SUDAN WATCH: April 2009

Thursday, April 30, 2009

SLA-Nur rebel group says UNAMID personnel cannot enter "the liberated areas"

SLA-Nur rebel group condemns "fabricated" UN report.

Group says civilians will not deal with peacekeepers.

Rebels criticise U.N. report on Darfur conflict
KHARTOUM, April 30 2009 (Reuters) - A Darfur rebel group criticised on Thursday a U.N. report which said violence in Sudan's western Darfur region had subsided into a "low-intensity conflict".

The joint U.N.-African Union special representative to Darfur, Rodolphe Adada, said on Monday about 130-150 people were dying each month due to violence in Darfur, versus the tens of thousands who were killed in 2003-2004.

"We in the Sudan Liberation Army strongly condemn this fabricated ... and unfortunate report," Al-Sadig Rokero told Reuters via satellite phone. Rokero is from a branch of the SLA controlled by its founder Abdel Wahed Mohamed Ahmed el-Nour.

He said refugees, internally diplaced persons (IDP) and civilians had handed a letter to the rebel group's chief commander saying they would not deal with the joint U.N.-AU peacekeeping mission in Darfur, known as UNAMID, unless Adada retracted the report.

"This decision is effective today. It means UNAMID personnel cannot enter the liberated areas based on the objection of IDPs, refugees and civilians and the decision of the chief commander unless there is a correction in the fabricated report ... and a clear apology to the people and the world."

UNAMID spokesman Nourelddine Mezni said Adada's report was "comprehensive and reflected the reality on the ground".

"We are neutral. We are working with all stakeholders on the ground to create an environment conducive to peace," he said.

According to diplomats, the United States and its allies had disagreed with Adada's assessment.

According to figures collected by UNAMID, some 2,000 people died from violence in the region during the 15 months between Jan. 1, 2008 and March 31, 2009, one third of them civilians.

Many non-governmental organisations agree with the U.S. view that Darfur is still in the throes of genocide orchestrated by the Khartoum government, a charge it rejects.

U.N. officials say as many as 300,000 people have died and more than 2.7 million driven from their homes in almost six years of ethnic and political violence. Some 4.7 million people rely on humanitarian aid. Khartoum says 10,000 have died. (Reporting by Yara Bayoumy; editing by Robert Woodward)

UK combat operations end in Iraq

UK combat operations end in Iraq

Photo: A Rifleman makes his last combat operational patrol (Gett Images via BBC)

British troops are to formally end combat operations in Iraq marking the end of a six-year military campaign.

A memorial service has taken place in Basra for the 179 British personnel who have died during the conflict.

The focus was a memorial wall featuring the names of the 234 British and foreign troops and civilians who lost their lives on the UK-led operation in Iraq.

Army chaplain Father Pascal Hanrahan, who opened the ceremony, said: "Today is about remembrance and thanksgiving. We remember by name and acknowledge the ultimate sacrifice paid by the 234 men and women who lost their lives during Operation Telic."

The last post was sounded by a bugler and prayers were said. There was also a roar overhead as a lone Tornado aircraft conducted a fly-past in tribute.

UK combat operations ended as 20 Armoured Brigade took part in a flag-lowering ceremony with a US brigade. In London, Prime Minister Gordon Brown said a new chapter in relations between the two countries had begun. (BBC News In Pictures)

See BBC News report 30 April 2009:
UK combat operations end in Iraq

UK combat operations end in Iraq

Photos: The names of those who died during the UK's Operation Telic were read out at the memorial service, which also honoured Italian, Dutch, Danish, American and Romanian troops who died. (Photo by Press Association via BBC)

UK combat operations end in Iraq

Photo: Getty Images via BBC.

See more pictures at BBC News In Pictures 30 April 2009.

Darfur, Sudan: where were the media in 2003?

From Making Sense of Darfur, Media and Advocacy
Tuesday, April 28th, 2009
2003: All Quiet on the Western Front?
By Guy Gabriel
Recently on this blog, an an interesting question was posed: where was Save Darfur “and its advocacy and influence” in 2003? It is a good question, but seems to valorise advocacy excessively (as has this whole Mamdani / Save Darfur debate) when it has not (yet) supplanted the media as the Fourth Estate. Undoubtedly, there is a degree of cross-pollination between the two, and the conflict has been further entrenched on both their watches. However, it is also necessary to ask where were the media in 2003? Getting to the bottom of this can help shed light on the foundations upon which advocates such as Save Darfur built.
During the calendar year following 26 February 2003 (for arguments sake, the attack on Golo is taken to be the start of the conflict), five articles about Darfur appeared in the British mainstream media, three of which were news-in-brief in the Independent (culled from newswires) - a combined total of 165 words. The other two were in the Guardian (both in early 2004). By this stage, the frequency of attacks had peaked, according to statistics used by the Prosecution in preparing their case at the International Criminal Court.

This virtual silence seems counter-intuitive from today’s perspective, as this was a large chunk of the period of high-intensity conflict that set the tone for much of the future media coverage and advocacy as characterised by Save Darfur. Nevertheless, the very low exposure of Darfur in the British media in 2003 is a matter of record, and is a state of affairs replicated among major publications in the US.

If a particular subject is missing from a newspaper, the explanation is that there is no editorial appetite for it. Undoubtedly, Khartoum actively opposed reporting from Darfur. In fact, then-minister of information and communication, Al-Zahawi Ibrahim Malik, in March 2003 was already complaining that the media “had magnified events and portrayed untrue facts” (13 March 2003, Al-Khartoum). Amnesty International in July 2003 drew attention to the case of Yusuf Al-Beshir Musa, a correspondent of Al-Sahafa in Nyala, South Darfur, who was arrested and beaten by the security forces “apparently because he wrote about the destruction of Sudan air force planes and helicopters in El Fashir airport by the Sudan Liberation Army.” Having said that, Sudan normally fares better than many other countries in the neighbourhood (such as Ethiopia, Egypt, Eritrea, and Libya among others) in the Reporters Without Borders Annual Press Freedom Index, having kept a cushion of 24-38 other countries in between them and least free country press-wise in the world since these records began (2002). However, its lowest ever ranking was 2003.

Nonetheless, a wide range of sources were available to journalists potentially covering Darfur, which was most certainly on the radar of newswires in early 2003 (among others, Agence France Presse, the Associated Press, Reuters, the Pan African News Agency, United Press International and Integrated Regional Information Networks were reporting Darfur then).

The Arab media has been criticised in the past for its scant regard for Darfur, but it did cover the region in 2003. For example, a report on Al-Jazeera prompted then-Governor of North Darfur Lt-Gen Ibrahim Sulayman to refute on Sudanese TV on 27 February 2003 its claims that a rebel movement had occupied Golo. A further exempli gratia: the attack on Al-Fasher airport was reported by a number of Sudanese outlets (print and broadcast), and regional news agencies and newspapers, including Egypt (MENA), the Gulf (Al-Watan, Qatar), Jordan (Al-Bawaba), the Saudi Press Agency, and the London-based Arabic-language newspapers Al-Hayat and Asharq Al-Awsat.

However, one caveat to mention is that the freedom given to these agencies and their staff to report is another matter, as is the appetite they themselves had to report in any depth; Darfur has never been an ideal reporting environment for a wide range of reasons, not just government obstruction.

The one British newspaper to report the attack on Al-Fashir airport, the Independent on Sunday (27 April 2003), then reported nothing further until nine months later (24 December 2003) because nothing in its opinion happened there that was newsworthy, though this was not the opinion of the various outlets mentioned above.

In fact, it was NGOs that began drawing attention to Darfur - this much is confirmed in one of the early broadsides to a dormant public about Darfur. After several attempts and what amounts to sanitizing for public consumption, the Washington Post published a commentary by Eric Reeves (Unnoticed Genocide, 25 February 2004) in which the opening paragraphs quote both Doctors Without Borders and Amnesty International, an organisation that the author writes “has led the way in reporting on Darfur.”

This was an accurate observation. For example, Amnesty noted the “deteriorating situation” in Darfur in February 2003. The International Crisis Group likewise pre-dated mainstream media interest with Sudan’s Other Wars (25 June 2003), as did Sudan: Empty promises? Human rights violations in government-controlled areas (15 July 2003), again from Amnesty. A 3 February 2004 report, Darfur: “Too many people killed for no reason”, yet again from Amnesty, coincided with the start of much greater media interest in Darfur.

Incidentally, one further avenue of study is to trace the evolution of language used to describe Darfur in NGO work and the media; Amnesty in July 2003 referred to an emerging conflict between ‘sedentary groups’ and ‘nomadic groups’, terms that are contextualised - but which would be simplified in the future to ‘Africans’ and ‘Arabs’ in the absence of sufficient contextualisation.

However, the reports produced by NGOs are not categorised in the same way as articles produced by journalism. While newspaper reporters are by definition (textbook, at least) ‘objective’ and required to provide ‘both sides of the story’ (in news articles, as opposed to opinion pieces), NGOs have no similar, developed branch of ethics requiring them to do so. In fact, they profess to lobby for a particular outcome: Amnesty campaigns for “human rights for all,” while the ICG says it provides, among other things, “sharp-edged policy prescription and high-level advocacy.” No newspaper or news agency would claim the same.
Undoubtedly, this is a vital role to fulfill in civil society, especially in areas, such as Darfur, where the media simply cannot cover everything, if at all, to the tastes of a wide range of consumers. Darfur in 2003 was at best an esoteric subject, at worst almost completely ignored by the mainstream. However, it also needs to be said that it is entirely legitimate for journalism to draw upon secondary post-event accounts as source material, such as interviews, recollections, contemporary photos etc - but this is not the same as being eyewitness to something.

The question we are left with is what quality does NGO-led news agenda-setting bequeath the journalism on Darfur once they have caught up? Inevitably, subsequent (Western) journalism is qualified by its absence in the early period, as it was obliged to build on foundations provided by others that operate in a different way to it.

In contrast to Darfur, the invasion and subsequent occupation of Iraq in the same year received global blanket coverage that pushed the boundaries of journalism and of credulity at times. This comparison merely makes the point that if there is an editorial appetite - such as the US-led coalition removing one of the West’s great bogeymen - the media consumer can be made to feel that there is nothing he or she does not know about a subject. This in Darfur came much later.
It is worth adding that news from Iraq (which was very well-attended by journalists) - in 2003 and ever since - is still contested in areas for its legitimacy of journalistic practices, such as embedding and venturing no further than the Green Zone for whatever reason.

