In this week’s issue: the Sudanese government signed a framework agreement with the Liberation and Justice Movement; Aung San Suu Kyi opposes registering the NLD for the elections; 600 FDLR rebels have been killed or captured since January
Weekly News Brief, March 12 to 26, 2010, compiled by Joshua Kennedy of GI-Net and the STAND E-team. To receive news briefs, trivia, and discussion guides, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Areas of Concern
- Japan is preparing to send election monitors to Sudan for the upcoming election. The Japanese observers would join EU, AU, Chinese and Russian observers alongside a team from the Carter Center. Despite this move, President al-Bashir said that if Carter Center poll monitors interfered with elections, they would be expelled from the country.
- Reports indicate that at least thirteen people were killed during clashes between Southern Sudan army and armed herders from Misseriya tribe in the Unity state. At least two soldiers were also injured.
- Another group of Misseriya was reportedly involved in clashes with the Nuwayba tribe near the Kass area of South Darfur.
- Human Rights Watch announced that the conditions in Sudan are not conducive to free and fair elections. According to HRW, both the Government of National Unity and the Government of South Sudan were violating human rights and restricting the peoples’ freedom of expression.
- The Sudanese government signed a framework cease-fire agreement last Thursday with the Liberation and Justice Movement (LJM), a coalition of several Darfur rebel groups. This comes less than a month after the Sudanese government signed the framework peace agreement with JEM.
- According to General Gordon Kur, chairperson of Southern Sudan High Elections security committee, the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) is in Western Equatoria and Bahr el-Ghazal, and their presence severely threatens the upcoming elections.
- According to the U.N. Deputy Resident for Southern Sudan, there have been seventy inter-tribal incidents so far in 2010, compared to 102 throughout 2009. These seventy incidents have already killed at least 450 and displaced another 60,000.
- The Burmese government blamed the KNU for Saturday’s explosion, which killed two people in Karen state.
- Members of the Shan State Army-South reportedly ambushed Burmese soldiers late last week, killing twenty.
- The Burmese military regime continues to pressure the Kachin Independence Organization to join the Border Guard Force. The KIO have demanded that rather than transforming their army into a Border Guard Force, they remain a separate Kachin force inducted under the federal army of Burma. The regime has responded by provoking the KIO, detaining eight KIA soldiers.
- Disagreement over whether the NLD should re-register for the 2010 elections could trigger a split in the party. Aung San Suu Kyi opposes registering the NLD for the elections. Due to election laws, the party faces the choice of registering and expelling Aung San Suu Kyi or not registering and dissolving.
- The first parties to register for the 2010 elections, the 88 Generation Students of the Union of Myanmar and Union of Myanmar National Political Force, registered on Monday, and several other parties have expressed their intent to register, including the Kachin State Progressive Party.
Democratic Republic of Congo
- According to Doctors Without Borders, armed members of the FARDC entered a hospital in the town of Katanga, South Kivu, eventually removing four civilians being treated by medical personnel.
- The Congolese government has asked the MONUC peacekeeping mission to leave the DR Congo by the end of 2011.
- According to the Congolese Army, more than 600 FDLR rebels have been killed or captured in the eastern Congo since the beginning of Operation Amani Leo in January.
- Another LRA attack was reported to have taken place in northern Congo, with eleven people killed in the towns of Bangadi, Duru and Dungu between March 11 and 14.
- Afghan president Hamid Karzai met with delegates of Hezb-i-Islami, the second largest militant after the Taliban, to discuss a possible peace treaty.
- UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon hinted that the UN would be willing to continue secret talks with the Taliban. A former UN envoy to Afghanistan has said that arrests of Taliban leaders in Pakistan have stalled talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government.
- New reports indicate the increasing toll that improvised explosive devices (IEDs) take on civilians in Afghanistan, killing 67 Afghans in the first three weeks of March. Meanwhile, Islamist militants are preparing a campaign of suicide attacks in the capital, Kabul, in the coming months.
- The Taliban has said recent coordinated attacks in Kandahar, which killed more than 35 people, are meant to warn NATO against pursuing an offensive to drive out militants from the city. After the attacks, the Afghan government sent more than 1,000 police reinforcements to Kandahar. According to U.S. military officials, the offensive there has already begun.
