The student-led movement to end mass atrocities.

Kimia II backfires, much to civilians’ dismay

For the Eastern Congolese, peace is clearly not anywhere around the corner. What they might have recently viewed as a liberation offensive on the FDLR by the UN and Congolese military has brought them more grief than they were beginning to settle for. The offensive, code named Operation Kimia II and launched in January 2009, is currently responsible for the displacement and fleeing of over 800,000 civilians, from areas in both the South and North Kivu.

To add insult to injury, the very army supposed to protect the civilians has used its power and arms to attack and loot them, while not protecting them from FDLR’s retaliation moves. Civilians have thus been left to endure suffering as a byproduct of an operation meant to liberate them. Additionally, there are currently no strong measures being taken rehabilitate and deport former combatants; those who are defeated and partly disarmed go off into the villages to cause more chaos.

Having been ‘strengthened’ with a quick integration of former rebels and militias from Eastern Congo, the Congolese army stood little chance of approaching Kimia II as a single unit. These rebels were thrown together overnight with minimal initiation or reconciliation. Therefore there are factions within the army; those who were commanders and majors in their former groups want to retain their positions and glory, which has made passing of commands and following of mandates very difficult. Moreover, some elements still see themselves as against the government and so will continue to terrorize the civilians as opposed to protecting them. Another reason why the soldiers are resorting to exploiting the civilians is because they are hardly paid on time, if ever, given Congo’s high level of corruption and inefficient handling of logistics. Rarely will a commander be able to tell you how many stations they have and how many soldiers are deployed at which one. There is therefore no will to fight or protect the country’s citizens; it is a warzone for everyone and everyone is trying to survive the best way they know how. This, among many more, is one of the reasons the Congo-MONUC partnership in Kimia II has fared moderately. While the MONUC mandate is to protect civilians at all costs, the Congolese army is one of the armed groups whose members antagonize civilians. Moreover, MONUC can’t effectively maneuver Congo’s rugged terrain and poor infrastructure in their efforts to fulfill the task of protection of humans.

Worse still, Kimia II is very likely to have repercussions for the civilians even after the offensive is over. In addition to FDLR retaliation, civilians have to put up with fresh violence recently launched by angry militias who refused to be disarmed and recruited into the national army. Additionally, many members of the National Congress for the Defence of the People (CNDP) are divided into two camps: one is for Laurent Nkunda and the other for Bosco Ntaganda. Ntaganda, who recently replaced Nkunda as CNDP’s commander, is living in fear of arrest by the ICC and so not managing logistics efficiently; this has led to splits in the group, which is supposed to be allied with the government in Kimia II. Other members are disappointment that the CNDP is being considered as being on the national army’s side and therefore more upheaval in Eastern Congo.

And once again, eastern Congo has been thrown into chaos: just when the civilians thought they could sigh and stop running around, a new season of bullets and fleeing was beginning.

Sharon Muhwezi

Weekly News Brief, September 26 – October 3

Areas of Concern

·         The SLM accused the Sudanese government of killing 28 civilian in an attack against rebel positions around the North Darfur town of Meilit. The attacks were reportedly carried out by troops, militia as well as helicopters and Antonov bombers.

·         A peacekeeper was killed in an ambush near El Geneina on Tuesday, as six gunmen opened fire on a UNAMID convoy.

·         WFP completed its third round of food security monitoring in West Darfur, South Darfur and North Darfur.  The reports indicate that there is an increase in food security in North Darfur and South Darfur with a decrease in food security in West Darfur, primarily among resident communities. The reports also indicate that there were build-ups of troops around the town of Kutum, North Darfur.

·         WHO reported that morbidity and mortality reports remain within normal ranges.

·         An Egyptian FPU was deployed to El Fasher, bringing the total to 12 out of 19 mandated units.

·         Former US National Security Advisor Bud McFarlane has reportedly been hired as a lobbyist to improve the bi-lateral relationship between the US and Sudan. McFarlane has also reportedly met with National Security Advisor Jones and Special Envoy Gration.

Eastern Burma

·         The State Department released its new Burma policy on Tuesday, which will use diplomatic engagement and economic sanctions to pressure the Burmese regime while focusing on human rights, national reconciliation, and democracy in Burma.

·         Sen. Jim Webb (D-VA), chair of the Foreign Relations Subcommittee on East Asian and Pacific Affairs, chaired a hearing on US-Burma relations on Wednesday, specifically focusing on the effectiveness of economic sanctions and engagement in promoting human rights, democracy, and US interests. On Monday, before the meeting, Senator Webb (D-VA) met with Burmese Primer Minister Thein Sein in New York to discuss US-Burma relations.

