Update and interesting reads

I great lack of update on my part. I have been writing but in French! I’ll post a new piece soon

In the meantime, here are some interested links

Responsibility to Protect:

“Into the Eleventh Hour: R2P, Syria and Humanitarianism

Here is a series of article on R2P and the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Syria.It brings together some of the most important voices on R2P and humanitarian intervention to examine the doctrine’s validity in the context of Syria’s civil war and humanitarian emergency. Does the Responsibility to Protect have a future?

Also on the same subject “The Responsibility to Protect and the Use of Force in Syria” written by Eamon Aloyo from The Hague Institute

Finally, in “R2P4: The Unsung Fourth Element of Humanitarian Intervention” Mark Lagon calls for a fourth pillar for R2P: ”

“So actually, rather than too much focus on Pillar 3 in place of Pillar 2, what is truly being neglected is an as yet unmentioned “Pillar 4.” If R2P is such a solemn norm, to save the livelihoods of targets of atrocities, then Pillar 4 would represent unilateral or, better, collective action when the Security Council’s approval is not forthcoming.”

The idea of Pillar4 is certainly controversial.


A lot is being written about Syria, torture committed in Syrian prisons, and Geneva II. But at the end of the day, this is what we have come to: “The politics of starvation: Syria’s civilians go hungry after months of sieges”. Eating rats, dogs, and cats to survive. All Syrians there want is peace and food.

Central African Republic

Civilians in CAR are facing extreme violence at the moment. The images are daunting and remind me the Rwandan genocide. Although the French have sent troops to help African troops, the task is enormous and more help is needed. The European Union will sent in peacekeepers as well but, as always, it is taking a long time. Only 10% of the humanitarian aid has been funded. The African Union, whose members have not shown the capacity to appease tensions, have also discussed establishing a Standby Force. But what is needed is a UN mission – something the new interim president of CAR has also requested. Why is action always so slow?

Human Rights Watch’s researcher Peter Bouckaert is doing an incredible job reporting on the situation and documenting crimes committed by both sides. You can follow him on Twitter or see his Twitter live feed for real time news. Also read his latest report “Riptide in the Central African Republic”. Also published in Foreign Policy, the article is fittingly titled on the main page as “The war nobody wants to see”.

I’m very much admirative of the work these humanitarians and activists are doing on the ground. They are simply reporting and documenting mass atrocity crimes, they also try to speak to those who want or have committed violence in attempt to appease them.

Aid Leap and Irinnews  offer overviews and analyses of the conflict


Peter Bouckaert in CAR

Occasionally, you’ll read something more positive about the situation there and those who are trying to make a difference. This is the case of two men, one Muslim, one Christian, who are trying to appease their respective communities. Christiana Amanpour managed to interview them for CNN. They want to emphasize that the conflict in itself is not religious but that religion is being use to fuel violence. “In my childhood at the time of the Christmas holidays, we shared our toys with Muslim friends. At the time of Ramadan, we played. In the past we have never been enemies. We were brothers.”

South Sudan

There was hope when South Sudan acquired independence in 2011 but the upsurge of violence in December proves how difficult it is to build a new nation. The two conflicting parties are holding peace talks but are also accusing each other of trying to derail them. New satellite images by U.S.-based monitoring group, the Satellite Sentinel Project, suggest that at least 210 tukuls (houses) have been burned down in  Malaka, a town the rebels and soldiers are fighting over. Pillage is  widespread as well – the World Food Program’s warehouses have been completely looted, which hinders their efforts to deliver humanitarian aid to the 863,000 South Sudanese who have fled their homes.

Want to see a timeline of the conflict in South Sudan? Read it this one put together by the Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect



2014 marks the 20th anniversary of the Rwandan genocide. Commemorations have already started. People reflect on the inaction of the international community, on lessons learned, and on the effectiveness of reconciliation efforts in Rwanda.

– Foreign Policy Magazine “How Tradition Remade Rwanda. The secret ingredient in Rwanda’s efforts to rebuild its nation after the violence of genocide.”

– Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect: Open Letter to All UN Member States “The ‘Genocide Fax’ and the 20th Commemoration of the Rwandan Genocide of 1994”

– Videos and reports from conference Genocide – A preventable crimes. Understanding early warning of mass atrocities
On 14 January, the Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect organized two event at the United Nations with Lt. Gen. The Hon. Roméo A. Dallaire and H.E. Eugène-Richard Gasana, Permanent Representative of Rwanda. The press conference marked the anniversary of Dallaire’s sending a fax warning of the impending threat of a genocide perpetrated by Hutu extremists against the Tutsi population of Rwanda. Policymakers then refused to listen.

On 15 January, Roméo Dallaire then delivered a keynote speech at the UN. Also present on the panel were  Dr. Simon Adams, H.E. Mathilde Mukantabana, Ambassador of the Republic of Rwanda to the United States,  Mr. Jan Eliasson, UN Deputy Secretary-General, Eugenie Mukeshimana, Executive Director of the Genocide Survivors Support Network, and Dr. Stephen Smith, Kwibuka and Executive Director of the Shoah Foundation.

An interesting point that also came out of the conference is Romeo Dallaire idea that the recruitment of child soldiers can be used a a warning sign of internal warfare. Militia men who want to build-up an army focus on children because they are easy to recruited or kidnapped, cheap, easily influenced or subdued. In short, children are used a weapons of war.


There has been more violence against the Rohingya in Myanmar. The government denies the allegations. The Sentinel Project for Genocide Prevention published a new article on the systematic violence and patterns of ethnic cleansing.

Some History: Heinrich Himmler

If you are interested in the Holocaust, German newspaper Die Welt is published recently discovered letters and diaries written by Heinrich Himmler, Chief of the German Police and the Reich’s Commissioner for the “Festigung des deutschen Volkstums” (Consolidation oft he German Race). The material offers a view of the man who is responsible for the death of millions of Jews. This article is in English but for German speakers Die Welt is also publishing the material on a daily basis. An incredible and daunting view of one of the man behind the Holocaust.


Sectarian violence on the rise

Recent violent attacks on religious communities have highlighted the fact that sectarian violence and religious strife is on the rise. Christians have been targeted in Kenya, Iraq, Syria, Egypt, Pakistan, Zanzibar, in Northern Mali following a military coup in 2012 and even in the Central African Republic where Muslim and Christians had been living side by side peacefully. In Myanmar, Buddhists monks are attacking Muslim minorities, often under the eyes of security forces who fail to prevent these human rights violations. Extremist Islamic terrorist groups are targeting moderate Muslim, including in Pakistan and Nigeria The Bahai’s have long been persecuted in Iran, especially under Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. I could go on.

In many of these countries, Somalia and Nigeria in particular, weak governments are unable to take effective measures against extremist groups. In other cases such as Myanmar and perhaps Pakistan, the state has been accused of failing to prevent violence against Muslim minorities or failing to prosecute perpetrators.

Groups such as Boko Haram and Al-Shabaab, who share similarities to AQIMI, are now moving beyond borders and attacking neighbouring countries. They recruit fighters among young, impoverished and unemployed youths not only locally but also in the diaspora. One of the most disturbing aspects is the presence of foreign fighters from North America and Europe, young people who seem to see no future for themselves and vanish abroad to fight for what they see as bigger cause. In the case of Al-Shabab, some observers say the flow of recruits from the diaspora is bound to decline because the group is a lost legitimacy. Nonetheless, every time there is a large-scale attack such as in Kenya in September or in Algeria last January, foreign fighters are among the attackers. So one can only wonder whether extremists will continue to successfully attract global fighters.

Nigeria – Boko Haram

A “monster” seems to have emerged in Nigeria: Boko Haram. Created twelve years ago, this religious sect used to protest against the establishment. But the movement has grown more violent, more political and more radical. Last week, Boko Haram attacked a college in Yobe State, brutally killing more than 50 students, a lot of them Muslim. Between July 2009 and February 2011, the terrorist group claimed responsibility for 164 suicide attacks, executions and raids against security forces, the UN, prisons and banks. More than 900 people have died, a majority of them Muslim. Amnesty International says Boko Haram, which means “Western education is a sin”, is now targeting schools, killing teachers and students. One consequence of these attacks is that in parts of northern Nigeria “as many as 80% of the students have stopped attending classes and more than a thousand teachers have fled the region.” Parents have been told to send their children to Islamic schools.

