Catch up on developments in...
Central African Republic
The Myanmar government established a specialized task force set to combat religious violence and hate speech in the country. The task force will be charged with preventing further ethnic violence, especially during racial and religious protests.
On 17 July, Aung San Suu Kyi held talks with the United Nationalities Federal Council (UNFC) on the country’s peace process in Yangon.
The Myanmar military claimed responsibility for the death of five civilians killed by soldiers on 25 June and promised to prosecute the perpetrators in a military tribunal. The investigation came as a surprise to local rights groups, who said it was very rare for the military to be held accountable for alleged abuses.
New census data revealed the Muslim population in Myanmar has decreased from 3.9 percent of the population in 1983 to just 2.3 percent today. However, the data does not account for the 1.2 million Rohingya Muslims from the Rakhine state that were forced to identify as Bengali- excluding them from the census. The controversial data was held by the government for two years due to fears that the results may inflame religious tensions. Analysts still believe the real Muslim population in Myanmar is much higher, at a level close to ten percent.
The UN Security Council may send up to 220 police forces to Burundi to monitor human rights and mitigate violence in the country. The draft proposal, created by France, has yet to be approved by the government of Burundi, which has stated that it would accept a maximum of 50 unarmed forces.
Burundi pulled out of an African Union (AU) Summit in Kigali, Rwanda after accusing the AU of failing to address Burundi’s security concerns about Rwanda. Burundi has implicated Rwanda in backing rebels fighting President Nkurunziza’s government and accused the country of complicity in last week’s assassination of MP Hafsa Mossi.
The Central African Republic has been re-admitted to the African Union (AU) following three years of suspension.
The South Korean state-run Korea Institute for National Unification (KINU) has released a new report titled “North Korea’s Tortures and Inhumane Treatment,” which brings attention to the torture and deplorable conditions that inmates face in North Korean labor camps. The report is based on surveys and interviews from North Korean defectors who had previously been subjected to such treatment while in labor camps in the country.
The African Union has announced a plan to bring all DRC political parties together for a meeting before the constitutional deadline for the next elections in order to find a solution for the political impasse in the country.
In a presidential statement late last week, the UN Security Council has expressed “deep concern” over the restrictions of political space in the DRC and the recent arrests and detainment of opposition and civil society members. The Council called for the government and other relevant parties “to refrain from violence and provocation” and iterated the Council’s support for the AU dialogue under the recently appointed facilitator, Edem Kodjo.
A senior DRC official has denied claims that the current administration has undertaken a “witch hunt” in persecuting Moise Katumbi Chapwe, an opposition leader planning to run in the next presidential elections.
Israeli authorities froze mail services to Gaza last week in light of smuggled illegal materials being sent to the Strip.
Hamas announced its plans to participate in upcoming elections set to take place in the Gaza Strip and West Bank in October. The group had boycotted the last round of local elections in 2012.
On 17 July, a Palestinian man carrying pipe bombs and a knife was arrested by Israeli police at a light-rail train station in Jerusalem. The man was also carrying improvised explosive devices (IEDs).
Fighting reportedly broke out in Mosul between members of ISIL and local residents of the Bab al-Jadid neighborhood in central Mosul. Further reports of clashes have come from Mosul’s southern neighborhood of Hammam al-Alil, with a total of five members of ISIL killed between the two incidents.
On Sunday, Shi'ite Muslim cleric Moqtada al-Sadr urged his supporters to begin targeting US troops in Iraq currently serving as part of the anti-ISIL coalition. Sadr rose to prominence in the US media for the role his Mahdi army had in leading an insurgency against US forces previously occupying Iraq.
On Tuesday, Iraqi officers alleged that several of their soldiers had been detained by Kurdish security services and subsequently tortured.
On 20 July, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi accepted the resignation of another minister in his cabinet bringing the total number of recent resignations up to six. The Prime Minister is attempting to reform his government by creating a cabinet of technocrats but has faced opposition from political parties who see these ministry positions as essential parts of a patronage system.
Kenyan authorities have charged four police officers with the murder of Willie Kimani, a human rights lawyer, Josphat Mwenda, his client, and Joseph Muiruri, their taxi driver. The government has claimed that no police death squads exist and said that “rogue officers” were to blame for any killings.
