SUDAN WATCH: May 2005

Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Sudan: Another MSF aid worker arrested in Darfur - UN alarmed

The latest news reports posted here over the past 24 hours are really disturbing. The UN Security Council's first resolution last year was to ensure that Khartoum provided unimpeded access for aid and reined in their militias.

As far as I am aware, not a single Janjaweed has been arrested - instead, the genocidal regime in Khartoum is arresting aid workers with MSF aka Doctors Without Borders.

It seems like only a few days ago that Sudanese security forces repeatedly beat a BBC correspondent and carted him off, along with a Reuters photographer and a driver, and detained him for questioning even though he had press credentials.

Arresting aid workers who are there risking their lives to help the people of Sudan is outrageous. Clearly, the regime in Khartoum are not fit to govern and cannot - or will not - work to protect the people of Sudan.

Now, today, a second MSF worker has been arrested. This is simply the last straw.

I've said this many times before: everyone in Sudan ought to simply get up and walk out en masse so aid can be pulled out of Sudan and moved into neighbouring countries. Leave the rebels and Khartoum to slug it out and annihilate each other. There is no development aid without people. If there are no people, there is no development. If there are no displaced people in the Sudan, there is no aid for Sudan. Sounds simplistic but I really cannot see any solution other than assisted migration. If the 191-member states of the United Nations and the world's security forces can't sort out a handful of thugs in Khartoum, what hope is there for the people of Sudan - and Uganda - and DR Congo ...

UN alarmed by arrest of MSF aid worker in Sudan

Geneva, Tue May 31 AFP report via Sudan Tribune. Excerpt:

The UN's human rights chief, Louise Arbour, voiced serious concern Tuesday about the arrest of an international aid worker in Sudan who led damning research on rape in the conflict-ridden Darfur region.

"This is a very disturbing development," the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights said in a statement.

Top Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors without Borders) official Paul Foreman, was detained in Khartoum Monday and accused of crimes against the Sudanese state. He was later released on bail.

The medical aid group told AFP on Tuesday that its regional coordinator in Darfur, Vincent Hoedt, had also been arrested in the western city of Nyala.

MSF was also accused of "espionage, publication of false reports and of underming the Sudanese state," following Foreman's arrest, the group's Dutch branch said in a statement.

Arbour insisted that MSF had done "nothing more than record these horrendous crimes and try to focus critically needed attention on them".

"Rape and sexual violence are very real features of the life of the women of Darfur," she added.

"This is the conclusion of our monitors, of the International Commission of Inquiry on Darfur and of all serious investigations into the unfolding human rights crisis in the region."

Dutch aid worker Vincent Hoedt. MSF's Darfur coordinator

Photo: This undated file photograph released by Medicins Sans Frontieres, (MSF) Amsterdam, Tuesday, May 31, 2005 shows Dutch aid worker Vincent Hoedt. MSF's Darfur coordinator, Vincent Hoedt, was arrested in the western region of Sudan this morning and authorities were taking him to the capital, Susanne Staals, spokeswoman for the Dutch branch of Medicins Sans Frontieres said. The Sudanese government was angered by an MSF report, published in March, that said its doctors working in Darfur had collected medical evidence of 500 rapes over 4 1/2 months. (AP Photo/ MSF)
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Sudan arrests second MSF aid worker for rape report

Khartoum, Tue May 31 Reuters report by Opheera McDoom Khartoum - additional reporting by Niclas Mika in Amsterdam:

Sudan arrested a second aid worker from the Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) aid agency on Tuesday over a report on hundreds of rapes in the troubled Darfur region, the agency said.

Vince Hoedt, Darfur coordinator for MSF Holland, said he was under arrest and police were escorting him to Khartoum. It was not clear if he was charged with the same offences as the country director who was arrested and released on bail on Monday.

"I have been officially arrested but there are no official charges as yet," he told Reuters from Darfur. He was at the airport waiting to be transported to Khartoum, where he would meet with the authorities.

An MSF spokesman in the Netherlands told Reuters Hoedt saw his arrest warrant but could not read it because it was in Arabic.

Sudan arrested and later released on bail the country head of MSF Holland, Paul Foreman, who returned to meet authorities on Tuesday. MSF said in a statement the charges against him were spying, publishing false reports and undermining Sudanese society.

The attorney-general told Reuters on Tuesday the maximum penalty for the charges was three years in prison and then permanent expulsion from the country.

MSF Holland published a report in March detailing about 500 cases of rape over a period of 4 1/2 months in Darfur, where a rebellion has raged for more than 2 years.

The violence has killed tens of thousands and forced more than 2 million from their homes.

The report contained anonymous accounts by victims of their ordeals, including being held and raped repeatedly for several days, beaten and even arrested.

Pregnancy out of wedlock is illegal in Sudan, where Islamic sharia law is in force.

Rights group Human Rights Watch said in a statement on Tuesday the Sudanese government should be arresting war criminals in Darfur, not aid workers.

"This attack on the bearer of bad news is another assault on free speech," said Peter Takirambudde, Africa director for Human Rights Watch. "There is no conceivable security or military reason for preventing publication of this kind of public health information.

"This is a perfect illustration of how far the Sudanese government is prepared to go to silence criticism and deny its own responsibility for massive atrocities in Darfur."

A U.N.-appointed commission of inquiry found evidence of mass rape during the rebellion in Darfur. The documents are with the International Criminal Court, which has been instructed by the U.N. Security Council to investigate alleged crimes against humanity in the remote west of Sudan, the first such referral.

MSF: 80% of Sudanese rape victims reported attackers were soldiers or members of government-allied militia

London Tue May 31 report by North London Online. Excerpt:

Sudanese authorities have charged a British aid chief with spreading false information in reports by the aid agency about alleged rape cases in Darfur.

Paul Foreman, head of the Dutch branch of Medicins Sans Frontieres, was detained and questioned before being released.

Prosecution lawyer Mohamed Fareed said in a statement that a case had been filed against Foreman and he was asked not to leave the country until interrogations were complete.

The Sudanese government was angered by the MSF report, published in March, that said its doctors working in Darfur had collected medical evidence of 500 rapes over four and a half months. The report said more than 80% of the victims reported that their attackers were soldiers or members of government-allied militia. The government denied the report.

"Upon interrogation, (Foreman) was not able to substantiate the claims nor could he provide any documents to this effect," Fareed said, complaining that the allegations were published on the group's website and quoted by the United Nations.

Fareed said if such crimes had really happened the culprits would be punished by prison and fines.

Geoffrey Prescott, a spokesman for the Dutch branch of MSF, said Foreman was questioned for several hours about the rape report and charged with crimes against the state and asked to report back to police today.

"We are intrigued by the fact that they are charging us, an agency investing millions in the saving of lives, rather than the people responsible for the rape," Prescott said in Amsterdam.

"It's also interesting that they took the report so personally, when we don't even name them as being responsible."

He said the incident had not impaired the work of about 80 MSF employees working in the country for the Dutch mission.
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UN Emergency Relief Coordinator urges Sudan to drop charges against MSF official

United Nations, Mon May 30 UN News Centre report:

The UN Emergency Relief Coordinator today appealed to Sudan to drop charges against a senior official of Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) who is apparently being targeted for the agency's publication of a report detailing violence against women in the country.

"I am very concerned about the arrest of Paul Foreman, country director of MSF-Holland, in Khartoum earlier today," Jan Egeland said in a statement.

Mr. Foreman has been released on bail.

Confirming the incident on its own website, MSF said the British national has been charged with crimes against the State. "MSF is being accused of publishing false reports, undermining society in Sudan and spying," said the humanitarian relief agency known for operating under dangerous conditions. It voiced outrage at the charges and rejected an suggestion that the report was false.

Urging Sudan's authorities to drop all charges against Mr. Foreman immediately, Mr. Egeland said MSF-Holland "is a crucial partner in our relief effort in Darfur," the country's war-ravaged western region.

According to MSF, the charges relate to "The Crushing Burden of Rape: Sexual Violence in Darfur," which the agency published in March.

"Faced with hundreds of women and girls seeking medical care following rape and sexual violence in Darfur, MSF wrote and published the report in order to raise awareness about the ongoing violence against women," the agency said, noting that the document "does not accuse the Government of Sudan."

Mr. Egeland, a UN Under-Secretary-General, stressed that MSF's work in treating victims of rape and sexual violence, and speaking out about the terrible crimes being committed, has been exemplary.

"It is an incontestable fact that rape and sexual violence are rampant in the ongoing crisis in Darfur," he said. "The Sudanese Government, the UN and international NGOs only recently made substantial progress in addressing this issue, efforts that must continue to ensure that all victims of sexual violence receive assistance and protection."

Second MSF aid worker arrested in Sudan

Photo: Sudanese men wait to see doctors in the Abu Shouk camp near El-Fasher, Sudan. A second Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors without Borders) aid worker has been arrested in Sudan, a spokesman for the international aid group, Aymeric Peguillan, told AFP. (AFP/File/Salah Omar)
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BBC says charges are part of a drive by Sudan to end western criticism

UK, Tue 31 May BBC report:

An aid official has been detained in Sudan's Darfur region, a day after his director was charged with spying and spreading false information.

