Monday, January 31, 2005

Sudanese troops attack homes after shooting demonstrators

News via Reuters Jan 31 reveals Sudanese police and troops went on a rampage in ethnic Beja parts of Port Sudan on Saturday after shooting dead at least 18 people preparing to take part in a demonstration, witnesses said on Sunday.

At least seven people were seriously wounded in the rampage in the Red Sea city in eastern Sudan, in which soldiers threw hand grenades into houses several miles from the scene of the demonstration.

The authorities were not immediately available to comment on the report.

Sudanese Interior Minister said police had opened fire on demonstrators after cars were set on fire and shops looted. "Security forces had to protect the port and oil reservoirs," he told Reuters during a visit to Dubai on Sunday, adding that the situation was now stable.

In the graveyard outside the city, thousands of angry men were preparing to bury the dead following the riots.
"Yesterday there was a massacre here. We need international protection," Abdel Salem Mohamed shouted. "We are going to struggle. We are going to prepare for war."
Photo: A Sudanese Army soldier on guard close to his machine gun. Armed police were out in force across Port Sudan, following two days of riots by protestors from Beja ethnic group in which at least 14 people were killed, witnesses said. (AFP/File/Marco Longari)
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The Beja Congress

The Beja live in expansive shanty towns on the outskirts of Port Sudan. Originally a nomadic people, many moved to the port to work as labourers after famine killed their cattle and mechanised farming took over their lands in the 1980s.

The Beja Congress, a political party representing the Beja ethnic group, and other Sudanese opposition groups accuse the Sudanese government of neglecting the remote regions of the country in favour of the centre. They see the agreement this month between the government and the southern rebels SPLM as a model for their own regions. The agreement gives the southerners a share of their region's oil revenues.

The Beja Congress has a military wing, which has performed minor military operations in the east. Beja forces attacked government forces on Saturday and Sunday in an area south of the town of Kassala.
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Photo: A woman in the southern Sudanese town of Rumbek cleans grain. About 100 people were killed in an air raid last week on a town in western Darfur, despite a truce, the African Union said. (AFP/File/Simon Maina)
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Annan says another 3,500 AU troops for Darfur in Feb

An Allafrica report Jan 31 quotes Kofi Annan as saying, yesterday in Abuja:
"AU is pursuing a noble and bold mission in Darfur. There are already 1,000 AU troops deployed to Dafur. It is in the lead and by February will deploy another 3,500 troops. AU troops are making an important contribution and difference. The international community is making generous contributions and as far as Sudan is concerned the Union is doing well. The UN will deploy peace keeping operations to the South and once on ground will work with AU," he said.
Note: It is likely that Russia and China may once again ensure sanctions are not imposed by the UN Security Council. And it is unlikely a travel ban will be imposed by the council because Khartoum has threatened to reciprocate. Nobody mentions a no-fly zone. Why isn't anyone pressing for a no-fly zone over Darfur? Perhaps it would entail deploying troops and affect aid entering by air into the country.

[Personally, I do not see what else the council can do to punish Khartoum, except increase AU troops and improve their mandate - and maintain pressure with threats of sanctions in the knowledge the international community will withhold millions of dollars of development funding, which is what is currently happening, until there is peace in Sudan.

As expected, the eastern Sudan rebellion is making itself known through protests in Port of Sudan over the weekend. Last year, John Garang forecasted trouble from rebels in the east. The Beja Congress Party representing those in the east also want a share of the power and oil revenues. This could go on for many more months and years, step by step weakening the regime in Khartoum, until [and this is my theory] they are overthrown. Seems like a strategy which I believe the international community is behind - and one which Khartoum will resist at any cost, no matter if it means millions of lives.

Unless there is the political will (which will probably never happen unless there is a change of tactics and strategy) to provide an adequate number of people on the ground in Darfur, there appears to be nothing we can do except keep applying media pressure on Khartoum. Maybe the looming prospect of prosecutions by a global court will help to make Khartoum crack. Ismail recently announced he is stepping down. Garang will soon take over Taha's position. Bashir and Taha are key, along with the Arab tribal leaders. A news report recently quoted Jan Pronk as saying he was proposing to include Sudan's Arab tribal leaders in future peace talks. If somehow the tribal leaders could be brought onside, Bashir and Taha would not have much left to govern. Within the next six months there could be 10,000 peacekeepers in South Sudan - which, together with tens of thousands of rebels in southern Sudan - could in theory (my imagination is working overtime here) make a move to help Darfur]
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Darfur peace talks due to resume in Feb

Guardian Jan 31: Sudan Govt, Rebels to Reopen Peace Talks - A Western diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the latest Darfur peace conference is scheduled for the third week of February, in the Nigerian capital of Abuja.
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Sudan's Garang vows to back Ugandan peace process


John Garang, pictured above, has spent the past 42 years fighting in the bush and is expected to take over from Taha as First Vice President of Sudan. Recently Garang said he believes in negotiation, not violence, and would not be using any of his troops to help Darfur.