On Tuesday, Human Rights Watch released a report documenting the abuse of predominantly ethnic Somali Kenyans in the northeastern region of the country by State security forces. HRW believes that 34 people were forcibly disappeared and 11 killed, many of whom had ‘been under investigation for alleged links to or knowledge of Al-Shabaab.’
On Thursday, police in Mombasa killed two men suspected of belonging to al Shabaab.They had been under surveillance by Kenyan authorities for two months until police raided their hideout.
ISIL militants killed at least 20 fighters loyal to the Government of National Accord’s (GNA) forces during a battle in Sirte’s Ouagadougou complex on 15 July. The fighting wounded another 120 soldiers as GNA forces struggle to retake ISIL’s Libya stronghold.
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon warned the Security Council on Monday that ISIL could relocate from Sirte and spread throughout Libya.
On July 20th, militia shot down a helicopter near Benghazi, killing three French soldiers, the first confirmation by French authorities that its special forces were operating in Libya. Libya’s UN-backed government called the operations a violation of its national sovereignty. Protests erupted in Tripoli and elsewhere against the perceived violation.
Niger has reportedly brokered an agreement between the Coordination of Azawad Movements and the Platform, two armed groups in Mali which have frequently clashed over controlling the city of Kidal in northern Mali. The agreement is set to end the fighting between the groups in the city and establish a calm during the process of establishing the interim government there.
A “coordinated terrorist attack” on a Malian military base in the city of Nampala killed 17 soldiers and wounded 35 others on Tuesday. Three groups -- AQIM, the Macina Liberation Front, which has ties to Ansar Dine, and an ethnic Peul group -- took part in the raid, according to an army spokesperson. Ansar Dine also claimed responsibility for the attack. In response, Malian authorities have decided to extend the state of emergency in the country for 10 days after a recent series of attacks by armed groups, which have destabilized some areas of the country and killed dozens.
Aid agencies claim that a recent surge in violence and attacks on aid workers in northern Mali are obstructing aid deliveries to millions of people who desperately need the food, water, and healthcare the agencies provide.
Oil militants in Nigeria’s Niger Delta region have reportedly attacked an oil pipeline operated by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) near the city of Warri.
The Adaka Boro Avengers (ABA), another oil militant group in the region, has claimed to have completed talks with other oil militant groups in the Niger Delta to declare the region an independent republic on 1 August. The group ordered the Nigerian government to vacate all military personnel and government agencies from the region, while also asking people from the northern and southwestern regions of the country to leave the territory. The ABA has threatened to “use many as an example in the Niger Delta region” after 1 August.
The Nigerian military has released 249 people, including women and children who were arrested on suspicions that they were Boko Haram terrorists or accomplices. The detainees are reported to have received no apology or compensation for their time of incarceration, apart from a small stipend to cover the transportation costs incurred for their return home.
Recent reports from the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) have reiterated other aid agencies’ calls for swift action in providing aid to people facing dire conditions in Borno State in northeastern Nigeria. Currently two million people are still inaccessible in the region.
International Response to the Recent Violence
South Sudan’s government has come out in opposition to the plan, stating that it would resist an “occupation” that would be in violation of the nation’s sovereignty, and has begun conducting protests in this regard.
President Kiir urged for direct talks with Vice President Machar to begin immediately. However, the Vice President is currently refusing to return to Juba, despite the declaration of a general amnesty and assurances of protection from the President, and has called the outbreak of violence a ‘calculated attempt’ to kill him. Machar noted that he would only return to the capital if a third-party force is entrusted with the security of the capital.
On 17 July, on the sidelines of the African Union summit in Kigali, the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development in East Africa (IGAD) urged both Kiir and Machar’s troops to leave Juba and for the security of the capital to be turned over to a regional force.
Over the weekend, President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda, stated his opposition to any arms embargo against South Sudan. Kenyan President Kenyatta, however, reiterated previous calls for an arms embargo, targeted sanctions and a reinforcing of UNMISS.
Developments on the Ground
On 19 July, South Sudanese authorities continued to deny permission to UN aircraft to deliver aid to several areas of the country, continuing a systematic denial process that started last week.