·         The New York Times reported on Wednesday that illicit drug trafficking by ethnic minority rebel groups has increased along the Thai border. The United Wa State Army has reportedly sought to trade heroin for arms in Thailand.

·         The Burmese regime ordered 10,000 Chinese nationals to leave the Kokang region of Shan State on Friday. Local Chinese authorities demanded $41 million in compensation from the Burmese regime for damages during August’s conflict in the region.

Democratic Republic of Congo

·         According to the UN, the FDLR continues to control cassiterite and coltan mines in the Walikale area of North Kivu. The FDLR has turned the Walikale town of Walo Uroba into a security zone, and is also reportedly conducting a counter-offensive against the FARDC in Nyamilima.

·         FARDC soldiers in Ruzizi, South Kivu reportedly looted, raped and robbed civilians in the town of Kamanyola during the Kimia II operation against the FDLR.

·         The LRA attacked the town of Digba in the Bas-Uele district of Orientale province on Saturday, killing one civilian and abducting several people.


·         Gen. McChrystal, commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, officially requested to the Pentagon last Friday an additional 20,000 to 40,000 troops to battle insurgents in Afghanistan. His request includes different strategic options that may not include a troop surge. The White House is expected to review his request in the coming weeks.  

·         In an interview with CBS on Sunday, Gen. McChrystal said conditions in Afghanistan are getting worse and reiterated his focus on limiting civilian casualties, a key to winning the Afghan war.

·        American officials say the Taliban is expanding its attacks in northern and western Afghanistan thanks to their sanctuary in Pakistan. In a recent report to the Obama administration, Gen. McChrystal also accused the Pakistani ISI of supporting the insurgency in Afghanistan.

·        At least 12 civilians were killed on Tuesday after a bus hit a roadside bomb in southern Afghanistan.

·        The UN recalled one of its top officials from Afghanistan after his comments calling for a complete recount of votes in last month’s fraud-ridden Afghan election.


·         Bombings across Iraq on Monday killed at least 18 people and wounded many others, including a bomb on a minibus that killed six. The attacks targeted both police and civilians.

·         A top U.S. commander raised questions about whether Iraq will be able to ensure its security as it tackles a budget shortfall and the departure of U.S. troops.

·         The International Committee of the Red Cross warned against complacency in Iraq, noting that civilians continue to be threatened by lingering violence.


·         At least 5 were killed and 40 injured in a suicide bombing at a police station in northwest Pakistan on Saturday.Another suicide car bomb that same day struck near a state-owned bank, killing 10 and wounding 91.

·         The Pakistani military is reportedly poised to attack the territory of South Waziristan, the center of Taliban activity in Pakistan.


·         Hizbul Islam and Al Shabaab, Somalia’s two main Islamist insurgent groups, are fighting for control of a southern Somali port which Al Shabaab unilaterally declared under its control last week. This latest incident highlights heightening tensions between the two groups.

·         Somalia’s president spoke to the UN General Assembly summit on Friday, accusing foreign fighters for much of the renewed fighting this year and pleading for international assistance.

·        UNHRC reported on Friday that 50,000 Somalis have fled into Kenya so far in 2009, with an average of 6,400 refugees arriving Kenya’s Dabaab camp each month.

·         The US is delaying food aid to Somalia over fears that the aid provided through WFP is being appropriated by Al Shabaab.

·         Al Shabaab publicly executed two men it accused of spying for the CIA and AU on Monday; this was the first such execution in the capital, Mogadishu. The TFG condemned the executions.

·         Somali government troops retook the central town of Beladweyne on Monday. Clashes between TFG forces and rebels broke out in Mogadishu and southern Somalia in the past week, killing 2. At least 145 people were killed in violence in Beledwenye, Kismayo and Mogadishu during September.

Sri Lanka

·         The Sri Lankan military confirmed that troops wounded two refugees fleeing a detention camp in on Saturday. Amnesty International first reported clashes at the camp last Thursday, saying a Tamil man was seriously injured trying to escape.

·         The UN’s Secretary-General’s representative for the human rights of IDPs toured Sri Lankan refugee camps last weekendand criticized the slow progress of screening rebels and releasing refugees and urged the government to give humanitarian aid workers access to the camps. 

·         At last week’s UN summit, Sri Lanka’s prime minister called on the UN not to interfere in the internal affairs of states. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, in private talks with the prime minister, warned that the Sri Lankan government risked creating “bitterness” among refugees not allowed to leave the camps or return home, and urged resettlement before the upcoming monsoon season.

Around the World
South Sudan

·         According to recent UN reports, more than 2,000 people have been killed in intertribal violence in South Sudan this year. A recent statement by UNMIS said that many of the raids have not involved cattle, but appear to be linked more to political developments.

