The Andes
paro

Colombia: gunmen fire on indigenous protesters

Colombian President Iván Duque flew to Cali in the middle of the night after street clashes in the southwestern city left several indigenous protesters injured. Amid a national strikesparked by Duque’s proposed burdensome tax reform, some 5,000 indigenous activists from the nearby administrative department of Cauca had been holding a “Minga,” or protest gathering, on the outskirts of Cali, when unknown gunmen in civilian dress arrived in a pickup truck and opened fire. The Regional Indigenous Council of Cauca (CRIC) reported that at least 10 activists were wounded, and that the gunmen were intermingled and cooperating with uniformed police. Bogotá has also seen days of street fighting, while an ongoing street festival, with music and dancing, is being maintained by strike supporters in MedellĂ­n—despite police repression that has led to hundreds of detentions. (Photo: Colombia Informa)

Afghanistan
Sayed ul-Shuhada

Afghanistan: schoolgirls massacred amid ‘peace’ talks

An attack on a high school in Afghanistan’s capital killed at least 50 and wounded dozens more—most of them girls who were leaving class. The school is in Kabul’s western Dasht-e-Barchi district, where many residents are of the Hazara ethnic minority, who were subject to genocide under Taliban rule in the 1990s. The students appear to have been doubly targeted as both girls and Hazaras—raising further questions for the status and security of women and ethnic minorities as the power-brokers race to declare “peace” in Afghanistan. (Photo of girls from the targeted school: HRW via Twitter)

The Andes
Cauca

Massacres, assassinations continue in Colombia

Police killed at least eight people in Colombia’s southwestern city of Cali, amid national protests against President Iván Duque’s proposed reform of the tax code. Clashes between police and protesters also took place in Bogotá, Medellin and other cities. In response to the protest wave, Duque said he would revise his proposed reform, and that new taxes on sales of food and gasoline would be dropped. The protests come as political violence is escalating nearly across Colombia, but especially the southwest. Amid the violence, a locally-organized “Caravan for Peace” is making its way through the region, calling for a dialogue with armed actors and civil society to arrive at a new “Pact for Life & Peace,” addresing needs for security, land, and economic sustenance. (Photo: Colombia Informa)

Afghanistan
afghanistan

Afghan pullout: unanswered questions for civilians

Afghanistan now has a clearer timeline for when US and international troops will leave, but the questions surrounding what this means for civilians and aid operations in the country remain the same. US President Joe Biden confirmed plans to withdraw American forcesbefore Sept. 11—the 20th anniversary of the terrorist attacks that led to the Afghanistan invasion. NATO also said 9,500 international soldiers—including 2,500 US troops—would leave, beginning May 1. But the implications of the pullout are as volatile as they were when Biden’s predecessor first inked a peace deal with the Taliban last year. Will the Taliban pursue a decisive military victory or continue with sporadic peace negotiations with the government? How will women and minorities fare? How will this affect local and international aid operations, and the roughly 16 million Afghans—more than 40% of the population—who rely on humanitarian relief? Will there be a future for reconciliation after decades of war? And what about the militias still active in many areas? More than 1,700 civilians were killed or injured in conflict in the first three months of 2021, the UN said the same day as Biden’s announcement. (Photo of displaced persons camp in Herat: Stefanie Glinski/TNH)

Africa
el Geneina

Hundred killed in new Darfur violence —again

Hundreds of armed militants launched repeated attacks on Abu Zar displaced persons camp outside El Geneina, capital of Sudan’s West Darfur state. The waves of attacks by presumed Arab militias on mostly Masalit camp residents claimed at least 100 lives and uprooted thousands, some across the border into neighboring Chad. Aid groups have suspended their operations, while a state of emergency has been declared across West Darfur. A similar series of attacks on camps around El Geneina in January left over 150 dead. Many accuse militias of stepping up attacks following the December withdrawal of a UN-African Union peacekeeping mission after 13 years on the ground in Darfur region. (Photo: Philip Kleinfeld/TNH)

North Africa
Libya girls

New Libyan government: progress for women

Libya’s Government of National Accord officially handed power over to a new interim government in Tripoli. This is the fruit of a long and complicated UN-led process with multi-track negotiations. The new leadership faces multiple challenges, including holding elections and restoring much-needed government services. It also needs to unite a country that has largely been in chaos since the overthrow of Muammar Qaddafi, helped by NATO’s decision (exactly 10 years ago) to intervene. The new cabinet contains five women, including the ministers of foreign affairs and justice. Together they make up 15% of the leadership—not the 30% delegates to the UN process had promised. But many Libyan women are viewing this as at least a step in the right direction. (Photo: WikiMedia Commons)

The Andes
Apure

FARC ultra-dissidents in Venezuela clashes?