Vince Hoedt, Darfur co-ordinator for the Dutch section of Medecins Sans Frontieres has not yet been charged.

MSF Sudan director Paul Foreman was arrested on Monday and later released on bail, over a report on rape.

BBC Africa analyst Martin Plaut says the charges are part of a drive by Sudan to end western criticism.

The Sudanese authorities deny accusations that they back the Arab Janjaweed militias alleged to have committed widespread atrocities, such as mass killings and mass rape.

They also deny that the scale of the violence is as severe as reported by aid agencies.

The state crime prosecutor said Mr Foreman had failed to hand over evidence on which the report on rape was based.

Mr Foreman said "medical privilege" and patient confidentiality prevented him from handing over documents requested by the authorities.

The BBC's Martin Plaut, who recently travlled to Darfur, says that many Sudanese believe western aid workers have given information on alleged human rights abuses in Darfur to the United Nations, which has passed a sealed list of 51 war crimes suspects to the International Criminal Court.

Our correspondent says that in March, aid workers were threatened over their reports of mass rape.

Another reason for respecting the information, was because women "made pregnant as a result of rape outside wedlock can be arrested by the authorities" in Sudan, which operates strict Islamic sharia law, said MSF Holland spokesman Geoff Prescott

He told the BBC's Focus on Africa programme that the charity stood by its report, which he described as "accurate and truthful".

Sudan's state crime prosecutor said he had come to conclusion that the report was false.

Mr Foreman could face up to three years in prison if found guilty of falsifying the report.

It is not yet known when he will appear in court.

"We would like to reiterate that we think it's the people who perpetrate rape in Darfur who should be in court, not the people who are trying to bring medical assistance to the victims," Mr Prescott said.

The report - The Crushing Burden of Rape: Sexual Violence in Darfur - which came out in March, was based on the treatment of 500 women over a four-and-a-half month period in Darfur.

It details nearly 300 of these cases, with several written up as witness statements, Mr Foreman said.

Human Rights Watch Africa director Peter Takirambudde said Mr Foreman's arrest was "a perfect illustration of how far the Sudanese government is prepared to go to silence criticism and deny its own responsibility for massive atrocities in Darfur."

MSF says it has a significant presence in Darfur, with more than 300 international staff and 3,000 local staff treating some one million patients.

The UN says that about 180,000 people have died in the two-year conflict in Darfur, and more than two million driven from their homes.
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MSF Press Release: Dutch co-ordinator for MSF in Darfur held this morning

Khartoum/Amsterdam, May 31 MSF Press Release [via Eric at Passion of the Present with thanks]:

The international medical humanitarian organisation Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) expresses its outrage about the arrest of a second representative in Sudan this morning. Dutchman Vincent Hoedt, Regional Co-ordinator for MSF in Darfur, was arrested this morning in Nyala.

Yesterday, May 30, MSF's head of mission Paul Foreman was arrested in Khartoum and later released on bail.

"These arrests are totally unacceptable," said Geoff Prescott, General Director of MSF (Holland). "The government is punishing humanitarian aid workers for doing their job for victims of the conflict in Darfur".

The Sudanese authorities accused MSF of crimes against the state, publishing false reports, spying and undermining Sudanese society. MSF demands that all charges are dropped.

"The arrest of two senior co-ordinators severely undermines our ability to provide humanitarian assistance. The people of Darfur, who have been through so much already, must not be allowed to suffer as a result of these actions," said Geoff Prescott.

MSF has been working for more than 20 years in Sudan providing health care and emergency aid to millions of Sudanese civilians. MSF is the principle partner of the Sudanese Ministry of Health in the battle against the Kala Azar and has treated more than 60.000 Sudanese infected.

MSF works in over 29 locations in Darfur with 180 expatriate and 3000 national staff. In the last 12 months in Darfur alone, MSF has provided almost a million medical consultations and treated more than 50.000 children suffering from malnutrition. MSF is not only working in Darfur but throughout the Sudan, bringing medical care to Sudanese afflicted by epidemics and conflict.

Paul Foreman (45 years old) has worked for MSF since 2002. He has worked as head of mission for MSF in Congo-Brazzaville, Angola and Iraq. Foreman is originally from Carlshalton, United Kingdom.

Vincent Hoedt (35 years old) has worked for MSF since 1996 and was born in Rotterdam, Holland. Vincent Hoedt has worked for MSF in Colombia, Liberia, Democratic Republic of Congo, Sudan, Zambia, Albania and Nigeria. Vincent first worked as a logistician, then later as project co-ordinator and head of mission for MSF.

"These arrests are totally unacceptable," said Geoff Prescott, General Director of MSF (Holland). "The government is punishing humanitarian aid workers for doing their job for victims of the conflict in Darfur".
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MSF wants Sudanese authorities to solve the crisis, instead of shooting the messenger

Nairobi May 31 report by IRIN:

Sudanese authorities have arrested two senior officials of the medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) over a report that claimed that hundreds of rapes had taken place in the western Sudanese region of Darfur, MSF said.

Paul Foreman, the head of MSF-Holland was interrogated for three-and-a-half hours, then released on a one million Sudanese dinar [US $4,000] bond on Monday in Khartoum, while Vincent Hoedt, the MSF regional coordinator for Darfur, was ordered to the Sudanese capital for questioning on Tuesday.

"I'm technically arrested and not allowed to leave the country," Foreman told IRIN on Tuesday morning while on his way to a second round of questioning.

"The district attorney charged me with crimes against the state, publishing false information - and they are investigating other areas," he added.

Mohamed Fareed, a prosecuting attorney, said in a statement that "upon interrogation, [Foreman] was not able to substantiate the claims nor could he provide any documents to this effect." If the crimes had really happened, the culprits would be punished, he added.

The charges relate to MSF's report: "The Crushing Burden of Rape: Sexual Violence in Darfur", which was published on 8 March, MSF said in a statement released on Monday.

"It was an MSF report based on MSF medical consultations. It was written by MSF, and MSF stands by it," Foreman said.

The Sudanese government was angered by the report, which said that MSF doctors working in Darfur had collected medical evidence of 500 rapes over four-and-a-half months. More than 80 percent of the victims reported that their attackers were soldiers or members of government-allied militia. The report did not accuse the government of Sudan.

Faced with hundreds of women and girls seeking medical care following rape and sexual violence in Darfur, MSF published the report in order to raise awareness about the ongoing violence against women.

In a statement on Monday, Jan Egeland, UN Emergency Relief Coordinator and Under-Secretary-General, said: "I urge the Sudanese authorities to drop all charges against Mr. Foreman immediately. MSF-Holland is a crucial partner in our relief effort in Darfur. Their work in treating victims of rape and sexual violence, and speaking out about the terrible crimes being committed has been exemplary."

"They treated me well. It was a relatively straightforward question-and-answer session," Foreman noted with regard to his arrest on Monday.

The MSF head of mission did not think the authorities wanted to put him in jail. "They want me to denounce the report or jeopardise the doctor-patient confidentiality of MSF by releasing the medical dossiers. I'm not going to do either of those."

Foreman said the case against MSF had been building up over the past two-and-a-half months, following discussions about the report with the Sudanese Humanitarian Aid Commission (HAC). HAC representatives said they were "extremely unhappy" with the report, while the medical charity insisted on following its humanitarian principles.

"We would like them [the Sudanese authorities] to put their energy in solving the crisis, rather than shooting the messenger," he said.

"As providers of medical assistance and as human beings we find it impossible to stay silent when we are witnessing these abuses - wherever they occur. MSF wants to make people and governments aware of these serious violations so that real action is taken to stop them," Geoff Prescott, General-Director of MSF in Amsterdam, Holland, said in a statement on Monday.

"Everybody who has looked into the situation in Darfur, including the government of Sudan, has concluded that rape is a problem," he added.

Egeland stated that it was an "incontestable fact" that rape and sexual violence were rampant in Darfur.

"The Sudanese government, the UN and international NGOs only recently made substantial progress in addressing this issue, efforts that must continue to ensure that all victims of sexual violence receive assistance and protection," he noted.

