SUDAN WATCH: UN International Day of Peace and 59th General Assembly - UN officials are now in Darfur assessing what should be done

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

UN International Day of Peace and 59th General Assembly - UN officials are now in Darfur assessing what should be done

Today is the United Nation's International Day of Peace. It's estimated that armed conflict claims two lives every minute and the UN is calling for a global ceasefire for the whole day. The day is aimed at promoting non-violence, not just in war zones but on the street and in people's homes.

Also on this day, US President George W Bush and more than 100 heads of state and government - along with many foreign ministers - are gathering in New York for a two-week long debate at the UN's 59th General Assembly. The debate is expected to address a wide range of issues, including Darfur. There could be pleas for the international community to provide more funding to help the humanitarian effort.

The reform of the Security Council is a key issue for some members who do not have one of the five permanent seats. A meeting is planned between Japan, India, Brazil and Germany, who all want permanent seats. However a high level panel which is discussing UN reform will only make its recommendations in December.

The resolutions passed by the General Assembly do not have any legal force, but they do have moral authority. Analysts say it is more a forum for debate than a forum for action.

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On Darfur, here is the latest news report from the UN:

Two senior United Nations human rights officials have arrived in Darfur to examine how to shield beleaguered civilians there from further militia attacks.

High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour and the Secretary-General's Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide, Juan Méndez, visited camps for internally displaced persons (IDPs) and talked to African Union (AU) monitors in North Darfur, UN spokesman Fred Eckhard told reporters.

Mrs. Arbour and Mr. Méndez, who arrived in the Sudanese capital Khartoum over the weekend, will travel to South Darfur state today (Tuesday) before heading on to West Darfur and eventually returning to Khartoum.

The two officials have been dispatched by Secretary-General Kofi Annan to study the latest developments in Darfur and recommend what should be done to protect the inhabitants there from more attacks by the Janjaweed militias.

Before their departure, Ms. Arbour pledged to look into what more can be done to ensure that the people of Darfur "no longer have to fear massacres, rape, forced displacement and other abuses."

Genocide inquiry:

In dispatching the officials last week, Mr. Annan stressed they are not determining whether or not genocide has taken place.

That question will be addressed by a commission of inquiry which the Security Council, in a resolution adopted on Saturday, said the Secretary-General should establish.

UN Security Council will consider sanctions:

The resolution also stated the Council will consider imposing sanctions against Khartoum if the Sudanese Government does not cooperate with earlier resolutions to disarm the Janjaweed and protect the civilians, and if Khartoum does not agree to an expanded force of AU monitors.

AU/UN meeting this week re monitoring force:

AU officials and their counterparts in the UN's Department of Peacekeeping Operations are meeting this week in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, to discuss strengthening the monitoring force.

Jan Pronk meeting this week with AU and officials:

That subject will also be on the agenda when Jan Pronk, the Secretary-General's Special Representative for Sudan, visits Addis Ababa and the Eritrean capital of Asmara this week for talks with AU officials and representatives of the two countries.

Mr. Pronk is also expected to discuss the peace talks taking place in Abuja, Nigeria, between the Sudanese Government and Darfur's two rebel groups.

Jan Pronk 5th meeting with JIM re joint Khartoum/UN pledges in June 2004:

On Friday Mr. Pronk attended the fifth meeting of the Joint Implementation Mechanism (JIM), the body set up in July to make sure Khartoum and UN meet the pledges made in a joint communiqué.

In that document, signed at the end of Secretary-General Kofi Annan's trip to the country, Khartoum promised to try to disarm the Janjaweed, who stand accused of killing and raping villagers and destroying their homes and cropland.

Militia attacks and the fighting between government forces and rebel groups has forced some 1.2 million Sudanese to flee within the country, and another 200,000 to cross the border and take shelter as refugees in Chad.

Mr. Eckhard said the expansion of the AU force and Khartoum's failure to end the impunity of many of the Janjaweed leaders were among the topics covered during the JIM meeting.

