Saturday, September 29, 2012

Catalonia to Hold Referendum; Basques and Bavarians Next? Also, Quasi-State in Kivu, TWO California Separatist Movements, Welsh Terrorists, Partitioning Kosovo, Palestine at the U.N.: The Week in Separatist News, 23-29 September 2012

Photo of the week: The symbolism of Scots nationalism, Occupy Wall Street leftism, and, not incidentally, hostility toward the parliament in London combined in this memorable image from this week’s massive independence rally in Edinburgh.


The Euro Zone crisis has, from its beginnings last year, had the potential to sunder western Europe’s already fractious nation-states.

In Belgium and Italy, the effects have been the opposite.  The crisis created the impetus for a disintegrating Flanders and Wallonia to agree last year on forging a fragile government after more than a year of power vacuum filled with squabbling (as reported on in detail in this blog).  For the time being, Belgium might survive as a single country.  The prosperous north of Italy, meanwhile, which hankers to secede as Padania, has not been able to press its argument that it is being unfairly asked to subsidize the poor, crime-ridden, inefficient south of the country, since one of the early effects of the financial crisis was to bring down Silvio Berlusconi’s government and along with it its always-unlikely junior coalition partner, the Lega Nord Padania (“Northern League”).  Then, a corruption scandal ended the career of the League’s founder, Umberto Bossi, this spring (as reported on at the time in this blog), during a time when it should have been making political hay.

However, in Spain—like Italy, a crisis-wracked debtor nation—and Germany—the country that feels it is being asked to bail out southern Europe’s economic failures—divides between the regions are growing.

The New York Times used the occasion of the annual obligatory tapping-the-first-keg-of-Oktoberfest feature story to sound an alarm over the stirrings of separatism in Bavaria, which has always been the part of post-war Germany with the strongest feelings of national distinctness.  Officially today called Freistaat Bayern, “Bavarian Free State,” the largest and most culturally and regionally coherent of Germany’s 16 Bundesländer (federal states), was convulsed by separatism in the Weimar era, during the financial crisis in 1923, and probably would have been also during the Great Depression if a specifically Bavarian-based fanatical nationalism had not filled that void.  Eager to dissociate itself after the war from the Germanic jingoism it had helped spawn, Bavaria was the one region which in 1949 voted against joining the emerging Federal Republic of Germany, but, since, unanimity was not required, it went along with only a few grumbles in the interests of stability.  Still, the separatist Bavaria Party pulled in more than a fifth of the vote in the early 1950s and was briefly part of a coalition government.  Bavarians were among the coolest welcomers of the absorption of five new third-world economic-basket-case states amid the dissolution of the German Democratic Republic (East Germany) in 1990.

Now, of the four Bundesländer that are, essentially, paying in to subsidize the other 12, Bavaria is by far the most prosperous: last year, Bavaria (home to B.M.W., Audi, Siemens, and other Wirtschafstwunder behemoths) saw a net transfer of nearly $4 billion to the central government, more than the contributions of the other three net-contributors—Baden–Württemberg (also in the prosperous south), Hessen, and the state-level Free and Hanseatic City of Hamburg—combined.  Now, with Germany itself being prevailed upon to save all of Europe, Bavaria feels it is, internally, the put-upon savior of Germany, the victim of what one journalist, Wilfried Scharnagel, calls “a double-transfer union.”  Scharnagel’s new book, Bayern kann es auch allein: Plädoyer fur den einigen Staat (Bavaria Can Also Go It Alone: A Plea for a Separate State) is now a bestseller, and if the idea catches on, as it seems to promise to do, it may yet pose the greatest threat to German unity since the war, especially with Bavaria’s ruling party now on the ropes.

But it is Spain, and not at all quite yet Germany, which is completely coming apart at the seams this week.  September 11th saw one of the largest independence rallies in recent European history (reported on in this blog), as hundreds of thousands of Catalans thronged Barcelona and Madrid to push for their own independent state.  Earlier this week, on September 21st, a spokesman for the Autonomous Community of Catalonia, said that his government was considering seeking full independence in the wake of the breakdown of negotiations the previous week with Spain over fiscal relations between federal and regional levels.  The spokesman, Francesc Homs, said that the possibilities included the status quo, a referendum on independence within the next four years, or, alternately, “it could also be done by parliamentary decision after elections.”  By this he meant not the Spanish parliament, of course, but that of Catalonia, which a few days later announced an early election for November 25th.

Then, on September 27th, came the bombshell as the Catalan parliament voted overwhelmingly to hold a referendum on independence, despite vows from the central government in Madrid to oppose any moves toward secession, with the deputy prime minister saying that Catalonia is forbidden from holding a referendum without approval from the central government.  The vote was 84 for, 21 against, and 25 abstaining.

Catalonia’s separatist ambitions have been stoked by the European financial crisis, which has necessitated bailouts of the Spanish government that are a humiliation for what is, after all, far and away Spain’s most prosperous region and the jewel in the crown of its tourist industry (especially after the Barcelona Olympics of 1992).  Catalans remember that during the Spanish civil war they enjoyed de facto independence for years as they held out against the Fascists that most of the rest of Spain more or less allowed to roll right over them.  Emboldened by Scotland’s momentum toward an independence referendum and mindful that they would have little to lose from independence, so long of course as they could remain in the European Union (E.U.) (an issue discussed in detail in an article in this blog with respect to Scotland), Catalonia’s separatist feeling has never been stronger.

