Copts and Muslims Clash

Copts and Muslims Clash

            There have been many clashes between the Muslims and the Copts throughout Egypt.  The recent conflicts between the two religious groups began on June 8, 2007. It began with rioting, and looting in the Coptic quarter of the city of Zwyet Abdel-Qader.  On June 12, 2007, another uprising broke out between two construction workers, culminating with vandalism of a Coptic church.  The next clash occurred at Saft Maidoum.  It arose over a bicycle accident between a Coptic man and a Muslim girl. After the accident, the girl fainted. Believing that their daughter was dead, the child’s parents attacked the Copt’s family.  Four people were injured and 35 were arrested.  A couple days later, 20 people were detained and 13 people were injured, over a controversial court ruling regarding the appropriation of land to some of the Copts.

            The Copts are a Christian sect.  They compose 10% of the Egyptian population.  They have had a rivalry with the Islamic militants.   The most deadly clash between the Copts and Muslims was in 2000, when 22 people were killed in once incident, 21 Copts and one Muslim. The tensions had been more relaxed in the past few years.

            The Copts have faced discrimination from the government. Until recently, they had to get approval from the government, for any minimal improvements done at a church. The children born into the Coptic Church are made to tattoo crosses on their wrists when they are very young. This separates those who were born into the Coptic Church, from those who convert to Christianity later.

            The Copts have not been protected by the Egyptian government, despite the fact that they have suffered greatly as the hands of militants. Yet the government is slow at capturing the Copts attackers. For example, no one involved  in the attack in 2000 where 21 Copts were killed  are still in prison.   It is possibly because the Egyptian government is looking for a way to excuse its aggressive crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood.  The problem with the government’s reasoning is the fact that the Muslim Brotherhood is a political group, while the Copts are a people group. 

Al-Ahram. Fanning the Flames. 21 June 2007.

IPSnews. Egypt: Clashes Could Bring Sectarian Conflict. 21 June 2007.

BosNewsLife. Egypt Detains Six After Clashes Between Muslims and Christians. 16 June 2007.

Gulf Times. 13 hurt in Egyptian sectarian conflict. 17 June 2007.

Afghan civilian death toll continues to rise

American and NATO forces in Afghanistan have killed at least 203 civilians so far this year.

In the past ten days, airstrikes and artillery fire targeting Taliban insurgents have killed more than 90 civilians.

Separate figures from the U.N. and Afghan and international aid groups show that the numbers of civilians killed by international forces is about equal to those killed by insurgents.

Accurate civilian death tolls are hard to come by because militants often wear civilian clothing and seek shelter in homes. Also it is not unusual for Afghans to have weapons in their homes.

The Associated Press count of civilian casualties is based on reports from Afghan and foreign officials and witnesses through Saturday, June 23. Of the 399 civilian deaths this year, 18 civilians were killed in crossfire between Taliban militants and foreign forces.

Earlier Saturday, a rocket hit a house in Pakistani territory killing nine civilians — during a battle in which NATO and American forces killed 60 suspected Taliban.

Other fighting on Saturday left some 20 militants and one coalition soldier dead.

For more information, please see:,8599,1636551,00.html

New UN Report Says Sudan Conflict Fueled By Climate Change

By Impunity Watch Africa

A recent report by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) has concluded that the conflict in Darfur is being driven and fueled by climate change and environmental degradation.  This report follows an eighteen-month study of Sudan and concludes that Darfur holds grim lessons not only for their own country, but for other countries at risk, particularly Chad and southern Africa.   The report also warns that the Darfur tragedy could be repeated throughout North Africa and the Middle East as the result of growing populations fighting over limited water supplies and resources.

The precarious peace signed between north and south Sudan in 2005 may be at risk, due to declining rainfall and the advancement of the Sahara.  The resulting tensions between farmers and herders over evaporating water holes and disappearing pastures threaten to reignite the half-century war.  The southern Nuba tribe has warned that they could “restart the war” because Arab nomads – themselves pushed south due to a drought – are cutting down their trees to feed their camels.

Estimates of casualties from the Darfur conflict range from 200,000 to 500,000.  The immediate cause was a regional rebellion, which the government responded to by recruiting Arab janjaweed militia members to ethnically cleanse the African population.  The UNEP study suggests that the actual genesis of the conflict is to be found in the decrease in rainfall and spreading desertification, and the resulting conflict between African farmers and Arab nomads fighting over water and land.

UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, stated to the Washington Post: “Almost invariably, we discuss Darfur in a convenient military and political shorthand – an ethnic conflict pitting Arab militias against black rebels and farmers. Look to its roots, though, and you discover a more complex dynamic. Amid the diverse social and political causes, the Darfur conflict began as an ecological crisis, arising at least in part from climate change.”

The Darfur crisis has in turn exacerbated the environmental degradation, sending more than two million refugees into camps.  Deforestation has accelerated and underground aquifers are being drained in order to support the large numbers.

The report contains recommendations and proposed measures that if implemented are estimated to cost $120 million over three to five years. The Sudanese GDP in 2005 was $85.5 billion.

