SUDAN WATCH: Sudanese troops attack homes after shooting demonstrators

Monday, January 31, 2005

Sudanese troops attack homes after shooting demonstrators

News via Reuters Jan 31 reveals Sudanese police and troops went on a rampage in ethnic Beja parts of Port Sudan on Saturday after shooting dead at least 18 people preparing to take part in a demonstration, witnesses said on Sunday.

At least seven people were seriously wounded in the rampage in the Red Sea city in eastern Sudan, in which soldiers threw hand grenades into houses several miles from the scene of the demonstration.

The authorities were not immediately available to comment on the report.

Sudanese Interior Minister said police had opened fire on demonstrators after cars were set on fire and shops looted. "Security forces had to protect the port and oil reservoirs," he told Reuters during a visit to Dubai on Sunday, adding that the situation was now stable.

In the graveyard outside the city, thousands of angry men were preparing to bury the dead following the riots.
"Yesterday there was a massacre here. We need international protection," Abdel Salem Mohamed shouted. "We are going to struggle. We are going to prepare for war."
Photo: A Sudanese Army soldier on guard close to his machine gun. Armed police were out in force across Port Sudan, following two days of riots by protestors from Beja ethnic group in which at least 14 people were killed, witnesses said. (AFP/File/Marco Longari)
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The Beja Congress

The Beja live in expansive shanty towns on the outskirts of Port Sudan. Originally a nomadic people, many moved to the port to work as labourers after famine killed their cattle and mechanised farming took over their lands in the 1980s.

The Beja Congress, a political party representing the Beja ethnic group, and other Sudanese opposition groups accuse the Sudanese government of neglecting the remote regions of the country in favour of the centre. They see the agreement this month between the government and the southern rebels SPLM as a model for their own regions. The agreement gives the southerners a share of their region's oil revenues.

The Beja Congress has a military wing, which has performed minor military operations in the east. Beja forces attacked government forces on Saturday and Sunday in an area south of the town of Kassala.
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Photo: A woman in the southern Sudanese town of Rumbek cleans grain. About 100 people were killed in an air raid last week on a town in western Darfur, despite a truce, the African Union said. (AFP/File/Simon Maina)
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Annan says another 3,500 AU troops for Darfur in Feb

An Allafrica report Jan 31 quotes Kofi Annan as saying, yesterday in Abuja:
"AU is pursuing a noble and bold mission in Darfur. There are already 1,000 AU troops deployed to Dafur. It is in the lead and by February will deploy another 3,500 troops. AU troops are making an important contribution and difference. The international community is making generous contributions and as far as Sudan is concerned the Union is doing well. The UN will deploy peace keeping operations to the South and once on ground will work with AU," he said.
Note: It is likely that Russia and China may once again ensure sanctions are not imposed by the UN Security Council. And it is unlikely a travel ban will be imposed by the council because Khartoum has threatened to reciprocate. Nobody mentions a no-fly zone. Why isn't anyone pressing for a no-fly zone over Darfur? Perhaps it would entail deploying troops and affect aid entering by air into the country.

[Personally, I do not see what else the council can do to punish Khartoum, except increase AU troops and improve their mandate - and maintain pressure with threats of sanctions in the knowledge the international community will withhold millions of dollars of development funding, which is what is currently happening, until there is peace in Sudan.

As expected, the eastern Sudan rebellion is making itself known through protests in Port of Sudan over the weekend. Last year, John Garang forecasted trouble from rebels in the east. The Beja Congress Party representing those in the east also want a share of the power and oil revenues. This could go on for many more months and years, step by step weakening the regime in Khartoum, until [and this is my theory] they are overthrown. Seems like a strategy which I believe the international community is behind - and one which Khartoum will resist at any cost, no matter if it means millions of lives.

