Monthly Archives: February 2008
>>Star Wars – The US Navy successfully hit an impaired satellite the size of a school bus that was falling to earth and potentially contained 453kg of hydrazine, a hazardous fuel. The missile was fired from a vessel off the west coast of Hawaii. The aim was to strike and disperse the contents of the fuel tank. The satellite flew 247km above the earth. The Pentagon denied that this was simply a pretext for a weapons exercise in the face of China’s unabashed test last year.
>>Kenya – The Kenyan government has “more or less agreed on” the creation of a prime minister’s post, a key demand of the opposition and a possible breakthrough in the political crisis. Kofi Annan sees this as considerable progress. Negotiators return on Friday, when they are expected to ink the final deal. The stakes are high says the International Crisis Group in a new report.
>>Bush’s African Tour – President Bush arrived in Liberia today to meet with President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the first woman ever elected to head an African nation and a U.S. Medal of Freedom winner. UN peacekeepers provided security in advance of his visit. This completes President Bush’s five-nation tour of Africa, which also included stops in Benin, Tanzania, Rwanda, and Ghana.
“The current uneasy calm in Kenya should not be misunderstood as a return to normalcy.”
– International Crisis Group
“We will continue waiting for the ‘Reflections of Comrade Fidel,’ which will be a powerful arsenal of ideas and guidance.”
– as written in Granma, the Cuban Communist Party newspaper
A Peacekeeping Mission Falls Apart – by Mark Leon
Expected to Visit Myanmar – by Mark Leon Goldberg
A day after another U.S. primary, and as the partition of northern Kosovo becomes more likely by the hour, the collapse of the peacekeeping mission along the Ethiopia-Eritrea border is understandably getting scant attention. This is unfortunate, because the crisis facing the UN mission there is one of the more disturbing developments facing UN peacekeeping a long while.
What happened is this: For weeks, the government of Eritrea has made it increasingly difficult for the mission, UNMEE, to access diesel. With its fuel stocks dangerously low, the mission decided to relocate to the Ethiopian side of the border. The Eritrean military, however, has blocked them from reaching the border. Two flatbeds carrying APCs and a number of personnel are currently being detained and harassed by Eritrean militia in a remote border crossing. Meanwhile, the rest of the 1,400 strong UNMEE has decided to “regroup” in the Eritrean capitol, Asmara.
Ethiopia is not with out reproach. The Eritrean hostility toward UNMEE stems in large part from an Eritrean perception that the international community is not doing enough to force Ethiopia to abide by binding arbitration which awarded a disputed border town to Eritrea. Nevertheless, nothing can justify this kind out outright harassment of UN peacekeepers. The international community must come down hard against this kind of behavior — the precedent that it sets for other peacekeeping missions is frankly dangerous. Flagrant violations of the accepted rules of peacekeeping cannot be allowed to go unpunished.
From the UN News Center:
The Secretary-General’s Special Adviser on Myanmar said today that his return to the South-East Asian nation may take place sooner than mid-April, the original date proposed by the Government.
While “it is still a subject for negotiation,” Ibrahim Gambari said he has received “encouragement” from sources in Beijing, where he is currently holding consultations, that Myanmar may move up the date of his visit. “I really hope this would be the case,” he stated.
This will be Mr. Gambari’s third visit to the country since last summer’s crackdown by the Myanmar authorities on peaceful protesters.
>>Uganda – An agreement has been reached between the government of Uganda and the Lord’s Resistance Army to create a special court to handle war crimes allegations — seen as a major stepping stone toward a full peace deal. The Lord’s Resistance Army has refused to disarm as long as three of its leaders are wanted by the ICC.
>>Pakistan – Benazir Bhutto’s Pakistan People’s Party, which won the most seats in Monday’s parliamentary elections, reached out to Nawaz Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League-N, which won the second-most seats, in an attempt to form a coalition government. Neither party claimed an outright majority in the election. A ruling coalition that controlled a two-thirds majority could impeach President Musharraf, who has said he has no plans to resign. The leader of the PPP, Bhutto’s widower Asif Ali Zardari, has said that no politician align with Musharraf will be allowed to join the coalition.
>>Gorillas – Rwanda, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Uganda have launched a joint project to protect the less-than 700 gorillas that inhabit the Virunga mountains and Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable Forest reserve. The gorillas are a significant source of income for the region, with tourists paying up to $500 for the viewing permit alone.
Partition Imminent? – by Mark Leon Goldberg
Plaza: The Conflict in Northern Uganda – by Mark
This weekend finally saw the much anticipated declaration of independence by Kosovo. We’ve been predicting this moment for a couple of months, so back in November we asked United States Institute of Peace scholar Daniel Serwer to help us anticipate some of the immediate consequences of a Kosovo’s declaration of independence. At the time, he was quite pessimistic.
What would be the fall-out [from Kosovo's unilateral declaration of independence?] It could be bad. You could have efforts by Belgrade to grab the northern piece of Kosovo, which has a Serbian majority, and declare its own independence. And perhaps even Republika Srpska (the Serbian half of Bosnia) as well. Belgrade is in a position to make a lot of trouble in the aftermath of a Kosovo declaration of independence.
So far, things are relatively stable in Republika Srpska. But this is certainly not the case in the northern part of Kosovo, where Reuters is reporting that mobs of Kosovar-Serbs torched border crossings and a police station in protest. The New York Times even quotes one unnamed western diplomat, saying “we are minutes to partition.” Kosovo, a very small country, may soon become even smaller–and more ethnically homogeneous.
In the latest edition of UN Plaza, the Enough Project’s Julia Spiegel discusses the conflict in Northern Uganda, from where she recently returned. In this segment, Spiegel offers a smart background on the conflict, and introduces viewers to Joseph Kony, the murderous, child abducting leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army.
Middle East: During the last 48 hours of the continued ceasefire, humanitarian workers have delivered food to hundreds of thousands of people, repaired water and sanitation infrastructure, re-stocked medical supplies, and some of the 520,000 displaced Palestinians have returned to their homes. However, UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator remarked the scale of needs remains “unprecedented in the Gaza Strip.”
Middle East: At today’s informal session of the General Assembly on Gaza the SG remarked that the most recent ceasefire has held since yesterday at 8 a.m. local time. He noted that a durable ceasefire is necessary and UN shelters must continue to remain safe zones. The SG thanked UN staff in Gaza and will fly the UN flag at half-mast tomorrow in memory of those who died in the conflict.
Middle East: The SG commended Israeli and Palestinian parties for committing to a 72-hour ceasefire that took place at 8 a.m. local time today. He urges all parties to abide by the ceasefire and commence peace talks in Cairo to address underlying issues and agree on a durable ceasefire to sustainably stop the violence. The UN lends its full support toward these efforts.
Middle East: The SG condemned yesterday’s shelling outside of an UNRWA school in Rafah that killed at least 10 Palestinian civilians. The SG stated that the attack violated international humanitarian law and UN shelters must continue to be safe zones and not combat zones.
SG: Last night the SG spoke at a joint press conference with the Foreign Minister of Costa Rica where he repeated his call for an unconditional and extendable humanitarian ceasefire. Speaking about yesterday’s shelling of a UN shelter he said: “Nothing – nothing – justifies such horror” and demanded “that all parties immediately respect UN premises”.
SG: The SG met with President Ortega yesterday in Nicaragua where he visited a wind farm and praised the country’s commitment to renewable energy. The SG arrived in Costa Rica today where he is expected to lecture about “Costa Rica and the United Nations: Challenges and Opportunities in the 21st Century”.