In this week’s issue: New special envoy Sudan Scott Gration takes his first trip to Sudan, Sudanese elections are postponed, and U.N Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon calls for international support of a peace deal in Congo.
With regional problems plaguing the Arab League summit, talks came to an early close after only one day. Both Darfur and the warrant against Bashir were significant matters.
US Special Envoy to Sudan, Scott Gration, visited Khartoum and Northern Darfur this week with his “hands open” in friendship and cooperation to the Sudanese government. After reviewing conditions in Zamzam camp – from closed aid buildings to dwindling water resources – he determined “we are on the brink of a deeper crisis in Darfur” and admitted that the return of the 16 expelled NGOs is not likely. Gration was told by an opposition leader in Sudan that the government has been so busy protecting Bashir that they have disregarded all concerns about Darfur. In addition, John Kerry, head of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee has announced that he will travel to Darfuras part of the first Congressional trip to the region since 2007.
The AU high level panel on Darfur also made a trip to Northern Darfur this week to assess the humanitarian and security situations in Darfur and to “determine what can be done to achieve peace, justice and reconciliation.”
Continuing an alarming trend, two aid workers – one French and one Canadian –and two Sudanese security guards were kidnapped in Southern Darfur. The Sudanese workers have been released, but the captors are demanding ransom for the French workers, who are reported to be “in good shape”. The French government is working to secure their release.
Elections in Sudan, set to take place in July 2009, have been postponed until February 2010. The decision was agreed to by all parties involved to ensure a smooth, calm and safe environment for elections. The elections are a vital part of the 2005 CPA between the North and South.
Yesterday, the Burmese junta announced the signing of a peace deal with a small group of ethnic Karen rebels. However, observers are not optimistic that the deal will end fighting in the east of the country, as the rebels involved did not represent the Karen National Union (KNU), eastern Burma’s largest rebel group.
As the Obama administration reviews its strategy on Burma, members of Congress warned against lifting sanctions on the military junta in a letter to Secretary Clinton.
Democratic Republic of Congo
Last week’s peace accord, signed by the Congolese government and the CNDP rebel group, is a sign of progress, according to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon. However, he also stated that the situation in Congo needs more help than ever from the international community “to ensure that emerging gains are consolidated.”
Although the LRA continues to attack civilians in the DRC while it is based in the far north of the country, Congolese troops are making progress in hunting down the rebels. This week, the DRC army captured four LRA fighters and rescued 12 of their abductees.
Another problem eastern Congo has to worry about is volcanoes. Scientists suspect that the recent activity from the two volcanoes located in eastern DRC, where it is heavily populated from displaced civilians, may suggest imminent eruption.