Unless there is the political will (which will probably never happen unless there is a change of tactics and strategy) to provide an adequate number of people on the ground in Darfur, there appears to be nothing we can do except keep applying media pressure on Khartoum. Maybe the looming prospect of prosecutions by a global court will help to make Khartoum crack. Ismail recently announced he is stepping down. Garang will soon take over Taha's position. Bashir and Taha are key, along with the Arab tribal leaders. A news report recently quoted Jan Pronk as saying he was proposing to include Sudan's Arab tribal leaders in future peace talks. If somehow the tribal leaders could be brought onside, Bashir and Taha would not have much left to govern. Within the next six months there could be 10,000 peacekeepers in South Sudan - which, together with tens of thousands of rebels in southern Sudan - could in theory (my imagination is working overtime here) make a move to help Darfur]
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Darfur peace talks due to resume in Feb

Guardian Jan 31: Sudan Govt, Rebels to Reopen Peace Talks - A Western diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the latest Darfur peace conference is scheduled for the third week of February, in the Nigerian capital of Abuja.
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Sudan's Garang vows to back Ugandan peace process


John Garang, pictured above, has spent the past 42 years fighting in the bush and is expected to take over from Taha as First Vice President of Sudan. Recently Garang said he believes in negotiation, not violence, and would not be using any of his troops to help Darfur.

Now he says he wants to take action against the LRA:
"We will not be putting down our arms. We are going to defend our country and we don't want any foreign armed groups within our territory ... there should not be anyone with unlicensed guns," he said.
Full Story.
Photo: Soldiers of Garang's Sudan People's Liberation Army train in Rumbek. (AFP/File/Simon Maina)
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UN denies genocide is taking place in Darfur

Here is an extract from Jan 31 Independent UK article re UN commission report on inquiry into genocide in Darfur:
Lord Alton of Liverpool, who visited Darfur last October, said: "The long-awaited UN commission on events in Darfur has, in effect, given the government of Sudan permission to continue killing its black African population with impunity."
A report in the Sunday Herald Jan 29 says China and Russia put pressure on key report team to reject US claim. [It is interesting to see mainstream media at long last quoting the death toll as high as 370,000 - probably taken from mortality figures provided by Sudan expert, Prof Eric Reeves who estimates a death toll of 400,000]

Note, in a report Jan 29 the Scotsman points out that in practice, bringing the perpetrators of atrocities in Sudan to court would not be possible without overthrowing the government, which would mean international military intervention.
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Darfur Abandoned

Sudan expert, Prof Eric Reeves has just published another must-read analysis dated January 30, 2005: "Darfur Abandoned - Khartoum Continues Genocidal Assaults on Darfur Civilians, According the international community a well-earned contempt". It is important to note Prof Reeves points out:
Well over 1.5 million people are without any food assistance at all, and the fighting in South Darfur last week that caused more than 9,000 people to flee their homes adds to a still-growing population of displaced persons in Darfur and Chad, which now numbers approximately 2.4 million (1.65 million in accessible camp areas in Darfur; more than 200,000 refugees in Chad; an estimated figure of 500,000 displaced persons in inaccessible rural areas; an estimated 50,000 additional displaced persons since December 1, 2004).
Prof Reeves explains, "in turn, continued displacement adds to the humanitarian requirements for Darfur, even as humanitarian capacity is falling further and further behind increasingly desperate needs. Insecurity consequent upon Khartoum's unconstrained military actions is of course a major factor limiting humanitarian capacity."

[In other words, hundreds of thousands more Sudanese - maybe even millions - could die from malnutrition and disease, exceeding Rwanda's genocide of 800,000. Prof Reeves estimates 400,000 Darfurians have already perished over the past 23 months. Who knows, the worst could be yet to come. The death toll to date is much greater than the recent tsunami that affected 11 Asian countries. The UN's figure of 70,000 deaths continues to remain static over the past three months, even though 10,000 Sudanese die each month from malnutrition and disease and millions are inaccessible to aid workers. The UN refuses to update its figures and admits the 70,000 it quotes are for March 2004 onwards, not the 12 months prior]

Photo: Refugees International via ISN Switzerland
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Darfur misery 'fault of Sudan'

A Scotsman report Jan 31 says the UN, AU and aid groups on the ground have warned of a resurgence of government air raids in Darfur in recent weeks in which hundreds of people have died and thousands have been displaced:

Sudan is guilty of "gross violations" of human rights in Darfur, Kofi Annan said yesterday, amid growing evidence that Khartoum has restarted its devastating campaign against black Africans in the region. Speaking at an AU summit in Nigeria, Mr Annan said
"This cannot be allowed to stand and action will have to be taken, I believe that sanctions should still be on the table."
Also at the summit, Darfur rebel groups called on the AU to send more peacekeepers to the region to disarm Janjaweed Arab militia.

