Posts Tagged ‘NGOs’

EU steps up pressure on Hungary over Soros school, NGO laws, migration

December 7, 2017

Image result for Prime Minister Viktor Orban in Hungary, photos

Prime Minister Viktor Orban in Hungary


BRUSSELS (Reuters) – The European Union’s executive on Thursday stepped up its pressure on the nationalist government of Prime Minister Viktor Orban in Hungary over its treatment of immigrants, non-governmental groups (NGOs) and a liberal school.

Orban has been locked in a series of running battles with the EU, where Western states and the Brussels-based executive Commission decry what they see as his authoritarian leanings, the squeezing of the opposition and the free media.

In a series of legal announcements, the European Commission said it was taking Budapest to the bloc’s top court, the Luxembourg-based European Court of Justice, over its NGO laws as well as a higher education law that has targeted a Budapest university founded by U.S. financier George Soros.

Brussels also confirmed it was taking Hungary – along with eastern EU peers Poland and the Czech Republic – to the tribunal over refusing to host asylum-seekers under an EU-wide quota system.

It has in addition stepped up its legal case against Budapest over Hungary’s asylum laws.

Separately on Thursday, European lawmakers were debating whether the rule of law and democratic standards in Hungary are under threat more generally and to an extent that would merit the triggering of an unprecedented punishment against Budapest.

The so-called Article 7 procedure would shame Orban by denouncing his government as undemocratic and could even lead to the maximum – though practically highly unlikely – sanction of stripping Hungary of its voting rights in the EU.

The Commission’s First Vice-President Frans Timmermans, however, made clear the executive did not side with the parliament’s broader, tougher view of Hungary.

“We believe that we are dealing with very specific issues where we have disagreements with the Hungarian government,” Timmermans told a news conference. “For now, the Commission does not see the need to move to another track.”

“The situation in Hungary is not in that sense comparable to the systemic threats to the rule of law which we see in Poland,” he said of Orban’s closest EU ally, the euroskeptic, nationalist Polish government of the Law and Justice (PiS) party.

Reporting by Philip Blenkinsop, Lily Cusack and Gabriela Baczynska; Editing by Hugh Lawson


US Joins EU calls on Cambodia to ‘undo’ opposition party ban

November 17, 2017


© AFP/File | The US joins a chorus of condemnation from the European Union and activists after the ruling that effectively allows Hun Sen’s party to run in next year’s polls uncontested

WASHINGTON (AFP) – The United States Thursday demanded Cambodia reverse its ban on the country’s main opposition, warning the dissolution of the party would strip 2018 elections of legitimacy.Washington hit out after Cambodia’s Supreme Court, effectively controlled by strongman premier Hun Sen, outlawed the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) and banned more than 100 of its politicians, accusing the party of plotting to overthrow the government.

The US joined a chorus of condemnation from the European Union and activists following the ruling that essentially allows Hun Sen’s party to run uncontested in next year’s polls.

The verdict is the culmination of a strangling of dissent in Cambodia, with CNRP president Kem Sokha jailed for treason in September as part of a crackdown that has also seen media outlets shuttered, journalists jailed and activists harassed.

The United States blasted Thursday’s ruling as a setback for democracy in Cambodia, calling for the government to “undo its recent actions against the CNRP (and) release imprisoned CNRP leader Kem Sokha.”

In a statement, the White House said leaders must also “allow opposition parties, civil society and the media to maintain their legitimate activities.”

“On current course, next year’s election will not be legitimate, free, or fair,” the statement said, adding the US would pull support for Cambodia’s National Election Committee.

The US has previously rejected Cambodia’s allegations of American involvement in plotting to oust the government as baseless.

Although US President Donald Trump met with Hun Sen at a regional summit last week, the US leader did not comment on the brewing political crisis.

– EU rebuke –

Washington’s condemnation came after the European Union said next year’s elections have been stripped of credibility with the CNRP pulled from the race.

“A situation in which all parties, including the CNRP, their leaders and their supporters are able to carry out freely their legitimate functions, must be swiftly restored,” an EU spokesperson said in a statement.

It warned that “respect of fundamental human rights” is a prerequisite of Cambodia’s duty-free access to the bloc’s markets.

