BRUSSELS - The European Commission asked the Court of Justice of the European Union, the EU’s highest court, for interim measures against Poland’s new law to discipline judges for criticizing the government, the court said in a tweet on Friday.
Poland’s parliament, dominated by the eurosceptic PiS party which has long been at odds with the EU over the rule of law, passed a bill that would allow judges who criticize the government’s reforms to be disciplined, including through dismissals.
By Elizabeth Howcroft and Eric Beech
LONDON/WASHINGTON - Britain on Friday scolded the United States for refusing to extradite a U.S. diplomat’s wife who was involved in a car crash that killed a British teenager.
British prosecutors had requested the extradition of Anne Sacoolas over the crash last August in which 19-year-old Briton Harry Dunn was killed while riding his motorbike.
But the State Department said on Thursday that Sacoolas had “immunity from criminal jurisdiction” and that to extradite her would set a precedent.
“If the United States were to grant the UK’s extradition request, it would render the invocation of diplomatic immunity a practical nullity and would set an extraordinarily troubling precedent,” the State Department said.
British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab called the U.S. ambassador in London to express British disappointment.
“We feel this amounts to a denial of justice, and we believe Anne Sacoolas should return to the UK,” Raab said. “The UK would have acted differently if this had been a UK diplomat serving in the U.S. ...
“We are now urgently considering our options.”
Dunn’s family have said Sacoolas was driving on the wrong side of the road at the time of the crash, near an air force base in central England used by the U.S. military.
Sacoolas was given diplomatic immunity and left Britain shortly after the accident. Her lawyer has said that she will not return voluntarily to Britain possibly to face jail for “a terrible but unintentional accident”.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said Sacoolas was wrong to use diplomatic immunity to leave Britain and has urged U.S. President Donald Trump to reconsider the U.S. position.
Dunn’s parents met Trump at the White House in October. Trump hoped to persuade them meet to Sacoolas, who was in the building at the same time, but they declined.
LONDON - Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government suffered a fourth defeat on its Brexit legislation when members of parliament’s upper chamber voted on Tuesday to ensure protections for child refugees after Britain leaves the European Union.
Johnson’s Conservatives won a large majority in the lower chamber, the House of Commons, in a Dec. 12 election and earlier this month lawmakers there quickly approved the legislation needed to ratify his exit deal with Brussels.
But the House of Lords, where Johnson’s government does not have a majority, made three changes to the legislation on Monday, including over the rights of EU citizens after Brexit.
On Tuesday, the Lords voted 300 to 220 to ensure unaccompanied child refugees can continue to be reunited with family in Britain, a promise made by Johnson’s predecessor Theresa May but stripped from his legislation.
“The signal the government is sending by this is a very negative one, it is not a humanitarian signal,” said Alf Dubs, an opposition Labour lord who fled to Britain as a child to escape the Nazis, and who proposed the change to the bill.
Johnson’s spokesman said the government would seek to overturn the changes made to the Brexit legislation when the bill returns to the House of Commons later this week.
By Dmitry Zhdannikov and Simon Robinson
DAVOS, Switzerland - Activist Greta Thunberg said on Tuesday planting trees was not enough to address climate change, in an apparent rebuke to a pledge in Davos by U.S. President Donald Trump an hour earlier.
Trump dismissed “perennial prophets of doom” on climate change in his keynote address. While he did not directly name Thunberg, she was sitting in the audience for his speech.
Trump announced the United States would join an initiative to plant one trillion trees, but also spoke at length about the economic importance of oil and gas and called climate change activists the “heirs of yesterday’s foolish fortune tellers”.
“Our house is still on fire,” Thunberg said in her speech, repeating her remarks at the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum a year ago.
“Your inaction is fuelling the flames,” the 17-year-old added, in the latest to-and-fro with the 73-year-old president.
Their debate around climate change appears an attempt by both to frame the argument, with Thunberg calling for an immediate end to fossil fuel investments in front of a packed audience an hour after watching Trump make his keynote address in the Swiss ski resort.
Thunberg responded by referring to “empty words and promises” by world leaders. “You say children shouldn’t worry... don’t be so pessimistic and then, nothing, silence.”
She said: “Planting trees is good of course, but it is nowhere near enough of what is needed, and it cannot replace real mitigation and rewilding nature.”
Earlier, Thunberg called on world leaders to listen to young activists, who have followed her to Davos this year.
“I’m not a person that can complain about not being heard,” she said, prompting laughter from the audience on the first day of the annual WEF meeting.
“The science and voice of young people is not the center of the conversation, but it needs to be.”
Several young activists have traveled to Davos, which has chosen sustainability as its main theme this year.
Thunberg has inspired millions to take action on climate change. A video of her giving Trump what media described as a “death stare” at a U.N. climate summit in New York in September went viral on social media.
WASHINGTON - US President Donald Trump will finally unveil his ‘great’ plan for peace in the Middle East before Israeli leaders visit Washington next week. While the Palestinians may not like it, it will be good for them, Trump said.
Trump has long teased the existence of a plan that would resolve the long-running dispute between Israel and the Palestinians, reportedly developed by his son-in-law Jared Kushner. Its release, however, has been repeatedly delayed.
On the way to an event in Florida on Thursday, Trump told reporters on board Air Force One that he intends to make the plan public ahead of next week’s visit to Washington by Israel’s caretaker prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his chief rival Benny Gantz.
"It's a great plan," said Trump, "It's a plan that really would work."
The US president noted that Palestinians might react negatively to it at first, but added that the proposal would be to their benefit.