2 Responses to “2003: All Quiet on the Western Front?”
Bikem Ekberzade:
April 28th, 2009
Dear Mr. Gabriel,
When you asked “where were the media in 2003?” I immediately responded Iraq, which you later layed out in your article. Iraq was straightforward, well marketed (it had to be, I mean afterall it WAS invasion not intervention) and when international media is concerned, other than journalists on staff, as most freelancers cater to the US press, Iraq was the ultimate destination. It was inevitable. Africa has always been complicated. And media doesn’t like complicated. It is not cost effective. And brutal as it may sound, media doesn’t like black either. Were they to choose between a black and a white conflict, the white is definitely more attractive.

Africa, you have to explain. You have to educate even, and media leaves education to the schools. “Journalists” are interested in “objective” coverage, with a “subjective” stance on things (as well as large expense accounts which they can blow off in hotel rooms and write articles based on press releases) So when you run out of conflicts, or rather when conflicts turn stale you turn to Africa.

Ah, and you also turn to Africa if one of your countrymen is over there fighting (”could be fighting” is also good enough)
Even today, with all these popular and much debated advocacy movements, the average civilian has no clue as to what is going on in Darfur. Not a day passes when a friend strolls in with the question, “so what IS really going on in there?”
However now there certainly is a load of material on the internet. When I first started covering the conflict, I could find hardly anything on the internet. 2003-2004 was a relative dead zone. And myself not being a Sudan specialist, was groping in the dark. This is no longer the case (I still am not a Sudan expert but at least I have a myriad of literature to research on). It is amazing how much has been written (correct or erroneous) on Darfur alone. Even Chad. Once a hole in the world of information now there are at least 7 books I can think of describing the tarmac runway of the Nd’jemena airport before jumping into tell about Darfur.

And now with Obama stepping in to the White House, curious days are here. I wonder if with a black president in office, the attitude of the mass media towards Africa will change. It would be a good day if it did.

Eric Reeves:
April 28th, 2009 at 7:36 pm
Guy Gabriel raises extremely important questions, and his account of failure by the international news media is chilling in its accuracy. How could it be that multiple reports from Amnesty International, Doctors Without Borders, the International Crisis Group, and Human Rights Watch were not taken seriously? They were authoritatively researched and devastating in implication. (One feature that needs greater highlighting here is the focus of international news coverage on the Naivasha peace talks between Khartoum and the SPLM).
I for one had no difficulty or reservation, on the basis of precisely these reports and other information readily available, to declare the reality of genocide, the need for compelling reporting on the growing catastrophe, and the risks of a partial peace:
On Genocide in Darfur:
December 30, 2003
from Africa InfoServe (Sudan publications of AfricaFiles.org)
http://www.africafiles.org/article.asp?ID=4075

by Eric Reeves
It is intolerable that the international community continues to allow what all evidence suggests is genocide. For surely if we are honest with ourselves we will accept that the term “ethnic cleansing” is no more than a dangerous euphemism for genocide, a way to make the ultimate crime somehow less awful. As Samantha Power has cogently observed, the phrase “ethnic cleansing” gained currency in the early 1990s as a way of speaking about the atrocities in the Balkans—“as a kind of euphemistic halfway house between crimes against humanity and genocide” (page 483, “‘A Problem from Hell’: America and the Age of Genocide”). But linguistic half-measures are not enough when the question is whether an “ethnical [or] racial group” is being destroyed “in whole or in part”—“as such.”

The present realities in Darfur must urgently be rendered for the world to see and understand—fully, honestly, and on the basis of much greater information than is presently available. In turn, these realities must guide a humanitarian effort that will not allow Khartoum’s claim of “national sovereignty” to trump the desperate plight of hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians caught up in a maelstrom of destruction and displacement. That no such efforts are presently being undertaken—Ambassador [Tom] Vraalsen declared (December 8, 2003) that humanitarian operations in Darfur have “practically come to a standstill”—is of the gravest concern.

Indeed, the logic of the situation is so compelling that one can only surmise that the failure of the international community even to speak of the possibility of a humanitarian intervention in Darfur derives from some morally appalling failure of nerve, and an unwillingness to roil the diplomatic waters with a peace agreement so close between Khartoum and the SPLM/A. But this latter concern represents exactly the wrong way to view both Darfur and its relation to the last major issue outstanding in the present peace negotiations between Khartoum and the south, viz. the status of the three contested areas of Abyei, the Nuba Mountains, and Southern Blue Nile. For unless the international community shows its concern for the various marginalized peoples of Sudan, peace will be only very partial and ultimately unsustainable.

ICRC Arranges for Return of 14 Child Soldiers from Chad

From Sudan Vision Daily
By Al-Sammani Awadallah (Khartoum) 30 April, 2009:
ICRC declared its intention to return 14 child soldiers from Chad to Sudan.

DDR Northern Sudan Commissioner, Dr. Sulaf Addeen Saleh revealed, after his meeting with the ICRC Chairman in Sudan, that they received a notification from the ICRC to return 14 children from Chad to Sudan, of whom ten were under-aged and 4 child soldiers.

Sulaf Addeen affirmed their keenness to develop its relations with Chad in the child soldiers issue adding that they will continue contacts with Chad to implement our part in the programme.

He expected that the reintegration of the child soldiers in Eastern Sudan will be completed by the end of this year, adding that the programme will last for three or four years to follow up the redeployed elements and assure their integration in the community.

He said that the commission is arranging to redeploy about 2254 from SAF and Popular Forces in Eastern Sudan.

Sulaf Addeen affirmed that the commission is committed to review the DDR appendices in eastern Sudan next week, adding that they will implement their programme in South Kordufan next Monday pointing to the political harmony with SPLM institution to make the programme a success.

Eastern Sudan Representative in the DDR Commission, Nafie Ibrahim Nafie revealed about an agreement between the commission and UNICEF to establish rehabilitation centres for child soldiers in each of Kassala, Port Sudan, and Gedarif targeting more than 300 child soldiers.

Quotation - JP Getty

"There are 100 men seeking security to 1 able man who is willing to risk his fortune." - JP Getty

Source: Twitter / whiteafrican 29 April 2009.

JEM preparing to overthrow Sudan's Government of NU

JEM says it is in the process of overthrowing the Sudanese government.

From Sudan Radio Service 29 April 2009 - (Khartoum):
The Government of National Unity says that JEM, backed by Chadian forces, are preparing another attack against GONU.

The spokesperson of the Foreign Affairs Ministry, Ambassador Ali Al-Sadeq, spoke to Sudan Radio Service from Khartoum on Wednesday.

[Ali Al-Sadeq]: “They are massing their troops across the border and they have done that on a couple of occasions when they are preparing for an offensive against the country. This is information gathered from across the border. We did not say they are inside Sudan. They are in Chadian territory; we have information that there are at least 40 vehicles with Chadian registration belonging to the army.”

However JEM dismissed the claim by GONU officials.

Ahmed Mohamed Togud, JEM’s political secretary, spoke to Sudan Radio Service from an unidentified location in Darfur on Wednesday.

[Ahmed Togud]: “First of all, this statement is a lie, the truth is that GONU has completely prepared Chadian rebels in al-Geneina in western Darfur after a big military show for the Chadian rebels inside the town, these groups have moved to three different sectors with the support of the air force in government sectors to attack Chadian territory, so the statements by the Sudanese officials are just to cover their activities and to hide the movements of the Chadian rebels.”

Togud did not dismiss the prospect of a military operation against GONU.

[Ahmed Togud]: “The government is afraid of JEM, and it thinks it is the only body which is threatening it as a regime and a government, we are in the process of overthrowing this government, it is just a matter of time, and we are going to do it.”

JEM launched an attack on Omdurman in May last year in which 200 people were killed. GONU and JEM signed a goodwill agreement in Doha in February 2009.

JEM has accused GONU of violating the goodwill agreement by issuing death sentences against 81 men who were captured during the attack.

All Sudanese citizens must register by June to vote in upcoming elections

From Sudan Radio Service 29 April 2009 - (Juba):
All Sudanese citizens must register with relevant authorities by June this year to be eligible to vote in the upcoming general elections.

The SPLM deputy secretary-general - southern sector, Dr. Ann Itto, says that people without national identity cards must be identified by local authorities.

[Ann Itto]: “First, you must be a Sudanese citizen; secondly you must be 18 years of age then you must register in June. If you don’t register by June and then you come to your chief to register you will not be eligible because registration is scheduled for June only. July is for the verification of names that were registered in June, whether those registered are still alive, missing or the names were wrongly written, this is done in July only.”

She said that in August the electoral commission will start receiving the names of people contesting various positions, after the registration and verification of names in June and July respectively.

Dr. Itto also urged women to register in large numbers and come out to vote on the voting day.

[Ann Itto]: “My message is come out and cast your vote and decide the destiny of your country because it is your right, if you don’t come out now, those who can will change the Sudan but it may not be in favor of women.”

Dr. Ann Itto was speaking to Sudan Radio Service on the phone from Juba.
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From Sudan Radio Service 29 April 2009 - (Juba):
The deputy chairman of the SPLM and speaker of southern Sudan legislative assembly, James Wani Igga, says that the SPLM will win the general elections scheduled for next year.

Speaking to Sudan Radio Service from Juba, Igga said that SPLM will get votes from the people who have been marginalized by successive governments in Khartoum.

[James Wani]: “Actually, 70 percent of Sudan is marginalized. For example the whole of the south is marginalized, southern Blue Nile is marginalized, southern Kordofan is marginalized, Darfur is marginalized, eastern Sudan is marginalized and far north is also marginalized. So you are left with not more than 25 percent of Sudanese who have been in power since the British left the country.

But not all of them, of course there are a good number of them who are supporting the change SPLM is aspiring to bring in the country. In terms of marginalization, you can say that over 70 percent of Sudan is marginalized and if you can get support from all these then you have won the upcoming elections.”

Igga said that he is confident that SPLM has enough supporters, both in southern Sudan and northern Sudan, to win the 2010 general elections.

INTERVIEW: Sir Derek Plumbly re Abyei

From Sudan Radio Service 29 April 2009 - (Khartoum):
The chairman of the Assessment and Evaluation Commission in Sudan says he is optimistic that the implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement is achievable within the year if the current pace is maintained.

Speaking to Sudan Radio Service on the phone, Sir Derek Plumbly said that there is a need to speed up the implementation of the outstanding issues which separate the two signatories to the CPA before the end of this year.

Sir Derek Plumbly, Chairman of AEC

[Derek Plumbly]: “Yes it can be done, but the calendar is very tight. There are only 20 months left to the date set for the referendum in the south which is the last main event in the CPA implementation. And ahead of us we have elections in the Sudan which clearly requires a lot of preparation. I was projecting that the essential things can be done, but I think it will require reaffirmation of vital partnerships which exist between the SPLM and the NCP in the north and the south. Now we are approaching a crucial period when continued partnership and cooperation and a greater pace of implementation will be needed to achieve the objectives of the agreement.”

