In this week’s PSR: Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Wangari Maathai honored; De Beers in Botswana; Truth commission in Ivory Coast; Sexual violence in Nigeria; Amazon highway in Bolivia; Education battle in Chile; Social media in Mexico; Women in Australian military; Burma demonstrations peaceful; China subway accident; Austrian hacking probe; French denies extradition; Kosovo/Serbia border violence; Bahrain medics sentenced; Iran claims naval expansion; Women in Saudi Arabia; Afghanistan violence; Floods in India; Haqqani network debate. 

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IPSI's Peace & Security Report (PSR) is a concise weekly e-publication intended to keep busy students, academics, advocates, and practitioners in the conflict management community briefed on pertinent global news, events, and trends.  Meticulously researched and written by IPSI, the PSR empowers us all to take a step back from our immediate deadlines each Friday and gain a greater understanding of the week's global events.

Featured Article  

UN pays tribute to Nobel Peace Prize laureate Wangari Maathai 



IPSI Featured Article ImageThe United Nations today paid tribute to Professor Wangari Maathai, Nobel Peace Prize laureate and one of Africa's foremost environmental campaigners, who died on Sunday.

Ms. Maathai, 71, was the founder of the Green Belt Movement that encouraged women in rural Kenya to plant trees to improve their livelihoods through better access to clean water, firewood for cooking and other resources.

Since then, the Movement has planted over 30 million trees in Africa and assisted nearly 900,000 women to establish tree nurseries and plant trees to reverse the effects of deforestation.

"Professor Wangari Maathai's mission - to fight poverty through empowering women and protecting the environment - is one we must all carry on to honour her legacy, as well as pave the way for a sustainable and equitable future," said UNDP Administrator Helen Clark.


BOTSWANA: De Beers to transfer diamond sorting, sales to Gaborone
The diamond giant De Beers signed a new ten-year contract to move sorting and sales operations from London to Gaborone. Under the new agreement, De Beers' Diamond Trading Company will relocate operations including professional skills, equipment, and technology to Botswana by the end of 2013. The deal follows more than 30 years in which diamonds were mined in Botswana, then shipped to London for processing and sorting. Comment: Botswana is the world's largest supplier of rough diamonds, a resource that has helped the country to achieve relatively strong economic growth. Both government officials and De Beers representatives expressed confidence that the new contract will constitute a crucial step in adding value to the nation's diamond industry. (The Voice, AllAfrica, Reuters)

IVORY COAST: Commission launched to investigate post-election violence
On Wednesday, President Ouattara announced the launch of a Commission on Truth, Reconciliation and Dialogue to address the violence following the 2010 presidential elections. Modeled after South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission, the Ivorian version will hear victims' testimonies and may issue amnesties and pardons. The president's critics, however, point out that not one of the pro-Ouattara camp has been detained, while Gbagbo supporters have been arrested on charges such as "economic crimes" and "breaches of national security." Comment: More than 3,000 people were killed and 500,000 displaced in the wake of last year's election in which former President Laurent Gbagbo refused to concede defeat. According to the UN, both sides attacked civilians during the political crisis. President Ouattara's announcement was met with concern from both political opponents and human rights groups. (Reuters, AFP, BBC, Hague Justice Portal)

NIGERIA: Outrage over gang rape video
A video of a woman being raped by five men, which had been circulating the Abia State University campus for weeks, has now made its way onto the internet. The graphic ten-minute video appears to have been filmed in a dormitory or student hostel. The video, as well as the initial failure of authorities to investigate, triggered widespread public outrage. Continuous activism from students on social networking sites brought forth information which led police to detain two men for questioning. Comment: State government and university officials originally denied the validity of the video, claiming that it was fabricated in order to tarnish the image of the administration. Women's rights groups have long maintained that rape is a pervasive and grossly under-reported phenomenon in Nigeria, often due to authorities' refusal to treat rape as a serious crime. (Vanguard, The Guardian, AP, BBC)

