In this week’s issue: the government of Sudan continues to resist the return of aid to Darfur, the EU maintains sanctions on Burma, and FDLR rebels terrorize civilians in eastern Congo.
Featured: In an op-ed in the Boston Herald today, Senator John Kerry reflected on his recent trip to Sudan and discussed the challenges facing Sudan. Consistent with Kerry’s statements earlier in the week, the article expresses optimism about the potential to engage Khartoum in negotiations.
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In talks with French and British negotiators this week, the government of Sudan reiterated its refusal to let expelled aid organizations back into Sudan. And despite Sen. John Kerry’s words last week, it appears unlikely that aid will be restored to its original strength. Sudan’s UN envoy said the UN’s declaration of a humanitarian crisis after the aid expulsion is a lie, though UNAMID admits it is struggling to fulfill its mandate in the war torn region.
A Sudanese court has sentenced another 11 members of the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) to death for the May 2008 attack near Khartoum, bringing the total sentenced to 82.
The GoS also ordered the Arabic newspaper al-Wifaq to shut down after an editorial published on Saturday called for the killing of a senior Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) official. Increasing government censorship in Sudan is becoming major point of contention in the country.
Five Darfuri rebel groups have met in Doha, Qatar to discuss their role in bringing peace to Darfur. JEM, the group that started peace talks with the government in February this year, is still refusing to meet with the GoS after the expulsion of 16 NGOs from Darfur.
In South Sudan, violence surrounding cattle-rustling has increased and is getting worse, as retaliatory attacks between tribs continue. Peace and stability in South Sudan is vital to the rest of the county.
South Africa’s President-elect, Jacob Zuma, has made it clear that Omar al-Bashir, President of Sudan is not welcome at his inauguration in May. Zuma will not extend a welcome to any African country with undemocratic or repressive tactics.
Stateside, on April 27th Congressional representatives from five states were arrested in a protest alongside John Pendergast of the ENOUGH Project and Jerry Fowler from the Save Darfur Coalition. Actress Mia Farrow, who has visited Darfur 11 times, has started a three week hunger strike to protest the lack of international action in the past weeks since the aid expulsion, leading to increased starvation.
Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya of Thailand has assured Secretary of State Hillary Clinton that Thailand does not purchase gems from the Burmese junta. Given the porous nature of the border between Thailand and Burma, however, it is not apparent how this is regulated.
The EU announced that it will continue sanctions against Burma and renewed it’s call for the release of all political prisoners and Aung San Suu Kyi. The EU has travel bans on Burmese officials along with a ban on arms importation to Burma. The sanctions where increased to timber, gems and other minerals in 2007 after the "Saffron Revolution." The EU has said that it will consider altering sanctions as the situation on the ground changes.
Recently, a Karen woman testified before the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission in Congress, asking the US to push for a UN Security Council Commission of Inquiry into human rights abuses of ethnic minorites in Burma. The Commission also heard testimony from Dr Sean Turnell, the head of Burma Economic Watch, about the need for tighter US sanctions against Burma.
Democratic Republic of Congo
As the attacks on civilians continue, Alan Doss, head of the UN peacekeeping forces in the DRC, condemned the Rwandan Hutu rebels of the FDLR for its “contempt of the sovereignty of the DRC and the welfare of its people” and said the rebels “should disarm and return home” to Rwanda.
Doss reiterated that the MONUC is committed to aiding Congolese government forces in eliminating the rebel threat. While the DRC army persists in its attempts to stop the FDLR, the rebels continue to commit arson and rape in civilian villages.
The UNHCR have estimated that more than 100,000 Congolese civilians have been displaced from their homes over the past seven weeks due to rebel attacks. This brings the total number of displaced civilians to over 1.4 million across the eastern DRC.