SUDAN WATCH: January 2009

Friday, January 30, 2009

AU against indicting Sudan's Bashir - AU wants Mbeki to head Darfur panel - Russia proposes Darfur conference in Moscow - Kiir starts ICC committee

The African Union has asked former South African leader Thabo Mbeki to head a panel on how to reconcile the need for accountability in Darfur with opposition to calls for Sudan's president to be prosecuted.

Jean Ping, the chairman of the AU Commission, made the announcement on Thursday at a meeting of the continent's foreign ministers ahead of a February 1-3 AU summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

African Union against indicting Sudan's Bashir
From LA Times (Associated Press, Addis Ababa) 31 January 2009 - excerpt:
The African Union urged the International Criminal Court on Friday to suspend its indictment of Sudan's president on genocide charges, saying it could jeopardize any peace process in Darfur.

The head of the AU Peace and Security Council said Friday that members unanimously supported delaying the indictment process for a year so that officials could negotiate peace in the western Sudanese region. "There is a solidarity shown toward the president of Sudan, unanimously," Ramtane Lamamra of Algeria said.
African Union wants Mbeki to head Darfur panel
From Reuters (Addis Ababa) by Daniel Wallis 29 January 2009 - excerpt:
The African Union has asked former South African leader Thabo Mbeki to head a panel on how to reconcile the need for accountability in Darfur with opposition to calls for Sudan's president to be prosecuted.

Jean Ping, the chairman of the AU Commission, made the announcement on Thursday at a meeting of the continent's foreign ministers ahead of a February 1-3 AU summit in Ethiopia.

"I have written to President Mbeki to ask him to chair a high level panel to submit recommendations on how best to reconcile the fight against impunity (in Darfur) while also dealing with reconciliation and forgiveness," Ping said.

Ping gave no other details about his plan for Mbeki.

Meanwhile, the United Nations and African Union mission in Darfur (UNAMID) is aiming to deploy 80 percent of its joint peacekeeping force there by March and the rest by June.

UNAMID took over from a smaller AU mission last year -- but is well short of its promised strength of 26,000 troops.

Tanzania's Bernard Membe, who heads the Executive Council of AU foreign ministers, said the success of the mission depended on getting maximum cooperation from Bashir's government.

The AU has called for any indictment to be suspended.

"Most of us are members of the ICC, and much as most of us don't condone atrocities, the solution that we are seeking in Darfur must seek the cooperation of the government," he said.

"The cooperation of the government cannot come if we'll be deploying our troops at the same time as President Bashir is indicted. It will bring a contradiction and the peace process will be brought to a halt."
AU Commission top official supports negotiated peace in Darfur
From Angola Press (Addis Ababa) 30 January 2009:
The African Union (AU) will press for a negotiated peace settlement in the troubled Darfur region in western Sudan, rather than back the warrants of arrest slapped on the Sudanese President Hassan el-Bashir and others accused by the International Criminal Court (ICC), the AU Commission (AUC) Deputy Chairperson, Mr Erastus Mwencha, said in an exclusive interview with PANA here Friday.

Mwencha, however, reiterated that any form of impunity would be firmly tackled by the continental body, irrespective of the circumstances.

The ICC wants Bashir, who was scheduled to arrive in the Ethiopian capital on Friday for the 12th AU summit, to face criminal charges for crimes against humanity, genocide and gross human rights violations.

The AUC and the Arab League, in what is called the Qatar Initiative, wants the warrants of arrest to be withdrawn and replaced with a panel of eminent African persons, chaired by former South African President Thabo Mbeki.

The two organisations are invoking Article 16 of the Rome Statute that created the ICC, which provides for staying of the warrants of arrest when and where circumstances necessitate.
Russia calls for an international conference on Darfur
From Sudan Tribune article dated 29 January 2009 (KHARTOUM) - excerpt:
A visiting Russian official announced today that his government is proposing an international conference on Darfur to be held in Moscow later this year.

“We think such a summit would be a good mechanism to those who want to participate in the reviewing the positive developments in Darfur” Margelov was quoted by the Sudan official news agency (SUNA) as saying.

The Russian official said that his country is “actively engaged on Sudan issues and wants to play an active role in UN Security Council (UNSC), Africa and in world affairs”.

Margelov was appointed in this newly created position by Russian President Dmitry Medvedev last December in what appeared to be growing interest in the East African country.

Russian envoy to Sudan Mikhail Margelov

Photo: Russian envoy to Sudan Mikhail Margelov (L) speaks to Sudanese president Omer Hassan Al-Bashir January 29, 2009
The Russian special envoy to Sudan Mikhail Margelov told reporters following his meeting with president Omer Hassan Al-Bashir that the conference would include experts and political figures as well as all interested parties.

The envoy has made visits to Darfur and the Southern capital of Juba.

Margelov said he obtained “valuable” information that will help him make an evaluation and will convey to the Russian leadership upon his return.

He declined to state what position Russia will take on the issue of the highly expected arrest warrant to be issued by International Criminal Court (ICC) against Al-Bashir.

However he said that stance would take shape after holding consultations next month with the United States and Western Europe.

Russia has voted in favor of resolution 1593 referring the Darfur crisis to the ICC. However it hinted that it is willing to support a deferral under Article 16 of the ICC Statute but did not table a resolution.
South Sudan’s Kiir constitutes ICC Preparedness Committee
From Sudan Tribune by James Gatdet Dak 31 January 2009 (JUBA) - excerpt:
President of the semi-autonomous Government of Southern Sudan (GoSS), General Salva Kiir Mayardit, has announced his Government’s formation of a Ministerial Committee to deal with the expected decision by the International Criminal Court (ICC) to issue arrest warrants on the President of the Republic, Omer Hassan el-Bashir.

About 7-member ministerial committee to be chaired by the Minister of Cabinet Affairs, Dr. Luka Tombekana Monoja, is charged with the responsibility to workout preparedness plans for the semi-autonomous Government should the ICC issue the arrest warrant.

The Committee shall be reporting to the GoSS President “regularly”.

In the Council of Ministers meeting on Friday, President Kiir also briefed the Council on his recent visit to Washington, DC, where he met with a number of senior American officials including former President, George W. Bush at the White House.

Kiir also met with the UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-Moon and President of the World Bank, Robert Zoelleck, among other senior officials.

According to the Minister of Information and Broadcasting and official Spokesperson of the Government, Gabriel Changson Chang, the visit which took place between 5th – 7th January this year came as an invitation from President Bush to celebrate with President Kiir on the 5th January, in the White House, the 4th Anniversary of the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA).

Chang added that the visit was also to extend GoSS profound appreciation for the role played by the former US President and his administration in the conclusion of CPA and its implementation.

The visit gave President Kiir and his team the opportunity to update President Bush and his administration about the status of the CPA implementation and to ensure the continuity of the US commitment to CPA implementation in their handing over report to the new administration.

Kiir told the meeting that Bush’s administration identified Government of Southern Sudan as its strategic ally in Sudan and the region and reassured that such policy will continue even with the new administration.

He said the American government is committed to making Southern Sudan stronger politically, economically and militarily.

The Washington respective meetings discussed a number of issues within the context of implementation of the CPA, Darfur peace process and the ICC’s indictment on President el-Bashir.

The Council of Ministers commended the outcome of President Kiir’s visit to Washington DC.

Kiir said his team was not able to meet with any member of the new President Barrack Obama’s team “as they decided not to have any official meeting till they assumed their offices.”

The new administration’s officials however indicated that they would be ready to meet with GoSS officials after the inauguration of President Obama.
Related reports

Nov. 29, 2008 - Sudan Watch: Launch of a joint Arab-African peace initiative for Darfur: Qatari Peace Bid: UN, EU, AU, AL, UK, US & France support the joint Arab-African peace initiative for Darfur led by Qatar & Sudan People's Forum (SPF) - Qatar have proposed to host peace talks to end the five year war in the western Sudanese region of Darfur.

Jan. 26, 2009 - Sudan Watch: ICC's case against Sudan's President Omar Hassan Al-Bashir is a mess riddled with flaws - UNSC must invoke Article 16

Jan. 19, 2009 - Sudan Watch: Attn: Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir & First Vice-President Salva Kiir Mayardit, A Scientifically Verified Option to Bring Lasting Peace to Sudan

Jan. 16, 2009 - Sudan Watch: South Sudan's leader Salva Kiir warns of return to civil war

PEACE PROCESSES AND AGREEMENTS
-The Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA)
- The Darfur Peace Agreement (DPA)
- The Eastern Sudan Peace Agreement (ESPA)

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Monday, January 26, 2009

ICC's case against Sudan's President Omar Hassan Al-Bashir is a mess riddled with flaws - UNSC must invoke Article 16

Fellow Brit Dr Alex de Waal (recently awarded an OBE for his services to development and conflict resolution in Africa) has just published his latest analysis at his ssrc.org blog Making Sense of Darfur. The analysis contains a neat round-up of news on Sudan and, with regard to averting a constitutional crisis and a return to civil war, a proposal that the UNSC should invoke Article 16 without condition. In other words, as reported by Sudan Tribune 26 January 2009 [Sudan expert calls for ‘unconditional’ deferral of Bashir indictment], the UNSC should exercise its power and suspend any arrest warrant that may be issued by the ICC against Sudan's President Al-Bashir.

The entire archives of Sudan Watch show why I wholeheartedly support the proposal that the UNSC should invoke Article 16 without condition. For the record, here is a copy of the analysis followed by Dr Alex de Waal's critique posted on 27 January 2009 at his ssrc.org blog, Making Sense of Darfur. In addition to a postscript here below, I have added a YouTube video message to implore all warring factions in Sudan to think of Sudan's children and give peace a chance. Also, for future reference, here below is news from Kampala, Uganda that the UN-African Union Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) has opened a liaison office in Uganda; plus a report from Sudan Radio Service claiming that Sudanese journalists in Khartoum have been told by the UN Mission in Southern Sudan (UNMIS) to check facts with UNMIS before reporting on UNMIS.

Here is the analysis from Making Sense of Darfur by Dr Alex de Waal, 25 January 2009:
Dangerous Weeks Ahead
Sudan is in a state of high tension at the moment, and we face a dangerous month ahead. Darfur is witnessing its worst fighting for a year.

The immediate cause of the tension is the expected arrest warrant to be issued by the ICC, the immediate cause of the fighting is JEM’s offensive.

