Tuesday, August 31, 2004

The UN's quiet diplomacy not working on Sudan - Not one Janjaweed camp has been closed

In her latest report entitled "The UN's quiet diplomacy not working on Sudan", Julie Flint raises the point that the most notorious Arab tribal leader was permitted to hold court in a five-star hotel in Khartoum.

Don't you think it's curious how the media made nothing of a so-called Janjaweed leader lording it in the lobby of a five-star hotel, while being interviewed by the press for all to see, in the knowledge that Pronk's offices were situated upstairs? Why was he was not arrested and put on trial for murder?

Julie Flint, is a journalist and author of the Human Rights Watch report Darfur Destroyed. Here is a copy of her latest report, in full:

"Even in a best-case scenario, the World Health Organisation says, 110 000 people will die in Darfur by year end. Others believe it could be as many as 350 000. Slowly evolving, deniable death by hunger and disease is one of the favourite weapons of the Arab generals who seized power 15 years ago. They used it in the Nuba mountains and oilfields of southern Sudan - now they're using it in Darfur.

When the international community first reacted to the slaughter in Darfur, a predominantly African but wholly Muslim region, Khartoum blocked efforts to save lives with an array of stratagems. It denied access, demanded that UN drugs be tested in Sudanese labs, insisted that storage fees be paid on items the state itself was holding up.

In the last month, despite guaranteeing unimpeded access, it has opened some doors but closed others. The UN Security Council today begins debating whether Khartoum has done what Resolution 1556 of July 30 demanded that it do: immediately impose "a moratorium on all restrictions that might hinder the provision of humanitarian assistance" and, most critically, "disarm the Janjaweed militias and apprehend... Janjaweed leaders and their associates".

But not one Janjaweed camp has been closed

But not one Janjaweed camp has been closed. A handful have even been opened. Not a single Janjaweed leader has been apprehended. Common criminals have been paraded as Janjaweed detainees. The most notorious Janjaweed leader, who wears the uniform of an army colonel, has been permitted to hold court in a five-star hotel in Khartoum.

It is a foregone conclusion that the Security Council, driven by self-interest, will this week give Khartoum more time in which to let the Janjaweed destroy more lives.

Quiet diplomacy does not work. The Security Council must conclude that the government has not fulfiled its obligations under Resolution 1 556 and name and shame the officials responsible. International travel by them and their families should be barred, their assets frozen and an international commission of inquiry established to investigate war crimes. Sanctions should be introduced and the arms embargo that was ordered against the Janjaweed in July redirected to the government, which supplies the Janjaweed.

The Security Council must demand that Khartoum accept an African Union mission robust enough to protect civilians."

Irish Prime Minister urged to press for UN intervention in Sudan - Khartoum had done "absolutely nothing" to meet UN demands

Irish aid agency GOAL has called on the Prime Minister of Ireland, Bertie Ahern, to use his influence to press for UN Security Council intervention in Sudan.

GOAL chief executive John O’Shea said today the Sudanese Government had done "absolutely nothing" to meet the UN demands.
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Note: GOAL knows Khartoum from past experience. What difference will another 30 days make? And, in the following years, what will happen when the West's back is turned and Sudan finds it needs areas of land cleared, to make way for new oilpipes and infrastructure?
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CONDITIONS WORSEN in Darfur, UN agencies say

Conditions for 1.2 million Sudanese displaced in Darfur continue to worsen amid violent attacks, spreading disease, and heavy rains which wreak havoc with aid convoys, United Nations agencies said on Tuesday.
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Sudan says it is hoping for a "reasonable" security council decision on sanctions, its foreign minister said yesterday as the deadline for compliance with UN demands expired.

The security council had given Sudan 30 days to show it was serious about disarming Arab militias. "We wish ... the relationship with the security council will not be the way of confrontation," the foreign minister, Mustafa Ismail, said in a television interview.

Hilary Benn, Britain's international development secretary, told Radio 4's Today programme: "The situation has changed substantially, and that is a result of huge international pressure."

Continued pressure was vital, he added.

Sunday, August 29, 2004

UK political blog: The Tangled Web disses UK effort and Straw's visit to Khartoum

This morning I came across a good blog out of the UK:

"A Tangled Web - A dissenting review of contemporary politics".

It made an interesting read and so I scrolled - and did a search - for any posts on the Sudan.

Found one post dated Monday, August 23, 2004, entitled "Straw in the Sudan". Below here is a copy - along with my response that I left in the comments, hoping that DV would write a good post to raise awareness of what is really happening in Sudan - and participate in the "virtual" International Sudanese Peace MeetUp Day on Sep 6 (see previous post below).

Here is DV's post:

I'm sorry but this "story" run by the BBC about Jack Straw visiting Sudan a la Princess Diana to fell their pain and worry about" humanitarian issues" is just tosh. Straw and the rest of the one-worlders in the UN are proving, once more, how utterly impotent they are in dealing with genocide. The people are being massacred by the Arab militias and the best the UK can do is send in the half-wit Straw-man - pathetic.

# posted by DV @ 8:15:47 AM

And, here is my response, bashed out in a hurry -- wish I could have had more time to provide a stronger argument -- but I was in a hurry and had to write it off the top of my head - live - in a titchy little comment box that was difficult to edit:

Hello DV, good to see you writing about the Sudan crisis. In defence of the UK, I have to say that the British government has done more than most countries in the world. It has been the largest cash donor of aid - and is the second largest contributor -for Darfur. The British public raised many of millions of pounds for aid to Darfur via DEC (representing 11 major UK charities). UK Oxfam has sent several plane loads of aid to Darfur and is doing a huge amount of work there.

The British government has rightly supported the African Union and provided a great deal of support. Recently it provided logistical support and funded the airlifting of 150 AU led Nigerian troops into Darfur and is financing all of their rations. It is working in close liaison with the UN and Kofi Annan and providing further support and logistics to the AU. Before leaving for Sudan, Jack Straw pledged to help finance 1500 - 3000 AU led peacekeepers in Darfur.

The situation is highly complex in Sudan -- many countries are helping -- but many are not. We ought to be proud of what the UK has been doing and continues to do to help. Jack Straw's visit was part of a process to pile pressure on Khartoum. His visit was announced in July. He won a pledge from Khartoum to allow British offices of human rights organisations into Darfur - and a commitment from Khartoum to use the Navaisha peace accords as a template for the peace talks on Darfur. He met with GoS President and FM and UNs Jan Pronk and spent time with Khartoum to help focus on the Action Plan for Darfur. He gave a strong message to the government of Sudan: sort it out, or face the music.

There is a huge amount happening behind the scenes that is not widely reported. The Guardian, Telegraph and Scotsman have been doing good jobs on almost daily reporting of Darfur. Seems that troops from all over the world are being garnered over the past two months and put on standby. At one point we had British troops on standby. A few weeks ago a 30-man military team returned from a 10-day recce. British military planners are working on logistics and looking at plans involving hundreds or thousands of peacekeepers in Darfur.

Khartoum has consistently refused any peacekeepers on its land. If they are forced onto Sudan, Khartoum could dismiss all the aid workers and then aid will never reach those who are most in need. Sanctions could stop the railways from being built to get aid flowing.

The present AU led troops are there to protect the 80-120 observers on the ground monitoring the April ceasefire agreement of north-south Sudan. I have blogged about the crisis almost daily since April 24. For more information please read http://passionofthepresent.org blog out of Harvard. I would appreciate an updated post in your great blog on what is really going on in the Sudan. Thank you.

AU's logistics nightmare in Darfur

The below copied report by Simon Apiku explains the AU's logistics nightmare in Darfur.

Note, in the middle of the report, quote: "Many institutions, including the European Commission, have pledged funds to support the operations of the mission but only a fraction of that help has actually arrived. "The timelines are not being met," Amadoh complains."

Can we bloggers not help to put pressure on countries to cough up the monies they have pledged to help Darfur? Why does the UN not name and shame them? How can we find out who they are, and each of us - in the countries who are dragging their feet on not paying aid contributions pledged - press our political reps for action?

Why isn't China and Russia that sits on the UN Security Council made to help more? Can't see any reports of what Russia is doing to help. Why has there not been an arms embargo? If Sudan does have 30 billion to spend on purchasing military hardware from Russia - how come Sudan with its billions in oil revenues can't be made to repay the aid that the West has contributed, so the money could be put back into EU and US pots to help other countries in need like the Congo and Uganda. Here is the report:

El Fasher, Sudan - Monitoring military activity in a vast desert region the size of France would pose enormous problems for the best equipped team. But for the African Union ceasefire commission in Darfur, it is a logistics nightmare.

The commission's chief military observer, Colonel Anthony Amadoh, says he has grown used to the region's blazing heat, but he has to patrol the arid wastes of western Sudan with just three helicopters, 35 vehicles and 133 military observers in the full glare of the international spotlight.

On top of that, the region has next to no metalled roads, few landlines and no mobile telephones at all outside the three main towns.

The logistics are "very poor," says Amadoh, stealing a glance at the handful of vehicles parked outside his office tucked away on the western outskirts of the North Darfur state capital of El Fasher.

"We conduct our patrols by land or air," he explains. "We do not have enough vehicles and we used to have only two choppers."

The commission has divided its area of operation into six sectors covering the three states of Darfur and the Abeche region of neighbouring Chad, where 200 000 of the more than 1,2 million people displaced by the conflict have taken refuge.

Each sector has two teams of between seven and 10 members, and they must all share the 35 vehicles and three helicopters.

Many institutions, including the European Commission, have pledged funds to support the operations of the mission but only a fraction of that help has actually arrived.

"The timelines are not being met," Amadoh complains.

Good roads are almost non-existent, increasing the chances of vehicle breakdown, which in turns puts additional pressure on the remaining fleet.

