Burma has been hit by a monsoon and massive flooding. More than 150,000 people have been affected and 27 people have been confirmed dead, although the actual figure is probably significantly higher. Humanitarian aid delivery has faced a number of hurdles, as many victims are in isolated regions and continued rains make it difficult to travel. President Thein Sein and opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi have both visited badly-affected regions. The government is particularly motivated to respond quickly since the military government in 2008 faced heavy criticism for its slow response to Cyclone Nargis, in which 140,000 people died. However, as the storm headed towards Rakhine state, it is reported that Buddhists were evacuated while Rohingya were not, and Rohingya are yet to receive assistance.
Close to 7,000 prisoners were given presidential pardons and released on July 30th. The group included journalists, Chinese loggers, and members of the former military government. However, an estimated 158 political prisoners remain imprisoned.
Speaker of the Union Parliament and leader of the ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) Shwe Mann has said that he is confident that his party will win. He also said that the USDP will behave fairly in the election. The government’s attempts to seek a ceasefire with ethnic rebels have not gone so well, however. The most recent round of peace negotiations in Rangoon ended this week, having made little progress. The United Nationalities Federal Council, the major coalition of ethnic leaders, has called on the government to stop offensives against ethnic armed groups and do more to come to an agreement.
Central African Republic (CAR)
Although levels of violence are significantly below their peak, violence continues in CAR. In Markounda, a northwestern town 330 miles north of Bangui, ex-Seleka rebels and militants in a group called Revolution-Justice clashed and at least 26 people were killed. Fighting in Bangui also turned deadly, this time when UN peacekeepers attempted to carry out an arrest warrant. Rebel forces opened fire, killing one peacekeeper and injuring eight.
Amnesty International has released a new report on Muslims in western CAR. The report finds that Muslims often have to hide their religion or are forced to convert to Christianity with death threatened as the alternative. The UN has also pointed to the humanitarian crisis in CAR. The international community has only funded 31% of CAR’s declared need for humanitarian aid, and the UN has warned that Central African civilians will face massive suffering unless this figure is increased.
Preparations for this fall’s elections have begun, with many individuals declaring their candidacies. So far, 30 people have announced their intention to run for President.
Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC)
Gubernatorial elections for the DRC’s new provinces have been pushed to October 6th from their originally scheduled date of August 31st. Preparations for national elections are also in progress. The National Independent Electoral Commission (CENI) has been examining voter rolls, but they have warned of anomalies on the lists, including duplicate voters and already-registered voters lacking sufficient information. The Catholic Church has said that it supports the political dialogue planned to precede the election. However, it has said that this dialogue should not interfere with the election schedule and reiterated its opposition to constitutional changes to allow President Kabila a third term. Many Congolese are Catholic and the Church’s voice is very influential in Congolese society.
6,400 citizens have fled their homes in Lubero, North Kivu, in response to FDLR violence. UNOCHA said that most have been able to find refuge in neighboring areas.
Jean-Bertrand Ewanga, secretary-general of the opposition party Union for the Congolese Nation (UNC), has been released from Kinshasa’s Makala prison after almost a year. He was arrested for insulting the President last year during a protest opposing Kabila’s proposed third term, and the UNC and many other members of the opposition denounced the charges as politically motivated.
The Intergovernmental Authority on Development’s (IGAD) most recent peace proposal, which was released in late June, has not been well received by the South Sudanese government. President Salva Kiir said July 30th that he would not sign the agreement. Army Chief of Staff General Paul Malong Awan, who recently gave orders in Western Equatoria state to shoot anyone resisting the military’s commands, also expressed his displeasure with the IGAD proposal. President Kiir said it was unlikely they would soon come to an agreement, although the South Sudanese government is going to release its own peace plan for the conflict once peace talks reconvene in Addis Ababa. This plan will not allow former Vice-President Riek Machar to share the presidency with Kiir, one of the main reasons for their opposition to the IGAD plan. US Special Envoy to Sudan and South Sudan Donald Booth said patience is running out with the warring parties and urged them to quickly stop the war.
A joint report by World Vision, Save the Children, Intersos, and CARE found that 400,000 displaced children, half of all displaced South Sudanese children, are not in school. Humanitarian aid is also struggling, and the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) has blamed restrictions from the South Sudanese government for delays in delivery.
The South Sudanese government has said it will push to strengthen its relationship with Sudan. The countries have had many disputes since South Sudan’s secession in 2011.
Amnesty International has released a report accusing Sudan of war crimes in South Kordofan. The report finds that Sudan launched hundreds of shells and bombs, including cluster bombs, against civilians between January and April, killing at least 35 people.
President Omar al-Bashir will lead a meeting that will include opposition parties to discuss the national dialogue. Sudan’s Vice-President said that the government will meet the demands that are required to ensure the participation of opposition parties. President Bashir also said that his government is committed to finding a negotiated solution to the conflict in South Kordofan and the Blue Nile. The African Union’s chief negotiator, former South African president Thabo Mbeki, is travelling to Khartoum this week to discuss peace negotiations and the national dialogue. Meanwhile, Minni Minnawi, leader of a faction of the Darfuri rebel group the Sudan Liberation Movement, has called on the US to do more to protect Darfur.
President Bashir is reportedly planning on travelling to New York to speak at the UN in September. He is indicted by the ICC for war crimes and genocide, and his attempt to speak at the UN in 2013 was unsuccessful.
Soldiers trained in the US Train and Equip Program have finally taken to the battlefield. Fifty-four soldiers entered the fighting. Recent reports have said that they were quickly defeated and some were killed or captured by Jabhat al-Nusra, which the Department of Defense denies. While the forces are intended to fight ISIS, President Obama has authorized the use of airpower to support the troops if they are attacked by other rebels or the Assad regime. However, the monitoring group Airwars has found that US airstrikes against ISIS have killed at least 459 civilians over the last year. The US has only acknowledged two civilian deaths.
Syrian regime forces backed by Hezbollah have launched a counteroffensive against rebels in Hama province. The rebels, led by Jabhat al-Nusra, were pushing towards coastal Latakia province, a stronghold of the Assad regime. More than 100 fighters have been killed.
UN Special Envoy to Syria Staffan de Mistura has invited parties to the conflict to participate in dialogues intended to produce a peace framework for the conflict. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon has said he is prepared to convene a major conference to support the framework if parties are able to come to an agreement.
Emerging Conflicts: Nigeria
After a recent resurgence in violence from Boko Haram, there have been some successes against the militant group. Most notably, the Nigerian military reported that it rescued 178 people held captive by Boko Haram, 101 of which were children. It is unclear whether any of the captives were captured in the Chibok attack that sparked the Bring Back Our Girls campaign. The Nigerian military also reported it had killed 20 Boko Haram soldiers in Dikwa, while the Chadian military said it killed 117 Boko Haram fighters near Lake Chad. Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari recently fired a number of generals, but he has appointed a new general to head a multinational force combatting Boko Haram.
However, Boko Haram’s attacks are far from over. Just days after the captives were rescued, Boko Haram killed eight and kidnapped an estimated 100 people in Cameroon. It has continued to perpetrate many attacks, often through suicide bombings. It also conducted a raid in Adamawa state on July 24th, killing 25 people. In total, Boko Haram killed at least 178 civilians between July 18th and July 31st.