable storm.
RECOMMENDATIONS 
To promote reconciliation
To Madagascar’s government and political leadership:
1.  Promote a platform of shared values and goals, and an approach to cooperative governance that embraces political inclusiveness, and legislative and institutional reform; and explain, endorse and officially support the concept of a “loyal opposition”.
2.  Extend the mandate of Madagascar’s Reconciliation Council (FFM) and include the Madagascar Council of Churches (FFKM), and draw up a clear program of action covering national, regional and local spheres that should be signed by political parties, movements and individuals.
3.  Review security concerns relating to the return of former President Marc Ravalomanana and reconsider urgently his exclusion from the current amnesty process.
4.  Publicise and disseminate widely government priorities and commitments to reconciliation so as to promote civil society participation.
To the International Support Group – Madagascar, the African Union (AU) and Southern African Development Community (SADC):
5.  Provide continued and expanded support for the reconciliation process.
To tackle corruption and build institutional integrity
To Madagascar’s government:
6.  Demonstrate a clear commitment to promoting the rule of law, tackling corruption and building the capacities of, and trust in, state institutions.
7.  Support the strengthening of BIANCO, the anti-corruption agency, to investigate and prosecute high-level corruption cases.
8.  Invest in domestic capacities and re-engage with the Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative to promote accountability in key resource industries.
To the International Support Group – Madagascar, AU and SADC:
9.  Support government efforts to tackle corruption and build institutional integrity.
10.  Monitor closely adherence to rule of law and democratic practices.
To decouple the security sector from politics
To Madagascar’s government:
11.  Forbid military officers from serving in a political or civilian administrative capacity, and replace military regional governors appointed by former transitional President Rajoelina with civilians.
12.  Ensure career advancement for military officers is shielded from political manipulation and in line with international best practices.
13.  Facilitate cohesion and professionalism within the security sector, both military and gendarmerie, including through connections to AU and SADC security sector initiatives.
To Madagascar’s security service chiefs:
14.  Declare publicly and unequivocally their commitment and loyalty to the constitution and the principle of civilian oversight over the military.
To the international community, in particular the AU and SADC:
15.  Apply firm and unified pressure on these fronts.
Johannesburg/Brussels, 19 May 2014
READ THE FULL REPORT

A Cosmetic End to Madagascar’s Crisis?

Africa Report N°218 | 19 May 2014

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY AND RECOMMENDATIONS

Madagascar is on the cusp of exiting a five-year political crisis compounded by economic disorder and international isolation. Presidential elections in late 2013 were endorsed as credible following the victory of Hery Rajaonarimampianina. The return to democracy paves the way for renewed international support. However, division entrenched by former President Marc Ravalomanana’s exile has polarised the country. The coup regime of Andry Rajoelina was characterised by socio-economic malaise, rampant corruption, institutional decay and the breakdown in the rule of law. The political system, which is the primary obstacle to sustained recovery, needs much more than a cosmetic makeover; fundamental reform is necessary. The African Union, Southern African Development Community and International Support Group for Madagascar must support Rajaonarimampianina’s efforts to balance political interests in a marked departure from the traditional winner-take-all approach; reform and strengthening of key democratic institutions; and reform and professionalisation of the security sector.

The elections were a major step forward, but they did nothing to resolve the underlying causes and impact of the 2009 coup. Laws and institutions matter less than personal relationships and zero-sum politics. The malleability of political alliances again came to the fore over the formation of the new government and the battle over control of the National Assembly, as independent parliamentarians gravitated toward whichever political bloc seemed closest to forming a dominant coalition. The military remains outside civilian control in one of the world’s most coup-prone countries. The political chasm between Ravalomanana and Rajoelina and their respective movements, which started the crisis, has not been bridged. Old divides remain, but are now surpassed and complicated by new mutating rivalries generated by the 2013 elections, both between political movements and within them.

Nonetheless, Madagascar is being reincorporated into the international fold, led by the African Union, which lifted its suspension shortly after the president’s inauguration in January 2014. The International Monetary Fund and World Bank have already reestablished ties, while others (notably the European Union and U.S.) have indicated that they will resume direct development assistance when a government is in place – a development that is imminent following the appointment of a new prime minister, Kolo Roger, on 11 April and the formation of a new administration on 18 April. The Southern African Development Community, which has been instrumental in chaperoning the political negotiations leading to elections, closed its liaison office in Antananarivo at the end of April, but should maintain an active presence.

