Last Thursday, rebels launched a major assault on government forces in Aleppo. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that 20 rockets hit the central district, some striking an office of the political security service. Since then, historic markets, called souks, were set ablaze, and car bombs continued, killing at least 48 people yesterday and wounding 72. Damascus is also suffering, seeing renewed violence between the government forces and rebels. It is approximated that on Wednesday alone at least 236 people were killed by violence across the country.
A mass text message sent by Assad’s army read,
Dear anyone that has taken up arms against the State; and has made money. You have two choices; either be killed facing the State or the State will kill you to get rid of you, you decide.
To take up arms against the State; they sent you to die…you are in trouble, leave your weapon and save your life. Syrian Arab Army To take up arms against the State; the game is over…the countdown has begun to expel all militants from neighboring countries…the State embraces her children’s choices. Syrian Arab Army To take up arms against the State: they took the money and abandoned you so you can die, your chance of survival by leaving arms and surrender yourself.
On the Syria-Turkey border, five Turkish civilians were killed by a Syrian government shelling. In response, Turkey authorized the use of force in Syria, not as a declaration of war, but as a “warning” to the authorities in Damascus.
On Friday, the UN human rights council extended the mandate of its investigation into war crimes in Syria by six months. The resolution was adopted with 41 states in favor, three states against (China, Cuba, and Russia), and three abstentions. Since it was set up last year, 1,100 victims, refugees, and defectors have been interviewed. The UN High Commission for Refugees say that the number of Syrian refugees in neighboring countries has more than tripled since June to over 316,000, and estimate that by the end of the year the number will double again. The time of year is especially troubling for those living in tents, as the average low temperature in mid-March is just above freezing. There have been riots in the camp in Jordan due to poor living conditions and rising numbers of refugees.
On the international front, Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Ergodan has expressed his disappointment in Russia. “Let alone raising its voice against Syria, it stands by the massacre […] China stands by Russia, and although (Chinese President) Hu Jintao had told me they wouldn’t veto the plan (for a safe zone) for a third time, they did at the U.N. vote," Erdogan said. Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari proposed a two-stage plan on Friday to bring the Syrian government and opposition together to discuss a political transition and end to the civil war. The two-part plan has been given to envoy Brahimi to consider. Iraq has also said that flights departing from Iran and into Syria’s airspace will be asked to land for weapons inspections to ensure that weapons are not being delivered to Assad’s troops.
US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta cited US intelligence, saying that Syrians have moved some of their chemical weapons capability to better secure it, but that the main sites remain intact and secure under government control. The US has unveiled $45 million more dollars for humanitarian aid and civilian opposition in Syria.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton met with Myanmar President Thein Sein on Wednesday September 27 to further discuss the easing of the US ban on imports from Burma. Clinton, however, made it clear that in order for Burma to receive further aid from the US, the Myanmar military must sever all ties with North Korea.
During the morning of Thursday, September 28 Myanmar President Thein Sein addressed the UN General Assembly in New York and congratulated opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi’s recent awards given to her in the US. He also urged the international community to be patient and said the process of democratization was complex and very delicate. He also briefly addressed the importance of creating peace within Burma’s states, especially in Rakhine State where thousands have been displaced due to fighting between the Rohingya and Rakhine. He claimed that the Myanmar military was dedicated to peace and has signed ten different ceasefire agreements. To see the English translation of Thein Sein’s speech, click here.
Interested in Aung San Suu Kyi’s recent visit to the US? Check out Danny Hirschel Burns’ post about the experience here!
DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF THE CONGO
Since May, the UNHCR has helped more than 25,000 Congolese return to their homes in DRC from neighboring Republic of Congo. Upon arrival, families are given an aid package and take part in reintegration activities to help ensure a sustainable return. However, Equateur remains one of the most remote provinces in DRC, lacking basic socio-ecoomic structures and infrastructure.
Last Thursday, President of Rwanda Paul Kagame walked out of a UN meeting following a Belgian reference to allegations of Rwanda aiding rebels in eastern DRC. The Rwandan delegation in New York said that the walkout was not a political move, but because he had another meeting to go to. During the meeting, Congolese president Joseph Kabila insisted that his country is victim to foreign interference.
A series of nighttime shootings and grenade attacks in Goma have killed up to 12 people. Goma, the capital of North Kivu in eastern Rwanda, has witnessed violence since March when hundreds of soldiers defected from the army of Bosco Ntaganda. Ernest Kyaviro, spokesman for the provincial governor, said, “I think there is an infiltration of the city by M23 who are carrying out these terrorist acts.”
On September 21, World Peace Day, Congolese activists took to the streets, demanding an end to the violence that has engulfed the country for over two decades, and a transformation of the political system maintaining the status quo.
Patrick Mulemeri, one of the main organizers of the Congo Peace Network (CPN), says that, “We are studying new forms of activism, like boycotts and the refusal to pay bills. [In the end], nonviolence has its role in bringing about democratic change in our country. Nonviolent methods will be successful, because they don’t harm anyone. They also have the potential to involve the majority of the population, who have been the victims of this system that has governed us since independence.”
British-Congolese activist Natasha Makengo is a Britain-based activist using art and music as tools for activism. She says, “I want people to know that violence and conflict is not something completely alien to us here. Yes, it is happening in the Congo, but it happens every day here in the UK too, it affects all of us.” For more on Natasha, click here.
An Antonov aircraft of the Sudanese Air Force killed a man and his three children. Sheikh Joma’a Saleh, and his three sons, Hawa, Adam and Abdullah, were killed when the aircraft dropped three bombs at approximately 30 kilometers west of Tabit in North Darfur on Wednesday morning. Citizens from East Jebel Marra urged the Security Council and the UN to immediately intervene.
Sudan President Omar Al-Bashir will be visiting South Sudan this month. His visit is expected to cement the agreements on security, oil, citizenship and trade. The security agreement will provide for the establishment of a buffer demilitarized zone along the unmarked 1800 km common borders. It also renews the commitment of both parties to refrain from supporting rebel groups in the other state.
South Sudan chief negotiator Pagan Amum has said there will be no further talks on Abyei and Heglig. Amum said their side as the government was to accept the proposal by the mediators. And that’s exactly what they did. “President Salva Kiir Mayardit never hesitated but Sudan refused it,” said Amum. The two parties failed to agree on the participation of the Misseriya pastoralists. The disagreement is over whether only Misseriya permanent residents should be able to vote, or whether Misseriya have a historical right to the land and thus all should be able to vote.
Rebel leader David Yauyau is being accused of recruiting young people to implement political interests. Pibor County Commissioner, Joshua Konyi condemned the militia of killing innocent civilians in the area. He held a meeting with the chiefs in the county, attempting to persuade them not to allow their young men to join the rebel group.