Tag Archives: Conflict

Latest from OSCE Special Monitoring Mission (SMM) to Ukraine based on information received as of 18:00 (Kyiv time), 26 March 2015

Latest from OSCE Special Monitoring Mission (SMM) to Ukraine based on information received as of 18:00 (Kyiv time), 26 March 2015 | OSCE

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Africa’s largest democracy holds elections tomorrow. President Goodluck Jonathan is facing a tough re-election battle with longtime rival Muhammadu Buhari. With the Boko Haram insurgency raging, these elections are exceedingly consequential. Here are some resources to keep you informed about the elections and their significance.

A Good Think tank Policy Brief  (Council on Foreign Relations http://on.cfr.org/1FOoWkR)

A Good 14 minute podcast explainer: Global Dispatches Podcast: http://bit.ly/1ycCvCO

A Good explainer on the nuts and bolts of how the election will work. (BBC http://bbc.in/1FOpBmp)

More Nigeria News

Nigeria holds journalist…The Al Jazeera news organization says Nigerian forces have held two of its journalists in custody since Tuesday, as the country tightens security ahead of Saturday’s national election. (VOA http://bit.ly/1GZtwtA)

United Nations refugee chief António Guterres said masses of people fleeing the terrorist group Boko Haram have created a crisis comparable to the refugee situation caused by Syria’s civil war. A shortfall of international funding is hampering the UN’s ability to alleviate the situation. (VOA http://bit.ly/1GZtBxw)

Sat of the day: Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said that widespread violence and turmoil in the past year have taken a toll on United Nations worker with 33 detained and one missing. Two contractors have also been abducted. (AP http://yhoo.it/1BsOf5x)


An international court has denied a request from former Liberian president Charles Taylor to serve the rest of his 50-year prison sentence in Rwanda. (VOA http://bit.ly/1GZtmmb)

Dozens of senior officials in Burundi’s ruling party have urged President Pierre Nkurunziza to abandon a quest for a third term this June to avoid renewed violence in the landlocked central African nation. (Reuters http://bit.ly/1FWLhem)

South Sudanese opposition officials and civil society activists have condemned as self-serving and unconstitutional a move by parliament to extend the terms of the country’s elected officials, including themselves and President Salva Kiir. (VOA http://bit.ly/1FWLm1N)

Sierra Leone is preparing for another lockdown to fight the Ebola epidemic. It is believed that against all medical advice, some people continue to bury the dead themselves, bringing them into contact with the virus. (VOA http://bit.ly/1FWLlLl)

A former child soldier from Democratic Republic of Congo told the United Nations Security Council he was sorry for the harm he caused after he was forcefully recruited from his school by an armed group at age 12. (Reuters http://bit.ly/1GZteDc)

A Somali businessman is betting on a biometric fingerprint system to keep alive vital money transfer firms which face closure after Western banks cut ties due to fears remittance cash may be channelled to militant groups. (Reuters http://bit.ly/1FWLgXP)

Sierra Leone authorities have again delayed the reopening of schools shut down for months to combat the spread of Ebola. (VOA http://bit.ly/1FWLmyL)

The three nations hardest hit by West Africa’s Ebola epidemic recorded the lowest weekly total of new cases so far this year in the week leading up to March 22, the WHO said. (Reuters http://bit.ly/1GZtiTt)

Liberian health ministry officials say a woman, the country’s first Ebola patient in more than a month, has been quarantined and stabilized and is responding to “supportive” treatment. (VOA http://bit.ly/1GZttOk)

Nigeria’s main presidential candidates signed a second peace accord ahead of general elections on Saturday, the government said on Thursday, promising to hold peaceful polls and not incite religious or ethnic tensions. (Reuters http://bit.ly/1FWLhuQ)


The global chemical weapons watchdog will investigate allegations of chlorine gas attacks in Syrian villages that killed six and wounded dozens this month, a source said. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1BsOJZj)

The long-running conflict with Israel claimed the lives of more Palestinian civilians in 2014 than any year since 1967, the United Nations said Thursday, in a damning report on the humanitarian situation. (AFP http://yhoo.it/1HLaf2D

The United Nations accused the Islamic State of committing shockingly widespread and extremely severe human rights violations against the people of Iraq. (VOA http://bit.ly/1FWLmij)

