Somalia: Somaliland Journalists Detained, Accused of “False News”​

Press Release

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New York — Somaliland authorities should immediately release Ahmed Sa’ed and Abdirahman Mohamed Ege, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today. Police on December 18 arrested the Somali journalists on allegations of publishing false news about the mayor of Berbera, a port city in the semi-autonomous region of Somaliland, according to Guleid Ahmed Jama, chairperson of the advocacy group Human Rights Center, and Yahye Mohamed, the Somaliland Journalists Association executive director.

Their arrests came after Abdirahman and Ahmed ran separate television stories both alleging the mayor, Abdishakur Mahmoud Hassan, misused public property, according to Yahye and Guleid.

“Somaliland authorities must immediately release Ahmed Sa’ed and Abdirahman Mohamed, and permit reporters to operate without fear of arrest,” Angela Quintal, CPJ Africa program coordinator, said from Durban, South Africa. “Somaliland’s new president, Muse Bihi Abdi, should seize the opportunity to end such blatant attempts to intimidate journalists and make press freedom a priority for his administration.”

Berbera Mayor Abdishakur Mahmoud Hassan did not answer a call and text message from CPJ.

Following the journalists’ arrest, Berbera authorities brought Ahmed, who works for the privately owned Saab TV, and Abdirahman, who works for the privately owned Eryal TV, to a local court, which remanded them for seven days pending further investigation, Guleid told CPJ.

The detentions of Abdirahman and Ahmed follow the arrest on December 5 ofAbdirisak Dayib Alil. His arrest came after CPJ conducted its most recent prison census, which indicated that on December 1 Somalia was jailing one journalist, Mohamed Adan Dirir.

Somaliland’s police commissioner, Abdullahi Fadal Iman, did not respond to phone calls and text messages for comment from CPJ.

Reached yesterday, the recently appointed information minister Abdurrahman Abdullahi Farah asked CPJ to contact him today. CPJ was unable to reach the minister today: the phone connection was poor and the spokesperson did not immediately return a text message seeking comment.

SOURCE : Committee ToProtect Journalists (CPJ)

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Israel says 10 more countries in talks about moving embassies to Jerusalem

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Honduras reportedly next in line after Guatemala announces relocation of mission; Togo, Paraguay, Romania and Slovakia also floated

Following Guatemala’s announcement Monday that it would move its embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, at least 10 other countries are in talks to move their own missions, Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely said.

In an interview with Israel Radio, she declined to say which states Israel was speaking with, but Channel 10 reported that the next country likely to announce an embassy move was Honduras.

Israel and Honduras, which borders Guatemala, have enjoyed very close ties over the past few years, and in 2016 signed an agreement under which Israel agreed to enhance the the Central American country’s armed forces in an unprecedented way, in order to fight organized crime.

Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez was reelected earlier this month in a hotly disputed election. He is a graduate of MASHAV, Israel’s Agency for International Development Cooperation, and spent time in Israel.

Along with Guatemala, Honduras was one of nine nations that voted “no” last week with the United States when the UN General Assembly overwhelmingly adopted a non-binding resolution denouncing US President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

Unlike Guatemala, whose embassy was in Jerusalem from the 1950s until 1980, Honduras never had its embassy in Israel’s capital.

Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein announced at a Likud party event Monday that the parliamentary heads of two other countries had spoken to him about moving their embassies from Tel Aviv. The Walla news site reported that representatives from Romania and Slovakia had expressed support for such a move and were working in their respective countries to effect it.

Other countries also reportedly in talks to move their embassies are South America’s Paraguay and the west African nation of Togo.

Guatemala was the first nation to pledge to move its mission to Jerusalem after US Trump on December 6 recognized the city as Israel’s capital and instructed the State Department to prepare to move the US embassy there from Tel Aviv. The Czech republic has also since recognized West Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. Russia recognized West Jerusalem in April.

In a December 6 address from the White House, Trump defied worldwide warnings and insisted that after repeated failures to achieve peace a new approach was long overdue, describing his decision to recognize Jerusalem as the seat of Israel’s government as merely based on reality.

The move was hailed by Netanyahu and by leaders across much of the Israeli political spectrum, but condemned by most of the international community. Trump stressed that he was not specifying the boundaries of Israeli sovereignty in the city, and called for no change in the status quo at the city’s holy sites.

Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales said on his official Facebook account on Sunday that after talks with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, he decided to instruct his foreign ministry to move the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

“We spoke about the excellent relations that we have had as nations since Guatemala supported the creation of the state of Israel,” Morales wrote. “One of the most important topics [of the conversation] was the return of the embassy of Guatemala to Jerusalem. So I inform you that I have instructed the chancellor to initiate the respective coordination so that it may happen.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday hailed Guatemala’s decision, predicting that other countries would soon follow suit.

“God bless you, my friend, President Jimmy Morales. God bless both our countries, Israel and Guatemala,” he said at the weekly Likud faction meeting in the Knesset.

“I told you recently there would be other countries that will recognize Jerusalem and move their embassies,” Netanyahu said, after reading out Morales’s official announcement to Likud MKs and reporters. “I repeat: There will be more, this is just the beginning.”

Marissa Newman and AP contributed to this report.

Source : The Times of Israel

Will Russian Peace Efforts Pay Off in Syria?

USIP experts discuss Putin-Assad meeting and what to expect from Russia-Turkey-Iran summit

Russian President Vladimir Putin welcomed Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to Sochi on Tuesday to discuss efforts to end the Syrian civil war. The presidents of Iran and Turkey are scheduled to meet Putin on Wednesday as Russia promises to scale back its military presence in Syria and push for a diplomatic solution.

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Destroyed buildings near the frontline in east Raqqa, Syria. The New York Times/Ivor Prickett
USIP Senior Advisor for Syria, Middle East and North Africa Mona Yacoubian and USIP Director of Middle East Programs Sarhang Hamasaeed provide analysis of the current situation.

What is the significance of the Putin-Assad meeting?

YACOUBIAN: This meeting–their second since Russia’s 2015 military intervention in Syria turned the tide of the civil war in Assad’s favor–comes amid a flurry of Russian-initiated diplomacy. Putin appears to be exploiting the confluence of two key dynamics– the impending military defeat of ISIS in Syria and Assad’s deepening consolidation of power—to promote a political settlement to end the Syrian conflict that leaves Assad in place and heightens Russia’s role as a regional power broker .

With Russian elections approaching in March, Putin is also likely eager to present Russian involvement in Syria as a “win” by pivoting from large-scale military intervention to securing the peace in Syria. During his meeting with Assad, Putin noted that Russian military operations are “wrapping up” and the “most important thing…is to move on the political questions.”

Notably absent from these meetings is the United States. What does that say about American influence and involvement in the region?

HAMASAEED: It’s no secret that the U.S. role has gradually diminished as its primary mission is to counter ISIS. As military operations against the group wrap up, America’s role could diminish even further. At the same time, Russia has taken the initiative on the broader issues of Syria and seeks to play a larger role in the region.

During the Obama administration, leaders and people in the Middle East criticized the United States for reducing its role and not doing enough to confront Assad and Iran. Although the political rhetoric about confronting Iran and its influence in Syria has been on the rise in the past year, there’s been little action to match those statements.

It’s also worth mentioning that Iraqi Vice President Osama al-Nujaifi said during his visit to USIP earlier this month that the U.S. role in the region is crucial, but America’s decision-making process is complicated and slow. He said regional actors therefore get drawn to Russia because they think they act faster and more decisively.

You could see this at work this week with the speed at which the Putin-Assad meeting happened and the plans for the Russia-Turkey-Iran summit.

Speaking of the Russia-Turkey-Iran meeting, what can reasonably be expected to come out of that?

YACOUBIAN: Look for the Sochi summit to focus on finding a political settlement to the nearly seven-year Syrian conflict. It will build on the so-called “Astana Process” (named for the Kazakh capital where Russia launched diplomatic efforts in January 2017) that established “de-escalation zones” guaranteed by Russia, Iran, and Turkey. (The United States is an observer at Astana but does not participate directly).

The leaders will also likely seek to address several outstanding issues that have inhibited peace talks in the past. Recent developments suggest Moscow may have already made some headway on the thorniest issue – the fate of Assad—in preparation for the summit.  The long-standing demand by Syria’s fractious political opposition (and much of the international community) that Assad must go as precondition for a political settlement may be easing.  Riyad Hijab, head of the High Negotiation Committee (HNC), and other HNC members recently resigned in protest over moves to unify the political opposition under a more malleable platform that would allow Assad to stay.

