Sudan: Leaders of six Darfur tribes sign a new pact
The news seems hopeful as Norway's highly regarded Hilde Frafjord Johnson is mentioned as a witness. Here is an excerpt:
The accord, the first of its kind since the conflict began two years ago this month, commits the leaderships of six South Darfur tribes not to hide fighters associated with either the rebels or the pro-government Janjaweed militia.
"We swear to God that we will not conceal anyone who will seek to terrorize people," the pact states.
"We declare that we are dropping all claims for blood money or losses because we need each other, and because most of our people have been displaced and we do not possess money," the pact adds.
The signing ceremony in Nyala, the capital of South Darfur, was witnessed by the provincial governor, Al-Haj Atalmannan Idris, and Norway's Minister of International Cooperation Hilde Frafjord Johnson, who is visiting Sudan.
The Sudanese government, which the UN has criticized for failing to stop the Darfur conflict, arranged for journalists to fly from Khartoum for the ceremony.
The authorities said the negotiations for the pact began two months ago, with each tribe represented by 10 elders.
The Darfur conflict has pitted rebels, who come from the region's ethnically African population, against the government and allied Janjaweed, which draws its members from the region's Arabs.
The tribes taking part in Wednesday's ceremony came from either side of the African-Arab divide. In some cases, members of the same tribe are believed to have fought on opposite sides.
The government hopes the accord will quiet South Darfur, the scene of some of the heaviest fighting in the past two months.
In a case singled out by the UN's mission to Sudan, unidentified militia ransacked the South Darfur village of Hamada in January, killing about 100 people, mainly women and children.
The fighting in Darfur has forced about 2 million people to flee their homes. One of the largest camps for the displaced, Kalma, stands outside Nyala.
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Summit on Darfur crisis opens in Chad
AFP report Feb 16 says Presidents from several African countries began summit talks Wednesday in Chad to seek ways ways to enforce a ceasefire in Darfur. Here is an excerpt:
The two-day meeting has brought Gabon's Omar Bongo Ondimba and the Congo Republic's Denis Sassou Nguesso to Ndjamena to join Chad's Idriss Deby, Omar el-Beshir of Sudan and Alpha Oumar Konare, a former president of Mali who is now chairman of the commission of the African Union.
The leaders plan, with Chad as mediator, to get a ceasefire back in place for Darfur. This pits two rebel groups from the local population of black African origin against an Arab horseback militia, the Janjaweed, widely accused of major human rights violations.
Note, Sudan's Bashir is to briefly visit Nigeria later on Wednesday for talks. The heads of state meeting in Chad was due to be followed by talks between Darfur's two main rebel groups - the SLM and the JEM - and Sudanese government officials.
16 Feb AFP report: Several African leaders wrapped up summit talks, agreeing on steps to ensure respect of a ceasefire in western Darfur.
16 Feb Reuters report: Sudan's president on Wednesday, speaking after talks with African leaders in Chad, urged the international community not to send troops to the Darfur region, saying he wanted the problem to remain in the hands of the African Union. "We also ask the international community not to send neutral forces so that the rebels can realise their aims. We want the rebels to come to the negotiating table with serious intentions,: Bashir told reporters.
16 Feb Sudan Tribune report: The Darfur rebel group SLA/M issue a statement on N'djamena meeting on Darfur.
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Khartoum to negotiate with Eastern Sudan rebels
Aljazeera article yesterday, Feb 15, says the Sudanese government has agreed to negotiate with the opposition Beja Congress as the legitimate representative of the people of eastern Sudan.
Photo: Self appointed President of Sudan, al-Bashir, recently named the world's worst dictator
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How many have died in Darfur, Sudan?
Nobody knows for sure how many people have died during the two-year conflict in Darfur. Hundreds of thousands of people are still out of the reach of aid workers. Today, the BBC says the widely quoted UN figure of 70,000 is clearly wrong, because it was based on a study that does not include those killed in the violence and covers just six months of the conflict. Here are some snippets from the BBC report dated Feb 16:
The UN says that 1,650,000 of the estimated six million population have fled their homes within Darfur and a further 200,000 have crossed the border into Chad. But the organisation is reluctant to even suggest how many might have died.
Khartoum consistently underplay the scale of the crisis. The UN Security Council remains unable to agree on how to sanction the government or the perpetrators of abuses. The small African Union force meant to monitor a ceasefire is ineffective and under strength. This has led to continuing clashes, meaning many parts of the province remain insecure and inaccessible to those who might investigate.
The only major study of deaths in Darfur so far has been conducted by the UN's World Health Organisation which estimated that as many as 70,000 people had died of disease and malnutrition caused by the conflict between March and October 2004.
The UN's emergency relief coordinator Jan Egeland has admitted the death toll in Darfur could be much higher than the 70,000 WHO figure but says he does not know.
US academic Eric Reeves estimates the toll at 340,000 at the beginning of 2005.
Dr Jan Coebergh, who once worked in Darfur, has examined a range of aid agency health surveys. He puts the figures slightly lower at about 300,000 - but he admits it is little more than a stab in the dark. "We don't know enough about how many people are dying from violence let alone natural causes in inaccessible areas. The reality is that we just don't know the scale of the problem," Dr Coebergh told BBC News.
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Food shortages in four Sudanese states, including North and West Darfur
Yesterday, Feb 15, Sudan's Agriculture minister said the international community must finance Sudan. Here are some snippets taken from IRIN and VOA news reports:
The minister was in Rome for a day to sign a loan agreement of about 25.5 million US dollars granted by the International Fund for Agricultural Development for the Western Sudan Resources Management Programme that will benefit an estimated 200,000 households in the central Sudanese region of Kordofan.
