The student-led movement to end mass atrocities.

Top 10 Conflicts to Watch in 2017

Predicting future atrocities is exceptionally difficult, as one must anticipate reactions from a variety of actors within complex systems. For those of us that use these forecasts to attempt to prevent atrocities, a successful response is one that prevents an atrocity that would have otherwise happened, thus making the forecasts look mistaken. Nevertheless, anticipating the future course of conflicts is a vital component of atrocity prevention, and forecasting efforts are growing increasingly sophisticated. The U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum’s Early Warning Project and the Council on Foreign Relations Preventive Priorities Survey are among the leading forecasts, and while we aren’t contributing a full forecast, it’s worth looking ahead to conflicts that could deteriorate or emerge in 2017 in order to assist prevention efforts. Civilians have often bore the brunt of conflicts, and sadly 2017 is unlikely to be different.

1) Syria

2016 was a disastrous year for an already horrific conflict, as the Assad regime stepped up its use of sieges and as the fight for Aleppo last month became even harsher than many expected. The rebels are increasingly weak, particularly more moderate factions, and many rebels and civilians who were in formerly rebel-held territory, particularly around Aleppo, have been pushed into Idlib. The possibility remains that civilians that survived the brutal siege of Aleppo will once again face similar circumstances as the Syrian government and its allies push to retake further opposition territory. The U.S.,an increasingly peripheral player in the conflict, was left out of the most recent round of peace talks, and President-Elect Trump seems likely to withdraw support with the opposition and increase cooperation with Russia, a main ally of Assad. Turkey has also become more cooperative with Russia and is now focusing on combatting Kurdish influence rather than supporting the opposition. Already struggling after recent territorial losses, the Islamic State will also likely lose influence in 2017.

2) South Sudan

Having already caused immense suffering since its start in 2013, South Sudan’s civil war threatens to spiral even further in 2017. Originally caused by a split between President Salva Kiir and Vice President Riek Machar, the SPLM-IO—Machar’s side—has split. Kiir appointed Taban Deng Gai to replace Machar as Vice President, and his decision to force Machar out of the country has left his supporters feeling unrepresented. The repeated failure of political negotiations has led many actors to see violence as their only route to power. Ethnic divisions have also solidified, and the region of Equatoria in particular has seen increased violence. This combination of factors has led to increasingly dire warnings, with the UN announcing that ethnic cleansing is already underway. The international response has been underwhelming, with the UN unable to come to an agreement on a potential arms embargo.

3) Burma (Myanmar)

The Muslim ethnic minority group, the Rohingya, has long lived in dire conditions, stripped of citizenship and often forced to live in internally displaced people (IDP) camps. Described as the world’s group most at risk of genocide, there is an ever-lingering risk of a spark setting off mass violence. Aung San Suu Kyi, the de facto leader of the country, and the National League for Democracy (NLD) have shown little interest in the Rohingya and seemingly lack the ability to control the military, who is in charge of managing the situation in Rakhine State. Security forces and members of the Rakhine ethnic group have both perpetrated violence against Rohingya, and the October killing of several police officers—with a group of Rohingya accused to be the attackers—has raised tensions. There are also reports that some Rohingya have reacted to their continued subjection through the creation of an insurgency. However, Rohingya know from experience that any violence they may perpetrate would likely lead to retaliation against Rohingya civilians. Reports of a plan among security forces to arm non-Muslim civilians also raise fears of increased violence. Should the situation deteriorate, almost no Burmese actors seem ready to come to the Rohingya’s defense. As the crisis continues, the government must reconsider its approach to the issue, build positive relations between the majority Buddhist and minority Muslim populations, and cease the use of excessive force against civilians, lest they precipitate the growth of a small number of Rohingya insurgents.

Additionally, ethnic groups around the country—such as the eastern Shan, Karen, Kokang, and Kachin, Ta’ang, and Arakan, now in an alliance—are politically sidelined and face violence at the hands of Myanmar government militias, even after Aung San Suu Kyi’s 21-Century Panglong Conference. There is speculation that the NLD is keeping quiet on the military’s blockade of transport and aid in these areas due to pre-election agreements with the military. Tensions and periodic violence seem unlikely to cease in 2017.

4) Sudan

Sudan is primed for significant violence against civilians in 2017, but much of it may remain out of the public spotlight. The Sudanese government has cut off access for journalists and aid workers to areas where it has conducted attacks on civilians, including much of Darfur, and many believe violence in Darfur may be returning towards levels from the height of the conflict. Huge numbers of internally displaced people remain in Sudan with almost no access to aid and few means to support themselves. In addition to Darfur, the Sudanese government continues to bomb civilians in South Kordofan and Blue Nile states. In an extremely alarming development in the conflict, Amnesty International also found evidence of 30 likely chemical attacks against civilians from January to September 2016. There is unlikely to be any large reduction of violence in 2017, as peace talks have broken down and the government remains invested in crushing rebellion. Sudan is also facing reduced international pressure. Many European governments have proved willing to support Sudan in order to prevent refugees from reaching their shores, while the U.S. is rumored to be preparing to lift sanctions.

5) Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC)

Despite recent progress, uncertainty over President Kabila’s willingness to step down as president suggests conflict could escalate in the country in 2017. Kabila is constitutionally mandated to step down after two terms, and his second term was mandated to end in December 2016. After his pasts effort to amend the constitution to allow a third term failed, Kabila implemented various measures to push back his exit date, frequently citing concerns about the country’s readiness to conduct elections. A recent deal brokered by the Catholic Church calls for President Kabila to step down and elections to be held by the end of 2017, but it is unclear whether Kabila will respect the deal. If he does not, violence will likely escalate as hundreds have already been killed in confrontations between police and protesters. Armed groups outside urban areas have also used ongoing political uncertainty to gain influence and territory. Meanwhile, the largest cause of civilian death in the DRC remains insurgencies in the country’s east, though these groups are far less powerful and are more splintered than they were at their peak.

6) Yemen

Though unlikely to escalate significantly, Yemen’s devastating conflict seems likely to grind on. The conflict has moved towards equilibrium with no side strong enough to win, but both also unwilling to give up. On one side of the conflict is the former Yemeni government of Abd Mansur Hadi, heavily backed by a Saudi-led coalition. The Saudis are certain to continue their bombings, as they believe the defeat of the Hadi government would advantage their rival, Iran. The US continues to back the coalition, albeit more tentatively, as a recent decision to block an arms sale signifies. For their part, Hadi’s government has little power but maintains some influence in the south. On the other side, the Houthi rebels maintain control of much of the country, including the capital Sana’a, but are struggling to govern. They remain in an uneasy alliance with former president Ali Abdullah Saleh and receive limited support from Iran. Saudi bombings have frequently hit civilians and the conflict has devastated the economy. Hunger is extremely widespread and the Saudi coalition has repeatedly blocked the delivery of aid, continuously bombing major ports and further threatening aid delivery.

7) Burundi

President Pierre Nkurunziza’s decision to seek what is considered by many to be an unconstitutional third term sparked recent conflict in Burundi. Although he is now securely placed in his third term, the situation is far from resolution. Extrajudicial executions continue and thousands have died throughout the course of the conflict. The conflict has remained primarily political rather than ethnic, but there are signs that violence against Tutsi could increase. The Burundian government’s decision to leave the International Criminal Court suggests that their human rights record will not soon improve, and the recent assassination of a government official also raises tensions. Peace talks have stalled since July, when the government pulled out of the talks. Opposition groups were upset last month when chief mediator, former Tanzania President Benjamin Mkapa, urged them to look toward the 2020 elections, seeming to ignore their concerns about the 2015 election. In this context, talks seem unlikely to resume, as the opposition feels slighted, and Nkurunziza feels that he can retain power with no real resistance. An armed insurgency in exile remains capable of conducting attacks, though it holds relatively little power and is unlikely to seriously threaten Nkurunziza’s government. Still, as long as they are denied political rights there is the possibility that more opposition supporters will choose to use violence.

8) Ethiopia

Ethiopia has suffered significant unrest over the last year after protests emerged in the Oromia region. Originally concentrated on feelings of underrepresentation and marginalization of the Oromo ethnic group, the protests have spread to the Amhara region and have given voice to discontent with the government. Long seen as a champion of an authoritarian development model, Ethiopia has cracked down heavily on the protests and shown few signs of a democratic opening. Amnesty International has found that security forces have killed over 800 people since protests began in November 2015. With the opposition also growing increasingly disillusioned with the potential for peaceful change, potential for violence in 2017 is high.

9) Kenya

August’s elections could very well proceed successfully and represent democratic progress in Kenya, but they also hold significant potential for conflict. President Uhuru Kenyatta will be contested by Raila Odinga in a repeat of the 2013 election. In the 2007 election, Odinga’s defeat led to violence killing around 1,000 people, while the 2013 election remained quite peaceful. It is unclear which path 2017 will take, but there are warning signs that suggest potential violence. Trust in IEBC, the electoral commission, is low, and blows to Kenyatta’s popularity may cause a highly competitive election. Further, despite demand, the Kenyatta government has struggled to provide reforms, and continued police brutality has incited protests and raised fears of a heavy-handed response in the case of post-election protests. In addition to national elections, 47 counties will also hold local elections, and as ethnic tensions in several parts of the country remain high, it will not take much for localized conflict to erupt.

