A weekly update of the most important updates on the ground in our conflicts of concern. This week: potential peace talks for Darfur in Uganda, child labor in Burma, “catastrophic” interventions in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and more….
· Next week, the International Criminal Court (ICC) will begin the confirmation of charges hearings for Darfur rebel chief Bahr Idriss Abu Garda, leader of the Darfur United Resistance Front. Garda is accused of masterminding a raid on African Union peacekeepers in 2007.”
· On Monday Gunmen attacked a UNAMID guard post in Kutum, North Darfur, wounding one peacekeeper. The injured peacekeeper was evacuated to the hospital in Kutum and later to El Fasher where he is currently listed as stable.
· Uganda is reportedly willing to host peace talks between the Sudanese government and Darfur rebels and said that President al-Bashir would be welcome at any talks. Bashir was also invited to the upcoming AU summit on Refugees and IDPs in Kampala.
· Free Burma Rangers just released a field report detailing continued child labor and the indiscriminate shooting of civilians in central Karen State.
· A Burmese court sentenced Kyaw Zaw Lwin, a U.S. citizen born in Burma, to 14 years in prison for alleged charges of fraud and forgery. Additionally, another 11 political activists, including one Buddhist monk, were sentenced to between five and 10 years in Insein Prison.
· Pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi met with three American, British, and Australian diplomats last Friday to discuss these countries’ economic sanctions policies against Burma.
· Burma and Bangladesh stationed warships and military forces along the Burmese-Bangladeshi border.
· Indian army chief Gen. Deepak Kapoor met with Burmese generals on Sunday to discuss military-to-military cooperation between the two countries.
· An internal audit by a UN budgetary panel reported that 60 percent of UN funds to Burma are not monitored.
· The Congo Advocacy Coalition reported that since anti-FDLR operations in the DRC began in January, at least 1,143 civilians have been killed, 7,000 raped and 900,000 displaced by fighting between the government and the FDLR.
· The UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial executions called the UN backed FARDC offensive against the FDLR ‘catastrophic’. Alston also reported that FARDC troops had massacred 50 people in an attacke on the village of Shalio, South Kivu in April.
· More than 85,000 civilians, soldiers and police have been killed in Iraq from 2004 to 2008, according to a report released by the Iraqi government on Thursday. The dead include 1,279 children and 2,334 women.
· A succession of bombings targeting a national reconciliation meeting killed 23 civilians and injured 65 in Ramadi last Sunday. The attacks failed to injure any of the targeted officials and struck civilians instead.
· A suicide bomber killed six people and wounded 10, including the leader of an pro-government local militia, at a café in southern Iraq.
· A suicide bomb blasted apart a crowded marketplace in northwest Pakistan last Friday, killing at least 52 and injuring another 148. Officials believe the attack was meant as a warning against the new military offensive in South Waziristan. Another suicide attack in a crowded marketplace, near the Swat Valley and directed at a military convoy, killed 41 on Monday. This latest attack brought the death toll for that weekend to more than 100.
· On Saturday, 6 Taliban stormed a Pakistani army headquarters and held 42 people hostage. Pakistani commandos launched a rescue raid the next day, freeing 39 of the hostages; three were killed. The Pakistani Taliban said the attack had been carried out by its Punjab branch to display its “capability to strike at any place in Pakistan.”
· Gunmen also attacked a federal security building and two police stations in Lahore on Thursday. The attacks killed at least 26, including several children. No group has taken responsibility yet but the Taliban is strongly suspected. More than 150 Pakistanis have died in the past two weeks due to a string of Taliban attacks, prompting strong concern over a planned army offensive in South Waziristan.
· The Pakistani army objected to the conditions of a $1.5 billion non-military U.S. aid package approved by Congress, saying the terms allow the United States to interfere in Pakistan’s national security policy. Sen. Kerry said conditions need to be clarified, not changed and that the U.S. has no intention of infringing on Pakistan’s sovereignty.
· The U.N. envoy for Somalia called for a professional security force to be established in Somalia by August 2011, when the mandate for the TFG expires.
· The main hospital in Mogadishu received threats last week not to accept aid from foreign charities. The hospital staff has said it plans to continue its work despite the warnings.
· The TFG, some say with the help of the Kenya’s army, is recruiting Kenyan youth to join Somali government troops. Al-Shabaab threatened to attack Kenya if it continues to recruit ethnic Somalis in Kenya to fight against them and other Islamist insurgent groups.
· Witnesses say Ethiopian soldiers crossed into Somalia on Sunday and arrested dozens of Beledweyn villagers for questioning. Other civilian reports indicate that Hizbul Islam created new outposts near Beledweyn, a strategic town controlled by rebels, last week. Civilians also say Al Shabaab is forcibly compelling residents to attend public amputations of thieves.
· Gunmen shot down a Hizbul Islam commander in the Somali capital last Friday.
· Sri Lanka increased its military budget by 20% for the remainder of 2009 to strengthen security forces, and extended Sri Lanka’s state of emergency for another month.
· In a statement last Friday, the State Department pressed the Sri Lankan government to return freedom of movement to Tamil IDPs and to “improve human rights and accountability.” Both Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International warned that conditions in detainment camps would deteriorate with the upcoming monsoon season.
· 225 Sri Lankans moored on a boat off the coast of Indonesia is pleading with Indonesian and Australian officials for asylum, saying it is unsafe for Tamils to return to Sri Lanka.
· Sri Lanka will hold early parliamentary and presidential elections next year, to take advantage of the current administration’s popularity. President Rajapaksa said he will wait until after the elections to consider political reforms to improve the Tamil minority’s status.
· LRA rebels killed two women during an attack last Wednesday, around the Western Equatoria town of Yambio.
· In a letter this week the leader of south Sudan urged President Obama to not lessen pressure on the northern National Congress Party (NCP). Salva Kiir wrote that “There has not been any transformation or reform at the cent… The status quo prevails. . . . Significant change in policy in relation to Sudan should only come when there is change in the reality of Sudan”.
· The ICC prosecutor is reportedly investigating last month’s crackdown in Guinea, which killed 157 people. International Crisis Group recently released a report calling for the junta to prepare a strategy governing the transition to a democratic government.