The student-led movement to end mass atrocities.

Weekly News Brief 11/08/12


On Monday, November 5, the government of Sudan was condemned for ‘arresting and summarily executing 16 civilians of the Nuba tribe.’ According to Arnu Ngutulu Lodi, spokesman of the (SPLM-N), the government executed the civilians because they were ‘suspected to be SPLM/A-N supporters’. Paramount chief Adam Juju and his brother Abdalla Juju had been targeted since the May 2011 elections, ‘because of their ethnic background’ and support for the SPLM-N candidate. South Kordofan governor, Ahmed Mohamed Harun, who is wanted by the International Criminal Court for war crimes and crimes against humanity in Darfur, is considered the mastermind behind the killing of members of the Nuba tribe.

Meanwhile the family of journalist Somaya Ismail Ibrahim Handoussa, has launched a criminal investigation into the activities of the National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS). Handoussa’s body was found “dumped in the outskirts of Khartoum north (Bahri) with a shaved head, clearly showing signs of torture, psychological and physical exhaustion.” She had worked for several Sudanese newspapers including al-Sahafa. She reportedly disappeared from her family home on the evening of October 29, when she was arrested by seven NISS officers and taken to one of the ‘ghost houses’ of the security apparatus. She was allegedly accused of “opposing the regime and insulting President Bashir.” Sources told Radio Dabanga that “the officers directed racist insults at her and her tribe” and that “they shaved her head completely, under the pretext that her hair looks like the hair of Arabs, while she belongs to a group of slaves in Darfur.”


Security in Jonglei has improved, said State governor Kuol Manyang. Jonglei is the site of conflict perpetuated by rebels loyal to renegade David Yau Yau. The governor urged local chiefs to advise youth not to engage in fighting. The SPLA has since promised to pursue Yau Yau until he is he surrenders. Kuol said that the insurgency will not survive beyond February 2013, pledging the army’s commitment to end the insurgency. For more in-depth information about the Jonglei conflict, see the HBSA’s report here.

South Sudan’s army has also pledged to withdraw its forces from the demilitarized buffer zone along the tense border with Sudan. Military and security delegations from both countries are currently meeting in Juba. Both sides have agreed to remove their troops 10km from the temporary borderline proposed by the African Union to establish the demilitarized zone.


The Supreme Court of Canada refused to hear the appeal in the case against Anvil Mining by the Canadian Association Against Impunity (CAAI).  In November 2010, families of the Congolese victims through the CAAI filed a class action suit against Anvil Mining accusing it of funding (through provision of trucks, food, lodging, and other logistics) the rebel army that raped, murdered, and brutalized the people of the town of Kilwa in eastern Congo.

An article released by DW, a German news source, states that gorilla tourism in eastern Congo is funding rebel groups, particularly M23 rebels. Virunga National Park is home to a third of the world’s 786 surviving mountain gorillas. Tourists pay as much as $750 to visit the park. M23 rebels, have gained control of large parts of the park and are running their own treks at almost half the price of tourist agencies. “Gorilla Tourism” could be the go-to industry for rebel groups if the mining industry becomes better regulated. The situation begs the question of what this type of profit making endeavor will mean for the endangered gorillas, tourists, and the environment.

On Friday, Uganda threatened to withdraw peacekeeping forces in Somalia if the U.N. did not withdraw its report accusing Kampala of aiding rebels in eastern Congo.  However after meeting with Ugandan President Museveni, Wendy Sherman (U.S. Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs) claims that she fully expects that “Uganda will continue to play the leadership role it has, both diplomatically and in terms of military security.”  In addition to this statement, Sherman states that the ongoing efforts by the ICGLR (International Conference on the Great Lakes Region) are an “indication of the region’s collective desire for peace.”

In other news, Lushebere farm in North Kivu has recently reopened. The farm was closed in 1993 due to the extreme violence that was emerging in the region. Houses, fields, schools, health centers, markets, churches and the famous eucalyptus trees of the region were burnt down.  However within the last year, over 20,000 eucalyptus trees have been re-planted and infrastructure is improving. The opening of the Lushebere farm acts not only as an economic and environmental success, but also stands as a beacon of hope for peace and development in the region.


