Weekly News Brief 9/27
This week, clashes have continued in Aleppo, Damascus, and Homs. On Wednesday, September 26, there were two explosions near the Damascus general headquarters of Syria’s army. The attack left two floors in flames and 14 people injured. Elsewhere in the city, Maya Naser, a correspondent for the Iranian Press TV network, was shot dead by a sniper while reporting. This death brings the number of journalists killed while reporting Syria’s civil war to 22. These attacks came the morning after Qatari Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani called for unilateral Arab intervention in Syria. He cited an Arab intervention in Lebanon in the mid-70s, suggesting Arab states to do the same in Syria. On Thursday, an air strike hit a fuel station in al-Riqqa, reportedly killing 54 more people. Activists and artists critical of the regime have also been killed.
The conflict has, for the first time, spilled into the Israeli-occupied territory of Golan Heights, but there were no injuries or damage. There is further unrest between Syria and Turkey over disputed borders as well as disputes on the Lebanon border and the Jordan border. Syrian opposition figures met on Sunday to discuss peaceful ways to end Syria’s civil war and unite the opposition.
Secretary Clinton called on the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) to take renewed action in Syria, saying, “The atrocities mount while the Security Council remains paralyzed and I would urge that we once again try to find a path forward.” The US has also just given $21 million in humanitarian aid for the Syrian opposition, boosting funding to over $100 million.
For a less text-heavy timeline of Syria’s events, check out Al Jazeera’s interactive map here.
Activists who organized rallies for the UN International Day of Peace on September 21 in Yangon and other cities are being faced with charges of up to 10 years in prison. The activists marched to protest ongoing civil conflicts in Kachin State and other ethnic areas. The local government authorities claim the activists did not get prior permission to stage a public gathering.
Earlier this week, Aung San Suu Kyi continued on her US tour making stops in Louisville, KY and Fort Wayne, IN to visit communities of Burmese refugees. There will a blog post on STAND’s website about her trip later this week.
Burma President Thein Sein wrapped up his visit to China and headed to New York where he will address the UN General Assembly. He is expected to make his argument to the international community for continued support and engagement with Burma following the countries recent democratic reforms. Additionally, after meeting with President Thein Sein, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has said the US will begin to ease the current ban on imports from Burma.
Additionally, Visa and MasterCard have begun to explore bringing credit cards to Burma, which has been a predominantly cash based society.
On Monday, an MiG plane dropped more bombardments in East Jebel Marra, east of Fanga, North Darfur. Terrified residents fled and sought refuge in neighboring farms. According to the report, people in the area live in constant fear of aerial and militia attacks. The government of Sudan is perceived as targeting civilians and livestock. An eyewitness from East Jebel Marra “described the humanitarian conditions for the locals as 'very bad.’”
Pro-government militia looted a market, homes and beat citizens near the town of Tabit, Darfur. According to reliable sources, the militia group was led by Ibrahim Abodhar, worn military uniforms, and drove 35 vehicles. Pleas by the residents to the area commandant to intervene were futile as the “pro-government militia only follows orders from Defense Minister Abdul Rahim Mohammed Hussein, in Khartoum.”
Refugees safety is at stake as border tension between Sudan and South Sudan escalates, reports the United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR) on Tuesday. Terror of the bombings, presence of government troops, and acute lack of food are forcing people to flee, thus increasing numbers of refugees fleeing Sudan’s Southern Kordofan, said Melissa Fleming, a spokesperson for agency.
Also on Tuesday, Sudan rejected the proposed Abyei referendum at an Addis Ababa meeting. Reacting to a proposal submitted by the African Union mediation aiming at breaking the deadlock over Abyei referendum, Khartoum rejected the proposal, saying it ignored that the eligibility of Misseriya was the main cause of discord. However, earlier today, Sudan and South Sudan reached a tentative agreement on the establishment of a demilitarized border zone, as well as the distribution of oil production between the neighboring states.
Both the SPLA and UN Troops have confirmed that “Sudanese military aircraft airdropped about eight parcels of weapons to the rebels,” over the weekend near Likuangole town in the Jonglei State. Although UN peacekeepers could not confirm what the dropped consignment contained, all indications show that Sudan army delivered weapons to rebels loyal to renegade David Yau Yau, who are fighting in the region.
Ethnic conflict pitting Murle against Dinka Bor seems to be on the rise again. On Sunday, a cattle camp in Alian village of Jale Payam in Jonglei was raided by gunmen suspected to be from the Murle ethnic tribe. Over 300 heads of cattle were reportedly stolen.
DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF THE CONGO
Recent events reinforce that war affects not only people, but also the environment and wildlife. Because of armed groups in Congo, DRC’s already-endangered mountain gorillas are in even more danger. In DRC, Rwanda, and Uganda, the Virunga volcanoes are home to 480 of the world’s remaining 790 mountain gorillas. In recent months, dozens have been killed by armed groups and poachers. Other animal victims have included hippopotami, which has gone from a population of 27,000 in 1980 to fewer than 300 today.
On the international front, The Telegraph reports that in the past five years, the British government has spent 2.4 million pounds on training and support for military, police, and security personnel for governments of Sudan and DRC. The European Union has now voted to suspend new aid to Rwanda following allegations of Rwanda’s support of the M23 in the east.
On September 20, the African Union adopted a resolution authorizing the deployment of peacekeeping troops to DRC. Also, Uganda’s UPDF and Police have been deployed on the Uganda-Congo border following an incident that killed two Ugandans. Refugees continue to flow from DRC into Uganda.
In Kinshasa, the decision has been made to reform the national election commission. The changes will come ahead of next year’s local and senatorial elections, which are scheduled for February 25.
Finally, the Lesula has become the first new species of monkey found in the past 28 years. Check out the beautiful monkey here!