For more information, please see:

The Age – Sudan war fueled by climate change: UN – 23 June 2007

Guardian – Darfur Conflict Heralds Era of Wars Triggered by Climate Change, UN Report Warns – 23 June 2007

All – UN Report Says Environmental Degradation Triggering Tensions – 22 June 2007

BBC – Sudan ‘Must Address Climate Ills’ – 22 June 2007

VOA News – UN Program Finds Environment Degradation Triggers Conflict in Sudan – 22 June 2007

Mail & Guardian – UN: Environmental woes a cause of Sudan conflict – June 2007

Guilty Verdicts for Using Child Soldiers

By Myriam Clerge
Impunity Watch, Africa

The guilty verdicts were declared for three men accused of being co-conspirators and participants of war crimes in Sierra Leone. Alex Tamba Brima, Brima Kamara and Santigie Borbor Kanu were alleged leaders of the junta, the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC), responsible for toppling Sierra Leone’s government in 1997. The group later formed an alliance with the notorious Revolutionary United Front (RUF) rebels to control the country until 1998.

The court found the three defendants, who pleaded not guilty to all charges, guilty of 11 of the 14 charges including terrorism, using child soldiers, enslavement, rape and murder. They were acquitted of sexual slavery and other inhumane acts. Sentencing is scheduled for July 16th.

These are the first verdicts made by the Sierra Leon UN-backed war crimes court. More importantly the verdicts mark the first conviction in an international court for enlisting children under the age of fifteen into armed forces or groups and using them to participate actively as soldiers.

Roughly 30,000 children, in Sierra Leone alone, were conscripted into the war. In Liberia, former President Charles Taylor’s men are accused of creating the Small Boys Unit that “enlisted” young boys whom they baptized Babykillers. Although children have been used in war, never before was their involvement more obvious.

Backed by Liberia’s former president Charles Taylor in exchange for “blood diamonds,” the AFRC and RUF held power from 1997 to 1998. During that period thousands of women were raped and turned into sex slaves. About half a million people were brutally murdered. Those not killed by the rebels’ trademark of hacking off limbs, were forced to work in the mines to fuel the devastation.

The Special Court for Sierra Leone was set up following the end of fighting in 2002 with the help of the United Nations. Although the convictions of the three leaders of the ARFC mark a vital step, many criticize the slow progression of trials. To date the court has indicted 12 people, including Charles Taylor, out of the thousands who committed these crimes and who continue to enjoy impunity. Of the 12 people indicted, three have since died before trial including the notorious leader of RUF Foday Sankoh.

Amnesty International said while Thursday’s verdict was a positive step, it should not be the closing chapter in the struggle to achieve justice for the terrible crimes committed against the people of that country. Thousands of others must be held criminally responsible and reparations must be provided to the victims.

Taylor’s trial is scheduled to resume next week.

For more information please see:

AllAfrica – Sierra Leone: Guilty Verdicts Not the End of the Story for Victims of War Crimes – 21 June 2007

BBC – First S Leone war crimes verdicts – 20 June 2007

BBC – Country Profile: Sierra Leone – 20 June 2007

Yahoo – Sierra Leone convicts 3 of war crimes – 20 June 2007

Namibia: Seeking Solutions to Gender-Based Crimes

By Myriam Clerge
Impunity Watch, Africa

Hundreds of stakeholders were prompted to meet at Windhoek for a four day national conference to seek solutions to the string of horrible and cruel forms of violence that is plaguing Namibia. 350 delegates representing government, civil society, traditional leaders and religious groups came together on Tuesday to find a solution to the thorny issue of gender-based violence.

The meeting came together two days after the latest incident in which a young woman was murdered and her head, legs and arms were savagely hacked off. The remaining parts of her body was dumped in a bin on the road between Okahandja and Windhoek.

Marlene Mungunda, Minister of Gender Equality and Child Welfare, says these incidents show that Namibia is fighting a vicious enemy. She stated that the problem called for “watertight strategies.”

The police have been criticized for failing to arrest perpetrators committing gender-based violence, especially those committing crimes that are gruesome and shocking to the public. The minister made a passionate appeal to the Namibian police and other law enforcers to assure that the perpetrators of gender-based violence, particularly those committing bizarre murders, are arrested.

Namibia is among countries in the SADC region that have good legislation on children and women’s rights. However, the effective implementation of these laws is being doubted in some regions.

Norman Tjombe, Legal Assistance Centre (LAC) Director, said, “Gender-based violence is Namibia’s main human rights problem.” Tjombe singled out rape and said 60 rape cases out of 100, 000 persons in the country are recorded every year. While society has viewed rape as an incident where the female is always the victim and the male the perpetrator, shockingly one out of 14 victims is a man or a boy.

The conference is being held under the theme “Unifying Action to Eliminating Gender-Based Violence in Our Society.”

For more information please see:

AllAfrica – Namibia: Meeting to Thrash Out Gender Violence – 19 June 2007

AllAfrica – Namibia: Mungunda Calls On ‘Supernatural’ to Help Fight Violence – 20 June 2007

AllAfrica – Namibia: Violence Conference Begins Huge Task – 20 June 2007