Tracking Conflict World Wide - February 2006

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Africa

Burundi

Prospect of peace talks between Front National de Libération (FNL) rebels and government remained low, further complicated by UN mission (ONUB) call for FNL to disarm unconditionally. Clashes between security forces and FNL continued, 5 rebels and 1 soldier killed outside Bujumbura 15 February. ONUB continued progressive disengagement with withdrawal of Kenyan peacekeepers. Government rejected UN Special Representative McAskie’s proposal for forum of Burundi’s donors to replace Arusha Accord Implementation and Monitoring Committee, whose mandate expired August 2005, saying proposed body would undertake tasks in government’s domain and justify undesired extension of ONUB’s mandate. Additional 780 political prisoners freed as part of amnesty launched January; released will face questioning by truth commission and possible re-incarceration.

Central African Republic

Clashes between army and bandits in northwest displaced over 4,000 villagers; many fled to Chad. Refugees reported 50 killed in violence.

Chad

Relations with Sudan improved with 8 February agreement in Libya to end support to each other’s rebel groups and establish force to patrol border. Cross-border raids continued despite accord and high-level defections from Chad’s army to Darfur-based Chadian rebels increasing likelihood of continued escalation between neighbours; many refugees fled to Darfur to escape fighting. Sudanese and Chadian militias from Darfur, with apparent Sudanese government backing, reportedly behind attacks. Chadian rebels demanded President Deby hold national forum for change ahead of 3 May presidential election; threatened coup.

Democratic Republic of Congo

New constitution officially adopted 18 February granting DRC new legal framework, including president-PM power share and 2-term limit for elected president. Parliament approved electoral law but election commission announced polls delayed until 18 June from 29 April. EU investigating option of sending troops to reinforce UN mission (MONUC) for elections, but took no decision on size of force and member state contributions. Fighting continued in North Kivu and Katanga between army and militias. MONUC threatened to stop assisting army trying to push out rebels in east, if DRC troops continue to commit human rights violations during operations. Setback for reintegration of ex-fighters into army after 6 starved to death at Kamina training camp because allotted rations and payment not arriving.

Rwanda

Local government elections held 6 and 20 February passed off peacefully with high voter turnout; mayors to be chosen 1 March by newly elected officials; key steps in broader decentralisation process. Norway agreed to try former Rwandan official Michel Bagaragaza for role during 1994 genocide as Rwanda criticised transfer of case from International Criminal Tribunal.

Ethiopia/Eritrea

Situation remained tense along disputed border with troop movement reported on both sides. UN Security Council agreed 8 February to give U.S. 30 days to resolve border dispute before considering troop redeployment. Witnesses of 2000 Algiers Agreement (Algeria, AU, EU, UN, U.S.) met 22 February in attempt to expedite border demarcation process but Asmara refused to work with independent boundary commission to resolve dispute. Eritrea arrested 27 local UN mission staff; 25 later released but no official reason given for arrests.

Ethiopia

Trial of 129 opposition members charged with treason after November 2005 rioting opened 23 February. EU Development Commissioner Louis Michel met with PM Zenawi in effort to restore dialogue; visited jailed opposition and reported many needed urgent medical attention, including CUD party Chairman Hailu Shawel.

Somalia

Transitional parliament met in Somalia for first time in Baidoa 26 February; adjourned session for 1 week to allow members to resolve personal differences. Insecurity continued throughout country: heavy fighting between militia associated with Islamic courts and those loyal to Mogadishu warlords left at least 38 dead in capital. Severe drought led to clashes between rival clans for control of dam inside Ethiopian border; at least 12 killed. In Puntland, clashes between gunmen loyal to Planning Minister Farole and security forces killed 3; mass protest against Danish newspaper cartoons killed 1.

Somaliland

Land dispute in Hargeysa flared into inter-clan conflict; 6 killed. President Kahin appointed mediation committee at emergency cabinet meeting.

Sudan

UN Security Council authorised planning for expected re-hatting of AU mission in Darfur to UN mission, despite strong objections from Khartoum; resolution expected March after AU makes final decision on handover. UNSG Annan asked U.S. President Bush for greater U.S. role in Darfur; Bush called for doubling of international troops and role for NATO in planning and logistics. Little progress in Darfur peace talks with continued insecurity on ground. UK FM Straw warned would consider UN sanctions if no headway made. Sudan and Chad signed agreement in Libya to end cross-border dispute, committing to preventing presence of rebels on other’s territory. UN expert panel recommended Security Council extend arms embargo; discussions on sanctions for individuals seen to be blocking peace process continued. 7 killed in clashes between South Sudan Defence Forces and SPLA in Upper Nile region. Eastern Front rebels indefinitely postponed peace talks with government.