Further reading:

United Nations Day is celebrated on 24 October each year. World military expenditures – some $800 billion a year – would pay for the entire UN system for more than 65 years. Read more in About the United Nations - Introduction to the structure & work of the UN - and Questions and Answers... Image and Reality ...about the UN
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Update: 'Killers' are guarding Sudan refugees

Breaking news from the BBC: refugees in different camps in North Darfur have told UN rights official Louise Arbour that 'Killers' are guarding Sudan refugees. The militiamen have been recycled into Sudan's police force, she said.

"They claim to see former Janjaweed... recycled into the police," Ms Arbour told the BBC's Today programme. "There is a widespread belief they are being protected by their very oppressors."
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Other news:

African Union urges Sudan to cooperate with monitors in Darfur

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Addis Ababa, Ethiopia - Without admitting that its monitors in Darfur were facing hostility from the Sudanese regime, the African Union has urged Khartoum to let its mission act more effectively in the violence-torn region.

In a communiqué issued at the end of its 16th meeting, the AU Peace and Security Council (PSC) demands full cooperation of the regime with the AU Mission in the Sudan (AMIS).

Reiterating the need for the AU to continue playing a lead role in searching for a solution to the Darfur conflict, the Council has expressed appreciation for the support given by the UN.
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Sudan MPs urge UN to put pressure on Darfur rebels

Khartoum, Sudan - UN should pressure rebels fighting the Sudanese government to rejoin peace talks on the conflict in Darfur rather than threaten Khartoum with sanctions, Sudanese parliamentarians said on Tuesday.

Members of Sudan's national assembly said the international community was putting too much pressure on the government side and not enough on the rebels, an approach they said led to the collapse last week of peace talks between the two sides.

"It is better for the international community to help to push both sides to sit down again for negotiations because if there is still war then it is difficult for them to sit down with each other," said William Othwonh Awer, chairman of the federal relations committee.
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Massacre looming in Darfur: Dallaire

Montreal, Canada - Sudan might ignite like Rwanda, says ex-peacekeeper. Canada should demand a military force be sent to Darfur before the situation escalates into a Rwanda-like massacre, Lt.-Gen. Roméo Dallaire said yesterday.

"What should be done is an outright intervention," says Dallaire. He said, "When I compare it to Rwanda, there are so many similarities it makes you sick."

"Khartoum", he said, "is getting away with slaughter and genocide, while the world reacts, much as it did then, with embargos and restrictions. What is required is outright intervention under the premise of the Responsibility to Protect."

He was referring to a 2001 UN report that states three criteria for intervention in a nation-state's internal affairs: war crimes, crimes against humanity or genocide.

Dallaire believes the UN should organize a force, led by African Union and Arab League forces with logistical support from middle-power countries like Canada and the Netherlands, to apprehend those responsible, and protect aid workers and displaced persons. "It's not (to be done) by the big powers, because the Islamic dimension is not negligible," he said.

Also today, Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin, in his first speech to the UN General Assembly, is expected to urge developed nations to support an African peacekeeping force for the area.

Canada has agreed to Sudan's request to post an ambassador — the first in more than 10 years — to Ottawa. Dr. Faiza Taha's posting becomes official sometime next month.
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Romeo Dallaire

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Gen. Romeo Dallaire former head of the UN Peacekeeping Force, witnessed unspeakable horrors in Rwanda, as extremist Hutus massacred over 800,000 Tutsis and Hutus in the space of a few days in 1994. 

Dallaire did everything he could, pleading for 2000 more peacekeepers to be added to his insufficiently equipped 3000 man force. If they had answered his pleas, the UN could have stopped the slaughter of hundreds of thousands of Rwandans. 

Instead, following the deaths of 10 Belgian Peacekeepers assigned to protect the President, his forces were cut down from 3000 to a mere 500 men, who had to watch as one of the most horrible genocides in human history took place before their very eyes. 

Dallaire, frustrated, and disheartened by the UN's passive attitude, nonetheless stood for his beliefs, repeatedly confronting his superiors who did nothing to prevent the horrific events from unfolding. 