The Sudan Government sees the ICC as the gravest threat to its survival it has ever faced and a matter of life and death. It is a national issue, not one confined to Darfur. Up to now, the Sudan Government has responded coolly to the threat, but it is clear that no option is off the table should an arrest warrant be issued.

Key to how the Khartoum leadership responds will be the reactions of others, international and domestic. If the reaction all round were to be that the arrest warrant changes nothing and business as usual should continue, then the NCP and security leadership is likely to remain cool. But if the reactions are otherwise, then the response could be very adverse.

President Omar al Bashir has made it clear that he considers the UN responsible for allowing the ICC Prosecutor to proceed with his application for an arrest warrant, and he will hold the Secretary General and the Security Council responsible should the warrant be issued. Should this happen, all relations with the UN will be up for reconsideration. In Darfur, UNAMID is relatively protected because it is a joint mission with the African Union, which is opposed to the arrest warrant. UNMIS may be more exposed. Possibly the test for the UN will be if its senior officials, including the Special Representatives, are ready to meet with President Bashir, who is their host. If they refuse to meet with him, the government may conclude that they have no business being in Sudan. A similar test may be applied to ambassadors accredited to Sudan: will they meet with the President?

More sensitive still is the question of how the national parties respond. Just recently, Hassan al Turabi was arrested for demanding that Bashir be handed over to the ICC. This, we can be confident, will be the fate of any national political figures who take this line. The government expects that many Darfurians will openly support the ICC and has already discounted this, as far as the IDP camps and rural areas are concerned. But it is unlikely to tolerate open opposition in Khartoum.

The SPLM’s reaction will be pivotal. There seems to be a range of views within the SPLM, with some seeing the indictment as a threat to the CPA and others seeing it as leverage against the NCP. First Vice President Salva Kiir has emphasized the strategic interest of the south in seeing a stable and legitimate Government of National Unity. But it is not difficult to foresee a ratchet of escalation in which the NCP suspends or stalls on certain CPA provisions, leading to a crisis which in turn pushes some SPLM figures to argue that this is the opportunity to short-circuit the CPA and push for unilateral independence. Relations between the NCP and the SPLM will be absolutely crucial in the coming weeks and could determine the country’s fate.

The ICC issue is so preoccupying the NCP leadership that all other political business in Sudan is grinding to a halt. This in itself portends crisis as it means that key CPA implementation deadlines will slip.

Meanwhile, parts of Darfur are again in flames, with the worst fighting in the region since the beginning of 2008. This began with the military takeover of Muhajiriya, formerly controlled by SLA-Minawi, by JEM. Other Minawi strongholds have also fallen and JEM is now threatening Gereida. Minni Minawi tried to fight off the attackers without the Sudanese army, but having lost, the government is responding at scale with its most readily available military asset, the airforce. Reports indicate high-technology bombardment and considerable casualties, in Muhajiriya and other places including Gereida and north Darfur.

The operation was carried out by former SLA-Minawi commanders who had defected, and JEM is now claiming their loyalty. There are some indications that JEM had intended to mount an offensive in South Kordofan, which is already a tinderbox, which would have been a very dangerous escalation of the war, but instead seized Muhajiriya because the opportunity arose.

For some time, JEM has been saying that it is the only armed opposition movement worthy of the name and should be the sole group represented at the planned peace talks in Doha. JEM’s offensive can be seen as an attempt to turn that claim into a reality on the ground. It is common for the run-up to peace talks to see this kind of military action. Taking Muhajiriya also allows JEM to recruit more fighters and to make new appeals to the Arabs.

The timing may also be connected to the ICC. JEM’s leaders do not want any ICC announcement to be solely an international affair, and want to position themselves as the Sudanese champions of the ICC. The government suspects a link between JEM and Turabi on this issue.

The immediate loser in this fighting has been Minni Minawi. He refused Sudan Armed Forces assistance in defending Muhajiriya. Only after losing the battle did the army and airforce intervene. The Sudan Government has been quite open about bombing JEM positions in Muhajiriya. Having lost his main territorial base in Darfur, Minawi is now losing the little independence he possessed. He has called upon SAF to defend Gereida, knowing that as soon as Sudanese troops take up positions there, they will not leave unless by force of arms.

Meanwhile the Arab tribes are agitating for arms from the government, while also watching this contest to see who emerges on top. In this context, the ICC is a mixed blessing for JEM, as an arrest warrant would probably push the Arabs into siding with the government.

Ironically, the Khartoum leadership is less unhappy about JEM taking over Muhajiriya. Their argument is that it is easier to deal politically with JEM once it has a base inside Sudan. It will not be hostage to Chadian agendas and now, for the first time, JEM has an incentive to negotiate a ceasefire because it has something to defend. Bombing Muhajiriya and other areas of JEM activity would therefore not just be a military tactic but a signal that it is time to negotiate a truce.

But the current fighting might also portend something altogether more dangerous: a true showdown. There is no question that some of Khartoum’s leaders see the conjunction of JEM attacks, Turabi’s hardline stand, and the imminent ICC arrest warrant, as the first round of a new war for regime survival. This weekend’s air raids signal that the government has the capacity and readiness to strike as hard as it considers necessary.

What should be done? My proposal is that the UN Security Council should invoke Article 16 without condition. I think that there is sufficient threat to peace and security arising in the current situation for the Security Council to have reason to be seized of the matter. Most unusually, there is an immediate step the Council can take. I do not support putting conditions on the Article 16 deferral. Using every opportunity for leverage on the Sudan Government is not a strategy but a habit, and in my view the absolute priority is to focus on the CPA and Sudan’s progress towards democracy and stability, and only when that objective is agreed does it make any sense to apply additional leverage. The 12-month deferral is the time period in which the strategy for that objective needs to be in place and seen to be working.

Equally importantly, making justice conditional on specific political actions would, in my view, be in violation of basic values of human rights and the independence of the Court. From the viewpoint of The Hague or New York, it may not be evident how much damage is being done to the standing of the ICC by the ongoing escalation of reciprocal machismo.

In this context, there can be both incentive and pressure for a reduction in violence in Darfur, reining in JEM’s adventurism and halting the terror unleashed by the Sudanese airforce.
Dr Alex de Waal OBE

Photo: Dr Alex de Waal OBE (Sudan Tribune)
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ICC's CASE AGAINST BASHIR IS A MESS RIDDLED WITH FLAWS

Here is a critique from Making Sense of Darfur by Dr Alex de Waal, 27 January 2009:
A Critique of the ICC Prosecutor’s Case against President Bashir

With all the attention to the ICC Prosecutor’s application for an arrest warrant against President Omar al Bashir, it is remarkable how little scrutiny has been given to the contents of the Public Application itself. Frankly, it’s a mess. A few years ago I asked the undergraduate students in my class to prepare the arguments for a debate on the question of whether what was going on in Darfur was genocide or war crimes and crimes against humanity. If one of my students had presented the 14 July Public Application against Bashir, I would have sent it back for revision before I would give it a pass grade. Perhaps that is what the Pre-Trial Chamber is considering now. I hope so.

It is astonishing that, confronted with a government which during its nineteen years in power has presided over a wide range of unspeakable violations including some of the most heinous crimes under international law, the Prosecutor of the ICC should set out a prosecution case which is so riddled with flaws. If the Public Application represents the approach that the Prosecutor would take in a future trial, we face the prospect that Pres. Bashir might well be acquitted of genocide and also quite possibly the other charges too. I am not alone among Sudan’s most seasoned human rights activists and its best-informed political analysts in my astonishment at this shortcoming.

Read my critique of the Public Application on this link: [click here and scroll to end]

Copy of some responses to “A Critique of the ICC Prosecutor’s Case against President Bashir”

Nassir Alsayeid:
January 27, 2009
It is wise enough to consider the political turmoil that will occur following the issuance of arrest warrant by ICC. The gripping regime will not surrender to the international pressures except with a huge price at expense to prepare a safe gate. A new challenge faces the both the justice and peace maintaining conceptions, the emerging achievements which were sponsored by the West such as Peace Agreement that ended the longest civil war in the world will be tested if the ICC arrest will be de facto request. I think it is well known that the non-elected governments will not leave power at any cost.

H. Kamal:
January 27, 2009
A well written paper Alex! There is no doubt that the Government of Sudan should be held accountable for the role they played in Darfur. But we would like to see this done properly! It is a pity that we don’t see people like you and Julie Flint in Western media, instead I’m being “forced” to put up with celebrities trying to “educate” me about a part of the world I happen to come from!
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Discussions started taking place at Making Sense of Darfur on 27 January 2009 in post entitled Debating the ICC Critique. Excerpt:
posted by Khalid Omer
Dear Alex, I have a number of questions regarding your critique.
1. First in August 2004 you were quoted as describing the Darfur Counter-insurgency as “genocide by force of habit”. Are you reversing positions now?

[Alex de Waal's answer] This is a very good question. My argument was that the methods used by the Sudan government (not just this one but its predecessor too) routinely involved violence against communities of such a scale and nature that it was likely that acts of genocide had been committed in the course of counterinsurgency. (The title of the article was “Counterinsurgency on the Cheap.”) If the Prosecutor had argued that President Bashir’s aim was the repression of the insurgency and that he employed military tactics that almost certainly would entail these kinds of atrocities, and therefore he had a measure of command responsibility for any acts of genocide that were committed by his forces, I would have argued that his case was stronger. Back in 2004, my understanding of the law of genocide was that such acts would indeed have counted as genocide. Now, I’m not sure at all, for reasons I spell out in the critique. While it may be possible (pace the Cassese report) to prosecute individual commanders for acts of genocide, it would be exceptionally hard to argue that the President had command responsibility that involved intending these acts.
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UNAMID OPENS LIAISON OFFICE IN UGANDA

Copy of news from Kampala, Uganda at Sudan Tribune 24 January, 2009:
Darfur peacekeeping mission opens liaison office in Uganda

Photo: UNAMID’s Adada and the Ugandan Minister of Foreign Affairs during the exchange of letters in Kampala, on Jan 23 2009 (UNAMID)

January 23, 2009 (KAMPALA) - Darfur hybrid peacekeeping mission (UNAMID) signed today an agreement with the Ugandan government to establish a liaison office in Etntebbe.

The signing ceremony was attended by the the Ugandan Minister of Foreign Affairs Sam K. Kutesa, the Joint Special Representative (JSR) Rodolphe Adada and the United Nations Resident Coordinator and Humanitarian Coordinator Theophane Nikyema.