Trump has made several moves openly favoring Israel since he took office in 2017, including recognizing Jerusalem as the Israeli capital and moving the US embassy there, as well as recognizing the Israeli annexation of the Golan Heights, a Syrian territory occupied since 1967.
Israel was established in 1948 on much of the territory of the former British Palestine Mandate, with Jordan and Egypt taking over territories that are now known as the West Bank and Gaza. Israel took over both areas in a 1967 war. A number of peace proposals since then have sought to establish a Palestinian state in those territories. This “two state solution” has been the official US position until the Trump administration discarded it in February 2017.
BEIRUT - Lebanon is looking to secure $4 billion to $5 billion in soft loans from international donors to finance purchases of wheat, fuel and medicines, Lebanese newspaper The Daily Star cited Finance Minister Ghazi Wazni as saying on Thursday.
Lebanon formed a new cabinet on Tuesday, which it hopes can restore confidence and secure urgently needed funding from foreign donors amid a deep financial crisis.
“We will ask the international donors to provide Lebanon with $4 billion to $5 billion in soft loans to finance the purchasing of wheat, fuel oil and pharmaceuticals,” said Wazni.
“This injection will cover the country’s needs for one year and will also help reduce the run on the U.S. dollar,” he added.
An acute dollar shortage has prompted banks to impose controls on withdrawals and transfers, hit the Lebanese pound and fueled inflation.
Prime Minister Hassan Diab was set to meet several foreign ambassadors on Thursday as the heavily indebted country looks to rally support. It must decide on how to deal with maturing Eurobonds, including a $1.2 billion bond due in March.
Lebanon won pledges exceeding $11 billion at an international conference in 2018, conditional on reforms that it has so far failed to implement.
By John Irish
JERUSALEM - “Go outside,” French President Emmanuel Macron demanded in English in a melee with Israeli security men on Wednesday, demanding they leave a Jerusalem basilica that he visited before a Holocaust memorial conference.
The French tricolor has flown over the Church of St. Anne in Jerusalem’s walled Old City since it was gifted by the Ottomans to French Emperor Napoleon III in 1856.
France views it as a provocation when Israeli police enter the church’s sandstone complex, in a part of Jerusalem captured and annexed by Israel in the 1967 Middle East war.
Wednesday’s incident was a case of deja vu all over again. In 1996, former President Jacques Chirac lost patience with Israeli security agents at the same church, telling one of them that his treatment was a “provocation” and threatening to get back on his plane.
Chirac refused to enter St. Anne until Israeli security left the site.
Video showed Macron, jostled in the center of a crowded circle between his own protective detail and Israeli security personnel, including several paramilitary policemen in uniform, under an archway leading into the church.
Macron then stopped the shoving and shouted at the Israeli security guards in English: “I don’t like what you did in front of me.”
Lowering his voice, he then said: “Go outside. I’m sorry, you know the rules. Nobody has to provoke nobody.”
Asked about the incident, an Israeli police spokesman declined comment. An Israeli government spokesman did not immediately provide comment on behalf of the Shin Bet internal security agency, which also helps guard foreign dignitaries.
French diplomats had cautioned that they want to leave little room for mishaps on Macron’s trip. Earlier on Wednesday, a separate squabble ensued when Israeli police tried to enter St. Anne ahead of Macron’s visit.
Macron is one of dozens of world leaders due to attend Thursday’s World Holocaust Forum at the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial center in Jerusalem, which will commemorate the 75-year anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz death camp.
The 42-year-old head of state had seen his visit to St. Anne as a symbolic stop underscoring Paris’ historical influence in the region.
Before heading to the church, Macron walked through the Old City, speaking to shopkeepers and stopping by the Church of the Holy Sepulcher.
He later visited the Muslim Noble Sanctuary in Jerusalem that houses al-Aqsa mosque, a site revered by Jews as the Temple Mount, and Judaism’s Western Wall.
By Alasdair Pal and Devjyot Ghoshal
NEW DELHI - Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said on Wednesday Moscow has been urging Gulf countries to consider a common security mechanism for the region and it was time the world got rid of unilateral measures such as sanctions.
“We have been suggesting to the Gulf countries to think about collective security mechanisms ... starting with confidence building measures and inviting each other to military exercises,” Lavrov told a security conference in Delhi.
Tensions in the Gulf have risen following the U.S. killing of Iranian military commander General Qassem Soleimani and a retaliatory missile attack by Iran on U.S. forces in Iraq.
“Since I mentioned about Persian Gulf, we are very much concerned about what is going in there,” Lavrov said.
Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif is also attending the conference in Delhi that comes just a day after Britain, France and Germany formally accused Iran of violating the terms of its 2015 agreement to curb its nuclear program, which eventually could lead to the reimposing of U.N. sanctions.
Iran’s Fars news agency quoted Zarif as saying overnight that the use of the dispute mechanism was legally baseless and a strategic mistake.
Lavrov said unilateral sanctions were a problem in today’s world.
“So the 21st century is the time when we must get rid of any methods of dealing in international relations which smack of colonial and neo-colonial times. And sanctions, unilaterally imposed sanctions, they are not going to work.”
After pulling out of the Iran deal, the United States slapped sanctions back on Iran and has gradually increased its “maximum pressure” campaign targeting the Islamic Republic’s revenues from oil, mining and other industries.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson called on Tuesday for U.S. President Donald Trump to replace the Iranian nuclear deal with his own new pact to ensure the Islamic Republic does not get an atomic weapon.
Trump said in a tweet he agreed with Johnson for a “Trump deal”.
U.S. Deputy National Security Adviser Matthew Pottinger will also be addressing the Delhi meeting on Thursday.