Some 3,000 Venezuelans fled across the border into Colombian territory to escape an outbreak of fighting between the military and an unnamed armed faction. Venezuelan Defense Minister Gen. Vladimir Padrino LĂłpez said that in an operation dubbed Bolivarian Shield, troops have arrested 32 people, destroyed six camps, and seized weapons. There have also been reports of two Venezuelan soldiers killed in the fighting. Padrino did not name the armed group targeted in the operation, only identifying a supposed commander by his nom de guerre “Nando.” But regional media reports indicate the targeted group is one of the “dissident” factions of the Colombian FARC rebels that have remained in arms despite a peace accord. Bogotá accuses Venezuela of providing shelter to FARC dissidents. It is hypothesized that the group targeted in Bolivarian Shield is a dissident faction refusing to accept the leadership favored by Caracas. (Map: SofĂ­a Jaimes Barreto via Caracas Chronicles)

Afghanistan
afghan army

Afghanistan: US withdrawal on hold?

With a May 1 deadline for withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan approaching but a final peace deal stalled, the White House is said to be considering an extension beyond this date for removal of its 2,500 troops remaining in the country. “Intra-Afghan” negotiations between the Taliban and Kabul opened in Doha in September, but remain deadlocked over fundamentals of the power-sharing deal—with the Taliban rejecting President Ashraf Ghani’s insistence on remaining in office for the remainder his five-year-term. Predictably, they haven’t even got around to discussing protection of minority and women’s rights, or the role of sharia law in the new order. Meanwhile, civilian casualties are mounting, and the Taliban has just launched a spring offensive. (Photo: Khaama Press)

Africa
South Sudan

South Sudan: ‘localized’ violence despite ceasefire

In a new report, the UN Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan found that over two years after the signing of a peace agreement officially ending a seven-year civil war, the country is still experiencing extreme levels of violence. South Sudan gained independence from Sudan in 2011 after decades of armed struggle. But civil war erupted in the new nation in 2013 following President Salva Kiir’s dismissal of then-Vice President Riek Machar—respectively belonging to the largest rival ethnic groups, the Dinka and Nuer. The war ended in 2020, after claiming over 400,000 lives. But commission chair Yasmin Sooka said that violence is currently at its highest level at any time since the start of the war—if now at hands of “localized” militias. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

The Andes
FARC

Colombia: ex-FARC leaders accused of war crimes

Eight former commanders of the demobilized Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) were accused of war crimes and crimes against humanity by Colombia’s Special Jurisdiction for Peace (JEP). Top commanders Rodrigo Londoño, Pablo Catatumbo and Pastor Alape are among the eight former leaders facing the accusations. They are held responsible for the kidnapping of thousands of people during Colombia’s internal armed conflict that spanned decades. Murder and torture are specific war crimes related to the treatment of hostages. The kidnappings funded FARC’s war against the state and were used to press for the release of imprisoned rebels. The hostages included soldiers and police officers, as well as politicians and other civilians. (Image via Colombia Reports)

Africa
Darfur

Hundreds killed in new Darfur violence

Just weeks after the UN Security Council voted unanimously to terminate the mandate of the joint UN-African Union peacekeeping mission (UNAMID) in Darfur, a new outbreak of violence in the region has left hundreds dead and injured. At least 159 people died–including three aid workers–and tens of thousands were displaced following militia attacks on camps for those already displaced in West Darfur’s El Geneina in January. Dozens more lost their lives in South Darfur amid clashes between Arab Rizeigat and Fallata groups. During more than 13 years on the ground, UNAMID has often been criticized for failing to protect people. But many Dafuris protested against its withdrawal and have little faith in the Sudanese government, even with the old regime out the door. (Photo: UNAMID via UN News)

Syria
Derik

US forces sent back in to northern Syria?

Two days after President Biden’s inauguration, a large convoy of US military vehicles reportedly entered northern Syria from across the Iraqi border. The convoy, consisting of some 40 trucks and armored vehicles accompanied by helicopters, was reported by Syrian state media, citing sources on the ground. The putative sighting raises speculation that Biden is reversing the withdrawal of US troops from northern Syria, which had been ordered by Trump in 2019. The report comes as the uneasy peace between Kurdish forces in the region and the Assad dictatorship is breaking down, with new fighting in the town of Qamishli, shattering a de facto power-sharing arrangement. (Photo: North Press Agency)