Researched/Written by  Nori Kasting

BOLIVIA: President Morales takes action on Amazon highway
On Saturday, Bolivian Foreign Minister David Choquehuanca was dispatched from La Paz to engage in dialogue with local indigenous people protesting the construction of a highway through their ancestral Amazon homeland. He was briefly held hostage by the protesters to deter police from using force against the group; he was released a few hours later. The following day police officers fired teargas into a protester camp, an action which resulted in the resignation of Bolivia's defense minister on Monday, as well as another cabinet member on Tuesday who disagreed with the approach. Comment: The highway is considered an important piece of President Morales' drive to boost infrastructure, but Amazon residents are afraid it will do irreparable damage to the surrounding ecosystem by encouraging illegal settling and logging. Morales condemned the weekend violence between police and protesters and declared a work stoppage on the road until a regional referendum is approved in the two provinces affected by the construction. The conflict is beginning to cause divisions in the president's ruling Movement Toward Socialism party by undermining his image as the indigenous peoples' protector and conservationist. (Merco Press, Latin America Herald Tribune, BBC)

CHILE: Controversial move in education battle
Last Friday, Santiago-based high school students were suppressed by riot police when they joined the five-month old university student protest for education reform. The mayor of Providence, a territory on the edge of the city, took a controversial step by closing the high school for the duration of the year eliciting even more protests from students. Meanwhile, 25 universities of the Confederation of Chilean Students (Confech) held meetings across the county on Monday and decided to accept the government's second invitation to enter working groups to discuss education reforms. Comment: The mayor of Santiago distanced himself from the school closure decision, acknowledging the only solution lies at a national level. The weekend events have left Education Minister Bulnes investigating the legality of the mayor's actions and attempting to salvage the academic year through concessions with protesters. (Santiago Times, La Tercera, CNN)

MEXICO: Potential for social media
When 35 bodies were found on the side of a highway in Veracruz last Thursday, people were tweeting warnings about the incident before police arrived to the scene. Amidst the drug war violence, the use of Twitter as a source for news and safety alerts has become increasingly common, and popular, in Mexico. In an effort to maximize the use of social media for good, MIT's Center for Civic Media has collaborated with local organizations in Mexico to help promote a project called "hero-reports." This initiative aims to report acts of kindness in order to counter the daily stream of violent news with positive acts. Comment: Many Mexican citizens claim to trust Twitter more than local news outlets, and in some areas, youth are reportedly teaching their parents and grandparents how to use the online tool. According to the NYT, "Twitter has more than four million users in Mexico, according to tracking companies; and among the more than 30 million people with regular Internet access, 95 percent have profiles on Facebook." (Excelsior, Huffington Post, NYT)


Researched/Written by  Laura Castelli

East Asia
AUSTRALIA: Women to serve on the front lines
On Tuesday, Australian Defense Minister, Stephen Smith, announced that female members of the military will soon be allowed to serve on the front lines. The Australian military indicates that 93 percent of military positions are currently open to women and the remaining 7 percent will have the sex-based restrictions dropped over the next five years. Comment: Australia's first female Prime Minister Gillard has indicated her support for this move as Australia joins only a handful of other countries that allow women to serve on the front lines. There are approximately 8,000 women (13 percent of the entire military) currently serving in Australia's army. (NY Times, Guardian, MSNBC , BBC)

BURMA: Small group of demonstrators allowed to gather peacefully
On Monday, 60 democracy activists were allowed to gather and pray at the Sule pagoda in Yangon without police intervention. The group indicated that they were marking the fourth anniversary of the "Saffron Revolution," and called for the release of political prisoners and the cessation of construction of the Irrawaddy River dam. One organizer indicated that the group plans to hold similar gatherings on the 26th of each month until their demands are met. Comment: In another part of the city, 200 demonstrators walking to the Sule pagoda were dispersed by 400 riot police. Section 354 of Myanmar's 2008 Constitution, which allows citizens to assemble peacefully, has not been approved by Parliament. Under the current laws, any group of five or more can be arrested for organizing. (AP, Mizzima, AP)

