Friday, December 31, 2004

Permanent truce signed in Sudan

The government of Sudan and South Sudan rebel group SPLM pledged in writing to the UN Security Council last month that they would sign a final peace agreement by December 31, when a temporary ceasefire was due to expire.

Today, within hours of the year-end deadline agreed with the U.N., two protocols were signed by middle-ranking officials of the government and the SPLM.

The newly signed agreements detail how to implement protocols worked out during two years of negotiations. The protocols cover how to share power and natural resources, including oil; what to do with their armed forces during a six-year transition period; and how to administer three disputed areas in central Sudan.

One protocol is a permanent cease-fire. The permanent truce will come into force some 72 hours after the cease-fire deal was signed, said Sayed El-Khatib, spokesman for the government delegation at the peace talks.

South African President Thabo Mbeki was in the Kenyan town of Naivasha to witness the ceremony along with his Sudanese counterpart Omar al-Bashir.

Mediators said a ceremony had tentatively been set for January 9 in Nairobi where both principal negotiators -- SPLM leader John Garang and Sudanese First Vice President Ali Osman Mohamed Taha -- are due to sign the eight deals agreed by junior colleagues in two years of talks. The final peace deal calls for power sharing during a six-year transition period, after which the south will hold a referendum on whether to remain part of Sudan.

Two million people have died and four million people have been displaced since the war broke out in 1983, when rebels in the Christian and animist south demanded autonomy from the Muslim north.

The accords do not include Darfur in western Sudan. "The agreement that is being signed today is partial agreement," SLA chairman told Reuters by telephone from Darfur. "We in the SLA inform the government and SPLM clearly that this may be a step but is in no way a solution to the problem of Sudan."

Sudan, which on Saturday celebrates its 1956 freedom from Britain, has been embroiled in a series of civil wars for most of its independence.


"The peace deal is the beginning of real independence from Sudan," said Qamar Hasan al-Taher, a member of the SPLM.

"The war in the south is over," Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir. "Our happiness will not be complete unless we solve the problem of Darfur," Bashir added.

In a statement issued by his spokesman, Mr. Kofi Annan said he looks forward to the official signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, ushering in "a new era of peace" in the Sudan, in which the U.N. is prepared to play a significant role.

Further reading:

Violence forces more charities to pull back from 'too dangerous' Darfur: The aid agencies are wary of criticising the Sudanese government in public, but a senior official said: "We are going to continue to see the humanitarian organisations drawing back. It is simply too dangerous. This means that the Sudanese government is effectively winning in its campaign to keep independent observers out of Darfur. It'll also be even more of a humanitarian disaster than it is now. It is astonishing the outside world does not realise this.

New group mounts pressure on Garang: It's emerging that radicals in and outside the movement are bent on putting up new demands that could pose a litmus test to Dr John Garang's grip in the south during the six-year interim period. A section of southern intelligentsia are saying absence of armed conflict in the south won't herald the beginning of peace as long as freedom fighters-both in and outside the country are not fully involved in the system. "If the southern Sudanese are not careful, the next strife in this country may emanate from southern Sudan, and between the southerners themselves," warned Lako.

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Insecurity increases - UN food agency suspends food convoys to Sudan's Darfur region

The latest from the UK Press Association (PA) via Reuters confirms the UN World Food Program has suspended food convoys to Darfur after rebel forces attacked the market town of Ghubaysh and the government retaliated.

WFP halted 3 convoys of 70 trucks carrying more than 1,300 tonnes of food destined for the capitals of North and South Darfur state, the UN's OCHA said Tuesday.

The attack Monday on Ghubaysh in West Kordofan follows weeks of insecurity in Darfur in which the warring parties have attacked each other. It was the second attack by the SLA rebel since Dec. 19 when the Sudanese government agreed to an immediate cessation of hostilities, UN officials said.

The recent insecurity has blocked access from central Sudan to Darfur for UN and other relief agencies, OCHA said. As a result, some 260,000 people will miss their December rations in South Darfur as well as eastern parts of West Darfur, it said.

The UN said it also was concerned about reports that Darfur-based rebel forces have stolen 13 commercial all-terrain trucks leased to WFP and loaded with food in the last two weeks.

These thefts are in addition to multiple losses of commercial and aid-agency vehicles to armed groups in recent months, OCHA said. More alarming are reports that the rebel group that stole them may now be using some of these trucks for military purposes, it said.

Tony Blair on "A year of huge challenges"

Two particular tasks face the world's rich nations, argues Britain's prime minister in this article at the Economist today: sorting out Africa, and dealing with climate change. Unusually, it looks like the editorial is authored by Tony Blair, which is why it is copied here incase the article disappears into the archives or the link becomes broken:

BRITAIN takes over the presidency of the G8 this week. As each member-country holds this position in rotation, critics sometimes dismiss the presidency as little more than a chance to show-case the host nation at the annual summit. I believe they are wrong. I see it instead as an important opportunity to influence the international agenda of some of the world's most prosperous and powerful countries.

This doesn't mean, of course, that any country can successfully push the G8 in a direction the other members do not want to go. But the presidency can give an important impetus to tackling problems that the rest recognise need addressing. This is certainly the outcome I want from Britain's presidency in 2005. I have made it clear that our efforts will focus on progress on Africa and climate change.

Why? Firstly because, along with the threat from international terrorism and the spread of weapons of mass destruction, I believe they are the most serious problems facing the world today. Second, because they are both problems beyond the power of any single country, no matter how well-intentioned or powerful, to tackle on its own. A solution requires co-ordinated international action and, above all, leadership, which the G8 is uniquely placed to give.

Africa is a continent of breathtaking beauty and diversity with an extraordinary, energetic and resilient people. As I have seen from my own visits, given a chance, no matter how small, to better themselves, they seize it.

But Africa is also a place plagued with problems—debt, disease, conflict, corruption and weak governance—so embedded and widespread that no continent, no matter how prosperous, could tackle them on its own. And Africa is not prosperous.

It's the world's poorest continent. Half the population of sub-Saharan Africa lives in absolute poverty. And, uniquely, Africa is getting poorer. Average income per head is lower now than it was 30 years ago.

It is also the continent worst hit by the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Twenty million Africans have already died from the disease, and it is going to get much worse. In some countries, four out of ten people are infected. Life expectancy is falling, and will soon be down to just 30 years. This catastrophe has single-handedly wiped out half a century of development gains.

In Sudan, and elsewhere, we have seen the tragic effects of war. At least 2m people have died in Sudan's north-south conflict over the past 21 years, and millions more have been affected. A comprehensive peace agreement could turn Sudan around; but Darfur remains a catastrophe, and we cannot turn our attention away from it. In Zimbabwe we see the great damage that can be done to a country, its economy, its people and their potential by the destruction of democracy and the failure of governance. We have worked with the international community to identify benchmarks to help Zimbabwe restore the rights and prosperity of its people.

Why we should care

Should this matter to the rest of the world? For democratic governments, it should, because it matters to our citizens. They give millions of dollars to help Africa and its people. They campaign for their governments to do more. They passionately believe, as I do, that it can't be morally right, in a world growing more prosperous and healthier by the year, that one in six African children still die before their fifth birthday. The worldwide campaign to make poverty history rightly challenges us to act.

But the state of Africa is also a case, unusual in politics, where heart and head are pushing us in the same direction. We must now all accept the utter futility of trying to shut our borders to problems abroad. Famine in Africa will affect our countries because it will be a trigger for mass migration. Conflict, too, drives millions to flee their homes. Both create the conditions for terrorism and fanaticism to take root and spread directly to Europe, to North America and to Asia. We spend billions on humanitarian aid to help pick up the pieces. A prosperous Africa, where its people have the chance to fulfil their talents, is in all our interests.

The sheer scale of Africa's problems can induce an understandable sense of hopelessness that progress can be made. It helps explain the shocking fact that aid to Africa, notwithstanding Britain's increased contribution, has fallen since 1995. But there are reasons for optimism. We have seen the emergence of a new generation of democratically elected African leaders, determined that their governments will work cleanly and effectively to improve life for their citizens. Their New Partnership for Africa's Development sets out a challenging agenda.

According to the World Bank, governance has been improving faster in Africa than in many other areas of the developing world. Conflict in Africa, although still devastating where it occurs, is also decreasing. Mozambique, a country brought to its knees by vicious fighting, has cut its levels of poverty by almost a third since peace. The civil war in Sierra Leone, thanks to the intervention of British forces, is over and the country is slowly recovering. The African Union is playing an increasing role in settling conflicts.

With a little more help, he can prosper

We know that the best way to reduce poverty is through economic growth. And we know that economic growth can be increased by aid. Fifteen countries in Africa had average growth rates above 4% throughout the 1990s. Half of Africa had growth of over 5.9% in 2001. Many of the countries which have benefited from increased aid, such as Uganda and Mozambique, have seen poverty fall over an extended period. Targeted British assistance, for example, has already enabled Uganda to introduce universal primary education and free basic health care.

