In this week’s issue: in addition to opposition party boycotts, the European Union has pulled its election observers from Darfur; Burma’s military regime negotiator met with ethnic armies to discuss the Border Guard Force issue; more LRA attacks were reported in Congo
Weekly News Brief, April 2 to 9, 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.
- The Sudanese People’s Liberation Movement announced that it was withdrawing its candidates from the northern states for the April 11 vote, which includes local as well as parliamentary and presidential polls.
- The northern Umma Party has fully withdrawn from all levels of the upcoming elections after the government refused to delay the election and issue guarantees on media neutrality and electoral commission monitoring.
- The European Union has pulled its election observers from Darfur due to safety fears.
- The US said that it would support a brief delay in the upcoming elections if it improved the credibility of the process.
- JEM has accused the Sudanese army of carrying out air attacks in North and West Darfur, even while the two groups are negotiating a ceasefire agreement.
- The joint mediators in Doha announced that peace talks between the government and Darfuri rebels will resume after this weekend’s elections.
- The Ugandan army claims that the LRA has left Darfur due to food shortages and lack of shelter. They are now reportedly in the Central African Republic.
- LRA rebels crossed the Southern Sudan border from the Democratic Republic of Congo and attacked a Congolese refugee camp three miles away from the town.
- The military regime’s chief negotiator, Lt-Gen Ye Myint, met on Thursday with the United Wa State Army and on Sunday with the National Democratic Alliance Army, a Mongla group, to discuss the Border Guard Force issue. He reportedly said that the ethnic groups should respond positively by April 22 or face repercussions by April 28.
- Residents along the Kanbauk to Myain Kalay gas pipeline have reported increased efforts to extort money by Burmese government State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) forces. With over 50 villages in close proximity to the gas pipeline, an estimated 90% of the residents who live along the gas pipeline have faced this abuse by the local military units based around the area.
- Senior American diplomat Kurt Campbell is expected to visit Burma in the near future, though dates have not yet been set. The purpose of the visit will be to kick-start the US’s engagement policy with the military regime.
- Mother Jones magazine profiles the plight of the Karen living in Thailand in their March/April Issue.
- The Free Burma Rangers chronicled the effect of displacement in eastern Burma on the region’s children. The study, Displaced Childhoods, charged that children in eastern Burma are subject to arbitrary killings, torture, mistreatment, arrest and detention without cause, sexual violence, forced labor including recruitment as child soldiers and other violations of fundamental freedoms.
- In an Irrawaddy survey involving more than 500 people in Rangoon, nearly half said they do not intend to vote in the upcoming election if the main opposition party, the National League for Democracy (NLD), does not contest it. Many view their decision not to vote as a boycott in support of the NLD.
- Over 100 ASEAN Members of Parliament are demanding that ASEAN expel Burma and impose sanctions because the regime has clearly ignored the call to conduct free and fair elections.
Democratic Republic of Congo
- More LRA attacks were reported in the town of Sambia, near the northeastern city of Dungu. The rebels reportedly killed two and abducted another 12 late last week.
- NATO and Afghan troops killed at least 27 suspected Taliban militants in western Afghanistan on Tuesday in an offensive against a Taliban stronghold. One child was killed during the fighting, and four civilians – two women, a child and an elderly man – were killed in a U.S. airstrike targeted at a suspected Taliban compound.
- An Afghan councilwoman was severely injured in a drive-by shooting in northern Afghanistan on Monday. Taliban insurgents who oppose women working in government posts are suspected. Five civilians were also killed on Monday by roadside bombs in the southern Helmand province.
- Afghan officials accused U.S. Special Operations forces of tampering with evidence to cover-up a night raid gone wrong in which five Afghan civilians, including two pregnant women, were killed. NATO says it is investigating the allegations.
- Six Afghan soldiers were accidentally killed by German forces Saturday when German troops opened fire on approaching vehicles they suspected of carrying militants but actually carried Afghan troops.
