August 7th, 2015
News Round Up (07/08/15)
Urgent – Dr Sasa’s Flood Appeal
HART has received an urgent request for help from our partner in Burma, Dr Sasa, following the devastating floods in the country. Over 330,000 people have been affected, and the death-toll, currently at 74, is expected to rise sharply. Dr Sasa and his team of health workers are acting to provide emergency relief, including food, shelter, and medicines, to people in Chin State, one of the 4 worst-affected areas – but they urgently need funds.
£20 can purchase rice to feed a family of 4 for a whole month, and funds will also go to life-saving shelter and healthcare.
- Aid from India and China has started arriving in Burma, and the UK and other countries have pledged assistance, in response to the Burmese Government’s appeal for international help following the severe flooding. The Burmese Government has declared a state of emergency. Burmese civil society organisations have criticised the Government’s response to the flooding, saying they have been slow to act and have even hindered the provision of aid.
- Seven villagers were detained by authorities after demanding that Wanbao, the company that runs the controversial Letpadaung copper mine, take responsibility for increased flooding in the area around the mine site.
- The Kachin Independence Army has accused the Burmese military of using chemical weapons in offensives in Kachin State. Meanwhile, the Government is still denying aid groups access to IDP camps in the region, where there is an urgent need for food, medicines, and shelter.
- The UN Special Rapporteur on Myanmar is visiting the country to assess the human rights situation, ahead of the November elections.
- The decision of the USA to upgrade Burma from Tier 3 to Tier 2 of its human trafficking watch-list, suggesting that it is of lesser concern, has been criticised by human rights groups who say that human trafficking in and from is still a serious problem.
- The Co-ordination Council of Armenian organisations of France (CCAF) has expressed their discontent at a memo released by the French central Government last week apparently banning French local government associations from having relations with bodies unrecognised by the central Government, including, potentially, Nagorno-Karabakh. In response, French authorities have said that the memo does not ban such ties.
- On Sunday, the Nigerian army reported that 178 people had been rescued from Boko Haram captivity in Borno state (which has been worst affected by the Islamist insurgency). According to the military’s spokesman, 101 of those who have been rescued are children and 67 of them women. In addition to the rescue operation, the army also announced that several militant camps have been cleared and a Boko Haram commander captured in Bama, close to Boko Haram’s birthplace and capital of Borno state Maiduguri.
- Earlier this week, rumours spread about the faith and current whereabouts of Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau. He did not appear in a recently released propaganda video of the Islamist Boko Haram insurgents, which is the second time in a row after he was not visible in an earlier video from June.
- On Sunday, 2nd August, at least five people have been killed in a Boko Haram attack in Madagali, Adamawa state. This attack comes shortly after refugees returned to their hometown which they had to flee from months ago due to daily attacks. On Wednesday, Nigerian news reported that 135 people have been abducted in the village of Chakamari, northern Cameroon, killing eight villagers.
- On Monday, 3rd August, US congressman Darrell Issah announced that the United States will “soon relax or completely lift the restriction on military assistance imposed on Nigeria” (these restrictions fall under the US Leahy Law, which prohibits the United States to sell weapons to countries whose armies are accused of human rights violations). US support will not only be limited to military assistance and training, but will also include post conflict reconstruction and development. In June, Amnesty International released a report documenting that Nigeria’s army has been involved in large-scale human rights violations, and called for the prosecution of senior military commanders for war crimes and possible crimes against humanity.
- According to All Africa, 12,000 Nigerians, most of them from Borno state who sought refuge in neighbouring Cameroon, have crossed the border back into Nigeria. According to the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), 650 people have been transported back to their homes in Borno state, where violence and daily attacks prevail. The report did not clarify if refugees returned to their homeland voluntarily. This comes after Cameroon expelled more than 3000 Nigerians as part of their counterinsurgency operations against Boko Haram.
- The UN continues to call for the South Sudan’s army (SPLA) to lift the blockade on relief supplies. At the same time, SPLA soldiers have been ordered by their commanders to steal food and relief supplies from civilians in Unity State. The government claims the aim of this is not only to feed the soldiers but to drive the starving population into government-held enclaves. This may be an opportunity for the government to demonstrate that it can provide for its population. It will also make it harder for rebels to obtain supplies, something that is believed to be the real reason for the new policy as well as the initial blockade.
- Peace talks between South Sudan’s warring factions resumed on Thursday, in what the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) are describing as the last round of negotiations.
- This comes after US president Barack Obama warned the two sides that the international community will be forced to devise its own plans for a peace settlement if the respective leaders were unable to conclude by the 17th August, the IGAD’s imposed deadline for the talks. Many believe that an agreement between the two sides will not be reached in time, indicating previous cease fire agreements and resolutions that have been repeatedly broken by both the government and rebels. The South Sudanese government has, after rejecting a regional plan put forward by the IGAD, also announced its intention to release its own peace plan, citing the IGAD’s proposal for an interim government, and the refusal to allow either side to put forward plans of their own, as grounds for rejecting the deal.
- The main South Sudanese opposition leader Lam Akol has been hindered from travelling to Addis Ababa to participate in the IGAD peace talks.
- South Sudanese Chinese Pastors Yat Michael and Peter Yen Reith have been acquitted of charges of crimes against the state of Sudan. Had they been convicted they may have faced the death sentence. Yat Michael was arrested in December 2014, as he held a sermon in the capital of Sudan, which is governed by Islamic law. Mr Reith was arrested while searching for his colleague. They had to serve prison sentences for disturbance of the peace and participation in a criminal organisation, respectively. They were subsequently accused of more serious offences, but have now been acquitted and freed.
- The Sudanese Congress Party has claimed that Sudan’s National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS) has raided the home of one their leading figures, Khalid Omar Yusuf, and detained him without charge.
- Amnesty International (AI) has released a report on conflict in the Nuba Mountains, officially accusing the Sudanese government of war crimes against the civilian population for the first time since the conflict began in 2011. The group has cited indiscriminate bombing of civilian targets, including schools and hospitals, and the killing of maiming of innocent people, including children, with the use of cluster bombs, as evidence of war crimes. AI has called upon the UN Security Council (UNSC) and international community to extend the arms embargo on Darfur to cover the entire country, to ensure unhindered humanitarian access to civilian populations in the region, and to pressure the government into ending the conflict and adhering to international humanitarian law. According to the report, 4 million people have been displaced in South Kordofan due to fighting.
- The reports recently issued in the west are imbalanced and contain “unjustified hostilities” towards Sudan, says the Undersecretary at the Sudanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ambassador Abdul Ghani Al Nayeem. In the future the ministry wants to cooperate with the US in the production of the annual report on religious freedom.
- It has been reported that president Omer Hassan al-Bashir will not participate in the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) meetings next month in New York.
- On Friday, 31st August, incumbent President Museveni picked up nomination forms that will allow him to stand for president in the upcoming elections in 2016. Amama Mbabazi, presidential hopeful who was arrested in early July for meeting political supporters, announced he would run as an independent. If Museveni wins the elections, it will be his 5th term in office.
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