FIRST SCOTLAND, THEN CATALONIA, THEN VENICE, NOW FLANDERS:
FLEMISH SEPARATISTS TAKE ANTWERP,
PUTTING PARTITION OF BELGIUM BACK ON THE TABLE
An influential Flemish separatist was elected mayor of Antwerp on October 14th, reigniting talk of a partition of Belgium along linguistic lines. Bart De Wever, the mayor elect, is also president of the New Flemish Alliance (N.-V.A.), a political party which, under his leadership, triumphed with more votes than any other party in the 2010 federal elections but was just barely edged out of power by a coalition of smaller parties. Because the country is so divided, a new (pro-unionist) government was not formed until more than a year and a half later, in December 2011 (as discussed at length at the time in this blog). The current Socialist prime minister in that shaky coalition, Elio Di Rupo, is a member of Belgium’s French-speaking minority but is not ethnically Walloon; his parents are from Italy. The Flemish nationalists also came out on top in local elections in three of Belgium’s five provinces that make up Flanders. Shortly after his victory, De Wever said he wanted immediate talks with Di Rupi’s government on “confederal” reforms—decentralizing the already very-federal system still further, perhaps to its breaking point. But then what to do about bilingual Brussels? Watch this space.
Mali Islamists Say Hollande Intervention Talk Will “Open Gates of Hell” for French Expats. In the wake of a United Nations Security Council resolution the previous day (reported last week in this blog) clarifying the conditions and timetable for an international military intervention in Mali, one of the two Islamist militias that rule the northern two-thirds of the country as the Independent State of Azawad announced October 13th that continued French government advocacy for an invasion would “open the doors of hell.” Specifically, a spokesman for the Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa, known by its French acronym MUJAO, said that French citizens living in Azawad would not be safe, including six hostages held by Islamists in Mali. Referring to France’s president, François Hollande, at that moment meeting with other Francophone leaders in the Democratic Republic of Congo (D.R.C.) to discuss Mali and other matters, the spokesman, Oumar Ould Hamaha, said, “If he continues to throw oil on the fire, we will send him the pictures of dead French hostages in the coming days,” adding, “He will not be able to count the bodies of French expatriates across West Africa and elsewhere.” Hollande said he would not be intimidated.
High-Level Delegates Meet Malian President to Discuss Military Intervention. Delegates from the African Union (A.U.), the Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas), and the United Nations (U.N.) met with Malian leaders in Bamako, Mali’s capital, on October 19th, for a summit on if, how, and when to intervene militarily in the north. Mali’s interim civilian president, Dioncounda Traoré, urged intervention as soon as possible.
Zanzibar Mob Says Cops “Disappeared” Muslim Leader; Minister Sacked for Secession Talk. The predominantly-Muslim archipelago of Zanzibar, within the predominantly-Christian United Republic of Tanzania erupted in violence this week, with government sources reporting October 16th that rioters demanding a separate Islamic state for the islands burned tires and threw stones at police. One policeman was killed “by a machete-wielding gang.” On the same day, Zanzibar’s president, Ali Mohamed Shein, fired a cabinet minister for calling for Zanzibar’s independence. Then, on October 18th, more street battles occurred, with rioters, some with machetes and balaclavas, looting and fighting police in anger over the sudden disappearance of the leader of the separatist group Uamsho, Sheikh Farid Hadi, who was last seen on the 16th. Abdallah Saidi, Uamsho’s secretary, said, “The fact that the police have quickly issued a statement denying any information about Sheikh Farid’s disappearance is very suspicious and has made us think perhaps they were indeed responsible.”
|Sheikh Farid Hadi: Uamsho honcho AWOL|
|Mombasa separatist leader Omar Mwamnuadzi. Kenyan police said he wouldn’t come quietly.|
Pacified Buhoodle Warlord “Hagaltosie” Appointed to Somaliland Cabinet. In the de facto independent Republic of Somaliland, President Ahmed Mahmoud Silanyo this week appointed a former warlord from the recently pacified Buhoodle region the new minister of settlement. The warlord, Suleiman Isse Ahmed Kara (a.k.a. “Hagaltosie”), was expected in August to be appointed , but that post was given instead (as reported on at the time in this blog) to a rival warlord, Keyse Abdi Yusuf. Hagaltosie was the military commander of the brief-lived Khaatumo State, a.k.a. Sool, Sanaag, and Cayn (S.S.C.) State, which tried to establish itself in a disputed area of eastern Somalia before he and Silanyo signed a cease-fire in June (as reported at the time in this blog).
|A Somali political cartoon mocking Hagaltosie’s new cabinet position.|
Trust me, in Somali it’s really funny.