Uganda

President Museveni reelected with 59% of vote in first ever multiparty presidential and parliamentary elections 23 February. Main opposition rival Kiiza Besigye, still on trial for treason, second with 37%; to contest results. Ruling NRM party reportedly won 202 of 309 parliamentary seats while opposition FDC won 40. No major election day violence reported though police clashed with opposition supporters outside Besigye’s headquarters. International observers said state media favoured Museveni during campaign, while security forces allegedly intimidated opposition. Tensions between courts and military increased after latter defied court and re-arrested 14 accused of treason with Besigye. Military killed 4 LRA rebels in cross-border operations in Sudan.

Angola

President Eduardo Dos Santos indicated presidential elections to be postponed until 2007 to allow for infrastructure repair and voter registration.

Swaziland

King Mswati III officially brought new constitution into effect 8 February; maintains monarchy’s absolute powers. Attacks on government targets continued with Mbabane police camp petrol-bombed. 1 of 16 members of banned PUDEMO opposition party charged with high treason pleaded guilty and confessed to planning attacks on government targets.

Zimbabwe

Former activist Arthur Mutambara voted head of pro-senate faction as battle with disputed leader Morgan Tsvangirai for leadership of opposition MDC party continued. Government announced plan to allow seizure of passports of critics. Zimbabwe avoided IMF’s threat of expulsion by paying off $9 million in debt; inflation expected to worsen beyond current 613% after government printed money to pay off loan.

Côte d’Ivoire

Key talks between political and rebel leaders, including President Gbagbo and rebel Guillaume Soro, aimed at reviving peace process held 28 February in Yamoussoukro. Meeting of UN-backed international mediators passed off peacefully 17 February; January meeting had provoked violent demonstrations against UN by Gbagbo supporters, angry at mediators’ recommendation to dissolve parliament. UN Security Council approved move of small mechanised unit from Liberia to Côte d’Ivoire, though Annan requested larger reinforcement. UN imposed sanctions on Gbagbo supporters Charles Ble Goude and Eugene Djue and rebel commander Fofie Kouakou for hampering peace efforts.

Guinea

Unions representing 80% of all workers called 5- day general strike 27 February to demand wage increases. Protests held in Guekedou against appointment of mayor belonging to ruling PUP party, which won disputed electoral victory in December; 2 killed in clashes with police.

Liberia

New President Johnson-Sirleaf inaugurated 7- member Truth and Reconciliation Commission to investigate crimes committed during 24-year civil war and launched anti- corruption drive with overhaul of finance ministry. Nominations to cabinet and other top posts nearly complete: controversy over appointment of Nigerian to head restructuring of army and former elections commission chief as justice minister. Workers at Firestone rubber plantation went on strike demanding better wages and work conditions.

Nigeria

Security deteriorated with upsurge in religious and political violence. Protests by Muslims against Danish cartoons satirising Prophet Mohammed turned violent, killing 50, mostly Christians, as churches and Christian businesses targeted in several northern cities. In response, riots broke out against Muslims in Christian south; over 100 reported dead. Security situation remained volatile in Delta region, after new series of politically motivated attacks by Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta on oil infrastructure and kidnapping of 9 foreign workers.

Sierra Leone

Trial continued for former leader of Civil Defence Forces militia Samuel Hinga Norman, indicted by UN Special Court for crimes against humanity during civil war: President Kabbah subpoenaed to testify. In local trial, former Revolutionary United Front rebel spokesman Omrie Golley and 2 co-defendants charged with treason boycotted proceedings alleging judge biased.

Asia

China (internal)

Beijing moved to prevent future rural unrest through plan to give aid to poor farmers. Former Communist Party chief He Feng jailed for life after hiring thugs to beat up rural protesters.

Korean Peninsula

Talks with Japan failed to solve any outstanding issues. NK repeated condition for returning to 6-party nuclear talks, suspended since November 2005, would be lifting of U.S. economic sanctions. North-South military-level talks to resume 2 March after 19-month hiatus.

