Saturday, March 17, 2012

The Week in Separatist News, March 11-17: Lubanga Sentenced, Vojvodina Defiant, Gaza & Eritrea Attacked


World Court Convicts Congolese Rebel for Conscripting Children.  In the Hague, in the Netherlands, on March 14th, three International Criminal Court judges, in the court’s first verdict ever, unanimously convicted the warlord Thomas Lubanga Dyilo of recruiting children into his Union of Congolese Patriots (U.C.P.).  He faces a possibility of life in prison.  Lubanga is a member of the Hema, an ethnic group in the eastern Ituri forests of the Democratic Republic of Congo (D.R.C.) which also includes parts of Rwanda and Uganda in its homeland.  As head of the Hema-dominated, pro-Uganda U.P.C. during the chaotic Congo wars, Lubanga captured the Ituri region’s capital, Bunia, in 2002 and declared Ituri an autonomous province within the D.R.C.  The Ugandan army expelled the U.C.P. from Ituri in 2003, and in 2005 he was arrested in Kinshasa for the murder of nine United Nations peacekeepers from Bangladesh.  Human Rights Watch had long accused the U.C.P. of “ ethnic massacres, murder, torture, rape and mutilation, as well as the recruitment of child soldiers.” The trial began in 2009 and has faced criticism for not including other atrocities, such as mass rape, among the charges brought against Lubanga.

Thomas Lubanga Dyilo in court

Ethiopia Attacks Eritrea, Ostensibly to Root Out Rebels.  On March 15th, Ethiopia’s military launched attacks on what it called separatist rebel bases across the border in Eritrea and what Eritrea says are its legitimate military bases.  The Eritrean government said the attack, which it said was supported by the United States, was an attempt to divert attention to Ethiopia’s continuing illegal occupation of the town of the border town of Badme, which was allocated to Eritrea in the 2002 agreement that ended the two countries’ devastating 1998-2000 border war.  Ethiopia claims that the Eritrean military is harboring ethnic separatists who aim to topple the Ethiopian government, including some linked to militants from the Afar ethnic group who killed five European tourists in Ethiopia in January.  The Afar are one of the two major ethnic groups in Djibouti but also have minorities in Eritrea and in Ethiopia, where they have been fighting for a separate state.  Ethiopia is also destabilized by separatists from the TigrayOromo, and Ogaden ethnicities, among others.  Eritrea, which won its independence from Ethiopia amid conflict in 1993, is a diplomatically isolated state which has been accused of aiding the al-Qaeda-allied al-Shabaab militia in Somalia, currently under assault by forces from Ethiopia and Kenya fighting under African Union auspices.  (See my blog article about the geopolitics of Ethiopian separatism.)

Flag of Ethiopia’s Afar rebels

Sudan and South Sudan Report Progress in Talks.  The presidents of both the Republic of SudanOmar al-Bashir, and the Republic of South SudanSalva Kiir Mayardit, reported surprising progress from talks between the two nations in Addas Ababa, Ethiopia, under African Union auspices.  No concrete proposals are penned in, but protocols were set forth for settling disputes that include oil revenues and ongoing warfare in the border provinces of South Kordofan and Blue Nile, whose status was not finalized before South Sudan seceded from Sudan in July 2011.  (See my blog article listing the ongoing Sudan crisis as one of “Ten Separatist Movements to Watch in 2012.”)

South Sudan Promises U.N. to Free Child Soldiers.  The Sudanese People’s Liberation Army (S.P.L.A.), the former secessionist group, signed an agreement on March 12th with the United Nations agreeing to release any child soldiers within its ranks.  The S.P.L.A. was the main rebel group fighting for the independence of South Sudan and, since the establishment of South Sudan as a separate state last year, has formed the core of the young nation’s military, under the direct control of the president.  The U.N.’s Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, Radhika Coomaraswamy, said, “Not only does this action plan ensure the Government’s commitment that the S.P.L.A. will have no children within its ranks, but all armed groups who have accepted amnesty with the Government must also release their children.”  The U.N. group will also be visiting the South Sudanese region of Jonglei, where the ethnic Lou Nuer and Murle ethnic groups have renewed a blood feud this week.  The S.P.L.A. denies any ongoing connection to the S.P.L.A.-N, which is carrying on the fight to include South Kordofan and Blue Nile provinces, currently under the control of the Republic of Sudan, in South Sudan.

