This post was written by STAND’s Policy Intern Rosie Berman. Rosie is a rising junior at Clark University where she studies Political Science and Holocaust and Genocide Studies.
New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof has produced a documentary detailing the plight of the Rohingya in Burma’s Rakhine state. The documentary itself can be found here. Kristof’s answers to viewers’ questions can be found here.
Fighting in Burma’s Shan state between the Burmese military and the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) has reportedly killed at least four government soldiers this week, Kachin rebel sources say. James Lum Dau, the deputy chief of foreign affairs for the KIA’s political wing, told the Irrawaddy Magazine that government troops had not only clashed with the KIA, but with other ethnic armed groups such as the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA), and the Kokang Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA). Lum Dau warned that there would be no nationwide ceasefire agreement if the government continued to attack ethnic minorities while simultaneously negotiating peace proposals. “So long as the government is insincere in the peace process, there will be no peace.” He said.
Central African Republic
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reports that thousands of people have fled this past week from deadly attacks by various armed groups in the Central African Republic town of Bambari. At least 45 people have been killed and scores wounded in the attacks and counterattacks. UNHCR staff in Bambari say that the town has been reduced to a ghost city, and that Christian neighborhoods have been virtually emptied of residents from previous attacks. Displacement sites, however, are packed with people.
The head of UN Women, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, urged the Security Council to to take strong action to help restore the rule of law in the Central African Republic and bolster women’s participation, leadership and protection. Women in the Central African Republic face rape and sexual slavery perpetrated by armed groups. These crimes often occur during house-to-house searches, at unauthorized roadblocks, at military camps, and as part of sectarian violence. Ninety percent of internally displaced person camps lack services for survivors of gender-based violence. The very few services that are available assist hundreds of victims of rape every month.
Democratic Republic of the Congo
Autopsies on five bodies returned by Rwanda to the Democratic Republic of Congo showthey were likely executed. The Rwandan government says the men were killed in combat after they attacked Rwandan soldiers on its territory. This comes in the wake of clashes between the two states early in June.
The Rwandan Hutu militia, the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), iscontinuing to disarm, with 83 soldiers surrendering their weapons last week, and another 105 doing so the week before. The group has been active in the Democratic Republic of the Congo for the past 20 years and has committed numerous crimes against civilians in the DRC during that time. One of its leaders, Sylvestre Mudacumura, is also wanted by the International Criminal Court because of his role in the 1994 Rwandan genocide.
The US based Fund for Peace has named South Sudan the most fragile state in the world, citing chronic instability, fractured leadership and growing ethnic conflict. Somalia had held the title since 2008.
Former South Sudanese political prisoner, Ezekial Lol Gatkuoth, has joined Riek Machar’s rebels. Gatkuoth, a senior officer in the ruling Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM), had been detained with ten others following the outbreak of violence in South Sudan in mid-December last year on charges related to an alleged plot to overthrow the government.
South Sudan’s upper house of parliament has ratified a peace agreement signed between the government and Jonglei-based rebel leader David Yau Yau. Yau Yau launched military campaigns in the Pibor county of Jonglei state after he lost elections for Jonglei’s state assembly seat in 2010 and accused the SPLM of rigging the polls. He rejoined the government in 2011, but rebelled again a year later. The South Sudanese government believes the agreement is the best way to address development failures in Pibor county.
Sudanese troops and rebels have been engaged in heavy fighting near the South Kordofan state capital of Kadugli. Reports of casualties could not be immediately confirmed and analysts say to treat figures given by either side with caution. Like the Darfur conflict, the three-year-old South Kordofan war has been fuelled by complaints among non-Arab groups of neglect and discrimination by the Arab-dominated regime in Khartoum.
Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi travelled to Khartoum to meet with his Sudanese counterpart, Omar Hassan al-Bashir, last week. The two discussed both bilateral and regional issues. Afterwards, the two countries’ foreign ministers issued a joint statement saying that they will form a joint committee in the upcoming three months to enhance bilateral relations. The article made no mention, however, of how Sisi’s visit with Bashir, who was indicted by the International Criminal Court for genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity, may further damage Sisi’s already poor human rights record.
Syria and Iraq
The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has declared an Islamic Caliphate in an area straddling Iraq and Syria. The group has also dropped Iraq and Syria from its name, calling itself simply ‘The Islamic State.’ A spokesperson for the Islamic State said the group’s chief, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, is the leader of the new caliphate and called on Muslims everywhere, not just those in areas under the organisation’s control, to swear loyalty to him. The spokesperson of the Grand Mufti of Egypt, however, has dismissed ISIS’s caliphate as an illusion. “What they [ISIS] called the Islamic caliphate is merely a response to the chaos which has happened in Iraq as a direct result of the inflammation of sectarian conflict in the entire region,” the spokesperson said.
President Obama requested $500 million from Congress to train and equip appropriately vetted members of the Syrian opposition. However, military and State Department officials have indicated that there were not yet any specific programs to arm and train the rebels the money would fund. Administration officials could not specify which moderate Syrian opposition members they intended to train or support, or where these rebel fighters would be trained.
At least two people were killed in a car bomb blast at a market in Douma, a rebel-held suburb of Damascus, as residents shopped a day before the start of the holy month of Ramadan. The UK based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and local activists believe ISIS was behind the attack, due to the group’s rivalry with other rebel groups in the area. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights has also reported that ISIS fighters crucified eight men said to be rival rebel fighters in the town square of Deir Hafer in Syria’s Aleppo province on Saturday as a warning to others.