On the issue of bringing to trial those responsible for the incidents in Darfur, he declared that the Sudanese government was in favour of a trial, but by its own courts in Sudan and not by an international court.
He said the amounts of food in Sudan are satisfactory with some states having surplus food. But, he said, there are four states where there are food deficiencies, including north and west Darfur. He added that through food reserves the government has secured enough food for the region until July 2005.
He acknowledged that many crops would be left untended in Darfur. People in rural areas live in fear of violent opposition rebel groups. Those who have been displaced are scared to return to their homes. The minister said the situation has improved and the health situation is considered satisfactory, but many still feel threatened by the violence. He said the government is coordinating with voluntary organizations in the area to supply surplus food from other states to those that need it. But he agreed that there is still looting and insecurity in the region which creates difficulties in transporting the assistance.
Referring to the recent suggestion by Kofi Annan for NATO or EU intervention in Darfur, he said this had no basis because the security situation is continuously improving. The matter should remain under the responsibility of African Union troops because, he said, "they understand our mentality better."
In the same breath, he said the international community must support the Sudanese government, help it decrease its debt and invest in the country. Full Story at VOA Feb 15.
UN warns Darfur could face new food shortage. A Reuters report Feb 15 says the UN urged donors on Tuesday to speed the flow of food aid to Darfur or risk worsening shortages in the region. "Urgent and timely financial backing is crucial to ensure that WFP is able to meet the needs of those most at risk in the coming months," spokeswoman Christiane Berthiaume said. Without rapid assistance, a recent improvement in the food situation of about two million people driven from their homes by violence in the region could be reversed, the agency said.
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UN agency seeks to develop locally produced, fuel effective stoves
UNICEF Feb 14 said one of the main concerns women and girls raise is the constant threat of rape they face when they leave camp to collect firewood. “Darfur is largely a desert and women and girls are walking for miles and miles to collect enough firewood to feed themselves and their families,” a UNICEF spokesperson explained.
To minimise the exposure of women and girls to attack, UNICEF is working to develop locally produced, fuel-effective stoves which use much less firewood. These would cut down the time spent outside the relative safety of the camps.
Note, It has been said that if the men collect firewood they are killed. When the women collect firewood they are raped. They are all being stopped from foraging for food, water and firewood. Incacerated. Prisoners in the camps, for years if other countries who are against western actions and intervention have their way. What a life eh?
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Bundeswehr observers ready for Darfur
Today, Feb 16, the EUobserver confirms Germany would take part in UN mission to Sudan. German government spokesman Thomas Steg said on Monday that Berlin is prepared to let German soldiers take part in a UN-led mission to Sudan.
Yesterday, a German news article said Germany's most widely-read newspaper, Bild, has quoted a defence ministry report as saying that Berlin is ready to provide personnel to act as observers in Sudan and to help run any military headquarters.
Bild said that the UN peace-keeping mission in Sudan will involve 10,000 soldiers from participating countries. Germany's role in the mission will be limited as it will send only military observers and staff officers for the headquarters, the paper quoted German military sources as saying
Germany's Bundestag lower house of parliament approved on December 3 a government plan to make some 200 soldiers available to the African Union to help resolve the crisis in Darfur.
Photo: Towards the end of ast year, German troops airlifted African Union soldiers into Darfur
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I would stop my contacts in Darfur in case of foreign intervention, Libya's leader says
Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi has commented on Kofi Annan's call for NATO and EU intervention in Darfur, says Libyan news Feb 15:
"In case of foreign intervention in Darfur, I would halt my contacts that I am undertaking now with the people of Darfur, its tribes, chiefs and military leaderships, which I am making in implementation of the decisions of the quintet African Summit held in Tripoli last October," he said.
"The statement of Kofi Annan is very serious, and bars us from continuing our African efforts. If the content of the statement is to be implemented, the Sudan could turn into another Iraq. I have informed the president of the African Union and Darfur leaders of my position," he added.
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Sudanese opposition parties meet in Ugandan capital
Note for new readers, the following two items do not relate to Darfur in Western Sudan which is a separate conflict from the one that recently ended in Southern Sudan:
A report at China News Feb 16 says Sudanese opposition parties are meeting in Kampala to discuss political developments following the signing of a final peace accord by the Khartoum government and the SPLM/A, Radio Uganda reported on Wednesday.
An executive member of the opposition parties' umbrella organization, the National Democratic Alliance (NDA), Mutaz el Fahal, was quoted as saying that "top executive members of the NDA are discussing how they can prepare their parties for participation in the political arrangement in Sudan after the signing of the peace agreement ... and how to prepare the people for democracy." He said 30 top NDA officials were attending the meeting which started on Monday.
Members of the NDA include the Democratic Unionist Party, the Sudanese Communist Party, Darfur's Sudan Liberation Movement/Army, and the SPLM/A. The NDA was established in 1989 following a coup in which Sudanese President Omar el-Bashir overthrew Sudan's prime ministerSadiq el-Mahdi.
During the past 16 years, armed NDA members fought alongside the SPLM/A in the southern civil war, which left two million people dead, and launched sabotage attacks and other low-level violence in Sudan's north and east in opposition to the Khartoum government.
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White Nile shares suspended
British based oil exploration firm White Nile, whose shares have soared since listing last week, said on Wednesday it had sealed a deal in southern Sudan.
A snippet in Feb 16 Scotsman says shares in White Nile were suspended at the request of the company after it agreed to buy a 60% interest in an oilfield in southern Sudan and pledged to publish details of the deal by the end of this week.
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Thank you to Stones Cry Out blog for linking to this blog and highlighting the plight of the Sudanese.