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July 15 – August 14, 2003

15 August 2003
Part 1 – Sudan

1. Briefs

2. South Sudanese women suffer the most

Part II – Northern Uganda

1. Briefs

Part III – Horn of Africa

1. Briefs

Part 1 - Sudan

1. Briefs

15: The Darfur separatist group Sudan Liberation Movement (SLM) said it seized the garrison town of Al-Teinah in fighting that left 250 army soldiers dead. Meanwhile, a Sudanese army statement said that "a group of highwaymen and armed bandits (Monday) attacked once again the border town of Al-Teinah, targetting civilians and their property." The governor of North Darfur State said 15 Sudanese soldiers and 30 rebels were killed.

15: U.S. peace envoy to Sudan John Danforth arrived in Cairo on a one-day visit for talks with Egyptian officials on the status of the peace process in Sudan.

15: A high-level Ethiopian government delegation arrived in Khartoum on a four-day-visit to discuss cooperation between Sudan and Ethiopia.

15: Sudan's warring parties said the peace process is still on track despite a number of setbacks that arose during the last round of talks held on the weekend. The talks ended last Saturday after the government delegation said proposals contained in a draft peace agreement were “unbalanced.” The draft is a working document, presented to the sides by the negotiators, which is expected to lead to a final peace accord in August.

15: Key opposition figure Ghazi Suleiman, who heads the Democratic Forces Front group and the Sudanese Human Rights Group, was released two weeks after being detained July 2 shortly before Sudan's opposition was to hold a press conference. The press conference was called to unveil the "Khartoum Declaration," which backs an end to one-party rule in Sudan.

16: Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Maher met with the visiting U.S. envoy John Danforth for discussions on ongoing efforts to mediate an end to the 20-year-old civil war. Maher told the U.S. envoy that IGAD needs to display "neutrality" as it goes about mediating a solution to the Sudanese conflict and should put forth more “balanced” proposals. He also renewed his country's opposition to the secession of the south.

16: The Sudan government plans to mobilize funds for the rebuilding of the war-torn southern part of the country, Sudanese Second Vice President Moses Machar announced in the Nigerian capital Abuja. Machar said rehabilitation work had actually started even as government was awaiting contributions.

16: The human rights group Amnesty International said incommunicado detention of political opponents and students, as well as the use of torture, remained common in Sudan, while civil society activists were routinely arrested and journalists subjected to restrictions. It criticized the "government's willingness to violate human rights" to deal with unrest in the three Darfur states of western Sudan. Amnesty also called for "human rights to be made a full component of any forthcoming peace agreement."

16: The U.S. House of Representatives passed a resolution condemning slavery in Sudan and asking the Bush administration to push for sanctions against the country. The resolution, which passed days after President George W. Bush returned from Africa, says the United States should encourage the United Nations to require annual investigations of abuses in Sudan.

17: The 20-year-old civil war in Sudan can not be allowed "to drag on,” U.S. special envoy John Danforth said after talks with officials in Khartoum. He told reporters he had stressed this message to government officials and would do the same with southern rebel leader John Garang.

17: Fighters from the Sudan Liberation Movement (SLM) killed more than 300 Sudanese army soldiers in a battle in North Darfur state, said a leader of the rebel group. The SLM also downed a military helicopter and seized 25 army vehicles, according to the group's secretary general. The Sudanese army denied the rebels’ claims, saying that the army had captured eight four-wheel drive vehicles in good condition, and seized a large number of ammunition including heavy and light artilleries, from the rebels.

19: A U.S. monitoring team reported a decrease in violations against civilians by warring factions in Sudan's 20-year old civil conflict. The head of the Civilian Protection Monitoring Team, retired U.S. Army Brigadier General Charles Baumann, said civilians have begun returning to areas from which they had been displaced, but warned against celebrating the developments, as “it is still an extremely dangerous time for civilians in Sudan.”

19: Ghazi Salah El Din, peace advisor to Sudan President Omer El Beshir, is expected in two days’ time to discuss with the Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki ways to resolve the current standoff in Sudan's peace process, said the Sudan News Agency (SUNA).

19: Egyptian Prime Minister Atef Ebeid left Cairo for talks on strengthening ties with Sudan. He is expected to discuss with Sudan First Vice President Ali Osman Taha the "strengthening of economic and political cooperation" between the two countries and efforts to reach peace in Sudan's civil war.

20: Sudan Airways officials will join British insurers in London for the opening of the black box of a Sudanese plane that crashed two weeks earlier, killing all but one of the 116 people on board.

20: Sudan government warplanes bombed two dozen villages in western Sudan, killing at least 300 villagers and wounding 200 others in the last three days, said the leader of the Sudan Liberation Movement (SLM).

20: Officials from Sudan and Egypt ended bilateral talks, announcing agreements between their two countries and delivering statements on Middle East issues. The talks resulted in a joint pledge by Sudanese-Egyptian officials to achieve equality among the peoples of Sudan, reach a comprehensive political compromise, and the signing of 19 agreements in the fields of economics, construction, trade, and information.