Further development assistance is expected, but there is a risk that long-term political challenges will be swept aside by seemingly more pressing development concerns. Doing so would be a grave error, as structural and institutional weaknesses are the root cause of underdevelopment and cyclical political crises. A long-term development strategy that incorporates reconciliation and reform, as well as an emphasis on conflict prevention and peacebuilding, should be adopted. A post-election dispute in late 2001 and early 2002 almost triggered a civil war, and there have since been frequent military interventions in politics, including two failed coup attempts since the army brought Rajoelina to power in 2009. It would be a mistake to assume that the current government has sufficient foundations for lasting peace and stability or that elections ended the country’s fragility.

President Rajaonarimampianina faces immense challenges: establishing an inclusive government he can work with to reform the political system and culture; building institutional integrity; fostering national reconciliation; averting political misuse of the security services by addressing realistic professional demands; resuscitating development and service delivery; addressing a public health crisis (both in terms of food security and disease outbreaks); and restoring government control in the south, which is rife with bandits and weapons. Unless there is a fundamental transformation that addresses Madagascar’s structural challenges, the current period will be little more than the calm before the next inevitable storm.

RECOMMENDATIONS 

To promote reconciliation

To Madagascar’s government and political leadership:

1.  Promote a platform of shared values and goals, and an approach to cooperative governance that embraces political inclusiveness, and legislative and institutional reform; and explain, endorse and officially support the concept of a “loyal opposition”.

2.  Extend the mandate of Madagascar’s Reconciliation Council (FFM) and include the Madagascar Council of Churches (FFKM), and draw up a clear program of action covering national, regional and local spheres that should be signed by political parties, movements and individuals.

3.  Review security concerns relating to the return of former President Marc Ravalomanana and reconsider urgently his exclusion from the current amnesty process.

4.  Publicise and disseminate widely government priorities and commitments to reconciliation so as to promote civil society participation.

To the International Support Group – Madagascar, the African Union (AU) and Southern African Development Community (SADC):

5.  Provide continued and expanded support for the reconciliation process.

To tackle corruption and build institutional integrity

To Madagascar’s government:

6.  Demonstrate a clear commitment to promoting the rule of law, tackling corruption and building the capacities of, and trust in, state institutions.

7.  Support the strengthening of BIANCO, the anti-corruption agency, to investigate and prosecute high-level corruption cases.

8.  Invest in domestic capacities and re-engage with the Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative to promote accountability in key resource industries.

To the International Support Group – Madagascar, AU and SADC:

9.  Support government efforts to tackle corruption and build institutional integrity.

10.  Monitor closely adherence to rule of law and democratic practices.

To decouple the security sector from politics

To Madagascar’s government:

11.  Forbid military officers from serving in a political or civilian administrative capacity, and replace military regional governors appointed by former transitional President Rajoelina with civilians.

12.  Ensure career advancement for military officers is shielded from political manipulation and in line with international best practices.

13.  Facilitate cohesion and professionalism within the security sector, both military and gendarmerie, including through connections to AU and SADC security sector initiatives.

To Madagascar’s security service chiefs:

14.  Declare publicly and unequivocally their commitment and loyalty to the constitution and the principle of civilian oversight over the military.

To the international community, in particular the AU and SADC:

