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Weekly News Brief: 01.19-01.26

In this week’s issue: DRC rebel leader Laurent Nkunda is arrested, thousands more are displaced in fighting between Darfur rebel factions, attempts at diplomatic negotiations continue in Burma, and the International Criminal Court begins its first trial

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After fighting broke out between the rebel group JEM and the former rebel group SLA-MM in the town of Muhariya, thousands of civilians have been displaced and JEM finally took control. In response, theSudanese Government has bombed the rebel positions in the town numerous times, killing a number of rebels and civilians. The violence has been widely condemned.

A new UN report has accused Sudan of violating international law in a devastating raid it conducted on Kalma IDP camp this summer where it fired unlawfully upon civilians, claims which the government denies.

Representatives from the AU, the UN, and the Government of Sudan met today in Ethiopia to discuss the future of UNAMID.

After President Obama’s inauguration, the Sudanese Government says it is willing to work with the new U.S. administration.


The Ministry of Religious Affairs in Burma has ordered private Christian worship centers to close.  Since the 1960’s the military government has halted all the construction of churches and forced Rangoons congregations (some 100 in number) to worship in privately-owned buildings.

With the election of Barack Obama, Burma analysts recommend that Washington redouble its efforts in Burma by signing on a U.S. Special Representative and Policy Coordinator for Burma and instituting seven party talks.

UN Special Envoy to Burma, Ibrahim Gambari is making his first trip to Burma in 2009 on January 31. Based on past experience of failed diplomatic efforts, most believe that his trip is unlikely to yield progress for the pro-democracy forces. 

Democratic Republic of Congo

Tutsi rebel leader Laurent Nkunda was arrested on Friday morning in Rwanda, after being pursued in North Kivu by Rwandan and Congolese troops. Rwandan troops crossed into DRC last Wednesday as part of a joint operation to pursue Hutu militia known as the FDLR. Nkunda is currently being held in Rwanda, and while the DRC authorities have asked that he be extradited, there is concern that this may become a source of tension between the two countries.

Reports indicate that the CNDP fighters have begun laying down their arms since Nkunda’s arrest. Days before the arrest, a CNDP faction led by Nkunda’s second-in-command Bosco Ntaganda, signed a ceasefire agreement with the DRC and agreed to integrate in to the Congolese army. Check out the STAND Blog for more background on this developing situation and the ENOUGH Project’s blog for a discussion of its potential implications.

The United Nations condemned recent attacks by the Ugandan Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) in DRC’s Ituri province. The violence has claimed over 600 civilian lives according to some estimates, and UNHCR reported last week that more than half of the 135,000 civilians displaced by the fighting since September have no access to humanitarian assistance.

Former DRC militia leader Thomas Lubanga becomes the first suspect to stand trial at the International Criminal Court today. Lubanga is accused of enlisting and conscripting child soldiers in DRC’s Ituri province during the 1998-2003 war. The Lubanga trial, as the ICC’s first, is considered crucial for establishing the court’s credibility.

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