Hey upSTANDers! Because of school finals, this will be our last news brief until the new year–but keep checking out STAND’s blog and Facebook for updates, and if you haven’t yet, join us for our remaining 9 days of action!
University dormitories have been set on fire as students clashed with security agents supporting the National Congress Party (NCP). Protests first erupted at universities across Khartoum state after the bodies of four Darfuri students enrolled at Gezira University were found in a water canal in Wad Madani state last week. The students were killed by security officers after they partook in a peaceful demonstration protesting rising tuition fees. Eye-witness reports reported that the students were beaten with sticks and batons, leaving at least seven people injured. Shockingly, it was claimed NCP ‘militias’, backed by the security forces, had burned down of the rooms of Darfuri students. Although a majority of the students were on the streets, there were fears that some students could have been trapped inside the dormitories.
On Tuesday, National Consensus Forces (NCF) leaders held a sit-in at the headquarters of the opposition Sudanese Congress Party (SCP), where they shouted slogans calling for retribution. During the press conference that followed, the NCF’s chairman Farouq Abu Issa said that opposition parties have decided to mobilize the masses and stand in solidarity with the issue of students. They urged citizens to go to Khartoum University the following day to express solidarity with the victims. Representatives of the Darfur Students’ Association say that 140 students were arrested and and 180 injured, as well as 580 laptops and 290 mobile phones looted from students at an estimated value of 950 million Sudanese pounds. For more on Tuesday’s protests, see the Al Jazeera Stream here. Girifna Media reported via twitter today that, “UoK women dorms (al Barkas) was attacked at 3 am by pro-govt. masked students with metal rods. Some students were hospitalized #SudanRevolts” Opposition groups have met today, drawing a large crowd demanding justice. Follow live on twitter via #SudanRevolts.
Confrontation continues in South Kordofan. Fighting broke out when the Sudanese army entered Daldoko, northeast of Kadugli, South Kordofan. According to SPLM-N’s spokesperson, Arnu Ngutulu Lodi, 27 Sudanese army soldiers and three rebels were captured during the battle. Consequently, the Sudanese government resorted to air strikes in different villages of South Kordofan as of Saturday. According to Lodi, four bombs were dropped in Kauda injuring three civilians, killing five goats and two donkeys. An additional four bombs were dropped in Werne, where farms were destroyed. The government of Sudan seems determined with its “ethnic cleansing program”, Lodi added.
The United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) has expressed strong disappointment with the recent assassination of leading political commentator Isaiah Abraham in Juba. Abraham was gunned down in his house by unknown murderers. A statement from UNMISS said that the mission will continue to provide extensive support to the South Sudanese police to better equip them to improve security in South Sudan, so that they are capable of investigating such crimes. They also reiterate their strong support for freedom of expression as a cornerstone of democracy in the country. Many think Abraham was killed for his recent article, in which he called for the resignation of President Salva Kiir Mayardit. The article cautioned the government to study its relationship with the SPLM-N and strengthen relations with Sudan.
Conflicting reports say that the South Sudanese army has killed 14 people in the remote village of Gumuruk in Jonglei’s Pibor County. According to Pibor commissioner Joshua Konyi, “The army took civilians in Gumuruk and killed 14 Murle people”, claiming the victims were executed. “They collected 15 of them, and when one person ran away, they killed seven there on the spot and took seven people to near Gumuruk and killed them,” he added. The state governor of Jonglei, Kuol Manyang, said the official military reports indicate that the army “fought with the Yau Yau rebels in Gumuruk, leading to the killing of the 14 people.”
In another incident, the South Sudanese army fired live bullets on protesters, killing 25 people. The group opposed to the move of the administrative headquarters in the county. The state Governor of Western Bahr el Ghazal, Rizik Zachariah Hassan, has denied that the military (SPLA) opened fire on civilians. UNMISS nonetheless confided in the press on Sunday that six people were killed late on Saturday when the SPLA attempted to remove roadblocks established to protest the administrative changes. That incident was followed by another on Sunday morning, when four more people were killed as a group of protestors marched into Wau town to petition the Governor.
