News

Turbulence in the UK, Indigenous self-government in Bolivia, pro-sovereignty marches in Kabylia

6 to 12 January 2017

Martin McGuinness.
Martin McGuinness. Author: Sinn Féin @ Flickr
WEEKLY ROUNDUP. Two of UK's devolved administrations —Scotland and Northern Ireland— have been on the spotlight over the week. Sinn Féin's Martin McGuinness resigned as Deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland after DUP's First Minister Arlene Foster refused to leave her post. Foster has found herself mingled in a renewable heating scheme scandal (RHI), which according to an official investigation could cost taxpayers hundreds of millions of pounds. McGuinness's resignation automatically leads to an early election in Northern Ireland unless Sinn Féin replaces him —which the party refuses to do.

Meanwhile, First Minister of Scotland Nicola Sturgeon told the BBC that a projected second independence referendum may be postponed if the UK and the EU agreed on a "soft Brexit" that kept the country inside the Single Market. That might come under two variants, Sturgeon said. One would imply that the whole of the UK remains in; the second would see only Scotland remaining, an option that would demand the devolution of powers over areas including immigration and employment law to Holyrood.

In the Balkans, a new crisis erupted between Serbia and Kosovo over Ramush Haradinaj's arrest. Haradinaj is the leader of the Alliance for the Future of Kosovo (AAK), former Kosovo Prime Minister and former commander of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA). Haradinaj had been arrested in Paris on 4 January following an international arrest warrant issued by Serbia over alleged war crimes. The Appeal Court of Colmar (Alsace) released him on 12 January, but kept him under judicial control and asked him to surrender his passport while authorities examine a request from Serbia for Haradinaj's extradition.

The Parliament of Turkey gave its green light to a debate on a constitutional reform have agreed upon by the AKP (conservative Islamist) and the MHP (far-right nationalist) to turn the country into a presidential republic. The CHP (social democratic Kemalist) voted against. Pro-Kurdish, left-leaning HDP, which has some of its MPs jailed, boycotted the session. In another Kurdish connection, Kurdistan24 reported, citing eyewitnesses, that slogans asking for the release of political prisoners and in support of hunger strikers were heard in the funeral of Islamic Republic of Iran founder Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani. Some of the strikers and prisoners are Kurdish activists.

The week has also been intense for the Amazigh movement. Two focal points in Algeria should be highlighted. In Kabylia, thousands marched in favour of Kabyle sovereignty, coinciding with the celebrations for the Amazigh New Year. The marches, that were held in three different cities, had been called by the Movement for the Self-determination of Kabylia (MAK). On the other hand, the lawyer of Kamel Eddine Fekhar, who has now been in prison for one year and a half, reported that his client "fears for his life" after having started a new hunger strike. Fekhar is one of the leaders of the Movement for the Autonomy of Mzab, an Amazigh-populated region in central Algeria where clashes resulting in deaths have been erupting over the last few years between members of the local Amazigh and Arabic communities.

In Bolivia, the Guaraní people established the Charagua Yyambae Indigenous Autonomy after a seven-year lead-time period. Bolivian Vice President Álvaro García Linera said this was the first indigenous self-government in the history of Bolivia. In another Indigenous-related development, Argentinian President Mauricio Macri announced an agreement to revive operations in the gas and oil fields of Vaca Muerta, which had been for years widely criticized by Indigenous and peasant communities of Neuquén.

In Inner Mongolia, a nominally autonomous region within China, four herdsmen were arrested for having incited a protest against the authorities. UNPO linked this to tensions between ethnic Mongols and the Chinese government over environmental damages caused by state-backed mining and forestry companies in the region. Meanwhile, China's ally Pakistan announced it would become a "minority-friendly" country, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said.

Finally, Herero and Nama representatives filed a lawsuit against Germany before a US court. They are demanding compensation for the genocide carried out against those two Namibian peoples in early 20th century, when the country was a German colony.