Monday, September 20, 2004

AU soldiers in Sudan blow the whistle - situation is "falling apart" in Darfur

A must-read report from today's Scotsman "Darfur troops blow the whistle", written by Fred Bridgland in Johannesburg, is copied here in full:

AFRICAN Union soldiers yesterday accused the Sudanese government of brazenly breaching the ceasefire in the Darfur region and continuing to attack villages with a contemptuous disregard for the presence of peace monitors.

AU peacekeepers claim the situation is "falling apart" in Darfur, with the Sudanese not complying with the ceasefire demands.

Their allegations come after the UN Security Council on Saturday approved a resolution threatening oil sanctions against Sudan if the government fails to rein in the Arab Janjaweed militias blamed for killing tens of thousands of black Africans in Darfur.

AU soldiers in Darfur leaked the contents of classified reports sent to the union’s Addis Ababa headquarters, after their superiors refused to publish them. They paint a damning picture of the Sudanese government’s contempt for peacekeeping.

"They [the government] are not acting in good faith," says the AU’s mission chief, Ghana’s Colonel Anthony Amedoh. "Everything is falling apart. There are so many clear violations by the Sudanese government. They’re using aircraft where they’re not supposed to and they’re moving their forces all the time. They are not complying at all, but we can’t stop them from violating the ceasefire, we can just report it. They just deny it and don’t stop what they are doing."

The African commanders say the Sudan government is treating them like fools while its army, acting in close alliance with the Janjaweed militias, continues its ethnic cleansing of the Fur, Zaghawa, Masalit and other black African tribes.

Colonel Barry Steyn, commander of the small South African force with the AU mission, says he counts bodies of Sudan army and Janjaweed victims each week and sends classified reports to Addis Ababa. Describing maggot-infested decomposing skulls, he says: "You believe there’s an inherent goodness in people, but you see some of these villages and it shakes that belief. You look at this stuff and it makes you turn dead white."

Saturday’s Security Council vote was carried 11-0 with four abstentions - China, Russia, Pakistan and Algeria. China, a permanent council member with veto power and huge oil interests in Sudan, said immediately after the vote that it would veto any future resolution that sought to impose sanctions on Sudan. "I told the American government that the position of my government on sanctions is a firm one," said China’s UN ambassador, Wang Guangya. "We always believe that sanctions are not a helpful means to achieve political objectives. It will only make matters worse."

The resolution says the council would have to meet again to consider sanctions against Sudan’s petroleum sector or other punitive measures if the Khartoum government does not act quickly to stop the violence and bring the perpetrators to justice - or if it fails to co-operate with the 480-strong AU monitoring force. The council also ordered an investigation into whether the attacks constituted genocide. A declaration of genocide would oblige the UN to intervene militarily under the Convention on Prevention of Genocide.

The AU commanders decided to break silence and talk freely to visiting South African reporters because of the futility of their task and the AU’s refusal to publish what is really happening in Darfur.

"They [the Sudan Army] say there’s a fuel problem when they want to keep us on the ground," says Major Gordon Schmidt, a South African communications officer. "They don’t want us to take off because they don’t want us to see. It’s a big violation."

Schmidt was speaking as a Sudan army strike helicopter carrying 30 heavily armed soldiers took off on an attack mission from the Darfur town of Nyala. AU monitoring troops from Ghana, Nigeria, Rwanda, South Africa, Senegal and Egypt were ready to follow in their own choppers. But they are dependent on the Sudan army for fuel and, as flight crew stood ready, an AU soldier reported back: "The Sudanese say there is no fuel." By the time fuel arrived, the Sudanese attack was over. AU commanders and their troops watched from their tents and land cruisers as Sudanese officials welcomed back the attack force with smiles, hugs and multiple signing of forms.

"These people are not truthful, we’re always fighting about these fuel issues," says Sergeant William Molokwane of the South African Defence Force. "We are supposed to know about these movements - troops moving out of the city, attack helicopters flying in and out of the airport. They will only tell us, ‘we are testing them’."

As Sgt Molokwane sighs with frustration, a Nigerian soldier comes in from patrol and tells his commander, Colonel Negabi : "We caught them fighting together red-handed." He said Sudan soldiers and Janjaweed militiamen were jointly attacking civilians in a large refugee camp.

Sgt Molokwane is distraught. "Aside from our small protection force [of 120 Rwandan soldiers] there are absolutely no arms here," he says. "If something happens now, what can we do?"
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Darfur clashes block access to refugees

Today (Mon Sep 20) Reuters reports clashes between Sudanese army and the rebels are hindering aid agencies trying to assess the needs of some of the more than one million displaced people there, the United Nations says. Here is the report, in full:

Due to clashes ... an interagency team was not able to commence assessment of villages in Tawilla rural areas," it said, adding the fighting was in North Darfur state, about 70 km (45 miles) west of the capital El-Fasher.

The U.N. said it received similar reports of fighting in Ailliet, about 250 km (150 miles) southeast of the capital.

