In this week’s issue: after JEM rebels and the Sudanese government signed a framework agreement, clashes and instability remain; Tensions are rising between the Burmese military and Karen Independence Organization and troops are being deployed; Global Witness is pushing the EU to exclude imports of Congo’s conflict minerals
Your weekly news brief, February 20 to March 5, compiled by Joshua Kennedy of GI-Net and the STAND E-team. Email firstname.lastname@example.org to receive weely education emails including news briefs, trivia, and discussion guides.
Areas of Concern
- JEM and the Sudanese government signed a framework agreement at the end of February. The agreement includes a ceasefire, a general amnesty, the incorporation of JEM as a political party, and the potential incorporation of JEM into the Sudanese Armed Forces. For more reaction to the peace deal, read the Social Science Research Council’s response as well as the response of the ENOUGH project.
- JEM reportedly threatened to walk out of upcoming peace talks if the Sudanese government worked to include other rebel groups in negotiated agreements.
- At least 30 people were killed in cattle raids between two different Dinka clans in South Sudan’s Lakes state, near the town of Yirol.
- According to UN Humanitarian Coordinator Toby Lanzar, the humanitarian catastrophe feared after last year’s expulsion of aid organizations in Darfur has yet to appear. Lanzer also said that increased collaboration with the Sudanese government and local organizations helped improve conditions.
- Susan Rice warned that ongoing fighting in Darfur and ‘blatant disregard’ for the UN arms embargo on Darfur are undermining regional peace efforts.
- Fighting continues near the town of Deribat in Darfur’s Jebel Marra region, with at least 140 civilians killed according to the UN. The fighting between the Sudanese government and the SLA has displaced at least 40,000 people.
- Burma’s Supreme Court rejected Aung San Suu Kyi’s appeal to overturn her house arrest, which precludes her from participating in the 2010 elections. Suu Kyi will be seeking a special appeal.
- On February 18, UN Special Human Rights Envoy Tomas Ojea Quintana met with Tin Oo, vice-chairman of the National League for Democracy, and visited Insein Prison to examine Burmese treatment of political prisoners. He was not allowed to meet with Aung San Suu Kyi.
- The Thai Labor Ministry announced that 500,000 migrant workers who missed the March 2 to renew work permits will be deported to their country of origin. International labor organizations have protested, saying that migrant workers may face human rights violations if forcibly repatriated.
- Tensions are rising between the Burmese military and the Karen Independence Organization as they continue to negotiate over the Border Guard Force. The Burmese Army has increased security along northern trade routes while the Karen Independence Army is recruiting soldiers and conducting military training.
- An order has been released for all Burmese Army divisions and battalions in Shan State and Kachin State to prepare for combat, said sources close to a local Burmese military unit. It is speculated that the order is meant to prepare an offensive against the KIO and UWSA. The Burmese government is reportedly deploying 70,000 troops to confront the USWA.
- The Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA) reportedly reversed its original decision to accept the regime’s plan for ceasefire groups to become a border guard force.
- The U.N. will begin to redeploy its MONUC peacekeeping forces in the DR Congo in June, withdrawing from more stable areas, while keeping a large presence in the eastern DR Congo.
- The Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers released a report on the recruitment of children by local Mai Mai militia in the eastern DR Congo.
- Global Witness is pushing the European Union to exclude imports of conflict minerals sourced from the eastern Congo from entering the EU market.
- A NATO airstrike killed 27 civilians mistaken for a convoy of insurgents on Monday. The attack outraged President Karzai and drew a public apology from ISAF commanding general McChrystal.
- A bomb killed seven Afghan civilians and injured 14 others near a government building in the Helmand province capital of Lashkar Gah.
- Taliban militants killed six policemen and injured two others on Saturday in the Helmand Province.
- The Taliban claimed responsibility for a series of bombings and shootings last Friday in the capital, Kabul. At least 16 people died.
- The Obama administration has announced that the ongoing Marjah offensive in Helmand province is only a precursor to a larger, more comprehensive operation in Kandahar scheduled for late 2010.
- Suicide bombers attacked two police stations and a hospital on Wednesday, the latest in a wave of pre-election violence, killing 31. The attacks targeted officers slated to guard polling stations during Sunday’s elections. Suicide bombs also killed seven people in Baghdad on Thursday.
