DIVORCE BETWEEN SECULAR TUAREGS, ISLAMISTS IN MALI
NOW OFFICIAL, SO WHO RULES AZAWAD NOW?
ALSO: MYSTERY AIRSTRIKES HINT AT WESTERN INTERVENTION
Azawadi Islamists Reject Independence from Mali; Tuareg Separatists Quit Coalition. The Tuareg leadership of the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (M.N.L.A.) on June 15th officially abandoned its week-old agreement with the Islamist militia Ansar al-Dine to co-govern the Independent State of Azawad, which declared sovereignty in early April but which the rest of the world regards as the northern two-thirds of the Republic of Mali. The announcement was made simultaneous with the M.N.L.A.’s swearing-in of an interim government, headed by Belal Ag Charif, in Gao, in Azawad. An Ansar al-Dine spokesman brushed aside the M.N.L.A. statement, saying the partnership was indissoluble. The original statement, by the M.N.L.A.’s Hama Ag Mahmoud, said that the M.N.L.A.’s executive wing, “faced with the intransigence of Ansar Dine on applying sharia in Azawad and in line with its resolutely secular stance, denounce the accord with this organisation and declare all its dispositions null and void.” Over the past few weeks, disagreements over whether to impose Islamic law (shari’a) in Azawad have strained the coalition. Also, Ansar al-Dine is now saying it opposes independence from Mali—which it had provisionally agreed to during the coalition—and reiterated that it would like to extend shari’a across all of Mali. The Ansar al-Dine leader, Iyad Ag Ghali, said, “We are not asking for much: just the application of shari’a law in the northern and southern regions. We are Malians and we are against the division of Mali.” Most Ansar al-Dine members, like the M.N.L.A., are Malian Tuaregs. Reports of harsh enforcement of Islamic law continue, including, on June 20th in Timbuktu, 100 lashes given to a couple who had a child out of wedlock. (See my blog article on Azawad’s declaration of independence, plus an article about Mali in the context of other north–south divides in the Sahel.)
Ansar al-Dine are still flying the flag.
Somalia, Somaliland Hold Historic Talks in England, Issue Joint Statement. Starting June 20th, there were, for the first time in 21 years, direct formal negotiations between the Republic of Somalia’s ineffective, barely existent, but internationally recognized Transitional Federal Government (T.F.G.) and the Republic of Somaliland, which has functioned as an independent state since declaring independence from Somalia in 1991 but remains internationally unrecognized. However, the two sides, after the first day, reached a deadlock over the question of unification, which Somaliland categorically rejects. On June 21st, the talks were wrapped up amid expressions of warmth and optimistic words about future talks, a summit between the two governments’ presidents, and an eight-point joint statement including a renewed commitment to cooperate in fighting terrorism and sea piracy and ending the Somali civil war. The talks, held at Chevening House in Kent and mediated by the United Kingdom, the Kingdom of Norway, and the European Union, were first proposed at a London conference on Somalia in February—the first of many such conferences to which Somaliland sent a delegation. (See my blog article on the fragmentation of Somalia.)
The Somalia and Somaliland delegations pose at the Chevening summit
Map showing the original territory claimed by the Khaatumo State of Somalia,
then known as the Sool, Sanaag, and Cayn (S.S.C.) State of Somalia
Zambian President Tries to Bribe Barotseland Not to Secede. The president of the Republic of Zambia, Michael Chilufya Sata, is offering monarchist Lozi separatists in its Western province 5 billion Zambian kwachas if they will quit their bid for secession, it was reported this week, and the Barotse Royal Establishment (B.R.E.), which declared independence in March (as reported in this blog) only to rescind it within days under central-government pressure (also reported in this blog), were apparently considering accepting the deal, but by June 22nd “prime minister” of the Barotse National Council, Wainyae Clement Sinyinda, was speaking uncompromisingly of secession, appealing to the United Nations, and calling the Lozi decision to join Zambia in 1964 an unambiguous mistake. (Read the B.R.E.’s April 12, 2012, declaration-of-independence letter to the United Nations here.)