Upcoming regional elections in (from left to right) Galicia, the Basque Country, and Catalonia
are a threat to Spanish unity.
Nor is it just Catalonia.  The recently disarmed and mostly disbanded Basque separatist organization ETA (Euskadi Ta Askatusana, “Basque Homeland and Freedom”) issued a formal statement September 26th saying that, as the October 21st elections in the Autonomous Community of the Basque Country approach, left-wing Basque parties need to push harder for an independent state.  Polls are showing that the pro-autonomy Basque Nationalist Party (E.A.J.) (mainstream, considering that the Basque Country already has autonomy) is likely to stay in first place, but a new coalition of ETA-sympathizing Basque leftists, Euskal Herria Bildu, is likely to unseat the current coalition partner, a branch of the center-left Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party (P.S.O.E.).

Another autonomous region in Spain, Galicia, west of the Basque Country and north of Portugal, will also be holding elections on October 21st, and observers are predicting that Spain’s ruling People’s Party (P.P.) may lose ground there to the two opposition parties, the nationalist (i.e., Galician nationalist) local branch (P.S. de G.–P.S.O.E.) of the Spanish Socialist Worker’s Party and the outright pro-independence Galician Nationalist Bloc (B.N.G.).  This would embarrass the P.P., since Spain’s P.P. prime minister, Mariano Rajoy Brey, is himself Galician.  Galicia is another area that enjoyed some autonomy during the civil war.  The part of the Iberian peninsula with the strongest Celtic cultural survivals, Galicians have never felt very Spanish.  Earlier this month (as reported in this blog at the time), the terrorist Galician Resistance even reared its ugly head, with the arrest of a quartet of would-be bombers.

The flag of Galicia incorporates, as does Scotland’s, the Cross of St. Andrew,
who is the patron saint of both countries.
As a side effect of this disunity, the Spanish central government is, quite pathetically, trying to get some traction out of its spurious claims to Gibraltar.  Speaking before the United Nations General Assembly, the United Kingdom’s prime minister, David Cameron, was prevailed upon to respond to the a Spanish request for bilateral talks under E.U. auspices on the status of Gibraltar by reiterating this week his refusal to negotiate.  He added, however, that the U.K. was open to “new ways of taking forward dialogue and cooperation on issues of mutual importance by any means that fully reflect the interests, rights, and responsibilities of the people of Gibraltar”—whose population has repeatedly made clear its desire to remain in the U.K.  Earlier in the week, the territory’s chief minister, Fabian Picardo, had lashed out at a new Spanish conservation plan that would restrict what it calls environmentally hazardous activities in a 27,000-hectare area of the Mediterranean around Gibraltar.  The proscribed activities are to include ship-refuelling, a major part of Gibraltar’s economy.  Spain claims to be simply applying E.U. law, but Picardo saw it as a confrontation linked to Spain’s spurious claims.  Picardo used unusually strong language, threatening “a serious international confrontation” and adding, “However much they say they will tighten the screws on Gibraltar, we have to say that this has been tried already.  That is the policy of the past, the failed and sterile attempts by Franco’s fascist government.”  Cameron’s backing for Picardo’s position constitutes the U.K. government’s strongest statement on Gibraltar in decades.

Spain, of course, realistically, will never regain Gibraltar.  Its people oppose it, and that’s not the way Europe works.  Just as surely, the Catalan people want independence, and they want it badly enough that sooner or later they will get it.  That may prove to be the end of modern Spain as we know it.


U.N. Says M23 Rebels Have Set Up “de Facto” State in East Congo’s Kivu Province.  The United Nations’ under-secretary-general for peacekeeping operations, Hervé Ladsous, said September 18th that the “M23” rebel army in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo (D.R.C.) has set up a “de facto administration” in North Kivu province.  After addressing the U.N. Security Council on September 18th, Ladsous told reporters, “M23 elements are concentrated in a corner of the eastern Kivu, which is next to the borders of Rwanda and Uganda.  They are already establishing a sort of de facto administration, controlling population, taking ‘taxes’ from people who pass through and that ... is hardly acceptable.”  M23 is a successor organization to the Tutsi-dominated National Congress for the Defense of the People (C.N.D.P.), which was folded, uneasily, into the Congolese military in 2006, until the “M23” mutiny this April.  The international community regards M23 as a puppet of the government of Rwanda, also dominated by the Tutsi ethnic group—a claim Rwanda denies.  M23’s military leader, Col. Sultani Makenga, denied on September 20th that a “parallel administration” was in place, adding, “When you wage war, when you occupy a territory, you have to administrate it,” but “We sing the [D.R.C.] national anthem, we raise the national flag, therefore there is no parallel administration.”