Amnesty International says Palestinian armed groups committed war crimes by firing rockets and other crudely built, indiscriminate projectiles into Israel during last year’s conflict in the Gaza Strip. (VOA http://bit.ly/1GZtyll)

The human rights group Amnesty International said in a report Thursday that Palestinian militants committed war crimes during the 2014 Gaza conflict by killing both Israeli and Palestinian civilians using indiscriminate projectiles. (AP http://yhoo.it/1HL9KFF)

The flag of once-independent South Yemen is visible everywhere around this port city, once the country’s capital. The banner — red, white, black and blue with a red star — is painted on walls, flown from homes, and flutters from the vehicles and checkpoints of militiamen in the streets. (AP http://yhoo.it/1HLadrz)

The International Committee of the Red Cross has called on all sides in a widening conflict in Yemen to obey the rules of war, voicing concern at reports of civilian casualties following Saudi-led air strikes. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1BsOKwb)


The U.S. government and major business leaders are renewing their call on the Thai government to crack down on slavery in its fishing fleets, and to punish people who force migrant workers to catch seafood that can end up in the United States. (AP http://yhoo.it/1HL9d6T)

Myanmar is increasing the salaries of its government employees — doubling some of them — as of next month. (AP http://yhoo.it/1BsOH3t)

Humanitarian agencies are struggling to cope with a growing number of people displaced by fighting in the southern Philippine region of Mindanao. (IRIN http://bit.ly/1bxuun5)

The Americas

The death toll in Chile rose to four after rains battered the north and caused flooding, the government said on Thursday, while 22 others were unaccounted for as the military rescued stranded villagers. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1BsOL3b)

A delegation of U.S. telecommunication officials is in Havana to meet with their Cuban counterparts as part of talks to restore full diplomatic relations between the countries. (AP http://yhoo.it/1BsOAVy)

The heaviest rains to hit Chile’s northern desert regions in 20 year have left at least two people dead and 24 missing as the torrential downpours caused mudslides and rivers to breach their banks, leaving thousands of residents stranded. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1BsODB0)

There’s an HIV outbreak in rural Indiana, tied to widespread injectible drug. (NYT http://nyti.ms/1IBb9fG)

…and the rest

Mass abductions of children by groups like Boko Haram and the Islamic State are on the rise, with the practice now becoming a tactic of war, a UN envoy warned. (AFP http://yhoo.it/1HLa8Eh)


Why gender equality by numbers will never measure up (Guardian http://bit.ly/1bxuljx)

Hollywood made a zombie movie but replaced the zombies with Asians (GlobalPost http://bit.ly/1BsN59Z)

Record-breaking year for asylum claims: 8 key trends (IRIN http://bit.ly/1BsPYI3)

How dealing with climate change is like playing cricket (Guardian http://bit.ly/1BsQIg1)

Is social media fuelling a Mexican Spring? (BBC http://bbc.in/1EHkZc9

Education as a Cornerstone for Women’s Empowerment (Inter Press Service http://bit.ly/1EHl13y)

What’s Up With Parents Who Don’t Vaccinate Their Children? (Goats and Soda http://n.pr/1bxuC5Z)



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'Civilians killed' as Saudi Arabia bombs Yemen

By Almigdad Mojalli

Yemenis in the Bani Hewat area near the capital Sana’a search for survivors after Saudi Arabia bombed the city

SANA’A, 26 March 2015 (IRIN) –

Saudi Arabia and its allies may be hitting neighbourhoods targets in their bombing campaign in Yemen, residents and rights groups have warned.

Dozens of Saudi jets began bombing the capital, Sana’a, early Thursday morning, with the aim of crushing the Houthi rebel movement that claimed control of the city in September.

A number of military targets were hit, but the crowded, low-income suburb of Bani Hewat near Sana’a International Airport was also badly damaged.

Yaser Al-Habashi, 53, a seller of Qat (a stimulant many Yemenis chew), returned home to his six children on Wednesday night. After going to bed, two huge explosions ripped through the house, destroying it and killing his entire family.

“By Allah, what has happened to my family and neighbours? Have they all been killed? Is there still anyone alive?” pleaded Al-Habashi, as he was carried out of the rubble to the Al-Thawrah public hospital.

