Since April 21, at least eighty Afghan schoolgirls at three schools in the increasingly violent northern city of Kunduz have mysteriously fallen ill after reporting a strange smell in their classrooms. Most of the affected girls have been hospitalized briefly and released, but the sudden, mysterious epidemic of fainting and nausea is raising fears of poisoning by opponents of girls’ education.
I’m leaving Turkey this evening. As I mentioned last week, this was a very politically significant time to be in Turkey. On Saturday, the foreign ministers of Turkey and Armenia (beneath the helpful gaze of Hillary Clinton) signed the Turkey-Armenia Protocols which pave the way for the opening of the Turkey-Armenia border and the restoration of full diplomatic relations between the two countries.
I am in Turkey this week, courtesy of the Turkish Cultural Foundation. As it happens, this is an auspicious time to be here. The IMF-World Bank meetings wrap up in Istanbul today. Also, later in the week, the Turkish and Armenian foreign ministers will meet in Switzerland to sign the Armenia-Turkey protocol which paves the way for the restoration of diplomatic relations between the two neighboring countries.
Opinio Juris’ Duncan Hollis has the goods on the payouts from the Eritrea-Ethiopia Claims Commission (set up to arbitrate damage claims from the 1998-2000 conflict between the two countries) — another topic sure to be of passionate interest to a certain subset of Dispatch readers.
You can access the damages decisions for Eritrea here, and those for Ethiopia here. According to the AP, both sides will accept the awards, but neither is apparently thrilled with the final results. Ethiopia ends up with more money; its final award totals $174,036,520, while Eritrea receives $161,455,000 plus an additional $2,065,865 for individual Eritrean claimants. Ethiopia apparently feels though that the delta between the two awards was insufficient given earlier rulings had found Eritrea violated the jus ad bellum in originally resorting to force in 1998. For its part, Eritrea remains miffed that Ethiopia has resisted the Commission’s drawing of boundary lines between the two states (e.g. giving Badme to Eritrea), a point reiterated (subtly) in its acceptance of yesterday’s award.
I’m sure that Hollis is right on both of these counts: both sides think they are in the right, but the fact of the matter is that both are responsible for not implementing parts of the peace agreement, and for forcing the premature departure of a UN peacekeeping force last year.
Suspected Islamist insurgents stormed a United Nations compound overnight in southern Somalia, witnesses said on Monday, but UN guards fought back and killed three of the attackers in a gun battle.
One UN official in Wajid, 70km northwest of Baidoa, said about 10 heavily armed men attacked them overnight. The compound is used for storing humanitarian aid.
“After several minutes shooting our security guards repulsed the attackers and killed three of them,” the UN official told Reuters.
While it was very fortunate that no UN personnel were killed (one guard was injured), it must be said that this success should not be taken as a policy blueprint. UN guards are not meant to defend against bands of militants, and it’s only a matter of time until an incident like this goes much, much worse.
…the International Crisis Group warns that something is rotten in the state semi-autonomous region of Puntland.
If its government does not enact meaningful reforms and reach out to all clans, Puntland may break up violently, adding to the chaos in Somalia.
Somalia: The Trouble with Puntland, the latest briefing from the International Crisis Group, warns about the rise in insecurity and political tension that the semi-autonomous north-eastern region has been experiencing for three years. At its roots are poor governance and a collapse of the cohesion, particularly within the Harti clan, that led to its creation a decade ago.
“Most of the blame rests squarely with the political leadership”, says Daniela Kroslak, Deputy Director of Crisis Group’s Africa Program. “If a wide variety of grievances are not urgently tackled in a comprehensive manner, the consequences could be severe for the whole country and even for the Horn of Africa”.
Puntland is most widely known as the onshore haven to many of Somalia’s pirates. Piracy, though, the report argues, is “only a dramatic symptom” of Puntland’s problems, and I’d add that the instability in Puntland itself is only a “symptom” of the greater chaos in Somalia writ large.
Puntland is probably wishing that it had some of the good reputation of Somalia’s more successful semi-autonomous region, Somaliland, which some commentators have argued could provide a model of how to organize the country as a whole.
(image from Wikimedia Commons)
The SG: In Ethiopia over the weekend, the SG is now in the United Arab Emirates. Today he met with Sheikh Mohammad bin Rashed Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE, where the two discussed developments in the region, including Syria, Iran, Lebanon, Egypt and Jordan, and in the Middle East Peace Process.