SUDAN WATCH: Big boost to Darfur peace force - S. Africa to send more troops to Darfur, Sudan

Friday, April 29, 2005

Big boost to Darfur peace force - S. Africa to send more troops to Darfur, Sudan

According to reports today by the BBC and IRIN, the AU Peace and Security Council meeting yesterday did not discuss expanding the mandate of AU troops in Darfur. A Sudanese official is quoted as saying a stronger mandate could be seen by Sudanese people as an occupying force in Darfur.

IRIN's report says AU Peace and Security Commissioner Said Djinnit told journalists yesterday, after the council meeting, that the enhanced force for Darfur would be in place by the end of September. Kenya, Nigeria and Rwanda had already pledged to contribute extra troops, he added.

IRIN states the 15-strong AU council did not discuss newly announced talks with NATO on possible logistical support or strengthening the current mandate, Djinnit said. But after the four-and-a-half hour meeting, he added that the "scope" of the mandate would be further increased to allow greater protection of civilians, convoys and checkpoints.

IRIN explains the AU's chair described a "new phenomenon" occurring: the deliberate targeting of the AU peacekeepers - and that Jan Pronk said
"We need a comprehensive peace agreement between the government and the rebels by early next year. I don't think people will return before there is a peace agreement." The 12,000 troops, he added, would be expected to remain in Darfur for around four years.
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Pronk says rebels committing most ceasefire violations - 500 people dying every month

The above IRIN report also quotes Jan Pronk as saying the situation in Darfur had improved since last year, but 500 people were still dying every month.

He said serious violations of a ceasefire - most of which were committed by the rebels - were continuing.

"The AU presence has resulted in more stability where they are, but they have to be able to back their mediation with force," added Pronk.

Here are further excerpts from IRIN's report April 29:

"We are concerned over the continuing crisis in Darfur and condemn the continued attacks against defenceless civilians," Djinnit said. "These extra troops will further promote a more secure environment and help build confidence as well as protecting civilians."

The AU acknowledged that its current 2,300-strong force, which it plans to increase to 3,320 by late May, was "extremely stretched" and could not fulfil its mandate. The increased force would come to more than 7,700 men, including nearly 5,500 troops, 1,600 civilian police and some 700 military observers.

AU commission Chairman Alpha Oumar Konare told the council that attacks against civilians were still continuing and that a "new phenomenon" had occurred: the deliberate targeting of the AU peacekeepers.

"Militarily, the force should be in a position to promote a secure environment across Darfur," he said in a report to the council.

"As difficult as the situation in Darfur is, it is my strong conviction that the AU's efforts, if intensified and pursued with determination, will ultimately lead to the restoration of lasting peace and stability in that region," Konare added.

The AU also said it was struggling to get enough civilian police into the region, a vital component of their protection mission. So far only a quarter of the proposed civilian police contingent had been deployed because of poor logistical support, Konare said.

He added that the AU would need to quadruple the force to 12,300 to restore order in Darfur, a view endorsed by Jan Pronk, the UN's special envoy to Sudan.

"We need to get around 12,000 troops in by early next year as soon as we have a peace agreement," Pronk told journalists outside the closed-door meeting.

"We need a comprehensive peace agreement between the government and the rebels by early next year. I don't think people will return before there is a peace agreement."

The 12,000 troops, he added, would be expected to remain in Darfur for around four years.

Pronk said the situation in Darfur had improved since last year, but 500 people were still dying every month. He also said serious violations of a ceasefire - most of which were committed by the rebels - were continuing.

"The AU presence has resulted in more stability where they are, but they have to be able to back their mediation with force," added Pronk.
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Sudanese ambassador says AU could be seen as an occupying force

On the sidelines of the meeting, the Sudanese ambassador to the AU, Abuzeid Alhassein, said the AU risked being seen by the Sudanese as an occupying force if it broadened its mandate and allowed AU peacekeepers to step in and use force to protect civilians.