Ecowas Force Gearing to Liberate Azawad, but Tuaregs May Side with Islamists.  As plans slowly start to take shape for an international force to seize the self-proclaimed Independent State of Azawad from the Islamist militias that govern it and return it to the Republic of Mali, the Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas) said on September 24th that it would support the Malian military “on the ground” but would have to rely on countries like Nigeria and France to provide air support.  (Nigeria is a member of Ecowas but theoretically could intervene as a state actor as well as by contributing to the Ecowas force.)  For now, though, neither Nigeria nor France has committed itself, though the French, arguing for Ecowas intervention at the United Nations on September 26th, promise “logistical support.”  At the U.N. summit on the conflict, the United States’ secretary of state, Hillary Rodham Clinton, was even less committal: she praised the idea of a regional force, but said that even Ecowas should wait until Mali has a stable government in its capital, Bamako.  In addition, things could get complicated on the ground in ways that were not foreseen until recently: the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (M.N.L.A.)—the ethnically Tuareg militia that separated Azawad from Mali in March and April before the secession was hijacked a few months later by the al-Qaeda Organization in the Islamic Maghreb (A.Q.I.M.) and the al-Qaeda-affiliated Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO)—said that any international intervention without M.N.L.A. approval might prompt them to side with the Islamists.  Ibrahim Ag Mohamed Asseleh, a member of the M.N.L.A.’s transitional council, said this week at headquarters in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, that if Ecowas intervened “without prior agreement between the M.N.L.A. and the authorities in Bamako” (Mali’s capital), the M.N.L.A. might “seek alliances of convenience with Islamist and terrorist groups.”  Meanwhile, one faction of the M.N.L.A., under Col. Hassan Ag Medhi, announced on September 24th that it was forming a rival Front for the Liberation of Azawad (F.P.A.), which is anti-jiahdist and anti-independence.  Also in Ouagadougou, the colonel said, “What is foremost in our minds is saving these people whose hands are being cut off”—a reference to A.Q.I.M. and MUJAO’s pitiless implementation of Islamic law (shari’a) in Azawad.

Mob Violence near Mombasa Claims 11 Lives; Separatists Implicated.  Eleven people were killed on September 27th in Kaloleni, near Mombasa, Kenya, after locals notified police of a supposed oath-taking ceremony in progress by the Muslim separatism Mombasa Republican Council (M.R.C.).  The separatists were supposedly armed with firearms and machetes and were set upon by a mob before police intervened.  Reports of the mêlée are sketchy, and there are indications that the group in question may in fact not have been, as originally thought, the M.R.C., which wants Kenya’s Coast Province to form a separate nation.  One security officer said, “This was not the M.R.C.  It is an entirely new group and it looks like we have a bigger security problem.”

Puntland President’s Plan to Extend Term of Office Spurs Uprisings.  Violence broke out in different parts of the de facto independent Puntland State of Somalia, on September 21st over President Abdirahman Mohamed Farole’s plans to extend his term of office by a year.  In the town of Qardho, hundreds of protesters met a visiting electoral-commission delegation by rallying in protest over the term extension.  Rioters burned rubber tires in the streets and chanted, “No five years.”  Meanwhile, on the same day, in Puntland’s main harbor town and economic hub, Bosaso, military police raided the offices of clan leaders who had days earlier issued a statement condemning Farole’s moves.  The offices were shut down, and soldiers stripped them of everything, including computers and furniture.  Farole spoke out against his detractors on September 24th, saying that he “will not tolerate those failed politicians and so-called websites and media who are supporting Puntland’s enemies including terrorists and pirates” etc. etc.  Um, paranoid much?

Rioting in Puntland
Somaliland Offers Blanket Amnesty to al-Shabaab Defectors.  The minister of the interior in the de facto independent Republic of Somaliland this week offered a general amnesty to members of the al-Qaeda-affiliated Islamist militia al-Shabaab, which has murdered thousands throughout the lawless zone the world regards as the Federal Republic of Somalia.  The amnesty will be restricted to al-Shabaab members who are from Somaliland.  The minister, Mohamed Nur Arale Duur, told media, in explaining the amnesty, said, “All humans make mistakes.”

Afar Vigilantes Carrying Out Ethnic Cleansing of Ogaden in Ethiopia, Swede Reports.  In the vast part of Ethiopia’s east known as the Somali Regional State—where the population is related to the peoples of the nearby Federal Republic of Somali and its breakaway regions, presumably have self-rule—there has been widespread ethnic cleansing of Ogaden people amid the ethnic-political jostling after the death last month of the long-ruling ethnic-Tigray dictator of Ethiopia, Meles Zenawi.  The Swedish journalist Johan Ripås, gathering information on the local situation in eastern Ethiopia in the wake of the release recently of two journalists from Sweden—who had been imprisoned in Ethiopia for alleged ties to Ogaden rebels (as reported last week in this blog)—is reporting that entire Ogaden villages are being emptied of their inhabitants, part of a process of ethnic cleansing that has been going on for some time, according to local people.  Using information smuggled out of the country by a former Ethiopian civil servant, Abdullahi Hussein, Ripås reports that most of the executions, ethnic cleansing, and other atrocities are at the hands of the so-called “Liyuu Police,” a nominally government-run militia operating out of the nearby Afar Regional State in Ethiopia (as reported on briefly recently in this blog).  Originally, the Liyuu Police were founded to counteract the influence of the rebellious Ogaden National Liberation Front (O.N.L.F.), but it now operates as a vigilante army answerable to no one.  Afar people are also related to Somalis and are one of the two dominant ethnic groups in the nearby Republic of Djibouti, formerly known, when it was a colony of France, as Afars and Issas.