The observers must also bring in fuel from El Obeid in North Kordofan state far to the east. The supplies often "take up to four days to arrive" in special military escorted convoys, says Amadoh.

Communications too continue to be a major problem. There are only a handful of land lines in the main towns and the mobile phone services that exist in the big towns of El Fasher, Nyala and Gineina are irregular at best.

Amadoh consults a dossier on the table next to him and pulls out a manuscript document.

"We used to get all our reports in this form," he says, pointing to the barely decipherable handwriting. "Now we have been able to buy some laptops."

But that does not eliminate all the problems in the absence of any Internet services.

The confidential nature of the reports means it may not be entirely safe to ship them to headquarters by land so air transport is often a necessity.

"They have to wait until a chopper goes there," says Amadoh. And there are only three helicopters to ferry the observers on missions at short notice as well as doubling up as couriers.

Amadoh also has difficulties deploying the more than 150 Rwandan troops dispatched to the region to provide protection for the observer teams, as there are simply not enough vehicles to go around.

With such constraints, it is all too easy for the observers to miss alleged attacks like that on the village of Yassin which prompted the walkout of the Darfur rebels from peace talks with the government in the Nigerian capital on Saturday.

The village, where the rebels say 64 civilians were killed by government forces on Wednesday, is close to the South Darfur state capital of Nyala, but even there it is difficult for the observer mission to be constantly on the ground.

All it can do is follow up the allegations afterwards to test Khartoum's denials.

EAC to send peacekeeping troops to Darfur

Copy of report from Sudan Tribune - NAIROBI, Kenya, Aug 28, 2004 (PANA):

The East African Community (EAC) Heads of States Summit resolved here Saturday to deploy troops to the troubled western Sudan region of Darfur to monitor a peace agreement between the government and rebel forces and not for interventionist purposes.

Tanzanian President Benjamin Mkapa said the three countries were awaiting the outcome of the Africa Union-led Darfur peace talks in Abuja, Nigeria under the chairmanship of the Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo to proceed with their plan.

"If there is any peace to be monitored, we shall be ready. There must be a process whose implementation we will follow. We are waiting for the outcome of the Abuja peace talks," Mkapa told journalists here Saturday.

The EAC, grouping Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania, is holding a three- day Heads of States Summit here to speed up the implementation of the EAC Common External Tariffs (CET).

Member states signed the protocol but hitches have delayed ratification by member states before it becomes operational.

President Mkapa, who was answering questions from journalists on whether his country was ready to send troops to the troubled Darfur region, where some 30,000 people have died and 1.2 million internally displaced after nearly 19 months of fighting, also stressed that the Sudanese government must accept to welcome the foreign troops.

The AU is poised to deployed 300 troops to Darfur drawn from Nigeria and Rwanda to protect some 80 Observers whose assignment is to oversee the non-violation of a peace deal reached in Chad.

Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki and his Ugandan compatriot Yoweri Museveni also endorsed Mkapa's sentiments, saying they will only play by the rules.

Museveni, who has been facing 18 years of rebel insurgency in the north of Uganda, publicly admitted supporting the rebel Sudanese Peoples' Liberation Army (SPLA).

"As much as we sympathise with the black people in southern Sudan, we know that the Khartoum government made a mistake by supporting the (Ugandan rebel) Lord's Resistance Army (LRA)," Museveni said, adding, "It was a regrettable mistake they made."


U.N. Sudan mission under preparation in Vienna

Copy in full of report from Sudan Tribune:

VIENNA, Aug 26, 2004 (dpa) -- A sensitive U.N. mission to Sudan is presently being prepared by Austria and 13 other countries, the newspaper Die Presse said on Thursday.

The mission would be of the "Multinational Standby High Readiness Brigade for United Nations Operations" (Shirbrig), set up in 1996 to provide the U.N. with a rapid intervention force for peacekeeping missions.

Under Austria's 2004 presidency of the brigade, preparations were already far advanced, said the report. Chief of operations, Austrian Army Colonel Ewald Hausdorf, said that building could begin any time of a headquarters for a U.N. mission in Sudan.

However, the report pointed out that a U.N. mandate was still lacking for operations in Sudan. It was not yet clear whether the planned "Unmisud" (United Nations Mission Sudan) would only monitor the ceasefire between the Khartoum government and Christian rebels, or also the conflict in Darfur in West Sudan.

The U.N. wanted to monitor both, but the Sudanese government was against this.

Shirbrig was founded eight years ago by Austria, Canada, Denmark, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland and Sweden. Since then, Finland, Italy, Ireland, Lithuania, Romania, Slovenia and Spain have also become full members.

Under coordination by the presidency, each country takes on set duties. For instance in Sudan, Austria would be responsible for setting up the headquarters in Khartoum. Austrian soldiers would have transport, guard and security duties.

Saturday, August 28, 2004

International Sudanese Peace MeetUp Day: September 6 - Sudan's FM to visit Japan Sep 5-9 for talks on Darfur crisis

Over the past few days I have set up two more blogs: Congo Watch and Uganda Watch -- and copied over several of my posts from the Passion into Sudan Watch blog. They are my new electronic filing cabinets so this main blog does not get swamped with posts about Africa. Also, my blog A Breath of Hope, I am keeping for my posts on M.E. I've installed sitemeters but not inserted any links in the sidebars. In time to come, I hope to have all of the blogs in the same style as this one -- after it has had a few new tweaks. I'd like the font slightly larger, the text column slightly broader and the whole page wider and more in the centre of the screen - and the blue highlights to links toned down. On my screen, this blog sits to the far left of the page - the other half of my screen is blank. Other blogs fill the whole screen.

Setting up these blogs has taken time. And been a little hard going, because a friend -- who thinks what I am doing re Sudan is a complete waste of time -- told me again yesterday to forget about the Sudan and concentrate on something that is achievable. I don't have proof -- but believe what we are doing has had an effect. Exactly what, is too long to go into here right now. Have to leave it for another day. Note this article that wonders how Darfur and not Congo got all the attention - it is entitled "Scramble for Resources in DRC Leads to Massive Deaths, But Scant Attention".

Well here's some proof that blogging about the Sudan is not a complete waste of time: a few days ago I received an email from a chap in America who teaches world history -- asking for permission to use some of the Sudan material in my main blog. He wanted to use it for teaching his students. I wrote back encouraging him and his students to start a blog where they could post their project material -- it would be a fun way for them to learn and hone computing skills. He replied saying he would look into starting a blog.
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Warm thanks to Nick for leaving a comment at my main blog 'me and ophelia' advising that September 6 is International Sudanese Peace MeetUp day. Nick's written a neat post on Google talking. I played around with Google talk: keyed in 'Passion of the Present' which came up with: sudan The song Sudan; my name brought up Political Science; Nick's name produced Student's Guide. Heh. Ophelia got "New York County, Government agencies and other Voices".

Here below is a copy of a comment I left at Finalvent - together with news that Sudan's FM Ismail is to visit Japan Sept 5-9 for talks on the Darfur crisis (which means he'll be in Japan on the International Sudanese Peace day: September 6) - and Finalvent's response.
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Hello finalvent, I found your blog in the sidebar at Passion of the Present. Thought you might like to see a copy, here below, of a report in the Sudan Tribune today. Also, someone just emailed me to say Meetup.com is reporting September 6 is International Sudanese Peace Meetup day... I don't know if it's coordinated by another group or this is just a monthly, smaller event. I'll treat Sept 6 as a global "virtual" meetup day and aim to do a post that links to you in Japan from England and to Passion of the Present in the USA and other blogs I know of in Canada, Australia, Malaysia. What about China and Russia -- do you know of any bloggers writing about the Sudan there? If I link to you, will you know via Technorati? Seems the bloggers in Malaysia don't get the pings when I link to them. Best wishes from England, UK.
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Hello, Ingrid-san. Thank you for your comment. I think that your suggestion is worth to be read by many Japanese people. I translated it roughly on the new entry.

As you know Japan now seems to hold more than three millions of bloggers (incredible!). Blog communication infrastructure in Japan is ready to easily catch RSS/ATOM, though some ping servers would not work well.

I referred your blog RSS/ATOM:

Since May or June, Japanese journalism began informing Darfur genocide. But Japanese political situation inside is complicated. Human right aware people in Japan seem to be divided into several groups: the major poles are U.S. accepting group and China supporting group. The china group is, I guess, an obstacle for Japanese contribution for Darfur people. They pay too much attention in favor of china national interests. China is suspected to support the Sudan government, hoping to make strong tie to be suppleid with PETROLUEM bypassed from the world oil market.

投稿者: finalvent (8月 28, 2004 10:13 午前)
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Sept 5-9 for talks on Darfur crisis

TOKYO, Aug 27, 2004 (Kyodo) -- Sudanese Foreign Minister Mustafa Osman Ismail will visit Japan Sept 5-9 for talks on the conflict in the African nation's Darfur region, ministry sources said Friday.

Ismail is expected to meet with Japanese Foreign Minister Yoriko Kawaguchi on what the United Nations says is the world's worst humanitarian crisis.

The Japanese government has suspended economic assistance to Sudan since 1992 on the grounds of human rights violations by the military junta and still does not believe that circumstances warrant a resumption of such assistance, the sources said.

But Japanese officials are willing to consider emergency or other humanitarian assistance if the Sudanese government makes some progress in resolving the conflict such as disarming militias, the sources said.

There has long been tension in Darfur between Arabs and black Africans.

Tens of thousands of people have been killed and more than 1 million have been displaced since February 2003, when African rebels rose against the government, which they say is persecuting them. Arab militias also started assaulting Africans indiscriminately. [end]
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Hijackers force plane to land in Sudan

Here's an odd piece of news today: Hijackers forced a plane carrying about 70 Eritreans from Libya to land in the Sudanese capital on Friday before surrendering to security forces, according to a U.N. refugee agency official.