Another sticking point is the role of the Kurds, as Turkey has repeatedly insisted that Syrian Kurds cannot participate in peace talks. Turkish President Erdogan has consistently underscored Turkey’s unwillingness to tolerate a contiguous Kurdish semi-autonomous region along its border.

Erdogan has demanded that Afrin in northwestern Syria be “cleansed of [Kurdish] terror organizations.”  Erdogan and Putin met last week to discuss these issues. The summit will offer some indication of whether this issue is moving toward resolution.

On the issue of Assad’s future, how could any future peace agreement be sustainable if he remains in power after Assad presided over the deaths of so many thousands of people?

YACOUBIAN: It’s very difficult to envision lasting peace while Assad remains.

Although many Syrians are fatigued by the conflict and would like to see an end to the hostilities, an agreement leaving Assad in power means fundamental grievances will remain unaddressed. Islamic extremist groups, including remnants of the Islamic State, will continue to fight as a well-armed insurgency.

Many in the international community, including the United States, have said they will not contribute to reconstruction efforts while Assad is in power.  Yet stabilization and reconstruction needs will be enormous as Syria struggles to revive its economy and rebuild. Barring progress on reconstruction, Syria’s millions of displaced will have a difficult time returning home. Under these circumstances, it is hard to see a lasting solution with Assad still in power.

Nigeria’s Imam and Pastor: Faith at the Front

Adversaries Became Friends and Devoted Their Lives to Easing Muslim-Christian Tensions

By: USIP Staff

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In Northern Nigeria, where clashes between Christians and Muslims have claimed thousands of lives and torn communities apart, two prominent clergymen believe religion can also be a way toward peace.

Imam Muhammad Ashafa and Pastor James Wuye are both from Kaduna and fought on opposite sides during religious violence in 1992 that left thousands dead. Ashafa lost two cousins and a teacher in the conflict. Pastor James lost his right hand.“Most of us as youth, we went wild for vengeance,” says Ashafa. “We took revenge on innocent Christians who were living in our own communities.”

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Ashafa and Wuye came out of that experience determined not to let it happen again. Introduced several years later, they eventually began working together to bridge differences and cool tensions between Nigerian Muslims and Christians. They established the Interfaith Mediation Center  and, working with USIP, mediated a lasting peace agreement in the area of Yelwa-Shendam in Plateau state in 2004-05 after more than a thousand people were killed in religious violence. With seed funding from USIP, the center grew it into an institution that has gone on to  train others  in their own country as well as in Kenya, Iraq, Sri Lanka and elsewhere in strategies to resolve conflict without violence.

Nigeria is Africa’s most populous country and largest democracy. With its oil reserves and agricultural sector, it is a crucial economic engine for the continent, and its position in the Lake Chad Basin and along Africa’s Sahel region makes it strategically valuable in the fight against global extremism.

But Northern Nigeria is riddled with political, economic, religious and social fissures that can turn deadly and destabilize the area. Interreligious and interethnic violence has erupted in Kaduna and Plateau states and elsewhere, leaving thousands dead, hundreds of thousands displaced and millions of lives changed forever.

Militancy and Radicalism

Militancy and radicalism also are on the rise in the region, most notably with the emergence of the Boko Haram terrorist group, which conducts attacks on civilians, including schools. Northern Nigeria’s crises, including the Boko Haram insurgency, have forced more than 2 million people from farms and villages. The resulting turmoil has destabilized other countries in the Lake Chad Basin and most recently triggered a famine.

Although the violence is fueled by such factors as land disputes, corruption, political inequality, and climate change that turns agricultural land into desert, the fighting is often couched in the form of religious disputes, pitting the huge Christian and Muslim communities against each other.

“Religious leaders are in especially strong positions to connect local communities and their concerns with wider political discussions and initiatives to address problems such as corrupt, ineffective, or exclusionary government,” says Susan Hayward, USIP’s senior advisor on religion  and inclusive societies.

“For more than 25 years, we’ve been committed to understanding and engaging religious actors and factors in zones of conflict,” she says.