Taiwan Strait

Tension raised between Beijing and Taipei after President Chen Shui-bian announced National Unification Council and its guidelines would “cease to function” 27 February. Move brought condemnation from Beijing who previously called Chen “troublemaker and saboteur”.

Afghanistan

London Conference endorsing “Afghanistan Compact” saw 60 nations and organisations pledge ongoing commitment to Afghanistan, with ambitious benchmarks for governance, development and security; over $10 billion promised. Dutch parliament voted in favour of sending troops to restive southern region of Uruzgan, while first British troops arrived in neighbouring Helmand province. 12 killed in violent protests against cartoons in European publications. Violence in Helmand province killed 6 police and 20 Taliban, allegedly in connection with control of drug routes. Sectarian clashes between Shiite minority and Sunnis at 9 February Ashura festival killed at least 5 in western Herat. President Karzai visited Pakistan to discuss upsurge of cross-border violence in south and east. U.S. President Bush made first visit to Kabul 1 March.

Bangladesh

Main opposition party Awami League (AL) returned to parliament after year-long boycott. Protests caused chaos in Dhaka: AL-organised general strike called for government resignation, while demonstrations also held against Danish cartoons. Dutch development minister indicated EU readiness to mediate dialogue between government and opposition. Senior AL leader Sheikh Yunus Ali targeted and seriously injured in bomb blast. 4 Jamaat- ul-Mujahideen leaders, including Shayek Abdur Rahman, sentenced to 40 years imprisonment for involvement in November 2005 killing of 2 judges.

India (non-Kashmir)

Maoist violence escalated in Chhattisgarh state while northeastern unrest continued. Maoists killed 70, including 8 police in 9 February raid on state-run explosives factory, and as many as 55 members of anti- Maoist group in 28 February landmine blast. Protests against death of man in police custody in northeastern Tinsukia district turned violent killing 12. Representatives for United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) held productive talks with state officials 7 February ahead of proposed direct talks between government and ULFA leadership; government agreed to series of confidence-building measures. Attack on state gas workers 14 February killed 3; National Liberation Front of Tripura rebels suspected.

Kashmir

Confidence-building measures continued with resumption of train service across Thar desert after 40-year suspension. Indian PM Manmohan Singh called conference of Indian Kashmiri politicians and separatist leaders for 25 February; many declined calling talks “premature”. Strikes in Indian-controlled Kashmir followed fatal shooting of 4 boys 22 February, apparently in crossfire between security forces and separatists, while further separatist violence killed 5 next day. Clashes erupted between Buddhists and Muslims in Ladakh 8 February, after torn pages of Koran found near mosque in Kargil. India reportedly withdrew 5,000 troops from Indian- controlled Kashmir in response to improving security situation.

Nepal

Municipal elections boycotted by all major parties and criticised by UK, U.S., Japan and India as deeply flawed. Maoists supported boycott with armed campaign, targeting security forces and government buildings and killing 1 mayoral candidate. Royal Nepalese Army (RNA) launched offensive against Maoists in southwest, reportedly in response to deadly attacks in Palpa district. King’s power weakened by increasingly active judiciary: Supreme Court disbanded royalist anti-corruption commission, and ordered release of detained Nepali Congress Party spokesman. Former PM Deuba also released, along with 17 political leaders, but house arrest of CPN-UML leader M.K. Nepal extended by 2 months. UN High Commissioner for Human Rights released report on rights violations by RNA and Maoists and called for violators to be excluded from UN peacekeeping roles.

Pakistan

Sectarian violence erupted in North West Frontier Province: at least 35 killed in suicide bombing on Shiite Ashura procession and subsequent unrest. Government officials blamed external elements rather than local sectarian tensions, while local Shiite leaders blamed government for failing to curb Sunni militants. 5 days of increasingly violent protests held to denounce publication of cartoons of Prophet Mohammed in western media. Protests turned deadly in Lahore and Peshawar; 5 reported killed. Islamist coalition Muttahida Majlis- i-Amal leader, Qazi Hussain Ahmed, briefly held under house arrest to prevent him leading Islamabad rally 19 February. Unrest continued in South Waziristan as 3 soldiers killed by roadside bomb 5 February. Balochistan rebels intensified insurgency with 2 February rocket attack and 5 February bus bomb: at least 21 killed. Nationwide protest planned against 3 March visit of U.S. President Bush.