The plane left southern Libya bound for Eritrea when unidentified hijackers forced the passenger plane to land in Sudan, said Michael Lindenbauer, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees deputy representative in Khartoum.

Note: Like Patrick over at the The Horn of Africa says, things must be pretty bad in Eritrean for its people to want to become refugees in the Sudan.

Omar al-Bashir: The ruthless survivor

Sudan Tribune - copy in full of an August 28th, 2004 report by Andrew England, Financial Times:

As the United Nations considers whether the Sudanese government has fulfilled its pledge to curb the Arab militia terrorising civilians in Darfur, Omar Hassan al-Bashir, Sudan's president, may be inclined to cast his mind back six months.

On February 9, a year after a violent rebellion in the west of Africa's largest country, he sought to reassure his people: "The major military operations are now over and your armed forces are in full control," he said in a televised statement. Delivering that message had special meaning for the president, after the humiliation of his cherished army at the hands of the insurgents. But it turned out to be little more than rhetoric from a dictator who has ruled ruthlessly for 15 years since he came to power in a coup and who only this month took the top rank of field marshal. The rebels continued to launch raids and, just as importantly, pro-government Arab militias, known as the Janjaweed, continued their horrendous attacks on civilians. The Darfur crisis has since claimed international attention amid allegations of genocide and ethnic cleansing. The Janjaweed were accused of committing the worst atrocities and the government was alleged to have armed and supported them. Amid international concern, the Security Council passed a resolution on July 30 that gave the Islamic regime 30 days to prove its commitment to disarming the militia and protecting civilians or face economic and diplomatic action. Under intense pressure, the government grudgingly accepted the UN's demands. The deadline is Monday and the Security Council will decide next week if the al-Bashir regime has fulfilled its pledges.

The government has insisted it is complying, but as always with Field Marshal al-Bashir's style, many will question whether he is simply taking the world for a ride. The 60-year-old president is certainly no stranger to western, or even Arab, hostility. His government hosted Osama bin Laden in the 1990s and is on a US list of state sponsors of terrorism. The US imposed sanctions since he seized power and added a trade embargo in 1997. A year later, Sudan got another taste of US hostility when cruise missiles destroyed a pharmaceutical factory in Khartoum. Washington's claims that the factory produced precursors for chemical weapons remain unproven. There have been other sanctions and suspensions of western aid. Yet Field Marshal al-Bashir, often against the odds, has survived.

"Bashir is meticulous, calculating and decisive when his power is threatened," said Ted Dagne of the US Congressional Research Service. "He is also one of the luckiest politicians in Africa - not only has he survived his enemies from within, he managed to survive three American administrations, years of international isolation and sanctions."

Now, his challenge is to survive the Darfur crisis at a time when his government appears most vulnerable. Few observers see the son of a farm labourer as the true power, but more as a figurehead for an elitist, Islamist ruling clique. The coup that propelled Field Marshal al-Bashir into the presidency was instigated by Hassan al-Turabi, an Islamist ideologue and leader of the National Islamic Front which had been covertly recruiting army members since the 1970s. The coup highlighted army dissatisfaction with the civilian government, particularly over the conduct of the war in the south, and Mr al-Turabi knew a military man was needed to advance his quest for power. Field Marshal al-Bashir, then a relatively unknown paratroop brigadier and Islamist, was an obvious choice, viewed as jovial, popular in military circles and a man who would follow orders. For the next decade, Mr al-Turabi and his coterie ran the politics; the president, described by former colleagues as non-combative and hands-off, seemed content ensuring the army's loyalty. He still lives in his residence at army headquarters and often dons his military uniform. He even took a second wife, marrying the widow of an officer killed in the south, as a sign of solidarity to the forces. His relationship with Mr al-Turabi, however, was destined for a messy break-up. In 1999, a power struggle erupted between the military man and the ideologue. To widespread surprise, it was Field Marshal al-Bashir who survived.

Backed by many of Mr al-Turabi's former protegées, who felt alienated by their mentor, Field Marshal al-Bashir sacked Mr al-Turabi as parliamentary speaker, disbanded the National Assembly and declared a state of emergency. Yet even with Mr al-Turabi in the opposition and later, in prison, few believed the president had become the chief policy maker. Instead, they saw Vice-President Ali Osman Mohammed Taha, a former lawyer and an al-Turabi supporter, as the new power behind the throne.

Critics deride the president as a simple man who allowed himself to be manipulated by the Islamists. One described him as a "pleasant man to meet in the street or at social function" - he is a regular fixture at weddings and funerals - but an "ugly man" in office. "He's a man of the system, of the party and you cannot see him as separate. He is a tool of the machine, he is not his own man," said a Sudanese academic.

Some people who know him say this is an oversimplification, arguing that while he may have been open to manipulation, he is intelligent and self-aware. Another well-connected Sudanese said the president himself called the shots in Darfur, driven by a desire to avenge humiliating attacks on the army: "He was extreme, very unlike himself. He made it a personal vendetta", he said. The Darfur crisis has caused thousands of deaths and forced 1.4m people from their homes. But the president may yet prove strong enough to weather it.

Thursday, August 26, 2004

Sudan closes its embassy in Washington because no bank will accept its accounts

Khartoum sure are quick learners about things they want to understand. Note how quickly their language has transformed in reports. Four months ago they were pretty difficult to understand. Sounded like they were talking in riddles. Now they talk UN speak. Here is a good example: see the last sentence here below from the report on Sudan's closing of its embassy in Washington.

Maybe Khartoum have western PR agencies on consultancy to write press releases. Lately, when mainstream news reports quote officials like Ismail with off the cuff remarks, it makes you realise that Khartoum are very PR cunning and crafty. They probably study reports closely, highlight certain sentences, write the sentences on their hands in readiness for meetings and press conferences when the issues of sanctions and offers of help to disarm the Janjaweed are raised :)

Here's the story. "Sudan closed its embassy in Washington after being unable to find a bank that would handle its financial matters. The Sudanese Foreign Ministry said the bank that had handled their embassy's transfers from Khartoum for more than 30 years had closed Sudan's account, along with other embassy accounts, in July "because of difficulties it encountered."

The ministry statement did not name the bank. The embassy has been the scene of daily demonstrations for several weeks in protest of Sudan's treatment of people in the western Darfur region.

The ministry said it asked the U.S. State Department for assistance but "it failed to convince that bank or find another bank." A senior State Department official said on condition of anonymity that efforts were being made to find another bank.

The ministry ordered the embassy to close this week because it cannot pay its employees or its utility or other bills.

The statement blamed the United States, saying it was the responsibility of the host country to facilitate the mission of embassies. It said if the situation was not resolved after an unspecified period of time, Sudan would "be obliged to take specific measures as necessary."

British Government's policy on Sudan is to work with GoS and AU to resolve this crisis

The British Government's policy is to work with the Government of Sudan and the African Union to resolve this crisis. It says there has to be a political solution to the crisis and the Government of Sudan has to be part of that.

On Monday, British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw visited Khartoum and indicated that Britain was ready to help finance a greatly enlarged African Union force of as many as 1,000 observers and 3,000 troops to monitor the humanitarian crisis.

"The government of Sudan may need more assistance from the AU, and it’s our job to facilitate it," said Mr Straw. He said he had spoken to the Rwandan president, Paul Kagame, and the Nigerian president, Olusegun Obasanjo, over the weekend and told them "we were ready to provide further military facilitation and anything else they wanted".

But Sudan rejected an offer of African troops to disarm rebels in Darfur as peace talks began in Nigeria, insisting it was capable of neutralising both pro-government and rebel militias. Rebels, in turn, said they would not accept disarmament by Sudanese forces to end the 18-month-old conflict.

The Nigerian president had made the proposal ahead of the talks in Abuja, arguing that Sudanese forces were incapable of disarming the rebels. He said on AU troops were needed because Sudan's forces were incapable of disarming the rebels without further bloodshed. AU troops could do this, he said, while Khartoum disarmed the Janjaweed militia.

'I don't think there is a need for this,' Mazjoub al-Khalifa, Sudan's agriculture minister and top negotiator, said before peace talks began on Monday with two Darfur rebel groups. 'Simultaneously we will disarm the rebel movements, the Janjaweed and other militia.'

That plan was swiftly dismissed by a top rebel official. 'There is no way we can let our enemies disarm us. They are still killing us and bombing us,' said Abubakar Hamid Nour, coordinator of the rebel Justice and Equality Movement (JEM)."

During a joint news conference on Monday with Sudan's foreign minister, Mustafa Osman Ismail, following extended discussions between the two men, Mr Straw stressed "We have absolutely no plans to put in contingents of British troops." "What we have done is to provide military expertise to the African Union," he added.

The UK has provided £2m to support a limited African Union peace mission to Darfur and has pledged a further £750,000 for commercial charter planes to transport Nigerian troops to Darfur. The first Nigerian troops are expected to arrive, joining a contingent of Rwandan troops, later this week.
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Wednesday August 25, China News reports that Darfur peace talks in Nigeria have made a breakthrough on more AU forces.

Channel News Asia says Sudan agrees that AU troops can disarm rebels, talks reopen: Sudan's government will accept a larger African Union peacekeeping force in Darfur if the troops are used to contain and demobilise rebel forces, the head of Khartoum's team at peace talks revealed.

'They may need more forces besides the protection of the (AU) monitors to protect the cantonment of the rebels, and we agree about that,' Agriculture Minister Majzoub al-Khalifa said just before AU-sponsored peace talks in the Nigerian capital went into their third day."
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Aug 25: European Commission announced Wednesday a further 20 million euros (24 million dollars) in humanitarian aid for Darfur, saying the situation in the region had not improved. 'The situation is still not optimistic from a humanitarian point of view,' Peter Holdsworth, of the EC's Humanitarian Aid Office (ECHO), through which the funds will be channelled, told reporters.