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Jane Wells: Witness to Darfur at The Huffington Post - New book "The Ambiguous Genocide" by Gerard Prunier

Thanks to Eugene at Coalition for Darfur for this neat find:

Excerpt from Jane Wells' first hand account of her trip to Darfur:
I try to disappear, sliding my hot and sticky body down the back seat of the SUV as it bounces along an unmarked dirt road. I realize for the first time since arriving in Sudan that I am actually terrified. Our cell phones have quit working, and now the VHF radio signal is gone. My companions, part of the relief group, the International Medical Corps (IMC), don't have to tell me that these could be signs of an impending Janjaweed attack...
Read the rest of Jane's story at The Huffington Post and follow her five-part series, "Witness to Darfur," at The Huffington Post over the next four days.
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Darfur Sudan: New book "The Ambiguous Genocide" by Gerard Prunier

Coalition for Darfur blog features a post about a comment left by a reader pointing out a new book "The Ambiguous Genocide" by Gerard Prunier, author of "The Rwanda Crisis". Excerpt from the post:
Gerard Prunier sets out the ethnopolitical makeup of the Sudan and explains why the Darfur rebellion is regarded as a key threat to Arab power in the country - much more so than secessionism in the Christian South. This, he argues, accounts for the government's deployment of "exemplary violence" by the Janjaweed militias in order to intimidate other African Muslims into subservience. As the world watches; governments decide if, when, and how to intervene; and international organizations struggle to distribute aid, the knowledge in Prunier's book will provide crucial assistance.
The book is due out in September. See Coalition for Darfur's post The Ambiguous Genocide for further details.

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Full text: MSF's Report on Sexual Violence in Sudan

Note MSF's Report on Sexual Violence in Sudan - and keep scrolling down here for latest reports over past 24 hours re British and Dutch MSF aid workers arrested and charged by the genocidal regime in Khartoum for tarnishing the image of Sudan by helping Sudanese rape victims.

BBC Africa analyst Martin Plaut says the charges are part of a drive by Sudan to end western criticism. Fat chance. They ain't seen nothing yet. Message to Khartoum: hassle, intimidate, beat and arrest international aid workers and news correspondents - especially British nationals and BBC reporters - at your peril, you savage flea brain camel face morons.

British and Dutch MSF aid workers arrested in Sudan

Photo: A Sudanese boy walks with his supply of food at a feeding centre run by medical organisation Medecins Sans Frontieres in the village of Paliang, about 160 km northwest of the southern town of Rumbek, May 25, 2005. Sudan arrested a second aid worker over a report on rape in Darfur and is also holding a man who translated for Kofi Annan when the U.N. chief met rape victims in the region, U.N. and aid officials said on May 31 2005. News of the arrests came a day after the authorities detained a senior official from international aid agency Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) in Sudan, whose remote region of Darfur has been plagued by more than two years of bloodshed. Photo by Antony Njuguna/Reuters REUTERS/Antony Njuguna.

P.S. Take a look at some (warning: graphic) pictures of mans handiwork: Congo Watch: UN reports atrocities in Congo. Congo death toll nearing 4m

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Sudan: Khartoum's duplicity exposed

UK Tue May 31. 2005 report at The Scotsman:

TODAY, The Scotsman publishes photographic evidence of helicopter gunships of the Sudan military in action against civilian villages in Darfur. For two years, refugees from Darfur have claimed that such raids by Sudanese government aircraft are routine. They are designed to crush a rebellion in Darfur against the Islamic fundamentalist regime in Khartoum.

Sudan's government has always rejected these charges. These pictures give the lie to this fabrication. According to the UN, at least 180,000 people have died as a result of the two years of genocide in Darfur. Another two million have been driven from their homes and forced into exile in neighbouring countries. The UN Security Council has tried to pressure Khartoum into ending the killing, but to little avail. The regime takes comfort in the fact that China and Russia (the source of the helicopters) are loath to jeopardise their trade with oil-rich Sudan by supporting UN intervention.

But with the evidence in front of our eyes, the time has come to consider direct action in Darfur by the United Nations and to shame Russia and China into action. At the very least, the Sudanese helicopter gunships should be surgically destroyed. Ultimately, the outside world - including the democratic nations of Africa - will have to be prepared to end the genocide in Darfur by force if necessary.
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See State-led murder and rape of villagers in Darfur uncovered
by
GETHIN CHAMBERLAIN
CHIEF NEWS CORRESPONDENT
The Scotsman.com

[Note, the above article implies photos have been published. Sorry, so far unable to find them. If anyone comes across them, please let me know and I will share them here and at Passion of the Present. Thank you.]

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'Sudanese Govt. trying to silence aid workers'

London, May 31 Associated Press report:

Rights and aid groups say the arrests of two officials from an international humanitarian group that spoke out about rapes in Darfur show how far the Sudanese Government will go to keep news of atrocities off the world's front pages.

"They don't want witnesses to what is going on in Darfur," said John Ashworth, a human rights researchers who has followed Sudan for 22 years. "The Government is clearly complicit in what is going on, and they don't want foreign voices shouting about it.''

The foreign workers feeding, clothing and succouring the people of Darfur have an all too intimate view of the region's horrors. The Dutch branch of Medecins Sans Frontieres, for example, based much of its March report on rape on what doctors treating victims had seen and heard.

MSF said its doctors collected medical evidence of 500 rapes over 4 1/2 months, and that more than 80 percent of the victims reported that their attackers were soldiers or members of government-allied militia. The Sudanese Government is accused of responding to a two-year-old rebellion in Darfur with a counterinsurgency campaign in which militiamen known as Janjaweed committed abuses - including killings, rape and arson - on such a scale that some have labelled what is happening there genocide.

On Monday, the Medecins Sans Frontieres overall Director for Sudan, was charged with spreading false information and told not to leave the country pending trial. On Tuesday, its Darfur coordinator was detained and brought to the capital.

Spokeswoman Susanne Staals, said there are situations in which her group, also known as Doctors Without Borders, would confine itself to delivering aid and not also work to spread information. But MSF could not remain silent on Darfur "because the scale of the violence is immense and no action is being taken to protect victims,'' she said in a telephone interview from Amsterdam.

Leslie Lefkow, a Human Rights Watch researcher who has tracked developments in Darfur, said targeting Medecins San Frontieres was part of a pattern that included the arbitrary arrest and detention of or threats against more than 20 workers from several foreign agencies over the last six months.

Tinke Ceelen, Director of a Dutch agency that advocates for the rights of refugees and displaced people around the world, is among those who have been detained. Ceelen said she, a colleague and four journalists who had been recording interviews with displaced people in Darfur were stopped in December as they prepared to fly out.

Their tapes and other materials were confiscated, and they were interrogated over several days and told they faced the death penalty on espionage charges. Ceelen credited pressure from her own Government and others for their release, which came after they recorded apologies for unwittingly violating Sudanese rules.

"It was all very ugly,'' said Ceelen, adding Sudanese officials told her several times during her detention that they were angry at how the conflict was being portrayed in the foreign press, and seemed to blame foreign aid workers.

"I'm convinced it's part and parcel of an ongoing intimidation campaign against relief workers,'' Ceelen said of her detention.

Lefkow said aid workers and foreign journalists also were finding it increasingly difficult to get permission to visit Sudan, all part of what she called an attempt "to draw the veil over Darfur so that it drops off the international agenda.''

Sudanese officials denied there was a campaign to interfere with aid agencies' work.

"There should not be any mixing of legal action taken against somebody and humanitarian action,'' Ahmed Adam, an official in Sudan's Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, told The Associated Press on Tuesday. "Legal procedures here or anywhere in the world are no impediment to humanitarian work.''

In Geneva, human rights chief Lousie Arbour, said on Tuesdaythat targeting the humanitarian community for doing its work "will not only do a disservice to the people of Darfur; it will draw attention away from the real criminals, those who continue to rape, kill and pillage with impunity.''

Journalists working in Darfur have found aid workers willing to talk about the atrocities they have witnessed and been told about, but often on condition of anonymity, not even allowing the names of their organizations to be used. They say they fear that if the Sudanese government knew who was speaking out, it would punish them by barring them from working in Darfur.

For months after the conflict broke out in early 2003, Sudanese officials severely limited international aid organizations' access to Darfur. Humanitarian workers were only allowed in after protracted negotiations and international pressure, and many feel their status remains precarious.

"We hope we can continue our work and continue to speak out,'' MSF's Staals said, adding the world must know what is happening in Darfur so that it can be moved to act and stop the violence.

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Sudan arrests Annan's Darfur translator

Khartoum, Tue May 31 Reuters report:

A Sudanese translator who accompanied U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan to hear rape victims in Darfur's largest refugee camp has been arrested, Sudan's top U.N. envoy said on Tuesday.

Annan visited Darfur on Saturday and heard complaints against police and government authorities from refugees in Kalma camp in South Darfur, who said they wanted guarantees from Annan that they would not be arrested for speaking with him.

The state minister of humanitarian affairs, Mohamed Yousif Abdalla, publicly assured them of their safety.

"Against that promise a Sudanese translator has been arrested," U.N. envoy Jan Pronk told reporters in Khartoum. "And I am asking them (the government) to keep their word in particular if that word is a public word to the secretary-general of the United Nations," he added.

Annan had entered a reed hut to talk with rape victims, one of whom was pre-pubescent, aid workers said. The translator accompanied him and was later arrested.

The issue of rape is sensitive in Muslim Darfur and the government denies allegations by rights groups, aid agencies and a U.N.-appointed commission of inquiry that there is widespread rape in Darfur.

Two aid workers from the Dutch Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) have been arrested for publishing a report based on medical evidence in the agency's hospitals in Darfur documenting about 500 rape cases over 4 1/2 months in the troubled region.

