Showing posts tagged as "military"

Showing posts tagged military

8 Oct
Countering terrorism must go beyond international law enforcement | COMFORT ERO
The UN Security Council’s resolution on combating foreign terrorist fighters devotes just 31 of its 330 lines to addressing the roots of the problem. The rest is law enforcement. But a narrowly military and police focus alone cannot work. We also must face up to the difficult work of balancing international and regional diplomatic rivalries, thereby reducing the conflicts and tensions that lead to radicalization. Terrorism is usually a symptom of social breakdown rather than its cause, and states that have taken a narrowly military rather than more comprehensive approach often have little to show for it.
In Nigeria, for instance, the government has never addressed the governance, underdevelopment and rampant corruption driving radicalization, choosing instead to “do something” through military surges that drive more people into the hands of jihadi extremists. Yet, just as the expensively built new Iraqi army was pushed out of Mosul by a few thousand fighters, Nigeria’s military is now threatened in Borno state.
FULL ARTICLE (Today’s Zaman)
Photo: UN Photo/Stuart Price/flickr

Countering terrorism must go beyond international law enforcement | COMFORT ERO

The UN Security Council’s resolution on combating foreign terrorist fighters devotes just 31 of its 330 lines to addressing the roots of the problem. The rest is law enforcement. But a narrowly military and police focus alone cannot work. We also must face up to the difficult work of balancing international and regional diplomatic rivalries, thereby reducing the conflicts and tensions that lead to radicalization. Terrorism is usually a symptom of social breakdown rather than its cause, and states that have taken a narrowly military rather than more comprehensive approach often have little to show for it.

In Nigeria, for instance, the government has never addressed the governance, underdevelopment and rampant corruption driving radicalization, choosing instead to “do something” through military surges that drive more people into the hands of jihadi extremists. Yet, just as the expensively built new Iraqi army was pushed out of Mosul by a few thousand fighters, Nigeria’s military is now threatened in Borno state.

FULL ARTICLE (Today’s Zaman)

Photo: UN Photo/Stuart Price/flickr

20 Aug
Al-Shabab: A Close Look at East Africa’s Deadliest Radicals | Peter Dörrie
More than any other organization, Harakat al-Shabab al-Mujahedeen, widely known as al-Shabab, has left its mark on the recent history of Somalia. Political and radical Islam have a long history in the country, but no group has survived longer than al-Shabab, and no group has emerged stronger from challenges and setbacks.
More than any other actor involved in the two-decade-old Somali conflict, al-Shabab has demonstrated its ability to adapt. Today, the group has emerged from an existential crisis and looks stronger than it has in years. Though al-Shabab is often referred to as simply a “terrorist group,” the term does not accurately describe the range of the group’s activities. As perhaps the most important spoiler on Somalia’s way toward peace, al-Shabab’s current situation warrants an assessment.
FULL ARTICLE (World Politics Review)
Photo: Rick Scavetta, U.S. Army Africa/flickr

Al-Shabab: A Close Look at East Africa’s Deadliest Radicals | Peter Dörrie

More than any other organization, Harakat al-Shabab al-Mujahedeen, widely known as al-Shabab, has left its mark on the recent history of Somalia. Political and radical Islam have a long history in the country, but no group has survived longer than al-Shabab, and no group has emerged stronger from challenges and setbacks.

More than any other actor involved in the two-decade-old Somali conflict, al-Shabab has demonstrated its ability to adapt. Today, the group has emerged from an existential crisis and looks stronger than it has in years. Though al-Shabab is often referred to as simply a “terrorist group,” the term does not accurately describe the range of the group’s activities. As perhaps the most important spoiler on Somalia’s way toward peace, al-Shabab’s current situation warrants an assessment.

