Southeast Asia
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The UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar (Burma) Yanghee Lee  called for the Human Rights Council to support an investigation by the International Criminal Court (ICC) into crimes against the Rohingya people. "I strongly recommend the persons allegedly responsible for the violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law be investigated and prosecuted by the ICC or a credible mechanism," said Lee. She  expressed disappointment that the Security Council has not yet referred Burma to the ICC, stating said that none of the investigations by the Burmese government have met international standards, and were likely initiated to distract the international community. (Photo: European Commission via Flickr)


by Benjamin Dangl, Upside Down World

Constitution supporters march to La Paz/ABI” title=”Constitution supporters march to La Paz/ABI” class=”image img_assist_custom” height=”292″ width=”450″>Constitution supporters march to La Paz/ABI

After months of street battles and political meetings, a new draft of the Bolivian constitution was ratified by Congress on October 21. A national referendum on whether or not to make the document official is scheduled for January 25, 2009.

“Now we have made history,” President Evo Morales told supporters in La Paz. “This process of change cannot be turned back… Neoliberalism will never return to Bolivia.”

If the constitution is approved in the January referendum, a new general election will take place in December of 2009.

Leading up to Congress’ approval, Morales participated in sections of a march from Caracollo in Oruro to La Paz, a distance of over 100 miles and involving an estimated 100,000 union members, activists, students, farmers and miners.

The march took place to pressure opposition members in Congress into backing the constitution and referendum. When marchers arrived in La Paz they packed the center of the city to historic levels. Some media outlets said the march, which stretched 15 kilometers, was the longest one ever in the capital.

“Those who have been kicked out to the chicken coop, those who have been hidden in the basement, are jailed no more,” Vice President Alvaro Garcia Linera said of the approval of the constitution, according to the Associated Press.

The road to this new constitution has been a long, complicated and often violent one. One key event in this process was the July 2, 2006 election of assembly members to the constituent assembly to rewrite the constitution. Later, in December of 2007, the new constitution was passed in an assembly meeting in Oruro which was boycotted by opposition members.

<em>Leonilda Zurita, ChaparĂ© union leader, at La Paz rally/ABI</em>” title=”<em>Leonilda Zurita, ChaparĂ© union leader, at La Paz rally/ABI</em>” class=”image img_assist_custom” height=”260″ width=”400″><span class=Leonilda Zurita, ChaparĂ© union leader, at La Paz rally/ABIGiven Morales’ support across the country, this new constitution is expected to pass in the January 2009 referendum. “The public support expressed for [Morales] Monday, coming on top of the 67 percent vote of confidence he was given in the Aug. 10 recall referendum, make it clear that he is the most popular president in the last 26 years of democracy in Bolivia,” Franz Chávez reported in IPS News.

The draft constitution includes, among other things, changes to allow the redistribution of land and gas wealth to benefit the majority of the country, and give increased rights to indigenous people. Questions still exist regarding what was fully changed in this version of the constitution which led to opposition politicians supporting it. For example, it’s still unclear to what extent eastern provinces will be granted autonomy.

However, in what was perhaps Morales’ biggest concession to the opposition, a change was made to the constitution which prevents him from running for two additional terms, as an earlier draft of the constitution allowed. Under the new changes—if the constitution is approved in the referendum—Morales will run for his last consecutive term in general elections in December of 2009.

This move indicates that the opposition got at least some of what they wanted in negotiations, and that the Movement Toward Socialism, Morales’ political party, may have plans to diversify its central leadership.

Morales commented on these changes in a speech in La Paz, “Here we have new leaders who are rising up, new men and women leaders who are coming up like mushrooms to continue this process of change.”


Benjamin Dangl is the author of The Price of Fire: Resource Wars and Social Movements in Bolivia (AK Press, 2007).

Photos by José Luis Quintana/Agencia Boliviana de Información

This story first appeared Oct. 23 on Upside Down World.