George Clooney Tells Senate of Trip to Kordofan.  The American actor George Clooney testified before the United States Senate Committee on Foreign Relations on March 15th, for a panel titled “Sudan and South Sudan: Independence and Insecurity.”  He described a recent clandestine visit to the war-torn Nuba Mountains in the region of South Kordofan, claimed by both the Republic of South Sudan and the Republic of Sudan.  Clooney is founder of an organization called Satellite Sentinel Project, which aims to protect human rights by documenting atrocities and humanitarian emergencies using satellite imagery.  The following day, Clooney was arrested outside the Sudanese embassy in Washington, D.C., after leading a demonstration to call for the immediate delivery of food aid to victims of Sudanese atrocities in South Sudan before the imminent rainy season begins, and for the prosecution of (north) Sudan’s president, Omar al-Bashir, for war crimes.  Also arrested were Clooney’s 79-year-old father Nick ClooneyMartin Luther King III, the president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (N.A.A.C.P.), the comedian and civil-rights activist Dick Gregory, and three U.S. congressmen.  Watch a video of Clooney’s statement to the press here.

George Clooney being arrested

Tuaregs in Mali Gain Ground in Fight for Separate State.  A press release from the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (N.M.L.A.), a militia fighting since January to establish an independent Tuareg republic in the Republic of Mali’s northern Azawad region, claims new victories.  “We have taken control of the military camp of Tessalit,” said the statement, released March 12th.  “There were not many victims.  We have taken dozens of prisoners.  We have reinforced our position in the area.”  Mali’s ministry of defense says the rebels are hampering attempts to rescue more than a thousand refugees in the area.  The ministry also claims that the Al-Qaeda Organization in the Islamic Maghreb and drug gangs are fighting alongside the N.M.L.A.  (See my recent blog article on this latest Tuareg rebellion.)

Italians Irate over Botched Nigeria Raid; 20 Killed in Christian–Muslim Violence.  Relations between Nigeria and Italy continue to be strained in the aftermath of a botched Nigerian–British hostage rescue attempt on March 8th which resulted in a Nigerian militant group killing its Italian captive.  An English hostage was also killed, along with three of the kidnappers.  The kidnapping plot’s mastermind, Abu Mohammed, died two days after the raid from wounds he sustained.  The Italian president has complained to the United Kingdom government about not being consulted in advance of the raid.  The Nigerian government claims that the captors, three of whom survived and are now in custody, are linked with the northern Nigerian militant Islamist group Boko Haram, which specializes in random terror attacks on Christians and would like to expand shari’a law beyond Nigeria’s northern states to the entire country.  Boko Haram spokesmen deny involvement.  Meanwhile, a car bomb bearing all the earmarks of a Boko Haram operation killed ten at a Catholic church during Mass on March 11th in Jos, a Nigerian town which has been the epicenter of anti-Christian violence.  In reprisal the following day, Christian mobs killed ten.  Meanwhile, the mastermind of the (See my blog article listing northern Nigeria as one of “Ten Separatist Movements to Watch in 2012.”)

Egypt and Tunisia Condemn Cyrenaica Autonomy Declaration.  The foreign minister of Tunisia released a joint statement after meeting with Egypt’s foreign minister, opposing the recent declaration of autonomy (reported in this space last week) by Libya’s eastern Barqah (Cyrenaica) region, which would like a return to the loose federation of regions that prevailed before Moammar al-Qaddafi took power in 1969.  Meanwhile, thousands demonstrated in Tripoli and even in the Cyrenaican capital, Benghazi, itself on March 9th to protest the autonomy declaration.  (See my newest blog article, on these developments in Libya.)

Coat of arms of Cyrenaica, and of the former independent Emirate of Cyrenaica

Puntland Disputes Mogadishu’s Recognition of Khaatumo.  In Somalia, the president of the nominally unionist but de facto independent Puntland State of Somalia reacted angrily on March 10th to the decision by the Republic of Somalia’s internationally recognized Transitional Federal Government (T.F.G.) in Mogadishu to grant recognition to the newly emerged Khaatumo State of Somalia, also sometimes called the Sool, Saanag, and Cyn State.  The T.F.G.’s constitution allows for the creation of self-governing states within Somalia, a category that includes both Puntland and Khaatumo.  But Khaatumo’s territory includes part of Puntland’s territory and part of that of the non-unionist and outright secessionist Republic of Somaliland to its west.  The Puntland president, Abdirahman Mohamed Farole, also objected to the T.F.G.’s diplomatic overtures to the still-unrecognized Somaliland government, since, as he put it, “we have many troubles with Somaliland.”  The T.F.G. responded by calling Farole’s speech an “illegal statement.”  (See my recent blog article on the Somalia crisis.)