Last night, Khartoum denied the bombing charges, saying they were fabricated by foreign media and organisations. The governor of North Darfur state, said in a statement published by the official Sudan News Agency:
"We personally went there [to Shangil Tobaya] ... and the people in the area were surprised as to the lies diffused by the organisations and the western media."
UN Secretary General Kofi Annan condemned an attack near Shangel-Topayi in Sudan's western Darfur region that claimed around 100 lives. (AFP/File)
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Sudan asks US to lift political and economic sanctions

Meanwhile, China View article Jan 30 reports that Sudanese foreign minister Mustafa Ismail [who is stepping down within next few months] expressed his country's appreciation to the US administration over its initiative that contributed to the signing of the peace agreement in Nairobi, Kenya on January 9 and made an appeal in a congratulation message to new US Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice on her new post:
"It is the time for the American Administration to fulfill its commitments to improve its relations with Sudan by normalizing all the ties as well as lifting the political and economic sanctions it imposed against Sudan," he said.
Ismail affirmed his country's commitment to solving the Darfur problem and urged the US government to put pressures on the Darfur rebel groups to take serious steps towards peace.

Ismail concluded his message by renewing Sudan's commitment to maintaining contact and dialogue with the American administration over the second four-year term of President George W. Bush in order to achieve peace and security.

[Note: Has anyone else noticed that Ismail, at certain pressure points, ie whenever Sudan faces wrongdoings in the run up to a UN Security Council meeting, he wastes no time issuing a press statement that reminds the US about its "commitments" to Sudan? In my view (for what its worth) it comes across as a veiled threat rather than a reminder. It's as though Khartoum has some sort of hold or sway over the US. One can't help wondering if Sudan still has some sort of ongoing deal with the US on exchange of information relating to the war on terrorism]
Photo: A Rwandan soldier belonging to the African Union Force patrols in El-Fasher, Sudan. The Sudanese government would support any reinforcement of the 1,700-strong African Union peacekeeping force deployed to Darfur, Sudan's ambassador to Nigeria told AFP. (AFP/File/Marco Longari)

[Note how the figures vary. Some reports say there are 1,700 AU troops in Darfur. Kofi Annan said yesterday there are 1,000. I believe Mr Annan. As far as I am aware, the only troops to arrive in Darfur this year were 46 soldiers from Nigeria]
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Darfur peace talks due to resume in Feb

Guardian Jan 31: Sudan Govt, Rebels to Reopen Peace Talks - A Western diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the latest Darfur peace conference is scheduled for the third week of February, in the Nigerian capital of Abuja.
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African heads tackle key problems

Heads of state from more than 25 African countries are meeting in Nigeria to try to resolve some of the continent's most pressing problems: see Jan 30 BBC report:

Delegates at the two-day African Union (AU) summit will tackle a host of issues, including alleviating poverty, UN reform and ending African conflicts.

UN chief Kofi Annan said he was very worried at the security situation in the western Sudanese region of Darfur. He also warned that Africa was not on target to meet development goals.

"[Africa] continues to suffer from the tragic consequences of deadly conflict and poor governance," he said.

Africa remains blighted by conflict, poverty and poor governance
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US oil companies return to Libya

BBC report Jan 31 confirms Occidental is the major winner of oil and gas licences in Libya, returning to the country after two decades:

US oil companies have been awarded most of the contracts on offer at the first open licence auction in Libya. Companies like Occidental and Chevron Texaco will return to Libya for the first time in more than 20 years.

European oil and gas companies were not awarded any of the licences to explore 127,000 sq km (51,000 sq miles).

US companies have been out of Libya for two decades


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