15.  Apply firm and unified pressure on these fronts.

Johannesburg/Brussels, 19 May 2014

READ THE FULL REPORT

12 Nov
Will Madagascar’s elections end the perennial crisis? | Brian Klaas and Piers Pigou
The first round of voting in Madagascar’s post-coup election has finally come to an end. The polling was largely peaceful. Observers quickly called it “free and fair” — despite large numbers of would-be voters being excluded due to problems with the electoral lists — and hailed it as a major step on the path back to democracy.  A group of losing candidates who had been supported by former presidents Albert Zafy and Didier Ratsiraka have called for the results to be nullified, but they will have to route their complaints through the relevant election courts, which are unlikely to uphold them.
Grave risks remain, however. First round provisional results show Jean-Louis Robinson has won the first round (with 21.1 per cent of the vote) followed by Hery Rajaonarimampianina (approximately 15.9 per cent). Barring a major change in the certification of provisional results, these two candidates will advance to the second round on 20 December.
That will almost certainly heighten tensions. Robinson is the proxy candidate for the mouvance Ravalomanana, the organisation of former President Marc Ravalomanana, who hoped to run himself but remains in exile in South Africa. Rajaonarimampianina is the proxy for Andry Rajoelina, the former radio disc jockey who took power in a 2009 coup with the Malagasy army’s help.
Even if the original protagonists are not on the ballot, the proxy candidates represent four years of bottled up frustration and bitter rivalry. With the first round past, the stakes are now much higher. Defeat for either candidate could mean exile or political irrelevance, and economic marginalisation.  Added to this is growing public discontent. Since 2009, self-interested politicians have repeatedly put their own interests before those of the general populace. Madagascar has become increasingly isolated from the international community, with dire consequences for economic growth, development and human security. Lawlessness and deteriorating faith in the criminal justice system manifest in growing vigilantism. In September, a spate of minor bomb attacks in Antananarivo by the Defenders of National Sovereignty, ostensibly protesting the international community’s role in blocking the candidacies of Ravalomanana and Rajoelina, increased fears of instability.
Four years of growing tensions – and an election
Tensions between Rajoelina’s and Ravalomanana’s movements are the product of four years of bad-faith negotiations over the latter’s return. He is now also under South African investigation into alleged crimes against humanity, for which he has been convicted in absentia in Madagascar. Ravalomanana has deliberately turned down an amnesty process that was initiated as part of the transitional roadmap to elections. Although actual prosecution is unlikely, South African courts have effectively grounded him (taking his passport) and scuppered his intentions to return; in so doing, they have enabled the Southern African Development Community (SADC) to renege on its previous demand for his immediate repatriation. But even if SADC had not been involved, the Rajoelina regime was determined to prevent Ravalomanana’s return at all costs, fearing revenge and arguing his presence would be destabilising.
In January, both men agreed to an internationally brokered pledge not to stand as candidates and to accept a “cooling off” period for the good of the country. But at the same time, Ravalomanana brokered a deal through SADC to allow his wife, Lalao, to return to care for her ailing mother. Once back in the country, she announced her presidential candidacy, prompting Rajoelina to claim the “ni-ni” (“neither Ravalomanana nor Rajoelina”) deal was off and that he would be running.
Surprisingly, both Laloa Ravalomanana and Rajoelina were approved as candidates by the electoral court, along with former president Didier Ratsiraka, even though none met the eligibility criteria; neither Ratsiraka nor Ravalomanana had been resident for six months prior to submitting candidate registration papers, and Rajoelina submitted his application after the deadline. In response, the international community withdrew its support—and critically, its election funding—to protest this clear electoral law violation. They demanded the candidates withdraw or that there be a new ruling by the court.
Nothing happened as the timeline for elections in June drew near and passed, with elections rescheduled for August. Then an International Contact Group for Madagascar meeting, in Addis Ababa in late June, witnessed an unprecedented push behind African Union and SADC efforts. (Critics claimed Madagascar’s sovereignty was being violated: SADC’s criticism of the electoral court appeared much more stringent than its more diplomatic positioning on Zimbabwe’s controversial constitutional-court decision to fast-track polls there.) As we described in October, The reconstituted electoral court re-convened and issued a surprise ruling disqualifying Ravalomanana, Rajoelina, former president Didier Ratsiraka and three minor candidates.
The principals’ exclusion resulted in a showdown between proxy candidates. To cynics, this is old wine in new bottles. To optimists, it is an opportunity for new political growth, without the emotional attachments that have become so palpable in the four year-long Ravalomanana-Rajoelina showdown.
Despite a smooth first round, there are no institutional guarantees or candidate pledges to accept the runoff results. Lip service continues to be paid to the interests of ordinary Malagasies, but it is the dynamics within and between the political and business elites and the security services that will ultimately determine the outcome.
On to the second round
Madagascar has a history of large-scale protests when power is at stake. Street-level protests culminated in the 2009 coup, and a similar series of events could sprout from a manipulated or just badly managed election. Furthermore, even if the runoff proceeds smoothly there is a high risk the loser will call on supporters to turn to the streets or ask allies within the military to step in.
The Defenders of National Sovereignty attacks make matters worse. While it is unclear whether the group backs a particular candidate or mouvance, the crude explosive devices (they caused minimal damage and one bombmaker accidentally killed himself) have exacerbated the insecurity. Understandable fears could keep voter turnout in the second round low and thus reduce the legitimacy of the result.
All in all, the chance of a smooth second round acceptable to all Malagasies as legitimate is remote.  How they respond to irregularities will determine whether the country is plunged back into crisis. The logistical problems of holding a vote on a large island with poor infrastructure heighten this risk. Many ballots must be transported overland, an enormous logistical exercise—in the first round, provisional results were not announced until 8 November, two full weeks after voting. Some ballot boxes will have to be left unguarded, as there are not enough security personnel to oversee the almost 20,000 polling locations. Only about one in five stations will have security.
The international community in general should insist that, whatever happens after the second round, the rights of the losing candidate are respected.  Madagascar’s last two transfers of power have involved forced exile. Were defeated candidates to know they would be allowed to stay in Madagascar and might even have a voice in the new government, the electoral temperature would be lowered.
The international community should also use its influence to calm the military, which has acted as an interventionist kingmaker and could again. While a takeover appears unlikely, the 2009 coup was sparked by a minor mutiny by mid-level soldiers that prompted the involvement of more senior officers. Similar dynamics could arise again, particularly if mass protests get out of control and deteriorating security justifies intervention. Such a scenario is unlikely to result in a military regime — the army historically has conferred power on its preferred civilian –  but would most likely lead to further international isolation and continued crisis.
These concerns are hard to manage and tricky to mitigate. Yet the international community must engage and attempt to prevent a post-electoral crisis. The December vote represents a genuine opportunity for a more hopeful and inclusive political order. This is only possible if support continues beyond the elections and translates into genuine efforts to build responsive, accountable state institutions and promote political and economic policies that spread benefits beyond the narrow elite. It’s a tall order in a country where political fault lines and poor governance are entrenched. But there is still hope that Madagascar’s elections will herald a new chapter in the country’s troubled history.
FULL ARTICLE (Crisis Group Blogs)
Photo: Reuters