See also:

Divided Nation Faces Historic Vote
by Ben Dangl, Toward Freedom
World War 4 Report, August 2008

From our Daily Report:

Bolivia: Evo leads march for new constitution
WW4 Report, Oct. 18, 2008


Reprinted by World War 4 Report, Nov. 1, 2008
Reprinting permissible with attribution

Greater Middle East


As the Assad regime, backed by Russian air-strikes, opens its offensive on the Free Syrian Army's Southern Front in Daraa governorate—and towns start to fall to pro-regime forces, with thousands fleeing their homes in fear of reprisals—the White House has issued a statement to the rebels, warning, "[Y]ou should not base your decisions on the assumption or expectation of a military intervention by us." This despite Washington's earlier warning to Assad and Putin that any violation of the so-called “de-escalation zones” would have "serious repercussions." Not surprisingly, this betrayal comes just as Trump reportedly told Jordan's King Abdullah II at the White House that he is seeking a deal with Putin on terms for a withdrawal of remaining US forces from Syria. The US has long been constraining the rebel forces from fighting Assad as a condition of receiving aid, insisting they fight only ISIS and other jihadists. Now that ISIS is essentially defeated, we appear to be witnessing the betrayal of the Syrian opposition in a Trump-Putin carve-up deal. (Southern Front logo via Wikipedia)


Will Darfur Conflict Sabotage North-South Peace Process?Will Sudan’s child soldiers demobilize?” title=”Will Sudan’s child soldiers demobilize?” class=”image thumbnail” height=”79″ width=”100″>Will Sudan’s child soldiers demobilize?

from IRIN

Sudan is planning to disarm, demobilize and re-integrate over 180,000 soldiers into civilian life, but the ambitious scheme to rebuild war-shattered communities could raise false expectations, observers warn.

“We are looking in total at the demobilisation and reintegration of 182,900 adults across east, north and south Sudan, not including any possible operations in Darfur,” said Adriaan Verheul, chief of the UN program supporting the government-run scheme.

“This will make it the biggest DDR operation in the world.”

The program is a key part of a 2005 north-south peace deal that ended one of Africa’s longest civil wars, in which over 1.5 million people are estimated to have been killed and another six million displaced.

Run jointly by northern and southern government commissions, the numbers will be split equally between the northern Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) and the southern ex-rebel Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA).

“It will serve [the] stabilization of peace in the country,” said William Deng Deng, chairman of the southern DDR commission, in recent comments to Sudan’s official news agency SUNA.

Initial lists run to 50,000 names, and planning maps mark out proposals for work to begin. Child soldiers are the first focus, with some 1,300 already demobilized.

In addition, 2,900 ex-rebels in eastern Sudan, who fought for a decade in separate battles before a 2006 peace deal, have taken the first tentative steps towards peace.

“The aim is to turn soldiers into civilians able to make enough money to take care of themselves and their families without their army salaries,” Verheul told IRIN.

The head of the northern DDR commission, Sulaf al-Dein Salih, said progress was going well in the east, expressing “satisfaction” at the disarmament process “in both north and southern Sudan”.

Staggered demobilization scheme
Under a staggered demobilization scheme, soldiers put forward by their commanders will be assessed, electronically registered and given medical checks at special centers.

They will also get a US$400 lump-sum payment, 10 weeks rations for a family of five, and a package to help start a new life as civilians, including basic tools, a mosquito net, plastic sheeting and a wind-up radio.

Later, each retiring fighter will receive reintegration support worth $1,750, including vocational training to learn a new career, or backing to establish a small business or farm.

“It’s a political process with security objectives, but uses development methods and has a humanitarian impact,” said Verheul.

Darfur poses threat
Building peace in Sudan is a slow and often shaky process. Many worry that continuing war in the western region of Darfur could destabilize peace efforts elsewhere, especially with potential genocide charges looming over President Omar al-Bashir.

National elections are due in 2009, followed by a 2011 referendum in the semi-autonomous south on whether it should become fully independent.

Tensions remain high, especially in flashpoint border zones, and former enemy armies are watching over their neighbor’s capabilities with concern, nervous of reports that the other is rearming.

In the grossly underdeveloped south, an area about the size of Spain and Portugal combined but with virtually no tarred roads, militias and heavily armed civilians still dominate many regions.

Even apparently basic tasks, such as transporting fighters to demobilization centers, will pose giant logistical challenges.

“You cannot demobilize a soldier and then put him out on the street without the means to survive and a minimum of dignity,” said Verheul.

“Reintegrating former military personnel is often difficult; they may not find the new life appealing, or they don’t have the right education for civilian jobs – or there might not be enough jobs for them on the market.”

