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➢ Britain’s newly appointed international development minister said on 25th August that the United Kingdom will increase its development aid to Burma by more than a third in the next fiscal year.
➢ Activists in Burma began a signature campaign on 26th August to record public opposition to an electoral system based on proportional representation (PR) which some parties, including the ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party, are pushing to implement ahead of nationwide elections next year.
➢ Unusually heavy rains and flooding this year prevented some farm workers in the Irrawaddy Delta from planting at the opportune time – three months ago. They have been forced to wait for floodwaters to subside and many have only recently begun to plant at a time that generally marks the end of the rice growing season.
➢ Human Rights Watch (HRW) has released a 96-page report documenting the coercive nature of manual scavenging in India. Across the country castes work as “manual scavengers” by collecting human excrement and carrying it away in cane baskets for disposal. The report describes the barriers people face in leaving manual scavenging.
➢ To learn about India’s ‘Education and Caste System Today’ please read guest blogger Shona Buchanan’s report.
➢ 40 ceasefire violations by the Azerbaijan side were reported on 26th August, the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic (NKR) Defence Ministry reports. Over 400 shots were fired against Armenian defence guards from guns of different calibres.
➢ British journalist and Caucasus expert Thomas de Waal has expressed his belief that the current tension in the region is related to some external factors and that the situation in Ukraine has diverted the attention of the world powers. He explains that Azerbaijan is getting more angry because of the ineffectiveness of the Minsk process, while tension between Russia and the West makes cooperation within the Minsk Group more complicated.
➢ The Californian Senate has recognised Karabakh’s independence in a resolution passed on 28th August by an overwhelming majority. This is an important step in the on-going Armenian efforts to achieve international recognition of Karabakh’s sovereignty. The document formally calls on the President and Congress of the United States to support the self-determination and democratic independence of the NKR.
➢ To learn more please read intern Kathryn McDonagh’s blog: ‘Conflict continues in Nagorno-Karabakh as violence disrupts the Armenian-Azerbaijani ceasefire line’.
➢ All schools in Nigeria have been ordered to remain shut until 13th October due to the recent Ebola outbreak in Western Africa. While the schools are closed, staff will be trained on how to handle suspected Ebola cases. Ebola spread to Nigeria in July, and has since killed five people in the country.
➢ On 25th August Boko Haram’s leader Abubakar Shekau declared Gwoza, a town in Borno State, an “Islamic caliphate”. In a 52 minute speech Shekau announced that: “We don’t believe in the name Nigeria. We are in Islamic caliphate. We have nothing to do with Nigeria.”
➢ Ryan Cummings, head Africa analyst at risk analysis firm Red24, argues that we shouldn’t read too much into what is essentially a propaganda tool. “There’s no need to be any more concerned than what we already should be regarding the insurgency,” he said. “Shekau’s claims of establishing a caliphate in the north east is extremely premature.”
➢ To learn more please read intern Hannah Todd’s blog: ‘Northern Nigeria and the prospect of an Islamic state’.
➢ On 26th August UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon acknowledged the signing of an Implementation Matrix for the 23rd January 2014 Cessation of Hostilities Agreement between the two warring parties. He also called on both parties to immediately implement the agreement and uphold their commitment to establishing a Transitional Government of National Unity (this will initiate a constitution-making process based on federalism).
➢ Uganda and Ethiopia have outlines the form that the next round of South Sudanese peace talks will take. They state that IGAD will be able to mediate with or without all parties present and that those who delay will be excluded from future governments. Furthermore, non-armed stakeholders must be included in the negotiations.
➢ Three crew members have died in a UN-contracted helicopter crash 10 kilometres south of Unity State’s capital, Bentiu. The Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) has begun an investigation into the crash amid rebel claims and denials that they shot the helicopter down. However, on 28th August the acting UNMISS Chief, Toby Lanzer, said that the UN is treating the helicopter crash as the result of a hostile attack.
➢ Tens of thousands of people under UN protection in Bentiu are being affected by the suspension of aid flights in the wake of the helicopter crash.
➢ Ma’alia tribesmen in Khartoum have handed a petition to president Omar al Bashir requesting urgent intervention to stop what they termed “ethnic cleansing” in East Darfur state.
➢ Representatives of the governments of Sudan and South Sudan have approved an operational plan that will open a humanitarian corridor between the two countries. This plan was prepared by the UN World Food Programme (WFP) and will allow South Sudan to deliver close to 63,000 metric tonnes of life-saving food assistance to 744,000 people in the northern parts of South Sudan who have been affected by conflict in the country.
➢ Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N) has reported that government forces have recruited more than 3,000 young men in the Nuba Mountains, South Kordofan.
➢ Sudan and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) have signed a new agreement setting out the Red Cross’s “legal and diplomatic status in Sudan”, according to a statement released by the humanitarian organisation on 28th August. This replaces an older agreement dated 1984.
➢ Freedom campaigners, civil rights activists and journalists in Timor-Leste are gearing up for a renewed struggle to try to block a controversial media law that has been branded by opponents as “draconian”. The International Federation of Journalists is launching a global petition against it.
➢ In two articles this week commentators have argued that Timor-Leste is not a failing state. In a piece for Foreign Affairs Agio Pereira notes that the 12 year old country has a stable, democratically elected government, and is in the process of economic development. In the Banyan Opinion column of the Economist the author argues that although the roads are treacherous and the country is still abjectly poor, Timor-Leste has not failed yet.
➢ A recent report by South Africa’s Commission for the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Communities calculated that in the Eastern Cape and Limpopo provinces of Uganda alone at least 419 boys have died since 2008 and more than 456,000 have been hospitalised with complications from circumcisions without anesthetic.
➢ Police have said it was implementing a High Court order when it evicted over 300 residents of Hoima district, Bugambe Sub-Country, on 26th August. The land has been disputed for two decades. The police demolished and burnt down the residents’ houses in order to force them away.
➢ Activists are adamant that Uganda will not achieve an ‘AIDS-free generation’ now that a backwards HIV and Aids Bill criminalising the ‘wilful and intentional’ transmission of the disease has been signed into law by the Ugandan Government.
➢ The inspector general of government (IGG) Irene Mulyagonja has turned down a proposal to investigate and explore the ‘most corrupt tribes’. ‘Such an investigation would be illegal and unconstitutional and against the bill of rights. We cannot engage in such a study,’ – Mulyagonja says.