Sudan, South Sudan Agree on Demilitarized Zone along Border, but Abyei Still Disputed.  In peace talks in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, delegations from the Republic of Sudan and from the country that seceded from it a little over a year ago, the Republic of South Sudan, reached agreement on September 26th on some border disputes but not on the toughest nut to crack in their months-long conflict, the Abyei District.  The Sudanese and South Sudanese presidents, Omar al-Bashir and Salva Kiir Mayardit, respectively, agreed to withdraw all troops from a new six-mile-wide demilitarized zone along the length of their shared, but contested 1,100-mile-long boundary.  Bashir rejected outright, however, an African Union (A.U.) plan to hold a referendum in the small rectangular border territory to determine which country it would join.  Ethnic cleansing by pro-(north)-Sudanese militias early last year—in an attempt to swing the ethnic and political orientation of the populace ahead of a then-planned plebiscite—sparked the conflict, which has by now spread to most areas along the shared border, including the states of South Darfur, South Kordofan, and Blue Nile.

The Abyei district
Efik Chief, Senators, Protesters Condemn Nigerian Cession of Bakassi to Cameroon.  The central government in Nigeria is facing several protests over its announcement this week that it will not take advantage of the quickly closing window (October 10th is the deadline) to contest a 2002 International Court of Justice (I.C.J.) decision transferring sovereignty of the Bakassi Republic from Nigeria, which had been administering it, to the neighboring Republic of Cameroon.  A paramount traditional ruler of the displaced Bakassi people in southeastern Nigeria, Dr. Etinyin Etim Okon Edet, petitioned Nigeria’s president, Goodluck Jonathan, this week, to release Bakassi from all ties to the Nigerian state since Nigeria has, in his view, violated its obligations to the Bakassi people.  Edet, chairman of the Cross River State Council of Chiefs and a traditional ruler from the Efik ethnic group, told reporters, “The people of Bakassi are being held in bondage by Nigeria, which has divested its interest to listen to the wishes of the Bakassi people and to force them into a situation of perpetual refugee status in their own country or to remain in Cameroon as migrants who could be tortured, killed, or deported by the Cameroonian authorities that have been pursuing a policy of ethnic cleansing since 2008.”  The coordinator of the Save Bakassi Group, in Nigeria, told reporters the new evidence “is concrete enough to ensure us victory at the I.C.J. and the federal government can take us for our words.”  A group of Nigerian senators is also pressing Jonathan to reconsider.  The Nigerian government, however, has said that an appeal would expose Nigeria “to international ridicule” and would amount to reneging on a solemn international agreement.  Then, hundreds of Efik people from Bakassi marched in Nigeria’s capital, Abuja, to protest being placed under Cameroonian rule.  Meanwhile, in July, Efik people in the Bakassi Peninsula itself declared an independent Republic of Bakassi, apparently without attracting much notice from the Cameroonian government.

9 Killed, Hundreds Arrested in Boko Haram Violence across Northern Nigeria.  Suspected members of the northern Nigerian Islamist militia Boko Haram stormed a clinic in Maiduguri, capital of Borno State, in northeastern Nigeria, on September 20th, killing the eldest son of the resident physician.  The gunmen seemed to be targeting the doctor himself.  Last month, Boko Haram had planted a bomb at the clinic.  Also in Maidiguri, members of the federal government’s anti-terrorist Joint Task Force (J.T.F.) killed four suspected Boko Haram members, arrested three others, and recovered numerous arms in a coordinated operation in different parts of the city on September 22nd.  The same day in Damaturu, capital of Yobe State, J.T.F. and local police arrested 32 Boko Haram suspects, including women and children, in a house-to-house sweep.  In Bauchi State, a suicide bomber killed himself and two bystanders—a woman and a child—outside a Catholic church on September 23rd, also injuring 46.  Police say he detonated himself after he tried to enter the church but was barred.  The J.T.F. announced on September 24th that a raid on a terrorist hideout in Mubi, in Adamawa Statekilled an important Boko Haram commander, believed to be Abubakar Yola (nom de guerre: Abu Jihad), and resulted in the arrest of 156 suspected Boko Haram members.  Also this week, gunmen stormed the residence of a former federal-government official in Azare, in Bauchi State, killing two police guards.  The official, Aminu Saleh, is involved in ongoing attempts to negotiate with Boko Haram.  Meanwhile, the Nigerian playwright, poet, Nobel laureate, and former political prisoner Wole Soyinka took the occasion of a visit to the United Nations in New York on the International Day of Peace on September 21st to call for taking up arms against Boko Haram.  “This is a violent organization,” Soyinka said.  “What do you do with them?  I am sorry, but you must fight them.”

Self-Styled Prime Minister to Demand Uganda Restore Ankole Kingdom.  The prime minister of the unrecognized Ankole Kingdom said in an interview September 22nd that he was planning to go to Uganda’s parliament “in a few days” to demand reinstatement.  The movement for restoration began in 1993 when Ankole was excluded from the list of originally constitutionally embedded Ugandan kingdoms restored by President Milton Obote.  In late 1993, Prince Barigye was installed as heir to the Ankole throne, but he died last year without seeing the fulfillment of his dream of constitutional recognition and the return of confiscated lands.  His son, Charles Rwebishengye, was installed the new crown prince in October 2011 and vowed to carry on the struggle.  He is now 21 years old and is a university student in the United Kingdom.  One barrier to restoration is a 1901 agreement, during the time of British colonialism, which consolidated the smaller kingdoms of Buhweju, Igara and BuzimbaBunyaruguru, and parts of Mpororo under the Nkole ethnic group, thus forming the Ankole Kingdom as it is delineated today; these absorptions are still the source of resentment.  But, as the Ankole prime minister, William Katatumba, said this week, “There is no giving up.  We have drawn plans.”

