Geneva — Will US relax 20-year-old sanctions on Sudan?
Sudan's diplomacy is on a roll: the international criminal court has decided not to pursue South Africa for allowing indicted Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir to visit, and the size of the UN-African Union peacekeeping mission in Darfur (a watchdog for Khartoum's abusive counter-insurgency) is being slashed. Next, the country's leadership hopes US economic sanctions against it will be dropped. In January, then-president Barack Obama announced a six-month suspension of certain US sanctions on Sudan - some dating back to 1997. The executive order allowed US businesses to transact with individuals and entities in Sudan, and unblocked Sudanese government property frozen by the United States. The order argued that Sudan had improved on several fronts, including improved humanitarian access, and that merited recognition. On 13 July, the United States will announce if the measures will be reimposed or lifted. Conflict analyst International Crisis Group is in favour of lifting sanctions, pointing out that Washington would still retain targeted sanctions on individuals associated with the Darfur conflict and Sudan's designation as a state sponsor of terrorism. Opponents say Sudan's human rights record remains dismal, and the move rewards an abusive regime. Sudan is the fifth most fragile country in the world, according to the Fund for Peace, scoring a perfectly negative 10 out of 10 on the "group grievance" indicator. It pays $40,000 a month to DC lobbyist Squire Patton Boggs mainly to help make the case against sanctions.
Iraq's post-Mosul challenges
The battle for Mosul is coming to an end. But as so-called Islamic State's area of control is reduced to an ever-shrinking enclave in the Old City, the horrible cost civilians are paying is becoming all too clear. As we reported this week, those attempting to flee are wounded, desperately thirsty, and face the threat of suicide bombers even after they make it away from the front line. Watch this short IRIN film to see for yourself the scale of the destruction.
So what now? When the Islamist extremist group is finally ousted from the city, Iraq's troubles are far from over: reconstruction will cost time and money; there are serious concerns about vengeance against suspected IS members and their families; and there's not much evidence of planning for reconciliation or transitional justice. And Iraq's troubles are bigger than Mosul, of course. An attack on Sunday at a transit site for IDPs west of Ramadi killed a reported 14 people and wounded 13. The IDPs killed were fleeing IS-controlled areas in western Anbar Province, where IS still controls territory and civilians are fleeing under the cover of desert sandstorms. The UN estimates that some 50,000-60,000 people remain under the group's control in Hawija, a town to the west of Kirkuk that strategists once believed would be taken from IS before Mosul. Watch this space for more on what the delayed liberation of Hawija means for its civilians.
What next for Marawi?
After more than a month, fighting is winding down in the southern Philippines city of Marawi, where government forces have been waging urban warfare against Islamist militants. But much of the city is in ruins, and ACTED warns that it "will likely not be accessible for a long time, due to risks related to the presence of armed groups and explosive devices". That raises the question of what will happen to the 351,000 people who the UN says fled their homes and are now living with host families or in evacuation centres. To make matters worse for the minority Muslim population, who frequently find themselves caught between state and militant forces, some government officials are proposing a mandatory "Muslim only" identification card. Human Rights Watch condemned the suggestion, noting that the Philippines is a party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which prohibits "discrimination based on religion".
Did you miss it?
Near the beginning of this beautifully shot eight-minute film about the degradation of Lake Victoria, 63-year-old local environmentalist Peter Mirere says it all: "It is through the fish that we get capital for all other activities we can do." For centuries, communities on the banks of Africa's largest lake have made a healthy living off its rich waters. They have relied upon the fish as the basis for their livelihoods. Now the picture, captured expertly by documentary maker Benj Binks, is far murkier and the future more uncertain. A drone's eye view of the heaps of human garbage betrays the population boom around the lake's shores. But this is nothing compared to the pollution in the water. Years of mismanagement, environmental changes, deforestation, illegal cultivation that leaks fertiliser into the water have all contributed to dwindling catches. Diversification into palm oil causes yet more damage to the breeding grounds: There are no easy choices on Lake Victoria anymore.
Chad's guns for hire
Within the post-Gaddafi maelstrom of the Chad-Sudan-Libya triangle, there's one group that has escaped international attention despite having a key role to play in regional security. They are the Teda people, who inhabit the Tebesti Massif in Chad's far north, as well as parts of southern Libya and northeastern Niger. Since Chad gained independence in 1960, the Teda have lived mostly under the yoke of rebel groups. More recently, since 2011, they have been an important source of "guns for hire", offering their services as militiamen, rebels, mercenaries, traffickers, and bandits in Libya. This paper from the Small Arms Survey and Conflict Armament Research explains how the repeated failures of peace agreements and rebel reintegration processes, together with a dearth of economic opportunities in northern Chad, ongoing instability in Libya, and chronic violence in Sudan's Darfur region, have helped armed factions in the triangle become more internationalised. The paper also flags up the important effects of recent regional gold rushes and the prospects for a renewed rebellion in northern Chad. Looking forward, it warns that the guns-for-hire phenomenon is likely to worsen unless peacebuilding measures in long-marginalised Tebesti are boosted with socio-economic interventions.