A U.N. Security Council resolution passed on Saturday threatens economic sanctions on Khartoum if it does not stop violence in Darfur, which Washington has termed genocide. The U.N. says fighting has displaced 1.5 million people, with more than 200,000 refugees in neighbouring Chad, in one of the world's worst humanitarian crises.

African Union monitors say they have confirmed 20 violations in the past two months of an April ceasefire. They say the violations were from all sides.

The U.N. report said the biggest cause of death in the Darfur camps was diarrhoea, but that a confirmed case of meningitis in Mornei camp was causing concern. An outbreak of Hepatitis E, a water-borne disease, was being brought under control, it added.

Banditry on roads in South Darfur state was a problem, the U.N. said. A lorry carrying World Food Programme (WFP) commodities was attacked on September 16.

A WFP spokesman has said the bandits appeared to be random looters, with some dressed in ragged parts of Sudanese army uniform and others in civilian clothing.

After years of low-level conflict between Arab nomads and African farmers, rebels launched a revolt last year accusing the government of supporting Arab militias, known as Janjweed, to loot and burn African villages.

Khartoum admits arming some militias to fight the rebels, but denies any links to the Janjaweed, calling them bandits.
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Sudan 'Not Afraid of UN Darfur Sanctions'

Report from today's (Mon Sep 20) Scotsman says Sudan is not afraid of a US-backed UN resolution threatening sanctions over the violence in Darfur, President Omar el-Bashir has been quoted as saying.

“We are afraid neither of the UN nor of its resolution,” state-run television quoted el-Bashir as telling a meeting of local political leaders yesterday in Khartoum. The report did not elaborate.

El-Bashir’s remarks came as Louise Arbour, the UN high commissioner for human rights, arrived in Khartoum in preparation for a trip to the western Darfur region to look into the humanitarian situation.

Western governments and international aid agencies maintain that government-backed militias burned and looted villages and raped or killed many inhabitants. The US has said genocide was being carried out.

Arbour met with Justice Minister Ali Osman Mohamed Yassin, who said his government was ready to assist her but that ”there is no genocide or cases of rape” in Darfur. The government has denied supporting the militiamen and rejected characterisation of genocide.

Sudan’s parliament speaker, Ahmed Ibrahim Tahir, was quoted by the official Sudan Media Centre as making similarly defiant remarks during a meeting of tribal leaders in Darfur.

“If Iraq has opened one gate to hell for the West, we are going to open seven gates,” Tahir was quoted as saying.

Such a UN resolution, according to a Sudanese Foreign Ministry official, will only make it harder for the government to calm an insurrection in the region.

But despite his criticism, Mutrif Sideeq indicated that his government would try to comply with the resolution meant to push it to rein in ethnic Arab militias accused of killing ethnic African villagers and creating an even deadlier humanitarian crisis.

The government is accused of backing the Arab militia as a strategy against rebels based among Darfur’s African tribespeople.

Meanwhile, a prominent Sudanese opposition member announced on national television last night that he was quitting his political party because it was clear to him it was behind a coup attempt.

Mohamed al-Hassan al-Amin, deputy chairman of the Popular Congress Party and head of its legal department, was a close aid to the party’s detained leader and ideologue, Hassan Turabi.

He accused unspecified elements within the party of plotting to use armed force without the consent of the party apparatus to spread chaos and overthrow the government of President Omar el-Bashir.

On September 8, police arrested more than 30 members of the party in relation to an alleged coup plot. Turabi has been in detention since earlier this year after police rounded up party members following another alleged coup plot. Members of his party have denied any involvement in the alleged coup attempts.
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Britain stands with China in opposing Sudan sanction

According to the China Daily news today (Mon Sep 20) Britain stands with China in opposing Sudan sanction:

"Britain opposes sanctions against Sudan amid the Darfur crisis, said British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw during a telephone talk with Chinese Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing, on Monday.

Straw expressed his appreciation to the active role China has played in the Darfur crisis and said Britain, too, does not support the sanctions.

China opposes sanctions or threat of sanctions in international affairs, said Li, adding that sanctions can only complicate the humanitarian situation of the Sudanese people, including the Darfur people.

Moreover, Li and Straw had an exchange of views on the nuclear issue on the Korean peninsula, the Iranian nuclear issue and spoke about how to further enhance bilateral friendly and cooperative relations between China and Britain."
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Britain says pressure on Sudan to intensify

LONDON (Reuters) - Britain says outside pressure has brought profound improvement in Darfur but Sudan has to do more to end the violence -- and the international community will intensify its efforts until it does.

International Development Secretary Hilary Benn was speaking after a U.N. resolution at the weekend threatened economic sanctions on Khartoum if it does not stop Arab militia terrorising African farmers in the remote western province.

Mr Benn met John Garang on Monday, leader of southern Sudanese rebels involved in a separate conflict and peace process, whom Khartoum has accused of backing insurgents in Darfur.

Benn said they agreed on the need for inter-connected solutions.

"Progress on completing the Naivasha process (about ending the southern conflict) is fundamental to the future of Sudan and to solving the crisis in Darfur," Benn said.