According to this agreement, the Government of Uganda will facilitate the free, unhindered movement to Uganda of all personnel, as well as equipment, provisions supplies and other goods, which will be for the exclusive use of the UNAMID Liaison Office.

The privileges and immunities also will be extended to UNAMID property, funds and assets, personnel and contractors.

In a speech delivered at this occasion, Rodolphe Adada pointed out that UNAMID activities within the framework of its mandate have demonstrated a need for additional logistical arrangements to support the Mission from offices outside Darfur.

While the foreign minister Sam K. Kutesa, reiterated Uganda’s commitment to work with the United Nations and the African Union to find lasting solutions to conflicts in African and elsewhere.
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UNMIS' MEDIA WORKSHOP FOR SUDANESE JOURNALISTS IN KHARTOUM

Copy of news report from Sudan Radio Service:
January 28, 2009 (Khartoum) - The United Nations Mission in Sudan, (UNMIS), conducted a media workshop on Tuesday attended by about thirty Sudanese journalists working for local and international media agencies in Khartoum.

UNMIS deputy spokesperson, Kouider Zerrouk, said UNMIS will organize a series of workshops on election coverage for journalists.

[Kouider Zerrouk]: “I would like to assure you that the office of the spokesperson will always be open, the phones of the spokesperson - of the two spokespersons are always open. You are free to contact us at anytime, even at night, because the aim is to report accurately so that the news reported should be for the benefit of the public, for the benefit of the journalists themselves and for the benefit of the mission.”

Zerrouk reiterated that journalists in Khartoum should not report anything about the mission until they get accurate information from the mission’s office, to avoid reporting what he calls “irrelevant and misleading information” to the public.
If this news story is true, I wonder how it affects British journalist Andrew Heavens who is based in Khartoum, Sudan and writes for Reuters.
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POSTSCRIPT FROM SUDAN WATCH'S EDITOR

Some related reports from the archives of Sudan Watch:

GERARD PRUNIER: DARFUR IS NOT GENOCIDE

Book on Darfur by Gerard Prunier

Photo: Darfur: The Ambiguous Genocide by Gerard Prunier (via Amazon.com)

July 13, 2008: ICC should not indict Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir

Dec. 03, 2008: Sudan's minister for humanitarian affairs points his finger at rebel groups and western imperialists

Dec. 04, 2008: Genocide in Darfur? To answer it, ICC Prosecutor Moreno-Ocampo, like Sudanese President Al-Bashir himself, should be given his day in court

Dec. 04, 2008: What's going on? UN says Darfur no longer an emergency while ICC prosecutor says genocide continues in Darfur
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JOINT ARAB-AFRICAN PEACE INITIATIVE FOR DARFUR

Inauguration of Sudan's People Forum (SPF)

Nov. 29, 2008: Qatari Peace Bid: UN, EU, AU, AL, UK, US & France support the joint Arab-African peace initiative for Darfur led by Qatar & Sudan People's Forum (SPF) - Qatar have proposed to host peace talks to end the five year war in the western Sudanese region of Darfur. [This post contains a compilation of news reports and photos that provide an overview of the launch of the joint Arab-African peace initiative for Darfur]
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MESSAGE TO WARRING FACTIONS: GIVE PEACE A CHANCE

Sudanese baby

War begets war. Peace begets peace. UNSC must invoke Article 16. The ICC's case against Bashir is a mess riddled with flaws. Please think of Sudan's children and give peace a chance.



YouTube video: John Lennon & Yoko Ono: Give Peace A Chance
Courtesy of www.imaginepeace.com
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SIR PAUL McCARTNEY'S GLOBAL CONCERT FOR WORLD PEACE:
4 APRIL 2009 IN NEW YORK CITY


Sir Paul McCartney

Photo source: Dr Keith DeBoer's blog post 20 January 2009: Paul McCartney‘s Concert for the Transcendental Meditation Program.
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CREATING A PEACEFUL WORLD FOR CHILDREN

Abu Shouk refugee camp Darfur

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SEND YOUR WISHES TO IMAGINE PEACE TOWER

Yoko Ono

Photo: Yoko Ono of imaginepeace.com. Please type your wish to wish@imaginepeace.com and it will join the millions of others at the IMAGINE PEACE TOWER on Videy Island, Reykjavik, Iceland.

IMAGINE PEACE TOWER Earthcam - LIVE

The above image is from the IMAGINE PEACE TOWER live Earthcam on Dec 31, 2008 8:21 PM. Click here to send a message to the IMAGINE PEACE TOWER. Imagine Peace in 24 languages.

Since 1981, Yoko Ono has collected over 700,000 PEACE WISHES from people worldwide as part of her interactive Wish Tree exhibits, and also via email and conventional mail. The wishes will be installed around the IMAGINE PEACE TOWER. If you have not had the chance to hang your wishes on one of Yoko’s Wish Trees yet, you can make your own Wish Tree, and/or send your wishes to the IMAGINE PEACE TOWER from the Wish page. You can send as many wishes as you like, at any time. Don't miss this short YouTube video about IMAGINE PEACE TOWER by Yoko Ono.


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PLEASE SPREAD THE WORD ON SIR PAUL McCARTNEY'S GLOBAL BENEFIT CONCERT 04 APRIL 2009

This post has taken many hours to produce and is the culmination of five years work. This site's sister blogs Congo Watch and Uganda Watch were created to track and file reports on the Lords Resistance Army's terrorism and movements in and out of Sudan. Here is a graph from SiteMeter, giving a snapshot of visitors at Sudan Watch blog on Sunday 18 January 2009.

Sudan Watch blog traffic - country share
To date, Sudan Watch (3,924 Posts) has received 440,145 visitors and 647,415 page views.
Congo Watch (366 Posts) has received 162,834 visitors and 235,066 page views.
Uganda Watch (289 Posts) has received 40,936 visitors and 48,758 page views.
A total of 2,441 photos have been posted.
These blogs are a labour of love, freely given for the children of Sudan, Uganda and DR Congo.

All I ask for now in return is a small favour: to please spread the word of Paul McCartney's GLOBAL BENEFIT CONCERT FOR WORLD PEACE to be held at Radio City Music Hall in New York City on Saturday, April 4, 2009. Thanks.

Thank you for reading Sudan Watch. With love and peace from Ingrid xx

"A small group of thoughtful people could change the world. Indeed, it's the only thing that ever has."
--Margaret Mead

+ + + Rest In Peace all those who have perished in war + + +

A Prayer for the janjaweed rape babies

Friday, January 16, 2009

South Sudan's leader Salva Kiir warns of return to civil war

Sudan's Vice President Salva Kiir said that if an ICC arrest warrant is issued for Sudanese President Al-Bashir, Sudan's ruling party will likely abandon the 2005 peace deal that ended the country's north-south civil war, leading to a constitutional crisis and a return to civil war.

Source: Voice of America News 15 January 2009 -
Sudan VP Warns of Return to Civil War:
Sudan's first vice president said the country could slip back into civil war if an international tribunal issues an arrest warrant for President Omar al-Bashir.

Judges at the International Criminal Court [or ICC] are expected to decide soon on the warrant, requested by prosecutors who accuse Mr. Bashir of war crimes in Darfur.

Vice President Salva Kiir said that if a warrant is issued, Sudan's ruling party will likely abandon the 2005 peace deal that ended the country's north-south civil war, leading to a constitutional crisis.

Kiir represents the semi-autonomous south, which fought a destructive 21-year war with the northern-based government, and is scheduled to vote on independence in 2011.

He became the latest of many Sudanese politicians to warn of negative consequences if the ICC goes after Mr. Bashir.  

In his comments, reported by Sudanese media outlets Thursday, Kiir said he raised the issue of the warrant with U.S. officials during his recent visit to Washington. He said he was told the U.S. has no influence on the case.

ICC prosecutors accuse the Sudanese president of orchestrating a genocide in Darfur. Sudanese officials have denounced the court and refuse to cooperate with its investigations.

On Wednesday, relatives of an influential Sudanese opposition leader said he was arrested after calling for Mr. Bashir to surrender to the ICC.

Family and staff of Hassan al-Turabi said police took him into custody late Wednesday.  

Turabi said Monday that Mr. Bashir should turn himself in to the court to save Sudan from the sanctions and political turmoil that would follow if he continues to defy the court.
Note, Islamist rebel group JEM are supporters of Islamist Mr Al-Turabi who used to be a close colleague of Sudanese President Al-Bashir.

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Southern Kordofan clashes blamed on well armed militias

Reportedly, there are fleets of Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) going into southern Kordofan, especially eastern Jebel. SAF have more than six battalions with very big artilleries in the area.

Southern Kordofan is mainly occupied by the Nuba, various central highland communities and pastoralist Baggara Arabs comprising the Misseriya and Hawazma.

As noted here over the years at Sudan Watch, and on 07 December 2008 - Sudan’s Southern Kordofan problem might be the next Darfur:
Sudan's army told state media that it had information that a Darfur rebel group planned to attack the area.

The main party in the south says the military build-up is a violation of a 2005 peace deal that ended civil war.
The Joint Integrated Units [JIU] combine SPLA and northern troops deployed in Southern Kordofan in accordance with the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) that ended a 20-year North-South civil war.

The JIU is not under Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA), it is under the GoSS Presidency. A decision whether to increase JIU troops will have to be taken by the Presidency.

Sudan’s Southern Kordofan Problem: The Next Darfur?

Map source: BBC

From IRIN (JUBA) 16 January 2009 - SUDAN: Southern Kordofan clashes blamed on militias:
Clashes this week in Southern Kordofan, reportedly killing at least 16 people, followed attacks by militias on joint armed units deployed in accordance with the North-South peace agreement, a southern Sudanese military spokesman said.

"It is the militias doing all this," said Major General Daniel Peter Parnyang, a spokesman for the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA). "The whole thing started on 13 January. The first one was an ambush," Parnyang told IRIN in Juba on 16 January.

"This is [when] they killed one person from the Joint Integrated Units [JIU]. Then they attacked again in Khor [al-Dalayb village] where the JIU is deployed, killing another three."

The JIUs combine SPLA and northern troops deployed in Southern Kordofan in accordance with the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) that ended a 20-year North-South civil war.

Without specifying the armed militias, Parnyang denied they were mere nomads. "We call them militias because these people are well armed," he added. "We are wondering how they got so armed."