Guaranteed funding needed
Experts say it is vital core funding is guaranteed before the bulk of demobilization begins, warning that ex-soldiers not provided with a new means of income could themselves pose considerable risks.

And the program is far from cheap—costing US$385 million for the crucial three-year reintegration phase.

The cash is planned to come from the UN, international donors, and $45 million from Sudan.

Officials are upbeat about the prospects: “Policies are in place, planning is under way and the funding for some initial steps is available,” the UN’s top envoy to Sudan, Ashraf Jehangir Qazi, said in a recent report.

A pilot project for adult fighters is due to start in November in Blue Nile State, with around 1,000 soldiers from both north and south expected to take part.

“If successful, this will be repeated in other areas,” Verheul said.

Building confidence
However, around half of the first batch of 50,000 put forward are war-wounded or disabled, a point some critics say means that active military forces will not be reduced.

Verheul dismissed this, arguing there is a need to treat all ex-combatants with respect, to encourage those still able to fight to find a new income.

“No parties in a DDR programme come forward with their best soldiers first,” said Verheul. “One must build confidence, to get a more serious reduction in military forces later.”

Many Sudanese who were affected by the war are hoping for the best. Like many whose villages were destroyed in Sudan’s 21-year civil war, tea seller Mary Jok knows the cost of conflict.

“There’s been fighting most of my life,” said the 40-year old widow, who ekes out a living from a tiny street stall in the Sudanese capital, [Khartoum] where she fled a decade ago. “My daughters died and my sons were taken to fight,” she said.

On the scattered stools in the dust around Mary Jok’s tea stall, customers say there is both hope and cynicism at the program.

“We have heard grand plans before,” said Ahmed Ali Mohammed, a teacher. “But we want peace to develop Sudan. We need it to work – there are too many people today who know only how to fight.”


This story first appeared Oct. 21 on the Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN), news agency of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

See also:

by Savo Heleta, Pambazuka News
World War 4 Report, November 2008


Reprinted by World War 4 Report, Nov. 1, 2008
Reprinting permissible with attribution


Will Sudan’s child soldiers demobilize?

South Sudanese President Salva Kiir and his bitter rival and former vice president Riek Machar, now leader of the SPLM-IO rebels, met in the Sudanese capital Khartoum to sign a "permanent" ceasefire agreement, pledging to form an inclusive transitional government. The parties agreed to open humanitarian corridors, release detainees, withdraw troops and militarily disengage. The transitional government is to form a national army and security forces not linked to tribalism. However, the challenges for the 36-month transition period are great. Millions in South Sudan are on the brink of famine, and more than 2.5 million have fled the country. Hundreds of thousands more—mostly members of minority ethnic groups—are internally displaced, with many sheltering in camps administered by the United Nations. Previous efforts at a negotiated peace have broken down. (Photo: Sudan Tribune)


by Savo Heleta, Pambazuka News

In his review of recent events in the Sudanese Darfur crisis, Savo Heleta assesses the role of the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) rebel group. With its explicit goal of overthrowing the current Omar Bashir regime, Heleta argues, the JEM represents a potentially revolutionary movement, one whose egalitarian, pro-justice manifesto will only come to fruition with the support of a broad range of regional players and influences.

In 2003, a conflict broke out in Sudan’s western province of Darfur between the mainly “African” rebels and the government forces and their proxy “Arab” militias. It is estimated that about 200,000 people have died in the conflict from fighting, disease, and starvation.

The UN and aid agencies estimate that over two million Darfurians, of a population of around six million, are living in refugee camps in Darfur and neighboring countries. Even though the majority of all deaths in Darfur occurred in 2003 and 2004, the conflict is nowhere near the end.

When the rebellion broke out, the two rebel movements, the Sudan Liberation Movement (SLM) and the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM), declared that their primary goals were to end the economic, social, and political marginalization of Darfur, the Sudanese province that has been completely neglected and marginalized since 1917, when it was annexed by the British colonial forces and added to Sudan.

After a few years of fighting and human suffering, the Sudanese government and one faction of the SLM signed the Darfur Peace Agreement in 2006, while another SLM faction and the JEM refused to sign. The signing of the DPA, instead of bringing peace, only intensified fighting and caused the humanitarian situation in Darfur to deteriorate.