Northern Nigerian Cities Become Battlefields; 83 Dead in Bloody Week. More than 83 people were killed in a week of violence in northern Nigeria that included open street warfare in Potiskum and Maiduguri and (see next article as well) large-scale massacres of Christians by Islamic extremists and tribal loyalists. Fifteen separate explosions and much gunfire were heard throughout Maidiguri, capital of Nigeria’s Borno State, the center of Boko Haram Islamist terrorist activity, on the afternoon and evening of October 15th, and police locked the city down. A school was set on fire in the mêlée, and earlier in the day a suspected Boko Haram member had shot dead a traffic policeman. The anti-terrorist Joint Task Force (J.T.F.) later said that 24 Boko Haram members had been killed in the operation. Earlier in the week, on October 12th, a former member of Oyo State’s legislature, Lukman Adigun, survived an assassination attempt outside a Maiduguri mosque, but two companions of his were shot and killed. Four people were killed in the city in two different attacks two days later: a married couple and their child on their way out of a Church of Christ service were riddled with bullets by attackers who then escaped, and a traditional chief, Mala Kala, was shot to death by gunmen who stormed into his home and past his security guards. A visitor in the home was seriously wounded. Mala Kala is a close associate of an Islamic cleric, Umar Garbai el-Kanemi, the Shehu of Borno, who survived an attempted assassination by Boko Haram in July. Mala Kala and Kanemi are “moderates,” which in northern Nigeria nowadays means that they follow the laws of Nigeria’s secular government. Meanwhile, in Potiskum, in Yobe State, a bomb exploded on October 17th, followed by gun battles and soldiers raiding homes and even setting them on fire. Reports filtering out suggested “several” dead and large numbers of public buildings torched in street warfare that escalated after an attack on a checkpoint. The same day, a Church of Christ in Nigeria church building in Bauchi, capital of Bauchi State, was damaged by a bomb, but there were no casualties.
24 Massacred at Mosque in North-Central Nigeria; Boko Haram Suspected. Perhaps as many as 50 militants surrounded a remote village in north-central Nigeria before dawn on October 14th and massacred at least 24 people, most while they were leaving a mosque. The authorities sealed off the area around the village, which is Dogon Dawa, in Kaduna State. The northern Islamist insurgency group Boko Haram is suspected. On the same day, in Benue State, 30 members of the predominantly-Christian Tiv ethnic group were massacred by predominantly-Muslim Fulani herdsmen in a land dispute.
|Aftermath of the mosque attack in Kaduna State this week|
|Nobel laureate Wole Soyinka now agrees with Chinua Achebe|
that Nigeria used genocide to keep Biafra from seceding.
Newly Found U.N. Files Exonerate Irish Diplomat in Congo’s 1961 Katanga Disaster. An historian from Ireland says he has uncovered documents in the United Nations archives showing that the legendary Irish journalist and diplomat Conor Cruise O’Brien was unfairly made to take the blame for the a disastrous rogue U.N. operation in 1961 during the separatist rebellion in Katanga, in the south of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The historian, Dr. Michael Kennedy, says that Operation Morthor, as it was known, was in fact authorized at the highest levels, but, after the U.N. secretary general Dag Hammarskjöld’s death in a Katanga plane crash two days later, O’Brien was scapegoated to preserve the martyred Hammarskjöld’s reputation. As reported earlier in this blog, the U.N. is currently investigating Hammarskjöld’s death. His plane went down on a crisis mission to Katanga, which Hammarskjöld, a fierce critic of Western corporate interests, suspected was a puppet state of powerful global, especially British, mining interests against the Soviet-backed Congolese regime of the time. An investigation last year by the English newspaper The Guardian provided evidence that the plane had in fact been shot down by U.K.-financed mercenaries just across the border in the semi-independent Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland, in the part that is modern Zambia, and that colonial authorities covered up the crime.
|U.N. records now show his side of the story, too.|
Cameron, Salmon Sign Deal; Scottish Defense Spokesman Wants to Stay in NATO. With the United Kingdom’s prime minister, David Cameron, in Edinburgh on October 15th to seal an agreement with Scotland’s First Minister, Alex Salmond, on the 2014 independence referendum (see last week’s blog entry for details of the deal), Salmond’s defense spokesman called for an independent Scotland to stay in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), despite a plea last week (also reported on in this blog) from the Scottish Green Party to leave the treaty. The spokesman, Angus Robertson, emphasized that the similarly progressive and nuclear-free neighbors Norway, Iceland, and Denmark find NATO membership—and Great Britain’s inclusion in it as well—crucial to their defense.
|Cameron and Salmond shake on it.|
Now the referendum campaigning begins in earnest.