Flag of the Barotse Royal Establishment
The Father’s Day church bombing in Kaduna
Lega Nord Vows to Care for Workers “Put on Street” by Austerity Measures. Italy’s northern secessionists, whose power and popularity have plummeted since the European financial crisis toppled the coalition government in which they were a junior partner, tried this week to make political hay out of the debates over austerity measures that are throwing Italy—like Spain and Greece—into political tumult. Roberto Maroni, the newly anointed leader of the Northern League for the Independence of Padania (Lega Nord), which would like to partition Italy, vowed this week that the northern regions of Lombardy, Piedmont, and Veneto will look after 330,000 workers that it says the central government of Prime Minister Mario Monti “has put out on the street,” which he called “a social crime.” Maroni added, “We will take on the task, Padania will assume the job, the three regions together, the macro-region of Padania which is there and proves its existence with this initiative.” He made the statements in an anti-tax rally in Verona, in Veneto region, attended by over 800. (See my blog article on Bossi’s dream of a “Greater Padania,” as well as a recent article featuring a profile of Renzo Bossi as one of “The World’s 21 Sexiest Separatists.”)
Spanish Court Rules Basque Party Need Not Disband, Angering Interior Ministry. The Kingdom of Spain’s constitutional court, in a 6-5 ruling announced July 20th, has decided that the government ban on Sortu, a Basque pro-independence political party which was formed out of an earlier banned party, Batasuna, is capable of reform and need not be banned, although it is tied to the terrorist militia ETA (Euskadi Ta Askatusana, “Basque Homeland and Freedom”). But Spain’s minister of the interior, Jorge Fernández Díaz, said that all branches of ETA, including Sortu, must disband. ETA laid down its arms but found that the governments of Spain and France (which also has a Basque region) refused to negotiate with it. Last week (as reported in this blog), the remaining leadership of ETA announced an intention to disband completely. Unless the court decision is reversed, Sortu can field candidates in next year’s regional elections. The United States, which formerly designated ETA a terrorist organization in 1997, bolstered the Spanish executive branch’s position on the Basque question on June 21st with an executive order officially designating ETA’s leader, Aitzol Iriondo Yarza, specifically, as a terrorist. (Three members of northern Nigeria’s Boko Haram terrorist militia were also listed in the order.) (See my blog article listing the Basque warrior Idoia López Riaño, a.k.a. la Tigresa, as one of “The World’s 21 Sexiest Separatists.”)
Queen to Meet with McGuinness, First with an I.R.A. Leader. The Irish nationalist party Sinn Féin agreed June 22nd to a meeting between Queen Elizabeth II and the deputy first minister of Northern Ireland, Martin McGuinness, who is a former commander in the Irish Republican Army (I.R.A.). It will be the first meeting between the Queen and a senior member of the I.R.A., whose campaign to make the Protestant-dominated Northern Ireland a part of the predominantly Catholic Republic of Ireland included the murder of the Queen’s cousin, Earl Mountbatten of Burma, and two other relatives in a bombing in 1979. The meeting will occur June 27th during the Queen’s visit to Northern Ireland as part of celebrations for her Diamond Jubilee. It was later clarified that the meeting will be behind closed doors.
Martin McGuinness (right), in more radical days
Grocery Explosion, Police Ambush Break Calm in Dagestan. After a calm of several days, police in the Russian Federation’s Republic of Dagestan, which has been rocked for months by an Islamist insurgency, a grocery store in Buinaksk was destroyed in an explosion on June 16th, but there were no injuries or deaths. Then, it was reported on June 21st that four police were wounded by gunfire after a roadside bomb halted their truck on a road south of Makhachkala, the capital.
Flamboyant Kalmyk Ex-Separatist Buys Out Bulgarian Oil Firm. Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, the chess grandmaster, multimillionaire oligarch, and self-proclaimed telepath and flying-saucer abductee who led a failed secession bid from the Russian Federation in 1998 when he was president of the Republic of Kalmykia, has bought a controlling 52.5% interest in Petrol Holding, A.D., a fuel-distribution and telecoms firm in Bulgaria. He purchased the shares on June 15th via his holding company Credit Méditerranée, based in Switzerland. Ilyumzhinov was president of Kalmykia, Europe’s only Buddhist-majority nation, from 1993 until 2010, and has been president since 1995 of the International Chess Federation (FIDE). He is also noted for his friendships with both the 14th Dalai Lama and, notorious, Libya’s late dictator, Moammar al-Qaddafi, with whom he played a nonchalant game of chess last year in the presidential palace in Tripoli, even as rebels closed in on the capital.