Uganda’s kingdoms
Barotse Separatists in Namibia Turn to U.N. in Anger over Drawn-Out Treason Trial.  In the Republic of Namibia, a Barotse (Lozi) organization, the Caprivi Concerned Group, this week called on the United Nations General Assembly to press the Namibian government to end a 13-year-old treason trial of participants in a 1999 separatist uprising in the Lozi-dominated Caprivi Strip region.  The group also wishes to raise the general issue of Caprivian independence and favors the diplomatic isolation of Namibia to make it mend its ways.  The Namibian government refuses to negotiate with the banned pro-Caprivian party, the United Democratic Party (U.D.P.), unless it renounces calls for independence for the Caprivi Strip.


Scots Separatists Reject Ulster Protestant Request to Vote in Independence Referendum.  A senior figure in the Ulster Scots community in Northern Ireland this week requested of the Scottish National Party (S.N.P.), which is pushing for Scotland to secede from the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, that Ulster Scots people be allowed to vote in the planned 2014 referendum on independence.  The leader, Dr. David Hume, who is director of services in the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland—a Protestant fraternal order representing those of Scottish ancestry who make up the bulk of Northern Ireland’s Protestant population—said that the Scots of Ulster (as Northern Ireland is traditionally known) were “stakeholders” in the question of Scottish independence.  “After all,” Hume told an audience in Glasgow on September 4th, “we provided the first unifying force in Scotland in the 6th century A.D., and we later extended Scottish influence to Ireland in the 17th century,” adding, “It would be our hope that the Scottish people remain with us and remain within the Union.”  An S.N.P. spokesman, however, rejected the idea out of hand, saying, “The future of Scotland is a matter for the people of Scotland, and the future of Northern Ireland is a matter for the people of Northern Ireland.”

J. K. Rowling, Edinburgh Resident, Opposes Scottish Independence from U.K.  The woman who is arguably the most famous resident of Scotland (as well as one of the wealthiest women in the world), J. K. Rowling, author of the Harry Potter series of books, told media on September 22nd that she would be voting against independence for Scotland in the referendum slated for 2014.  Rowling, who was born in Gloucestershire, England, to an English father and a mother who was half-French and half-Scots, has lived in Edinburgh since 1993 and is a vocal and generous supporter of the Labour Party.  Perhaps or perhaps not relatedly, a new poll indicates that only 26% of Scottish teenagers support independence from the United Kingdom—casting doubt on the wisdom of the Scottish National Party’s push to lower the voting age to 16 in time for the referendum.

Plaid Cymru under Fire for Party President Sharing Stage with Banned Welsh Militia.  The leader of Wales’s separatist political party, Plaid Cymru, after facing criticism last week for chanting a strange radical republican loyalty oath last year while playing hooky from Queen Elizabeth II’s opening of the Welsh Assembly (reported on at the time in this blog), is on the hook again.  The leader, Leanne Woodsnow faces demands from the Labour Party that she speak out against her party’s president, Jillian Evans (also a Welsh representative in the European Parliament), who can be seen in a newly publicized video speaking at a rally where flags from the Free Wales Army (F.W.A.), a banned separatist militia, were displayed.  Woods has refused.  The rally last year marked the 729th anniversary of the killing of Llywelyn ap Gruffudd (Llywelyn the Last), the last true Prince of Wales, by English soldiers, thus ending Welsh independence.  Nine F.W.A. members were arrested in 1969 for planning attacks on the ceremony crowning Elizabeth II’s son, Charles, as Prince of Wales.  One Plaid Cymru colleague said, in Evans’s defense, “Jill can be accused of many things, most particularly being a pacifist.  But to suggest she would have any sympathy with a paramilitary group is quite ridiculous.”  The tradition of naming the heir to the throne of England “Prince of Wales” dates to 1301, when King Edward I (a.k.a. Edward Longshanks), according to legend, broke his promise to appoint a Welshman as Llywelyn the Last’s successor, only to place the title instead on his son, later Edward II, King of England.

The Free Wales Army displays its creepy, swastika-like flag while Jillian Evans speaks.
New Serbian Prime Minister Says Partition of Kosovo Is Only Solution.  The prime minister of the Republic of SerbiaIvica Dačić, said September 21st that the partition of Kosovo—which is a de facto independent but only partially recognized republic which Serbia still claims—“is the only possible, realistic solution.”  Dačić, who took office in July of this year, had made this point before, when he was deputy prime minister, but making such a statement now reflects a subtle but unmistakeable shift in policy as Serbia tries to resolve the Kosovo dilemma as a condition for joining the European Union (E.U.).  A chunk of land abutting Serbia called North Kosovo, dominated by Serbs, is already outside of the Republic of Kosovo’s control and largely administered via local governments over the border in Serbia proper.  “In this phase,” Dačić added, “everything is acceptable other than accepting the unilaterally declared independence of Kosovo.  Brussels cannot force us to accept that.”  However, the speaker of Serbia’s parliament, who is from the right-wing opposition Serbian Progressive Party, said on September 25th that partition would be unconstitutional and that Serbia, including Kosovo, is indivisible.

