Planet Watch
Aleppo ruins

UN calls for ‘global ceasefire’ in response to COVID-19

UN Secretary-General António Guterres is calling for warring parties across the world to lay down arms in support of the battle against COVID-19. “The fury of the virus illustrates the folly of war,” he said. “That is why today, I am calling for an immediate global ceasefire in all corners of the world. It is time to put armed conflict on lockdown and focus together on the true fight of our lives… Silence the guns, stop the artillery, end the air-strikes. It is crucial to help create corridors for life-saving aid, to bring hope to places among the most vulnerable to COVID-19.” (Photo of Aleppo ruins from UNHCR)

Afghanistan
Hazara ceremony

Massacre at Hazara ceremony in Kabul

Gunmen stormed a memorial ceremony honoring a martyred leader of the Hazara Shi’ite minority in Afghanistan’s capital. Key politicians including chief executive Abdullah Abdullah were on hand for the commemoration of the Hazara Mujahedeen commander Abdul Ali Mazari, who was assassinated by the Taliban in 1995. At least 27 people were killed in the attack, and some 30 more wounded. Soon after the massacre, the Taliban issued a statement denying responsibility. Shortly after that, the Islamic State-Khorasan Province (ISKP) claimed the attack in a communique, and also asserted that the actual death toll was 150. An ISIS-claimed attack on the same ceremony last year saw a barrage of mortar fire that killed at least 11 people. The new attack comes just as a tentative “peace deal” with the Taliban is raising concerns for the fate of Afghanistan’s ethnic and religious minorities. (Photo of ceremony just before attack via Khaama Press)

Afghanistan
Afghanistan

Will human rights be betrayed in US-Taliban deal?

More than a year of US-Taliban negotiations bore formal fruit with the signing in Doha of what is being called a “peace deal” by Washington’s envoy Zalmay Khalilzad and Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar. The pact calls for the US to withdraw its forces from Afghanistan in 14 months if the Taliban fulfills its commitments under the agreement. “Intra-Afghan” talks are to follow, with the aim of negotiating a permanent ceasefire. Amnesty International, however, raised concerns about what the  deal could mean for Afghanistan’s women and religious minorities, urging: “Any peace process involving the parties to the conflict in Afghanistan must not ignore the voice of victims.” (Map: Perry-Castañeda Library)

Africa
South Sudan

Will third peace accord hold in South Sudan?

South Sudan’s rival leaders have finally agreed to form a transitional government of national unity, officially putting an end to more than six years of war that has left millions displaced and an estimated 400,000 dead. The breakthrough came as President Salva Kiir met rebel leader Riek Machar in the capital Juba, and agreed to appoint Machar as his deputy in a new three-year coalition government—part of a power-sharing deal brokered two years ago and twice delayed. Critical to the breakthrough is Kiir’s offer to return South Sudan to 10 states—after unilaterally increasing them to 32. This is a major demand of the opposition, who charge that Kiir’s redrawing of boundaries is designed to gerrymander Dinka majorities in resource-rich areas, especially those with oil. Those same majorities could also ensure Kiir wins the national elections slated to take place in three years. (Map: Perry-Castañeda Library)

Afghanistan
Kunar

Afghanistan headed for four-way war?

Five months after Afghanistan’s presidential elections, a winner has finally been declared—the incumbent, Ashraf Ghani. But hours after the announcement, rival Abdullah Abdullah declared himself the victor, claiming irregularities in the vote and calling the results “national treason.” The showdown portends a divided government just as US is attempting to broker a withdrawal agreement with the Taliban, ostensibly to be followed by “intra-Afghan talks” between the Taliban and the government in Kabul. In addition to the ongoing war with the Taliban, NATO-backed government forces are continuing to battle the Islamic State’s “Khorasan Province” in Afghanistan. Following a long offensive, President Ghani in November triumphantly declared that ISIS had been “obliterated.” However, air-strikes continue against the group in its remaining stronghold in the Spin Ghar mountains of eastern Kunar province. (Map via Khaama Press)

The Andes
false positives

Colombia: ex-army chief called to trial over killings

The former commander of Colombia’s armed forces, retired general Mario Montoya, has been summoned to appear before a trial to take place under the Special Jurisdiction for Peace (JEP) concerning the grisly practice of “false positives”—the killing of thousands of non-combatants in the guise of military operations against the guerillas. Under terms of the JEP, Montoya will receive leniency if he confesses the full truth. However, if he is caught lying or trying to conceal even a portion of the truth, he may be expelled from the transitional justice court and could face a 40-year prison term. Montoya has always maintained his innocence in the “false positives” scandal, but the JEP judicial authorities say this is contradicted by evidence and the testimony of 11 of his former subordinates. (Photo: Contagio Radio)

