With the start of the new year, tensions between the government of Sudan and the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) remain high. While the paramilitary leader of the RSF has said that he is considering a ceasefire, a stalemate with the peace process remains as fighting continues in the region. In turn, Sudan has suspended its ties to the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) due to the invitation of paramilitary leader Mohammed Hamdan Dagalo to an upcoming summit that seeks to mediate and bring an end to the conflict. This makes it more difficult to resolve the conflict, leading to a worsening humanitarian crisis as aid agencies scramble to find new routes from South Sudan to give aid to the affected regions despite facing attacks on workers and disease outbreaks. This stalling of deescalation is damaging to bringing peace and stability to Sudan and neighboring countries in the region.
Although the pause on UN humanitarian aid was lifted in December, the resumption of aid has been slow and many people are still going hungry. Crisis levels of hunger are expected in Tigray and in other parts of Ethiopia according to the Famine Early Warning System. Already, nearly 400 people have died of starvation over the last few months while aid was suspended. This food insecurity directly stems from atrocities committed during the war. Government forces attacked food sources and weaponized starvation against the people of Tigray. They have yet to fully recover. Despite this, Tigray has seen relative stability since the peace agreement was signed last year and there has not been fighting.
Conflict has continued in Cameroon, without any significant escalations or progress towards peace. There have, however, been some efforts to improve the quality of life for Cameroonians. Notably, efforts to re-open schools in English-speaking regions have continued, with some secondary schools opening this month, continuing a trend of rising school attendance. There has also been an initiative to provide people with malaria vaccines, but it is unclear whether or not residents of English-speaking regions will have access to it.
On January 26, Yemen’s Houthi rebels launched a missile at the USS Carney, a United States warship cruising the Gulf of Aden, compelling the vessel to intercept the projectile. This attack was a major escalation in the biggest naval conflict the US Navy has seen in the region in many years. The Houthi missile strike on Friday night also caused another commercial vessel to catch fire. In retaliation, U.S. troops launched a strike near the port city of Hodeida against a Houthi anti-ship missile that was poised for launch into the Red Sea early on January 27th. The attack on the USS Carney signifies the first instance of direct targeting by the Houthis of a U.S. warship since their assaults on shipping commenced in October.
The intensifying military standoff between the United States and Houthi militants poses a heightened risk of exacerbating the humanitarian crisis in Yemen. In a nation where aid organizations were already grappling to address pressing needs, the potential consequences of this escalating conflict are particularly concerning. Yemen heavily relies on imports to meet the vast majority of its requirements for food, medicine, and fuel. Humanitarian groups express concern that the U.S. designation may jeopardize the fragile period of reduced hostilities and might encourage other nations to implement their own restrictions. This situation raises fears of further disruptions to the already challenging task of delivering essential aid to those in need.
Syria remains caught in the middle of a proxy war between Iran and Israel. Iran has claimed Israeli espionage and has retaliated by sending airstrikes that have killed four civilians. Turkey remains uncooperative in de-escalating violence as Turkish airstrikes in a recent series of overnight raids have destroyed 23 intended targets in Syria. Violence between Syria and the Islamic State has unfortunately increased as 14 Syrian soldiers have died due to an attack on an army bus in the Syrian desert.
At least 10 civilians have died in the Syrian province of Sweida due to suspected Jordanian airstrikes. Jordan has made previous campaigns in Sweida to combat the drug trafficking in the region, but both Syrian and Jordanian civilians living near the border of the respective countries have come out and asked for a ceasefire. Jordan has not claimed involvement but is facing significant backlash due to the deaths of women and children.
The International Court of Justice (ICJ) has ordered Israel to enact emergency measures to provide humanitarian aid to Palestinians and prevent genocide. While it has yet to declare if genocide has occurred in Gaza, this is an important ruling that could serve to improve conditions for the numerous Palestinians under attack. An estimated 25,105 Palestinians have been killed and a further 62,681 have been wounded. Atrocities continue to occur, including an Israeli attack on a hospital serving as a shelter for 8,000 people in the city of Khan Younis. Last week, Israeli special forces infiltrated another hospital disguised as civilians and staff to kill three men. While Israel has claimed that Hamas is using hospitals as a cover for military operations, these attacks endanger civilians.
Despite this, peace talks are underway. U.S. officials have proposed an initial 30-day temporary ceasefire aimed at facilitating the release of remaining female, elderly, and wounded Israeli hostages. Subsequently, a second 30-day pause would be proposed for the release of Israeli soldiers and male hostages, coinciding with an increase in the flow of aid allowed into Gaza. The intention behind the cessation of hostilities is to create an opportunity for the negotiation of a more enduring, long-term ceasefire, but without a permanent end, violence may continue. Neither side can agree, as Hamas has rejected any deal that does not guarantee this permanent ceasefire and Israel has done the same for any deal involving a Palestinian state.
