Syria, DRC, Sudan, South Sudan
Almost two weeks after the passage of a UN backed cease-fire agreement meant to bring a temporary reprieve from violence to the embattled Syrian nation there appears to be little sign of substantive change on the ground. BBC News reported Thursday thata massive explosion in the city of Hama has killed upwards of 70 Syrian civilians,however the cause of and responsibility for the explosion remains unclear. Syrian state television reported the explosion was the result of a botched bomb making effort by anti-government groups, while opposition organizations have placed blame on government artillery strikes, potentially by a ballistic missile system. Prior to the explosion, opposition sources reported that violence was ongoing in Hama, with some 100 Syrian civilians are reported to have been killed in the city in the past week.
Elsewhere in the country violence has continued unabated on a large scale despite the presence of UN observers. The Syrian militaryshelled the Damascus suburb of Douma Tuesday, potentially in retaliation for a large protest in that sector the day prior. On Tuesday, three Syrian security troops were shot and killed in Damascus. Further, a bomb exploded outside an Iranian cultural center, killing no one but wounding four. Throughout the country, Syrian security and military forces have failed to comply with the UN order to withdraw from urban centers, and have continued conducting sweeps, suppressing protests and targeting opposition figures.
Presently, only about a dozen UN observers are present in Syria but is scheduled to eventually reach 300 over the course of several months. However, France has made overtures to the United Nations to accelerate the deployment timeline, aiming to have 300 observers on the ground within the next two weeks instead. French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe has also stated that if the current peace-plan fails that France might seek to pursue “a new stage with a Chapter Seven resolution (which allows for action that could be backed by force) to stop this tragedy” at the UN Security Council.
Malaria cases continue to dramatically increase in the DRC. Médicins Sans Frontières (MSF) has warned that clinics and treatment centers will not be able to cope, as the number of people treated for malaria at MSF sites has increased by 250% since 2009 in six provinces, which represents half the country. Though the factors behind the increase in cases remains unclear, renewed violence by militia groups has definitely served as an obstacle between civilians and access to preventative care and treatment. Treatment is especially difficult in rural areas; “treatment outside the cities remains especially weak, due to unaffordability or geographic inaccessibility. In some areas, healthcare is simply non-existent. Even when treatment is available, the drugs are sometimes inadequate or outdated.” So far this year, MSF has treated 85,000 people for malaria however the number is expected to rise. Malaria is the leading cause of death in the DRC, killing about 300,000 children under five every year. After World Malaria Day on Wednesday, the global community is appealing for $3.2 billion to reach the UN’s goal of “near-zero” deaths by 2015.
Human Rights Watch has accused the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) of increased attacks in the Central African Republic and DRC. Between January and March 2012, HRW documented over 53 new attacks which speaks to the fact that the rebel group remains a threat to civilians. The African Union responded to the increased attacks as well as viral success of Invisible Children’s infamous Kony 2012 movie with a pledge of 5,000 African Union troops from Uganda, South Sudan, DRC and CAR. The troops have communications and logistical support from the United States, as well as civilian escorts from the United Nations. Following the Obama administration’s deployment of 100 special forces to the region last October, President Obama announced on Monday that US advisors will stay in the region. During his speech at the US Holocaust Memorial Museum, he announced that he was extending deployment of the military advisors in order to aid in the capture of Joseph Kony and to ensure that civilians in the Great Lakes region are protected.
President Joseph Kabila has decided to rewrite mining legislation in the country, following a controversial review of existing mining contracts in the past five years. According to mining minister Martin Kabwelulu, the DRC’s $5 billion annual copper exports only yielded 2% in taxes last year. He said, “Mining companies have been inflating [deductable costs] at will and we must put a limit on those costs in the revision of the mining code to make sure that the state gets a fair share.” However increasing the government’s stake in mining project brings up other questions surrounding corruption as well as the sustainable use of finite resources. While the DRC vitally needs productive infrastructure and investment in the domestic economy, basic human needs must also be met as President Kabila will need to avoid the familiar complaint that “you cannot eat roads”.
The DRC is expected to overtake China and Indonesia as the largest tin supplier in the world in the next five to ten years, according to experts at the International Tin Conference in Cape Town, South Africa. Jon Kayoni, vice president of the DRC’s Chamber of Mines, said, “There is no doubt about it. We are already the biggest suppliers in Africa, and the fifth-largest in the world.”
Bosco Ntaganda continues to play a large role in shaping the security of the Kivus. His mutiny seems to have largely backfired, as many troops re-defected back to the government and over a dozen senior officers are now under arrest. However it is not over; a group of former CNDP members remain loyal to Bosco, and the assassination of two high-ranking officers has further severed the ties with the national army.
Sudan, South Sudan
Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) troops clashed with the Sudanese army around Kharasana, near the disputed Heglig region in South Kordofan on Thursday, April 19th. JEM released a report saying that they overcame the Sudanese army.
US President Barack Obama made a personal appeal to the governments in Khartoum and Juba to end the worst fighting since the country split into two and resume peace talks and negotiations. The United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon also urged the two countries to resume talks and activate border monitioring following the violence in Heglig. The United Nations is currently in talks about the next steps that they must take in Sudan, South Sudan.
South Sudan’s Vice President, Riek Machar says his country performed poorly on the diplomatic front during its occupation of the contested Heglig oil region on the north-south border, which South Sudan’s army (SPLA) held for over a week before moving out of the area in disputed circumstances over this past weekend.
Sudanese security service shut down two humanitarian groups in Nyala, the capital of South Darfur, and arrested three aid workers from South Sudan this week. Four UN-AU peacekeepers were also wounded in Darfur this past week.
Thirteen Sudanese military prisoners of war who were detained in Heglig will arrive to Khartoum later this week, following an effort coordinated by the Red Cross and Egypt to free them.
The United Nations Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict has condemned Monday’s bombing in South Sudan’s Unity state, which killed two children and injured at least six people.
Jonglei State’s deputy governor Hussein Maar announced on April 21st that the Ethiopian government has called for South Sudan to take back hundreds of armed young men from Pibor, Akobo, Uror, Nyirol and Pochalla counties who escaped to Ethiopia to avoid a disarmament campaign.
This post 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:
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DRC Education Coordinator: Siobhan Kelley email@example.com
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