The Syrian opposition coalition won international backing Wednesday at the “Friends of the Syrian People” conference in Morocco. While the Syrian National Coalition welcomed the move, the coalition hopes for more tangible international and financial support. The conference also warned of a “serious response” to the Assad regime’s use of chemical weapons. The move to recognize the rebels included approval from the United States, which called the Syrian National Coalition “the sole legitimate representative” of the Syrian People.
Both the US and other members of the conference are still reluctant to supply military aid to the Syrian rebels. This is in large part due to fears of rebel groups with al-Qaeda connections, one of which has been officially blacklisted by the US. The blacklisting of this group, al-Nusra, is a major concern to senior Syrian opposition figures. They fear that this will weaken the efforts to provide practical assistance on the ground.
In Damascus, rebels have continued to make gains. Wednesday saw an explosion thattargeted the Syrian Interior Ministry building, although there is not yet news of casualties. Human Rights Watch recently accused Syria of using incendiary bombs in at least four locations since mid-November. While 106 countries have banned incendiary weapons, they are not considered chemical weapons. The Syrian regime is also accused of launching Scud missiles at rebel targets. This evoked strong condemnation from the United Kingdom’s foreign office.
Democratic Republic of the Congo
Talks of how to move forward in Congo continue to take place on Capitol Hill this week. On Tuesday, the Africa, Global Health, and Human Rights Subcommittee held a hearing on the crisis in eastern Congo. The US has been the subject of harsh criticism for the lack of action taken in building a better peace process for eastern Congo. In particular, critics have been focusing on the hesitancy of the US ambassador to the UN, Susan Rice, to put pressure on Rwanda, the country seen as being at the root of much of the violence in eastern Congo.
Following an “extraordinary” Summit in Dar es Salaam on December 8, the Southern Africa Development Community (SARD) has “vowed to provide 4,000 troops for a neutral force in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.” SARD also urged the UN to strengthen the mandate of the UN peacekeeping force, which gave up defending Goma when M23 rebels advanced on the city. SARD “strongly condemns” the M23 and its attacks against civilians.
Peace talks between the Congolese government and the M23 rebels have been happening in Kampala, Uganda this past week. The talks got off to a shaky start as M23 representative, Francois Ruchongoza, blamed the country’s conflict on poor governance. The negotiations stalled again on Monday as the M23 delegation “refused to turn up to listen to the DRC government rebuttal on allegations made against it.” John Prendergast, co-founder of the Enough Project, weighed in, stating that resolution of the conflict should not be controlled by the leaders of the three complicit countries, DR Congo, Rwanda, and Uganda, who have all justified “their actions in terms of national security concerns to mask economic and political interests.” Instead he called for a comprehensive international peace process that involves representatives of the local communities most affected by the violence as well as the voices of major international leaders inside and outside of sub-saharan Africa.
On Wednesday, a Brussels court gave its go-ahead to conduct a “long-awaited judicial probe” into the role of a dozen Belgians in the 1961 assassination of the revolutionary Congolese independence leader Patrice Lumumba. One year ago, the sons of Lumumba filed a war crimes complaint in Belgium against the twelve Belgians they suspect to have been involved in their father’s death.
On Wednesday, thousands of Buddhist monks staged protests demanding the Myanmar government apologize for their brutal crackdown on the Letpadaung copper mine protest in late November in which 100 monks were injured. Protests were staged in the large cities of Yangon and Mandalay as well as the towns of Pakokku and Monywa. The protesters demanded an apology of President Thein Sein, the release of those detained during the copper mine protests, and an independent investigation. See pictures of the monks’ protests here.
Reports of worsening fighting in Burma’s Kachin State have claimed that dozens have been killed, including as many as 60 Myanmar army soldiers. The fighting between the Kachin Independence Army, the military branch of the Kachin Independence Organization which represents the Kachin in northern Burma and neighboring areas, and the Myanmar army erupted in June of last year after a 17-year-old ceasefire agreement broke down. There have yet to be signs of efforts to renew ceasefire agreements between the parties. An estimated 100,000 people have been displaced by fighting; many now live in refugee camps.
In other news, Grammy Award winning musician Jason Mraz is scheduled to perform in Burma in order to raise awareness of the country’s rampant human trafficking problems. Mraz will be one of the first foreign artists to perform in Burma.