FULL ARTICLE (World Politics Review)

Photo: Rick Scavetta, U.S. Army Africa/flickr

7 Aug
Risks of Intelligence Pathologies in South Korea
Seoul/Brussels  |   5 Aug 2014
In the shadow of growing North Korean threats, South Korea needs to reform its intelligence apparatus to restore public confidence while enhancing the country’s intelligence capacity.
A series of intelligence scandals has plagued South Korea since the fall of 2012, exposing the risk of intelligence failure, the politicisation of intelligence and direct intervention by intelligence agencies in domestic politics. In its latest report, Risks of Intelligence Pathologies in South Korea, the International Crisis Group examines measures needed to reduce those vulnerabilities and explains why failure or manipulation of intelligence in South Korea could have serious consequences for security on the peninsula and beyond.
The report’s major findings and recommendations are:
With both Koreas ramping up their military capabilities, sound intelligence is crucial to manage tensions and reduce the risk of conflict, or to respond effectively if a crisis erupts. Should intelligence failure lead to military conflict, the costs would be enormous. Due to South Korea’s defence treaty with the U.S., it would trigger immediate U.S. involvement. A similar treaty between North Korea and China could elicit Chinese military intervention. Moreover, sound intelligence is needed for non-conflict scenarios, such as the North’s collapse or a humanitarian crisis.
Four broad reforms, independently identified by the main opposition party and the former National Intelligence Service (NIS) director, need to be implemented: 1) ending the embedding of NIS officers in South Korean institutions such as political parties, the legislature, ministries and media firms; 2) establishing greater oversight to ensure intelligence officers obey the law; 3) providing greater protection for whistle-blowers; and 4) restricting cyberspace operations to North Korean entities and not South Korean citizens or institutions.
These should be complemented by institutional reforms. Criminal investigation powers held by the NIS should be transferred to the Supreme Prosecutors Office. NIS directors should receive confirmation from the National Assembly’s Intelligence Committee following presidential nomination. Consideration could be given to forming special courts to handle sensitive national security cases while ensuring appropriate respect for due process.
“South Korea’s ability to use tactical intelligence will be vitally important during a crisis or escalation. But it is no less important for other scenarios,” says Daniel Pinkston, Deputy North East Asia Project Director. “In case of a North Korean state collapse and a sudden unification, Seoul would have to make quick decisions to prevent a rapid deterioration of the situation”.
FULL REPORT

Risks of Intelligence Pathologies in South Korea

Seoul/Brussels  |   5 Aug 2014

In the shadow of growing North Korean threats, South Korea needs to reform its intelligence apparatus to restore public confidence while enhancing the country’s intelligence capacity.

A series of intelligence scandals has plagued South Korea since the fall of 2012, exposing the risk of intelligence failure, the politicisation of intelligence and direct intervention by intelligence agencies in domestic politics. In its latest report, Risks of Intelligence Pathologies in South Korea, the International Crisis Group examines measures needed to reduce those vulnerabilities and explains why failure or manipulation of intelligence in South Korea could have serious consequences for security on the peninsula and beyond.

The report’s major findings and recommendations are:

  • With both Koreas ramping up their military capabilities, sound intelligence is crucial to manage tensions and reduce the risk of conflict, or to respond effectively if a crisis erupts. Should intelligence failure lead to military conflict, the costs would be enormous. Due to South Korea’s defence treaty with the U.S., it would trigger immediate U.S. involvement. A similar treaty between North Korea and China could elicit Chinese military intervention. Moreover, sound intelligence is needed for non-conflict scenarios, such as the North’s collapse or a humanitarian crisis.
  • Four broad reforms, independently identified by the main opposition party and the former National Intelligence Service (NIS) director, need to be implemented: 1) ending the embedding of NIS officers in South Korean institutions such as political parties, the legislature, ministries and media firms; 2) establishing greater oversight to ensure intelligence officers obey the law; 3) providing greater protection for whistle-blowers; and 4) restricting cyberspace operations to North Korean entities and not South Korean citizens or institutions.
  • These should be complemented by institutional reforms. Criminal investigation powers held by the NIS should be transferred to the Supreme Prosecutors Office. NIS directors should receive confirmation from the National Assembly’s Intelligence Committee following presidential nomination. Consideration could be given to forming special courts to handle sensitive national security cases while ensuring appropriate respect for due process.