Now he says he wants to take action against the LRA:
"We will not be putting down our arms. We are going to defend our country and we don't want any foreign armed groups within our territory ... there should not be anyone with unlicensed guns," he said.
Full Story.
Photo: Soldiers of Garang's Sudan People's Liberation Army train in Rumbek. (AFP/File/Simon Maina)
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UN denies genocide is taking place in Darfur

Here is an extract from Jan 31 Independent UK article re UN commission report on inquiry into genocide in Darfur:
Lord Alton of Liverpool, who visited Darfur last October, said: "The long-awaited UN commission on events in Darfur has, in effect, given the government of Sudan permission to continue killing its black African population with impunity."
A report in the Sunday Herald Jan 29 says China and Russia put pressure on key report team to reject US claim. [It is interesting to see mainstream media at long last quoting the death toll as high as 370,000 - probably taken from mortality figures provided by Sudan expert, Prof Eric Reeves who estimates a death toll of 400,000]

Note, in a report Jan 29 the Scotsman points out that in practice, bringing the perpetrators of atrocities in Sudan to court would not be possible without overthrowing the government, which would mean international military intervention.
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Darfur Abandoned

Sudan expert, Prof Eric Reeves has just published another must-read analysis dated January 30, 2005: "Darfur Abandoned - Khartoum Continues Genocidal Assaults on Darfur Civilians, According the international community a well-earned contempt". It is important to note Prof Reeves points out:
Well over 1.5 million people are without any food assistance at all, and the fighting in South Darfur last week that caused more than 9,000 people to flee their homes adds to a still-growing population of displaced persons in Darfur and Chad, which now numbers approximately 2.4 million (1.65 million in accessible camp areas in Darfur; more than 200,000 refugees in Chad; an estimated figure of 500,000 displaced persons in inaccessible rural areas; an estimated 50,000 additional displaced persons since December 1, 2004).
Prof Reeves explains, "in turn, continued displacement adds to the humanitarian requirements for Darfur, even as humanitarian capacity is falling further and further behind increasingly desperate needs. Insecurity consequent upon Khartoum's unconstrained military actions is of course a major factor limiting humanitarian capacity."

[In other words, hundreds of thousands more Sudanese - maybe even millions - could die from malnutrition and disease, exceeding Rwanda's genocide of 800,000. Prof Reeves estimates 400,000 Darfurians have already perished over the past 23 months. Who knows, the worst could be yet to come. The death toll to date is much greater than the recent tsunami that affected 11 Asian countries. The UN's figure of 70,000 deaths continues to remain static over the past three months, even though 10,000 Sudanese die each month from malnutrition and disease and millions are inaccessible to aid workers. The UN refuses to update its figures and admits the 70,000 it quotes are for March 2004 onwards, not the 12 months prior]

Photo: Refugees International via ISN Switzerland
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Darfur misery 'fault of Sudan'

A Scotsman report Jan 31 says the UN, AU and aid groups on the ground have warned of a resurgence of government air raids in Darfur in recent weeks in which hundreds of people have died and thousands have been displaced:

Sudan is guilty of "gross violations" of human rights in Darfur, Kofi Annan said yesterday, amid growing evidence that Khartoum has restarted its devastating campaign against black Africans in the region. Speaking at an AU summit in Nigeria, Mr Annan said
"This cannot be allowed to stand and action will have to be taken, I believe that sanctions should still be on the table."
Also at the summit, Darfur rebel groups called on the AU to send more peacekeepers to the region to disarm Janjaweed Arab militia.

Last night, Khartoum denied the bombing charges, saying they were fabricated by foreign media and organisations. The governor of North Darfur state, said in a statement published by the official Sudan News Agency:
"We personally went there [to Shangil Tobaya] ... and the people in the area were surprised as to the lies diffused by the organisations and the western media."
UN Secretary General Kofi Annan condemned an attack near Shangel-Topayi in Sudan's western Darfur region that claimed around 100 lives. (AFP/File)
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Sudan asks US to lift political and economic sanctions

Meanwhile, China View article Jan 30 reports that Sudanese foreign minister Mustafa Ismail [who is stepping down within next few months] expressed his country's appreciation to the US administration over its initiative that contributed to the signing of the peace agreement in Nairobi, Kenya on January 9 and made an appeal in a congratulation message to new US Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice on her new post:
"It is the time for the American Administration to fulfill its commitments to improve its relations with Sudan by normalizing all the ties as well as lifting the political and economic sanctions it imposed against Sudan," he said.
Ismail affirmed his country's commitment to solving the Darfur problem and urged the US government to put pressures on the Darfur rebel groups to take serious steps towards peace.

