Weekly News Round Up (1/9/14)

5 September 2014

Welcome to our weekly news monitor.



➢ The first census in three decades puts Myanmar’s population at just 52.4 million. They lost 9 million people overnight – the previous census having recorded a population of 60 million.

➢ Fresh fighting in Shan state, north-east Myanmar, erupted over the weekend between the military and militia force. This has forced thousands to flee to the neighbouring Chinese town of Nansan. Myanmar groups in exile said the fighting began after the Myanmar military took control of facilities run by the Kokang Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army in Laogai (MNDAA). The MNDAA had observed a ceasefire with the Myanmar government since 1989.

➢ British activist Andy Hall is on trial for defamation charges following his reports that exposed poor labour conditions of Burmese migrants working in the Thai company Natural Fruit. His allegations include violence against employees, forced overtime, the use of underage labour, and the confiscation of passports of its Burmese migrant workforce.

➢ To learn please read guest blogger Shona Buchanan’s article which discusses whether travelling to Burma is a ‘moral minefield’.



➢  Al-Qaeda leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri, has declared a new front in India for jihad in the subcontinent. The announcement was made in a 55-minute video posted online on 3rd September in which he would “raise the flag of jihad” across the subcontinent.

➢  An Indian court has told the right-wing Indian government to unblock transfers into Greenpeace India’s account. The move came after an intelligence report accused activist groups of damaging Asia’s third largest economy. Greenpeace has since insisted that it is transparent and acts in accordance with law.



➢ On 2nd September Nagorno-Karabakh celebrated its 23rd anniversary of independence. Various events took place in the region including official receptions and awards ceremonies. President Serege Sarkisian said ‘The war imposed on us and the frequent provocations along the borders are nothing compared to the powerful spirit that has been guiding the people of Artsakh and Armenians all over the world.’

➢ The Armenian National Committee of Australia met with representatives of the Russian Federation and the French Republic this week to discuss the on-going conflict in the region of Nagorno-Karabakh. The committee aims to work towards achieving a permanent peace agreement between Armenia and Azerbaijan.

➢ Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan says that Turkey will continue to support Azerbaijan in the dispute with Armenia over the territory of Nagorno-Karabakh. According to Erdogan, ‘Azerbaijan’s rights have to be taken into consideration’ in finding a resolution to the conflict. He also added that ‘if the conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia is resolved, then the problems between Turkey and Armenia will also be resolved.’



➢  On 2nd September Boko Haram seized the key north-eastern town of Bama, Borno State. Bodies remain littered on the streets of the town days after it was seized.

➢  On 3rd September the Borno State government and local vigilante groups said that Bama remains under government control after an assault by Boko Haram. This contradicts earlier reports that the Islamist group had seized the town the day before.

➢  The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has reported that thousands of people have fled into Cameroon to seek refuge from recent attacks by Boko Haram in north-east Nigeria. Local authorities say that in the last 10 days, at least 9,000 people have arrived in Cameroon’s Far North Region and more than 2,000 have sought refuge in Lake Chad islands belonging to Niger.

➢  To learn more please read intern Hannah Todd’s blog: ‘Northern Nigeria and the prospect of an Islamic state’.


South Sudan

➢  Africa Speaks, a pan-African youth organisation has urged IGAD to focus on the interests of the people of South Sudan in peace talks rather than those of the country’s warring leaders. This comes as internally displaced people (IDPs) residing at a UN camp in Juba call on the international community to support the formation of a new government without president Salva Kiir or rebel leader Riek Machar.

➢  Aid workers and community leaders have expressed concern that there are increasing reports of abortions in the UN ‘Protection of Civilians’ sites in South Sudan. Rape is one cause of this. The UN Organisation for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) has expressed “growing concern” after several fetuses were found in the camps.

➢  The new Special Representative of the UN Secretary General (SRSG) and head of the UN Mission in South Sudan, Ellen Margrethe Løj, arrived in Juba on 2nd September to take up her duties. Løj emphasised civilian protection and national ownership of the peace process in an interview on Radio Miraya.

➢  More than 30 organisations, including HART, have called for an immediate arms embargo on South Sudan. Read the press release and download the petition here.



➢  Reports that Sudan has closed Iranian cultural centres and expelled the cultural attache and other diplomats have been dismissed by Iran. It is suspected that the alleged expulsion was motivated by the threat posed by the spread of Shia ideology in a majority-Sunni country.

➢  A large number of citizens in East Darfur took to the streets on 31st August to demonstrate against the formation of the new East Darfur State government. Protesters demanded the abolition of East Darfur State and said that the areas inhabited by the Ma’alia tribesmen should be incorporated into North Darfur. The situation remains tense.

➢  Author Eric Reeves reports that the UN refuses to release dates and reports on Global Acute Malnutrition (GAM) in Darfur which is perhaps the single most important measure in assessing food insecurity. Reeves notes: “This refusal is of longstanding and reflects the UN’s deference to Khartoum’s demand that publication, even internal promulgation, not occur.”



➢  Photos uncovered reveal that ex-militia leader Jorge Tavares – wanted for crimes against humanity for his subjugation of independence activists in the 1990s – returned to Timor-Leste last month undetected for a holiday.

➢  The Asia-Pacific office of the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) has launched a global petition protesting against a controversial ‘press law’ passed by Parliament but partially rejected by the Appeal Court as “unconstitutional”.



➢ 122 babies have died in 30 health centres across the district of Lira between May 2013 to March of this year as a result of absenteeism of medical workers and non-functional theatres.

➢ 150 suspects at Nakawa High Court plead guilty under a new justice initiative. The plea bargain programme was designed by the judiciary and DPP as a means of reducing the case backlog and delays in the country.

➢ The Commission of Petroleum Exploration and Production Department has revealed an increase in the estimate of Uganda’s oil resources. The figure has increased from 3.5 to 6.5 billion barrels.

➢  The global Future Cities Forum will be hosted by Kampala Capital City Authority next month. This is the first time the forum is held on the African continent and various topics will be discussed such as sanitation and water resources, renewable energy and powering cities.

➢ Police in Kampala on Thursday fired live bullets and tear gas to disperse traders following a disruption surrounding the arrest of a motor spare parts trader.


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