We can also increase the effectiveness of our aid. Tied aid, directed by the priorities of the donor rather than the recipient and bypassing government systems, actually undermines effectiveness and internal accountability.

Getting others involved

I am proud that Britain's involvement is helping this progress. We are doubling our bilateral aid to Africa; it will reach £1 billion ($1.9 billion) in 2005, and will rise further. We have written off 100% of the debts of the poorest countries. We have dramatically increased help to tackle the big killers such as AIDS and malaria.

But to help Africa continue this progress we need a concerted, co-ordinated global effort. Ad hoc, short-term measures will not do. A comprehensive programme of action is needed with sustained commitment to implementation by Africa and by the international community. Truly, a new partnership is required. We need concerted action to improve opportunities and growth, to reduce debt, to tackle HIV, malaria and TB, to fight corruption and to promote peace and security. We also need to tackle trade barriers which push up prices for our consumers, prevent African countries exporting their products and see Europe spending more on subsidising its own farmers than on aid to Africa. This is an investment for our, and Africa's, future: more than half of Africa is under 15.

It is already clear what sort of measures are needed, and I believe the recommendations of the Commission for Africa, which will report in the spring, will take us further.

Action requires more resources, and now. There will be calls to double aid to Africa. I believe all the G8 members can do more: extending debt relief, providing more resources to tackle HIV, giving more girls the chance of education, reducing rates of infant mortality, building the infrastructure needed for private-sector growth. Investment is needed now, and we must look at ways to bridge the gap. Gordon Brown has set out one way we can do so through the International Finance Facility, which would raise extra aid money by leveraging capital markets and issuing bonds.

I hope the G8 will agree not only to a plan of action but also to its implementation, a process of monitoring and review. We all need to be accountable for carrying out the commitments we have made.

The changing climate

Africa, of course, is also seen by experts as particularly vulnerable to climate change. The size of its land-mass means that, in the middle of the continent, overall rises in temperature will be up to double the global rise, with increased risk of extreme droughts, floods and outbreaks of disease. It is estimated that African GDP could decline by up to 10% because of climate change.

But no country will escape its impact. And there can be no doubt that the world is getting warmer. Temperatures have already risen by 0.7°C over the past century, and the ten hottest years on record have all occurred since 1991. It's the fastest rise in temperatures in the northern hemisphere for a thousand years.

This temperature rise has meant a rise in sea level that, if it continues as predicted, will mean hundreds of millions of people increasingly at risk from flooding. And climate change means more than warmer weather: other extreme, increasingly unpredictable, weather events such as rainstorms and droughts will also have a heavy human and economic cost.

It is true, of course, that some scientists still contest the reasons for these changes. But it would be false to suggest that scientific opinion is equally split. It is not. The overwhelming view of experts is that climate change, to a greater or lesser extent, is man-made and, without action, will get worse. And as the evidence gets stronger by the day, the sceptics dwindle in number. From Arnold Schwarzenegger's California to China's Ningxia province, the world is taking climate change seriously.

But just as technological progress and human activity have helped cause this problem, it is also within our power to lessen its impact and adapt to change. Science has alerted us to the dangers our planet faces and will help us meet these challenges.

But we need to act now. Delay will only increase the seriousness of the problems we need to reverse, and the economic disruption required to move to more renewable forms of energy and sustainable manufacturing in the future. And the G8, again, needs to lead: not just because we currently account for 47% of global CO2 emissions, but also because it is our scientists, our industries and our economies that must help solve this problem.

Russian ratification of the Kyoto protocol means that we now have a new global treaty that is about to come into force. This is good news. But the level of change and ambition required will be far more than the Kyoto protocol is likely to provide. And with the United States, the world's largest emitter of greenhouse gases, refusing to sign up to the protocol, this makes the measures we could secure through the G8 even more vital.

The melting ice-caps: a global responsibility

Although the United States will not ratify Kyoto, other approaches, such as the McCain-Lieberman bill now going through Congress, could stand a better chance of support. Some American states and businesses are also already taking a lead on initiatives to reduce greenhouse emissions. New York has a state emissions-reductions target of 5% below 1990 by 2010 and 10% by 2020. California has a string of policies in train, including regulating carbon emissions from vehicles and increasing the amount of energy generated from renewable sources to 20% of electricity sold into the state by 2010.

The United States is also leading investment and research in the new low-carbon economy. It is not a choice, as some suppose, between economic prosperity and tackling climate change. It is technological advances and economic development that will provide the realistic solution. It is the firms and countries that lead the way in adapting to this challenge that will have the competitive advantage in the future.

In Britain our economy grew by 36% between 1990 and 2002 while greenhouse gas emissions fell by 15%. British Petroleum has set and achieved targets, such as reducing its greenhouse-gas emissions by 10% in just three years. To achieve this, the company introduced an emissions-trading scheme: it cost $20m to implement, yet saved it $650m over the three-year period.

Those companies that adapt early to the demands of a future low-carbon economy know they gain competitive advantage. So this is not just the right thing to do for the sake of the planet. It is the right thing to do commercially.

Why we should act

Advocates for action on climate change must confront three economic arguments. First, if the case is so clear, why not just leave it to business? To that point I would say it is precisely in this kind of long-term challenge, where there are demonstrable and potentially irreversible social effects, with returns accruing over periods beyond commercial discounting, that government must play a clear role.

Second, critics charge that government is picking new, untried technologies that may fail. Here I would say the approach of clever governments is not to pick technologies, but to establish conditions where innovation is supported and encouraged into the market-place.

Finally, some argue that there are more immediate problems. In some senses, they are right: over the next five years, for example, water pollution will cause more harm worldwide. It is wrong, however, to see these problems as mutually exclusive. Without a stable climate, addressing other environmental threats will be impossible, ensuring a future of more degraded water and land. Every year lost on tackling climate change will take us further along the path where the costs of action multiply. And I have never believed that simple discounting can be an adequate tool for potentially catastrophic outcomes 50 or more years ahead.

We are at a stage where the role of government and global policy must be to encourage the development and commercial viability of the new technologies that have the potential to mitigate the effects of climate change. There is no single “silver bullet” that will solve the problem, despite what some enthusiasts for nuclear or hydrogen power may tell you. But a whole range of technologies are either available now, or will become available, which, taken together, can make a huge difference.

I believe the G8 can take a global lead both in making the world aware of the scale of the problem and in proposing ways to tackle them. Through the G8, we have the opportunity to agree on what the most up-to-date investigations of climate change are telling us about the threat we face. We could also endeavour to identify and support the technological measures necessary to meet the threat, which would complement rather than undercut the Kyoto protocol. And the G8 must also engage actively with other countries with growing energy needs—such as China, India, Brazil and South Africa—to ensure that they meet their needs sustainably and adapt to the adverse effects of climate change, which seem inevitable.

Given the different positions of the G8 nations on this issue, such agreement will be a major advance. But I believe it is achievable and necessary.

I have no doubt that some may argue that aiming so high both on climate change and Africa is a hostage to fortune. I recall that fictional Whitehall mandarin, Sir Humphrey Appleby of “Yes, Prime Minister”, describing such ambitions as “courageous” when he hoped to put Jim Hacker off a particular course of action. But I remain hopeful that we can succeed in these aims. It is vital for the world that we do.

Photo courtesy AP - British Prime Minister Tony Blair on a recent trip to Africa for the launch of his Commission for Africa that is due to report by February/Spring 2005.

Sunday, December 26, 2004

From 1 January British and French forces begin to prepare for EU Rapid Reaction Force missions

This morning, a report at the Scotsman mentions another rebel group called the National Movement for Reform and Development in a piece titled "World put to shame as Sudan heads for disaster."

Also today, reports by the Independent and Agence France-Presse via Space War and Turkish Press say British Prime Minister Tony Blair has asked for plans to be prepared to deploy 3,000 British troops in Sudan.

Unsurprisingly, a Reuters report a few hours later, confirmed a spokeswoman for Mr Blair's office said she was unaware of any such request. "We're trying to help find a solution -- clearly there are difficulties in the Sudan -- but working through the U.N. and the African Union," she said.

The Independent's report rings more true than the Reuters report that was based on the view of a spokeswoman. The British government has been known in the past to "leak" tantalising news snippets as part of a wider strategy that also helps gauge public opinion. Here is why I believe Mr Blair has ordered military chiefs to prepare to send British troops to intervene in Sudan in the New Year, and why I have eagerly awaited and expected such news in the run up to January 1, 2005:

Various reports over the past few months led one to believe that Britain would consider British troops as part of the 10,000 peacekeepers it proposed at the UN Security Council meeting in Nairobi last month.

Several weeks ago, Mr Blair travelled to Ethiopia for the launch meeting of his new Commission for Africa. He personally delivered a five point plan to Sudan's President in Khartoum with the warning of a January deadline and serious consequences if the plan was not carried out.

In July, the head of the British Army said he could provide 5,000 troops for Sudan at short notice.

