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17 July 2015
News from HART:
- On Monday, 13th July, Baroness Cox has received answers to her Parliamentary Written Questions regarding recent developments in Sudan. Read the questions and responses here.
- There is new a blog post online discussing Uganda’s proposed NGO Bill and potential consequences. Read the full article here or check it out on our brand-new Medium page!
- Burmese women’s rights activist Naw Ohn Hla has had a 6-month jail term with hard labour added to her existing 4 year jail sentence for taking part in protests against the Letpadaung mine. The mine is notorious for the human rights abuses that have taken place there.
- Burma’s main opposition party, the NLD, has confirmed that it will participate in the November general elections.
- There have been claims and speculation that the current Burmese President, Thein Sein, would not be standing for election for a second term. However, the President’s office says that whether or not he will stand will depend on the country’s political situation and his level of support.
- A member of the ruling USDP party and Speaker of the Lower House in Burma’s Parliament has said that constitutional reform is necessary to end conflict in the country and ensure real democracy.
- Over 2,000 workers have taken part in demonstrations for a higher minimum wage. The national minimum wage was set last week at 3,600 Kyat ($3.18US) per day. In a national controversy, factory owners say this rate is already too high. Some factory owners have said that the introduction of the minimum wage would force them to close their operations, but their arguments have been rejected by international labour watchdogs.
- UNHCR (United Nations High Commission on Refugees) officials have been prevented from meeting Rohingya Muslims in Rakhine State. Burmese authorities said that the Rohingya elders who had been nominated to meet the UNHCR delegates were not representative of the wider Rohingya people, but activists believe the Burmese Government is seeking to control how the Rohingya are perceived.
- The Karen Women’s Organisation (KWO) has released a briefing documenting severe and continued human rights abuses by the Burmese Army in Karen State, including indiscriminate attacks against civilians, torture, and the use of forced labour.
- There has been more fighting in Shan State, where shelling by the Burmese Army in a confrontation with ethnic rebels, the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) , killed one civilian and caused over 100 to flee their homes.
- There are signs of progress in the attempts to arrange a “Framework for Political Dialogue” to be followed by the Government and ethnic rebels after a national ceasefire agreement, as negotiators say the draft framework is almost complete. A national ceasefire agreement has, however, not yet been signed.
- The CEO of the Eleven Media Group, which recently saw 22 of its journalists face charges after investigation Government corruption, was attacked in what appears to be an organised assault.
- Rajasthan’s High Court has issued notices to the State Government calling for action to be taken to curb atrocities against Dalits.
- Azerbaijan has ordered the OSCE (Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe) to close its offices in the Azeri capital, Baku. The OSCE is involved in monitoring the “frozen conflict” on the border between Nagorno-Karabakh and Azerbaijan and in negotiating a resolution to the conflict. Azerbaijan’s expulsion of the OSCE from Baku has been seen as part of an increasingly militant stance by the Azeri regime that could threaten any peace negotiations.
- The Co-Chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group, which is overseeing the peace negotiations, are expected to visit the region next week.
- The American Co-Chair of the Minsk Group, James Warlick, has stated that Azerbaijani territories occupied by Armenia must be returned to Azerbaijan as part of a peace settlement over Nagono-Karabakh, but added that factors other than return of territories would be involved in any peace deal and so a comprehensive strategy was necessary. A spokesperson for the President of Nagorno-Karabakh responded by stating that the reasons for the conflict, rather than its consequences, must be dealt with, and that the return of the territories is impossible as long as there is no political decision on the status of Nagorno-Karabakh.
- Eric Rubin, an official from the US State Department, has re-emphasised that there can be no military solution to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.
- Following last week’s visit to the UK and talk of greater engagement between the UK and Nagorno-Karabakh, the President of Nagorno-Karabakh has this week received a delegation from the Armenian Assembly of America to discuss greater ties between his country and supporters in the USA.