In Nigeria, USIP works with a range of Christian and Muslim leaders, including Roman Catholic Cardinal John Onaiyekan, who is the Archbishop of the capital, Abuja, and the Sultan of Sokoto, Muhammadu Sa’ad Abubakar III, Nigeria’s highest authority in mainstream Islam. The two are well-known for their Interfaith Initiative for Peace, which seeks to defuse conflict over issues ranging from elections to land use.

Female Religious Leaders

USIP also assists interfaith and peacemaking efforts by female religious leaders such as Pastor Esther Ibanga, the late Bilkisu Yusuf and Sheikha Khadija Gambo Hawajah. Ibanga, a civil society leader from Plateau state, is founder and president of the Women Without Walls initiative and recipient of the prestigious Niwano Peace Prize honoring her efforts to promote women’s empowerment and peace. USIP worked with her as part of its Women Preventing Extreme Violence Project. Yusuf was a pioneering Muslim journalist, presidential advisor, and advocate of interfaith society. And Hawajah is chairperson of the Plateau State Muslim Women Peace Forum.

“These interfaith meetings build relationships between communities and security forces to prevent violence, and simultaneously help heal divisions that have resulted from decades of violence and conflict,” says Hayward.

A review of the Interfaith Mediation Center’s 2004-05 project in Plateau state found that dialogue was a critical tool in establishing the conditions that led to the signing of the peace accord. The agreement successfully ended hostilities, built trust and laid the foundation for social cohesion among the diverse ethnic and religious groups in the area.

The assessment also concluded that such efforts need to be accompanied by work to make government more effective and legitimate, to help address conflicts before they become violent.

“Grassroots dialogues are important for reducing violence, but we’ve found they need to be complemented by changes in governance,” says Oge Onubogu, a USIP senior program officer for Africa.

That’s why USIP also works withNorthern Nigerian Governor , who have outsized influence in pivotal areas where Boko Haram operates. Also, a year-old USIP-supported working group of eminent  civic leaders has pledged to support the governors in developing strategic, long-term plans for improvements. One of the working group’s projects, for example, is to examine a new peace building organization established by the governor of Plateau state to see if it’s a model that other northern states could use. The governor was speaker of the Plateau State House of Assembly, representing Shendam, in 2005 and worked with Pastor James and Imam Ashafa on their peacemaking project.

Ultimately, the aim is to build a larger community of grassroots activists and senior government officials in Nigeria with the tools and skills to effectively mediate and address grievances and disputes before they turn violence.

“We need to replicate ourselves,” says Pastor Wuye about his work with Imam Ashafa. “More imams, more pastors, more young women and community leaders to carry this banner.”

Source :USIP

About Behaviour                           About Attitude

Preventing Election Violence in Liberia

By: Jonas Claes; Inken von Borzyskowski

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Liberia will hold presidential and legislative elections on October 10. The run-up to the vote has been primarily peaceful, and the country has engaged in ongoing efforts to prevent election violence. This Peace Brief, based on USIP research, assesses the risk of election violence and the scope of violence prevention efforts, and provides recommendations for ongoing prevention.

Summary

  • There is reason for optimism as Liberia prepares for its October 10 elections. Thus far the run-up to the vote has been calm and peaceful, with few instances of hate speech and property damage reported and no intimidation or physical attacks. A peaceful transition of power would be an impressive achievement considering Liberia’s brutal civil wars ended only fourteen years ago.
  • Despite the cautious optimism there is no room for complacency as tensions could escalate rapidly. Most concerning are budget gaps and the lack of institutional strength that, even with significant international investments, could prevent the Liberian National Police and National Election Commission from providing adequate election administration and security.
  • Ongoing efforts to prevent election violence, including domestic and international election observation and peace messaging efforts, may help the country achieve this important milestone in its recovery from civil war.
  • In the coming weeks, international diplomats should coordinate with African leaders in the region and encourage the leading candidates to call for restraint and live up to their commitments to avoid violence.

Introduction

On October 10, the people of Liberia will participate in critical presidential and legislative elections in what may become Liberia’s first post-war transition between democratically elected governments. Considering the overwhelming development challenges Liberian institutions face, peaceful elections cannot be taken for granted. Elections often present significant challenges in countries that recently emerged from violent conflict, but Liberia may be defeating the odds. Civil society, the police, the electoral commission, international diplomats and—above all—leading Liberian politicians will further determine whether the country’s fragile peace will hold.