Pronk also accused the Sudanese media of conducting a "smear campaign" against non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and doctors and nurses.

The pro-government Sudan Vision daily published on Monday a full-page report accusing aid agency Medecins du Monde of falsely issuing a report on rape and called for the immediate deportation of the aid workers involved and the organisation to be expelled.

The English-language Sudan Vision article published the names of the rape victim and the two MDM workers involved in the report. The alleged victim was 17 years old.

Pronk said he deplored the Sudanese media for not believing the victims of rape.

"I consider (these) statements in the press ... as a smear campaign against nurses, doctors and NGOs who are helping victims," Pronk said.

He also criticised the media for not writing about the issue of rape despite his lengthy statements on the subject.

Kofi Annan's translator arrested

In this photo made available by the United Nations, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan meets with women as he visits Kalma Camp in Nyala, south Darfur, Saturday, May 28, 2005. Annan on Saturday called for widening the responsibilities of African Union peacekeepers in Darfur, saying the troops need to take a larger role in protecting the region's embattled civilians. (AP Photo/United Nations, Evan Schneide)
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Second Aid Worker Arrested in Darfur

Tue May 31 PA report by Nick Allen via Scotsman. Excerpt:

The arrest of Dutchman Vincent Hoedt followed that of his British colleague Paul Foreman yesterday.

Mr Foreman, 45, is head of mission for the international aid organisation Medecins Sans Frontieres in Sudan and Mr Hoedt is its regional coordinator in Darfur.

Mr Foreman, who is originally from Carshalton in Surrey, was arrested in Khartoum and has been released on bail. Mr Hoedt was held in the western city of Nyala.

Geoff Prescott of MSF said: "The government is punishing humanitarian aid workers for doing their job for victims of the conflict in Darfur. The arrest of two senior coordinators severely undermines our ability to provide humanitarian assistance. The people of Darfur, who have been through so much already, must not be allowed to suffer as a result of these actions."
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UPDATE May 31 19:56 GMT: UN envoy Jan Pronk says Annan translator not arrested

Khartoum, May 31 Reuters report:

Sudan's top UN envoy said on Tuesday that UN. chief Kofi Annan's translator had not been arrested but only harassed by authorities after talking to rape victims in Darfur's largest camp.

Earlier, Jan Pronk had told reporters the translator who entered a small reed hut with Annan to talk alone with rape victims in Kalma camp in South Darfur state on Saturday had been arrested, violating a public promise made by the government not to harass or detain those who spoke to Annan during his visit to the troubled region.

But later on Tuesday night he released a written statement retracting his earlier comments.

"The interpreter has been harassed but not arrested," Pronk's statement said. He said the interpreter had been asked numerous times to report to the authorities in Darfur, but after discussions the local authorities dropped the request.

Earlier Pronk said the government had broken its promise not to harass those who spoke to Annan during his visit by arresting the translator.

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Monday, May 30, 2005

Sudan charges MSF head over report

UK, Mon 30 May report by BBC. Excerpt:

The head of the Dutch wing of Medecins San Frontieres (MSF) has been charged with crimes against the Sudanese state over a report on rape in Darfur.

Paul Foreman was arrested on Monday and later released on bail.

The state crime prosecutor said Mr Foreman had failed to hand over evidence on which the report was based. The charity says it is confidential.

Pro-government militia in Darfur are accused of mass rape and killings, but the government denies complicity.

MSF's Paul Foreman
BBC Photo: Paul Foreman, a British national, is charged with crimes against the state

Jail term

"He (Mr Foreman) is on bail and not allowed to leave the country," MSF Holland spokesman Geoff Prescott told the BBC's Focus on Africa programme.

"He's been charged with crimes against the state by the government on the grounds that they didn't seem to have appreciated our report on rape in Darfur".

Mr Foreman had said "medical privilege" and patient confidentiality prevented him from handing over documents requested by the authorities.

Another reason for respecting the information, Mr Prescott explained, was because women "made pregnant as a result of rape outside wedlock can be arrested by the authorities" in Sudan.

He said the charity stood by its report, which he described as "accurate and truthful".

Sudan's state crime prosecutor said he had come to conclusion that the report was false.

Sensitive

Mr Foreman could face up to three years in prison if found guilty of falsifying the report.

It is not yet known when he will appear in court.

"We would like to reiterate that we think it's the people who perpetrate rape in Darfur who should be in court, not the people who are trying to bring medical assistance to the victims," Mr Prescott said.

The report - The Crushing Burden of Rape: Sexual Violence in Darfur - which came out in March, was based on the treatment of 500 women over a four-and-a-half month period in Darfur.

It details nearly 300 of these cases, with several written up as witness statements, Mr Foreman said.

Contrary to Islam

Rape is a sensitive subject for the Sudanese government.

The government had always maintained that, as it runs contrary to Islam, rape is not taking place on the scale that numerous United Nations and international agencies have claimed.

Jan Pronk, head of the United Nations in Sudan, said he deplored the arrest.

UN envoy Jan Pronk

BBC Photo: "That document was a non-political document only based on humanitarian concern of MSF which has done an excellent job of helping victims of rape" - UN envoy Jan Pronk.
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British humanitarian worker with MSF detained in Sudan

Amsterdam, May 30 Associated Press report -- Sudan's government detained a British aid official whose agency had angered it with a report detailing hundreds of cases of rape in the troubled Darfur region, the Amsterdam office of Medecins Sans Frontieres said Monday.

"This is an obvious attempt to intimidate humanitarian groups working in Sudan," Susanne Staals, spokeswoman for the Amsterdam office of Medecins Sans Frontieres, said of Monday's arrest of Paul Foreman, who headed the group's Dutch mission in Darfur.

"We're outraged," Staals said.

Sudanese authorities could not immediately be reached for comment on Foreman's arrest. In the past, they have said the MSF report on rape was untrue. - Full Story via SudanTribune.
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British aid chief held for rapes report

London Tue 31 May Times report by Xan Rice in Nairobi. Excerpt:

When the report was published, Mr Foreman acknowledged he was acting in defiance of orders from the Sudanese Government, but said that he would not violate patient-doctor confidentiality by handing over medical records.

"They have expressed their strong desire that we don't publish it, and I politely declined," Mr Foreman said.

Jan Egeland, the Under Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs at the UN, supported publication of the report, which he said provided some of the first documented medical evidence of rape in Darfur. But the Sudanese Government has long denied that systematic rape has occurred in its western province.

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MSF Shocked By Arrest of Head of Mission in Sudan - MSF Charged with Crimes Against the State

MSF-USA: Press Release 05/30/2005:

Khartoum/Amsterdam, May 30, 2005 - The international medical humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders/Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) confirms the arrest of its Head of Mission Paul Foreman, a British national, in Khartoum, Sudan. MSF's Head of Mission has been charged with crimes against the state. MSF is being accused of publishing false reports, undermining society in Sudan, and spying. MSF is outraged by the charges and rejects any notion that the report is false. Paul Foreman has been released on bail early this evening, but is not allowed to leave the country.

The charges relate to MSF's report "The Crushing Burden of Rape: Sexual Violence in Darfur" which was published on 8 March 2005. Faced with hundreds of women and girls seeking medical care following rape and sexual violence in Darfur, MSF wrote and published the report in order to raise awareness about the ongoing violence against women. It is noteworthy that the report does not accuse the government of Sudan.

MSF defends its right to speak about the humanitarian situation in Darfur and views these baseless charges as intimidation against the humanitarian community by the Government of Sudan. "As providers of medical assistance and as human beings we find it impossible to stay silent when we are witnessing these abuses - wherever they occur. MSF wants to make people and governments aware of these serious violations so that real action is taken to stop them," said Geoff Prescott, General Director of MSF in Amsterdam, Holland. "Everybody who has looked into the situation in Darfur, including the government of Sudan, has concluded that rape is a problem."

While distressed by this latest development, MSF remains extremely concerned about the continued level of violence and deplorable living conditions affecting the population in Darfur.

MSF has been working for more than 20 years in Sudan providing health care and emergency aid to millions of Sudanese civilians. MSF is the principle partner of the Sudanese Ministry of Health in the battle against the kala azar and has treated more than 60,000 Sudanese infected with the disease. In the last 12 months in Darfur alone, MSF has provided almost a million medical consultations and treated more than 50,000 children suffering from malnutrition. MSF is not only working in Darfur, but throughout the Sudan, bringing medical care to Sudanese afflicted by epidemics and conflict.

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Sudan issues warrant for arrest of head of MSF aid agency - Sudan detains head of MSF

Doctors Without Borders (aka MSF) is one of the most highly regarded aid organisations. Recently, in a post here, I noted how MSF had stuck its head above the parapet with reports on how dire the situation was in the Sudan, which means things must be pretty bad for them to speak out.

In the next post here below, there is a report about MSF reporting 500 rapes or more over recent months. Khartoum has an ongoing problem accepting that rape happens. If the following news is true, it is outrageous and extremely troubling, especially since only last week BBC correspondent Jonah Fisher was beaten by Sudanese security forces:

KHARTOUM, May 30 (Reuters) - Sudan has issued a warrant for the arrest of the country head of aid agency Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) for publishing a report on hundreds of rape cases in Darfur, the attorney-general said on Monday.