Boko Haram wants to set up an Islamic State in North-eastern Nigeria. Last May, the government declared a state of emergency in the three northern states of Adamawa, Borno and Yobe, but Amnesty International argues that the government is not doing enough to stop the attacks. The army has conducted a number of offensive against the extremist group but it only seems to lead the rebels to intimidate and commit reprisal attacks against innocent civilians. It raises questions about the capacity and efficiency of Nigeria’s security forces.

There is a real danger that Nigeria will break apart. One of the most urgent needs is for the government 1) raise the capacity of the security and counter-terrorism forces 2) address the inequalities and poverty in the North considering that the country’s northern states are the least developed. In a region where more than 60% of the population lives under the poverty line and where the central government is seen by many as elitist and corrupted, the population is vulnerable to Boko Haram’s negative influence.



By attacking the Westgate mall on 21 September, Al-Shabab came in the world’s collimator once and for all. According to witnesses the attackers were specifically targeting Christians and telling Muslims to get out of the way. In view of this bloody massacre, analysts wonder whether the group, is getting weaker or stronger, and what ties it has to Al-Qaeda. Al-Shabab (“The Youth” in Arabic) emerged in south-central Somalia, a country that has been stateless for more than two decades, and won the control of most Somalia’s capital in 2006. They were recently ousted from the city by a United Nations-backed force from the African Union but remain in control of rural areas where they have imposed the Sharia law.

Al-Shabaab officially formed an alliance with Al-Qaeda in 2012. But Somali-American journalist Abdi Aynte says that jihadists had already been congregating in Somalia before 2012. Considered by many as a failed state, Somalia had basically become “the best theatre of operations for al-Qaeda.” The raid in Nairobi shows that the alliance leads Al-Shabab not simply to focus on controlling Somalia, but also to move beyond their borders and to attack on symbols of prosperity such as the Westgate Mall. With the internationalization on Al-Shabab, such attacks could happen again.

Washington is very worried. Not only has it given millions to the UN-backed African force but last weekend, the U.S. carried out a raid on the home of a senior leader of al-Shabab in Somalia (and failed to capture him). Just hours later a similar operation was carried out in Libya against the al-Qaida leader Anas al-Libi, this time with positive results. The rarity of such dangerous operations shows a regain of determination following the massacre in Kenya. “Those members of al Qaeda and other terrorist organizations literally can run but they can’t hide.” U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry.

Again, one of the main problems here is rampant poverty, unemployment and a long history of corrupt or non-existent governments. As analyst Richard Dowden states “Al Qaeda feeds on despair rather than hope.”  The current Somali government is only on-year old and it will take years for the country to reconstruct – if the transitional regime is willing to take its responsibilities.



On September 22 a militant group called Jundullah (Soldiers of God) claimed responsibility for an attack on the All Saints Church in Peshawar, which killed 85 worshippers. This is not the first attack on Pakistan’s Christian community but it is certainly the worst. Jundullah is believed to be one of about 150 semi-linked militant groups currently active in Pakistan. Motives for these attacks seem to vary depending on the attacker but they are often linked to grievances against the West, including the war in neighboring Afghanistan, deadly US drone strikes attacks in Pakistan, the withdrawal of the army from their tribal areas, and/or the application of Islamic a radical version of Islamic law.

The Paskistani Christian communities has called for protection but the government is suspected doing little to hold perpetrators of attacks accountable. Not unlike other minorities in Pakistan, Christians have long been discriminated against and are seen as second-class citizens. Cecil Shane Chaudhry, the executive director of the National Commission for Justice and Peace, says the attack “is a new dimension, a new direction to attack the Christian community at large.” But Muslim are being persecuted as well.  Sunni militant groups Lashkar-e-Jhangvi and Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan have attacked Shiite Muslims. In 2012 close to 400 Pakistanis died in sectarian violence, many of them Shiite Muslims. In 2013, 300 have already died in three major attacks. Again the government has done little to investigate the killings, leading analysts to accuse it not only of incompetence but also of complicity.