“South Korea’s ability to use tactical intelligence will be vitally important during a crisis or escalation. But it is no less important for other scenarios,” says Daniel Pinkston, Deputy North East Asia Project Director. “In case of a North Korean state collapse and a sudden unification, Seoul would have to make quick decisions to prevent a rapid deterioration of the situation”.

FULL REPORT

3 Jul
A difficult way forward in Egypt
Cairo/Brussels | 3 Jul 2013
As Egypt teeters on the verge of a catastrophic confrontation, it is difficult to discern who has been more short-sighted: an arrogant Muslim Brotherhood that misread electoral gains for a political blank-check or a reckless opposition that has appeared ready to sink the country in order to bring down the Islamists and whose criteria for ousting the president – generalised incompetence and wide unpopularity – could send many presidents packing. The priority today must be to avoid further bloodshed. It is, too, to ensure that the next chapter in Egypt’s troubled transition, unlike the last, is inclusive and consensual. The alternative is to continue with exclusionary, confrontational politics, albeit with greater violence with only a change of characters at the helm. 
Egypt’s profound divisions rarely have been on starker display than these past days. Millions took to the streets on 30 June to demand President Mohammed Morsi’s departure; smaller, yet still large numbers responded to insist on his remaining in office. From all sides has come talk of blood and martyrdom – from the Brotherhood, the youth-initiated Tamarrud (Rebellion) and the army itself. The forceful removal of the nation’s first democratically-elected civilian president risks sending a message to Islamists that they have no place in the political order; sowing fears among them that they will suffer yet another bloody crackdown; and thus potentially prompting violent, even desperate resistance by Morsi’s followers.
The current crisis to a large extent is the product of a fundamentally flawed political transition. Political actors were unable to reach basic agreement on rules of the game or the desired political system, instead proceeding with a winner-take-all mentality that was sure to alienate – and frighten –losers. Instead of consultations and consensus-building, elections and referendums – in which an organisationally superior Muslim Brotherhood excelled – became arbiters of an ever-more polarised political stand-off. As Egypt moved from one electoral contest to another, Islamists perceived their successive, though sometimes narrow, victories as mandates to shape the nascent polity as they deemed fit, overlooking the need to share power. Dismissing their admittedly ineffective opposition, they instead focused on trying to either sideline (in the case of the judiciary) or co-opt (in the case of the security sector) state actors they deemed more important, and thus potentially more threatening. This was a grave mistake.
Non-Islamists suffered from the opposite malady, viewing election results as altogether meaningless, demanding oftentimes disproportionate representation in decision-making bodies; challenging the basic principle of popular will; and yielding to the growing temptation of extra-institutional means, be it street agitation or calls for judicial or military intervention. All of which gave rise to this most incongruous of sights – a purportedly liberal, democratic opposition openly calling on the army to step in and cut short the term of the country’s first democratically-elected leader. This could prove a no less serious blunder and a dangerous precedent.
It is hard to know what ultimately pushed the military – which for some time had sought to avoid direct political involvement – to enter the fray as blatantly as it did on 1 July when, though ambiguous as to precise meaning, it essentially ordered the president to yield to critics’ demands or face the consequences. The president’s inability to achieve political consensus, address the economic mess, reassure the judiciary or establish law and order all played a part as might have signs – such as the appointment as governor of Luxor of a member of a militant group or Morsi’s overt support for calls for jihad against the Syrian regime – that the president was veering toward a more overtly Islamist agenda. At bottom, however, the army and security sector as a whole never felt fully at ease with an Islamist commander-in-chief, the president’s efforts to placate them notwithstanding. 
