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Weekly News Brief: 05.10.09 – 05.17.09

In this week’s issue: tensions build on the Sudan/Chad border, Obama pledges to maintain sanctions on Burma, and attacks by FDLR rebels escalate in Congo

Featured: Check out these three videos from the past week.  The first is a BBC interview with Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir in which he discusses the problems in Darfur and offers his opinion on where the blame belongs. The second is a tour inside Zamzam camp done by Al Jazeera, one of the first since the aid expulsion in March.

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Problems are still rife between Chad and Sudan, with the Government of Sudan (GoS) calling Chadian bombing raids inside Sudan’s borders an “act of war”.  Chad has justified its use of force and claims the raids are over, saying it has captured 100 adversaries. 

Adding tension, the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) rebels in Darfur said they have seized a government military base inside Sudan on the Chad/Sudan border.

UNAMID peacekeepers reported government bombing in North Darfur.  There is no clear motive for the bombing, but peacekeepers believe the GoS was targeting JEM rebels in the area. 

The first Darfur rebel to be tried internationally appears before the International Criminal Court this week.  In November 2008, he was accused of orchestrating the deaths of 12 AU peacekeepers by the ICC chief prosecutor. 

Three Sudanese police officers were killed this week outside Nyala in South Darfur. 

The UN has officially come forward to admit concern over the violence in South Sudan. John Holmes, under-secretary for Humanitarian Affairs calls the conflicts “worrying” and linked the clan-related violence to unsettle problems in South Sudan.  

Though Mia Farrow ended her fast after only 12 days, she attracted international attention and people around the globe – from human rights advocates to statesmen and musicianscontinue to fast in outrage of the six year long crisis in Darfur.  Visit for more information.


After reviewing America’s policy on Burma, President Obama resealed a statement on Friday saying that the current US stance on Burma, sanctions and all, will remain the same.

The film "Burma VJ ” is set to open in New York on Wednesday.  It tracks the efforts of a clandestine reporter and the Democratic Voice of Burma, a TV Station in exile, based in Oslo to bring the events of the 2007 Saffron Revolution to TV screens around the world through guerrilla reporting.  Vaclav Havel reportedly gave a copy of the film to Sec. of State Clinton on her recent visit to Prague.

Burmese lawyer Aung Thein reportedly had his license revoked after he applied to represent pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi in her upcomming trial. Suu Kyi is being accusted of breaking the terms of her house arrest after an American John Yettaw swam across the lake next to her bungalow and broke in, apparently to talk to her.  If convicted Suu Kyi could be imprisoned for 5 years.  He house arrest sentence was due to expire May 27.

Democratic Republic of Congo

Extremist Hutu FDLR rebels continue to terrorize civilians in eastern DRC. According to reports that surfaced on Wednesday, over 100 people, including both civilians and government soldiers, were killed last weekend in a series of attacks in North and South Kiv provinces. FDLR rebels have stepped up their raids since mid-February, when a joint Congolese-Rwandan mission to track them down ended. In a report released this week, International Crisis Group called for renewed action against FDLR fighters.

On Sunday, a United Nations delegation visited Rwanda and urged Rwandan President Paul Kagame to improve relations with DRC in an effort to address the ongoing crisis there.

MONUC, the UN peacekeeping mission in DRC, announced the official handover to the Congolese army of hundreds of weapons cpllected from various rebel militias.The weapons were handed over as part of MONUC’s Disarmament, Demobilization, Repatriation, Resettlement, and Reintegration (DDRRR) initiative in the country.

The past few weeks have seen significant activity in the U.S. Senate concerning the conflict in eastern DRC. On Wednesday, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee held a hearing to address sexual and gender-based violence in Congo and Sudan. Senators Brownback, Durbin, and Feingold introduced U.S. Senate Bill S. 819, the Congo Conflict Minerals Act of 2009. While the introduction of the legislation was welcomed by organizations including the ENOUGH Project and Global Witness, the groups stressed the need to include significant improvements, including stronger enforcement mechanisms.

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