Puntland Police Chief Escapes Assassination.  The de facto independent Puntland State of Somalia’s new police chief escaped an assassination attempt on March 15th.  Authorities suspect the attack was engineered by al-Shabaab, the Islamist terrorist militia that controls much of southern Somalia and has recently expanded into Puntland.  In the incident, the police chief, Muse Ahmed Abdirahman, escaped unharmed from a roadside bombing—some sources describe it as a landmine—that killed six and injured seven in Galkayo, the capital of the de facto independent Galmudug State of Somalia, to the south of Puntland.  (See my recent blog article on Somaliland and Puntland.)

Casamance Rebels Kill 2 Senegalese Soldiers.  On March 11th, two Senegalese soldiers were killed by rebels fighting for a separate state for Senegal’s southern Casamance region.  Four additional soldiers were wounded in the incident, in which an army patrol was attacked.

“Kony 2012” Video Flops in Ugandan Premier.  The half-hour viral YouTube video “Kony 2012,” by the California-based charity Invisible Children, Inc., documenting the atrocities of the allegedly cannibalistic and child-enslaving leader of the rebel Lord’s Resistance ArmyJoseph Konymet a hostile reception when it was screened in Kony’s native Uganda on March 13th.  At the showing, held in the town of Lira by the African Youth Initiative Network, some in the thousands-strong audience threw stones or walked out.  Many objected to the video’s intention to “make Kony famous.”  The Lord’s Resistance Army began as an anti-government insurgency by members of Uganda’s northern Acholi ethnic group.

Vojvodina Seeks More Autonomy.  Just as the Republic of Serbia manages to resolve the Kosovo question well enough for candidacy for European Union membership (as discussed extensively in my recent blog article), there are rumblings for autonomy in Serbia’s other restive province, Vojvodina, in the north.  The president of the Vojvodina Assembly, Sandor Egereši, said in a newspaper interview that “Vojvodina needs to have internal autonomy, first of all in the domain of economy, but also in the area of legislature and partly in the field of judiciary,” adding that “in all democratic countries regions and local self-governments have a police of their own.”  Egereši pointed out that Serbs need not fear any Vojvodina separatism and that Vojvodina has a better international reputation than Serbia as a whole, so a Vojvodina with an enhanced regional government would benefit Serbia’s quest for E.U. membership.  Vojvodina, formerly known as Danube Banovina, is mostly ethnically Serb but borders Hungary and has a large ethnic Hungarian minority.  Vojvodina enjoyed independence very briefly after the First World War as the Banat Republic, dominated by ethnic Germans (now gone from the area) and Hungarians.  Banatia, as it was also known, included much of the Hungarian-dominated part of Transylvania in neighboring Romania as well (including its third-largest city, Timișoara), before the whole republic was incorporated into the new Kingdom of Yugoslavia.  Later, in 1974, Josip Brod Tito, Yugoslavia’s Communist dictator, extended more autonomy to both Kosovo and Vojvodina, but in 1990 Slobodan Milošević returned the provinces to direct rule.

Kosovo Condemns Planned Serbian Elections.  The government of the partially recognized Republic of Kosovo accused the government of the Republic of Serbia, which still claims Kosovo, of “provoking open conflict” by scheduling parliamentary and local elections for May 6th that will include Serb-dominated enclaves in so-called North Kosovo (as discussed recently in this space).  Hashim Thaçi, Kosovo’s prime minister, told his cabinet on Wednesday, “With this plan, Serbia is clearly provoking open conflict with the state of Kosovo, which may have consequences for the whole region.”  This comes right on the heels of a fragile rapprochement between the two states as a precondition for Serbia’s admission to candidacy in the European Union.  (See my recent blog article on the Kosovo conflict.)

Special Forces Kill Chechen Militia Leader in Dagestan.  Russian special forces in the lawless Republic of Dagestan in the Russian Federation’s North Caucasus killed a top Chechen militant over the March 10-11 weekend.  The Chechen, Ruslan Akhmatov, was the leader of a militia based in Dagestan.  Chechnya has been under tight Russian control since the end of the Second Chechen War, shifting separatist activity to neighboring Dagestan.  The Russian raid was in retaliation for an attack on a Russian border-service helicopter blamed on Akhmatov’s gang.  A hunt is on for the rest of the group.  Then, on March 12th, special police forces in Makhachkala, the Dagestani capital, killed a suspected assassin and an accomplice in an apartment raid, also killing an involved girlfriend.  Separately, Russian forces claim to have destroyed a militant base in Dagestan’s Karabudakhkent District.