Yaser Al-Habashi lost his six children in the bombing

Neighbours described how two initial strikes had hit the airport but two later ones had hit the residential area.

Ahmed Jawhar, 48, said he awoke after the first bomb to find his wall partially destroyed. He ran outside and saw a child crying in his neighbour’s house.

“I was trying to save my neighbour’s four-year-old child, but the second one [hit their] house and the child disappeared,” Jawhar said. The family of eight were all allegedly killed.

Amnesty International said at least 25 people had been killed in the bombings, six or more under the age of 10, but many more people may be buried under the rubble.

The organization spoke to medical personnel at four different hospitals and concluded that 14 houses were hit during the bombing.

“This high toll of civilian deaths and injuries raises concerns about compliance with the rules of international humanitarian law. Saudi Arabian and any other armed forces carrying out airstrikes in Yemen are required to take all feasible precautions to spare civilians,” said Said Boumedouha, deputy director of Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Programme.

“This includes verifying that targets are in fact military and giving civilians effective advance warnings unless circumstances do not permit.”

Residents start to clear the rubble

The rights’ group confirmed that they will monitor future violations to see whether civilian infrastructure is being targeted.

Local government official Hamoud Al-Naqeeb condemned the impact of the airstrikes on civilians. He called on the state to treat the wounded and compensate the families of the dead.

Yet residents complained that they had been left to search through the rubble with little help from the authorities.

“The state’s emergency and civil defense forces came in the morning, took the casualties on the ground and left without trying to lift the rubble and save more lives,” resident Mu’amar Sarhan said. “Instead the relatives and some of the inhabitants are trying desperately to find more victims.”

Throughout Thursday, hundreds of families were leaving the area amid warnings of more bombings that evening.

“We are leaving our house to [go to] our [home] town in Al-Taweelah, [in the western] Al-Mahwit governorate, after we heard warnings on some of the Gulf satellite TV channels, which told us [we had] until 9pm to leave,” said Mohammed Ali Dhaiban.

Hopes for a quick end to the violence were quashed on Thursday night when the leader of the Iranian-backed Houthis, Abdulmalik al-Houthi, declared the country would be the “graveyard of invaders”. Both Saudi Arabia and Egypt have said they are prepared to launch a ground invasion if necessary.

Amnesty also called on the Houthis and Yemeni armed forces to protect civilians as the country slides towards full-blown war.

Saudi Arabia’s alliance includes other Gulf states, Turkey, Sudan and Pakistan. They have demanded the Houthis step down and President Abdu Rabu Mansour Hadi be reinstated. Hadi himself is believed to have fled to the Saudi capital Riyadh.

All flights from Sana’a, Hodeida and Sa’ada airports were cancelled after Thursday’s airstrikes. Yet as night fell, the sound of fresh bombs again engulfed the city.


Related article: As Yemen crumbles, civilians brace for the worst



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Amid growing crises, UN officials urge protection for war’s youngest victims

25 March 2015 – The international community must act “collectively and expeditiously” to thwart the growing number of children affected by armed conflicts, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon declared today, as the Security Council met to discuss the myriad horrors faced by children caught up in wars worldwide.

“We agree that we cannot tolerate a world in which children are killed and maimed, where they are abducted, subject to sexual violence, forced to become soldiers, and where schools and hospitals are attacked,” Mr. Ban said.

Nonetheless, he added, “increasingly, children are snatched from a normal life of school and family, abducted by armed groups and thrown into a life of violence and horror.”

Mr. Ban observed that since he last addressed the Council on the issue in 2014, hundreds of thousands more children had been confronted with the emergence or intensification of conflict, while UN agencies on the ground were verifying more and more cases of child abductions by armed groups.

These children face “some of the worst human rights violations a child can experience,” including death, injury, imprisonment and torture, sexual abuse, forced recruitment and abduction, he added.

Overall, an estimated 230 million children reside in countries and areas where armed groups are fighting and up to 15 million children were impacted by the violence.

“The world’s children are increasingly under threat in theatres of war,” Mr. Ban said. “Last year was considered one of the worst ever for children in areas affected by conflict.”