Other state institutions have long awaited a chance to settle scores, and the massive 30 June turnout provided it. This was the case for the judiciary, which the president and his allies repeatedly had sought to reform and restructure, notably by threatening judges with early retirement on grounds that they were Mubarak-era holdovers. Anger at the Brotherhood ran even deeper within the police, which from the start has seen itself as the unjust victims of the 2011 uprising and could not fathom being ruled by the Islamists they used to suppress and arrest. As a result, a president routinely accused by his critics of engineering a power grab ended up with little power over any of the state institutions that really mattered.
Indications strongly point in the worrying direction of heavy-handed military intervention that, at a minimum, is reversing gains made in terms of a free press and rights of political participation. It reportedly has taken control of state media outlets, censoring footage of pro-Morsi demonstrations aired by private satellite channels. Muslim Brotherhood offices have routinely been torched and vandalised without any effort by the police to defend them and pro-Morsi rallies have come under repeated armed attacks by unknown assailants. As for the future political process, the military announced suspension of the constitution coupled with early presidential and parliamentary elections and named the head of the Supreme Constitutional Court as interim president. 
If the status quo was unsustainable, a hard turn toward military control, even if exercised indirectly, would be ominous. A successful second transition must be based on a truly inclusive approach – which, this time around, means one that encompasses Islamists of all stripes, including the Muslim Brotherhood. An attempt to crack down on Islamists and deprive them of their political rights– coupled with restrictions on the media and the like – would be a cure worse than the ill, almost certainly driving Islamist groups underground and giving rise to a generation of radicalised Islamists, in Egypt and beyond, who will have lost faith in peaceful, democratic change. How far Egypt’s Islamists will go in challenging what they no doubt perceive as an illegitimate coup is unclear. But it is virtually certain that they remain strong enough to spoil their opponents’ success. And the problems at the root of much of the popular discontent – the economic crisis first and foremost – would not be any easier to handle with a non-Islamist monopoly than with an Islamist one.
However, the Muslim Brotherhood too should have learned lessons from its failed attempt at governing: that one cannot rule alone at a time of socio-political polarisation and transformation and that a constitution is a long-term social contract among Egyptians of varying ideological bents and ethnic, class and religious backgrounds, not the outcome of a one-time process dominated by the best organised political faction of the day.
It is difficult to see something healthy coming out of this in the short term. If as now appears certain, Morsi is forced out of office, it would constitute a blow to Egypt’s fragile democracy, regardless of what one thinks of his presidency, entrenching the view, for some, that mass protests backed by the army can trump the ballot box, and, in other quarters, that investing in a peaceful democratic process is simply not worthwhile. In light of the newly announced roadmap, several important measures ought to be taken by Egyptian actors, with international support:
clear condemnation by the army, police, and opposition of any form of violence, notably against Brotherhood institutions and members and simultaneous rejection of violence by the Islamists;
the new government that is to be formed should be civilian-led, genuinely broad-based as well as transitional and headed by a widely respected independent figure;
an ensuing national dialogue concerning the future political path, notably regarding the constitution, likewise must be as inclusive as possible. 
In the end, the question should be less who leads than within what boundaries, as laid out by a constitution defining broadly consensual rules of the game. Whatever happens within the next few hours and days, officials and politicians should focus on discussing a process whereby the constitution can be amended or redrafted in ways acceptable to key political players and constituents. Both a functional interim cabinet and an effective constitutional committee must of course include participation of the Muslim Brotherhood and their allies, which in turn means refraining from any politically-motivated crackdown. Lack of consensus-building proved to be the first transition’s original sin. It should not become the second’s as well.
crisisgroup.org

