Image of the Week: Online microphilatelists (or pseudophilatelists?) are talking this week about rare postage stamps issued by the Republic of Abkhazia depicting the former United States president Bill Clinton and his paramour Monica Lewinsky, in commemoration of the sex scandal that nearly ended his presidency in the late 1990s. Abkhazia still resents Clinton’s shaping of the American post-Cold-War policy of allying with the Republic of Georgia as a way of containing Russian power. The U.S. considers Abkhazia part of Georgia, but Abkhazia has been self-governing since the 1990s, and the Russian Federation recognizes it as sovereign. In particular, Abkhaz are hostile to the current U.S. secretary of state, Hillary Rodham Clinton—the wronged wife in the Lewinsky scandal—whom they accuse of bullying some of Russia’s allies, such as Belarus and Kazakhstan, into refusing to recognize Abkhazia. These stamps are banned in Georgia.
TOP STORY—NORTH AFRICA:
THE BRINK OF ALL-OUT WAR ON 2 FRONTS:
NORTH VS. SOUTH IN MALI AND SUDAN
Sudan and South Sudan Border Clashes Escalate toward All-Out War. Fighting continued between the Republic of Sudan and the Republic of South Sudan this week, with the capture of the valuable Heglig oil fields—which produce half of (north) Sudan’s oil—by South Sudan’s army last week. This was the first significant direct occupation of Sudanese territory by the South Sudanese, who have no air force and are not usually the aggressors in the fighting. Sudan’s parliament unanimously declared South Sudan an “enemy” on April 16th and called for the South Sudanese government’s overthrow, and a leading member of Sudan’s ruling party labeled the situation a full-on war. Sudan’s president, Omar al-Bashir, a wanted international war criminal for his crimes against humanity in Darfur, added a sectarian tone to the conflict, saying that the newest fighting had “revived the spirit of jihad” in Sudan, and on April 19th he told a rally in the disputed border state of South Kordofan that the Sudanese army would “march to Juba,” South Sudan’s capital. (South Sudan is predominantly non-Muslim and ethnically sub-Saharan (“black”) African, while Sudan is predominantly Muslim and has become far more Islamist in its ideology since the secession of the south in July 2011.) The international community is regarding this as tantamount to a declaration of war, and both the United States and the United Nations pleaded for calm. By April 21st, South Sudan’s army was reported to have withdrawn from Heglig, and the Sudanese were claiming to have “liberated” it. Whether this brings the two countries back from the brink of all-out war remains to be seen.
(Northern) Sudanese celebrate the withdrawal of South Sudanese forces from Heglig
Sudanese airstrikes hit a United Nations camp in Mayom, in South Sudan’s Unity State, on April 15th. South Sudan on April 16th accused Sudan’s air force of killing five civilians and wounding nine in airstrikes in the Heglig region. Sudan also retook the town of Mugum, in Blue Nile state, killing 25 rebels from the northern branch of the Sudanese People’s Liberation Army (the southern branch of which became South Sudan’s military when it won independence last year). Both South Kordofan and Blue Nile are among the states where separate referenda were to be held to decide whether they would be part of South Sudan or Sudan; those referenda were never held, and Sudan has mostly controlled them, with nearly all maps assigning them to the north. Sudan also attacked the town of Bentiu in Unity state, in South Sudan proper, and fighting has for the first time in this round of clashes spread to the Bahr el Ghazal region, in northwestern South Sudan, with, by April 18th, a clash in Aweil, near the disputed Abyei district, in which seven South Sudanese and 15 Sudanese soldiers died. Meanwhile, South Sudan’s oil industry has been shut down in protest over pipeline fees set by Sudan, which controls South Sudan’s access to the sea.
(See my article listing the conflict between the Sudans as one of “Ten Separatist Movements to Watch in 2012.”)
Ecowas Mulls Military Intervention to Retake Azawad; Mali Offers Tuaregs Federation. The 15-member Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas) moved forward on April 14th its request for approval of a 3,000-strong troop deployment to help restore the newly declared Independent State of Azawad to the control of the Republic of Mali—after the northern Tuareg region’s April 6th declaration of independence amidst the chaos of a coup d’état in Mali’s southern capital. The new statements follow a meeting on April 12th in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, in which Ecowas promised to “take all necessary measures to end the rebellion and maintain the unity and territorial integrity of Mali, including the use of force.”
Meanwhile, at talks on April 15th in Nouakchott, Mauritania, Thibilé Dramé, an emissary for Mali’s newly sworn-in civilian interim president, Dioncounda Traoré, said that his government was willing to negotiate with Azawad for a federal status within Mali but would not negotiate with the “armed foreign jihadist groups” such as Ansar al-Dine that appear to be running the north’s cities. Some observers are speculating that the site of the meeting indicates that Mauritania, which also has a large Tuareg population, may take the lead when and if Ecowas authorizes a regional multinational force to defeat the Azawadis.
The same day, in Timbuktu, in Azawad territory, a missionary from Switzerland was captured from her home by unknown gunmen wearing turbans and has not been seen since. Switzerland’s foreign ministry is investigating. Timbuktu is still to be under the control of the al-Qaeda-affiliated Ansar al-Dine militia, and this week the al-Qaeda Organization in the Islamic Maghreb (A.Q.I.M.) named an A.Q.I.M. “emir” from Algeria named Jemal Oukacha, who uses the nom de guerre Yahya Abou al-Hammam, governor of the Timbuktu district. There have also been concerns voiced that Timbuktu, a Unesco World Heritage Site, which contains some of the most historically important ancient libraries in the world, is being plundered of its antiquities.
