July 24th, 2015
Weekly News Round Up (24/07/15)
News from HART
- Following the recent visit of the President of Nagorno-Karabakh to the UK, a new blog piece explores the implications of Nagorno-Karabakh’s elections earlier this year, including the ironies of the international response.
- The deadline for applications for the next round of HART’s internship programme is midnight TONIGHT. Find out more here.
- Over 1,000 civilians were displaced by Burmese Army airstrikes within one week in Kachin State, as fighting continued between Government forces and ethnic rebels. The Army has reportedly blocked aid from reaching the displaced civilians.
- As negotiators from the Government and ethnic groups met for the eighth round of peace talks in 18 months, there have been reports that the Burmese Government aims to sign a Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement with ethnic rebels by 8th This date is also the deadline for candidacy in the November elections.
- However, the commander-in-chief of the Army, Min Aung Hlaing, has told the BBC that it could take 5 or 10 years before ceasefires have been agreed with all of Burma’s ethnic armed groups. He also stated that the military would continue to have a role in the government of the country until ceasefires were sealed.
- The Government has announced that it has plans to create a Ministry for Ethnic Affairs, in a country where over 30% of the population are estimated to be from ethnic minorities.
- Concerns have been raised over a draft new broadcasting law that media groups and watchdogs say could see increased Government control of news outlets. The law is being debated at the same time as 2 journalists were fined for defaming the President after publishing a critical interview.
- Young people of different backgrounds across Burma have been taking selfies as part of the #MyFriend campaign to counter ethnic discrimination. Using social media, the campaign aims to show that people of different ethnic and religious communities in Burma can be – and are – friends, building hope for the future.
- A coalition of indigenous people’s rights groups are planning to make a submission to the UN’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of Burma’s human rights record. Among the most pressing issues they plan to raise are is the Burmese Government’s policy of allowing or being complicit in land-grabs, often linked to large-scale economic developments.
- Villagers have expressed anxiety at the continuing trend of abuses carried out by Burmese Army troops after the rape and murder of a 28-year-old woman in Shan state. Although a soldier was tried for the crime, local groups have highlighted the fact that the Army remains exempt from civilian control and often commit crimes with impunity.
- The Russian Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov, has said that Russia will intensify its efforts in negotiating an end to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. The comments came as Russian, French and US mediators from the OSCE (Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe) Minsk Groups prepared to visit the region.
- Following their tour of the region, the Minsk Group officials said they believed the presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan would meet later this year, welcoming both sides’ readiness to cooperate with peace talks.
- The President of the European Council, Donald Tusk, has also said that “the peaceful resolution of the conflict remains a priority for the European Union” and that the EU will continue to support high-level talks between Azerbaijan and Armenia.
- The US Co-Chair of the OSCE (Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe) Minsk Group, which is overseeing the peace negotiations, has said that the “free expression of the will” of the people of Nagorno-Karabkh is essential to any peace settlement. He also stressed again that a comprehensive agreement between Armenia and Azerbaijan would be needed if a deal were to have any effect.
- This week, President Buhari undertook a four-day visit to the United States. On the top of his agenda was the growing Boko Haram insurgency, which is more violent and deadly than ever. Despite a warm welcome by President Obama, Buhari’s hope for weapons supply from the United States remains unclear, mainly because of Nigeria’s military being accused gross human rights violations (which, under the so-called Leahy Law, prohibits the United States to sell weapons to Nigeria). According to Buhari, “The application of the Leahy law … has aided and abetted the Boko Haram terrorist group in the prosecution of its extremist ideology and hate, the indiscriminate killings and maiming of civilians, in raping of women and girls, and in their other heinous crimes”.
- Buhari’s negotiations in Washington were overshadowed by a series of deadly attacks in both Nigeria and neighbouring Cameroon (in the past months, Boko Haram attacks have expanded beyond Nigerian territory). On Wednesday, 22nd July, at least 22 people were killed in a suicide attack on a busy marketplace in a border area of Cameroon. Simultaneously, bombings in the northern Nigerian city of Gombe have left at least 29 people dead, and many more injured.
