In an African Union Peace and Security Council (AUPSC) meeting held on October 24, a decision was made to give Sudan and South Sudan an additional six weeks to reach consensus on a negotiated solution on the final status of Abyei. Sudan favors a partitioning of Abyei, while South Sudan favors a referendum vote by citizens residing in the area. On October 28, South Sudan said it is seeking international support to push the Sudan to accept an African Union proposal to resolve the dispute over the contested fertile and oil-producing Abyei region by a referendum in October 2013–the method that was agreed to in the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement. Also in Abyei, community leaders have alleged that members of the Misseriya ethnic group raided 108 cattle on Wednesday. A cattle raid in Jonglei also injured a man in Twic East county. Two weeks ago, three people were killed in an attempted raid in the same area, and last week four were killed in Akobo County.
South Kordofan rebels reported that Sudanese warplanes bombed several villages in the Nuba Mountains on Tuesday, October 30. The bombing began at 8 AM and continued until 3 PM, injured a child, killed nine heads of cattle, and destroyed the crops of local residents. The SPLM-N is far from innocent, however, as they bombed Kadugli on Tuesday–the fourth bombing of the capital of South Kordofan since last June. In a recent report, the UN estimated that 520,000 people have been internally displaced displaced or severely affected by conflict in South Kordofan and 205,000 people from South Kordofan and Blue Nile have fled to South Sudan and Ethiopia.
Agreements signed by Juba and Khartoum on 27 September have begun to positively impact the price of goods for the citizens of Unity state. The Bul Nuer ethnic group of Unity signed a cross-border agreement with the Misseriya, allowing them grazing rights in the state. Allegedly, this allowed some of the Misseriya to carry out lucrative smuggling into Unity from north Sudan. Flooding and road infrastructure is hampering trade for some counties, who have yet to benefit from the opening of the border.
Sudanese President al-Bashir is expected to visit Juba the first of week of November. He had been scheduled to visit Juba in April but the trip was postponed due to a conflict around the Heglig oil field, which has been been claimed by South Sudan. It is hoped that Bashir’s visit will help restore ties between the Sudan and South Sudan.
A member of the South Sudan Civil Society Alliance (SSCSA) was kidnapped at gunpoint on Monday, October 22. Relatives and friends say the men were members of South Sudan’s security services. He was found in bad shape and abandoned at a graveyard on Friday, October 26. This is the second such attack on civil society activists in the last four months, the first being the chairperson of SSCSA. Athuai, the chairperson, said his colleague told him that the group had threatened to kill him if the civil society group keep on talking “nonsense,” calling him and the alliance “traitors” who must be dealt with accordingly.
Following a dispute with Sudan over oil transit fees that deprived South Sudan of 98% of its income, they were forced to reduce expenditures. Despite the huge drop in revenue, the government promised that an austerity programme would not affect the salaries of civil servants, police, soldiers and other government employees. However, Some of South Sudan’s ten state governments have cut salaries of their employees, blaming the oil-dispute-induced austerity measures. The Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning has issued a statement informing civil servants that they have not directed any cuts in salaries, and that this is the responsibility of state, not national, governments.
DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF THE CONGO
On the night of October 25th, an assassination attempt was made on Dr. Denis Mukwege, the founder of the Panzi Hospital in Bukavu, eastern Congo. Due to the intervention of Dr. Mukwege’s security guard who was shot and killed, he survived the assassination attempt. The shooters are still unidentified. Panzi hospital is well known worldwide for its work rehabilitating victims of sexual violence, and Mukwege is an internationally renown activist against sexual violence in the Congo. His work for the people of Congo, especially women, is invaluable and his life is being celebrated around the world this week.
Last week, a UN report was leaked accusing both Rwanda and Uganda of supporting the M23 rebels in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The “scathing 44 page report” accused Uganda of “providing intelligence and political guidance” to the M23 rebels, and Rwanda of “directly commanding the militants.” Rwanda’s envoy to Kampala, Frank Mugambagye, denied these accusations, stating that he “knows that ICGLR (International Conference on the Great Lakes Region) member-countries are looking for a solution to the conflict.”
