A summary of the news from the Sudans and the DRC the past two weeks. Click on the title for the full article.
Sudan & South Sudan
On April 4, the World Food Programme announced that for the first time since war broke out in Blue Nile and South Kordofan in September 2011, U.N. food aid has been permitted to enter these regions. The move, which is considered to be a sign of easing tensions between Sudan and South Sudan, has been heralded as “a major breakthrough”, enabling the U.N. to distribute food to tens of thousands of people who had been reportedly eating “roots and leaves” to survive. According to the U.N., an estimated 1 million people have suffered in these regions due to lack of food, with 200,000 having already fled to South Sudan and Ethiopia.
Earlier this month, Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir announced his “decision to release all political prisoners.” This move follows a U.N. representative’s February accusations that Khartoum had jailed members of the political opposition without trial or access to necessary medical care. National Consensus Forces representative Kamal Omar received the decision positively, but emphasized that “it needs to be accompanied by action on the ground.” He explained, “We need a climate that will allow political dialogue, freedom of expression and press freedom.” In late March, Vice President Ali Osman Taha made a similar appeal to political foes, inviting rebel groups to help draft a new constitution for Sudan.
On March 28, the South Sudanese government announced that it had recaptured an airstrip in Pibor County in a battle that claimed the lives of 143 rebels and 20 soldiers. According to military representative Col. Philip Auger, the “airstrip has been used by Khartoum (Sudan) intelligence to transport and supply arms and ammunition to [rebel leader] David Yau Yau.” Despite such allegations, Sudan has continuously denied ties to South Sudanese rebels and has, in turn, accused its southern neighbour of supporting independent militias in its own country—an accusation that has similarly been denied by Juba.
M23 rebel spokesman Bertrand Bisimwa described the United Nation’s decision to deploy a peacekeeping mission to eastern Congo as a “war option.” The brigade, whose deployment was unanimously agreed upon by the Security Council, is designed to bring stability to a region that has been plagued by unrest. The brigade is expected to arrive in Goma and North Kivu by the end of this month. Following the decision, government spokesman Lambert Mende urged rebels, “There is still time for our M23 brothers to disband.” Government soldiers have been fighting M23 forces since May of last year.
On March 26, Bosco Ntaganda, a warlord accused of murder, rape, pillaging, and recruiting child soldiers in Congo pleaded his innocence before the International Crime Court. Ntaganda freely turned himself in to Rwanda’s U.S. Embassy last month; he had been wanted by The Hague since 2006.
Check out a BBC piece covering Angelina Jolie and William Hague’s move to shift the world’s focus to sexual violence in Congo! http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-