Weekly Education Update
Syria, DRC, Sudan, South Sudan
The United Nations released a comprehensive report Thursday, accusing the Syrian government ofcrimes against humanity, stating that “the highest levels of the armed forces and the government” were culpable for the mass atrocities committed in Syria since the beginning of the unrest. In Syria, violence has continued unabated, with the shelling of Homs now having reached its 20th continuous day. Scores of civilian deaths were reported throughout the week, American Reporter and French Photographer, Marie Colvin and Remi Ochlik, were among the dead.
In response to the ongoing violence, seventy nations, including the United States along with Arab and European states, will meet Friday under the banner of the “friendsof Syria", in order to address policy options on the Syrian issue. Russian and Chinese governments however have declined to attend the meeting.
The International Committee Red Cross is attempting to negotiate a temporary cease fire aimed at two hour window during which humanitarian aid could be provided to Syrian civilians, however such efforts have not come fruition in prior attempts; with the Syrian government denying such overtures and Syrian army units blocking entrance or exit into the most embattled cities. The Red Cross’s plan has received support from the United States, with a White House spokesperson stating, “The reprehensible actions taken by the Assad regime, the brutal violence perpetrated by the Syrian leader against his own people has led us to this situation where humanitarian supplies are very scare, and therefore action needs to be taken. So we would certainly support the calls for those kinds of ceasefires." The European Union has also announced it will place additional sanctions on the Syrian government.
Despite ongoing violence, Syrians took the streets of Damascus on Saturday to march in the largest protest there since the beginning of the unrest almost a year ago. The protests, in response to the deaths of three men shot by security forces in an earlier protest. One civilian was reported killed in Saturday’s protests, in addition to a larger number of arrests.
NYT reported Wednesday on the state of Syrian refugees who have crossed the Syrian border into Lebanon. Some 6,500 Syrian refugees have been registered by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and Lebanon’s High Relief Commission, though estimates on overall numbers run higher
Last week, government forces in the Democratic Republic of the Congo brutally suppressed a peaceful march by leading Catholic groups in the country over the recent elections. Three priests and two nuns were arrested and later released, tear gas was used to break up protesters, and local parishes were attacked. According to an anonymous source, “The march was blocked in the bud. The faithful who were gathering in some parishes to then converge at the event were brutally attacked by the police. A few priests and nuns were arrested, and then the police launched tear gas.” The Carter Center deplored the suppression of the march, citing the right of all Congolese to peacefully assemble and to political expression. As one of the DRC’s biggest donors, the European Union also issued a statement condemning the intervention of security forces near places of worship and the decision to cut TV and radio signals. The timing of the march was poignant, as it coincided with the 20th anniversary of another Church-led march for democracy when soldiers loyal to former dictator Mobutu Sese Seko killed many demonstrators. Despite the international outcry, the government is insistent that it did nothing wrong. Information Minister Lambert Mende said, “It is unacceptable. We didn’t kill anybody, we are just applying our laws. We do not receive orders from our international partners.”
The repercussions in the Congolese political scene continue in the wake of Katumba’s death on February 12th. As one of President Kabila’s most trusted advisers, Congolese politicians have described Katumba as the brain behind the presidency for more than ten years. Following the crash, rumors began to circulate the country that President Kabila had also perished, which has not been validated. However it does point out a startling trend in Congolese politics; in 2001 after the assassination of Kabila’s father, the announcement of his death was delayed as a successor was chosen.
The U.S. announced in October it was sending about 100 Special Forces troops to Central Africa to participate in the on-going fight against the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) and its leader Joseph Kony, who is currently wanted by the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity. According to Rear Adm. Brian L. Losey, the top U.S. special operations commander for Africa, U.S. troops are now stationed in Uganda, DRC, South Sudan and the Central African Republic. According to Losey, “We’ve already seen a decrease in the lethality of LRA activities, which we think are attributable in part to the pressures we and our partners are applying.”
The Congolese diaspora continues to demand action by the international community due to the illegitimacy of the November elections. In Cape Town, a group of about 300 Congolese marched on Parliament to demand that President Zuma denounce the results which gave President Kabila another five years in power.
The UN announced on Tuesday that a cholera epidemic has spread to nine out of eleven provinces in the DRC. The UN remarked the spread was “worrisome” as the epidemic has killed 644 people and infected 26,000 since January 2011. The lack of access to potable water continues to be the most prevalent cause of the recurrent outbreaks, which is exacerbated by the displacement of thousands due to conflict.
Three senior diplomats have resigned from their posts at the Congolese embassy in London and are now claiming asylum in the United Kingdom. Despite fourteen years working in the embassy, the three diplomats resigned earlier this month and issued a statement denouncing their government and President Kabila’s “climate of terror.” They accused the government was guilty of arrests, abductions and assassinations as the police has now become Kabila’s private militia. In addition, they cited massive irregularities in the voting process and instances of election fraud including ballot box stuffing. They said, “We believed our lives would be in danger if we returned to our country in these circumstances…” However for the millions of Congolese that remain in Kabila’s climate of terror, escaping won’t be so easy.
Sudan and South Sudan
The Sudanese President Omer Al-Bashir has vowed that Khartoum will remain defiant in the face of pressures to let international aid groups into the country’s war zones of South Kordofan and Blue Nile, one day after the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) urged access to address a deteriorating humanitarian situation. Amnesty International (AI) has welcomed the UN Security Council’s (UNSC) call for Sudanese government and rebels from Sudan People Liberation Movement North (SPLM-N) to allow humanitarian groups access to the border states of South Kordofan and Blue Nile.
Negotiations between Sudan and South Sudan over billions of gallons of oil have ended with very little progress, prolonging a dispute that is undermining the fragile economies of both nations..
Delegations Khartoum and Juba agreed to immediately demarcate the border between the two countries in a bid to settle a number of pending issues they started to discuss before the independence of South Sudan in July 2011.
South Sudan’s Justice Ministry has issued an international legal notice threatening consequences against potential buyers of oil it says was “stolen” by neighboring Sudan.
Sudanese police in the early morning of Friday, February 17th raided dormitories of the University of Khartoum and arrested over three hundred students in anticipation of a new protest they planned to stage this weekend. A member of a committee of student activists said 317 students had been arrested and were being held at 11 police stations. The campus had been closed for about two months since students staged demonstrations over rising prices, unemployment and other issues.
The Sudanese minister of finance and national economy Ali Mahmood confirmed that Khartoum received a formal notification from the United States on its proposal submitted as part of the 2013 budget to cancel all of the country’s $2.4 billion debt. The Sudanese government rejected the conditions attached by the United States to cancelling all of Khartoum’s debt.
The rebel Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) has released 49 peacekeepers of the Africa Union – United Nations Mission in Darfur after they were held for entering the group’s territories without permission, JEM had captured 52 international peacekeepers, most of them from Senegal, and accused them of cooperating with the country’s security service.
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 Kelley firstname.lastname@example.org
Emerging Crises Education Coordinator: Tom Dolzall email@example.com