BENGHAZI, LIBYA - The Libyan National Army (LNA) led by General Khalifa Haftar has managed to down a Turkish drone that was allegedly trying to hit LNA units in Tripoli, a spokesman for the LNA Air Defence Forces said Wednesday.
"The Air Defence Forces of the General Command of the Libyan Arab Armed Forces shot down a Turkish drone that took off from the Mitiga International Airport and was trying to raid the site of our military units in Tripoli," the statement published on Facebook reads.
On Monday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said as quoted by the country's media that Ankara hadn't sent any Turkish troops in Libya yet but only military advisers.
Turkey has yet to comment on the claims by the LNA.
The development comes nearly a week after Ankara announced that it would deploy troops to support the Government of National Accord (GNA) in Tripoli in its fight against its opponents in the country's east, the Libyan National Army, after ceasefire negotiations between the two in Moscow failed.
ISTANBUL - Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan has called on Europe to support its work in Libya, where it is providing military support to the internationally-recognized government, if it wants to end the conflict there.
Erdogan made his remarks in a column published on the Politico website on Saturday, ahead of a summit in Berlin on Sunday that will try to stabilize the country.
At the meeting, Germany and the United Nations will push rival Libyan camps fighting over the capital, Tripoli, to agree to a truce and monitoring mechanism as first steps toward peace, diplomats and a draft communique said.
Turkey supports the government of Fayez al-Serraj in Tripoli and describes Khalifa Haftar, who heads the eastern Libyan National Army (LNA), as a coup plotter.
“Keeping in mind that Europe is less interested in providing military support to Libya, the obvious choice is to work with Turkey, which has already promised military assistance,” Erdogan wrote.
“We will train Libya’s security forces and help them combat terrorism, human trafficking and other serious threats against international security,” he added.
Sunday’s summit will put pressure on Haftar and the LNA to halt a nine-month offensive against Tripoli after a week-long lull in fighting. But it will not try to broker power-sharing between the two sides, said diplomats briefed on preparations.
Haftar and Serraj are both due in Berlin - along with Erdogan and the leaders of Russia, Egypt and other Western and Arab powers. Libya has been in turmoil since the fall of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.
Erdogan said that if Libya’s legitimate government were to fall Islamist militant groups such as Islamic State and Al Qaeda “will find a fertile ground to get back on their feet”.
Haftar is backed by the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Jordan, Sudanese and Chadian fighters, and most recently Russian mercenaries. France has also given some support.
On the other side, Turkey has supported Serraj by sending troops to balance out recent gains by Russian snipers. Hundreds of pro-Turkey fighters from Syria’s war have also been deployed, diplomats say.
ANKARA - President Recep Tayyip Erdogan says Turkey is starting deployment of troops to Libya in support of the embattled United Nations-recognized Government of National Accord (GNA) and in line with agreements relating to maritime border demarcation and enhanced security cooperation.
"We signed an agreement with Libya to delineate maritime borders. It is no longer legally possible to conduct exploration and drilling activities or to run pipelines in the region between the Turkish and Libyan coasts without the approval of both countries," Erdogan announced in the Turkish capital Ankara on Thursday.
He added, "In 2020, we are licensing these areas and starting the search and drilling as quickly as ever. After the licensing work, for the first time the Oruc Reis seismic research vessel will conduct seismic studies in the region. We are sending our troops to this country to ensure the survival and stability of the legitimate government in Libya."
Erdogan remarks came only two days after Libya's renegade military commander Khalifa Haftar left Moscow without signing a binding truce that would have halted his nine-month campaign to seize the GNA's base of Tripoli, and would have formalized a tentative ceasefire in the war-wracked North African country.
"The draft [agreement] ignores many of the Libyan army's demands," Haftar was quoted as saying by the Saudi-owned and Arabic-language al-Arabiya television news network.
Fayez al-Sarraj, the heads of the GNA, had already signed the truce proposal after indirect talks in the Russian capital on Monday.
Last week, Turkey and Russia urged Libya's warring parties to declare a ceasefire after a recent escalation in fighting around Tripoli and the strategic coastal city of Sirte.
Erdogan has said Turkey would not refrain from "teaching a lesson" to Haftar if his eastern-based forces continue attacks against the Tripoli-based GNA.
"If the putschist Haftar's attacks against the people and legitimate government of Libya continue, we will never refrain from teaching him the lesson he deserves," the Turkish president said in a speech to his AK Party legislators in parliament on Tuesday.
"It is our duty to protect our kin in Libya," he said.
Erdogan said Turkey had deep historical and social ties with Libya, asserting that Haftar would have taken over the entire nation if Ankara had not intervened.
Turkey will join Germany, the United Kingdom and Russia at Libyan peace talks in Berlin next Sunday, he said.
"The putschist Haftar did not sign the ceasefire. He first said yes, but later, unfortunately, he left Moscow, he fled Moscow," Erdogan said.
"Despite this, we find the talks in Moscow were positive as they showed the true face of the putschist Haftar to the international community," the Turkish president added.
On January 2, Turkey's parliament has approved a bill to deploy troops to Libya.
Parliament Speaker Mustafa Sentop said at the time that the legislation had been passed with a 325-184 vote.
Back in late November last year, Libya's GNA and Turkey signed security and maritime agreements in opening the path to the Turkish troop deployment. The accords also drew the ire of Mediterranean countries, including Greece and Cyprus, which were eyeing energy resources in the area.
Libya's eastern-based parliament later voted unanimously against the deals.
