Weekly Education Update 12/2-12/8
Syria, DRC, Sudan & South Sudan
Be sure to sign our petition to restore SMS text-messaging in the DRC for post-election communication. http://goo.gl/lUVGM
Al-Jazeera reported Tuesday that nearly 80 people have been killed in the city of Homs in instances of sectarian violence which have rapidly escalated since Sunday. The violence is the result of the formation of armed gangs and militias, with the majority of killings being attributed to pro-government militias and paramilitaries known as “Shabiba”. However, there are also reports of killings undertaken by militias aligned with the opposition. Al-Jazeera and sources on the ground report that these groups have conducted strings of kidnappings and murders over the weekend and are continuing into the present.NYT also reported Tuesday from opposition sources that a series of sanctioned kidnappings had been undertaken bySyrian security forces and pro-government groups in Homs, their bodies being dumped into the city streets during nightfall. In addition, armed clashes between defectors and security forces, as well as continued raids, arrests and killings by government forces have continued throughout the week. The UK based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights called this week “one of the deadliest days since the start of the Syrian Revolution.” The United Nations presently places the total death toll in the Syrian unrest at an estimated 4,000 dead, and the United Nations high commissioner for human rights, Navi Pillay, said Tuesday that the crackdown by the Syrian government, “if not stopped now, can drive the country into a full-fledged civil war.”
On Monday the Syrian foreign Minister, Walid al-Moallem. stated that the regime would allow for the entrance of Arab Lague observers into Syria in an effort to stem the ongoing violence, but that allowance would hinge on the acceptance of certain conditions; namely the cancellation of the Arab League’s yet to be implemented sanction measures. However, broad skepticism remains on the part of the League and opposition figures about the sincerity of the Syrian government’s negotiations in light of the regime’s previous failures to adhere with agreements and deadlines set by the Arab League.
Secretary of State Hilary Clinton met with Syrian oppositionfigures of the Syrian National Council in Geneva on Tuesday.Clinton spoke with the Council about the future of Syria, saying, "A democratic transition includes more than removing the Assad regime…it means setting Syria on the path of the rule of law and protecting the universal rights of all citizens regardless of sect or ethnicity or gender.” In addition, it was announced Tuesday that US Ambassador
Robert Ford, who had previously left the country after threats to his safety, will return to Syria despite the opposition of figures in the Syrian government. Vice President Joseph Biden met on the 2nd of December with Turkish President Abdullah Gul, to discuss regional issues as well as the US and Turkish response to the Syrian crisis. NYT quoted Biden as saying, “Are the sanctions sufficient to fundamentally alter their behavior? The jury is still out on that” but stated that such sanctions have successfully “constrained the field on which they operate, it has reduced their influence in the region, and it has, at a minimum, apparently, caused significant discussion internally.”
In response to the imposition of sanctions by Turkey earlier in the month the Syrian government instituted a “tariff of 30 percent on its imports and prohibitive duties on fuel and freight.” In addition, the Syrian military conducted large scale wargames on Monday before an audience including much of the Syrian high command, aiming to demonstrate the strength of the Syrian state and military as internal unrest and international pressure mounts on the regime.
Though the legal deadline for the release of election results was Tuesday, CENI announced they would delay the announcement by two days. This was extremely problematic, as President Kabila’s constitutional term officially expired on Tuesday at midnight. The announcement of the delay was accompanied by fears of renewed violence and instability.
The announcement of the delay of results also led to increased concerns and fears over the return to war in the country. As the Guardian reported, “Banks are closing, hotels emptying and people with suitcases clambering aboard boats. Lorries carrying riot police patrol the streets while the government has blocked text message communications. Kinshasa increasingly resembles a city on the eve of war.”
According to Human Rights Watch, 18 people have died in election-related violence thus far. In response to post-election violence as well as fears of renewed violence, 3,000 Congolese have fled the country and taken refuge in neighboring capital of Brazzaville.
The election commissioner announced yesterday that 89.29% of the votes have been counted in the country. Though they have delayed the announcement of the winner until Thursday or Friday, it becomes clear from their analysis that Tshisekedi cannot win. However, this is only true if their numbers are correct. According to analyst Jason Stearns, it is predicated that Kabila has 8,353,573 votes and Tshisekedi has 5,927,528 votes with around two million votes unaccounted for. Due to Kabila’s elimination of a second round of voting in January, the election is now a winner-take-all system which will most likely favor Kabila.