- Three suicide car bombings at the Iranian and German embassies and the Egyptian consulate killed 41 people and wounded 237 last Sunday.
- Gunmen disguised as US and Iraqi soldiers raided a Sunni village and killed 24 civilians last week. Some of the victims were tortured before being shot. Many of the dead were members of a local Awakening Council, insurgents who turned against al Qaeda. Iraqi security forces arrested 13 suspects for the attack.
- A wave of violence swept Iraq this week, as residential areas of Baghdad were bombed at least seven times, killing 35 people and wounding more than 140. The blasts increased fears that sectarian and insurgent violence is returning on a massive scale. A Shiite family of six, including four children, was also gunned down Monday near Baghdad.
- The White House says its troop withdrawal plan has not changed despite the recent spike in insurgent violence.
- US troops and Iraqi security forces killed or arrested at least six suspected al Qaeda leaders allegedly involved in an extortion and assassination ring in northern Iraq in March.
- Five suicide bombers attacked an American consulate in the northern province of Peshawar on Monday, killing at least seven and wounding 20 Pakistanis. The Pakistani Taliban took responsibility for the attack, saying it was retaliation for military operations in western tribal areas and American missile strikes. Analysts say the Pakistani Taliban may be increasing its attacks on civilians to intimidate the civilian population and reassert control.
- In a separate attack that same day, militants attacked a political rally by supporters of a measure to change the name of the North-West Frontier province, killing 41 and injuring 80.
- The United States’s campaign of drone strikes has driven many Taliban and al Qaeda militants underground, Pakistani government officials have said, while also sharpening divisions between civilians and the militants who force them to provide Taliban operatives shelter and food.
- Human Rights Watch has accused the Pakistani military of carrying out extrajudicial killings and torture of suspected Taliban sympathizers in the Swat Valley.
- Pakistani military forces battled militants in Orakzai Agency, a tribal district, last Saturday, killing 30 militants and putting government troops back in control of the area.
- The head of the Frontier Corps, a military force fighting extremists in Pakistan’s tribal belt, has said $1 billion must be poured into the area to stabilize the region, long a base for al Qaeda.
- The European Union has begun training 2,000 Somali soldiers in Uganda in an attempt to provide the Somali government support in upcoming offensives against Islamist militias. Somalis say the TFG has forcibly recruited hundreds of refugees, including children, to fight against the al Shabaab.
- A Somali official has said that at least 12 al Qaeda members have entered Somalia through the Yemeni border in the last two weeks, offering Islamist rebels funding and military training. Last Saturday, Hizbul Islam invited Osama bin Laden “and all other holy warriors” to Somalia.
- AU peacekeepers and moderate Islamists said they had reliable intelligence that al Shabaab is planning to attack the Mogadishu port with boat bombs.
- Al Shabaab insurgents captured a central Somali district Tuesday after heavy fighting between its forces and the fighters of a rival rebel group which recently signed a peace agreement with the Somali government. At least 22 civilians were killed during the fighting. Another 20 were killed in clashes between al Shabaab rebels and government forces in Mogadishu last weekend.
- A moderate Islamist militia, Ahlu Sunna wal-Jamea, has stated that it is set to confront al-Shabaab militants in Mogadishua. Ahlu Sunna signed a cooperation accord with the Somali government last month.
Around the World
- NPR reported on the efforts being made to reduce violence in the central Nigerian city of Jos.
- Kyrgyzstan has a new government after a day of violent riots killed 68 people in the capital of Bishkek. The transitional government, led by a coalition of opposition groups said that interim rule would last for six months.
- The African Encounter for the Defence of Human Rights (RADDHO), a local human rights group, has said that Guinea should go forward with elections planned for June 27, stating that an imperfect poll in the country is better than a delay, so that elections are not permanently posteponed due to the rainy season and the Muslim holy month, Ramadan.