"We have issued a warrant for the arrest of the head of the organisation after speaking to the (governmental) Humanitarian Aid Commission," Mohamed Farid, Sudan's attorney-general, told Reuters. He said it was for publishing a false report on rapes in the Darfur region in March.

MSF Holland released the report in March, saying its doctors working in Darfur had medical evidence of about 500 rape cases over a period of about 4 1/2 months in the region in the throes of a rebellion in its third year. Sudan denies there is widespread rape in Darfur.

The country director of MSF Holland, Paul Foreman, said he had not yet received the warrant. Farid said they had to serve it to him personally and had not found him at the office as yet to do so, but they were waiting for him to return.

Farid said the authorities had asked MSF Holland several times for the evidence on which the report was based, but the agency had refused to provide this. Therefore, they came to the conclusion that the report was false.

He added Foreman would not remain in jail but would be released on bail pending the trial. But he would not be allowed to leave the country.

"If they don't give us the medical documents we will send them to the criminal court accused of publishing a false report which harms the general peace," he said. He added the maximum penalty would be three years in jail.

Foreman said he could not violate the confidential doctor-patient relationship respected around the world by giving the authorities the medical documents.

"The reports and the victims of rape are both very real and we continue to do our medical work in Darfur," he told Reuters.

Tens of thousands have been killed in the fighting in Darfur and more than 2 million forced form their homes to makeshift camps around the region. Reports of rape are widespread in the conflict, and a U.N.-appointed commission of inquiry found evidence of mass rape during the conflict.

Rape is a sensitive subject in Muslim Darfur, and victims are often ostracised by society.

To read MSF report on rape please go to The Crushing Burden of Rape Sexual Violence in Darfur (PDF file)

[Usually, Sudan only does such a thing to get back at something or someone. Note here below, Kofi Annan was unable to meet with Sudanese President Bashir due to "weather conditions". It had been raining there for a while. One can't help wondering if there is more to it than meets the eye. Issuing a warrant for the arrest of the country head of one of the West's most trusted and highly respected aid organisations goes so against the grain it is an act of war - in my opinion. I say this because Khartoum know exactly what they are doing because of the outrage they caused when they threatened Oxfam's boss and caused trouble with other aid agency chiefs. It is outright initimidation and bullying and they must not get away with it.]
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Reports on rapes are false, says Sudan

Here is a copy of report via Here is a copy of report via IOL: Africa May 30 2005:

Khartoum - Sudan has issued a warrant for the arrest of the country head of aid agency Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) for publishing a report on hundreds of rape cases in Darfur, the attorney-general said on Monday.

"We have issued a warrant for the arrest of the head of the organisation after speaking to the (governmental) Humanitarian Aid Commission," Mohamed Farid, Sudan's attorney-general, said.

He said it was for publishing what he called a false report on rapes in the Darfur region in March.

In the report, MSF Holland said its doctors had medical evidence of about 500 rape cases over a period of about four a half months in Darfur. Sudan denies there is widespread rape in the troubled region.
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UPDATE (1): "I'm in the process of being arrested. I'm in the car being taken to the attorney general's office," Mr Foreman, head of MSF-Holland, told the BBC News website.

Note, MSF has a significant presence in Darfur, with more than 300 international staff and 3,000 local staff treating some one million patients.
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UPDATE (2): Sudanese security detained the country head of MSF international aid agency on Monday after authorities issued a warrant for his arrest over a report on rape in Darfur, the agency said.

Sudan's attorney-general told Reuters that authorities had opened a criminal case against the Dutch branch of aid agency Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) for publishing a report in March detailing 500 rapes over 4-1/2 months in Darfur. He said the report was false.

MSF Holland's office in Khartoum said it was not clear whether Paul Foreman, the country head, had been arrested or was being detained for questioning.
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UPDATE (3) To quote Jim's often used phrase at Passion of the Present "you couldn't make this stuff up if you tried."

Following on from the above news, a new Reuters report quotes Sudan's attorney-general, Mohamed Farid as saying:
"These kind of false reports damage the image of Sudan."
The Reuters report by Opheera McDoom also says aid agencies told visiting UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan on Saturday that they were prevented for several days from entering Kalma camp in South Darfur, Darfur's largest camp housing about 110,000 displaced. Report excerpt:

Before his detention on Monday, MSF chief Foreman told Reuters he could not violate the confidential doctor-patient relationship respected world-wide by giving authorities medical documents.

"The reports and the victims of rape are both very real and we continue to do our medical work in Darfur," he said.

Tens of thousands have been killed in the fighting in Darfur and more than 2 million forced from their homes to makeshift camps around the region. Reports of rape are widespread in the conflict, and a U.N.-appointed commission of inquiry found evidence of mass rape during the conflict.

Rape is a sensitive subject in Muslim Darfur, and victims are often ostracised by society.

In anonymous accounts by victims, the report described how some women were held for days, raped repeatedly and beaten. It said some victims had been arrested. Pregnancy out of wedlock is illegal in Sudan, where Islamic sharia law is in force.

"These kind of false reports damage the image of Sudan," Farid said.

Farid said it was unlikely any action would be taken against the agency itself: "We need the organisation MSF to do its medical work in Sudan ... and to be present here," he said. "But it has to do its work in its specific capacity and this (report) is not within its capacity here."

Aid agencies operate under tight regulations in Sudan and often complain of harassment from local authorities in Darfur.

On Saturday, aid agencies told visiting U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan that they were prevented for several days from entering Kalma camp in South Darfur, Darfur's largest camp housing about 110,000 displaced.
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Sudan arrests MSF aid agency head after rapes report

Photo: Internally displaced sick Sudanese await medical treatment at an Egyptian medical centre at Abu Shouk refugee camp, home of some 100,000 refugees in Darfur May 26, 2005. (Staff/Reuters)

UPDATE (4) Sudan arrests aid agency head after rapes report

Paul Foreman, the country head of the Dutch branch of aid agency Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF), told Reuters he had been taken to a police station and spoken to the authorities. "I am under arrest but being released on bail," he said, adding he was in good health.

MSF Holland expressed outrage at the arrest. Jeff Prescott, General Director of MSF Holland in Amsterdam, said the agency had sent lawyers and extra staff to Sudan.

"We are actually outraged. We have a large presence in Sudan and have been there for many years," he told Reuters.

Sudan's attorney-general Farid said "If they don't give us the medical documents we will send them to the criminal court accused of publishing a false report which harms the general peace." He added the maximum penalty would be three years in jail.

Farid said Foreman would not be allowed to leave the country. Full Story via Reuters.co.uk.

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Darfur, Sudan: European Union still an international actor despite French "No", says Solana

Brussels, Mon May 30 AKI report:

The European Union's foreign policy chief, Javier Solana, says that despite the French No vote and even without a new constitution, the EU will continue to be a player on the international stage. Commenting on the results of the referendum in France, where voters rejected the new constitutional treaty, Solana staunchly defended the union's role. "I don't think anyone will be surprised if I say that I am disappointed with the result. This is a difficult moment, and the meeting of EU heads of state and government on 16-17 June will be an opportunity for leaders to analyse the situation together," Solana said.

"Life goes on, and the world has not come to a halt," Solana continued, adding that "the EU will continue to operate as an actor on the international stage".

Referring to the aid and peacekeeping commitments of the EU in Darfur, Congo and Bosnia, he added: "the Union will continue to be committed in all these issues, it will continue to work around the clock in exactly the same way".

Solana argued that all this is perfectly possible without the approval by member states of the new constitutional treaty, because "the EU was already an international player even before it began talking about the constitution".

The charter would "help us to coordinate better and be more effective" in its existing role, he added.

Solana stressed that the EU diplomatic service - still in its infancy and forseen under the new constitution - will see the light of day in any case. "There is no reason to doubt that sooner or later the EU will have its own diplomatic service and everyone must get used to the idea".

In conclusion, Solana strongly cautioned against "psychological paralysis" as a result of the French setback; "that would be the worst result of all," he said.

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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.

What's Missing in the Darfur Sudan Debate: Addressing Property Rights Could Help Bring Peace - Tom Bethell's The Noblest Triumph

Following on from yesterday's Sudan Watch post featuring an interview with Peruvian economist Hernando De Soto, here are some related reports and further information. [Note Karol Boudreaux suggests the African Union should strongly consider adopting another less costly measure: sending a team of property lawyers to Sudan]

Excerpt from The Social Change Project, September 15, 2004:

GPI Fellow Karol Boudreaux published an article in the IREN newsletter in Nairobi, Kenya. In it she made the argument that long-term peace in Sudan can only be realised through the establishment of transparent, enforceable property Rights. Citing economist Hernando de Soto, she points out how America's old "wild-west" could demonstrate a similar case of success. To read Karol's article, click here or see following copy:

What's Missing in the Darfur Debate: Addressing Property Rights Could Help Bring Peace

Published in the IREN Newsletter, Nairobi, Kenya September 2004
KAROL BOUDREAUX , SENIOR RESEARCH FELLOW GEORGE MASON UNIVERSITY

The humanitarian crisis in Darfur, ranked as the worst in the world, continues to deteriorate despite pledges by the Sudanese government to stop the spread of violence in its western territories. It is estimated that 50,000 people have died and a million fled their homes so far as a result of the conflict. Women have been raped, children orphaned and starved and disease threatens tens of thousands.