Ismail concluded his message by renewing Sudan's commitment to maintaining contact and dialogue with the American administration over the second four-year term of President George W. Bush in order to achieve peace and security.

[Note: Has anyone else noticed that Ismail, at certain pressure points, ie whenever Sudan faces wrongdoings in the run up to a UN Security Council meeting, he wastes no time issuing a press statement that reminds the US about its "commitments" to Sudan? In my view (for what its worth) it comes across as a veiled threat rather than a reminder. It's as though Khartoum has some sort of hold or sway over the US. One can't help wondering if Sudan still has some sort of ongoing deal with the US on exchange of information relating to the war on terrorism]
Photo: A Rwandan soldier belonging to the African Union Force patrols in El-Fasher, Sudan. The Sudanese government would support any reinforcement of the 1,700-strong African Union peacekeeping force deployed to Darfur, Sudan's ambassador to Nigeria told AFP. (AFP/File/Marco Longari)

[Note how the figures vary. Some reports say there are 1,700 AU troops in Darfur. Kofi Annan said yesterday there are 1,000. I believe Mr Annan. As far as I am aware, the only troops to arrive in Darfur this year were 46 soldiers from Nigeria]
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Darfur peace talks due to resume in Feb

Guardian Jan 31: Sudan Govt, Rebels to Reopen Peace Talks - A Western diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the latest Darfur peace conference is scheduled for the third week of February, in the Nigerian capital of Abuja.
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African heads tackle key problems

Heads of state from more than 25 African countries are meeting in Nigeria to try to resolve some of the continent's most pressing problems: see Jan 30 BBC report:

Delegates at the two-day African Union (AU) summit will tackle a host of issues, including alleviating poverty, UN reform and ending African conflicts.

UN chief Kofi Annan said he was very worried at the security situation in the western Sudanese region of Darfur. He also warned that Africa was not on target to meet development goals.

"[Africa] continues to suffer from the tragic consequences of deadly conflict and poor governance," he said.

Africa remains blighted by conflict, poverty and poor governance
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US oil companies return to Libya

BBC report Jan 31 confirms Occidental is the major winner of oil and gas licences in Libya, returning to the country after two decades:

US oil companies have been awarded most of the contracts on offer at the first open licence auction in Libya. Companies like Occidental and Chevron Texaco will return to Libya for the first time in more than 20 years.

European oil and gas companies were not awarded any of the licences to explore 127,000 sq km (51,000 sq miles).

US companies have been out of Libya for two decades

Saturday, January 29, 2005

U.N. report says Darfur violence is not genocide

The commission's study details human rights violations and war crimes, and says some may have acted with a 'genocidal intention,' writes Maggie Farley, Times Staff Writer, in today's Los Angeles Times.

Today, I have posted a copy of the article at Passion of the Present.


Jan 30 Aljazeera: UN report: No genocide committed in Darfur

Jan 31 Reuters: A keenly awaited UN investigation into human rights abuse in Sudan's Darfur region does not describe violence against villagers there as "genocide", said Sudanese Foreign Minister Mustafa Osman Ismail. "We have a copy of that report and they didn't say there is a genocide," Ismail told reporters on Monday on the sidelines of an AU summit in the Nigerian capital. There has been no confirmation of the contents of the report from U.N. officials.

Jan 31 Allafrica: Quotes Kofi Annan as saying yesterday in Abuja: "As I said I have just received the report of Dafur and we are in the process of analyzing it. I am not able to go into details but regardless of how a commission describes what is going on in Dafur, there is no doubt that serious crimes have been committed, serious violations of humanitarian laws and gross violations of human rights have taken place and this cannot be allowed to continue and action will have to be taken."
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Sudan destroyed hopes of peace


News from Russia Jan 28 sums up the latest situation, with some interesting links, in an article titled "Sudan destroyed hopes of peace".

UPDATE: Jan 29 Reuters Sudanese police killed and injured protesters when they opened fire on hundreds of demonstrators in the Red Sea city of Port Sudan. UN spokeswoman said as yet unconfirmed reports put the death toll to at least 17 people and maybe as high as 30. Note the report mentions members of eastern Sudan tribes.
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Sudan troops in Darfur offensive

The UN Sudan envoy Jan Pronk says government forces are running intensive military operations in west Darfur. Mr Pronk says more African Union troops are needed in Darfur. Please read BBC report Jan. 28 titled Sudan troops in Darfur offensive.
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Kofi Annan statement

The UN issues a statement Jan 28 saying the Secretary-General was 'deeply disturbed' by attack on Darfur village and calls on parties to comply fully with ceasefire agreement.