Will Madagascar’s elections end the perennial crisis? | Brian Klaas and Piers Pigou

The first round of voting in Madagascar’s post-coup election has finally come to an end. The polling was largely peaceful. Observers quickly called it “free and fair” — despite large numbers of would-be voters being excluded due to problems with the electoral lists — and hailed it as a major step on the path back to democracy.  A group of losing candidates who had been supported by former presidents Albert Zafy and Didier Ratsiraka have called for the results to be nullified, but they will have to route their complaints through the relevant election courts, which are unlikely to uphold them.

Grave risks remain, however. First round provisional results show Jean-Louis Robinson has won the first round (with 21.1 per cent of the vote) followed by Hery Rajaonarimampianina (approximately 15.9 per cent). Barring a major change in the certification of provisional results, these two candidates will advance to the second round on 20 December.

That will almost certainly heighten tensions. Robinson is the proxy candidate for the mouvance Ravalomanana, the organisation of former President Marc Ravalomanana, who hoped to run himself but remains in exile in South Africa. Rajaonarimampianina is the proxy for Andry Rajoelina, the former radio disc jockey who took power in a 2009 coup with the Malagasy army’s help.

Even if the original protagonists are not on the ballot, the proxy candidates represent four years of bottled up frustration and bitter rivalry. With the first round past, the stakes are now much higher. Defeat for either candidate could mean exile or political irrelevance, and economic marginalisation.  Added to this is growing public discontent. Since 2009, self-interested politicians have repeatedly put their own interests before those of the general populace. Madagascar has become increasingly isolated from the international community, with dire consequences for economic growth, development and human security. Lawlessness and deteriorating faith in the criminal justice system manifest in growing vigilantism. In September, a spate of minor bomb attacks in Antananarivo by the Defenders of National Sovereignty, ostensibly protesting the international community’s role in blocking the candidacies of Ravalomanana and Rajoelina, increased fears of instability.

