Al-Shabaab Extends Tentacles into Puntland. An Islamist militia operating in the de facto independent Republic of Puntland has announced that it has joined the Islamist al-Shabaab network which controls much of southern Somalia and, thereby, has become part of al-Qaeda. The leader of the the Golis Ranges Islamists militia—also known as the Galgala Martyrs—operating in the hills around Bosasso, Puntland, Yasin Khalid Osman, said that it was the intention of his group and of al-Shabaab to disrupt Puntland’s increasingly profitable economic development. Puntland has numerous oil contracts with Western and Middle Eastern firms. Puntland considers itself part of the Republic of Somalia but has had to function as an independent state, with its own parliament and ministries, since the internationally recognized Transitional Federal Government of Somalia only controls the capital, Mogadishu, and other small areas. No countries recognize the sovereignty of either Puntland or its neighboring independence-seeking state, the Republic of Somaliland. (See my blog post from last week with an overview of Somalia’s different autonomous regions.)
Flag of the newly declared Saylac and Lughaye State of Somalia
Somaliland Foreign Minister Has Brain Hemmorhage. The Somaliland Press reported this week that Somaliland’s State Minister for Foreign Affairs, Dr. Mohamed Rasheed Sheikh Hassan, fell ill Feb. 25th during the London Somalia conference and was evacuated to a hospital. He is reported to be in intensive care and seems to have suffered from a brain hemorrhage.
Emirati Spies, Danish Warship Halt Somaliland Seajacking. Denmark’s navy reports that one of its warships intercepted a cargo ship hijacked in the Gulf of Aden and that two of the pirates’ hostages were killed. The intelligence service of the United Arab Emirates (U.A.E.) had been tailing the ship, originally bound for Berbera in the Republic of Somaliland. The ship, which originated in the Sultanate of Oman, was suspected of being bound for Hobyo, a port city in the pirate-infested Galmudug State, an autonomous state of the Republic of Somalia which operates as a de facto independent clan fiefdom and has no relationship with Somalia’s ineffective Transitional Federal Government in Mogadishu. But the Danish warship Absalon opened fire and forced a surrender, capturing seventeen pirates and freeing eighteen hostages, of unspecified nationality, two of whom did not end up surviving their wounds from the incident. The Emirati agency believes that some or most Somali piracy is coordinated by confederates operating out of the U.A.E. and has said that they believe the government of Puntland is complicit in the network as well. Meanwhile, Puntland has announced that its maritime police are forming a new, U.A.E.-funded anti-piracy unit which will cooperate with the Transitional Federal Government in Mogadishu and seek to arrest pirates in their hideouts on land. (See my blog post from last week with an overview of Somalia’s different autonomous regions.)
Galmudug Legislator Gunned Down in Market. A former member of the de facto independent Galmudug State of Somalia’s parliament, Abdullahi Mohamed Saeed, was gunned down and killed in the public market in Galkayo, the capital of Galmudug, on Feb. 28th. The northern part of Galkayo is governed by the de facto independent Puntland State of Somalia. The killer escaped and was not identified.
France Offers to Mediate Mali’s Civil War. The Foreign Minister of France, Alain Juppé, has said that his government is willing to mediate to end the separatist Tuareg rebellion in northern Mali, which has displaced thousands (discussed in my recent blog article), and he has registered in mild terms with the Malian government French displeasure with how the military has been handling it. French forces became involved on the ground last year in the succession struggle that erupted into civil war in Côte d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast). Both Côte d’Ivoire and Mali are former French colonies.
New Fighting in South Kordofan. Battles have erupted again in South Kordofan, one of the provinces claimed both by the Republic of Sudan and by the Republic of South Sudan, which seceded from Sudan in July 2011. The Sudanese foreign ministry described what it called South Sudanese forces’ unprovoked attacks as “a direct and blatant attack on Sudan’s sovereignty and security.” Hundreds died in the fighting, which is in violation of a cease-fire brokered last month by the African Union. South Kordofan—where Nuba militants from the otherwise decommissioned pre-independence Sudan Peoples Liberation Army are battling forces from the Republic of Sudan government that controls the area—is one of two provinces, along with Blue Nile, that were promised referenda to decide whether to stay with the north or join the south, but those referenda never occurred. (See my blog article listing the ongoing South Sudan secession struggle as one of “Ten Separatist Movements to Watch in 2012.”)