"The protection of the civilians in Darfur should be left to the Sudanese civilian police," Alhassein said. "We do not think the AU should strengthen its mandate because if it engages militarily with people it will be seen as an occupying force."

[Who in their right mind can understand Khartoum's rationale when so many lives, including those of international aid workers, are at stake? Sudan stays in the dark ages while the world moves on. Listen up Khartoum. We in the world's democratic countries don't put up with savages and barbarians any more.]
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Big boost to Darfur peace force - S. Africa to send more troops to Sudan's Darfur

Secretary-General Kofi Annan suggested that Africa Union troops in Sudan's Darfur could become part of a UN peacekeeping mission or be augmented with a multinational force, according to a draft report obtained by Reuters on Thursday, April 28.

Mr Annan, in presenting options to the UN Security Council, said any change in the mission would need to be decided by the council, Sudan and AU.

See full report by Evelyn Leopold, Reuters, April 28, 2005.
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AU blames mistrust for continued conflict in Sudan's Darfur

Note this copy of a report from PANA, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, April 29, 2005: it quotes the chair of the AU insisting - in a report - on a strengthened mandate for AMIS and urging Khartoum to disarm and neutralise the Janjaweed:

The situation remains volatile and unpredictable in Western Sudan's Darfur region due to mistrust between belligerents in the troubled area, says an African Union (AU) report issued here Thursday.

In a report to the AU Peace and Security Council, whose session opened in Addis Ababa Thursday, AU chairperson Alpha Oumar Konare said "deep distrust" between the warring parties, the population and government forces was impeding the search for a solution to the conflict, which erupted in February 2003.

Konare told the AU Council that the population lacked confidence in government security organs in Darfur, especially the Sudanese police, because they are inter-twinned with the Arab "Janjaweed" militia.

In his report, Konare insisted on the need to strengthen the African Mission in the Sudan (AMIS) and appealed to Sudanese authorities to urgently, fully fulfil their commitments under the April 2004 N'djamena and the Abuja protocol.

He particularly urged Khartoum to disarm and neutralise the Janjaweed, apprehend and bring its leadership to face justice together with those found guilty of violating human rights and international humanitarian law.

Experience has shown that the security situation would continue to be gloomy in Darfur unless concrete action was taken in this respect, Konare warned.

Meanwhile, the AU chairperson appealed to the conflicting parties in Darfur to show political commitment to reach a peace agreement.

He reiterated the call by the Assembly of the African Union, which encouraged all leaders and stakeholders who have been supporting the Inter-Sudanese Peace Talks on Darfur to continue doing so under the overall leadership of the continental body.

[Note, there is no mention in the report of a stronger mandate for the AU troops in Darfur.]
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AU to increase troops in Darfur from 2,200 to 7,7000

Going by various reports, it seems the AU council meeting yesterday did not discuss giving their peacekeepers more powers, which Sudan has opposed. This is odd, don't you think? The ceasefire that was agreed last year between Sudan and its Darfur rebels has been violated so often, there's no longer a ceasefire to monitor. The warring parties know there is no peace to keep. Every soldier must be allowed, like anybody else, to defend themselves and come to the aid of defenceless people being attacked.

South Africa's government spokesman Joel Netshitenzhe said that a cabinet meeting April 28 in Pretoria had "agreed to respond positively to a request from the AU for additional South African personnel in the African Mission in the Sudan."

In regard to the AU's council decision to increase the peacekeeping force in Darfur - from 2,200 to more than 7,700, including nearly 5,500 troops, 1,600 civilian police and some 700 military observers - he said the reinforced troops would be put in place by the end of September. - via Xinhua April 28, 2005.

[Today, Reuters mentions the long overdue 1,000 troops for Darfur are expected to be deployed by the end of May]
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Big boost to Darfur peace force

Yesterday it was reported [see previous post here] the mandate of the AU troops would be expanded. But I've yet to see confirmation that the AU has officially strengthened the mandate.