Central African Republic

·         The LRA is reportedly in the southeast of the Central African Republic, where the group reportedly killed three Italian aid workers. The LRA is suspected of planning a move into Bahr al-Ghazal, Sudan.

East Africa

·         Oxfam launched a campaign to collect $9.5 million in donations to give aid to the 23 million East Africans facing severe hunger and destitution because of a severe, five-year drought.  Oxfam says the worst affected countries are Kenya, Ethiopia, Somalia and Uganda, though Sudan, Djibouti and Tanzania will also be affected

DR Congo’s mess continues to cross boundaries

DR Congo is a large country, which also happens to centrally located on the African continent. As such, its ongoing conflict has come to involve and affect as many as eight countries, both neighboring and far away. DR Congo borders Congo Brazaville, Central African Republic, Sudan, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, Zambia and Angola. This blog looks at how some of these countries have tried to manipulate Congo’s conflict and how others have been pulled in by virtue of being African.
Hating President Mobutu Sese Seko’s self conceitedness and strong will, Uganda, Rwanda and Angola aided Laurent Kabila, a longtime opponent of Mobutu, to come to power. Kabila’s group, ADFLC, dominated by Congolese Tutsis (Banyamulenge), took over Kinshasa in May 1996. Ugandan and Rwandese governments most likely intended to use Kabila as a pawn in their exploitation of DR Congo’s resources, while Angola was just trying to ‘keep relative peace’ in the country, whose instability had made it a breeding ground for UNITA, a rebel group terrorizing Angola. These countries’ support would however wane, when they later felt like they weren’t receiving due appreciation from Kabila’s government. Noticing that their new president would potentially be used by his neighboring counterparts, Congolese complained to the point of Kabila having to dismiss the few Banyamulenge he had appointed in his government as a token of appreciation. James Kabarebe, a Rwandese initially appointed chief of staff, was sacked and replaced by a native Congolese. However, Rwandese viewed this move as unfair and not well rewarding. In August 1998 disgruntled Banyamulenge in Goma broke into violence and within weeks, the Rally for Congolese Democracy (RCD) was formed, backed by Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi. They took over productive Eastern and Northeastern including Goma and the Kivus, provoking Kabila into retaliation by supporting the Hutus (enemies of the Rwandese Tutsi dominated government). Weeks of man slaughter would then unravel on the streets of Kinshasa. Later, Uganda, while still backing RCD, created its own rebel group in Congo called the Movement for Liberation of Congo (MLC). The situation deteriorated into one of upheaval, where neighbors were taking over regions in Congo, financially supporting rebels and generally living at logger heads. At some point, as RCD approached Kinshasa, one would have announced Kabila’s quick down fall. Meanwhile back at home, Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi faced criticism for mongering war in Congo and wasting state resources on less beneficial conflicts; the whole region was beginning to destabilize.
Kabila sought outside help, which he received from Zimbabwe, Angola (Hoped Kabila’s remaining in power would prevent a power vacuum in Congo, which might support UNITA’s actions), Namibia, Chad (provided some soldiers), Sudan (Backed rebels destabilizing Uganda, like the Lord’s resistance army and the Allied Democratic Forces, as a punishment for Uganda’s presence in Congo) and Libya (provided planes to transport soldiers from Chad). Within a year, over ten countries on the continent were feeling, participating in or trying to resolve Congo’s conflicts.
Behind closed doors, tension between Uganda and Rwanda over major mines and other productive areas in Eastern Congo led to clashes in Kisangani. The Congolese population would continue to suffer, this time not just at the hands of their own careless leadership, but at those of greedy and strategic neighbors. This war/conflict came to be dubbed the ‘African World War’ owing to its involvement of many countries and killing of over 5 million civilians between 1998 and 2003. Libya’s president, Muammar Gaddafi, would later, in 1999, mediate a ceasefire between Uganda’s President Museveni and Kabila; RCD and Rwanda boycotted this meeting. Additionally, Rwanda, Uganda, Angola, Namibia, Zimbabwe agreed on a ceasefire at a summit in Windhoek, Namibia. But since RCD wasn’t invited to the summit though, fighting continued.
Today, the very LRA rebel group that Sudan financed to punish Uganda on behalf of Congo, has migrated into the Garamba forest and destabilized the North East. Uganda has long been out of Congo in terms of military personnel, while Rwanda recently teamed with Joseph Kabila’s government (Laurent Kabila was assassinated on January 16th 2001, and succeeded by his son Joseph Kabila) to arrest Lt. Nkunda, a notorious leader of the CNDP, formerly thought to be supported by Rwandese Tutsis. But as Burundi continues to be unstable while Darfur battles genocide and Chad chokes on refugees from both Niger and Darfur, the situation is worrying. These intertwined conflicts in which countries have invested for different reasons, put the central African region at the risk of an explosion; alliances, insecurity and pressures in the form of refugees are doing little to either resolve current conflicts or bring Africa as a continent anywhere near peace and unity.
Sharon Muhwezi,
STAND E-Team, DR Congo.