CHINA: Subway crash injures hundreds
Two metro trains on line 10 crashed in Shanghai on Tuesday injuring 262 people. Metro line 10 travels from downtown Shanghai to Hongquiao airport; the collision occurred near the tourist location Yuyuan Gardens; a signal system failure is being blamed for the accident. Comment: The safety record of China's mass transit system has been under scrutiny lately. Two months ago, a signaling problem nearly caused another collision on metro line 10. On July 23 of this year, a crash between two high speed trains in China's eastern city of Wenzhou killed 40 people and injured nearly 200. Many have used the popular microblogs to express their criticisms of the government, blaming the safety failures on China's rapid development. (NY Times, Xinhua Net, Aljazeera)

Researched/Written by Caitlyn Davis 

Europe & Central Asia
AUSTRIA: Hacking group publishes personal information of 25,000 police officers
The Austrian hacking group, AnonAustria, released names, addresses, and dates of birth of 24,938 police officers in a searchable database on Twitter. The leaked information raises fears for officers from the street to senior commanders who may become targets of revenge by criminals they have arrested or encountered. It remains unclear if the information was hacked directly by the group or leaked by an agency closely related to the police. Comment: AnonAustria is protesting a draft law that would require telecommunications companies to store details of all telephone and internet traffic for six months and make them available to the police. AnonAustria is known for hacking government and political websites. Over the summer, the group hacked several Austrian political party websites releasing the personal information of members. (Austrian Independent, BBC, RTT News)

FRANCE: Court rejects extradition bid
On Wednesday, the Paris Court of Appeals rejected a Rwandan bid to extradite Agathe Habyarimana, the widow of ex-Rwandan President Juvenal Habyarimana, whose murder triggered the beginning of the Rwandan genocide in 1994. French forces helped relocate Habyarimana out of Rwanda shortly after the violence began, and she has been living in France ever since. Rwandan authorities issued an international arrest warrant in October 2009 on charges of genocide and crimes against humanity for Habyarimana's suspected involvement in planning the genocide. She continues to deny all accusations. Comment: Habyarimana also faces a case in France's civil courts brought by human rights activists for her alleged participation in planning the genocide. Her lawyer said the ruling against extradition would help her in the civil courts. (Le Monde, AP, BBC)

KOSOVO: 20 wounded in clashes on Kosovo-Serbia border
On Tuesday, 16 ethnic Serbs and four NATO peacekeepers were injured during protests at a disputed border crossing. The four NATO soldiers were injured by pipe bombs thrown by the ethnic Serbs demonstrating against Kosovo's control over border crossings. Early reports stated the troops fired back with rubber bullets and tear gas, but a hospital admitted six ethnic Serbs had gunshot wounds. After the incident, Serbia called off EU-mediated negotiations with Kosovo; the Serbian government wants the border issue resolved before talks resume. Comment: The EU recommended postponing Serbian accession talks until Kosovo-Serbia relations have improved. Around 80 countries recognize Kosovo as an independent nation, while Serbia does not. Control of the border region between the two countries is largely disputed by both governments and the people living in the areas. (Lajm, BBC, Reuters)

Researched/Written by Erin Bobst

Middle East & North Africa
BAHRAIN: Medics sentenced for their roles in the uprising
A military court in Bahrain jailed 20 medics on Thursday who treated protesters during the February uprising. The doctors and nurses were sentenced to between five and 15 years in prison on charges of "possessing unlicensed arms, seizing medical equipment, and provoking sectarian hatred." Earlier this month, the medics were released on bail after staging a hunger strike. Comment: Contrary to some activists' beliefs, the bail was not a sign of the government "softening its approach," but rather a strategy to turn down media and international pressure. Continuing a series of trials this week, the Bahraini government sentenced 21 other Shia protesters to terms ranging from 15 years to life in prison. An additional death sentence was given to a man accused of killing a police officer during the protests. The Bahrain Society for Human Rights issued a statement expressing deep concern at the "harsh" sentences. (BBC, Aljazeera, Reuters)