Libya plunged into chaos in 2011, when a popular uprising and a NATO intervention led to the ouster of long-time dictator Muammar Gaddafi and his execution by unruly fighters.
The North African country has since been split between two rival administrations based in the east and west amid a conflict drawing increasing involvement from foreign powers.
According to the latest UN tally, more than 280 civilians and roughly 2,000 fighters have been killed since Haftar launched his offensive in April to seize Tripoli. An estimated 146,000 Libyans have been displaced.
Erdogan is doubling down on support for the U.N.-backed government in Libya ahead of a Berlin conference aimed at ending the Libyan civil war.
Erdogan, who is set to attend the Sunday meeting, lashed out at Libyan rebel leader General Khalifa Haftar on Friday while announcing the deployment of Turkish forces to Libya.
"Haftar is a man I do not trust. … He continued bombing Tripoli yesterday," Erdogan said in a statement. Haftar is waging war against the Turkey-backed Government of National Accord.
A day earlier, Erdogan announced additional military forces would be deployed in support of the GNA. Earlier this month, Ankara sent a few dozen military personnel and equipment to Tripoli as part of a military agreement with the GNA.
Haftar infuriated Erdogan by refusing to sign a cease-fire agreement Wednesday brokered by Turkey and the Russian government. Russian mercenaries linked to the Kremlin are backing Haftar, although Russian President Vladimir Putin denies arming the militia.
"With these new developments, Turkey is getting more and more in a losing position," said international relations professor Huseyin Bagci of Ankara's Middle East Technical University. "Probably Tayyip Erdogan will face much bigger problems in Berlin than he assumed before. He [Erdogan] thought he would be in a stronger position, but with no cease-fire, he is in a much more difficult position."
Haftar and GNA Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj are expected to attend the Berlin conference. U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo also confirmed his attendance.
German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas met with Haftar on Thursday, claiming a breakthrough. Maas tweeted Haftar "has agreed to abide by the ongoing cease-fire" and that the Berlin meeting offered "the best chance in a long time" for peace.
But Turkey is voicing skepticism about the prospects for peace and has criticized the conference for excluding Turkish allies Qatar and Tunisia.
"He [Erdogan] will be taking a very hard position in Berlin," said Bagci. "I expect more, harsher words in Berlin – he is not going there to be soft, [he] is going there to be very hard."
Turkish oil interests
Ankara says the survival of the GNA is a strategic priority. Along with a security deal, Erdogan also signed an agreement with Sarraj that gives Turkey control of a large swath of the eastern Mediterranean. The area is believed to have vast potential reserves of hydrocarbons.
"We will start search and drilling activities as soon as possible in 2020 after issuing licenses for the areas," Erdogan said Friday, adding that a seismic exploration vessel would soon be deployed to this field.
Turkey's deal with the GNA is strongly condemned by Greece, which claims the contested region as part of its territorial waters.
The two countries are engaged in an increasingly bitter competition for resources in the eastern Mediterranean.
Analysts note Turkey is aware that if Haftar were to prevail in the Libyan civil war, all deals it made with the GNA likely would become null and void.
On Thursday, Haftar flew by private plane to Athens and was taken to a luxury hotel for two days of talks with Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias.
In a move that could further complicate the Berlin talks, Mitsotakis underlined his determination to annul Turkey's Mediterranean deal with the GNA.
"Greece at the level of an [EU] summit meeting will never accept any political solution on Libya that does not include as a precondition the annulment of this agreement. To put it simply, we will use our veto," Mitsotakis said Thursday in a television interview.
EU officials are also set to attend the Berlin conference, and the EU is strongly opposed to Turkey's agreement with the GNA on the Mediterranean, saying it violates international law.
Turkey insists it's ready to negotiate. "The GNA deal aims to protect Turkish vital national interests and Turkey is not to remain isolated," said former Turkish Ambassador Mithat Rende. "Turkey has made it clear it's ready to talk."
In Cairo Thursday, the seven-member East Mediterranean Gas Forum pledged to strengthen cooperation, deepening Ankara's isolation. Turkey views the move by Cyprus, Greece, Israel, Italy, Jordan, the Palestinian territories and Egypt as an attempt to deny what Ankara sees as its fair share of Mediterranean energy resources.
Erdogan dismissed the Cairo agreement, saying, "They tried to implement a scenario to imprison our country in the Mediterranean Sea. We ended this game with the agreements we made with Turkish Cyprus and then with Libya."
Some analysts say Ankara's stance ultimately may prove counterproductive.
"Turkey wants to be in Syria, Libya and the eastern Mediterranean; it wants to be a player," Bagci said. "Turkey wants to get more and more involved in this region. But the problem is Turkey is not wanted because it creates an atmosphere of hegemony. So this is what Turkey faces, and this is why Erdogan's rhetoric is getting harsher."
NEW YORK - The world should not accept the “dire and untenable” situation facing children in wartorn Libya the head of the UN Children’s Fund, UNICEF, said on Friday.
“Children in Libya, including refugee and migrant children, continue to suffer grievously amidst the violence and chaos unleashed by the country’s longstanding civil war”, Executive Director Henrietta Fore said in a statement.
Since last April, when renewed hostilities broke out on the outskirts of the capital Tripoli, and western Libya, conditions for thousands of children and civilians deteriorated, with indiscriminate attacks in populated areas that have caused hundreds of deaths.
UNICEF has received reports of children being maimed, killed and also recruited to fight, said Ms. Fore.
Since the fall of President Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, Libya has been in the throes of ongoing instability and economic collapse, despite its large oil reserves.