22: The SPLA said Sudanese peace talks expected to resume this week in the Kenyan town of Nakuru have been postponed to August 3 at the request of the Sudan government to allow more preparation time.

22: The governor of North Darfour announced that rebels in the Sudanese provinces of Darfour freed General Ibrahim Bouchra Ismail, commander of the Sudanese air force in the town of Al-Facher, who they captured in April.

23: Sudan Liberation Movement rebels in the Darfur region of western Sudan have agreed to a two- to three-week truce in their six-month-old war with the government. The agreement was reached after three weeks of talks with a government delegation in the rebel stronghold of Kornoy, the independent daily Al-Sahafa said in a report from the North Darfur State capital of al-Fasher.

24: Russia has demanded that Sudanese authorities release the crew of a Russia cargo helicopter that was seized in the city of al-Fasher on its way to Congo. The Russian company that owns the Mi-26 helicopter, Vertikal-T, said its crew was arrested in al-Fasher, in western Sudan, after the craft was seized by military authorities there.

24: The Sudan government halted peace talks with Sudan Liberation Movement (SLM) rebels in west Sudan's North Darfur state and instructed its negotiators to return. National security chief Salah Abdallah accused Sudan's southern rebel movement of dispatching munitions to the rebels in Darfur.

25: Sudan Liberation Army (SLA) rebels operating in Darfur, northern Sudan, have denied signing a truce agreement with the Sudan government. "There is no truce agreement between the government and us," Minni Arkou Minnawi, secretary general of the SLA, told IRIN.

26: Sudan’s ruling National Congress party, which shares power with a military junta, organized a mass rally where prominent figures and political groups signed a document pledging their commitment to equality, national unity, power-sharing and the redistribution of wealth and resources. They also rejected the Cairo agreement made by the country's main opposition parties, which excludes Khartoum from the Islamic Sharia law used in northern Sudan.

26: Granting southern Sudan independence from Khartoum would "tear the region to shreds" and would be "dangerous" for both sides, said Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.

26: Sudan should abandon its totalitarian rule and pursue political pluralism that can accommodate Sudanese people of all faiths and ethnic groupings, said Sudan Foreign Minister Mustafa Ismail.

26: Ugandan police said they were investigating the disappearance a week ago of two members of a Sudanese diplomat's family, allegedly kidnapped by Sudanese rebels.

Sudan's ambassador to Uganda, Surajjudin Ahmed Yusuf, said that two members of the family of an embassy official had been abducted by people he claimed were members of the SPLA. SPLA official George Riak, denied that the rebel movement was responsible for the alleged abduction.

27: Sudan’s Foreign Ministry handed the Ugandan Charge d'Affairs an official letter concerning the protection of Sudanese nationals living in Uganda following reports that relatives of a Sudanese diplomat there have been kidnapped. Mutrif Sadiq, under-secretary at the foreign ministry identified the two disappeared persons as relatives of Yusif Ngor, a diplomat at the Sudanese Embassy in Kampala.

28: Peace Advisory Secretary General Ali Ahmed Hamid said the Sudan government is ready to resume negotiations with the southern rebels to end Sudan's 20-year civil war after Kenya officially offered to host a new round of peace talks in two weeks. The resumption of talks has been set for August 10.

28: Twelve student recruits for compulsory military service were killed and 31 others injured when their bus overturned in a road accident in western Sudan.

28: Sudan's Defence Minister Major General Bekri Hassan Salih arrived in Kampala for talks with Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, who last month accused Khartoum of arming the Lord’s Resistance Army Ugandan rebels.

28: More than 50 civilians have been killed in government attacks on villages in Darfur, western Sudan, said the rebel Sudan Liberation Movement (SLM). "Government forces, helped by armed gangs, torched villages and dropped bombs from Antonov 16 planes in North Darfur state," said SLM spokesman Omar Suleiman.

29: Russia appealed to UN Secretary General Kofi Annan to persuade Sudan to release a Russian Mi-26 helicopter and its crew that were detained by the Sudanese authorities last week.

29: The entire print-run of Tuesday's edition of Sudnan's independent daily newspaper Al-Sahafa was confiscated as it rolled off the presses Monday night. Security authorities impounded the newspaper for having published a report on Monday regarded as baseless by the authorities, executive Al-Haj Warraq said. It had claimed that 12 student army recruits were killed and 31 others injured when a bus they were travelling in overturned.

29: Sudan released a Russian helicopter and all its 13-member crew following a diplomatic row between the two sides for more than a week.

29: Ugandan officials said that a visiting Sudanese minister had admitted that some Sudanese military officers had given assistance to Lord’s Resistance Army Ugandan rebels and their leader Joseph Kony, without the knowledge of the government in Khartoum.

30: Talisman Energy Inc. reported a 123-per-cent increase in second-quarter profits Wednesday, although revenue was down slightly after the sale of the company's oil property in Sudan. The decline in revenue was partly due to the sale of Talisman's Sudanese assets to India's state oil company for $1.13 billion in the first quarter.

