Weekly News Brief, October 30 - November 6

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A roundup of the most important news events of the week in Sudan, Burma, and Congo, and other areas of concern...
 
 
Areas of Concern
 
Darfur
 

·         The New Republic called for the resignation of Special Envoy Scott Gration in an editorial published this week.

·         The African Union officially released the recommendations of the African Union Panel on Darfur. The recommendations for the report can be found here.

·         Turkey defended its decision to allow President al-Bashir to attend the Organization of the Islamic Conference meeting in Istanbul next Monday, citing that it has not signed the ICC’s Rome Statute.

·         JEM claimed that a Sudanese Army Battalion had defected to the rebels earlier this week, adding 214 soldiers to JEM forces.

 
Democratic Republic of Congo
 

·         Human Rights Watch has documented at least 270 civilian deaths in four massacres perpetrated by the FARDC in the eastern Congo since March. HRW believes that more than 505 civilians were deliberately killed by the FARDC since anti-FDLR operations began in January.

·         In response to FARDC abuses, MONUC suspended support for the FARDC’s 213th Brigade for its actions at Lukweti, which killed 62 civilians earlier this year.

·         Undersecretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Alain Le Roy called for an investigation into FARDC attacks on civilians.

 
Burma
 

·         The Burma Environmental Working Group released a report on how government development projects primarily benefit the military while causing environmental degradation and the destruction of livelihoods in ethnic areas.

·         The New York Times details the challenges that could emerge from fighting between the government and the United Wa State Army, including the increased militarization in ethnic areas of Burma and an increase in cross-border drug trade.

·         Senior US officials visiting Burma called for renewed emphasis on political dialogue, the revision of the 2008 Burmese Constitution, and said that the U.S. is prepared to improve bilateral relations with Burma.  However, both envoys said that the process will be slow and that their visit was primarily intended as an exploratory mission to explain the government’s new Burma policy.

Afghanistan

·         UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called for greater security for UN personnel in Afghanistan after a Taliban attack last Wednesday killed 5 UN staff and wounded another nine. On Thursday the UN announced plans to temporarily relocate 600 foreign staff members while it conducts a review of security across the country.

·         Abdullah Abdallah withdrew from the Afghan presidential run-off elections scheduled for this weekend, paving the way for Hamid Karzai to be declared the official winner.  Abdullah denounced the new government as illegal on Wednesday.

·         Members of the White House staff have hinted that President Obama is close to making a decision on whether to increase troops in Afghanistan.

Iraq

·         U.S. forces in Iraq expect more large-scale attacks – like the two bombings last week – across the country in the coming weeks as Iraqis prepare to vote in January parliamentary election. Iraqi authorities have yet to agree on election law for January, raising concerns about the fate of the election.

·         Four bombs – in a bicycle, a bus and roadside – killed at least 8 Iraqis and injured dozens others across the country on Sunday.

Pakistan

·         President Clinton encountered firm civilian criticism of U.S. drone missile attacks on Pakistani soil during her three-day visit to the country. Some citizens likened the attacks, which have killed hundreds of civilians as well as Al Qaeda and Taliban militants, to terrorism.

·         A suicide bomber killed 35 people outside a bank near Pakistan’s military headquarters in Rawalpindi on Monday. Late Monday night, two suicide bombers attacked a security checkpoint at the entrance to Lahore, wounding seven. 

·         The UN suspended long-term development work in northwest Pakistan, reducing its staff there and confining its work to emergency, humanitarian relief.

Somalia

·         At least 36 people were killed and 175 wounded in waves of violence across Somalia last weekend, as clashes erupted between government troops and rebels and between rebel groups themselves. Fresh fighting between government troops and Hizbul Islam insurgents also broke out in Beledwayn on Wednesday.

·         Meanwhile, Al-Shabaab has tightened its grip over southern provinces, imposing harsh restrictions based on Sharia law. Reports indicate the group has closed women’s organizations to stop women from going to work and is publicly beating women who do not comply with Sharia regulations.

·         Two Somali gunmen who attempted to hijack an airplane flying to Djibouti on Monday were foiled by the plane’s crew and passengers.

Sri Lanka

·        Sri Lankan President Rajapaksa has ordered an investigation into death threats sent to newspaper editors critical of the government. The Sri Lankan government has previously arrested journalists critical of the government under charges of terrorism.

·        Some of the 78 Sri Lankan asylum seekers on a boat moored off the coast of Indonesia for the past two weeks and seeking access to Australia have threatened to commit suicide if forced to return to Indonesia, where they lived for five years before sailing out for Australia. Three other asylum seekers drowned when their boat capsized as they tried to sail directly from Sri Lanka to Australia.

·        Sri Lanka’s army chief visited the U.S. this week but managed to evade an interview with the Department of Homeland Security on possible war crimes committed by Sri Lankan troops during the country’s civil war against Tamil separatists.

 
Around the World
Guinea
 

·         The Guinean junta has reportedly imported $45 million in light weapons over the last few weeks, reportedly with the help of South African mercenaries.

 
South Sudan
 

·         Eight people were killed during fighting in Upper Nile state, near the village of Nagdyar. The fighting was reportedly between Shilluk and Dinka gunmen who have fought in the past.

·         Sudanese Foreign Minister Deng Alor was quoted as saying that South Sudan overwhelmingly wants independence with the 2011 referendum vote.

 

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