Russians Shut Down “Caucasus Emirate” Branch in Tatar Region.  Police in the Ulyanovsk Oblast (district) in southwestern Russiahave shut down what they call a branch of the jihadist “Caucasus Emirate” movement which aims to establish an independent Islamic Emirate of the Caucasus in Russia’s northern Caucasus region.  The report says the branch, with over 20 people, was distributing banned literature and spreading extremist religious views and planned to go to the Caucasus to fight.  Police also confiscated approximately 200 books in Russian, Arabic, and Tatar.  Ulyanovsk, on the Russian Steppes, is not an ethnic jurisdiction, but it has a 25% Tatar minority and borders the Republic of Tatarstan to the north.  In 1992, Tatarstan and Chechnya, both Muslim nations, were the two republics which initially refused to join Boris Yeltsin’s new Russian Federation.

Map of the proposed Islamic Emirate of the Caucasus, which would include Chechnya and Dagestan

Police Kill 6 in Kabardino-Balkaria, Raid Bomb Lab.  Russian security sources reported the police killing of six people in a village the Kabardino-Balkar Republic on March 12th.  They were described as five militants plus an accomplice, with no further information.  Officials also said on March 14th that they had raided a secret explosives laboratory in the republic’s capital, Nalchik, during an anti-terrorist raid.  Kabardino-Balkaria, in the Russian Federation’s predominantly Muslim North Caucasus region, is home to Circassian Kabards and members of the Balkar ethnic group.  Kabardino-Balkaria does not have a secessionist movement of its own, but some Circassians and Balkars share with some Chechens and Dagestanis the goal of a Caucasus Emirate (see story above).

Salmond’s Predecessor Wants Scottish Referendum within 18 Months.  The former First Minister of ScotlandBaron McConnell of Glenscorrodale, a member of the House of Lords, has notified Alex Salmond, his sucessor and head of the Scottish National Party, that he favors an earlier than planned referendum on Scottish independence from the United Kingdom.  He suggests the vote should be held within 18 months, saying, “Uncertainty and disagreement over the timing of a referendum can only delay our recovery from this economic slide.”  Currently, the referendum is scheduled for some time in 2014.  (See my recent articles on the Scottish secession movement here and here.)

Ukraine Bans Russian Film on South Ossetia War.  Ukraine’s Ministry of Culture has banned the showing in Ukraine of the new Kremlin-funded Russian action–adventure film August Eighth, which portrays the South Ossetia War from a pro-Moscow perspective.  The ministry cited solidarity with the people of the Republic of Georgia, which still claims the republics of the South Ossetia and Abkhazia that Russian troops “liberated” in the five-day war in 2008.  The film has already been banned in Moldova and Azerbaijan.  (See my blog article on South Ossetia’s disputed election.)

A poster for the Russian war film August Eighth

Sarkozy Threatens to Quit Free-Trade Area over Immigration.  As part of a last, xenophobic push to save his reelection campaign, the president of FranceNicolas Sarkozy, on March 10th put his European Union partners on notice that his country was prepared to opt out of Europe’s passport-free zone if other member-states did not clamp down on immigration.  The so-called “Schengen Area” within the E.U., within which no passports or visas are required, includes all 27 E.U. countries except for the United KingdomIreland, and, for the time being, RomaniaBulgaria, and the Republic of Cyprus.  Seven non-E.U. states—IcelandLiechtensteinMonacoNorwaySan MarinoSwitzerland, and Vatican City—are also in the zone.  French unease with the policy escalated last year as Mediterranean countries, especially Italy, began absorbing thousands of refugees from the Arab Spring, who, once arrived, were free to move about within the Schengen Area.  Sarkozy, who is mostly Hungarian and Greek in ancestry, became president of France in 2007 after campaigning with the promise to “fire-hose the scum out of the ghettoes.”  Sarkozy’s latest statements pushed his poll numbers ahead of those of his Socialist challenger, François Hollande, for the first time.


Turkey Blocks Natural Gas over Gaza Blockade Killings.  The Republic of Turkey’s energies-and-natural-resources minister, Taner Yıldızhas said that his government could help Israel and the Republic of Cyprus get their natural gas to market, but only if the Israeli government meets Turkish demands in resolving the killing of eight Turkish citizens and a Turkish-American aboard a ship piercing Israel’s illegal blockade of humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip two years ago.  Israeli and Cypriot firms are extracting large amounts of natural gas from the Eastern Mediterranean, but have few good options for transporting it to Europe other than through Turkey.  The Turkish government does not recognize the Republic of Cyprus and has been occupying the northern third of the island since a 1974 invasion in the name of the puppet Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus there.