IRAN: Navy plans to expand operations
On Tuesday, the Iranian navy commander Rear Admiral Habibollah Sayyari announced his country's plan to dispatch military vessels near the Atlantic coast of the United States. He justified the plan as an answer to "the same way that the world arrogant power is present near our marine borders." Earlier this week, another top Iranian military commander criticized the "illegitimate presence of the U.S. in the Persian Gulf," and expressed plans for the Iran's military to reach the Gulf of Mexico. Comment: Iran's provocative statements are directly related to the commencement of a national "defense week." The U.S. responded to the purported new Iranian military strategy by disregarding their claims. A spokesman for President Obama said "We don't take these statements seriously, given that they do not reflect at all Iran's naval capabilities." (CNN, Tehran Times, AFP)

SAUDI ARABIA: Woman faces flogging sentence for driving
On Tuesday, a court in Jeddah sentenced a Saudi woman, Shayma Jastaniah, to 10 lashes after she was found guilty of driving a car without a license; a crime Saudi courts consider "punishable by lashes." The sentence has since spurred much controversy in the Kingdom and abroad amid the current strong regional push for women's rights. Comment: The Saudi king pardoned the woman sentenced to lashes, but has not spoken of two other women charged with similar offenses and waiting for their trials at the end of this year. In addition, King Abdullah al-Saud made a surprise announcement on Sunday ordering that women be given the right to vote and join the all-appointed Shura Council starting in 2015. (Alarabiya, CSmonitor, Gulfnews, Arabnews)

Researched/Written by Ibrahim Al-Hajjri

South Asia
AFGHANISTAN: UN states increase in violence, NATO disagrees
A UN report submitted to the Security Council this week states that violence is on the rise in Afghanistan. According to the report, there were an average of 2,108 security incidents per month in 2011, a 39 percent increase as compared to the same period last year; however, the number of suicide attacks is 12 per month, the same as 2010. The increase is mainly attributed to armed attacks and improvised device explosions, with two-thirds of the activities occurring in the southern and south-eastern regions. The UN figures are contradictory to NATO estimates which stated that violence was down 20 percent in 2011. Comment: The NATO-led International Security Assistance Force clarified on Thursday that they used different metrics to calculate and did not define 25 percent of the UN figures as security incidents. The debate on the security situation comes ahead of the expected coalition troop draw down. (AFP, CNN, Wall Street Journal)

INDIA: Worst flood in 30 years hits East India
Two bouts of heavy rain caused flooding, the worst in 30 years, in the eastern Indian state of Orissa killing 88 and displacing nearly 100,000 people. Flooding elsewhere in northern India has affected five million people and killed more than 250. The government is carrying out relief efforts, setting up camps, air-dropping food packets, and rescuing stranded survivors. The waters are currently receding due to the end of the monsoons, although a third of the affected villages in Orissa remain marooned. Comment: India faces heavy rains during the yearly monsoons from June to September. The rains, while vital to India's agriculture, cause major landslides, flooding, crop damages, and outbreak of disease. (AP, Reuters, Times of India)

PAKISTAN: U.S. to decide on Haqqani network terrorist group status, Pakistan denies links to the group
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton stated this week that her government was in the final stages in deciding whether to designate the Pakistan-based Haqqani network as a foreign terrorist organization. The Haqqani network is blamed for high profile attacks on U.S. troops in Afghanistan and the recent Kabul siege which killed 25. Meanwhile, the Pakistani leadership denied any links with the network. The country's foreign minister stated that the U.S. cannot afford to risk its relationship with Pakistan, and that the accusations were unacceptable. This was in response to U.S. Army Chief Mullen's statement last week that the Haqqani network was a "veritable" arm of the Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence. Comment: Analysts state that Pakistan's spy agency is supporting the network to foster an ally in Afghanistan once U.S. led troops leave the country. The recent spat highlights the growing tensions between the two countries. (Associated Press, BBC, Washington Post)

Researched/Written by   Megha Swamy

September 30, 2011
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In This Issue
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East Asia
Europe & Central Asia
Middle East & N. Africa
South Asia

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