Sir Derek added that there is a need for the government of national unity to act quickly in order to solve the outstanding CPA issues.

[Derek Plumbly]: “The outstanding issues which I think need to be addressed quickly include the demarcation of the border between north and south. Because without clarity about where the border is, a lot of other things, including the elections, the referendum, future wealth-sharing and redeployment becomes impossible to complete, so it leaves things in suspense and may indeed seriously affect the election process in particular. I was concerned about the condition of the joint integrated unit which is supposed to be the basis for a future united army but in fact they are poorly equipped and supplied. And I was concerned too that the referendum bill, which needs to be passed without further delay if the preparation of the referendum are to be made in good time, needs to be forwarded, in parallel with discussion about arrangements after the referendum either in the event of unity or in the event of secession in the south. It can’t be delayed if that very important stage of the CPA implementation is to be properly prepared.”

Sir Derek is also concerned about the slow pace of implementation of the disputed region of Abyei since the Abyei Road Map was signed last year.

[Sir Derek Plumbly]: “Abyei is a very important issue, I confirm that the people who were displaced in the fighting last May haven’t yet been able to return and a lot of the things which were agreed in the Abyei road map have been done. The administration although in place, is still not properly financed to look after people’s needs and to facilitate return and reconstruction. And ahead of us we have the prospect of the arbitration decision on the boundaries of Abyei and whether the Abyei Boundary Commission exceeded its mandate. It’s very important the two work together as partners rather than rivals at this time to reassure the Dinka Ngoc and the Messiriya that their rights and their interests will be protected whatever happens. That is very necessary because it is a sensitive time.”

The Assessment and Evaluation Commission was established in 2008 to monitor and evaluate the prospect of the CPA implementation.

The commission meets regularly in Khartoum and Juba to report on the progress of the CPA.

It is represented by members from the SPLM, NCP, NGOs, and a team of international observers.
For further reports, click on Abyei label here below.

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Bari and Mundari clashed over cattle raiding in Jebel Lado, north of Juba, S. Sudan

Recent inter-tribal conflict in Jonglei and Warrap states claimed more than 300 lives. Bari and Mundari communities clashed last week over cattle raiding in Jebel Lado area, north of Juba.

From Sudan Radio Service 29 April 2009 - (Juba):
The speaker of southern Sudan legislative assembly James Wani Igga is urging the Bari and Mundari communities to stop fighting and live peacefully.

The Bari and Mundari communities, who have lived peacefully over the years, clashed last week over cattle raiding in Jebel Lado area, north of Juba.

Speaking to Sudan Radio Service James Wani Igga explains how the fighting started.

[James Wani]: “Mundari boys are the ones who attacked Bari in a place called Nyarkenyi, they took Bari cows, killed people, and also looted some villages. Now if you go to a village like Pöyiti Gwerikek, it has become deserted and everything is looted. This thing is wrong. Let our brothers the Mundari, if they really started the attacks as I heard, let them know that ever since there was no fighting between Bari and Mundari, let Mundari elders tell those boys that this is not the time to start fighting ourselves as one community. Our grandfathers did not fight each other. If we finish ourselves now, what will happen if the enemies come? Now even the people of Wonduroba are complaining that Mundari boys have raided their cattle, and they are also fighting.”

Mister Igga asked the Mundari elders to calm those fighting and urged the elders of the two communities to sit down and solve the dispute.
- - -

From Sudan Radio Service 29 April 2009 - (Khartoum):
The National Congress Party - southern sector is calling for the formation of a joint NCP/SPLM committee to fight tribalism and inter-tribal conflicts in southern Sudan.

The official spokesperson of NCP - southern sector, Khamis Haggar, told Sudan Radio Service in Khartoum that southern Sudan is in need of reconciliation conferences and workshops to stop the conflict in the towns and villages in southern Sudan where tension exists.

[Khamis Haggar]: “The SPLM and the NCP should sit down and form a body that will maintain security and stability in southern Sudan and this step should consider inter-communal reconciliation between various communities and the formation of a joint army between the NCP and SPLM, police forces and a separate security organ to curb tribalism and inter-tribal conflicts. There should also be an executive organ to maintain justice which gives each aggrieved party his or her rights and there must be an inter-communal mechanism that can prevent tribalism. If these tribal conflicts continue, they will impede elections in southern Sudan and also the referendum for the self determination of southern Sudan which is the right of each citizen in the south. If we fail to maintain security in southern Sudan, it will be considered that we southern Sudanese are incapable of ruling ourselves.”

Recent inter-tribal conflict in Jonglei and Warrap states claimed more than 300 lives.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Al Qaeda in Somalia Threatens Kenyan Invasion?

Some news reporters and bloggers out of Africa have suggested that the Mungiki are being supported by outside Muslim extremists groups, from Somalia, Sudan, and Ethopia.

Source: The Jawa Report April 28, 2009. Here is a copy:
Al Qaeda in Somalia Threatens Kenyan Invasion
With all eyes focused on the Somali piracy problem this story serves as a reminder that a bigger threat is looming from the Horn of Africa: violent Islamism.

Libertarian Republican noted two days ago the relationship between President Obama's first cousin, Kenya's new Prime Minister Raila Odinga, the Mungiki Islamist movement, and al Qaeda's Somali affiliate, the al-Shabaab:
The Mungiki are now leading a violent uprising in nothern and central regions of the Nation, while also fanning violence in the slums of the Capitol City in Nairobi. Mungiki rebels who support the imposition of strict Sharia Law, have brutally hacked to death hundreds of villagers in remote regions who've opposed their local rule. It is rumored that Odinga approves of the actions.

Some news reporters and bloggers out of Africa have also suggested that the Mungiki are being supported by outside Muslim extremists groups, from Somalia, Sudan, and Ethopia. The Mungiki's "Mafia style" operation is transporting weapons and funds from these sources into the hands of Mungiki fighters on the ground inside of Kenya.
Go read the rest here. Looks like he scooped the VOA as this morning they noted that the al Shabaab are threatening to invade and annex majority-Muslim areas of Kenya:
The [al-Shabaab], which has refused to recognize President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed's government threatened Monday to annex parts of northern Kenya and implement Islamic Sharia law. Nairobi on the other hand has begun strong measures to counter such an attack by deploying extra troops to man the Kenya-Somali border and maintain the disarmament of residents in the province....

Nairobi said recent abductions of several Kenyans at the border town of Mandera forms part of a wider scheme to force a reaction from the Kenyan government.

Described by Washington as a terrorist organization with close links to al Qaeda, al-Shabab officially informed Nairobi of its intentions to invade Kenya's Northeastern Province and make it part of their country and rule it with their religious laws.
But don't panic, because the terrorists in the new Islamist government have promised to put a stop to al Shabaab -- if the international community will just give them money enough to buy weapons and troops. What could possibly go wrong?

Thanks to Libertarian Republican.
Read the original posting with hyperlinks: http://mypetjawa.mu.nu/archives/197451.php

Sudan: Mbeki’s Darfur panel meet with Egyptian officials

From the website of the Sudanese Embassy in Washington DC, 28 April 2009:

Sudan
Sudan: Mbeki’s Darfur panel meet with Egyptian officials

The African Union (AU) panel headed by former South African leader Thabo Mbeki met with the Egyptian president during their visit to Cairo on Sunday.

The visit is part of a regional tour that will take them to Chad, Libya, Eritrea, Egypt and Saudi Arabia as parties with interest in the Darfur conflict. Egyptian state media did not provide any details of the meeting which was attended by foreign minister Ahmed Aboul-Gheit and followed by lunch banquet.

The eight member panel was established by the AU last February in response to the imminent issuance of an arrest warrant by the International Criminal Court (ICC) against Sudanese president Omer Hassan Al-Bashir.

The AU rallied behind Bashir and criticized the warrant saying it will severely impede peace efforts throughout Sudan. The commission has been tasked with looking into ways to balance accountability with bringing peace into Darfur and will submit a report to the summit next July. Also in Cairo, the Libyan foreign minister Al-Baghdadi Al-Mahmoodi met with Mubarak for talks on the Darfur crisis.

The Libyan official said his government is coordinating efforts with Egypt on the issue. He also said that any resolution should come through the Arab League or the United Nations and other countries such as Qatar.

Qatar managed to broker an accord between Darfur Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) and Khartoum. The goodwill agreement in the Qatari capital, pledged to negotiate a peaceful settlement to the six-year conflict in the western Sudan region of Darfur.

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Monday, April 27, 2009

40 Egyptian physicians head to Darfur

US Senator John Kerry in Darfur

Photo: US Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry talks to displaced Sudanese women and children at a camp in Al-Slaam camp near Al-Fasher town, north Darfur last Friday. Questions are being raised about the country’s population size. (Reuters)

A medical caravan of 40 Egyptian physicians heads to Darfur


The Egyptian government is to send a caravan of 40 Egyptian physicians on 28th of April, to provide medical services to the Sudanese brothers in Darfur. This initiative aims to respond to any humanitarian needs which may result from the departure of many foreign aid organizations from the Sudanese territories.

UN says Darfur is now a 'low-intensity conflict'

130-150 people die in violence each month in Darfur.

UN envoy says risk of escalation into war remains.

US refers to situation as ongoing genocide.

Monday, 27 April 2009 Reuters report by Louis Charbonneau:
Darfur is now a 'low-intensity conflict' - U.N.
UNITED NATIONS - The situation in Sudan's western Darfur region, which Washington has described as genocide, has subsided into a "low-intensity conflict," a top international envoy said on Monday.

Briefing the U.N. Security Council, the joint U.N.-African Union special representative to Darfur, Rodolphe Adada, told the 15 member states that around 130-150 people were dying each month due to violence in Darfur, a region roughly the size of France.

"The situation has changed from the period of intense hostilities in 2003-2004 when tens of thousands of people were killed," Adada told the council. "Today, in purely numerical terms it is a low-intensity conflict."

But he also said there was a "high risk of escalation."

"This risk of active war is ever present, and it is my duty to warn this council about those hazards," Adada said.

According to figures collected by the U.N.-AU peacekeeping mission in Darfur, known as UNAMID, some 2,000 people died from violence in the region during the 15 months between Jan. 1, 2008 and March 31, 2009, one third of them civilians.

The council was discussing U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's latest report on UNAMID, in which he warns that Khartoum's decision to expel 13 foreign and three domestic humanitarian aid organizations had put "over 1 million people at life-threatening risk" in Darfur.

Sudan's U.N. ambassador, Abdalmahmoud Abdalhaleem, dismissed the report, saying the estimate was "a big lie."