Eugene at Coaliton for Darfur points to a report from tvnz.co.nz that states AU Commissioner for Peace and Security, Said Djinnit, told reporters:
"The force will have an enhanced scope to include protection of civilians and internally displaced people as well protecting food convoys and to stop looting."
But a BBC report April 29 [quoting the same AU official] says the AU council "did not discuss giving their peacekeepers more powers, which Sudan has opposed".

The BBC report states 1,000 troops are expected in Darfur next month - and by September, the force should be 7,700-strong, which could be further increased to 12,000, an official said. Excerpt:

"These extra troops will further promote a more secure environment and help build confidence as well as protecting civilians," said AU Peace and Security Commissioner Said Djinnit. He said that Kenya, Rwanda, Nigeria and Senegal have all promised to send extra troops.

Jan Pronk also submitted a report saying that 12,000 troops were needed in Darfur by early next year - but they should have a stronger mandate. "The AU presence has resulted in more stability where they are, but they have to be able to back their mediation with force," he said.

At its meeting in Addis Ababa, the AU did not discuss giving their peacekeepers more powers, which Sudan has opposed.

Earlier this week, the AU asked Nato for logistical and financial support for its mission in Darfur. Nato is considering the request.

The Sudan government says it would accept Nato logistical support but not the presence of non-African troops.
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US to provide $50-60 million for AU troops in Darfur

A Reuters report April 29 says now that the AU had made its decision, the US hoped very shortly to announce concrete support of $50 - $60 million for the AU. Excerpt:

The US portion would be about one-third of the price tag for the expanded AU mission, with the rest coming from the European Union, Japan and Canada.

Although some critics say Washington is trying to absolve itself of Darfur by transferring responsibility to the AU, officials insist AU forces have made a real difference in the limited locations where they operate.

US Deputy Secretary of State Robert Zoellick has taken on Sudan as part of his portfolio and is said to be working on the issue daily. He travelled to Darfur two weeks ago and said then he believed the AU is helping hold down the violence.

The State Department's Sudan expert, Mike Ranneberger, last week did a more thorough assessment, visiting six AU camps and discussing the AU's role with tribal leaders, humanitarian workers and rebel field commanders.

An official said Ranneberger came away even more impressed with the AU's "very activist approach ... They are aggressively getting out into the field and patrolling humanitarian roads."

In several instances, AU forces have pre-empted violence by occupying villages ahead of an imminent attack, he said.

But the forces need more vehicles and reliable communications to become truly effective, officials said.

On his trip, Zoellick warned that if the violence isn't ended, Sudan risks losing an even bigger pot of US assistance -- $1.7 billion pledged at a donor's conference in Oslo.

Khartoum no longer supports the Arab militias with helicopter gunships and its troops no longer accompany the Janjaweed in battle, a US official said.

But there has been "no specific reduction in violence" since Zoellick's visit and there are "numerous indicators" the Sudan government is still in very close contact with the Janjaweed and continues to support the militias with equipment and probably actual cash payments, the official said.

The administration doubts Khartoum's claims that the Janjaweed is now out of its control and is pressing for proof that all assistance has ended, US officials said. Full report.
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Chad to get Arab League observer status

On April 28, the Arab League said it had offered Chad observer status in the 22-member body.

Note, Arabic is widely used in the central African country, and nearly half of its population of about 10 million are Muslims. Chad, more than three times the size of California, shares borders with six African countries. Two of them -- Libya and Sudan -- are Arab League members.

[Sudanese people seem to class each other as either African or Arab. Sudan is a member of both the African Union and Arab League. The Arabisation of Sudan seems to be turning it into an Arab country. Surely it causes an identity crisis and friction when Arabs impose their religion and customs on people who have differing faiths and customs? If any blogger writes a post on this issue, please let me know and I will link to it here. Thanks.]
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Small Darfur rebel group agrees deal with Sudan-Chad

Chad said on Friday a breakaway Darfur rebel group and Sudan's government had signed a security deal, calling for a cessation of hostilities.

The deal was signed late on Thursday by the rebel National Movement for Reform and Development (NMRD) and Sudan's minister for investment after talks hosted by Chad's Minister of Public Security Abderahman Moussa.

