New Law in the Philippines Aims to End Violence in the South
Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte has signed a law that grants greater autonomy to minority Muslims in the south of the country, in a step toward ending decades of conflict and extremism in the region, The New York Times reported Thursday.
The Bangsamoro Organic Law allows for greater self-rule and greater fiscal power for people living in the island of Mindanao, which is a stronghold of the island’s largest Muslim armed group – the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). For more than 40 years, the region has been the site of fighting between the army and Islamist separatist movements.
The Bangsamoro Organic Law aims to enforce a 2014 peace agreement between the government and the MILF in which the front vowed to cease demands for separatism and lay down its weapons in return for self-administration.
Under the new law, an autonomous zone of some 4,840 square miles will be established. It will first be governed by a transitional authority composed of former fighters before a local parliament assumes control over the area. In return, combatants would lay down their weapons and the government would retain police and military forces in the area, according to the NYT.
South Sudan’s Opposition Signs Peace Deal With Government
South Sudan’s main opposition group signed a peace deal with the government Wednesday, with the hopes of ending the young country’s five-year-long conflict, Reuters reported.
The deal grants the SPLM-IO rebel group nine portfolios in a new 35-member government. 20 seats will go to ministers from the current government of President Salva Kiir and the remaining six portfolios will go to other opposition groups.
The agreement also reinstates rebel leader Riek Machar as one of five vice presidents of the country.
However, according to Reuters, not all of South Sudan’s opposition groups have signed the agreement.
The SPLM, a smaller opposition group, said the agreement suffers from a “serious lack of consistency in allocating power-sharing ratios at all levels of governance.”
Earlier this month, the White House also expressed skepticism over the arrangement.
“We are deeply concerned about the direction of the current peace process … A narrow agreement between elites will not solve the problems plaguing South Sudan,” said a statement.
U.N. Seeks Help From Egypt to Reduce Violence Along Gaza-Israel Border
The United Nations envoy for Middle East peace is seeking help from Egypt to diffuse tensions between Israel and Palestinians trapped in the Gaza strip, the Times of Israel reported Monday.
U.N. envoy, Nickolay Mladenov met with Egyptian foreign minister Sameh Shoukry in Cairo on Sunday, as part of an effort to “de-escalate the situation in Gaza, resolve all humanitarian issues and support Egyptian led reconciliation process,” Mladenov said on Twitter.
“The devil is always in the details but we are moving forward in the interest of peace.”
Citing Haaretz, the Times of Israel said that Mladenov is working on a cease-fire agreement in cooperation with Egypt and other Arab states that would end escalating tensions along the Israeli-Gazan border.
Since March, Palestinians in the Gaza Strip have been protesting along the Israeli-Gazan border demanding the right to return to homes and villages they were forcibly expelled from. According to Al Jazeera, the Israeli army has killed at least 152 Palestinians in Gaza and wounded thousands more since March 30.
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