Cambodia largely relies on trade with the US and EU to bolster economic growth following a savage civil war that ended in 1975.

Hun Sen, a former Khmer Rouge commander who defected, has ruled the country since 1985 and says he has brought much-needed peace and stability to the impoverished nation.

But he is also accused of squeezing out his rivals through well-timed crackdowns and dubious court cases.

Analysts say he has been emboldened by financial backing from Beijing, which has lavished the country with investment that has made it less dependent on aid from Western democracies.

A government official said Friday the decision to dissolve the CNRP — the country’s only viable opposition party which nearly unseated Hun Sen in 2013 elections — was in line with the law.

“It is regretful that the US official stance was made without consideration of the evidence and the court ruling,” Huy Vannak, an Interior Ministry undersecretary of state, told AFP.

He said he hoped the US and the EU would continue working with Cambodia, adding that the CNRP sought to “destroy” the country.

– ‘Unjust’ –

The CNRP said it still considers itself a legitimate party and plans to stand in next year’s election, even though more than half its 55 lawmakers have fled the country.

Rights groups slammed Thursday’s ruling, with HRW saying the decision signalled the “death of democracy” and Amnesty International calling it a “blatant act of political repression”.

Observers say the current climate of repression is harsher than previous clampdowns, with Hun Sen foregoing even the pretense of respecting human rights and a free press.

In addition to assaults against the CNRP, his government has shut down a series of outspoken NGOs and independent news outlets, including the respected Cambodia Daily.

In Cambodia’s sleepy capital Phnom Penh, life returned to normal Friday for some residents too scared to protest the verdict delivered at Thursday’s heavily-guarded trial.

“Most people don’t support the court’s decision but I just stay quiet,” tuk-tuk driver Ly Huor told AFP, vowing to vote next year.

“It’s very unjust. It’s like they are robbing the will of the people.”



Cambodian opposition party dissolved by Supreme Court, as Hun Sen clears path to 2018 “election”

November 16, 2017

Cambodia’s Prime Minister Hun Sen waits to attend the Independence Day celebrations in Phnom Penh, Cambodia CREDIT: HENG SINITH/AP

By Agence France-Presse

Cambodia’s Supreme Court has ordered the country’s main opposition party be dissolved, in one of the biggest blows yet to democratic aspirations in the Southeast Asian state.

The verdict Thursday, which was widely expected, is seen as the latest move by authoritarian Prime Minister Hun Sen to remove threats to his power ahead of elections next year.

The government accused the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party of involvement in a plot to topple the government and asked the judiciary to dissolve it.

 Image may contain: 4 people, people standing and outdoor

Party officials have denied the charges, saying they are politically motivated.

Hun Sen, a firebrand former Khmer Rouge fighter who has held office for 32 years, had already promised a guilty verdict would be delivered on Thursday.

The case against the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), the country’s main opposition party, could see over 100 politicians banned from office for five years.

That would be a crushing blow to a movement that has been battered by legal attacks since it nearly unseated Hun Sen in the last national election in 2013.

Scores of riot police were deployed outside the Phnom Penh court early Thursday as the hearing began, though there were no signs of protests.

Government lawyers took several hours to present their case before the panel of nine judges – whose president Dith Munty is himself a member of Hun Sen’s ruling CPP party.

They accused the CNRP of teaming up with the US and other foreign forces to plot a revolution – allegations Washington and rights groups have dismissed as bogus.

‘Resist the pressure’

Lawyers showed video clips of CNRP leaders urging supporters in 2013 to join protests over that year’s poll, which the party said was stolen from them due to election fraud.

“They incited anger in order to hold mass demonstrations to topple the legitimate government,” government attorney Ly Chantola told the court.

“The US is behind (the plot) and associations or NGOs funded by US gave them ideas,” he added.

In September CNRP leader Kem Sokha was detained and charged with treason over the same accusations – a dramatic arrest that sent more than half of the party’s 55 lawmakers fleeing into exile out of fear.

In this March 30, 2017, file photo, leader of the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party Kem Sokha prays during a Buddhist ceremony to mark the 20th anniversary of the attack on anti-government protesters in 1997, in Phnom Penh, Cambodia

In this March 30, 2017, file photo, leader of the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party Kem Sokha prays during a Buddhist ceremony to mark the 20th anniversary of the attack on anti-government protesters in 1997, in Phnom Penh, Cambodia CREDIT:  AP

On the eve of the Thursday’s court hearing US-based Human Rights Watch urged judges to “resist government pressure” to dissolve the embattled party.

