In this week’s issue: SLM rebels attack Sudanese government positions, General Than Shwe confirms that Myanmar is planning 2010 elections, and the mandate for MONUC in Congo is extended for another five months.
Weekly News Brief, December 18 to January 14
Your weekly news brief, compiled by Joshua Kennedy of GI-NET and the STAND E-Team. To receive news briefs and education newsletters, email firstname.lastname@example.org to subscribe.
- SLM rebels attacked Sudanese government positions near the town of Gulu in the Jebel Marra region of North Darfur on January 13. Casualties have yet to be reported.
- The African Centre for Justice and Peace Studies documented attacks on Darfuri civilians by rebels opposed to the Chadian government. The rebels are reportedly raping, looting and attacking civilians in the western areas of North Darfur.
- The New York Times had a front page article entitled “Fragile Calm Holds in Darfur After Years of Death”, however this week saw allegations by rebels that the government has renewed bombings and killed 5 civilians, primarily in West Darfur.
- Human rights activists are concerned about construction that will soon begin on Chinese-funded oil and gas pipelines across Burma. Troops have already been stationed along the construction site and some land has been confiscated, suggesting that human rights abuses will follow.
- Aung San Suu Kyi’s appeal against house arrest will be heard on January 18th. She is challenging a decision upholding 18 more months of house arrest extended from the previous 14 years.
- Gen. Than Shwe confirmed that Myanmar is planning 2010 elections but did not specify dates or procedures.
- Advanced radio sets supplied to Burma by an Australian company were diverted for military use, linking Burmese Army headquarters with regional commands attacking ethnic minorities.
- 440 mostly Karen villagers from throughout Tenasserim Division were recently forced to carry supplies for an SPDC army battalion. The villagers were not paid or provided with food on their seven-day journey. A DKBA battalion also recently ordered locals to reconstruct an army camp.
- A former military officer and a foreign affairs official were sentenced to death on Thursday under the State Emergency Act III for leaking military secrets to the exiled media, and another foreign affairs official was sentenced to long-term imprisonment under the Electronic Act, which prohibits sending information, photos, or video damaging to the regime over the internet.
- The Kachin people are calling for a halt on the Irrawaddy dam project led by the Burmese regime. The regime has already ordered 60 villages and 15,000 people living near the site to relocate.
- The UN extended the mandate for the MONUC peacekeeping mission on December 24 for another five months. The mandate sets protection of civilians as a key component of the extended mission.
- DR Congo’s president, Joseph Kabila, has expressed that he wants the MONUC operation to leave his country by June, reportedly due to the coming 50th anniversary of Congolese independence.
- Since early November, over 117,000 people have fled from DR Congo to Congo-Brazzavile and the CAR, primarily due to violence between the Enyele and Munzaya in the western province of Equateur. Violence is attributed to a dispute over fishing rights between the two groups.
- The ICC trial of Thomas Lubanga Dyilo, founder and leader of Union of Congolese Patriots in the Ituri region, eastern Congo, started on January 7, 2009. Lubanga is accused of enlisting and conscripting child soldiers and using them to commit hostilities in 2002 and 2003.
- UN human rights groups in Nairobi have reported increased arms trafficking into North-eastern DR Congo. These arms are reportedly being used to equip village self-defense militia against the LRA.
- The recent death of six ISAF soldiers on Monday, January 11, shows that violence is likely to continue in January and February, a change from the traditional winter abatement of fighting. The change appears to be due to the opposition consolidation in southern Afghanistan, increased anti-Taliban offensives in Pakistan and the increase in ISAF troops presence.
- According to the UN, civilian deaths in Afghanistan increased 14% in 2009, totaling 2,412 people. Armed opposition groups (insurgents) were responsible for 1,630 deaths (67%), with NATO and pro-government forces responsible for 595 deaths (25%, including 359 due to aerial bombardments).
- 93 people were killed by a suicide bombing at a volleyball game in the town of Shah Hasan Khan in Bannu district on January 2.
- Another bombing in Karachi killed twenty-five on December 28. Karachi has a history of factional violence and it appears that the bombing was intended against Shi’a muslim residents of the city.
- The head of OCHA in Pakistan warned that while displaced persons have mostly returned home, there is the risk of new conflict-induced displacement in areas where the Pakistani army is fighting anti-government insurgents.
- According to the Mogadishu-based Elman human rights organization, more than 130 people were killed in fighting between insurgent groups al-Shabaab and Hisbul Islam on one side and the government-aligned Ahlu Sunna Waljamaca.
- WFP suspended its operations in Somalia due to threats to local staff and demands for a ‘security fee’ payable to the al-Shabaab insurgents. The suspension will affect at least 900,000 people.
- The UN Security Council imposed an arms embargo on Eritrea for arming militants in Somalia.
- According to UN Special Representative Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah, Somalia is moving from a failed state to a fragile state. Ould-Abdallah warned that despite the country’s progress, the international community needs to follow through on its promises of aid, particularly for the security sector.
- Experts working with Philip Alston, UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial Executions, stated that analysis of the video of Sri Lankan military executions of LTTE prisoners “strongly suggest[s] that the video is authentic.” Alston’s investigation appears to have resurrected the possibility of a UN Commission of Experts to research human rights and IHL violations in Sri Lanka.
- The Sri Lankan government is investigating the possibility of taking legal action against retired general Sareth Fonseka over his comments that Sri Lankan troops had committed war crimes against LTTE rebels during the final stages of the civil war.
- International Crisis Group released a new briefing detailing the way in which the first months after the war have hardened divides between the Sinhala and Tamil communities instead of building a more representative state.
- Violence has been reported between opposing political parties in advance of the January 26 presidential elections. Gunmen shot an opposition activists leading to riots in a stronghold of President Rajapaksa.
Around the World
- The French government announced plans to set up a special judicial unit to investigate and charge suspects accused of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity. Any investigation would require the involvement of a French national or the presence of a suspect in French territory.
- General Sekouba Konate, deputy chief of the Guinean Junta pledged that he intends to appoint a opposition prime minister and form a transition government of national unity. The transition government would then be expected to set a new election date.
- Militants and police staged a gun-battle in Srinagar, the capital of Indian-controlled Kashmir. The fighting, which killed four combatants was the first attack in two years.
- Compounding fears of a return to war, at least 140 people were killed in tribal clashes between the Nuer and the Dinka in Southern Sudan on Thursday, representing a general trend of increased conflict and tensions.
- President Omar al-Bashir was nominated by his party for Sudan’s upcoming presidential elections and stepped down as head of the Sudanese army. The SPLM has nominated Yasir Arman to oppose Bashir in the April elections.
- Last week saw the 5th anniversary of the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement that ended Sudan’s civil war. Hillary Clinton and Ban Ki Moon issued statements marking the anniversary. However, high expectations mixed with post-secessionist tensions, fighting over oil, continued environmental challenges, and the return to violence has highlighted concern over the critical year ahead