Full report via Reuters and Sudan Tribune, April 29, 2005.
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Sudan poses first big trial for world criminal court

Here is an excerpt via New York Times April 28 from a report titled, 'Sudan poses first big trial for world criminal court':

Since the commission sent the 51 names to the court, much speculation has occurred in Darfur over who they are. "People see themselves as on the list," a Western diplomat said. "They're asking questions. They're saying, 'If I'm on the list, what can I do about it?'

For the time being, though, the wealth of material provided by the commission cannot be treated as evidence because the Cassese inquiry was a fact-finding mission that did not collect sworn witness statements. In contrast, Mr. Moreno-Ocampo must conduct criminal investigations that can stand up in court. He has called on other governments and individuals to provide any information they have.

"It will be an uphill battle for the prosecutor to prepare specific cases, I don't envy him," Mr. Cassese said, recalling that his own investigation faced many obstacles.

Lawyers familiar with the court said the prosecutor was likely to focus on a dozen or fewer of the top suspects in Sudan's atrocities.

Um Hashab village in Darfur, Sudan
Photo: A man from Um Hashab village, North Darfur, gestures his burned hut, after Sudanese military bombarded the village with helicopter gunship on August 26, 2004 (AP).

On April 28, the official Sudan Media Center said Justice Minister Ali Mohammed Osman Yassin decided to inform the International Criminal Court that Sudan would form its own court, headed by the chief justice, to look into alleged cases of atrocities in Darfur.

Yassin said the prosecutor of this special court would regard the list of 51 individuals as a "guide and not obligatory."

Speaking at a meeting of the ruling National Congress Party on Wednesday night, Sudan's President Bashir said Sudan did not fear the world powers.

"Those people who tremble and spread rumors think that we fear America and its wrath, Europe and its might, the United Nations and its violations. But we tell them that he who fears God, fears no one but Him," el-Bashir said.

[Mr Bashir's quote made me smile. He might sound like he doesn't know what he's talking about half the time but I like the way he equates the US with wrath, the UN with violations and Europe with might. Heh. He's got that right. Watch out mate, the Brits are coming to sort you out if you block an expanded mandate for African troops. You will give us no option. We will send troops, but only as a last resort if you leave us with no other option.

We have a General Election next Thursday. Right now Tony Blair's concentrating on winning another term in office. After he has done everything he can for Africa, he might step down and on to pastures new. But before he does, he'll have nothing lose politically if he sends British troops to the Sudan. Warning to Khartoum: watch out after Blair wins on Thursday - he is watching you. The Americans have given Sudan a huge amount of help. They may sound the loudest in the press, jumping up and down, hooting and hollering ... while things seem a lot more quiet here in Europe ... sorting you out by stealth. Mwaaahhhaaa.

Britain has a long history, going way back. Brits have a reputation in Europe for stealth and courage in battle. To this day, Europeans have a saying that goes something like this: the English defend against enemies by stabbing them in the back with a velvet glove and a smile without them ever realising what's hit them.

Watch your regime's back Mr Bashir. God is on the side of the children. If God decrees that European and NATO troops enter Sudan to protect the food and starving children, then so be it. The prayers of millions of Sudanese people will have been answered.]
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Minister says US attitude towards Sudan contradictory

No doubt this news is linked to the next here below re the US release of its annual report on terrorism. Recently, in an interview, Charles Snyder said Sudan had being given top A grade marks by the US for its co-operation on terrorism.

Excerpt from a SUNA Khartoum report at Sudan Tribune April 28:

Minister of Foreign Affairs Mustafa Osman Ismail on Thursday described the American attitudes towards the Sudan as being contradictory and marred by ambiguity.

He further said "at the time a report by the American Administration was speaking about Sudan's cooperation in combating terrorism, the US Congress was a few days ago discussing a bill seeking to hold the Sudan accountable regarding Darfur".

Ismail pointed out in response to questions by journalists that he did not discard to find some American voices commending the position of the Sudan while others taking an opposite attitude towards the Sudan.