30: IRIN reported that insecurity in Darfur, northwestern Sudan, is said to be deteriorating rapidly with widespread looting by the Sudan Liberation Army (SLA) rebel group and retaliatory attacks by the Sudanese government, coupled with increased local banditry and ongoing conflicts between different ethnic groups. SLA rebels regularly attacked and looted villages taking food and sometimes killing people, humanitarian sources in contact with the region told IRIN.

31: Thousands lost their homes and at least four people died when the flooding Al-Gash River broke its dikes and inundated much of the eastern border city of Kassala. "This is the worst flooding of this river ever reported, " Irrigation Minister Kamal Ali Mohammed said in a radio broadcast.

31: U.S. investigators arrived in Sudan to investigate the site of this month's Sudan Airways passenger plane crash that killed 115 people. The four-member delegation comprised officials from the National Transport Safety Board and the Federal Aviation Authority, plus a Boeing representative and an official from the company that makes engines for the aircraft manufacturer.

31: Sudanese riot police stormed a university campus, detaining 62 protestors after they demonstrated for student union elections, said police spokesman Major General Adel Sidahmed.

August 1: Sudanese rebels captured Kuttum, the second largest town in North Darfur state, killing more than 500 government troops in the process, the Sudan Liberation Movement (SLM) said in Cairo. SLM spokesman Ibrahim Ahmed said 15 SLM men had also died in the onslaught.

2: The Sudanese University of Juba has been closed down indefinitely due to student riots at the Kadaru campus on Thursday, announced university director Babikir Ahmed Mohamed. Police arrested 62 students while 15 were "slightly" injured on the campus, about 20 km to the north of the centre of Khartoum.

3: Tens of thousands of people have been left homeless in the eastern Sudanese city of Kassala in the worst floods for 70 years, state media said as an international relief effort got underway. Declaring Kassala a "disaster" zone, Khartoum has launched a rescue appeal to provide the homeless with emergency food and shelter, in a bid to prevent epidemics from breaking out, the government newspaper Al-Anbaa reported. Interior Minister Major General Abdel Rahim Mohamed Hussein, chairman of the High Civil Defence Council, said Kassala needed four billion dinars (16 million US dollars) in "urgent relief.”

3: Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni met with Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) mediators in the peace process in the Sudan, led by Lt. Gen. Lazaro K. Sumbeiywo. They briefed President Museveni on the progress of the Sudanese peace process.

3: Twenty students were arrested after a group of demonstrators at Sudan University for Science and Technology in Khartoum torched a university building, demanding their diploma studies be upgraded to a degree, police said.

3: The Sudan government has agreed to take part in peace talks following ongoing efforts by Khartoum, Washington, and Nairobi to save the talks from collapse, said Sudanese Minister of Foreign Affairs Mustafa Osman.

4: At least nine people died in the Gash River floods in the eastern Sudanese city of Kassala which has been declared a disaster zone, said police as aid was flown in from Egypt and Gulf states. Twenty-one of the city's 24 residential quarters were washed away when the river flowing through Kassala broke its banks as water levels rose to their highest level in seven decades.

4: Human Rights Advisory Council spokesman Al-Tayeb Haroun Abbas called for the release of nine political detainees held in custody without trial, including Islamist opposition leader Hassan al-Turabi. The nine are the last political detainees in Sudanese jails after the recent release of 32 others, he told a press conference.

5: The Sudan government estimated that it needs millions of dollars to rebuild Kassala after river floods killed at least nine people dead, destroyed hundreds of homes and schools, swept away electricity poles and forced the closure of the eastern city's only hospital.

5: Ghazi Suleiman, a lawyer and chairman of the Sudanese Human Rights Group (SHRG) welcomed the release of 32 opposition figures detained on political grounds by Sudanese government security authorities. He urged urged the government to release more political prisoners including the Islamist leader Hassan Abdalla Turabi arrested in 2001.

5: Twenty students detained after riots at Sudan University for Science and Technology have been freed after promising to behave, police said on Tuesday.

5: The United States offered assistance worth US$250,000 and two planeloads of relief supplies for victims of the floods in eastern Sudan's Kassala city.

5: Sudanese rebels have pulled out from Kuttum, the second largest town in North Darfur state that they captured on August 1, said the Sudan Liberation Movement (SLM). SLM spokesman Ibrahim Ahmed told AFP by telephone that his group "voluntarily" withdrew its forces Monday night, in order to spare Kuttum's inhabitants a possible government assault to recapture the town.

6: The Sudanese government has stepped up arbitrary arrests, particularly in the western region of Darfur where a new guerrilla war is developing, Amnesty International said in a statement. The human rights group reported "allegations of arrests of members of the Fur and Zaghawa ethnic groups in the context of the fighting" between the army and rebels in the areas of Kuttum and Tina in North Darfur.

7: Sudan will not resume peace talks with southern rebels unless the mediating African body modifies a draft accord, said Sudanese Foreign Minister Mustafa Ismail. "Peace talks will resume if the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) takes a new initiative providing for reasonable arrangements in the interim period," he said.