Aug 25: International Committee of the Red Cross says it is mounting a major airlift of relief supplies to Sudan's troubled Darfur region, its largest operation of this nature since the war in Iraq.

Straw delivered message to Khartoum: Sort it out, or face the music

Mr Straw's 2-day visit to Sudan on Monday was part of a process. The trip had been announced on July 22. Mr Straw had spoken to Kofi Annan before he went to Khartoum and would talk to him again on his return to give him a full read out.

Mr Straw met with the Sudanese President and the Foreign Minister and underlined British support for the international process to resolve the humanitarian crisis in Darfur. He delivered a clear message to the Government of Sudan that they must do more to comply with the UN Security Council Resolution and the commitments that they gave to the UN Secretary General, Kofi Annan.

Mr Straw urged Sudanese President Omar al-Beshir to heed growing international calls for swift action on the crisis in Darfur as a United Nations deadline for Khartoum to comply or face sanctions approaches. "Our collective interest is to see a safe, secure and prosperous Sudan able to live at peace with itself," Straw told reporters after separate meetings with Sudanese President Omar al-Beshir and UN Secretary General Kofi Annan's representative for Sudan, Jan Pronk.

Straw said he told the president: "The government of Sudan has to help us to help them. And that means fulfilling the obligations imposed on them by resolution 1556 and voluntarily accepted by them in the action plan which followed discussions with Mr. Pronk." The action plan thrashed out by Pronk and Sudanese Foreign Minister Mustafa Osman Ismail earlier this month was designed to help Sudan undertake a step-by-step implementation of the Security Council resolution on the crisis.

Straw pointed out that much of his discussions with Sudanese officials focused on the plan, often referred to as the August 5 Darfur Plan of Action, "to see what steps they are taking to implement the obligations which they have put on themselves." He asserted that the aim was not to find fault with the government and a reason for conflict, but rather to help it. "No one should be in any doubt about our determination to do all that we can to help this country and its people look forward to a better future," he said.
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Note re this post: To me, the sub title "Sort it out, or face the music" summed up the situation pretty neatly. Full credit goes to British blogger Gregory Block for using it in a comment of his at "Downing Street Says" in a post re Jack Straw's visit to Khartoum - the words leapt out of my screen and, for me, put the whole trip in a nutshell. So I lifted it, and used it here - with thanks to Gregory :)

Straw wins human rights pledge from Khartoum

At talks on Monday with Sudan's foreign minister, Mustafa Osman Ismail, Mr Straw extracted a pledge that visas would be granted for the first time to allow the British offices of human rights groups Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch to get access to Darfur refugees.

Have your say at the BBC - and read comments from around the world

Read comments at BBC Have Your Say -- in answer to the following question:

Sudan's government will allow international human rights groups to visit refugee camps in the troubled Darfur region, UK Foreign Secretary Jack Straw says. The foreign secretary is visiting Sudan's Darfur region to try to get Khartoum to do more to curb the Arab Janjaweed militia's harassment of refugees.

The UN has accused the Janjaweed militia of killing an estimated 50,000 people in Darfur in an 18-month reign of terror. Delegates from rebel groups and Sudan's government met in the Nigerian capital Abuja for the discussions, to try to end the conflict in the troubled Darfur region.

Will the access of human rights groups to refugee camps make a difference? Will the new efforts to restore peace be successful? How should the international community respond to Darfur?

Here below are a few comments that reflect the balance of opinion the BBC has received so far:

Africa has always been a stage for one form of crisis or the other. All fuelled by the selfish interests of most parties involved. There are always a set of crisis resolution meetings which seem to solve the problem but as always the conflict resumes all over again. Alas, events following the meeting in Abuja will be no different - Seun a, Lagos, Nigeria
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The talk for peace in Darfur is just a waste of time. What the black Sudanese requires now is food, security and protection by international community. Peace talk between the Arabs and the blacks is a waiting game for the Arabs who have never taken the blacks as equal partners in the Sudan. The only solution is to re-partition the Sudan into three states: Darfur, Arab North and Bar-el-Ghazel (South), this will be the only viable alternative to bring peace to the communities who cannot live together in one country - Freddy Latigo-Nono, London
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I think the peace talks have a much higher probability of succeeding than previous rounds in July - simply because the stakes now are much higher - and what both parties are playing for is much different. Darfur has garnered a great deal of international interest and the plight of hundreds of thousands that have been systematically targeted can no longer be ignored. The SLM/A and JEM have achieved international recognition for their agendas and discourse. Now both sides have developed bargaining positions and they will cut a deal! - Naya, Khartoum, Sudan
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I think the situation in Sudan should not be strange to those who are aware of all sorts of conflicts around the world. It is just sad that there does not seem to be an end to the conflict and the saddest thing is that defenceless folks are being perished at the moment. I don't want to be a pessimist, but I do not think this meeting in Nigeria will avail the conflict. I am sure the Sudanese government has agreed to it so as to delay impending US's desire for sanctions against them. The conflict was not and is not sporadic... it has been pre-planned. The goal is to wipe out or displace the indigenes of Darfur and reclaim the land for themselves. It is basically a fight for survival and domination.
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And I am afraid that this will not be the last time we will hear of such conflicts in Africa or in other places where resources are scarce. The only way to completely settle this never ending conflict all over Sudan is do what was done in old Yugoslavia... divide the country and let borders be defined. These people just cannot live together. Let's face it - Emmanuel A, Canada/Nigeria
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Western leaders can push Sudan's government to stop the conflict. However, peace comes from inside not from outside. As we have seen over the period, Sudan's government does not want to stop the conflict. Therefore I'm very sceptical if these peace-talks will be successful. Nevertheless, it is important that the western world reacts to this crisis and does not ignore it - Alzbeta Stastna, Czech Republic
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The peace talks after Abuja Conference will perhaps have a temporary success. But unless the socio-political question is solved to determine equity in economic and the civil matters, there will be no lasting peace. The present Sudanese regime is perhaps the only remaining oppressive and incompetent regime remaining in Africa today. The old and new masters of slavery and racial discrimination are still there enjoying the long silence of the African Union. The international community can help the African leadership in bringing justice and democracy to the whole of Sudan and not just to Darfur. If dialogue to hold internationally supervised elections for civil liberty against the prevailing military dictatorship is not possible, then sanctions and human rights-violation prosecutions should immediately be effected to avoid more loss of lives - Mdundiko Kilache, Equatorial Guinea
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The world kept talking in regards to Bosnia, Rwanda etc while hundreds of thousands were killed. Why does not the UN intervene with troops? Of what use is the UN? All that money wasted on tax when it is an impotent organisation. Hundreds more will be killed, raped and left suffering by the time these talks conclude - Paddy Singh, Delhi, India

Straw got commitment from Khartoum to use Naivasha accords as template for peace talks over Darfur

In Khartoum, after talks aimed at urging the government to comply with UN demands to end the conflict, Mr Straw said on Monday that the regime in Khartoum had given him a commitment to use the southern Naivasha agreement, which includes elements of devolution and wealth-sharing, as a framework for peace in Darfur.

He said Khartoum had pledged to use accords signed in May with rebel groups in the south of the country as a template for peace talks over the western Darfur region. The talks are taking place in Abuja, Nigeria. "I was pleased to learn of the commitment of the government of Sudan to using these protocols," Straw said after talks with Sudanese Foreign Minister Mustafa Osman Ismail. The Naivasha accords, named after the Kenyan town where they were sealed, aimed to end a 21-year war in the south.

Straw said Sudan had agreed to put forward a similar idea at Abuja. "If you look at the six Naivasha protocols, you see a framework for ... devolution both of power and wealth," he said.

Straw demands action on Darfur - Refugees may not have confidence to return home until next spring

On Tuesday morning, Mr Straw flew from Khartoum to Northern Darfur to see what had been happening on the ground. He toured a feeding centre for critically ill children at the Abu Shouk refugee camp and was accompanied by a British military adviser who had been working with African monitors in western Sudan for the last two months.

BBC correspondent, Bridget Kendall, who accompanied Mr Straw on the flight quotes him as saying that having ravaged villages and forced villagers into camps, the militia now roam the surrounding areas which have become bandit country.

Mr Straw met the refugees as they queued for water in the camp and said the camp appeared to be very well run but he was aware that, as a foreign dignitary, he was often shown the best conditions rather than the worst.

It was "the scale of the problem" that made the biggest impression, he said as he toured the Abu Shouk camp. "I knew the numbers. But it is one thing to know the numbers, it is quite another thing to come here, to survey this camp, and to realise that there are more than 50,000 people here but that is only one-twentieth of the people displaced as a result of the conflict.

"There is a very great deal to be done before these and 1.2 million like them feel reassured enough to go back to their villages ... That requires a real effort by the Government of Sudan to provide for their safety and also to ensure there is progress in the peace talks."

Speaking during the visit, Mr Straw said the camps appeared to be safer but he voiced concern about surrounding areas and villages, which one of his officials described as "bandit country". "I recognise that the government of Sudan have made progress, especially in humanitarian access and camp safety and security within the camps, but people are obviously still very anxious and nervous about whether they will be safe when they go back to their villages." He said it was critical that Khartoum establish "safety and security across Darfur and get the political process going". Rebel groups operating in Darfur also had to take responsibility for restoring stability to the region, he said.

He said he would report back to United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan on the extent of progress made. "The government of Sudan ... has sought to comply with what has been imposed upon them. It is for Kofi Annan to judge the extent to which they have complied," he said. "I will also be talking to African leaders as well as other (UN) Security Council members so we are all in a position by the end of next week to ... make judgments about whether there is sufficient progress. There is not enough progress - but (the question) is whether there is sufficient progress."

Straw said he had talked to refugees at the camp - currently home to 55,000 people - about why they fled their homes and what it would take to enable them to return. One woman said she had been bombarded from the air, presumably by Sudanese government planes. Another said while the Janjaweed militia were still at large, she was too scared to go home again.