“Although the Supreme Court is effectively an organ of the ruling party, it has a historic chance to show some independence and uphold the rule of law,” said HRW’s Asia director Brad Adams.

The watchdog warned that Hun Sen was on his way to turning the nation into a “de facto one-party state”.

In anticipation of the ruling, his government had already passed legal amendments that allow election authorities to redistribute seats or local posts held by a dissolved party.

The hardman premier, who ultimately defected from the Khmer Rouge and helped drive the regime from power, has a long history of undercutting his rivals through well-timed crackdowns and dubious court cases.

But observers say the current climate of repression is harsher and longer-lasting than previous clampdowns, with Hun Sen foregoing even the pretence of leading a free democracy.

In addition to assaults against the CNRP, his government has in recent months shut down a series of outspoken NGOs and independent news outlets – including the respected Cambodia Daily.

Russia could target any foreign media under new law

November 14, 2017


© AFP/File | Russia Today has registered as a “foreign agent” in the US

MOSCOW (AFP) – Russia would be able to list any foreign media outlet as a “foreign agent” under new measures expected to be approved Wednesday, a lawmaker said, as Moscow responds to US pressure on the Kremlin-backed RT channel.

The move comes as Washington fights what it calls a barrage of “fake news” from Russian media and online outlets aimed at interfering in US domestic politics.

Parliament is set to approve a set of amendments to an existing media bill Wednesday, meaning they could go into force as early as next week, deputy speaker of Russia’s lower house of parliament Pyotr Tolstoy told Rossiya 24 channel.

“(The law) gives the relevant government institution the opportunity to classify media outlets that receive money from abroad as foreign agents,” he said, when asked which outlets are likely to be put on the list first.

Most likely the list will be maintained by the ministry of justice, which already keeps a similar database of non-governmental organisations which have been designated as “foreign agents”.

The bill is a tit-for-tat response to Washington’s move to register T&R Productions LLC, a corporation which operates US studios of state channel RT, as a foreign agent under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA).

Asked to clarify exactly who could be listed as a “foreign agent” in Russia, Tolstoy said “these are media outlets that receive money from foreign governments regardless of their ownership structure”.

TASS news agency however published details of more sweeping amendments, according to which the measures could apply to any media outlets receiving money “from international and foreign organisations, foreign citizens.”

Tolstoy said outlets that are put on the list will be subject to similar treatment as “foreign agent” NGOs under the law that was adopted in 2012.

Such media will “have to file the relevant reports and most likely mark its product,” he said.

The law applying to NGOs forced many organisations to close.

Others have complained that government institutions refuse to work with them following the acquisition of the “foreign agent” label, which in Russia is akin to being branded a spy.


Nationalism, Chauvinism and Conflict With Kurds Undermine Post-ISIS Iraq

November 6, 2017
 NOVEMBER 6, 2017 17:54

Yazidi genocide survivor speaks of need to remember women enslaved by terrorists.

Shi'a Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) fighter looks inside an armored vehicle after liberating the

Shi’a Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) fighter looks inside an armored vehicle after liberating the city of Al-Qaim, Iraq. (photo credit:REUTERS/STRINGER)

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi raised the Iraqi flag on the Iraq-Syria border in the town of al-Qaim on Sunday. It was a symbolic gesture more than three years after Islamic State took over a third of Iraq, committed genocide against Yazidis and mass murdered thousands of others. But Iraq is still deeply divided as the prime minister has attempted to roll back the rights of the Kurdistan autonomous region and as Shi’a militias run checkpoints throughout many Sunni Arab areas.

Iraq is emerging from years of brutal war with millions of internally displaced people and many cities damaged or destroyed by fighting. But even in the midst of the end of this conflict, Iraq has launched a new conflict against its Kurdish region, sending tanks to retake the disputed district of Kirkuk. Iraqi security forces have clashed with Kurdish forces as it attempted to break through to a strategic border crossing called Faysh Khabur near Syria and Turkey. Dozens have been killed since October 16. Although a kind of cease-fire is in place, the situation does not bode well.