Khartoum said it expelled the humanitarian aid agencies because they collaborated with the Hague-based International Criminal Court, which issued a warrant for the arrest of Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir last month.

The court charged Bashir with plotting mass killings and deportations across Darfur.

GENOCIDE?

Ban's report said there were just over 15,600 peacekeepers on the ground at the end of March, well below the force's mandated strength of 26,000.

"We think that by the end of the year we could be almost at the full deployment of the mission," Adada told reporters after the meeting. But he said they still lacked crucial military hardware, above all helicopters to move troops quickly.

Adada's overall assessment of the conflict differs from the way Washington has viewed events in Darfur. Former U.S. President George W. Bush's administration referred to it as "genocide in slow motion," saying many deaths resulted from disease, neglect and poor conditions in crowded refugee camps.

President Barack Obama's envoy to the United Nations, Susan Rice, reaffirmed on Jan. 26 that Darfur was in the midst of "ongoing genocide."

Many non-governmental organizations (NGOs) also support the view that Darfur is still in the throes of genocide orchestrated by the Khartoum government, a charge it rejects.

U.N. officials say as many as 300,000 people have died and more than 2.7 million driven from their homes in almost six years of ethnic and political violence. Some 4.7 million people rely on humanitarian aid. Khartoum says 10,000 have died.

SPLM's peace conference Tuesday 5 May 2009 in Juba, South Sudan for all Darfur rebel groups

From Sudan Radio Service 27 April 2009 (Khartoum):
The Sudan People’s Liberation movement will hold a general conference for all Darfur anti-government groups in Juba on May 5th 2009 to discuss ways of resolving the Darfur conflict.

Yassir Arman, the SPLM deputy Secretary-General for the northern sector, made the announcement at a press conference in Khartoum on Sunday.

[Yassir Arman]: “The aim of this conference is to help the achieve the speedy resolution of the Darfur conflict. There must be a just and peaceful solution to the Darfur crisis. The SPLM is ready to cooperate with the National Congress Party, with all political parties in Sudan, the anti-government groups and even with neighboring countries. Yesterday, we met the Eritrean delegation and discussed with them about the Juba conference. We are also intending to meet with Chadian, Libyan and Egyptian officials because the SPLM wants a quick and peaceful solution to the Darfur crisis.”

Arman said the Darfur conflict is a national problem which concerns everybody and should be "tackled from all angles".
From Sudan Radio Service 27 April 2009 (Khartoum):
The human rights committee in the National Assembly says that the health situation in Darfur has worsened.

The head of the parliamentary committee on human rights, Dr Priscilla Joseph, told Sudan Radio Service that the health situation in Darfur has deteriorated since the Government of National Unity expelled 13 international aid NGOs from Darfur.

[Dr. Priscilla Joseph]: “I know that the health situation is bad. Before people in Darfur used to get medication within one to two hours in the clinics but now they sit for longer hours or even the whole day without any treatment. The government knows about it and they said that the want to bring some local and Arabs NGOs to replace and cover the problem for people to have rights to medication, food and life. That was mentioned in the constitution. As a government if we can’t provide people with food and treatment then, there is a problem.”

The Government of National Unity expelled 13 international aid organizations from Darfur hours after the ICC issued an arrest warrant against President Omar al-Bashir, accusing them of spying for the ICC.

South Sudan: Sir Derek Plumbly - Only 20 months remain of CPA's interim period

The global economic crisis and the fall in the price of oil have placed strains both on wealth sharing and on donor support. The revenue of the Sudanese government in the South this year is expected to be 68% lower than last.

The Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) enabled more than 2 million refugees and IDPs to return to the South and southerners to experiment freely with the autonomy they have been seeking. The time remaining for its implementation is short. Only twenty months remain of the interim period.

The interdependence of north and south in Sudan is self evident –in relation to resources and to residence and citizenship and the movement of people for example. And a strong and stable partnership will be needed to ensure that the benefits of peace the CPA has brought are extended beyond 2011.

The right of the people of the south to self determination as set out in the agreement is unconditional. Of course we should strive tirelessly to make unity attractive. But the choice is theirs. Many countries including my own have lived with similar situations. The United Kingdom today is not the United Kingdom of 1909, or even 1999. The British Isles now include two sovereign states and within the UK we have three devolved administrations. Let us work for unity but also be careful to ensure that partnership, interdependence and peace are sustained whatever happens.

The Assessment and Evaluation Commission (AEC) was established under the terms of the CPA. The AEC is charged with monitoring implementation of the CPA.

Source: The following Press Release and Statement received today from AEC.
The Chairman of the Assessment and Evaluation Commission Sir Derek Plumbly spoke today to the International Peoples Friendship Council at the Friendship Hall in Khartoum on the subject “The Comprehensive Peace Agreement: a vital partnership”. In his statement he drew attention to the narrowing window for CPA implementation and the need for sustained co-operation and partnership between the parties, and with the international community. A copy of the Chairman’s statement in English and Arabic is attached.

For further information please go to the AEC website – www.aec-sudan.org or telephone AEC Coordinator Simon Giverin on 09125 06273
Statement to the International Peoples Friendship Council at the Friendship Hall in Khartoum by Sir Derek Plumbly, Chairman of the AEC, 27 April 2009:

The Comprehensive Peace Agreement: a Vital Partnership

Sir Derek Plumbly, Chairman of AEC
I hesitated when asked by you, Mr. Chairman, to address the council. I was honoured of course. But I am not a bilateral ambassador. I have served as such in two countries, Saudi Arabia and Egypt. And I am very conscious of the role friendship organisations can play. Relations between governments are only a part – and not always the most positive part – of relations between countries. In the case of my own country, the UK, many thousands of Sudanese visit or study or live there. Their contribution to both of our countries has been enormous. And I know from my contacts in Britain since I took up my appointment here how warm are the feelings of many there - for example in the universities and parliament - for Sudan.

Having lived here for a year, I understand why. I have tried to read my way into the past and present of the tangled relationship between us, from the Condominium through el Tayyib Salih to contemporary writers like Laila Aboulela. I have travelled widely in your country. I know that there is a Sudanese/British association. I stand ready to be one of its most enthusiastic members.

But I am not here in Sudan to represent the interests of my own, or any other, government. I was appointed by presidential decree to chair the Assessment and Evaluation Commission on the basis that I would be independent and impartial. The UK is represented on the AEC by the British ambassador. The other members are the two parties – the NCP and the SPLM - plus Ethiopia, Kenya, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway and the US from among the signatories at Naivasha. The African Union, the Arab League, the EU and the UN are observers. The Commission, which has a small permanent staff, is tasked with monitoring the CPA.

I said that I hesitated when first asked to speak. But I did not hesitate for long. I was invited to talk about the CPA, and the interest of such a distinguished group in the subject seemed to me very timely.

Timely because attention in recent weeks has been elsewhere. One can only regret the extent to which the action of the ICC, and the inevitable anger it has sparked, have diverted attention from the CPA. The global economic crisis and the fall in the price of oil have placed strains both on wealth sharing and on donor support. The revenue of the government in the South this year is expected to be 68% lower than last. Tribal violence – most strikingly the heavy loss of life that has occurred recently in Jonglei state - places another heavy responsibility on the government there. It is a challenge too to UNMIS. This is the moment, if ever there was one, to underline the shared interest in stability and the success of the CPA.

The CPA is, after all, a historic achievement which has brought extraordinary benefits to the people of Sudan. It is the achievement of the leaders of the two parties with the support of the international community – the “vital partnership” of today’s title. Continued partnership on this pattern is the key to ensuring that peace is sustained and the objectives of the agreement achieved.

What I would like to do now is to address some of the current issues in CPA implementation and the challenges ahead as I see them, drawing on the Mid Term Evaluation the AEC submitted last year and on our discussions and field visits since, as well as my own personal impressions. I will happily take questions afterwards.

I think it is worth recording first the benefits the CPA has brought. The day to day tensions of politics, the arguments and delays in implementation, the mistrust which is deeply ingrained after 50 years of conflict, and the persistence of hostilities elsewhere in Sudan - in Darfur in particular - at times make us forget just how great these benefits have been. The CPA created the space for unprecedented economic growth here. It enabled more than 2 million refugees and IDPs to return to the South, and southerners to experiment freely with the autonomy they have been seeking.

Think for a moment about a hypothetical scenario in which no agreements were reached in Naivasha, or the agreement so painstakingly achieved unravelled for some reason and was followed by a return to war. I am not for one moment predicting that. But I think it is worth reminding ourselves of the enormous human and economic cost of conflict, if only to focus minds on what needs to be done to ensure that peace is sustained and the CPA implemented.

The time remaining for implementation is short. Only twenty months remain of the interim period. The narrowing window means that the pace of implementation must increase. It is true that the past four years have seen postponements and deadlines missed, and somehow we have muddled through. But, as the UN Secretary General put it bluntly in his report to the Security Council a few days ago “difficult and critical issues in the implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement …… can no longer be deferred”. The terminal date of January 2011 is fixed and all remaining timelines have to be seen in that context.

I do not want to suggest that nothing is moving forward at present. Last week I and several colleagues from the AEC visited Blue Nile. We have yet to agree a report. But I do not think my colleagues would disagree that a lot of what we saw and heard was positive. After years of stalemate the SPLA is now redeploying south of the 1/1/56 border. The process has not been incident free. But discussion in the Kurmuk area, which the SPLA formerly controlled, was about integration of the police and security services. The Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration programme launched by the UN and the parties in Juba in February - with pledges of 88 million dollars from the international community, and the ultimate target of returning 180000 fighters from both sides to civilian life - has got underway in the state. More than 2000 Northern personnel have been processed by the UN so far; the first 100 from the SPLA arrived at the DDR centre during our visit. Of course we also heard of problems, not least the chronic lack of funding for development exacerbated now by the expulsion of NGOs. But in terms of CPA implementation things were clearly moving forward. Both parties talked of the good cooperation between them in the state.

At the national level the National Electoral Commission’s announcement last month of the timetable for holding elections was another example of forward movement. They are now as you know in the process of establishing the network of state committees and staff envisaged in the electoral law. The AEC, in partnership with UNMIS and UNDP and with the generous backing of the government of Italy, will next month stage workshops for the NEC to enable newly appointed committee members and staff to learn from experts and counterparts from other African countries and elsewhere.

But these advances cannot disguise the fact that major steps have still to be taken in preparation for elections. The NEC, in announcing their timetable, linked it to the publication of the results of last year’s census and completion of border demarcation. The AEC has also consistently linked the holding of successful elections to completion of the draft legislation currently under discussion between the parties.

The results of the census should soon be with you. It was an important CPA milestone, and a significant technical achievement, and should be accepted as such. But the parties need to agree, and be clear, as to the political implications.

