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* Yesterday, a Kenyan court ordered the government to arrest Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, should he ever return to Kenya. Though al-Bashir is wanted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) on genocide and war crimes charges, he was not arrested when he attended a ceremony in Kenya last year. While the African Union does not want its members to enforce the arrest warrant, Kenya is obliged to cooperate as a signatory to the ICC. As such, the ICC reported Kenya to the United Nations Security Council. In response to the ruling, Sudan expelled Kenya’s ambassador and pulled its own envoy from Nairobi. The Kenyan ambassador was given 72 hours to leave the country.

* Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is scheduled to visit Burma later this week. In advance of the trip, the U.S. Campaign for Burma, in conjunction with 11 other human rights organizations, wrote an open letter to Secretary Clinton, “urg[ing] her to prioritize securing an end to the egregious crimes against humanity the Burmese Army continues to commit against ethnic minority civilians.” The country’s military-backed government recently unveiled reforms but atrocities committed as recently as last month have been reported by aid groups. The ongoing fighting has led to approximately 1 million refugees and internally displaced persons.

Photo: thelondoneveningpost.com

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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

* The government of Chad refused to execute international arrest warrants for Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir upon his visit to the country today. Bashir is wanted by the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity, war crimes, and genocide, and Chad, as a state party to the ICC, is obligated by international law to arrest him. Chad’s government maintains that an internal African Union agreement allows them to ignore the warrants.

* Nine former Salvadoran soldiers and military officials wanted for crimes they allegedly committed during El Salvador‘s civil war are fighting extradition to Spain. They are accused of being involved in the killings of six Spanish Jesuit priests and two other civilians in 1989.

* Calls by Burma’s vice president for renewed peace talks between the government and ethnic rebels are being met with skepticism from some rebel groups. The joint-secretary of one such group, the Kachin Independence Organization, believes that the calls are likely just propaganda in response to international pressure. Ceasefire agreements between a number of armed ethnic groups and the Burmese government broke down recently, leading to fresh fighting.

 * The United Nations Security Council issued a statement expressing “grave concern” over the worsening economic and humanitarian situation in Yemen. They requested that all parties within the country, including al-Qaeda and the government, allow the uninterrupted flow of humanitarian assistance to reach those in need.

Photos (from top): mtholyoke.edu, sfgate.com, philippinenewsdaily.com

Sudan: Southern Independence, Northern Aggression

The Republic of Southern Sudan officially became the world’s newest nation on July 9. An overwhelming majority of voters supported independence from the North in a January referendum. The event was marked by huge celebrations across the new country. The New York Times reported that by dawn thousands had poured into the streets of the capital, Juba. Dignitaries from all over the world arrived there as well to partake in the festivities.

Officials from the United States, the United Kingdom, and China were among those who spoke at a ceremony hosted by the government of the new state. They offered encouragement and support, promising to open embassies in the capital as soon as possible.

After his swearing in, South Sudanese president Salva Kiir spoke to the thousands gathered. “We were bombed, maimed, enslaved, treated worse than a refugee in our own country,” he told the crowd, “but we have to forgive, although we will not forget.”

South Sudan’s independence comes after two decades of civil war and mass atrocities at the hands of the government led by President Omar al-Bashir. Military operations into areas considered friendly to southern rebels often resulted in the murder and arrest of civilians. Forced displacement was used to clear out huge tracts of land. For these actions and others, the International Criminal Court issued arrest warrants for Bashir in 2009 for war crimes and crimes against humanity, and in 2010 for genocide.

Bashir also delivered a speech at the independence day ceremony. But the world’s newest nation has little time to celebrate as it faces the resurgence of some very old problems.

A new frontline is beginning to appear on the North–South border, as unsettled territorial claims escalate into violent confrontation. The oil-rich regions of South Kordofan, specifically the town of Abyei, have been the epicenters of this resurgence of violence. Northern forces entered Abyei in May, amid government claims of attacks by southern militias. Fighting spread further into the Nuba mountains region, and there are now reports of ethnic cleansing against the people there. Deadly bombardments, house-to-house arrests, executions, and a blockade against humanitarian aid have left hundreds of Nuba dead and tens of thousands displaced. Many of the Nuba have fled their homes to the safety of caves to avoid the the deadly government offensive.

While Bashir claims the North is responding to rebel aggression, others believe he has more sinister intentions. According to columnist Eric Reeves, Khartoum plans to “seize Abyei as far south as possible, then negotiate final status of the region from a position of military strength.”

Many agree with this analysis based on one very important fact: The border regions are oil-rich, and North Sudan stands to lose billions of dollars of revenue now that the South has seceded. The already debt-laden government is trying to ensure that it has a heavy presence in an area that could be vital to the regime’s survival—and by all appearances, it is willing to restart war to do so.

Photo: David Azia/Associated Press

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