A difficult way forward in Egypt

Cairo/Brussels | 3 Jul 2013

As Egypt teeters on the verge of a catastrophic confrontation, it is difficult to discern who has been more short-sighted: an arrogant Muslim Brotherhood that misread electoral gains for a political blank-check or a reckless opposition that has appeared ready to sink the country in order to bring down the Islamists and whose criteria for ousting the president – generalised incompetence and wide unpopularity – could send many presidents packing. The priority today must be to avoid further bloodshed. It is, too, to ensure that the next chapter in Egypt’s troubled transition, unlike the last, is inclusive and consensual. The alternative is to continue with exclusionary, confrontational politics, albeit with greater violence with only a change of characters at the helm. 

Egypt’s profound divisions rarely have been on starker display than these past days. Millions took to the streets on 30 June to demand President Mohammed Morsi’s departure; smaller, yet still large numbers responded to insist on his remaining in office. From all sides has come talk of blood and martyrdom – from the Brotherhood, the youth-initiated Tamarrud (Rebellion) and the army itself. The forceful removal of the nation’s first democratically-elected civilian president risks sending a message to Islamists that they have no place in the political order; sowing fears among them that they will suffer yet another bloody crackdown; and thus potentially prompting violent, even desperate resistance by Morsi’s followers.

The current crisis to a large extent is the product of a fundamentally flawed political transition. Political actors were unable to reach basic agreement on rules of the game or the desired political system, instead proceeding with a winner-take-all mentality that was sure to alienate – and frighten –losers. Instead of consultations and consensus-building, elections and referendums – in which an organisationally superior Muslim Brotherhood excelled – became arbiters of an ever-more polarised political stand-off. As Egypt moved from one electoral contest to another, Islamists perceived their successive, though sometimes narrow, victories as mandates to shape the nascent polity as they deemed fit, overlooking the need to share power. Dismissing their admittedly ineffective opposition, they instead focused on trying to either sideline (in the case of the judiciary) or co-opt (in the case of the security sector) state actors they deemed more important, and thus potentially more threatening. This was a grave mistake.

Non-Islamists suffered from the opposite malady, viewing election results as altogether meaningless, demanding oftentimes disproportionate representation in decision-making bodies; challenging the basic principle of popular will; and yielding to the growing temptation of extra-institutional means, be it street agitation or calls for judicial or military intervention. All of which gave rise to this most incongruous of sights – a purportedly liberal, democratic opposition openly calling on the army to step in and cut short the term of the country’s first democratically-elected leader. This could prove a no less serious blunder and a dangerous precedent.

It is hard to know what ultimately pushed the military – which for some time had sought to avoid direct political involvement – to enter the fray as blatantly as it did on 1 July when, though ambiguous as to precise meaning, it essentially ordered the president to yield to critics’ demands or face the consequences. The president’s inability to achieve political consensus, address the economic mess, reassure the judiciary or establish law and order all played a part as might have signs – such as the appointment as governor of Luxor of a member of a militant group or Morsi’s overt support for calls for jihad against the Syrian regime – that the president was veering toward a more overtly Islamist agenda. At bottom, however, the army and security sector as a whole never felt fully at ease with an Islamist commander-in-chief, the president’s efforts to placate them notwithstanding. 

Other state institutions have long awaited a chance to settle scores, and the massive 30 June turnout provided it. This was the case for the judiciary, which the president and his allies repeatedly had sought to reform and restructure, notably by threatening judges with early retirement on grounds that they were Mubarak-era holdovers. Anger at the Brotherhood ran even deeper within the police, which from the start has seen itself as the unjust victims of the 2011 uprising and could not fathom being ruled by the Islamists they used to suppress and arrest. As a result, a president routinely accused by his critics of engineering a power grab ended up with little power over any of the state institutions that really mattered.

Indications strongly point in the worrying direction of heavy-handed military intervention that, at a minimum, is reversing gains made in terms of a free press and rights of political participation. It reportedly has taken control of state media outlets, censoring footage of pro-Morsi demonstrations aired by private satellite channels. Muslim Brotherhood offices have routinely been torched and vandalised without any effort by the police to defend them and pro-Morsi rallies have come under repeated armed attacks by unknown assailants. As for the future political process, the military announced suspension of the constitution coupled with early presidential and parliamentary elections and named the head of the Supreme Constitutional Court as interim president. 