The African Union, chaired by Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo, is leading a regional effort to resolve the conflict. Part of its mandate is to provide a protection force for displaced and terrorised Sudanese and to head an international monitoring team in Darfur. It will host peace talks in a few days in Abuja. Along with these commendable efforts, the African Union should strongly consider adopting another less costly measure: sending a team of property lawyers to Sudan.

To date, most discussions of the crisis, and most proposals for its resolution, have focused on the ethnic element: Arab militias terrorising black Sudanese. There have been reports that the militia, known as Janjaweed, may be engaged in government-sponsored ethnic cleansing and genocide. It is wholly appropriate that the international community condemn and seek an end to these atrocities and look to human rights law as a vehicle for punishing wrongdoers.

The awful spectre of genocide may, however, be diverting attention from one of the underlying causes of this crisis - the ongoing dispute over legal rights to access land and water. Arab militias have taken up the banner of pastoralists, migratory herders whose traditional rights of access to grazing lands and watering holes are threatened when black farmers, who are in competition for the same resources, try to restrict that access. As resources in the region become increasingly scarce, conflict escalates. Peaceful means of settling these disputes have failed and resulted in today's large-scale violence.

This basic scenario should resonate with Americans. After all, as Hernando De Soto reminds us in The Mystery of Capital, our history is rife with property-related violence (though not, of course, on a scale anything like what's occurring in Darfur). European settlers fought with Native Americas, cattlemen fought with sheep herders, ranchers fought with farmers, miners fought with miners - all over the allocation of property rights. De Soto points out that this violent past "is many nations' present." Sadly, it is Sudan's present.

But, it need not be Sudan's future. The African Union has a unique opportunity to provide what's missing in the debate on Darfur: a serious discussion of this crisis as a property conflict. Human rights law can be used to punish wrong doers in Darfur, but property law is needed to resolve the root causes of the problem. Indeed, if the AU deals in a meaningful way with underlying property conflicts in Sudan, it will go a long way towards quelling ethnic tensions.

One benefit of framing the peace talks in terms of property rights is that there are clear and relatively inexpensive ways to address the problem. In the short-term, the AU should insist on the creation of impartial property claims tribunals in Sudan. Such courts would provide an avenue for identifying and cataloguing legitimate property claims and for settling disputes peacefully. AU nations might provide the jurists for such tribunals, as they would be sensitive to the thorny nature of property and land tenure issues in Sudan, which brings customary law, common law, statutory and Islamic jurisprudence to bear on issues involving communal, private, and public ownership.

In the longer term, AU efforts should continue to be augmented by the larger international community, which can provide Sudan with the technical assistance needed to create a vigorous, transparent, accountable and accessible property rights environment. This is a much more serious challenge. Sudan currently receives poor grades in international indexes for its protection of property rights. It may be that the government lacks the will to define and protect legitimate property and tenure rights. If so, the Sudanese are destined for continuing chaos.

Perhaps though, as De Soto argues, the American West can provide a useful guide for the developing world. By helping the Sudanese to identify and integrate property rights into a formal legal system, the AU and the international community, would do a great service for the people of Sudan. A key lesson of the American past is that such rights may propel wealth creation but, more importantly, they promote peace.
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Tom Bethell's The Noblest Triumph - The right to own property has to be extended to as many people as possible

At Libertarian World: Owning Up Tom Bethell explains why nations can't grow rich unless individuals can claim that material riches are theirs. Excerpt:

Tom Bethell, born in England and educated at Oxford, came to the United States in 1962. "My main interest back then was New Orleans jazz," he recalls. Settling in the Big Easy, where he wrote a book and recorded local musicians, Bethell started writing for a local community newspaper. "It was a tremendous revelation for me; journalism was what I wanted to do with my life," he says. Bethell became an American citizen in 1974 and has since written for dozens of newspapers and magazines around the country. He worked at the Washington Monthly, served as an editor at Harper's, and for nearly 20 years has been the Washington correspondent for the American Spectator. On July 27, 1998, he met with Amazon.com's John J. Miller to discuss The Noblest Triumph, his book on the history of property eight years in the making. Excerpt from the interview:

Amazon.com: What's The Noblest Triumph about?

Tom Bethell: I realized that the institution of private property is a fundamental aspect of Western civilization and also one of the most underappreciated. If you look at books about property, you find the idea attacked outright. After Karl Marx, property fell into intellectual disrepute. More recently, there have been some very good but also very narrow books on the subject, such as Takings, by Richard Epstein. I wanted to examine property with a wide-angle lens.

Amazon.com: Why haven't property rights been sufficiently understood?

Bethell: Historically, economically, and philosophically, property does not fit easily into any particular academic field. It requires the historian to be interested in economics, the economist to be interested in law, and so on. There's never really been a broad book on the subject. We live in an age of such specialization that people in the academy have been reluctant to take on big topics. As a journalist, I rush in where experts fear to tread.

Amazon.com: How important are property rights?

Bethell: If a society doesn't have widespread ownership of property, it will be impoverished. You'll have actual famines caused not by bad weather, but by bad political institutions. Sudan is one of the most sparsely populated countries on earth, and it has a basic problem feeding its people. Holland is one of the most dense, but because it has a system of secure ownership it can feed them. If you can't sustain life, there will be no art, literature, or liberty. Private property is the institution that led to the rise of capitalism. It didn't happen until the 17th and 18th centuries in England. There were property rights before then, but they weren't widespread. Hernando de Soto made the same point about the Third World in his book The Other Path. He's from Peru but went to school in Europe. He saw individual riches there and knew that it wasn't because Europeans were more intelligent than Peruvians. He concluded that law was the missing ingredient. Underdevelopment is often due to the status of property rights in society. The right to own property has to be extended to as many people as possible.
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Hernando de Soto - Institute for Liberty and Democracy

Hernando de Soto

Hernando de Soto is the president of the Institute for Liberty and Democracy, a Peruvian think tank committed to creating legal frameworks that help the poor of the developing and ex-communist world to access property rights and turn their assets into leverageable capital. Mr. de Soto is the author of The Other Path: The Invisible Revolution in the Third World (Harper and Row) and, most recently, The Mystery of Capital: Why Capitalism Triumphs in the West and Fails Everywhere Else (Basic Books).

Read bio Hernando de Soto. Further interview at www.acton.org entitled The Poor are the Solution, Not the Problem.

Institute for Liberty and Democracy Mission:
Four billion people in developing and post-Soviet nations - two thirds of the world's population - have been locked out of the global economy: forced to operate outside the rule of law, they have no legal identity, no credit, no capital, and thus no way to prosper. The Institute for Liberty and Democracy (ILD), based in Lima, Peru, has created a key that can open the system to everyone - a time-tested strategy for legal reform that offers the majority of the world's people a stake in the market economy.

All 8 Books by Hernando De Soto Including The Mystery of Capital

Hernando De Soto offers radical and yet convincing arguments on the reasons why capitalism only seems to work in some nations, mainly the ones in the northern hemisphere, and fails consistently in the rest of the world. - www.kelkoo.co.uk

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Anti-poverty bands made with forced labour, Oxfam says

At one of the factories, the Tat Shing Rubber Manufacturing Company in Shenzen, employees were working a seven-day week for less than the minimum wage, with no annual leave, no right to freedom of association, and poor health and safety provisions, one report said.

At the Fuzhou Xing Chun Trade Company, workers were being paid below the minimum wage and having pay deducted for disciplinary reasons, the other report said.

The product? Make Poverty History wristbands.

See Full Report at Independent UK - via Laban Tall's Blog with thanks.

There is so much incompetence around. The report says:
"We were stupid," said Dominic Nutt at Christian Aid. "We didn't check it out, Cafod didn't check it out, and Oxfam didn't check it out."
The report lists the various wristbands. Note green 'Save Darfur' bands via www.savedarfur.org do not get a mention. I am still waiting for the 20 white Make Poverty History bands I ordered from UNICEF who sent me a note weeks ago explaining they were out of stock and would post them on asap. Poor Chinese must be working flat out. I wish the proceeds from all wristbands could be paid to the Chinese workers as a mark of respect and apology.

Colourful campaigns

- Yellow: The US cyclist Lance Armstrong began the craze, producing bands for his cancer charity.

- Blue: Beat Bullying. Launched by Radio 1 to coincide with an anti-bullying campaign. Also used for tsunami and prostate cancer campaigns.

- Black and white: Nike makes them in aid of a campaign to fight racism in football across Europe.