A British military reconnaissance team visited Sudan to investigate the possibility of sending medics and logistical personnel to assist in any United Nations operation to provide aid to the people of Darfur. The 30-strong team from the Permanent Joint Headquarters, led by a colonel, included medics, logistics staff and communications experts.

Britain has been working with its partners in the European Union to form Rapid Reaction Forces in teams of 1,500 soldiers that could respond to hotspots, anywhere in the world, within just a few weeks. January was consistently mentioned as a date when the troops could be ready. Note, the Independent's report states:

[British] Chiefs of staff have been told to prepare plans to send up to 3,000 troops to the troubled Darfur region amid concern that the humanitarian crisis will dramatically worsen. The deployment will be discussed early next month at a meeting with senior military officials.

"When you decide to make an intervention you have got to be able to move fast," a minister told The Independent on Sunday.

Troops would be sent as part of the new European Union Rapid Reaction Force which Mr Blair has said he wants to be operational "as soon as possible in 2005". Senior military figures now expect Darfur to be the first major test for the EU Rapid Reaction Force, if it is sanctioned by the UN or African Union.

From 1 January British forces begin major command exercises with France to prepare for missions. If British troops are sent, the most likely candidates are the Marines' 3 Commando Brigade in Plymouth or 16 Air Assault Brigade from the Army, now at Colchester. There could be two battlegroups, of about 850 to 1,000.

It is not clear if the new EU Rapid Reaction Forces would require a U.N. resolution to intervene against the will of another country. Or whether instead they could get a mandate via the African Union's security council. If members of the EU agree to deploy their own EU army, while the EU are financially supporting the African Union, why would the EU need a mandate from the UN Security Council?

UPDATE: China and South Africa news has picked up on the story so it should be reaching Khartoum's ears any time now :-) Nothing yet from the BBC. I've read the rebels keep their ears glued to the BBC's Arabic radio station. Word should be getting around like wildfire by now: the Brits are coming! Heh.

UPDATE: South African news has now picked up on the denial story but with a slight variation: "I don't recognise that story at all," a Blair spokesperson said on condition of anonymity.
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Here is a same day update on post above. Dozens of foreign news agencies around the world are circulating reports announcing that Britain is preparing to send thousands of British troops into Darfur. The reports mostly contain the same information. However, news just out by the UK Herald provides greater detail, mentioning France and the French Foreign Legion but does not reveal sources. Please read the Herald's report in full. Note, nothing of this news has yet been covered by the BBC, Scotsman or Guardian. It seems likely current reports are springing out of news that from 1 January British and French forces begin to prepare for EU Rapid Reaction Force missions. Darfur may be their first mission. More later.

Further reading:

See my post Dec. 11, 2004 entitled "European Union must act to stop violence in Darfur" and other posts on the EU at Passion of the Present.

Note Google search box for EU posts here, and at personal blog here and here.

Dec 23 Good News (bringing the UK Christian online community together) issues a Statement on Sudan.

Dec 26 Scotsman report: World put to shame as Sudan heads for disaster.

Dec 26 Pakistan Daily news: US sanctions bill harmful to peace efforts.

Dec 25 BBC report: Satellite mapping aids Darfur relief.

The Pope's "Urbi et Orbi"

Thousands of locals, tourists and pilgrims turned out in freezing rain at noon yesterday in St Peter's Square Rome to hear the Pope's traditional "Urbi et Orbi" (Latin for "to the city and to the world") message and holiday wishes in dozens of languages. Dissapointingly, it was not transmitted on British television.

The Pope has called for peace in Iraq and Sudan and said he hoped that peace-building efforts will bring the world a more tranquil future.

"Babe of Bethlehem, Prophet of peace, encourage attempts to promote dialogue and reconciliation, sustain the efforts to build peace, which hesitantly, yet not without hope, are being made to bring about a more tranquil present and future for so many of our brothers and sisters of the world," John Paul said, slowly pronouncing each word and often pausing to catch his breath.

"I think of Africa, of the tragedy of Darfur in Sudan, of the Ivory Coast and of the Great Lakes Region," John Paul said of those conflict areas.

Pope John Paul II at Midnight Mass. Report courtesy UKTelegraph

Saturday, December 25, 2004

A Christmas Hello and Advent service and prayer for refugees

Christmas greetings and a warm hello from England, UK to Jim and friends and visitors to this site.


[Image via Netlex France]

CAFOD online published a service designed for use during Advent with ecumenical congregations that could also be used with members of just one church. The theme of the service is refugees. During the service, Jesus' experience as a refugee is linked with the experience of today's refugees. Here is a special prayer:

We pray for the 19 million refugees and 25 million displaced people in the world today. We pray that they may find safety, shelter, food and water.

We pray that the reasons why people are forced to leave their homes may be recognised and tackled. We pray that there may be peace, not war. We pray that all people may see that they are equal, that nobody has the right to persecute others because of their race, their gender, their culture or way of life.

We pray for those people who are forced to leave their homes because of hunger, or drought, or because their land has been taken from them. We pray for those who are effectively refugees in their own land, attacked by their own government.

We pray for ourselves, that we may not be too afraid to be welcoming. We pray that we have the courage to get involved.

We pray for all asylum seekers, particularly those who are kept in detention centres and prisons in this country while their claim is processed.

We pray for those people who have to make decisions about claims for asylum. May they be fair and unprejudiced. Give them compassion and real wisdom. We pray too for those who make the laws and draw up the guidelines about asylum. May they abide by the spirit of international law and be guided by the spirit of truth and justice.


Friday, December 24, 2004

Bush signs Comprehensive Peace in Sudan Act, 2004

On August 18, 2004, I wrote a post linking to Wikipedia that explained the Sudan Peace Act is a US law condemning Sudan for genocide and was signed into law October 21, 2002 by President George W. Bush.

Yesterday, a bill passed by the U.S. Senate in a voice vote on December 7 was signed by President Bush and the White House released a Statement.

The bill authorises $200 million in aid, including money for the deployment of more African peacekeepers in the region, and another $100 million as an incentive for reaching a final peace agreement in the 21-year war between the Sudanese government and the southern rebel group, the Sudan People's Liberation Army, led by John Garang.

The bill authorises the money but does not actually provide the funds. The money would have to come from a separate spending bill or by shifting of funds from other programs.

Note, the above pertains to a north-south conflict that is separate from the Darfur rebellion in western Sudan. Darfur is a 22-month long uprising that is not (yet) included in the peace deal to be signed December 31, 2004.

As noted here earlier, the latest news reports say the Darfur rebel group JEM has refused to continue peace talks. So, unless a miracle happens, Darfur will not be included in the upcoming deal (if it ever gets signed). And, even when deals do get signed, who can believe any agreements will hold? U.S. Ambassador John Danforth said in his experience he came to learn that Sudanese agreements tend to be written in disappearing ink.

Massive amounts of development funding and aid, along with thousands of U.N. peacekeepers as part of the peace agreement, from many governments around the world await the signing of a peace agreement. But please do not hold your breath. War is a way of life in Sudan. They don't really know the meaning of peace.

After 50 years of independence, Sudan is in a time warp and needs a good deal of outside help. The present regime in Khartoum are not up to the job and have proved untrustworthy. The people of Sudan deserve better. Sudan is rich in natural resources and has a lot going for it but only with good governance. The perpetrators of atrocities in Sudan should be behind bars.

Thursday, December 23, 2004

China would consider further U.N. action on Darfur if both sides are targeted

On reading a Guardian report Yesterday in parliament, I kept the following snippet aside as it sounded rather odd that British Foreign Office Minister Chris Mullin made such a pointed statement to the House:

"... Both sides in the Darfur conflict are behaving badly despite BBC reports that concentrate on government forces, Mr Mullin said. He told MPs: "I continually hear reports, often on the BBC, of the situation in Darfur as though there is only one party, the government of Sudan, involved; there are actually two parties, and according to UN special representative Jan Pronk, in the last two months at least the rebel forces have been responsible for a greater number of violations than the government side. ..."

Also this morning, a similar statement appears in a report from the Guardian titled Annan Calls for Sudan Reassessment which says:

"... China, which imports Sudanese oil, has been most reluctant, but China's U.N. Ambassador Wang Guangya said Wednesday his government would consider further action if both sides are targeted. "Whatever measure it is, we are going to study it, but it has to be targeted on both sides, not just on one side," Wang said. "Clearly the information from the ground is that both sides are making the troubles, not one side. So we need to take a balanced approach." ..."

Note, perhaps Mr Mullin's statement was "diplomatic speak" signalling a message to politicians and the media (in particular the BBC who have done some great reporting on Darfur) that both Khartoum and the rebels need to be targeted.