7: Frustrated by snags in negotiating a peace deal to end Sudan's long-running civil war, the U.S. told Khartoum and southern rebels that it was now time to reach an agreement. "The key substantive issues have now been put on the table," deputy State Department spokesman Philip Reeker said in a statement. "It is the responsibility of the parties to bridge the divide that separates them and to take the courageous decisions needed to reach a final agreement.”

8: The spokesman for the Sudan People's Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A), Samson Kwaje, said the rebel group will not accept a government demand that a draft peace accord be modified before talks resume in Kenya, and accused Khartoum of stalling negotiations. "Our position is still that we adopt the Nakuru draft framework as the basis for negotiations," said Kwaje.

9: Peace talks between the Sudan government and southern rebels are due to resume in Kenya August 10 despite acrimonious exchanges between the two parties this week over a draft final accord.

10: Sudan President Omar el-Bashir will not sign an "unfair" peace with southern rebels and voiced "doubts" about the intentions of their leader, John Garang, he told an Egyptian government daily Al-Ahram newspaper. "We are not going to sign any peace agreement that does not implement justice," Bashir was quoted as saying.

10: Sudan President Omar el-Bashir pledged to lift censorship of the press and end the ban on opposition politicians travelling abroad, but gave no timeframe, reported state media. He also promised to consider the release of political prisoners and said the country's state of emergency would be lifted once a peace agreement is signed with southern Sudanese rebels.

10: Sudan President Omar el-Bashir said that Sudan and Chad will work together to end a six-month rebellion in Darfur province, which borders Chad. Following the meeting, El-Bashir said they had agreed to devote "all efforts" to end the rebellion but did not specify if the two countries were seeking a military or a diplomatic solution to the conflict.

10: Sudanese opposition figures asked President Omar Bashir to reform laws they claim abuse human rights and limit political activity. Speaking after a meeting with Bashir, Sudanese Democratic Front leader Ghazi Suleiman stressed the need for an independent judiciary and a political assembly following the president's decision to abolish several restrictive laws that restrict individual freedoms including press censorship. Suleiman also called for political prisoners such as Islamist leader Hassan Abdalla Turabi to be freed.

11: Southern Sudanese politicians and religious figures slammed a government campaign against a draft peace accord to end the country's civil war, in a petition posted on the internet. The petition refuted the government's claim that the draft, drawn up by the east African body, the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD), paved the way for the secession of the south.

11: Senior U.S. State Department official Michael Southwick said Sudan had to improve its human rights record before America could normalise relations with the African country. Southwick, who arrived in Khartoum on a regional human rights fact-finding mission, expressed reservations concerning the country's implementation of strict Islamic Sharia laws on crimes such as adultery, theft, and blasphemy.

11: A new shortwave station identifying as the Sudan Radio Service has started regular transmissions. Broadcasts are currently at 1600-1700 UTC on 17630 kHz and 1700-1800 on 17660 kHz via shortwave transmitters in the UK. The project was developed in the US by the Education Development Centre (EDC) through the dot-EDU initiative, with support from USAID's Office of Transition Initiatives (OTI).

11: Father Edy Ambrose, head of the churches department at Sudan's Ministry of Guidance and a member of a government human rights advisory council, denied that religious persecution takes place in Sudan and stressed that destroyed churches are rebuilt in authorised locations. Religious freedoms are "closely observed" in Sudan, he told Michael Southwick, a U.S. deputy assistant secretary.

13: The leader of the Sudan Peoples' Liberation Movement (SPLM) John Garang, arrived in Cairo to brief Egyptian officials on recent developments in the Sudanese conflict.

14: A group of lawyers appealed to the Sudan government not to renew the detention of Islamist leader Hassan al-Turabi for a third year. "The arrest of Sheikh Dr. Hassan al-Turabi is politically motivated, as no legal justification has been offered throughout the period of his detention," said a statement issued by Turabi's defence council.

14: Eritrea sent a convoy of medical aid and emergency supplies to the eastern Sudanese city of Kassala, where floods have left tens of thousands without shelter.

2. South Sudanese women suffer the most

(This report is re-produced from the United Nations Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN). Please visit their website, for more information. This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations).

NAIROBI, 20 Aug 2003 (IRIN) - While the international community watches Sudan's leaders edge closer to a peace deal, the average southern Sudanese woman, although desperate for peace, has more immediate concerns.

Historic under-development, over 20 years of war, and inequalities in traditional power structures have left southern women in a precarious position - they now suffer some of the poorest quality of life indicators in the world.

In some war-affected areas the rate of maternal deaths rises as high as 865 per 100,000 births, according to a UNICEF-sponsored study by Nimila Chawla entitled, “From Survival to Thrival: Children and Women in the Southern Part of Sudan”. This compares with a rate of 550 per 100,000 births across the whole of Sudan, as reported in the UN Human Development Report for 2003.

In addition, estimates made by a group of major aid agencies in 1998 suggest the literacy rate among women in parts of southern Sudan could be as low as 10 percent. Even among literate women only a small number have had the luxury of attending secondary school.