Sri Lanka

In significant step forward, government and Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, meeting in Geneva, released joint statement committing to curb violence and hold further talks in April. Violence decreased considerably in run-up to 22-23 February Norwegian-backed talks. Government freed 4 rebels as good-will gesture.

Cambodia

Opposition leader Sam Rainsy returned from self-imposed exile 10 February after receiving royal pardon for allegations against PM Hun Sen and National Assembly leader Prince Norodom Ranariddh; pardon followed Rainsy apology. International donor meeting scheduled to start 3 March.

Indonesia

Draft bill on Aceh governance under consideration in parliament; key issues include participation of independent candidates in local elections scheduled for June and formation of local political parties. Target deadline for new law 31 March. EU/ASEAN Aceh Monitoring Mission extended for 3 months (until 15 June). Diplomatic tension with Timor Leste eased after President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono met President Gusmao Xanana to discuss UN-backed report on Indonesian human rights violations in former province. Deadline for decision on legal status of West Irian Jaya province passed 20 February without resolution. Heavy sentences on terrorism charges handed down in Ambon: Asep Jaja, man who led attack on paramilitary police post in May 2005, sentenced to death, while 2 others given life in prison. Mostly peaceful demonstrations against Danish cartoons took place throughout country.

Myanmar

Opposition National League for Democracy (NLD) offered to recognise military rule if military junta frees NLD leader Aung San Suu Kyi and convenes parliament elected in 1990. Under proposal, parliament would then recognise junta as de jure transitional government. Deadly clashes reported between military and Indian Nagaland (NSCN-K) separatist groups based in Myanmar.

Philippines

State of emergency declared by President Arroyo 24 February amidst reports that military thwarted coup attempt and after minor blast at presidential palace. Top military officers “retired” in end to minor rebellion by marines, Daily Tribune newspaper’s offices raided while 16 members of congress and security forces charged with coup plot. Commemorations to mark 20th anniversary of revolution that ousted President Marcos cancelled but small rallies held, leading to minor standoffs with security forces. Exploratory talks began 6 February between Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and government; both sides hopeful for peace agreement on Moro homeland and future of 12,000-strong MILF force by September 2006. Clashes continued between military and suspected Abu Sayyaf members on Basilan and with Communist National People’s Army south of capital.

Thailand

PM Thaksin Shinawatra dissolved parliament and called snap election for 2 April following mass protests by People’s Alliance for Democracy and media tycoon Sondhi Limthongkul calling for Thaksin’s resignation over corruption. Opposition parties declared intention to boycott election. Meanwhile daily violence continued in south. Local state school teachers in Narathiwat taken hostage by villagers in response to perceived arbitrary arrests by police, as concern persisted over police powers associated with emergency decree. National Reconciliation Committee due to release final report on southern situation and recommendations in March.

Fiji

Military repeated vow to stop controversial Promotion of Reconciliation, Tolerance and Unity Bill which would give amnesty to perpetrators of 2000 coup.

Europe & Central Asia

Albania

First component of Stabilisation and Association Agreement signed with EU 18 February; EU approval of full agreement expected later in year. EU Commission President Barroso urged Albanian consensus on solving priority issues of judicial reform, organised crime and economy.

Bosnia And Herzegovina

Milorad Dodik formed new government as PM for Republika Srpska 28 February. EU Commission and High Representative Schwarz-Schilling said negotiations on Stabilisation and Association Agreement could be completed by end 2006 provided Bosnia cooperates with ICTY and strengthens state-level police and public broadcasting. War crimes suspect Milan Lukic transferred from Argentina to Hague. Court charged ex-state presidency member Mirko Sarovic and Bosnian Serb wartime minister Momcilo Mandic with financial irregularities designed to aid Radovan Karadzic. War crimes suspect Dragomir Abazovic, whose wife was killed during his arrest by EUFOR, released.

Montenegro

EU Council threatened Serbia with suspension of Stabilisation and Association negotiations if Ratko Mladic not arrested by 5 April. False reports that Ratko Mladic arrested caused media furore. EU FMs also supported Miroslav Lajcak’s formula of 55% majority for Montenegro’s independence referendum; Montenegrin PM Djukanovic accepted proposal. First face-to-face Kosovo status negotiations between Serbian government and Kosovo Albanians held 20-21 February in Vienna, ended inconclusively; next round 17 March. Serbian parliament accepted results of first round of talks but announcements by key international officials that Kosovo independence likely outcome set off political firestorm in Belgrade. Serbs in Bujanovac, southern Serbia, proposed referendum on partition of town into Serbian and Albanian sectors, after Serb concern local Albanians will increase links with Kosovo.