Sources of Conflict

Liberia remains one of the least developed countries worldwide. Roughly the size of Virginia, the country was battered by two civil wars (1989–2003) that claimed the lives of 250,000 Liberians, and experienced an Ebola crisis (2014–2015) that killed another 4,800 people. Liberians appreciate the political stability of the past fourteen years but remain cognizant about the risk elections pose to peace. A nationally representative survey indicated that a majority of Liberians (61 percent) were convinced that election disputes could reignite violent conflict.1

As provided for by the country’s constitution, current Liberian President Ellen Sirleaf will leave office in 2017 after two terms (2005, 2011). The 2017 presidential race is quite competitive, with two major and several other presidential candidates, and almost one thousand candidates for the 73 seats in the House of Representatives. About half of all voters (49 percent) are undecided, according to a recent poll. One of the current frontrunners is Joseph Boakai, who also served as vice president under Sirleaf, from the president’s Unity Party. His main challenger is George Weah, leader of the opposition Coalition for Democratic Change.2 Weah ran for president in 2005, for vice president in 2011, and remains popular among the growing youth population. His vice presidential candidate is Jewel Howard Taylor, the former wife of warlord Charles Taylor, who maintains a broad support base. Other contenders include Charles Brumskine, leader of the Liberty Party, Benoni Urey of the All Liberian Party, Senator Prince Johnson of the Movement for Democracy and Reconstruction, and Alexander Cummings of the Alternative National Congress.

In its previous post-conflict elections (2005 and 2011) Liberia experienced limited violence despite significant administrative flaws and heated rhetoric. The memory of civil war was still fresh, the international community endorsed the elections, and the political elite generally kept their cool in the face of technical challenges, urging restraint among their supporters.

Despite optimistic expectations for peaceful elections, important sources of conflict remain that could escalate into violence. Primary concerns are budget gaps and institutional weaknesses that can prevent the election commission and Liberian National Police from guaranteeing adequate election administration and security. Any technical mistakes or delays by the National Election Commission, any real or perceived fraud, and a close or tense race may encourage candidates to mobilize their supporters and challenge the election result.

Moreover, the recent enforcement of a national Code of Conduct has raised tensions among political candidates and their supporters. Section 5.2 of the Code requires ministers and other officials who want to run for an elected office to step down at least two years prior to election day. Presidential appointees with tenure positions are required to resign three years prior. The rule is designed to prevent the use of state resources to fund campaigns, but was heavily contested as it could block several lead candidates from participating in the 2017 elections.

Elections often present significant challenges in countries that recently emerged from violent conflict, but Liberia may be defeating the odds.

Whether the elections are a democratic success or precipitate a return to violence is to some extent determined by the efforts taken to prevent election violence—first and foremost by the leading candidates, but also by election observers, the election commission, police, international diplomats, and civil society. Currently, various efforts are ongoing to prevent election violence, including engaging youth constructively, restoring popular trust in the Liberian police, and ensuring the ability of the National Election Commission to hold credible elections.USIP research in Liberia aims to assess the risk of election violence in carefully selected counties and the effectiveness of the most common and promising tools to prevent its outbreak. The findings will help identify ways to prevent violence with demonstrated impact, prioritize efforts in the upcoming months, and develop more effective remedies for future elections in Liberia and other countries.

The Road to a Critical Election—Will Prevention Work?

With the support of the Liberia-based Center for Democratic Governance, USIP conducted a survey in 150 communities across Montserrado, Nimba, Lofa, and Bong counties, interviewing 1,050 community representatives. The communities were randomly selected from a larger pool of towns at risk of election violence, as they are all voter-rich and have some history of local conflict. The baseline data gathered through USIP research offers an initial indication of the risk of violence and the scope of violence prevention efforts, and may help inform ongoing prevention efforts. The same respondents will be interviewed again after the election to assess the impact of prevention activity.

The scope of violence prevention programming in Liberia has varied. The USIP survey indicated that election monitoring, peace messaging, and—to a lesser extent—civic and voter education are widely used to promote credible elections and prevent violence. Respondents valued the role of monitors in helping to reduce violence and prevent fraud. Peace messaging efforts were praised for their inclusive character: 91 percent of respondents indicate that peace messages usually reach all members of society. Civic education finds a fertile environment in Liberia, since most Liberians already demonstrate strong civic attitudes, recognizing the value of democracy and the importance of peaceful participation in elections.