Kenya’s Mombasa Rebels Plan Petition to Queen. Members of Kenya’s banned Mombasa Republican Council (M.R.C.), which would like the country’s Coast province to secede, plan to bring their historical grievances over colonial and post-independence land seizures to Queen Elizabeth II in June for her Diamond Jubilee celebration. The M.R.C. say they will try to secure visas from the United Kingdom’s High Commissioner in Kenya.
The flag of Mombasa
Anti-Christian Killings in Nigeria Continue. Violence in northern Nigeria attributed to the radical Islamist sect Boko Haram escalated this week, including the disturbing case of the 79-year-old mother of a Christian pastor found with her throat slit and a note, for her son, left on her body saying, “We will get you soon.” The incident occurred in Maiduguri, Boko Haram’s center of operations in the northern Hausa region. (See my blog post listing Boko Haram as one of “Ten Separatist Movements to Watch in 2012.”)
Spain Drops Objections to Scottish E.U. Membership. The Kingdom of Spain has pulled the rug out from under one of the dire predictions that the United Kingdom’s government has been using to warn Scots away from voting for independence in a referendum set for 2014. The Spanish foreign
minister, José Manuel García-Margallo y Marfil, now says that his government will not block the desire of a potentially independent Scotland to join (or remain in, depending on your legal interpretation) the European Union. He stated, “If, in the U.K., both parties agree that this is consistent with their constitutional order, Spain would have nothing to say. This does not affect us. The constitutional arrangements in Britain is one and in Spain another. It is up to them.” Earlier, the Spanish government—which, for example, refuses to recognize Kosovo—had fretted over Scottish separatism for fear that a successful secession would embolden Spanish separatists in Galicia, Catalonia, and the Basque Country. Scotland’s ruling Scottish National Party asserts that continuing membership of an independent Scotland in the E.U. would be automatic (a topic I discussed at length in a recent blog post). Legal experts in London and Brussels, however, are still studying the issue. Meanwhile, a recent poll shows that only 7% of the population of Wales favors independence for that country.
Kosovars Protest E.U. Compromise; Serbian Candidacy on Track. Thousands demonstrated in Pristina, the capital of Kosovo, this week to protest the European Union–sponsored Feb. 24th compromise between the Republic of Serbia and Kosovo’s de facto sovereign government over how Kosovo will be referred to in international forums. The words “Republic of” will be dropped from the country’s name, and “footnotes” will refer to competing United Nations and International Court of Justice rulings that leave the legality of Kosovo’s 2008 declaration of independence from Serbia unsettled. The demonstration was called by Vetëvendosje! (Albanian for “self-determination”), Kosovo’s third-largest and most anti-Serb political party. On Feb. 28th, the E.U.’s member states’ foreign ministers agreed to recommend Serbia’s official candidacy, which had been contingent on a resolution of the Kosovo question.
Nicolas Sarkozy under Attack
Only Bosniaks Celebrate Bosnian Independence Day. March 1st, the anniversary of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s independence from what was then the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia was not celebrated throughout the now-twenty-year-old independent state. One of the two constituent entities of this only nominally unified country, Republika Srpska, dominated by Serbs, did not mark it as a national holiday, while in the other half of the country, the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, known colloquially as the Muslim–Croat Federation, it was only a day off work in those cantons (provinces) dominated by Muslim Bosniaks, not those dominated by ethnic Croats.
Nottinghamshire Village Declares Independence for a Day. In the land of Robin Hood, near Sherwood Forest, the villagers of Morton, Nottinghamshire, England, declared Feb. 29, 2012, a Leap Year day, as the day on which they briefly revived the status as a de facto independent city-state that they enjoyed in the tenth century under a dispensation from King Edwy. The idea for the day-long declaration of independence was hatched in a local pub and included a separate currency, called the groat, pegged to the pound sterling at a rate of one to one. A local journalist reported on the day-long village celebrations, including “the national anthem followed by the national dance, which was performed by much of the Cabinet and looked somewhat like Morris dance mixed with comedy pub brawl.” A Mortonian spokesperson reassured the press that no ill will or disrespect was intended toward Queen Elizabeth II in her diamond jubilee year. Morton reverted to United Kingdom territory on March 1st.