I have previously mentioned the plight of Muslim minorities in Burma.  The Rohingya in Rakhine state, who are considered by many as illegal migrants from Bangladesh (even tough many of them have been there for decades), have been the target of assaults for more than a year. Deadly riots have already killed 200 people since June 2012. Extremist Buddhist monks have been attacking Muslim homes and shops, burning them to the ground. The ultra-nationalist 969 Movement is responsible for inciting violence but the government has also been unwilling to prevent the violence from growing fiercer. President Thein Sein visited Rakhine at the beginning of the month but stayed mostly silent about what some human rights groups have described as ethnic cleansing. Worse, in the past Thein Sein has been know to call for the removal of the Rohingya. Last week the speaker of the Lower house praised ethnic Rakhine people for safeguarding Myanmar’s “national sovereignty, territorial integrity, culture, traditions, customs and religion.” Violence is now spreading to other regions such as Mandalay region, Kachin and Shan state, and the pattern is often similar: a trigger event, armed organizers wearing red-color headbands and inciting violence, angry mobs, security services standing by. In the past Burma has engaged in democratic reform and Francis Wade suggests that anti-Muslim violence may be a tactic used by the military elite and/or politicians to reassert control: “help manufacture a threat, and jump in to save the day.”



This is a lesser-known case. The Christian minority of semi-autonomous and largely Muslim Zanzibar (1%) used to live in peace but in recent months several churches have been set on fire and attacks against Christians have increased. In February, Father Evarist Mushi was gunned down, two teenage Britons volunteering at a nursery school had acid thrown at them in August and last month Reverend Joseph Anselmo Mwagambwa was badly hurt in an acid attack. The Christian community blames a local religious social movement called Uamsho (Awakening, in Swahili), which promotes Islam on the archipelago and recently acquired a new political focus. Like other radical Islamist movement such as Boko Haram, MUJAO and Al-Shabab, Uamsho has expressed dissent to western-style government and society. The relationship between Christians and Muslim also started to crumble when the government engaged in a process of constitutional review and the emergence of new demands for independence from Tanzania. Like other extremist movements, Uamsho finds recruits among the impoverished and unemployed youths of Zanzibar. The group is certainly one to watch out for: a raid in Tanzania led to the arrest of 11 suspects who are allegedly linked to Al-Shabab – this would be the first a link is established between the two movements.



News Round-Up


The Special Court for Sierra Leone (SCSL), a UN-backed court, has upheld the guilty verdict against former Liberian President Charles Taylor for war crimes and crimes against humanity. In April 2012, the court’s trial chamber found Taylor guilty on eleven counts war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by rebel forces in during the civil war in Sierra Leone, including murder, rape, terrorism and use of child soldiers. The civil war claimed more than 1991-2002.

This is a landmark ruling: Charles Taylor is the first former head of state convicted by an international war crimes court since the Nuremberg Trials. The UN Security Council welcomed the decision as  “an important step in bringing to justice those individuals who bear the greatest responsibility for such crimes, regardless of their official status.” Victims welcomed the decision as well but several Liberians, including the current opposition party, expressed sadness and sympathy for their former president. Some, like Taylor, may think that Taylor also called his trial a political conspiracy by western countries and by the current government of Liberia, to keep him out of the country.

The verdict finally brings an end to judicial proceedings in the case.


Protests have been raging in Khartoum and across the country since the government lifted popular fuel subsidies, which doubled the price of fuel and other commodities. Protesters want the fall of the regime and attacked public buildings and fuel stations.

The army and the police fired tear gas and shot into the crowds of protesters in the Khartoum suburb of Omdurman, apparently aiming at the chest or head. The latest death toll figures vary between 21 and 140, depending on sources. Many protesters have also been arrested and access to the internet has also been cut, probably to prevent demonstrators to get organized. Sudan’s Information Minister Ahmed Bilal and government spokesperson described those who took the streets as outlaws, not peaceful protesters.

Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and the African Center for Peace Studies called for an end to the violent repression: “Repression is not the answer to Sudan’s political and economic problems,” said Human Rights Watch.

Sudan’s fuel crisis began in 2011 and protests, when they happen, are getting bigger and fiercer each time.

Bashir Bashing – The Economist

Good blog post: Uprising in Sudan: What we know now


Al Bashir is Persona Non Grata:

Last Sunday, Sudanese President Al-Bashir announced that he had applied for a visa to travel to the US in order to attend the UN General Assembly meeting last week. He even boasted that he secured his flights and hotel. Bashir is sought by the ICC for war crimes and genocide. Human rights agencies, civil society groups and the ICC were appalled by Bashir’s demand and urged the US to refuse him entry or to arrest him on arrival. A coalition of human rights groups even wrote a letter to the hotel association of New York asking its members to deny Bashir requests for accommodation.