Southern Kordofan is mainly occupied by the Nuba, various central highland communities and pastoralist Baggara Arabs comprising the Misseriya and Hawazma. About 289,000 people have returned to the state since 2005.

Although located north of the 1956 border separating North and South Sudan, many of its inhabitants fought with the SPLA during the war against the North.

Like Abyei, it continues to be a troublespot. In December, the Sudan People's Liberation Movement’s (SPLM) highest decision-making body, the Political Bureau, complained that the number of Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) had increased in the state.

According to the SPLM, the SAF doubled its troops in Abujabiiha and Mandi areas. Numbers of Northern Sudanese troops had also increased in areas of eastern Jebel, which was vacated by SPLA troops in mid-2008.

"We understand now that there are fleets of SAF going into southern Kordofan, especially eastern Jebel; we don’t know what their fears are," SPLM spokesman Jien Matthew Chol said in December, a day after the Political Bureau had resolved to send a team to the area.

"The only claim in SAF circles is that JEM [Justice and Equality Movement, a Darfur rebel group] is trying to attack the area, which is actually not very true."

Chol claimed the SAF had been in the area since November. "Now there are more than six battalions with very big artilleries," he said. The area was a key battleground during the North-South war.

"What are all these big artilleries for? At least this is an announcement of war against somebody."

Sara Pantuliano, research fellow with the Humanitarian Policy Group, recently described Southern Kordofan as a state in political turmoil.

Widespread insecurity, grievances about lack of access to services and employment and the blockage of pastoralist movement towards the South had led a number of Misseriya youth to resort to armed violence, she noted.

Asked if the number of JIUs would be increased in the area, Parnyang said the force was not under the SPLA command. "The JIU is not under us, it is under the Presidency," he said. "A decision whether to increase JIU troops will have to be taken by the Presidency."
SPLA soldiers in South Sudan

Photo: SPLA soldiers redeploy south from the Abyei area in line with the road map to resolve the Abyei crisis. Sudan. June 2008. IRIN file photo © Timothy Mckulka/UNMIS
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From Sudan Tribune - Fighting erupts in Nuba Mountains, 19 killed:
January 14, 2009 (KHARTOUM) – Armed irregular forces on Tuesday attacked Nuba villages and SPLA military camps in Southern Kordofan, a flashpoint in central Sudan where some of the heaviest fighting occurred during the 1983-2005 civil war.

The clashes reportedly killed 19 people, said the Sudan Organisation Against Torture (SOAT), naming seven of them.

According to SOAT, men from different clans within the Arabic-speaking Hawazma tribe, armed with advanced weaponry, launched an attack on Nuba villages and SPLA military camps in the area of Khor El Delib, Rashad locality, prompting SPLA to retaliate.

Other reports suggest that some 400 police and members of the Popular Defense Forces—the type of militias once mobilized for the war in South Sudan and now in Darfur—attacked the Joint Integrated Unit in Khor El Delib.

The Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) maintains forces in the area despite expectations that the former rebel group will eventually withdraw. That prospect appears unlikely as a military build-up continues in the area: in December 2008, the Sudan Armed Forces deployed more than six battalions in Southern Kordofan, said a SPLM spokesman, Yein Matthew.

The SPLA’s political wing in the area, meanwhile, is engaged in a struggle against Sudan’s ruling National Congress Party for control of the state government.

Among the dead from the clashes Tuesday are one SPLA soldier, Motasium Ismail Naim, a Tagoi from Al Faid, and six Hazama. These are Hamida Abdel Rahman, Abu Hamaid Gargar and Musa Tabig of the Hawazma-Togia from Khor Al Dalib; Ali Sayed Koba, a Hawazma-Togia from Al Fayed Umm Abdel alla; and Omer Al Mahboum and Bashair Omer Koko of the Hawazma from Al Fayed Umm Abdel alla.

South Kordofan’s state information minister, Ali Kuku, told Reuters that additional clashes took place in an area called Abre, resulting in nine nomads shot dead.

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BBC Persian TV times & satellite frequency

The technical parameters for viewers in Europe, North Africa and the Middle East are:

Hotbird satellite at 13E orbital position
Frequency:11117 MHz vertical polarization
Symbol rate 27500
FEC 3/4

Or, on the web: BBC Persian TV

Further details at Sudan Watch post 14 January 2009: Iran prepares for launch of BBC Persian TV - Protests in Khartoum against Israeli air strikes in Gaza
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IMPORTANT -- UPDATE on Monday 15 June 2009, 19:32 GMT
UK's Channel 4 News's International Editor Lindsey Hilsum (pictured below) is reporting and blogging direct from the ground in Tehran, Iran 3-4 times a day.  Click here to see her important reports and updates.

Lindsey Hilsum in Beijing
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Peter Brookes cartoon

Peter Brookes Cartoon from The Times Online 18 June 2009.

Sudan Radio Service times & frequencies

Sudan Radio Service (SRS) is Sudan’s first independent broadcast provider of news and information. SRS works in English, Arabic, and several other Sudanese languages, and focuses exclusively on issues and events in Sudan, making it the favorite radio station of many Sudanese around the world.

All SRS programming is produced by an all-Sudanese staff of radio professionals working at SRS'S main offices in Nairobi, Kenya. They also have bureaus in Juba, Khartoum, Wau, Malakal and Damazine. SRS also gathers news from Sudanese correspondents in many towns across Sudan.

You can listen to SRS on the radio or on the web at www.sudanradio.org

SUDAN RADIO SERVICE
TIMES & FREQUENCIES

From March 2009-October 2009

Monday to Sunday
7:00-8:00 am at 11,805 kHz, near 12 MHz (SW)
8:00-9:00 am at 13,720 kHz, near 14 MHz (SW)

6:00-8:00 pm at 17,745 kHz, near 18 MHz (SW)
8:00-9:00 pm at 9,590 kHz, near 10 MHz (SW)

SRS, Darfur programming

Saturday to Thursday
7:00-7:30 pm at 11,770 kHz, near 12 MHz (SW)

Listen to SRS on the radio or on the web at www.sudanradio.org
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UPDATE:

SRS frequency changes:
Effective March 2010 to October 2010

7-8am at 11,805 kHz 8-9am at 13,720 kHz
6-8pm at 17,745 kHz 8-9pm at 9,590 kHz

SRS Darfur programming:
7-8pm at 11,770 kHz or 17,700 kHz Saturday to Thursday

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Thursday, January 15, 2009

UN force (MINURCAT) to replace EUFOR in E. Chad & C.A.R. - Chad hosts 500,000 refugees incl. 290,000 from Darfur

U.N. humanitarian chief John Holmes reported last month that recruitment by Darfur rebel groups in Chad's camps and increasing banditry in the area were threatening aid supplies.

UN council authorizes force to replace EU in Chad
From Reuters by Patrick Worsnip 14 January 2009:
The Security Council authorized on Wednesday a 5,000-strong U.N. military force to take over peacekeeping duties in turbulent eastern Chad from European Union troops who have been there for the past year.

Rebel activity and banditry are rife in the region, which hosts about half a million refugees, including 290,000 from Chad's neighbor, Darfur, in western Sudan, where a rebellion has been under way for five years.

Chad's government agreed to temporary deployment early last year of an EU force, known as EUFOR, and has agreed that a U.N. force can take its place.

A Security Council resolution said the new force, whose mandate will initially run for a year, would contain a maximum of 5,200 military personnel and 300 police.

It will take over from the 3,300-strong EUFOR on March 15 and, like the EU force, operate in part of the neighboring Central African Republic, which has also been affected by spillover from the Darfur conflict.

The resolution empowers the U.N. force, known as MINURCAT, to "take all necessary measures" to protect endangered civilians, especially refugees, to facilitate aid deliveries and to protect U.N. staff and equipment.

EUFOR's deployment last year was delayed by an unsuccessful assault by rebels on Chad's capital, N'djamena, in the west of the country in February.

The force, which had pledged neutrality in Chad's internal conflicts, was further tested in June by a hit-and-run offensive in the east by the rebels, who are seeking to overthrow President Idriss Deby.

MINURCAT is supposed to back up fellow peacekeepers who are gradually deploying in Darfur. Its ultimate goal is to create conditions for refugees to return home.

But there has been no sign of the Darfur conflict abating and U.N. humanitarian chief John Holmes reported last month that recruitment by Darfur rebel groups in Chad's camps and increasing banditry in the area were threatening aid supplies.

Holmes said EUFOR had been unable to tackle the problem, remarks that echoed comments in September by international charity Oxfam.

But Chad's U.N. Ambassador Ahmad Allam-mi told the council last month his government believed there had been overall improvement in the situation compared with a year ago, thanks to national efforts and the deployment of EUFOR.

South Sudan authorities detain Juba Post managing editor over article criticizing a senior army officer for his role in a tribal land deal

Reportedly, the Juba Post was one of a number of newspapers that published a press release from the Madi tribal community complaining southern soldiers from the majority Dinka tribe were selling their land to Somali investors without permission.

South Sudan authorities detain Juba Post managing editor in Juba
From Sudan Tribune by Manyang Mayom (Khartoum) 13 January 2009:
The managing editor of The Juba Post, Isaac Billy Gideon, was detained Monday for a press release that was run in the newspaper two months ago. Gideon, who spent about nine hours in custody, was arrested at 10:00am yesterday but was bailed out at 6:50 pm.

The Juba Post Editor-in-Chief Charles Luganya Ronyo, who is currently in Khartoum, strongly condemned the arrest of his managing editor. He said that a newspaper cannot be held accountable for press releases or public opinions. "The arrest of Mr. Gideon is an attempt at intimidation for newspapers not to run press releases or opinion concerning the land grabbing in the south."

The Juba Post newspaper has been registered in Khartoum on 9 January, 2005 and start printing 5,000 copies weekly from Monday and Wednesday double a week said Luganya. "Our newspaper is read in Southern Sudan and in Khartoum, the capital city of Sudan."

The Madi community in Juba issued a press statement two months ago condemning the malpractices of land allocation in Nimule to Business. In the press release that was also published by many other newspapers mentioned SPLA Brigadier William Deng of being in charge of the land mismanagement?

"The press release was signed by advocate Becho Pitia" said Luganya.

When the press release was published, Brigadier Deng approached the newspaper and denied that story, but the Juba Post told him that they are not accountable for the press release from the Madi community.