10) Zimbabwe

92-year old President Robert Mugabe’s insistence on staying in power after 36 years in charge threatens to spark conflict in Zimbabwe. 2016 already saw increased resistance to Mugabe, with protests gaining ground in the summer. Youth activists, often using social media to spread messages such as that of previously unknown Pastor Evan Mawawire—the founder of the #ThisFlag movement to end corruption and increase government transparency and accountability—were at the heart of the protests. Police cracked down heavily on protesters, but calls continued to urge Mugabe to step down immediately, rather than wait for elections in 2018 when Mugabe intends to run for re-election. Ongoing economic problems have also damaged the popularity of Mugabe’s government. Still, the potential for Mugabe to be forced from power hinges on a number of uncertainties, including the strengthening of a divided opposition and the military’s loyalty to Mugabe. Two things remain quite a bit more certain: that Mugabe will not cede power easily and many Zimbabweans will wish he would.

69Timmy Hirschel-Burns is a senior at Swarthmore College majoring in Political Science and is STAND’s Policy Coordinator. You can follow him on Twitter at @TimH_B.




Featured photo is by The White Helmets.

“Il Est Temps” – “The Time is Now” for Peaceful Change in Congo

The STAND Managing Committee stands in solidarity with Congolese youth as they fight peacefully for a free, fair, and just transition of power in their country.

As youth activists ourselves, we understand the power young people have in shaping the future. At STAND, we are striving to build a future free of genocide and mass atrocities, and we have enormous admiration for the Congolese youth putting themselves at risk for the future they desire.

We condemn the repression faced by peaceful Congolese protesters, including violent police response, arbitrary arrests, and social media blackouts. We support the #Telema protestors’ vision for a democratic Congo and will continue to advocate against violence and human rights violations in Congo and elsewhere around the world.

Refugees at Risk: Take Action for #RefugeesWelcome

As anti-refugee groups move to lobby Capitol Hill in increasing numbers, the U.S. has a deep moral responsibility to take in and support refugees. The number of forcibly displaced people around the world has reached a staggering 65 million—the largest number in recorded history. Refugees around the world are left in dire situations after losing homes, jobs, and family members—and without a country and citizenship rights to provide for their needs, their basic human rights are in jeopardy. In this global state of crisis, any country or person that claims to support human rights while also possessing the ability to help has a humanitarian duty to provide aid. The United States’ international reputation as a defender of human rights therefore hinges upon our willingness to fulfill our stated ideals by accepting and supporting refugees.

Though it is in our self-interest to offer support for refugees, the U.S. is actually taking in far fewer refugees than many other countries. In 2015, Hungary received 1,800 asylum applications per 100,000 of its residents. Sweden received 1,667 per 100,000, Germany 590, the UK 60, and the European countries (the EU-28 plus Norway and Switzerland) on average have received 250. In comparison, the U.S. accepted 70,000 refugees in 2015, which only amounts to about 0.02% of the population, or 22 refugees per 100,000 U.S. citizens. Turkey and Lebanon have both taken in millions of Syrian refugees. Historically, refugees have revitalized American communities and contributed to economic growth. From grandparents of one of the authors of this post, to Secretaries of State, to invaluable thinkers, artists, and innovators such as Albert Einstein, Béla Bartók, and Marc Chagall, refugees have left a lasting legacy on the U.S.

With our values reaffirmed and these key facts brought to the forefront of our minds, we welcome President Obama’s decision to accept at least 30,000 more refugees over the next two years. However, critical work remains. The U.S. should look to take in even more refugees, but it also must increase funding for the refugees it has already accepted. In 1980, the US offered resettlement support to refugees over a period of 36 months; today, the U.S. has whittled down this critical lifeline of assistance to a meager 8 months. Despite increasing the number of refugees the U.S. will accept, Congress has not approved a corresponding increase in funding to provide thousands of people with the support they will require.

In addition, anti-refugee groups have reacted to Obama’s announcement by pressuring Congress to block the entry of refugees with increased vigor. These groups argue refugees pose a serious security threat even though they undergo the world’s most extensive and heavily-scrutinized screening processThese desperate, alarmist claims hint at the irrational, xenophobic sentiment underlying much refugee opposition. They also echo of some of the darkest moments in American history. In 1939, when asked whether the U.S. should accept 10,000 mostly Jewish children fleeing Nazi Germany, 61% of Americans said no.

It’s time to STAND up to anti-refugee groups. We must tell Congress to provide full support for refugees. The U.S. is right to increase the number of refugees it admits, but it must also increase the amount of funding it devotes to refugees once they arrive. This funding will provide crucial assistance to refugees as they struggle to find homes, learn English, and integrate into a new life in a foreign country. Increased funding is also a smart investment in America’s prosperity. Refugees fleeing from desperate situations are motivated and talented, but the longer they struggle to learn English or find a job, the longer it will take for them to contribute to their newfound home. Just as we have seen time and time again in studies on education, high-quality investments early on yield enormous benefits further down the line. Merely accepting refugees into our border is not enough; full-fledged efforts to support integration will help lift the whole country to greater heights later on. For their sake and ours, we refuse to allow Congress to let refugees hang out to dry.