As to border demarcation the AEC met with the leadership of the ad hoc technical committee on 13 April. The discussion was helpful, but gave rise to considerable concern. The original timetable for the committee’s work may have been unrealistic but its report is now four years overdue. Nobody is I think interested in creating a border which is a new barrier between north and south. But clarity is needed, not just for the elections but also for issues as diverse as redeployment, wealth sharing and the referendum in the south.

The fact of the matter is that the ad hoc committee is stuck. Common sense would suggest that it should now delimit the border where it can on the map while waiting for presidency guidance on outstanding differences. That guidance in turn is needed quickly. I hope and believe that the parties realise that this vital work can no longer be allowed to stagnate.

On the legislation that needs to be passed in preparation for the elections there has been intensive contact between the parties, and lively public debate particularly in relation to the press and media law. I will not duplicate that here. But it does I think bear emphasising that there is a requirement also for early agreement on the law to put in place modalities for the 2011 referendum on self determination in the South. Progress on this is needed both between the parties and in the National Constitutional Review Commission. The referendum law was supposed to have been adopted in the third year of the interim period. The 8 months it took, after passage of the electoral law, for the National Electoral Commission to get up and running illustrates, if illustration was needed, just how important it is in practical terms for the referendum law – which among other things will establish the referendum commission - to be adopted in good time. Passage soon is essential if the referendum is to be properly prepared.

I would like to mention two other outstanding issues where work is needed urgently if the CPA is to stay on course. The first of these is Abyei. I visited the area in March. Important aspects of the Roadmap agreed last June have been implemented, including in respect of the withdrawal of forces. But lack of a budget for the administration and the absence of reconstruction, coupled with insecurity, have meant that the very few of the people displaced in last year’s fighting have been able to return home. These issues are overshadowed just at the moment by the deliberations of the arbitrators in The Hague. But the arbitration, by its nature, could go either way. It will be important, whatever happens in the arbitration, that the parties work together as partners rather than adversaries to ensure that conditions improve on the ground in line with the Roadmap and that – irrespective of the outcome of the arbitration - the rights of the Ngok Dinka and the Misseriya peoples are respected. Too often have I heard Abyei described as the Kashmir of Sudan, an issue which has divided the peoples concerned for 60 years. That cannot be allowed to happen in this case.

The last outstanding issue to which I would like to draw attention is that of the Joint Integrated Units, which bring together elements from the SAF and the SPLA and are intended to be a symbol of partnership and a basis for ongoing unity. In Abyei - and now also in parts of Southern Kordofan and in the Kurmuk area of Blue Nile - they have real security responsibilities because of the withdrawal of other forces. I have visited JIUs, either alone or with AEC partners, in, Abyei , Bor, Damazin, Juba, Kauda, Kurmuk, and Malakal and have been confronted with the same justified complaints from both SPLA and SAF components in all of these places. This is a 33,000 strong force without proper provisions, water, medical facilities, transport or training. Units are co-located but not integrated. Lack of attention has contributed to fighting within JIUs and heavy loss of life, the most serious breaches of the ceasefire since it came into force - twice in Malakal and once in Abyei. UNMIS has done and donors have given some assistance but it only scratches the surface. The Joint Defence Board needs urgently to address the problems and to promote integration.

All of these issues were identified as priorities in the AEC’s Mid Term Evaluation last year. All of them can and should be satisfactorily dealt with well before the end of the present year. All will require some give and take - but that is the nature of partnership. Their resolution would set the stage for the transformational events due to take place in 2010 and 2011 : the elections, popular consultation in Blue Nile and Southern Kordofan and the referenda in Abyei and the South.

Those events present a unique opportunity for Sudan. An opportunity to complete the process of change initiated in Naivasha and to settle once and for all competing aspirations which have given rise to conflict repeatedly over the past half century. The recommendations the AEC submitted last year in its Mid Term Evaluation reflected the concern to make unity attractive which lies at the heart of the CPA. The elections will be important with regard to that aspiration. Referenda are by their very nature uncertain and anybody familiar with public sentiment in the south will know that a vote for secession is a possibility. But it would be wrong to conclude that this in some way negated the need for partnership of which I have been speaking.

I spoke earlier of the importance of moving forward quickly on the draft referendum law. But equally it is important that the parties, in parallel to that and without delay, intensify discussion - as recommended in the Mid Term Evaluation - on arrangements in the political, economic and other fields which would hold whatever the result of the referendum. The interdependence of north and south in Sudan is self evident –in relation to resources and to residence and citizenship and the movement of people for example. And a strong and stable partnership will be needed to ensure that the benefits of peace the CPA has brought are extended beyond 2011.

The right of the people of the south to self determination as set out in the agreement is unconditional. Of course we should strive tirelessly to make unity attractive. But the choice is theirs. Many countries including my own have lived with similar situations. The United Kingdom today is not the United Kingdom of 1909, or even 1999. The British Isles now include two sovereign states and within the UK we have three devolved administrations. Let us work for unity but also be careful to ensure that partnership, interdependence and peace are sustained whatever happens.

A final word about the third partner, the international community…. The first international gathering I attended on the CPA was the Oslo donors’ consortium meeting in May last year at which 4.8 billion dollars was pledged for Sudan. One hears much criticism of the limited peace dividend on the ground, but donor assistance is going to be even more important in the coming period given the tight economic circumstances. UNMIS is a major and very visible manifestation of the international community’s commitment to the CPA on the ground.

Political engagement is also essential. I made clear earlier on my regret about the divisions and distractions of recent weeks. But I wanted you to know that in all the AEC discussions I have attended one message has come through loud and clear, and that is the wish and commitment of all of the governments and international organisations represented there to stay engaged with Sudan and with both parties as partners in support of CPA implementation.
Sir Derek Plumbly was appointed, in February 2008, as the second chairman of the AEC in succession to Ambassador Tom Vraalsen of Norway.

Excerpt from statement by Sir Derek Plumbly published at AEC's website:
The AEC was established under the terms of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement. The CPA is a unique instrument, and its signature was an immense achievement. It was negotiated over a long period between the two parties, and in particular between HE Ali Osman Taha, the Vice President of the Republic of Sudan, and the late Dr John Garang, Chairman of the Sudan People's Liberation Movement. It has brought peace to millions who suffered conflict for decades, and opened the door to a better life.

The AEC is charged with monitoring implementation of the CPA. Its membership reflects the strong international support, from Africa and beyond, which was given to the original negotiations. We are now at the mid point in the period set for CPA implementation. Full implementation promises enormous benefits for all in Sudan, in terms of justice, freedom and economic development.
For further reports, click on Abyei label here below.

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ICC Haskanita: Targeting of peacekeepers is a war crime under article 82C1 of the Rome Statute

According to the ICC prosecution, militant groups frequently make the calculation that an attack against peacekeepers will prompt their withdrawal from the country – enabling them to target the civilian population, no longer under the watchful eye of the international community.

“We really hope to show very clearly to the perpetrators, ‘well, that’s not a calculation you can have any longer’,” the advisor to the prosecution said.

“When you attack peacekeepers, you attack indirectly the whole population. Those AU peacekeepers were there to protect the 2.5 million displaced in Darfur. Attacking the AU peacekeepers put in danger all of the civilians that were under their care.”

Sudan: Prosecutors hit back at rebel case criticism
By Amy Stillman/IWPR, London, 27 April 2009 (via Human Rights Tribune):
As International Criminal Court, ICC, judges prepare to consider a case brought against Sudanese rebel leaders, the prosecution has rejected claims that the case was opened in order to seem impartial in its approach to the conflict

Special advisor to the ICC prosecution Béatrice Le Fraper du Hellen says the Office of the Prosecutor, OTP, would “strongly challenge” criticism that the case lacks the same level of gravity as others put before the court.

“As a judicial institution, we can only apply the criterion which is in the [ICC’s founding document, the Rome] Statute, and we can only follow the evidence,” Le Fraper du Hellen said. “For us [this case] ranks very high in the crimes committed since 2003 in Darfur.”

In November last year, ICC chief prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo requested that judges issue a summons for three Sudanese rebel commanders to appear before the court, accusing them of an attack against African Union, AU, peacekeepers in 2007.

Pre-Trial Chamber 1, which is handling the case, will decide on whether the accused rebel leaders should be issued with a summons or an arrest warrant, depending on their willingness to appear before the court.

A hearing on the case took place on April 21, and the prosecution expects ICC judges to make their decision in the coming weeks.

But Darfuris and Sudanese activists have questioned the motives of the prosecution in pursuing the case, which they say involves crimes less grave than the atrocities allegedly committed by Sudanese officials indicted by the ICC.

Many believe that the prosecution has targeted rebel leaders in order to appear impartial in the eyes of the international community and African governments.

“I think this is a tactical move by the prosecutor to show balance and put more pressure on the government and its backers [rather] than a serious case,” Ahmed Abuzaid, a journalist from the south Darfur regional capital of Nyala, said, expressing a widespread view.

At least twelve peacekeepers were killed, and eight others seriously wounded when up to 1,000 Sudanese rebels connected to the Justice and Equality Movement, JEM, allegedly attacked AU peacekeeping troops, known as AMIS, at the Haskanita military base in north Darfur.

The prosecution accuse the rebel commanders of war crimes, including violence to life, pillaging, and directing attacks against personnel, installations, material units or vehicles involved in a peacekeeping mission.

Hafiz Mohamed, head of the Sudan programme for Justice Africa, said, “There are many cases of this kind of attack, even more severe than the Haskanita one.

“I think he [the chief prosecutor] wants to show the world or public opinion, generally, especially inside Sudan, that he is also targeting government opponents, not only government officials.”

But the prosecution denies any political considerations in its decision-making.

“Equidistance between the parties is not a criterion under the [Rome] Statute,” Le Fraper du Hellen said. “That’s a political consideration, and the prosecutor of the ICC cannot follow this kind of consideration.

“Even if we did that, of course, the judges would never grant us an arrest warrant or summons to appear on this basis, so I don’t think people should be too worried about that.”

Mohamed told IWPR that while Justice Africa approved of the case, an indictment of Sudanese rebels “will not be welcomed” in Darfur. Many people will wonder why the ICC is “going after armed groups and not holding [Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir] responsible [for the crimes he is accused of by enforcing the court’s decision to arrest him]”.

The ICC issued an indictment against Bashir on March 4 for war crimes and crimes against humanity. Since the arrest warrant was issued, the president has defied the ruling and expelled at least 13 aid agencies from the country.

The ICC “has to do everything possible now to get him [Bashir] arrested without wasting time and efforts on other cases”, said Yasin Barra, a Darfuri refugee based in the Abunabak camp in eastern Chad.