It is interesting to see the Scotsman ending a news report this morning, Annan calls for rethink on Darfur, admitting that UN stance is failing, with this line:

"China, which imports oil from Sudan, has been most reluctant but China's UN ambassador, Wang Guangya, said his government would consider action if both sides in the conflict were targeted."
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Annan advises UNSC to reassess and take further action

A report in the FT says Kofi Annan has said the Security Council should look at ways to increase the international presence in Darfur, as well as consider imposing targeted sanctions and taking other measures against the Sudanese government.

"We also see that the situation on the ground is deteriorating," Mr Annan said. "So there comes a time when you have to make a reassessment as to whether the approach you've taken is working or not. “And if it's not working, then what measures do you take?"

He added: "Those who are perpetrating these crimes must not be allowed to get away, and impunity must not be allowed to stand."
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UN Diplomats spar over Darfur

According to a Voice Of America report, the U.S. urged Kofi Annan to visit Darfur after Mr. Annan criticised the Security Council's approach to ending the violence there. 

The report says Mr. Annan's comments appeared to annoy several Security Council diplomats, who were meeting behind closed doors to hear what they called a "disturbing briefing" on conditions in Darfur.
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Annan rejects US suggestions he visit Darfur now

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan on Wednesday rejected an immediate trip to Sudan, as the U.S. suggested, saying the Security Council first had to take new decisions on stopping the conflict in Darfur.
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Neither side are really hurrying towards peace

See China Daily News report Parties optimistic about peace deal in Sudan, covered by several other new agencies, that says Sudan foreign ministry spokesman Mohamed Ahmed Abdel Gaffar told VOA a deal is near. "... and at most [an agreement will be signed] within the first week of January if not at the end of this month," said Mr. Gaffar.

A Reuters report says Darfur rebel group JEM refuses to return to talks: JEM will not return to African Union-sponsored peace talks in Abuja and is rejecting the pan-African body as mediator to end the 22-month-old conflict in Western Sudan.

The leader of JEM, told Reuters today it would only accept the U.N. as lead mediator in any peace talks and wanted U.N. troops stationed in Darfur. He said the AU had failed to hold the Sudanese government to account.
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UK offers £100m to start global aid fund

Britain has offered £100m to launch a new billion-dollar global emergency fund to ease the suffering of people caught up in humanitarian disasters on the scale of Darfur.
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Khartoum troops reportedly kill MSF aid worker in Darfur Sudan

A BBC news report says an aid worker was shot and killed. MSF said it happened at the front of a warehouse used by MSF in south Darfur last week during an attack by government troops. He was the second Sudanese MSF worker to be killed in three months.

Some 29 other Sudanese workers for the medical aid group are still missing following the Dec. 17 raid on Labado, a town in South Darfur, MSF said in a statement. Quoting eyewitnesses, MSF said Labado, formerly a town of 27,000 people, had been emptied and destroyed following several days of fighting. "Any Darfuri is at risk in Darfur," an MSF spokesman said.

"The deployment of the African Union troops and police needs to be speeded up," Mr Annan told reporters on Tuesday evening. [Note the word 'police']

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Hotel Rwanda opens today

Hotel Rwanda, which stars Don Cheadle, is a film by Terry George based on the true story of a hotel manager who sheltered more than 1,200 refugees after the West turned a blind eye to that country's genocidal violence a decade ago.

So far, it looks like some 500 bloggers have given it publicity. Here are a few - this list is likely to be ongoing - more later:

French blog Netlex: Films and the making sense of a genocide; American Conservative Life: Hotel Darfur; Indian Express article here at Sudan Watch titled "Rwanda film hits raw nerve for Clinton aide."

PS Please note this page is currently under DIY construction, by me who hasn't a clue how to change a blog template design. Started teaching myself yesterday by trial and error, poking around and guessing. Not sure what I have done wrong, or if it is the Veranda Serif font that is incorrect for this page, but if you see strange symbols and characters scattered throughout: sorry, they will be fixed, as soon as I know how (I keep amending them but they change back after saving).

Darfur peace talks suspended until January - U.N. moves on two fronts

Peace talks between the Sudanese government and Darfur's main rebel movements have been suspended until January, according to a join statement from the parties released by the African Union.

Note, the statement calls for contributing countries to rapidly deploy the remaining African Union personnel.
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U.N. moves on two fronts

Today, the U.N. moved on both the political and aid fronts to halt the resurgence of violence and prepare for a possible new flood of refugees.

Meeting in New York, the security council enjoined all parties in the conflict to abide by previous ceasefire accords under threat of an unspecified "full range of options" to enforce compliance.

At the same time the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) announced plans to deal with a potential new influx into neighbouring Chad. Please click here for full story.

UK Parliament List of MPs and Constituency Locata

In response to Jim's post titled "Call your elected representatives today!" here is how a UK resident can contact their representative:

* Enter your postcode here to identify your MP.

* Phone your MP. You can contact your MP at Westminster by calling the House of Commons switchboard on 020 7219 3000 and asking to be put through.

* Fax your MP (via the internet) using

* Email your MP. Find your MP's email address here or here and email them directly.

* Write to your MP. MPs are often most responsive to hand-written correspondence. Send letters to: (Your MP's name), House of Commons, London SW1A 0AA.

PS Note to Jim: I will check out Capwiz and do a search to see if there is an equivalent for the UK. Yes, it's a great idea to make such a directory and publish it on the Passion. If any readers here know of a Capwiz like site for other countries, pointers would be gratefully received and much appreciated. Please comment here or email me via my main blog or to Jim at the Passion. Thank you.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

U.N. Security Council to meet today at Britain's request

The United Nations Security Council is due to meet today, at Britain's request, for a briefing on the latest developments which have prompted strong condemnation from British Foreign Secretary, Jack Straw, and International Development Secretary, Hilary Benn.

"Recent rebel attacks on Tawilla and on humanitarian convoys in Darfur, along with the murder of two Save the Children UK staff are particularly horrific," Mr Benn said in a statement. "It is imperative that all parties return to the AU-mediated negotiations in Abuja [the capital of Nigeria], which is the only way that the suffering of the people of Darfur can be brought to an end."

"The recent actions by the government of Sudan have been carried out in defiance of the obligations placed upon it by three UN Security Council resolutions on Sudan," Mr Straw said. If the council received confirmation of additional ceasefire violations, he said Britain would expect it to take "further action."

Today's briefing could provide the ammunition for the Security Council to take such action, amid calls for the AU mandate to be toughened. At present, the 800 AU soldiers deployed in a region the size of France only have the task of monitoring the ceasefire and not of peacekeeping or protecting the civilian population.

UK charity pulls out of Darfur - 360,000 needy beyond reach in north and south Darfur Sudan

UK-based charity Save the Children today announced that it is withdrawing all 350 of its staff from Darfur after attacks that have killed four of its employees. The charity said it was "devastated" it could no longer serve some 250,000 children in the area but the risks facing its workers were "unacceptable".

Mike Aaronson, the charity's director, described the withdrawal as "probably the worst decision I have ever had to take in my time at Save the Children". "We hope to one day resume operations in Darfur, with a view to helping people rebuild their lives and communities, once the security situation has stabilized," he added. Full story at the Guardian and BBC.

Note, the BBC report says Mr Aaronson told BBC News world leaders must effect a ceasefire deal before setting out to solve Darfur's political problems and warned that other charities could follow Save the Children's lead. He blamed ineffectual efforts from the international community to secure stability. "This is not just about one agency deciding to leave. There is a real threat to the whole humanitarian operation at the moment," he told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme.

UN World Food Programme last week announced that security issues have now put 360,000 formerly accessible and needy civilians in north and south Darfur beyond humanitarian reach.

Rafe Bullick (right) is among one of the four Save the Children UK employees killed recently

Meanwhile there is a water shortage obstacle for Darfur refugees in Chad and the Sudanese government is still negotiating with rebels from the south, to try and establish a final ceasefire agreement by the end of the year. The Sudanese parliament has voted to extend the country's five-year state of emergency by a further year.

Monday, December 20, 2004

Rwanda film hits raw nerve for Clinton aide

Here is a copy of an interesting review dated December 20, 2004, by John Darnton of the new movie Hotel Rwanda:

In a pivotal scene in Hotel Rwanda the colonel in charge of a beleaguered UN peacekeeping force rushes to talk with the commanding officer of a fresh UN contingent that has just arrived at a hotel packed with refugees from the genocide outside its walls. The colonel, played by Nick Nolte, suddenly throws his blue beret on the ground in anger. The eyes of the hotel manager, played by Don Cheadle, slowly register concern, then fear. The truth becomes clear: the soldiers are there to evacuate the mostly white foreigners, leaving the black Rwandans to their fate.

"That gets to you - they were counting on the UN and they were abandoned," whispered Anthony Lake, as he watched the scene in an otherwise empty theatre. Lake, the national security advisor in the Clinton administration, played a role in determining US policy in Rwanda a decade ago, and he had agreed to attend the screening of a movie that, even before its release, is provoking uncomfortable memories of the collective failure by Western powers to confront an atrocity.