Map showing some of the eastern Mediterranean’s natural-gas reserves

Lavrov Links Rejection of Georgian Visa Offer to Status of 2 Republics.  The Russian government responded on March 14th to the Republic of Georgia’s recent offer to abolish visa requirements between the two countries.  Initially, Russia had rejected the idea because of Georgia’s continuing insistence on its sovereignty over the republics of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, which Russia set up as de facto independent but virtually unrecognized Russian client states after its 2008 invasion of Georgia.  Now, Sergei Lavrov, Russia’s foreign minister, says that Russia will agree to the visa plan if Georgia gets rid of legal penalties imposed on any Russians who visit the two republics.  Lavrov said that when Georgia’s president, Mikheil Saakashvili, “declared that every Russian can enter Georgia without a visa, he forgot to point out that Georgia has a law about occupied territories whereby any person who has visited south Ossetia or Abkhazia since the war, which was begun by Saakashvili, is subject to criminal proceedings in Georgia, with a possible prison term of two to four years.  Our citizens should know where they are going and what they are facing.”  But Georgia replies that it will not scrap or modify those laws until Russian troops are withdrawn from the republics.

Abkhaz Elections Go to Runoff.  Counting of votes in the March 10th elections for the Republic of Abkhazia’s 35-seat Parliament indicate a second round, since in twenty constituencies no candidate got 50% of the vote.  One district was still counting as of March 12th, and another will need to vote again since participation was less than the required 25%.  Winners in the remaining 13 include Raul Khajimba, head of the Forum for the National Unity of Abkhazia, an opposition party.  Abkhazia is de facto independent, but most of the world recognizes it as part of the Republic of Georgia.

Ossetian Candidate Vows to Dissolve Parliament.  The current ambassador from the Republic of South Ossetia to the Russian FederationDmitry Medoyevhas said that if he is elected on March 25th to the South Ossetian presidency he will dissolve the pseudo-state’s parliament in order to preserve order.  Medoyev portrays enemy factions, including a former president, Eduard Kokoity, as an ongoing threat to the republic.  (See my blog article on South Ossetia’s last, disputed election.)

Dmitry Medoyev, who wants to run South Ossetia and dissolve its parliament

Russian Imprisoned for North Ossetia Bodyguard Murders.  A Russian man was sentenced to prison on March 14th for killing two of the South Ossetian president’s bodyguards in a nightclub brawl last May.  The man, Albert Tsgoyev, shot the men—one of whom was a cousin to the then-president, Eduard Kokoity—16 times.  The incident took place to the north of the disputed Republic of South Ossetia, in the Republic of North Ossetia–Alania, which is within the Russian Federation.  Tsgoyev, who is 35, was given two and a half years.

Azeri Envoy Visits Chechen Muftis in Dagestan.  The chairman of the Republic of Azerbaijan’s governmental Department for Caucasus Muslims, Allahshukur Pashazadevisited the Republic of Dagestan on March 14th and met with its president, Magomedsalam Magomedov.  He also met with Chechen and Dagestani muftis to discuss “religious and spiritual issues of mutual interest.”  Dagestan and Chechnya are both republics within the Russian Federation with cultural ties to Turkic-speaking nations like Azerbaijan and a history of separatist conflict.


25 Palestinians Dead in Air Strikes as Israel Retaliates for Rockets.  After the exchange of air attacks reported here last week, which broke months of calm between Israel and Palestine, militants within the Gaza Strip continued firing rockets into Israeli civilian areas, and the Israeli air force retaliated with several days of extensive bombing raids.  Israel said it was targeting militants responsible for the attacks, but Palestinian sources say the dead, numbering 25, also included two boys aged 13 and 15 and a 51-year-old man on a motorcycle.  The radical Popular Resistance Committees and Islamic Jihad have been claiming responsibility for the rocket attacks, some of which have reached as far north as Gedera, on the outskirts of Tel Aviv, though there were few injuries (though as many as a million went into shelters).  Israel’s right-wing prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, was threatening further military action, including a ground war, with the United Nations urging restraint, when a cease-fire was declared by both sides early on March 13th.  After the cease-fire, however, seven more rockets were fired into Israel, and Israeli Defense Forces troops fired on an Islamic Jihad funeral procession in Gaza because mourners were too close to a border fence, while a senior leader for Islamic Jihad’s Al-Quds Brigades boasted to the media that the group had forced “a million Israelis to hide in shelters,” adding, “ What we seek with our rockets is not to kill Israelis, but to maintain a balance of terror.”  (See my blog article listing Palestine as one of “Ten Separatist Movements to Watch in 2012.”)

A funeral in Gaza for a victim of Israeli attacks

U.N. Demands Israel Free Palestinian Hunger Striker.  The United Nations’ Special Rapporteur for human rights in the Palestinian Territories demanded on March 14th that Israel’s government release a Palestinian prisoner who has been on hunger strike for nearly a month.  The envoy, Richard Falk, called Hana Shalabi’s situation “morbid and life-threatening, adding, “This is an appeal to the conscience and to humanity and a desperate call to all of us.  Israel ought to end its inhumane treatment of Ms. Shalabi.  Release her immediately.”  (See my blog article listing Palestine as one of “Ten Separatist Movements to Watch in 2012.”) 

