SUDAN WATCH: Darfur, Sudan: World's worst humanitarian crisis likely to continue for the next two years

Saturday, February 26, 2005

Darfur, Sudan: World's worst humanitarian crisis likely to continue for the next two years

A report in the Scotsman on Wednesday quoted British International Development Secretary, Hilary Benn, as saying:
"The humanitarian situation in Darfur and eastern Chad at present remains dire, with large numbers of internally displaced persons (IDPs) living in camps and host communities with poor water and sanitation and health facilities. Essential food and non-food supplies are, in some places, intermittent or non-existent and there is considerable risk from outbreaks of communicable disease ...

"This is a complex and acute crisis, with protection of civilians at its heart, which is likely to continue for the next 18-24 months."

On health issues, Mr Benn stated: "The health of the IDP and refugee population is in a critical state. The World Health Organisation has estimated that between 6,000 and 10,000 people are dying each month in Darfur."
[Note: 24 months x 10,000 deaths per month = 240,000 deaths in Darfur. The crisis has gone on for 24 months now = 480,000 deaths (according to estimates projected by Sudan experts). Therefore, 240,000 + 480,000 = 720,000.

800,000 perished in Rwanda. So, if the sums are right, within the next 24 months, it is expected that 720,000 will have perished in Darfur - on top of the 2 million deaths in Southern Sudan]
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Darfur, Sudan: British government is working "very very hard"

The perpetrators of the violence which has killed tens of thousands in the Darfur region of Sudan must answer for their crimes, International Development Secretary Hilary Benn insisted yesterday.

Mr Benn said Britain would like to see those responsible for the violence tried before the International Criminal Court (ICC), even though the US continue to withhold support for that institution.

Mr Benn was giving evidence to the Commons international development select committee, which is conducting an inquiry into Darfur.

Mr Benn told MPs: "The Government's position is clear. We are a long-standing supporter of the ICC. Our clear preference is for these cases to go to the ICC.

"It is for the United Nations Security Council to take that decision. Discussions are taking place.

"What is essential is that those responsible for these crimes are brought to justice. The British Government is working very very hard to make sure that is the case." Full Story.
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Blair wants stronger AU intervention in Darfur

25 Feb Scotsman report confirms British Prime Minister Tony Blair today repeated his call for African peacekeeping forces to intervene in Darfur.

Mr Blair was asked if the world is not capable, or is unwilling, to intervene in Darfur, given the latest UN assessments of massive food shortages and continued harassment of relief workers.

"Well, the world is trying to help, but the help that is most needed is the intervention of the African Union force," he said. "And that's the key requirement, and in fact the Commission for Africa report, when it comes out, I think you will see that there is an entire chapter devoted to how we build the capability for Africa, because that's the only answer in Darfur. The only answer is to make sure you have sufficiently capable troops to go and police the situation whilst you negotiate the settlement. And that's what we are trying to do."

ap_PMTony_Blair 25feb05.jpg
Photo: Tony Blair, during his monthly news conference in Downing Street London, says the world community needs to support a bigger African Union intervention in Darfur.
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White Nile affair threatens to undermine the entire peace process?

26 Feb (Dow Jones) -- White Nile Ltd, the startup firm that says it has an oil concession in an area of southern Sudan previously earmarked for Total SA, could hamper the delicate peace agreement signed in January.

Diplomats, analysts and lawyers say the oil-development agreement between the speculative London energy firm and the former rebel group, the SPLM, could at best force the Sudanese government of the north into further negotiations with the SPLM. At worst, the agreement could unravel.

"White Nile's deal goes against the letter and spirit of the peace agreement," said Abdulrahman Elkhalifa, a Khartoum University legal professor who helped the government draft the peace agreement. Full Story courtesy Sudan Tribune.
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French Total faces minefield as it heads back to Sudan

25 Feb Paris (Dow Jones) -- Total SA reopened an outpost in Sudan earlier this month, twenty years after leaving the African country. The French oil major hopes to resume exploration work on a promising block, as large as Greece.

Total aims to send employees and contractors to the field as soon as it has received guarantees that the area is safe and mine-sweeping operations have been completed. But a diplomatic minefield may create new danger for Total's effort in Sudan.

Note, Total was eager to revive its 25-year old permit before the signature of the January peace settlement because a key clause in the agreement says oil contracts signed before Jan. 9 won't be subject to re-negotiation.

Kwaje, the SPLM spokesman, said the White Nile agreement takes precedence over any Total permit because it was signed in August 2004, before Total's December revised contract.

Kwaje said Total made efforts to revive its 1980 agreement when it saw that it had been outpaced by the British firm. But Total countered that it had learned about White Nile's existence only this week, from media reports. Full Story courtesy Sudan Tribune.

Further reading:

26 Feb Sudan Tribune report: In a statement last Friday, the oil exploration firm said it "had concluded an agreement with the government of South Sudan to acquire a 60% interest in the 67,500 square kilometer Block Ba." A White Nile spokesman declined comment. The block was previously held by France's Total SA, which disputes the legality of the deal.