A checkpoint in Timbuktu, with the Ansar al-Dine black flag flying.
In Bamako, the illusion of a return to normalcy provided by the swearing in of Douré last week (as reported in this blog)—and by Douré’s appointment of a dual United States–Malian citizen, astrophysicist, and Microsoft executive, Cheick Modibo Diarra, as the new prime minister—was undercut by the arrests of several politicians on April 17th by gunmen from Amadou Haya Sanogo’s military junta. Those arrested included two presidential candidates: Soumaïla Cissé, who was snatched in a violent home invasion, and a former prime minister, Modibo Sidibé. The men, and several others taken at the same time, were released two days later under international pressure. Cissé and Sidibé are considered leading candidates for the now-postponed April 29th presidential election. Meanwhile, Amadou Toumani Touré, the president who ushered Mali to democratic rule ten years ago and was ousted in the March 22nd coup d’état this year, fled this week with 15 members of his family to Senegal, after first taking refuge in the Senegalese embassy in Bamako. (See my recent long article on the Azawadi declaration of independence, plus an earlier article on the Tuareg rebellion in the context of other conflicts in the Sahel and a more recent article on the Independent State of Azawad’s choice of a name for itself.)
Cyrenaica Leader Repeats Autonomy Demand, Plans to Form Security Force. At a conference on April 17th in their capital, Benghazi, hundreds of advocates of the eastern Cyrenaica region’s autonomy within a federal Libya supported a joint pledge “to the autonomy of Cyrenaica, stretching from the border with Egypt (in the east) to Syrte” (the late dictator Moammar al-Qaddafi’s home town). The new leadership in Cyrenaica includes members of the Senussi royal family which ruled Libya as a kingdom from 1951 to 1963 and staged the first uprising against Qaddafi’s rule in the 1960s. Libya’s internationally recognized Transitional National Council (N.T.C.) in Tripoli, however, is dominated by members of Qaddafi’s cabinet. The current head of the pro-federalist Cyrenaica Transitional Council is Ahmed al-Zubair al-Senussi, a former political prisoner of Qaddafi’s and a nephew of the Senussi dynasty’s Idris I, King of Libya, announced at the Benghazi conference that he meant to found a “security organ”—independent of, but cooperating with, the N.T.C.—to ensure Cyrenaica’s security. (See my recent blog article on Cyrenaica’s declaration of autonomy.)
Puntland Minister Took Share of Pirate Ransom. The de facto independent Puntland State of Somalia’s Minister of Fisheries and Ports, Sayid Mohamed Rage, took a share of the ransom after Somali-coast pirates released the Leila and its passengers and crew last week. This is the charge made by the ship’s agent in a press conference in Berbera, in western Somaliland, where the Leila is now docked, on April 15th. The agent, Ahmed Sayid Muhumed Mire, said, “We spent $300,000 U.S. for the negotiations with the pirates and the release of M.V. Leila,” adding, “I strongly believe that the minister got his share from the ransom. He has links with the pirates.” Rage has denied the charges. The Leila, which is registered in the Republic of Panama, was hijacked by pirates in February and released on April 13th after the payment of a ransom. (See my blog article about separatism in Somalia.)
Pirate Base in Puntland Strafed by Mystery Fighter Planes; 2 Hurt. Two fighter planes from an unidentified nation fired missiles at a suspected pirate base in the self-governing Puntland State of Somalia on April 17th, wounding two civilians. Agence France Presse quoted the Republic of Somalia’s coast guard and other sources in describing the strike on the village of Gumah, on the coast east of Bossaso. The European Union Naval Force’s counter-piracy mission on the Somali coast denied responsibility. Many other militaries, including those of the United States, the People’s Republic of China, Russia, Iran, and the United Arab Emirates, also patrol the pirate-infested coast. (See my blog article about separatism in Somalia.)
4 Islamists Sentenced to Death on Eve of Enclave’s Constitutional Convention. On the eve of the Puntland State of Somalia’s constitutional convention, which convened in Garowe on April 15th, a court in the de facto independent republic sentenced four men to death on April 14th for being members of al-Shabaab. The Islamist militia, allied to al-Qaeda, has recently expanded northward into Puntland since an African Union force of troops from Ethiopia and Kenya began dislodging it from its area of operations in southern Somalia. Al-Shabaab has vowed to disrupt all economic activity in Puntland, one of the few economically successful areas in the formerly united Republic of Somalia. (The new constitution was formally adopted on April 17th.) (See my blog article about separatism in Somalia.)
Somaliland Won’t Talk with Mogadishu If Puntland Is at Table. The foreign minister of the de facto independent Republic of Somaliland announced on April 19th that his government would not hold talks with the Republic of Somalia’s internationally recognized Transitional Federal Government (T.F.G.) in Mogadishu if representatives from the Puntland State of Somalia are on the negotiation committee. At a press conference in Hargeisa, the minister, Mohamed Abdullahi Omar, said, “Until now, Somaliland was ready to communicate with T.F.G. ..., but on appointing two members from Puntland region, Somaliland will not proceed [with] the talks.” Somaliland has been self-governing since declaring independence in 1991, but the T.F.G. regards it as part of Somalia. Puntland is completely self-governing but is nominally part of the Republic of Somalia. (See my blog article about separatism in Somalia.)
Somaliland Police Shoot and Wound 5 Protesters in Housing Dispute. A protest over a ban on illegal housing in Hargeisa, in western Somaliland, led to a clash on April 15th between protesters and police, in which five civilians were injured by bullets, three of them seriously. The interior minister pleaded for calm and urged residents to return to their homes. (See my blog article about separatism in Somalia.)