Kirstan Ilyumzhinov and his close, personal friend Moammar al-Qaddafi last year
Police image of the now-famous “Forest Boy,” Robin van Helsum
President, 3 Challengers Registered for July Elections in Nagorno-Karabakh. The electoral commission in the unrecognized but de facto independent Nagorno-Karabakh Republic (N.K.R.) registered on June 15th four candidates for the N.K.R. presidency. Elections are to be held July 19th. The candidates are Vitali Balasanyan, a member of the N.K.R. parliament; Valeri Khachatryan, a retiree; Arkadi Soghomonyan, an administrator at the State Agrarian University of Armenia’s Stepanakert (N.K.R.) campus, and the incumbent N.K.R. president, Bako Sahakyan. Election campaigning is to begin on June 20th. (See my recent article on the geopolitics of the South Caucasus and Asia Minor.)
Nagorno-Karabakh Shootout Kills Armenian Soldier. One Armenian soldier was killed and an Azerbaijani soldier wounded, according to reports June 22nd from both sides after an exchange of fire across the border between the Republic of Azerbaijan and the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, a Moscow-backed puppet state of the Republic of Armenia. Each side continually claims cease-fire violations by the other. Meanwhile, the United States, France, and Russia, the three nations co-chairing the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (O.S.C.E.) “Minsk Group” tasked with addressing the crisis, issued a joint statement June 19th urging both Armenia and Azerbaijan to seek a peaceful solution to the dispute. (See my recent article on the geopolitics of the South Caucasus and Asia Minor.)
P.K.K. Kills 8 Turkish Soldiers, Prompting Reprisals, Airstrikes in Iraq; Dozens Dead. In the largest Kurdish-related violence this year, a series of coordinated dawn attacks by as many as 100 rebels from the banned separatist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (P.K.K.), armed with rocket-launchers, on three different army outposts in southeastern Turkey left 32 dead and dozens injured, prompting deadly reprisals including air strikes over the border in Iraq. The violence began June 19th, in Hakkari province, which borders Iraq, as eight Turkish soldiers were killed in the initial raids and 16 wounded. Subsequent battles left 26 P.K.K. guerillas dead. The head of the Peace and Democracy Party (B.D.P.), which represents Kurdish interests in Turkey’s parliament, condemned the violence, while Turkey’s president, Abdullah Gul, said, “I curse this treacherous attack.” Then, on June 20th, the Turkish air force launched air strikes on what it said were P.K.K. targets in northern Iraq. The Turkish military says all its aircraft returned safely. (See my blog article on this spring’s Kurdish uprisings and another article on shifting alliances in the Kurdish struggle, plus another article listing Kurdistan as one of “Ten Separatist Movements to Watch in 2012.”)
Map showing the unrecognized Kurdish homeland
Thousands of Kurds Rally after Mayor Fired for Militant Ties. The Kurdish mayor arrested earlier this month (as reported in this blog) in the Republic of Turkey’s crackdown on the banned separatist Kurdish Communities Union (K.C.K.) has been relieved of his duties by the Interior Ministry. The mayor, Bekir Kaya, of the city of Van, was not given the opportunity to appeal his arrest as required by law, and his lawyers have not been able to get replies from the government. On June 23rd, thousands rallied in Van in support of Kaya. (See my blog article on this spring’s Kurdish uprisings and another article on shifting alliances in the Kurdish struggle.)
Prison Fire in Turkish Kurdistan Kills 13. Reports emerged on June 17th of 13 dead in a fire in a prison in Şanlıurfa province in southeastern Turkey’s Kurdistan region. The fire began with prisoners setting fire to beds and blankets as a protest of prison conditions. Rescue workers were delayed in reaching the blaze by beds which had been set up to blockade stairwells. At least five were injured. The prisoners include Ibrahim Ayhan, a Kurd and former member of Turkey’s parliament, jailed for supposed ties to the banned separatist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (P.K.K.). (See my blog article on this spring’s Kurdish uprisings and another article on shifting alliances in the Kurdish struggle.)