Four years of growing tensions – and an election

Tensions between Rajoelina’s and Ravalomanana’s movements are the product of four years of bad-faith negotiations over the latter’s return. He is now also under South African investigation into alleged crimes against humanity, for which he has been convicted in absentia in Madagascar. Ravalomanana has deliberately turned down an amnesty process that was initiated as part of the transitional roadmap to elections. Although actual prosecution is unlikely, South African courts have effectively grounded him (taking his passport) and scuppered his intentions to return; in so doing, they have enabled the Southern African Development Community (SADC) to renege on its previous demand for his immediate repatriation. But even if SADC had not been involved, the Rajoelina regime was determined to prevent Ravalomanana’s return at all costs, fearing revenge and arguing his presence would be destabilising.

In January, both men agreed to an internationally brokered pledge not to stand as candidates and to accept a “cooling off” period for the good of the country. But at the same time, Ravalomanana brokered a deal through SADC to allow his wife, Lalao, to return to care for her ailing mother. Once back in the country, she announced her presidential candidacy, prompting Rajoelina to claim the “ni-ni” (“neither Ravalomanana nor Rajoelina”) deal was off and that he would be running.

Surprisingly, both Laloa Ravalomanana and Rajoelina were approved as candidates by the electoral court, along with former president Didier Ratsiraka, even though none met the eligibility criteria; neither Ratsiraka nor Ravalomanana had been resident for six months prior to submitting candidate registration papers, and Rajoelina submitted his application after the deadline. In response, the international community withdrew its support—and critically, its election funding—to protest this clear electoral law violation. They demanded the candidates withdraw or that there be a new ruling by the court.

Nothing happened as the timeline for elections in June drew near and passed, with elections rescheduled for August. Then an International Contact Group for Madagascar meeting, in Addis Ababa in late June, witnessed an unprecedented push behind African Union and SADC efforts. (Critics claimed Madagascar’s sovereignty was being violated: SADC’s criticism of the electoral court appeared much more stringent than its more diplomatic positioning on Zimbabwe’s controversial constitutional-court decision to fast-track polls there.) As we described in October, The reconstituted electoral court re-convened and issued a surprise ruling disqualifying Ravalomanana, Rajoelina, former president Didier Ratsiraka and three minor candidates.

The principals’ exclusion resulted in a showdown between proxy candidates. To cynics, this is old wine in new bottles. To optimists, it is an opportunity for new political growth, without the emotional attachments that have become so palpable in the four year-long Ravalomanana-Rajoelina showdown.

Despite a smooth first round, there are no institutional guarantees or candidate pledges to accept the runoff results. Lip service continues to be paid to the interests of ordinary Malagasies, but it is the dynamics within and between the political and business elites and the security services that will ultimately determine the outcome.

On to the second round

Madagascar has a history of large-scale protests when power is at stake. Street-level protests culminated in the 2009 coup, and a similar series of events could sprout from a manipulated or just badly managed election. Furthermore, even if the runoff proceeds smoothly there is a high risk the loser will call on supporters to turn to the streets or ask allies within the military to step in.

The Defenders of National Sovereignty attacks make matters worse. While it is unclear whether the group backs a particular candidate or mouvance, the crude explosive devices (they caused minimal damage and one bombmaker accidentally killed himself) have exacerbated the insecurity. Understandable fears could keep voter turnout in the second round low and thus reduce the legitimacy of the result.

All in all, the chance of a smooth second round acceptable to all Malagasies as legitimate is remote.  How they respond to irregularities will determine whether the country is plunged back into crisis. The logistical problems of holding a vote on a large island with poor infrastructure heighten this risk. Many ballots must be transported overland, an enormous logistical exercise—in the first round, provisional results were not announced until 8 November, two full weeks after voting. Some ballot boxes will have to be left unguarded, as there are not enough security personnel to oversee the almost 20,000 polling locations. Only about one in five stations will have security.

The international community in general should insist that, whatever happens after the second round, the rights of the losing candidate are respected.  Madagascar’s last two transfers of power have involved forced exile. Were defeated candidates to know they would be allowed to stay in Madagascar and might even have a voice in the new government, the electoral temperature would be lowered.