Hotel Rwanda, from MGMs United Artists unit, directed by Terry George, depicts the events of 1994, when Hutu extremists slaughtered some 800,000 of their countrymen. To deal with its burden of horror, the film searches out a bright spot. Like Schindler's List, it concentrates on a real-life hero, in this case Paul Rusesabagina, the manager of a luxury hotel in Kigali, who was able to save the lives of 1,268 people who took refuge in his hotel, the Milles Collines, including his Tutsi wife and their four children.

Lake requested two ground rules in agreeing to see and discuss the film: that he not be made to appear "self-serving or self-exculpatory" (a rule that tended to take care of itself), and that he be allowed to air his views on the current situations in Darfur in Sudan and in the eastern Congo. The loss of civilian life in those places, he believes, is a direct echo of the Rwandan genocide, and this time, he asserts, international powers should not sit idly by, as they have largely done to date.

In Rwanda, the United States did not simply not intervene. It also used its considerable power to discourage other Western powers from intervening. At the height of the carnage, when Belgium lost 10 peacekeepers, the United States demanded a total UN withdrawal. Some African countries objected, and eventually Washington settled for a severe cutback in the 2,500-man UN force. The commander of the force in Kigali, Maj. Gen. Romeo Dallaire of Canada, who had asked for 5,000 troops, was left with 270.

The withdrawal, Paul Rusesabagina noted, was a critical turning point. In an interview in New York, where he was promoting the film, he said it signalled to the Hutu militia, known as the Interahamwe, that their planned killing of Tutsis and moderate Hutus could continue unabated.

Lake, now a professor of international diplomacy at Georgetown University, said he had reviewed memos of the time in an attempt to reconstruct the government's position. The goal was not to "wallow in guilt," he said, but to understand why the slaughter in Rwanda registered so faintly in the Washington decision-making apparatus. "My retrospective anger and dismay is not that we made a wrong decision," he said, "but that we didn't make any decision."

Source courtesy:

Further reading: Netlex great post and pictures on "Films and the making sense of a genocide" dated December 21, 2004.

Move America Forward petition

Two-year-old refugee Alhadi Zacaria Abakar is so malnourished he weighs under 12 pounds and is only 28 inches tall. Photo courtesy MSNBC via Beck's insightful post "Your UN Contribution at Work."

Note, Beck's post "Kofi Annan Resignation Watch" points to Move America Forward's online petition that collected more than 50,000 signatures calling for the 'U.N. to Get Out of the U.S." But there is no suggestion of an alternative to the U.N. or any mention of current proposals for UN reform.

Further reading: Today's FT UN puts its future up for debate in biggest challenge yet - US advocates for the UN suggest that the administration has realised it still needs the organisation. “It is very difficult to think of an exit strategy from Iraq, even in the long-term, without the UN,” notes William Luers, head of the United Nations Association in the US. But the next few months still promise to be tempestuous. UN members will hold a series of meetings to discuss the high-level panel's reform proposals.
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Blogger's Sudan Mission at Easter

Rev. Mike Kinman, Episcopal Campus Missioner, Washington University in St. Louis announces he is travelling with several others to the Sudan at Easter.
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Filipino car firm exports vehicles for Malaysian company in Sudan

A company engaged in used-vehicle trading has penetrated the international market, sending its first batch of “remanufactured” sports utility vehicles and pick-up trucks to Sudan on Monday.

Subic Bay Motors Corp. (SBMC), a Filipino company shipped 14 Isuzu Bighorn SUVs and six Mitsubishi Strada pick-up trucks with a market value of P19.6 million. The vehicles were ordered by Ranhill Engineers and Contractors Sdn. Bhd., a Malaysian firm engaged in the construction of power and water supply facilities, for its Sudan-based affiliate, Petrodar Operating Company Ltd.

AU suspends work in South Darfur - New rebel group claims Sudan oil attack

Here's an interesting development that sounds like advice has been given by AU security council or even the UN (or those in the international community behind the scenes supporting the AU): Reuters UK says AU truce monitors have suspended operations in South Darfur after the attack on an AU helicopter, an AU official said today.

"To my knowledge, this suspension is only in South Darfur state," said a senior AU official, asked about a report that the observers had called off monitoring throughout the region. South Darfur state makes up about one third of the region. The official, who asked not to be named, did not say how long the suspension was likely to last. - Reuters
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Note in the below excerpt, the mention of "east and central Sudan". It seems clear (to me anyway) the aim of the rebels is not to make peace but to overthrow the current regime in Khartoum. It's the only thing that makes sense as to why there was a six week delay between the last UN Security Council meeting and the December 31 deadline for the signing of the peace agreements. What were the warring parties expected to get up to during those six weeks? Play happy families? My hope is the international community is totally behind the AU and secretly behind the rebels - that way, all of what is happening makes sense. The rebels appear so sophisticated with their tactics and strategy, I can't help thinking there are other forces at work here. The following is an extract from a Reuters report today:

A previously unknown rebel group the Sudanese National Movement for the Eradication of Marginalisation, claimed responsibility today for an attack on an oil field in Darfur and said it was the group's first military operation. The movement says it is based in the central areas of Sudan and Kordofan, which lies immediately to the east of Darfur. A spokesman said the movement supported peace processes to end the Darfur conflict and more than two decades of civil war in Sudan's south, but felt other areas like the east and central Sudan were being left out of these talks, which will decide how to share power and wealth in the country.

A Western diplomat in Khartoum said the plethora of armed movements in Sudan did not bode well for a southern peace deal, due to be signed by the end of the year and which will usher in a new government. The United Nations has expressed concern at new movements emerging in Darfur, where four rebel movements are now active. Only two of them are represented at the talks in Abuja. - Reuters.
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UPDATE: Sudan rebels reject Libyan proposal on Darfur, talks end Tuesday. Spokesman on behalf of the two rebels SLM and JEM said the rebels accepted the AU's conclusion that the Sudan government should withdraw immediately from the area being occupied by its troops to their original position.

After announcing an end to the offensive, Sudanese Foreign Minister Mustafa Osman Ismail said that troops would only respond if fired upon first. However, he ruled out any withdrawal of government troops from positions they had recently taken from rebels.

What now? Stalemate. Something has to give. But what? Maybe the UN Security Council will hold an emergency meeting and give Chapter 7 mandate to the AU troops so they can fight back if attacked. Their role as observers and protectors of the ceasefire monitors has changed. There is no ceasefire to monitor or observe. The whole picture has changed. Security is needed for aid workers and unimpeded access for aid. The oil operation in South Darfur that was attacked by a new rebel group probably belongs to China. As I've said here before, I don't see why China can't provide 70,000 special police in Darfur to provide the security that's needed while protecting their oil interests at the same time. The 10,000 UN peacekeepers that are preparing to enter Sudan after the peace agreements are signed December 31 will be needed for Southern Sudan. As mentioned here earlier on today, trouble is brewing for Eastern and Central Sudan which, as far as I know, are not part of the power sharing agreements.

I've noticed over the past eight months that three things seem to happen whenever a deal is close (1) the LRA from Uganda spring up trouble somewhere (2) trouble connected with Eastern Sudan looms (3) something to do with Eritrea flares up.

Perhaps the rebels get their supplies from Eritrea; the LRA are onside with Khartoum; and Garang's rebels in Southern Sudan stir up trouble within Eastern Sudan to bring it to the fore. I've noticed a pattern which may of course be a coicidence. Purely guesswork, and a personal view. I would not be surprised if the international community were behind Garang who in turn is behind the new rebel groups attacking oil operations. My imagination is working over time, better go to sleep now. Goodnight. And God bless the people in Sudan. They sure need some guardian angels and a few miracles to happen in order to bring about peace.

Rebels attack Darfur oil, Libyans mediate in Abuja, AU probe attack on AU helicopter

Yesterday, following massive international pressure, Khartoum announced that it was calling off the offensive, but AU diplomats told Agence France Presse that reports from the field had said that fighting was continuing.

Rebels attacked a South Darfur oil pumping station at the weekend, the police chief said today. An oil ministry official in Khartoum said the operations of the Sharif field, pumping about 3,000 barrels a day, had not been affected by the attack.

AU official said shots fired at an AU helicopter had hurt efforts to monitor military activity in the region. The AU in Darfur has launched an investigation into the attack. Unidentified gunmen opened fire on the aircraft at 1545 GMT on Sunday as it flew over the southern Darfur town of Labado to monitor fighting.

Talks in Abuja broke down last week after the Sudanese government breached an African union-brokered ceasefire deal and ordered an attack on Labado by a large contingent of soldiers and allied Janjaweed militia.

AU spokesman Assane Ba said the pan-African body would give Libyan peace brokers more time to persuade the feuding parties to resume negotiations and was not yet planning to report the Darfur situation to the U.N. Security Council.

Britain condemns Darfur violence

British Foreign Secretary Mr Jack Straw has condemned the ongoing violence in Darfur and promised to support the African Union if they decide to refer the matter to the Security Council. He condemned the actions of both sides and was particularly stringent in his criticism of the government's recent offensive in south Darfur.