However, Deng has filed a case against The Juba Post under Article 152 of 2008 of South Sudan for libel and self-defamation.
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Sudan media executive held over land article
From Reuters (Juba) by Skye Wheeler 14 January 2009:
A south Sudanese newspaper executive on Wednesday said he was detained after his tabloid published an article criticizing a senior army officer for his role in a tribal land deal.

Isaac Swangin, managing director of the Juba Post, is the second senior media figure in the region detained over controversial articles in recent months.

Freedom of the press was guaranteed under a 2005 peace deal that ended more than two decades of civil war between north and south Sudan and set up a semi-autonomous southern government. But editors and journalists in both north and south complain of continued censorship, print-run seizures and harassment.

Swangin said the Juba Post was one of a number of newspapers that published a press release from the Madi tribal community complaining southern soldiers from the majority Dinka tribe were selling their land to Somali investors without permission.

A major general mentioned by name in the statement later demanded a printed apology at the paper's office in the south's capital Juba, he added. Swangin said the paper refused, but interviewed the army official and ran an article including his perspective.

"We thought that was the end," Swangin said, "but he came back yesterday with the police."

Swangin said he was released on bail on Tuesday evening after being held in prison for nine hours. It was unclear whether he would face charges.

Nhial Bol, editor and owner of the daily Citizen newspaper, was held in a police station for three days in October over an article criticizing high salaries in south Sudan's legal ministry. (Editing by Andrew Heavens and Mark Trevelyan)
See Sudan Watch 14 January 2009: South Sudan's proposed Land Bill will deny Sudanese ownership of their own land by granting foreigners 99 year leases

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Iran prepares for launch of BBC Persian TV - Sudanese protest in Khartoum against Israeli air strikes in Gaza

From Richard Sambrook's blog Sacred Facts 13 January 2009 - Iran prepares for BBC TV:
The Iranian authorities seem a little apprehensive about the launch of BBC Persian TV. This report from BBC Monitoring.

"The authorities have made it clear that the service has no official permission to operate in Iran and have warned against cooperation with it. There have been reports of arrests and of Iranian readiness to confront a "soft" information war. The media have also made frequent references to Britain's colonial past and British government funding of the World Service. At the same time, while official and conservative media have made attempts to cast doubt on the BBC's journalistic credibility, some media sources have given a qualified welcome to the new service."
Best of British luck chaps. Richard Sambrook is Director of BBC Global News.
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UPDATE: 15 January 2009 - More on BBC Persian TV from Richard Sambrook's blog Sacred Facts 14 January 2009:
The BBC launches its latest TV channel today - BBC Persian. It will be a daily eight hour service, for audiences in Iran, Afghanistan, and the wider region, broadcasting at peak times for the market. It will run from 17:00 to 01:00 local time in Iran (that’s 13:30 to 21:30 GMT).

The backbone of the schedule will be news, together with a rich mix of current affairs, features and documentaries, culture, science, business and arts programmes - all broadcast in Farsi from a new newsroom in central London. Iran is obviously geopolitically important with significant influence across the Middle East. The BBC has been providing news and information on radio in Persian for six decades. But these days, TV is the preferred news medium for Iranian audiences.

The BBC is well respected by opinion formers within Iran and brand awareness is high – despite Government media restrictions. Media freedom is severely limited - so we hope BBC Persian TV will build a following by providing free and independent news and information - the traditional role of the BBC World Service over the last 75 years - and provide a window for Iranian viewers to the rest of the world in an open and unbiased way.

The Iranian authorities have been a little apprehensive about the launch, describing it as "an illegal channel", refusing us permission to work within Iran and suggesting anyone found working for it will be arrested as a spy. However, we hope once they have seen the service they may recognise the independence and quality of the channel - and hopefully take part in its programmes.

Persian TV is aimed at audiences in Iran, Afghanistan and Tajikistan – totalling around 100m Persian speakers. The potential audience in Iran is young, highly educated and outward-looking. The projected audience figures for Persian TV are 10m within 3 years – with a total tri-media reach (radio, TV and online) of close to 20m by 2012. The channel will cost £15m a year - funded by the Foreign Office via Grant in Aid.

The launch is much anticipated within the region and is already being discussed on blogs within Iran and beyond. It will be available globally, streamed on the BBC Persian website. Here's a taste of it from You Tube:



15 January 2009:

Persian TV reaction


Great response to the Persian TV launch from Tim Garton Ash in the Guardian and in yesterday's Times editorial.

The reaction in Tehran has been a little more equivocal.
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UPDATE: Friday 16 January 2009 - from Sudan Watch BBC's Persian TV times & satellite frequency:

The technical parameters for viewers in Europe, North Africa and the
Middle East are:

Hotbird satellite at 13E orbital position
Frequency:11117 MHz vertical polarization
Symbol rate 27500
FEC 3/4

Or, on the web:
BBC Persian TV
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SUDANESE COMMENTATOR WARNS OF CONSEQUENCES OF SUDAN'S STAND ALONGSIDE HAMAS

Sudanese international relations expert Dr. Adam Muhammad Ahmed has said that Sudan's standing alongside Hamas sets it in the "axis of evil" together with Iran, Hamas, and Hizbullah.

Ahmed warned that this could make several moderate Arab countries distance themselves from Sudan and remove their support from it, particularly in Sudan's dealings with the International Criminal Court.

Source: Al-Rai Al-'Aam, Sudan, January 13, 2009 via .thememriblog.org 13 January 2009.
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PROTESTS IN KHARTOUM AGAINST ISRAELI AIR STRIKES IN GAZA

Protests in Khartoum against Israeli air strikes in Gaza

Photo: Thousands of Sudanese students and Palestinians living in Sudan demonstrate against the Israeli air strikes in Gaza as they hold a poster of Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh outside the U.N. headquarters in Khartoum, Sudan, Monday, Dec. 29, 2008. (AP Photo/Abd Raouf)

Protests in Khartoum against Israeli air strikes in Gaza

Photo: Protesters shout anti-Israel and anti-U.S. slogans during a demonstration in Sudan's capital Khartoum against Israeli strikes on Gaza December 29, 2008. REUTERS/Mohamed Nureldin Abdallh (SUDAN)

Protests in Khartoum against Israeli air strikes in Gaza

Photo: Sudanese students demonstrate against the Israeli air strikes in Gaza, outside the headquarters of the U.N. office in Khartoum, Sudan, Monday, Dec. 29, 2008, as they hold anti U.S President Gorge W.Bush poster and burn Israeli flags. (AP Photo/Abd Raouf)

Protests in Khartoum against Israeli offensive in Gaza

Photo: Sudanese protestors set an Israeli flag on fire during a demonstration outside the United Nations offices in Khartoum Tue Dec 30, 2008. World powers are struggling to find ways to press Israel and Hamas to end their conflict despite widespread anger over the mounting toll. (AFP/Ashraf Shazly)

Protests in Khartoum against Israeli offensive in Gaza

Photo: Sudanese, some carrying mock rockets marked with the name of Hamas and other Palestinian militant groups, demonstrate against the Israeli offensive in the Gaza Strip, outside the republican palace in Khartoum, Sudan Thursday, Jan. 8, 2009. (AP Photo/Abd Raouf)

Protests in Khartoum against Israeli offensive in Gaza

Photo: Sudanese protestors demonstrate against the Israeli offensive in the Gaza Strip, outside the republican palace in Khartoum, Sudan Thursday, Jan. 8, 2009. (AP Photo/Abd Raouf)
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IMPORTANT -- UPDATE on Monday 15 June 2009, 19:32 GMT
UK's Channel 4 News's International Editor Lindsey Hilsum (pictured below) is reporting and blogging direct from the ground in Iran 3-4 times a day. Click here to read her important blog.

Lindsey Hilsum in Beijing
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Peter Brookes cartoon

Peter Brookes Cartoon from The Times Online 18 June 2009.

South Sudan's proposed Land Bill will deny Sudanese ownership of their own land by granting foreigners 99 year leases

From Sudan Radio Service (Juba) 18 December 2008
Proposed Land Bill Creates Controversy
A southern Sudanese lawyer is calling for the land bill, which was recently given its third reading in the southern Sudan Legislative Assembly on Tuesday, to be rejected.

Lawyer and former GOSS Under-secretary in the Ministry of Legal Affairs, Dr William Kon Bior, told journalists in Juba that the bill will deny Sudanese ownership of their own land by granting foreigners 99 year leases.

[William Kon Bior]: “The Assembly is only interested in the bill. They don’t know who drafted it and for what purpose. One example is, a new idea has been introduced into the bill that a foreigner could own land for 99 years but traditionally the land use is limited to that particular use. If that use finishes with 20 years the land goes back to the community but now when you give away land for 99 years almost like you are actually alienating land from the very community which is supposed to own it.”

Dr Bior said that he has done research in 13 communities regarding land and he believes the views of the communities have not been incorporated into the land bill.

He also questioned the constitutionality of the bill.

In response, the deputy chairman of the southern Sudan Land Commission, Wilson Kiri, said the views of Dr Bior were merely his personal opinion.

[Wilson Kiri]: “His remark is there but for us in the Land Commission, it is timely for us to present this land bill and he has his own view. But our view is that the land law should go ahead.”

The Southern Sudan Legislative Assembly representative from Yei, Martin Aligo Abe, said the land bill is needed to protect the rights of citizens.

[Martin Aligo Abe]: “We demanded the law. There are a lot of problems to do with land, for example, the grabbing that he is talking about. Without law you cannot protect. If we were to stay within the interim period without addressing the land issue what would have happened? You would find that the whole place has been grabbed and there is no protection and the weak ones would have actually lost their land.”

If the legislation is passed and signed by the president, the bill could become law early next year.
See Sudan Watch 10 January 2009: Former Wall Street banker Philippe Heilberg gambles on a warlord's continuing control of 400,000 hectares of land in South Sudan

Ugandan LRA are agents of forces who are against South Sudan's peace agreement

The following report from Sudan Radio Service in Malakal says that the current LRA attacks in Western Equatoria State are aimed at derailing the implementation of Southern Sudan's Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) and that the LRA are agents of people who would like the party and the government to fail and the CPA not be implemented. And one of the ways it can fail is to prevent the holding of elections in Western Equatoria and in Southern Sudan.