Darfur peace talks started Monday in Nigeria - Aid top of agenda - talks made breakthrough on more AU forces

On Monday, Nigerian and AU President Obasanjo opened the peace talks in Nigeria, calling for unity of purpose among Africans to end the crisis without the intervention of foreign forces. "Africa cannot continue to be the problem child of the world known for the pitiable pictures shown around the world of miserable looking children and women dying of malnutrition and diseases as a result of wars and internal crises," Obasanjo said.

On Tuesday, GoS and Darfur rebel groups unanimously adopted an agenda for peace talks, African Union chairman, Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo, said. The Nigerian leader said the parties will take a brief break before resuming talks on the first item on the agenda, which is the provision of humanitarian aid to Darfur. 'I believe that we made progress,' he told reporters. 'This morning, we adopted unanimously the draft agenda with minor amendments,' he said. Obasanjo said it was impossible to say when the first round of talks would end."

Wednesday August 25, China News reports China News reports that Darfur talks make breakthrough on more AU forces

Also, a Channel News Asia report says Sudan's government will accept a larger African Union peacekeeping force in Darfur if the troops are used to contain and demobilise rebel forces, the head of Khartoum's team at peace talks revealed.

'They may need more forces besides the protection of the (AU) monitors to protect the cantonment of the rebels, and we agree about that,' Agriculture Minister Majzoub al-Khalifa said just before AU-sponsored peace talks in the Nigerian capital went into their third day."
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One British official who has been working in western Darfur told journalists that the region remained largely “bandit country” in which “the Janjaweed are doing what they want, where they want, when they want to the non-Arabs”. Having driven the farmers from their villages into makeshift refugee camps, the Janjaweed were keeping them there through the use of lower level abuse such as beatings and sexual attacks ensuring they were free to do as they wished in the rest of the country.

The official said that although the Sudanese army remained in their garrisons, the Khartoum government had deployed police from outside Darfur into the region. He added however, that it remained to be seen whether those police had been given orders to crackdown on the violence.

The official said he was anxious to find out more about UN plans to create security areas in a 20km radius around the camps. He added that he did not expect the refugees to have the confidence to return to their villages until next spring.

Darfur refugees to go home in 3-4 months-official - "Janjaweed does not include Moussa Hilal. He is a tribal leader"

Mr Straw told Sky News the government in Khartoum had sought to stem the violence but that it was for the UN secretary general, Kofi Annan, to judge the extent to which it had complied with the resolution.

Mr Straw said he intended to speak to Mr Annan and other African leaders after he had completed his trip. He also said there were practical limits to what the international community could do to help the people of Darfur without the consent of the Sudanese government. Mr Straw added that there appeared to be some evidence of improving security within the refugee camps and the priority now was to improve security outside them.

But Britain advocates a cautious approach. "If we were to drive ahead like a bull at a gate and end up with a split in the Security Council, it would work in favour of the hardliners in the Sudanese government," a senior official said. "We have to feel our way."

Britain has offered the African Union (AU) extra funding to expand its force charged with protecting ceasefire monitors in the region and will back plans for a far larger presence than is currently there. Britain has already spent two million pounds helping the AU mission and will now give a further 750,000 pounds to fly in Nigerian troops and provide rations.

But Sudan rejected an offer to expand the AU troops' role to disarm rebels in Darfur, insisting it was capable of tackling both pro-government and rebel militias in the western region.
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By acclaimed writer Samantha Power

Excerpt re Janjaweed Leader Musal Hilal:

"As I talked with Musal Hilal in the El Fasher airport waiting room, he discussed th possibility that he and other janjaweed leaders could have their assets frozen and their ability to travel curtailed. “I have no assets in international banks, so that is not a problem,” he said as he watched Sudanese soldiers ready our plane for its flight back to Khartoum. “But the travel ban—that would be a humiliation. I am a tribal leader. My reputation comes above anything and everything.”

"Hilal is aware that if the international pressure on Khartoum intensifies the government might sell him out. This explains why he courts Western journalists, staging elaborate shows of African-Arab unity. But he also knows how risky it would be for the government to challenge him—even if it wanted to appease its international critics. Khartoum’s leaders rely on tribal militias as their main weapon of war. And, in Hilal’s case, the Sudanese government helped create him, and he knows too much.

“The government call to arms is carried out through the tribal leaders,” Hilal said. “Every government comes and finds us here. When they leave, we will still be here. When they come back, we will still be here. We will always be here.”

UN Security Council will make a judgement Aug 30/31 - Based on Annan and Pronk's report

The UN Security Council will be in discussions again re Sudan and UN resolution on 30 August. Britain says it would not prejudge that discussion.

Annan's report will partly rely on Pronk's assessment of the situation over the past 30 days. "It is on the basis of his (Pronk's) report and the secretary general's report that the Security Council will make judgement on whether or not there has been sufficient progress," said British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw.

He declined to say, judging from his visit to Darfur, what the contents of the reports might be, but said: "Nobody could visit Sudan without being struck by the scale and complexity of the problems which face this country." Straw said: "It is a terrible humanitarain crisis. It is something which is of very great concern to the whole of the international community and we have to deal with it."

He did, however, concede that there was an improvement in certain areas over the past few weeks. "What I understand is that there has not been aerial bombardment since the end of June, that the ceasefire is broadly holding, but that atrocities have continued, and that in itself is causing a great deal of fear for many sectors of the population across Darfur."

Commenting on his encounters with the displaced at the Abu Shouk camp, he said he "got from them a sense of their fear as a result both of what had happened to them and their families and the killings which they witnessed and their concerns about whether or not they will be able to go back". It was, he said, the sort of "feeling people have about the way they feel they were driven from their homes. And the fear they have about going back to their homes and trying to resume their livelihoods.

"Within this camp certainly people felt safe. But it's safety and security outside the camps, which is the vast part of Darfur, is the absolute imperative," he stressed.

Note: Straw later left Khartoum for Nairobi en route to South Africa.
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Other voices:

The International Crisis Group of analysts said the Security Council should impose an AU force of at least 3,000 troops on Sudan with a mandate to protect civilians, and slap sanctions on named government officials. The group's report said Sudan's government had acted in bad faith throughout the crisis and was "adept at saying and doing just enough to avoid a robust international response".

Khartoum signed an agreement with the United Nations on Saturday to encourage the voluntary return of refugees to safe areas protected by an expanded police presence.

"There is a game of brinkmanship and the clock is ticking," said Alex Vines, head of the Africa Programme at the Royal Institute of International Affairs in London. "Sudan has already conceded something on the repatriation of refugees and it thinks it has done enough to see off the pressure."
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Aug 24 - UK Telegraph report by David Blair entitled "End the wicked politics of divide and rule in Darfur" -- excerpt: "Darfur enjoyed four decades of peace under British rule from 1916. Colonial officials averted clashes by acting as neutral arbiters, backed by a legal system. Tribal leaders also had their own ways of settling disputes without bloodshed. Sudan's current regime committed one of its greatest crimes by systematically destroying these ways of bringing peace. Instead of holding the ring as an honest broker, as the British had done, Khartoum deliberately upset Darfur's delicate balance by constantly favouring nomadic over settled tribes.

Against this background, the international community must do more than send aid and endlessly debate the dispatch of peacekeepers. Instead, Mr al-Bashir's regime must be told to end the dangerous practice of favouring one tribe over another and, in particular, to reverse the disastrous administrative reforms of 1994. That is one specific demand that Jack Straw, the Foreign Secretary, could make during his visit to Sudan.Darfur's people are not genetically programmed to kill one another. Amoral politicians in Khartoum have created this terrible war - and the world should demand an end to their wicked ethnic politics of divide and misrule.

Aug 24: "Ethnic cleansing in Sudan - Help the African Union protect Darfur's people" report by David Mozersky, analyst with the International Crisis Group, an independent conflict-prevention group: "The African Union is on the right track in Sudan. If it can maintain the robust support of the wider international community, there is a chance that the largest country in Africa can take a significant step toward a comprehensive peace."

Aug 25: The Daily Star Editorial -- "Ending Darfur's suffering may prevent other such crimes" -- "A moment of reckoning approaches in the Darfur crisis in western Sudan, with the UN Security Council's August 30 deadline to review Sudanese government compliance with the council's recent resolution. The Darfur situation is a test for the Sudanese government, but also for the international community's ability to deal with gross human rights abuses such as those that have occurred in Darfur. The track record on both counts is mixed, but may also contain some useful lessons for the future.

Keeping up the pressure on Khartoum, though, seems a necessary ingredient in the mix of measures that aim to resolve this tragic situation. It is important for the world to succeed in stopping the atrocities and suffering in Darfur, in order to reduce the chances of similar situations emerging in other countries. The August 30 review should be tough, fair and swift, demanding full compliance by all parties while ensuring that progress to that end occurs at a steady pace."

Aug 24 Reuters report excerpts:

About a million refugees who fled their homes will return in security within three to four months if a shaky truce holds in Sudan's western conflict zone of Darfur, the head of Sudan's ruling party said on Tuesday. Ibrahim Ahmed Omar also said peace talks to solve a Darfur rebellion could involve a form of autonomy for the remote region, similar to an agreement that hopes to end more than two decades of civil war in the south of Africa's largest country. "If the (April) ceasefire continues and the rebel and the government reach an agreement, this won't take more than three to four months in order for people to go back to their villages and reside," he told Reuters in an interview.

Omar also rejected a U.S. list of the most wanted Janjaweed leaders, top of which is Moussa Hilal, saying outside parties had to differentiate between Arab tribal leaders in Darfur and Janjaweed. Otherwise, he said, civil war would erupt in Darfur. "If the Janjaweed is taken to mean Arab leaders in Darfur this will lead to a civil war," he said. "The Janjaweed are bandits and gangs and the category of Janjaweed does not include Moussa Hilal. He is a tribal leader."