Under international law, the U.S. would not have been able to refuse him a visa. According to the UN headquarters agreement act of 1947, the US is obligated to allow heads of states and representatives to attend meetings at the UN. This is unlike other organizations such as the African Union and the European Union do not allow the participation of government leaders and representatives that are considered illegitimate.

However, Sudan’s President cancelled the demand at the last minute. The U.S. and the U.N. avoided a major embarrassment and disgrace, especially since the US has no obligation to arrest Bashir since it is not party to the ICC Rome Statute. Perhaps the UN should review this treaty…

Bashir’s travel plans dilemmas have been in the media a lot in lately. Most recently, he travelled to Nigeria to attend African Union conference but public condemnation of his visit and demands by the ICC to arrest him led him to depart Nigeria abruptly.

South Sudan

Security forces have been accused of committing crimes against civilians in Pibor. The New York Times featured a set of pictures of the volatile region and the consequences of clashes between the Murle and the Lou Nuer ethnic group allegedly assistant by Sudan People’s Liberation Army (government troops).


The 15 members of the UN Security Council managed to agree on a resolution on Syria’s chemical weapons. 1) Syria has to abandon its chemical arsenal 2) weapons inspectors must be given free access to Syria’s military facilities. The members also agreed to endorse a plan for political transition. A peace conference is planned for mid-November.

However, the document does not mention who is to blame for the 21st sarin-gas attack and does not also mention what will happen if the Assad’s regime fails to get rid of its chemical arsenal? Many questions are left unanswered. The resolution continues to expose one of the problems with coercive diplomacy: how to negotiate with the Assad and his regime, knowing that he will stay in power. In terms of diplomacy, the Syrian crisis is certainly an extremely interesting case to follow: the outcome is unpredictable.

A few recent reads:

How to Dismantle a Chemical Bomb: Lessons for the United Nations in Syria – Amy Smithson

On Assad and chemical weapons “For the time being, the world must hope that this increasingly desperate man will not do even worse things than he already has.”

How to Safe Syrian – Michael Ignatieff

“The prize—successful control or confiscation of chemical weapons and an eventual cease-fire—is not merely an incalculable good for global security and for the lives of untold Syrians. It is the success we need in order to reinvigorate democratic faith in the capacity of the international community to protect civilians from tyrannical brutality.”

In the meantime, let’s not forget that people can be killed with conventional weapons as well. It happened on September 29.

United Nations General Assembly Meeting


In his speech to the UN General Assembly, French President François Hollande underlined that the UN has a responsibility to: “Our credibility depends on our ability to intervene swiftly and effectively to enforce international law (…).” Hollande proposed the adoption of a code of conduct in the event of mass crimes through which the permanent members of the Security Council would collectively renounce their veto powers. The idea is not new but the context is different as the permanent members are debating military intervention and the problem of the legality of intervention. The Syrian civil war clearly exposed the weaknesses of the Security Council and the need for reform. How to find a balance between a country’s veto power and the need for the Security Council take urgent measures when faced with mass atrocity crimes. Since the veto power is here to stay, could Hollande’s proposition be a reform to consider? Perhaps. But a state would still only renounce its veto power if its interests are at stake.

If you want to know what heads of states and representatives have said, see here for the transcripts.

Remarks at Ministerial side event on “Prevention of Genocide: Divided Societies and Election-Related Violence” during the Opening of the UN General Assembly. Delivered by Simons Adams, Executive Director of the Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect


In Nigeria, Boko Haram killed at least 40 students in their dorms last night. This is not the first school attack – another deadly one took place in July in Mamudo. Why schools? The name Boko Haram means “western education is forbidden” and their goal is to establish an Islamic state in Borno state, Northern Nigeria. Attacks against civilians and vigilante groups have increased ever since the government launched a military offensive against the rebel sect in mid-May. More than 3,600 people have been killed since the insurgency started and 30,000 have fled to neighboring countries. Although the government says the army has made progress against the rebels, this new attack is another sign of the threat posed by Islamist groups in countries such as Somalia, Nigeria, Kenya and Mali. They have also been targeting security forces, churches and mosques, politicians and a UN building. Some students have stopped attending school out of fear of being killed: “We no longer care about anything else except to live and see the next day” said one student. It seems like Boko Haram’s terror is having effects.