Join us in calling on Congress to support refugees! Call the numbers on the graphic below and use or adapt our script.

insta insta refugees


Timmy Hirschel-Burns is a senior at Swarthmore College majoring in Political Science and is STAND’s Policy Coordinator. You can follow him on Twitter @TimH_B.

Elisabeth Huh is STAND’s Communications Coordinator and is a senior at the University of Chicago. You can follow her on Twitter @elisabethhuh.

Savannah Wooten serves as STAND’s Student Director. She is majoring in Public Policy and Peace, War, and Defense at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Duke University through the Robertson Scholars Leadership Program. You can follow her on Twitter @SavannahEWooten.

The Five Things You Need to Know About Obama’s Executive Order on Atrocity Prevention

Ummmm…what executive order, exactly?

On May 18, President Obama issued Executive Order (EO) 13729, “A Comprehensive Approach to Atrocity Prevention and Response.” The EO is an important step in institutionalizing the Atrocities Prevention Board (APB), which has been meeting since 2012. The APB is an interagency working group that brings together the State Department, the Department of Defense, USAID, the CIA, and more to prioritize and coordinate efforts to prevent mass atrocities. President Obama’s EO emphasizes that “preventing mass atrocities and genocide is a core national security interest and a core moral responsibility of the United States,” outlines the structure and functions of the APB, and directs U.S. agencies to take on a broader atrocity prevention strategy.

So we did it, right? The APB really was that easy!

Not so fast there. While President Obama’s EO is a step in the right direction, we still have work to do. Executive orders don’t have the power of law; they provide direction to agencies within the confines of existing law. The next President could reverse, or simply ignore, the EO, ending the APB.

This means that Congress is needed to legally codify the Board. S.1635, the act authorizing the State Department for fiscal year 2016, also includes authorization for the APB. This bill unanimously passed the Senate and has been referred to the House, but includes a “sunset clause” that would expire the authorization for the APB on June 30, 2017. What we really need is for Congress to pass a law providing permanent authorization. The Genocide and Atrocities Prevention Act (GAPA), S. 2551, does just that.

Well, why do we need the APB and GAPA anyway?

Glad you asked! The APB is a crucial mechanism for U.S. atrocity prevention efforts, allowing for a strong and coordinated response to atrocities. American atrocity prevention policy has historically been weak, so much so that on the day the genocide broke out in Rwanda, Pentagon staff couldn’t remember the names of Rwanda’s primary ethnic groups. The APB ensures that all relevant government agencies are working together to better prioritize the prevention of atrocities well before they break out. GAPA also authorizes the Complex Crises Fund, a flexible funding mechanism which allows rapid response to unforeseen crises and emerging atrocities, and requires atrocity prevention training for foreign service officers.

Assessing the success of atrocity prevention efforts is extremely difficult, as it is nearly impossible to prove specific prevention programs directly caused the absence of certain atrocities. However, even in its few years of existence the APB has helped to improve U.S. engagement to help avert atrocities. In the Central African Republic, a coup and brutal intercommunal violence along religious lines sparked fears of genocide. However, the U.S. government was quickly able to engage diplomatically and with development tools to support peacebuilding programs and the disarmament of rebels. Thanks in part to these efforts, the Central African Republic recently held largely peaceful elections. In Guinea, too, the APB recognized that the stresses of the Ebola crisis could exacerbate existing tensions between communities and quickly implemented preventative programs. Ultimately, there was little violence.

I’m sold! But is Congress?

GAPA already has 24 Senators co-sponsoring the bill–nearly a quarter of the Senate! The bipartisan bill was introduced by Senators Ben Cardin (D-MD) and Thom Tillis (R-NC) along with several of their colleagues. Atrocity prevention is a bipartisan foreign policy priority, dating back to President Ronald Reagan’s signing of the law that ratified the UN Genocide Convention. There are multiple reasons for this consensus. Mechanisms like the APB can help prevent the escalation of conflicts, which avoids putting American troops in harm’s way, and help to protect U.S. security interests. Atrocity prevention is also very cost effective. The amount of money spent on prevention pales in comparison to the funds needed to respond to refugee crises as the result of violent conflict as well as the significant costs of economic disruptions that can limit markets for American businesses.

And, of course, atrocities have enormous human costs. Had atrocities been effectively prevented, Rwandan mothers wouldn’t have had to suffer the loss of their children, a generation of Darfuri children wouldn’t have grown up in refugee camps, and religious minorities in Iraq and Syria would be able to practice their religions in safety. These should be good enough reasons for every Senator to get behind GAPA–but they also have to hear from us, their constituents! It’s important to convey that this is an issue that matters to us.

TLDR; what’s this EO all about?

The Atrocities Prevention Board supports American security, saves taxpayer money, and helps stop unconscionable violence. While President Obama’s Executive Order helps support the APB and create a stronger American atrocity prevention policy, we need Congress to pass the Genocide and Atrocities Prevention Act, ensuring the permanent authorization of the APB.

