The student-led movement to end mass atrocities.

Weekly News Brief: 03.23.09 – 03.30.09

In this week’s issue: the Arab League rolls out the red carpet for Bashir, reports reveal atrocities committed by rebels in eastern Burma, and a former rebel group makes peace with the government in DRC.

Featured: President Obama talks tough on Sudan after a meeting with Darfur activists today.

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At the Arab League Summit today, leaders adopted a resolution rejecting the ICC’s arrest warrant for President Bashir. In defiance of the warrant, President Bashir personally attended the meeting in Doha, Qatar, where he received a red carpet welcome.

Refugees International issued a report this week in which it declares South Sudan to be "on the brink of collapse."  It reports shortcomings in the CPA and the effects of localized conflicts that have resurged in the last few months.  The Enough Project addressed these same concerns, following the cattle raiding conflict in Jonglei, which has UN officials worried.  On top of this, 40 cases of polio have been reported in South Sudan, creating a national health emergency. 

News is still unsettling for peacekeepers this week – four armed men started a fire in a refugee camp, killing two peacekeepers Wednesday.  The fire spread over a quarter of the camp, affecting 6,000 people. 

In other news, Israel has admitted its role in a January attack on a Sudanese convoy it believed was smuggling weapons to Hamas.  In the attack the Israeli Air Force dropped two unmanned drones on the trucks, killing at least 30. 

TIAA-CREF, a US based pension fund, has announced plans to withdraw investments in Sudan, by ceasing them or working to aid those suffering in Darfur.  They aim to open a dialogue with oil companies perpetuating the genocide, and withdraw funds if progress is not made – a huge victory for divestment activists!


Burma has once again made the State Department’s Country of Particular Concern (CPC) list for their flagrant lack of religious freedom. Categorizing a country as CPC means that the president is obliged to take measures to censure said country for their lack of freedom and enact legislation to correct this.

The Jewelers of America has issued guidelines to member retailers on how to comply with the Tom Lantos Block Burmese JADE (Junta’s Anti-Democratic Efforts) Act of 2008.  The guidelines detail how to make sure that non-directly imported gems do not come from Burma and how to answer questions by customers concerning the legislation.

Recent reports reveal that the Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA) is not guiltless in their war against the Burman majority.  The KNLA has also been known to use child soldiers, plant mines and execute prisoners on the spot due to lack of food

Democratic Republic of Congo

The Ugandan UPDF completed its withdrawal from the DRC early this week, marking the end of “Operation Lightning Thunder,” the three-month military offensive against the LRA. Uganda’s army chief announced that twelve UPDF soldiers were killed during this operation, along with ninety-eight LRA rebels.

As a symbol of progress in the continuing armed conflict between the Congo and Rwandan rebels, the DRC government and the mostly Tutsi rebel group, the National Congress for People’s Defence (CNDP), signed an accord on Monday. Under the agreement, the CNDP, which was previously led by renegade Tutsi general Laurent Nkunda, will become an official political party and the Congolese government will free captured rebels and pass an amnesty law for former rebels. The repatriation of Nkunda, who was arrested by Rwandan authorities in January, has been discussed but is not yet concretely scheduled to occur.

Several key figures from the international community made visits to the DRC this week. Chinese Assistant Foreign Minister Zhai Jun spoke to Congolese officials while in the country about providing humanitarian aid to refugees in the DRC. French President Nicolas Sarkozy also stopped in the DRC on his three-nation African tour. In his address to parliament in Kinshasa, Sarkozy called for a “new momentum” in the cooperation between the DRC and its eastern neighbors, especially in the sharing of natural resources, and praised the joint military operations with Rwanda and Uganda.

The political dispute from last week over the presence of Rwandan troops in eastern Congo ended in Vital Kamerhe’s resignation as leader of the National Assembly.

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