|C. J. Sansom is the author, ironically enough, of Dissolution.|
Sinn Féin Leader Calls for Referendum on Status of Northern Ireland. The leader of the Irish nationalist party Sinn Féin, Gerry Adams, told the Dáil, the Republic of Ireland’s parliament, on October 16th, that if Scotland can have the right to vote on its place in the United Kingdom so can the Irish people, and he called for a referendum on whether to merge Northern Ireland, currently part of the U.K., into the Republic of Ireland, ending a nearly-century-long partition of the island into Catholic and Protestant, independent and dependent, sectors. The 1998 Good Friday Agreement which ended most violent conflict in Northern Ireland allows for such a poll. Adams said, “The British Union is now a live debating issue.”
Separatists Set to Gain in Basque Country Vote Next Week. Polling in Spain’s autonomous Basque Country this week are indicating that the left-wing Basque coalition Euskal Herria Bildu, which advocates secession from Spain, is poised to come in second in elections to the Basque regional parliament on October 21st. The Basque Nationalist Party, which is farther right politically and is content with enhanced autonomy, is expected to come in first. But polls indicate that in Galicia, Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy Brey’s home country, Rajoy’s People’s Party (P.P.) is likely to be reelected.
See my separate blog article on issues facing Catalonia as it moves toward an independence referendum.
Karadžić, on Trial for Genocide, Tells Court He Should Be Rewarded, Not Punished. The notorious Radovan Karadžić, the psychiatrist turned Serb ultranationalist war criminal accused of committing genocide while president of the Serbian puppet state of Republika Srpska within Bosnia and Herzegovina in the early 1990s, opened his defense with a personal statement on October 16th at the United Nations’ International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (I.C.T.Y.) at the Hague, in the Netherlands. He called himself a “tolerant man” and said he did “everything within human power to avoid the war and to reduce the human suffering.” He added, “Instead of being accused for the events in our civil war, I should have been rewarded for all the good things I’ve done.” Meanwhile, back in reality, the things that Karadžić has actually done include the massacre of more than 8,000 Bosniak civilians in the 1995 Srebrenica massacre. Karadžić, who now faces 10 charges of genocide and other crimes against humanity, was arrested in 2008, in Belgrade, Serbia, where he had been living openly but under a series of assumed names, and has been in U.N. custody since.
|The butcher of Srebrenica, waiting for his Nobel Peace Prize apparently|
Russia Threatens to Recognize Transnistria in Reply to Plans for Moldova NATO Base. The Republic of Moldova was reported this week to be planning to allow the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) to establish a military base in its territory. This prompted a Russian diplomat to clarify that, if Moldova “loses its sovereignty or neutrality”—presumably a reference to European Union (E.U.) candidacy or NATO membership—then the Russian Federation might grant diplomatic recognition to the Pridnestovian Moldavian Republic, known as Transnistria, a de facto independent, ethnic-Slav-dominated sliver of eastern Moldova occupied by Russian troops since 1990. Moldova is not a candidate for either E.U. or NATO membership, but Romania, with which many would like to see it reunify, is in both.
At Least 7 Dead in Ongoing Insurgent Violence in Dagestan. At least seven people were killed in another violent week in the predominantly-Muslim and insurgency-plagued Republic of Dagestan, in southwestern Russia’s North Caucasus region. First, a gun battle in the forests near Endirei killed three Islamist rebels and one federal soldier on October 13th. Among those captured in the incident was a 40-year-old rebel originally from Tajikistan. It was reported the next day that the imam of a mosque in the village of Uchkent, also in Dagestan, was shot and killed at home in his own yard by three masked men with automatic weapons. Three days later it was reported that a military checkpoint was fired on by unknown gunmen, but the attackers were killed by return fire. No further information, including the number of attackers, was available.
BITS OF ASIA THAT LIKE TO PRETEND THEY’RE PART OF EUROPE
European Diplomats Tour Gorno-Badakhshan amid Scolding of Tajik Rulers. Media in the Republic of Tajikistan reported this week that a delegation of European diplomats (not further identified) had visited the Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Oblast (G.B.A.O.), the large territory in the east of the country where members of the Pamir minority suffered a lethal crackdown by Tajik security forces after the killing of a chief of secret police in July. The European Union (E.U.) last month demanded that the Tajik government allow observers into the region.