Apart from deprivations resulting directly from war and underdevelopment, a drastic reduction in the male population in some areas has placed additional responsibilities on many of the women left behind.

Many southern Sudanese men have joined the armed rebellion and been called away to the front, while still others have left the south in order to gain education and training in the north, or even abroad. According to United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) estimates the population of Bahr al-Ghazal in 2001 was only about 25 percent male.

The women left behind, who were already largely responsible for keeping the family alive under fraught circumstances, are now shouldering extra burdens in traditional societies that give them a low status, poor access to income-generation activities, few education opportunities, and little or no legal redress.

Marriage problems

It is in the arrangements for marriage that the relative powerlessness of women in many southern Sudanese cultures can be most easily understood. When a young woman gets married, her husband will be required to pay a dowry to her family, usually in the form of heads of cattle. The union is therefore seen primarily as a material transaction between the husband and the woman's family, rather than a personal bond between husband and wife.

The marriage establishes an alliance between the two families; an alliance which frequently makes divorce for the woman a virtual impossibility as she usually has to gain the support of her own family. Since, in the event of a divorce, her family would have to return the dowry they are very often reluctant to allow the separation to proceed.

"One of the driving cultural premises throughout southern Sudan is that of survival through the redistribution and sharing of wealth. The linchpin for this economic and social dynamic is bride-wealth," states Mary Anne Fitzgerald in a 2002 report on the impact of war on southern Sudanese women. "Thus women are hostage to power structures that are underpinned by material assets," Fitzgerald concludes.

In-keeping with their lowly status, a woman cannot seek divorce without the approval of her family, cannot in some cases seek medical attention without the permission of her husband, and does not generally own property or have an income of her own.

Education the key

Arguably the most crippling disadvantage faced by southern Sudanese women is their limited access to education. Regular schooling is out of reach for most girls as they will be expected to work on household chores such as water collection and grinding grain during normal school hours. Not too long after a girl reaches puberty, she will become eligible for marriage, and once she is married is very unlikely to be able to attend school.

The lack of educated women in southern Sudan is particularly troubling in light of recent progress that has been made towards ending Sudan's civil war. A peaceful Sudan, particularly in the historically disadvantaged south, will need all the educated people it can muster to provide able doctors, lawyers and teachers and to foster sustainable development.

"Invariably, when women living inside Sudan were asked what was needed to improve their lives, they cited education as the key to advancement", Fitzgerald says.

In education as in the other areas of their lives, women have been disadvantaged both by the war and by traditional attitudes. Insecurity and cycles of displacement have turned regular schooling into nothing more than a pipe dream for many children, whether male or female.

The disparity in school enrolment between boys and girls is huge, and gets wider as one moves through the age-sets. According to the UNICEF ‘School Baseline Assessment Report’ for 2002, the gap between girls and boys in primary school enrolment widens from 42 percent in the lowest age-group class, to 59 percent in the highest.

However, some attempts to improve the situation appear to be bearing fruit. A UNICEF-led initiative to build and run village girls schools in Rumbek County, Bahr al-Ghazal, is thought to have raised significantly the enrolment rate of girls in primary education over the last year. Twenty-six such schools are already up and running, with another 10 planning to open their doors to pupils in the coming months.

In an attempt to keep attendance rates high and drop-out rates low, no fees are charged, attendance is only required for three hours per day and, to prevent the arduous journeys which are so often the plight of schoolchildren in rural areas, the girls must live within 15 minutes walk of the school.

The hope is that, after three years attendance at the village schools, girls will have a solid base with which they can continue their education in the local community schools, or maybe in the girls school in Rumbek town.

However, there are still several obstacles to be overcome before girls’ education is thought of as routine in southern Sudan. Girls’ families, and especially their fathers, will have to be convinced that they should be afforded equal status in education with their brothers; that it is worthwhile paying the school fees to educate girls as well as boys.

Also, if women are to eventually force their way into key roles in the administration of the 'New Sudan' they will need access to secondary education. At the moment, opportunities for secondary schooling for girls in southern Sudan are very limited. For example, although there is a secondary school in Rumbek town, it has very few female pupils enrolled in its classes.

There are signs, however, that attitudes are slowly beginning to change. Some families have realised that an educated girl can be of more value to both her family and to a future husband, as she will be better placed to bring in income and to manage the household affairs. Increasing numbers of people are also becoming aware that education of girls helps to improve the health of the family, especially in reducing the rates of infant, child and maternal mortality.

In the village girls’ school at Cai Agok location, 8-year-old Rebecca Marial is diligently practising her sums in the hope that one day she will be able to complete her education. Who knows, maybe she will become a respected female professional playing a vital role in the rehabilitation and development of a peaceful, prosperous southern Sudan.

Part II – Northern Uganda

1. Briefs

15: Renewed fighting between government forces and the rebel Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) over the past year has led to a sharp increase in human rights abuses in northern Uganda, said a coalition of local and international human rights organisations. In a 73-page report entitled "Abducted and Abused: Renewed War in Northern Uganda", the coalition said abductions, torture and forced recruitment of child soldiers had escalated since the Ugandan army launched its military offensive (code named "Operation Iron Fist") against LRA bases in south Sudan in March 2002.