Kenya Premier Warns Mombasa Separatists against Election Boycott. The prime minister of the Republic of Kenya, Raila Amollo Odinga, told residents of the secessionist Coast province, in the south, that boycotting elections “will not be a solution,” adding, “We should instead use our votes to bring the much needed change.” He was speaking in Coast’s Kilifi district and responding to calls by the banned Mombasa Republican Council to boycott the March 4, 2013, vote.
British Deputy P.M. Embarrassed by Wife’s Links to Western Sahara. The United Kingdom’s deputy prime minister, Nick Clegg, is responding to revelations that his wife, Miriam González Durántez Clegg, has been in the pay of O.C.P., a Moroccan mining company which has been accused of violating the human rights of the Sahrawi residents of Western Sahara, a former Spanish colony which Morocco administers in violation of international law. Mrs. Clegg, a law partner and a native of Spain, is paid up to £400 an hour to defend O.C.P.’s human-rights record to the European Union. Nick Clegg heads the U.K.’s Liberal Democratic Party, junior partner in Prime Minister David Cameron’s coalition.
Miriam González Durántez Clegg and Nick Clegg
Lozi Activists Denied Permission to Protest in Namibia’s Caprivi Strip. Activists denied official permission to demonstrate in favor of secessionists from Namibia’s Caprivi Strip region vowed to seek legal avenues to challenge the refusal. The group had planned to demonstrate on April 13th against the ongoing imprisonment of suspects in the 1999 Caprivi Liberation Army uprising in Katima Mulilo, in the Caprivi Strip, in which 11 died at the militants’ hands (as mentioned in this blog in February). The Caprivi Strip, also called Itenge, is a shard of Namibian territory jutting east between Botswana and Zambia. Caprivians belong to the same Lozi (Barotse) ethnic group which last month briefly declared independence (as reported in this blog) just over the border in Zambia’s Barotseland region.
Ethiopia Accuses Eritrea of Kidnappings in Tigray. The prime minister of Ethiopia, Meles Zenawi, said in parliament this week that the government of the State of Eritrea, which seceded from Ethiopia in 1993, has kidnapped more than 100 Ethiopian goldminers in the rebellious northern Ethiopian region of Tigray, whose border with Eritrea has been the focus of fighting between the two countries. Ethiopia regards Eritrea as a supporter of Ethiopian separatists. (See my blog article on ethnic geopolitics in Ethiopia.)
Nigerian Governor Denies “Satanic” Rumors of Separatism, Islamic Radicalism. Rauf Aregbesola, the controversial governor of Nigeria’s Osun State, formally rejected, in a state broadcast on April 14th, that he had a separatist agenda or plans to impose shari’a law in Osun. The allegations had been echoed in increased scrutiny by the central government’s security services. Aregbesola, who runs a Muslim-populated state in the largely-Christian Yoruba region in Nigeria’s southwest, stated, “What you are seeing is the handiwork of an overzealous and misguided leadership of a security agency that has mixed up allegiance to the constitution, the Nigerian people, and their welfare with the partisan interest of a transient occupier of state office. We have duly notified President Goodluck Jonathan, who we believe has sensed the urgency in the matter and is working to correct this embarrassing disposition of a tiny leadership of a federal agency capable of causing chaos and destabilisation. The shenanigan will pass.” A former president of the Nigerian Bar Association agreed, calling the accusations against Aregbesola “not only ludicrous but satanic.”
Algeria Renames Oran Airport for Revolutionary Leader Who Died at Age 95. The president of the People’s Democratic Republic of Algeria, Abdelaziz Bouteflika, has renamed the main airport in Oran, the country’s second-largest city, for Ahmed Ben Bella, the Algerian revolutionary and national hero who died on April 11th at the age of 95. Ben Bella served as Algeria’s first president, from 1963 to 1965, after independence from France.
Sexual Abuse Claims Scrutinized in Trial for Murder of Afrikaner Militant. In the final day before the defense and prosecution rested, prosecutors in South Africa on April 18th challenged the testimony of two young males on trial for the 2010 beating death of the white separatist leader Eugène Terre’Blanche. The defendants—a 28-year-old man and a 15-year-old boy—claimed that Terre’Blanche, on whose farm they worked, had physically and sexually abused him. Terre’Blanche was the founder of the Afrikaner Resistance Movement, which, in the apartheid period and after, pushed to establish a separate Boer republic in South Africa.
Minister Says U.K. to Pay for North Sea Clean-Up If Scotland Secedes. Scotland’s energy minister insisted this week that even if Scotland secedes from the United Kingdom, it is the U.K. which must foot the estimated £30-billion bill for cleaning up the mess caused by the oil industry in the North Sea. The minister, Fergus Ewing, made his comments before the energy committee in the U.K.’s House of Commons in London. Scotland is expected to inherit the larger share of North Sea oil revenues if it succeeds in quitting the U.K. in a referendum planned for 2014. (See my recent articles on the legal and economic dimensions of the Scottish independence movement.)
Serbia Backs Down, Won’t Hold Local Elections in North Kosovo. After widespread popular and official protest, the Republic of Serbia announced on April 16th that it would not after all be including the rebellious North Kosovo region in its May 6th municipal elections. North Kosovo is a cluster of ethnic-Serb-dominated municipalities within the northern reaches of the Republic of Kosovo, which much of the West recognizes as independent but which Serbia regards as its territory. North Kosovo is largely outside of Kosovar administration, and the self-governance of the sliver of land is “overseen” by Serbia. Goran Bogdanović, Serbia’s Minister for Kosovo, said that the United Nations Mission in Kosovo had given Serbia “a negative response” to requests for assistance in running the elections, and so “Serbia will not organise them,” but he added that this “does not mean that the Serbian institution will be revoked” in North Kosovo. (See my recent blog article on relations between Serbia and Kosovo.)
