Following her recent 17-day trip to the US, Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi has expressed her willingness to eventually become president of Myanmar. As general secretary of her party, the National League for Democracy, she consistently repeated the three pillars of her party’s platform: establish the rule of law, amend the constitution, and bring about peace between the Myanmar government and ethnic minorities. In response to Suu Kyi’s statement, current Myanmar President Thein Sein expressed his support of the idea only if the people of Myanmar will it so in elections.
Additionally, the US has officially passed a law allowing financial support to be given to Burma through the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. However, 17 human rights organizations, including United to End Genocide and US Campaign for Burma, have expressed great concern over the new policy claiming it is premature to reward the former military dictatorship with such financial freedoms.
Rumors have been circulating about the possible nomination of Myanmar President Thein Sein as a Nobel Peace Prize winner due to the drastic democratic reforms he has undertaken in the country. Recent democratic reforms have also resurfaced a debate concerning the country’s name: Burma or Myanmar. The New York Times has written an interesting article about the resurfacing of the debate, click here to read it.
In June of this year, two Kachin refugees were arrested by seven government police and were accused of being violent Kachin Rebels. The refugees alleged that they were forced to have sexual intercourse, dance their traditional Kacin dances naked, and pretend to be crucified (due to their Christian faith). The case was originally set for September, but the accused failed to show up both times and again for a third time on October 3 of last week. Many domestic and international observers have viewed this case closely, as well as the recent arrests of many Peace Day activists in Yangon earlier this month, as a test for Myanmar’s newly reformed judiciary systems.
And finally, more Buddhists monks have marched to protest the presence of the local Muslim Rohingya peoples in Rakhine State in western Burma. The protest took place in the town of Sittwe, located in Rakhine State, where more than 400 monks and 1000 townspeople took part. Click here to watch a video of part of the protest.
The government of Sudan has disclosed its willingness to split Abyei. The details were announced just after Russian envoy to Sudan, Mikhail Margelov, met President Bashir. Ambassador El-Abeed Marawah Ahmed, the spokesman of the Sudanese ministry of Foreign Affairs, revealed that Bashir agreed to divide the region of Abyei between the Dinka Ngok and the Misseriya tribes. He said that the government of Sudan considers this a satisfactory option to solve the issues in the disputed area and to find a formula for peaceful co-existence for all parties.
In other news, retaliatory Mortar shelling by rebel Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N), in Kadugli, left at least six dead and several injured. The attacks coincided with an ongoing peace forum in the city intended to bring together rival political parties. The rebels claimed responsibility, accusing Khartoum of conducting frequent aerial raids in the Nuba Mountains.
Rebels in Jonglei State are committing “crimes against humanity,” said Joshua Konyi Irer, the Commissioner of Pibor County. Commissioner Konyi accuses Yauyau’s forces of murdering and raping civilians, looting cattle, sheep and goats, culminating in the displacement of hundreds of people of people in the villages. Other sources also indicate that several villages among them Koth Char, Manybol, Lekuangole are under also the rebel control.
Meanwhile, the Toposa ethnic group in Eastern Equatoria state has condemned the allegation directed toward the state governor Louis Lobong Lojore, that he had links with militia groups operating in the state. Governor Lobong has since been summoned to Juba last week in order to answer for the charges. The allegations were labled against the governor by deputy chairperson of information, Michael Losike Lokerui, an MP who also hails from the same the tribe as the governor himself. But governor Lobong has denied the charges.
Human Rights Watch reports that Syrian government forces have dropped Russian-made cluster bombs over civilian areas in the past week, cutting the route from Damascus to Aleppo. Often times, these bombs do not fully explode on the ground, and can kill and maim civilians long after a war has ended. Though the bombs were Russian-made, it is unknown how or when Syria acquired them.
Today, hundreds of Syrian and Lebanese supporters of Assad staged a rally in Beirut to thank China and Russia for supporting the Damascus regime. Posters bore the words, “Thank you Russia!” and “Lebanon forever with Assad’s Syria,” chanting slogans against Saudi Arabia and Qatar, which are supporting revolts against the Assad regime. Last week, Turkey intercepted a Syrian plane and confiscated its cargo, saying the plane was carrying military supplies. Syria has called the incident an act of piracy and a violation of international law. Syria-Turkey relations have been crumbling since Turkey banned Syrian civil aviation flights over the incident. Syria retaliated by banning Turkish civilian flights, which has taken effect today.
As battles have intensified, Syria has rejected a call by the UN chief to declare a unilateral ceasefire. Thursday was recorded as one of the deadliest days since the conflict began in March 2011, with at least 240 people killed nationwide, totaling to over 32,000 people dead since last March.
DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF THE CONGO
This weekend brought together French-speaking countries in Kinshasa for the Francophonie summit, “Environmental and economic challenges faced with good governance”, despite French President Hollande’s criticisms of human rights violations in the country. Holland told reporters that, “speaking French also means speaking of human rights, since the human rights were written in French.” Quebec Prime Minister PAuline Marois earlier said that she would not be meeting Kabila in private because of the rights situation in his country.
Opening the summit, Kabila declared that “an unjust war has been forced on us,” referring to Rwanda’s alleged involvement in the M-23 revolt in North Kivu. The Kivu question as well as the Mali crisis were expected to dominate closed-door discussions at the summit.
Congolese Minister of Communication Lambert Mende said that a neutral force of 4,000 troops will deploy on DRC’s eastern border with Rwanda and Uganda by the end of the year to combat rebel forces. This decision came after the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region on October 8. The ICGLR will submit a proposal for the force to the UNSC. Tanzania has already offered a battalion for the force.
In the US, Congolese diaspora have continued performances of “Cry for Peace: Voices from the Congo,” a play that began in Syracuse, New York, but has recently moved to a Manhattan Stage. The show features Congolese voices, as well as the voice of a Congolese-Belgian woman torn between cultures. Each piece brings a voice to the disempowered, and the play omits all mentions of tribes, as they are seeking to bring together Congolese in the US and repair relationships between people of different tribes.