In this week’s issue: Khartoum continues to defy calls for the resumption of international aid in Darfur, the Obama administration reconsiders sanctions on Burma, and UN peacekeepers face growing challenges in Congo
Featured: In an op-ed in today’s Wall Street Journal, ENOUGH’s John Prendergast and Jim Wallis of Sojourners discuss the need for US engagement to address the situation in Darfur.
The international community is growing increasingly concerned with the expulsion of aid groups from Darfur. This week, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon reiterated his pleas to allow the expelled NGOs to resume operations in Sudan’s western Darfur region, as did various international organizations. Khartoum has done nothing to fill the aid gaps.
Earlier this week, Bashir announced that Sudan will “investigate those who are criminals” after tribal reconciliation has been achieved. The government later said that this is impossible given the current circumstances, and that justice would be undermined if criminals were tried in absentia.
Following the announcement of delayed elections in Sudan, the opposition party (the Popular Congress) requested a transitional government to ensure fair and smooth running elections in February. A decision has yet to be made.
Several members of the rebel group Sudan Liberation Movement-Unity (SLM-Unity) are merging with the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM). This is another step towards more unity among the dozens of rebel factions in Darfur, coming just days after leaders of several groups refused to negotiate peace with Bashir until he allows aid groups to return to Darfur.
Last week two aid workers were kidnapped from Southern Darfur. Now, their captors have threatened to kill them if the French government does not meet their demands of retrials for the 2007 Zoe’s Ark criminals involved in abducting children from Chad. Currently, Aid Medicale International (AMI), a French aid group, is negotiating directly with the kidnappers and both aid workers are still alive. STAND wishes to express its sincere hopes that the aid workers are released safely – keep checking the news for more information on the status of the negotiations.
Much speculation has arisen about America’s new policy toward Burma. Most believe that it will involve an opening between the economies of America and Burma with the sanctions being directed at specific members of the ruling junta instead of the entire nation’s economy.
Vice Senior Gen. Maung Aye, urged the Burmese military to ensure that next years elections run smoothly.
China is extending billions of dollars to ASEAN nations to increase infrastructure that connects the ASEAN nations. Building projects are already underway in Laos, Cambodia, and Burma.
Democratic Republic of Congo
In the past week, various aid groups have analyzed the current crisis in eastern DRC and have commented on the increasing violence. Oxfam warned recently that the situation in the Congo has worsened and has called for the U.N. to speed up its promised reinforcement of 3,000 troops for the peacekeeping mission in the country. This reinforcement was promised last November by the Security Council but has yet to be fulfilled because not a single nation has been willing to provide additional troops..
Human Rights Watch, a New York-based NGO, reported that it has documented the rapes, killings, and burning of dozens of villages by the FDLR rebel group in the Congo made up primarily of Rwandan nationals. The Human Rights Watch report stated that at least 90 women have been raped and 180 villagers killed over the past two months by rebels as well as government forces in volatile eastern Congo.
Alan Doss, the UN Special Representative of the Secretary-General for the DRC, echoes the complaint that MONUC is overstretched and expresses the dire need for reinforcement. The rebel violence continues to persist in eastern Congo, as the LRA has dispersed into small groups and have waged massive attacks across this vast region.
MOUNC currently consists of 17,000 troops for the entire country and is already the world’s largest UN peacekeeping force. Doss says he needs the extra troops to respond to outbreaks of violence by the FDLR and the LRA, but in addition to regular troops and helicopters, Doss has asked for special forces and intelligence specialists. The UN’s refugee agency has also stated that fighting in the northeastern DRC between the new rebel coalition Popular Front for Justice (FPJC) in the Congo and the Revolutionary Front for Peace in Ituri has displaced thousands of people.