Check here to see if your Senator is a co-sponsor of the bill. If not, call 877-429-0678, ask to speak to your Senator, and tell them to co-sponsor S. 2551!

timhbTimmy Hirschel-Burns is a rising senior at Swarthmore College and STAND’s Policy Coordinator. You can follow him on Twitter @TimH_B.



Featured image of President Obama at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum can be found at

#FreeJeanMarie: STAND with Congolese activists

February 16 is symbolic for Congolese. On this day in 1992, thousands of church members led protests against then-president Mobutu’s efforts to stay in power. This protest was an important event that contributed to the fall of Mobutu’s regime. Today, many Congolese are on strike to call on President Kabila to step down from power. It is a powerful historical analogy. We are joining them to raise the voices of Congolese activists who have been imprisoned for peacefully protesting Kabila’s efforts to stay in power, and in particular the voice of youth human rights activist Jean-Marie Kalonji.

Jean-Marie is a recent law graduate and the coordinator of the civil society organization Quatrième Voix. Like STAND members, he believes in the power of youth to create a more just future. Unlike STAND members, Jean-Marie knew that his activism could land him in prison–or worse. On December 15, 2015, while walking in a public area near Kinshasa’s central train station, Jean-Marie was forced into a Jeep by unidentified men with pistols. A week later, it was discovered that he was in a holding cell of the Congolese intelligence agency. He remains imprisoned, clearly arrested for his political beliefs.

Jean-Marie’s case is sadly not unique. His imprisonment comes as part of a crackdown on opposition to President Kabila. The DRC’s Constitution states that presidents can only serve two terms, meaning that the successor to President Kabila should be elected this November. Yet it looks increasingly likely that he will delay elections and extend his time in power. Last January, at least 42 protesters were killed when Kinshasa was engulfed by several days of protests against Kabila’s attempts to stay in power. Since then, the threat of violence has remained as opponents of Kabila have suffered politically-motivated arrests. Fred Bauma, Yves Makwambala, Juvin Kombi, and Pascal Byumanine are just some of the activists that remain imprisoned. In addition to those imprisoned, the Congolese government has worryingly refused to exhume a mass grave that government security forces helped dig.

Jean-Marie’s case has garnered little international attention, without which there will be little incentive to release him. His imprisonment, and the unlawful imprisonment of others like him, sets a dangerous precedent. Likewise, if we can #FreeJeanMarie, the DRC will be an important step closer to finally achieving peace, stability, and justice. There are signs that the DRC may be coming to the end of two decades of brutal conflict, with rebel groups growing smaller and more fragmented, the Congolese military slowly improving, and a vibrant civil society. President Kabila’s attempts to stay in office threaten political conflict that could throw this progress into chaos. When leaders refuse to allow opposition a voice inside a democratic system, they create the conditions for opposition to work violently outside of it–and the threat of violence is exacerbated when the government cracks down on peaceful opposition as President Kabila has.

Jean-Marie and other activists have devoted themselves to creating a government that offers its people peace, liberty, and a voice in the structures that govern their lives. Their work does not deserve imprisonment; it represents an example to aspire to. Join us: Help us build momentum for the release of Jean-Marie. It is essential that his name remains in the news and the Congolese government feels pressure to release him. Together we can raise the voices of Congolese youth and #FreeJeanMarie!

For Press and other inquiries, please contact:
Francesca Freeman
(202) 643-7238

Call Congress

The Congolese government wants to silence opposition, but if their human rights abuses receive international attention, President Kabila will know his reputation will deteriorate further the longer the abuses continue. Our elected representatives can raise the profile of Jean-Marie to tell the Congolese government the world is watching.


Call the Capitol Switchboard at 202-224-3121 and ask to be connected to your Senator’s office. You’ll speak to a staffer or intern who will pass along your message. Tell them:

“My name is ____ and I am calling from [town name], [state]. I am calling about Jean-Marie Kalonji, a Congolese political prisoner who has been imprisoned for over two months. Please ask the Senator to make a public statement calling for Jean-Marie’s release and the release of the many other activists imprisoned for opposing President Kabila.”

Tweet at your Member(s) of Congress

Congressional staff monitor social media around the clock. Even a small number of tweets at one Member of Congress hits the radar of high-level staffers. Send some tweets to your elected representatives and ask your friends and family to do the same!


Step 1: Find the social media accounts of your elected officials

  • Click here to find the social media accounts of your Senator
  • Click here to find the social media accounts of your Representative


Step 2: Compose your tweet(s)!

Here’s some sample tweets you can direct at your Member(s) of Congress. Or get creative and write your own using #FreeJeanMarie!