Despite several ongoing initiatives, including a youth debate series and leadership trainings held by NAYMOTE,3 the survey revealed a striking need for youth programming outside Monrovia. Youth are important because children were heavily recruited during the civil wars, particularly by the army of Charles Taylor. Without appropriate education, training, or employable skills, today’s youth (ages 18–34) could be easily mobilized by charismatic politicians.

Citizens consider the police a trustworthy security provider. However, Liberian respondents also indicate that police are rarely present to prevent election violence and do not have the necessary resources to guarantee election security. Building a capable police force remains a priority given the gradual withdrawal of the UN Mission in Liberia, which helped provide election security after the civil war. Despite significant capacity-building efforts, the budget and equipment of the Liberian National Police does not match its increased responsibilities for election security, especially in the communities outside of Monrovia. A majority of Liberian respondents (57 percent) have not communicated with police officers about election security, and most (82 percent) think that police officers do not protect all voters and candidates equally.

Unlike the Liberian National Police, the National Election Commission is perceived by Liberian respondents as well prepared to organize free, fair, and credible elections, and received praise for its voter registration drive. That said, the National Election Commission has sizeable shortages in budget and equipment to organize smooth elections during the rainy season and is often confronted with impassable roads and a poorly informed electorate. Respondents’ preferred point of contact for complaints about the election is security forces or community authorities rather than the National Election Commission4, and only about half of Liberian respondents know their local National Election Commission magistrate.

Given the limited institutional capacity in Liberia, international efforts are mainly focused on technical election assistance.5 The European Union, the UN Development Program, and the US government fund the majority of programs and materials needed to ensure a credible election process. International donors seem to be focused on the right priorities, emphasizing support for both the election and security authorities as, according to prior USIP research, these are often critical in mitigating election violence.6 Internationals also engage in preventive diplomacy, but only 17 percent of Liberians interviewed think foreign diplomats can influence local leaders. The UN Mission in Liberia is considered the most influential diplomatic presence to engage on election security, followed by the US Embassy and the Economic Community of West African States.

Risk of Violence in the Months Ahead

The election process has been calm and peaceful thus far, with few instances of hate speech reported between parties and some damage to posters and banners at the start of the campaign period. While the risk of violence remains low in the coming weeks and months, promising indications should not lead to complacency as significant capacity gaps remain.

Domestic and international election observers play a valuable role in detecting technical deficien-cies, but should also report on intimidation, gender-based violence, hate speech, and other forms of election violence. Support for youth programming and the build-up of a capable police force should not end on election day, but carry forward across several election cycles.

While international prevention efforts can help, Liberian politicians and institutions hold the keys to peaceful elections. International diplomats should coordinate with African leaders in the region and encourage the leading candidates to call for restraint, and live up to their commitments to avoid violence. So far, there is reason for optimism. The election process will not be perfect (it rarely is), but Liberia seems well on its way to a historic election.

Notes

  1. “State of Peace, Reconciliation, and Conflict in Liberia,” Catholic Relief Services Report Brief, (2016): 8, www.crs.org/sites/default/files/tools-research/state-of-peace-reconciliation-liberia_0.pdf.
  2. The Coalition for Democratic Change includes the Congress for Democratic Change, National Patriotic Party, and Liberia’s People Democratic Party.
  3. NAYMOTE–Partners for Democratic Development is a grassroots organization promoting democracy, peacebuilding, and human rights by empowering community representatives and youth leaders in Liberia.
  4. The NEC and local magistrates are mandated to hear and investigate complaints.
  5. Inken von Borzyskowski, 2016, “Who Seeks and Receives Technical Election Assistance?” Review of International Organizations, 11, no. 2 (2016): 247–82, http://www.borzyskowski.net/wp-content/uploads/Technical-Election-Assistance.pdf.
  6. Jonas Claes and Geoffrey Macdonald, “Findings and Conclusions,” in Electing Peace, ed. Jonas Claes (Washington, DC: United States Institute of Peace, 2016): 200–01.