25: The Irish government has denied media reports stating that it cut humanitarian aid to Uganda this month, due to concerns about defense spending. The Ugandan government increased its spending last year from 2.1 percent of GDP, to about 2.3 percent, to finance the ongoing war against the Lord's Resistance Army rebel group in the north of the country.

29: Food aid is urgently needed for over 1.6 million people in northern and eastern Uganda in the worst humanitarian crisis the country has seen for years, said the UN's World Food Programme (WFP). Those most in need were 820,000 displaced people in the north, 655,000 drought victims in Karamoja region, and 147,000 refugees from the Democratic Republic of Congo. While food stocks were available for August, there would be a "pipeline crisis" by September, said WFP spokeswoman Lara Melo.

Part III – Horn of Africa

1. Briefs

15: Ethiopian families resettled to lowland areas are in danger of facing regions “infested” with malaria and sleeping sickness, according to the UN’s Emergencies Unit for Ethiopia (EUE). It also warned that major pitfalls like ethnic tensions or ecological damage through large-scale movements must be avoided if the government resettlement scheme is to work.

16: The U.S.-based Feinstein International Famine Centre criticized the Ethiopian government and humanitarian agencies over the massive food emergency in the country and condemned the “wait and see” approach that preceded one of the worst-ever food crises to befall the impoverished country, affecting 12.6 million people. The report also estimated that 21,000 children have died from lack of food or related diseases in a study of five million people.

16: The human rights group Amnesty International called for the unconditional release of Daher Ahmed Farah, president of the opposition Movement for Democratic Renewal and Development (Mouvement pour le renouveau democratique et le developpement - MRD) and director of the party's paper 'Le Renouveau djiboutien.’ He was jailed on 9 July on charges of libel against the army chief of staff and an army women's folklore group.

16: Mogadishu-based faction leader Muse Sudi Yalahow rejected a peace agreement signed earlier this month by delegates to the peace talks in Nairobi, saying it was "flawed.” "We are for peace but this agreement was signed by people who have no weight or influence on the ground," he told IRIN.

16: Ethiopia is launching a strategy of peaceful containment of Eritrea, according to ‘Ethiopia's Policy and Strategy on Foreign Affairs and National Security,’ a draft national foreign policy document being drawn up by the prime minister’s office. It describes the current government in Eritrea as an "obstacle" to improved ties between the countries, but notes that any regime change should be left to the Eritrean people.

17: Ethiopia’s armed forces have pledged “complete cooperation” in combating a spate of shootings on its far western border with Eritrea, said the UN peacekeeping mission’s force commander, Major General Robert Gordon. There had been five shooting incidents this year involving the Ethiopian armed forces around the border town of Humera.

17: The human rights group Amnesty International (AI) called for human rights defenders to be given a central role in the ongoing peace process in Somalia. "Faction leaders must be pressed to affirm and demonstrate commitment to human rights," it it said in a statement.

17: The remains of 164 soldiers slain during the bloody Ethiopia-Eritrea border war will be repatriated before the end of the month, said Major General Robert Gordon, Force Commander of the UN peacekeeping Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea (UNMEE). The bodies – all of whom are believed to be Ethiopian troops – will be returned home so that they can be given proper burials.

17: The UN Security Council called on Somali parties taking part in peace talks in Kenya to "sincerely pursue" efforts aimed at achieving peace and reconciliation.

18: A team of world-renowned disaster experts funded by the US Agency for International Development (USAID) declared that Ethiopia is undergoing a famine. “You have a widespread livelihood crisis leading to emergency levels of malnutrition, morbidity, mortality, with alarming implications for destitution,” said expert Sue Lautze, of the acclaimed Feinstein International Famine Centre, based in the U.S..

18: Kenyan Foreign Minister Kalonzo Musyoka said the frontline states bordering Somalia are united in their support for a successful outcome to the Somali peace talks currently underway in Kenya, contrary to media reports.

18: The UN Security Council called on Ethiopia and Eritrea to normalise relations and cooperate fully with the upcoming demarcation of their common border. The 15-member body expressed concern over delays in the demarcation process. "Delays would be contrary to the wish of both parties to achieve lasting peace and stability as manifested in the Algiers agreement," said a statement.

21: Authorities in the self-declared republic of Somaliland have issued a warning against anyone trying to represent the region at the ongoing Somali peace talks in Kenya. In a statement, Somaliland warned Somali leaders and the international community to "abstain from any unfriendly declaration or acts against Somaliland.”

21: The Djibouti government denied allegations that it is adopting a passive role in the Somali peace talks currently underway in Kenya. Reacting to reports published on Somali websites last week, Djibouti's foreign ministry spokesman Siad Duale, told IRIN his country remains "actively engaged" in the Somali peace process.