Putin Said to Be Planning Radar Station for Transnistria. The Russian Federation plans to install a radar station in the de facto independent Pridnestrovian Moldavian Republic (a.k.a. Transnistria), a sliver of land wedged between Moldova and Ukraine which is propped up by Russia but granted diplomatic recognition only by Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Most of the world regards Transnistria as part of the Republic of Moldova. The plans—apparently in response to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s missile shield and its presence in Romania—were reported by the newspaper Nezavisimaya Gazeta on April 17th, citing anonymous sources close to Vladimir Putin, Russia’s president. The report, along with assertions that similar plans were afoot for a base in Armenia, was denied by Russia’s defense ministry, saying that all radar bases would be based within Russian territory. (See my blog article on Transnistria.)
Exiled Chechen to Be Tried in Absentia for Plot to Assassinate Putin. Doku Khamatovich Umarov, the exiled Chechen rebel who goes by the nom du guerre Dokka Abu Usman, will be tried in absentia for plotting to assassinate the president of the Russian Federation, Vladimir Putin. The alleged assassination plot emerged after two men arrested in Odessa, Ukraine, claimed they had been hired by Umarov to kill Putin. Putin’s K.G.B. past and his penchant for media manipulation, along with the fact that the revelations conveniently bumped Putin’s poll numbers before a crucial election amid widespread protests against him, have thrown the likelihood of the plot into doubt, but such show trials in modern Russia are rarely designed to actually get to the facts of a matter. Umarov, former president of the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria’s government-in-exile, in 2007 declared himself emir of the planned Caucasus Emirate—to be carved out of Russia’s North Caucasus region. He has claimed numerous terrorist attacks, is sometimes called Chechnya’s Osama bin Laden, and already has a $5-million bounty on his head from the United States government.
Bombings in Dagestan Capital Kill 2; 10 Others Killed as Police Battle Militants. An Islamist rebel was killed and a Russian secret-police officer and his wife were wounded, the wife fatally, in the Republic of Dagestan, which is part of the Russian Federation, on April 16th. The militant died when a bomb-making operation went awry in an apartment in the Dagestani capital, Makhachkala. A car bomb that morning, also in the capital, wounded a colonel in the Federal Security Service (F.S.B., successor to the K.G.B.) and his wife—she died later—while another explosion near a home in the same city left a burned body in its wake. The day before, two students were injured by a bomb that went off outside a shop in Makhachkala. Meanwhile, on the 16th, three policeman were wounded in a battle with gunmen northwest of the capital. This may or may not be the same incident as the one in which, it was reported, one militant was killed and two fled in a remote area of Novolaksky district, on the border with Chechnya. Then, on April 18th, two policemen were wounded, one fatally, in a clash with militants near the Dagestani village of Kvanada. Two bodies of militants, believed to be killed in that same battle, were discovered the next day. Also on the 18th, a traffic stop in the Khasavyurt district led to a car carrying three militants from the Khasavyurt gang firing at police officers and being killed by the return fire. One of those killed was Arsen Kakayev, a wanted extortionist and terrorist. In Moscow, a gang of unknown people attacked a judge from Dagestan in the street in the early hours of April 18th. The judge, who was 24 years old (sic!), fired a pistol in the air and sent them fleeing. They escaped in a Ford with Dagestani license plates. (See also a recent New York Daily News article on a recent disturbing trend of Russian Federation authorities seizing and burning moderate Muslim literature in Dagestan and elsewhere.)
Aftermath of a car-bombing in Dagestan that killed a security officer’s wife
Policeman Attacked in Kabardino-Balkaria. A police major in the employ of the Interior Ministry was attacked on April 18th in Nalchik, capital of the Kabardino-Balkar Republic, in the Russian Federation’s North Caucasus region. Both the major and his attacker were wounded in the ensuing gun battle and taken to the hospital.
Kurdish Separatists Hijack Two Vessels in German Cities. A pleasure boat on the Rhine river in Cologne, Germany, was briefly hijacked by about ten members of Turkey’s banned Kurdistan Workers’ Party (P.K.K.), who, having boarded as legitimate passengers, shoved the crew aside and attempted to steer the 20-passenger ship to shore where they could read a manifesto from loudspeakers. They were arrested and expected to be released on bail. No one was injured. Then, on April 19th, eight P.K.K. supporters—four men and four women—briefly overpowered the captain of a river ferry in Hamburg, waving flags and chanting slogans for the release of Abdullah Öcalan, the P.K.K.’s imprisoned founder. They were arrested by a police boat that came to the ferry’s rescue. (See my recent article on the Kurdish campaign for independence and a more recent one on shifting alliances in the Kurdish struggle.)
BITS OF ASIA WHICH LIKE TO PRETEND THEY’RE PART OF EUROPE
2 Abkhaz Suspects in Assassination Plot, One a Former Minister, Commit Suicide. In the de facto independent Republic of Abkhazia, two men suspected in the February assassination attempt on President Alexander Ankvab have committed suicide, including a former interior minister. Almasbei Kchach, the former minister, was reportedly found dead from a self-inflicted gunshot wound on April 17th by police who arrived at his apartment in the Black Sea resort city of Gagra to arrest him for masterminding the February 22nd highway ambush of Ankvab (as reported in this blog), which involved rocket-propelled grenades and in which two bodyguards were killed. Kchach, who was 54 and is survived by three children, served as interior minister from 1996 to 2003, during which time he was responsible for the personal security of President Vladislav Ardzinba, who died mysteriously in 2010. The same night as Kchach’s death, a second suspect in the assassination attempt, Temur Khutaba, hanged himself in his jail cell using his clothes. A third suspect, Murtaz Sakania, tried to cut his own throat during his arrest.