The World Bank will grant Burma $80 million and has promised additional funding for the first time in 25 years following recent reforms. According to the World Bank, it will assist the country in three main areas: public finance management, regulatory reform, and private sector development. Civil society organizations in Burma have criticized the hasty loan, saying that “the confirmation of the grant was done in haste, raising questions about whether the projects chosen for funding are well designed to meet the interests of people in local communities.”

Last Wednesday, October 31, the Myanmar government rejected a call from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to open talks on ending the recent violence between Muslim Rohingya and Buddhist Rakhine. The Myanmar government responded to the call by saying the conflict was internal and thus not the responsibility of neighboring countries. The Rakhine State government announced on Tuesday, November 6, that it would form a new committee to investigate the role of “illegal aliens” in the ongoing conflict. The Rohingya are largely considered illegal migrants from Bangladesh and are denied citizenship and other rights by the Myanmar government. The committee aims to restrict travel among towns, especially by the Rohingya peoples. This announcement, when viewed next to the Myanmar government’s statement, can be interpreted as an early-warning sign for further atrocities against the Rohingya.


UN envoy Lakhdar Brahimi is calling for a binding UN resolution to call for a transitional administration based off of an earlier declaration adopted in Geneva. “I believe that if the crisis is not solved in a right way, there will be the danger of Somalisation. It will mean the fall of the state, rise of war lords and militias,” he said. David Cameron, the Prime Minister of Britain, has said he will support granting President Bashar al-Assad a safe passage out of Syria to help end the civil war. He added, “Of course I would favour him facing the full force of international law and justice for what he’s done. I am certainly not offering him an exit plan to Britain, but if he wants to leave he could leave, that could be arranged.” Al-Assad has responded in an interview with Russian media, saying, “I am not a puppet… I am Syrian and I must live and die in Syria.”

50 people were killed in a suicide car bomb in the central province of Hama on Monday. Fighting also erupted on the edge of the Yarmuk Palestinian refugee camp in Damascus. Sources say that 21 people have died from shelling at the camp carried out on Sunday and Monday. Nationwide, at least 192 people were killed in Monday’s violence, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said, including 53 civilians, 85 soldiers and 54 rebels. On Tuesday, opposition activists reported 140 people had been killed that day, after bombs exploded in several districts in Damascus. 87 people were reported to have been killed on Wednesday, mostly in Damascus and its suburbs and Idlib. For a short video update on the situation in Syria, click here.

Syria’s main opposition bloc agreed on Monday, at a 4-day conference in Doha, to broaden its structure to work with 13 other groups. Participants “have agreed a restructuring plan and to reduce the number of [current] members of the general secretariat to accommodate 200 new members representing 13 political groups and independents,” said SNC spokesman Ahmad Kamel. The meeting is expected to discuss an initiative by leading dissident Riad Sief, who has been touted as the potential head of a new government-in-exile. Called the Syria National Initiative, his plan seeks to form a political leadership that will turn into a government of technocrats. Syria’s government has condemned the Doha meeting, deeming it an attempt at foreign intervention by Israel and the United States. The Syrian National Council, which has recently been condemned for shutting women out of the leadership, has added two women to the secretariat.

Many refugees in Turkey said the situation for them is better than other refugees who have fled to Lebanon, Jordan, or Iraq, but that the lack of a common language makes it impossible for Arabic-speaking Syrians to enroll in local schools without first learning Turkish. Abu Tareq, a father from Homs, said that it’s imperative that the children study. “My son is seven years old, soon he’ll be nine and won’t know how to read.” Mustafa Shaker, who taught mathematics in Damascus before he fled with his family to Antakya, Turkey last year, began by teaching 16 children in his home. The number has grown to 300 children, mostly between the ages of 5 and 14. “We made the curriculum from the first day: no politics or discussion of political groups,” Shaker said. Another teacher explained how the only difference from Syrian schools and al-Bushayer is the exclusion of the ruling Baath party’s “nationalism” course that all students are forced to take inside Syria. “The kids don’t have political ideas. They don’t support [President Bashar al-Assad] or [the opposition] Free Syrian Army, they’re just here to study.” For more on this school and its teachings of tolerance, click here.

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