Independence Day celebration in Morton, Nottinghamshire
Putin “Assassination Plot” Linked to Chechen Separatists. Russian media announced that Ukrainian and Russian agents foiled a plot to assassinate Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin, after next week’s presidential elections, in which he is considered likely to win a third term. Two men were arrested in the plot, both of them connected with a separatist group seeking to establish an Islamist republic in Russia’s North Caucasus region. One, Ilya Pyanzin, was nabbed in Odessa, Ukraine, on the Black Sea, who was wounded in a January 4th bombing in an apartment in Odessa, an explosion which killed a co-conspirator. Pyanzin had been hired, the Russian reports said, by Doku Umarov, the Chechen separatist leader. The other, Adam Osmayev, was arrested without a shot being fired in an apartment on February 4th. Both were planning to plant bombs along Moscow’s Kutuzovsky Avenue, a route used by Putin daily. All this information comes from the pro-government Channel One television news, leading some Russians to suspect that the story—old news whose release was, if anything, clearly timed—was concocted to attract sympathy for Putin ahead of the elections, and to remind the public of his rise to power in association with his brutal and pitiless—but in Russia popular—war against separatists in Chechnya. It is only Russian sources and not Ukraine’s secret police, the SBU, that are making the connection with an assassination plot.
One of Putin’s alleged would-be assassins, shown on Russian TV
Anti-Armenian hate rally in Istanbul
WikiLeaks Reveals Israeli Role in 2008 South Ossetia War. An email released by the rogue hacker website WikiLeaks refers to a secret deal between Russia and Israel that helped set the stage for the South Ossetia War in 2008. According to the source, the Israeli government gave the Russian Federation secret codes for the Republic of Georgia’s unmanned aerial vehicles (U.A.V.s)—commonly called drones—in exchange for information from the Kremlin on Iran’s missile systems. The email, from an analyst for the Texas-based global-intelligence consulting firm Strategic Forecasting, Inc. (Stratfor), says, “ Israel and Russia made a swap—Israel gave Russia the ‘data link’ code for those specific UAVs; in return, Russia gave Israel the codes for Iran’s Tor-M1s.” Those codes were used by the Russian military to take down a Georgian drone, one of the provocations that led to the 2008 war, in which South Ossetia and Abkhazia formally seceded from Georgia under Russian protection.
Turkey’s Circassians Demand Rights. Over the weekend of Feb. 25-26 in Turkey, members of the 2-million-strong Circassian community held a workshop on questions such as language rights and visibility. The event, run by the Circassian Rights Initiative, is a direct response to the government’s slightly more conciliatory stance of late toward cultural rights for Turkey’s violently repressed Kurdish people, which has opened questions of other minorities in Turkey. Turkey’s Circassians, whose homeland is in the North Caucasus region of the Russian Federation, are descended from refugees from what they call Czarist “genocide” in the nineteenth century during the Russo-Turkish war. Circassians—known in Russia today as Kabardians and Cherkess—form 3% of Turkey’s population.
Map showing the Circassian exodus from Russia’s fringes to Turkey
Phony Election Does Not End Yemeni Violence. Secessionist violence if anything escalated in the aftermath of Yemen’s go-through-the-motions single-candidate “elections,” with a massive car bomb detonating just hours after the new president, Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi, accepted the results. The explosion, in the formerly South Yemen port city of al-Mukalla, targeted Yemen’s Republican Guard and killed at least 26. Later, in Aden, South Yemen’s erstwhile capital, government forces raided a hide-out of the Higher Council of the Peaceful Movement for the Liberation of the South. The raid resulted in a firefight that injured at least two soldiers and killed at least two civilians. (See my blog article listing South Yemen as one of “Ten Separatist Movements to Watch in 2012.”)
Hamas Switches Support to Syrian Rebels. Hamas, the radical Islamist party which governs the Gaza Strip portion of the Palestinian Territories and has traditionally been allied with Bashar al-Assad’s regime in Syria, has switched sides. Hamas’s leader, Ismail Haniyeh, announced at Friday prayers in Cairo, Egypt, on Feb. 24th that Hamas now supports the democratic opposition in Syria’s escalating civil war. “I salute all the nations of the Arab Spring and I salute the heroic people of Syria who are striving for freedom, democracy and reform,” he said. This is a shift in some of the Middle East’s most consequential alliances. Hamas had been a lone Sunni link in a chain of largely Shi’a Muslim states and entities stretching from Iran through Iraq and Syria to the Hezbollah-controlled areas of Lebanon. Assad’s ruling dynasty, closely allied with Iran’s theocratic regime, are Alawites, which is a Shiite sect, but the majority of the Syrian population is Sunni, like most Palestinians. Iran has traditionally been a sponsor and funding source for both Hezbollah and Hamas, including their campaigns of violence. At the Cairo prayer service, some of the crowds chanted, “No Hezbollah and no Iran. The Syrian revolution is an Arab revolution.” (See my blog article on sectarian and ethnic dynamics in Syria’s civil war.)