Aftermath of the assassination attempt on Alexander Ankvab in February
Tibilov Sworn In as South Ossetia President. Leonid Tibilov, a former K.G.B. official, was sworn in on April 19th as president of the Republic of South Ossetia, the de facto independent South Caucasus statelet which most of the world, other than Russia and a handful of tiny countries, regards as part of the Republic of Georgia. Georgia, the United States, the European Union, and other major powers have called the elections and inauguration illegal. (See my article on last year’s disputed South Ossetian elections.)
Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus Threatens Name Change. Media are reporting this week that the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, an unrecognized puppet state which administers the northern third of the island of Cyprus, may drop the word Northern from its name unless the decades-old conflict over Cyprus is not resolved by July 1st. That is when the Republic of Cyprus, the ethnically-Greek-dominated southern two-thirds of the island, takes over the rotating presidency of the European Union. Dr. Derviş Eroğlu, the unrecognized pseudo-state’s president, also mentioned the possible names Northern Cyprus Turkish State and Northern Turkish State, and even hinted at possible full annexation by Turkey. The Turkish Republic’s government in Ankara says such decisions are up to Turkish Cypriots themselves. (See this week’s blog article for an extended analysis of Northern Cyprus’s possible name change.)
Iraqi Vice-President, under Guard in Turkey, Seeks Turkish Help, Asylum in Jordan. The Sunni Arab vice-president of Iraq, Tareq al-Hashemi, who had until recently been hiding for months in Iraqi Kurdistan since fleeing an arrest warrant in December, is still in Turkey, seeking assistance from the Turkish government in his plight. He and his family and entourage are under heavy guard by Turkish police in Istanbul hotel after receiving death threats. Hashemi has also reportedly applied to Jordan for political asylum. The vice-president was on the last leg of a state visit of sorts to Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey—the three premier regional counterbalances to the Shiite dictatorship in Iran with which he accuses Iraq of being increasingly allied. Hashemi initially fled to Kurdistan in December after Iraq’s authoritarian Shiite prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, issued a warrant for his arrest, charging him with running his own death squads. On April 19th, the president of northern Iraq’s Kurdistan Regional Government, Massoud Barzani, met with Hashemi during a state visit to Turkey.
Barzani Urges P.K.K. to Quit Violence; Turkish and Iraqi Premiers Spar. The president of northern Iraq’s Kurdistan Regional Government met with Turkey’s prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, on April 20th and told reporters that Turkey’s banned separatist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (P.K.K.) must abandon violence, saying, “You won’t get anywhere with weapons. The P.K.K. should lay down its arms,” Barzani told reporters in Ankara on Friday on the last day of his two-day visit to Turkey. “I will not let the P.K.K. prevail in northern Iraq. If the P.K.K. goes ahead with weapons, it will bear the consequences.” Erdoğan also criticized the Iraqi central government, referring to “current prime minister's treatment toward his coalition partners” and “his egocentric approach within Iraqi politics.” Iraq’s prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, responded by saying that Turkey was becoming a “hostile state.” (See my recent article on the Kurdish campaign for independence and a more recent one on shifting alliances in the Kurdish struggle, as well as an article on prospects for the partition of Iraq.)
P.K.K.’s Black Sea Commander Killed in Turkish Raid. Two members of Turkey’s banned separatist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (P.K.K.), including its commander of Black Sea operations, were killed in a Turkish military attack on April 14th in Asmaya province. The attack was in retaliation for a nearby attack last week in which two Turkish soldiers died. The commander was Mahir Koç, who used the nom de guerre Celal Başkale. The previous evening, two P.K.K. fighters were killed in Mardin province. Then, Turkish media reported the discovery on April 17th in an Istanbul cemetery of a cache of P.K.K. explosives, following a tip from captured P.K.K. fighters, including four Kurdistan Communities’ Union (K.C.K.) members rounded up in the city of Van. (See my recent article on the Kurdish campaign for independence and a more recent one on shifting alliances in the Kurdish struggle.)
Obama Removing Iraqi Kurdish Parties from Terrorism List. The Reuters news agency reported on April 17th that the United States president, Barack Obama, has agreed with Congress to remove two Kurdish political parties in Iraq from a list of terrorist groups. The agreement comes in the wake of last week’s state visit to Washington, D.C., by Massoud Barzani, president of northern Iraq’s autonomous Kurdistan Regional Government (K.R.G.). Also, the U.S. consulate in the city of Arbil, in K.R.G. territory, will begin issuing U.S. visas. The two political parties to be delisted are the K.R.G.’s two main ones, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (P.U.K.) and the Kurdistan Democratic Party (K.D.P.), which was founded in 1946 by Barzani’s father, Mustafa Barzani, in the brief-lived Kurdish Republic of Mahabad in what is now northwestern Iran. Reuters placed the moves in the context of Obama’s accelerated efforts to ease tensions between the K.R.G. and Iraq’s Shiite-dominated central government to avoid an Iraqi civil war in a U.S. election year. And Iraq’s president (significantly less powerful than the prime minister), Jalal Talabani, who is a Kurd, told al-Jazeera that an independent Iraqi Kurdistan was not possible in the foreseeable future and would not be in anyone’s interest. Meanwhile, the Turkish Republic’s foreign minister, Ahmet Davutoğlu, again urged Pres. Barzani on April 20th to crack down harder on militants from the banned Kurdistan Workers’ Party (P.K.K.), who it says are using Iraqi Kurdistan as a base from which to launch terrorist operations in southeastern Turkey in their fight for a separate state. (See my recent article on the Kurdish campaign for independence and a more recent one on shifting alliances in the Kurdish struggle, as well as an article on prospects for the partition of Iraq.)
