Half of Darfur is short of food - Darfur rebels are blocking aid to 1.5 million refugees
Today (Wednesday) Aljazeera reports nearly half the population of Darfur is short of food and that Darfur rebels are stalling aid deal.
DARFUR FAMILIES FACE FOOD MISERY
WFP survey confirms Darfur facing serious food shortage
BBC confirms Darfur families face food misery. A World Food Programme survey on nutrition and food security in Darfur has found that almost half of all families are not getting enough to eat. The survey confirms aid agencies' fears that the western Sudanese region is facing a serious food shortage.
The survey is the first comprehensive assessment of food availability since the crisis began some 20 months ago. The agency found that:
• Almost 22% of children in camps for internally displaced people are malnourished
• Almost half of all families are not getting enough to eat
• Ninety-four percent of the displaced in Darfur are completely reliant on food aid for every mouthful they consume.
WFP says it is aiming to provide food and vitamins for children under five - "but food alone is not enough - the response also has to be significantly stronger on water, sanitation and health."
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REBELS ARE BLOCKING AID TO 1.5 MILLION REFUGEES
Once again, the Darfur rebels have refused to agree to a deal that would give aid workers unrestricted access, commit both sides to preventing attacks on civilians and allow for refugees to return home.
Talks broke off early Tuesday when rebels refused face-to-face talks with the government, demanding instead that the African Union meets separately with both sides to draft an agenda.
An earlier round of peace talks in Nigeria ended without agreement in September, after rebels refused to sign a humanitarian accord giving aid organisations wider access to refugees. Rebels insist they will not sign the already-drafted accord without an accompanying security agreement.
A key sticking point in reaching a security deal is a government demand that insurgents disarm. The Sudan Liberation Army and a second rebel group, the Justice and Equality Movement, insist the Janjaweed must first be disarmed.
Here's what's happened so far:
On Monday, the all important peace talks opened in Abuja, Nigeria. The rebels adjourned meetings on security and political issues Monday and Tuesday almost as soon as they started, saying they needed more time to fix a position.
They are insisting that Khartoum disarm its militias in Darfur before they would sign a deal to bring aid to 1.5 million civilians displaced by violence.
Analysts at the talks said the rebels had stalled on the humanitarian deal believing deteriorating conditions in refugee camps in the vast region would pile pressure on the government to concede ground over issues such as disarmament.
"We've told the rebels that for them to be seen as blocking the signature of the humanitarian protocol is not very good," said a European Union diplomat attending the talks.
The rebels' reluctance to sign the humanitarian protocol in the second day of peace talks in the Nigerian capital brought the two sides back to the sticking point that caused a round of talks last month to collapse.
If signed, the aid deal would be the first meaningful agreement in three rounds of talks that began in July.
"The rebels should not take the international community for granted. They think they have all the international sympathies, but if they are seen as the ones who are stalling they will have to pay a price," the European diplomat said.
Photo of Darfur rebels: serious internal splits have shown up in their ranks
Today, The Star in Malaysia reports Darfur talks break as rebels demand clear agenda.
A key sticking point in reaching a security deal is a government demand that insurgents disarm.
The Sudan Liberation Army and the Justice and Equality Movement insist the Janjaweed must first be disarmed.
The Justice and Equality Movement said the two rebel groups would also push for a no-fly zone over Darfur.
Nigerian army spokesman Col. Mohammed Yusuf, said 196 Nigerian peacekeeping troops were ready to leave for Darfur from their southeastern base of Abak, and were just waiting for the African Union to arrange their transport.
Further reading: BBC report August, 2004 Analysis: Reining in the militia - "Disarmament of the Janjaweed may lead to fighting among Arab militia groups and with the government - a development from which the rebel movements would reap profit."
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REBELS ACCUSE SUDAN OF FRESH BOMBING RAIDS
Dealing blow to peace talks
Darfur rebels accused Sudan's government of launching fresh bombing raids that killed 10 people in Darfur, dealing another blow to peace talks in that have so far failed to even set an agenda.
Lt. Gen. Mohammed Ismail, the deputy chief of staff of the Sudanese army, denied the rebels' accusations, saying there had been no fresh violence in the eastern Darfur town of Allaiat, a key base of the rebel Sudan Liberation Army.
SLA spokesman Mahgoub Hussain said government forces began bombing the town early Tuesday and air-raids continued Wednesday.
"Until now they are bombing," Hussain said, just before talks resumed Wednesday in Nigeria's capital, Abuja. He said the dead included "about 10 civilians, including one lady who was pregnant."
Both sides reported fighting for several days last week in Allaiat, and rebels said at least 7,000 people had been displaced. Sudan's army said then they were only defending their positions.
The fresh violence was sure to cast a shadow over the third day of talks in Abuja, where about 100 delegates gathered around a large oval table at an international conference center.
LATEST: reports the third day of peace talks adjourned Wednesday morning hardly an hour into the discussions, after the African Union (AU) mediators asked for more time to prepare a document on security.
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U.S. BANKS RELUCTANT TO HANDLE MONEY FOR KHARTOUM
Khartoum extend deadline for Washington to open U.S. bank account or close U.S. Embassy in Sudan
Yesterday (Tuesday) Sudanese Foreign Minister Mustafa Osman Ismail told reporters that banking arrangements for foreign missions was the direct responsibility of the host country and the United States had failed to solve the problem for three months.
"We are waiting for more than three months and they are giving us excuses or (only) solving the problem partially," he said.