Asked about the U.S. use of "genocide" in relation to Darfur, he replied:

"The Americans have said what they've said. We've said it may be genocide. The U.N. has said 'crimes against humanity, ethnic cleansing'. The point is whatever word you use to call it, what are you doing about the current situation?"
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Russia opposes sanctions on Sudan, eyes arms sales

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia defended on Monday its decision not to back a U.N. resolution that threatens Sudan with sanctions if it does not halt violence in the Darfur region, and said it hoped to increase arms exports to the African state. The Foreign Ministry said Russia had abstained in Saturday's U.N. Security Council vote on a resolution on Sudan because the threat of oil sanctions was not the best way to ensure peace in Darfur, in southwestern Sudan.

The Council adopted the resolution, which also called for an international probe into abuses including genocide, although China, Pakistan and Algeria joined Russia in abstaining.

"We think that the threat of sanctions contained in the resolution with regard to Sudan is not the best way at all to motivate Khartoum to fulfil its obligations to the U.N.," a ministry statement said. "In order to solve complex crises, the international community has at its disposal diplomatic instruments that have demonstrated their effectiveness."

Russia has been criticised for supplying warplanes to Sudan, where Arab militias are attacking African villagers in the Darfur region and displaced villagers say government aircraft have bombed their homes. Russia's arms export agency said it wanted to do more business with Sudan and other African nations. "One of the key points of the Rosoboronexport Corporation marketing strategy is the extension of the volumes, diversity and geography in defence sales to African nations, " the agency said in a statement.

It added it was seeking contracts to refit outdated Soviet-era equipment sold to countries such as Sudan, Ethiopia and Uganda . "As Russian aviation equipment delivered to African nations requires repair, overhaul and modification, Rosoboronexport has been offering various upgrade packages," the agency said.
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Arab League: Sudan resolution hasty

Excerpt of report that appeared today online at the Tehran Times. It is the third time in the past day that I have seen mentiions made of "riches" in Darfur. Going by reports I've read these past five months, I have a feeling oil was discovered in Darfur a year or so ago. There is a lot more to what is going on in Sudan than meets the eye - especially concerning the relationships and ties between countries. More on this later at my other blogs Asia Oil Watch and China Tibet Watch where I am working on a post about China and Egypt (they are friends) and Japan (they are working on being friends) - and the establishment of an East Asia Community.

Khartoum (Aljazeera) -- The Arab League rejected a UN Security Council resolution "envisaging" possible sanctions against Sudan over the conflict in Darfur, saying it would not help bring peace to the region, officials said on Sunday. League spokesman Husam Zaki told reporters on Sunday, "imposing sanctions will not help resolve the crisis or encourage the parties to try and end it. In fact, it will have the opposite effect".

Uthman Muhammad Yusuf, Governor of Darfur told Aljazeera the U.S. label of "genocide in Darfur is a big and historical lie. We defy those accusing us and call them to come to Darfur and prove it on the ground". The governor said, "there is no ethnic cleansing or genocide here. We are one family in Darfur and from one origin. We are united in one home, Dar-meaning home and Fur being the name of the oldest inhabitants of the region". "The U.S. and the rebels are lying about this divide. They are trying to create this division where it does not exist", he added.

"The UN, USA, Britain and Germany have complicated the situation in Darfur and hindered our efforts there", he said. When asked about negotiations with rebel movements, Yusuf said, "I think that talks with our brothers (the rebels) in Europe who lead luxurious lives in the grand hotels could only have little impact."

"Residents of Darfur are the only ones who can solve the real issues and we cannot allow a group that does not even represent 4% of Darfur's population to hold us ransom," he added.

The governor concluded Aljazeera interview by saying the rebels are seeking control of the resource rich area, refusing to be disarmed and are trying to blow the situation out of proportion with the help of the U.S. and the EU.
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Full Text: Security Council Resolution 1564 on Darfur

The Security Council September 18 adopted a second resolution on Darfur calling for an international investigation into reports of genocide.

The resolution, number 1564, was adopted by a vote of 11 to 0 with Algeria, China, Pakistan, and Russia abstaining. It was drafted by the United States and co-sponsored by Germany, Romania, Spain, and the United Kingdom.

The resolution asks Secretary General Kofi Annan to "rapidly establish an international commission of inquiry" in order to investigate reports of violations of international humanitarian law and human rights law in Darfur to determine whether or not acts of genocide have occurred.

Expressing "grave concern" that Sudan has not fully complied with its previous resolution on Darfur ( resolution 1556), the council also said that it will consider taking "additional measures" such as an oil embargo or sanctions against individual members of the government if Khartoum doesn't comply with the U.N. demands.

In the resolution, the Security Council endorsed an expansion of the African Union (AU) monitoring force and asked nations to contribute equipment and funds for the deployment.
The council also demanded that Sudan submit the names of Jingaweit militia and other arrested for human rights abuses as proof that it has complied with resolution 1556.

Click here for the text of the resolution.

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