- The Afghan government has confirmed that it signed into a law a blanket pardon for war crimes and human rights abuses committed before the Taliban fell in 2001. This was the first time the public was alerted the measure had become law.
- Survivors accuse NATO of covering up a botched night-raid in which joint NATO and Afghan forces allegedly shot five civilians, including two pregnant women, in mid February.
- The U.S. military announced Special Forces would now fall under Gen. McChrystal’s command. McChrystal is the top general in charge of international forces in Afghanistan.
- The United States is tentatively planning to increase its troop presence in northern Afghanistan by 2,500 soldiers as a response to intensifying violence in the region.
- Ballot counting in the Iraqi election continues with about 93% of all votes processed. It appears that the current leader is former Prime Minister Ayad Allawi, who leads current Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki by 8,000 votes. It is important to note that overall vote totals in the election do not determine ruling coalition make-up, which is apportioned by performance in each of Iraq’s provinces. Mr. al-Maliki currently leads in seven of the country’s eight provinces, compared to Mr. Allawi’s lead in five.
- Despite the reduction of violence in Iraq, the country still faces a humanitarian challenge, primarily dealing with the protection, return and resettlement of the millions of refugees currently in Syria and Lebanon.
- A militant group linked to al Qaeda vowed to continue attacking U.S. forces until all foreigners leave Iraq. The group also took responsibility for bombings that took place as Iraqis went to the polls for presidential elections in late March.
- Two bombs killed 8 and injured 11 in a central Iraqi town in mid March.
- A suicide bombing near a security checkpoint in the Swat Valley killed at least 11 people, including five civilians, last Saturday.
- A top al Qaeda official was killed in a U.S. drone strike in Pakistan in mid-March. He was believed to be the mastermind behind an attack on CIA agents in Afghanistan in January. The strike also killed nine other militants.
- A U.S. drone strike killed four militants in northwest Pakistan on Tuesday. An airstrike by Pakistani jets on Thursday killed 50 people, including 10 civilians.
- Pakistani forces and Islamist militants clashed on Thursday in Pakistan’s tribal belt, killing 21 militants and five soldiers.
- Pakistani officials arrested two men planning attacks on hotels and kidnapping diplomats.
- Pakistan has agreed to allow 1.7 Afghan refugees to remain in the country for three more years.
- A UN report released in late March called the TFG’s troops ineffective, corrupt and dependent on foreign aid and said that nearly half of Somali aid was diverted to Islamist militants. The report caused WFP, which the report specifically named as diverting funds, to close many aid operations in Somalia; the government demanded that it deliver the remaining aid. Somalia’s president criticized the report, saying it was based on hearsay and not reality. The report also said no side in the fighting could stabilize the conflict and that rebel groups are using the Internet as a recruitment and fundraising tool.
- Fighting continues in Mogadishu, with at least three people killed on Tuesday. According to locals, the Somali capital has become “like a death sentence; you are not safe; your neighbor is not safe.” At least 55,000 people have fled the capital in the last few weeks.
- Clashes continue to take place outside the capital, with rival clans battling near the town of Jildhere in the central Mudug region. At least 20 people, mainly combatants, were killed.
- According to the Somali environmental ministry, the illegal export of charcoal to Gulf States provides millions in annual funding to insurgents battling the central government.
- According to the UN, Somali insurgents have begun cyber-cooperation to extent their operations in Somalia. This includes recruiting fighters, highlighting foreign cooperation, and fundraising.
- At least 17 people died in clan warfare in central Somalia. Hizbul-Islam and militias also fought in Beledwayne, central Somalia. Fighting between the rebel group and government troops seemed to taper off earlier this week. Hizbul-Islam also promised to target Ethiopian troops said to have crossed the border into central Somalia.
- The United States denied it had any plans for direct involvement in the TFG’s offensive against Islamist militants.
Around the World
- The 2007-2008 electoral violence in Kenya may be the next case taken up by the International Criminal Court.
- Human Rights Watch has accused Ethiopia of coordinating attacks on political opponents, activists and journalists in the run-up to this May’s elections.