Oceania
Bougainville

Bougainville votes for independence from PNG

In a referendum held over two weeks, the people of Bougainville, an archipelago in the South Pacific’s Solomon Sea, voted overwhelmingly to seek independence from Papua New Guinea (PNG). The referendum was the centerpiece of the 2001 Bougainville Peace Agreement between the PNG government and Bougainville independence leaders to end a devastating decade-long war that claimed nearly 20,000 lives—nearly a tenth the territory’s total population. Negotiations between PNG and Bougainville about the road forward will now begin and could continue for years, with the PNG parliament having the final say. Control of the territory’s rich mineral resources has been a key issue in the conflcit. (Photo via UNPO)

The Andes
Rafael Quispe

Bolivia: signs of de-escalation following dialogue

Bolivia’s Plurinational Legislative Assembly passed an “Exceptional & Transitional Regime Law” that annus last month’s contested elections and calls for new elections to be held within 120 days—without Evo Morales as a candidate. The pact follows talks mediated by the Catholic Church and the European Union between the new government of interim president Jeanine Añez and leaders of the ousted Morales’ party, the Movement Toward Socialism (MAS), which continues to hold a majority in both houses of the Assembly. As a part of the talks, Morales supporters in the countryside have agreed to dismantle their roadblocks. Rafael Quispe, a traditional Ayamara leader, was also appointed to head Bolivia’s indigenous development agency. (Photo of Rafael Quispe being sworn in via El Pais, Tarija)

Africa
Almas Elman

Somali rights activist killed in Mogadishu

Almas Elman, a prominent Somali rights activist, was killed in Mogadishu, struck by a bullet while riding in a car. She was apparently heading to the airport after attending a meeting at the Elman Peace Centre, which was founded by her mother Fartuun Adan in 1990. Elman came from a long line of activists. She was the sister of aid worker Ilwad Elman who was recently short-listed for the Nobel Peace Prize. Her father was the respected Somali activist Elman Ali Ahmed, who was himself assassinated in Mogadishu in 1996. In recent years, the Elman Peace Centre has documented rights abuses in Somalia by government troops, Islamist insurgents, Ethiopian occupation forces, rival clan militias, (Photo: RTN-TV via OkayAfrica)

The Andes
Cauca massacre

‘Genocide’ charges follow Colombia massacre

Indigenous leaders in Colombia are raising accusations of “genocide” following the latest massacre, in which five members of the Nasa people were killed in southwestern Cauca department. Cristina Bautista, a Nasa traditional authority, or neehwesx, was killed along with four members of the Indigenous Guard, an unarmed community self-defense patrol, when they tried to stop a car of gunmen at a checkpoint. Indigenous peoples have been particularly targeted in the ongoing wave of deadly attacks on social leaders across Colombia. The National Indigenous Organization of Colombia (ONIC) names President Ivan Duque as complicit, for his refusal to talk to indigenous authorities, and his opposition to implementation of the peace deal with the FARC rebels. (Photo: Colombia Reports)

Afghanistan

Trump-Taliban schmooze: don’t call it ‘peace’

The utterly surreal news that Taliban leaders were invited to Camp David—a week before the 9-11 commemoration, no less!—will further fuel the perverse fantasy that Trump is a hippie pacifist. But the supposed “peace” talks with the Taliban completely sidelined Afghanistan’s actual government and civil society alike—and were bitterly protested by Afghan women and their advocates. It was to be a “peace” crafted by genocidal clerical-reactionaries and imperialists, with the actual aim to prosecute a war on their mutual enemy, the ISIS insirgency that has now emerged in the country.  ISIS are now the “bad” (undomesticated) clerical reactionaries, who will not abandon their ambitions to attack the West. This only sends the message (entirely accurate, from the imperial persepctive) that Western lives matter, and Afghan lives do not.  (Photo: Khaama Press)

The Andes

US ‘committed’ to ‘dismantle’ Colombia’s ELN

The United States government is “committed” to “dismantle” Colombia’s remaining significant guerrilla group, the National Liberation Army (ELN), federal prosecutor Zachary Terwilliger said. The US attorney for the Eastern District of Virgina made the comment after he and six other federal prosecutors met with President Ivan Duque on a visit to Bogotá to discuss cooperation “to fight narco-terrorism.” Terwilliger said the Colombian government “counts on the full support of the United States Department of Justice in the common cause to destabilize, decimate and ultimately dismantle the ELN.” The guerilla group has been active since 1964 and is currently believed to have 4,000 fighters. The ELN was engaged in peace talks with Duque’s predecessor, Juan Manuel Santos, but the talks were suspended by Duque when he took office a year ago. (Photo: Colombia Reports)