Although the source of the report is unverifiable, I am posting it here because its contents make more sense to me than any other report I have read on why Joseph Kony and his group of terrorists continue to be so well trained and equipped while remaining free to be on the rampage for the past 20 years.

As noted here a few days ago, Kony's Ugandan LRA is a well-ordered fighting force, whose senior officers have been trained by Sudan, Iran and Iraq.

However, looking at it in another way, the LRA sure is a convenient bogeyman to blame for the handiwork of other bandits and so-called janjaweed. One thing's for sure, we don't know half of what is really going on behind the scenes. Even after the past five years, reporters still aren't getting to the root of who is behind the rebel groups in Sudan and Chad.

Sudan reminds me of America's old Wild West in the days of cowboys and indians and gold diggers all fighting to stake a claim on the gold in them there hills. Never mind the poor natives who get in the way. Not to mention the Aborigines in Australia. Bah. Such is life. Very sad.

WES Official Claims LRA is an Agent of Anti-CPA Forces
Report from Sudan Radio (Malakal) 12 January 2009:
Western Equatoria State political advisor Paul Tambua claims that the Lord’s Resistance Army rebels are agents of forces who are against the CPA.

Tambua told Sudan Radio Service in Malakal last week that the current LRA attacks in Western Equatoria State were aimed at derailing the implementation of CPA in the region.

[Paul Tambua]: “The LRA are there, they are agents of other bodies who would like to interfere with the CPA, who would like to see to it that the implementation of CPA fails. And one of the ways it can fail is to prevent the holding of elections in Western Equatoria and not only in Western Equatoria but in Southern Sudan. So these are agents of people who would like the party and the government to fail and the CPA not be implemented.”

He said the Government of southern Sudan will not allow the forces behind LRA operations to ruin the CPA. However, Tambua did not mention which forces he says are behind the LRA operations in south Sudan.

Meanwhile, the security advisor in Western Equatoria state, Jasmine Samuel, said the current situation in the state is very bad.

She said the LRA attacks on people of Western Equatoria State have created fear among the population and has paralyzed the movement of vehicles and people in the state.

The two officials called on the GOSS to increase the number of soldiers and provide logistical support to protect civilians in the area.

Jasmine also called upon the people of Western Equatoria to help the government by giving information to the authorities about the movements of LRA rebels in the area.
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UGANDAN COMMANDER OF OPERATION LIGHTNING THUNDER IN DR CONGO ADVISES CRITICS OF THE MILITARY OFFENSIVE TO WAIT FOR PHOTOS THAT SHOW THE RECENT SUCCESSES

Peter Eichstaedt, author of First Kill Your Family, has a neat round up of news on the LRA in his latest blog post today. For future reference, here is a copy:
Rampage or runaways?

More conflicting information, or perhaps non-information, is coming out of northeastern Democratic Republic of the Congo as Uganda's army pursues the rebel Lord's Resistance Army.

In a story written by Henry Mukasa, the government-owned daily, New Vision, quotes Gen. Patrick Kankiriho as claiming to have "engaged" forces led by the LRA's deputy, Okot Odhiambo, 30km north of Doruma on Monday.

That would put them right on the border with South Sudan, or even in that country, and he claims that two were killed and two were captured two."

Speaking from Dungu, the general said that now eight LRA fighters have been captured and 38 killed since the offensive was launched on December 14, 2008. Over 21 rebels have surrendered to the allies in various parts of Congo and South Sudan and nine captives were rescued.

“We have reached a stage of ‘search and destroy’ for fighters and rescue for captives. We rescue the abductees and the combatants who want to fight us, we engage them,” Kankiriho explained.

The commander said after the battle, two sub-machine guns, four full magazines, two empty magazines and two Sudanese uniforms were recovered.

In another battle on Sunday, Kankiriho said four rebels were killed south of Lagoro. One was captured, two women rescued north of Doruma, while another rebel surrendered with his gun at Yambio in Sudan.

Kankiriho explained that the joint forces had tightened their noose around Kony and his scattered fighters in the vast and densely- forested Garamba National Park in Congo.

“You think he is asking for ceasefire for nothing? The man is under immense pressure. Big, big pressure. We shall get him,” he stressed.

Despite this tough talk, the UN is reporting a different side of the story.

Reuters news agency says that the UN now puts the total civilian dead at the hands of the LRA at 537, since the Dec. 14th attack on LRA camps in northeastern DRC.

Another 408 people had been kidnapped by the rebels, according to UN High Commission on Refugees, and more than 104,000 people are thought to have been forced from their homes into the bush by the violence.

"The displaced population is in dire need of food, shelter, medicines, clothes and other aid items. The area, which by itself poses immense logistical challenges due to the lack of roads or their poor condition, remains highly volatile," UNHCR spokesman Ron Redmond said in a statement in Geneva.

As most are wondering, what has happened to LRA leader Joseph Kony, the self-proclaimed prophet and spirit medium?

The Ugandan general refused to say, arguing that this would pre-empt army action drive the Kony further underground. He advised the critics of the military offensive to wait for photographs that show the recent successes.

The New Vision also reported that the Central African Republic (CAR) began deploying more troops on its border with Congo to guard against incursions by the LRA.

Kankiriho said the group was composed of families of rebel commanders and a few fighters guarding them, led by Odhiambo, who is reportedly wounded.
"First Kill Your Family"

Photo: Peter Eichstaedt's book First Kill Your Family: Child Soldiers of Uganda and the LRA
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Meanwhile ....

Kalma camp

A Sudanese woman sits inside her tent in the Kalma displaced people camp on the outskirts of the southern Darfur town of Nyala. African and Arab countries will try to halt international efforts to bring Sudanese president Omar al-Beshir to justice, which a senior African official judged would hurt peace chances for Darfur. (AFP/File/Jose Cendon)

(Cross posted today at Congo Watch and Uganda Watch)

JEM's Khalil Ibrahim in Chad wants to separate Darfur from the rest of Sudan - JEM executes dissident officers in Darfur

According to this unverifiable report from Sudan Radio, JEM field commander Siddig Adam Hasaballah accused JEM Leader Khalil of being a dictator, claiming that he wants to separate Darfur from the rest of Sudan.

Hasaballah dismissed earlier media reports that Ibrahim had been injured in an incident noted here last week [Jan. 10: JEM denies trying to kill its leader in Chad]

JEM Executes Dissident Officers in Darfur:
Sudan Radio Service has received a report from Darfur indicating that a number of Darfur anti-government Justice and Equality Movement commanders were shot dead by their leader Khalil Ibrahim near the border with Chad.

A JEM field commander, Siddig Adam Hasaballah, told Sudan Radio Service by phone from an unidentified location in Darfur on Monday, that a number of commanders from Meidob community in JEM were ordered to be shot last week in Umm Jaras, after they criticized Ibrahim’s leadership.

Hasaballah claimed that the commanders presented what he called a “correction petition” to Ibrahim, criticizing tribalism and nepotism in the movement.

[Siddig Hasaballah]: “Khalil rejected the correction petition and refused to discuss it. He ordered the army to disarm the Meidob community commanders in the movement. After that, Khalil used violence and disarmed the leaders and the soldiers. Then he shot the secretary of the northern sector, Hussein Agid,together with Jamal Hassan, Musa Ali Sultan and Judge Tigani Adam Abdallah. Another eight people were tortured by being tied up with chains in the cold weather and they also died. Eleven commanders tried to flee to Sudan but they were chased by Ibrahim’s men in 7 land cruisers and they were killed as well.”

Hasaballah dismissed earlier media reports that Ibrahim had been injured in the incident.
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Khalil Ibrahim and his closest colleague are the leaders of JEM

JEM in Slovania

Photo and caption from Ljubljana, Slovenia 06/02/2006 - Reception for the leader of the movement JEM, Dr. Ibrahim Mohamed Khalil. The leader of the movement JEM, Dr. Ibrahim Mohamed Khalil arrived in Slovenia today. The president of the Republic of Slovenia Dr. Janez Drnovšek continued the talks with him that already began yesterday. Before meeting with Dr. Khalil, the President met with the leader of the negotiators of the Justice and equality movement – JEM Ahmed Tugod Lissan, members of the leadership of this movement Abdullah Osman El-Tom and the leader of the all-Sudanese Democratic union and the former governor of Darfur, Ahmed I. Diraigo. Source: Statement by Dr. Drnovšek, President of Slovenia.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Farewell UNAMID peacekeeper Lieutenant Commander Papa Lamine Ndiaye

Fallen Peacekeeper

Photo and report from UNAMID El Fasher, Darfur 07 January 2009:
UNAMID Bids Farewell to Fallen Peacekeeper
The African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur today bid farewell to one of its peacekeepers, Lieutenant Commander Papa Lamine Ndiaye, who died on 29 December 2008 of injuries sustained two days earlier during a hijacking by unknown armed men in North Darfur.

Joint Special Representative Rodolphe Adada, Deputy Joint Special Representative Henry Anyidoho and Force Commander General Martin Luther Agwai were among the many staff in attendance at a memorial service at the mission's headquarters in El Fasher, North Darfur. They expressed their heartfelt condolences to the family of Lieutenant Commander Ndiaye and to the people and Government of Senegal.

In a statement read out on behalf of Mr. Adada, Mr. Anyidoho spoke of the mission's sense of grief at the death of Lieutenant Commander Ndiaye, who had served since April last year as a staff officer to the mission's sector commander in El Geneina, West Darfur,

General Agwai praised Lieutenant Commander Ndiaye's professionalism, dedication and commitment, noting that he had always carried out his duties diligently and honourably, and had achieved much during his short life.

Speaking on behalf of the Senegalese contingent, Lieutenant-Colonel Cheikh Tidiane Mbodji described Lieutenant Commander Ndiaye as "one of the best officers of his generation". He said the fallen peacekeeper was renowned for his sound judgement when serving with UNAMID, as well as for his loyalty and helpfulness towards his colleagues.

Lieutenant Commander Ndiaye, who was 42 when he died, leaves behind a wife, two daughters and a son.
+ + + Rest In Peace + + +

Monday, January 12, 2009

Kony's Ugandan LRA is a well-ordered fighting force, whose senior officers have been trained by Sudan, Iran and Iraq

Defectors held in the Ugandan capital Kampala say Kony – who claims to receive his instructions directly from God – had no real intention of laying down his weapons. Instead he used the ceasefire to rearm, recruit and stockpile food donated by well-meaning charities and supporters abroad.