Fire at the Şanlıurfa prison
Talabani Threatens to Quit over No-Confidence Vote; Maliki Appeals to Obama. The president of the Republic of Iraq, Jalal Talabani, who is a Kurd, has threatened to resign his post if a no-confidence vote against Iraq’s increasingly authoritarian Shiite Arab prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, should succeed. Talabani helped doom such a vote last week spearheaded by the Kurdistan Regional Government’s president, Massoud Barzani, and a coalition of Kurdish, Shiite Arab, and Sunni Arab leaders. (See my blog article on this spring’s Kurdish uprisings and another article on shifting alliances in the Kurdish struggle, plus another article on prospects for the partition of Iraq.)
Maliki Warns of Wars, Iraq’s Breakup as Kurds Seal More Exxon Deals. The autonomous Kurdistan Regional Government (K.R.G.) in northern Iraq announced on June 19th further oil deals with the United States firm the Exxon Mobil Corporation, prompting his adversary in Baghdad, Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, to appeal directly to the U.S. president, Barack Obama. In a letter, Maliki asked Obama to help put a stop to the K.R.G.’s unilateral oil deals, which are geared toward cutting the rest of Iraq out of the profits and laying the groundwork for partnerships and delivery routes with northwestern neighbors like Turkey. A spokesman for Maliki’s office warned that the K.R.G.’s policies could lead to “the outbreak of wars” and “breaking up the unity of Iraq.” Turkey is now also indicating its willingness to engage with the K.R.G. on economic matters, without going through Baghdad. The same day, Maliki’s office cancelled an imminent planned meeting with the U.S. vice-president, Joseph Biden (who once, in 2006, promoted a plan for the break-up of Iraq), in anger over Biden’s plans to also visit the K.R.G.’s capital, Arbil, and meet with the K.R.G. president, Massoud Barzani. (See my blog article on this spring’s Kurdish uprisings and another article on shifting alliances in the Kurdish struggle, plus another article on prospects for the partition of Iraq.)
Iranian Pro-Israel Journalist Missing in Iraqi Kurdistan. The international organization Reporters without Borders issued a press release June 20th expressing concern about the editor of a pro-Israel Kurdish magazine who is missing in northern Iraq’s autonomous Kurdistan region. The journalist, Mouloud Anfand, who edits Kurd-Israel, was last seen leaving Arbil, the Kurdish capital, on June 9th on his way to Sulaimaniyah. Armand is of Iranian ancestry. (See my blog article on this spring’s Kurdish uprisings and another article on shifting alliances in the Kurdish struggle.)
A cover of Israel-Kurd magazine, whose editor has gone missing in Iraq
Alice Walker Blocks Hebrew Edition of Color Purple, Citing Palestinian Conflict. The African-American novelist Alice Walker has refused a publisher in Israel permission for a Hebrew edition of her acclaimed 1982 novel The Color Purple, citing Israeli crimes against the Palestinians. It seems to me that in a society, like Israel, which is scarred by segregation, prejudice, and ethnic conflict, people should be reading more, not fewer, insightful and wise books about similar problems elsewhere in the world, but then what do I know. In other literary news, the United States memoirist Elizabeth Gilbert has announced that she will punish the people of China for the brutal occupation of Tibet by having her 2006 book Eat Pray Love translated into Chinese. (See my article listing Palestine as one of “Ten Separatist Movements to Watch in 2012.”)
4 Police Arrested for Ties to Kashmiri Separatists. The police chief in Jammu and Kashmir announced June 18th the arrest of four police officers accused of links to separatists seeking independence from India. The chief, Rajendra Kumar, said the connections were discovered during an investigation into a recent attack on a former separatist rebel.
India Warns of Radical Threats to Moderate Hurriyat Leaders. Federal security agencies in the Republic of India, it was revealed June 17th, have asked police in the separatist state of Jammu and Kashmir to increase their protection of moderate leaders of the separatist Hurriyat Conference, who they fear could be targeted by more radical separatist elements. The former Hurriyat chairman Abdul Gani Butt was specifically mentioned. Intelligence reportedly indicates assassination plots by the banned separatist factions Hizbul Mujahideen and Jaish-e-Mohammed, designed to “vitiate” the “peaceful atmosphere ... in the region.”