Police Kill Separatist in South Yemen Riot.  One separatist was shot and killed by police on March 12th in Yemen’s eastern Hadramawt province, in what was, until 1990, the People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen, or South Yemen.  Six Southern separatists were injured.  The incident began when young activists began attacking shops that were not closing in honor of a local separatist’s funeral.  (See my blog article listing South Yemen as one of “Ten Separatist Movements to Watch in 2012.”)

Sindhi Lawmakers Threatened after Muhajir Resolution.  Members of the provincial legislature in Sindh province, Pakistanhave been receiving anonymous threats via text message after their unanimous resolution (reported on in this space last week) condemning the idea of a separate Muhajir province.  There are 12 millions Muhajirs—Muslim migrants and their descendants from what is now India—in Pakistan, but they form a fifth of the population of Sindh.  The idea of a separate province for them has been promoted in a recent graffiti campaign by a shadowy group known as Mohajir Sooba Tehreek.

Muhajirs in Pakistan demanding their own province

Monks Beg U.S. Not to “Inconvenience” Sri Lanka with War Crimes Investigation.  Hundreds of Buddhist monks marched on the United States embassy in Colombo, Sri Lanka, on March 14th to demand an end to U.S. support for a United Nations Human Rights Council investigation into abuses by both sides in Sri Lanka’s bloody, 15-year-long war against Tamil rebels, which ended in 2009.  A letter the monks delivered to the embassy asked the U.S. not to “inconvenience and embarrass” their country.  Meanwhile, Amnesty International reported on March 14th that Sri Lanka still holds hundreds of political prisoners arrested under civil-war-era anti-terrorism laws.

6 Kashmiri Jihadists Charged for New Delhi Attack.  In India, the anti-terrorist National Investigation Agency, filed charges of “waging war against the state” on March 14th against six militants for their role in a bombing of a New Delhi courthouse in September 2011 which killed 15 and wounded 80.  The men are five members (three of whom are still at large) of the Hizb-ul-Mujahideen militia active in the separatist region of Kashmir and a Kashmiri medical student whom the N.I.A. describes as a “leaderless jihadi.”

Kukis and Nagas Squabble over Manipur Deputy Post.  After the election (reported in this blog last week) of Okram Ibobi Singh, of the Congress Party, as premier of India’s Manipur state, there is now a conflict between the Kuki and Naga ethnic groups over who will be his deputy.  Each group has put forth a candidate for the post and has petitioned the central government.  The separatist Naga People’s Front lost much power in this recent election.  There is also a movement to create an independent Kukiland.

Map showing the proposed state of Kukiland

Indian Police Kill Bru Rebel in Tripura.  A guerilla from the Bru National Liberation Front (B.N.L.F.), representing the Reang minority in far eastern Indiawas killed by police on March 10th in Tripura state.  According to police sources, a police unit was fired upon from a hilltop and later retaliated by killing the B.N.L.F. militant.  The B.N.L.F. is based in Mizoram, a neighboring state.

Top Karen Rebel Leader in Burma Sentenced to Life.  In Burma, a 70-year-old member of the separatist Karen National Union (K.N.U.), Phado Man Nyein Maungwas sentenced to life in prison on March 13th for high treason for his role in the decades-long struggle for a separate Karen state.  His lawyer failed in seeking leniency on the grounds of the K.N.U.’s involvement in peace talks with the Burmese government, which calls the country Myanmar.  The government signed a cease-fire with the K.N.U.’s military arm, the Karen National Liberation Army, in January.  (See my recent blog article on Myanmar’s separatist movements and my article listing the Karen as one of “Ten Separatist Movements to Watch in 2012.”)

Tibetan Monk Survives Self-Immolation Attempt in Qinghai.  Another Tibetan Buddhist monk in the People’s Republic of China set himself ablaze on March 14th to call attention to the plight of Tibetans in the country.  The monk, Jamyang Palden, was saved from death by security forces, who smothered the fire with a sheet and took him to a hospital.  Later, fellow monks brought him back to Rongwo Monastery—which is in Tongren, in Qinghai province—to protect him from arrest.  Palden soaked his robe in gasoline, sat in front of the monastery, and set himself alight with a lighter, shouting (referring to the Dalai Lama), “Let His Holiness return!  Freedom for Tibet and the Tibetan language!”  (See my recent article on the politics of reincarnation in China-occupied Tibet.)