Baghdad Excludes Exxon from Bidding in Punishment for Kurdistan Deal. The United States firm the Exxon Mobil Corporation has been dropped from the list of bidders in the late-May round of bidding for energy-exploration contracts in Iraq, the country’s oil ministry announced on April 19th. The official, Sabah Abdul-Kadhim, was explicit that “Exxon Mobil was disqualified from the fourth bidding round because of its contract with the Kurdistan Regional Government.” The K.R.G. and the central government are in conflict over whether oil deals in the Kurdish region must be approved by Baghdad, as well as the question of who gets the revenue. (See my recent article on the Kurdish campaign for independence and a more recent one on shifting alliances in the Kurdish struggle, as well as an article on prospects for the partition of Iraq.)
Kurds Demand Release of Election Officials. In a further escalation of the tussles over sovereignty between the Republic of Iraq’s government in Baghdad and the autonomous Kurdistan Regional Government (K.R.G.) in Iraq’s north, the K.R.G. released a statement on April 13th calling on Baghdad to release the head of the Independent Electoral Commission and a second, lower-ranking official. The two men had been arrested the day before on charges of corruption. The two men were released on bail on April 15th. (See my recent article on the Kurdish campaign for independence and a more recent one on shifting alliances in the Kurdish struggle, as well as an article on prospects for the partition of Iraq.)
Iraqi Kurdish Governor Dies in Jail Cell; Family Disputes Suicide Claim. On April 14th, the deputy governor of the urban Sulaimaniyah district in northern Iraq’s Kurdistan region, Zana Hama Saleh, died by hanging himself in a jail cell where he was held pending trial for corruption. His family insists it was not a suicide and is demanding an official investigation. (See my recent article on the Kurdish campaign for independence and a more recent one on shifting alliances in the Kurdish struggle, as well as an article on prospects for the partition of Iraq.)
Israel Arrests Dozens at “Fly-In” Protest at Tel Aviv Airport. Palestinian and pro-Palestinian activists staged a disruptive and high-profile “fly-in,” or “flytilla,” protest at Ben Gurion International Airport near Tel Aviv, Israel, on April 15th, causing Israeli authorities to arrest scores and to scramble to prevent further arrivals. Over a thousand protesters, mostly from Europe, bought tickets to Tel Aviv and intended to travel en masse to the West Bank for an event called “Welcome to Palestine,” focused on home-stays with Palestinian families and attempts to open an international school and a museum in Bethlehem—a town which Israel conquered from Jordan in 1967 and is now administered by the Palestinian Authority. Israeli authorities detained 45 protesters for deportation, plus nine Israelis who had been holding “Welcome to Palestine” signs in the waiting area. Israel distributed no-fly lists to European airports and barred some passengers from boarding in Brussels, Belgium—where about 100 activists were turned away—as well as in Manchester, Paris, and elsewhere. (See my article listing Palestine as one of “Ten Separatist Movements to Watch in 2012.”)
Palestinian Prisoners Begin Mass Hunger Strike. More than 1,200 Palestinian prisoners in Israel on April 17th began a mass hunger strike to mark what Palestinians have come to call Prisoners’ Day. The open-ended fast is to call attention to solitary confinement, refusal of family visits, denial of newspapers and books, and other complaints. At least eight of the foreign activists imprisoned since the April 15th arrests in Tel Aviv during the “Welcome to Palestine” protest (see above) have joined the strike. (See my article listing Palestine as one of “Ten Separatist Movements to Watch in 2012.”)
Protesters marking Prisoners’ Day in Gaza City
Denmark Fumes over Israeli Beating of Danish Protester; 2 Arabs Shot in Gaza. At a “bicycle rally” for peace in Jericho, in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, on April 16th, a senior Israeli military officer was captured on video smashing a nonviolent Danish protester in the face with the butt of an M-16 rifle, prompting an official demand from Denmark’s ambassador for an explanation. The victim being a European rather than a Palestinian, Israel’s prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, quickly condemned the officer’s behavior. Meanwhile, in Khan Yunis, in the Gaza Strip, one Palestinian farmer was shot in the thigh by an Israeli soldier on April 16th, and the following day an Israeli soldier shot and wounded a Palestinian girl. (See my article listing Palestine as one of “Ten Separatist Movements to Watch in 2012.”)
“Welcome to Palestine”
Top Pakistani General Supports Demilitarizing Disputed Kashmiri Glacier. The highest-ranking Pakistani general, after touring the scene of a deadly April 18th avalanche in Kashmir—called by some the world’s highest-altitude battlefield, at 6,000 meters above sea level—urged that the glacier area should be demilitarized. The general, Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, was referring to the Siachen glacier—in the area claimed by both India and Pakistan, and where there is also a Kashmiri separatist movement—where 129 Pakistani soldiers were buried alive on April 7th. They were there because of a decades-old military stand-off with India over the glacier.