26 Feb Sudan Tribune report: Sudanese official says Southerners signing of oil drilling deals 'unacceptable'.
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Darfur: New Atrocities as Security Council Dithers

25 Feb Human Rights Watch report excerpt:

New eyewitness accounts from Darfur of rapes, torture and mutilation by government-backed militias underscore how the UN Security Council must take urgent action to protect civilians and punish the perpetrators, Human Rights Watch said today.

Last week, eyewitnesses in South Darfur told Human Rights Watch how government-backed Janjaweed militia attacked villages in the Labado area in December and January, and singled out young women and girls for rape. Male relatives who protested were beaten, stripped naked, tied to trees and forced to watch the rape of the women and girls. In some cases, the men were then branded with a hot knife as a mark of their humiliation.
Members of the international media and human rights groups have also found it increasingly difficult to acquire visas for Sudan and Darfur, an indication of the Sudanese government's efforts to reduce international exposure of its "ethnic cleansing" campaign in Darfur.

"The Sudanese government has long closed off regions where it's committing massive abuses, but in Darfur last year it was forced to open its doors to media and human rights monitors," Takirambudde said. "Now it's trying to close that window by intimidating aid agencies and refusing visas to journalists."
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US warns of Sudan over Darfur crisis

25 Feb (Xinhuanet) -- The United States said on Friday that it will not fully normalize ties with Sudan until violence in Sudan's Darfur region is ended.

"The United States will not fully normalize relations with Sudan until the situation in Darfur has stabilized," State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said at a news briefing.

"We take this opportunity to underscore our grave concerns about the violence and atrocities in Darfur," Boucher said.
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Sudanese officer denies role in attack on southern town of Akobo

25 Feb via Sudan Tribune report:

NAIROBI, Feb 24, 2005 (Sudan Radio Service) --SPLA Sudan People's Liberation Army forces recaptured Akobo town in southeastern Sudan, near border with Ethiopia, on 19 February after it was briefly overrun by an armed group suspected to be allied to the government of Sudan last week.

Last Friday, the SPLM commissioner of Akobo, Commander Dou Yaak Chol, accused the Sudan government ally, Brig Timothy Taban Juc, of being behind the attack on Akobo.

But Brig Taban Juc in Malakal denied any links with the attack on Akobo. He insisted that he is the legitimate commissioner of Akobo appointed by the government of Sudan.

Juc said "No not myself, I told you that I did not go to Akobo and I'm now talking to you in Malakal and not in Akobo. I'm with the Sudan government and I'm already integrated as a brigadier in the Sudan Armed Forces".

Commander Dou Yaak says the armed group that briefly occupied Akobo killed three SPLA soldiers, looted property and destroyed buildings.

Yaak indicated three people were killed. Part of the hospital is destroyed, the church is destroyed, and some buildings in the church were destroyed. About 2,000 tukuls (huts) were destroyed.

Photo: SPLA fighters guard a village.
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South African troops to keep peace in Darfur

25 Feb IOL report excerpt:

A contingent of 284 South African troops will depart for Darfur next week on a peacekeeping mission, Defence Minister Mosiuoa Lekota said on Friday.

"This would indeed be a very difficult mission of the African Union, but the preparation has been very thorough," he told the soldiers at De Brug military base.

The contingent, which would include women, would fly to Sudan on Monday, the minister said, adding that this would be the first full contingent South Africa was deploying to Darfur.

He said the group would join 39 observers who had been in Darfur since July 2004.

Lekota said the soldiers' mission in Darfur would be to intervene and stop the fighting with the aim of stabilising the area so that the region's people could rebuild their lives.

"These tasks will present you with huge responsibility as you will be expected to comply with our country's laws and with international law."

Lekota said the cost of the mission had become "lighter" since South Africa initially formed part of the African Union mission in Burundi.

"There is now more trust and enthusiasm for Africa and this has led to resources for missions," Lekota said. - Sapa
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Russia Exports 14 APCs

25 Feb All Africa article: Uganda and Sudan are buying armoured Personnel Carriers (APCs) from Russia's Arzamas Engineering Plant, a Russian newspaper has reported.
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WFP warns of potential food crisis in Sudan

24 Feb Aljazeera report excerpt:

The World Food Programme (WFP) said that there are strong signs of a potential food crisis in Sudan, explaining that rapidly increasing prices of staple foodstuffs showed that stocks were dwindling.

"We are beginning to worry that more people than we had anticipated would be unable to feed themselves," Laura Melo, WFP spokesperson said on Thursday.

She added that WFP has estimated that 3.2 million people in Sudan, excluding the western region of Darfur, would be in need of food aid, and that the agency appealed for a US $302 million to help those affected by the shortages in 2005.

The reaction to the agency's appeal "had not been very good", Melo said, adding that they received only eight percent of the requited amount. She said that the problem was because of a poor harvest as a result of inadequate rainfall.

Regarding Darfur, Melo also said that WFP had so far received 55 percent of the $438 million appealed last year, adding that most of the contributions were in the form of cereals, making the agency short of other items, such as vegetable oils, pulses, sugar, salt and corn soya blend.

"We need funds to continue providing a balanced diet to the people." Melo said. She also noted that about 2.3 million people in Darfur were in need of food aid.

