As this year comes to a close we remember the moments, both good and bad, which shaped our ongoing work to end crimes against humanity and mass atrocities in 2013. Take a minute to reflect on the successes of this year and our continued efforts in 2014 to make strides toward peace.
These moments are not ranked in order of importance. The numerical order is random.
1. The Loss of Nelson Mandela
On December 5, Nelson Mandela passed away at the age of 95. The former president of South Africa was a revolutionary source of inspiration for equality and reconciliation in his native South Africa and around the world. He helped bring an end to apartheid and build a new South Africa based upon reconciliation, truth, and peace.
2. Rebel Group M23 Surrender
The M23 announcement on November 5 to disarm and, “pursue by purely political means the search for solutions,” marked the end of an 18-month military effort to defeat the M23. This success was in part due to the unprecedented creation of an U.N. Force Intervention Brigade with an offensive mandate, aimed at protecting civilians and ending atrocities by disbanding the M23. The M23 surrender and ongoing talks with the government of the Democratic Republic of Congo eventually led to the signing of a series of declarations on December 12.
3. Escalated Humanitarian Emergency in the Central African Republic
Increased violence and retaliation killings over the last several months between predominantly Seleka rebel groups and mostly local militia groups, called anti-balaka, erupted when the groups clashed in the capital of the Central African Republic, Bangui, on December 5. Over the next week more than 450 people were killed in Bangui and 160 others across the CAR, and over 500,000 were displaced by the violence. In reaction, the African Union increased their force size from 2,500 to 6,000 troops, and France strengthened their forces to 1,600 troops. The U.S. has shown strong support for the robust humanitarian efforts, dedicating up to $100 million in relief and assistance to the AU operation.
4. Uprisings Against al-Bashir in Sudan
In late September, protests against the removal of fuel subsidies quickly developed into a country-wide uprising against the 24-year regime of President Omar Hassan al-Bashir. The NCP-led government quickly cracked down on the violent protests by temporarily shutting down the Internet, censoring news outlets, arresting over 1,000 civilians, using snipers, and opening fire on protesters, killing at least 210 people.
5. Signing of the Peace, Security and Cooperation Framework (PSCF) for the DRC and the Region
On February 24, 11 African nations signed the PSC Framework for the DRC and the Region. The framework agreement involved a series of commitments including that the Congolese government implement security, government, and structural reforms, as well as improve economic development and state authority in eastern DRC. In addition, neighboring countries pledged not to support armed groups in Congo and the international community promised to appoint a U.N. special envoy, Mary Robinson. The PSC Framework represents a commitment among the nations of east and central Africa to work towards regional stability.
6. Promotions of Susan Rice and Samantha Power
On June 5, former Ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice was appointed to head the National Security Staff at the White House. As her replacement, President Obama appointed Samantha Power, who previously worked at NSS on multilateral affairs and human rights and is known for her and reporting on human rights violations in conflict regions such as Bosnia. These appointments represented the Obama administration's prioritization of human rights and atrocity prevention in American foreign policy.
7. South Sudan’s First Political Crisis Turns Violent
This is an emerging situation leading to facts and details changing rapidly. The information below may not be the most recent.
President Salva Kiir Mayardit issued a presidential decree on July 23 firing his Vice President Riek Machar Teny, along with all 29 cabinet ministers and deputy ministers. This drastic move reflected the internal turmoil among the highest levels of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement, or SPLA, ahead of the 2015 elections. These tensions have exploded again with the accusations against Machar for leading an attempted “coup,” and violence in Juba and Jonglei, leading to the death of over 500 people.
8. Bosco “The Terminator” Ntaganda Surrenders
The founder and former leader of M23, Bosco Ntaganda, surrendered to the U.S. Embassy in Kigali on March 18. An International Criminal Court (ICC) indictment had been pending against him since August 2006 for war crimes and crimes against humanity allegedly committed in 2006 and 2012 while he led the rebel group Forces Patriotiques pour la Liberation du Congo, or FPLC. Soon after his surrender, “The Terminator” was transferred to the ICC and pled “not guilty” to those charges. His case is ongoing.
9. Appointment of New U.S. Envoy to the Great Lakes Region Russ Feingold
On June 18, the U.S. government appointed former Senator Russ Feingold as the new, full-time U.S. Special Envoy to the Great Lakes Region of Africa. His strong record in human rights and experience chairing the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations' subcommittee on African Affairs has served him well. He has shown strong leadership and a commitment to confronting the Great Lakes' complex issues, evidenced by his role in facilitating the peace talks between the DRC Government and the M23, as well as continued regional dialogue aimed at achieving goals related to the Peace, Security and Cooperation Framework Agreement for the DRC and the Region.
10. Ngok Dinka Vote to Join South Sudan
Beginning October 27, the residents of Abyei held an independent, unofficial referendum to vote on the final status of the Abyei area. On October 31, the Ngok Dinka tribe announced that over 99% of the 63,433 registered voters chose to join South Sudan. While the vote remains unrecognized by Sudan, South Sudan, and the international community, it was a strong statement of the Ngok Dinka’s desire to bring an end to the Abyei debate.
11. Fight Against Ivory Poaching
Following the creation of an anti-poaching task force by President Obama on July 1, the U.S. destroyed 6 tons, or $1 million worth, of ivory in November. This is just one moment in a larger movement to combat the illegal trade of ivory, which remains a source of income for several armed groups in Central Africa, such as the Lord’s Resistance Army.
12. Largest LRA Defection Since 2008
On December 6, 19 individuals defected from the Lord’s Resistance Army, or LRA, in the Central African Republic, marking the largest LRA defection since 2008. The group was made up of nine adult males, four adult females, and six children, and included a Lieutenant Colonel who has been in the LRA since his abduction 24 years ago. The defectors said Invisible Children’s defection messaging strongly influenced their decision to escape the LRA.
13. Dr. Denis Mukwege Nominated for Nobel Peace Prize
Dr. Denis Mukwege, a long-time activist for human rights in the Democratic Republic of Congo, was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. He is a gynecologist who has tirelessly treated several thousands of women gang-raped by rebel and army forces. He also speaks out against the use of rape as a weapon of war in the DRC, in spite of threats against his life for his advocacy work.