India Interrogates Kashmir Activists over Facebook Posts. Indian police in the disputed state of Jammu and Kashmir announced on April 15th that they had rounded up and interrogated 16 young people for posting “anti-nationalist” comments on Facebook that supposedly were designed to incite protests against India’s rule over the territory. They were given warnings. The Facebook pages in question included “Freedom of Dawn,” “Balai Khuda,” “Aalov,” and “We Love Syed Ali Shah Geelani,” this last referring to the elderly Islamist chairman of the All Parties Hurriyat Conference, which seeks independence for Kashmir.
Separatists Kill Policeman in Srinagar. Police in Srinagar, the capital of India’s disputed Jammu and Kashmir state, reported that one of their officers was shot and killed April 20th by separatist guerillas. The dead officer was identified as Sukhpal Singh, an assistant sub-inspector. No group has claimed responsibility.
Naga Rebels Schedule Talks with Burmese Junta. The junta that runs Burma under the name Republic of the Union of Myanmar will be holding talks on April 20th with the National Socialist Council of Nagaland–K (N.S.C.N.–K). As part of the government’s push to reconcile with its many restive minorities (or to create the appearance of such reconciliation), talks have been held over the past several months with many insurgent groups representing ethnic minorities. The Naga people are an allied group of ethnic groups speaking related languages who form the majority of the population of the state of Nagaland in India. They form a much smaller portion of Burma’s population. The N.S.C.N.–K signed a cease-fire with the Indian government in April 2011. (See my recent blog article on ethnic minorities in Burma.)
2 Tibetans Self-Immolate in Sichuan. Two Tibetan men in their twenties died on April 19th after setting themselves on fire in front of a Buddhist monastery in a Tibetan region within the People’s Republic of China’s Sichuan province. There have been over 30 such self-immolations over the past year, which are a form of protest against Chinese rule in Tibet.
Muslim Separatists Blamed for Thailand School Burning; 5 Rebels Killed. A two-story school building in southern Thailand’s Narathiwat province was torched by arsonists on April 18th, and the authorities are blaming ethnically-Malay Muslims who have been fighting for decades for a separate state in the predominantly Buddhist country. A police truck racing to the scene was targeted by a land mine in the road. There were no injuries in either incident. Meanwhile, five separatist rebels were killed on April 19th in a shoot-out with police in a village in nearby Yala province. One of the dead was Sakuree Japakeeya, a member of the Runda Kumpulan Kecil (R.K.K.) rebel group who was wanted for a 2007 passenger-bus ambush in 2007 which killed seven, as well as other terrorist crimes.
The destroyed school in southern Thailand; separatists are suspected
Former Rebel Leaders Elected in East Timor and Aceh. José Maria Vansconselos, known by his nom de guerre Taur Matan Ruak, a former leader in the fight for independence from Indonesia, won enough votes in the April 16th run-off election in the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste (a.k.a. East Timor) to succeed the Nobel Peace Prize laureate José Ramos-Horta in the (mostly ceremonial) presidency of then ten-year-old nation. Ruak, who received 61% of the vote, is backed by Prime Minister Xanana Gusmão. Meanwhile, in Aceh, Indonesia’s westernmost province, it was announced on April 17th that the new governor after the April 9th elections is Zaini Abdullah, head of the Aceh Party, which succeeded the main separatist militia after the 2004 peace deal that brought Aceh back into Indonesia as an autonomous region. Abdullah won 55.75% of the vote, defeating the incumbent governor, Irwandi Yusuf, who had (as reported last week in this blog) accused Abdullah of fraud. These are the first gubernatorial elections in Aceh since the peace agreement.
Taur Matan Ruak, Timor-Leste’s new president
West Papua Separatists Seek Observer Status in Melanesian Regional Body. A representative for West Papua’s indigenous people said this week in Port Vila, Vanuatu, that a separatist coalition from the western part of the island of New Guinea plan to apply next year for observer status in the Melanesian Spearhead Group, an international organization consisting of the member states Vanuatu, Fiji, Papua New Guinea, and the Solomon Islands along with New Caledonia’s Kanak and Socialist Liberation Front. The delegate, Dr. John Ondawame, said that, if accepted, a priority will be removing Indonesia, which administers West Papua in violation of international law, from the ranks of M.S.G. observer states. (See my article listing West Papua as one of “Ten Separatist Movements to Watch in 2012.”)
Fort Erie, Ontario, Mulls Leaving Canada—Only Half Jokingly. Fort Erie, a town of just under 30,000 people across the Niagara River from Buffalo, New York, in Ontario, now has a secession movement, and it is Canada, not Ontario, they are talking about seceding from. A local newspaperman, Gord Bowes, started the “Bloc de Fort Erie” as a joke on Twitter, citing the grim local economy, but he told an interviewer the idea is “half serious.” A number of things would have to happen first, however. For one thing, Fort Erie does not have its own flag, though the county-level administration in which it sits, the Regional Municipality of Niagara, has a quite fetching one:
Controversial Pro-Pipeline Tribal Leader Appointed to Port Authority in British Columbia. A Canadian First Nations leader who controversially supports the $5.5-billion Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipelines Project, which would transport crude oil and natural gas from Alberta to coastal British Columbia and which is deeply unpopular in First Nations communities, has just been appointed by Canada’s government to the Prince Rupert Port Authority. The leader, Elmer Derrick, is chief negotiator with the Gitxsan Treaty Office in interior B.C. Nathan Cullen, the local federal Member of Parliament, said, “It’s a strange appointment. It raises the possibility it’s a quid pro quo for supporting the pipeline.”