- In another display of pre-election violence between Shiites and Sunnis, gunmen shot and beheaded a Shia family of eight living in a Sunni neighborhood Monday morning.
- A bomb exploded outside a government compound in Ramadi, killing at least 13 people, including four policemen.
- Iraq’s defense minister has said that the pullout of U.S. troops from Iraq is top challenge to Iraq’s security forces. Iraq’s security forces will not complete a modernization program until 2010 and U.S. troops will fully pull out by the end of 2011.
- The name of U.S. operations in Iraq will change from “Operation Iraqi Freedom” to “Operation New Dawn” to reflect the withdrawal of combat troops from Iraq.
- A Pakistani airstrike in South Waziristan killed at least 30 militants on Saturday.
- Pakistan’s president urged General Petraeus , commander of the U.S. central command, to transfer drone technology to Pakistani security forces so they can attack the Taliban, as opposed to the “secret” drone strikes by the U.S. in Pakistan.
- Last Thursday, Pakistan agreed to hand over the Taliban second-in-command, captured by Pakistani intelligence in January, to Afghanistan.
- A suicide bomber attacked a police station in the North Western Frontier Province on Saturday, killing 4 and wounding dozens, another bombing in Swat on Monday killed six and injured dozens more.
- Pakistani officials s they have killed a top Swat Valley Taliban commander and arrested the Afghani Taliban’s former finance minister in the southern city of Karachi.
- The U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments this week on whether foreign officials can be sued in U.S. courts over claims of torture. The suit argues that the pre-1991 Somali defense minister can be sued for acts of torture committed under the government of former Somali president Siad Barre.
- Al Shabaab announced on Sunday that it would halt any WFP operations in Somalia, saying the organization was politically motivated and bankrupted local farmers. WFP and the Somali government said aid would continue as long as it was safe it to do so.
- The AU’s special representative to Somalia said the country had made enough progress in restoring state institutions that it could manage its own funds. The UN special envoy to Somalia urged the UN and other international organizations to return to operating in Somalia instead of from Kenya.
- Nine were killed and dozens injured in Mogadishu in shelling between government and rebel forces on Tuesday night.
- The U.S. accused Eritrea of attempting to destabilize the Horn of Africa region. Eritrea continues to protest sanctions imposed by the U.S. last December to condemn Eritrea’s alleged funding and arming of Somali rebels.
- Explosions rocked a Mogadishu hotel on Monday, killing three civilians.
- Hizbul Islam captured Dhobey, a town near the Kenyan border, last Friday. Al Shabaab argues it remains in control of the town. Hizbul Islam reiterated it would continue to battle Al Shabaab in southern Somalia for control of key towns.
- U.S. ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice denied this week that aid to Somalia was being withheld due to political reasons, blaming al Shabaab attacks on aid groups and possible diversion of aid to terrorist groups for the discontinuation of aid.
- Sri Lanka announced that it plans to release more than 500 LTTE child soldiers in a rehabilitation government program by May 2010.
- Sri Lanka’s Supreme Court refused to release jailed former presidential candidate Sarath Fonseka, responding to a suit filed by his wife. Fonseka faces charges for unspecified “military offenses.”
- President Rajapaksa extended emergency laws for another month as the country prepares for parliamentary elections in April. The state of emergency gives the government sweeping powers of arrest and detention without trial.
- UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay expressed concern that human rights abuses in Sri Lanka were preventing full reconciliation after the war. She called on the government to conduct an investigation into possible war crimes committed by both sides during the civil war.
Around the World
- Xenophobia and electoral violence are reportedly on the rise in advance of this year’s Ivorian elections. Supporters of current President Gbagbo are reportedly calling for the exclusion of suspected foreign nationals on the basis of family names. Tensions over foreign residents of the country was one of the main issues during the Ivorian Civil War.
- The Chief Prosecutor of the ICC has asked judges to approve an investigation in crimes committed against Kenyan citizens in 2008. Mr. Ocampo said that senior leaders from both leading Kenyan political parties committed crimes in order to fulfill political objectives and retain power.
- Agathe Habyarimana, the widow of former Rwandan president Juvenal Habyarimana, was arrested in France on suspicion of involvement in the 1994 genocide.