Burma deported 37 Rohingya to Bangladesh. The people were found by the Burmese navy on a boat in the Bay of Bengal in May in an attempt to migrate. Those who the Burmese authorities identified as Bangladeshi have been deported, while the others remain in makeshift camps. In a separate incident, when Aung San Suu Kyi was asked this week whether Rohingya should be given citizenship, she did not give a clear answer, instead saying that the matter should be addressed “very, very carefully.” At her 70th birthday celebration, she called on her National League of Democracy (NLD) supporters to prepare for a landslide victory in this year’s election. However, their chances could be hampered by irregular voting lists, which the NLD claimed were frequently erroneous and contained errors in 30 to 80% of names in Rangoon Division. The NLD will likely not get much support from Ma Ba Tha, and a prominent monk told the Buddhist nationalist organization to vote for the incumbent government rather than the opposition NLD. At the same conference, Ma Ba Tha called for Muslim girls to be banned from wearing headscarves in schools.
Eight representatives of Burma’s ethnic minorities met with Chinese officials, following in the footsteps of Aung San Suu Kyi’s visit to China last week. In Shan State, ethnic armed group The Restoration Council of Shan State was caught in controversy, where a prominent member of the Ta’ang National Party accused the armed group of abducting his party’s president and secretary.
A senior military MP has made clear his opposition to a change to constitutional Article 436. The NLD has been trying to change the provision that requires a 75% vote to pass legislation. As unelected military MPs are given 25% of seats, it essentially gives the military a veto. Brigadier General Tin San Niang said Burma did not have enough experience with democracy to remove the provision.
Amnesty International has released a report on the harassment and limitations Burmese journalists face. Although Burma removed many long-standing restrictions on journalists in 2012, journalist still operate in a climate of fear. Burma’s government has dismissed the claims.
Central African Republic (CAR)
The controversy over Anders’ Kompass decision to send French authorities a report on French peacekeeper sex abuse in CAR continues. It has created an internal split in the UN, with High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad al Hussein seeing the disclosure as a leak while many see Kompass as a whistleblower. The UN has hired an external panel to investigate the allegations. There was also a new case of peacekeeper sex abuse that emerged this week.
CAR has scheduled the electoral calendar for this year. A census will take place between June 27th and July 27th, a referendum on the new constitution will take place on October 4th, Presidential and Parliamentary elections will occur on October 18th, and if a second round of elections is needed it will take place on November 22nd. The elections will require a budget of $34.6 million, but only about half of that has already been funded. Additionally, the National Elections Observatory has called for reform in the electoral code to improve the elections.
DR Congo (DRC)
Clashes took place in North Kivu with Congolese soldiers facing off against Mai Mai and FDLR combatants. There do not appear to have been heavy casualties. There was also fighting in Garamba National Park, where poachers killed two soldiers and one ranger in an ambush. The poachers are believed to be from South Sudan, which borders the park. In Western DRC, there was a riot at a camp for ex-militants. The camp houses over 800 surrendered militants from multiple groups. After a rumor started that a guard had stolen $30,000 intended for rations at the camp, a riot broke out and the militants demanded to be set free and allowed to return home.
The preparations for the upcoming elections have been disrupted by duplicates on a number of electoral lists for provincial elections. Candidates have asked for ten days to correct the problems.
The McCain Institute has released rare polling data from North Kivu. The poll found people had little trust in the electoral commission and 77% of people opposed changing the constitution to allow a third term for Joseph Kabila. The Congolese military and police were given 69% and 57% approval ratings, respectively, while UN peacekeepers only got a 21% approval rating. Large majorities approved of measures to increase female representatives in government.
The SPLM-IO has said it remains committed to the Arusha process but said the talks should not be in Juba. Meanwhile, Riek Machar met with Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta in Nairobi. Also, Pagan Amul has been reinstated as SPLM Secretary-General. The SPLM convened a special meeting after the appointment.
The South Sudanese government has announced that it plans to resume oil production in Unity state. Oil production has been stopped for over a year because of instability resulting from the war. The UN had criticism for the South Sudanese government, saying the SPLM has consistently failed to cooperate with the UN and not given proper access to UN workers in the country. In Western Bahr el Ghazal state, the government arrested a journalist without explanation before releasing him the next day.
Four women and one man were injured in a shooting at an IDP camp in Juba. While the perpetrators are not confirmed, residents of the camp accused government soldiers. The SPLM-IO also had accusations for the SPLM, claiming they had restarted fighting in Jonglei state in violation of the cessation of hostilities agreement.
The continuation of UNAMID remains in question. Its mandate has been extended for a year by the African Union, although an exit strategy remains in place. However, the UN Security Council still must approve the measure for it to take effect, but that vote has been postponed until next week. The Sudanese government had called for the mandate not to be renewed while the United States insisted that it should be. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon also called for the renewal of the mandate.
President Omar al-Bashir announced Sudan would conduct a census in 2018, the country’s first since the succession of South Sudan. In another announcement, he said that the army had obtained weapons that made it a “large and sophisticated deterrent force.” The Sudanese government also criticized the United States for its failure to remove Sudan from the state sponsors of terrorism list, citing “double standards.”
The leader of the Reform Now Movement, Ghazi Salah al-Din Attabani, has criticized the government’s conduct during peace negotiations. He warned that if dialogue did not succeed Sudan would have a major security problem.
Multiple armed groups have engaged in heavy fighting over the last week. Supported by US airstrikes, the Kurdish YPG made large advances into ISIS territory, capturing a military base and the town Ain Issa. The advance placed themselves within 50 km of ISIS’s capital, Raqqa, but Kurdish forces have said they do not intend to march on Raqqa. Turkey, an opponent of the YPG, was concerned with their advance and accused the YPG of ethnic cleansing. However, ISIS responded by attacking the important Kurdish-held city Kobani as well as Assad-held areas in Hasakah. In Deraa, an alliance of rebels fought government forces in an attempt to take the city.
ISIS has moved to stop oil flows to areas controlled by other forces. As ISIS controls almost all of Syria’s oil, civilians are fearful that hospitals may not be able to function and that there will be massive food shortages. The think tank Chatham House released a report detailing the extent of Syria’s economic collapse as a result of the war, and said that it could weaken the Assad regime. The war has also led to increased class divisions, with middle and upper classes tending to support Assad while lower classes support the rebels. The Assad regime also still has support from Russia, and President Putin reaffirmed his position that Assad should stay in power.
The UN released a report documenting attacks on civilians from the Assad government and rebels, noting that the Assad government has bombed Aleppo daily for the last year. The Assad government has also struck ten medical facilities with barrel bombs since May. Over 70 countries condemned the Assad government for their human rights abuses.
Emerging Conflicts: Iraq
Conflict continues to rage in Iraq as ISIS conducted a number of attacks in the last week. Northeast of Fallujah ISIS attacked Iraqi army forces and then lured them into an ambush, killing 14. In western Anbar province, rockets killed nine after hitting a number of civilian installations, while six were killed after a car bomb exploded in Baghdad. In Diyala province, 14 people were killed when an ISIS suicide bomber attacked a meeting of Sunni tribal leaders.
Four years after exiting Iraq, NATO plans to renew their involvement in the conflict. Details are not completely determined yet, but it seems likely that NATO will train Iraqi troops. The WHO, however, may be forced to shut down their network of 77 clinics in the country due to poor funding and a lack of security. Meanwhile, US airstrikes continue, one of which killed ISIS commander and suspect in the Benghazi attack, Ali Awni al-Harzi. Another airstrike may have caused a number of civilian casualties, and the Pentagon has launched an investigation into the strike.