As Somalia’s Crisis Degenerates, World Leaders Fail to Act

Despite increasingly dire and desperate warnings from numerous political officials and non-governmental organizations, world leaders have failed their promises to promptly address Somalia’s deepening problems. 

Although Secretary of State Clinton pledged millions of dollars in aid to Somalia’s embattled government last month and international donors promised $213 million dollars to bolster its security forces in April, little has improved in Somalia – in fact, conditions have only worsened.

Last week, the U.N.’s Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator in Somalia predicted a “future of miserable destitution” if the country’s growing problems are not tackled.

What are those problems? Drought, displacement and disease. A weak government and a violent insurgency with ties to terrorist networks. These are but a few of the major troubles Somalia currently faces – and which place Somali civilians at the crux of impending calamity on a daily basis.

A week ago, the European Union’s humanitarian chief cautioned that if Western powers do not offer more support to Somalia’s fledging government, the country will turn into the “next Afghanistan,” providing Al Qaeda with a major African base.

But insufficient resources and a lack of international aid (most vows of donations have gone unfulfilled) have already allowed Al Qaeda to strengthen its hold of Somalia. Two Mondays ago, Al Shabaab, Somalia’s largest radical Islamist insurgent group, officially and proudly declared its allegiance to Osama Bin Laden and Al Qaeda.

This was after Al Shabaab bombed the African Union’s peacekeeping base in Mogadishu in mid-September, killing 21 people, including 17 peacekeepers. The U.N. immediately repudiated the attack as “unacceptable” – but will mere words stop Al Shabaab from doing the same in the future? A major Islamist leader has already called for more suicide attacks like the AU bombing to deter peacekeepers from their work.

Moreover, clashes between government forces and Al Shabaab rebels in Mogadishu continuously erupt and kill dozens of civilians each week.

Not to mention the looming humanitarian disasters – Somalia’s worst drought in a decade approaches, the U.N. has warned, threatening to further imperil the livelihoods of thousands of Somalis. The international non-profit group Oxfam has also pleaded with the international community to improve nearly inhumane conditions at Somali refugee camps, where Somalis lack basic necessities like water and medicine. Other U.N. reports note that half of Somalia’s 7 million people are now dependent on international aid and that 50,000 Somalis have already fled the ongoing violence this year.

Yet the international community has responded with little more than raised eyebrows and silence.

In an interview with the New York Times last week, Somalia’s president, Sharif Sheik Ahmed, reminded the world that without the appropriate resources , Somalia’s government will not be able to survive – and without a semi-stable government, Somalia will be once again plunged into intransigent, fatal chaos. There will be no hope for the security and well-being of Somali civilians.

The questions now remain: How long will the international community wait to act? And what more will it take for it to respond?


-- Carolina Chacon, National Conflicts of Concern Education Coordinator



Diplomatic Engagement and the Burmese Regime

Last Wednesday, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton released the framework for the US government’s new policy towards the Burmese regime. The policies of past US governments have centered on the imposition of a strict sanctions regime and diplomatic isolation of the Burmese military junta. The State Department’s new Burma policy, which will be completely released in the coming weeks, uses a combination of diplomatic engagement and economic sanctions to change regime behaviorLast Wednesday, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton released the framework for the US government’s new policy towards the Burmese regime. The policies of past US governments have centered on the imposition of a strict sanctions regime and diplomatic isolation of the Burmese military junta. The State Department’s new Burma policy, which will be completely released in the coming weeks, uses a combination of diplomatic engagement and economic sanctions to change regime behavior.

The Obama administration’s emphasis on engagement is a tentatively positive step. Sanctions have been ineffective in changing the Burmese regime’s behavior. However, as Philip Bowring noted, “[c]hange may prove as elusive as it has been in North Korea.” The Obama administration has placed the release of Aung San Suu Kyi, the democratization of the Burmese political system, and the security relationship between Burma and North Korea on the top list of the new policy’s priorities. These cannot be the only concerns addressed in diplomatic engagement with the Burmese regime. The Washington Post raised several others: “Stricter, more effective, more targeted sanctions; measures that take aim at the regime’s rich earnings from natural gas sales; a U.N. investigation of the regime’s crimes against humanity, which have been amply documented.” Such imminent concerns, regarding both human rights and international security, need to be addressed if the Obama administration’s new Burma policy is to be considered effective.