The Tibetan flag

Vietnam Sentences 8 Hmong for Christian Nationalist Rally.  On March 14th in Vietnam, eight members of the Hmong ethnic minority were charged in court for “disturbing social order” “and inciting separatist unrest” by participating in a messianic religious gathering last year.  The event, attended by thousands, in May 2011 in the mountains of northwestern Vietnam, was dispersed by police, though some reports say the military was also involved and that some Hmong were killed.  Officials blamed “individuals with ill intentions” spreading rumors that a “king” would arrive to lead Hmong people to a promised land.  Hmong are a mostly Christian ethnic group which collaborated with the United States during the Vietnam War in the 1960s and ’70s.  Many are evangelicals who harbor a folk belief that a messiah will come to establish a Hmong kingdom.  The U.S. preacher Harold Camping’s predictions of the Rapture last year may have fed the rumors.  The eight all received sentences of two years or less.

Pattani Rebel Bomb Kills Thai Schoolgirl.  A schoolgirl was killed and four other children were injured in a roadside bomb attack in southern Thailand on March 17th.  Apparently, the bomb was intended for a bus carrying soldiers, but poor timing resulted in the mine detonating after the bus had passed.  A group of schoolchildren were riding on motorbikes behind the bus and were hit instead.  The incident is blamed on members of the predominantly-Muslim, ethnically-Malay Pattani ethnic group fighting for a separate homeland in the Malaysia border area in this predominantly Buddhist country.  Meanwhile, the chairman of Thailand’s National Commission on Legal Justice urged the government to consider a “special administrative zone” (i.e. autonomous region) for Thailand’s three southernmost provinces.


Aceh Separatists among 6 Arrested in Bomb Plot.  On March 13th, Indonesia’s anti-terror security force announced that some of the six men arrested the week before in the far western province of Aceh turn out to be former members of the supposedly disbanded Free Aceh Movement.  They were arrested in Aceh Besar for possessing sophisticated home-made bombs.  Whatever they were planning is suspected to be connected to the already-violent run-up to regional elections planned for April 9th.

Hollande Promises to Reopen Case of Exiled Polynesian.  François Hollande, the Socialist candidate who is expected to defeat Nicolas Sarkozy in next month’s presidential elections in Francehas said that if elected he will reopen the case of Pouvanaa a Oopa, a Polynesian separatist leader who was convicted of plotting to burn down Papeete, the capital of French Polynesia, in 1958 and exiled to France.  He was pardoned in 1968 by President Charles de Gaulle and returned to Polynesia, where he died in 1977.  Many claim his original conviction was merely a French plot to neutralize a vocal separatist.  Hollande has electoral support from separatist leaders in French Polynesia and in France’s other major Pacific territory, New Caledonia.

Pouvanaa a Oopa

Human Rights Watch Condemns Prison Terms for Papuan Activists.  On March 16th, Human Rights Watch released a statement condemning the 3-year prison sentences handed down in Indonesia to 5 activists charged last week (as reported in this space) for taking part in an October 2011 rally for independence for West Papua.  The statement said, “Human Rights Watch takes no position on claims to self-determination in Papua.  Consistent with international law, however, Human Rights Watch supports the right of everyone, including independence supporters, to express their political views peacefully without fear of arrest or other forms of reprisal.” (See my recent blog article listing West Papua among “Ten Separatist Movements to Watch in 2012.”)


Santorum Wants Puerto Rico to Be a State, but Not a Bilingual One.  Rick Santorum, the right-wing extremist Catholic theocrat from Pennsylvania competing for the Republican Party nomination to the United States presidency, made a campaign visit on March 14th to Puerto Rico, a U.S. protectorate conquered from Spain more than a hundred years ago in an expansionist war.  Santorum says that he supports statehood for Puerto Rico—whose citizens currently do not enjoy all the democratic rights of U.S. citizenship—but only if they adopt English as their “primary” language.  The vast majority of Puerto Ricans speak primarily Spanish, and only a minority are proficient in English; both are official languages there, while the U.S. as a whole has no official language.  Santorum—who does not believe in the separation of church and state, favors restricting contraception for married couples, and thinks women impregnated through rape should “accept what God has given you” instead of seeking abortion—generally has an advantage in jurisdictions, like Puerto Rico, that are strongly Catholic, but his comments led to an angry backlash from Hispanics throughout the U.S.

A Puerto Rican reading about the latest insult

Quebec Nationalists Parrot French Hysteria over Halal Meat.  The nationalist separatist Parti Québécois (P.Q.) in Canada has joined Nicolas Sarkozy, the president of France, in condemning butchers who sell halal meat to unwitting non-Muslim customers.  Halal is the Muslim equivalent of kosher and requires ritual slaughter of animals that sometimes includes procedures that would otherwise be criminalized as inhumane.  Some butchers in Quebec, France, and elsewhere butcher all their meat according to halal rules to save the costs of two separate production lines.  Sarkozy, who is running for reelection next month, brought up the issue in a xenophobic push to lure voters from the neo-fascist National Front party.  The P.Q. issued a statement on March 14th saying, “This type of slaughter slams directly against Québécois values.”  (See my blog article about language policy and Quebec nationalism.)