If the status quo was unsustainable, a hard turn toward military control, even if exercised indirectly, would be ominous. A successful second transition must be based on a truly inclusive approach – which, this time around, means one that encompasses Islamists of all stripes, including the Muslim Brotherhood. An attempt to crack down on Islamists and deprive them of their political rights– coupled with restrictions on the media and the like – would be a cure worse than the ill, almost certainly driving Islamist groups underground and giving rise to a generation of radicalised Islamists, in Egypt and beyond, who will have lost faith in peaceful, democratic change. How far Egypt’s Islamists will go in challenging what they no doubt perceive as an illegitimate coup is unclear. But it is virtually certain that they remain strong enough to spoil their opponents’ success. And the problems at the root of much of the popular discontent – the economic crisis first and foremost – would not be any easier to handle with a non-Islamist monopoly than with an Islamist one.

However, the Muslim Brotherhood too should have learned lessons from its failed attempt at governing: that one cannot rule alone at a time of socio-political polarisation and transformation and that a constitution is a long-term social contract among Egyptians of varying ideological bents and ethnic, class and religious backgrounds, not the outcome of a one-time process dominated by the best organised political faction of the day.

It is difficult to see something healthy coming out of this in the short term. If as now appears certain, Morsi is forced out of office, it would constitute a blow to Egypt’s fragile democracy, regardless of what one thinks of his presidency, entrenching the view, for some, that mass protests backed by the army can trump the ballot box, and, in other quarters, that investing in a peaceful democratic process is simply not worthwhile. In light of the newly announced roadmap, several important measures ought to be taken by Egyptian actors, with international support:

  • clear condemnation by the army, police, and opposition of any form of violence, notably against Brotherhood institutions and members and simultaneous rejection of violence by the Islamists;
  • the new government that is to be formed should be civilian-led, genuinely broad-based as well as transitional and headed by a widely respected independent figure;
  • an ensuing national dialogue concerning the future political path, notably regarding the constitution, likewise must be as inclusive as possible. 

In the end, the question should be less who leads than within what boundaries, as laid out by a constitution defining broadly consensual rules of the game. Whatever happens within the next few hours and days, officials and politicians should focus on discussing a process whereby the constitution can be amended or redrafted in ways acceptable to key political players and constituents. Both a functional interim cabinet and an effective constitutional committee must of course include participation of the Muslim Brotherhood and their allies, which in turn means refraining from any politically-motivated crackdown. Lack of consensus-building proved to be the first transition’s original sin. It should not become the second’s as well.

crisisgroup.org

8 May
"The military has become more professional, but as it doubles in size and deploys across the country, the reluctance to outline a clear division of labour between the security forces poses greater risks."

—from Crisis Group’s recent report, Timor-Leste: Stability at What Cost?

9 Apr
Sudan army men jailed up to 5 years over ‘coup’ | AFP via GlobalPost
Sudan has experienced at least seven coups or attempted coups in its 57-year history.
Following the plot revelations, the Brussels-based International Crisis Group, a think-tank, said that a coup to overthrow Bashir’s crisis-ridden administration could further destabilise the country.
"A coup or a military campaign to topple the regime would be a very dangerous proposition risking even greater violence and further disintegration," ICG said.
FULL ARTICLE (AFP via GlobalPost)
Photo: Steve Evans/Flickr

Sudan army men jailed up to 5 years over ‘coup’ | AFP via GlobalPost

Sudan has experienced at least seven coups or attempted coups in its 57-year history.

Following the plot revelations, the Brussels-based International Crisis Group, a think-tank, said that a coup to overthrow Bashir’s crisis-ridden administration could further destabilise the country.

"A coup or a military campaign to topple the regime would be a very dangerous proposition risking even greater violence and further disintegration," ICG said.