UN News report says meanwhile, Jan Pronk, Mr. Annan's Special Representative for Sudan, has wrapped up a brief visit to Darfur, where he met AU officials, local community representatives, aid workers and internally displaced persons."
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Javier Solana statement

Brussels, Jan 28 -- Javier Solana, EU High Representative for the CFSP, issues a statement expressing grave concern about the recent violence in Darfur.
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Mountains of Darfur: "Everyone we met had lost someone"


Voices from the field January 2005: Doctors Without Borders/Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) nurse Rakel Ludviksen and her colleague Jean Pierre Amigo spent November in the Jebel Si mountains, an extremely remote region of North Darfur, Sudan. Together they organized an immunization campaign and vaccinated more than 8,000 children against measles. They also screened almost 4,000 children for malnutrition and provided 400 medical consultations, mainly for diarrhea, skin infections, respiratory infections and conjunctivitis. After a couple of days in the Sudanese capital, Khartoum, they have again returned to the Jebel Si to set up a permanent health clinic there. Full Story.

Photo Jean-Pierre Amigo/MSF

Note, the MSF article says:
These people really want to stay in their mountains. I am from the Pyrenees Mountain region of France, so I understand this desire. But insecurity is still a devastating everyday problem for a big part of the civil population in Darfur. We met communities so much in trouble that they desperately requested MSF to bring trucks and transport them out to somewhere else. People told us repeatedly that they want MSF to come to the region regularly because it will make them more secure."
Here's an idea: If Khartoum won't accept peacekeepers for Darfur, what about imposing a no-fly zone over Darfur and providing 20,000 aid workers, assisted by 20,000 helpers who are trained to be minders to provide unimpeded access for aid. The world cannot stand by and just watch. People need to get out in the field and help. Surely there are millions of people around the world that would jump at the chance of making a difference. The U.N. needs a mobile army of aid workers with its own security to protect the people and aid.

Nurse Rakel Ludviksen tests a child for maulnutrition. Photo Jean-Pierre Amigo/MSF
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Aiding Darfur: A nurse's story IX

Trauma nurse Roberta Gately, who works for the International Rescue Committee (IRC) aid agency, tells the BBC News website about trying to help some of the 1.6 million people who have fled their homes in Darfur. Please read Aiding Darfur: A nurse's story IX.

Roberta (pictured) has found laughter among the tears in Darfur

Friday, January 28, 2005

Fresh attacks in Darfur - UN agencies struggling

Today, ReliefWeb reports a director of OCHA issued a statement saying UN agencies are struggling to reach and assist the thousands of people who have been displaced by the latest wave of violence to hit Darfur.

"This is the latest of several serious ceasefire violations in recent days that are having a devastating effect on civilians, and severely disrupt our relief operations," he said.

UN officials in Sudan said AU reports indicated that the Sudanese air force bombed the village of Rahad Kabolong in North Darfur state, with unconfirmed reports giving a casualty count of about 100.

UN humanitarian agencies have declared the location around Rahad Kabolong to be a "no-go" area for their staff until further notice, and the AU is investigating the bombing raid.

The area north of the town of Sirba in West Darfur state has also remained off-limits to UN staff since late last week because of violent clashes there.


WFP has reached 900,000 IDPs - only half of its goal for January

Across Darfur, UN human rights monitors are expressing concerns about the treatment of victims of human rights abuses.

Despite representations from WHO officials, victims are still being forced to pay fees to receive hospital treatment in Nyala, the capital of South Darfur.

Jan Egeland, the UNs most senior humanitarian official warned the Security Council today that Darfur's perilous security conditions are hampering UN aid agencies' efforts to feed and assist many of the hundreds of thousands of internally displaced persons (IDPs).

Mr Egeland said the World Food Programme reached 1.5 million people in Darfur in December - "a significant achievement, but still 500,000 less than the target." So far this month the agency has reached about 900,000 IDPs, only half of its goal for January.

He said IDPs continue to arrive in temporary camps every week - or in some cases are having to flee those camps and seek shelter elsewhere - because of fresh attacks on towns, villages and camps. The situation is considered worst, he added, in South Darfur and West Darfur states.
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Straw condemns Sudan bombardment

Despite a truce, about 100 people were killed in an air raid on a town at Shangel-Topayi, near Al-Fashir, in the western Darfur region of Sudan, bringing the toll to at least 150 in the past two weeks, the AU said yesterday.