Speaking after a meeting with the head of the U.S. embassy in Khartoum, he said Sudan's deadline for the United States to sort out the problem expired on Tuesday, but the United States had asked for more time.
"We will postpone the decision until the end of this month. If it is settled that's ok. If it is not settled, there is no way that the Sudanese embassy will continue and on a reciprocal basis there is no way for the U.S. embassy to continue here also," he added, without elaborating.
U.S. banks have been reluctant to work with embassies in Washington after U.S. regulators fined Riggs National Corp's. Riggs Bank, which long specialized in serving the diplomatic community, $25 million for suspected violations of the Bank Secrecy Act that aims to prevent money laundering.
"We're hopeful that a resolution to this issue (of finding a bank for the Sudanese embassy) will be arrived at shortly," State Department spokesman Adam Ereli said in Washington. "I think we're close to a deal (with a private U.S. bank)," added a U.S. official who asked not to be named.
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U.S. LISTS SUDAN AS A "STATE SPONSOR OF TERRORISM"
The United States lists Sudan as a "state sponsor of terrorism," but the U.S. special envoy for Sudan, Charles Snyder, said last month that Sudan was still cooperating on issues relating to international terrorism.
The report mentions the fact that Sudan's Washington embassy has been the scene of many demonstrations against the Sudanese government's handling of the Darfur violence.
A recent news report quoted the UN's special envoy Jan Pronk telling the Darfur rebels: "Don't lay mines."
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DON'T GIVE UP ON PEOPLE OF DARFUR
Says British aid worker just back from Darfur
Jane Salmonson, director of Mercy Corps Scotland, is now back in the UK after visiting Darfur. Jane's message is: don't give up on the people of Darfur. Here is an excerpt:
I spoke to scores of people in the camps, asking why they had come, what had made them leave their homes.
Each individual had a horror story to tell, of being burnt out of their villages, of watching the men being rounded up and shot, of a "scorched earth" policy destroying wells and burning crops.
In each case I asked: "So will you go home now?" The reaction each time was clear. No. With all the privations of the camp, they felt safe there. The armed militias roamed round the edges of the camps but did not enter. Everyone I spoke to expected to be killed if they went home.
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UN ENVOY HEADED TO DARFUR TOMORROW
Angelina Jolie currently on visit to Darfur and Khartoum
A UN envoy to Sudan will visit Darfur tomorrow to check on the government's claim that some 70,000 people displaced by conflict there have voluntarily returned to their homes
Manuel Aranda Da Silva, an envoy of UN Secretary General Kofi Annan for humanitarian affairs and development, will visit El Fasher, the capital of North Darfur state, spokesman Fred Eckhard said.
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HOLLYWOOD ACTRESS ANGELINA JOLIE
Currently visiting West Darfur and Khartoum
U.S. film star and UN goodwill ambassador Angelina Jolie is due to hold a press conference in the Sudanese capital Khartoum tomorrow after a three-day visit with displaced persons in West Darfur.
Angelina Jolie has just adopted a Russian baby named Gleb. Gleb is Jolie’s second adopted son; the first boy Maddox (pictured above) is from Cambodia and is now 3-years-old. / Photo from volny.cz
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U.S. Air Force to fly Nigerian troops to Darfur on Thursday
Reuters say 390 Nigerian soliders to leave on U.S. plane for Darfur on Thursday.
400 Nigerian troops are due to leave for Darfur on Thursday as a part of an African Union (AU) force to monitor renewed fighting in the area, an army spokesman said on Wednesday.
"All things being equal, they will leave tomorrow morning. A little more than two companies are on standby and ready to leave anytime the AU gives the go-ahead," Colonel Mohammed Yusuf said.
The 390 soldiers, who are expected to travel aboard a U.S. transport plane from the capital Abuja, will join 150 Nigerian troops already in Darfur to make up a battalion, Yusuf said.
The French news agency, Agence France Presse, quoted Mr. Ismail Monday as saying that Sudan would never accept any U.S. planes on Sudanese territory other than under an A.U. agreement that does not violate Sudanese national security.
But the spokesman for Sudan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Mohamed Ahmed Abdel Ghassar, told VOA the delay in the airlift, which was to begin Monday, was because the U.S. embassy in Sudan's capital, Khartoum, approached the government directly for flight clearance without going through the African Union first.
"The ministry re-directed them [the Americans] to pass it through the African Union," he said. "And it was done. There is nothing like refusal or something like that."
The foreign minister had said Monday the Sudanese government would cooperate closely with the African Union to facilitate the arrival of the more than 3,000-strong force from seven African countries.
Nigerian officer AG Mahmuda shouts to his soldiers upon their arrival at Al-Fasher airport in North Darfur 30 Aug 2004 - the batch of troops already in Darfur that are supported by the U.K.
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U.N. SECURITY COUNCIL TO MEET IN NAIROBI
For two days of Sudan talks next month
The U.N. Security Council voted unanimously on Tuesday to conduct its business in the Kenyan capital of Nairobi for two days next month in an effort to end Africa's longest civil war in southern Sudan.
What, China and Russian didn't object? Another exotic sunny location all expenses paid meeting for all concerned.
Wonder how much such a meeting costs the UN in travel, accommodation, expenses, security. And how many bags of flour can be bought with the total bill? Probably enough to feed nearly half of Darfur - the half that are suffering shortage of food.
Ruthless dictators, rebels and Kofi Annan et al are certainly on a high flying gravy train jet setting around the world to exotic locations every few weeks. They'd better make it worthwhile this time or taxpayers might start asking to see the bill.