Vojvodina Autonomy Leader Resigns after Bar Fight over Niece.  The leader of the main political party pushing for more autonomy for the Republic of Serbia’s Autonomous Province of Vojvodina resigned his parliamentary seat on September 25th after criticism that followed a fistfight he’d been involved in two days earlier.  The politician, Nenad Čanak, admits (though at first he denied it) punching a man outside a nightclub in Vojvodina’s capital, Novi Sad, after the man made sexual advances on his (Čanak’s) niece.  The victim went to the police to report it, which is how the story broke.  “The parliament will not protect me,” Čanak said, “but it is a safe house for war criminals.” His party, the League of Social Democrats of Vojvodina (L.S.V.), holds 10 out of 120 seats in the provincial assembly, but only 5 out of 250 seats in Serbia’s national parliament.  Among its aims is more autonomy for the historically-Magyar-dominated province of Vojvodina.

Lega Nord Leader Maroni Plans to Resign after 2015 Regional Elections.  The secretary (leader) of Lega Nord Padania, Italy’s separatist Northern League, Roberto Maroni, said this week that he would resign after the next regional elections, in 2015.  Speaking during a two-day party summit in Turin, said that the party has not yet decided whether to even contest the next national elections and that the 2015 regional elections is where attention is being concentrated.

[For the latest news from the North Caucasus (including DagestanChechnya, and Ingushetia), see this week’s Caucasus Update.]


[For the latest news from the South Caucasus, including ArmeniaAzerbaijan, and Georgiasee this week’s Caucasus Update.]

Turkey’s Erdoğan Raises Possibility of Talks with Kurds, Freedom for Öcalan.  The prime minister of the Republic of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, signaled to media on September 26th that talks were possible with the banned separatist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (P.K.K.), which has brought southeastern Turkey near to a state of civil war this spring, even indicating that it is possible that the P.K.K.’s founder, Abdullah Öcalan, may be freed from prison.  “There is a military dimension to this,” Erdoğan said, “a security dimension, which is separate and will continue.  But beside this there is a diplomatic, socio-economic, and psychological dimension.”  But two opposition parties, the Republican People’s Party (C.H.P.) and the Nationalist Movement Party (M.H.P.), on September 26th condemned remarks from the government suggesting that negotiations with Öcalan could be part of a solution to the Kurdish problem.

30 Killed in Battles in Turkish Kurdistan, Including 15 in Fresh Battle in Hakkari.  Thirty people were killed in clashes and ambushes between Kurdish rebels and the Turkish military this week.  In Tunceli province in east-central Turkey, in the Kurdistan region, two simultaneous attacks on military outposts by rebels from the banned separatist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (P.K.K.) on the night of September 22nd left a Turkish soldier and three Kurdish militants dead.  In Van province, in southeastern Turkey, two P.K.K. members were killed by Turkish special forces who were retaliating for an attack the day before on a medical facility which had killed one policeman.  Seven Turkish soldiers died, again in Tunceli, on September 24th when a convoy of armored trucks was hit by a roadside bomb presumed to have been planted by Kurdish rebels.
  Two Turkish soldiers and 13 P.K.K. rebels were killed in a battle in Hakkari province on September 26th.  Authorities reported on September 27th that two Turkish soldiers had been killed by a landmine in Şırnak province and that, in Ağrı province, in east-central Turkey, seven P.K.K. operatives, including two females, were arrested.  Meanwhile, in the early morning on September 25th, police across five provinces in Turkey rounded up nearly 40 members of the Human Rights Association, the Peace and Democracy Party (B.D.P.), and other groups, as part of an ongoing crackdown on the Kurdistan Communities Union (K.C.K.), a lawful civic group which advocates for Kurdish rights.

Kurdish Rebel Admits to P.K.K. Role in Killings of Witnesses in İzmir.  Meanwhile, a P.K.K. rebel confessed this week to a killing of which Kurdish rebels had been suspected: the murder of three villagers just before a fatal bombing far outside Kurdish areas near Foça in western Turkey’s İzmir province on August 9th (as reported at the time in this blog).  The villagers were apparently killed because they inadvertently became witnesses to the planning of the attack.


Abbas Presents Scaled-Back Palestinian U.N.-Membership Hopes amid Fiery Rhetoric.  The president of the Palestinian National Authority (P.A.), Mahmoud Abbas, said in an address to the United Nations General Assembly in New York that he would soon pursue a scaled-down version of Palestine’s 2011 application for full membership in the G.A.—which at the time was, as predicted, scotched by the Security Council veto wielded by Israel’s only real ally, the United States.  Instead, Palestine will seek status as a “non-member state”—an odd choice since it is already, you know, not a member.  For now, the Palestine Liberation Organization (P.L.O.) has “observer status” in the G.A., which it has held since 1998.  Other “observers” include the Vatican, multinational blocs such as the European Union (E.U.), and global organizations such as the International Society of the Red Cross (I.C.R.C.).  One interpretation is that Abbas means that he intends to replace the P.L.O. delegation with a full P.A. one.  Meanwhile, the rest of Abbas’s speech involved fiery, and mostly completely accurate, rhetoric, accusing the Israeli government of rejecting the two-state solution, of “ethnic cleansing,” and of “promising the Palestinian people a new catastrophe, a new Nakba.”  He referred to “relentless waves of attacks against our people, our mosques, churches, and monasteries, and our homes and schools; they are unleashing their venom against our trees, fields, crops, and properties, and our people have become fixed targets for acts of killing and abuse with the complete collusion of the occupying forces and the Israeli government.”  He condemned the terrorist tactics of Hamas, the Islamist terror group that rules the Gaza Strip portion of the Palestinian Territories, outside the control of Abbas’s Fatah-led government, but also singled out Israeli “state terrorism” for condemnation.  Give ’em hell, Mahmoud!

