The election has been set for November 8th. It is Burma’s first open general election in 25 years. The incumbent Union Solidarity and Democracy Party, led by President Thein Sein, will be contested by the National League for Democracy, led by Aung San Suu Kyi. Parliament recently voted against removing a Constitutional clause that bars her from becoming President, but despite this Aung San Suu Kyi has continued campaigning.
Negotiations between the Burmese government and ethnic rebels in Thailand made some progress, with chief peace negotiator Aung Min saying it was possible a deal could be struck. The parties will meet again in a few weeks. The Burmese government also may have quite a few more years of Thein Sein as President, as he has said he will consider a second term.
The military has engaged in multiple clashes. In Karen State, government troops fought members of the Democratic Karen Benevolent Army, while in Shan State unknown rebels attacked an army outpost. In Rangoon, military MPs have argued strongly against a proposed constitutional amendment that would allow state parliaments to choose chief ministers. Efforts to reduce military power also took a hit as five student leaders who led protests against the military influence in Parliament were arrested. In Rakhine State, the military continues to use Rohingya in forced labor. While a UN Human Rights Council resolution sought to bring attention to this and other human rights abuses of Rohingya, the Burmese government has rejected the proposal.
Central African Republic (CAR)
Unidentified gunmen unsuccessfully attempted to take over CAR’s main radio station. In the middle of the night, a dozen men surrounded the station, scaled the fence, and broke into the radio station. However, they were repelled by security forces. It is believed they wanted to take over the radio station to make a political statement over radio, but it is unknown what political beliefs they held.
French investigators have left for the Central African Republic, where they will meet with children accusing French peacekeepers of sexual abuse. Over a dozen French peacekeepers are being investigated for allegations of sexually abusing children in exchange for food in early 2014. French authorities were informed of the abuse in July 2014, but the investigation is still in progress.
Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC)
The United States has appointed Tom Perriello as its new Special Envoy to the Great Lakes Region of Africa. He succeeds Russ Feingold, who left the position in February. Perriello does not have experience in the region, but he has worked on transitional justice projects in Sierra Leone, Afghanistan, Kosovo, and Darfur. He was a Democratic representative in the House from 2008 to 2010.
In Ituri, the Ituri Patriotic Resistance Force (FPRI) killed a woman and a 13-year-old girl and raped three others. This follows another attack from the militia last Tuesday. In Goma, two people were killed and multiple others wounded in a series of attempted robberies by bandits, who have since been captured.
Government spokesperson Lambert Mende has suggested that the government of the DRC would be open to MONUSCO and FARDC working together in operations against the FDLR. Efforts broke down earlier this year after MONUSCO objected to the inclusion of several generals with records of human rights abuses in FARDC forces. The UN has called for a greater police presence in the DRC. At the moment, there is only one police officer for every 700 people, and they are located disproportionately in urban areas.
Government forces and rebels each had multiple ups and downs this week. The South Sudanese army reclaimed Malakal, the strategically important capital of Upper Nile state, a week after losing it to rebels. Upper Nile state is rich in oil, but in Unity state, rebels allied with Riek Machar regained control of Tharjath oil field. In Northern Bahr el Ghazal, rebels took over an administrative headquarters, only to leave shortly afterwards. In Lakes state, there was communal violence unrelated to the conflict between Kiir and Machar, killing 15 people.
One thing the South Sudanese government and rebels can agree on this week is their unhappiness with the actions of the UN. A UN report accused the SPLA of, among other human rights abuses, raping and burning girls in Unity state. However, the South Sudanese embassy in Kenya accused the UN of bias, while Justice Minister Paulino Wanawila also rejected the allegations. Rebel General James Koang has objected to the sanctions placed upon him by the UN Security Council, calling instead for justice and saying the sanctions will not affect him or the war.
Newly released figures show that 730,000 South Sudanese have fled to other countries since the civil war began, with Ethiopia the most frequent destination. Over 150,000 people are sheltering in UN bases. However, the war shows few signs of ending. Riek Machar has said the war will last as long as Kiir is President and called on him to resign immediately. There may be some promise in the G10, as the group of former political detainees has said that military action will not resolve the conflict and that they are trying to bridge differences between the two parties.
US Special Envoy to Sudan Donald Booth will visit the country by the end of July. He will discuss normalizing relations between the countries and ending sanctions on Sudan. Sudanese Foreign Minister Ibrahim Ghandour has said he hopes the talks are based on a new approach as compared to past talks. Ghandour also met with the African Union Special Envoy to Sudan to discuss the peace talks.
-N have reiterated their desire for a new peace process, saying the current one only suits the interests of the Sudanese government.
The Sudanese government will deploy a joint police and army force to East Darfur. They said that recent tribal violence prompted the force, which will attempt to restore security to the area.
Syrian rebels led by al-Qaeda affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra battled government forces in Aleppo, which is held by the Assad regime. Rebels initially made advances and took important positions, but since have been fought back. ISIS took back Ain Issa after several weeks of Kurdish control, only to lose it back several days later. The town is 30 miles from ISIS’s capital, Raqqa.
The US-led coalition launched heavy strikes on Raqqa over the weekend, killing ten ISIS fighters. However, there are also reports that eight civilians were killed in the strikes. This week President Obama said that the US would step up its campaign against ISIS and its support to moderate rebels. It was revealed later this week that the US’s “train and equip” program, at a cost of $500 million, has only trained 60 rebels. The process has been slowed by attempts to vet rebels before permitting them to join the program, but defense officials maintain the program will be expanded to meet their targets.
The Syrian government has taken a $1 billion loan from ally Iran. Iran has already loaned significant funds from Iran, as the Syrian government’s budget and economy has been hard hit by the conflict. They aren’t the only ones suffering from the conflict, and new figures show that 4 million Syrians are refugees, making it the largest refugee crisis in 25 years.
Emerging Conflicts: El Salvador
El Salvador has been wracked by extensive violence as gangs fight among themselves and with police or other government forces. The government lacks control of much of the country, with many areas dominated by gangs, particularly the Barrio 18 and MS-13 gangs. The government had been in a truce with gangs for a year, with imprisoned gang members transferred to lower-security prisons and less violence between the parties. However, the Salvadoran government broke the truce and launched a crackdown on gangs. The crackdown has in many ways backfired, as there have been few victories against the gangs and the gangs have responded by stepping up violence. The government has announced plans to further escalate the fight against the gangs, but there also might be hope through the promise of civilian self-protection strategies.
677 murders took place in June, 641 in May, and there have been over 3,000 in 2015. This is a 55% increase in murders from the same period last year and is El Salvador’s worst violence since the civil war. More civilians were killed in May in El Salvador than in ISIS-controlled Iraq. Salvadoran civilians face constant risks. They can be murdered for going into territory of a different gang than the one that controls their home neighborhood, having witnessed a crime, or just being suspected of assisting a rival gang or the police. As many as 280,000 people have been internally displaced by the violence, and in lack of safe options, many have also attempted to escape to the US.