Since last Wednesday’s UN “Group of Friends” on Burma session, the US government has launched full-force into organizing diplomatic forum with the Burmese regime. Sen. Jim Webb (D-VA), an outspoken proponent of diplomatic engagement with the regime and critic of US sanctions policy, accepted an invitation today to meet with Burmese Prime Minister Thein Sein. Two weekends ago, Sen. Webb met with Nyan Win, Burma’s foreign minister. In a meeting between President Barack Obama and Singaporean Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, President Obama requested that the first ever ASEAN-US summit take place in Singapore later this year. These diplomatic forums can only be effective if President Obama, Sen. Webb, and others use these opportunities to urge the regime to respect democracy and human rights.

Want to keep updated on the situation in Burma? Follow us on Twitter @STANDburma. 

–Daniel Solomon, National Burma Education Coordinator


Weekly News Brief, September 18 to 25

Areas of Concern

·         The government of Sudan is continuing to carry out attacks on the rebel faction SLM in northern Darfur.  Attacks in Jebel Marra resumed last Thursday and have continued.  At least 18 civilians were killed in the fighting.

·         The head of the Sudanese Bar association stated he would reject any African Union suggestions to create hybrid courts for war crimes committed in Darfur, because Sudanese law forbids the participation of foreign judges. Instead of hybrid courts, the chief prefers a South African-style Truth and Reconciliation Commission.  

·         The appeals chamber at the International Criminal Court (ICC) permitted pro-government Sudanese groups to submit observations regarding an appeal by the prosecutor for including counts of genocide against president Omer Hassan Al-Bashir.

·         This week President Obama delivered his first speech to the general assembly in which he addressed the issues in Sudan.  To read the full speech click here


·         On Wednesday, the Obama administration outlined its new Burma policy, which will include a combination of diplomatic engagement with the Burmese regime and continued economic sanctions. Aung San Suu Kyi endorsed the administration’s new policy on Thursday.

·         Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon released a statement on Wednesday following the UN Group of Friends on Burma meeting, in which he advocated for the release of political prisoners, national reconciliation, and respect for human rights in Burma.

·         Last weekend Sen. Jim Webb (D-VA) met with Nyan Win, Burma’s foreign minister. Webb also announced on Tuesday that he would hold a Burma policy hearing on October 1. The Senator has been critical of the efficacy of current sanctions on Burma.

·         The Burmese regime announced the release of 7,114 prisoners, including at least 127 political prisoners.

·         Sayadaw U Pannya Vamsa, a Buddhist leader, is organizing a coalition of religious groups in opposition to the regime’s restrictions on religious practice. This comes as Human Rights Watch’s new report on how politically active Buddhist monks continue to be harassed and detained by the government.

Democratic Republic of Congo

·         In an interview with All Africa Media, John Prendergast explained the new strategy to de-link minerals from conflict in the eastern Congo by focusing on the end users of Tungsten, Tin and Tantalum to limit the economic benefits associated with state failure in eastern Congo.

·         The FARDC took control of three major FDLR bases in the South Kivu region of Fizi. Congolese forces also captured an FDLR brigade commander.

·         Despite the offensive against it, the FDLR remains a threat to eastern Congo and attacked five villages in the Otobora region of North Kivu, killing six civilians.Civilians have also fled the areas of Ikobo and Kisamba due to fears about FDLR reprisal attacks.


·         A confidential report to President Obama by Gen. McChrystal, commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, warned that failure in Afghanistan is likely unless more troops are deployed. President Obama has said no more troops will be sent to Afghanistan without first settling on specific policy.

·        Afghanistan’s Taliban leader issued a statement last Saturday vowing that the defeat of foreign forces was imminent and warning Westerners not to accept President Obama’s justifications for war in Afghanistan.


·         The U.S. military shut down its largest detainee camp in Iraq, Camp Bucca, last Thursday. The closure is part of a process to hand over thousands of detained persons to Iraqi authorities. Bucca once held 14,000 detainees, many without official charges.

·         One civilian was killed and four wounded when a bomb exploded at cemetery last Sunday. A roadside bomb killed an 11-year-old boy, wounding two others, in northern Iraq that same day.


·         A suicide car bomb targeted a busy marketplace, killing at least 35 civilians, in the Kohat province of northwest Pakistan last Friday. Another suicide attack the next night at a security checkpoint in the same province wounded four civilians.

·         Suspected Taliban fighters bombed a primary school for girls in northwest Pakistan on Tuesday. There were no casualties since the school was closed for Eid al-Fitr, a Muslim holy holiday.

·         Pakistani officials announced that another Taliban commander had been killed by a U.S. drone attack last week. He was considered by some as one of the top 10 most wanted Taliban officials. The Pakistani army also says it arrested a Taliban suicide attack mastermind in the Swat Valley on Monday.

