Great Lakes of Africa: Democratic Republic of the Congo and Burundi.
A spate of ADF attacks have killed 24 people in Eringeti, in Beni territory of North Kivu. Two days after the attack, the civil society in the neighboring town of Oicha declared three days of mourning and reflection against insecurity, and protested the killings. Business activities in Beni territory were suspended as part of the mourning. Further, Oicha health zone’s nursing staff also suspended their services after sending a memorandum to North Kivu’s provincial governor urging political and military authorities to neutralize ADF.
After condemning the ADF attacks earlier last week, head of MONUSCO Maman Sidikou called for joint efforts by the Congolese government and MONUSCO as well as resumed cooperation between FARDC and MONUSCO that had been suspended in early February owing to alleged human rights violations committed by 2 FARDC generals. Maman Sidikou expressed that it was a ‘common duty’ of the Congolese government, FARDC and MONUSCO ‘to further reassure the population.’
Military observers from the African Union are on the ground in Burundi assessing the situation. Addressing the BBC, United Nations special adviser on genocide Adama Dieng expressed that Burundi is witnessing ‘a clear manipulation of ethnicity by both the government and opposition’. Further, the country’s journalists and activists are fleeing mostly to the countryside in fear of being killed.
In the wake of the escalating violence in Burundi, the United Nations has warned of a possible genocide given Burundi’s similar ethnic makeup to neighboring Rwanda and the 2003-2006 civil war fueled by Hutu and Tutsi tensions that incurred a death toll of an estimated 200,000 people. However, Burundi’s government spokesman William Nyamitwe insists that Hutus and Tutsis are living in harmony, and dismisses the threat of civil war or genocide, claiming the source of violence to be ‘only a small group disturbing the peace with night time attacks.’
A deadline of December 11 for the city’s reception of the first advance team, has once again been delayed to an undetermined date. An advance team, comprised of opposition figures and armed personnel, has been requested by the opposition and stipulated in the August peace agreement. The stipulation is a prerequisite for Riek Machar, leader of the SPLM-IO, to return to the capital, after leaving in 2013 when civil war broke out. The delay was due to a row between Juba and the opposition regarding the size of the advance team. The government claimed that the number of SPLM/A-IO personnel planned to enter the city would pose logistical challenges and a security risk. Furthermore, Juba has said that they would prefer to see a team of 30 opposition figures to negotiate a transitional government, claiming that so large an advance team was unnecessary and unsolicited by the peace agreement. The opposition has criticized this new demand by the government, claiming that President Kiir has purposely been obstructing peace negotiations.
Fighting has intensified in Yambio, the capital of Western Equatoria, where the SPLA and rebel groups including the Arrow Boys militia, have engaged in heavy clashes. The fighting has caused over a thousand civilians to flee from Western Equatoria to the Democratic Republic of Congo. At least five people have died, including a policeman and two civilians, in clashes that lasted three days before SPLA forces pushed the rebels out of the city. In Upper Nile State, the SPLM/A-IO has accused the government of launching airstrikes on rebel opposition groups, and of breaking the disengagement agreement set by the August peace deal. In Eastern Equatoria, a new rebel group, the South Sudan Armed Forces (SSAF) have seized an army base from the SPLA in Logiro, a strategic village in the state. Amid new offensives between the rebels and SPLA in Wau county in Western Bahr el Ghazal state, thousands have fled, taking shelter in clinics and schools. In spite of this fighting, the SPLA has released over 13 rebel prisoners of war, in what the government has claimed to be a recommitment to peace in the country.
In the wake of the collapse of the 10th round of peace talks between the SPLM-N, a key rebel group in Sudan and Khartoum, fighting continues to rage in Blue Nile State, one of Sudan’s most troubled regions. The talks, which were held in Addis Ababa, failed to secure an agreement due to a number of reasons, but primarily over the issue of humanitarian aid, with the SPLM-N demanding a humanitarian ceasefire with international aid being delivered to areas of conflict, while Khartoum asserted they would only allow for the delivery of Sudanese aid, fearing rebels would use international aid routes to smuggle weapons. Over seven Sudanese Army soldiers had been killed in one ambush in Blue Nile on Monday, according to unconfirmed rebel accounts. Despite new clashes and climbing fears of full-scale conflict, the SPLM-N and Khartoum have agreed to hold informal talks in Addis Ababa, a week from December 8, in order to revive discussions.
Intercommunal violence and land disputes have dramatically increased in Darfur this harvest season, in part due to the reduced rainfall and heightened competition over arable land. The reduced rainfall has forced herders to graze their cattle outside of their property, drawing them into conflict with other landowners. Two farmers from the Central Darfur Committee for the Protection of the Agricultural Season and Peaceful Coexistence were shot by herders who had been asked to leave their farmlands in Bindisi. In Central Darfur, farmers have claimed that herders had launched attacks on them, and forcibly released their livestock on farmlands. The Rizeigat and Misseriya tribes have engaged in clashes in South Darfur, resulting in 17 deaths and many injuries, after Misseriya herders had allegedly encroached on Rizeigat farms. The Sudanese military had been deployed in response to these intercommunal clashes.
Southeast Asia: Burma
This week, leader of the newly elected National League for Democracy (NLD) Aung San Suu Kyi met with Burmese chief peace negotiator Aung Min, to discuss the future of the peace process with Burma’s armed ethnic groups. Following this meeting, Burma’s 15 ethnic armed groups agreed to form a committee for negotiations with the incoming NLD administration to discuss the implementation of the National Cease-fire Agreement (NCA) which was signed by eight insurgent groups on October 15.
However, the future of peace remains unclear, as fighting between insurgent groups and government troops has intensified in Kachin State in Northern Burma following weeks of air attacks and violent clashes which have displaced over 10,000 thousand people since October. Though the ceasefire has been successfully established in some areas, the Burmese government has not yet removed any of its troops from stabilized areas due to doubts over the militias’ commitment to the peace process.
Concerns over the Burmese’s government’s use of violence against the Rohingya are growing following the fatal shooting of Maung Maung, a 25-year-old onion trader from Rakhine State by Border Guard Police (BGP) border security forces in Buthidaung, Rakhine State on December 7. The shooting has sparked protests this week in which eleven Rohingya groups have condemned the government’s inhumane treatment of Muslim minority groups.
The Myanmar Times reported that the 12 men have been arrested for allegedly training with a group that state prosecutors have called the “Myanmar Muslim Army.” However, security experts have stated that there is virtually no evidence to prove the existence of this organization. The men, who are aged between 19 and 54 years old, have been issued with five year prison sentences and are charged under section 5J of the Emergency Provisions Act, due to the government’s belief that they threaten to “affect the morality or conduct of the public in a way that would undermine the security of the Union.” Human Rights Watch and Fortify Rights are demanding their immediate release.
Fortify Rights also called on the Burmese government this Friday to drop its charges against six men who involved in printing a calendar which expressed support for the country’s persecuted Rohingya Muslim communities. The men are facing up to two years in prison, and are a key priority of an international campaign led by human rights groups such as Fortify Rights and Amnesty International. The campaign calls for the release of all of Burma’s political prisoners as part of the democratic transition.