AU spokesman said the deteriorating situation would be discussed when its leaders meet Jan 30 and 31 in Abuja, the Nigerian capital. Representatives from the G8, EU and British government are expected to attend.

The Scotsman says aid workers said Arab militias known as Janjaweed attacked a village in South Darfur state, killing three people.

The FT says Britain and the AU yesterday condemned the devastating bombardment of a village in Darfur, but UN ambassadors were struggling to agree on steps to halt and punish the continuing atrocities.

Note, the AU has recorded over 100 infringements of the teetering nine-month ceasefire between the Khartoum government and two rebel factions. Some news reports say there are four rebel factions.


Britain's foreign secretary, Jack Straw, said Sudan's bombardment was completely reprehensible and to be condemned.

"It defies the obligations which have been placed upon the government by the Security Council, and breaks the commitments which the government themselves have made in the AU-led peace talks on Darfur," he said.

Mr Straw said he would be taking up the issue at the UN headquarters in New York. "The international community cannot look away at this point," he said. "I have asked our permanent representative to raise this action - and those of the rebels - in the Security Council."

Jan Egeland, the UNs humanitarian chief, confirmed yesterday that 10,000 people fled the escalating conflict last week alone.

Straw: International community must not desert Sudanese people
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Star of Hotel Rwanda and US lawmakers call for pressure on Sudan

On Capitol Hill in Washington yesterday, the star of the movie Hotel Rwanda joined members of Congress in calling for stronger international action on the situation in Darfur.

Moved and angered by their visits to camps for Sudanese refugees, House members called on world leaders Thursday to pressure Sudan to stop the violence in Darfur, reports the Guardian today.

"I've seen a lot of things in my life but nothing prepares you for what we saw in this rather rapid trip through Chad and Sudan," said Rep. Jim McDermott, D-Wash.

Rep. Diane Watson, D-Calif., spoke of "250,000 souls sitting there'" on the Chad-Sudan border "with blank stares in their eyes, still traumatised." She described pictures drawn by children of machetes cutting off arms and planes dropping bombs on villages.

The Sudanese government has usually denied using its air force against civilians, but Watson said "the children have not learned not to tell the truth."

Actor Don Cheadle, nominated for an Oscar for his role in Hotel Rwanda, joined lawmakers at a Capitol Hill news conference drawing parallels to the violence that killed more than 800,000 people in Rwanda in 1994.

"We cannot stand here in a free society, proclaiming that we care about human life, and do nothing in the face of this, in my opinion," Cheadle said.

''People saw the film and said, 'Wow, that's terrible. What happened? Wish I had known.' Now you know,'' said Cheadle, who accompanied lawmakers on the Sudan trip.

"What we are seeing are tsunamis of violence," Cheadle said, "and we will continue to see these unless people step up, unless people step forward and demand from their leadership, demand from the international community that this not stand."

Their trip included visits to refugee camps along the Chad-Sudan border and meetings with political leaders from Darfur, the AU observer force and humanitarian groups.

Photo: Actor Don Cheadle discusses his recent trip to Darfur with members of the US Congress during a news conference on Capitol Hill Thursday, Jan. 27, 2005.

In Washington, Rep. Diane Watson, D-Calif and Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Calif said they discussed Darfur with President Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice when a black congressional delegation met with them Wednesday.

Lee said she was "very optimistic that they're going to move forward more aggressively.'' Watson said she asked Rice if she would lead a delegation to Sudan, and Rice indicated she would. Full Story and more from CNN.
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US appalled at new Darfur violence - raises prospect of sanctions

Once again the drums are banging for sanctions. It is not easy to understand why there is seldom any mention of imposing a no-fly zone over Darfur.

VOA quotes US State Department spokesman Richard Boucher today as saying the US was "appalled" by the recent increase in violence in Darfur.

"All the parties, the government of Sudan, the militias that are allied with the government and the rebels, are to blame for this increase in violence," Boucher said. "It must stop immediately."

He said they call into question Khartoum's sincerity in abiding by terms of the north-south Sudanese peace agreement it concluded with the SPLM less than three weeks ago. Similarly, he said the Darfur rebels are breaking every promise they have made with recent brazen attacks.

Mr Boucher also said the US joins UN envoy Jan Pronk in expressing concern about three local staff members of the Adventist Development and Relief Agency presumed to have been abducted by Darfur rebels in mid-December and unaccounted for since then.

He further criticised as ill advised, the arrest this week of a Sudanese human rights advocate involved with the Darfur issue, Madawi Ibrahim Adam of the Sudan Social Development Organization.