Barak Defies Netanyahu, Favors Unilateral Withdrawal from West Bank.  The former Israeli prime minister Ehud Barak, who is now minister of defense, defied the more hard-line current prime minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu, on September 24th by stating publicly that if peace talks with Palestine remained stalled then Israel should unilaterally withdraw from the occupied West Bank.  Barak’s envisioned withdrawal would nonetheless leave in place the illegal Israeli settlement “blocs,” near the border with Israel proper, where 80-90% of the illegal Israeli settlers in the Palestinian Territories live.  Netanyahu opposes any and all concessions to the Palestinian side, and the settlements remain the foremost obstacle to peace.  Barak stated that a proactive separation of Israeli and Palestinian lands, moving toward a two-state situation, “will help us not only in dealing with the Palestinians, but also with other countries in the region, with the Europeans, and with the American administration—and, of course, will help us.”


Kashmir Separatists Stage Violent Protests over American Anti-Muslim Video.  The only majority-Muslim state in India, the rebellious Jammu and Kashmir region, was hit hard by the protests rocking the Muslim world over the low-budget American video Innocence of Muslims.  The Indian government imposed curfews and other restrictions on Srinagar, the Kashmiri capital, last week, and also jammed cellphone communications.  Two separatist leaders, Grand Mufti Bashiriddin and the hardline Hurriyat Conference leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani, had called for protests after Friday prayers on September 21st.  That morning, riot police in Srinagar had used tear-gas to disperse a protest by Dukhtaran-e-Millat, a separatist women’s group, the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (J.K.L.F.) leader Mohammad Yasin Malik was removed from the capital by police, and, after prayers, police and protesters in Baramulla, in northern Kashmir, fought in the streets.  Also in Baramulla, but possible unrelated to the protests, separatist rebels gunned down and killed a village headman on September 23rd, and on September 25th two rebels and an Indian soldier were killed in a skirmish in Kashmir’s Kupwara district.

Indian President Faces Mass Protests in 3-Day Visit to Kashmir.  The president of the Republic of India, Pranab Mukherjee, faced protests during his three-day visit—his first as president—to the predominantly-Muslim separatist Jammu and Kashmir state on September 27th, including a mass silent protest in Srinagar, the capital, where demonstrators demanded reprieve for Mohammad Afzal Guru, a member of the Kashmir-based jihadist terrorist organization Jaish-e-Mohammad who is on death row for his role in the deadly terrorist attack on India’s parliament in 2001.  Activists also demanded that India release hundreds of what they call political prisoners.  Most of Srinagar remained shuttered during his visit due to a general strike called by Syed Ali Shah Geelani, head of the separatist Hurriyat Conference.  There were showdowns between demonstrators and police, who used pepper guns to disperse crowds, but no injuries.  Mukherjee, for his part, addressed Kashmiri youth in an address, saying, “Let the dark days of violence and conflict be left behind.  Let a new dawn emerge.  It is time to move ahead with faith in our collective future.”

114 Manipur Rebels Hand over Arms, Surrender in Northeastern India.  In a ceremonial surrender, 114 militants from some of the over 20 separatist and other ethnic militias in India’s far-northeastern Manipur state unconditionally handed over their weapons to officials in the Manipuri capital, Imphal, on September 26th.  The pro-federal Assam Rifles paramilitary group was credited with helping bring the rebels to heel.  Among the organizations whose members participated in the surrender were the United National Liberation Front, the People’s Revolutionary Party of Kangleipak, Kanglei Yaol Kanna Lup, the People’s Liberation Army, the Kangleipak Communist Party, the United People’s Party of Kangleipak, the People’s United Liberation Front, and the Kuki National Liberation Front.


Jerry Brown Funding-Bill Veto Reignites “South California” Separatism.  “South California” (not “Southern California”) secessionism reared its head again on September 19th when California’s governor, Jerry Brown, vetoed a law that would have returned $14 million in vehicle-license fees to four Riverside County cities.  See my full blog article on this development.

Organic Constitutionalists in “California Free State” Found Rival County Assembly.  A rival version of a local county assembly in California, the Butte County Assembly, has organized itself under the rubric of the Republic of the united States of America (R.u.S.A.) (sic—including the lowercase u), a new movement which regards the current United States government as an illegitimate, unconstitutional entity and grants citizens the right to form parallel government structures.  The Butte County Assembly goes farther than some R.u.S.A. activists in calling themselves “organic constitutionalists,” a point of view which treats any modifications to the federal constitution after the Bill of Rights as illegitimate—including, oh, say, you know, the part that says that black people cannot be owned as though they were donkeys and wheelbarrows, and that other part about women voting.   The rival Assembly held its first meeting on September 22nd at the Round Table Pizza in the town of Paradise, a location the official announcement described as being in “California Free State, a part of the Republic for the united States of America.”