·         The US Senate raised the amount of non-military aid to Pakistan to almost 1.5 billion dollars a year. The aid seeks to improve democratic and economic development and is particularly geared towards improving the Pakistani educational system. 


·         The United Nations is investigating the use of its vehicles in twin suicide attacks last Thursday against the AU’s peacekeeping base in Mogadishu, which killed 21 people, including 17 peacekeepers. The U.N. condemned the attack as “unacceptable.”

·         On Sunday, a top Islamist leader in Somalia called for more suicide attacks against AU peacekeepers.  

·         Al -Shabaab pledged its allegiance to Osama Bin Laden in a documentary video released Monday, in an attempt to recruit Somali youth to join the radical rebel group. The EU is worried that continued instability and growth of Al-Qaeda in Somalia could result in another situation such as in Afghanistan.

·         Elders say at least 17 people were killed in clashes between TFG forces and Islamic rebels on Sunday in the western border with Ethiopia.  Fighting between the two groups also broke out in southern Somalia on Monday.

Sri Lanka

·         U.N. political chief Lynn Pascoe has expressed “strong concern” for Tamil refugees still kept in camps and has said not enough progress is being made to resettle them. Pascoe, who visited Sri Lanka last week, warned that the continuation of the camps is breeding resentment and putting reconciliation at risk. He also urged the Sri Lankan government to investigate human rights violations.

·         Human Rights Watch called on the G-20 to demand the closure of the IDP detention camps in Sri Lanka. In addition to the resentment caused by continued detention, civilians in the camps are at risk due to flooding associated with the coming monsoon, limited medical care in the camps, and reports of enforced disappearances of detainees.

·         Sri Lanka’s president, Mahinda Rajapaksa, vowed that Tamil refugees would be resettled by the end of January, with at least 70 percent returned to their homes by late November.  

·         The Sri Lankan government announced it has raised $23 million to rehabilitate former Tamil rebels and is seeking foreign donations for more training facilities.

·         A Tamil legislator alleged last week that thousands of refugees the government had said it released from camps last week were actually moved to other detention centers.

Around the World
South Sudan

·         76 Dinka were killed and another 46 injured during an attack on the village of Duk Padiet in Jonglei state. Reports from the attack suggest that the village was not the target of a cattle raid as there were no cattle in the town at the time of the attack.

·         The Bishop of Tambura-Yambio called for international assistance to stop LRA attacks in Western Equatoria state. The LRA has recently carried out a number of attacks in Western Equatoria and appear to be moving towards Western Bahr el Ghazal.


Addressing the Freedom of Burma’s Political Prisoners

At last count, the Burmese regime has released 127 political opposition members in its latest prisoner amnesty. According to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners-Burma (AAPP-Burma), this is the sixth amnesty since November 2004. In those six amnesties, the Burmese regime has released 45,732 prisoners, only 1.3% of which have been political prisoners. More than 2,000 political prisoners remain in Burma’s extensive prison and detainment system, including National League for Democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi and many leaders of Burma’s ethnic minority communities. The Burmese regime’s most recent amnesty is a positive step, but may very well be a "cynical ploy designed to ease international pressure," as suggested by AAPP-Burma.

The repression and imprisonment of political opposition in Burma need to be at the forefront of the international community’s Burma agenda. The fight for democracy and political freedom is closely tied to the stability of Burma’s ethnic minority regions, as many of Burma’s political prisoners represent ethnic minority populations. The Obama administration has indicated that its Burma policy review is almost complete. Sen. Jim Webb (D-VA), the chairman of the East Asia and Pacific Affairs Subcommittee of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, will hold a Burma policy hearing on October 1. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is expected to address UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon’s “Group of Friends” on Burma this Wednesday. All three actions by US government officials indicate a heightened interest in addressing democracy and human rights in Burma. The international community needs to ensure that the freedom of political prisoners is a present part of these policy discussions.

Important Reading

Human Rights Watch: Burma’s Forgotten Prisoners

Human Rights Watch: The Resistance of the Monks: Buddhism and Activism in Burma 

Want to keep updated on the situation in Burma? Follow us on Twitter @STANDburma.

–Daniel Solomon, National Burma Education Coordinator

Weekly News Brief, September 11 to 18

A weekly roundup of the most important developments in the conflicts GI-Net and STAND follow across the world. This week: an African Union Panel on Darfur, further frustrations in the trial of Aung San Suu Kyi in Burma, attacks on humanitarian aid workers in eastern DR Congo, a car bombing in Afghanistan, and more.
Areas of Concern

·         The African Union Panel on Darfur, headed by former South African President Mbeki will deliver its recommendations on how to secure a peace in Darfur as well as assessing Khartoum’s prosecution of war crimes committed in Darfur.