British Columbia’s Comox Take Step toward Treaty.  The K’ómoks First Nation—a coastal indigenous group in British ColumbiaCanada, also known as the Comoxare scheduled to sign an Agreement-in-Principle (A.I.P.) with the federal and provincial governments on March 24th as a step toward an eventual treaty.  Most indigenous nations in B.C. do not have formal treaties.  The Comox, who are part of the Kwakwaka’wak (formerly known as Kwakiutl) nation, voted last year by a 3-to-1 margin to approve the document.  The Comox band’s Chief Councillor, Ernie Hardy, also known as Macmois, called the agreement “a way for us to break free from the Indian Act,” adding, “The successful completion of the A.I.P. is a major step towards exercising control over our own affairs and ensuring certainty in the region.”

Members of the Comox First Nation in British Columbia

Ontario Cree Blockade Road against Toxic Waste.  Members of the Fort Severn First Nation community on Hudson Bay in far northern OntarioCanadaset up a road blockade last week to prevent the passage through their community of trucks bearing toxic asbestos.  The trucks were clearing debris from a toxic-cleanup operation in another First Nation community to the east.  Fort Severn leaders were concerned about propering inspection and packaging of the hazardous waste.  Following negotiations, the trucks were allowed passage on March 9th.  Fort Severn is home to members of the Swampy Cree aboriginal group.

U.S. Government Allows Arapaho to Kill Bald Eagles.  The United States Fish and Wildlife Service on March 9th issued the first federal permit to kill bald eagles, a U.S. national symbol, for religious ceremonies.  The permission was given to the Northern Arapaho Tribe, based at the Wind River Indian Reservation in Wyoming.  This results from an Arapaho law suit against the U.S., claiming violation of religious liberty.  The killing of eagles is opposed by the Eastern Shoshone, the other tribe which shares the Wind River reservation.

Flag of the Arapaho nation

Conch Republic Independence Day Fête Planned.  Plans are underway in Key West, Florida, for a celebration next month of the 30th anniversary of the declaration of independence of the Conch Republic, a semi-jocular micronation which encompasses the Florida Keys.  It was founded on April 23, 1982, in response to police checkpoints set up on the city’s perimeters.  Events are to include the serving of a 7-foot-long key lime pie and a Conch Republic Drag Race, a foot-race open only to drag queens.  The Republic is a major theme in local tourism.

Flag of the Conch Republic


Argentina to Sue Oil Firms Exploring Falklands.  The government of Argentina is threatening lawsuits against any firms carrying out oil exploration in the disputed Falkland Islands.  It says the activities are illegal because they are in dispute.  The United Kingdom holds possession of the islands and refuses to negotiate with Argentina.  (See my recent blog article about the latest Falklands crisis.)

Papers Reveal Secret U.K. Offer to Share Falklands with Perón.  An Argentine newspaper has revealed a previously unseen document showing that in 1974 the United Kingdom offered Argentina a shared-rule arrangement over the Falkland Islands.  Harold Wilson, the U.K.’s Labour Party prime minister at the time, made the offer to Juan Domingo Perón, Argentina’s charismatic authoritarian president, but Perón died twenty days later, and Wilson did not sufficiently trust successor, Perón’s widow María Estela Martínez, to continue pursuing the offer.  The 1974 proposal, which would have resulted in a rotating governorship and two flags flying permanently over the islands, was made in secret by the British foreign minister to his Argentine counterpart.  Perón reacted with “euphoria” to the offer, but it may be just as well for Falklanders—who overwhelmingly wish to remain British—that the plan fell through: Perón also told a confidante at the time, “We accept.  Once we get a foot on the Falklands no-one will remove us.  Shortly after, the sovereignty will belong to Argentina alone.”  (See my recent blog article about the latest Falklands crisis.)

[Also, for those who are wondering, yes, this blog is tied in with a forthcoming book, a sort of encyclopedic atlas to be published by Auslander and Fox under the title Let’s Split! A Complete Guide to Separatist Movements, Independence Struggles, Breakaway Republics, Rebel Provinces, Pseudostates, Puppet States, Tribal Fiefdoms, Micronations, and Do-It-Yourself Countries, from Chiapas to Chechnya and Tibet to Texas.  Look for it in spring 2013.  I will be keeping readers posted of further publication news.]

No comments:

Post a Comment

Subscribe Now: Feed Icon