A report released by the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) late last year, in fact, confirmed the “devastating” trend, noting that as violent conflicts proliferate across the globe – in the Central African Republic, Iraq, South Sudan, Syria, Ukraine and in the occupied Palestinian territories – children were being kidnapped from their schools or on their way to school and recruited or used by armed forces and groups in ever greater numbers.

Despite the sobering details, however, the Secretary-General told the Council that there was a glimmer of hope as the UN better engaged with government and non-State actors to end and prevent violations against children.

“We have seen concrete outcomes of our efforts that have translated into thousands of children now going to school instead of battle and playing in fields instead of fighting on them,” he stated. “By protecting children, we contribute to building durable peace and to helping countries reach their full potential.”

Also addressing the Council, Leila Zerrougui, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, lamented the growing challenges facing the international community “despite the consensus and our combined efforts to spare children the horrors of war.”

“In this start to 2015, it is the violence of armed groups and the brutality with which they treat the children which is our main challenge,” Ms. Zerrougui said. “This is the case in Syria, Iraq, Nigeria, but also in other countries. Recurring conflicts have intensified and the expansion of armed groups is assuming alarming proportions.”

The Special Representative noted that out of the 59 parties documented as having committed violations against children, 51 were non-State actors. To that point, she continued, it remained necessary to enter into “constructive dialogue” with the armed groups, in order to dissuade them from continuing in their destructive practices.

Echoing her point, Yoka Brandt, UNICEF Deputy Executive Director, emphasized that voicing outrage was “not enough” but that the international community’s words “must be matched by action to prevent violations of child rights.”

Ms. Brandt admitted that there had been some successes as a number of child soldiers in South Sudan were undergoing demobilization. She underscored, however, that being released was “only a first step” as many children faced struggles when they returned home, such as stigmatization and psychological stress.

The Yazidi children who were recently rescued from the clutches of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), for instance, continued to recount stories of abuse from their time in captivity, she said, adding that they had “experienced the worst of humanity.”

“We can rebuild shattered lives and shattered societies,” Ms. Brandt continued. “As we heal these children, we also heal divided societies.”

Among those addressing the meeting was Junior Nzita Nzuami, who was abducted and forced to fight as a child soldier with rebel forces in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).

He recounted moments of horror during his three years of fighting, as he and other children “shot at and killed everything that moved.” Nonetheless, the experiences, he said, prompted him to dedicate his life to helping his country rebuild a better future and so that what he went through “would no longer happen.”

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Morocco says it experienced no acts of terrorism in 2014

African securityMorocco says it experienced no acts of terrorism in 2014

Published 23 March 2015

The Moroccan government says that although the Maghreb region as a whole, including Mali, experienced more than 280 terrorist operations in 2014, Morocco is the only country where no single terrorist operation took place. The government says this was the result of Morocco’s anti-terrorism strategy.

Mustafa El-Khalfi, a spokesman for the Moroccan government, said last Thursday that Morocco is the only country in the Middle East North Africa (MENA) region not to have experienced any acts of terrorism in 2014. El-Khalfi said this was the result of Morocco’s anti-terrorism strategy.

Speaking at a press conference in the capital Rabat, El-Khalfi said that the Moroccan government was aware of the new dimensions of terrorism, which has taken on new forms to allow it to expand and spread. “Morocco has been distinguished from a number of countries with its proactive ability and communication policy that work to integrate and involve the public in the efforts of the fight against terrorism,” the Middle East Monitor quotes him to say.

El-Khalfi also said that the government’s was actively propagating a moderate religious policy, and noted that Morocco is one of the few countries in MENA to have adapted its legal system to the new realities criminalizing joining terrorist organizations outside the country.

Referring to the recent attack on the Bardo Museum in Tunisia, in which twenty-three people were killed and forty-seven wounded, and other terrorism incidents across the region, El-Khalfi spoke about “The policy that Morocco’s various institutions have adopted in this respect has had positive results.”

According to statistics presented by El-Khalfi, the Maghreb region as a whole, including Mali, experienced more than 280 terrorist operations in 2014. Morocco is the only country where no single terrorist operation took place.

Morocco is working within an international cooperation system based on the exchange of information and coordination in order to face this phenomenon,” he said. Terrorism, he added, is no longer just related to the southern Mediterranean countries, but it is a transnational phenomenon that targets security and stability.