·         President al-Bashir said that the October Doha peace talks will be the final set of negotiations in the Darfur peace process. 

·         JEM said that it will only discuss an exchange of prisoners and the return of the 13 expelled aid organizations at the upcoming talks and will reportedly not discuss a ceasefire.


·         Sen. Jim Webb (D-VA) announced last Thursday his intentions to chair a hearing on improving US policy toward Burma, specifically focusing on sanctions policy.

·         Last Saturday, Burmese intelligence officers briefly detained Win Tin, a senior member of the National League for Democracy.

·         The chief executive of Total said last Friday that the company would not cease operations in Burma, responding to an EarthRights International report condemning Total’s tacit support for human rights abuses by the military junta.

·         The Burmese court hosting Aung San Suu Kyi’s appeal has denied her entrance to the courtroom during the proceedings, according to a statement released by her lawyer on Tuesday.

·         China’s diplomatic clout over the Burmese regime is limited, according to a new report released by the International Crisis Group on Sunday. The report says that while China has leverage over the junta, the generals will not necessarily respond to Chinese pressure and that in order to change Burmese behavior, the West must engage with China in areas of mutual interest.

·         KNLA troops ambushed government soldiers near the Thai-Burma border on Sunday.

·         Human Rights Watch released a report on Wednesday documenting the extensive imprisonment of political opponents to the Burmese regime.


·         Ten civilians and six Italian soldiers were killed in a car bombing in Kabul on Thursday. 55 people were wounded in the blast.

·         A spate of violence broke out throughout Afghanistan on Saturday, killing at least 39 Afghan civilians and security force members in roadside bombings, suicide attacks and executions.

·         The International Council on Security and Development says the Taliban has a “permanent presence” in 80 percent of Afghanistan, with its influence spreading to previously peaceful northwest provinces.

·         Osama Bin Laden called the U.S. strategy in Afghanistan “hopeless,” according to an audio message released last Friday. Meanwhile, a top Al Qaeda commander called on the Taliban to kidnap foreign civilians in order to negotiate the release of Taliban and Al Qaeda prisoners.

·         Admiral Mike Mullen, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee that more U.S. troops will likely be needed in Afghanistan to rout Al Qaeda and the Taliban.


·         More than 100,000 people have been displaced from Pakistan’s Khyber tribal agency in the FATA region since September 1. The displacement is blamed on fierce fighting between the Pakistani Army and insurgents in the region.

·         Last Friday the Pakistani army announced the capture of five Taliban militants, including a top commander, in Swat Valley. Meanwhile, reports of extrajudicial killings by the Pakistani military have surfaced, with scores of bodies dumped in the streets. Pakistani newspapers say at least 251 bodies have been found in the Swat region.

·         The International Institute for Strategic Studies has said Pakistan remains the biggest source of instability for Afghanistan, identifying Pakistan as a “key battleground” Al Qaeda.


·         The AMISOM headquarters in Mogadishu was the target of a suicide bombing, killing 14 peacekeepers, including their deputy commander. The attacks were reportedly committed using stolen UN vehicles.

·         The Martini Hospital in Mogadishu was shelled last Friday, killing eleven civilians. It is unclear whether the shelling was deliberate or who was responsible.

·         A U.S. military raid in Somalia last week killed a Kenyan linked to Al-Qaeda without harming any civilians, U.S. and Somali officials reported.

Sri Lanka

·         The U.N.’s senior political official visited Sri Lanka on Wednesday to discuss the conflict’s aftermath, urging the government to speed up its release of Tamil refugees and to investigate allegations of human rights abuses. The official is expected to tour the main detention camp on Thursday. 

·         In a harshening tone, the U.N. warned Sri Lanka last week that it will not indefinitely continue funding displaced persons camps and that its government must return the refugees to their homes.

·         Sri Lanka’s president, Mahinda Rajapaksa, has called on the West to stop criticizing Sri Lanka’s treatment of refugees and to start helping rebuild the post-war nation.

Around the World

South Sudan

·         At least 188 Sudanese civilians have been killed by LRA rebels since January 2009, primarily in Western Equatoria state. Food supplies have reportedly become a magnet for LRA fighters, according to UN Humanitarian Coordinator Ameerah Haq. According to the SPLA, the LRA is reportedly moving north towards Darfur.

·         The SPLM’s Minister for Legal Affairs said that referendum law discussions with the NCP “sound promising” and that the two sides have almost reached agreement on a majority vote to determine South Sudanese independence.

·         The UN regional coordinator for Southern Sudan said that while neither north nor south appear to want renewed conflict, progress needs to be made on the referendum law to ensure a peaceful outcome.

·         Up to 1.3 million people in South Sudan are food insecure. The insecurity, primarily caused by drought and local clashes, mainly affects those living in Jonglei and Eastern Equatoria states.