Despite Nigeria’s crackdown, Boko Haram continues its killing ways by Peter Tinti,

Is Nigeria’s get-tough approach working?

Boko Haram insurgency: The conflict in northern Nigeria crying out for more attention – and less violence – Ian Birell

“What is clear is that for the past four years Boko Haram has been talking the language of jihad and waging a vicious form of civil war against the Nigerian state.”



Of course there is a lot of news on Kenya. The massacre committed by Al-Shabaab at the Westgate commercial center, seen by many as a symbol of prosperity, signifies Kenya’s official entry in the club of countries currently fighting a war without borders. Kenya intervened in Somalia two years ago as part of the African Union mission in Somalia, AMISOM. While Kenya and its allies control Kismayo, Al-Shabaab is still strong in the interior of the country and use nationalism to turn the population against “foreign invaders.”

Observers this week were debating whether Al-Shabaab has grown weaker, as many thought before the attack in Nairobi. Based in Somalia, the group has established a links with armed groups in other African countries and the Arabic Peninsula, thereby extending their presence beyond Somalia, including in Kenya. Observers also question the goal of the attack. Since it attracted worldwide attention, the repercussions certainly go beyond Kenya.

A Wounded Leopard: Why al-Shabaab Attacked Kenya, R. Rotberg

“The attack on Nairobi shows how weak, how desperate, al-Shabaab has become. However the crisis in the mall is resolved, al-Shabaab has marked itself for destruction under the laws of war, intensifying its own vulnerability. Ahmed Abdi Godane, its unquestioned leader, may have needed the raid to improve his standing within al-Shabab and al-Qaeda. He recently purged competitors. But now he has made himself a target, along with others in the top ranks of his movement.”

Al-Shabaab and Twitter: When terror attack go digital  Terror 2.0: Kenya’s #Westgate and a New Face of Terrorism by Joshua Ramisch

“Other gunmen and bombers around the world have used the web to post their rants and suicide videos, but this explicit use of online terror is a worrying innovation.”


Finally a few updates on the situation in Burma, which is not improving.

Burma’s Rakhine clashes kill five as Thein Sein visits

For background on the situation, read this Q&A and this timeline. There’s not been a lot of international response but the U.S. embassy in Ragoon condemned the new sectarian violence against the Rohingya. President Thein Sein continues to remain silent and security services simply stand by.

Here’s a description of what is happening

“In Thabyuchaing, about 20 kilometers (12 miles) north of Thandwe, more than 700 rioters, some swinging swords, took to the streets, police officer Kyaw Naing said. A 94-year-old Muslim woman died from stab wounds in the clashes that followed, the officer said, adding that between 70 and 80 houses were set on fire. Another officer, however, said only 19 homes were burned

Reading list of the week

Al-Bashir visits Nigeria: all eyes on Nigeria

“Controversy Trails Al-Bashir’s Visit To Nigeria” – The Guardian Nigeria

Sudan’s President Omar Al-Bashir is visiting Nigeria for the AU summit on AIDS. Human rights groups, including the Coalition for the ICC, urged Nigeria to arrest Al-Bashir who has been indicted by the International Criminal Court (ICC). Human Rights Watch Associate Director, Elise Keppler also said that if Bashir is allowed to visit Nigeria, it “would be a new low for Nigeria.” However, the indicted leader arrived in Abuja today

Sudan: is this what Sudan needs for people to care?

“Seven UN peacekeepers killed in Sudan ambush”

Gunmen ambushed a UN peacekeepers in Darfur. Seven of them were killed and another 17 injured. This is the deadliest ever single attack on the international force in the country.

Is this what it takes for the international community to focus on Sudan. How many Sudanese have died in Darfur, the Blue Nile region and South Kordofan without states and international/regional organizations caring?

Burma: more on the Rohingya

“Carr apprehensive about Rohingyas’ future in Myanmar”

Australian Foreign Affairs Minister Bob discussed the plight of the Rohingya in Burma. Here is an interesting quote:

“(…) but I’ve got to say, after spending the day in Yangon talking to our representatives of the Rohingya people and to representatives of a group at odds with them, the Arakan League for Democracy and the Rakhine Nationalities Democratic Party* that I’m pretty apprehensive.”