Speaking late on Sunday night, Mr Straw said: "The recent actions by the government of Sudan have been carried out in defiance of the obligations placed upon it by three UN Security Council Resolutions on Sudan.

"If the UNSC receives reports from either the African Union, or its own Secretary General, confirming additional serious ceasefire violations, then we would expect an urgent meeting of the UNSC to be convened to take further action."

Britain's International Development Secretary Mr Hilary Benn, added: "The international community will not stand by while these violations are committed by either the Sudanese Government or the rebels.

"Recent rebel attacks on Tawilla and on humanitarian convoys in Darfur, along with the murder of two Save the Children UK staff are particularly horrific."

Straw says Sudan is defying the UN's will

PVC drinking tubes are saving lives in Sudan

About 400 Hydro Polymers staff at a plastics plant in England agreed to give-up a proportion of their salary as part of an initiative run by the company's Norwegian-owned parent company to purchase special PVC drinking straws for use in Sudan.

The staff were moved when they heard of the plight of thousands of Sudanese children who suffer from Guinea worm. The disease is prevalent in Sudan and is contracted from drinking water, contaminated with microscopic fleas. The cash is being used to part-fund a Guinea worm eradication programme in the African country.

About a year after the victim drinks infected water, one or more worms emerge through the skin. They can be up to one metre long and can take weeks to fully emerge through blisters on the skin. The illness can leave those affected completely or partially disabled.

The straws have special filters that prevents the intake of harmful bugs when drinking from infected water. So far donations have been used to purchase 450,000 pipe filters.

Dr Jason Leadbitter of Hydro Polymers, said: "It is very rewarding to know that the efforts of our staff can make such a significant contribution to improving the quality of life for people thousands of miles away. It is very impressive how a simple PVC pipe can play a huge benefit to the social welfare of these people."

The PVC drinking tubes are saving lives in Sudan
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Treating the sick in Darfur

As the plane flew over the refugee camps of Darfur, in the Sudan, Morven Murchison Lochrie was amazed by their size. Mile after mile of blue plastic sheeting form temporary shelter for over a million displaced people. Looking at the camps, she began to realise just how great her challenge would be - co-ordinating the Red Cross health operations in the area.

A woman and child at the hospital in Darfur, pictures ICRC

As an experienced aid worker she had steeled herself to expect distressing scenes. But the sheer scale of the tragedy unfolding in Darfur took her breath away. She said, "When you are flying over the camps you think 'so many people'. Just the size of it takes you back. And the fact is that people have walked so far just to get help in the camps. It is the worst population movement that I have seen. The overwhelming image of the situation is that it is bad, even compared to other places in Africa. It is a massive displacement of about 1.5 million people and it is an increasing burden on a poor country." [Full Story]

"If people forget about Darfur there will be trouble" - Morven Murchison Lochrie

NGO latest: Darfur is a tinderbox of war, dread and very little hope.

Sunday, December 19, 2004

Darfur truce not being observed, AU chopper fired on: African Union

 Marco Longari - (AFP/File)

The latest Agence France Presse reports say fighting rages on in Darfur where an African Union helicopter was fired on despite promises by both government and rebels to respect a ceasefire, an AU spokesman said.

"One of our helicopters has been shot. They are firing on our helicopters. This shows that the ceasefire is not being observed. They did not comply. They have not stopped fighting," AU spokesman Assane Ba told reporters in Abuja.

Of the Sudanese government, the rebels say "Their words do not match their deeds. If they are serious let them stop the offensive. They don't honor their words, we will not accept mere words, we want action this time," Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) spokesman told Reuters.

German troops airlift AU soldiers and equipment from Gambia to Darfur, Sudan

Sat Dec 18, 5:45 AM ET Associated Press

A Transall C-160 cargo plane is loaded at the military airbase Penzing, 50 kilometers (28 miles) west of Munich, southern Germany, on Saturday, Dec. 18, 2004. The German Bundeswehr is supporting the Mission 'African Union Mission in Sudan' with one Airbus A310 passenger plane, five Transall C-160 cargo planes and 70 soldiers, who will transport Gambian soldiers and equipment from Banjul in Gambia to El Fashir in the Darfur region in Sudan. (AP Photo/Jan Pitman)

Sat Dec 18, 5:45 AM ET Associated Press

German soldiers enter a Transall C-160 cargo plane at a military airbase in Penzing, Germany. (AP Photo/Jan Pitman)

Saturday, December 18, 2004

Sudan rejects ceasefire ultimatum - Darfur talks: is this a turning point?

Further to earlier reports today, conflicting news reports are saying Sudan has withdrawn its troops -- is withdrawing its troops -- or is rejecting the ceasefire ultimatum.

Several breaking news reports from Switzerland and Australia say Sudan rejects ceasefire ultimatum.

Apparently, just before the deadline expired, a senior AU diplomat said government troops had not yet began to withdraw as demanded today, pushing peace talks to the brink of collapse. The chief negotiator of the rebel Justice and Equality Movement said the government had done nothing to halt its advance. "We expect fighting in a few hours from now," he said.

Sudan Tribune confirms Sudan rejects ultimatum.
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UPDATE: Agence France Presse quotes AU spokesman as saying, "General Okonkwo informed us that there is some fighting going on around Labado (in southern Darfur) which means that the government did not comply with the ultimatum to withdraw its troops from Labado," he told reporters.

"General Okonkwo said he has spoken with his mission on the ground and said that up until now helicopters are firing on Labado," he added. This information was correct at 1730 GMT, 30 minutes after the AU ultimatum expired, he said.
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Fighting in Darfur continued into Friday night despite a 24-hour ultimatum set by the African Union for both rebels and the government to end all ceasefire violations.

The African Union says there has been a massive military build-up in the region in the last two weeks and that it will report ceasefire violations to the U.N. Security Council if the fighting does not end by 1700 GMT on Saturday. Referral to the United Nations would raise the stakes.

"If the government does not comply we will know that they are not really ready to continue with the talks. By 6:00 pm we will know what to do," said Sam Ibok, a senior AU diplomat who chairs the political negotiations which are at the heart of the Abuja process.

The U.N. has expressed its concern at the reports, while Britain has informed the Sudanese government that it is in breach of three UN resolutions.

German President Horst Köhler, who held talks earlier with AU commission chairman Alpha Omar Konare, urged the international community to assist the pan-African body in resolving the deadly Darfur conflict. "I don't think that the international community is helpless," he said. "The most important thing now is to listen very closely to what the AU proposes about ways of settling the conflict, and it is on this basis thatthe international community should come together to finally resolve that conflict."
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Hindu Business Online reported yesterday the Indian oil company ONGC is approaching bankers to raise $600m for financing a refinery expansion project in Port Sudan, which was awarded to its subsidiary, ONGC Videsh Ltd.
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Turkish Press reveals that the Turkish Transportation Minister met with Sudanese officials on Thursday to further improvement of Turkish-Sudanese relations. Noting that Turkish businessmen should give priority to the urbanisation projects in Sudan, they said Sudan could make use of Turkey's experiences in construction sector.

On the other hand, Sudanese Parliament Speaker al-Tahir said that Turkey had become a door for Sudan opening to Europe, and stated that his country could improve its relations with Europe via Turkey.

The European Union is 'writing history' with its decision to start membership talks with Turkey next October, the bloc's Dutch presidency said Friday at the close of an EU summit.

Note Britain's Blair hails EU deal on Turkey seeks to allay fears.

Further reading: Annan urges Europeans to play lead role in talks on new collective security structure.
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A report in the Financial Times yesterday explains European and U.S. United Nations ambassadors are struggling to head off what could be their most pointed battle yet over the International Criminal Court, as a U.N. commission of inquiry prepares to report in January on alleged genocide in Darfur.
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Sudanese Foreign Minister Mustafa Ismail said Khartoum will ban U.S. officials from entering Sudan in response to a similar measure taken by the United States. The U.S. had banned the entry of Sudanese officials to show its disapproval with the way Khartoum handles the situation in Darfur.
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A British couple who have dedicated the last five years of their life to charity work are set to spend the New Year in one of the dangerous areas of the world. Relief-aid workers Ed and Rachel Walker will depart in early January for Darfur

The husband and wife team will be working for Tear Fund, which is launching its feeding and sanitation programmes in some of the worst affected areas inside Darfur. Teams are digging more than two thousand latrines, as well as training members of the community about sanitation and personal hygiene.
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British entrepreneur Tom Hunter has pledged £7 million to tackle third world poverty. He vows to match Band Aid penny for penny.

Read "Why I decided to give away £7m to help Africa."

1,542 Dhaka peacekeepers to land in Darfur in two months

According to a report from India, Bangladesh plans to send 1,542 troops to the UN peacekeeping mission in Sudan in the next two months. "We are now preparing to send our troops to Sudan to provide humanitarian aid," a senior army official told The Daily Star yesterday on condition of anonymity.