The international community should also use its influence to calm the military, which has acted as an interventionist kingmaker and could again. While a takeover appears unlikely, the 2009 coup was sparked by a minor mutiny by mid-level soldiers that prompted the involvement of more senior officers. Similar dynamics could arise again, particularly if mass protests get out of control and deteriorating security justifies intervention. Such a scenario is unlikely to result in a military regime — the army historically has conferred power on its preferred civilian –  but would most likely lead to further international isolation and continued crisis.

These concerns are hard to manage and tricky to mitigate. Yet the international community must engage and attempt to prevent a post-electoral crisis. The December vote represents a genuine opportunity for a more hopeful and inclusive political order. This is only possible if support continues beyond the elections and translates into genuine efforts to build responsive, accountable state institutions and promote political and economic policies that spread benefits beyond the narrow elite. It’s a tall order in a country where political fault lines and poor governance are entrenched. But there is still hope that Madagascar’s elections will herald a new chapter in the country’s troubled history.

FULL ARTICLE (Crisis Group Blogs)

Photo: Reuters

3 Jun
CrisisWatch N°118  |  (01 Jun 2013)
The Syrian crisis continues to draw in its neighbours, threatening to set off a wider regional conflict. Israel launched its first major strike inside Syria, sending jets reportedly to target Iranian missiles bound for Hizbollah. The Syrian regime threatened to retaliate immediately and harshly to any further attack, and to turn the Golan Heights into a new front against Israel. The EU lifted its arms embargo on Syria but said there were no immediate plans to arm the rebels. Russia’s decision to honour its 2010 contract to deliver S-300 anti-aircraft missiles to the Assad regime prompted calls from the U.S., France and Israel to reconsider. Israel’s defence minister suggested Israel could resort to force to prevent delivery of the weapons. The U.S. and Russia agreed to convene a new peace conference in Geneva in June, but it remains uncertain whether the parties will come to seek compromise. (See our recent commentary in French).
Lebanon is becoming ever more deeply implicated in the Syrian conflict. Hizbollah extended more overt and extensive military support to the Syrian regime, including fighting against rebels in al-Qusayr near the Lebanese border, and for the first time openly declaring its military support to the regime. Lebanese Sunni Islamists are increasingly backing Syria’s rebels. Tensions increased within Lebanon, with sectarian violence between Sunnis and Alawites in Tripoli reaching levels not seen since the country’s civil war.
In Iraq more than a thousand people were killed in sectarian attacks and bombings fuelled by the country’s deepening political crisis, making May the country’s deadliest month in five years. Hopes for a political breakthrough faded as Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and parliamentary speaker Osama al-Nujaifi blamed each other for mounting violence. The government’s crackdown on Sunni protesters continued to spur a re-emerging insurgency and retaliatory attacks, leaving the country again teetering on the brink of civil conflict.
In Bahrain the Shiite opposition al-Wifaq announced its withdrawal from the National Dialogue for two weeks after government security forces raided the house of the most prominent Shiite cleric Issa Qassem. In the face of political impasse, al-Wifaq called for intensified protests ahead of polls scheduled for next year.
In Madagascar, presidential elections scheduled for July and intended to end four years of political deadlock were postponed after transitional president Andry Rajoelina refused to step down ahead of polling, violating the electoral law. The September 2011 transition roadmap appeared to be unravelling as former first lady Lalao Ravalomanana, Rajoelina and former president Didier Ratsiraka all announced that they would contest the election, and the electoral court validated their applications. Rajoelina and Ratsiraka had pledged not to run, while Lalao Ravalomanana’s candidacy is widely viewed as a proxy for her husband, former president Marc Ravalomanana, who had also promised not to compete. The African Union and the Southern African Development Community said they would not recognise the outcome of the elections should any of these candidates win, and the UN said its continued support is contingent on compliance with the roadmap.
Protests against Kyrgyzstan’s largest gold mine escalated and took a violent turn in late May. Protesters demanding an end to alleged environmental pollution from operations at the mine and calling for it to be nationalised blocked the road to the mine and cut off power. The government declared a state of emergency after police clashed with some 3,000 protesters who were attempting to storm mining company offices. The mine is one of Kyrgyzstan’s biggest sources of foreign earnings, and disruption to its operations could damage the country’s faltering economy. Despite the protesters’ environmental demands, much of the unrest appears to have been organised by the nationalist Ata Jurt party. Protestors in the southern city of Jalal-Abad seized government buildings demanding the release of three jailed Ata Jurt members.
In a boost to Colombia’s peace process, the government and the FARC, or Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, announced on 26 May that they had reached an agreement on rural development, the first agenda item in peace talks which began over six months ago (see our recent blog post). President Juan Manuel Santos said that the four main points include access to and use of land, rural development programs, health and education for the rural poor, and food security. The talks will now turn to political participation. Hopes that peace talks with Colombia’s second guerrilla group the ELN (National Liberation Army) would begin in May suffered a setback, however, when the ELN killed eleven soldiers in an ambush in Norte de Santander.
In Myanmar the government and the Kachin Independence Organisation agreed a seven-point peace pact at the end of the month. The talks, convened for first time in the government-controlled capital of Kachin state, had previously been in deadlock. The deal means that in principle hostilities with all major armed groups in the country have stopped. Crisis Group identifies a Conflict Resolution Opportunity for Myanmar. The month also saw the Rakhine State government announce it was reactivating an earlier local directive imposing a two-child limit for families in Muslim-majority areas of the state, prompting local and international condemnation. There was a further outbreak of Buddhist-on-Muslim violence at the end of the month, this time in the northern town Lashio; one person was reported killed (see our recent blog post and commentary).
FULL CRISISWATCH
Photo: James Gordon/Flickr