Thousands have been killed in fighting between factions of the self-styled Libyan National Army (LNA) commanded by Khalifa Haftar, based in the east, and the UN-recognized government in Tripoli, located in the west.
The UN Secretary-General will be at a major international summit due to take place in the German capital this coming Sunday, which both the Prime Minister of the UN-recognized Government and commander Haftar are due to attend, in the hope of establishing a permanent ceasefire.
Meanwhile, over the last eight months, more than 150,000 people – 90,000 of whom are children – have been forced to flee their homes and are now internally displaced.
Ms. Fore also flagged that under attack was the essential “infrastructure on which children depend for their wellbeing and survival”.
“Nearly 30 health facilities have been damaged in the fighting, forcing 13 to close”, she lamented, adding that attacks against schools and the threat of violence have led to closures and left almost 200,000 children out of the classroom.
Moreover, water systems have been attacked and the waste management system has virtually collapsed, greatly increasing the risk of waterborne diseases including cholera.
“The 60,000 refugee and migrant children currently in urban areas are also terribly vulnerable, especially the 15,000 who are unaccompanied and those being held in detention centres”, she continued. “These children already had limited access to protection and essential services, so the intensifying conflict has only amplified the risks that they face”.
UNICEF and its partners on the ground are supporting the children and families with access to healthcare and nutrition, protection, education, water and sanitation.
“We are also reaching refugee and migrant children with assistance, including those held in detention centres”, she elaborated. “Sadly, attacks against the civilian population and infrastructure, as well as against humanitarian and healthcare personnel are seeking to undermine humanitarian efforts”.
Ms. Fore called on all parties to the conflict and those who have influence over them to protect children, end the recruitment and use of children, cease attacks against civilian infrastructure, and allow for “safe and unimpeded humanitarian access to children and people in need”.
“We also call on Libyan authorities to end the detention of migrant and refugee children and to actively pursue safe and dignified alternatives to detention”, said the UNICEF chief.
Ahead of the peace summit in Berlin, this Sunday, Ms. Fore also urged the conflict parties and those with influence over them to “urgently reach a comprehensive and durable peace agreement for the sake of each and every child in Libya.”
Research Papers & Reports
Crisis Group, 30 December 2019
Intercommunal violence, particularly between Arabs and non-Arabs, has ravaged eastern Chad throughout 2019 and could further threaten the country’s stability. The government should initiate a debate on managing pastoralism and support an inclusive conference on the east.
What’s new? Throughout 2019, bloody intercommunal conflicts, in particular between Arab and non-Arab communities, have ravaged eastern Chad. Notwithstanding recent calm, the violence is indicative of deep identity fractures and is underpinned by competition for land and traditional and political power.
Why does it matter? Chad’s internal situation is fragile, and renewed violence in the east, a region that borders the historically troubled Darfur province of Sudan, could threaten its stability.
What should be done? The government should apply the state of emergency more flexibly to allow inhabitants to access markets and public services, initiate a debate on managing pastoralism, punish civilian and military officials for abuses of power and support an inclusive conference on the east.
Hundreds of people have lost their lives in a spike of intercommunal violence in the east of Chad in 2019. Tensions have often pitted majority groups in Ouaddaï and Sila provinces against Arabs. These conflicts flow in part from established rivalries between herders and farmers, but also derive from deeper identity-based competition over land, traditional authority and local political positions. In addition, populations no longer trust authorities who they accuse of taking sides in local disputes. The government in N’Djamena is worried about rapid changes in Khartoum, and the proximity of Sudan’s troubled Darfur province increases risks in Chad’s east. Chadian authorities should avoid an overly rigid application of the state of emergency in the east, which has helped reduce violence but has hurt local populations. To avoid renewed conflict, the government should also initiate a broad debate on how to manage nomadic pastoralism, take measures against military and other officials who abuse their power at the
local level and back an inclusive conference on the east.
The violence in the Ouaddaï and Sila regions has multiple origins. It is firstly linked to the settlement of nomadic herders from the country’s north. This is not a new phenomenon. But its current scale causes concern among the region’s majority farming communities, who fear losing power and accuse the newly arrived groups, especially Arabs, of refusing to respect local customs. Herders, meanwhile, feel stigmatised. Some Arabs say they are treated like foreigners in a region where their families have been part of the society for generations.
The conflicts also reflect the area’s troubled relations with Sudan’s neighbouring Darfur province. The crisis in Darfur and the proxy war between Chad and Sudan in the 2000s exacerbated local tensions and rivalries among communities that are now at loggerheads in the east of Chad. These proxy wars saw pro-government Sudanese militia, the Janjaweed, recruit Arabs and attack villages in Ouaddaï and Sila provinces, forcing many residents to flee and generating resentment against Arabs in general. Even today, many in Sila and Ouaddaï fear that Arabs want to take over their land and expand power at their expense.
Visits by the president and his minister of public security throughout 2019 attest to growing official concern about instability in the east. The government fears that periodic violence could spread to other provinces, and even lay the ground for different government opponents and insurgents to find common cause. The crisis comes at a time of growing national strain and just months after a column of rebels entered Chad from Libya in February 2019. While the new dispensation in Sudan has been broadly welcomed by many regional and international actors, its implications for the stability of eastern Chad and the security of the border between the two countries remain unclear.
Faced with rising tensions in the east, Chad’s authorities decided to escalate their response in August 2019 by imposing a state of emergency in Ouaddaï and Sila, as well as in Tibesti in the north. The government has strengthened its military presence in the east and intensified efforts to disarm communities and warring actors there. This has helped reduce both clashes among different groups and criminality in late 2019. But populations in Ouaddaï and Sila are now suffering from abuses by security forces and restrictions on movement and trade. Moreover, the government’s actions have addressed neither the communal tensions nor the problems of local governance which underpin recent conflicts. It could be hard to hold legislative elections, currently scheduled for 2020, in the east.
