In this week’s issue: The International Criminal Court announces plans to issue a decision on Sudan’s Bashir, the U.S. State Department considers a new strategy in Burma, and the Congolese government plans to continue its pursuit of FDLR rebels without Rwanda’s help.
Featured: The ENOUGH Project released a new strategy paper last week entitled "Peace on the Rocks: Sudan’s Comprehensive Peace Agreement," on the challenges facing the 4-year-old agreement between North and South Sudan. Click here to read the report and listen to an audio summary, and here for a summary from the STAND Blog.
After intense speculation over the last two weeks about its plans, the International Criminal Court (ICC) announced today that it will issue a decision concerning the indictment of President Omar al-Bashir on March 4.
Last week, the rebel group the Justice and Equality Movement and the Sudanese Government signed a declaration of goodwill expressing willingness to engage in a peace process after a controversial set of peace talks in Doha, Qatar.
The deal has been equally controversial in its aftermath as it was in its anticipation: the deal was congratulated by the international community, supported by the US, scorned by other rebel groups, over-played by the Sudanese Government, and in general has brought mixed hopes. Both groups denied that the talks had anything to do with the expected ICC arrest warrant.
However, less than a day after the signing of the declaration, JEM accused the Sudanese Government of having launched an attack, which the Government denies. There were also more reports of clashes between JEM and the now government-aligned SLM-MM.
Tensions between the Burmese and the Kachins of northern Burma remain high even under a ceasefire. Many predict the highly autonomous Kachins will reignite the civil war in 2010 when the country is supposed to have "free and fair" elections. The validity of the upcoming elections will be under close scrutiny by international observers. The Kachin minority is just one of Burma’s ethinc groups that contest the military junta’s claim to power.
The U.S. State Department, after Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s recent visit to Southeast Asia, has claimed that it’s policy on Burma is "under review." There has been much speculation that the Obama administration will lift sanctions against Burma so as to better negotiate with the junta.
The UN special envoy to Burma, Ibrahim Gambari, has said that he did not believe that his recent trip to Burma would yield any tangible results. Gambari has yet to meet with ruling General Than Shwe.
The military government claims that it will release 6,300 prisoners for "good conduct," including many leaders of the opposition National League for Democracy. Observers are still reluctant to call this move a huge change in the military government’s status quo.
Democratic Republic of Congo
Rwandans, both FDLR fighters and civilians, continued to repatriate from DRC, fleeing a Congolese-Rwandan joint military offensive aimed at tracking down FDLR militias. Alan Doss, the head of the UN mission in DRC, urged more FDLR combatants to join the UN’s voluntary disarmament, demobilization, repatriation, and rehabilitation (DDRRR) program during a visit to North Kivu last week.
Rwandan military officials announced on Saturday that Rwanda would begin withdrawing its troops from Congo. Although the FDLR have not been completely destroyed, Rwanda announced that they have "achieved their objectives" and plan to completely withdraw their troops by the middle of this coming week.
On Sunday, the Congolese government and former CNDP rebels reached a preliminary agreement as part of a wider peace deal for the east of the country. The agreement came during UN-brokered talks that resumed last Wednesday after a two-month hiatus. According to government sources, the final agreement will include other armed groups operating in eastern North Kivu province.