Serbia

EU Council threatened Serbia with suspension of Stabilisation and Association negotiations if Ratko Mladic not arrested by 5 April. False reports that Ratko Mladic arrested caused media furore. EU FMs also supported Miroslav Lajcak’s formula of 55% majority for Montenegro’s independence referendum; Montenegrin PM Djukanovic accepted proposal. First face-to-face Kosovo status negotiations between Serbian government and Kosovo Albanians held 20-21 February in Vienna, ended inconclusively; next round 17 March. Serbian parliament accepted results of first round of talks but announcements by key international officials that Kosovo independence likely outcome set off political firestorm in Belgrade. Serbs in Bujanovac, southern Serbia, proposed referendum on partition of town into Serbian and Albanian sectors, after Serb concern local Albanians will increase links with Kosovo.

Armenia

Parliament elected long-time aide to President Kocharian as human rights ombudsman. Outgoing ombudsman, seen as more critical, not permitted to present report to parliament but said would still publish findings. Parliamentary Assembly of Council of Europe issued declaration condemning rigging of November 2005 referendum on constitutional amendments.

Azerbaijan

President Aliyev removed influential head of Customs Committee, appointing him to minor ministerial post, and dismissed labour minister: measures seen as further sidelining of potential rivals and “old guard”. Musavat party broke with opposition Azadlig alliance by ending boycott of new parliament and announced will participate in May election re-runs in 10 constituencies. OSCE report reaffirmed earlier conclusions that November elections did not meet democratic standards. Protests held in Baku and religious suburb of Nardaran against Danish cartoons. European Parliament passed resolution accusing Baku of destroying Armenian cemetery in Nakchivan.

Chechnya (Russia)

PM Sergei Abramov resigned over ill health, paving way for likely takeover by current caretaker PM, pro-Kremlin hardliner, Ramzan Kadyrov. Chechen rebels claimed responsibility for military barracks collapse, which Russia said caused by domestic gas explosion: 13 killed. At least 16 soldiers and 4 rebels, reportedly including senior rebel commander, killed in series of clashes. Rebels conducted major leadership reshuffle, ordering most ministers abroad to return; move said to reflect ideological split between leader and radical elements. UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour expressed concern over abuses in Chechnya during visit to republic; President Putin warned UN against politicising rights issues. Chechen government banned Danish aid workers in response to Danish newspaper cartoons of Prophet Mohammed.

Georgia

Tensions escalated between Georgia and Russia over South Ossetia. Parliament adopted resolution, watered-down under international pressure, instructing government to replace Russian peacekeepers with international forces, while Russia announced visa halt for Georgians. Joint Control Commission meeting planned in Vienna 20-21 February cancelled, replaced by meeting in Moscow not attended by Georgia or OSCE. Tense situation in conflict zone continued: Georgia detained 3 Russian officers for visa violation, and Georgian and Russian troops set up tit-for-tat roadblocks. UN- led Georgian-Abkhaz negotiations in Geneva 2-3 February failed to finalise agreement on non-resumption of hostilities or set date for both sides’ leaders to meet.

Nagorno-Karabakh (Azerbaijan)

Talks between Azerbaijani President Aliyev and Armenian President Kocharian produced no tangible results, reportedly after failure to agree on linkage between referendum on status and withdrawal from occupied territory. Mediated by OSCE Minsk Group, talks sought to produce statement on general principles of settlement. Sides expressed readiness to continue negotiations and OSCE co-chairs set to meet in Washington early March. Russian President Putin during Baku visit said Russia willing to help broker negotiations.

Russia/North Caucasus

Violence spread north from turbulent border republics with clash between security forces and suspected militants in Stavrapol krai, leaving 7 police, 12 gunmen dead. Head of Daghestan Republic Magomedali Magomedov resigned stoking fears of power struggle: Kremlin installed Mukhu Aliyev as successor. In further clashes, at least 5 reported killed in Daghestan and 2 in Ingushetia. 3 blasts, treated as terrorist attacks, at gaming halls in North Ossetian town of Vladikavkaz killed 2.

Belarus