Clifford Bolton, Tsimshian Land-Claims Pioneer, Dies in British Columbia. Members of the Tsimshian Nation in northwestern British Columbia (Canada) and southeast Alaska are mourning Clifford Bolton, a renowned traditional totem-pole and canoe carver, spiritual leader, and pioneering land-claims negotiator, who died on April 12th at age 73. From the early 1980s to the mid-1990s, Bolton served as Chief Councillor of the Kitsumkalum Band (near Terrace, B.C.), as the tribe’s treaty researcher, and in other capacities during a period when a new, forward-thinking legal and scholarly approach to land-claims helped reshape Canadian treaty politics for the 21st century. The Tsimshian, and in particular the Gitsmgeelm (Kitsumkalum) people were near the forefront of this development. He is survived by his wife Rena Point Bolton, a member of the Stó:lō (Salish) nation from southern B.C., and mother to his step-son Steven Point, a jurist who is currently Lieutenant-Governor (i.e., viceroy) of British Columbia.
Lt.-Gov. Steven Point, Speaker Bill Barisoff, and Tsimshian artist and politician Cliff Bolton
2 California Indians Admit Arson against Ejected Mercenary Camp. Two members of the Los Coyotes Band of Cahuilla and Cupeño Indians, in San Diego County, California, pleaded guilty on April 13th of committing arson against a mercenary militia that a court had ordered to depart the reservation, though they had not planned the raging 22-square-mile wildfire that ensued. On April 9th, the band succeeded in convincing an intertribal court to evict the Eagle Rock Training Center (E.R.T.C.) from the remote and tiny reservation (its population is 74), due to technicalities. The United States’ federal Bureau of Indian Affairs had not properly permitted the lease. E.R.T.C. is a combat-training program founded by Brian Bonfligio, a former vice-president with Blackwater (now known as Academi), a mercenary group based in Arlington, Virginia, which has contracted with the U.S. military and the Central Intelligence Agency and is accused of a wide range of war crimes in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere. E.R.T.C. is now required to remove their operation from the reservation by June. The two arsonists, Jesse James Durbin, aged 23, and Jeremy Joseph Ortiz, 24, will be given six-year sentence. It is not clear to what extent their crime was politically motivated; Ortiz, at least, was a disgruntled employee. The fire took a week to control and caused several injuries to firefighters.
Missouri Tea-Partier Proposes Legislative Independence from U.S. A Republican state senator in Missouri, Brian Nieves, whose district includes suburbs of St. Louis, has proposed an amendment to the state constitution which would prohibit “the Missouri legislative, executive, and judicial branches of government from recognizing, enforcing, or acting in furtherance of any federal action that exceeds the powers delegated to the federal government.” The proposed amendment would also declare that humans have legal rights beginning at “the zygote stage” and that any Missouri citizen—perhaps even a zygote?—has the right to take up arms to enforce this amendment. The measure is considered to have no hope of passing.
Missouri’s Sen. Brian Nieves
U.S. Resettles Uighur Militants from Guantánamo Prison in El Salvador. The United States military announced April 19th that two prisoners from the People’s Republic of China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, who had been held for nearly ten years without charge at the U.S.’s notorious Guantánamo Bay prison in an illegally U.S.-occupied enclave of the Republic of Cuba, have been resettled in El Salvador. The two Uyghurs, Abdul Razakah and Hammad Memet, were captured in Pakistan shortly after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. It was feared that they would face arrest or persecution if returned to China. They are reported to be learning Spanish and settling in.
Lawmakers Demand Bolivia Explain Death of Irish Mercenary. Members of the European Parliament representing the Republic of Ireland called again this week on the government of Bolivia to explain more satisfactorily the 2009 killing of an Irishman by Bolivian security officers. The 24-year-old victim, Michael Dwyer, from Tipperary, was suspected of being a mercenary on a mission to assassinate Bolivia’s president, Evo Morales, when he was gunned down in a raid on a hotel in Santa Cruz, after allegedly resisting arrest and firing at special forces. Eduardo Rosza-Flores, a Hungarian–Bolivian–Croatian soldier of fortune, was also killed in the raid. Bolivian authorities cite a video in which Rosza-Flores claimed he was in Bolivia to assemble a separatist army in Santa Cruz province. Dwyer’s mother, Catherine, has offered a different version, stating, “From all the evidence available there was no shoot-out, Michael never fired any guns, he was unarmed, he was executed while he was asleep.”
Mercenaries Michael Dwyer and Eduardo Rosza-Flores
PRACTICALLY BLOODY ANTARCTICA
Argentina President, Angry over Falklands, Storms out of Summit Meeting. The president of the Argentine Republic, Cristina Fernández Kirchner, stormed out of the Summit of the Americas conference in Cartagena, Colombia, over the April 14-15 weekend, upset that a condemnation of the United Kingdom’s governance of the Falkland Islands, which Argentina claims, was not being mentioned often enough. She was heard to say, “This is pointless, why did I even come here?” before leaving in a huff. The summit’s tiptoeing around the Falklands question was seen by some as a capitulation to the United States, which, though tacitly supporting its ally the U.K. and thus the wishes of Falkland Islanders themselves, is officially neutral on the Falklands question. The U.S.’s lone support for an economic embargo on Cuba was a much more significant bone of contention with southern neighbors at the meeting. Meanwhile, when the U.S. president, Barack Obama, reiterated his neutrality on the Falklands question on April 16th, he seemed to be channeling his malapropism-prone predecessor, George W. Bush, when referring to the Falklands as the Maldives, apparently distracted by the similarity to the Spanish name for the Falklands, Malvinas. (See my blog article on the latest conflict over the Falklands.)
[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.]