Outgoing UN commander claims Darfur conflict at an end

Sarah Gallagher
27 August 2009

The outgoing UNAMID force commander, Martin Luther Agwai , has said that there is no longer a war in Darfur. Although he did not rule out the possibility of a future resurgence in the fighting, he said that the fragmentation of the rebel groups meant that the problems on the ground were now only ‘security issues'. He named JEM as the only group with capability to launch a military attack but denied JEM's ability to hold territory.

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The ToD verdict: This latest report makes it easy to feel positive about Darfur. Add in Ban Ki Moon's praise for the achievements of the outgoing joint AU-UN special representative for Darfur, the arrival of Jordanian police units, a meeting of the AU high level panel on Darfur for discussions of a peace proposal for the region and reports that the US special envoy to Darfur has managed to persuade rebel groups to band together in order to participate in peace talks, and you would be forgiven for thinking that Darfur is the brink of tranquillity.

However, activists have expressed concern that the US special envoy to Darfur is aligning himself too closely with Khartoum, while reports that his peace summits were not attended by some major rebel leaders, including those of the JEM, may betray his optimism. Furthermore, despite this weeks boost to its numbers, UNAMID still only has around 60% of the intended number of troops while President Bashir's unresolved indictment for war crimes threatens to upset proceedings.

While there is some cause for optimism, the comments from the outgoing commander will surely have to be taken with a healthy dose of caution.

Three killed in separatist violence in Thailand

There were three more killings in Thailand's troubled Yala region today. The deaths follow a car bomb in the neighbouring Narathiwat district on Tuesday in which at least 26 were injured. The Yala, Narathiwat and Pattaani districts, on Thailand's border with Malaysia, were a Malay Sultanate until just over a century ago. Malay Muslim separatists have continued a low intensity insurgency in the region for some time, but this week's events suggest the situation may deteriorate. Muslims have apparently accounted for nearly half of all those killed in the recent violence, which has fuelled reports that extra judicial killings are being carried out by state armed security forces and Buddhist civilians.

Protest turns violent in South Africa

On Wednesday around 3,000 members of the South African Defence Force were the latest group to stage a protest which turned violent in Pretoria. The SADF was demanding a 30% increase in pay. Police used tear gas and fired rubber bullets at protesters who stormed the Union Building and set fire to cars. One newspaper described events as a virtual war. South Africa's defence minister, Lindiwe Sisulu, had urged the SADF not to protest but to return to the ‘bargaining chamber'. Sisulu later condemned the protests as a threat to national security.

This latest unrest follows a series of riots and protests by government workers in July, when people took to the streets unhappy with the lack of basic services and low pay. Then, the protests were settled with a 13% pay rise, but in these latest events the South African authorities have shown that they are willing to forcibly put down further unrest.

Tensions between Colombia and Venezuela increase

The tensions between Venezuela and Colombia have been further heightened by a news broadcast in which Hugo Chavez reportedly ordered a review of Colombian businesses in Venezuela to investigate whether they were laundering drug money. Colombia has responded by asking the Organisation of American States to condemn Chavez's comments and believes that Venezuela is running an ‘interventionist plan'.

Chavez also again condemned Colombia's actions in allowing US military bases onto its soil and threatened to break diplomatic ties and cease trade with the country. Chavez apparently considers the bases a threat of war against Latin American leaders. The US assistant secretary of state for the western hemisphere condemned Chavez's talk of war.

Colombia says that it needs the bases to help prevent drug trafficking. With the latest attacks in a coca producing region of the country being attributed to drug traffickers, Colombia is in certain need of assistance. However, the bases are set to cause continued unrest between Venezuela, Colombia and beyond. Seemingly nervous about the Colombia's deepening military partnership with the US, Ecuador is now pushing Bogota for assurances that Colombia will not breach its borders following Colombia's insistence that it will wage preventative attacks on FARC rebels at home and abroad.

Six killed in US drone attack in South Warziristan

A US drone killed six militants in an attack in South Warziristan today. This is the latest in a series of attacks in recent days to suggest that Pakistan and US forces may be taking advantage of a lack of organisation within the Taliban after Tuesday's statement accepting Baitullah Meshud had been killed in previously disputed 5 August attack. On Wednesday gun battles with Pakistani foces resulted in the deaths of nine militants and a handful of militants were reportedly killed in the bombing of militant positions the same day.

NAM gets behind Iran for nuclear debate

The Non-Aligned Movement is supporting Iran in its push to debate a ban on military attacks on nuclear bases at the next IAEA meeting in September. Egypt has reportedly written to the IAEA to state that Iran has the backing of the NAM.  The move has caused concern in some circles who believe that this is a move by Iran to take the focus off its ability to accumulate enough enriched uranium to produce nuclear warheads. Western states, led by French President Nicholas Sarkozy, have called for tougher sanctions on Iran. Reports on Tuesday suggested that Iran's enrichment programme might be slowing down, but the news is unlikely to allay an increasingly weary West.

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