Has Burma Reached the Extermination Phase of Genocide? By Danny Hirschel-Burns – The Sentinel Project

Minority Rights: new report

Peoples under Threat 2013

This is an important early warning tool in terms of genocide and mass atrocity crimes prevention. Minority Rights Group published its annual index of people under threat, meaning “those countries around the world where the risk of mass killing is greatest.”  This includes Somalia, Sudan, Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Syria, Burma/Myanmar, the DRC,  Ethiopia and Nigeria.

South Sudan: Independence not it pretty as it may seem

South Sudan: ‘independence is not as beautiful as we thought’

After reaching independence in 2011, South Sudan faces up to a host of many challenges, including in terms of development, security and human rights

“Friends of South Sudan” Letter to President Salva Kiir

The letter issues a warning to President Salva Kiir and senior officials. The group expresses concern over the “increasingly perilous fate” of South Sudan. The signatories also condemn “a campaign of violence again civilians simply because they belonged to a different ethnic group or they are viewed as opponents of the current government”.

Syrian conflict

How We Are Failing Syrian People

UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs issued a snapshot that shows the current number of people in need of assistance across Syria and the region. 1.6 million refugees and about 7 million people in need of assistance inside Syria

Getting insurgents right

Insurgents and Identity: Why Nuance is Necessary by Edvin Arnby-Machata

Interesting article on Islamist movements in North Africa and the fact that many observers do not always understand the political and economical root causes of the problem, and focus too much on ideological linkages. They also tend to include Christian terrorists groups.


Kenya: Too Little Action on Hate Speech?

Observers accuse government body tasked with prosecuting offenders of not doing enough regarding the wave of online hate speech during the pre-and post-electoral period last March.


Mugabe hunts for internet mole ‘Baba Jukwa’ revealing his secrets

President Mugabe has allegedly offered a $300,000 reward to anyone who will reveal the name of anonymous whistleblower “Baba Jukwa” who has been giving information about the Zimbabwean’s government election rigging strategies, assassination plots and corruption.


Genocide Count Reinstated in Case Against Karadzic

The first count of genocide in the indictment against wartime Bosnian Serb president Radovan Karadzic was reinstated as appellate Judges overturned a decision to acquit him of one of the two charges. Karadzic again faces two genocide charges plus 9 other accusations of war crimes and crimes against humanity. Karadzic is accused of wanting to permanently remove Bosnian Muslims and Croats from parts of Bosnia and Herzegovina in 1992. Thursday also marked the 18th anniversary of the Srebrenica massacre.


Good for Canada

Secretary-General appoints Jennifer Welsh of Canada Special Advisor on the Responsibility to Protect

Welsh is a professor of International Relations at the University of Oxford. Her research projects include Humanitarian Intervention and the Responsibility to Protect, in particular the evolution of the notion of the ‘responsibility to protect’ and a critique of conditional notions of sovereignty; the ethics of post-conflict reconstruction; and the UN Security Council. She will “work under the overall guidance of Mr. Adama Dieng, the Secretary-General’s Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide, to further the conceptual, political, institutional and operational development of the responsibility to protect concept, as set out by the General Assembly in paragraphs 138 and 139 of the 2005 World Summit Outcome document.”



US Genocide Prevention Initiative:

A year ago, US President Barack Obama launched the Genocide Prevention Initiative, which seeks to improve the his government’s capacity to prevent genocide and mass atrocities. The US Holocaust Memorial Museum and the 2008 Genocide Prevention task Force (GPTF), co-chaired by former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and former Secretary of Defense William Cohen, pushed this initiative and made recommendations to the government, including the creation of an Atrocities Prevention Board. the aim is to improve the US’s capacity respond to early warnings of conflicts before they evolve into large-scale conflicts, mass atrocities and genocide. The creation of the board should be seen as a major step, even though a lot remains to be done. For more details on the President’s announcement, you can watch it here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_xTGJxYp76w

Here is also a statement by Madeleine Albright and William Cohen


Following the report issued by Human Rights Watch yesterday, several interesting articles were published.

