Weekly Education Update
Syria, DRC, Sudan, South Sudan
Violence in Syria against civilians by government security forces has rapidly escalated over the course of the past week in the aftermath of the unsuccessful UN Security Council vote on condemnatory action against the Syrian regime. BBC News reports via opposition sources that hundreds of Syrian civilians have been killed since last week, caught in an intensive campaign of artillery strikes upon the city of Homs conducted by the Syrian Army; as well as major sweeps throughout the rest of the nation. A further 95 civilian deaths were reported to BBC News via opposition forces on Thursday. Of the escalation in violence, UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon asserted Thursday that the United Nations Security Council’s failure to agree on action regarding Syria emboldened the Syrian government’s willingness "to step up its war on its own people". Secretary General Ban also stated that he has been in communication with Arab League Secretary General, Nabil al-Araby, in hopes of reforging the Arab League’s observatory mission with aid of the United Nations.
The United States State Department announced Monday that it will be closing its embassy operations in Syria, owing to the escalating scale and unpredictability of the ongoing violence. Victoria Nuland, the embassy spokesperson stated that “The deteriorating security situation that led to the suspension of our diplomatic operations makes clear once more the dangerous path Assad has chosen and the regime’s inability to fully control Syria.”The Russian Foreign Ministry sent a delegation to Syria on Tuesday, owing to criticism of Russia’s veto of condemnatory action at the United Nations Security Council vote in the previous week. Of the meeting, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov stated “We have confirmed our preparedness to facilitate a rapid end to the crisis based on the positions set out in the Arab League initiative. In particular, the president of Syria gave assurance that he is fully committed to an end to violence, no matter its source.”
According to the parliamentary election results released last week, Kabila’s party has garnered 260 votes, “a weak majority”, while the opposition party has 134. This represents a loss by Kabila’s party of more than 40% of its legislative seats to rival parties, which complicates President Kabila’s ability to form a majority coalition. Now more than 80 political parties are represented in the National Assembly. According to a professor at the University of Kinshasa, “Everyone will want their seat in government. The future government will be even more heterogeneous than the one that came from the elections in 2006. A heterogeneous coalition means a weak government.”
Now that the parliamentary election results have been announced, the UN has stressed the need for all parties to use legal means and dialogue to settle differences and maintain a peaceful atmosphere in the country. “It encourages all candidates and political actors to use the legally prescribed channels for the resolution of disputes, and to refrain from the use of force or violence.”
The fallout from the UN Group of Experts report on the DRC continues. Not only was former NBA star Dikembe Mutombo implicated in gold smuggling, a US trade adviser appointed by President Obama was also involved. Kase Lawal, a Nigerian-born US oil tycoon, transferred millions of dollars to Bosco Ntaganda between December 2010 and February 2011 in return for minerals. Ntaganda is wanted by the ICC for crimes of enlisting and conscripting children under the age of fifteen for hostilities. Lawal never received the gold, despite paying an estimated $30 million in total. According to Jason Stearns, “Lawal knew Bosco Ntaganda was involved in the deal, so he was knowingly doing business with a man wanted by the ICC. On top of that, there was a Congolese mining ban in place at the time. And finally, he’s probably violating a UN arms embargo in the region.” For more information on the UN Group of Experts report and its fallout, read Jason Stearns interview here.
According to UNHCR, armed groups have infiltrated internally displaced persons (IDP) camps, renewing violence in the North Kivu region and committing atrocities against these displaced groups. There are over 31 IDP camps in North Kivu alone housing nearly 79,000 people, who are often at great risk. “Displaced Congolese are constantly being threatened by various groups and militias who accuse them of collaborating with one or another armed group.” This ongoing violence not only threatens the safety of IDPs, but also hinders humanitarian access to camps and prevents assistance from reaching the displaced. Currently, only 8 of the total 31 camps are accessible to humanitarian workers without military escort. In total, there are 1.7 million IDPs across the country.
Protests against Kabila’s re-election continue around the world. In Cape Town, South Africa, Congolese protesters picketed on the sidelines of the Mining Indaba on Wednesday. Not only did they urge investors to steer clear of the DRC’s resources, but they also claimed that South Africa’s support of Kabila was driven by purely economic interest in the mining sector. This is part of a larger South African campaign initiated by members of the Congolese diaspora to call attention to the illegitimacy of the November elections.
Congolese immigration police briefly detained the second highest in command for Tshisekedi’s Union for Democracy and Social Progress (UDSP) party on Tuesday. Jacquemain Shabani, secretary general of the party, was detained for possessing a passport that did not belong to him as well as documents related to the electoral process and human rights violations in the country.
Last month, Apple CEO Tim Cook affirmed his company’s commitment to ethically and environmentally sound practices, and Nokia seems to be following in their footsteps. Nokia just released a policy outlining its philosophy on conflict minerals, saying that while it doesn’t play a direct role in obtaining these materials, all suppliers must provide detailed information on their supply chain.
Sudan, South Sudan
The United Nations humanitarian coordinator described the situation of nearly 88,000 people displaced in the aftermath of ethnic violence in South Sudan’s Pibor County, Jonglei state as extremely serious. She also warned that the shut down of South Sudan’s oil supply will lead to more aid dependency and what she calls “a longer season of hunger.”
US Ambassador to the UN, Susan Rice, has strongly condemned the bombing of a school in Sudan’s southern region of South Kordofan by the country’s military.
The United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) and World Food Programme (WFP) released a report saying that at least 4.7 million people in South Sudan are likely to be food insecure this year.
The Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) distanced itself from the head of the hybrid peacekeeping mission in Darfur (UNAMID), Ibrahim Gambari, and accused him of violating the mandate UN largest operation. Gambari has been criticized by Human Rights Watch for attending a wedding at which President al-Bashir was also present.
Sudanese rebels released 29 Chinese workers, ten days after kidnapping them in the South Kordofan.
Officials in South Sudan’s Jonglei state say armed raiders killed more than ten people in two separate attacks in Akobo and Bor counties this week, in the latest violence to affect the country’s largest state.
Following six weeks of raids and counter raids in Jonglei state, armed men from the Nuer ethnic group announced that they are forming a combined force with the Dinka tribe and members of the Nuer from Ethiopia to form a border force to "quarantine" the Murle. The 30,000 strong group of armed civilians, calling itself the White Army, will encircle Murle areas to prevent cattle raids.
The education update is produced every Thursday to update STAND members and the advocacy community about developments with regards to genocide and crimes against humanity. For more information contact the following:
Education Coordinator: Sean Langberg firstname.lastname@example.org
Sudan Education Coordiator: Emma Smith email@example.com
DRC Education Coordinator: Siobhan Kelley firstname.lastname@example.org
Emerging Crises Education Coordinator: Tom Dolzall email@example.com