Negotiators from the Nationwide Ceasefire Coordination Team (NCCT) met with representatives of the the Myanmar government’s Union Peacemaking Work Committee (UPWC) for the sixth round of talks to discuss the creation of a nationwide ceasefire agreement in Yangon, Burma’s largest city. The NCCT, formed in late 2013, represents 16 different ethnic organizations and militias. Its vice-chairman, Nai Hongsa, claimed that only one of the five proposed points of the ceasefire agreement was agreed upon, which include military issues and participation in a “political dialogue.” The Myanmar government, represented by the UPWC, has wanted to bring about a ceasefire with all ethnic organizations since 2012 but has yet to achieve such a goal with sporadic violence occurring as recently as last week.
Additionally, al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri recently announced the expansion of his group’s jihad to several Asian nations, including Burma. Some fear that Zawahiri’s statement may incite further tension between the predominantly Muslim Rohingya and Buddhist people of Rakhine State. To date, the sectarian conflict has resulted in the death of 192 people and displacing 140,000 Rohingya to internally displaced persons and refugee camps in Bangladesh and India. By law, the Rohingya are denied Burmese citizenship and other rights by the Myanmar government, but on Monday, September 22, 209 Rohingya were granted a form of citizenship. The 1982 citizenship law, which has been used to deny the right of citizenship to Rohingya, creates three types of citizenship: full, associate, and naturalized. Of the 209 people, 40 were granted full citizenship while the other 169 were awarded naturalized citizenship, which can be revoked. To read more about this story.
In other news, the Tatmadaw, or Myanmar Army, released 108 child soldiers in a discharge ceremony on Thursday in Yangon. Over the past two years, 472 children have been officially discharged from the Tatmadaw.
A coalition of ten non-governmental organizations (NGOs) released a report expressing discontent at the Congolese government’s failure to live up to the Peace, Security, and Cooperation (PSC) Framework, a regional peace deal signed in February 2013. The coalition, led by leading Congolese human rights group Voice of the Voiceless, criticized the state’s failure to implement security-sector and electoral reform. United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon echoed the concerns of Congolese civil society in a statement on September 22, calling on DR Congo and its regional partners to work together to disarm combatants.
Civilians fled the towns of Bukumbirwa, Kishongya, Rusamambo, and Kanune last week as clashes between the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) and the local Congolese militia Nduma Defense of Congo Cheka. Administrators in surrounding villages in North Kivu continue to call on humanitarian organizations to intervene, as host towns for the new refugees appear unable to absorb the influx of new residents.
Fighting between the Congolese national army (FARDC) and the Kisenga Mai Mai militia erupted last weekend in Katanga province, leaving several rebel fighters dead and others injured. The FARDC reportedly suffered no casualties. By Monday, September 22, the fighting subsided. The FARDC regained control of the territory and displaced civilians returned to their homes.
The United Nations peace keeping force in the DR Congo (MONUSCO) reports signs ofprogress on a peace deal in Ituri province, DRC, where Front de la Resistance Patriotique en Ituri (FRPI) armed rebels control territory near Lake Albert. In the past, FRPI combatants often targeted members of the Hema ethnic community living in this region. The FRPI allegedly retains ties to the M-23, the militia group responsible for the armed occupation of Goma in 2012 and 2013.
The United Nations Human Rights Council renewed its mandate on Independent Expert on the Situation of Human Rights in Sudan for another year, which means that the human rights situation in Sudan will be monitored closely for another year. The Council stated that it is concerned about the use of excessive force by the government and also feels that the government is responsible for media restrictions within the country. Additionally, the Council said that the Sudanese government has not done enough to address the humanitarian needs of their country and in many cases has hindered the work of organizations working within its borders.
The Sudanese Justice Minister stated that Sudan objects to this appointment because it was not consulted first. The Minister stated that the government wished to keep its current independent expert. The Minister also denied the media restrictions and other violations the government was accused of. Despite the objection from Sudan, the UN stands by the mandate and urges Sudan to address its many human rights violations.
On Saturday, September 17, 2014, South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir announced at a United Nations conference that the government of South Sudan will do everything in its power to end the nine-month conflict and begin to build a stronger nation. In his speech, the president stated that the rebels have time and time again violated peace agreements and continued to use violence against other citizens. He blamed the lack of progress in conflict resolution on his former deputy Riek Machar who continues to arm the opposition rebels. Additionally, President Kiir has been working with the United Nations Mission in South Sudan to bring together community leaders, civil society groups, and faith based organizations to begin to build relationships of trust among internally displaced persons (IDPs) within South Sudan. Later on in his speech he stated that the re-ignited conflict in South sudan is purely a power struggle between the rebels and the government, and not an ethnic conflict as it has been called many times.
Reports have emerged that the food crisis in South Sudan is easing. Although at least 1.5 million people are still in need of immediate food assistance, there has been a highly successful “green harvest” that has international organizations hopeful that South Sudan will not fall into famine. There are still many issues that can negatively impact the food supply in the region including “early depletion of household food stocks, dysfunctional markets, loss of livelihoods and displacement – all resulting from protracted conflict.”
The US and its allies have this past week launched wide ranging air strikes on ISIS targets in Syria. American President Barack Obama used his weekly address to say that American leadership was “the one constant in an uncertain world,” and to justify his intentions going forward. The US has created a coalition of nations united in the fight against the Islamic State (ISIS), that includes various Arab countries. These Arab nations include Jordan, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates. The coalition has continued to gain momentum with the inclusion of western nations as well, as Britain committed to join the airstrikes on ISIS. The US-led coalition has this past week been involved in airstrikes in provinces across the northeast of Syria. Targets of the airstrikes include ISIS training camps, bases and checkpoints. The US has also used the airstrikes to pursue the destruction of an obscure terror group known as Khorasan, thought to be an offshoot of Al-Qaeda. Despite little mention of the group in public discourse beforehand, United States officials quoted by the New York Times speaking on Tuesday characterized the domestic and international threat posed by Khorasan as an “imminent” one.
Reuters reports that since airstrikes against the Islamic State were announced earlier this month, more than 200 fighters have joined IS in Aleppo. As Rami Abdelrahman, head of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said, “This means these people are not scared. Even if there are air strikes, they still join.” The continuing appeal for the IS crusade remains as strong as ever for fighters coming from abroad.
In southern Turkey, IS edged steadily closer to the Syrian-Turkish border as they approached the strategically important Kurdish town of Kobani, laying siege to the town from three sides. More than 140,000 Kurds have fled the town to escape the ever widening reach of IS, many fleeing to surrounding villages or crossing into Turkey. This has prompted the UNHCR to make contingency plans for the entire population, with Reuters reporting that the possibility of a full 400,000-person exodus from Kobani has been considered.