SUDAN WATCH: Sudan agrees to allow African Union to expand mandate in Darfur? - Aid workers say donors are failing to send food needed

Monday, May 30, 2005

Sudan agrees to allow African Union to expand mandate in Darfur? - Aid workers say donors are failing to send food needed

On Friday 27 May, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan arrived in Sudan's capital of Khartoum on a three-day visit.

SG Kofi Annan arrives in Khartoum

Photo: Secretary General Koffi Annan (C-L) is received Friday 27 May 2005 by Sudan President Omar Bashir (C-R) in Khartoum, Sudan. (AFP/UN/Evan Schneider)

He met afterwards with Sudanese Foreign Minister Mustafa Othman Ismail, during which he confirmed progress in the security and humanitarian situation in Darfur.

Taha assured Annan that Sudan agreed to allow AU to expand mandate?

This piece of news is great, if it turns out to be true.

Mr Annan went from the airport to a meeting with Sudanese vice president Ali Osman Mohamed Taha, and Taha said his country was ready for peace talks next month aimed at relieving the emergency, said Foreign Minister Mustafa Osman Ismail.

Taha also assured Annan that Sudan agreed to allow the African Union to boost its role in protecting civilians in Darfur, Ismail said.

"We both agreed on the urgency to re-energize the peace negotiation in Darfur," Annan said.

SG Kofi Annan and FM Ismail in Khartoum

Photo: In this photo released by the United Nations, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan meets with Sudanese Foreign Minister Mustafa Osman Ismail Friday, May 27, 2005, in Khartoum, Sudan to discuss the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Darfur. (AP Photo/UN, Evan Schneider)

Annan visited Kalma Camp in Nyala and rebel-held area Labado

On Saturday Mr Annan called for widening the responsibilities of African Union peacekeepers in Darfur, as he visited south Darfur, where he described the suffering of refugees as "heart-wrenching". He visited the Kalma refugee camp in Nyala, home to 120,000 people, and the town of Labado, which was burned-out in fighting last year. Labado is a rebel-held area some 40 miles east of Nyala where the security situation remains intense.

Only half of Labadu's 60,000 civilians have returned to the town after militia attacks there last year. The rest still live in camps. Some told Annan they were too scared to return home. He said the situation is better than it was last year but still needs vast improvement.

"What we need is to create a secure environment to encourage people to go back to plant and pick up their lives," Annan said.

Annan said AU troops were doing a competent job, but would need a broader mandate and more resources to provide protection to the hundreds of thousands of civilians displaced by more than two years of ethnic violence in Darfur.

"The security situation in Darfur is not acceptable and as long as the situation there is not acceptable then one has to do more," Annan said at Khartoum airport after a daylong visit to the region.

Labadu, south Darfur

Photo: General view of the town of Labado in south Darfur Saturday May 28, 2005 after was abandoned by its 60,000 inhabitants when it was attacked in December 2004. Mr Annan toured Kalma refugee camp and the burned down town in Darfur on Saturday, hearing calls for African troops to play a bigger role in protecting those living in the troubled region. Reuters/Evan Schneider/U.N. Photo Full Story. May 29, 2005.

Thousands greet Kofi Annan at Kalma camp in south Darfur

Excerpts from a Reuters report on Kofi Annan's visit to Kalma Camp:

Aid workers said the Darfur emergency presented an extra challenge because insecurity rendered many areas out of reach. Donors needed to keep funds flowing for what the aid workers saw as "a long stretch ahead".

Annan talked alone to female rape victims, one of whom was prepubescent, in a reed hut guarded by AU troops in a section of the camp run by a Norwegian team.

MSF reports 500 women or more raped in recent months

A report by aid group Medecins Sans Frontieres in March said about 500 women or more had been raped in recent months and said their attackers were militiamen or soldiers. Khartoum denies widespread rape in Darfur.

As Annan was touring the camp, thousands of the refugees chanted "Down, Down, oh Bashir," referring to Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir.

The leader of the Darfur rebel SLM said the situation of the refugees was particularly serious with the onset of rains that disrupt transport.

"I call on the UN and the secretary-general to take urgent and decisive steps to protect and return the displaced to their original homes and villages," [rebel leader] Abdel Wahed Mohamed al-Nur told Reuters by telephone.

New camp called Al-Salam to house 25,000 refugees

Last June, Kalma Camp housed 26,000 displaced in an area meant for 5,000. Now 110,000 [some reports say 120,000] Darfuris live in makeshift shelters in the area east of Nyala, the capital of South Darfur state.

Aid workers said they were preparing a new site called al-Salam camp to house about 25,000 refugees to ease pressure on Kalma.

Annan briefed by Idris on tribal efforts

Earlier on Saturday, Mr Annan was briefed by Governor Al-Haj Ata al-Mannan Idris on tribal reconciliation efforts aimed at restoring social cohesion and improving the lives of the residents.

Mr Annan said he made clear to Idris that a humanitarian crisis can only be prevented if farmers are able to return to their land, plant it, cultivate and harvest their crops.

Annan visited Juba and met John Garang in Rumbek

On Sunday, Mr Annan visited southern Sudan for about five hours, where he pledged UN support to Sudan's north-south comprehensive peace agreement (CPA), the SUNA news agency reported.

During his meeting with local officials in Juba, capital town of Behr-el-Jabel state, Annan said the UN supports the implementation of the the Sudan CPA signed by the Sudanese government and the SPLM.

The UN chief listened to local officials' reports on security and humanitarian situation in southern Sudan and the preparations necessary for the CPA implementation.