Some NGOs have welcomed the prosecutor’s decision to bring a case against the rebel leaders, however, in the hope that it will prevent further attacks against peacekeepers.

“The scale and the magnitude of the atrocities don’t compare to those committed by government forces, but because these crimes could have serious effects on the ability of peacekeeping operations to carry out their work, they are serious crimes that should be prosecuted,” Sara Darehshori, senior counsel member of the Human Rights Watch International Justice Programme, said.

Mariana Pena, representative of the International Federation for Human Rights, FIDH, says that bringing the case against the rebels could be a significant deterrent against further attacks.

The case, she said, is also important for “showing the impartiality” of the ICC, as “from our point of view, it’s very good that he [the prosecutor] goes after all parties involved, because it’s not only about being impartial, but also about being perceived as impartial”.

The case was opened following mounting criticism against the ICC from African countries, which accused the court of failing to look at all sides of the conflict.

“A lot of African countries have said [the ICC] is just focused on the government side, but the rebels also committed crimes,” Ahmed Mohammedain, head of the Darfuri community organisation Darfur Call, said.

“The ICC is in a position that in order to divert the emphasis of criticism that is put on it, [it] is now trying to find some kind of balance.”

Lorraine Smith, from the International Bar Association based in The Hague, told IWPR that though the number of victims in the Haskanita attack was small, the case seemed to be designed “to send a much larger message” that the international community will not accept attacks against peacekeepers.

“But the timing and the fact that it is the first case of its kind before the ICC has raised questions in people’s minds,” she said.

While the intentional targeting of peacekeepers is considered a war crime under article 82C1 of the Rome Statute, to date, no similar cases have been brought before the court.

According to Smith, this is because so far the OTP appears to have used a “quantitative gravity assessment” when deciding whether to bring a case forward.

“In the past…they’ve taken [a] more quantitative assessment of gravity: the number of victims, scale of the violence, and that sort of thing,” she said.

In the case against the rebels, the OTP has focused on the impact of attacking a peacekeeping force rather than the scale of the atrocity.

“For us, gravity is not only the scale, the number of crimes, you have also to include what we would call ‘qualitative factors’, like the nature of the crime, the manner of commission, and the impact,” Le Fraper du Hellen said.

According to the ICC prosecution, militant groups frequently make the calculation that an attack against peacekeepers will prompt their withdrawal from the country – enabling them to target the civilian population, no longer under the watchful eye of the international community.

“We really hope to show very clearly to the perpetrators, ‘well, that’s not a calculation you can have any longer’,” the advisor to the prosecution said.

“When you attack peacekeepers, you attack indirectly the whole population. Those AU peacekeepers were there to protect the 2.5 million displaced in Darfur. Attacking the AU peacekeepers put in danger all of the civilians that were under their care.”

Some believe that deciding on the gravity issue has been stalling the judges’ decision. This comes after the prosecution’s request for the case to be expedited was refused on March 2 because, according to the public redacted statement released by the Pre-Chamber 1, “it raises a number of issues of particular complexity”.

"Gravity may well be one of the complex issues that the chamber is grappling with," Smith said, “but without public access to the confidential documents it is hard to say."

The OTP believes that the delay is related to resolving technical legal problems. IWPR understands that judges must be satisfied that peacekeepers involved are protected persons under the Rome Statute and that the AU base was not a legitimate military objective.

The prosecution has continually pushed for a speedy ruling on the case in order to take advantage of the accused rebel leaders’ apparent willingness to appear before the court.

Amy Stillman is an IWPR contributor in London. Tajeldin Abdhalla Adam, a regular IWPR contributor in Belgium, helped to compile this report.
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From Aegis Trust UK circulated on Google's newsreel Saturday, 18 April 2009:
Darfuri rebel commanders should give themselves up to ICC
20 Nov 08 - The Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court is today seeking arrest warrants for three Darfuri rebel commanders for an attack on African Union peacekeepers in September 2007 in which 12 AU soldiers were killed. The ICC has not given the names of the commanders, or named the rebel groups in which they are involved.

It has, however, invited the commanders to give themselves up as an alternative to arrest, giving ‘all concerned commanders of rebel forces in Darfur ... the opportunity to express their willingness to voluntarily appear before the Court’, and stating that summons to appear could be issued instead of arrest warrants if such willingness is expressed.

The rebel commanders wanted by the ICC are suspected of planning and directing the attack on 29 September 2007 against the African Union Military Group Site at Haskanita, North Darfur. Twelve peacekeepers were killed, eight were severely wounded, and AU communications installations, dormitories and vehicles were destroyed. According to the ICC case summary, following the attack the wanted commanders personally took part in pillaging the camp, removing ‘approximately seventeen vehicles, as well as refrigerators, computers, cellular phones, military boots and uniforms, fuel, ammunition and money.’

The war crimes with which the three rebel commanders are charged include murder, intentionally directing attacks against personnel and objects involved in a peacekeeping mission, and pillaging.

“The Aegis Trust welcomes the ICC’s move to charge rebel commanders suspected of responsibility for the raid on Haskanita. This is not about moral equivalence - the rebels are not accused of conducting a genocidal campaign akin to the Government orchestrated atrocities. But attacks on aid workers and murder of peacekeepers cannot be tolerated,” says Aegis Chief Executive Dr James Smith. “We hope that by contrast with the refusal of the Sudanese Government to cooperate with the ICC, rebel commanders will take note of the opportunity offered by the Court and volunteer to appear before it to be held accountable for their actions.”
Four Darfur rebel leaders

Photo: From left to right: Secretary of external affairs at the Darfur United Resistance Front (URF) Tag Al-Din Bashir; Leader of Sudan Liberation Movement (SLM) legacy faction Abdel-Wahid Al-Nur; Sudan Liberation Army (SLA) humanitarian coordinator Suleiman Jamous; Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) leader Khalil Ibrahim. Source: Sudan Watch March 04, 2009: Darfur rebels vow full ICC cooperation ahead of ruling on Bashir case
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From Sudan Tribune 11 March 2009:
ICC prosecutor press judges for ruling on rebel case by Wednesday
March 10, 2009 (WASHINGTON) — The prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) Luis Moreno-Ocampo submitted a new request to the judges of the Pre-Trial Chamber I last Friday asking them to decide on a case he submitted last November against three unidentified Darfur rebel figures.

The prosecutor’s application that was made public today came few days after the judges rejected his request to consider the evidence against the rebel commanders on an expedited basis.

At the time the Pre-Trial Chamber I said that they were preparing for their March 4th decision on the case against Sudanese president Omer Hassan Al-Bashir.

They also informed the prosecutor that “in light of the complexity of several aspects of the Prosecution Application” they will in the future refuse to take into account any request for expedited proceedings” or “decide in a manner detrimental to the fundamental rights of the persons for whom warrants of arrest or summonses to appear are requested”.

The ICC’s third case on Darfur, opened in late 2007, investigates a rebel attack on the Haskanita military base that left 10 African Union (AU) soldiers dead and one missing.

The counts against the rebel leaders in the case filed under seal included war crimes of violence to life, intentionally directing attacks against personnel, installations, material, units or vehicles involved in a peacekeeping mission and pillaging.

Ocampo appealed again for a quick ruling saying the composition of the Pre-Trial Chamber I may change after new judges are sworn in.

“The Prosecution notes that the decision on Omar Al Bashir was issued on 4 of March and that new Judges will be sworn in on 11 March 2009, and that this may have an impact on the current composition of the Pre-Trial Chambers of the Court including possibly PTC I” the filing read.

“The Prosecution is of the view that if PTC I were to be reconstituted before a decision on the Application is rendered, the new PTC will require substantial additional time to acquaint itself with the Situation”.

Furthermore the prosecutor said that “the complexity of some issues in the case, as already observed by PTC I…. a newly constituted PTC I may not be in a position to render a decision on the Prosecution’s Application within a short period of time”.

It is not clear why the prosecutor has been persistently pushing the judges for a verdict but it is likely related to chances of the suspects appearing voluntarily in court.

It is not uncommon for the prosecutor to ask judges for expedited consideration on his applications. Similar requests were made in other cases being handled by the court.

One example is the case against former vice president of Congo Jean Pierre Bemba where the prosecutor said that a quick decision was needed on his application as they have received intelligence that he plans to leave Belgium where he resided which posed risks that he could not be apprehended afterwards.

The judges granted the request enabling the ICC to nab Bemba in Belgium within two weeks of the prosecutor’s application.

Ocampo filed a request with the Chamber on 22nd and 24th December of last year asking for permission to notify the rebel commanders that they have been named as suspects in the application.

The prosecutor justified his request by saying that the notification will enable the rebel commanders to “appear before the Court at an appropriate time”. However the chamber denied the request.

On February 23rd Ocampo informed the judges that he has sent a mission to an undisclosed location “to conduct an interview under Article 55 of the Rome Statute”

Article 55 of the Rome Statute deals with the right of person during the investigation which could indicate that the individual interviewed is one of the suspects who informed the prosecutor of his willingness to turn himself in the event he is indicted.

Two days later the prosecutor filed his request for expedited consideration of the case and noted that it addressed the issue of visas for the suspects.

“In the course of its efforts to explore securing visas for [REDACTED,] it has become clear that a decision of the Court would facilitate the successful outcome of these visa procedures” the filing read.

“Taking into consideration the additional information provided and in the interest of judicial economy, the Prosecution respectfully requests the Chamber to render an expedited decision on the Prosecution’s Application before 11 March 2009”

At this stage the prosecutor appears to be leaning towards a summons rather than an arrest warrant for the rebel suspects.

The ICC prosecutor in his November 20th application left the door open for an issuing a summons to appear rather than an arrest warrant if the rebel commanders cooperate.

Ocampo told Agence France Presse (AFP) last year that “while the judges decide on the warrants, they [suspects] now have the chance to appear on their own accord. They know who they are”.

All major Darfur rebel movements have publicly announced that they will cooperate with the ICC even if asked to surrender themselves over in connection with the Haskanita attack.

Sudan refuses to recognize the jurisdiction of the ICC saying it has not ratified the treaty establishing the court. Currently there are three ICC arrest warrants pending for president Bashir, Ahmed Haroun, state minister for humanitarian affairs, and militia commander Ali Mohamed Ali Abdel-Rahman, also know as Ali Kushayb.

Khartoum has also said that they will not accept that any Sudanese citizens including rebels to be extradited to The Hague.
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From Sudan Tribune 03 March 2009:
ICC judges reject prosecutor’s request for expedited decision on Darfur rebel case
March 02, 2009 (WASHINGTON) — The judges of the Pre-Trial Chamber I at the International Criminal Court (ICC) issued a decision today rejecting the prosecutor’s request to consider on an expedited basis the case he submitted last November against the three unidentified rebel figures.