Abkhazia, South Ossetia, and Transnistria Sign Defense Pact in Sukhumi. In Sukhumi, capital of the de facto independent Republic of Abkhazia, a Russian puppet state which most of the world regards as part of the Republic of Georgia, the defense ministers of Abkhazia and its sister puppet state, South Ossetia, signed a defense cooperation pact this week with the Pridnestovian Moldavian Republic, known as Transnistria. The agreement includes a commitment to cooperate in case one of the three nations is attacked. Transnistria is a sliver of eastern Moldova, against the border with Ukraine, where Russian Federation troops maintain a de facto but diplomatically unrecognized statelet which seceded from Moldova after the fall of Communism in 1990.
Turkish Interior Ministry Investigates Police Chief for Suggesting Kurds Are Humans. The Republic of Turkey’s minister of the interior began an official investigation October 12th against a local police chief in the southeastern Kurdistan region who expressed general feelings of sympathy for Kurdish deaths in the ongoing civil war. In his original statement, the new police chief, Reccep Güven, who heads the department in Diyarbakır, said, referring to his time as a police officer in Diyarbakır in the 1990s, “I felt at that time that you are not a human being if you are not touched by the death of a terrorist on the mountain. But if you cannot [prevent] a terrorist from killing people, including children, you are not a state.” He called the ’90s a “dark era” of anti-Kurdish human-rights abuses in Turkey.
Kurdish Party Proposes 15-20 Autonomous Federal Regions for Turkey. The Peace and Democracy Party (B.D.P.), a legal pro-Kurdish political party in the Republic of Turkey, this week revealed a proposal to reorganize Turkey into 15 or 20 autonomous regions with devolved parliaments. Standing under a banner with the face of the imprisoned rebel leader Abdullah Öcalan at a party convention in Ankara over the October 13-14 weekend, the party’s co-chair, Selahattin Demirtaş, said, “If this formula is not accepted, then we can discuss autonomy for the Kurdistan region. The demand for outlining a status and the demand for education in one’s mother tongue are both indispensible for the Kurdish people. If these demands are not met, any other option will be unacceptable for Kurdish people.” The Turkish government accuses the B.D.P. of being the political wing of the outlawed separatist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (P.K.K.).
|Cheerleaders for Kurdish autonomy at the B.D.P. conference in Ankara|
Israeli Airstrike Kills Jihadist Network Founder; Rockets Fired from Gaza in Reply. Two rockets were fired at Israel on October 14th from the Palestinian Territories’ Gaza Strip exclave, which is ruled by the Islamist terrorist group Hamas, in retaliation for an Israeli Air Forces airstrike the night before that killed an alleged founder of the Hashura Council of the Mujahideen, part of the terrorist network Global Jihad. Israel says the man, Hisham Saidani, was in the midst of planning an attack along the Israel–Egypt border in league with Salafist militants in the Sinai Peninsula.
Finnish Relief Vessel Bound for Gaza Vows to Pierce Israeli Blockade. As this blog entry was being written, Israel’s navy, on October 20th, 30 nautical miles off the Mediterranean coast, was surrounding a Finnish humanitarian vessel sent to pierce Israel’s illegal blockade of the Palestinian Territories’ Gaza Strip exclave. The ship, the Estelle, which is arriving after a stop in Crete, in Greece, earlier this week, is carrying two olive trees, 41 tons of cement, 700 footballs, as well as books, toys, and medical supplies. Israeli authorities had threatened to take action to keep the ship away, and the government of Finland, which flags the vessel, says it will not intervene in the matter. Two years ago, Israeli troops boarded a similar humanitarian vessel, the Mavi Marmara, and killed nine pro-Palestinian activists from Turkey, in what became a major international incident.
|The crew of the Estelle|
7 Protesters Shot by Police as Unionists, Separatists Clash in South Yemen. A clash by demonstrators and counter-demonstrators from the unionist and separatist sides prompted police intervention in Shabwah province, Yemen, in what used to be the separate republic of South Yemen. At least seven civilians were injured by police bullets.
|South Yemeni separatists state their aims|
Leader of Pacified Tamil Tigers, Wanted in India, Freed from Prison in Sri Lanka. The leader of the defeated and subsequently disarmed Liberation of Tigers of Tamil Eelam (L.T.T.E.), Selvarasa Pathmanathan, was freed from prison, the defense ministry of Sri Lanka announced October 17th, after three years in custody. The L.T.T.E. renounced violence and dropped its demand for a separate country in the north of the island after the conclusion in 2009 of a long civil war that killed more than 50,000 people. Pathmanathan, however, is still a wanted man in India, in connection with the L.T.T.E. assassination of India’s prime minister, Rajiv Gandhi, in 1991.
|An Interpol notice for Selvarasa Pathmanathan, using his legal name|
Manipuri Separatists Stage General Strike in Northeast India; Bomb Plot Foiled. Activists in far-northeastern India shut down Imphal, capital of Manipur state, with a general strike on October 15th to mark the date in 1949 when Manipur, formerly an autonomous princely state under British rule, joined India, the last princely state to do so. With the state’s security forces on high alert, police announced October 19th that the day before they had intercepted a van filled with remote-controlled bombs destined for an Imphal terrorist attack. The strike was organized by the Coordination Committee (CorCom), a coalition of seven rebel groups fighting for independence for Manipur.