- On Tuesday, Reuters reported that President Buhari will not appoint his cabinet until September this year. Buhari was inaugurated on May 29th and “needs time to root out corruption before naming his ministers”. According to Buhari, “Nigeria must first put new rules of conduct and good governance in place”. Nigeria not only suffers because of the increasing violence and brutality of the Islamist militia Boko Haram, but also because of endemic corruption and economic downturn, issues that all need to be tackled in order to restore peace and stability.
- Human Rights Watch (HRW) have released an extensive report documenting a host of human rights violations carried out by the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) and its armed affiliates against civilians in Unity State. According to HRW, the attacks, which took place in late April and early May of this year, constitute war crimes and crimes against humanity and include burning whole villages to the ground, destroying food stores, and indiscriminate killings of scores of civilians, who were hanged, shot or burned alive. In extreme cases, women were raped then burned alive their own homes.
- Peace talks are set to resume today between the South Sudanese government and the opposition, in what is expected to be the last round of negotiations for both parties to finalise an agreement. The East African regional bloc, the Intergovernmental authority on development (IGAD), has mediated throughout the conflict, but there will be an IGAD-Plus initiative at these talks, with representatives from UN, EU, China, the Troika (UK, US and Norway) and five other African countries (South Africa, Algeria, Nigeria, Chad and Rwanda).
- According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), there have been nearly 1300 new cases of cholera documented in Juba and Bor counties since the outbreak was detected back in May. Since then there have been 40 known deaths and, due to the rapidly deteriorating humanitarian situation and the onset of the rainy season, that figure is expected to rise.
- The South Sudanese Government has criticised Kenyan president Uhuru Kenyatta and his administration for inviting opposition leader Riek Machar for a visit in early July. At a press conference, Machar called for President Salva Kiir to step down from his position as his term of office was coming to an end. The South Sudanese government has accused Kenya of ‘taking sides’ in the conflict, by giving Machar a platform from which to attack the South Sudan government.
- Sudan’s new dialogue coordination body has requested that President Omar al-Bashir delay the start of the talks process until October to allow for further preparations, despite several Sudanese officials pledging that the dialogue process would resume by the end of Ramadan. The delays are due to the need to ‘create a conducive environment’ and to contact opposition forces and rebel groups and ensure their inclusion. Opposition parties such as the Popular Congress Party (PCP) have criticised the delay.
- A teacher in Khartoum has revealed the rape of eleven underage schoolgirls in one of the capital’s basic stage schools, resulting in 6 pregnancies. Rape and sexual violence is apparently rife in Khartoum’s peripheral districts where there is a distinct lack of policing, and most of the residents are persons displaced by fighting in Darfur, Blue Nile and the Nuba Mountains.
- On Monday two women were killed in Nyala, South Darfur, when a member of the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) ran them over in a four wheel drive vehicle, and then ‘carried on as if nothing had happened’ according to witnesses. The new governor of South Darfur, Adam El Faki, has stated that the RSF, Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) and other militia should ‘shoot to kill’ in order to curb insecurity in the region.
- On Tuesday two gunmen kidnapped a United Nations African Union Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) employee in Central Darfur, and took him to an unknown destination. This is the latest in a string of kidnappings and targeted attacks on aid workers, primarily carried out to obtain ransoms.
- On Tuesday, New Vision reported that Uganda and Ethiopia have signed a memorandum of understanding which aims to consolidate cooperation and support between the two countries with regards to increasing regional instability. The MoU focuses on matters of defence, peace and stability in East Africa, with a particular reference to growing violence and insecurity in South Sudan and al-Shabaab terrorism in Somalia.
- Meanwhile, Jamil Mukulu, leader of the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), who was arrested earlier this year in Tanzania, is facing charges in court of mass murder and crimes against humanity in Kampala. The ADF, officially denounced as a terrorist organisation by the United States in 2001 (and accused of being linked to both Al Qaeda and Somalia’s al Shabaab), was formed in the 1990s as Uganda’s opposition force and is now active in the DRC. According to Global Security, the ADF mainly comprises Islamists who seek to establish Sharia law in Uganda. They are accused of “looting, the forced enlistment of child soldiers and illegal trade in tropical timber”, and Mukulu is said to have killed hundreds of civilians. Journalists were not allowed to enter the courtroom during court proceedings.
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