Winter Break Education Update
Syria, DRC, Sudan, South Sudan
Sign STAND’s petition to end the SMS text messaging ban in post-election DRC here
Owing to diplomatic pressure from the Arab League and Russia, the Syrian government agreed on the 19th of December to abide by the Arab League’s earlier proposal to allow League observers into Syria, as well as to undertake a number of measures, such as the withdrawal of tanks from major urban centers, that might end the violence in that country. However, while as of Tuesday the 27th Arab League observers have been allowed into the country, and particularly the major flashpoint of Homs, violence in Syria continues into the present and numerous civilian deaths and armed clashes were reported over the weekend.
Residents of Homs, numbering some 70,000 according to Rueters agency,took to the streets on Tuesday to protest the Assad regime and make an impression upon the Arab League observers currently in the city. The response of the Homs to the observers arrival has been mixed, with some relieved that there is now an opportunity for the conditions in the city to be seen and some measure of oversight on security forces, but others remain unsure of the observers overall efficacy in actually stopping violence. In addition, major remain about the Assad regime’s sincerity in ending its crackdown, and sporadic violence in the city continues as well as on a wider scale throughout other regions of the nation. On Monday, some 30 civilians and opposition figures were reported to have been killed by or in clashes with, government security forces, adding further to the 18 civilians reported killed in the city over the weekend.
Violence intensified in the Syrian capital of Damascus on Friday when two car bombs exploded outside of the offices of Syria’s State Security Directorate. The attack killed some 44 people and wounded more than 100, mostly civilians. The Assad regime blamed the opposition for the attacks, conflating the opposition groups with Al-Qaeda. A spokesperson for the Free Syrian Army stated they were not responsible for the attack. However, actual responsibility for the attack remains uncertain. The Syrian State News Agency, via Reuters, also reported Tuesday that an oil pipeline outside of the city of Homs had been the target of a bomb attack by an “armed terrorist group”,placing the pipe line out of commission. Along with the recent surge in bombings, the week was marked by numerous clashes between Security forces and forces of the Free Syrian Army, with numerous defectors among the estimated 160 overall deaths that Syrian Human Rights Groups reported last Wednesday.
Joseph Kabila was officially announced the winner of the presidential elections by the Supreme Court on December 16th with 48.95% of the vote. Both opposition candidates, Tshisekedi and Kamerhe, had little hope of protesting the legitimacy of the vote in court as Kabila has worked to ensure the majority of the court is filled with his supporters. Lawyers for opposition candidate Vital Kamerhe, who recieved 7% of the total vote, even walked out of the proceedings describing it as a “parody of justice”.
Etienne Tshisekedi has announced that he is the rightful leader of the country and is the right person to take the presidential oath. He has even advocated for the seizure of Joseph Kabila, saying “Regarding those who have created all those problems, starting with Mr. Kabila, I call on all of you to look for this man wherever he is in the country and bring him here alive.” Tshisekedi has also offered a reward for the capture of Kabila, and has urged security forces and civil society to disobey Kabila’s orders. A senior member of Kabila’s administration was quoted saying that if Tshisekedi forms a rival administration, this would constitute a crime and action by the country and international community would be taken.
Joseph Kabila held his inauguration ceremony on December 19th in the capital city of Kinshasa. President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe was the only head of state present at the ceremony. Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe has pledged his support for Kabila following the extremely disputed election. Mugabe pledged that in the case of Western intervention in the DRC, Zimbabwe would support the country militarily. He was quoted as saying that “any attempt to undermine that democratic government will be resisted by Africa, [the Southern African Development Community] and Zimbabwe, which has been a partner to the Congolese people.”
On December 23rd, Tshisekedi swore the second presidential oath to be taken in the country in the span of only a few days. Tshisekedi had been seeking to hold the rival inauguration at a Kinshasa stadium, but security forces blocked the area around his house and also deployed tanks and the Republican Guard to the stadium. However his supporters turned out in large numbers despite the blockade; they threw rocks at security forces before being pushed into backstreets by teargas.
