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* Egypt’s military council has assumed control over investigations into the massacre of Coptic Christians that took place on October 9 in Maspero, leaving at least 27 civilians dead. In an October 25 report Human Rights Watch said, “The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, Egypt’s military rulers, should transfer the investigation from the military prosecution to a fully independent and impartial investigation.” Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch, said in the same report,

“The military cannot investigate itself with any credibility… The generals seem to be insisting that they and only they investigate the Maspero violence, which is to ensure that no serious investigation occurs. The military has already tried to control the media narrative, and it should not be allowed to cover up what happened on October 9.”

The October 9 massacre was in response to peaceful protests surrounding the burning of a Coptic church in Marinab on September 30, which Mustafa El Sayed, the mayor of Aswan, justified by saying the church was built without a permit.

* On October 20 large numbers of Janjaweed militias were reportedly flown into Blue Nile, Sudan. On October 23 Yasser Saeed Arman, secretary general of the Sudanese People’s Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N) told Radio Dabanga that the National Congress Party was now using Janjaweed forces on the ground in Blue Nile. Janjaweed militias were among the groups involved in the genocide in Darfur, which began in 2003. The conflict in Blue Nile, which borders South Sudan, began on September 1.

Photo: lacopts.org

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Sudan’s deteriorating political situation is raising concerns about a prolonged civil war there. International Crisis Group (ICG) issued a risk alert today, documenting the latest events and the obstacles that still exist for creating a sustained peace. The failed Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), signed in 2005, was supposed to “lay the foundation for a new reality in Sudan, end chronic conflict and make continued unity attractive,” ICG says. However, general elections called for by the CPA were never held, and in the absence of democratic transformation both the National Congress Party (NCP) and the Sudanese People’s Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N) have opted for military solutions, resulting in an outbreak of fighting in South Kordofan in June and in Blue Nile in September.

The secession of South Sudan has had a very negative impact on its northern neighbor. An article yesterday in the Sudan Tribune explains President Omar al-Bashir’s veiled threats against the new Sudanese state: “Following South Sudan’s official independence last July, Sudan lost 75% of the oil reserves that existed under the united country. But the landlocked south needs the pipelines in the north that transport the oil for exportation through Port Sudan. Sudan has been hoping that fees assessed on using its oil infrastructure will help recover part of the revenue lost with the south’s independence. But the two neighbors have yet to agree on what the fair fee should be per barrel.” Insinuating a violent reprisal, Bashir told reporters, “If we don’t reach a solution we have our options to resolve this issue.” Another consequence of South Sudan’s secession has been the consolidation of power by hardliners within the NCP, who are even less disposed to peace.

If a solution is not reached on these issues, ICG predicts a protracted conflict in Sudan that could possibly spread into South Sudan. ICG emphasizes the need for international mediation since the CPA has failed, but warns that actors involved in negotiating the peace agreement, including the United States, are no longer trusted in Sudan, and that the primary mediator should be the African Union, in particular the president of South Africa, Thabo Mbeki.

Tom Andrews, president of the new U.S. advocacy group United to End Genocide (UEG), published a blog post last week arguing for a nationwide arms embargo on Sudan. He noted the testimony in Congress by a representative of Human Rights Watch, who “expressed strong concern about the impact this [supplying arms to rebels] could have on the flow of vital emergency aid to desperate civilians.” Andrews cited China as one of the biggest obstacles to passing an arms embargo in the UN.

Image: economist.com

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