There is a new sense of nationalism and religious fervor in Iraq. Shi’a sectarian flags fly from not only militia units but also appear in regular Iraqi Army units. When Iraqi forces rolled into Kirkuk they brought the flags with them. And in Mosul, a Sunni city, they hang them at the checkpoints. This triumphalism is about symbols and the Iraqi Parliament is also trying to ban symbols it doesn’t like. On October 31, the parliament sought to enforce laws that criminalize “Zionist symbols,” including the Israeli flag. This was likely in response to the numerous displays of the Israeli flag in the Kurdistan region during the lead-up to the September 25 independence referendum.

On October 30, a Kurdish journalist named Arkan Sharifi was stabbed to death in his home in Daquq. He was a cameraman for Kurdistan TV. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists “Sharifi had [recently] returned to the city near Kirkuk. The journalist, who is also a teacher at a village school, had left the city when the Iraqi-led Popular Mobilization Front seized Daquq.” The CPJ called on regional authorities to “investigate and prosecute” the perpetrators. It also noted that an Iraqi media regulator had ordered two Kurdish TV stations, Rudaw and Kurdistan 24, to cease broadcasting.

There is also worry over a proposal to resurrect a 2014 bill before parliament that would legalize child marriage for girls as young as nine. “Although the measure is unlikely to pass… there is concern that it underscores the rising tide of extremist sentiment in Iraq and threatens the constitutional guarantees for gender equality and other freedoms,” noted the United States Institute of Peace. UNICEF statistics show that 24% of women in Iraq are already married by age 18. According to a tweet by journalist Abdulla Hawez, “The new family law will turn Iraq into a religious country further, replacing the 1959 civil family law [with] a largely religious one.”

The new family law will turn Iraq to a religious county further, replacing the 1959 civil family law to a largely religious one.

Iraq is also making it more difficult for journalists and foreign NGOs to access the country since it closed the two international airports in the Kurdistan region. Prior to September 29, many visitors to the Kurdistan Regional Government who flew into Erbil or Sulaymaniyah could obtain a visa on arrival. This was specifically true for residents of the US, Canada, the European Union and several other countries.

After Abadi decided to reduce the rights of the Kurdistan region, telling The Independent that he sought to end many of the autonomous rights it has enjoyed for decades, imposing federal control of Kurdistan’s borders has become a priority. This means that foreign journalists wishing to cover Iraq who were often based in the stable and safe Kurdish region will have to go through Baghdad. It also means their ability to cover conflict areas, such as Iraq’s actions in Kirkuk or Sinjar, will be more difficult. Already the amount of foreign coverage – of Yazidis, Christians in Nineveh, rebuilding of Mosul, internally displaced persons and sectarian tensions in Kirkuk – has been reduced. This is in Baghdad’s interests because it means less light will be shed on issues facing Kurds, Sunni Arabs, and minorities.

The persecution of minorities, especially Yazidis, was the main reason motivating the US to intervene in Iraq in the fall of 2014. On November 6, Lamiya Aji Bashar spoke at the World Youth Forum at Sharm el-Sheikh in Egypt, telling her story of being abducted by ISIS with thousands of Yazidi women and sold into slavery. It was a reminder that more than 1,000 women and children are still missing.

Even though ISIS has been largely defeated, the whereabouts of many abducted Yazidis are unknown and the international community that stepped in to fight it appears to have forgotten them. Forgetting about what caused ISIS to thrive in the first place – the ideology, intolerance and instability – might be shortsighted for post-ISIS Iraq. On November 5, two bombings rocked Kirkuk, killing five people. For the last three years, the city had been largely free from terror. It could be a symbol of worse to come.


WHO urges Yemen to accept vaccines as cholera crisis deepens, much of the country near famine

September 18, 2017


© AFP/File | A child suspected of having cholera is checked by a doctor at a makeshift hospital operated by Doctors Without Borders (MSF) in the northern district of Abs in war-battered Yemen’s Hajjah province, on July 16, 2017

GENEVA (AFP) – The World Health Organization on Monday urged Yemen to approve cholera vaccinations it has offered to help contain an epidemic that could affect nearly a million people by year’s end.

