SUDAN WATCH: MSF aid worker says Sudan is 'hurting its own people' - Democracy is the answer, says the UN

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

MSF aid worker says Sudan is 'hurting its own people' - Democracy is the answer, says the UN

Last year, Gethin Chamberlain, chief correspondent of the Scotsman was one of the first reporters on the ground in Sudan.

Today, he writes a report that sounds like he has interviewed British aid worker Paul Foreman in Khartoum by telephone.

For sure, the Khartoum regime will have to drop the charges because, like any Western health care organisation, Paul Foreman could never disclose confidential patient information and there is no way he, nor any of his colleagues, would denounce MSF's report on rapes as untrue. So, once again, Khartoum have painted themselves into a corner. They are so unethical they probably can't even imagine the meaning of the word.

Here is a copy of the Scotsman report. Note the report states that Kofi Annan's translator was arrested. [Scroll down here to yesterday's report pointing to two odd versions: first Jan Pronk said the translator was arrested, then he denied it. Mr Pronk is the UN's top envoy in Sudan. It is difficult to imagine experienced diplomats, even if they are from The Netherlands, using words like "arrested" lightly. See below Kofi Annan's off the cuff remarks to reporters where he says he is expecting to hear from Jan Pronk by today]

A BRITISH aid worker arrested by the Sudanese government yesterday accused the Khartoum regime of hurting its own people by threatening to prosecute aid workers.

Paul Foreman was arrested on Monday and spent much of yesterday being questioned by Sudan's attorney-general after being charged with crimes against the state, including spying.

The Foreign Office said it was doing what it could for Mr Foreman, the head of Medecins Sans Frontieres Holland, and added that it had "grave concerns" about the treatment of aid workers in Darfur.

Vince Hoedt, MSF Holland's Darfur co-ordinator, was also arrested yesterday, as was an interpreter who translated for Kofi Annan, the United Nations secretary-general, during his visit to Darfur last week.

Mr Foreman, who is originally from Worthing, told The Scotsman that he found the circumstances of his arrest "extraordinary".

The Sudanese government decided to prosecute him after taking exception to an MSF report which highlighted more than 500 rape cases in Darfur that had been documented by MSF medical staff.

Speaking from Khartoum, Mr Foreman said: "What I regret is that this is totally time consuming. All that this is doing is hurting Sudanese people."

He accused the Sudanese government of obstructing the efforts of aid agencies who were attempting to help the victims of the genocide in Darfur.

"Humanitarian access is not good now. I think that the African Union has started to have some effect but there is a long way to go," he said.

"These guys are obliged to give us space to work and they are not doing that, by looting and shooting at us, by demanding that we only go with their consent and with their escort. Wherever the ground is controlled by men with guns they attempt to use us for political ends."

He said the Sudanese government appeared to have been embarrassed by the publication of the rape report and had used whatever means it could find to undermine the agency.

"We have undergone two months of propaganda and war by media," he said.

He said he had been charged with publishing false information, action likely to cause social unrest in Sudan and spying, but had been offered a way out. He said he had declined.

"They said if I would denounce the report as false that would be acceptable, which I'm not going to do because I stand by it. They said I could submit some of the details of the rape survivors but that is covered by the doctor-patient relationship. The other possible exit is that I could drag some of my own staff into court and testify but that is putting MSF and me on trial for crimes committed by Sudanese against Sudanese."

A Foreign Office spokeswoman said: "We have been advocating unrestricted access for agencies operating in Sudan and we are continuing to raise the need for unfettered access and non interference by the government."

She said that Hilary Benn, the International Development Secretary, had raised the matter with Sudanese ministers and discussions were continuing at an ambassadorial level.

Sudan govt. trying to intimidate and silence aid workers
Photo: An injured Sudanese is treated at a Medecins Sans Frontieres clinic in Darfur.
Picture: Nic Bothma/EPA/Scotsman Wed 1 Jun 2005
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Darfur - Gang Rape of a Fourteen year old Girl

London-based Sudan Organisation Against Torture (SOAT) publishes Human Rights Alert re South Darfur May 31. Excerpt:

On 19 May 2005, three men allegedly from the Popular Police Forces attacked and raped a 14 year old girl (name withheld) belonging to the Beni Halba tribe in Nyala. During the attack which took place at Nyala Valley, the victim was beaten with hands all over her body.

On the same day of the attack, the girl was taken to the hospital for medical examination and the medical report confirmed the girl had been raped and had sustained physical injuries. Following the medical examination, the girl's family reported the incident to the police in Nyala and a case was lodged against the perpetrators. On 20 May 2005, the three men from the Popular Police Forces were arrested and were identified by the girl as the perpetrators. Full Report courtesy Sudan Tribune June 1.
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Dutch summon Sudan envoy over aid worker arrest

Amsterdam Wed June 1, 2005 Reuters report:

The Dutch Foreign Ministry on Wednesday summoned the Sudanese ambassador to complain about the arrest of a Dutch aid worker with Medecins Sans Frontieres over the agency's report about rape in Darfur.

A spokeswoman for the ministry said ambassador Abuelgasim Idris would be told the arrest of Vincent Hoedt and his British superior Paul Foreman was not acceptable. The ambassador will have to report at the ministry to a high-ranking official.

"Aid workers should be able to do their work unhindered. ... There where they encounter abuses, they have to be able to denounce them," Dutch state secretary for foreign aid Agnes van Ardenne said in a statement.