About this Brief

Through evaluative research the US Institute of Peace aims to identify what works to prevent election violence in Liberia. This preliminary analysis is based on baseline findings from Montserrado, Nimba, Lofa, and Bong counties, and offers insight into the risk of violence and the scope of prevention efforts. Jonas Claes is a senior program officer at USIP, where he conducts research and analysis on the prevention of election violence. Inken von Borzyskowski is an assistant professor of political science at Florida State University. Her research focuses on international organizations and their effect on domestic conflict and elections.

Source : United States Institute of Peace

Troops, Reforms, Regional Role Define Afghanistan Plan

U.S. Officials Brief at USIP to Fill in Details of Trump Announcement

By: USIP Staff

Along with military pressure to coax the Taliban into a peace process, the new U.S. plan for Afghanistan will support government reforms such as tackling corruption, economic development to make the country less dependent on foreign aid and diplomacy to persuade Pakistan to help—rather than hurt—the cause, top U.S. officials said in a briefing at the U.S. Institute of Peace today.

Farmers working in a field in the Shibar Valley in Bamian province, Afghanistan.

Farmers working in a field in the Shibar Valley, July 2016. The farmers’ unions in Afghanistan help ensure a more reliable/diverse food supply, while also empowering its female leadership. Photo Courtesy of The New York Times/Adam Ferguson
“We’re not looking at nation-building or economic development as an end in itself,” said one of four senior administration officials who briefed two dozen policy experts from a range of research institutions to explain and respond to questions about the plan President Trump announced in a prime-time television address on Aug. 21. But support to Afghanistan is “necessary to protect the ultimate goal of a stable Afghanistan, where the government is in control of the territory and terrorists cannot set up shop there.”

The briefing aimed to add details to the military, political and economic plan the new administration will pursue to achieve the goal, which one official described as “a political settlement between the Afghan government and the Taliban that protects vital U.S. national security interests.” The officials spoke on condition they not be identified by name, to allow a more candid discussion.

The plan calls first of all for increasing military pressure on the Taliban to reverse some of its gains in recent years, as the militants have retaken parts of Helmand Province in the south and briefly twice seized control of the major northern city of Kunduz. ISIS, too, has made inroads, prompting the U.S. to drop its largest non-nuclear bomb for the first time in combat in April, to destroy a system of bunkers and tunnels the group was using in Nangarhar Province in the country’s east. The influence of ISIS also is turning more Taliban members to further extremes, one of the senior officials said.

The heaviest burden … will still be borne by the Afghan people.

U.S. senior administration official
Trump’s announcement this week didn’t specify the number of American troops that might be added to the current contingent of 8,400, down from a peak of 100,000 in 2010-2011, but news reports say the Defense Department has authorization to add as many as 3,900. The U.S. will work with Afghan forces to step up counter-terrorism operations and to increase training, advising and assistance, the senior officials said. NATO allies and partners also will continue their contributions to the mission, they said.

“We believe this will send a clear message to the Taliban that you can’t wait us out,” one official said. “The heaviest burden, though,” another said, “will still be borne by the Afghan people and their security forces.”Afghanistan lost some 6,700 soldiers in the fighting last year alone, another official noted, adding, “I don’t think we can doubt the commitment of Afghan security forces.”

‘Kabul Compact’

Government reform will be a key element to sustaining a more stable Afghanistan, the officials said. One outlined a recent “Kabul Compact” initiated by Afghan President Ghani and co-led by his governing coalition partner, Chief Executive Officer Abdullah Abdullah, as well as U.S. Ambassador Hugo Llorens and U.S. Army General John W. Nicholson, the top U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan. The four met this week to discuss the compact’s four lines of effort on governance, economic development, the peace process and security.

“The Afghans have already made significant progress on some of its elements, including replacing 150 ineffective or corrupt generals and filing corruption charges against prominent business people,” one official said. “The Afghans have to build their own nation; we can’t do this for them. But we can work with them as friends and encourage the kinds of reforms that we think are necessary.”

One official expressed confidence that the Trump administration will have the funding needed for a range of effective assistance to Afghanistan, considering its requested budget for fiscal year 2018 and remaining funding for longer-term projects such as infrastructure. “There’s no dearth of assistance to be working our objectives over the next several years.”

The U.S. also will revive regional peace efforts to persuade the Taliban to negotiate, including pressure on Pakistan to eliminate safe havens for the group across the border, and measures to cut off other supply lines. The officials didn’t specifically mention Russia and Iran, but reports have surfaced in recent months that the Taliban are getting weapons and other new support from those sources as well.