Yemen, where a multinational conflict has caused a humanitarian crisis, had asked the UN health agency earlier this year for doses of the vaccine, said Dominique Legros, the agency’s cholera specialist.

The WHO sent a million doses in June only to see the Yemeni government change its mind, leading the United Nations to reassign the vaccines to Somalia and Sudan, Legros told reporters in Geneva.

Asked about Yemen’s reversal, Legros said only that discussions with countries about vaccinations could be “complicated”, noting the lack of familiarity with them in affected communities, especially in the case of newer vaccines like the one for cholera.

“We are still in negotiation with the government in Yemen to make sure we can also use (vaccines) to help control” the outbreak, he said.

Last week, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said the rampant cholera crisis in Yemen had reached “colossal proportions”, warning that it could affect 850,000 people by the end of the year.

More than 2,000 people have perished from the disease, according to the WHO.

The epidemic has put further strain on a ravaged health system in Yemen, where less than half of healthcare facilities are functioning as the conflict drags on.

Since March 2015, a Saudi-led coalition has been waging a war on behalf of the internationally recognised government against Iran-backed Huthi rebels.

More than 8,000 people have been killed, including at least 1,500 children, and millions displaced in the conflict which has pushed the impoverished country to the brink of famine.

Doctors Without Borders Says It’s Being Forced Out Of Pakistan Tribal Area

September 15, 2017

September 14, 2017 18:31 GMT

A man who was injured in twin bomb blasts in Parachinar in the Kurram tribal agency is brought to a hospital on June 24. The Kurram region has been the scene of several deadly militant attacks against its Shi’ite population in recent years.

A man who was injured in twin bomb blasts in Parachinar in the Kurram tribal agency is brought to a hospital on June 24. The Kurram region has been the scene of several deadly militant attacks against its Shi’ite population in recent years.

The international medical aid organization Doctors Without Borders (MSF) says the government of Pakistan is forcing it to pull out of a violence-plagued northwestern tribal region after a 14-year presence.

In a statement published on September 14, MSF said the authorities have refused to issue it a “no objection certificate” (NoC), leaving it unable to provide medical services in the Kurram district of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA).

“Without a valid NoC, MSF cannot continue to provide medical services in Kurram Agency,” said the group, also known as Medecins Sans Frontieres.

“MSF is saddened by the decision from the authorities responsible for NGOs working in Kurram Agency,” said Catherine Moody, the MSF country representative in Pakistan.

“The closure brings to an end 14 years of MSF working with the FATA Health Services in Kurram Agency,” she added.

MSF has most recently been providing medical services in cooperation with the Sadda and Alizai hospitals in the region.

The group said it carried out 36,498 outpatient consultations in Sadda and 6,416 in Alizai last year.

MSF said the necessary measures to end its operation at the hospitals and elsewhere will be completed within a week.

The Kurram region near the Afghan border has been the scene of several deadly militant attacks against its Shi’ite population in recent years and has been the location of U.S. drone strikes on suspected extremists.

In June, two explosions at a crowded market in the Kurram city of Parachinar killed at least 70 people in an attack claimed by the Sunni extremist group Lashkar-e-Jhangvi.

MSF said it continues to provide medical care in Bajaur Agency in FATA, as well in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Sindh, and Balochistan provinces.

Red Cross fills U.N. void in Myanmar’s violence-torn region (Another tragic misfire by the UN)

September 9, 2017

Rights Group: China Must Stop Pressuring Advocates at UN — “Arm twisting is how the Chinese intend to get what they want. Everybody knows that.”

September 5, 2017

GENEVA — A human rights group said in a new report on Tuesday that China has tried to intimidate, blacklist and squelch the voices of rights advocates who operate within the U.N. system, calling on Beijing to stop such pressure and urging U.N. agencies to resist.

In the Human Rights Watch report , the group’s president, Kenneth Roth, said that China’s influence and crackdown on civil society at home “make it a model of bad faith that challenges the integrity of the U.N. rights system.”

Image result for Kenneth Roth, photos

Kenneth Roth

The New York-based group said the report is based on interviews with 55 people including U.N. officials, diplomats and civil society representatives, conducted between May 2016 and March. China holds a permanent seat on the U.N. Security Council and has growing economic and political clout.

China didn’t immediately comment on the report.