UNHCR gave the latest figures on those fleeing the recent violence in South Sudan. Over 5,000 South Sudanese have fled to Uganda since 7 July, with the UN expecting thousands of new arrivals in the coming days as checkpoints on the main road to Uganda are dismantled. The UN is warning that the number of South Sudanese refugees could top one million in the coming months.
Shelling by the Sudanese government killed two people in Southern Darfur on Sunday. Also on Sunday, members of the Sudanese government’s Rapid Support Forces began randomly firing into the village of Tabit in North Darfur, forcing many resident to flee their homes.
On 18 July, Sudan Call, an umbrella organization of Sudanese opposition groups and civil society, began deliberations over their position on the African Union Roadmap for Peace in Sudan. In March, the Sudanese opposition had rejected the Roadmap for Peace, claiming that it was simply a continuation of a dialogue and governing process dominated by the ruling party.
On 19 July, the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N), which has been engaged in fighting with the Sudanese government in South Kordofan and Blue Nile states since June 2011, called the recent unilateral ceasefire declared by the government a ‘hoax’. The group claims that the government is merely using it to rearrange and resupply their troops for a fresh assault. The SPLM-N further demanded a negotiated ceasefire mediated and monitored by a third party.
On 15 July, following his meeting in Moscow with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, US Secretary of State John Kerry announced that the US and Russia had come to an agreement on definitive actions needed to restore a ceasefire in Syria. Some have speculated that the announcement means that Russia and the US have reached a preliminary agreement to begin a joint air-campaign in Syria against ISIL and al-Nusra. However, the specifics of the meeting have yet to be disclosed.
Developments in the fighting
On Sunday, Syrian government forces completed their encirclement of rebel-held eastern Aleppo, seizing full control of the last remaining rebel supply line into the city, the Castello Road. Eastern Aleppo is now effectively besieged by government forces, with food and fuel shortages already starting to hit the 200,000 - 300,000 people trapped there.
A anti-ISIL coalition airstrike allegedly killed 60 civilians in the ISIL-held city of Manbij. The US, announced that it would be launching a full investigation into the deaths. The opposition Syrian National Coalition has called for a temporary suspension of the US’s air campaign against ISIL while an investigation takes place.
Also in Manjib, the Syria Democratic Forces (SDF) took control of an ISIL command-center, one of its main logistical hubs in the city. Following its fresh offensive in the city, on Thursday the SDF gave ISIL 48 hours to abandon Manbij, while urging civilians to flee as fighting may become more intense.
Israeli intelligence claimed that Iran has begun stationing an elite group of Shia Afghani snipers, trained by Hezbollah, in Syria.
On 16 July, UN-brokered peace talks on Yemen started up again in Kuwait after a two-week hiatus after the government decided to participate. While little overall progress has so far been achieved in resolving Yemen’s deep-seated political crisis, the talks have brought about a ceasefire which, despite its numerous violations, has significantly curtailed the violence and deaths. The internationally recognized Yemeni government is demanding that the Houthi rebels turn over all heavy weapons and withdraw from all territory captured since 2014, while the Houthis are demanding to be part of a transitional government that would set the stage for new elections. The UN Special Envoy Ould Cheikh Ahmed has promised to push for a final agreement to be reached within two weeks.
Despite the peace talks, Yemeni government forces launched a major military offensive on the Houthis in the northern province of Hajja, near the Saudi border, on Thursday. The offensive sought to take the strategically placed city of Haradh from the Houthis.
On 17 July, fighting between Houthi rebels and the internationally recognized Yemeni government allegedly left 38 dead in Taiz, al-Baydar, and Sanaa. The following day, two suicide bombings outside of the southern port city of Mukalla, held by the internationally recognized Yemeni government, killed at least ten people. Meanwhile, on Wednesday, a bomb killed four policemen and injured at least three people in Aden. The bomb was thrown by a suspected Al Qaeda operative concealed inside a plastic bag.
On Friday, six people were killed as a result of a car bomb explosion in Sana’a. The explosion occurred after midday Friday prayers as worshippers were leaving the Bilal mosque. There has been no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack.
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