CrisisWatch N°118  |  (01 Jun 2013)

The Syrian crisis continues to draw in its neighbours, threatening to set off a wider regional conflict. Israel launched its first major strike inside Syria, sending jets reportedly to target Iranian missiles bound for Hizbollah. The Syrian regime threatened to retaliate immediately and harshly to any further attack, and to turn the Golan Heights into a new front against Israel. The EU lifted its arms embargo on Syria but said there were no immediate plans to arm the rebels. Russia’s decision to honour its 2010 contract to deliver S-300 anti-aircraft missiles to the Assad regime prompted calls from the U.S., France and Israel to reconsider. Israel’s defence minister suggested Israel could resort to force to prevent delivery of the weapons. The U.S. and Russia agreed to convene a new peace conference in Geneva in June, but it remains uncertain whether the parties will come to seek compromise. (See our recent commentary in French).

Lebanon is becoming ever more deeply implicated in the Syrian conflict. Hizbollah extended more overt and extensive military support to the Syrian regime, including fighting against rebels in al-Qusayr near the Lebanese border, and for the first time openly declaring its military support to the regime. Lebanese Sunni Islamists are increasingly backing Syria’s rebels. Tensions increased within Lebanon, with sectarian violence between Sunnis and Alawites in Tripoli reaching levels not seen since the country’s civil war.

In Iraq more than a thousand people were killed in sectarian attacks and bombings fuelled by the country’s deepening political crisis, making May the country’s deadliest month in five years. Hopes for a political breakthrough faded as Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and parliamentary speaker Osama al-Nujaifi blamed each other for mounting violence. The government’s crackdown on Sunni protesters continued to spur a re-emerging insurgency and retaliatory attacks, leaving the country again teetering on the brink of civil conflict.

In Bahrain the Shiite opposition al-Wifaq announced its withdrawal from the National Dialogue for two weeks after government security forces raided the house of the most prominent Shiite cleric Issa Qassem. In the face of political impasse, al-Wifaq called for intensified protests ahead of polls scheduled for next year.

In Madagascar, presidential elections scheduled for July and intended to end four years of political deadlock were postponed after transitional president Andry Rajoelina refused to step down ahead of polling, violating the electoral law. The September 2011 transition roadmap appeared to be unravelling as former first lady Lalao Ravalomanana, Rajoelina and former president Didier Ratsiraka all announced that they would contest the election, and the electoral court validated their applications. Rajoelina and Ratsiraka had pledged not to run, while Lalao Ravalomanana’s candidacy is widely viewed as a proxy for her husband, former president Marc Ravalomanana, who had also promised not to compete. The African Union and the Southern African Development Community said they would not recognise the outcome of the elections should any of these candidates win, and the UN said its continued support is contingent on compliance with the roadmap.