FULL ARTICLE (AFP via GlobalPost)

Photo: Steve Evans/Flickr

6 Feb
Totonicapán: Tension in Guatemala’s Indigenous Hinterland
Guatemala City/Bogotá/Brussels  |   6 Feb 2013
The killing of protestors last October was a tragedy foretold by those who have long warned against Guatemala’s use of the armed forces to maintain domestic peace.
Totonicapán: Tension in Guatemala’s Indigenous Hinterland, the latest report from the International Crisis Group, examines how using the army for law enforcement and to maintain public order in a country with extensive economic inequalities is especially perilous. The danger became tragically clear on 4 October 2012, when soldiers apparently opened fire on a march protesting high electricity prices and demanding affordable education and recognition and promotion of indigenous rights in the highland Maya town of Totonicapán, killing six and injuring more than 30.
“Tensions are high in many indigenous areas over issues such as mining and access to land, education and electricity’’, says Mary Speck, Crisis Group’s Senior Guatemala Analyst. “This makes it all the more urgent for Guatemala to build civilian security forces trained to manage demonstrations without resorting to violence”.
Protests, especially among the desperately poor indigenous population, are on the rise, as a multitude of issues fuel conflict in many rural areas. The recent past makes such unrest particularly dangerous. Between 1960 and 1996, the country suffered one of the most brutal counter-insurgency campaigns in Latin American history, during which an estimated 200,000 people died, most of them from Maya communities in the western highlands.
Although initially sceptical that soldiers had used lethal force, President Otto Pérez Molina did the right thing by allowing prosecutors to conduct an investigation that has so far resulted in charges against an army colonel and eight soldiers. He has also promised to refrain from sending armed soldiers to demonstrations, though his government continues to use the military to supplement the deficiencies of civilian police who are overwhelmed even by ordinary street crime much less the drug cartels that now penetrate Guatemala.
The government needs to give indigenous populations a voice and a stake in the formulation and implementation of policies that affect their culture and livelihoods. It also needs to make police reform a top priority, establishing a timeline and benchmarks for transferring law enforcement duties away from the military, as required under the 1996 peace accords.
The Congress needs to establish an effective legal framework that allows indigenous communities to resolve legitimate concerns about the environmental and social impact of hydroelectric and mining projects. Investors should cooperate with indigenous and environmental activists to implement extractive industry best practices designed to protect local interests. Finally, leaders from across the political spectrum should work to ensure that indigenous peoples – who make up half or nearly half the population – secure the representation they deserve within the country’s political institutions.
“The onus is not on the national government alone. Local and communal authorities, as well as organisations that represent indigenous and rural interests, need to negotiate in good faith to reach democratic compromises on how to manage natural resources”, says Javier Ciurlizza, Crisis Group’s Latin America and Caribbean Program Director”. “Investors should perform environmental and human rights due diligence, focusing on the special needs and challenges faced by indigenous communities”. 
FULL REPORT

Totonicapán: Tension in Guatemala’s Indigenous Hinterland

Guatemala City/Bogotá/Brussels  |   6 Feb 2013

The killing of protestors last October was a tragedy foretold by those who have long warned against Guatemala’s use of the armed forces to maintain domestic peace.

Totonicapán: Tension in Guatemala’s Indigenous Hinterland, the latest report from the International Crisis Group, examines how using the army for law enforcement and to maintain public order in a country with extensive economic inequalities is especially perilous. The danger became tragically clear on 4 October 2012, when soldiers apparently opened fire on a march protesting high electricity prices and demanding affordable education and recognition and promotion of indigenous rights in the highland Maya town of Totonicapán, killing six and injuring more than 30.

“Tensions are high in many indigenous areas over issues such as mining and access to land, education and electricity’’, says Mary Speck, Crisis Group’s Senior Guatemala Analyst. “This makes it all the more urgent for Guatemala to build civilian security forces trained to manage demonstrations without resorting to violence”.

Protests, especially among the desperately poor indigenous population, are on the rise, as a multitude of issues fuel conflict in many rural areas. The recent past makes such unrest particularly dangerous. Between 1960 and 1996, the country suffered one of the most brutal counter-insurgency campaigns in Latin American history, during which an estimated 200,000 people died, most of them from Maya communities in the western highlands.