To avoid further violence and, even if major progress is unlikely in the short term, deal with the deeper causes of this crisis, authorities should:
Initiate a broad debate with civil society and Chad’s international partners about nomadic pastoralism, with a view to adjusting land ownership policies and mechanisms and drafting clear consensual rules for the settlement of new populations. Such a debate is all the more important given that nomadic herders from the north are set to continue moving southward due to climate change and other factors, creating further intercommunal strains in the east and elsewhere in the country.
Discipline locally based officials and army officers who, because they have invested in large herds or work for absentee owners of those herds, pick sides in herder-farmer conflicts. To avoid conflicts of interests, the authorities should not send state representatives to places where they own cattle.
Support an inclusive conference on the east bringing together traditional authorities, traders, parliamentarians, and economic and religious actors. It should deal with herder-farmer relations, access to land, the use of diya (blood money), the role of traditional chieftancies and the circulation of small arms, and should formulate recommendations. That conference should lead to the creation of a permanent mediation committee, comprising some of the conference’s participants, to ensure follow-up of its recommendations. That committee should then become an official body, supported by the government, to mediate among warring communities in the east.
Support the work of traditional chiefs instead of harassing them.
Introduce greater flexibility in applying the state of emergency to permit Ouaddaï and Sila inhabitants to access weekly markets and public services and resume their activities. Authorities should also take measures against officials who abuse their power in dealings with traders and other civilians.
Ensure that arms collected during disarmament operations are systematically destroyed.
For their part, Chad’s international partners and donors should encourage authorities to take the above-mentioned actions. Humanitarian actors should also include a rapid reaction capacity in their national planning for the east, in case the situation deteriorates significantly.
Nairobi/Brussels, 30 December 2019
MOSCOW - People need to differentiate between legality and morality, and recognize that sometimes doing the right thing means breaking the law, Edward Snowden told Ecuador's former president Rafael Correa in a wide-ranging interview.
The NSA whistleblower, vilified by Washington after he leaked a trove of documents outlining mass surveillance techniques used by American intelligence agencies, argued that everyone has a duty to expose wrongdoing – regardless of legality.
"Sometimes the only moral decision that an individual has is to break the law," he told Correa.
Snowden firmly rejected the argument that legitimate whistleblowers pose a security threat, stressing that the real danger facing all nations is unwarranted government secrecy.
" One of the core threats to the rule of law in a society... is the government using secrecy as a shield against democratic accountability. Using secrecy… to excuse themselves from public awareness of what it is exactly that they've been doing."
The former intelligence contractor revealed the NSA's mass surveillance program in 2013. Snowden, who was granted asylum by Russia, has offered to stand trial in the US on espionage charges, on the condition that he be allowed to tell the court why he blew the whistle – a request that he claims has been refused.
Merkel and Erdogan’s smiles hide tough times ahead: What can we expect from EU-Turkey talks?
By Damian Wilsonis
LONDON - They may be all smiles for the cameras, but the issues Angela Merkel and Recep Tayyip Erdogan are set to discuss – from Syrian refugees to Turkey’s attempts to join the EU – may stall talks and deteriorate relations even further.
And both sides have more to play for this time round than political point-scoring.
The festering wound of Syria continues to provide pain for Turkey, which already hosts 3.7 million Syrian refugees. Now the prospect of further trouble around the city of Idlib means more migrants could be heading Turkey’s way in the not too distant future as they flee the mayhem.
And while Turkey came to the rescue of a panicked EU during the last major migrant push from the war-torn hellhole that is Syria, the promises made at the time by EU leaders in order for President Erdogan to play ball have simply not been fulfilled.
So the German chancellor finds herself on the way to Ankara for talks with the Turkish hardman, a gambit the EU hopes will be more conciliatory than sending, say, Emmanuel Macron.
Because high on the list will be four questions, in no particular order: first, where is the rest of the six billion euros you promised us last time to help deal with this influx of migrants; second, what happened to the visa-free travel deal you mentioned for Turks wanting to travel to the EU; third, where are we with Turkish accession to the EU; and finally, what’s happening with the weapons exports ban?
The first issue is easy enough. Merkel just needs to make the outstanding payment guarantees that Turkey is seeking and it’s ‘job done’. After all, why let 3.7 billion euros come between friends?
As for the second matter – visa-free travel – well, that’s a tricky one. The way the EU would look at it is this: Turkey is a nation of 80 million people. What if they were all granted visa-free travel throughout Europe? We need some more time on this one.
Because that could lead to issue number three: accession to the EU. You’d think the Turks would have given up, remembering they first made their application to become an EU member back in 1987. But no, they persist.
Accession would not only bring with it trade and free movement of people, it would also see Europe’s borders moved right up to Iran, Iraq and Syria. Boris Johnson used the idea of Turkey’s EU accession as a scare tactic during the Brexit referendum. While he had to ride out the race storm that followed, there is no doubt that it was a very effective threat.
Now that London’s views don’t carry the same weight in Brussels as they once might have, don’t think there is a softening on Turkey’s accession. The idea sends a chill wind through the grey corridors of the European headquarters.
Not that anyone needs to tell Angela Merkel much about the resistance to immigration from the East. After 14 years as the first female chancellor, and with an amazing story for a modest scientist born in East Germany, it is most likely she will be remembered for opening the immigration floodgates to her country in 2015, which saw one million refugees arrive – mostly Syrian – in the largest immigration influx since WWII.