22: A suspended operation to repatriate Somali refugees from Kenya to the self-declared autonomous region of Puntland, northeastern Somalia, resumed during the weekend, said the UN refugee agency, UNHCR. In a statement, it said the repatriation restarted on July 19 after a two-month suspension caused by lack of funds for the flights to Somalia.

22: Ethiopia announced it is embarking on a land certification scheme to try and improve security of tenure for its farmers. The scheme aims to offer greater security to Ethiopia’s farmers – whose land is owned by the state - and encourage them to invest more heavily in their farms.

22: The European Commission (EC) has hit back at critics over its food aid commitments to Ethiopia by pledging an additional €15 million. The EC stated that its pledges amounted to some 450,000 mt of food aid this year. The commission also said that relief assistance to the impoverished country from the European Union was now at record levels.

23: A senior official of the Mogadishu-based Isma'il Jimale Human Rights Centre (IJHRC) said that violations of human rights and international law have increased in Somalia in the past year. He said international law was breached particularly with regard to the "protection of civilians in time of war.”

23: The president of Ethiopia’s Somali region was removed from office. Abdul Jibril told IRIN that he had been appointed acting president after his former boss, Abdirashid Dulane, was thrown out of the Somali People's Democratic Party (SPDP) and relieved of the post he had held for three years. The former president told state media that he was the victim of a concerted campaign. He was also accused of being linked to "anti-peace" groups.

23: Opposition parties in Ethiopia have expressed concern over a new law allowing emergency intervention in regional affairs by the federal government. They say the law will place too much power in the hands of the ruling coalition government, the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF).

24: Organizers of the Somali peace talks in Kenya say a plenary session will start early next week to conclude the second phase of the conference and move on to the third and final phase. James Kiboi, political and diplomatic liaison officer of the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) technical committee, said an interim charter would be submitted to the plenary session of the conference next week "for discussion and adoption.”

24: Demarcation of the contested border between Ethiopia and Eritrea is to start in October, announced the Boundary Commission. Construction of border pillars would begin, as expected, in the east of both countries and the entire 1,000 km border would be completed by June 2004, the commission said.

25: The UN’s Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea (UNMEE) said it has been asked by the Eritrean government to close down its two outreach centres in the country, although for the moment they are still open. UNMEE spokeswoman Gail Bindley Taylor Sainte told a weekly press briefing that hundreds of people a week, including schoolchildren, used the centres to find out about the ongoing peace process.

25: Ethiopian defence officials insisted that the remains of 220 soldiers, handed over to Ethiopia by the UN peacekeeping force on Friday, are Eritrean troops. But Eritrea rejected the claim, saying that Ethiopia wanted to "hide its losses and casualties.”

28: An African Union commission, set up under the Ethiopia-Eritrea peace deal to establish the origins of the war, has yet to get off the ground, the AU admitted. Said Djinnit, who heads the AU’s Peace and Security Council, said the report had not been compiled because it was "not conducive” to the peace process at the time. He did not rule out the report being compiled at a later date.

28: The UN refused to let a row over 220 soldiers killed in the war between Ethiopia and Eritrea overshadow the ceremony to repatriate their bodies. The UN peacekeeping Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea (UNMEE) said that the “simple and dignified” military ceremony, which took place on Friday, was a step towards ensuring lasting peace for the two countries.

29: The ambassador of Somalia to the UN Ahmed Abdi Hashi stressed that peace in Somalia will depend on whether Somalis really want a deal and whether the international community will be able to support the outcome of the peace talks currently underway in Kenya. He told IRIN that any peace deal on establishing an all-inclusive government should be reached by consensus among all the delegates.

29: The demand of the self-declared republic of Somaliland for recognition presents the international community with stark choices, said a report released by the Brussels-based think-tank, the International Crisis Group (ICG). "The question confronting the international community is no longer whether Somaliland should be recognised as an independent state, but whether there remain any viable alternatives," the report said.

30: An 11-nation African regional task force is being set up to combat disasters and help ward off terrorism in the region, said John Abizaid, the US Central Command chief. He said the African disaster management team which is backed by the US military, would ensure greater stability in the region.

30: The UN Secretary-General's representative for Somalia, Winston Tubman, has said Somali peace talks will continue despite Wednesday's walkout by the president of the Transitional National Government (TNG), Abdiqassim Salad Hassan. "His absence will make the exercise difficult, but the talks will continue and will not stop," Tubman told IRIN. Abdiqassim told IRIN on Wednesday he was suspending his participation in the Kenya talks "until issues of concern to us are addressed satisfactorily".

30: An independent assessment of the draft Somali charter, which is supposed to act as a blueprint for the transitional period, has dismissed the document as a "mongrel" and recommended discarding it completely. The critique - commissioned by the Dutch NGO, NOVIB, which supports civil society participation in Somalia's peace process - says the document is "such a flawed piece of draftmanship,” that it does not deserve to be called a charter.

31: Senior Tigrayan officials have said they will not allow demarcation of the border between Ethiopia and Eritrea to go ahead unless changes are made to the controversial ruling. Dr Solomon Inquai, the speaker of Tigray's regional council told IRIN on Thursday that “no-one in their right mind” would allow officials from the independent Boundary Commission to construct the new 1,000 km border. “They cannot come,” Solomon said bluntly. “We will not let them. Nobody in their right mind will let them demarcate, because everybody is against this.”