For the first time they have given an insight into a well-ordered fighting force, whose senior officers have been trained by Sudan, Iran and Iraq.

Read more in the following LRA feature from Doruma, Democratic Republic of Congo by ROB CRILLY. On 16 December 2008, the day that a cut down version of the feature appeared in The Times, Rob kindly emailed me the full 2,000 word piece to use on my blog, along with a link to photographer Kate Holt's website kateholt.com.

As a backgrounder, I am prefacing the piece with this excerpt from Rob's blog post at From The Frontline December 10, 2008:
Earlier this year photographer Kate Holt and I chartered a plane to fly from Dungu, in the Democratic Republic of Congo, to the tiny village of Doruma which was recovering from repeated attacks by the Lord’s Resistance Army. We found people living in fear of the next assault, as LRA raiding parties roamed the jungle looking for sex slaves, porters and fighters.

We uncovered evidence that Joseph Kony was cynically using a halt in hostilities - called to allow peace talks - in order to rearm, recruit and reorganise. With food distributed by aid agencies and satphones delivered by the Ugandan diaspora, his fighting force was more efficient that ever. And one his key aides, a recent defector, told us that Kony would never sign up to peace.
With many thanks to Rob, here is the feature and photos by Kate Holt.

Rob Crilly

ROB CRILLY
Doruma, Democratic Republic of Congo

FOR eight days Raymond Kpiolebeyo was marched at gunpoint through the steaming Congolese jungle, not knowing whether he would live or die. For six nights he slept with eight other prisoners pinned under a plastic sheet weighted down with bags and stones to prevent escape. Their sweat condensed on the sheeting inches above their faces before dripping back and turning their plastic prison into a stinking, choking sauna.

He was a prisoner of the Lord’s Resistance Army, a cult-like band of brutal commanders and their brutalised child soldiers.

“They told us that if one of use tried to escape we would all be shot,” said Raymond, a 28-year-old teacher from the town of Doruma, close to the border with South Sudan.

He had been captured by a raiding party looking for porters, sex slaves and soldiers to continue the LRA’s 20-year struggle to overthrow the Ugandan government.

Yet the war is supposed to be over. After two years of negotiations, the LRA’s reclusive leader, Joseph Kony, was expected to sign a final peace deal in April. He failed to show up and his aides first said he was suffering from diarrhoea before announcing that he would be not be signing at all.

Negotiators still hold out hope that a war that forced two million people into squalid aid camps is close to an end. Many of the war’s victims in northern Uganda have slowly begun leaving the sprawling shack cities where one generation was born and another died.

But in the border towns of the Democratic Republic of Congo a different picture emerges, one where slaving parties slog through the dense jungle snatching children barely big enough to carry AK-47 rifles. Mothers keep children close to their simple homes of mud and thatch.

And defectors held in the Ugandan capital Kampala say Kony – who claims to receive his instructions directly from God – had no real intention of laying down his weapons. Instead he used the ceasefire to rearm, recruit and stockpile food donated by well-meaning charities and supporters abroad.

For the first time they have given an insight into a well-ordered fighting force, whose senior officers have been trained by Sudan, Iran and Iraq.

This year his fighters have roamed through Southern Sudan, the Central African Republic and the DRC kidnapping more than 300 children, and turning a Ugandan war into a regional conflict.

After walking 10 hours a day for six days with a sack on his back and another balanced on his head, Raymond arrived at a well-ordered camp filled with children – some the offspring of women kept by commanders while others were being trained with guns.

“They were mobile. All the time they were organising,” he said, sitting in the office of Doruma school where he teaches primary age children. “Some were leaving for other villages and others were arriving.”

Kony is thought to have settled in the DRC two years ago, disappearing deep into Garamba National Park far in the north-east of the country. It was part of a gentlemen’s agreement with the Congolese government: he was offered a safe haven from which to begin seeking peace; in return his troops would steer clear of locals.

Raymond said the camp was a bustling town. Thatched huts stood in neat rows, while labourers farmed sweet potato, maize and beans.

At night a solar-powered television set would be brought out and the young soldiers would cheer as they watched noisy American war films. Anything starring Chuck Norris was a big hit.

After six nights living in Kony’s jungle headquarters Raymond had the chance of escape.

He was woken by a tap on the head from another prisoner. It was the signal to leave. The two tiptoed over sleeping soldiers before breaking for the thick bush around the camp.

He was one of the lucky ones. Five families in Doruma have had children snatched this year with little hope of seeing them returned.

Sitting on a low bamboo bench in the shade of a mango tree Christine Kutiote described how her 13-year-old niece, Marie, was taken as she tried to cross the river for a visit.

Now, she keeps her own four children close to home.

“I’m a Christian and I pray for them and that security will get better,” she said in the local Zande language, as a priest translated her words into French.

Her low, simple home told a different story. Its mud walls bore a pattern of white spots used by witchdoctors to ward off evil. They have little else to protect them. There is no army, the handful of police officers is unarmed and help can only arrive by plane or motorcycle, bumping for six hours along swampy tracks from Dungu, where the United Nations has a base.

Villagers are trickling in from the surrounding region seeking security but even Dungu offers little protection.

Burned-out buildings bear the scars of previous attacks by Kony’s followers. A hospital has few drugs and no anaesthetic.

This is a region well used to conflict. Uganda, Rwanda, Zimbabwe, Namibia and Angola all sent soldiers and support for a five-year civil war that claimed at least three million lives by the time it ended in 2002. Once again the tropical jungle here is being used for someone else’s war.

Governments in the region are slowly waking up the problem. Later this month the Congolese army will deploy 1000 soldiers to Dungu.

A secret intelligence document compiled by the United Nations mission to the DRC, known as Monuc, spells out the scale of the threat. It says the LRA cynically used the peace talks to organise itself into a more effective fighting force. The 670-strong band of fighters now has more than 150 satellite telephones, many bought with cash meant to aid communications during the talks.

“Simply put, Kony now has the ability to divide his forces into very simple groups and to reassemble them at will. When put together with his proven mastery of bush warfare, this gives him new potency within his area of operations,” says the report.

They were given tons of food by a charity, Caritas Uganda, to discourage the looting of villages, and sacks of dollars by Southern Sudan’s new leaders, whom they once fought.

Kony is stronger than ever, concludes the report: “Recent abduction patterns suggest that he is now in the process of perfecting the new skill of recruiting and controlling an international force of his own.”

Kony has long been something of an enigma. His use of child soldiers, tight control over his lieutenants and frequent movement meant few details of his life leaked out of the jungle. Commentators had to join the dots between a handful of disputed facts to form a fuller impression.

He was the altar boy who grew up to be a guerrilla leader. He was the wizard who used magic to protect his brainwashed adherents. And he was the deluded man from the bush who wanted to rule Uganda according to the 10 Commandments.

When he emerged blinking into the media glare two years ago for a meeting with the United Nations most senior humanitarian official, Jan Egeland, his wild, staring eyes and rambling words suggested a man with little grasp on reality.

Yet those who know him best say the simple picture of a crazed, self-proclaimed prophet is far from the mark.

“To describe him is very difficult for me. He is not mad,” said Patrick Opiyo Makasi, who was Kony’s director of operations until last year when he simply walked out of the jungle. “But he is a religious man. All the time he is talking about God. Every time he keeps calling many people to teach them about the legends and about God. Mostly it is what he is talking about and that is how he leads people.”

Colonel Makasi tells his story in soft, polite tones stumbling over the English language which he stopped learning when he was snatched from his home in Gulu, northern Uganda, at the age of 12. He was handed a Kalashnikov rifle and his school lessons were replaced by in by instruction in anti-tank mines, surface-to-air missiles and machine guns.

During the next 20 years he rose to become one of Kony’s must trusted confidantes.

Back then he was only a frightened little boy, missing his father and mother. His fellow child soldiers became his family and the process of brainwashing began.

“We stayed together and became like family. Even those who were in the bush were like your brothers,” he said in a non-descript café in a Kampala suburb, his words monitored by a government minder. “Because you are young you see some commanders like fathers. Things are happening fast and you need the others to help you. You follow what the commander says because there is no-one else to listen to.”

He impressed his superiors, eventually being given the nickname Makasi. He only learned later that the word means “difficult to break” in the Congolese language Lingala.

He insisted civilians were not his target. He waged war on the Ugandan People’s Defence Force, he said.

Yet the LRA has always needed civilians, stealing food, children and women at will.

Captured children were forced to beat escapees until they died. Once their hands were stained with blood they were told they could never leave – they would be killed by the UPDF.

Anyone suspected of badmouthing Kony had their lips sliced from their face; anyone caught riding a bicycle was liable to have their legs cut off for fear cyclists would raise the alarm as the LRA approached.

The abuses earned Kony the title of Africa’s most wanted man. The International Criminal Court in the Hague issued arrest warrants against Kony and four senior commanders in 2005.

A year ago Makasi simply strolled out of Kony’s camp, knowing that no-one would suspect the LRA’s director of operations of defecting. A day earlier Kony had murdered Vincent Otti, the LRA’s second-in-command, and Makasi knew the death of a key negotiator meant peace talks hosted by South Sudan were doomed.

Kony would never emerge from the bush he told senior commanders, and was becoming increasingly paranoid that he would face the death penalty for his crimes.

“He said the ICC was a very bad thing and if he went to the Hague he would die,” said Makasi.

For five days he struggled through the thick bush, skirting around lions, elephants and buffalo before arriving in Dungu.

He brought with him details of a staggering array of weaponry supplied by the Sudanese government in Khartoum, who once used the LRA as a proxy army in a doomed attempt to put down southern rebels.

Makasi said the LRA was given crates of AK-47s, mines, heavy machine guns and even surface-to-air missiles by the Sudanese armed forces.

“I know that because we were staying with them around their camp and we were the ones who would collect them from their lorry,” he said.

It took Makasi’s comrades eight months to bury the booty in caches dotted across Southern Sudan. They are now being excavated as Kony returns to war.

Makasi said senior officers also used to visit Khartoum for instruction. Some were flown on to Iran and Iraq to learn leadership skills, tactics and training on new weapons.

For all his bizarre beliefs and brutish tactics, analysts now believe Kony is acting with the rational behaviour of a cornered man.

“Political theorists have an expression ‘gambling for resurrection’ and that seems to be what he is doing,” said a military source. “He still thinks he can become president of Uganda, running the country as some sort of theocracy so it seems as if he is digging in.”

