In the final installment of a three part series, we share with you three more countries that we are watching where there is a significant potential for widespread and systematic violence against civilians.
A militant insurgency, known as Boko Haram, has been operating to overthrow the Nigerian government and establish an Islamic state ruled by sharia law. Boko Haram has targeted public and religious institutions with a notable attack on the United Nations (UN) compound in the capital of Abuja in August 2011. The group’s recent attacks have single out Christians and they have broadened their targets to include public schools. According to Human Rights Watch, the extremist group’s campaign of terror has claimed more than 1,400 lives since 2010.
In mid-June, it is estimated that over 100 people were killed when several churches were attacked by Boko Haram in Kaduna State. The incident prompted the UN human rights office to warn that such attacks against civilians perpetrated could amount to crimes against humanity.
The atrocities committed by Boko Haram are part of a pattern of attacks and reprisals that manifest themselves along ethnic and religious lines. Moreover, tactics employed by government security agencies against Boko Haram have been consistently brutal and counterproductive. The government’s reliance on extrajudicial execution sustains and fuels the group’s terror campaign. Experts argue that the militarized response by the Nigeria government to address the prevalence of ethnic militias in the Niger Delta region has resulted in gross human rights violations.
In July, fighting erupted in the town of Khorog near the border with Afghanistan. The fighting broke out in what is known as the Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Province following the killing of the regional head of the State Committee for National Security. The government retaliated with a military action against local opposition strongman . It is reported that 200 people were killed as the national army clashed with rebels. The dead included more than 100 military personnel and about 100 civilians.
The potential for continued violence is real since relations between the central government and residents of the mountainous region of Badakhshan, locally known as Pamir, have been strained Since residents in Pamir supported the opposition during Tajikistan’s five-year civil war between 1992 and 1997.
There is a real concern for increased violence against civilians as Zimbabwe heads toward elections. Tensions are already rising as long-time president Robert Mugabe wants a vote held this year, while the political opposition seeks to postpone until March 2013.
For the past decade, elections in Zimbabwe have been marred by political violence pitting supporters of Mugabe’s Zimbabwe African National Union – Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) party and those of Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).
The situation escalated in 2008 when Mugabe lost the first round of the presidential election to Tsvangirai. Subsequently, in the period leading up to the June presidential runoff in the same year, security forces loyal to Mugabe were accused of perpetrating a violent campaign against opposition activists. 100 were killed and thousands tortured.
The potential for renewed electoral violence is significant. According to the Zimbabwe Peace Project — which monitors politically motivated human rights violations, including murder, torture, forced disappearance —incidents of violence are on the rise across the country. There were 409 recorded cases in May and 521 incidences witnessed in April. These numbers are likely to increase at the election gets closer.
We’d like to hear from you. What crises are you most concerned about in terms of genocide and mass atrocity prevention?