Human Rights Flashpoints – August 25, 2009

August 25, 2009

NIGERIA – Instability Despite an Amnesty Deal
Hundreds of militants in the Niger Delta region of Nigeria, including one of the main rebels group’s (Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, MEND) top commanders Ebikabowei Victor Ben, have begun to hand over their weapons as part of an amnesty deal offered by Nigerian president Umaru Yar’Adua. According to the BBC, the weapons handed over included hundreds of assault rifles, several rocket launchers and at least 12 gunboats.

However, factions of MEND have rejected the government’s amnesty offer and have pledged to resume attacks once the ceasefire is over on September 15. Security analysts warn that the Nigerian military will likely launch another major offensive against militants who do not accept the amnesty deal once the 60-day offer period officially ends on October 4.

In a separate development, Reuters reports that Nigerian police broke up an Islamic community in the western part of Nigeria and deported dozens of its members to avert renewed violence, such as last month’s clashes with the Boko Haram Islamic sect which reportedly took the lives of 800 people. The Darul Islam community was reported to be forcibly holding women to be wives.


We also support the Nigerian Government’s comprehensive political framework approach toward resolving the conflict in the Niger Delta. This process […] is incorporating the region’s stakeholders as absolutely essential, focusing on the region’s development needs, separating out the militants and the unreconcilables from those who deserve amnesty and want to be part of building a better future for that part of Nigeria – US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, August 12, 2009

[MEND] should reconsider their stand and join the amnesty boat because the boat is about to sail –  Timiebi Koripamo, Agary, Spokeswoman for the Presidential Panel on Amnesty. 

YEMEN – Renewed Violence in the North
Over 100,000 people have been forced to flee and scores killed due to renewed fighting in the north of the country between government troops and Shi’ite rebels. The United Nations reported on Friday that at least 35,000 fled their homes in the past two weeks alone , while UNICEF reports that thousands of families remain trapped inside the conflict zone and are in urgent need of humanitarian support.

The BBC reports that Operation Scorched Earth, which begun two weeks ago, is aimed at crushing the rebels and recapturing the town of Harf Sufyan. But analysts argue that this latest assault is unlikely to end this 5-year long conflict and may only deepen instability in Yemen. 
The rebels, known as the Houthis after their present leader Abdul-Malek al-Houthi, are adherents of the Zaydi branch of Shi’ite Islam and claim the government is oppressing the Zaydis. The rebels also oppose the Yemeni government’s support for the US-led “war on terror.” The Yemeni government enlisted  the support of the US after September 11, accusing the Houthis of having links to al Qaeda, Iran and Hezbollah. Although Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh unilaterally declared the war over in July 2008, full-scale fighting resumed late last month.


We call on both parties to return to the cease fire that was established last year. In the meantime, both parties should avoid any action that would endanger the civilian population in the affected area. We also call on both parties to ensure the security of local and international relief workers in the region, and the safe passage of emergency relief supplies to camps housing internally displaced persons – Statement of U.S. Embassy in Yemen, August 22, 2009

UNICEF stands ready to assist the civilian population. It is essential that we gain immediate and secure access to provide urgently needed humanitarian assistance. Children cannot be the innocent victims of conflict – Ann M. Veneman, UNICEF Executive Director, August 24, 2009

Coming This Week

  • August 24-28: Kenya holds its first national census in 10 years.
  • August 25: Independent Election Commission expected to release partial results of Afghan elections.
  • August 26: Celebrations in the breakaway region of South Ossetia to mark the one year anniversary Russian recognition of its independence following the war with Georgia
  • August 27: South African President and SADC chairman Jacob Zuma makes his first state visit to Zimbabwe.

Juliette Rousselot contributed to this post.

Human Rights Flashpoints is a weekly column about countries at risk of escalating human rights violations and is brought to you by AIUSA’s Crisis Prevention and Response team