Last week, the UN Security Council had a closed door session on the elections in the Congo. The Security Council is said to be deeply divided on the issue; while some western powers have expressed concern over the legitimacy of the elections, Brazil, Russia, China and South Africa remain firmly on the side of the Congolese government. However, despite fears of fraud, the Security Council remains unconvinced that it is “systematic” or “large-scale”. Due to this, as well as a reluctance to take on a large role in the elections this late in the game, the Security Council vowed to limit UN involvement but expressed fears for violence when the results are finally announced.
In the days immediately following the election, the Congolese government instituted a country-wide ban on SMS text-messaging services. The major telecommunications companies in the country, including Vodacom, Bharti Airtel, Millicom, and CCT, have listened to the government’s concerns over threats of violence and complied with the ban. While the government does have the responsibility to respond to any threats by opposition groups to incite violence, SMS text-messaging also limits an essential source of information on instances of post-election violence and human rights abuses. STAND and other human rights organizations have called upon the major telecommunication companies to restore SMS text-messaging services in the region. Sign the petition here.
Due to the fact that the Congolese diaspora overwhelmingly support Tshisekedi, there have been demonstrations around the world this week citing fraud and discrepancies in the election process. Protests have occurred in the United States, Belgium, and African cities including Cape Town, South Africa, however they turned extremely violent in Ottawa, Canada. In Ottawa, the protests began yesterday at the CBS headquarters to highlight the lack of media coverage in the country and then moved on to the US Embassy and Embassy of the DRC. When protesters attempted to enter the embassy and were restrained by police, they responded with throwing rocks. Three people were arrested and the police used pepper spray against the protesters. Watch a video of the protests here.
After years of grassroots activism and the work of organizations like The Dear Hillary Campaign for the Congo and the Enough Project, the US has finally named a Great Lakes Special Envoy. Ambassador R. Barrie Walkley is a life-long diplomat with the US State Department, and his most recent post was as consul general in Juba, South Sudan. He began his career as a Peace Corps volunteer in Somali in 1967, and since becoming a member of the foreign service he has served in posts in Cameroon, Pakistan, South Africa and Washington DC. From 1999 to 2001, he also served as the deputy chief of mission at the US Embassy in Kinshasa. His appointment represents the Great Lakes region officially becoming a priority in the State Department.
Sudan & South Sudan
The Sudanese army on Wednesday, 7 December repelled an attack by South Sudanese troops in a contested area on the border between the two countries, a military spokesperson said in Khartoum and Juba confirmed the fighting. Both countries said they would bring complaints against the other to the United Nations, moves likely to hinder already tense talks over issues such as oil and debt that have been unresolved.
A human rights activist and children are amongst those whose death sentences have been upheld by Sudanese authorities, according to an Amnesty International (AI) petitions calling for their punishments to be commuted.
The Chinese government announced that it is sending its special envoy to the region for talks in Khartoum and Juba on the deadlock regarding oil.
At least 40 people are dead and 30 injured following an attack on Monday on Akot village, Jonglei state. The UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) said it will send a military unit to the area to deter future attacks amongst speculation that recent disarmament programs carried out by the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) and police in the region have made communities vulnerable to attack.
New waves of refugees are fleeing the war torn region of Blue Nile to South Sudan as the government army intensified air raids on the rebel Sudan People’s Liberation Movement – North. The Satellite Sentinel Project (SSP) put out satellite images captured between 11 and 27 November in the Blue Nile state indicating that Sudanese warplanes attacked some villages there. The group accused the government army of intentionally razing civilian structures in the area.
The education update is produced every Thursday to update STAND members and the advocacy community about developments with regards to genocide and crimes against humanity. For more information contact the following:
Education Coordinator: Sean Langberg firstname.lastname@example.org
Sudan Education Coordiator: Emma Smith email@example.com
DRC Education Coordinator: Siobhan Kelly firstname.lastname@example.org
Emerging Crises Education Coordinator: Tom Dolzall email@example.com