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At Security Council, UN envoy says Yemen on &#39rapid downward spiral&#39 as tensions rise

22 March 2015 – Yemen stands on the brink of civil war amid deepening political tensions and an uptick in sectarian violence, United Nations Special Adviser Jamal Benomar warned today as he explained that only through dialogue could the country achieve a peaceful political transition.

Briefing the Security Council via video conference in a rare Sunday session, Mr. Benomar told the UN body that Yemen was on a &#8220rapid downward spiral&#8221 as the conflict took on &#8220worrying sectarian tones and deepening north-south divisions.&#8221

&#8220Emotions are running extremely high and, unless solutions can be found, the country will fall into further violent confrontations,&#8221 Mr. Benomar declared. &#8220Events in Yemen are leading the country away from political settlement and to the edge of civil war.&#8221

The situation in Yemen has been rapidly deteriorating since the country formed a new Government in November 2014 aimed at ending a period of political turbulence and bringing about a full transition towards democracy. Nonetheless, the country has continued to be plagued by violence and mass political demonstrations despite UN efforts to bring about a peaceful political resolution.

Just over a month ago, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon voiced serious concern about developments following the abduction by the opposition group Ansarallah of President Abdo Rabbo Mansour Hadi’s chief of staff and the resignation of the President and Prime Minister amid a takeover of the capital, Sana’a by secessionist Houthi militants. This followed a steady deterioration since the beginning of the year as Government forces clashed with militant groups throughout the capital.

At the same time, the Secretary-General has recently warned that &#8220widespread and lethal&#8221 attacks by Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and escalating hostilities between AQAP and the Houthis have also pushed the country to the edge of civil war. These developments, coupled with a burgeoning humanitarian crisis which has enveloped an &#8220astounding&#8221 61 per cent of the population, now threaten regional and international peace and security, according to Mr. Ban.

The effects of this continuing instability have transformed Yemen into a patchwork of simmering feuds &#8211 an explosive mix of unresolved grievances which risk inundating the entire peace-making process. In the oil-rich province of Mareb, for instance, the situation has become very tense with many locals fearing an imminent confrontation between Houthis and tribesmen. Meanwhile, in the South, the situation remains volatile with Southerners, long marginalized and excluded from Yemeni political life, now demanding full separation.

Most recently, on 20 March, two suicide bombers targeted the mosques in the country’s capital, Sana’a, during Friday prayers, killing at least 126 people and wounding scores of others. The terrorists also attacked a government building and mosque in Sa’dah, in the country’s northwest.

In today’s Security Council briefing, Mr. Benomar added that the ongoing instability would only serve the interests of AQAP which, in turn, he said would &#8220cause further chaos&#8221 throughout the country, transforming it into a &#8220Libya-Syria combined scenario.&#8221

Meanwhile, pre-empting criticism of the UN-brokered political talks, the UN envoy also admitted that the international community had no other alternative but to continue in its calls for restraint, de-escalate the situation, and engage all sides, including Yemen’s 12 political parties and the Houthis, in the political process.

&#8220I urge all sides in this time of rising tension and inflammatory rhetoric to appreciate the gravity of the situation and deescalate by exercising maximum restraint,&#8221 Mr. Benomar concluded. &#8220Peaceful dialogue is the only way forward.&#8221

In a Presidential Statement, the Security Council, for its part, reaffirmed its &#8220strong commitment to the unity, sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity&#8221 of Yemen, adding that it supported the &#8220legitimacy&#8221 of President Abdo Rabbo Mansour Hadi and condemned the &#8220ongoing unilateral actions&#8221 taken by the Houthis which are undermining the country’s political transition.

&#8220The Security Council deplores that the Houthis have not implemented its demands in resolution 2201 (2015) to withdraw their forces from government institutions, including in the capital Sana’a, and normalize the security situation in the capital and other provinces, and relinquish government and security institutions,&#8221 the Statement continued while also reiterating the Council’s &#8220concern&#8221 at the ability of AQAP &#8220to benefit from the deterioration of the political and security situation&#8221 in Yemen.

&#8220The Security Council reiterates that the solution to the situation in Yemen is through a peaceful, inclusive, orderly and Yemeni-led political transition process that meets the legitimate demands and aspirations of the Yemeni people for peaceful change and meaningful political, economic and social reform.&#8221

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