Hamas flags at a rally
Israel Raids West Bank TV Stations. On the morning of Feb. 29th, soldiers dispatched by Israel’s Ministry of Communications raided two television stations in the West Bank, seizing equipment. One station, al-Watan TV, Israel calls a pirate station, which regularly broadcasts news reports sympathetic to the Palestinian cause. The second, Jerusalem Educational TV, in Ramallah, is not a pirate station but is run by Al-Quds University, a Palestinian institution with a campus in Jerusalem. The prime minister of the Palestinian Authority, Salam Fayyad, visited the al-Watan station later in the day and called the raids an attempt to undermine Palestinian sovereignty.
Sindhi Separatists Target Pakistan Railroads. Sixteen separate explosions occurred Feb. 25th along railways between Sukkur in the north of Pakistan’s Sindh province and Karachi, Pakistan’s largest city. One person was killed. The Sindhu Desh Libration Army claimed responsibility for the attacks. The movement was founded in the early 1970s in an attempt to follow Bangladesh’s secession by establishing a separate state called Sindhudesh out of Pakistan’s largest and most populous province. But the movement is extremely marginal today, especially compared to the ongoing secessionist violence in Pakistan’s southwestern Balochistan province—where, on Feb. 26th, three explosions on gas lines were blamed on separatists.
Flag of Pakistan’s Sindhi independence movement; they don’t appear to be gradualists
Sri Lankans Protest U.N. Position on War Crimes. Thousands of Sri Lankans thronged the streets of their capital city, Colombo, Feb. 27th to protest a proposed resolution in the United Nations Human Rights Council condemning the Sri Lankan government’s use of violence in the 1983-2009 civil war, instead of restricting criticism to the Tamil rebels who sought to establish a separate state called Tamil Eelam. Many carried placards with the image of Sri Lanka’s president, Mahinda Rajapaksa, who was already in power when the war ended in 2009.
Thai Soldiers Kill Separatist in South. Soldiers from a special task force killed a wanted separatist militant in Thailand’s Yala province Feb. 28th. Acting on a tip, soldiers approached a house but were fired upon and fired back, according to the police report. They found 29-year-old Masahudee Samae’s body at the scene afterward, and arrested one other. Samae was believed to be a key figure in the militant Runda Kumpulan Kecil (R.K.K.) group. Thailand’s southern provinces, by the border with Malaysia, which are ethnically Malay and predominantly Muslim, have been waging a separatist war against the central government for decades.
Uighurs with Axes Kill 12 in Xinjiang. An attack on a public market on “Happiness Road” in Yecheng (known in Uighur as Kargilik), in the People’s Republic of China’s western Xinjiang province, killed at least ten on Feb. 28th. The attackers, members of the predominantly-Muslim, Turkic-speaking Uighur national minority, were wielding axes (other reports said knives), and most of the victims were Han, i.e. members of China’s dominant ethnic group. Police shot and killed five (other reports say seven) of the assailants. A different account was provided by the United States–government-run Radio Free Asia, which claims that in the incident the Uighurs killed three Han and that police responded by killing twelve young Uighurs. The government in Beijing usually blames interethnic violence in Xinjiang on groups, such as the East Turkestan Islamic Movement, which aim to set up a separate Uighur republic in China’s far western desert.
A rather biased map of China; then again,
the official Chinese maps are pretty biased too
Tahitian Separatist Backs French Anti-Separatist. The president of French Polynesia, Oscar Temaru, says that he supports the Socialist candidate François Hollande for the presidency of France, even though Hollande opposes independence for the colony. Temaru stated that he understood that French politicians have little leeway on the issue of decolonization because of natural resources and other strategic interests in places like French Guiana, New Caledonia, and French Polynesia (which includes Tahiti).