At the same time, Britain, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Switzerland, and Finland have joined the United States, Australia, and Canada in suspending funding for UNRWA (United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine). The decision comes after UNRWA initiated an investigation into twelve staff members accused of participating in the October 7 attack led by Hamas, resulting in 1,140 casualties. Nine have since been fired, two are under investigation, and one remains unidentified. This funding pause is expected to exacerbate the humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip, as Palestinians have cautioned. Prior to the conflict, about half of Gaza’s population heavily relied on UNRWA assistance, which includes essential services such as education, medical care, support for local bakeries, and the operation of desalination plants to ensure access to clean water.
East and Southeast Asia
Conflict has continued throughout the month as ethnic resistance groups clashed with the Burmese military. The Araken Army claimed control over the town of Palewa near the border shared with India and Bangladesh, and the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army took over the town of Kokang in the northern Shan State. China managed to broker a temporary ceasefire on January 12 between Burma and an alliance of multiple armed groups, but issues arose. Both sides agreed to cease attacks, but fighting broke out again two days after the agreement was made.
The military junta has also faced backlash for not releasing a single political prisoner among the over 9,000 prisoners pardoned in celebration of Burma’s Independence Day. Experts have classified this move as an appeal by the Tatmadaw to promote progress, improve their image, and erase their injustices and crimes. This move was also heavily criticized by Burmese citizens as a political prisoner Ko San Lin San was beaten to death by the Tatmadaw and filmmaker Shin Daewe was sentenced as life-sentence on the grounds of terrorism.
East Turkistan (Xinjiang, China)
On January 19, East Turkistan Genocide Recognition and Remembrance Day took place. The day serves as a day of remembrance for those persecuted in East Turkistan and to remind that the genocide of Uyghurs, Kazakhs, Kyrgyz, and other Turkic peoples is still ongoing. Three years before, the United States formally recognized China’s atrocities committed against ethnic minorities in the region. Millions are still enslaved in ethnic cleansing concentration camps in inhumane conditions. They are forced to give up their entire cultural background and have had numerous violations of basic human rights, ranging from being forced to eat meat against their will to being subjected to forced sterilization, a measure in effect to essentially wipe out their population. Thus, this day is not only extremely important to honor victims in East Turkistan, but also to educate people across the world and encourage global support.
International Holocaust Remembrance Day is January 27, which commemorates the 79th anniversary of the Soviet army’s liberation of Auschwitz concentration camp. The Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany released a demographic report that reveals there are 245,000 Jewish Holocaust survivors alive today – 16% of which live in the United States. Around 95% of survivors were children during the Holocaust who now range in age between 79 and 96. As the population of Jewish Holocaust survivors grow older, it is vital to preserve the history of the Holocaust by supporting legislation like the Holocaust Education and Antisemitism Lessons Act (H.R.603) and state-level genocide education initiatives, such as the new bill proposed by Washington state (Senate Bill 5851). Adding to the urgency of this issue, the Anti-Defamation League has recorded 3,291 antisemitic hate incidents in the last three months alone, a close second to the amount recorded during the entire year of 2022.
Additionally, the United States is considering expanding the Family Expedited Removal Management program, which rushes asylum-seeking families through the deportation process within a few days of arrival before they get a chance to get a lawyer, prepare their case, or present it properly. It is also a program of mass surveillance, requiring ankle monitors, curfews, and GPS tracking. This news is concerning for human rights, and comes at the same time as many politicians are calling for crackdowns on undocumented immigration. A group of 61 Republican members of the House of Representatives declared that they will not support any national defense spending bill without hardline immigration legislation including the return of the Remain in Mexico policy.
Alishba Waqar is a senior at Westfield High School. They contributed to the Palestine and Yemen portion of this update.
Anika Gera is a junior at Terre Haute South Vigo High School. She contributed to the United States and East Turkistan portion of this update.
Anne-Sophie Hellman is a senior at Buffalo State University majoring in History. She contributed to the United States portion of this update.
Grace Harris is a junior at UCLA studying International Development Studies. She contributed to the Tigray portion of this update.
Jerry Harris is a graduate student at George Mason University in the Mass Atrocity and Genocide Prevention certificate program. He contributed to the Sudan portion of this update.
Mira Mehta is a junior at Brown University studying Economics and International & Public Affairs. She contributed to the Cameroon portion of this update.
Seng Hkawn Myitung is a junior at Albemarle High school. She contributed to the Burma and Syria portion of this update.