When the Darfur Peace Agreement failed to bring peace and the government refused to deliver any of the provisions it pledged to implement, such as disarmament of the Janjaweed militias, protection of civilians, ceasefire, and deployment of UN/AU troops, the main aim of the Justice and Equality Movement became regime change.

The JEM’s manifesto calls for “justice and equality in place of social injustice and political tyranny; radical and comprehensive constitutional reform that would guarantee the regions their rights in ruling the country; basic services for every Sudanese, and balanced economic and human development in all regions of the country.”

In late 2006, the JEM leader Khalil Ibrahim said “we cannot bring peace to Darfur unless we change this government.” The JEM leadership believes that the current Sudanese regime is “the main obstacle to finding peace to the whole Sudan problem, not only Darfur.” One of the JEM commanders said in a recent interview that the JEM’s goal is to change the regime and make dramatic changes in Sudan, adding that “power and wealth must be shared equally in all the marginalized areas.”

In Darfur: The Ambiguous Genocide, Gerard Prunier argues that the change of the central government is perhaps the only way of solving the Darfur conflict and decades of marginalization of Sudan’s peripheries.

In the beginning of May 2008, the JEM forces mounted an attack on the Sudanese capital, the first attack by a Darfur rebel group outside Darfur. The attack failed, but showed the JEM’s determination to change the regime. Many analysts emphasize “the psychological importance of the attack,” adding that this is the first time in many decades that the fighting has reached the capital. Even though the JEM’s attack did not succeed, it exposed the “weakness of security in Khartoum and the vulnerability of the regime.”

Alex de Waal, the leading international expert on Sudan, described the JEM’s attack on the capital as a “bid for power.” He added that he believes that other rebel movements in Darfur “don’t share that ambition…they want peace for their places rather than wanting power in Khartoum for themselves.”

In the aftermath of the attack, the JEM’s leader Khalil Ibrahim said that this was “just a rehearsal for the attacks to come, and we will continue to attack till we change this regime.” Alex de Waal believes that the aim of the attack “was nothing less than taking power” and adds that Khalil Ibrahim “seems truly to believe that he can instigate a popular uprising of Sudan’s black majority” against the ruling elite in Khartoum.

Analysts say that the JEM’s leader possesses grand ambitions and growing military strength. Sharing the same ethnic background as the leadership of neighboring Chad, the JEM has been the main beneficiary of Chadian support for the Darfur rebels. This support has been the main reason the JEM “has become, militarily, the most powerful faction on the ground in Darfur.”

Rebellion is an armed struggle against an oppressive regime. Revolutions involve a defeat of a current regime through violent means, replacement by a new regime, and implementation of major political and/or socio-economic changes to the system. Revolutionary movements aim to overthrow a ruling regime, take power, and fundamentally change the structure of a society.

While many movements in Darfur are typical rebel movements, the Justice and Equality Movement has evolved into a revolutionary movement with a goal of overthrowing the current regime and fundamentally changing Sudan.

Considering the fact that every post-independence government of Sudan has been ruled by the members of northern “Arab” tribes—which represent only about 5% of the entire population and have spent the majority of development funds on the northern part of the country—the change proposed in the JEM’s manifesto would indeed be a profound, fundamental, and revolutionary change.

Only time will tell if the Justice and Equality Movement will be able to bring about revolutionary change in Sudan. This will depend on many factors, such as the ability to attract support in other parts of the country, cooperation with other rebel movements, finance, military power, international support, and, in the event of their victory, the implementation of substantial political and/or socioeconomic changes in the country.

Darfur and its people never mattered to the rulers of Sudan, from the British-Egyptian Condominium to the northern Sudanese elites that have ruled the country since independence. Perhaps something radical and revolutionary has to happen at last to change this protracted marginalization.


Savo Heleta is a postgraduate student in conflict transformation and management at Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University in Port Elizabeth, South Africa. He is the author of Not my Turn to Die: Memoirs of a Broken Childhood in Bosnia (AMACOM, 2008).

This story first appeared Oct. 22 in Pambazuka News.

See also:

Global Capital Connives with African Genocide
by Ba Karang, The Hobgoblin, UK
World War 4 Report, November 2007

From our Daily Report:

Sudan: who abducted Chinese oil workers?
WW4 Report, Oct. 21, 2008


Reprinted by World War 4 Report, Nov. 1, 2008
Reprinting permissible with attribution