For Makasi though the war is over. Today he is part-prisoner, part-guest of the Ugandan government which he fought for two decades.

He said he wanted to continue his education and find work helping people. Something normal after a life lived in Kony’s alternative reality. He knows the LRA conducted staggering acts of brutality yet cannot quite bring himself to admit responsibility.

“I cannot say sorry because it was not my hope that my life was like this,” he said. “I was taken and forced to fight. It was not my will.”
- - -

Here is a copy of the cut down version

From The Times
December 16, 2008

Lord's Resistance Army uses truce to rearm and spread fear in Uganda

Once seen as a ragtag brigade, the guerrilla force that claims divine leadership is organised and ready to renew fighting

Congo Durama 1

Christine Kutiote, whose niece was abducted by the LRA in March, with her remaining children at her home in the north east of the DRC (Kate Holt/eyevine)

Rob Crilly

For eight days Raymond Kpiolebeyo was marched at gunpoint through the Congolese jungle, not knowing whether he would live or die. At night he slept with eight other prisoners, pinned under a plastic sheet weighted down with bags and stones to prevent escape. Their sweat condensed on the sheeting, inches above their faces, before dripping back and turning their plastic prison into a stinking, choking sauna.

He was a prisoner of the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA), a band of pitiless commanders and their brutalised child soldiers. “They told us that if one of us tried to escape we would all be shot,” said Raymond, 28, a teacher from Doruma, close to the border with southern Sudan. He had been captured by a raiding party looking for porters, sex slaves and soldiers to continue the LRA's 20-year struggle to overthrow the Ugandan Government.

His experience deep in the bush and interviews with one of the LRA's most senior defectors offer an extraordinary insight into the workings of the world's most bizarre guerrilla movement. The LRA is now in the world spotlight, as southern Sudan, Congo and Uganda have mounted joint operations to force it to negotiate or, failing that, wipe it out

This war is supposed to be over. After two years of negotiations, Joseph Kony, the LRA's reclusive leader, was expected to sign a peace deal in April. He failed to show up; his aides said that he was suffering from diarrhoea, before announcing that he would not be signing at all.

Negotiators still hope that a war that has forced two million people into squalid aid camps is close to an end. Many of its victims in northern Uganda have slowly begun leaving the sprawling shack cities where one generation was born and another died.

The border towns of the Democratic Republic of Congo tell a different story; one where slaving parties slog through the jungle, snatching children barely big enough to carry AK47 rifles. In the past few months an estimated 75,000 people have been forced from their homes in a fresh wave of attacks.

Defectors in Kampala, the Ugandan capital, say that General Kony - who claims to receive his instructions directly from God - never had any intention of laying down his weapons. Instead, he used the ceasefire to rearm, recruit and stockpile food donated by well-meaning charities and supporters abroad.

For the first time they have described a well-ordered fighting force, whose senior officers have been trained by Sudan, Iran and Iraq.

This year his fighters have roamed through southern Sudan, the Central African Republic and Congo, kidnapping more than 300 children and turning a Ugandan war into a regional conflict.

After walking for ten hours a day for six days with a sack on his back and another balanced on his head, Raymond arrived at a camp filled with children. “They were mobile. All the time they were organising,” he said, sitting in the office of Doruma school where he teaches primary-age children. “Some were leaving for other villages and others were arriving.”

General Kony is thought to have settled in Congo two years ago, disappearing into Garamba National Park in the far northeast of the country. It was part of a gentlemen's agreement with the Congolese Government: he was offered a safe haven from which to begin seeking peace, and in return his troops would stay away from locals.

Raymond said that the camp was a bustling town. Thatched huts stood in neat rows; labourers farmed sweet potato, maize and beans. At night a solar-powered television would be brought out and the young soldiers would cheer as they watched noisy American war films. Anything starring Chuck Norris was a big hit.

After six nights in General Kony's jungle headquarters Raymond had the chance of escape. He was woken by a tap on the head from another prisoner. It was the signal to leave. The two tiptoed over sleeping soldiers before breaking for the thick bush around the camp.

He was lucky to escape the LRA. Others have not been so fortunate.

Sitting on a low bamboo bench in the shade of a mango tree in Doruma, Christine Kutiote described how her 13-year-old niece, Marie, was taken as she tried to cross the river for a visit.Now, she keeps her own four children close to home.

“I'm a Christian and I pray for them and that security will get better,” she said. But her simple home told a different story. Its mud walls bore a pattern of white spots used by witchdoctors to ward off evil.

This is a region used to conflict. Uganda, Rwanda, Zimbabwe, Namibia and Angola all sent troops for a five-year war that claimed at least three million lives by its end in 2002. Once again the Congolese jungle is being used for someone else's war.

An intelligence document compiled by the United Nations mission to Congo, known as Monuc, spells out the scale of the threat. It says that the LRA cynically used the peace talks to organise itself into a regional fighting force. The 670-strong band of fighters now has more than 150 satellite telephones, many bought with cash meant to aid communications during the talks. “Simply put, Kony now has the ability to divide his forces into very simple groups and to reassemble them at will,” the report says. “When put together with his proven mastery of bush warfare, this gives him new potency within his area of operations.”

They were given tonnes of food by a charity, Caritas Uganda, to discourage the looting of villages, and fistfuls of dollars by southern Sudan's new leaders, whom they once fought.

General Kony is stronger than ever, the report concludes: “Recent abduction patterns suggest that he is now in the process of perfecting the new skill of recruiting and controlling an international force of his own.”

The general has long been an enigma. His use of child soldiers, tight control over his lieutenants and frequent movement mean that little is known of his life.

He was the altar boy who grew up to be a guerrilla leader. He was the wizard who used magic to protect his brainwashed adherents. And he was the deluded man from the bush who wanted to rule Uganda according to the Ten Commandments.

Yet those who know him best say that the picture of a crazed, self-proclaimed prophet is far from the mark. “To describe him is very difficult for me. He is not mad,” said Patrick Opiyo Makasi, who was General Kony's director of operations until last year when he walked out of the jungle. “But he is a religious man. All the time he is talking about God. Every time he keeps calling many people to teach them about the legends and about God. That is how he leads people.”

Colonel Makasi was snatched from his home in Gulu, northern Uganda, at the age of 12. He was handed a Kalashnikov and his school lessons were replaced by instruction in anti-tank mines, surface-to-air missiles and machineguns. Over the next 20 years he rose to become one of General Kony's most trusted confidants.

Then, a year ago, Colonel Makasi strolled out of the Kony's camp, knowing that no one would suspect the LRA's director of operations of defecting. A day earlier General Kony had murdered Vincent Otti, the LRA's second-in-command. Any chance of peace was finished.

Colonel Makasi brought with him details of an array of weaponry supplied by the Sudanese Government in Khartoum, which once used the LRA as a proxy army in a doomed attempt to put down southern rebels. The LRA had been given crates of AK47s, mines, heavy machineguns and even surface-to-air missiles.

The colonel's comrades spent eight months burying the booty in caches dotted across southern Sudan. They are now being excavated as General Kony returns to war. Senior officers also used to visit Khartoum for instruction, he said. Some were flown on to Iran and Iraq to learn leadership skills, tactics and training for new weapons.

Now the general is displaying the behaviour of a cornered man. “He still thinks he can become President of Uganda, running the country as some sort of theocracy, so it seems as if he is digging in,” a military source said.

Africa's most bizarre and brutal war seems no closer to a conclusion.

Congo Durama 2

Photo: Raymond Kpiolebeyo, a primary school teacher who was abducted by the LRA but managed to escape (Kate Holt/eyevine)

Congo Durama 3

Photo: Patrick Opio Makas. A former LRA commander, he deserted after being abducted when he was just 12 years old (Kate Holt/eyevine)

Congo Durama 4

Photo: A young boy sits crying on a bed while his mother undergoes a caesarian operation in the hospital in Dungu. The boy and his mother travelled 100 km to get to the nearest hospital (Kate Holt/eyevine)

Congo Durama 5

Photo: An old woman lies dying surrounded by family in the hospital in Dungu. Aid organisations withdrew from the region because of frequent attacks and abductions carried out by the LRA (Kate Holt/eyevine)

Have Your Say - A reader's comment

"Africa's most bizarre and brutal war seems no closer to a conclusion."
Indeed, without the involvement of the Khartoum regime in both times of peace and war; this enigma would continue probably unabbated for a while. I thought regional effort would involve the Bashir's Sudan as well.
BOB ACELLAM, HOIMA, UGANDA

Copyright 2008 Times Newspapers Ltd.
- - -

Rob Crilly is a freelance journalist writing about Africa for The Times, The Irish Times, The Daily Mail, The Scotsman and The Christian Science Monitor from his base in Nairobi. Currently, after spending Christmas in Somalia and seeing in the new year on a Mexican safari while helping to build an earthbag house, Rob is travelling in the USA and writing a book about the war in Darfur, Western Sudan.

Some posts at Rob's blog From The Frontline'
11/12/08: Who'd Have Thought It? Certainly not Tony Blair, Paul Kagame’s new best friend and adviser, who has said Rwanda does not control Laurent Nkunda and his rebel army.

15/12/08: So my brief guide to African beers appeared in The Times this morning. Crilly's Cool Ones...

16/12/08: Finding Peace in Northern Uganda, Southern Sudan, Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, Central African Republic

21/12/08: My African Predictions for 2009
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Further reading

Moonlight in Dungu, N.E. DR Congo

Photo: Two young children stand outside their hut in the moonlight in Dungu, in North Eastern DR Congo, on 19 June, 2008. (Kate Holt) Ref. Sudan Watch 14 Dec 2008: Govts of Uganda, Sudan and DR Congo today launch joint offensive against Uganda LRA rebels in DRC, Uganda says.
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DR Congo: Dungu, Orientale Province Situation Report No. 4
From United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) 29 Dec 2008 - excerpt:
According to unsubstantiated information, the LRA controls seven villages around Doruma: Batande (7km North East of Doruma), Manzagala (5km North East of Doruma), Mabando (7km of North East of Doruma), Bagbugu (8km South East of Doruma), Nakatilikpa (12km East of Doruma), Nagengwa (8km North East of Doruma) and Natulugbu (6km North of Doruma). The population of these villages is moving towards Watsa, Banda and Ango (Bas Uélé).
- - -

(Cross posted today to this site's sister blogs Congo Watch and Uganda Watch)

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