Although initially sceptical that soldiers had used lethal force, President Otto Pérez Molina did the right thing by allowing prosecutors to conduct an investigation that has so far resulted in charges against an army colonel and eight soldiers. He has also promised to refrain from sending armed soldiers to demonstrations, though his government continues to use the military to supplement the deficiencies of civilian police who are overwhelmed even by ordinary street crime much less the drug cartels that now penetrate Guatemala.

The government needs to give indigenous populations a voice and a stake in the formulation and implementation of policies that affect their culture and livelihoods. It also needs to make police reform a top priority, establishing a timeline and benchmarks for transferring law enforcement duties away from the military, as required under the 1996 peace accords.

The Congress needs to establish an effective legal framework that allows indigenous communities to resolve legitimate concerns about the environmental and social impact of hydroelectric and mining projects. Investors should cooperate with indigenous and environmental activists to implement extractive industry best practices designed to protect local interests. Finally, leaders from across the political spectrum should work to ensure that indigenous peoples – who make up half or nearly half the population – secure the representation they deserve within the country’s political institutions.

“The onus is not on the national government alone. Local and communal authorities, as well as organisations that represent indigenous and rural interests, need to negotiate in good faith to reach democratic compromises on how to manage natural resources”, says Javier Ciurlizza, Crisis Group’s Latin America and Caribbean Program Director”. “Investors should perform environmental and human rights due diligence, focusing on the special needs and challenges faced by indigenous communities”. 

FULL REPORT

10 Oct
Russia Keeps Tajik Base, Risking Taliban Face-Off | RIA Novosti 
By Alexey Eremenko
Russia won a 30-year deal on a military base in Tajikistan, but the price includes risk of placing Russian servicemen under fire if violence flares up in volatile Central Asia.
Moscow and Dushanbe clinched an agreement on Friday on a Russian military base in Tajikistan, which will remain in the country until at least 2042, a Russian presidential aide said.
FULL ARTICLE (RIA Novosti)
Photo: Presidential Press and Information Office/Wikimedia Commons 

Russia Keeps Tajik Base, Risking Taliban Face-Off | RIA Novosti 

By Alexey Eremenko

Russia won a 30-year deal on a military base in Tajikistan, but the price includes risk of placing Russian servicemen under fire if violence flares up in volatile Central Asia.

Moscow and Dushanbe clinched an agreement on Friday on a Russian military base in Tajikistan, which will remain in the country until at least 2042, a Russian presidential aide said.

FULL ARTICLE (RIA Novosti)

Photo: Presidential Press and Information Office/Wikimedia Commons 

17 Jul

Uncertainty surrounds North Korean military shake up | Deustche Welle

As North Korea’s army undergoes an unexpected reshuffle, analysts are speculating as to what this could mean for the future of relations between the North and the South.

FULL ARTICLE

Video: Parade rehearsal along the Taedong River Credit: Rapidtravelchai/Flickr

18 Jun
Syrian Government Forces Escalate Attacks | Voice of America
By Edward Yeranian
Syrian government forces stepped up their attacks across the country Sunday, employing artillery barrages in the flashpoint city of Homs, as well as the suburbs of Damascus and Aleppo, and the towns of Rastan, Telbiseh and Deir ez Zor. 
Webcam images showed thick plumes of smoke rising from artillery strikes across the besieged city of Homs Sunday, as shells crashed into apartment blocks and other buildings. Witnesses report increasingly desperate conditions, with little respite in the shelling.
READ ARTICLE (Voice of America)
Photo: Ugarit News

Syrian Government Forces Escalate Attacks | Voice of America

By Edward Yeranian

Syrian government forces stepped up their attacks across the country Sunday, employing artillery barrages in the flashpoint city of Homs, as well as the suburbs of Damascus and Aleppo, and the towns of Rastan, Telbiseh and Deir ez Zor. 

Webcam images showed thick plumes of smoke rising from artillery strikes across the besieged city of Homs Sunday, as shells crashed into apartment blocks and other buildings. Witnesses report increasingly desperate conditions, with little respite in the shelling.

READ ARTICLE (Voice of America)

Photo: Ugarit News