Protests against Kyrgyzstan’s largest gold mine escalated and took a violent turn in late May. Protesters demanding an end to alleged environmental pollution from operations at the mine and calling for it to be nationalised blocked the road to the mine and cut off power. The government declared a state of emergency after police clashed with some 3,000 protesters who were attempting to storm mining company offices. The mine is one of Kyrgyzstan’s biggest sources of foreign earnings, and disruption to its operations could damage the country’s faltering economy. Despite the protesters’ environmental demands, much of the unrest appears to have been organised by the nationalist Ata Jurt party. Protestors in the southern city of Jalal-Abad seized government buildings demanding the release of three jailed Ata Jurt members.

In a boost to Colombia’s peace process, the government and the FARC, or Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, announced on 26 May that they had reached an agreement on rural development, the first agenda item in peace talks which began over six months ago (see our recent blog post). President Juan Manuel Santos said that the four main points include access to and use of land, rural development programs, health and education for the rural poor, and food security. The talks will now turn to political participation. Hopes that peace talks with Colombia’s second guerrilla group the ELN (National Liberation Army) would begin in May suffered a setback, however, when the ELN killed eleven soldiers in an ambush in Norte de Santander.

In Myanmar the government and the Kachin Independence Organisation agreed a seven-point peace pact at the end of the month. The talks, convened for first time in the government-controlled capital of Kachin state, had previously been in deadlock. The deal means that in principle hostilities with all major armed groups in the country have stopped. Crisis Group identifies a Conflict Resolution Opportunity for Myanmar. The month also saw the Rakhine State government announce it was reactivating an earlier local directive imposing a two-child limit for families in Muslim-majority areas of the state, prompting local and international condemnation. There was a further outbreak of Buddhist-on-Muslim violence at the end of the month, this time in the northern town Lashio; one person was reported killed (see our recent blog post and commentary).

FULL CRISISWATCH

Photo: James Gordon/Flickr

5 Aug

CrisisWatch N°108, 2 August 2012

This month’s podcast reviews developments for the month of July, highlighting deteriorated situations in India, Madagascar, Mali, Syria and Tajikistan.

1 Aug

CrisisWatch N°108

Tajikistan saw fighting erupt around Khorog – the regional capital of the autonomous province of Gorno Badakhshan – following the killing of the regional head of the State Committee for National Security (GKNB) General Abdullo Nazarov. The government quickly blamed the murder on fighters loyal to former opposition fighter and Ishkoshim District border-guard chief Tolib Ayombekov, imposing a media-blackout and launching a large-scale security operation which has reportedly caused scores of fatalities, including civilians.

In Syria, fierce fighting spread to the centres of Aleppo and Damascus for the first time since the beginning of the uprising, prompting government airstrikes and forcing thousands to flee to neighbouring countries. Rebels also extended their control over many rural areas, including several crossings on the Iraqi and Turkish borders. The Assad regime suffered the high-profile assassination of 4 senior security officials in Damascus, in addition to a number of increasingly high-profile defections.

The transition remained stalled in Mali, despite the return of interim President Traoré and the announcement of new transitional institutions. Prime Minister Modibo Diarra refused to resign and the military junta continues to interfere in the government’s internal affairs. Meanwhile, with the threat of foreign military intervention looming, Islamist hardliners consolidated their grip over the country’s north, ousting Tuareg rebels from their last stronghold in the region.

Political tensions intensified in Madagascar following the failure of bitter rivals President Rajoelina and former president Ravalomanana to resolve outstanding issues in the elections roadmap ahead of the Southern African Development Community’s 31 July deadline. A failed mutiny by disgruntled soldiers on the outskirts of Antananarivo demonstrated the growing impatience of many with the political process. It appears increasingly likely that elections scheduled for November will be delayed.

In India, the north-eastern state of Assam saw renewed bouts of ethnic violence, ending nearly three years of relative calm. Clashes broke out after four Bodo youths were killed, provoking retaliation against neighboring Muslim communities and igniting a spiral of violence which has so far claimed the lives of some 60 people.

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