Dalai Lama Meets with Suu Kyi, Prince Charles. The 14th Dalai Lama, the spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhism and the leading opponent of the People’s Republic of China’s rule over Tibet, met Burma’s opposition leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, on June 19th, and the following day had an informal private meeting with Charles, Prince of Wales, first in line to the throne of the United Kingdom, in London. The Dalai Lama referred to himself and Charles as “very close, best of friends.” He and Suu Kyi, however, had not yet met, though he had campaigned for an end to her house arrest during her years of forced internal exile from politics. Meanwhile, on June 21st the city of Milan, in Italy, reneged on plans to award the Dalai Lama honorary citizenship of the city during his upcoming visit, for fear of offending Beijing. (See my blog article about Tibetan Buddhism and Tibetan separatism, plus another article profiling several pro-Tibetan activists.)
“You da man!”—“No, you da man!”
Indonesia Admits to Ongoing Secret Talks with Papuan Separatists. The Republic of Indonesia admitted on June 18th that since December it has been negotiating secretly with the officially banned Free Papua Movement (O.P.M.), which would like the far-eastern provinces of Papua and West Papua—which are culturally Melanesian, like neighboring Papua New Guinea—to secede from Indonesia. The talks were announced to media by Air Marshall Djoko Suyanto, the Minister for Coordination of Political, Legal, and Security Affairs. Indonesia’s delegation to the talks include, along with Djoko himself, the heads of the country’s military, national police, and intelligence services. The announcement came after days of violence (as reported last week in this blog) sparked by the June 14th police killing of Mako Tabuni, the respected deputy chairman of the separatist National Committee for West Papua (K.N.P.B.). (See my article listing Papua as one of “Ten Separatist Movements to Watch in 2012.”)
Number of Self-Identified Aboriginals Jumps 20% in Latest Australian Census. There was a 20.5% increase in the number of citizens of Australia identifying themselves as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander in the 2011 census, according to data released this week. It was the biggest such jump in Australian history. Analysts attributed most of the jump to an “increased level of confidence” in reporting—i.e., presumably, that Aboriginal ancestry has become less stigmatized and fewer people are concealing or downplaying it. There are slightly fewer than 550,000 Australian Aborigines, a third of them living in cities—out of a national population of just over 21.5 million.
World’s Oldest Porn?: Sex Scenes Found on 45,000-Year-Old Australian Cave Ceiling. On the ceiling of a remote cave called Nawarla Gabarnmang in Arnhem Land, in Australia’s Northern Territory outback, archaeologists have discovered what is being called by some the world’s oldest pornographic images (not that there’s anything wrong with that, mind you): stylized images of humans engaging in sexual intercourse, carbon-dated—since some of the drawings were made with charcoal—to 28,000 years old or more. The lead archaeologist, Bryce Barker, of the University of Southern Queensland, said, “We’ve only excavated a tiny fraction of the site and we expect there will be art older than 28,000 years ... we know that Aboriginal people started using the site 45,000 years ago.” Much Aboriginal art predates the earliest known European cave paintings by many millennia. Nawarla Gabarnmang is described by art historians as “the Sistine Chapel of rock art”—though it looks pretty Aubrey Beardsley to me.
Dissident Barricade in B.C. First Nation Halts Treaty Vote. In British Columbia, Canada, a referendum in a small coastal First Nations community to ratify a treaty to cede aboriginal title was blocked by dissidents, who barricaded the polling station with vehicles on June 16th, causing the vote to be postponed indefinitely. The incident occurred in Sliammon, near the town of Powell River on B.C.’s “Sunshine Coast” opposite Vancouver Island, where the Tla’amin Nation, a Salish-speaking nation of about 1,000 people, has been the subject of 18 years of treaty negotiations. Royal Canadian Mounted Police (R.C.M.P.) were on hand but did not interfere, citing lack of a court order, though officers were mediating talks between the two factions. By June 18th, the Chief Counsellor of the Sliammon Band, Clint Williams, was seeking a court injunction to remove the blockade. Tla’amin territory, like nearly all of B.C., was never legal ceded to the Canadian government which administers it. An agreement was initialled in June under which the Tla’amin would receive $30 million and acknowledgment of their right to self-government in exchange for all but 8,300 hectares of their vast, resource-rich territory.