- Pink: Used by Breast Cancer Care, which provides support for those affected by breast cancer.

- Red: Support for campaigns ranging from heart disease and diabetes to HIV, to anti-smoking campaigns in the US.

- Orange: For the Multiple Sclerosis Society in Britain, and self-harmer charities in the US.

- Green: Used by Community Service Volunteers and the Ski Club of Great Britain.

- Magenta: Used by Diabetes UK.

Sunday, May 29, 2005

Exclusive interview with Peruvian economist, Hernando de Soto: The poor are not the problem but the solution

This is an important post. I have been meaning to publish it here for the past two months. The delay is because it needed a few lines of introduction to explain a little about why it is posted at Sudan Watch for future reference.

Here in England, there are some areas where people are experiencing tense situations caused by traditional gypsies and modern day nomads parking their caravans illegally. The travellers* who choose to live 'on the road' in their motor homes have few places to park and live in peace because of past Tory policies that withdrew land where 'travellers' used to be allowed to park and reside temporarily.

Wherever the nomads park their caravans illegally, they - and many are families with young children of school age - are forced to move on by the authorities. Whenever nomads park and settle, it creates an emotive mess for government officials to deal with and sort out. Local residents and homeowners object to nomads settling anywhere near their neighbourhoods. Showdowns between government officials, local residents and nomads are sometimes filmed and broadcast on televison news. Terrible scenes involving bailiffs, police, mothers wailing and children crying. Nobody tells them where they can park. They are simply told to move on. It is awful because you know the same scenario is repeated when they arrive at another spot.

Recently, some nomads resorted to purchasing greenfield sites near homeowners and, without first applying for residency permission, set up camps of sixty or more caravans, afterwhich they applied for residency permission. My understanding is they used human rights laws to avoid eviction while residency permits were being considered - and turned down.

Nomads are viewed as sticking together. Keeping to themselves. Not mixing or trying to integrate into local communities. Locals residents resent and shun the nomads who are seen as not working by the rules. Most nomads are suspected of not paying full taxes or obtaining permits, like law abiding citizens are expected to do. In countries such as the Sudan, the government eliminates troublesome nomads by killing those who fight for and argue over land and resources.

[*See Gypsies and Travellers: The facts [via Laban Tall's Blog via The Adventuress with thanks]

A few months ago, I found an extraordinary interview report that gives an insight into why poor people in Africa are having such an impossible time. I found the report at Stephen Pollard's blog. Here below is a copy in full, authored by Stephen who posted it at his blog March 14, 2005.

The report is an exclusive interview with the Peruvian economist Hernando de Soto and covers such a complex issue I cannot summarise it here in a few short lines. Please be warned, the report is long and appears verbose and dry, but the quality of the information is so high, I promise you it is worth taking the time to read and digest it, slowly. Here is Stephen's post and the report:
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I am thrilled to be able to publish an exclusive interview with the Peruvian economist, Hernando de Soto, founder and President of the Institute for Liberty and Democracy (ILD) in Lima, and an intellectual hero of mine. He has published two books about economic and political development: The Other Path and The Mystery of Capital: Why Capitalism Triumphs in the West and Fails Everywhere Else - one of, if not the, greatest books ever published on the issue of poverty in the developing world. As Bill Clinton puts it: "De Soto's ideas about how to empower the world's poor represent one of the most significant economic insights of our time".

De Soto's main thrust is that much of the marginality of the poor in developing and former communist nations comes from their inability to benefit from the positive effects that property rights provide. Without legal titles and the necessary property-related institutions, the poor cannot fully exploit their assets. The challenge these countries face is not whether they should produce or receive more money but whether they can identify which legal institutions are required and summon the political will necessary to build a property system that is easy for the poor to access.

Dirk Verhofstadt, of the Belgian think tank Liberales, had an exclusive interview with Hernando de Soto in his residence in Lima, and he has generously allowed me to publish it here.

The Economist calls the Institute for Liberty and Democracy (ILD) one of the most important think tanks in the world. How did it start?

At the end of the left wing dictatorship in Peru in 1979, we wanted to bring in new ideas. All we had here were traditional leftist messages, some of which I found very interesting. However, it was also very important to realize that we had nothing that related to a market economy and the more liberal view of democracy. So, the beginning was simply bringing in ideas from Friedrich Hayek, Jean-Francois Revel, Milton Friedman, and original Marxian thinking as well. We wanted to clear the air and explain that there was more substance to the kind of thinking which supports freedom and the efficient economies of the world than they suspected. One of these ideas was the relationship between marginality - where people are forced to live and work outside the system - and the law. At that time, I saw the law as the main factor of exclusion.

Take for example the history of Latin America where liberal ideas have come to government many times, but haven't succeeded. The main reason for that failure was that they never included the excluded. [This was a harder task than it seemed.] We found that most ideas that related to freedom and productivity were well known by think tanks but had not penetrated to the political decision makers and the average person. So, the focus of the Institute for Liberty and Democracy very much became this extralegal sector - particularly on the areas of property rights and free enterprise because they are the trusses to everything else.

Do politicians understand the importance of property rights?

If you are poor, like the majority of the people in the Third World or the former Soviet Union, you have only two things that allow you to survive - where you are living and whatever you are working with to provide you with an income. Poor people, for instance, put their simple belongings on a piece of unoccupied ground in the countryside or in the so-called pueblos jovenes, favelas, ranchos, barrios marginales, bidonvilles or shantytowns around big cities in the developing world. If no one disputes his or her claim, a bit of a roof follows. As time goes by, and as the neighbours come to recognize the newcomer's property, a regular structure will be added. Over time, not only do the neighbours recognize the squatter's property, but also informal organizations may 'register' the ownership - unofficially, of course. The occupants have to dedicate all their time to protecting their possessions against such enemies as poachers, intruders, and, of course, the government.

If you want to understand the importance of property rights, a good place to start is the genesis of property, something that is not controversial for the entire political spectrum. Half of the governments we work for, for instance, are definitely on the left and understand that the poor do not have property and believe that they should. So the law gives a point of penetration were everybody is in an agreement. Property rights are even recognized on a global level in points nine and ten of the Washington-consensus. However, these are the only points that have never been implemented. The objective of these points is to establish free enterprise and property. This big gap needs to be filled in. That is the objective of the ILD.

In your book 'The Mystery of Capital', you write that capitalism is like a private club, only open to a privileged few, enraging the billions standing outside looking in. Can you explain this?

Almost 5 billion people out of the 6 billion in the world live in either developing or formerly communist countries, where much of the economy is extralegal. Capitalism doesn't thrive in these countries because of their inability to produce capital. However, capital is the force that raises the productivity of labour and creates the wealth of nations. It seems that poor countries cannot produce capital for themselves no matter how eagerly their people engage in all the activities that characterize a capitalist economy. In fact, the poor inhabitants of less developed countries do have things, but they lack the process to represent their property in such a way that it can create and transfer capital. They have houses but no titles; crops but no deeds; businesses but no statutes of incorporation. In other words: their property is not registered, not formally legalised. This last fact is crucial, for only through property rights is it possible to obtain credit. Property converted into capital provides the potential to create, to produce, and to grow. Landownership can only be exchanged for a loan if it is registered. The main objective of the ILD is to establish and incorporate the invisible network of laws that turns assets from 'dead' into 'liquid' capital.

One of the conclusions in your book 'The Mystery of Capital' is that poor people are not the problem, but the solution.

They certainly are, and there are very simple reasons for this. First of all, wherever we go, we see that the poor have the majority of a country's savings, which means that they have done the majority of the work. Look at the situation in Egypt. There, extralegals have accumulated up to $ 248 billion in their enterprises and homes. This is 37 times more than all the loans received from the World Bank. It is 55 times greater than all the direct investments in Egypt and 35 times more than the value of the companies listed in the Cairo Stock Exchange.

In fact, the total value of the assets held but not legally owned by the poor in the Third World and former communist nations is at least $ 9.300 billion. So, the poor are obviously the solution.

The history of many countries shows that very poor people have built today's wealth. The poor today form a large entrepreneurial force, but it is a force that cannot leverage its assets. And that is the situation in all of the developing countries and in the former communist nations we have been in. There is no lack of entrepreneurship. There is no lack of a will to build assets. There just isn't the legal system to allow these assets to be leveraged the way you can do so in the West. International financial institutions have traditionally not counted these assets. Poor people have always been seen as recipients of benefits. We are changing this around by saying that whatever you are giving to them is peanuts compared to what they themselves can do. So, the direction should be to enable them, to empower the poor.

So, to solve the real problem we have to make the informal world formal?

Well, that's it, but it's not the old formality. You've got to think of a new formality. The old one has been offered to the poor, but they have obviously rejected it. There is the law. Don't forget that informal and customary systems of property rights exist, but mostly outside the legal framework of the country.

I am now a member of a newly created agency for foreign assistance. The Secretary General of the United Nations, Kofi Annan and the Administrator of the UNDP, Mark Malloch Brown, have set up a commission targeting private sector development. These kinds of agencies had never focused on the private sector, in spite of the fact that they are a big part of the world economy. So, the agenda seems to be moving in the right direction now.

