Winter Break Education Update II
Syria, Sudan, South Sudan, DRC
Tens of thousands of Syrians turned out on to protest on December 30th in defiance of a government ban on demonstrations. The marches, held in cities throughout the country, aimed both at drawing the attention of Arab League observers, as well as placing continued pressure on the Syrian government of Bashar Al-Assad. However, despite the presence of Arab League observers in Syrian cities, the government’s crackdown on protestors and opposition figures has continued with NYT reporting through Syrian activists that at least twocivilians were killed in the city of Hama on Tuesday, with BBC News reporting another 12 dead on Wednesday.
Syrian opposition figures have called into question the efficacy of the League’s mission in Syria as well as the Syrian regime’s sincerity in pursuing an end to the crackdown.Reuters reported Wednesday that despite Arab League statements that troops hadbeen withdrawn from residential districts, that the regime in fact retains troops and armored vehicles within Syrian cities in defiance of the Leagueagreement. In addition, an estimated 30,000 opposition figures and protestors remain jailed in Syrian prisons despite the release of some 3,500 according to the Arab League since the arrival of League observers.
Due to the continuation of violence despite the presence of League observers, the head of the Arab Parliament, Ali Salem al-Deqbasi, released a statement on the 1st of January calling for the withdrawal of observers from Syria, saying ““The mission of the Arab League team has missed its aim of stopping the killing of children and ensuring the withdrawal of troops from the Syrian streets, giving the Syrian regime a cover to commit inhumane acts under the noses of the Arab League observers.”
The background of the head of the Arab League’s mission in Syria has also drawn criticism from human rights groups and some opposition figures. Lt. Gen. Muhammad Ahmed al-Dabi, who heads the Arab Leagues mission in Syria, previously headed the Sudanese Military Intelligence Service and served in a wide array of other military and security posts in the Sudanese government under President Omar Al-Bashir. However, the Arab League’s director responded to criticisms, saying of the general that he is a “capable military man with a clean reputation.
Sudan and South Sudan
At least 24 people, mostly civilians, have been killed in a tribal clash involving Lou Nuer and Murle ethnic communities in Jonglei state. The Government of South Sudan (GoSS) on Tuesday said it has deployed more than 1,000 police personnel to Jonglei. The UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) also said it was conducting air patrols in the affected areas. Up to 50,000 people have fled violence in the area according to the United Nations.
The Sudanese Defense Minister Abdul Rahim Mohamed Hussien claimed that Darfur rebel leader, Khalil Ibrahim, was killed in an air excursion made possible by the tracking of a phone call. The United States special envoy for Sudan Princeton Lyman and his senior Adviser for Darfur Dane Smith offered their condolences to the Darfur Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) on the death of its leader Khalil Ibrahim.
The British government intends to forgive more than $ 1 billion in debt owed by Sudan over the next few years. Officials at the UK Department for International Development told the Financial Times that cancelling the debt of countries such as Sudan would be counted as part of the target to spend 0.7% of national income on foreign aid by 2014.
South Sudan’s Vice President, Riek Machar, attempted to stop further conflict in Jonglei state by visiting the affected areas.
At least seventeen people, mostly civilians, have been killed in South Sudan’s Western Bahr el Ghazal State, following an aerial attack allegedly carried out by north Sudan. Several others are also said to have sustained injuries.
The African Union and United Nations peacekeeping mission in Darfur (UNAMID) said Sudanese government restricted the movement of its patrols due the recent surge of clashes in the region.
The president of South Sudan Salva Kiir accused the Sudanese government of stealing his country’s oil in a new sign of escalation of fighting. The Sudanese foreign ministry confirmed that a portion of oil pumped by South Sudan passing through the north’s pipelines is seized by Khartoum, but stressed that this is done with Juba’s knowledge. Sudan also announced that it will impose monthly fees on crude oil flowing from the newly-independent south until the two nations reach an agreement on transport payments.
South Sudan accused north Sudan of supplying arms to tribes in volatile Jonglei state, allegedly to destabilize the new country.
The United Nations has received alarming reports of malnutrition in South Kordofan and the Blue Nile where the army is fighting insurgents, a senior U.N. official reported.
Despite allegations of massive fraud in the election process and growing accounts of political violence in the country, President Joseph Kabila was sworn in for a second term last week to little international outrage, at least by governments. The U.S. State Department issued a statement expressing deep disappointment when the DRC’s Supreme Court upheld results from November’s election without fully evaluating irregularities. The same expression of "deep disappointment" is being used by activists and analysts who say the Obama administration is not going far enough in condemning the new mandate of President Joseph Kabila, as protests continue both in the US and around the world.
However the US has announced that it will send electoral experts to the country early this month to advise on the parliamentary vote count, which was halted last week. "USAID is discussing the provision of elections experts with several well-regarded organizations and expects that a team will arrive in Kinshasa during the first week of January," the official said.
The US government also announced they are committing $900 billion to peacekeeping, humanitarian aid and development efforts in the region.
Authorities in the DRC shut down broadcasts of the French government-funded Radio France International over its coverage of the violent aftermath of the November elections. During the run-up to the elections there was an outbreak of anti-press violence, where multiple media outlets sympathetic to opposition leader Tshisekedi were victims to arson. Following the flawed November elections, RFI covered the widespread violence, voting irregularities and government crackdown on opposition supporters. As the most popular news station in the DRC, this crackdown represents the loss of a vital source of news for Congolese citizens. The NGO Journalistes En Danger denounced the “escalation of repression” in the media through the publication of their annual report on assaults on the freedom of the press in the country. JED calculated over 160 cases, over half of which occurred in the electoral period.
The UN Group of Experts announced in a report last Friday that former rebels have been promoted to senior posts in the DRC’s military in return for supporting President Kabila in his re-election efforts. The 127-page report argued that despite the fact that Bosco Ntaganda is wanted by the International Criminal Court for war crimes, he managed to secure senior posts for himself and his men for supporting Kabila.
The same report also argued that the crackdown on conflict minerals in eastern Congo has “pushed trade deeper into the hands of criminals and smugglers”. Due to the lack of finalization on the SEC conflict mineral regulations, companies have left the region rather than waiting for the fine print. According to Gregory Salter, a consultant for the UN report, “This has mainly led to a loss of production and increased criminality” in the region. The report also said that decreased trade in the region has increased smuggling into Rwanda. "The level of recorded domestic production of tin, tungsten and tantalum ores (in Rwanda) continues to be higher than industry analysts consider the real level of production to be… suggesting that material from the DRC is being smuggled into Rwanda, and then tagged as of Rwandan origin," the report said.
In the worst attack in months, at least 26 people have been killed by Rwandan FDLR rebels in eastern Congo since the beginning of the year. The FDLR is the largest rebel group left in eastern Congo and has been responsible for widespread atrocities including murder and mass rapes. It was reported that the FDLR attacked remote villages in Shabunda (South Kivu province) where they burned huts and attacked civilians.
The New York Times reported on the increasingly common practice in Kinshasa of “power cuts”, where family members take turns eating every other day. This survival strategy is being employed by over 10 million people in the capital city, and the term “power cut” (or délestage in French) is meant to evoke the rolling blackouts that characterize city life. One Congolese resident explained, “Délestage. That means: ‘Today we eat. Tomorrow we don’t.’ The Congolese, in the spirit of irony, have adopted this term.” According to experts, half the population eats once per day and a quarter eats once every two days. In a country where over half the population is considered malnourished and the government spends less than 1% of the national budget on agriculture, this situation is extremely alarming and urgent.
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