Reports Conflict on Militant Faction Dropping Demand for “Greater Nagaland.” A faction of the Nationalist Socialist Council of Nagaland (N.S.C.N.), in India’s far-northeastern Nagaland state, this week were said to have dropped demands for a “Greater Nagaland” and vowed to accept the Indian constitution, prompting Nagaland’s home minister, Imkong Imchen, to say October 16th that a peace agreement to end the decades-long Naga separatist insurgency was near. But T. T. Among, home minister of the faction, called N.S.C.N.–IM, denied the reports, saying, “No agreement was made by N.S.C.N.–IM. If any agreement was arrived at, it would be made known to the public.”
U.S. Reveals Ambassador Locke Made Secret Visit to Tibet Last Month. The United States’ Department of State revealed only this week that Gary F. Locke, the U.S. ambassador to the People’s Republic of China (P.R.C.), made a discreet visit on September 26th to a part of Tibet that is at the center of the recent wave of self-immolations and other protests of Chinese rule. His visit was to Aba prefecture in Sichuan province, a part of western China that is culturally Tibetan (“eastern Tibet,” in the parlance of Tibetan nationalists), even though it lies outside the P.R.C.’s misnamed Tibet Autonomous Region. Chinese government officials knew about the visit—and indeed facilitated it, maybe grudgingly—but have not commented publicly on it. Locke, who is Chinese-American and a former governor of Washington State, said, “I was struck by the unique Tibetan culture and met many ethnic Tibetans to learn more about how they live and work, such as an 88-year-old monk at one of the monasteries I visited. Ethnic diversity adds richness to a society.”
|Ambassador Gary Locke, in a down-low visit to Tibet|
2 Civilians, 1 Militant Shot, Killed in Southern Thailand Rebel Violence. In southern Thailand’s Narathiwat province, where ethnically-Malay Muslim rebels are fighting for a separate nation, two civilians were shot and killed October 12th. One, a 60-year-old man, was riding a motorcycle when he was shot. His wife was injured. Earlier in the day, a 58-year-old rubber tapper was ambushed and killed near his plantation. Malay militants are suspected. Later, on October 15th, a police gun battle in Narathiwat province with a wanted member of the separatist militia Runda Kumpalan Kecil (R.K.K.) resulted in the militant’s death.
Burmese Soldiers Attack Chinese Refugee Camp, Kachin State Village. Burmese troops, according to reports, fired arms across the borderm with China’s Yunnan province at a camp for Kachin refugees on October 16th, hitting “several” people, including a four-year-old. The same day, the Burmese military launched a two-day attack on a village in Kachin State, killing three civilians, injuring three, and sending hundreds fleeing. Two members of the Kachin Independence Army (K.I.A.), which is fighting to secede from Burma, were also killed. Many residents of the village, Maw Mau Bum, had only recently returned home from a refugee camp, believing it to be safe.
|A victim of the latest violence in the Burmese war with the Kachin|
Indonesia Destroys Giant Cache of Arms from Former Aceh Rebels. On Indonesia’s Sumatra island, security forces on October 17th destroyed nearly 1,000 firearms confiscated or surrendered over the past seven years from former members of the separatist Free Aceh Movement (G.A.M.). The G.A.M. ended their insurgency against the Indonesian government in 2005, but many brigades are still armed.
Hollande Receives New Quebec Premier in Paris, Says, “I Choose Continuity.” In what has become a political ritual for Quebec separatists, the newly elected Parti Québécois (P.Q.) premier, Pauline Marois, met at the Élysée Palace in Paris on October 17th to hobnob with the French Republic’s new president, François Hollande. Officially, France is opposed to the province’s secession from Canada, but the French leadership has always had warm direct relations with Quebec, with some officials advocating independence but presidents and prime ministers falling just short of it—especially after the kerfuffle in 1967 when President Charles de Gaulle told a crowd in Montreal, “Vive le Québec libre!” Marois, though a separatist, heads a minority government and does not plan an independence referendum so long as that situation prevails. Hollande, for his part, when asked if he was less unionist than his predecessor Nicolas Sarkozy, said only, “I choose continuity.”
|Pauline Marois and François Hollande|
|Pleasure palace: what happens in Maniitsoq stays in Maniitsoq|