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Northern Ireland elects Assembly / Honduras blamed over “ineffective inquiry” of murder of Indigenous leader

February 24 to March 2

Rally in memory of Berta Cáceres, April 2016.
Rally in memory of Berta Cáceres, April 2016. Author: Comisión Interamericana de Derechos Humanos @ Flickr
WEEKLY ROUNDUP. In an early election on March 2, Northern Ireland elected its 90-member legislative Assembly. It is likely that the DUP and Sinn Féin will be tasked with reaching a government deal. The first anniversary of the murder of Honduran Indigenous leader Berta Cáceres was marked this week, with several organizations making serious allegations against the country's authorities. Meanwhile, a Polynesian independence leader wants to turn the upcoming French presidential election into a de facto referendum on the sovereignty of Polynesia.

NEWS HIGHLIGHT

Northern Ireland elected 2 March all 90 seats in the Legislative Assembly in a snap election —the previous one had been held last year— after the DUP-Sinn Féin (UK unionist-Irish republican) coalition government collapsed in January. Previous Sinn Féin leader and Northern Ireland deputy first minister Martin McGuinness has retired from politics; the republican party’s new leader is Michelle O'Neill. The results in seats: DUP 28, Sinn Féin 27, SDLP 12, UUP 10, Alliance 8, Greens 2, TUV 1, PBPA 1, Independent 1. As required by the rules of Northern Ireland’s devolved government, the main unionist party and the main Irish nationalist party —the DUP and Sinn Féin— will be tasked with striking an agreement on a coalition government. Sinn Féin could put as a condition the approval of an Irish Language Act.

MOREOVER

Honduran authorities under criticism over lack of progress in Cáceres’s investigation. On the first anniversary of the murder of Indigenous activist Berta Cáceres, several Indigenous and human rights organizations are criticizing the Honduran authorities because, the groups argue, the investigation is bearing no fruit. The group of which Cáceres was a member (the COPINH) has issued a statement in which it holds the Honduran Congress and the army responsible of Cáceres’s murder. “The [Honduran] state does not want an international commission of experts to investigate, because it fears that its responsibilities will be proved,” the text reads. Amnesty has denounced the “scandalous lack of an effective investigation.”

Front moves in Kurdistan’s Rojava and Sinjar. The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF, coalition of militias in which Kurdish YPG is main group) is set to hand over villages, west to the city of Manbij, to the Syrian regime, Reuters has reported. The move is intended to prevent Turkey-backed Euphrates Shield forces to capture the villages. But Ankara says the information on the withdrawal —which according to the Reuters information has been agreed with Russia— is “false”. The Turkish government has recalled Euphrates Shield will not stop until the SDF completely pulls out from Manbij region. The moves cast doubts over the future of Kurdish self-rule in northern Syria. Meanwhile in Sinjar —a region in northern Iraq populated by Kurdish-speaking Yazidis— deadly clashes have taken place between the PKK-allied YBS Yazidi militia and the so-called Rojava Peshmerga, who are under the command of Iraqi Kurdish regional government president Massud Barzani’s PDK. Sources close to the PKK have said the Rojava Peshmerga are to blame, after the PDK-linked group tried to enter a YBS-controlled village. The PDK wants pro-PKK fighters to leave the area.

UK government fears Sturgeon could imminently announce demand for another referendum. As reported in The Times quoting UK government sources, prime minister Theresa May is getting ready for such a possible announcement by her Scottish counterpart Nicola Sturgeon. The announcement could be done March 17, the same day May is expected to launch exit negotiations with the EU. The UK government’s official position is that there will not be a second referendum before 2020.

Palestinian Authority, diaspora voice calls for national unity. The office of Palestinian prime minister Rami Hamdallah has released a video summarizing the goals of the 2017-2022 national policy plan, which has just been unveiled. The plan calls for Palestinian national unity and the achievement of an independent state. These same two objectives have also been affirmed at a Palestinian diaspora conference held in Istanbul, which brought together 4,000 participants. Despite the calls, Palestinian local elections in 2017 will only be held in Palestinian Authority-controlled West Bank, but not in Hamas-held Gaza.

Pro-independence candidate in French presidential election. Former Polynesian president and pro-independence leader Oscar Temaru has announced he will be running for April’s French presidential election after he has reached the minimum number of supports (500) of elected officials. If he becomes the presidential candidate with the most votes in Polynesia, Temaru has vowed to issue a “declaration of sovereignty.”

Morocco to withdraw from Western Sahara buffer zone near Guerguerat. The same week that the 41st anniversary of the proclamation of the Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic is marked, the Moroccan ministry of Foreign Affairs has announced that the kingdom’s troops are to withdraw from positions held within the UN buffer zone close to Guerguerat. The Polisario Front has said the decision changes nothing on the ground since the Moroccan forces will only pull out “a few hundred meters.” Since August 2016, the two belligerents were only 100 meters away in what had become a hot spot of the front.

Study underscores decline of Catalan and Aragonese languages in Aragon. University study L’aragonés y lo catalán en l’actualidat, based on answers contained in the 2011 census, reveals that Catalan is spoken by only 54% of the population of the so-called Franja —the eastern, traditionally Catalan-speaking area of Aragon. Language transmission is being eroded in both the northernmost and southernmost areas of the Franja. The study also highlights that Aragonese is spoken by a mere 5% of the inhabitants of its traditional area, Alto Aragón. However, the research points out that Catalan- and Aragonese-speaking immigrant communities are emerging in Zaragoza, the Aragonese capital city. The study is the result of a joint research between experts of Zaragoza, Rovira i Virgili (Tarragona) and Barcelona Autonomous universities.

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