He said the arrest indicates a less than total commitment by Khartoum authorities to humanitarian pledges they have made, and urged that Mr Adam be released or given immediate access to legal representation and medical care.
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AU monitors turned away by Sudanese soldiers

The BBC reports today on the AU mission in Sudan investigating reports that Sudan's government forces bombed a town in Darfur:

UN spokesman George Somerwill said up to 105 civilians were feared dead, but did not say whether the village was attacked by rebels, government forces or the pro-government Arab militias. AU official Justin Thundu said military observers were investigating reports that pro-government Janjaweed militias were responsible for the attack.

The head of the AU mission told the BBC that AU monitors had tried to reach the town of Shangil-Tobaya on Thursday. He says they were turned away by Sudanese soldiers who told them the area was not safe. He denied that the monitors were ineffective if they could only operate in areas which the government said was safe.

"The AU troops are monitoring compliance with a ceasefire, they are not a peace enforcement operation," he told the BBCs World Today programme. "We wouldn't want to put our troops in harm's way."

Jean Baptiste Natama, political officer for the AU described the air raid as "the most serious attack in recent months". The Scotsman quotes Mr Natama as saying "There was some use of aircraft - Antonov 24s." Mr Natama said the AU could not go into an area where there might be bombing, but troops would be on the ground to confirm whether bombing had taken place or not.
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As many people are homeless in Sudan as in the tsunami region

A report in the Guardian today says Oxfam will end its Asian tsunami appeal today because the public has already helped the charity raise the £70m it needs to help the victims of last month's disaster.

Oxfam thanked people for their unprecedented generosity, which made the appeal the most successful in the charity's 60-year history.

"We asked the public to give and give quickly and they have done just that," said Jasmine Whitbread, Oxfam's international director.

"The speed and scale of response has helped us save thousands of lives. The generosity of the British public has meant that we are in the privileged position of having enough money to fund our work. Oxfam is already helping 300,000 people and has plans in place to reach over 600,000 people in the region."

Although the charity now has the funds to begin rebuilding the devastated communities in Asia, it is urging people to keep donating money to areas which have been overlooked following the the tsunami. Also, it is contacting donors to ask if they would mind if their donations were used for other crises.

"As many people are homeless in Sudan as in the tsunami region, yet Sudan has quickly become a forgotten emergency," said Ms Whitbread.

Oxfam is providing nearly 700,000 people in Sudan with shelter, clean drinking water and sanitation.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Terrible things are happening today in Darfur

The UN confirms the village of Hamada in Darfur was nearly totally destroyed and the 105 civilians feared killed are mostly women and children.

UN envoy Jan Pronk is visiting Darfur today where the renewed fighting last week uprooted more than 9,000. 8,000 fled to nearby Menawashi and 1,250 to Mershing, both in South Darfur state.

Dr Eric Reeves provides a good insight into what happened in Hamada January 14-16, 2005: please do not miss the must-read analysis which opens with the line:
"At this moment, terrible things are happening today in Darfur, Sudan"--- Kofi Annan, January 24, 2005, to the UN General Assembly.
Note also, three Sudanese men working for an American Christian aid agency have been abducted in Darfur.

Sudanese air force bombs people in Darfur, NGO reports casualties

An Associated Press report Jan 26 says the African Union confirms Sudan's air force used an Antonov to drop bombs outside the southern Darfur town of Shangil Tobaya, 65 kilometers south of El Fasher this afternoon.

"It is a major ceasefire violation," said a senior AU political officer for Sudan.

Village of Terbeba after being burnt
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Sudan supports Indian claim to permanent UN seat

New Delhi, Jan 25 report: Sudan today extended its full support to India's claim for a permanent seat in the UN Security Council as this would safeguard the interests of the Afro-Arab countries.

Sudan and Darfur: Piercing the Consciousness

Jim Moore has posted an insightful and nicely written essay titled "Piercing the Consciousness" by Marcus Banks.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

China, Russia Reject U.S. Bid to Impose UN Sanctions on Sudan

What a farce. China, Russia and the US are at it again. This time the charade is played by decision making Deputy Ambassadors. Here's an excerpt from the latest via Bloomberg [bear in mind the peacekeepers won't be fully deployed for another 6 months]:

"The US yesterday gave permanent members of the Security Council elements of a resolution that would establish a peacekeeping force in [southern] Sudan of up to 10,000 troops and place an arms embargo, travel ban and asset freeze on government officials. Deputy Ambassador Stuart Holliday said a draft resolution might be circulated this week.