She needs to ensure the cooperation of the Turkish president to make sure that does not happen again, because that would guarantee her time in office was remembered not for her achievements, but for a catastrophic misreading of her nation’s mood.
So the final issue, of weapons exports, might be the card to play. Germany imposed the partial ban in October (despite selling it as something a bit harsher), but as arms sales to Turkey topped 250 million euros in the first half of this year and the reason for it – that the Turks would use the weapons against Kurdish fighters – is no longer an issue, perhaps lifting restrictions would provide a bit of leverage.
Erdogan knows the strength of the cards he holds. He’s already suggested in the past that he might simply unleash migrants into the EU unless their deal was honored.
Meanwhile, feelings still run high over the abrupt cancellation of political rallies organized in Germany by Turkish ministers aimed at addressing their huge immigrant communities ahead of a referendum in Turkey. That spat saw Erdogan accuse German authorities of "Nazi" tactics – not an accusation ever received lightly in Berlin.
Will these harsh words be forgotten? Most likely. Both sides have far too much at stake now to let a bit of name-calling get in the way. And while the more recent issue of Turkey’s dispatch of the Kurds in Syria is still a bone of contention, it is that issue of Syria that will actually bring the two leaders together.
As these two leaders meet, what can we realistically expect? Some conciliation over the cash payments to Turkey from the EU, most likely in a further installment of the six billion Euros. While on the money front, perhaps an easing of arms exports restrictions from Germany and maybe other EU nations.
Expect promises of further investigation into visa-free EU travel but nothing concrete for now. As for the accession to the European Union, with tiny Albania and Macedonia being knocked back on their bids to join this club and a genuine resistance to expansion evident in powerful quarters, what hope does a nation of 80 million people directly bordering some of the world’s most troubled regions realistically have of being given a dream ticket?
President Erdogan doesn’t even need to ask to know the answer there.
By Danielle Ryan
DUBLIN - There’s a new “anti-war” think tank coming to town. It will promote a new US foreign policy — one based on diplomacy instead of sanctions and war. Sounds great, until you hear it's being funded by Soros and Koch.
The ‘Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft’ will oppose Washington’s “endless wars” and will “challenge the basis of American foreign policy in a way that has not been done in at least the last quarter-century,” according to co-founder Trita Parsi.
With financier George Soros coming from the left (though he’s hardly a real leftist) and industrialist Charles Koch coming from the right, everyone is supposed to applaud the bipartisan nature of the initiative. The Boston Globe called it “one of the most remarkable partnerships in modern American political history” as though the two billionaire businessmen come from alternate universes.
The Globe notes that promoting an anti-war message is “radical notion,” given that nearly every major think tank in Washington currently promotes “some variant of neocon militarism or liberal interventionism.”
To give credit where it’s due, this really is a radical notion — and the more the anti-war narrative begins to trickle into the mainstream, the better. If the Quincy Institute does what it says on the tin, most genuine anti-war activists and readers won’t quibble too much about where the think tank got its start-up cash. Soros and Koch have thrown $500,000 each into the pot.
Named after John Quincy Adams, who declared in 1821 that the US “goes not abroad in search of monsters to destroy" but is the “well-wisher to the freedom and independence of all” and the “champion and vindicator only of her own,” the think tank will offer a platform to both progressive voices and anti-interventionist conservatives.
The Globe writes that this will mean its writers will "likely" advocate for things like pulling US troops out of Afghanistan and Syria, putting an end to regime change wars and “less confrontational” policies toward China and Russia.
The problem here is not the concept. It’s just a question of whether or not the venture can actually be taken seriously when Soros and Koch’s fingerprints are already all over the world’s current endless wars, conflicts and regime changes.
Take some well-known Soros-funded think tanks; the Center for American Progress and the Atlantic Council, for example. They haven’t exactly been the biggest peace-pushers in the think tank world. The AC also received funding from a slew of arms manufacturers, so you’d be hard-pressed to find any anti-war sentiment there. Soros has also been linked to the "pro-democracy" European group Avaaz, which has advocated for no-fly zones in Libya and agitated for regime change in Venezuela and Iran.
In 2017, the Soros-funded ‘European Values’ think tank smeared 2,327 people as "useful idiots" for Russia for merely appearing on RT, in a McCarthyist-style attack on anyone deemed not to be sufficiently compliant with prevailing Western narratives.
Koch too has been linked to havoc-wreaking policies everywhere from Iraq to Venezuela. Despite supposedly opposing the Iraq war, independent journalist Caitlin Johnstone notes that Koch has been a major donor to the neoconservative American Enterprise Institute, whose members are considered leading architects of the invasion.
The Quincy Institute is slated to launch in September and until it gets off the ground, it will be impossible to declare a final judgement on its work — but given that organizations funded by Soros and Koch have spouted war-promoting propaganda to serve the US imperialist agenda for years, it’s a little difficult to see this sudden change of heart as entirely genuine.
ADDIS ABABA - Ethiopia’s electoral board said on Wednesday it expects to hold national elections on Aug. 16, 2020, the first vote under Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, who took office in 2018 and has directed political and economic reforms.
Birtukan Mideksa, the head of the electoral board, told Reuters that the date was tentative.
Abiy released political prisoners and appointed former dissidents to high-level positions.
But the reforms have also unleashed long-simmering ethnic divisions, and the electoral board said last June that the security situation could delay this year’s election.
But Abiy, awarded the Nobel Peace Prize last year, said last week elections would be held this year in May or June despite concerns over security and logistics.