Proposals are currently being submitted by various parties in the Democratic Republic of the Congo concerning a possible increase of state participation in mining projects to 35% from 5%. The new law is expected next year. Some miners, such as Chinese-controlled MMG Ltd, are “rattled” by this potential new mining code and are attempting negotiations with the Congolese government.
There is growing Congolese dissent about the recently imposed border restrictions between North Kivu and Rwanda, which restricts transportation to and from Congo from 6 PM to 6 AM. A New Times Editorial calls these restrictions “unilateral” and “shortsighted” and predicts that the restrictions “will only ratchet up the suspicions and ill feelings between the two countries.”
In Rwanda, opposition politician Victoire Ingabire, has been sentenced to eight years in prison by the Rwandan High Court, according to local journalists in Kigali. Originally facing a possible sentence to life in prison, Ingabire’s eight year sentence has been called a “relatively mild sentence.” She was charged on counts of “treason and genocide denial” and the Rwandan government claims she financed the FDLR Rebels operating in Eastern Congo. There are doubts and speculations by both the national and international community about the “fairness” of Ingabire’s trial.
Violence has again erupted in Burma’s western Rakhine State. According to reports, as many as 112 are dead and just under 3,000 homes burned last week following clashes between Buddhist Rakhine and Muslim Rohingya. The Myanmar government has turned down an offer by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to host talks aimed at resolving the increasingly dire situation in Rakhine State. For an in-depth analysis by Alex Colley Hart, STAND’s Burma Education Coordinator, click here.
The UN has reported that illegal cultivation of opium, which is used to make heroin, has increased for the sixth successive year in Burma despite government efforts to curtail output. Burma accounts for 25% of the world opium production, making it one of the world’s largest producers of opium, second only to Afghanistan. Most of the country’s opium is produced in the northern parts of Burma that border China, specifically Kachin State and Shan State, and the profits are often used to fund various ethnic militias in their fights against Myanmar government forces. Most of Burma’s opium crop is believed to be sold to China.
The latest ceasefire in Syria for Eid al-Adha, was broken within hours of coming into effect. A car bomb exploded in the capital Damascus on the morning of October 26 and a second went off in front of a church in Deir Az-Zor the next day. Activists also reported shelling and shooting in Aleppo, the suburbs of Damascus and Homs. Two bombs went off in Damascus on October 31, one killing at least six people and wounding 13 near a Shia shrine, state media and opposition activists said. Southwest of Damascus, an explosion on Wednesday occurred in Moadamiyat al-Sham, and was a scene of heavy battles between rebels and troops, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. At least a hundred people are reported to have been killed since the start of the truce.
According to Al Jazeera, the US has called for a major overhaul of Syria’s opposition, saying it is time to move beyond the Syrian National Council (SNC) and bring in groups fighting in the frontlines of combat. "This cannot be an opposition represented by people who have many good attributes but who, in many instances, have not been inside Syria for 20, 30, 40 years," Clinton said during a visit to Croatia on Wednesday. The SNC is a largely foreign-based political group which has been among the most vocal proponents of international intervention in the Syrian conflict. Clinton says the meeting in Doha, Qatar next week is a chance for the opposition to form new leadership–this time with representatives of groups fighting within Syria.
Lakhdar Brahimi, the UN-Arab League envoy, has expressed hope, after holding talks in Beijing with Yang Jiechi, Chinese foreign minister, that China will play an active role in helping end the violence in Syria. "China believes that the situation in Syria is worsening by the day … The only realistic way out is to resolve the Syria issue through political channels," said Yang.
Although Turkey initially supported the rebel uprising in Syria, now, after hosting approximately 140,000 refugees, it seems eager to find an end to the conflict even if that means Assad staying in power. Increasing Turkish opposition – especially in areas along the border with Syria – to Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan’s heavy involvement in the conflict is likely to be the main reason behind the government’s rethink of its policy.
For Al Jazeera’s Live Blog on Syria, click here.