Sudan's attorney-general, Mohamed Farid, said on Monday authorities had opened a criminal case over a report by MSF's Dutch branch in March detailing 500 rapes over 4-1/2 months in Darfur. He said the report was false.

The MSF report said its doctors working in Sudan's western Darfur area, where tens of thousands have been killed and more than two million forced from their homes, had medical evidence of the rapes in the western Sudanese region.
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Secretary-General's press encounter upon arrival at UNHQ

Upon his return from Africa to UN HQ in New York 31 May, Kofi Annan, in an off the cuff meeting with reporters said he thinks the situation in some areas of Sudan has stablised but there is still serious security problems outside camps, and that is one of the reasons why he met with the AU, NATO, the EU and other donor states to provide support to allow the AU to expand its forces in Darfur from the current 2,000-plus to about 8,000. He said he was very satisfied with the $300 million raised in cash and in kind.

On the outcome of the referendum in France, he said: "Obviously, that is a major blow, but not a mortal one. I believe the project -- that is, the European Union, will survive and eventually, thrive."

Here is a copy of the Q&A session on Sudan:

Q: You had a meeting with rape victims, I believe, in Darfur. After your meeting your interpreter was held for a brief period of time. Two individuals from Medecins sans Frontieres who have dealt with the rape report continue to be held. Can you tell us what happened, what you know of the situation, and also what you've learned about the problem of rape?

Secretary-General: Yes, I did have an opportunity to talk to a group of women in Darfur. They discussed with me the insecurity, incidents of rape, and a mother telling me about her daughter, and we had an interpreter there with us. I heard this morning he was not arrested. I just got a report from Mr. Pronk. He was harassed, he was not arrested, and the UN intervened, and the authorities have indicated they will leave him alone. We are also following up on the question of Mr. Foreman who worked with Medecins sans Frontieres - he's also out on bail and we are following up to see what we can do to help him, to clarify the situation. In my discussions with the authorities I urged them to allow humanitarian workers to operate freely without impeding their work or their activities. Obviously I have to get more details of what happened to the Medecins sans Frontieres. But Mr. Pronk, whom I spoke with, is very much on top of things and I expect to hear from him in the next 24 - 48 hours.

Q: Anything else that you've learned on the sense of the scale of the problem of rape that the refugees face?

Secretary-General: I think that what is important is that those in the camps, particularly the women, feel that they are exposing themselves and they are at risk if they move outside the camp perimeters, and so they tend to get stuck in the camp, and were urging for greater security so that they'll able to move around freely without fear of attack or violence.
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Annan confirms Darfur's progress

June 1 Chinese news site Crienglish.com reports the following:

UN Secretary General Kofi Annan has confirmed great progress in the security and humanitarian situation in western Sudan's Darfur region.

UN envoy to Sudan Jan Pronk conveyed this message on Tuesday in a written statement by Annan to Sudanese President Omar el-Bashir.

Annan hoped the Sudanese government and Darfur parties go to the Abuja peace talks on June 10 honestly and seriously to realize a political solution by the end of this year.

But Annan said more efforts are needed to restore Darfur to normality and called for international humanitarian and food aid for the residents of Sudan.
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Democracy is the answer, says the UN

Note, re June 1 Independent UK report by Daniel Howden, it is difficult to agree with his statement, 'with exception of Darfur, the landscape of war in Africa has improved'. The death toll and humanitarian crises in DR Congo and Uganda are far worse than Darfur and southern Sudan put together. Scroll through my blogs Congo Watch and Uganda Watch and you will see what I mean.

Here is a copy of Mr Howden's report:

African poverty and stagnation has been described as the greatest tragedy of our time. But it is a shifting story and its causes have shifted significantly in the past two decades. Many of the conflicts that blighted the 1980s have ended or are drawing to a close.

With the exception of the Darfur region of western Sudan, the landscape of war in Africa has improved. From Congo to Uganda and Burundi rebels are abandoning armed struggle in favour of settlement.

The real challenges now are poverty and disease. The spectre of tens of millions dying in biblical famines in the horn of Africa has eased but millions more are at risk in the more fertile south.

Drought, Aids and preventable disease are putting more than 38 million at risk of starvation. In southern Africa, 16.41 million are in need of emergency food aid. In Zimbabwe, five million face death from a combination of hunger and Aids.

Short-term famine relief is not the only priority and political reform is heralded as the only way to achieve stability and the long awaited economic growth.

Democracy, the United Nations says, is the only political regime that guarantees political and civil freedoms and the right to participate - making democratic rule a good in itself.
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Sudanese opposition leader to boycott interim government

Nairobi Wed 1 Jun 2005 Deutsche Presse Agentur report via ReliefWeb. Excerpt:

A prominent Sudanese opposition leader has said that his party intends to boycott the interim government, which is due to be installed in July as part of the peace agreement between the Khartoum government and the southern former rebels.

Sadiq al-Mahdi, who heads the Umma party, was quoted by the British Broadcasting Corporation Wednesday as saying that the peace agreement was a deal between the Islamic government and the former SPLA rebels headed by John Garang, and neither was not democratically elected or representative of the people.

Representatives of the Umma party had been taking part in discussions on the interim constitution during the past few weeks.

Sadiq al-Mahdi is the last elected prime minister of Sudan. He led a coalition government until he was toppled in a coup in 1989. The man who overthrew him was military officer Omar al-Bashir, who is now Sudans president. Full Story.

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