British and Dutch embassies open joint office in south Sudan
However, a report today says British and Dutch embassies this week opened a joint liaison office in Rumbek, a sprawling town of scattered thatch huts 900 kilometers (560 miles) south of the capital, Khartoum, which the rebel SPLA has made its headquarters. "This is really donors' effort to establish an operational presence in the south to facilitate the implementation of the peace agreement," Dutch Ambassador said.
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Business appears to be booming in Rumbek. "We have certainly never seen anything like this size of influx before," said Terry Light, from Ithaca, New York, one of the first foreign businessmen to set up here 14 years ago. He runs a tent camp next to the airstrip -- Rumbek's version of a luxury hotel.
Further reading: British and Dutch flags are flying in Rumbek as Dutch Minister opens Liaison Office.
Rumbek has no paved roads or multi-storey buildings and hardly any running water or electricity.
A man pedals past the satellite dish of Network of the World, Rumbek's first cell phone provider.
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Training of UN peacekeepers for southern Sudan to begin in Kenya
China View report Jan 21 says the training of the UN peacekeepers for southern Sudan will begin in Kenyan capital Nairobi starting Feb 15, officials disclosed Friday.
The UN has requested the Kenyan government to offer the training and limited logistical support for the deployment of the peacekeepers. The officials didn't confirm when the peacekeepers will be deployed to Sudan, but sources say that might be happening in two or three months.
[Strange how the AU has reportedly opposed the move, saying the parties in Sudan are implementing a mutually agreed ceasefire accord, which does not require foreign intervention. However, the SPLM, despite moves to delay the deployment of UN troops, appears in news reports to welcome the upcoming deployment, saying it was the main pillar of achieving security]
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South Sudan disagrees over UN mission nations
Considering the large number of international personnel in Sudan and problems with getting aid to those most in need, it's disconcerting to read reports of how the SPLM and AU appear to be thwarting the deployment of UN peacekeepers into southern Sudan.
A Reuters report out of Rumbek today says southern Sudan's SPLM spokesman said the former guerrilla group had expressed reservations about the countries that have volunteered staff for the UN peacekeeping mission to southern Sudan. Excerpt:
"We told the UN that these countries must be agreed on by the two parties. They've chosen countries without consulting us," the spokesman said by telephone from Nairobi.
Differences over the peacekeepers threaten to stall the deployment of the force which was due to be completed within six months of the UN mandate being approved, UN sources said. Several countries including Egypt, Kenya, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Malaysia and India have offered troops for the mission, one UN source said.
The source added that the SPLM were concerned about the predominance of Muslim nations on the list. "We have reservations about the whole list," a SPLM spokesman said without elaborating. He did not name the countries involved.
The Under-Secretary of Foreign Affairs Mutrif Siddiq told Reuters in Khartoum that the only requirements both sides had placed on the forces were that they speak both Arabic and English, the official languages of the post-peace country, and that they respect the cultures of the areas they were working in.
"These are the only conditions set from the two parties and we left the rest of the selection to the UN," he said. "There is nothing to do with religion here - it is a matter of respect of culture and medium of language."
He added that the government had not complained that the ceasefire monitoring commission in the Nuba Mountains area was a non-Muslim force, and that he had not heard about the SPLM complaints about the UN force.
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AU force in Darfur soon to reach 1,365
Reuters Jan 21 report confirms the AU said today its protection force in Darfur would soon grow to 1,365 soldiers, with the impending deployment of 313 troops from Nigeria and Senegal.
AU spokesman Assane Ba said no fixed date had been agreed, but the troops would be airlifted in the "immediate future".
The AU force there is ultimately supposed have 3,320 troops, but it has grown slowly because the pan-African body is relying on foreign aid to pay for it.
Note this from the report: "So far, the AU has received $186.7 million of the $221 million it budgeted for the Darfur operations. Contractors building the camps to house the troops have also been behind schedule, Ba said."
Who are these contractors, and why are they behind schedule? Clearly, the African Union are not short of funds. It seems to me that AU troops are being held up and now UN peacekeepers are being held up -- there is a delay all round in more troops going into Sudan: why? It will be interesting to read the findings of the UN's investigation into genocide in Darfur.
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Note this report, uploaded 21 Jan 2005:
Also, Moderate Islam vs. Santa Claus by Peter Fisher.