In 2002, he was honoured as the first recipient of the Aegis Trust Award. He is now working on the problem of war-affected children, and has visited countries where children are used as soldiers or are being sold into sexual slavery.
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Malaysia is closely monitoring the Darfur crisis

Kuala Lumpur - Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Syed Hamid Albar said Malaysia is closely monitoring the Darfur crisis and the UN Security Council’s threat to impose sanctions on Sudan’s vital oil industry. 

Syed Hamid, who was leaving for New York to attend the general assembly tomorrow, hoped the Darfur crisis would be discussed by the Organisation of Islamic conferences and the Non-Aligned Movement foreign ministers in New York. 

He said Sudan had no choice but to agree to abide by a UN resolution calling on it to restore security to Darfur or face possible sanctions.

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NAM member countries represent many shades of political opinion
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Interviews with Sudanese refugees in Chad

Mosbat, Sudan - Policies, economics turned Muslims against Muslims in Darfur, Sudan by Sudarsan Raghavan, Knight Ridder Newspapers. Excerpt:

Jan Pfundheller, a retired police officer from Brewster, Washington, interviewed Sudanese refugees in Chad for a State Department survey that Secretary of State Colin Powell relied on to conclude that genocide is taking place in Darfur.

This is some of what she heard:

Nineteen men were killed while praying in a mosque.

An imam and his son were raped with sticks.

Then, there was the imam and a tribal sheik who were tied and forced onto their knees before a high-ranking uniformed Sudanese officer with two stars on his epaulet. He ordered them to reveal where the rebels were hiding. They replied they were only religious leaders and didn't know. So the officer ordered Janjaweed militiamen to pile straw around the pair and burned them alive.

Mosques tend to be places where men gather to pray and discuss communal matters, so killing imams wipes out leaders who wield great influence and who teach the youth their history and culture.

"They had this idea the blacks or the so-called slaves cannot be equal to their masters, even in terms of religion," said Bahar Ibrahim, a senior adviser to the rebels. "So if it is a slave mosque they can always destroy it."

Today, Mohamed's mosque is his tent. He no longer teaches the Quran to youth.

Dagne, the Africa expert, said the intent of the attacks was to "humiliate and dehumanize African Muslims ... to the point they don't exist as a cohesive community."

He added: "This is all about political survival and the methods they use is more vicious than any other regime in Africa."

This was not always the case. Darfur embraced Islam in the early 1800s, and Arabs and black Africans lived mostly in religious harmony through Darfur's days as an independent sultanate, then during British colonial rule and after independence in 1956.

Mohamed, sitting inside his tent, remembers better days over cups of sweet tea. Whenever Arab traders and nomads passed through the area, they would pray at his mosque and give donations. Sometimes, visiting Arab clerics would give sermons.

Mohamed said he was friends with the father of Musa Hilal and had been a guest at his house. The United States now accuses Hilal of being a senior Arab Janjaweed leader who's committed war crimes.

"There was no animosity between us," said Mohamed. "We had good relationships with Khartoum."

That changed in the 1980s. Successive Arab governments, in a divide-and-rule plan to maintain power, manipulated rivalries between Arab nomads and black African farmers, polarizing them racially.

The regime combined this with a policy of discrimination and neglect of Africans, while arming Arab tribes against them. The emergence of a shadowy alliance called the Arab Gathering, which professed the supremacy of the Arab race, further shattered Islam's unifying role.

Generations of intermarriage, which made Arabs and Africans nearly physically indistinguishable, were ignored. Soon, being of Arab lineage - determined by one's father's ethnicity - took precedence over being Muslim.

Arabs stopped visiting Mohamed's mosque and began to challenge the devotion of black Africans to Islam. "Now, in the days of this government, they look at us like animals," he said.
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Findings of Amnesty International's mission to Sudan

London - The picture in Darfur is one of distress, denial and disappointment - distress of people whose lives and livelihood have been destroyed, denial of responsibility by the Sudanese government and disappointment at the slow progress to resolve this crisis, concluded Amnesty International, the first international non-governmental human rights organisation to officially visit Sudan since the Darfur crisis began.

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