Dagestan on the Brink

Makhachkala, the capital city of Dagestan. Photo: Bolshakov/flickr

On September 15, 2012 Dagestan, a Russian republic located next to Chechnya in the North Caucasus, was celebrating its Day of National Unity [ru]. While the holiday always seems to be forced upon Dagestan the need for unity is undoubtedly important for the region.

The North Caucasus is one of the most ethnically diverse regions of Russia, and Dagestan is no exception. Its largest ethnic group, the Avar, make up only 30% of the population – the rest is split between a dozen small nationalities.

Ethnic division combined with high levels of unemployment is a recipe for volatility. Opposition leader Eduard Limonov blogged on August 15 [ru]:

[The] impression is that Dagestan is about to stop being a territory of the Russian Federation, because every day we learn of subversive acts, murders and attacks …This is a classic beginning of a civil war.

Two weeks later talk of civil war [ru] was on everyone’s mind. On August 28, Said Afandi, a Sufi Sheikh and one of Dagestan’s most prominent religious scholars, was killed by a female suicide bomber [ru]. The bomber was a Salafi Muslim, and the killing was a manifestation of the tension between the republic’s traditional Sunni Sufis and a growing fundamentalist movement, according to Dagestani blogger[ru] Saif Nuri. » More

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Madagascar Struggles to Control Domestic Instability

Student clash in Madagascar. Photo: r1_lita/flickr

Following the deaths of around a hundred people in southern Madagascar in clashes between zebu cattle rustlers (“dahalo”) and farmers, the government has decided to take special security measures to restore order. The violence is a symptom of the growing political instability in Madagascar that is affecting urban centers as well as rural communities.

People’s Justice in the South

Thefts and armed attacks are a recurring problem in Madagascar and have been growing more and more frequent since the political crisis in 2009. To overcome this problem, a national counter-instability plan [fr] was formally introduced in April 2012. The government has now mobilized the armed forces in the capital as well as in areas particularly affected by cattle theft.

However, initial attempts at stabilizing the southern region were far from successful. As Alain Rajaonarivony explains [fr]:

The military campaign carried out against the dahalo in the bush of the great south in June and July 2012 was a disaster. Not only were they more familiar with the local terrain, the dahalo were also just as well equipped as the government forces – and the lack of helicopters was sorely felt by the latter. The government forces were especially noted not for their combat ability but for their atrocities, when they burnt villages that could serve as support bases for the dahalo. » More

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Afghans Show Restraint Over Anti-Islam Film

Protests against the anti-Islam movie in the Eastern Nengarhar province. Photo by: Ehsan Amiri

Afghanistan blocked access to YouTube for the first time on September 12, 2012 after the trailer for the highly-controversial film the highly-controversial film the Innocence of Muslims was disseminated online.

The film was allegedly produced by Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, an Egyptian-American Coptic Christian and portrays the Prophet Mohammed as a philanderer and a religious fake. This sparked protests in many Islamic countries and led to the killing of a US ambassador and three other American diplomats in Libya.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai said that the filmmakers had engaged in a ”devilish act” and that insulting Islam is not permitted by freedom of speech. Aimal Marjan, the general director of Information Technology at the Ministry of Communications told Reuters that they had been asked to block YouTube until the film was removed. » More

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Combatting Cocaine Production in Bolivia, Colombia and Peru

Destroying coca plants in the lush mountains in Medellin, Colombia. Photo by Viewpress. Copyright Demotix (05/30/2012)

Destroying coca plants in the lush mountains in Medellin, Colombia. Photo by Viewpress. Copyright Demotix (05/30/2012)

The coca plant is native to the Andes. Its bush has been cultivated and traditionally consumed by local people for centuries. Many products and the leaves themselves can be legally purchased in Peru and Bolivia.

However, coca leaves are also the raw material for the production of cocaine. As a result, Peru, Colombia and Bolivia are the three largest illegal cocaine producing countries in the world.

According to the UNODC World Drug Report 2012 there was an overall decline in global production of cocaine between 2006 and 2010. This was in part due to the reduction of coca bush cultivation in Colombia. In spite of this, the report also underlines that in the same period coca bush cultivation and cocaine production actually increased in Bolivia and Peru. » More

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Pakistan: The Long Road to Peace and Security

Flags flying in Pakistan on the occasion of Independence Day. Flickr photo by Ejaz Asi, CC BY-NC 2.0

As Pakistan enters its 66th year of independence, -it is a good time to take stock of the country’s internal security dynamics in order to understand how these impact upon the overall security and stability of South Asia.

According to the Pakistan Institute for Peace Studies’ (PIPS) Pakistan Security Report, 2011 [pdf], while the country continues to rank “among the most volatile regions in the world”, there has been some improvement in its overall security situation, especially since the later part of 2011. The report states:

“The last half of the year 2011 was a period of comparative peace in Pakistan in terms of internal armed conflict, acts of terrorism and the consequent casualties. A decrease in the number of suicide attacks and drone strikes were the major contributing factors… the security situation is slowly improving as violence has decreased 24 percent in the last two years.” » More

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