The full result of the parliamentary elections have yet to be announced in full, as counting has officially been halted according to the election commission. Experts from the US and Britain are expected to travel to the country in the coming days to assess the situation and help with credibility in the tallying process.
As the government ban on SMS text-messaging in the DRC continues, it has become clear that this ban on social media has vast consequences. Not only does this limit communication about human rights abuses and the outbreak of violence, but it disproportionally affects the estimated 1.4 million deaf Congolese. The ban on SMS text-messaging limits the communication capacities of many members of the deaf population, which makes them extremely vulnerable as they are not aware of violent outbreaks. “We’re finding it very hard to communicate,” said Pastor Kisangala, the deaf community’s religious minister in Kinshasa, told the BBC. “All our communications used to go through SMS messages.” Sign the petition urging Vodacom and other companies to restore SMS capabilities in the region here.
In response to the growing instability and violence in the country, there has been an increased number of Congolese refugees crossing into Uganda.
On December 16th, the International Criminal Court failed to charge Rwandan rebel leader Callixte Mbarushimana for crimes committed in the DRC and ordered his release from custody. He was originally charged with eight counts of war crimes and five counts of crimes against humanity for his actions in the eastern Kivu provinces of the DRC in 2009, however all charges were dropped by the ICC for a lack of sufficient evidence. This is only the second time in the court’s history that charges have been dropped against an accused war criminal. However the decision was met with criticism and outrage by the international community, and appeals to the decision have already been filed.
Sudan and South Sudan
As part of the efforts to restore refugee-family links, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has began providing a free phone per every family to thousands of Sudanese refugees in Ethiopia.
Sudanese security service released an Italian aid worker kidnapped in South Darfur four months ago and arrested six of his kidnappers.
The first general assembly organized by the South Sudan Liberal Youth Forum (LYF) resolved to form an interim executive board, tasked with legally establishing the organization and formulating its constitution.
The chairman of the Sudan People Liberation Movement North (SPLM-N) Malik Agar has issued a directive by which all Prisoners of Wars are to be released from the movement’s custody. The rebel movement fighting Sudanese government forces said that the move was to keep “with the laws of war and international norms, as stipulated in the Geneva Protocols governing the treatment of prisoners of war”.
Amnesty International (AI) is calling upon the United Nations to provide a secure environment for people displaced by the conflict in Abyei. In a new report titled “Destruction and Desolation in Abyei” released on Monday, December 19t the rights group states that more than 100,000 people were displaced by the violence in May 2011 and are prevented from returning to their homes due to the prevalence of armed militias and landmines.
The Government of South Sudan (GoSS) has made proposals to have representatives from oil companies included in the next round of post-session negotiations mediated by the African Union High Level Implementation Panel (AUHIP), Pagan Amum, its chief negotiator said. The proposal has been accepted.
The South Sudanese rebel leader and renegade general, George Athor, has been killed, announced the country’s Vice-President Riek Machar Teny in a press conference held in the capital Juba on December 20th. Earlier in the day, Athor was reported to be under siege by South Sudan’s army, SPLA, in Morobo country in Central Equatoria state. The office of South Sudan’s Vice President, Riek Machar, issued a statement confirming the death of Athor and adding that Athor was killed after infiltrating the country’s borders coming from Rwanda and driving through eastern borders of DRC and Uganda to recruit new fighters in Central Equatoria state.
Over twenty national and international civil society and solidarity organizations on Tuesday sent out a strongly worded letter petitioning the UN to impose additional economic and travel sanctions on Sudan and use a of no-fly zone in war affected areas. The letter was addressed to Ban Ki Moon, secretary-general of the UN and others including President Obama.
The parliament of Lakes state was told by county commissioners on Thursday, December 22 that cattle raids have killed at least 249 and injured 319 since January 2011.
The leader of the Darfur rebel group Justice and Equality Movement (JEM), Khalil Ibrahim, was killed as he was leading his forces on the way to the Republic of South Sudan, according to the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF). Khalil Ibrahim was one of the most powerful rebel commanders. In 2008, his fighters drove across the arid western terrain and launched a shock attack on Khartoum
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