The minister said the Sudan would continue to witness such contradictory attitudes coming from the United States of America until the American attitude is streamlined vis-a-vis the situation in the Sudan.
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Libya, Sudan improve counterterrorism work, US says

Here is a copy of a report from Washington April 27 via Reuters:

Libya and Sudan improved their cooperation in the war on terrorism last year but remain on the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism and subject to its sanctions, the State Department said on Wednesday.

Releasing its annual report on terrorism, the department said Libya was "instrumental" in last year's handover of Amar Saifi, one of Algeria's most wanted Islamic militant leaders accused in the kidnapping of 32 European tourists.

Saifi, who has been identified as second-in-command of the al Qaeda-aligned Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat, was caught in Libya near the Chadian-Libyan border according to Algerian authorities.

However, the Department cited its "serious concerns" about allegations of a Libyan plot to assassinate Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah and it continued to evaluate Libyan promises to stop using violence for political purposes.

Sudan improved its counterterrorism cooperation despite strains with the United States over the violence in Darfur, where U.S. officials accuse Khartoum of supporting Arab militias accused of a campaign of murder, rape and looting against villagers.

Cuba, Iran, North Korea and Syria all remain on the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism,

Presence on the terrorism list bars a country from getting U.S. arms, controls sales of items with military and civilian applications, limits U.S. aid and requires Washington to vote against loans from international financial institutions.

Iraq was dropped from the list in October, 2004 following the 2003 U.S. invasion that toppled former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.

The State Department stirred up a controversy last week when it announced that it would exclude detailed statistics on international terrorist attacks from its annual report, drawing accusations that it was trying to suppress the information.

Those statistics, which congressional aides say show a tripling in "significant" international terrorist attacks last year, are to be released later on Wednesday, officials said.
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US Report: Sudan Proves Ally in U.S. War on Terrorism

An April 29 report in the LA Times by Ken Silverstein says despite once harboring Bin Laden, Khartoum regime has supplied key intelligence, officials say.

Here is an excerpt from a Reuters report on the LA Times piece:

The Times said US government officials had confirmed that the CIA flew the chief of Sudan's intelligence agency to Washington last week for secret meetings, sealing Khartoum's sensitive and previously veiled partnership with the administration.

The newspaper said Sudan had detained al Qaeda suspects for interrogation by US agents, given the FBI evidence seized from raids on homes of suspected terrorists, handed over extremists to Arab intelligence agencies and foiled terrorist attacks against US targets.

The paper cited interviews with American and Sudanese intelligence and government officials.

Sudan has "given us specific information that is ... important, functional and current," said a senior State Department official speaking on condition of anonymity.

The chief of Sudan's Mukhabarat intelligence agency, Maj. Gen. Salah Abdallah Gosh, told the Times: "We have a strong partnership with the CIA. The information we have provided has been very useful to the United States."

Sudanese Foreign Minister Mustafa Osman Ismail acknowledged in an interview that the Mukhabarat already had served as the eyes and ears of the CIA in neighboring countries, including Somalia, a sanctuary for Islamic militants.

Seraf, western Darfur

Photo: Seraf, in western Darfur, lay in charred ruins last week after Arab militias burned it down to warn non-Arab residents not to return to their homes. (Beatrice Mategwa/Reuters via NYT)
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US official warns of 'downward spiral' in Sudan without political settlement

The US State Department's number two, Robert Zoellick reiterated the importance the US places on helping strengthen African Union peacekeeping forces, adding Sudan in general stands at a crossroads.
"You've got the Darfur humanitarian situation, but basically that is trying to hold the situation from getting worse, or trying to make it a little better, ultimately you are going to have to have a political settlement there. And to reach a political settlement you're going to have to use that framework that comes out of the North-South accord. These two pieces can either spiral upward together, or frankly if the Darfur situation is one in which the government is not doing what it needs to do to control the militias, then it's going to be hard to end up helping Sudan and you have a downward spiral," he said.
[Mr Zoellick seems to be one of the few American politicians who makes sense (to me anyway) this side of the pond. He sounds hardworking and very capable. Most American politicians appear to be hamfisted with clay feet when it comes to sublety, humility and the finer points of diplomacy that are need when dealing with cultures that are alien to the US. Plus he is a highly trained accountant which means its unlikely anyone will get away with trying to swizz US taxpayers' hard earned aid donations. He will keep a good eye on how the $2 billion is used for southern Sudan.]
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US photographer arrested in Darfur region