The flag of French Polynesia
Fiji Denies Russian Blackmail over Caucasus Recognition. The prime minister of the Republic of Fiji, Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama, rejected suggestions that the government of Russia was pressuring small Pacific nations to grant diplomatic recognition to South Ossetia and Abkhazia in return for development deals. He spoke glowingly of the recent visit to Fiji by Russia’s foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, in contrast with what he calls Australia’s neglect of the region. Both Russia and the People’s Republic of China are extending their “soft power” in the South Pacific. The island mini-nations Kiribati, Tuvalu, Nauru, and Vanuatu are among the small handful of nations that recognize South Ossetia and Abkhazia, two Russian puppet states which were established as international entities after a 2008 war with the Republic of Georgia.
Sergei Lavrov visiting Fiji
Wyoming Mulls Separate Military in Case of U.S. Collapse. The House of Representatives in Wyoming has proposed a bill that would form a “continuity task force” to enable a sovereign Wyoming to survive a possible future disintegration of the United States of America. The bill suggests contingency plans for currency devaluation, famine, constitutional crisis, or “a situation in which the federal government has no effective power or authority over the people of the United States.” Rep. Kermit Brown proposed an amendment, which was accepted, asking the task force to examine “conditions under which the state of Wyoming should implement a draft, raise a standing army, marine corps, navy, and air force, and acquire strike aircraft and an aircraft carrier.” As a columnist for Forbes notes, Wyoming, the U.S.’s least populous and one of its most Republican states (and home of the former vice-president, Dick Cheney), is landlocked. An aircraft carrier could fit in its largest lake (Yellowstone Lake, in Yellowstone National Park), but it might not have room to move around much in it. The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Lorraine Quarberg, who represents Thermopolis, Wyoming (population 3,172), told her colleagues, “I don’t think there’s anyone in this room today what [sic] would come up here and say that this country is in good shape, that the world is stable and in good shape—because that is clearly not the case. To put your head in the sand and think that nothing bad’s going to happen, and that we have no obligation to the citizens of the state of Wyoming to at least have the discussion, is not healthy.”
... and if an independent Wyoming needs a warlord, there’s always Dick.
After the battle in Coarsegold, California
One proposed flag for the Third Position movement that supports Ron Paul; lovely, isn’t it?
You see, the crosshairs and the iron cross symbolize Ron’s love of liberty. He’s all about liberty.
U.K. Draws Up Plans to Defend Falklands. The United Kingdom’s Ministry of Defense has drawn up contingency plans in case Argentina decides to act militarily on its ongoing claims to the Falkland Islands, a British overseas territory. The plans involve a highly mobile mini-task-force that could respond immediately. Naval forces would be diverted from patrols in the Caribbean and along the African coast, while C-17 transport vehicles would fly troops from the Royal Air Force base at Brize Norton, Oxfordshire, to Ascension Island. Ascension, an islet near the Equator about equidistant between Brazil and Africa, is part of the U.K. overseas territory of St. Helena, Ascension, and Tristan da Cunha. April will bring the thirtieth anniversary of Argentina’s unsuccessful 1982 war to conquer the Falklands and associated territories from the U.K. (See my recent blog article on the current Falklands dispute.)
Two Bermuda-Flagged Ships Barred from Argentine Port. In Tierra del Fuego province, Argentina made good on its promise to bar all ships bearing the flags of the United Kingdom or its dependent territories from Argentine ports. Two cruise liners, sailing under the flag of Bermuda, a British colony in the north Atlantic, were prevented from docking in the harbor in Ushuaia. One of the liners, the Adonia, had mostly British passengers. The moves are in retaliation for what the Argentine government views as provocative moves to assert its claim over the Falkland Islands. Meanwhile, Uruguay has said it will ban Falklands-flagged vessels from its ports, and Argentina’s president, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, has said that her country will not boycott this year’s Summer Olympics in London over the Falklands dispute. (See my recent blog article on the current Falklands dispute.)
Roger Waters, Morrissey Back “Malvinas” Claims. The former bass player for Pink Floyd, Roger Waters, has joined the American actor Sean Penn in backing Argentina’s claims on the Falkland Islands. He made the statement after arriving in Chile for a concert tour. The Falklands dispute was referred to in Pink Floyd’s 1983 album The Final Cut, where the lyrics, “Oh, Maggie, Maggie, what have we done?” apparently refer to Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s orders to sink the Argentine battleship Belgrano in the 1982 war. At press time, the British singer Morrissey has also told crowds in Argentina that he supports Argentina’s claims over the islands. In other celebrity Falklands news, Sean Penn is still a moron and has still not been fed to crocodiles, but we will keep you posted in case there are any developments in that area.