Omar also said that political talks in the Egyptian capital Cairo with an umbrella group of opposition parties, which started on Tuesday, would discuss reconciliation and political representation after a peace deal. Sudan's ruling National Congress party dominates parliament. "Hopefully the Abuja and Egypt conferences will deliver that which will enable (negotiators to) go back to Naivasha as soon as possible," he said of the stalled southern peace talks.

Song for Sudan - Read the lyrics

A warm thank you to British blogger Doug at Quadrophrenia for posting lyrics Song for Sudan lyrics.

Sudan knows UN has no appetite for action - - British officials pessimistic about the international community

Excerpt from Aug 24 Scotsman New atrocities in Sudan as UN deadline looms:

"British officials and human rights groups are pessimistic that the international community will have the courage to face down the Sudanese government", says the Scotsman. "A senior British official travelling with Mr Straw said he sensed a "slackening of will among international partners" over imposing harsh sanctions on Sudan if it fails to meet the deadline. He said that Britain would prefer a "graduated" response to avoid splitting the Security Council: "If you were to drive ahead like a bull at a gate and end up with a split in the Security Council, that would work to the advantage of hard-liners in the Sudanese government."

Jemera Rone, who has just returned to the Washington office of Human Rights Watch after a trip to Darfur, said the group had evidence of a catalogue of incidents which had taken place after the Sudanese government had promised to comply with the UN. Those included rapes, attacks on villages and the involvement of government troops. "There has been some bombing. From what we could see attacks on villages are continuing. There were many, many incidents of looting and women are being raped when they go into government-controlled areas," she said. And she was highly critical of suggestions from Mr Pronk that Khartoum should be given more time and that refugees should be confined to secure areas. "The Jan Pronk plan gives them yet more time to fool around doing nothing. The idea of safe havens is abhorrent. We want the ethnic cleansing to be reversed but they are talking about making the safe havens permanent. The international community is looking to the Sudanese government to protect the people it has driven from their homes."
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Aug 24: Copy of letter to Prime Minister of Canada from leaders of Canadian churches urging Canada to take a stand and act boldly on Darfur.
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Aug 18: Families on the Fringe Dalih, North Darfur: More than 7,000 people have been camped in the tiny village of Dalih, 3 km outside Tawila in North Darfur since February. They are living in some of the most miserable conditions seen anywhere in the world, squatting in school buildings and abandoned huts or living in rudimentary shelters clustered together near the schools. Maurice Herson, a senior humanitarian manager for Oxfam UK who recently visited Dalih explains:

“Their shelters are nothing more than bits of dried thorny shrubs that have been heaped – almost as if by the wind – into little circles and semicircles."

"One of these piles of twigs and sticks has a diameter of about a metre and a half, with a few tattered pieces of faded, dirty cloth stretched across one side to provide some relief from the sun."

"Five families live in this space. They told me that the women and children crowd inside at night to sleep, while the men sleep outside in the space between the shelters."

“Some of the other families I met had been given plastic sheeting by another aid agency. But as they don’t have anything to attach it to the wind blows it away so they simply huddle underneath it when it rains.”

“What I saw in Dalih is human misery more or less at its worst. My heart goes out to the elderly people in particular. This is a sad way to move towards the end of your life.” [Full Story]

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

SUDAN: WHY NOT IMPOSE AN OIL EMBARGO? Chinese FM discusses Sudan with US, Russian, French counterparts

Unless Sudan is credibly threatened with painful sanctions, such as an oil embargo, the Sudanese government will make no serious attempt to ease the plight of its black African citizens, Britain's Economist magazine wrote earlier this month. An oil embargo is the only punishment that would make a real difference, diplomats say. The following is a report, copied here in full, from the Washington Post re sanctions, dated August 24, 2004:

China, India, Malaysia and some European countries are dramatically expanding business ties with Sudan, taking advantage of U.S. sanctions that bar American companies from operating here, local officials and foreign diplomats say. Companies from those countries — some of which are at least partially state-owned — are investing billions of dollars and working closely with the Khartoum government with little concern about its role in recent mass killings in Sudan's Darfur region, Western diplomats say. "They couldn't care less how many people are dying in Darfur — that's not how they conduct their policies," one senior diplomat said. "Everyone has an agenda here. Sudan has oil, gold and a major port on the Red Sea."

These companies also are replacing old American technology sold before the sanctions, which were imposed unilaterally by Washington in stages during the 1990s to punish Khartoum for its support of terrorism and human rights abuses, the diplomats say. "Most of the cotton-gin machinery here is American, but they can't get spare parts. So Chinese companies provide inferior — but nevertheless suitable — replacement parts," another senior Western diplomat said.
"They are also starting to replace those machines. They are signing contracts for $20 million — and it's not only the sales, but the subsequent business of supplying parts for the machines," he said. "So the Chinese are beginning to take this piece of the market away from the Americans."
Chinese companies also are building oil refineries, pipelines and production facilities. Officials in Beijing have boasted that they helped Sudan change from an importer to exporter of oil. U.S. companies traditionally had been among the most active foreign investors in Sudan. Their fortunes, however, worsened when relations between the two countries began to deteriorate after the 1991 Gulf war, during which a fundamentalist Islamic government in Khartoum supported Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.

In the early- and mid-1990s, Sudan provided refuge to some of the world's most-wanted terrorists and criminals, including Osama bin Laden, Carlos the Jackal and Abu Nidal. Because of its support for those and other extremists, it was blacklisted by the State Department as a state sponsor of terrorism in 1993.

In 1996, the U.S. Embassy in Khartoum was closed, and a year later, Washington imposed economic, trade and financial sanctions. The embassy reopened last year, but with only a skeleton staff.

The United States succeeded on July 30 in passing a U.N. Security Council resolution giving Sudan 30 days to rein in and start disarming the Janjaweed Arab militias responsible for tens of thousands of deaths and millions of refugees in Darfur.

At the end of that period, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan is to report to the council on the government's actions. A negative report will open to door to measures against Khartoum, such as diplomatic, economic and travel sanctions.

But hardly anyone expects those actions to come close to the severity of the U.S. sanctions, which means they will have no effect on most of the foreign companies' business. An oil embargo is the only punishment that would make a real difference, diplomats say.

"Unless it is credibly threatened with painful sanctions, such as an oil embargo, the Sudanese government will make no serious attempt to ease the plight of its black African citizens," Britain's Economist magazine wrote earlier this month.

China, a permanent Security Council member, is not likely to vote for an oil embargo or any other meaningful sanctions, council diplomats said.

"The best we can hope for from the Chinese is an abstention," one diplomat said.

Chinese officials, when accused by the West of turning a blind eye to Sudan's human rights abuses, say, unlike the United States, they separate politics from business.

However, that rule seems not to apply to countries that recognize Taiwan's independence, Western diplomats point out. Beijing considers the island part of China and turns its back on states that differ.

In addition, Beijing, whose own human rights record often is criticized, maintains that punishing Sudan economically would be interfering in its internal affairs. China is Sudan's largest trading partner, according to the CIA World Factbook, followed by Japan, Saudi Arabia, India, Britain and Germany.

Although the Europeans are more likely to support the United States, they have been slow to respond to the Darfur crisis with any specific and credible threats. Several European airlines have regular flights to Sudan, and European companies are investing in a variety of sectors.

A German businessman, whose company hopes to build a new airport in Sudan, said during a recent Lufthansa flight from Frankfurt that shortage of money has never been an issue. The Sudanese "may be slow in doing almost everything, but they are always on time when it comes to paying their bills," he said.

U.S. trade sanctions have given trademark regulations in Sudan a whole new meaning. The leading hotel in Khartoum uses the Hilton name and logo even though it is not part of the well-known chain.

A little more creativity has been used to exploit the popularity of American food brands. Fast-food restaurants with the McDonald's golden arches in front bear the name Lucky Meal. Pizza Hut has been replaced by Pizza Hot.

The Sudanese are not likely to experience the real thing again anytime soon, as a change of U.S. policy is nowhere in sight. "Sudan is a state sponsor of terrorism, and Congress has mandated that there should be sanctions," a senior State Department official said.
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Here is a copy, in full, of a China News report:

BEIJING, Aug 23, 2004 (Xinhua) -- Chinese Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing talked over phone with US Secretary of State Colin Powell, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and French Foreign Minister Michel Barnier on Monday night, respectively.

Li exchanged views with his three counterparts on the Darfur crisis in Sudan. All parties agreed in the conversation that their delegates to the United Nations will keep contacts and coordinate with each other on the issue.

Li and Lavrov said that they will make well preparation for Russian President Vladimir Putin's upcoming China visit and the ninth meeting between premiers of the two countries in a bid to ensure the visit and the meeting to bear active fruits.

Li and Barnier agreed to continue to promote Sino-French cooperation in the fields of economy, trade and science, and make joint efforts in the preparatory work for French President Jacques Chirac's China visit in fall.

During Li's phone talks with Powell, Powell briefed Li on the latest development of the case of Chinese businesswoman Zhao Yan and reiterated that the US side will promptly and properly handle the case."
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MeetUps being held across America

Today, August 25 in America is Sudan Day of Conscience. MeetUps for Sudan peace supporters are taking place across America.

To join in the effort, I have published several posts at Passion of the Present, sharing news of UK Foreign Secretary Jack Straw's visit to Khartoum, the British Government's policy on Sudan and what others are saying. Also to mark the day, the posts will appear in this blog.
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Read the lyrics here

Warm thanks to Doug at Quadrophrenia for posting the lyrics of Song for Sudan.
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Aug 18 : Families on the Fringe - Dalih, North Darfur:

More than 7,000 people have been camped in the tiny village of Dalih, 3 km outside Tawila in North Darfur since February. They are living in some of the most miserable conditions seen anywhere in the world, squatting in school buildings and abandoned huts or living in rudimentary shelters clustered together near the schools.

