Maya indigenous peasants in Mexico's southern state of Chiapas are marching cross-country to oppose violence by the local narco gangs and the corruption of local authorities that protect them. The "pilgrimage" left the rural town of Simojovel some 15,000 strong at the end of March, and is now arriving at the state capital Tuxtla Gutiérrez, some 240 kilometers away through rugged country. The pilgrimage was organized by the Catholic pacifist group Pueblo Creyente (Faithful People) with the support of the local diocese of San Cristóbal de Las Casas in response to a wave of narco-violence in Simojovel.
Burundi authorities arrested several military generals May 15 after an unsuccessful coup attempt and said the suspects will face a military court for mutiny charges. Maj. Gen. Godefroid Niyombare [who fought alongside Hutu rebels in the 1993-2005 civil war] announced the coup on May 13. President Pierre Nkurunziza was in Tanzania at the time the coup was announced but is believed to be back in his country. In Bujumbura, troops supporting the president and those supporting Niyombare fought on the streets for two days after the declared coup. Following the announcement, the airport in Bujumbura and the land borders were closed, but the streets reportedly calmed by May 15.
Mali's government is boasting a deal with Tuareg leaders signed May 15 in the capital Bamako that grants autonomous powers to the northern homeland of Azawad. But the "Algiers Accord"—named for Algeria-brokered negotiations—was not signed by the main rebel factions. Two leaders of the Coordination of Azawad Movements (CMA) signed, but not the body as a whole. The pro-Bamako militia known as the Tuareg Self-Defense Group of Imghad and Allies (GATIA) also signed. But the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA) and allied High Council for the Unity of Azawad boycotted the ceremony. Also absent were the Arab Movement of Azawad (MAA), Coordination for the People of Azawad (CPA), and Coordination of Movements and Fronts of Patriotic Resistance (CM-SAF).
Authorities in Colombia are carrying out their biggest manhunt since the campaign that brought down the legendary Pablo Escobar in 1993. Dario Antonio Usuga AKA "Otoniel" is leader of the Urabeños, a blood-drenched paramilitary network which is said to control much of the cocaine trade in Colombia's northern region of Urabá. The hunt, dubbed the "Siege of Urabá," has mobilized over 2,000 soldiers and National Police troops to the jungles and peasant villages of the northern region. Under a new reward just announced by President Juan Manuel Santos, Otoniel now has a $580,000 price on his head, while his associates "El Galivan," "Nicolas" and "Guagua" each have a price of nearly $200,000.
Colombians made history March 8, as tens of thousands took to the streets in cities and towns nationwide—joined by Colombian ex-pats and immigrants in the US, Canada, Europe and elsewhere—to show their support for peace talks between the government and FARC guerillas. The "March for Life" was organized by Bogotá’s ex-mayor Antanas Mockus and was embraced by President Juan Manuel Santos, who joined the march in the capital. Since then, there have been some encouraging signs that the country’s multi-decade armed conflict is really coming to an end. (EuroNews, March 9;AP, Colombia Reports, March 8)
In another case of Colombian villagers staging a local uprising in response to militarization of their communities, on March 24 a detachment of some 20 special anti-narcotics agents of the National Police were detained by indigenous peasants at the hamlet of Alto Naya, in the southern region of Cauca. Villagers apparently accused the troops, who were on a coca eradication mission, of entering indigenous lands without community consent. But the local National Police commander said consent had been secured at a meeting with village leaders held in the nearby town of Santander de Quilichao. In any event, police seemingly agreed to call off the eradication mission in order to win the release of the detained troops.
Victim representatives at peace talks with the FARC rebels held a press conference in Bogotá Feb. 20 to demand action from the Colombian government over mounting death threats against them. At least 14 of the 60 representatives have received death threats because of their participation—and the son of one representative was killed. Nilson Liz, a regional leader of the National Association of Campesino Land Users (ANUC) from Cauca department, said that following his trip to Cuba for the talks, unknown assailants murdered his son Dayan on Jan. 1. ANUC, which is seeking return of lands stolen by armed groups, has had 90 leaders assassinated since its founding in 1970. (Colombia Reports, Feb. 21; Semana, Feb. 20)
Colombia's humanitarian situation remains severe in spite of ongoing peace talks with the FARC, the United Nations said in a report released Feb. 12. Raising concern over illegal armed groups not incuded in the dialogue, it found that the grim situation is likely to persist even if a peace deal is struck in the talks. The report, entitled "The Humanitarian Dimension in the Aftermath of a Peace Agreement: proposals for the international community in Colombia," was commissioned by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) and supported by the Norwegian Centre for Peace-building (NOREF). At least 347,286 people were displaced in Colombia between November 2012, when the talks began, and September 2014, the report found. Nearly half of these displacements (48%) resulted from FARC or ELN actions, with 19% blamed on neo-paramilitary groups. The report also found that 62 social leaders and human rights defenders were killed in Colombia in 2014.