  • Congolese activist Jean-Marie Kalonji is imprisoned w/out charges. @YourSenator will you make a public statement supporting #FreeJeanMarie?
  • .@YourSenator Support Congolese human rights and democracy! Make a statement calling for Jean-Marie Kalonji’s release. #FreeJeanMarie
  • .@YourSenator Stand up for Congolese democracy and make publicly call for the release of Jean-Marie Kalonji #FreeJeanMarie
  • .@YourSenator: Stand in solidarity with Congolese human rights activists. Publicly call for Jean-Marie Kalonji’s release #FreeJeanMarie

Ready to get more involved? Contact us at We’d love to chat with you!

timhbTimmy Hirschel-Burns is a junior at Swarthmore College, where he runs the STAND chapter, and serves on STAND’s Managing Committee as the Mid-Atlantic Regional Organizer. He can be reached at and you can follow him on Twitter @TimH_B.

Burmese elections must offer hope for unrequited democracy

On July 22nd, I attended an event at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace on “Myanmar’s Ethnic, Communal, and Human Rights Challenges and the 2015 Elections.” The event was moderated by Vikram Nehru and featured

The panelists made clear the critical moment in which Burma finds itself, as the transition to democracy has not lived up to its promises and the upcoming elections will be a vital moment in determining the trajectory Burma takes.

Burma has long-running conflicts between the government and various minority ethnic groups, and the speakers focused on how the elections would impact these conflicts. Ethnic groups are represented both through political parties and armed groups. Furthermore, Fink said ethnic political parties and armed groups broadly want the same thing, a more federalist system of government where they receive more autonomy and receive better treatment. However, Fink noted that for many ethnic groups in the upcoming election, votes will likely be split as multiple parties compete to represent a single group. Still, given that it seems no one party will be strong enough to win the Presidency on their own, ethnic parties may have enough power to play a crucial tie-breaking role in the formation of the new government.

A particularly interesting section was the discussion of the development of Buddhist nationalism and its effects on the Rohingya. The Rohingya are a majority-Muslim group who mostly live in the West of the country. They are denied citizenship by the Burmese government and subjected to extensive human rights abuses. Hayward described how their current treatment could be traced back to the colonial era. British colonialism reduced the power of Buddhism in the country, and in an attempt to maintain its influence, Buddhist leaders spread an expectation that individuals should personally focus on protecting Buddhism. That pattern continued after independence, and many Burmese are still very invested in ensuring the survival and strength of Buddhism in Burma. This has caused the appeal of a state that actively promotes Buddhism, and Buddhist nationalist organizations like Ma Ba Tha have tapped in to this sentiment. As a result, candidates for election face great pressure from voters to be “good Buddhists,” and those who defend the Muslim Rohingya are often seen as not properly fulfilling their responsibility to defend Buddhism. Rohingya, who are already in a dire situation, struggle against the influence of Buddhist nationalist ideas that see them as a threat to Burma’s national identity.

The panel made clear that Burma’s transition to democracy has not lived up to everything that it was hoped to. Currie noted that civil society groups have benefited from increased political freedoms in the last five years, but also that international donors have often failed to effectively help civil society and political repression has increased in the last year. This year’s election will be an important indicator of whether Burma is slowly heading towards a more just and free society or if the transition to democracy was a false dawn. Perhaps policies will shift in line with the desires of the voters and elected leaders will respect ethnic minorities once in office, but it is also very possible that electoral procedures will be manipulated to ensure a victory for the ruling USDP party and the military will guarantee its power remains untouched. The Center for the Prevention of Genocide’s Early Warning Project places Burma as the most likely country in the world to have an onset of state-led mass killing, underlining just how crucial it is that the direction Burma is heading is the right one.

Education Update Week 8/3


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.

South Sudan

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.

Is Boko Haram Bouncing Back?

Sadly, Boko Haram’s violence is on the upsurge.  January was Boko Haram’s second-deadliest month ever but violence fell until May, which was their least deadly month in close to a year.  During this period there was also the Nigerian election and the peaceful transition of power from President Goodluck Jonathan to the new president, Muhammadu Buhari.  However, between June 27th and July 11th Boko Haram killed over 500 people, with further attacks in recent days.  Coupled with continuing problems in the Nigerian government, this resurgence in violence suggests the optimism of the past few months may have been misplaced.

Boko Haram’s violence seemed nearly unstoppable early this year, with a weak Nigerian military incapable of slowing their attacks.  Yet in five weeks Nigeria made more progress than they had in years, reclaiming 17 of 20 local government areas that had been controlled by Boko Haram with the help of Chad, Niger, and controversial South African mercenaries.  The election of Muhammadu Buhari, an experienced general whose campaign focused on defeating Boko Haram, also offered promise after years of government neglect of the threat posed by Boko Haram. Boko Haram’s violence decreased each month from January to May, and there were signs that differing views towards ISIS may have been causing a split in the organization.