150 Counter-Demonstrators Face Down 14 Aryan Nations Morons in Washington.  Fourteen members of the American white-supremacist militia Aryan Nations demonstrated in Washington, D.C., the United States capital, on September 22nd, in the face of anti-racist counter-demonstrators who outnumbered them about ten to one, and all watched over by a large presence of police in full riot gear.  Many counter-demonstrators tried to jump police lines, and one told a reporter that if not for the police he would “beat the shit out of the Nazis.”  The Aryan Nations protest focused on what they rather fictitiously referred to as “genocide” against white farmers in South Africa.  In the early afternoon, the police escorted the white-supremacists into a waiting charter bus, whose African-American driver whisked them out of the city.

Aryan Nations march in Washington, D.C.
Idaho Police Brace for Festival of Neo-Nazi Music Linked to Wisconsin Sikh Killings.  In Idaho, heartland of militant white-supremacism in the United States, police in Boise, the capital, are bracing themselves for a music festival to be held near there October 6th which focuses on the rock music favored by the racist and neo-Nazi movement called Hammerskins.  The event, Hammerfest 2012 (given white supremacists’ infatuation with Scandinavia, the homonymy with the city in Norway is probably intentional), is organized by a loosely-organized, Texas-based network of racist skinheads called Hammerskins Nation, which frequently uses “hatecore” music festivals to recruit new members.  Hammerskins came to public awareness when Wade Michael “Jack Boot” Page, a drifter who killed six members of the Sikh religion in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, on August 5th before killing himself (as reported at the time in this blog), turned out to be a Hammerskin as well as a “white power” or “hatecore” rock musician with a résumé that included membership in the bands End Apathy and Definite Hate.  Boise police are already fielding numerous complaints and are preparing for the possibility of violence, including conflicts with counter-demonstrators.

An album cover from Definite Hate, the “hatecore” band
of which the Sikh-temple spree killer Wade Michael “Jack Boot” Page was a member.
No one ever accused skinheads of subtlety.
Florida Republican Contender Favors Puerto Rico Statehood.  A Republican Party candidate for United States Congress in Florida, Todd Long, has come out in favor of statehood for Puerto Rico.  The statements are being seen as an attempt to court the Hispanic vote in the district, which covers mostly some suburbs of Tampa and is expected to turn Democratic in the 2012 election.

Italo-Québécois Soccer Great Suspended for Praising Election-Rally Assassin.  An already controversial retired professional soccer player in Quebec, Canada, was suspended and forced to apologize this week after posting Twitter comments praising Richard Henry Bain, the unhinged fishing-lodge entrepreneur charged with murder for a shooting rampage at a Parti Québécois (P.Q.) election-victory rally on September 4th (reported on at the time in this blog).  The player, Sandro Grande, an anti-separatist Quebec-born Anglophone midfielder, born to immigrants from Italy, who competed on Italian, Norwegian, and Lithuanian teams as well as the Major League Soccer team Impact de Montréal, wrote on Twitter the day after the shooting, “The only mistake the shooter made last night was not getting the target!!!  Marois!!!  Next time buddy!!  Hopefully!”—referring to the newly elected premier of Quebec, Pauline Marois, still considered by police a possible target in the shooting.  On Facebook, meanwhile, Grande referred to P.Q. voters as “stupid ... fucken hillbillies in the north” who were “on wellfare!” (sic).  Grande claimed his Twitter account had been hacked but also, in a seeming contradiction, apologized for what he called “immature and irresponsible” words but has still been suspended from his position as a youth coach.  In 2009, Grande was kicked off Impact for choking an assistant coach during a match (known in Quebec as a “Shawinigan handshake,” named for the hometown of Jean Chrétien, the Canadian prime minister who throttled a nonviolent protester by the neck in Hull, Quebec, on Canadian Flag Day 1996).

Sandro Grande during an earlier indiscretion.

Catalan and Kurdish Footballers Await FIFA’s Kosovo Decision with Optimism.  As the International Federation of Association Football (FIFA) prepares to announce its terms for allowing the football (soccer) team of the partially recognized Republic of Kosovo to compete with other national teams, the Kurdistan Football Association and Catalonia Football Federation are planning on building on Kosovo’s expected at-least-partial success by pushing their own applications for admission to FIFA.  Catalonia’s bid is supported by the Spanish Football Federation, but, unlike Kosovo, Catalonia and Kurdistan are not recognized as independent by any sovereign states.  In June (as reported in this blog at the time), northern Iraq’s autonomous Kurdistan Regional Government (K.R.G.) hosted this year’s Viva World Cup, a tournament for unrecognized states.  In addition to the Kurdish team, Viva competitors have included Assyria, the Cyprus Turkish Republic, Darfur, Gozo, the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies, Occitania, Padania, Provence, Raetia, the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic, Sápmi (Lapland), Southern Cameroons, Tamil EelamTibet, and Zanzibar.  (Catalonia and Kosovo, who feel themselves more on the brink of actual international recognition, do not condescend to compete in Viva tournaments.)

[You can read more about Catalonia, the State of Jefferson, the Basque Country, Bavaria, and other separatist movements, from the well known to the bizarre and obscure, in my new book, a sort of encyclopedic atlas just published by Litwin Books under the title Let’s Split! A Complete Guide to Separatist Movements and Aspirant Nations, from Abkhazia to Zanzibar.  The book, which contains 46 maps and 554 flags (or, more accurately, 554 flag images), is available for order now on Amazon.  Meanwhile, please “like” the book (even if you haven’t read it yet) on Facebook and see this special announcement for more information on the book.]

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