The Caribbean
havana

US returns Cuba to ‘state sponsors of terrorism’ list

The US Department of State has once again designated Cuba as a state that sponsors terrorism. In 2015, the Obama administration removed Cuba from the State Sponsors of Terrorism list, which currently includes North Korea, Iran and Syria. In a statement by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, the State Department accused Cuba of “repeatedly providing support for acts of international terrorism in granting safe harbor to terrorists.” Ironically, this is a reference to Havana’s hosting of peace delegations from Colombian guerilla groups in their efforts to broker an accord with Bogotá over the past six years. (Photo: Falkanpost/Pixabay)

Greater Middle East
Yemen

US slaps ‘terror’ label on Yemen’s Houthi rebels

The United States has announced it will designate Yemen’s Houthi rebels as a terrorist organization, a move aid groups and diplomats have long warned will make getting assistance to people trapped in the “world’s worst humanitarian crisis” even harder. In a statement, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said he was officially notifying the US Congress of his intent to designate Ansar Allah, the official name of the Houthis, a “Foreign Terrorist Organization.” The change is go into force on Jan. 19, and three Houthi leaders will also be blacklisted. NGOs have lobbied heavily against the designation, saying it will seriously hamper efforts to bring aid to the estimated 80% of Yemen’s 30 million people who live in parts of the country controlled by the Houthis. It’s already hard to deliver aid in Yemen, in part because of obstacles put up by the Houthis themselves. (Map: Perry-Castañeda Library)

Africa
Sudan

Sudan: ‘peace’ with Israel, war with Ethiopia?

In a victory for the Trump White House, Sudan officially signed on to the so-called “Abraham Accords,” agreeing to normalization of diplomatic ties with Israel. Justice Minister Nasredeen Abdulbari signed the document in the presence of US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. But leaders of Sudan’s pro-democracy coalition, the Forces of Freedom & Change, have formed an opposition front against the agreement, saying the Sudanese people are not obligated to accept it. Meanwhile, there are alarming signs that the war in Ethiopia is spilling into Sudanese territory. The Sudanese army reported repulsing Ethiopian forces from the contested Grand Fashaga enclave on the border between the two countries. The Grand Fashaga, in Sudan’s breadbasket Gedaref state, is adjacent to Ethiopia’s conflicted Tigray region, and has seen an influx of refugees from the fighting across the border. (Map: Perry-Castañeda Library Map Collection)

Africa
Mali

UN to investigate ‘crimes against humanity’ in Mali

UN investigators into political violence in Mali reported to the Security Council that they found evidence that government forces have committed “war crimes,” while jihadists and other armed groups perpetrated “crimes against humanity.” The allegations are made in a 338-page report compiled by the International Commission of Inquiry, a panel examining events in Mali over the six years after it spiralled into conflict in 2012. The report, which has not yet been made public, recommends establishing a special court to try accused perpetrators. But the recommendations are being met with some wariness in Mali. The opposition Rally of Patriotic Forces demands that foreign militaries operating in the country be covered in the scope of the investigation—including France. (Photo via Andy Morgan Writes)

North Africa

Libya: Turkish troop presence threat to ceasefire

Libya’s eastern warlord Gen. Khalifa Haftar, who launched an offensive last year to capture the capital Tripoli from the UN-recognized Government of National Accord (GNA), threatened to launch attacks on Turkish forces if Ankara doesn’t withdraw troops and mercenaries sent in to back up the GNA. Haftar’s comments came in response to the Turkish Parliament’s move to extend for 18 months a law that allows the deployment of Turkish troops in Libya. Turkey’s defense minister responded that any attack by Haftar on its personnel would be met with force. “A war criminal, murderer Haftar and his supporters must know that they will be seen as a legitimate target in case of any attack on Turkish forces,” Hulusi Akar said in an address to Turkish units in Tripoli. The ultimatum is a threat to the ceasefire that has largely held since it was signed in October. (Map: CIA)

The Andes
paramilitaries

UN rights chief warns of heightened violence in Colombia

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet urged state authorities in Colombia to respond to heightened violence with concrete action and stronger protection. According to the UN Human Rights Office, 375 killings have been recorded in Colombia thus far in 2020. Of these killings, 255 people were slain in 66 massacres, and 120 human rights defenders have also been killed. What is more, since Colombia’s peace agreement was signed in November 2016, a total of 244 demobilized FARC fighters have been slain. The killings continue to be committed “by non-state armed groups, criminal groups and other armed elements,” moslty in remote areas of Colombia, and particularly targeting “peasants, indigenous and Afro-Colombian people.” (Photo via Contagio Radio)

Africa
Central African Republic

Franco-Russian game in Central African Republic?