China and Russia rejected a new US bid to impose UN sanctions on Sudan for failing to end assaults on villagers in Darfur, saying any action should follow deployment of a UN peacekeeping force and formation of a coalition government in Khartoum.

The UN today received a report that eight villages in Darfur were burned to the ground on Jan. 21.

The US wants to increase pressure on Sudan's government following its Jan. 9 agreement to end a 22-year civil war with the SPLM and form a coalition government.

"We want to build on the momentum of the agreement," Konstantin Dolgov, Russia's deputy UN ambassador said. "We have to encourage both sides, not penalize them. We are heading toward a new government. New people will be there. They have to have some time to deliver.''

Russia will support the peacekeeping mission, according to a government statement that said Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov today called UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan to say Russia was "willing to participate." Annan is to report to the Security Council this week on his recommendations for the size and mandate of the UN force that would monitor the peace accord.

Chinese Deputy Ambassador Zhang Yishan said that, while his government also supports the peacekeeping mission, China has a "problem" with imposing sanctions. "We want to move forward one step at a time," Zhang said.

China and Russia have blocked U.S. efforts to impose sanctions on Sudan for the past six months. As permanent Security Council members, along with France, the U.K. and U.S., they have the power to veto any measure.

The Security Council has adopted two resolutions in that time threatening the Sudanese government with sanctions for failing to disarm and disband the Janjaweed.

Sudanese foreign minister says he will stand down within two months

Sudan's foreign minister, Mustafa Osman Ismail, said today he will stand down within two months as part of the peace deal to end the 21-year southern civil war.

In two months time, a minimum of 20,000 Sudanese will have died from malnutrition and disease in refugee camps.


This is a photo of Mustafa Osman Ismail, a man without a conscience. As Sudan's Foreign Minister during the past seven years, he should be brought before the International Criminal Court in The Hague and put on trial for crimes against humanity that cost the lives of at least 400,000 Darfuris, four British aid workers, the displacement of two million Sudanese and the continuing deaths from starvation and disease of at least 10,000 Sudanese every month. God help his soul.

Sudanese VP in Europe visiting European Union: EU restores ties with Sudan before "Genocide Report" goes to UN Security Council

This post - and update - has turned into a vent. I want to complain. But where to? I am too exhausted. Politics makes me sick. Literally. I cannot blog news of what is happening from a UK/European perspective because reports have been so few and far between these past few months. Is there a news black out on Sudan or what? I cannot understand the clampdown. Even the Scotsman does not have the Sudan listed within its "hot-topics" section.

Well, here is a good example of what I mean about things going on behind the scenes that we do not find out about until they have more or less happened. Sudan's First Vice President Ali Osman Mohamed Taha, left Khartoum for Brussels yesterday on a three day visit to the Belgium capital where he is to witness the signing of the defreezing of the Sudanese assets with the EU. Note Taha does all the signing. Bashir did not even sign the peace deal.

The BBC and other news agencies have given the impression the Genocide report expected on Sudan will be out as early as Jan 25 but Xinhua now says the report won't be submitted to the UN Security Council until Feb 1 [how come China always seems to get news before it's reported by the European media?]

Meanwhile, apart from an Agence France-Presse report out today, I can find no other European reports - not even at the EU website - confirming the visit to Brussels today of Sudan's VP Taha and top rebel leader, Nhial Deng Nhi, commissioner for external relations of the SPLM. They are due to sign an accord dubbed the "country strategy paper" for EU-Sudanese cooperation with European Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso and EU aid chief Louis Michel. The AFP report explains the following:
Officials said the signing would open the way to the release of more than 450 million euros in EU aid funds -- provided a peace deal between the government and SPLM sticks, and peace is restored to the region of Darfur.

"It's a way to show that peace dividends are available after the signing of the January 9 accord between the north and the south, and to encourage the main actors to pursue peace in Darfur," Michel's spokesman Amadeu Altafaj said.

"The strategy paper has been suspended since 1990 so there is a significant amount of money available that has been held up. But this does not mean that we are today giving 450 million euros," he told AFP.

"We are just at the beginning of this cooperation process. The money is available for the future, provided there is progress in implementation of the north-south peace agreement and to an improvement of the situation in Darfur."

The EU aid funds would be used to safeguard the delivery of food aid, for education, internal refugees and to build up Sudanese administrative institutions, the spokesman said.

The legislative body of the SPLM on Monday unanimously ratified the January 9 peace deal signed between the Muslim-dominated government and the southern rebel group to end 21 years of war.

