SUDAN WATCH: UK Blair to propose new initiative on Darfur crisis

Saturday, September 16, 2006

UK Blair to propose new initiative on Darfur crisis

Reuters via Gulf Times 16 Sep 2006:
British Prime Minister Tony Blair said yesterday he will propose an incentive package for Sudan as part of a new initiative to end the crisis in Darfur and get UN peacekeeping troops on the ground.

"In the coming weeks I will talk to other leaders to agree an initiative that sets out the help Sudan can expect if the government lives up to its obligations and what will happen if they don't," Blair said in a statement.
Reuters David Clarke 16 Sep 2006:
A British official said Blair's aim was to get the AU, EU, the UN and the US to back the incentive initiative at the highest level. Incentives could include ending suspension of development and recovery aid, resolving Sudan's debt situation, establishing higher level political contacts and moving towards the lifting of sanctions, he said.
Text of Blair statement:
"The tragic situation in Darfur represents one of the greatest challenges that the international community faces.

The situation is completely unacceptable. Renewed violence in North Darfur between the rebel groups and the Sudanese Armed Forces has driven another 50,000 people to leave their homes, bringing the total number of displaced persons to 1.9 million. Violence against women continues unabated, as NGOs report 200 cases of rape in one camp alone. Nearly three million people in Darfur depend on international aid for food and basic needs. Because of the fighting nearly half a million people are cut off from this aid.

On 11 September Kofi Annan asked in the Security Council whether the international community, having not done enough for the people of Rwanda in their time of need, could just watch as this tragedy deepens. The answer is "No", particularly after agreeing last year on the responsibility to protect.

Last May, we hoped the signature of the Darfur Peace Agreement by the Government of Sudan and one rebel group would set Darfur on the road to peace. The Peace Agreement sets out the path. The non-signatory rebel groups must now accept it. And the Government of Sudan must stop its military campaign - which contravenes the DPA - and implement the Agreement.

But the immediate and desperate need is for better security. The African Union force in Sudan deserves our thanks for the way they have carried out a dangerous task. But the challenge they face is immense and the AU itself has called for reinforcements. UN Security Council Resolution 1706 provides for a UN peacekeeping force to take over and to protect the people of Darfur.

I do not understand the Government of Sudan's rejection of the UN force, or its threat to withdraw its welcome from the AU. This does not match the commitment to peace the Government showed in May by signing the DPA.

The Government of Sudan must agree to the continuation of the AU force and transition to the UN.

The coming weeks will be crucial. I am committed to stepping up international efforts to bring a change of mind and action from the Government of Sudan. I have already talked to Premier Wen and President Bush about Darfur in the last few days. In the coming weeks I will talk to other leaders to agree an initiative that sets out the help Sudan can expect if the Government lives up to its obligations and what will happen if they don't.

As the Global Day for Darfur demonstrates, urgent action is needed by all parties to the conflict and by the international community if we are to find a lasting solution. Sudan will stay at the top of my agenda." [AP-Sudan Tribune 16 Sep 2006]
Religious leaders in Darfur plea:
Senior members of the Muslim, Jewish and Christian faiths in the UK will gather outside Downing Street on Sunday to call for an end to the suffering in Darfur. Prayers written by Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks and Sheikh Ibrahim Mogra will be read out at 12.30pm. A message has also been sent from the Catholic Bishop of El Obeid, whose diocese includes Darfur. [PA-Guardian 16 Sep 2006]
Tutu calls for sanctions against Sudan:
Archbishop Desmond Tutu has called for sanctions to be imposed on Sudan unless it agrees to UN peacekeepers in Darfur, reports the BBC. The call from the Nobel Peace Prize winner comes ahead of Sunday's 'Global Day for Darfur' which will see demonstrations around the world to put pressure on their governments to do more to end the suffering in Darfur. "The world can't keep saying 'Never again'," he told the BBC. "We have a horrendous tragedy unfolding in Darfur," the South African archbishop told BBC Five Live radio. He said the UN should give Sudan a deadline and say to the government: "If you do not agree to a peacekeeping force, you will have to face sanctions."

He also suggested that a UN force could be sent to into Sudan, even without the government's permission, under the guise of seeking to arrest the officials accused of war crimes. Archbishop Tutu also accused the international community of taking crises in Africa less seriously than in other parts of the world.