– The Monks Who Hate Muslims, Foreign Policy, Francis Wade

Weren’t Buddhists Supposed to Be Pacifists?, Foreign Policy, Christian Caryl

Burma’s Rohingya’s ghettos broke my heart, Vice, Emanuel Stoakes

The Guardian also posted a video showing Burmese police standing by as Buddhist attack Muslim


An interesting New York Times article on the violence in Nigeria where heavy fighting between the army and Islamic extremists Boko Haram killed at least 185 people over the week end. The fighting in Baga (north of Nigeria, near Chad). is the first time Boko Haram has used heavy weapons. Following international reactions of shock, including from UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, the government has ordered a probe into the clashes to determine whether the army followed the rules of engagement. However, this type of probe is something that the military often conducts but impunity remains widespread. Results are never or rarely made public. Just before the fighting in Baga, the military got report of Boko Haram activities in the area and tried to arrest the suspected Boko Haram members in a mosque. According to soldiers, Boko Haram activists attacked them, one soldier was killed, leading the army to reply. Killing ensued. The area has been very insecure for a long time and it is only escalating.



Myanmar: HRW condemns campaign of “ethnic cleansing” against Rohingya Muslims


Today, Human Rights Watch issued a 153-page report titled “‘All You Can Do is Pray’: Crimes Against Humanity and Ethnic Cleansing of Rohingya Muslims in Burma’s Arakan State” which accuses Myanmar to wage a campaign of “ethnic cleansing” against Rohingya Muslims.

The Rohingya, a stateless Muslim minority living in Rakhine, were persecuted by the army during the country’s authoritarian rule. Rakhine’s Buddhists regard the Rohingya as intruders and illegal immigrants from neighbouring Bangladesh. And so do the government and Burmese society. 

The report blames local Buddhist monks and ultra-nationalist movement Rakhine Nationalities Development Party (RNDP) for orchestrating the violence, and points the finger at Burmese authorities for standing by. According to the Rights group, the coordinated attacks against Muslim neighbourhoods began in June 2012 following sectarian violence between Arakanese and Rohingya. Since then the Arakanese attacked Muslim villages with machetes, guns and Molotov cocktails. They killed residents before burying some in mass graves. The aim of these coordinated attacks was to forcibly remove Rohingya Muslims from the area

In a statement, Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director at HRW, not only condemned the forcible removal of more than 125,000 Rohingya Muslims but made it clear that the government denies aid and restricts the movement of the community. Displaced victims have found refuge in IDP camps where living conditions are at their worse. HRW accuses the government of denying them adequate humanitarian aid and access to livelihoods: ““The problem with aid delivery in Arakan State is not a failure of coordination, but a failure of leadership by the government to allow displaced Muslims access to aid and freedom of movement,” stated Robertson.

Again we there were warning signs. According the HRW, the RNDP started encouraging violence and promoting ethnic cleansing against Rohingya Muslims last June by distributing pamphlets and public statements demonizing the community. Further more government statements refer to Rohungya Muslims as “Bengali,” “so-called Rohingya,” and “kalar”, a derogatory term for Muslim. The report also provides clear evidence of violence and destruction thanks to satellite images.

Human Rights Watch calls for an independent international commission to investigate the violence and urged the country’s partners’ to act.  

Meanwhile, presidential spokesman and Myanmar’s deputy Minister of Information Ye Htut described the report as “one side.”

This week the European Union was due to decide whether or not to lift the sanctions on Myanmar. HRW believes that scrapping the sanctions would be premature, considering the current situation. Just a few hours ago however, the EU gave its green light and agreed to lift all economic sanctions, also the arms embargo remains. The EU described the decision as a “new chapter” in EU-Burmese relations: “”In response to the changes that have taken place and in the expectation that they will continue, the council has decided to lift all sanctions with the exception of the embargo on arms.”

In North America, the U.S. suspended sanctions last year and US companies are allowed to invest. A year ago Canada eased its economic sanctions against Burma as well and a Canadian delegation visited Myanmar in February. After 25 years of almost no contact between Canada and Myanmar, Minister Baird decided to establish an Embassy in Burma and Canada’s first-ever resident Ambassador, Mark McDowell, was appointed in March, 2013.

Why kind of message does this send to the government of Myanmar and to the perpetrators of violence? Sure Myanmar and President Thein Sein’s government, long a dictatorship, have undergone a rather remarkable transition since 2011. But sectarian violence and tensions continue and have, it seems gotten worse. We ignored the warning signs, what can regional and international organizations, as well as new investors, do to prevent more violence from bring committed?

More on this soon…