Note, the report does not make clear if the troops would be sent in the absence of a signed peace agreement. As reported here earlier, at the last UNSC meeting in Nairobi, Britain proposed 10,000 peacekeeping troops and said it would be prepared to contribute British troops after a peace deal is signed December 31.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

John Fitzgerald reports on candlelight vigil in NYC for Darfur, Sudan

Warmest thanks to American blogger John Fitzgerald of Secession for attending the candlelight vigil in NYC on Monday and for posting this write-up to share with readers at Sudan Watch and the Passion. John is a trainee lawyer living in New York and is such a fine writer, he would make a great journalist.

John made a super effort to take photos of the vigil but sadly a technical hitch made it not possible to publish them here. Thanks for trying John, and for the following report:

Vigil for Sudan

One of the speakers at a candlelight vigil for Sudan last night in Washington Square was Simon Day, a former slave. That in the twenty-first century a man could be introduced as a “former slave” is a sad commentary on humanity in general, and a particular indictment of certain African regimes, principally in Sudan. A hundred or so mostly young people showed up in the bitter cold to convey their solidarity with those suffering the consequences of genocide at the hand of the radical Islamic government in Darfur.

In a dramatic plea, Mr. Day, now living in New York, noted the respect and concern Westerners have for their pets, and begged Western nations to show at least as much humanity toward the people suffering now in Sudan as they show their own dogs. Day seemed to have given up on assistance from the United Nations, and remarking its continued indifference to ongoing African genocide, said that the body would more appropriately be called the “United Racists.”

Other speakers included an individual from Mauritania who, noting that he was not a politician, could therefore “say things as they are,” a refrain he repeated several times. He accused the Sudanese government of trying to Islamic-ize sub-Saharan Africa, and said the attack on black Africans was an “Arab conspiracy to take our African land.” A Jewish rabbi also spoke, invoking the memory of the Holocaust, and saying that Jews in particular could sympathize and understand the current plight of the Sudanese. (I was surprised to see no one in the crowd shout out something about the plight of Palestinians at that comment.)

At the conclusion of the vigil, those in attendance were asked to sign letters to U.S. government officials calling for action against Sudan immediately. Whether that ever comes to pass remains to be seen. “In July and September,” The Economist recently reported, “the UN Security Council threatened unspecified sanctions on the Sudanese government if it failed to disarm its genocidal militias in Darfur. The government did nothing of the sort, but no sanctions followed. Last week, the Security Council issued a new, milder threat, to 'take appropriate action against any party failing to fulfil its commitments.' Carlos Veloso of the WFP, asked if the forecast of 2.8m starving Darfuris next year was a worst-case scenario, said: 'No, that is the medium-case scenario.'”
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Note, says thank you to everyone who made the candlelight vigil to protest the ongoing genocide in Darfur a success! Save the date: Monday, January 17th, 2005 Protest Rally. Register for the rally at

Monday, December 13, 2004

Canadian PM could lead the way on Sudan?

It would be interesting to know what readers think about an idea by Ottawa University law professor, Errol Mendes and his proposal that Sudan be offered debt relief, with some very stringent conditions attached. Anything is worth considering. What do you think, could it work?

Two more aid workers killed in Darfur Sudan

Reports from the BBC and Telegraph today confirm two aid workers were shot dead on Sunday when their convoy came under fire in South Darfur.

The pair, from Save the Children UK, were helping to distribute food in the area when their vehicles came under fire yesterday. The British charity has now suspended aid operations in South Darfur following the killing of Abhakar el Tayeb, a medical assistant, and mechanic Yacoub Abdelnabi Ahmed, while investigations by AU military observers take place. It is not clear who is responsible. Both the victims were Sudanese nationals. The charity says their workers were travelling in a clearly marked humanitarian convoy.

In October, two Save the Children UK workers were killed by a landmine in North Darfur. 13 violations of a ceasefire agreement were confirmed in September and 54 documented between October and mid-December, said Assane Ba, a spokesman for the AU mediating the talks in Abuja.

"That means the violations are growing" he said. "This is poisoning the atmosphere and we can't have meaningful negotiations in this situation."

Save the Children UK is one of the largest food distributors, reaching more than 300,000 of the 1.6 million refugees forced from their homes.

Sunday, December 12, 2004

Sudan expects no oil sanctions - Turn off the oil spigot!

Sudan's oil minister said on Saturday he hoped to award a contract for a new refinery at the country's main port in two months. He told reporters he was not worried that plans to expand the country's oil industry would be disrupted because of threatened sanctionsover Darfur.

The Sudanese government felt that international pressure was diminishing, he added.

Here's calling on EU-US naval forces to get their destroyers and subs out to the Port of Sudan and turn off the oil spigot!

Arjun Singh agrees that as little as one well placed Naval destroyer could force the stonewalling.

Further reading:

Thinking out of the box: Why not launch unilateral US military action to save lives in Darfur, Sudan?
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Danforth hails role of Americans' idealism in shaping foreign policy

STL Today: John Danforth said, after working the Sudan issue the past three years, first as President George W. Bush's special envoy and since June in the U.N. post, he had learned that when progress toward peace occurs, it is only through the will of a country's own people and leaders.

That doesn't mean U.S. policymakers don't benefit from the persistence of Americans demanding that the world's problems be addressed. "That idealism ... keeps pushing us and pushing us," he said. "It's so characteristically American. We should never lose it."

Khartoum: A peace agreement in Darfur "maybe" within two months

Sudan's minister of humanitarian affairs expects the war in Darfur to be over "maybe" within the next two months.

Three months ago, Khartoum said there would be peace in Sudan within three months. As per usual, they have gone back on their word. In two months time they will move the goalposts again.

The EU is discussing matters connected to Darfur. The British government recently held an internal committee meeting about Darfur. UN Ambassador John Danforth has urged: we need to get European troops in there.

Here's hoping for an EU-US protection force to back up AU troops in Sudan.
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A Reuters report today says Ugandan Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) rebels hacked to death three children and four women in an attack in lawless southern Sudan, a local religious leader said.

"The LRA are becoming very dangerous now for our people because they are operating in small groups and you never know where they will attack," he told Reuters.

British Oxfam boss has left Sudan - Travel ban on some Sudanese

Reuters UK confirms the head of charity Oxfam in Sudan, Shaun Skelton, has left the country, days after Sudanese officials ordered him to leave for working under a wrong visa.

Last month, Sudan tried to expel Mr Skelton and a director of Save the Children UK. Sudanese officials had accused Oxfam and Save the Children UK of dealing in political affairs, which broke the law, and of making statements it said indicated their support for the rebels.

The month before last, two members of staff from Save the Children UK were tragically killed by a landmine (freshly laid by the rebels) on 10 October in North Darfur.

Expelling aid officials was not "the way to treat those of us who come there to help," UN Emergency Relief Coordinator Jan Egeland told journalists on Wednesday.
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Sudanese Foreign Minister Mustafa Osmal Ismail said a travel ban is already in effect, as entry visas are now denied except to him and officials travelling to participate in meetings of international bodies, like the World Bank and the United Nations.

"If they want to impose the ban on the excepted officials, we are going to reciprocate and will see which side will be harmed," Ismail warned. [Here's guessing this could also mean aid workers].

Saturday, December 11, 2004

European Union must act to stop violence in Darfur

This post features the European Union and US relations, the new rapid response European battle groups, NATO, EU summit Dec. 17 to discuss UN reform which Kofi Annan will be attending following his meeting in Washington on Thursday, Colin Powell's visit to Europe, and other snippets of news and information.

I'd gathered the information within a single post to see if any of the initiatives could tie in with the United States, and try to gauge if there's a way of bypassing the UN to get around the problem of China and Russia blocking action against Sudan. During the past several months, a few news reports (one from FT in April - see here below) said it is possible for the EU to intervene in Darfur.

After spending yesterday on this post, today I find a report in the Scotsman titled "Blair told plan for EU army may hit relations with US". Here are some excerpts:

"The US is turning away from international defence pacts such as NATO and becoming increasingly suspicious of the EU’s long-term ambitions.

Despite the British Prime Minister’s avowed intent to be the US’s closest international ally and to stand "shoulder to shoulder" with the US in President George Bush’s "war on terror", Britain is also backing the European Security and Defence Policy (ESDP), which is creating a EU defence force with its own planning "cell".

The current UK approach of going along with ESDP, cutting defence spending and trying to pretend the EU-USA tensions do not exist will destroy the bridge described by the Prime Minister, not preserve it.

The warning chimes with talk in Washington about transatlantic relations. US officials have worries about the EU force, as well as European initiatives such as the Galileo satellite programme and moves to relax the EU arms embargo on China.

The need for unity between Western nations could not be greater, the author warns, since the danger from groups like al-Qaeda will not fade."
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EU must act to stop violence in Darfur

A recent press release by Oxfam urges the European Union (EU) must immediately take robust action to force the warring parties in Darfur to comply with their commitments to protect civilians in Darfur.