Maurice Herson, a senior humanitarian manager for Oxfam UK who recently visited Dalih explains:

“Their shelters are nothing more than bits of dried thorny shrubs that have been heaped – almost as if by the wind – into little circles and semicircles."

"One of these piles of twigs and sticks has a diameter of about a metre and a half, with a few tattered pieces of faded, dirty cloth stretched across one side to provide some relief from the sun."

"Five families live in this space. They told me that the women and children crowd inside at night to sleep, while the men sleep outside in the space between the shelters."

“Some of the other families I met had been given plastic sheeting by another aid agency. But as they don’t have anything to attach it to the wind blows it away so they simply huddle underneath it when it rains.”

“What I saw in Dalih is human misery more or less at its worst. My heart goes out to the elderly people in particular. This is a sad way to move towards the end of your life.” [Full Story]
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Aug 24: Copy of letter to Prime Minister of Canada from leaders of Canadian churches urging Canada to take a stand and act boldly on Darfur.

Monday, August 23, 2004

British Government behind African troops - Britain stands ready to provide further assistance if necessary

Sudan is a former British protectorate. Britain is the world's largest cash donor, and the second-largest contributor of aid, to Sudan. It's historic ties with Sudan stretch back more than a century to when the region was under British control.

Today, British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw is on his way to Sudan to pile pressure on Khartoum. On leaving Heathrow Airport, he told reporters that the Sudanese government would "face the opprobrium of the world" if it failed to rein in the Arab Janjaweed militia by the UN security council deadline of August 30. His trip has been planned since July 22, 2004.

Mr Straw will be making clear to the Sudanese government that it needs to do much more to help the victims of the Darfur conflict, the Foreign Office said. He will also be impressing on the Sudanese the need for them to do more to improve the country's security situation.

The point of the trip is “to impress on the government of Sudan how seriously the international community takes this, to make his own first-hand assessment of the situation and to feed that back to Kofi Annan and others”.

The British government, which is providing logistical support for African troops protecting monitoring mission in Darfur, is pushing for a bigger commitment from the African Union. It is particularly keen for troops to be sent from Arab north Africa, which would be more acceptable to Sudan's Arabic-speaking government.

Senior Foreign Office officials said that over the weekend Mr Straw spoke by telephone to Mr Annan, as well as the United Nations’ special representative in Sudan Jan Pronk, and several senior ministers in countries bordering Sudan.

Speaking before his departure Mr Straw said his fact-finding mission would feed into UN deliberations on Sudan. "I am keen to see for myself the situation on the ground in Darfur, and to make clear to the Sudanese government and people the extent of British, and broader international, concern," he said.

"UN security council resolution 1556 sets out the steps that the Sudanese government must now take to deal with the crisis. I will discuss with President Bashir and others exactly how they plan to do this."

"In preparation for the visit I have spoken among others with UN secretary general Kofi Annan, President Obasanjo of Nigeria and President Kagame of Rwanda." "During and after my visit I shall be liaising closely with President Obasanjo who is holding preliminary peace talks in Abuja starting Monday."

"I shall provide a full read-out to Kofi Annan as a contribution to his pending report to the security council."

Also, before his departure, Mr Straw confirmed that the British Government was providing logistical support to Nigerian troops who are protecting a monitoring mission in Sudan. “We are providing the air transport and all the rations for the Nigerian troops,” he said.

He had told the leaders of neighbouring Nigeria and Rwanda, which are both involved in the monitoring mission, that Britain stood ready “to provide further assistance if necessary”. “The key here is international solidarity and consensus," he said.

He also insisted that, despite UN security council divisions over Sudan, there was "an emerging consensus about the imperative need for the government of Sudan to relieve the humanitarian crisis, to provide for the safety of the displaced persons and to make sure there is an effective political process".

On arriving in Khartoum this evening, Mr Straw will hold talks with vice-president Osman Mohamed Taha and foreign minister Mustafa Osman Ismail. After visiting Abu Shouk, one of the biggest refugee camps in Darfur, tomorrow, he will return to the Sudanese capital for further talks with the foreign minister, Mr Pronk, and on Wednesday Sudan’s president Umar Hassan Ahmad al-Bashir. His visit is expected to last three days.

Downing Street said the foreign secretary would be taking a "clear message" that the government of Sudan must do more to meet its obligations under the UN security council resolution.

UK responses: "This is the moment when the international community has to show that it means business if we are not to see another Rwanda," said Michael Ancram.

The shadow foreign secretary said a UN-mandated force should be sent into Darfur to safeguard security.

Meanwhile, Liberal Democrat spokesman Tom Brake said the "time for quiet diplomacy is over". "The foreign secretary must request details of how many militiamen have been disarmed and charged, and how the Sudanese authorities intend honouring their pledge to bring a halt to the ethnic cleansing in Darfur," he said.

Amnesty International also warned that the foreign secretary must confront the Sudanese government head on. The human rights group's UK director, Kate Allen, said: "Jack Straw must use this critical opportunity to make it starkly clear to the Sudanese government that the international community will not tolerate continuing atrocities in Darfur. "Mr Straw's message should be that rape, torture and murder absolutely must be stopped and that perpetrators need to be brought to justice. "It is action that is needed now, not denials or empty promises."
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The UN estimates that the conflict has affected 1.5 million people in Darfur itself, and another 200,000 in nearby Chad.

British officials believe that is "a conservative estimate".
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Further UK reports:

Aug 23 report by BBC on fresh peace talks being held today in Nigeria between rebels and GoS to try to end the conflict in Darfur. Opening the meeting, Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo, current head of the African Union, said: "We are gathered here today to put our heads together, to rub minds together because as far as we are concerned in Africa, part of one of our houses is on fire."

Aug 23 report by BBC re Militia chief denies Darfur atrocities. One-eyed and dressed in traditional white, flowing gowns, Ahmed Khalil Sheet, an Arab militia leader in Darfur admits that his tribe was armed by GoS to fight SLA and JEM.

Aug 23 special report by Guardian UK on how Darfur poses an early test for African Union.

Update - Aug 23 BBC report: Is Darfur the new Rwanda? "In Sudan, if you have African groups and Arab militias, you certainly have ethnic groups, and if one is trying to exterminate the other, then arguably you have genocide" - Barrister John Jones

See Passion of the Present for the latest major developments on the Sudan.

Sunday, August 22, 2004

'You are slaves, die like slaves' - Darfur refugees tell of Janjaweed killing spree

August 22, 2004, report by Kim Sengupta in Nyala, Darfur, copied here in full:

There is little left in Silaya except burnt-out huts and a row of graves in the fields beyond, the only reminders of one of the worst atrocities of the savage conflict in Darfur.

On 30 July, three weeks after the United Nations Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, announced that he had reached agreement with the Sudanese President, Omar al-Bashir, on ending the violence, the village came under sustained and murderous attack from government troops and their Janjaweed allies. Under a UN resolution, Sudan has until the end of the month to meet a set of conditions aimed at alleviating what the UN calls "the worst humanitarian disaster in the world".

This week, the Foreign Secretary, Jack Straw, the latest international dignitary to visit the country, will tell President Bashir that his failure to disarm the Janjaweed remains the most serious unfulfilled obligation of the UN terms. However, the British government is expected to agree with Mr Annan that Khartoum has made efforts to rein in the terror unleashed on African villages and established "safe" areas, even though another 35,000 refugees, fleeing fresh attacks, are threatening to cross into neighbouring Chad. About 200,000 Sudanese are already filling camps to capacity there.

The Sudanese government, some argue, should be given more time. But the people of Silaya, in south Darfur, have a far different experience of the government. More than 100 people were killed in one raid. Most of them were shot, but 32 were tied up and burned alive. Twenty-five young women and girls were taken away; the bodies of some were found later. Also discovered were the remains of many who had fled the onslaught but were pursued and slaughtered.

Survivors say that the raiders had specific, targeted victims whom they hunted down and set alight - teachers, clerics and those who had returned after further education in the cities. In some cases, other members of the family were shot while one person was dragged off for burning.

Picking off the educated few in the rural areas is not a new practice. Influential figures in the Islamist administration and the military blame them for organising opposition to the government, and those taught in the past by foreigners are suspected of imbibing non-Muslim beliefs. Priests in African villages are particularly blamed for not using their influence to condemn the rebels.

Many of those who did manage to escape from Silaya had ended up in Muhajariya, an enclave south-east of Nyala, the capital of south Darfur, which is controlled by two rebel groups, the Sudan Liberation Army and the Justice and Equality Movement.

They are among 50,000 refugees driven into the area after government troops and their Arab militia allies burned an arc of villages around Muhajariya. The rebels, who have sparse resources and little aid coming in from the international agencies, now have to look after these dispossessed as well as their own fighters.

Commander Abdul Majid of the SLA said: "The attacks on the civilians are part of a military campaign. This war is not just against the SLA or JEM but against the people of Darfur. They are following a scorched-earth policy. They are burning the villages and driving the people into our area because, that way, they can finish off both the fighters and the civilians."

Babikir Ali, from Silaya, described how the village was attacked. "It was in the morning," he said. "We first had two helicopters which were flying very low. They fired from the air and hit some of the huts. Then we had troops in Land Cruisers, and the Janjaweed on horses and camels. They shot a lot of people before catching some others, putting them together and setting them on fire. It was a terrible, terrible thing."

"One of them was my brother," said Bahir Hashim al-Bakr. "He was a schoolteacher. When they arrested him, he was in the classroom. There were about 12 children hiding under tables and crying. They were all shot. They were looking for the educated people, the leaders we had. They're the ones who were being burned. I've heard about this happening at many places, but it is the first time I saw such a thing with my own eyes."