However, it has not all been smooth sailing for Buhari, especially since Boko Haram’s increase in violence.  He came into office with a nearly bankrupt country and the low price of oil causing a huge hit to the government treasury.  The budget shortfall left the government struggling to pay salaries of civil servants and the military.  Further evidence also emerged that the Nigerian military had committed extensive human rights abuses against civilians in their fight against Boko Haram.  Buhari did take a positive step by moving the military’s command center to Maiduguri, close to Boko Haram’s insurgency.  The U.S. has also agreed to increase military aid to Nigeria, having withheld aid in the past due to the Nigerian army’s history of human rights abuses.  Yet Buhari’s administration remains extremely empty, as he has struggled to fill cabinet positions and recently fired the heads of the army, navy, and air force.  Whether Buhari’s government will be able to fight Boko Haram in these circumstances remains to be seen.  Even if the government has a strong and coordinated response, it will take many years to address the marginalization of Nigeria’s northeast that gives rise to Boko Haram.

Throughout the decline in Boko Haram violence this year, it was unclear whether Boko Haram was struggling to survive or laying low while preparing for renewed attacks.  While there may be some truth to the former, Boko Haram’s recent attacks suggest the latter.  Boko Haram has launched suicide bombings and attacks by gunmen often multiple times a day.  They have also expanded the range of their attacks, attacking not only their normal targets in the northeast, but also Kano, Jos, and even the Chadian capital N’Djamena.  However, while these attacks still are extremely deadly, they do not necessarily mean Boko Haram is returning to its past strength.  Boko Haram’s recent resurgence has focused almost entirely on terrorist attacks rather than re-gaining territory. The geographical expansion of their attacks, too, may suggest that Boko Haram is focusing on spreading terror in recognition that it is not strong enough to win in traditional battles.


While Boko Haram has generally targeted areas around Maiduguri, recently they have attacked Kano, Jos, and Chad’s capital.

Relative to their violence earlier this year, Boko Haram’s recent resurgence remains small.  Yet reports still emerge of Boko Haram attacks killing three, eleven, twenty-five, or forty with such regularity that the shocking becomes mundane.  The lowest monthly violent death toll of 2015, May’s 767, is still more than almost any conflict in the world.  Although the situation is brighter than it has been in the past, it is still very, very bleak.

Tim Hirschel-Burns is a rising junior at Swarthmore College. You can follow him on Twitter @TimH_B

Education Update Week 7/13


The National League for Democracy (NLD) has confirmed it will contest the upcoming elections despite their leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, remaining banned from becoming President.  Suu Kyi said they have a plan to deal with the problem, and the NLD has said it will select an NLD member to run for President.  Majority leader of the US Senate Mitch McConnell has criticized Burma’s government for keeping the Constitutional provision barring Suu Kyi from becoming President, and has said that Burma should not receive trade benefits until after the election.

Religious freedom in Burma may take a blow if the President signs a bill on interfaith marriage into law.  Parliament passed a bill that would require Buddhist women to get approval from local authorities to marry a man of another faith.  The bill is strongly back by the Buddhist nationalist organization Ma Ba Tha.  In Rakhine State, few Rohingya have taken the new green cards on offer by the Burmese government, as they must identify themselves as Bengali in order to get the card.  Only 1,600 Rohingya have applied for green cards, which replace the 400,000 white cards that the government revoked earlier this year.

Rebels from the Democratic Karen Benevolence Army (DKBA) continues to fight the Burmese military in a battle over the Asia Highway in Karen State.  At least four DKBA soldiers and seven Burmese army soldiers have been killed in the clashes.  There was also shelling in Shan State, where fighting between the Kachin Independence Army and the Burmese Army killed one person and hundreds of civilians were forced to flee.

Central African Republic (CAR)

The Central African transition government has controversially decided to exclude refugees from the upcoming election.  More than 460,000 people who fled to neighboring countries will be unable to vote.  As refugees are disproportionately Muslim, Muslims will have less influence in the election.  Various UN agencies have expressed their concern about the decision.

French Foreign Affairs Minister Laurent Fabius visited CAR this week.  His visit was designed to show support for transitional President Catherine Samba-Panza and an eight million euro budgetary aid agreement, much of which will go to support the upcoming elections.  However, it also drew a great deal of attention to the alleged child sexual abuse committed by French peacekeepers in CAR.

MINUSCA, the UN peacekeeping force in the Central African Republic, will receive 750 new troops after the Republic of the Congo sent the soldiers to replace soldiers that had served for over a year.  However, in an unrelated situation, 20 peacekeepers will be sent home for excessive use of force in an incident that killed two people.

In Bangui, unidentified gunmen attacked Central African police, wounding two officers.  The attack came several days after unidentified gunmen attacked the state radio station.

Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC)

The DRC is stepping up the process of decoupage, which will separate the country’s 11 provinces into 26 provinces.  Nine new provinces were implemented in the last week.  The DRC’s government has announced that gubernatorial elections for the new provinces will take place between July 27th and 31st.