The ICC judges recalled a previously unannounced decision they made last December refusing to allow prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo to disclose names of the Darfur rebel commanders who have allegedly masterminded an attack on African Union (AU) peacekeepers in October 2007.

ICC prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo’s third case on Darfur, opened in late 2007, investigates a rebel attack on the Haskanita military base that left 10 African Union (AU) soldiers dead and one missing.

The counts against the rebel leaders in the case filed under seal included war crimes of violence to life, intentionally directing attacks against personnel, installations, material, units or vehicles involved in a peacekeeping mission and pillaging.

Attacking peacekeepers constitutes a war crime under the Rome Statute which forms the basis of the ICC.

Last December the Pre-Trial Chamber I judges asked the prosecutor for “additional information and supporting materials” on the rebels case by January 26. Ocampo submitted his responses to the judges on January 16th and the 26th.

The redacted version of the judges’ decision today show that Ocampo filed a request with the Chamber on 22nd and 24th December of last year asking for permission to notify the rebel commanders that they have been named as suspects in the application.

The prosecutor justified his request by saying that the notification will enable the rebel commanders to “appear before the Court at an appropriate time”. However the chamber denied the request.

The judges also mentioned that last week the prosecutor asked the judges to issue a quick ruling on the rebels’ case as well as three secret requests.

Today’s decision makes frequent references to a separate case being reviewed by the Chamber against Sudanese president Omer Hassan Al-Bashir. It also mentions the February 3rd closed meeting held between the judges, the registrar, prosecutor and the Victims and Witnesses Unit (VWU).

The meeting was held to discuss aspects in relation to Bashir’s case according to court documents. There was no word on the specific issues tackled but judges revealed that in the session, Ocampo informed the judges of unspecified new events “and undertook to keep the Chamber informed of any developments in this regard”.

Furthermore the judges said that in reaching a decision on Ocampo’s request have considered “all issues raised by the Prosecution’s application for a warrant of arrest for Omar Al Bashir” after which they announced March 4th as decision date on Sudanese president’s case.

It is not clear why Al-Bashir’s case is mentioned in today’s decision though the prosecutor’s request suggests that the prosecutor wanted to begin the process of bringing the rebel commanders at court before March 4th as he believes that it may be more difficult to secure their appearance after that date.

The inference can be made considering the judges’ assertion today that “until the Chamber issues a decision on the Prosecution Application, States have no obligation, pursuant to either the Statute or the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1593, to grant a visa to any such individual for the purpose of travelling to the Hague to appear before this Chamber”.

The ICC prosecutor in his November 20th application left the door open for an issuing a summons to appear rather than an arrest warrant if the rebel commanders cooperate.

“Subject to the Pre-Trial Chamber’s determination, the Prosecution submits that a summons to appear could be an alternative pursued by the Court if the Court receives information as to the possible voluntary appearance of the individuals” the application reads.

Ocampo also told Agence France Presse (AFP) that “while the judges decide on the warrants, they [suspects] now have the chance to appear on their own accord. They know who they are”.

The Pre-Trial chamber brushed aside any prospects of a quick decision on the rebels’ case saying that a “particularly detailed analysis of the materials provided in the Prosecution Application and in the Prosecution’s Provision of Further Information is required”.

They also informed the prosecutor that “in light of the complexity of several aspects of the Prosecution Application” they will in the future refuse to take into account any request for expedited proceedings” or “decide in a manner detrimental to the fundamental rights of the persons for whom warrants of arrest or summonses to appear are requested”.

It is not uncommon for the prosecutor to ask judges for expedited consideration on his applications. Similar requests were made in other cases being handled by the court.

One example is the case against former vice president of Congo Jean Pierre Bemba where the prosecutor said that a quick decision was needed on his application as they have received intelligence that he plans to leave Belgium where he resided which posed risks that he could not be apprehended afterwards.

The judges granted the request enabling the ICC to nab Bemba in Belgium within two weeks of the prosecutor’s application.

Ocampo has in the past expressed confidence that his case against the rebel suspects would gain quick approval from the judges describing it as “straightforward”.

All major Darfur rebel movements have publicly announced that they will cooperate with the ICC even if asked to surrender themselves over in connection with the Haskanita attack.

Sudan refused to recognize the jurisdiction of the ICC saying it has not ratified the treaty establishing the court. Currently there are two ICC arrest warrants pending for Ahmed Haroun, state minister for humanitarian affairs, and militia commander Ali Mohamed Ali Abdel-Rahman, also know as Ali Kushayb.

Khartoum has also said that they will not accept that any Sudanese citizens including rebels to be extradited to The Hague.
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From Sudan Watch 20 November 2008: ICC's evidence against rebel commanders - 1,000 rebels attacked AMIS' Haskanita camp in N. Darfur on 29 Sep '07 murdering 12 peacekeepers, injuring 8
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Associated Press report via africanpress 14 November 2008:
Darfur rebels targeted by ICC prosecutor - murdering for power in the African Continent
THE HAGUE, Netherlands - The prosecutor of the International Criminal Court said Friday he will seek arrest warrants next week related to a deadly attack on African Union peacekeepers in Sudan’s Darfur region.

The case is the first by the world’s first permanent war crimes tribunal to target Darfur rebels, who are fighting government troops and the allied janjaweed militia of Arab nomads in a five-year conflict that has left up to 300,000 dead.

Luis Moreno-Ocampo said his third Sudan investigation is focused on attacks in the northern Darfur town of Haskanita.

He gave no further details during a speech Friday, but earlier said he was investigating a rebel attack on the Haskanita military base on Sept. 29, 2007, that left 10 African Union soldiers dead and one missing.

Richard Dicker of Human Rights Watch welcomed the announcement.

“We have not seen his application, but the significance must be the seriousness of killing … those who are mandated to protect civilians at risk,” Dicker told The Associated Press. API/Source AP
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What happened at Haskanita? (Part 1)

Photo: SUDAN, Haskanita: A burnt out armoured personnel carrier smoulders at the African Union Mission in the Sudan (AMIS) military group site (MGS) 30 September [2007]. The MGS came under sustained and heavy attack on the night of 29 September [2007] by unidentified armed militia who eventually overran the site destroying equipment and AU property and looting vehicles. Ten protection Force Personnel were killed in the attack, while another 8 were seriously injured and evacuated to El Fasher, the administrative capital North Darfur and the Sudanese capital Khartoum. As of the evening of 1 October [2007], 22 AMIS personnel were still missing following the attack which was condemned in the strongest terms by the international community. AMIS PHOTO / STUART PRICE/Sudan Watch September 24, 2008: ICC prosecutor to investigate Sudan's Darfur rebels crimes - What happened at Haskanita? (Part 1)

Attack at Haskinata, N Darfur, W Sudan

Attack on AMIS' Haskanita base, N. Darfur, W. Sudan 29 Sept 07

Photo: SUDAN, Haskanita: African Union Mission in the Sudan (AMIS) personnel place the bodies of dead colleagues into body bags 30 September 2007 at Haskanita military group site (MGS). AMIS PHOTO/STUART PRICE/Sudan Watch archives.

Darfur peacekeepers funeral

Photo: An African Union Mission in the Sudan (AMIS) peacekeeper stands in front of the coffins of his killed colleagues during a funeral ceremony at the Mission's forward headquarters in El Fasher, North Darfur province October 4, 2007. Seven Nigerian peacekeepers and three military observers from Mali, Senegal and Botswana were killed during an attack by rebel militia on their base in Haskanita during the night of 29 September 2007. Reuters/Stuart Price/AMIS/Handout/Sudan Watch 14 November 2008 ICC Prosecutor Ocampo seeks arrest warrants next week for rebels' attack on AU peacekeepers in Haskanita, S. Darfur, Sudan 29 Sep 2007 (Part 2)

Darfur peacekeepers funeral

Photo: The coffins of 7 Nigerian soldiers killed while on peacekeeping duty in Darfur are given military honors in a burial ceremony at Nigeria's main military cemetery in the capital Abuja, Friday, Oct. 5, 2007. Nigeria, the biggest troop contributor to African peacekeeping missions, suffered the heaviest losses when Darfur rebels overran an African Union post in North Darfur last weekend. (AP Photo/Sunday Alamba)

Murdered peacekeepers

Darfur peacekeepers funeral

Photo: In this photo made available by African Mission in Sudan (AMIS), AMIS personnel pay their last respects over a coffin of a peacekeeper during a funeral ceremony at the Mission's Forward Headquarters in El Fasher, Darfur, Sudan, on Thursday, Oct. 4, 2007. Rebel forces stormed a small African Union base in northern Darfur last week, killing 10 peacekeepers from the African Union mission. (AP Photo/AMIS PHOTO by STUART PRICE/Sudan Watch archives)

Darfur peacekeepers funeral

Photo: Soldiers and civilians participate in a Muslim prayer next to the coffins of three Muslim soldiers, at a burial ceremony for seven peacekeepers killed while on duty in Darfur, Friday, Oct. 5, 2007. (AP Photo/Sunday Alamba/Sudan Watcharchives)

Sudan Watch October 20, 2008: ICC prosecutor to indict Darfur rebels within weeks

UNAMID funeral ceremony in El Fasher July 12, 2008

Photo: Officers from Gambia serving with the United Nations-African Union Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) lay the U.N. flag on a coffin before the funeral ceremony for seven slain peacekeepers in El Fasher July 12, 2008. The peacekeepers were killed in an ambush by Darfur militiamen while on a routine patrol in North Darfur on Tuesday, in the worst direct attack on UNAMID forces since they began work on December 31. REUTERS/Albany Associates/Stuart Price/Handout (SUDAN). FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS.

UNAMID funeral ceremony in El Fasher July 12, 2008

Photo: Soldiers from Gambia serving with the United Nations-African Union Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) stand near the coffins of seven slain peacekeepers before the funeral ceremony in El Fasher July 12, 2008. The peacekeepers were killed in an ambush by Darfur militiamen while on a routine patrol in North Darfur on Tuesday, in the worst direct attack on UNAMID forces since they began work on December 31. REUTERS/Albany Associates/Stuart Price/Handout (SUDAN). FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS/Sudan Watch archives)

UNAMID funeral ceremony in El Fasher July 12, 2008

Rwanda soldier coffin returns 16 July 2008

Photo: Bodies of Rwandan soldiers, who were serving with the joint United Nations-African Union peacekeeping force in Sudan's Darfur region, return home, 16 Jul 2008. (T. Rippe/VOA)
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From Making Sense of Darfur, 11 October 2007:
Accounting for Haskanita
By Julie Flint
Two questions about the original posting about the attack on the AMIS base in Haskanita:

1. The attackers have been “clearly identified” as rebels. Clearly identified by whom? And what makes the identification “clear” ? I very much doubt that AMIS personnel in Haskanita had much interaction with the mass of rebels in Haskanita, and the evidence I have seen suggests that no rebel leaders participated in the attack. As one investigator says, those who did were “some way down the food chain”.

