In this week’s issue: Darfuris continue to suffer as Khartoum refuses to re-admit aid organizations into the country, the US appoints a Special Envoy for Sudan, and retaliatory violence by LRA and FDLR militias continues in eastern Congo
Featured: Check out this powerful op-ed by Mohamed Sulieman, a Darfuri living in the San Francisco Bay Area, on the expulsion of aid groups from Darfur.
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The people of Darfur continue to suffer from Khartoum’s decision to boot 16 international and local NGOs from the country. UN troops are now being bombarded with the duty to deliver aid to needy camps. The Kalma camp in Southern Darfur – home to 88,000 and beleaguered by a meningitis epidemic – is refusing fuel and food, and says it will only be accepted it if the NGOs are allowed to return. Severe problems are also arising in Zam Zam camp in North Darfur due to an increasing water shortage. Despite this, Sudan’s envoy to the UN announced this week that the decision was a “legitimate and sovereign” one that will not be reconsidered. Bashir has also called for the removal of all foreign aid groups by the end of this year – it is clear to many in the international community “that Bashir has now made himself culpable for the additional lives that will be lost” and Bashir’s allies are discouraging him from leaving Sudan.
In news also tied to the humanitarian situation, the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) has said they will not discuss peace with the Khartoum government until the aid groups are allowed to return.
In other news, a significant conflict occurred between two tribes outside Nyala, South Darfur this week; it is the second conflict between the tribes since December. At least 26 were reported dead and an additional 9 wounded in the fighting which resulted from a continuing land dispute.
In more uplifting news, the Obama administration has finally (and to great enthusiasm from all Darfur activists) appointed retired Air Force General Scott Gration as the US special envoy to Sudan. Read the STAND and Enough Project blogs for more information and insight.
No news to report
Democratic Republic of Congo
The Ugandan army (UDPF) began their withdrawal from the DRC this week, after they ended their joint anti-LRA operation with the DRC’s army troops (FARDC). The pullout of over 1,500 UDPF troops has been expected to take eight days, from March 15 to March 23, at the latest. Even though the mission failed to capture the leader of the LRA, Joseph Kony, the minister of the DRC called it a “clear success.” The UN mission in Congo (MOUNC) will continue the operation against the LRA after Uganda’s withdrawal.
Congo, Uganda, and southern Sudan have been trying to root out all of the LRA, who are known for atrocities of mutilation and child abduction, since mid-December, and has since wiped out 80 percent of the rebel army. In retaliation, the LRA has killed more than 900 civilians since the three nations launched their attack. The most recent violence occurred this past Friday, when LRA rebels killed 12 people and kidnapped 40 more in a remote village in northern Congo.
More retaliatory violence continues in eastern DRC by the FDLR, a Rwandan Hutu rebel group that took part in the 1994 Rwandan genocide. The FDLR is continuing to launch attacks in Congolese towns and villages, in response to the DRC-Rwanda joint military offensive to disarm the Hutu militia that began in January, even though Rwandan troops have completely withdrawn from the DRC. These rebel attacks have left over 30,000 civilians in the North Kivu province displaced from their homes over the past two weeks.
Political backlash persists despite the recent pullout of UDPF troops regarding the DRC government’s continued acceptance of foreign troops for joint military operations. President of the National Assembly (the lower house of parliament), Vital Kamerhe, publicly voiced his reservations over the entry of Rwandan troops in January and, as a result, has been called upon to resign by the DRC’s majority party, the Alliance for the Presidential Majority (AMP). Lawmakers from the AMP, which is also President Joseph Kabila’s party, boycotted the opening session of the National Assembly to turn up the pressure to remove speaker Kamerhe.