GENEVA - The targeting of the Hema community in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) with violence, including killings and rape, may amount to crimes against humanity, said the UN on Friday.
An investigation carried out by the UN Joint Human Rights Office (UNJHRO) in the DRC, found that at least 701 people have been killed and 168 injured following attacks involving the Hema and Lendu communities in the country’s northeast province of Ituri, between December 2017 and September last year.
“In addition, at least 142 people have been subjected to acts of sexual violence” the report said, “most of them members of the Hema community.”
Since September 2018, Lendu armed groups have become increasingly organized in carrying out attacks against the Hema and members of other ethnic groups such as the Alur, the investigators said.
Among their objectives is to take control of the land of the Hema communities and their associated resources, they added.
The report documents numerous cases of women being raped, of children - some in school uniforms - being killed, and of looting and burning of villages.
Rape and beheadings
On 10 June last year in the district of Torges, a Hema man who was trying to prevent armed assailants from raping his wife witnessed his 8-year-old son being beheaded.
"The barbarity that characterizes these attacks, including the beheading of women and children with machetes, the dismemberment and removal of body parts of the victims as trophies of war, reflects the desire of the attackers to inflict lasting trauma to the Hema communities and to force them to flee and not return to their villages," the report said.
"The violence documented... could contain some elements of crimes against humanity through murder, torture, rape and other forms of sexual violence, pillage and persecution."
Schools and health clinics have been attacked and destroyed. The report said that most attacks occurred in June around the harvest period, and in December during the sowing season. "This makes it more difficult for the Hema to cultivate their fields and exacerbates their lack of food.”
As the violence has intensified, for the past two years around 57,000 have taken refuge in neighbouring Uganda, and more than 556,000 have fled the territories of Djugu and Mahagi, in Ituri, according to the UN refugee agency UNHCR.
Several camps and villages where the Hema have taken refuge, have been “stormed, burned and destroyed” by Lendu armed groups, the report details.
Investigators have also documented acts of reprisal by some Hema community members, including village-burning and “isolated attacks” targeting the Lendu.
Army and police units deployed since February 2018, have failed to stop the violence, the report states, adding that the security forces themselves have also committed abuses such as extrajudicial executions, sexual violence, arbitrary arrests and detention.
So far, two police officers and two soldiers, have been convicted in the Congolese courts.
The joint rights office, UNJHRO, is recommending now that the DRC authorities properly address the root causes of conflict, including access to resources – including the contentious land issue – and that they maintain “ongoing reconciliation efforts between the two communities and their peaceful cohabitation.”
The report urges an independent and impartial investigation be carried out by the Government, into the years of violence, as well as “ensuring the right to reparation for victims and their access to medical and psychosocial care.”
KHARTOUM - An economic crisis in Sudan which has driven up food prices in the African country has contributed to an increase in the number of people needing aid; that’s according to the UN’s humanitarian affairs agency, OCHA.
Some 9.3 million people, nearly a quarter of the population, are expected to need humanitarian assistance in 2020, up from some 8.5 million this year.
In Kassala state, in the east of the country, more than 400,000 people suffer crisis levels of food insecurity and many cannot afford to buy the medicines they need when they fall ill.
The UN’s humanitarian chief, Mark Lowcock, visited Kassala in November and called on the international community to provide more aid, more quickly.
By Ange Aboa
ABIDJAN - West Africa’s monetary union has agreed with France to rename its CFA franc the Eco and cut some of the financial links with Paris that have underpinned the region’s common currency since its creation soon World War Two.
Under the deal, the Eco will remain pegged to the euro but the African countries in the bloc won’t have to keep 50% of their reserves in the French Treasury and there will no longer be a French representative on the currency union’s board.
Critics of the CFA have long seen it as a relic from colonial times while proponents of the currency say it has provided financial stability in a sometimes turbulent region.
“This is a historic day for West Africa,” Ivory Coast’s President Alassane Ouattara said during a news conference with French President Emmanuel Macron in the country’s main city Abidjan.
In 2017, Macron highlighted the stabilizing benefits of the CFA but said it was up to African governments to determine the future of the currency.
“Yes, it’s the end of certain relics of the past. Yes it’s progress ... I do not want influence through guardianship, I do not want influence through intrusion. That’s not the century that’s being built today,” said Macron.
The CFA is used in 14 African countries with a combined population of about 150 million and $235 billion of gross domestic product.
However, the changes will only affect the West African form of the currency used by Benin, Burkina Faso, Guinea Bissau, Ivory Coast, Mali, Niger, Senegal and Togo - all former French colonies except Guinea Bissau.
The six countries using the Central African CFA are Cameroon, Chad, Central African Republic, Congo Republic, Equatorial Guinea and Gabon, - all former French colonies with the exception of Equatorial Guinea.
The CFA’s value relative to the French franc remained unchanged from 1948 through to 1994 when it was devalued by 50% to boost exports from the region.
After the devaluation, 1 French franc was worth 100 CFA and when the French currency joined the euro zone, the fixed rate became 1 euro to 656 CFA francs.
The agreement follows talks in Nigeria’s capital Abuja on Saturday between West African leaders. Countries in the CFA bloc and other West African nations such as Nigeria and Ghana have for decades debated creating their own currency to promote regional trade and investment.
The CFA franc was born in 1945 and at the time stood for “Colonies Francaises d’Afrique” (French Colonies in Africa).
It now stands for “Communaute Financiere Africaine” (African Financial Community) in West Africa and in Central Africa it means “Cooperation Financiere en Afrique Centrale” (Financial Cooperation in Central Africa).