Six people were abducted in Orientale Province in an attack believed to be committed by the LRA.  Also, in Walikale territory in North Kivu, the APCLS kidnapped ten people.  In response to this type of attack, citizens in Walikale have organized self-defense militias, citing lack of protection from police and military.  In Ituri, the Ituri Patriotic Resistance Force attacked a camp for displaced people.  One rebel leader seems unlikely to lead further attacks.  Jamil Mukulu of the Ugandan Islamist group Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) was extradited to Uganda from Tanzania to face trial.


The European Union has pressured the Congolese government to release two civil society activists who have been held since their arrest in March.  Government spokesman Lambert Mende rejected the EU’s recommendation as meddling in the internal affairs of a sovereign country.

South Sudan

The South Sudanese government has made clear its displeasure with the UN’s recent actions.  In response to the UN’s report that found the South Sudanese army guilty of human rights abuses, South Sudan has expelled one UN official and may expel another.  President Kiir also criticized the imposition of sanctions on three South Sudanese commanders.  UN secretary-General has continued his efforts, however, and called on South Sudanese leaders to find a political solution and stop the violence.  The executive director of the South Sudan Human Right Society for Advocacy has also called on President Kiir to stop the violence.

Local violence has continued at a large scale in Lakes state.  Nine people were killed in clashes between the Panyon and Dhiei clans.  Then, 27 people were killed in a raid on Pappul cattle camp, including a number of civilians.

The rising price of water is putting more people at risk of cholera as people will have less access to clean water.  Since June, there have been 790 cases of cholera and 33 people have died in the cholera outbreak that originated in a displaced person’s camp in Juba.


Hassan al-Turabi, leader of the Popular Congress Party (PCP), said that he was confident that Sudan’s Islamists would reunite within the next year.  It seems unlikely Sudan’s Islamists all agree, but Turabi did meet with President Omar al-Bashir this week.  The two had considered the other an enemy since Turabi split from the National Congress Party in 1999 to form the PCP, but relations between the two have thawed in the last year.

Opposition parties in the national dialogue have held talks with opposition parties that have not yet joined the dialogue in an attempt to convince them to join.  However, talks between the Sudanese government and the SPLM-N are not going well, and the Sudanese government has accused the SPLM-N of having unrealistic demands and being at fault for the failure of peace talks.

President Omar al-Bashir visited Saudi Arabia to discuss building closer ties between the countries with the Saudi King.  This marks a shift in Sudan’s alliances after Sudan distanced itself from Iran earlier this year.  President al-Bashir also completed the umrah while on the trip.

Twelve Sudanese women in Khartoum faced 40 lashes after they were arrested for wearing trousers.  The women were Christian and originally from the Nuba Mountains, and while three were not sentenced to flogging, the possibility remains for the nine other women.


ISIS and the Syrian military engaged in heavy fighting around the city of Palmyra.  Syrian forces closed in on the city and killed over 30 ISIS fighters, but ISIS then captured over 100 Syrian soldiers in an ambush.  The Assad regime did have a victory in Zabadani, where Hezbollah and Syrian army forces took the main entrance to the city, which is close to the border to Lebanon.

The US has continued launching heavy airstrikes against ISIS, with 16 in Syria this past weekend.  Two senior leaders of ISIS were killed in the attacks.

The conflict continues to have huge costs on Syrian civilians.  In Aleppo, a drought is causing a water shortage for civilians, who also struggle to access water due to restricted movement caused by fighting and attacks on water sources.  Meanwhile, in response to the shortage of funds for Syrian refugees, Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai has called world leaders “quite stingy.”

Emerging Conflicts: Burundi

Burundi remains on the brink as controversy over President Pierre Nkurunziza’s run for a third term continues.  Nkurunziza decided to run despite strong opposition and doubts over the constitutionality of his decision.  In light of the ongoing unrest, presidential elections have been pushed back from their originally scheduled date of July 15th to July 21st.  Parliamentary elections recently took place and were won by Nkurunziza’s CNDD-FDD party, but the elections were marred by an opposition boycott and strong doubts over their legitimacy.  Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni has been called in to mediate between the CNDD-FDD and the opposition.

There also seems to have been an upsurge in violence.  Burundi’s military announced that it had killed 31 opposition rebels and captured 170 in the country’s north.  The exact allegiances and identity of the rebels remains unconfirmed.  There have also been a number of grenade attacks in the capital city, Bujumbura.  However, there may be hope in the disarmament of the CNDD-FDD’s youth wing, the Imbonerakure.  The group has long been considered a dangerous potential source of violence, but Ugandan President Museveni said that they had been disarmed.  This would be welcome news, but it does confirm that the Imbonerakure were armed and doubts remain about the extent of their disarmament.

Education Update 7/6


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.

South Sudan

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.

The ruling National Congress Party has said that it met with unnamed opposition parties in an attempt to convince them to participate in the national dialogue.  However, rebels in the SPLM

-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.