A report by Reporters Without Borders April 29 says it has called for an explanation from the Sudanese authorities for the arrest of US photographer Brad Clift, of the Hartford Courant newspaper, who has been held since 26 April 2005 in Darfur, western Sudan.

"We cannot understand the reasons for the arrest of this photographer, who has been deprived of his liberty for three days now," the worldwide press freedom organisation said.
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Colonel Anthony Mwandobi

Photo BBC: Colonel Anthony Mwandobi has a vast, troublesome area to cover. More than two years after the conflict began in Darfur, there are still only about 2,200 peacekeeping troops with a limited mandate, tying to keep tabs on an area the size of France.

As a senior African Union peacekeeper in Darfur, he has told the BBC of the frustration his job entails.

Col Mwandobi from Zambia, sector commander for the Zalingei area, said his forces are "understrength". "I need to have enough troops, I need to have communications equipment, I need to have transport - they are all in short supply," he said.

The Sudanese government strongly denies giving support to the Janjaweed militias, accused of the worst atrocities, such as mass rape, mass killing and ethnic cleansing which has led some two million people to flee their homes.

But Col Mwandobi said it is "very clear".

A village in Darfur, Sudan
Photo BBC: This village was burnt by Janjaweed militias

He said that Janjaweed fighters wore military uniforms, which they said had been given to them by the Sudanese army.

The Janjaweed also say they have been trained by the army.

"The training is done for one month and thereafter, they are let go," Col Mwandobi said.

He said there are frequent clashes in his sector, which includes the Marra mountains, where the SLA rebels have bases.

"There has been a sudden influx of [pro-government] Arab militias attacking civilians this month," he said, adding that aid workers in the region have been targeted.

But he also said the rebels frequently come out of their hiding places to attack the army.

"It's a see-saw battle," he said.

Both sides say they want the African Union peace mission to succeed but neither does anything on the ground to help, he said.

"One wonders how we can succeed if they still go to battle," he asked, with an air of resignation in his voice.

But faced with covering such a vast area and with two sides seemingly committed to carrying on the war, Col Mwandobi refused to give up.

"We are doing our best to meet every incident that is reported and making ourselves felt in every area," he said.

"We have been informed that more troops are coming."
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Spiritual leaders to meet Bashir over Kony

Here's something different from The Monitor in Kampala via AllAfrica April 29, 2005. Excerpt:

A delegation of African religious leaders will soon meet officials of the Sudan government to explore new avenues of ending civil wars in Sudan and northern Uganda in June.

The leaders are from the Baha'i Faith, Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism and Rastafarian faiths. The group is expected to meet the president of Sudan, Umar El Bashir and his officials this year.

"We resolved that an inter-faith peace delegation visits Sudan (Khartoum) to talk to the government and civil society to find out what is failing the peace process," retired Bishop of Kitgum Diocese Macleord Baker Ochola said on Wednesday.

[I would like to be a fly on the wall at this meeting. Pity it won't be televised and translated into every language and transmitted around the world.]
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The UN Darfur Report - a bloggers summary

In Geneva on January 25, 2005 the International Commission of Inquiry on Darfur submitted its report to the UN Secretary-General following Security Council Resolution 1564 of 18 September 2004.

Here is an American blogger's take, at Do Justly blog, on the 176-page report:

Part I: The UN Darfur Report -- a summary.
Part II: The UN Darfur Report -- the players.
Part III: The UN Darfur Report -- the connections

[via Do Justly's comment at Coalition for Darfur - with thanks]
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