August 1: Kenya’s special envoy to Somalia and chairman of the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) technical committee, Ambassador Bethuel Kiplagat, said the Somali peace talks were on course and a new Somali government should be formed soon. Kiplagat said any government formed at the conference would be universally accepted. "We are confident in our efforts that the government formed here will obtain prompt international acceptance and diplomatic recognition."

4: Authorities in the self-declared republic of Somaliland in northwestern Somalia reiterated their rejection of attempts to bring them into the ongoing Somali reconciliation talks in Kenya. A statement described as "a surprise" comments by Kenya's Ambassador Bethuel Kiplagat, who is chairing the peace conference, that the talks concern the whole of Somalia. The draft charter includes Somaliland within the boundaries of Somalia.

4: Ethiopia acknowledged that the main threat to the nation comes in the shape of a lack of democracy, poor governance and entrenched poverty. “It is believed that the major threat to our security emanates from our poverty and backwardness,” said the statement issued by the information ministry. The government believes Ethiopia must focus on its “internal condition” while ensuring that the primary goal of relations with other countries is to foster growth.

4: The United Nations welcomed a move by Ethiopia and Eritrea to allow 28 tourists to cross the contested border between the countries. Legwaila Joseph Legwaila, head of the UN Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea (UNMEE) described the border crossing as “wonderful.” Legwaila’s comments came after 28 South African tourists travelled on July 28 into Eritrea from Ethiopia via the symbolic Mereb Bridge, which links both countries.

5: Ethiopian peacekeepers are still awaiting deployment to strife-ridden Burundi, two months after they were supposed to arrive to help restore order. The 1,297 strong peacekeeping force, which was due to arrive in June, has been held up because of a lack of cash, officials within the African Union (AU) told IRIN.

5: The Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) warned that families displaced during the Ethiopia-Eritrea war are still not returning home because of the danger of landmines and the impending demarcation of the border. It said that until implementation of the controversial boundary decision takes place, Ethiopian families will be reluctant to go home.

5: The plenary session of the Somali peace talks in Kenya reconvened to debate the country's draft charter.

6: Prominent Mogadishu-based faction leader Muse Sudi Yalahow walked out of the Somali peace talks in Nairobi, saying he was unhappy over the draft charter and lack of reconciliation among leaders. "We want reconciliation among leaders first," he told IRIN. "In nine months of talks, there has not been any reconciliation. Leaders who came here as enemies remain so to this day. I thought this whole conference was about reconciliation."

6: Major General Robert Gordon, the force commander of the UN’s Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea (UNMEE), is heading an inquiry into allegations that three Eritreans escaped across the contested border into Ethiopia, hidden among its peacekeeping personnel. It is unclear how the men – who are all believed to be in their early twenties – managed to cross the heavily patrolled border and 25 km security buffer zone.

6: The president of Tigray has branded the border ruling between Ethiopia and Eritrea as “dangerous” in his annual report to the region’s state council. Tsegay Berhe told officials from the region – which borders Eritrea - that the ruling was "unfair and unjust.” Tigray was the scene of some of the heaviest fighting between Ethiopia and Eritrea during the two-year border war which claimed some 70,000 lives.

8: Ethiopia has rejected calls by the breakaway republic of Somaliland for international recognition by insisting that the region’s future lies within a united Somalia. Information Minister Bereket Simon told IRIN that while Somalis will decide their own future, Ethiopia’s interests lie in unifying the war-ravaged state.

11: Somalia's Transitional National Government (TNG), whose three-year mandate ends in two days' time, has said it will stay in place until free and fair elections are held to usher in new institutions. TNG Information Minister Abdirahman Adan Ibrahim "Ibbi" said that the Somali constitution states there should be no vacuum in governance. "We will stay until a new president, government and parliament have been elected," he said.

12: Ethiopian officials called on the U.N. to increase border security after claims that nine Eritreans may have slipped across the border, hidden among the peacekeeping force.

12: Fifteen Ethiopian opposition parties have formed a “rainbow coalition” to challenge the decade-long political hold of the current government. Veteran politician Dr Beyene Petros siad the newly formed United Ethiopian Democratic Forces (UEDF) was the largest coalition opposition force within the country. Its birth follows a seven-day conference in Washington DC where opposition leaders agreed on a 10-point action plan for the impoverished nation.

12: Ethiopia and Eritrea could face the threat of U.S. sanctions on development and military aid if they fail to speed up implementation of the contested border ruling. Four congressmen have backed a bill in the House of Representatives urging the U.S. to restrict support to both countries if they do not comply with the peace deal.

14: The U.N.’s Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea (UNMEE) made an official protest to the Ethiopian government after armed men in military uniforms illegally entered the off-limits security buffer zone. It said the men entered the 25km-wide Temporary Security Zone (TSZ) in violation of the peace agreement.

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