In this week’s issue: Opposition parties have withdrawn from Sudan’s presidential elections; Burma’s NLD party has voted not to participate in elections; Human Right’s Watch released a report documenting more attacks by the Lord’s Resistance Army in Congo
Weekly News Brief, March 26 to April 2, 2010, compiled by Joshua Kennedy and the STAND E-team. To receive news briefs, trivia, and discussion guides, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Areas of Concern
- The upcoming national elections have been thrown into doubt, as the SPLM, Umma Party, Democratic Unionist Party and Sudanese Communist Party have withdrawn from the coming presidential election due to widespread fraud. As the situation is still evolving, including ongoing uncertainty over the participation of these parties in the parliamentary and local elections.
- As of Friday afternoon, the Umma party (led by former Prime Minister Sadiq al-Mahdi) set a Tuesday deadline for the government to agree to postpone the elections for four weeks to prepare an oversight body for the reportedly biased National Election Commission or the Umma Party will boycott the election at all levels.
- ICG released a new report charging that the ruling National Congress Party has attempted to rig the elections through the gerrymandering of electoral districts, altering census results, purchasing tribal loyalties and co-opting traditional leaders among other strategies. Read the full report here.
- South Sudanese police arrested and severely beat seven members of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement for Democratic Change (SPLM-DC), the only party running a candidate against Salva Kiir for President of South Sudan.
- The ICC chief prosecutor declared that the upcoming elections could possibly legitimize President al-Bashir’s rule, leaving the UN and the US in a very politically challenging situation, regarding al-Bashir’s prosecution at the ICC.
- Former Ghanaian President John Kufuor will lead the African Union’s 58-person election monitoring team in Sudan.
Non-election related news
- UNAMID is preparing to assist 30,000 newly displaced persons in South Darfur, who have fled their homes due to violence between the Misseriya and Rizeigat tribes.
- JEM rebels have said that they are prepared for peace talks with the Sudanese government in Doha, Qatar. The reported sticking points in the coming talks appear to revolve the inclusion of JEM in a power-sharing agreement. In related news, Joint Chief Mediator Djibril Bassole said that a peace agreement in Doha is unlikely to be signed before the elections on April 11.
- Sudanese police completely destroyed a displaced persons camp outside of Khartoum, bulldozing dozens of homes and restricting the access to fresh food and water.
- UNMIS military convoys sent to monitor the peace are encountering violent attacks, unexploded mines in their campsites, and other dangerous situations in South Sudan.
- Businessmen in the Wa region have begun to evacuate as tensions between the United Wa State Army and the Burmese military rise over the issue of joining the Border Guard Force. The regime has also ordered that government employees in the region go on long leave, and military preparations are occurring on both sides.
- The National League for Democracy has voted not to register in the 2010 elections, following Aung San Suu Kyi’s wishes that the party not participate under unjust election laws. The decision calls the future of the party into question as it could lead to the party’s marginalization or dissolution.
- Nine US senators have urged President Barack Obama to appoint a special US representative for Burma and impose additional economic sanctions on the military junta under the Jade Act as a response to the junta’s release of “profoundly troubling election laws.”
- 600 Karen refugees have returned to Burma from Thailand under heavy pressure from the Thai government. The refugees face landmines, forced labor, and army recruitment, and many human rights groups have protested the resettlement.
Democratic Republic of Congo
- Human Rights Watch released a new report documenting another set of Lord’s Resistance Army attacks in the northeastern Democratic Republic of Congo. An estimated 321 civilians were killed when the LRA rampaged through the Makombo area of Haut-Uele district during a four day period in December.
- A UN Office for the High Commissioner for Human Rights report said widespread corruption in Afghanistan is deepening the country’s poverty and contributing to the neglect of human rights. The report urged the international community to focus on the country’s long-term development.
- The Taliban claimed responsibility for shooting down a NATO helicopter that crashed in southern Afghanistan on Monday morning.
- As U.S. forces prepare for the next major Afghan offensive in Kandahar, Taliban militants have already turned the area into a battle zone.
- Six civilians were killed on a roadside blast in southern Afghanistan on Saturday. At least eight civilians were killed when a bomb went off in a busy marketplace Wednesday, also injuring 38.
- Former interim prime minister Ayad Allawi’s party won the most parliamentary seats in Iraq’s elections, winning two more seats than his rival, current prime minister Nouri al-Maliki. Allawi, who ran on a secular platform, is still short of a majority and will need to form a coalition government, which may take months. Maliki has vowed to challenge the election results in court. The number of seats may also change as an Iraqi commission seeks to invalidate the votes of six people who won and of 46 other candidates it says are tied to Saddam Hussein’s banned Baath party.
- A series of IED explosives blasted a tribal leader’s house in Anbar province, killing six and injuring 33. A double car bombing in Karbala killed another five, seemingly targeting the Shiite pilgrims who frequented the restaurant bombed.
- At least 26 militants were killed in clashes between government forces and militants Monday. Suicide bombers killed three anti-militia men and wounded another 10 in northwest Pakistan that same day. Some accounts say Pakistan forces have killed 84 militants over two days last week.
- U.S. drones killed six militants in tribal areas in northwest Pakistan on Wednesday.
- Aid workers in Somalia say the relief situation is currently “at its worst” and food is rapidly running out, due to the withdrawal of aid agencies because of security and corruption concerns despite thousands displaced by recent fighting.
- Hundreds of families living near Mogadishu’s airport were evicted as the government attempts to secure its tenuous hold over the few blocks of the capital it still controls. Three people were killed last Monday as they protested government demolition of their houses near the airport.
- At least 17 people died in Saturday’s fighting between Somali government and rebels in Mogadishu. In central Somalia, clan warfare killed 16 people.
- An Amnesty International report released last week highlighted the human rights abuses suffered by Somali civilians, especially those in the capital.
- Kenya refused the TFG’s request to deploy Somali troops trained in Kenya to Mogadishu to launch a major offensive against al-Shabaab; Kenya rejected the request citing security concerns over the porous Kenya-Somalia border. A Kenyan official has also denied that Kenyan citizens are fighting with the al-Shabaab in Somalia, as a UN report has alleged.
- Ahlu Sunna Waljama’a, a moderate Sufi militia group allied with the government, has pledged to battle al Shabaab and remove radical Islamists from Somalia. An al-Shabaab spokesman said that they opposed the peace agreement, it would not interfere their struggle to control all of Somalia.
- Somali president Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed met with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in Libya on Sunday. The leaders discussed the myriad challenges facing Somalia.
- The UN has suspended distribution of aid for Tamil refugees due to a shortfall of funding.
Around the World
- The International Criminal Court has authorized an investigation into the 2007 electoral violence in Kenya that killed more than 1,300 people in the course of a few weeks. The ICC’s judges ruled that there is “a reasonable basis to believe that crimes against humanity have been committed on Kenyan territory.”