The report said that some U.N. officials have pushed back at “improper Chinese pressure” at times, while they “have capitulated” at others. It points to detention, travel restrictions and reprisals faced by Chinese activists, as well as efforts to hinder supporters of the Dalai Lama when he travels even within the vicinity of U.N. venues. It also cited efforts to minimize possible opposition to Chinese leaders.

In one instance, the group said, U.N. officials sent home many of the 3,000 staffers at the U.N. Geneva campus during a visit by Chinese President Xi Jinping to Switzerland in January, and barred NGOs from attending his speech there.

The report, in essence, pieces together individual incidents into a broader whole to suggest that China is thwarting efforts to monitor and protect human rights — not just in China but abroad, too. It cites examples of China failing to ratify language on protection of individuals, working to slash funding for human rights officers in U.N. peacekeeping missions and refusing to affirm civil society’s role in a 2015 resolution at the U.N. Human Rights Council on public health.

“Taken individually, many of China’s actions against NGOs might be viewed as an annoyance or an irritant,” the report says. “But taken together, they amount to what appears to be a systematic attempt to subvert the ability of the U.N. human rights system to confront abuses in China and beyond.”

The group also warns about China serving as an example that other countries might follow.

“China’s efforts to subvert the U.N. human rights system also need to be scrutinized because they have been adopted by other countries. China should not become a model for others that hope to hobble or obstruct U.N. human rights bodies,” it said. “The dangers to human rights posed by an assertive China at the U.N. are likely to increase as the rights situation in China under President Xi (Jinping) worsens.”

Keith Harper, who served as President Barack Obama’s ambassador to the Human Rights Council in Geneva, said Beijing “absolutely” had the ability to intimidate other countries into keeping quiet about its human rights record.

Image result for Keith Harper, U.N., photos

Keith Harper

“China’s response could be crippling economically . and other countries know that,” Harper said by phone. “China will be very clear that if you vote against them, they deeply care about China’s interests, and they will take steps to punish countries. Given their power economically — in Africa, for example — that matters.”

Harper said the United States all but stood alone in criticizing China’s rights record, or at least leading group criticism about it, as in a council session in March 2016 when he spoke out.

“Other counties feel that they can do it as a group — whereas they can’t be singled out,” said Harper, who is now a partner with Kilpatrick, Townsend and Stockton law firm in the United States. “There has to be one country that has to take the leadership, and the U.S. is the only one who can do that.”

He noted how Norway, a rich developed country, faced reaction from China that was “quite hostile for a long time” after the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded in Oslo in 2010 to Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo. Liu died in Chinese custody in July.


We at Peace and Freedom asked several retired diplomats their impression of Chinese-style diplomacy. One answered, “Arm twisting is how the Chinese intend to get what they want. Everybody knows that. This is about a future United Nations of China. A Chinese diplomat who goes back to Beijing with his mission unfulfilled faces a dismal future or death in the Communist system. Everybody knows that too. This is not child’s play. To China, human rights are for women. Weak women.”

Italy Denies Supporting Libyan Traffickers to Stop Migrants

August 30, 2017

ROME — Italy denied on Wednesday that it supported a deal to pay armed groups implicated in human trafficking to prevent migrants crossing the Mediterranean.

The Associated Press reported on Tuesday that Libya’s U.N.-backed government in Tripoli, as part of a deal backed by Italy, was paying militias and giving them equipment and boats to prevent migrant vessels setting off.

“The foreign ministry firmly denies that there is an agreement between Libyan traffickers and the Italian government,” an official from the Italian ministry’s press office said.

“The Italian government does not deal with traffickers”, the official added.

A new force in the Libyan coastal town of Sabratha is preventing people leaving, often by locking them up, sources in the area have told Reuters, prompting a sudden drop in departures at what is usually the busiest time of year for migration.

Arrivals from North Africa dropped by more than 50 percent in July and more than 80 percent so far in August. Some 600,000 have made it to southern Italy by sea since 2014.

© AFP | New figures have revealed a sharp drop in the number of Migrants arriving in Italy from Libya

Progress in Libya is likely to be fragile, as two governments are vying for power, and local militias are battling over territory and smuggling profits.

(Reporting by Isla Binnie; Editing by Robin Pomeroy)