But isn't the main problem legislation? Don't lawyers stick on to the existing laws?

That's right. The legal and administrative mechanisms for creating live capital either do not exist or are complicated, these take ages to navigate and cost far too much for the ordinary person. Rich people, on the other hand, have easy entry to business; that is, they have easy access to the tools that facilitate their entry, such as lawyers, accountants, and legal advisors who are able to safeguard their interests in the labyrinth of bureaucracy.

If a squatter wanted to acquire a legal title to his or her property, it would take at least 13 years in the Philippines, over 11 years in Haiti, and 6 years or more in Egypt.

Moreover, in business, it takes you 549 days to get a license to operate a bakery in Egypt and that is with a lawyer. Without a lawyer, it takes about 650 days. In Honduras, it costs an individual entrepreneur 3.765 dollar and 270 days to legally declare, register, and start up a business.

To create a mortgage in Mexico it takes 2 years. It takes 17 years to get a title on a house in Egypt; in Peru it used to be 21 years before we corrected that, and in the Philippines it's 24 years. These are but a few examples of complicated ownership legislation. The procedures for getting official authorization to build are so formidable that people chose to build without authorization. The entire phenomenon forces poor people into illegitimate and informal negotiations. It forces them to create extralegal means to gain access to a home or a business.

So, what the people in these countries need are transparent laws and efficient administration. One of the main reasons that laws are so complicated, and procedures are so costly and inefficient, is that legislators in developing countries only want to adopt western rules. They remain blind to the extralegal reality. In fact, they should leave their studies and offices and investigate the extralegal sector because that is where they would find all the information they need to create a legitimate legal system that everyone would understand and accept. By investigating and penetrating the 'law of the people', legislators and regulators can set up a better legal system. Most of the lawyers in developing countries are educated to protect the interests of their wealthier clients and write the law to assist them. However, they have an instinctive tendency to protect the legal status quo instead of to extend it or adapt it to suit the needs of an evolving reality.

You have been working in several developing countries by giving advice to their heads of state. What is your method of working?

To us the most important part of our work is that part that we call the diagnosis. When we are hired by heads of state, we form a team of maybe seven people from our side and a hundred from theirs. Then we draw a line and find out what's inside the law and what's outside the law. In the case of Egypt, we found that 92% of all the constructions and the land and 88% of all enterprises are outside the legal system. This means that the large majority of owners are not registered as such and are therefore not visible to councils, town planners, investors, banks, post offices, water companies, electricity providers, and other firms. The results of our diagnosis show politicians that something is very wrong. It even has a Marxists element of class, an element that has always been missing, even in liberalism. Because people do have specific positions. People in the so-called informal economy are the biggest entrepreneurial class in the world. There are more entrepreneurs in any Third World country than there are in the rich countries.

Over the past fifteen years or so, your Institute has worked in Peru, Egypt, El Salvador, the Philippines, Honduras and Haiti. In which country are you working now?

We are currently working with the Mexican government. We have finished the diagnosis. Seventy-eight million Mexicans - this is almost 80 percent of the total population - is either living or working in the extralegal economy. They produce approximately 35% of the GNP. In total there are about 137 million hectares of rural real estate, 11 million houses, and 6 million businesses that are not registered. Those are assets that can only be used as a shelter or as business tools, but not as a means to obtain collateral for a loan, to generate investment or to create additional functions to obtain surplus value. The whole value of this 'dead capital' amounts to $ 315 billion. That is equivalent to seven times the value of all known oil reserves in the country and 31 times the value of foreign direct investment. So, we are advising President Fox on the ways to reform all of this in order to integrate the excluded citizens. An efficient means is designing a legal framework to transform property and businesses into liquid assets. And by reducing the costs and increasing the benefits of operating legally, they can increase public tax revenues.

Is there a relation between corruption and the lack of property rights?

Yes, of course. Because a great part of corruption is essentially the purchase of the law; that is, you pay somebody to stop looking your way or to draft the law in a certain direction. When I was working in the Middle East, there was an entrepreneur that I got to known so well that I could ask him about corruption and pay-offs - 'baksheesh' is the local word. He explained: "I love baksheesh because it gives me certainty and predictability." They change the law continually. We have calculated that the government brings out about 30.000 new rules every year. None of these is enacted in a transparent manner, with public participation. The result is that the law is totally unpredictable and only serves the powerful and htose who have the means to remain informed. So, from this point of view, 'baksheesh' gives a kind of predictability. All the entrepreneur had to do was pay-off five key policemen either near his workplace, or where he made his transactions. And he knew what his outcome would be.

Now, traditionally that is what the law is supposed to do - give you predictability. However, if the law is inadequate, then your way of getting predictability is corruption. Therefore, when you have property rights - understanding "property rights" as your right to do business, hold shares and carry out business transactions -, it is clear that people will not look to corruption for security and predictability, wherever you go in the world.

Some people say that culture is separating the Third from the First World. Do you agree?

That is a myth. I really don't think culture has very much to do with the fact that some people are desperately poor and others are wealthy. It's an unfair proposition. It predisposes people to do the wrong things. It may even have racist implications. Instead of focusing on culture, let's take away all of these enormous legal obstacles that poor people have to face. We're absolutely convinced it does work because people are actively in enterprise all over the world. Countries that are less occidental than Latin American nations were poorer than us barely 50 years ago - like Japan, Taiwan and South Korea - changed their laws and are now in average 10 times wealthier than we are. Most of the people who say that 'cultural' handicaps do exist don't have much solid facts to prove it. Development will not be achieved by throwing money at the problem but rather by radically changing the legal systems. And I don't think it is primarily an IMF or World Bank responsibility. I think it's a local responsibility.

Despite privatisations and deregulations, the Russian economy is not doing well. Do you attribute this situation to a property rights problem as well?

There is only one way of knowing that and it is by getting the numbers on the shadow economy, which is precisely what we at the ILD do. It's like in medicine: the doctor has to see the patient. You can have the best written law in the world, but if it doesn't work on the ground it is only ink on paper. I wouldn't be surprised if in Russia the law looks good on paper, but, on the ground, it doesn't work. This is why a very important ingredient of any reform towards the market is feedback from the people so that you can create law based on general consensuses and on people's beliefs. There is no way of designing it in the air as bureaucrats of the old class often do. If you want to get law that is enforceable you've got to go get to the street!

How is it possible that those liberal ideas were never popular in Latin America?

Since liberation from Spain in the 1820's, many governments have tried to bring in a liberal revolution in Latin America several times. We have tried to follow the US model or the Western European models. Latin Americans have privatized railways, lowered tariffs to zero, and opened our economies to foreign investment. And we have failed nearly every time. The reforms made sense for a very small group of people at the top, but for the majority, it didn't fit their interests. The big mistake each time has been that although people were inspired by liberal ideas, in fact, they never had much interest for the poor. I would say that these people who pretended to be liberal, were not liberals but conservatives. By not caring for the poor, they gave the opportunity to the populist and communists to gain much ground.

Can we say that capitalism is in trouble?

Of course capitalism is in trouble, because, as usual, it is only catching among the top 20 or 10 percent of the population in Latin American countries that have got their property rights paperized in a way that they can enter the market. Capitalism is in trouble in the sense that it isn't working for the majority. I insist that capitalism doesn't work without universally accessible property rights. Capitalism definitely did not win the battle against communism: what happened is that communism collapsed. The main ideas or concerns held by the early communists and socialists are still around.

Do you agree with libertarians that plead for a minimal state? What is your position with regard to libertarianism and liberalism?

I think that some of the most resourceful sophisticated thinking comes from libertarians. To me, they are the 'avant garde' because, among other things, they point out the dangers of concentrated power. They are a continual source of inspiration to me but it is the gap between their proposals to do a way with government and reality. I am not too sure they understand that government is important to enforcing freedom and democracy -- maybe this is because they do not know what it is like to live without any government like some of us in the Third World. The rule of law has to be managed and enforced by strong government if it is to prevail. In my case, I would say that I am a classical liberal, corresponding to the liberal ideas of the 18th and 19th centuries, which were characterized by being radically opposed to the concentration of power and the causes of the poor.

The reason I study the 18th and 19th centuries of Europe and North America is not because I like the past, but because they provide me with lead to understand the present with regards to developing countries. There is a sense that individualism becomes clearer with the Renaissance. Before, people could not envisage themselves as being anything other than part of a whole. That phenomenon of individualism is now starting to take shape in Latin America. In Mexico, for example, where we are currently doing our biggest project, one of the areas we have to focus on is the ejido, which is an indigenous collective property system. We found out that the average age of the Mexican farmer is 65, which means that most of the young people have already left to the city and are becoming individuals. In other words, we are at that stage of individualization that you in Europe were at a couple of centuries ago. Europe's 18th and 19th centuries intellectual debate are very relevant to developing countries in former Soviet Union nations in the 21st century.


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