He then travelled to Rumbek town, the current administrative center of SPLM, and met with the SPLM Leader John Garang.

Arriving at Rumbek's airstrip, Mr Annan said: "Let us work together to rebuild. You have suffered for too long."

The secretary general was greeted by cheering crowds and a brass band, but also a warning of the desperate need for aid in the south - a small group of children held up a banner reading: "Kofi, no food, hunger imminent."

Mr Annan was given a traditional gift of a pair of white bulls. The secretary general said he would offer them to needy widows and orphans.

After talks with Mr Annan, Mr Garang said: "The Oslo donors conference made a lot of promises".

He told Mr Annan that the postwar return of hundreds of thousands of refugees to their homes in southern Sudan is mushrooming into a humanitarian crisis.

"We were happy with the pledges but they are not helping us now as our people would deserve."

"There are people actually who have starved to death and the UN food pipeline is virtually empty. So we are asking the secretary-general to please do something about it."

Aid workers say donors are failing to send food needed

Donors promised $4.5 billion to bolster the peace deal at a conference in Oslo in April, but aid workers say donors are failing to send food needed to avert the south's worst hunger crisis since a 1998 famine in which at least 60,000 people died.

Annan commended the move of the Sudanese government and the SPLM to constitute a government of national unity in next July, stressing the necessity of the participation of all Sudanese political parties and organizations of the civil society in the formation of the constitution.

The constitution must include documents on freedom and human rights, he said, pledging to work for increasing food aid to people in southern Sudan.

White bull gift to Kofi Annan in Rumbek

Photo: Mr Annan (R) receives the traditional gift of white bulls. He was asked to lay his hands on them in a good luck gesture. Annan accepted the cattle, which symbolises peace, and said he would hand them on to needy Sudanese. Annan said on Sunday he would press donors to meet aid pledges for southern Sudan after he was confronted by a stark message on the urgent need for food on his first visit to the war-battered region. Reuters/Evan Schneider/UN Photo

The Sudan News Agency quoted Annan as saying that his visit to Rumbeik was to show "backing for the peace process in the Sudan."

Last month, the two sides began talks aimed at drafting a new constitution, which President Omar el-Bashir branded as the start of the most critical period in Sudan's history.
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Annan leaves Sudan without meeting Sudanese president

KHARTOUM, May 29, 2005 (KUNA) -- Due to bad climate preventing his domestic trip to Khartoum from Juba, the UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan departed from Sudan without meeting President Omar Hassan Al-Bashir.

According statements by UN Mission in the Sudan (UNMIS), Annan apologized, through a telephone conversation, to Al-Bashir for not being able meet because of the weather conditions.

With plans to visit Germany before returning to New York, Annan said, during the call, that he had spent an extra amount of time hoping the weather would improve, but he had to depart to Ethiopia to catch another plane to Germany.

During the three-day visit to Sudan, Annan met a number of Sudanese officials and opposition leaders, as well as members of UNMIS.
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Garang outlines priorities for southern Sudan

On May 24, in an interview John Garang is quoted as saying:

"Our priorities therefore are to lay down the foundations for government in the south. What I call the infrastructure for government in the south is to form the 10 provinces' governments, civil administrations, civil police, the rule of law, and the achievement of stability."

Also, he revealed he has at least 20,000 troops and said: "We are at present training our cadres and developing the skills. When citizens carry out wrong actions, they do not do so because they want to but because they lack the skills. This will be corrected with all sorts of training. We will turn the people's army elements into active cadres in the civil service. There are several structures for absorbing them. As you know, the army was present in the villages among the citizens and there were several complaints. We have now issued strict orders to every soldier to return to the people's army camps. In the past, their presence in the villages was justified, especially as they did not have food. But we can now provide them with food. These forces will have salaries once the government is formed."

On May 28, In a live debate broadcast on Sudanese TV, he is quoted as saying:

"Yes, we do have a vision and programmes. We want to start with the displaced in the north, and the refugees in neighbouring countries. These are our first priority, because we want the people of the south to return home. There could not be any development without people. This was one of the issues that we had tabled at the Oslo donors' conference." Full Story via BBC Monitoring Service.

[John Garang is a US educated economist. He spent some 40 years in the bush fighting. 21 years fighting the Sudanese government in a war that cost more than two million lives. His priorities never seem to put ordinary folk first - only his politics, power-base, army and commercial deals. Not much mention of food and water for civilians. It looks like he leaves it to the West and the UN to sort out. It would not be surprising to start seeing news reports of his people getting disenchanted with him. He comes across as ruthless as the Khartoum regime who have been power via a coup for about 17 years now. It would be better to see some women in power in the Sudan.]
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Darfur peace talks to start in Nigeria June 10

Peace talks between Khartoum and the Darfur rebels had been due to resume in the Nigerian capital Abuja today. UN envoy Jan Pronk accused two rebel groups of delaying negotiations and refusing to cooperate with African Union mediators.

Darfur rebel groups SLA and JEM said they will attend talks re-scheduled for June 10.
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Minute's silence to mark global death toll of hunger

As ministers step up pressure on the US to wipe out Africa's crippling debt burden, Geldof prepares to unveil U2 and Coldplay as Live 8 headliners

The British government is to back a national minute's silence to remember the world's poor ahead of the crucial G8 Summit in July.

The symbolic gesture is planned to illustrate the huge British support for plans to alleviate Africa's poverty and will be watched by the world's largest televised audience as part of the Live 8 concert on 2 July. - Full Story by Mark Townsend, Observer May 29, 2005.

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