"The harsh truth is that some lives are slightly more important than others... If you are swarthy, of a darker hue, almost always you are going to end up at the bottom of the pile." []
Muslim Aid leads call for peace in Darfur:
"We urge all parties to engage in dialogue to give peace a chance," said Saif Ahmad, CEO of Muslim Aid. "We in Muslim Aid would like to offer our services to invite dialogue between the government and the rebels to defuse the tension." Muslim Aid works in Darfur providing mobile clinics to those in urgent need. [ReliefWeb Sep 16 2006]
Sudan VP Kiir backs UN troops in Darfur:
The head of the SPLM, First VP Salva Kiir Mayardit, told the independent Al-Sudani daily that the Sudanese government was incapable of protecting civilians in Darfur, and called on the UN to intervene. "The aggravation of the humanitarian and security situation in Darfur necessitates intervention of international forces to protect civilians from the atrocities of the Janjaweed militias so long as the government is not capable of protecting them," Kiir was quoted as saying at the close of an SPLM politburo meeting held in the southern city of Juba late Friday. [AP-CNN 16 Sep 2006]
Minnawi would accept UN in Darfur:
Minnawi said if there was no alternative he did not object to a U.N. force, putting him at odds with his partners in peace, the dominant National Congress Party (NCP), who compare a UN transition to a Western invasion intent on regime change. "This was our idea before it was the idea of the UN," he said. [Reuters Opheera McDoom 14 Sep 2006]
EU threat of Sudan sanctions over Darfur:
European Union has threatened to impose sanctions against the Sudanese Government if it does not stop attacks in Darfur and allow UN peacekeepers in. The Irish, Danes and Swedes, in particular, pledged to use next week's UN General Assembly in New York to ensure there is major international pressure on Sudan. The EU reiterated the warning given by UN Secretary General Kofi Annan that those involved in the killings will be held accountable. [Irish Examiner, Ann Cahill, 16 Sep 2006]
Darfur 'regional security threat':
Head of UN refugee agency, Antonio Guterres, in a BBC interview described Darfur as the "epicentre of a major earthquake". [BBC 16 Sep 2006]
Bush calls for robust UN action in Darfur:
Speaking to reporters at a press conference in the White House Rose Garden, Bush said the UN should send a message to the Sudanese government that "we're coming in with a UN force in order to save lives." [PDO/Xinhua 16 Sep 2006]
Bush hints at use of force in Darfur:
Writing in today's Independent on Sunday, the Prime Minister, Tony Blair, calls for "concerted international action to bring a change of mind and actions from the government of Sudan" - although he stopped short of suggesting a UN force should go in without Sudan's approval. [UK Independent 17 Sep 2006]
Clooney warns of 'Darfur genocide':
On Thursday, Oscar-winning actor George Clooney and Nobel Peace Prize recipient Elie Wiesel urged members of the UN's Security Council to help end atrocities in Darfur. [IC Scotland 16 Sep 2006]

The Daily Telegraph's David Blair has a nice photo for the girls and commentary on Clooney's plea to stop the killing 15 Sep 2006.
Briton stars urge govt to press for end to fighting in Darfur:
Leading British film and music stars urged the government on Saturday to help end fighting in Darfur. Musicians Elton John and Annie Lennox, musician-campaigner Bob Geldof, actress Emma Thompson and bodyshop founder Anita Roddick were among those who signed an open letter accusing the international community of failing to act. "We call on our government to move Darfur to the top of its priority list until a UN force is deployed and the people of Darfur are protected." [Zee News 16 Sep 2006]
Blair must honour Darfur pledge:
But we also need a Plan B. If the UN isn't admitted, the existing AU force should be strengthened and its mandate extended. Nato should offer logistical support and air cover to enforce the UN no-fly-zone. [UK Shadow FM, Sunday Times Sep 17 2006]
Blue UN beret

Blair backs mass protest urging UN force for Darfur:
Tony Blair takes the unusual step today of endorsing a mass protest on foreign policy, which will include an interfaith service at the gates of Downing Street.

The Global Day for Darfur, which is expected to include demonstrations and vigils in 32 countries tomorrow, is designed to press the government of Sudan to accept a UN peacekeeping force in its troubled western region. [Guardian Jonathan Steele 16 Sep 2006]
See Global Day for Darfur and for details of rallies.

Further news reports at Passion of the Present and Coalition for Darfur. Commentary at The Sudanese Thinker.

PS I've interrupted blogging break to mark Global Day for Darfur and record who said what when. Light blogging continues. Thanks for kind messages. A special hi to Daniel D, Soenke F, Andreas K and Jay M. God bless all the peace seekers.

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