Map showing location of Tla’amin territory in British Columbia
Venezuelan Indians Rally for Return of “Sacred Stone” Taken to Berlin. More than 100 members of Venezuela’s indigenous Pemon ethnic group, many wearing traditional loincloths and carrying traditional weapons and regalia, rallied outside Germany’s embassy in Caracas on June 21st chanting, “Return the stone!” The stone in question is the Kueka Stone, a 35-ton sandstone boulder on display in a park in Berlin designed by the German artist Wolfgang Kraker von Schwarzenfeld, who claims that he selected the boulder in Venezuela in 1997 with the cooperation of the Pemon people. But this week’s demonstrators say they want it back. One, Melchor Flores, said, “It’s not just a stone. It’s part of our culture and they must return it.” Schwarzenfeld suggests that the idea that the stone is sacred is being concocted by Venezuela’s bombastic authoritarian president, Hugo Chávez, as a way of securing votes from the Pemon (also known as Arecuna or Macushi Indians).
The disputed Kueka Stone, in Berlin
Argentine President Raises Falklands with Ban; Cameron Buttonholes Her at Summit. Last week in Haiti, the president of the Argentine Republic, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, met with the United Nations’ secretary-general, Ban Ki-moon, and discussed, among other topics, the Falkland Islands, the United Kingdom territory which Argentina tried to conquer in a 1982 war. A spokesman for Mr. Ban’s office said only that he “acknowledged the strong regional support for this issue and reiterated that his good offices to resolve this dispute remain available if the parties are willing to engage.” The U.K. government has consistently said that the status of Falklands is not to be negotiated with Argentina. A few days later, at the Los Cabos, Mexico, summit of the Group of 20 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors (G20), of which both the U.K. and Argentina are members, the U.K.’s prime minister, David Cameron, confronted Fernández, saying, “I am not proposing a full discussion now on the Falklands, but I hope you have noted that they are holding a referendum and you should respect their views. We should believe in self-determination and act as democrats here in the G20.” Fernández replied, “Let’s respect the United Nations,” and handed him sheets of paper with U.N. resolution urging negotiation by both sides. Cameron refused to take the papers and walked away. (See my blog article on the dispute over the Falklands, plus another article on the Falklands in the context of the United Nations’ decolonization program.
Welsh Separatists Rebuff Argentine Quest for Allies on Falklands Question. The Argentine Republic has taken its campaign to win the Falkland Islands to Welsh nationalists in an attempt to get some—any—members of the United Kingdom’s Parliament to take a stand against British claims over the archipelago. There is an historical basis for this, since there is a large ethnically and linguistically Welsh population in Chubut province, in Argentina’s vast southern Patagonia region, and Welsh-speakers fought on both sides of the Falklands War in 1982. Elfyn Llwyd, who leads Plaid Cymru, the Welsh separatist party, confirmed that Argentina’s embassy in London had met with senior Plaid Cymru representatives more than once over the past six months. When he was approached himself, he told the Argentine delegation that he had, as he told the Daily Telegraph this week, “no interest in getting involved in this fraught matter. They were trying to get me to introduce them to sympathetic MPs.” In February (as reported in this blog), the Argentine government was openly contemplating seeking allies among Scottish separatists. This displays a drastic misunderstanding of Celtic nationalism: even though Plaid Cymru and the Scottish National Party sometimes find anti-English prejudice occasionally useful, it is not the driving force behind their movements. Instead, they are committed to the principle of self-determination—the very same principle that Argentine jingoists fail to appreciate, or perhaps even comprehend, when it comes to the Falklands question. (See my blog article on the dispute over the Falklands, plus another article on the Falklands in the context of the United Nations’ decolonization program.)
Map showing Argentina’s Welsh region in relation to the Falkland Islands