Yahir Ali, 33, recalled: "They were carrying matches and they set fire to people. Some others they threw back into the burning huts. They were shooting at everything and shouting 'Zurghas' [a pejorative term for blacks] and they were laughing, 'You are slaves, die like slaves'. My aunt was killed. She was an old woman and she had fallen. This man stood over her and just shot her."

The refugees at Muhajariya were not aware of the minutiae of the UN resolution or the machinations of the big powers. Asked whether they felt the government had made the situation safe for them, Babikir Ali smiled bitterly. "We are a problem. If we go back to our village, the Janjaweed will come again and kill off the rest of us. Then there is no longer a problem. Maybe that is what the outside world wants."

[Note to readers: apologies unable to credit source of report - misplaced link - will insert later if found]

Janjaweed Leader Moussa Hilal - interview with UK Telegraph and IslamOnline.net

Tribal leader accused over Darfur says he was acting for government

Aug 22: UK Telegraph news report by Philip Sherwell in Khartoum, copied here in full:

The sheikh accused by the United States of co-ordinating Janjaweed militiamen has admitted that he was "appointed" by Sudan's government to recruit Arab tribesmen to "defend their land".

In an interview with The Telegraph, Musa Hilal scorned calls for his arrest on the eve of this week's visit to Sudan by Jack Straw, the Foreign Secretary, and the United Nations' deadline for Sudan to begin its promised crackdown on the Janjaweed.

"I don't care what my enemies say about me," he said, jabbing his finger. "I have no concerns about being arrested. I don't think the Sudanese government would be stupid enough to take that decision."

Mr Hilal has been identified by the US State Department as the most senior of seven Janjaweed leaders allegedly responsible for the ethnic cleansing conducted against predominantly black African villagers by Arab militiamen in the province of Darfur.

Mr Hilal, 43, a tall man who has three wives and 13 children and leads a tribe of more than 200,000 people, denies the accusation. He was not an "agent" of the government, he said, but acknowledged allegations that the Khartoum government was using the camel and horse-riding Arab militia to suppress the rebellion.

"I am one of the tribal leaders responsible for collecting people for military service for the country," he said, claiming that he organised his followers to defend themselves against Darfurian rebels.

"I was appointed by the government to organise people to defend their lands but legally, not illegally. They were defending themselves against the mutineers."

Mr Straw will reinforce international pressure on Sudan's government when he arrives in Khartoum tomorrow for meetings with President Omar al-Bashir and other high-ranking leaders.

A British official said: "He will reiterate the need for Sudan to live up to its promises. They will be told very clearly that the world is not going to forget what is going on in Darfur." However, a senior aide to Mr Straw added that there was little appetite at the UN to follow through immediately on the threat of sanctions after the August 30 deadline imposed on Sudan.

Sudan's government told the UN on Thursday that it will provide a list next week of Janjaweed fighters it "controls". Although UN officials regard this as a significant concession after the Sudanese authorities spent months denying ties to the militia, they are waiting to see whether the list features the "big names".

If Sudan does fulfil its pledge to bring militia leaders to justice, Mr Hilal - whose name is regularly mentioned in the accounts of victims of Janjaweed fighters and militia defectors - is likely to be among its most prominent targets. But for now, he appears to feel no threat from the government, after taking a prominent role in crushing last year's rebellion in Darfur.

As if to prove that he has nothing to fear from the UN either, he chose to meet me in a British colonial-era hotel on the banks of the Blue Nile, which is also the base for Jan Pronk, the UN special envoy responsible for assessing Sudan's response to ending the terror.

Mr Hilal batted away UN figures showing that at least one million people had fled their homes in the last year of attacks, murders and rapes. "This is all propaganda from enemies of Sudan, particularly in the West," he said. "The number of displaced is much less."

He also claimed that many refugees had chosen to flee their villages to improve their lives. "They find water and education and financial assistance in the camps that are not available in their villages," he said. His claim bears no relation to the reality of life in the teeming and miserable camps across Darfur.

Mr Hilal said that he and other tribal leaders had stepped in to defend their lands against the Darfur rebels because the Khartoum government had not deployed its own troops in sufficient numbers. The men he recruited, he said, joined the police and the paramilitary Popular Defence Force, an Islamic militia created by the government to fight alongside its regular forces.

Mr Hilal's name also appears frequently in leaked state documents obtained by Human Rights Watch, the New York-based pressure group that has chronicled links between the militia and the government.

But Mr Hilal, dressed in a white turban and green robe, became angry when asked if he belongs to the Janjaweed. "I am not Janjaweed. The Janjaweed are bandits, like the mutineers. It is we who are fighting the Janjaweed," he declared.

Al-Zahwi Ibrahim Mailek, the information minister, said that it was for the country's judiciary, who do not have a reputation for independence, to decide on any legal action against Mr Hilal. "If anyone has evidence against Musa Hilal, let them bring it before us," he said. "But we cannot just arrest people because of unproven claims."

While Mr Hilal was giving his version of events in the riverside hotel, Mr Pronk was upstairs holding meetings in the reception rooms which serve as his offices.

He told The Telegraph that Sudan's government must show that its new security orders are being imposed on the ground. "I see political progress but I do not yet see that being translated into changes in Darfur," he said.

Mr Pronk, who will deliver his initial report in a week's time, said that although there had been fewer militia attacks this month, villagers were continuing to abandon their homes. "They are still fleeing because they still have reason to be afraid," he said. "One million people don't flee for nothing."
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Janjaweed Leader For Disarming "All Warring Parties"

KHARTOUM, August 4 (IslamOnline.net) – The leader of the Arab militias accused by Washington of being responsible for atrocities in Sudan’s Darfur said Tuesday, August 3, he is willing to lay down arms should all other warring parties do the same in compliance with the latest UN Security Council Resolution.

The latest UN Security Council Resolution concerning disarmament in Darfur should include all armed militias in the restive region, Janjaweed leader Moussa Hilal said In an exclusive interview with IslamOnline.net.

“If disarmament is not all-encompassing, no body will care,” he told IOL. “It makes no sense to disarm and leave us all by ourselves facing bloody revenge sprees and ethnic cleansing.”

He was referring to a provision in the UNSC resolution, which condemned “all acts of violence and violations of human rights and international humanitarian law by all parties to the crisis, in particular by the Janjaweed, including indiscriminate attacks on civilians, rapes, forced displacements, and acts of violence especially those with an ethnic dimension”.

The UNSC threatened Sudan with punitive measures if it failed to rein in the Arab militias within one month.

More than 10,000 people are said to have died in Darfur since the revolt against the government broke out among indigenous ethnic minorities in February 2003.

The United Nations has labeled the 16-month-old conflict as the world's worst current humanitarian crisis, amid mixed reports putting the number of people killed at 10,000 to 50,000 and over one million forced to flee their homes.

Western media and countries alleged that systematic ethnic cleansing and mass rapes were taking place in the 125,000-square miles Darfur - almost the size of the United Kingdom.

But Dr. Hussein Gezairy, Regional Director of World Health Organization’s Eastern Mediterranean Region, told IslamOnline.net Thursday, July 29, that the situation in the restive area did not amount to genocide or ethnic cleansing as claimed.

On Monday, August 2, The Guardian reported that British Prime Minister Tony Blair is making the case for a "colonial war" against Sudan because of its growing oil reserves, as there are no signs of highly-touted claims of genocide in the Arab country.

“If disarmament is not all-encompassing, no body will care,” Hilal said.

Hilal said rebels in Darfur are misleading the United States and the UNSC by making "much fuss about nothing".

“I warn that Sudan will be another quagmire for the US whose intelligence services had misled them into an Iraqi swamp that badly tarnished the US image in the eyes of the peoples of the region and left its interests vulnerable,” he warned.

Hilal categorically denied responsibility for acts of violence in Darfur, including arsons and mass rapes, saying they are mere calumnies fabricated by the rebels.

He particularly blamed the Justice and Equality Movement for blemishing his reputation, asserting that its leaders tried to forge an alliance with him to defeat the government forces.

“I don’t mind them taking any action against me, but it should be based on fair investigation and counts of an independent fact-finding commission.

“I’m pretty sure that a fair trial will do justice to me and redeem my reputation,” he added.

Hilal also called for holding a reconciliation conference brining together the leaders of all tribes in Darfur to realize peace for the welfare of all Darfuris, Arabs and Africans alike.

“We only stick to our right to existence…We have been here for hundreds of years and reject any solution to the crisis that ignores our rights as it will end up with creating another [John] Garang,” the leader of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM).

Sudan’s Foreign Minister Mustafa Othman Ismail had warned that the Sudanese army would fight back if foreign troops are sent to end the conflict in the Darfur region.

"If we are attacked, we will not sit silent," Ismail had said during a visit to Turkey last month.

The main rebel groups in Darfur walked out from the African Union-mediated peace talks in the Ethiopian capital, insisting their demands must be met before they would start negotiating with Khartoum .

Hilal further said that the Arabs in Darfur have taken the brunt of the crisis.

“The rebellion is implementing a political agenda aimed at driving us out of our homeland to break away from Sudan and establish a state in the west with no Arab population,” Hilal told IOL.

“Since 1980s, the rebels have been circulating flyers calling for expelling us and liberating Sudan from the Arabs as well they have launched systematic marauding campaigns, but our pleas fell on deaf ears.”

He said the successive governments, including the incumbent, “ignored our pressing warnings and left us facing the African militias against sepulchral silence from the international community”.

Asked why Arab Darfuris did not resort to makeshift camps, Hilal said the Arabs feel it is dishonor to leave their women and families sustain on foreign aid.

“It hurts our pride, so the men are responsible for providing for them in hard times,” he said.

Hilal also denied that he was battling the African militias in cahoots with the government.

“We have only joined the civil defense corps since the start of confrontations between the government and the rebels to defend Darfur,” he said, noting that some 3,000 of Arab Darfuris had enrolled in the army in 2003.