·         South Sudanese living in Khartoum will reportedly be able to vote in the 2011 independence referendum, but it remains to be seen if other South Sudanese living in northern states will be allowed to vote.

As cultural disunity hinders local peace efforts, LRA rebels quickly expand DR Congo’s war torn area.

As the Democratic Republic of Congo continues to battle with internal upheavals, the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), a rebel group formerly terrorizing northern Uganda, has come in to add salt to the wounds of North Eastern Congo. Currently, the LRA is mongering terror in formerly fortunate regions, like the Dungu community, whose experiences were previously limited to feeling the general national unrest. Mail and Guardian quoted, on September 14th, UNICEF’s Executive Director Ann Veneman saying, “These people were living relatively peaceful lives, sending their children to school- and then the LRA came.” The LRA, which is notorious for maiming, kidnapping and keeping young girls for concubines, is also currently believed to be responsible for over 1200 deaths in 2009 alone.

At the end of the day, we realize that the LRA has just taken over another ‘free’ area, as similarly practiced by DR Congo’s warlords and rebel groups. This trend continually brings into question H.E Joseph Kabila’s regime’s control of no more area than a little outside Kinshasa. There is however new factors to consider; the country’s physical size and Congo’s lack of cultural and lingual unity. Compared to Tanzania whose former president Julius Nyerere managed to unite under one Swahili umbrella, the Congolese population continues to be divided clearly along cultural lines. DR Congo has an estimated 242 languages, with at least four, Kikongo, Swahili, Lingala and Tshiluba being considered national while French is official. This, though it can’t be placed on top of the list of causes of the current conflict, has created some barriers in could-have-been local peace efforts. It would have been easier if people looked at one another as equal and fighting for the same cause; to save their beloved country. Clear cultural differences however tend to push locals into complacency as regards different war lords, and also make it difficult for them to make a united fight for freedom. What makes this situation worse? Many rebel leaders and recruits are not Congolese and could care less about peace in this country. While LRA’s Joseph Kony loots from the North East, Tutsis and Hutus (most of whom are Rwandese) destabilize the South East; these different nationals know that Congo’s instability doesn’t necessarily destabilize their own homelands, and so are not too motivated to seek peace.

Recognizing that the current government is largely incapable, many outsiders have stepped in, ranging from individual well wishers to Non Governmental Organizations to states and lastly the United Nations. The UN mission in Congo, code named MONUC, which still has the biggest budget in UN history (standing at US1.2 billion), is still largely ineffective. Capable countries have not contributed generously enough, and locals are still living at the mercy on the rebels. Generally, both local and international efforts, though commendable, are largely lacking. On a positive note, we can hope that among other human rights abuses, Hillary’s Clinton’s recent visit to the country will bring enough attention to the plight of Congolese women facing rampant rape as a tool of both war and hooliganism.

Sharon Muhwezi,


ICC Prosecutor Considering War Crimes Charges for Afghanistan

The chief prosecutor for the International Criminal Court (ICC) announced last week that he is probing possible war crime charges against NATO and Taliban forces in Afghanistan. Such an investigation would be the first of its kind for the nation, and would expose the conflict’s heavy toll on civilians.


U.S. forces in Afghanistan have been accused of excessive force and torturing prisoners. As STAND reported in its blog last week, a recent NATO airstrike resulted in the deaths of at least 70 Afghan civilians and has provoked numerous investigations into the impact of counter-insurgency operations on civilians.


The ICC must thoroughly investigate these accusations of human rights abuses and war crimes committed by U.S. or NATO forces. If the allegations were to be true, the appropriate charges must be filed to offer justice and peace to Afghan civilians suffering the heavy toll of the conflict’s violence.


According to a U.N. report released in July, more than 1,000 civilians died in the first six months of 2009 – a 24 percent increase from the previous year. Both anti-government agents (including the Taliban and Al Qaeda insurgents) and pro-government forces (including NATO) were responsible for the spike in civilian casualties. Airstrikes by pro-government forces remain the largest cause of death for civilians.


Although Afghanistan is party to the Rome statue which created the court and would be legally bound by its verdict, the ICC can only pursues charges if given permission by its government or the U.N. Security Council. Under the statue, the court can step in only when countries are themselves unwilling or unable to prosecute crimes for genocide, crimes against humanity or war crimes.


Nonetheless, Afghan civilians deserve stability and protection. As the conflict worsens, they continue to be placed at risk of violence or collateral damage. U.S. and NATO forces must be held accountable for any and all abuses and war crimes.


For more information about the Afghanistan conflict’s impact on civilians, check out the U.N.’s in-depth report for 2008.


— Carolina Chacon, National Conflicts of Concern Education Coordinator