Democratic Republic of the Congo
Just hours before Rwanda was set to join the UN Nations Security Council as a non-permanent member, the Council placed an arms embargo on M23 rebels and their alleged Rwandan allies, the FDLR. A travel ban and asset freeze was also placed on two key M23 figures, “the group’s civilian leader Jean-Marie Runiga Lugerero and Lieutenant Colonel Eric Badege, a commander suspected of being responsible for the deaths of women and children.” No Rwandans have been sanctioned yet.
Peace talks between the Congolese government and the M23 that began on December 9 were extended until the end of the year. However, due to the “technical constraints related to availability over the holiday season” the talks were adjourned on December 21st. They are set to resume on January 4th. No agreement on a ceasefire was reached.
More and more Congolese refugees continue to cross into Rwanda seeking protection. Currently, Rwanda is home to over 50,000 Congolese refugees. The most recent movements have been because of violence targeting Kinyarwanda-speaking Congolese. Because of this the Rwandan government has made the “sudden decision” to expand the size of the Kigeme Refugee Camp.
The Assad regime has declared that it would welcome any initiatives for peace talks after UN-Arab League envoy Lakhdar Brahimi stated that he “had a peace plan acceptable to world powers.” Before this move by the Syrian government, Brahimi warned that the war could kill as many as 100,000 people in the next year and that the country will likely deteriorate into control by warlords if no solution is reached soon.
Meanwhile, clashes between the rebels and government forces shut down the airport in Aleppo, Syria’s largest city. The rebels, who have been fighting for the city since summer, have captured territory in Aleppo province west and north. Recently, they have stepped up attacks on airports around Aleppo province in a bid to weaken the Assad regime’s air power.
As the conflict continues, the United Nations has estimated that more than 60,000 peoplehave been killed thus far and that last month alone 84,000 Syrians fled the country, raising the total to about half a million people.
On Dec 21, the Karen National Union (KNU) elected new leadership including Gen Mutu Say Poe, a prominent leader of the KNU’s military wing the Karen National Liberation Army, as chairman. Say Poe is believed to be “a pragmatist keen on engagement” with the Myanmar government. The KNU has fought the Myanmar government for more than sixty years in order to gain greater autonomy as part of one of the world’s longest ongoing civil wars.
On Monday, December 24, the UN General Assembly approved a non-binding resolution condemning the ongoing violence in Burma’s Rakhine State between the mostly Muslim Rohingya and Buddhist Rakhine. The resolution also urged the Myanmar government to address the situation and take action to protect the rights of all in Rakhine State, including the stateless Rohingya’s “right to a nationality.”
On Monday, a boat carrying around 450 Rohingya fleeing the violence in western Burma arrived in Malaysia and were sent to an immigration detention center. The UNHCR claims there are 25,000 Rohingya in Malaysia, a country that is not a signatory on the UN Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees that outlines the rights of refugees.
Photos and video from the humanitarian and rights watchdog organization Free Burma Rangers show Myanmar military jets and helicopters firing on soldiers of the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), the military branch of the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO). Myanmar President Thein Sein initially denied knowledge of the attacks, yet a statement was later issued acknowledging the attacks, suggesting a lack of communication between the newly-reforming government and the once-ruling military. The statement claimed the attacks were ordered following the capture of a military base from the KIA. An estimated 75,000 people have been displaced since fighting began following a 17-year ceasefire in Kachin State during the summer of 2011.
In other news, Burma celebrated its first ever public New Year’s Eve countdown in Yangon, the country’s largest city, where thousands celebrated and welcomed the new year.
[Trigger Warning for sexual violence]
Government militia operating in East Jebel Marra, North Darfur, reportedly raped, insulted, humiliated, shaved the heads of three women, and threw them in a valley. Humiliating women by raping and shaving their heads is part of orchestrated, widespread campaigns conducted by pro-government forces and militias against innocent civilians. Radio Dabanga also reported that a government convoy of 240 Land Cruisers was seen traveling from the town of Khazam Tinjur to Al-Arab Al-Ashara. The Sudanese Air forces also carried out shellings, killing considerable number of livestock.
The Justice and Equality Movement, under the Sudan Revolutionary Front, has announced that it captured seven towns in Kordofan. According to the movement’s deputy leader, Mohamed Al Beleil Issa Zayyed, SRF troops are actively engaged in widespread combat, as they hope to take the area from the National Congress Party. The deputy leader further said they are establishing administrative units in areas falling under their control. Government troops were reportedly forced to retreat and withdraw from key major towns. Mr. Beleil denied accusations that his forces were involved in looting, stealing, and destroying communication towers, calling it “propaganda of the NCP to distort the SRF’s image”. He said that Sudatel towers were destroyed because of the company’s affiliation with the security apparatus of the NCP.
Other related incidents included an assault by a pro-government militia group in the gold mining area of Hashaba in North Darfur. The gunmen reportedly killed three people, looted 100 camels, and took a number of sheep. The murdered victims are Adam Abdullah Jalle Hussein, Yahia Yaqub Ismail Ibrahim, and Mohamedin Abakar Awad. Similarly, a group called “Abu Tira” beat and looted three citizens in Central Darfur. The group is also known as the Central Reserve Forces and are widely understood to be supported by the government. Eyewitnesses reported that the perpetrators stole six thousand Sudanese pounds and stripped the men of the their belongings.
Thirty-two people have been killed by Sudanese air bombardments. The SPLA accused the Sudanese forces for carrying out the attacks. The Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) engaged in air strikes and ground attacks against the Raja county of Western Bahr el Ghazal state, overrunning a military base. The SPLA forces were attacked while conducting a parade. The governor of the state, Rizik Zacharia Hassan, has termed it a “well coordinated attack” by the SAF on the SPLA. The attack came against the backdrop of a meeting scheduled to take place in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, to revive cooperation agreements between Sudan and South Sudan.
Governor Rizik lamented that “an unjust war is being imposed on us one more time. Everything has already been said about this war of aggression by Sudan. Our love for peace is being exploited and the international community is silent.” President Kiir publicly asked, “what does Bashir want to achieve with this provocation at the time we are supposed to meet in Addis Ababa on Friday?”
In the State of Jonglei, five people were killed, and two children and one adult abducted as the attackers stole cattle. The raiders were suspected to be Murle. The unexpected raid came in the wake of New Year’s Eve while Christians of the Episcopal Church of Sudan were marching from the town of Kolnyang to one of the bomas (enclosures for animals). Residents expressed disgust as they did not imagine someone would do such a thing during a celebration. They also said that “they did not fear the New Year celebrations as there was a better protection of the people during the the marching.”