The little I know, from afar, suggests that the identity of the individuals who attacked the base is still unclear, although the presumption that they were rebels is the most likely one. Khalil Ibrahim of JEM was, I think, the first to name names - to the BBC’s Arabic service - but Khalil has an axe to grind: SLA Unity had refused to work with him when the JEM leadership split, preferring cooperation with the rival faction led by Bahr Abu Garda and Abdalla Banda. To begin to understand what happened at Haskanita, and why, we need to know exactly who led/participated in this attack. The UN is investigating reports that government soldiers and Rizegiat militia were seen selling AMIS belongings in el Deain market over the weekend.
There is much about what happened at Haskanita, and why, that is unclear.

2. The attack was “clearly planned and premeditated” . I think evidence is needed to support this statement. I personally do not have it. One of those inside the base during the attack has said that the men who attacked the base were “very drunk” . They “ransacked and looted EVERYTHING”¦ They took all the food, fuel, vehicles, ransacked the clinic.” This does not suggest a “clearly planned” attack. It suggests a drunken rampage.

On the morning of the attack on the base, Suleiman Jamous, recently released from detention in Kadugli and still in Chad, was informed that there was a rising tide of anger among rebels in Haskanita - especially within the rank and file. They were incensed that AMIS had not spoken out publicly about the aerial bombardment of the area over the past several weeks. Furthermore, they believed the AMIS base in Haskanita was being used as a “ground station” for directing aerial bombardment.
 They had intercepted, on FM radio, conversations between Antonovs and a man on the ground speaking Sudanese Arabic. (Anyone who doubts this is possible should revisit the Philip Cox’s 2004 film on Darfur, which has a recording of just such a conversation.) The speaker on the ground allegedly gave details of rebel positions and asked for aerial bombardment of one of them. Since Haskanita was under rebel control, the rebels’ presumption, according to this account, was that the man on the ground was inside the AMIS base - presumably the government representative in the base. (Abdel Aziz, the rebel representative, was expelled last year when the AU ejected all non-signatories. He tried to claim allegiance to Minawi’s signatory faction in order to maintain a rebel presence in the base, but was rumbled.) This anger suggests a possible motive, depending on who carried out the attack almost 12 hours later, but not necessarily planning. I am not sure how much “planning” an attack like this would require. I doubt that whoever attacked the base expected resistance (if they were sober enough even to contemplate it). In the event, with one or two notable exceptions, the Nigerians in the base put up no fight.
It goes without saying that nothing justifies the attack. But its context is not irrelevant.

One thing I agree with: “The AU and its role need to be assessed objectively.” If they are not, where AMIS has gone, UNAMID is doomed to follow. I believe the demonization of the AU, about which I agree with Alex, may have instilled a belief, in all parties, that AMIS was fair game. But there is much about AMIS’s relationship with the Sudan government that requires “objective” assessment. Who is going to do it?

A final question. Alex says several people have challenged him. Why are they not challenging in this public forum? Alex has made in public the case for the prosecution. Are others not willing to make their own case equally publicly?

Responses to “Accounting for Haskanita”
Alex de Waal:
October 12, 2007
No-one has researched Darfur’s war with greater rigor, diligence and impartiality than Julie Flint. I have complete confidence that she is ahead of everyone else, including the UN and AU’s investigation teams, in getting to the bottom of what happened in Haskanita on that tragic night.

I wrote that the attack was mounted by the rebels because that is what the AU reported, based on what its soldiers witnessed. I wrote that it was planned because any offensive military action requires planning, even of a rudimentary and last-minute kind. (I make no claim that it was long-planned or strategically calculated.) Furthermore, the efforts of at least one SLA leader to prevent the attack shows that at least some of the rebels had shown their intent in advance. How events subsequently unfolded was controlled by no-one and the looting that followed the second attack was, by most accounts, a free-for-all.
I wrote the posting in anger, at the double standards of the international community, including the AU’s own fatalism. The level of outrage was—to put it diplomatically—modest. The main point emphasized by both African and UN diplomats in the following days was that the AU remained committed to sustaining its presence in Darfur and its role in the peace talks. That was a fair point, as far as it went. But it is hard not to detect an impatience to put the Haskanita incident in the past, as a mere inconvenience, and get on with whatever plans had already been laid. Even the proposal of suspending the participation in peace talks of whoever was found to be the culprit was only pushed in a half-hearted manner. It is a response that leaves AMIS as vulnerable as ever. Is this all the value attached to the lives of African peacekeepers? Imagine the reaction if ten NATO troops (or, for that matter, European and American aid workers) had been murdered.

I was angry too because it seems that "we" (the international community) have come to require lower moral standards of liberation fighters and rebels than we do of governments, especially governments with a sorry record of human rights abuses.
 There is a long history of activists and journalists making excuses for the violations committed by freedom fighters, both during the struggle and when they are in government. This applies not just to Sudan but to many other countries such as Ethiopia, Rwanda and South Africa. The leaders of resistance wars become our friends and we stand in solidarity with their political causes. When they go astray our first instinct is to seek mitigating circumstances and to give the benefit of the doubt. I have been as guilty of this as anyone. But surely we should hold the leaders of liberation movements to HIGHER moral standards than the oppressive governments against which they fight. Explaining away their faults is, surely, a damaging condescension. Darfur’s armed movements have been indulged in this way—and not to their advantage. We would not give an iota of such indulgence to the Sudanese army or Janjawiid.

The UN-AU Haskanita investigation is due to report before the scheduled opening of the peace talks in Libya in two weeks’ time. Let us hope it identifies the culprits. Based on what is emerging, some criminalized junior elements of SLA and/or JEM were probably responsible, and more senior commanders will not be directly implicated. But the leaders of a liberation struggle also bear an irreducible responsibility to ensure that the troops that fight under their banner operate under strict discipline and moral code. Haskanita was a crime committed by a few, but the way in which a struggle under the slogans of liberation and justice is descending into banditry, at a significant margin, is a moral comedown for the entire leadership.
Julie has made greater effort to document the abuses of rebels, and to examine the sufferings of Darfur’s Arabs, than any other English language journalist. Her analysis of the local context of the attack, and especially the way in which AMIS has lost the respect of many Darfurians, is apposite. But there is another context that should be kept in focus: the value we place on the lives of African peacekeepers and the moral standards to which we hold liberation fighters.

Julie Flint:
October 14, 2007

Alex says "the UN-AU Haskanita investigation is due to report before the scheduled opening of the peace talks in Libya in two weeks’ time. Let us hope it identifies the culprits." It can, and must, identify the culprits. But it must do more: it must investigate the alleged use and abuse of the AMIS base by the Sudan government. To investigate the rebels without investigating their allegations would, without a shadow of doubt, make things worse - not better.

Alex also says the rebels have been indulged. Yes, and no. Since the DPA was signed in May last year, there has been a growing (and very belated) chorus of criticism of the rebels. Trouble, is, the lion’s share of the abuses for which the "rebels" have been blamed have not been committed by rebels - they have been committed by the former rebels of Minni Minawi, who now sits in government in Khartoum. These abuses range from torture and murder to rape and theft. In much of North Darfur, by contrast, the behaviour of the non-signatory rebels has been vastly improved since the signing of the DPA. This has not been commented on - far less rewarded, or epxloited - by those who have chosen to add rebel abuses to their public discourse, and who have often come dangerously close to equating rebel abuses with the government’s. This is abhorrent, even after Haskanita. The life of a Darfurian is no less valuable than the life of a peacekeeper, African or non-African, and the regime has killed ten thousand times ten Darfurians, and then some. Can anyone remember an instance when ten dead Darfurians have been newsworthy? - excluding, of course, the bloody wickedness in Greida, which was carried out by Minnists and blamed, most frequently, on "rebels".

While the "rebels" have been blamed for ex-rebels’ abuses, Minawi and his men have continued to be the international community’s partner in peace. Minawi has met a stream of international dignitaries and worthies in his capacity as Senior Assistant to President Bashir, making pious pronouncements about the importance of implementing the DPA and punishing those responsible for Haskanita while his own men have been getting away with murder.

Not least among those who have indulged the rebels - past and present - is the African Union itself. Who killed the five Senegalese peacekeepers on April 1 this year? I understand that it was Minawi’s men under his longtime Chief of Staff, Juma Mohammed Hagar. Where is the investigation into this report? Who pulled the triggers? What was the degree of command and control? (More, I suspect, than in Haskanita.) How has the "faction" responsible been held to account? Or is there one standard for Minawi and another for non-signatories? The question is rhetorical. There is and this must end.

In August last year, two Rwandan peacekeepers were killed while escorting a fuel convoy. Who killed them? I have asked the African Union and others, repeatedly, and have not had a response. The Meidop commander Suleiman Marajan was initially blamed, at least in private communications. If it was not him, and I do not believe that it was, who was it? If it was him, why was he invited to Arusha recently? The AU said at the time that the leaders of the groups responsible for the "despicable" attack would be held personally accountable. If they have been, I have missed it. If they have not been, the AU itself has encouraged impunity. Which is it?

There was a crime. There are criminals. Identify them, because they can be identified. Hold them to account, publicly. Or expect more of the same.

Alex says we develop a cozy relationship with our "friends" in resistance wars. We do. I have a "friend" who is said to have been involved in the attack on Haskanita. I find it hard to believe he was, and I do not want to believe he was. He does not drink and in recent months has spent much of his time quietly putting our small fires that can easily develop into infernos - a stolen car here, a poke at a rival "faction" there. I doubt the international community knew his name until it cropped up in the context of Haskanita. If he is guilty of involvement in any way, by commission or omission, he must take what is coming to him. But so must those who killed the Senegalese and Rwandans.

The AU stepped up to the plate in Darfur when no-one else did. Its performance has been patchy and very often very imperfect. But the eagerness, almost the glee, with which it has been condemned - especially by those who would probably have difficulty finding Darfur on a map - has been disgraceful (to borrow an adjective often thrown at the AU itself). I very much fear that UNAMID will make things worse. The AU peacekeepers who have died in Darfur demand justice. So can the AU please tell me who murdered its Senegalese peacekeepers? And its Rwandans? What has become of the killers and, more importantly, their masters? Am I wrong in thinking that one has an office in the presidential palace in Khartoum and another will be invited to the Libyan talks? I think not.

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