Responses have begun to the last week’s Parliamentary defeat of legislation that would remove what is effectively a military veto. Ethnic armed groups said the decision further damaged trust with the military and showed the military’s true colors. Students also protested the decision in Rangoon. However, other student activists, arrested after the protests in March, are in poor condition and several were placed in solitary confinement.
In Hpakant Township in Kachin State, there have been a number of clashes between the Burma Army and Kachin Independence Army forces. Earlier this week the Burma Army sent more troops. The clashes have injured civilians and forced many to evacuate. In Rangoon, the Burma Army chief has raised concerns about ethnic rebels, saying they should lay down their arms and make “logical demands.”
The government has started to tighten freedom of the press ahead of the elections, warning television and radio stations that they could have their licenses revoked if the government deems their coverage of the election biased. Ma Ba Tha may also be kept off the airwaves, however, with the Ministry of Information rejecting the Buddhist nationalist organization’s hopes of creating a radio station, but Ma Ba Tha has reaffirmed their intention to create one.
Central African Republic (CAR)
CAR has begun enrolling voters for the elections scheduled this October. However, armed groups have said they will block the process in areas under their control. Other logistical problems, such as a lack of sufficient funding, also threaten the process. The UN expert on human rights in CAR, Marie-Therese Keita Bocoum, has urged the international community to increase their support to CAR during the transition process. The transition process was given a small boost this week, when 200 anti-Balaka north of Bangui agreed to lay down their arms.
CAR resumed diamond exports this week. They had been stalled since 2013 due to an embargo in response to the conflict, but diamonds that comply with the Kimberley Process can now be exported.
Refugees International released a new report on CAR. The report found that while the security situation is improving, especially in and around Bangui, many problems remain in the country. They have called on the international community to increase funding for humanitarian aid and help support IDPs and refugees.
DR Congo (DRC)
President Kabila issued corruption complaints against a dozen current and past government officials. While the names have not yet been released, it is believed that Katanga Governor Moise Katumbi is on the list. Katumbi is a former ally of Kabila turned critic, and is expected to challenge Kabila in the 2016 elections. Government spokesperson Lambert Mende has rejected claims that the charges may be politically motivated, saying the government is committed to reducing corruption.
Suspected ADF militants attacked a Congolese military base near Beni in North Kivu. It took Congolese soldiers several hours to fight off the heavily armed rebels, who managed to set a FARDC vehicle on fire. Three FARDC soldiers and four militants were killed. Civilians in the areas around the base also suffered, with five dying and over 20 houses set on fire.
There has also been insecurity in Nyabibwe in North Kivu, where bandits have killed three people and wounded six in the last month. The bandits have been looting households for money and goods, but civilians have received little protection. Civil society has called on the authorities to intensify their efforts to protect civilians and locate the bandits.
Rebels won the strategically important city of Malakal from the South Sudanese army. The state capital of oil-rich Upper Nile state has been heavily fought over throughout the war. The militia that played a key role in the victory, led by Johnson Olony, has now officially merged with the SPLM-IO. Rebels aligned with Riek Machar also won the town of Leer in Unity state from government forces. However, in Western Bahr el Ghazal state, the South Sudanese army fought off rebel forces. The government also received a boost after General Gai Yoach defected from Riek Machar’s forces and rejoined the government.
Riek Machar met with the AU High Representative for South Sudan to discuss the peace process. He also met with Salva Kiir in a consultative meeting in Nairobi mediated by Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta. Kiir and Machar failed to come to an agreement. In a separate statement, the South Sudanese government noted the effect of the conflict on the economy and warned that oil production will be damaged unless the conflict ends.
The UN has imposed sanctions on six generals, three from each side of the conflict. The generals have global travel bans and asset freezes. The UN also documented atrocities committed by government forces in Unity State. In Malakal, the UN said rebels opened fire on a peacekeeping base where thousands of civilians were sheltered. One person was killed and six were wounded.
The UN Security Council unanimously voted to extend UNAMID’s mandate. The vote means that peacekeepers will remain in Darfur until at least 2016. Contrary to Sudan’s demands, the exit strategy does not have a fixed date and will be tied to the security situation in Darfur. Sudan argued that the decision was an obstacle to peace. Sudan was also unhappy with UNAMID over the DDR (disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration) process, arguing that UNAMID was delaying it. UNAMID denied the allegations. Also, ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda has reiterated her intent to arrest Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir.
Sudan’s National Intelligence and Security Services have suspended the weekly newspaper Elaph. The editor-in-chief of the paper said they were not given a reason for the suspension. This is not an isolated incident, as newly released figures showed that 256 charges were filed against journalists and newspapers in 2014.
A new video shows Jaysh al-Islam soldiers executing 18 ISIS fighters. The executions are in response to ISIS executions of Jaysh al-Islam soldiers. The two forces have been engaged in fighting around Damascus. There also continues to be heavy fighting between ISIS and Kurdish forces in Hassakeh, and the fighting has displaced approximately 30,000 people. If these civilians become refugees, their suffering could be further compounded by the lack of funding provided by the international community. Food aid is once again being cut to refugees, and the UN warned that unless the World Food Program receives an additional $139 million, food aid to Syrian refugees will have to be suspended entirely in September.
Britain looks likely to expand their airstrikes against ISIS from just Iraq to Syria as well. The US is already carrying out airstrikes in both countries, as well as conducting their “train and equip” program. Despite the extremely small number of Syrian troops involved in the program, the Pentagon says it remains committed to the program. Meanwhile, the UN Security Council has completed a rare action on the conflict, condemning fighting between the Syrian army and rebels in Golan Heights.
Emerging Conflicts: Egypt
Egypt has been wracked by violence in recent days. In the Sinai Peninsula, clashes with the ISIS affiliate that goes by the name “Sinai Province” have escalated. The group coordinated almost simultaneous attacks against five military checkpoints and a police station. Sinai Province also occupied the town Sheikh Zuweid for several hours before being fought off. The military reported that 17 Egyptian soldiers and 100 militants had been killed, but some sources said over 100 Egyptian soldiers had been killed. The next day, Egypt responded with airstrikes that killed 23 militants and made a statement reiterating their intent to defeat Sinai Province. The Sinai Peninsula is a poor and sparsely populated region that many armed groups have operated in. However, the scale of the most recent attacks are well beyond past operations. The series of attacks this week was preceded by a car bomb explosion in Cairo on June 29th. State Prosecutor Zakaria Abd El-Aziz Osman was targeted and killed. The perpetrator has not been confirmed, but ISIS-affiliated forces are suspected.
Conflict has also escalated between the Egyptian government and the Muslim Brotherhood. Egypt’s last President Mohamed Morsi was part of the Muslim Brotherhood and was deposed by current President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi in a coup two years ago. The ruling government has since outlawed and cracked down on the Muslim Brotherhood. Police raided a Cairo apartment on July 1st, killing 13 Muslim Brotherhood members, including a former member of Parliament. Egyptian authorities said that the men were plotting attacks, while the victim’s families said they were unarmed and innocent. The Muslim Brotherhood has called on supporters to “rise in revolt” against the Sisi government.