Photo: WFP said that there are strong signs of a potential food crisis in Sudan.
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World is stingy says Oxfam

A wealth of donations from across the globe that followed the tsunami disaster in Asia shows how "stingy" people really are in the face of the world's 15 other major crises, the charity Oxfam said on Friday.

"The tsunami has shown that when the world wants to deal with a humanitarian crisis it can mobilise massive resources and save lives," Barbara Stocking, director of Oxfam Great Britain, said in a statement. "So far the global response to the world's other emergencies has been stingy in comparison. The aid agenda should be set according to need and not according to media coverage," she said.

The comments came as wealthy countries wound up a two-day meeting in Switzerland to discuss aid spending plans for 2005.

Sorry, to disagree here. The UN represents at least 181 member states. Taxpayers fund the UN. Aid agencies are also supported generously by the public. When it comes to Darfur, Oxfam needs to blame the wasteful UN and its Security Council, corrupt African politicians - and stingy China, Russia and UAE to name a few - not us the people.

Western taxpayers are expected to continue to pay millions upon millions of dollars each year to keep 10,000 aid workers going indefinitely in the Sudan and to feed, water and care for at least three million people in the Sudan and Chad -- hundreds of millions of dollars to the African Union for a paltry 1,800 strong security force for Darfur -- and to pay one billion dollars for 10,000 UN peacekeepers to monitor Southern Sudan (Darfur is in Western Sudan) -- not to mention the millions (if not billions) of dollars donated by the public to international aid agencies and churches.

Not once has the Security Council explained the consequences of its inaction in Darfur over the past two years and the cost in terms of human life or projected costs in aid over the next two years. Nor has there ever been a proper explanation from the EU or US as to what is the hold up with the African Union that has received hundreds of millions of taxpayers' dollars for troops in Darfur that have not materialised.

Millions of Sudanese are displaced and unable to work or plant their own food, all because of a handful of men in Khartoum and the West is paying for it.

China and all the other countries working to block action against Khartoum need to be forced to do a lot more to help - along with the Arab states and other African countries.

Also, the report in the Scotsman says:
The UN has only received 5% of a $1.5bn appeal for the Sudan but it does not give a reason why the funds are not forthcoming.

Underscoring the difference in donations to the Indian Ocean disaster that struck two months ago and ongoing emergencies elsewhere, Oxfam revealed that each individual affected by the tsunami had received $500, whereas each person touched by a war in Uganda had only been granted $0.50.

A mere 0.8% of about $158m requested by the United Nations for Uganda has been pledged and just 0.4% of an appeal to save the lives of 1.2 million people in the war-torn Democratic Republic of Congo.
My guess is that most people are happy to fund natural disasters but not wars in countries with corrupt regimes. Speaking for myself, I no longer believe that any donation I make for Africa actually reaches those in need. From what I have learned over the past year in blogging about the Sudan, I feel foolish for donating as much as I have in the past. Perhaps government donors also feel the same -- afterall, they are accountable to taxpayers.

[Note, Oxfam says the international community has raised a mere 4% of a $3.2bn appeal launched by the United Nations last year to fund these forgotten emergencies, which are largely in Africa and affect 29 million people. In my view, Africa cannot expect to be helped until it is governed by competent managers. Kenya has just made the news headlines for its corrupt politicians awarding themselves outrageous sums of money. Change has to come within. We in the West cannot be expected to impose the change that is needed]

Photo: A Sudanese girl waits to use toilets set up by the British aid organization Oxfam in the Abu Shouk refugee camp, on the outskirts of El-Fasher in Sudan's northern Darfur region. A wealth of donations from across the globe that followed the tsunami disaster in Asia shows how 'stingy' people really are in the face of the world's 15 other major crises, the charity Oxfam said. (AFP/Jose Cendon)
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Chamberlin urges quick donor response to avoid further human misery in south Sudan

25 Feb (UNHCR) report: Acting High Commissioner Wendy Chamberlin on Friday urged donors to invest in preventing human misery by supporting UNHCR's cash-strapped south Sudan operation so that millions of refugees and displaced people can go home and stay home.
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In Darfur, three from Boston see horrors first hand

Liz Walker, the longtime Boston TV news anchorwoman, was standing in the middle of a sea of straw huts in a Darfur refugee camp, peering into a closet-sized shelter where six people live.

In the midst of a recent fact-finding trip in which she had heard harrowing accounts of burned villages and gang rapes, Walker looked out at the tortured, parched earth of Sudan, where internal fighting has claimed the lives of 70,000 people and made 2 million homeless. For a long moment, she was overwhelmed by a sense of helplessness.

''When I think about it, it just tears me up," said Walker, who returned earlier this month from the trip and is filming a documentary about Sudan.

Accompanying Walker were Dr. Gloria White-Hammond, a Boston pediatrician active in Sudan, and Linda Mason, a member of the board of directors of Mercy Corps, an international humanitarian agency that has relief workers in the Darfur camps.

The Boston women declined to name the two camps they visited, fearing government retribution against humanitarian aid workers and refugees. Full Story by Steven Rosenberg, Boston Globe Staff, February 25, 2005.


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