The officials repeated several times that the U.S. considers Pakistan an “important partner” that shares many common interests—and enemies—and that the U.S. recognizes the sacrifices Pakistan has made in the fight against certain terrorist elements.  The officials said they aim for a “mature, constructive relationship” with Pakistan even as the U.S. develops strategic ties with India and encourages India to support democracy and economic development in Afghanistan.

Nuclear Weapons

Pakistan and India have fought repeated wars and skirmishes along their disputed border, and Pakistan’s security establishment supports the Taliban to maintain influence over Afghanistan as a defense against being encircled by hostile forces. The fact that both Pakistan and India have nuclear weapons continues to concern the U.S., too, the senior officials said.

“We are particularly concerned by the development of tactical nuclear weapons that are designed for battlefield use,” one of the administration officials said. “We see these as more susceptible to terrorist theft and also increasing the likelihood of nuclear exchange in the region.”

As a result, the U.S. will urge India and Pakistan to take confidence-building steps and re-engage in dialogue about their points of tension.

But the U.S. reserves the right to use “more punitive, more disruptive, persuasive” measures if needed, and American officials will take up most such issues with Pakistani counterparts “in private,” one official said. U.S. talks will “mark a change in how we approach the challenge of terrorist safe havens in Pakistan,” and likely will play out over time, rather than immediately, the officials said. One reiterated Trump’s warning, saying Pakistan “has a lot to gain” by working with the U.S. and “a lot to lose if it fails to take adequate steps.”

The gains would include close involvement in any peace process for Afghanistan, as part of regional groupings. “We understand Pakistan has legitimate interests in Afghanistan and what happens there.”

The losses might involve, for example, U.S. security assistance, which already has fallen in recent years.

China could be key to “encouraging better behavior” by Pakistan and giving it the confidence “to engage in a more constructive fashion,” one official said. The  Chinese “want to play a bigger role. We’ve seen the foreign minister do shuttle diplomacy between Afghanistan and Pakistan.”

Source : United States Institute of Peace

How to End the War in Ukraine

With a New Envoy, U.S. Can Energize Peace Efforts Based on Sovereignty, Regional Stability

By:Willima B. Taylor ; Viola Gienger

The recently expanded U.S. sanctions against Russia, preparations for a massive Russian military exercise next door to NATO allies in September and a spike in casualties this year on the battlefields of Ukraine are powerful reminders of the threat posed to European and U.S. security of a conflict now in its fourth year. But the sanctions, together with a new envoy from Washington, set the stage for the U.S. to invigorate what has been a stalled peace process to end the war between Russia and Ukraine.

The damaged roof of a residential building hit by artillery fire near the front lines in Avdiivka, Ukraine.

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Terrorists Should Be Sentenced to Death-Israeli PM

Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu  has declared that the time has come for terrorists to face the  death penalty, when caught.

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Netanyahu made this declaration, when himself and his wife  paid a condolence visit to the Salomon Family home in Elad.

“My position as prime minister, in the case of such a lowly murderer, is that he should be executed, so that he will smile no more” Netanyahu said, referring to the testimony of Tova Salomon who was wounded in the attack, who said that the terrorist smiled before he started stabbing her and her family members”, the Prime Minister stated.

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South Sudan: Friendship Over Fear

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A civil war that has plagued South Sudan, the world’s newest country, over the past four years verges on ethnic genocide and has left half the prewar population in need of humanitarian aid. As the international community tries to help end the violence, the U.S. Institute of Peace brought two of the country’s promising young leaders—one from each side of the divide—to Washington to pursue research on ways to heal the rifts. By the end of their stay, they may have learned just as much from each other.Read more……

 

 

Allies Under Attack: The Terrorist Threat to Europe

Georgia Holmer testifies before the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Terrorism, Nonproliferation and Trade.

By: Georgia Holmer

I testify before you today as the Director of Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) at the United States Institute of Peace, although the views expressed here are my own. USIP was established by Congress over 30 years ago as an independent, national institute to prevent and resolve violent conflicts abroad, in accordance with U.S. national interests and values. Violent extremism and terrorism pose significant challenges to peace and security in our world today, and understanding its causes and finding ways to address it are priorities for USIP.  Read more……..

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