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ICC NOTE: This report highlights countries in which minorities are at high risk of persecution and genocide, and Sudan among other countries, is on the list. The article did not mention however, that this has already happened to the Sudanese people… two million people during the civil war. How many times must history repeat itself before things change?


Iraq Tops Nations With Minorities at Grave Risk

Jim Lobe

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WASHINGTON , Jan 19 (IPS) – Iraq tops a list of countries whose minorities find themselves most at risk of persecution and even mass killing at the start of 2006, according to a new threat index released Thursday by the London-based Minority Rights Group International (MRG).

The index, the centrepiece of MRG’s 2006 edition of the “State of the World Minorities” report, lists minorities in Sudan , including African tribes in Darfur that the U.S. government has said have been subject to “genocide”, and Somalia as the next most threatened, followed by Afghanistan and Burma/Myanmar.

African countries — led by the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Nigeria , Burundi and Angola — make up most of the rest of the 15 countries whose minorities are considered most at risk, according to the index, which is based on the compilation of 10 major indicators that MRG believes are strong predictors of mass killings.

Uganda , Ethiopia , and Cote d’Ivoire , where clashes Wednesday between U.N. peacekeepers and demonstrators threatened a reconciliation process designed to reunite the predominantly Muslim northern and the mainly Christian southern parts of the country after four years of effective separation, were also included among the top 15.

The report, which was written before the latest clashes, called the situation in Cote D’Ivoire “extremely dangerous” due to the degree of ethnic polarisation between north and south and the prevalence of hate speech by political militias there.

The 213-page report, which describes the plight of minorities throughout the world, is published annually by MRG, an advocate of the rights of minorities, particularly those often overlooked by the mainstream western media, for more than 30 years.

The new report comes amid a series of studies showing a general and substantial decline in violence since the end of the Cold War during which the two superpowers often fueled conflicts within developing countries.

The key preconditions — not all of which had to be met for mass killings to have taken place — included the existence of political upheaval; the closed and minority character of ruling elites; past incidents of mass killings; and the degree to which the country’s economy was open to foreign trade.

All of the key factors, however, were present in the Rwanda genocide and in Sudan today, according to the report.

MRG’s new index is based largely on that model, according to Mark Lattimer, MRG’s executive director. It uses a basket of 10 variables, including the World Bank’s indicators of democracy and good governance; measures of the prevailing level of conflict developed by the University of Maryland’s Centre for International Development and Conflict Management; indicators of group division and elite factionalisation; and the Organisation of Economic Cooperation and Development’s credit risk ratings which, among other things, assesses a country’s openness to foreign trade and investment.

“The threat table tries to identify the states where the threat is greatest, and, when we ran the figures, Iraq came out on top,” Lattimer told IPS, adding that all groups in Iraq, including the majority Shi’a population, were under threat as a result of the growing ethnic and sectarian divisions that have developed since the U.S. invasion in March 2003.

On Sudan , the report noted that repression against the African tribes in Darfur continues, while it noted that the peace agreement between Khartoum and African groups in the south was in danger of collapse, and non-Arab groups in the centre and east of the country remained under threat.

Aside from Darfur, according to the report, conflicts in Africa were not getting the attention they deserved. “The DRC has been an outstanding example of that for seven years,” Lattimer said. “We’ve seen wars that have led to the deaths of millions of people, and yet it is rarely reported in the western press.”

He noted that, while the plight of Nobel Peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi and her National League for Democracy (NLD) get some media attention, the plight and continued persecution of Burma ‘s minorities, particularly those in Karen and Shan states, receive virtually none at all.

Aside from Africa, Burma , and Afghanistan , other countries included in the top 15 where minorities were most threatened included Indonesia (10), Russia (14), and the Philippines (15). The report noted that Indonesia ‘s ranking did not take into account the recent peace agreement between the government and rebels in Aceh, although it stressed that the ongoing conflict in Papua remained a major concern.