French and Russian military networks are backing rival forces to influence upcoming elections in Central African Republic according to a new report by The Sentry, a Washington-based NGO co-founded by Hollywood actor George Clooney. France used to call the shots in CAR, its former colony, but President Faustin-Archange Touadéra has allied himself to Russia and availed himself of the Wagner Group, a shadowy mercenary organization linked to Vladimir Putin. The Sentry claims France now supports a rebel coalition that opposes Touadéra—who is standing for a second term in December—though the French foreign ministry denies the accusation. All of this spells bad news for ordinary Central Africans, who have suffered under rebel groups for years. More than one in four are currently internally displaced or living as refugees in neighboring countries. (Map via Perry-Castañeda Library Map Collection)

North Africa

Libya: will ceasefire really be ‘permanent’?

Libya’s warring factions signed a “permanent ceasefire” agreement, raising hopes of progress toward ending the conflict and chaos that has gripped the country since Muammar Qaddafi was overthrown and killed during a 2011 NATO-backed uprising. The internationally recognized Government of National Accord (GNA) and eastern forces led by Gen. Khalifa Haftar have been fighting for control of Libya since April 2019—each backed by a bevy of militias in a war that has seen international powers join the fray and an arms embargoroutinely violated. While violence has subsided in the capital city of Tripoli in recent months, countrywide peace efforts have until now gone nowhere. Acting UN head of mission Stephanie Williams hailed the agreement, hammered out during talks in Geneva, as “an important turning point,” but some have expressed doubts that it can be implemented on the ground. Under its terms, all foreign fighters must leave within three months, and a new joint police force will aim to secure the peace. The ceasefire is to start immediately. (Map: CIA)

The Andes
Minga

Colombia: indigenous ‘minga’ marches on Bogotá

Some 10,000 participated in a cross-country march and motorcade through Colombia’s southern Andes, dubbed the “Minga for Life, Territory, Democracy and Peace,” culminating in a mass demonstration in Bogotá. Called by Nasa and Guambiano indigenous leaders in the southern department of Cauca, the Minga (a traditional Andean word for “collective labor”) was joined by Afro-Colombian and mestizo campesino communities in its 10-day trek to the capital. Chief among the marchers’ grievances is the ongoing wave of assassinations of social leaders by illegal armed groups operating on indigenous lands. They charge that their communities have been betrayed by President Iván Duque’s failure to fully implement terms of the peace accords with the demobilized FARC guerillas. (Photo: Colombia Reports)

The Andes
jorge 40

Colombia: paramilitary boss returns to face justice

Rodrigo Tovar AKA “Jorge 40,” one of Colombia’s most wanted paramilitary leaders, was flown back to his home country after 12 years in US prisons for drug trafficking. Once an official in his hometown of Valledupar, Tovar became commander of the feared “Bloque Norte” of Colombia’s right-wing paramilitary network. Revelations upon his demobilization in 2006 triggered the so-called “parapolitics” scandal, with his testimony implicating top government figures in the officially illegal armed networks. But Tovar stopped cooperatingwith Colombian justice after his brother was assassinated in 2009, a year after his extraditionto the US. He now faces multiple charges of war crimes and human rights violations in Colombia, most notoriously the 2000 massacre of 60 civilians at the village of El Saldado. (Photo via Colombia Reports)

Afghanistan
Afghan army

Iraq and Afghanistan: US troops out, Chevron in?

Playing to anti-war sentiment just in time for the election, the Trump administration announces a draw-down of thousands of troops from Iraq and Afghanistan. This comes as Chevron has quietly signed an agreement with Iraq for the development of the massive Nassiriya oil-field. Chevron has also announced a new initiative with Kazakhstan, with an eye toward oil exports through a trans-Afghan pipeline. We’ve been hearing talk of a US “withdrawal” from Iraq and Afghanistan for years—but military advisors and contractors have always remained, and ground troops have always been sent back in again as soon as things start to get out of hand. And as long as oil money follows the military, that will always be the case. Don’t be fooled. (Photo: Army Amber via Pixaby)

Africa
Sudan

Moment of truth for Sudan peace process

Sudan’s power-sharing government signed a peace deal with an alliance of rebel groups this week, sparking hopes of an end to decades of conflict in the country. The agreement will see rebels given government posts, power devolved to local regions, and displaced people offered a chance to return home. Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok dedicated the deal—one of his main priorities following the ousting of Omar al-Bashir 14 months ago—to children born in refugee camps, while the UN commended an “historic achievement.” But there are reasons to be cautious. Two of Sudan’s main armed groups in Darfur and the southern states of Blue Nile and South Kordofan refused to sign. Abdul Wahid, leader of a faction of the holdout Sudan Liberation Movement, said the deal was “business as usual” and unlikely to address root causes of conflict. With Sudan’s economy in freefall, it’s also unclear how the transitional government will be able to afford the hundreds of millions of dollars needed to make it workable. Previous agreements in 2006 and 2011 came to little. However, with al-Bashir now out of the picture—perhaps soon facing the ICC—things could be different this time around. With violence rising in Darfur and in other parts of the country, there’s a lot riding on it.. (Map: Perry-Castañeda Library Map Collection)