Following the UN Security Council's failure to agree a strong resolution on Darfur in Nairobi the statement issued by Oxfam said "the European Union is one of the last hopes for tough action to press the parties to stop the continued violence and insecurity in Darfur."

The call came as EU Foreign Ministers met to discuss the crisis at the General Affairs Council meeting November 22. "The European Union must step in to the void left by the UN Security Council's failure, and take action to stop the violence in Darfur," said Jo Leadbeater, Head of Oxfam's EU Advocacy Office.

Increased insecurity on roads as vehicles are looted by bandits, enter ambushes or are caught in the cross-fire between rival armed groups, has meant that in four towns across Darfur, Oxfam can only get aid in by helicopter. "Without road access, we are not able to get essential aid to Garsilla. Thousands of people fled their homes with nothing and are in urgent need of mosquito nets and blankets," said Caroline Nursey, Oxfam's Regional Director.
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Crisis in Darfur : The European Commission’s response

The European Commission (EC), the EU’s executive, website states it is extremely concerned about the magnitude of the humanitarian crisis in Darfur.

Note, the European Union is the largest overall donor by far, having pledged more than €285 million this year (more than two thirds of all aid pledged).

Mother holds malnourished child - Darfur - Sudan
Photo : Peter Holdsworth
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The European Union

EU foreign and defence ministers met on Monday November 22 in Brussels to discuss the situation in the situation in Iran, Sudan, the Ivory Coast and the Middle East.

One of the main topics on their agenda was the EU's plans to create battle groups - a series of 1,500-strong forces deployable within 15 days to deal with trouble-spots in the world. [Some reports say these could become a reality by January]
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EU-US Partnership

Those who have followed the news on Sudan closely will know that for several months France has 200 soldiers on the Chad/Sudan border. They were the first European troops to airlift massive amounts of emergency aid into Darfur.

Germany has 200 soldiers currently preparing to airlift African Union (AU) troops into Darfur. American and Norwegian troops also transported soldiers and equipment into Sudan. Britain is supporting the Nigerian contingent of AU soldiers on the ground in Darfur.

American contractors are currently in Darfur building facilities for the AU soldiers who will be stationed there for at least one year. Negotiations and funding are underway by the World Food Program for the clearing of landmines throughout Sudan to make way for the return of the displaced people. Massive numbers of people around the world are working hard to help Sudan.

Given its history with Sudan, Britain pays close attention to what is going on in Darfur. Several months ago it sent a military reconnaissance team into Sudan and has 4,000 troops on standby. Behind the scenes, the UK and a host of other countries (Germany, Norway, Denmark, France in particular) are providing huge support and logistics for AU troops.

Britain is the second largest cash donor for Darfur. Europe is the single largest donor having provided two-thirds of the aid. Prime Minister Tony Blair is the most senior Western official to visit Khartoum. Following Foreign Secretary Jack Straw's visit to Khartoum, Mr Blair met with Sudan's President Bashir and delivered a five point plan with a deadline by the new year. Yesterday, Britain confirmed it is supplying 143 vehicles to the AU troops in Darfur within the next week.

Europe is responsible for the start up and support of the fledgling African Union and creation of the huge African Peace Facility fund for the expansion of the AU and its troops to provide African solutions for African problems.

Thinking out of a box

As an aside: Following the recent outbreak of violence in the Ivory Coast, the UN Security Council recently imposed an immediate arms embargo on the country. Security Council members unanimously backed a resolution proposed by France to stop either government forces or rebels importing new weapons. Since the civil war reignited on November 8, more than 10,000 people have fled from Ivory Coast into Liberia. Would the UN arms embargo help to revive the peace process? Were the French right in their response? Have you been affected by the current crisis? See readers answers and views at BBC Have Your Say.

Here is one comment extracted from the above "Have Your Say" re the Ivory Coast:

"Each and every resident in sub-Sahara Africa (including our leaders) should ask themselves this question: what will become of my dear country (or continent) 50 years from now? And what can I do to make it better? If you find it hard to answer this question, then try providing an answer to this alternative question: where did our leaders go wrong 50 years ago? And what should they have done? It's about time we begin to think out of a box. Ed K, Ghana"
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Why Not Launch Unilateral U.S. Military Action in Sudan?

Booker Rising: "Why Not Launch Unilateral U.S. Military Action in Sudan?" writes:

"We would support it. Genocide shouldn't be happening anywhere."
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EU-US Partnership

New EU Ambassador John Bruton who met with President Bush on Thursday, is upbeat on future of EU-US relations.

John Bruton December 9, 2004
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Bush to visit Europe


(Photo: Swedish EU Presidency)

December 9 report via EUobserver says Mr Bush is scheduled to touchdown in Europe February 22, his first foreign trip of the new presidency, which begins in January. Mr Bush’s visit is likely to be taken as a symbolic gesture aimed at underscoring the importance of transatlantic ties.

The announcement comes as Colin Powell visits Brussels December 9 for meetings with NATO (see here below) and yesterday in The Hague for an EU-US ministerial meeting.

Mr Powell has pressed European countries to pledge more troops to help bolster security in Iraq. He has also spoken of his administration's commitment to transatlantic ties. "We are reaching out to Europe and we hope that Europe will reach out to us", he said on Wednesday.
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North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO)

NATO is an international organisation created in 1949 by the North Atlantic Treaty for purposes of collective security. Read the core provision of the NATO treaty and debate on future of NATO at Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

NATO Summit 2002 NATO-2002-Summit.jpg
Photo courtesy Wikipedia


Photo courtesy Wikipedia
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EU-led forces 'could intervene' in Sudan conflict

Here is an excerpt from an FT report April 12, 2004:

" ... In an interview with the Financial Times, General Hägglund said the possibility of the EU sending a force to Sudan had been raised by Louise Fréchette, the United Nations deputy secretary-general. "Sudan is on the list of the UN [for some form of peacekeeping mission]," Gen Hägglund added. ..."
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Further reading

British Embassy, Sudan: UK Aid Programme In Sudan

Europa: EU Relations with Sudan

Dec 2004: The European Union and peacekeeping in Africa: "Sudan"

Nov 26: Commission earmarks a further €51 million in humanitarian aid for Sudan.

Nov 25: Louis Michel starts mandate by visiting Sudan and Kenya

Oct 26: EU mobilises an additional € 80 million from African Peace Facility to support enlarged African Union observer mission in Darfur, Sudan.

Aug 25: Commission releases a further €20 million in humanitarian aid for Darfur.

July 30: The humanitarian crisis in Darfur – response of the European Commission – UPDATE EU by far the biggest donor

July 12: Sudan/Chad: Commission earmarks further €18 million for victims of Darfur crisis

Nine-year-old victim of the crisis
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Peace talks on Darfur to resume today

Yesterday peace talks on Darfur were to resume but were put back a day because of logistical/travel problems for delegates. Political adviser to the AU envoy to Darfur, Doubou Niang, told the BBC: 'We are worried about these violations [between warring parties], but we haven't lost faith.'"

UN envoy sceptical of resolution talks in Sudan

UN envoy to Sudan, Jan Pronk of The Netherlands, says he is sceptical about the talks that were due to resume later today. He said none of the parties have stuck by any of the agreements they had signed in Abuja in April. "During the last couple of weeks there is increased fighting," he said. "The Abuja agreement in the field of security has not helped anything, there are many cease-fire violations after the Abuja agreement as before. "Both parties have violated the agreement." --BBC
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DEC Sudan Emergency Appeal raises £32m

Compassion fatigue is a thing of the past, judging by the overwhelming public response to the Sudan Emergency Appeal, which has raised an outstanding £32 million since it was launched in July.

Chief executive of the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC) which works on behalf of eleven of the UK’s leading international charities says that all the aid agencies have been moved by the remarkable generosity of the British public.

“We are overwhelmed by people’s desire to help  ease the suffering in Sudan,” he said.  “The response is one of the most generous in the DEC’s 40 years of existence. It signals a clarion call to the world’s leaders to solve this crisis.”

The killing of two aid workers from DEC member Save the Children has underlined the desperate nature of the situation.
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Christian Aid address UN Security Council

An agency of the churches in the UK and Ireland, Christian Aid works wherever the need is greatest, irrespective of religion. It supports local organisations, which are best placed to understand local needs, as well as giving help on the ground through 16 overseas offices.

Christian Aid partners delivered a powerful and simple message, that the people of Sudan want peace and they want it now to the UN Security Council at the special session in Nairobi.
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Band Aid 20 single reaches No. 1 in UK charts

Today, Travis singer flies out to Sudan to see how money raised from the Band Aid single will be used to help the country. He's spending a week meeting people returning to their homes from refugee camps and will also witness how the Save the Children charity distributes food.

Band Aid 20's Do They Know It's Christmas? is currently number one in the charts in Britain.


On December 10, 1948, the U.N. General Assembly adopted its Universal Declaration on Human Rights.

[Source: New York Times]