- On Monday this week, President Buhari officially replaced the country’s leading military officials (heads of army, navy and air force). According to government insiders, the past inability of the military to crush Boko Haram forced Buhari to make amendments. The new army chief (as well as the recently appointed National Security Advisor) is from Borno State, which has been the most devastated by the Islamist insurgency. Buhari’s decision confirms his strong commitment to defeat the Islamist militia. In Early June, the Boko Haram military operations headquarter was moved from Abuja to Maiduguri.
- Citizens of Maiduguri, the birthplace of Boko Haram, face heavy restrictions to celebrate the end of Ramadan, Eid al-Fitr. Due to the upsurge in attacks around market places and village centres, “security forces have imposed a curfew and movement is restricted”, according to a local. This not only hinders citizens to celebrate with friends and family, but also severely aggravates access to local food markets.
- Suicide attacks on behalf of Boko Haram continue to occur on a daily basis and no longer remain within Nigerian territory but have spilled over to neighbouring Chad, Niger and Cameroon. Increasingly, attackers hide under female Islamic head-to-toe garb. Following a deadly attack in northern Cameroon, leaving at least 13 people dead, the governor of the Far North region banned burqas earlier this week. Cameroon is the second country to enforce the veil ban, as Chad outlawed the Islamic veil last month.
- Leading members of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) has stated optimism at the prospect of securing a peace agreement at the next round of talks with Riek Machar’s rebels. The foreign affairs and international cooperation minister, Barnaba Benjamin, stated that peace would return to the country if the opposition showed the same ‘commitment to and willingness for peace and compromise, as the government has demonstrated’.
- The UN Security Council has recently agreed to extend the mandate of the organisation’s interim peace keeping force in Abyei, an oil rich region contested between Sudan and South Sudan, through to December 2015, as part of ongoing efforts to resolve conflicts in both countries.
- Although the country is currently ravaged by civil war, South Sudan is hoping to receive official recognition from the International Olympic Committee (IOC), that would allow the country to compete at the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro next year. Some have stated hope that this important moment in the nation’s history may help secure a peace agreement between the government and opposition, and finally bring an end to the conflict.
- The European Commission has announced an additional 4 million euros of humanitarian aid to Sudan, bringing the total assistance for 2015 to 32 million euros. This boost of funding has been influenced, not only by the continuing conflicts in Darfur, South Kordofan and Blue Nile, in which 4 million people are in need of aid, but also by the increase in refugees fleeing the conflict in South Sudan whom have taken refuge in Sudan.
- A judge in Khartoum has pronounced a guilty verdict for 9 women who were seen by the so-called ‘morality police’ wearing trousers outside a church in country’s capital. The group face 40 lashes as a punishment, a move that rights groups are hailing as more evidence of increased persecution and marginalisation of the Christian population in Sudan. This incident is in the wake of the two Christian pastors who face the death penalty, and a woman last year who narrowly avoided execution for apostasy.
- Recent reporting has highlighted the worsening humanitarian situation in Blue Nile state, with the Koma Ganza community in southern Blue Nile is suffering from severe hunger and malnutrition. According to the South Kordofan and Blue Nile Coordination Unit, there were 17 reported deaths at the end of June within the community, due to starvation and malnutrition, although some were as a result of diarrhoea caused by eating wild roots and tree leaves.
- Earlier this week, Yoweri Museveni travelled to Burundi, where violent protests against incumbent President Pierre Nkurunziza (he decided to run for a third term in upcoming elections, which, according to the opposition, is violating Burundi’s constitution) have escalated. Museveni has been appointed as a mediator for the political crisis in Burundi, despite being heavily critiqued in his own country for planning to run for Presidency in the next year’s elections. The debate on presidential term limits and increasing totalitarism has spilled all across the Great Lakes region, as the Rwandan parliament recently announced incumbent President Paul Kagame is allowed to run for presidency for a third term.
- On Wednesday, 15th July, International Business Times reported that Museveni “has begun the formalities necessary to run for re-election” next spring. His spokesperson confirmed Museveni’s fees payment of 20 million Shillings (equivalent to approximately $6000) to file for nomination as the NRM (National Resistance Movement’s) candidate for presidential elections.