The situation in Darfur was expected to dominate talks later Tuesday between Taha and EU foreign affairs chief Javier Solana.
UPDATE: It sure looks like war, crimes against humanity, ethnic cleansing and genocide pay. Take a look at the excerpt below from a French report today titled "European Commission and Sudanese authorities sign the Country Strategy Paper to resume co-operation" and see if you can figure what it all means. I can't make head or tail of it [for instance what are Non-State Actors? The new jargon creeping into politics makes democracy sound like whacky showbiz: words like players, actors and theatres in regard to war criminals proves how sick politics really is] Here is the excerpt:
The County Strategy Paper creates a framework structuring the EU contribution to the Sudan of an indicative allocation of around Euros 400M:

Euros 127.5M: 9th European Development Fund - allocation for new programmes,
Euros 191M: transfer of resources for the losses incurred on earning derived from agriculture exports. These funds will be allocated to food security operations,
Euros 16.5M: programmes already decided, still to be implemented,
Euros 43M: 9th European Development Fund - unforeseen needs, in particular humanitarian,
Euros 5-10M per year: indicative budget lines allocations (excluding humanitarian assistance).

Also following the signature of the CSP a quick disbursement programme of Euros 50M will be launched, as an immediate peace dividend, benefiting equally North and South (Euros 25M to each region). The programme foresees mostly community based projects, to be implemented in partnership with local NGOs and Non State Actors.
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Nine months have now gone by since I started blogging almost daily about Darfur. I am becoming so disillusioned with politics and politicians, the world over, that I am seriously thinking of turning my back on it all. Democracy, or what most of us voters believe democracy to be, for sure is being eroded. The world is run by a handful of suits without regard to voters.

Too many things appear to be going on over which we have no say or control. We the people are treated like little children by governments acting like autocratic parents who think children should be kept at arms length and seen but not heard.

If I am feeling this way, I imagine many other voters are losing heart and switching off from politics. What is the point in keeping up to date with current affairs, participating in consultations, lobbying politicians, and voting? Politicians are made from the same mould and indoctrinated by the same pool of education and thinking. To me, it seems all too Machiavellian and corrupt. You can't believe a word politicians say. Leaders have hidden agendas and public images to maintain and are surrounded by yes men who are loyal to their bosses while humouring the public and stringing them along. I am finding this in other areas of life too, particularly in the medical professsion. Healthcare professionals, hospitals (and politicians involved in funding medical research etc) seem to view patients, and the elderly and infirm, as a nuisance.

In the olden days, there were revolutions and people took up arms and went out into the streets. Then there was communism and underground politics. Today's alternative appears to be multi media communications. A day will come in the not too distant future when politicians will control and stifle our voices on the Internet. But we will have mobile communications and radios. Yesterday, I read something about an Iranian website that was switched off by Western powers.

The world is in a scary mess. It looks like the US is going after Iran soon and trying to drag Britain along with it. No chance. Something has to change. A catalyst will happen that will change everything. Perhaps another few 9/11's. I don't know what the solution is, or how politicians can be interested in what people want when they know the public don't know half of what is really going on behind the scenes.

What if people refused to vote? Perhaps the only real power people have is their vote. If voters went on strike and politicians did not get enough votes to form a government, what would happen? I know nothing about political science/history but feel people are treated like serfs of the land, only worthy of being milked of taxes and perceived as a nuisance when they speak up and make a noise or live too long while not generating taxes. Let them eat cake, I hear them say.

Maybe Western politicians feel they are invincible. Whatever, they need to watch out and listen carefully to what people are feeling. Mainstream media may have the power to influence public opinion and politics but we the people now have the Internet to influence and even bypass mainstream media. Maybe communication tools like blogs will start going "underground" and disappear from the radar of search engines. Internet and mobile communications might enable people to create their own jargon/language using new tools spawned by Wikis and such like. Politicians would have difficulty keeping tabs and controlling anarchy they may end up acting like the Stasi, and employing the public as snitches and spies. Years ago, communists gathered at cafes to discuss and plot strategies. Cyberspace communities will develop into a jungle network where everyone will know how to find out which cafe to go, and who to speak to, when something is up.

What we needed for Darfur was some sort of global mechanism that, if enough of us voted for 40,000 peacekeepers to be deployed in Darfur, would have triggered politicians to take action - and if they refused to take action, we should have automatically received a proper response and statement explaining why. This is what I find so galling about what has been going on over the Sudan these past nine months: not a single politician within the international community has explained the situation to us. Right now, I would like to see Dr Eric Reeves' reports put forward to the UN Security Council with a demand from us the people that a proper response be given to the reports, point by point. Bottom line is, none of the so-called "actors" and "players" on the "world stage" are really accountable, they wheel and deal with impunity, and are no different from the regime in Khartoum really. My only explanation as to why security was not provided for the aid and workers in Darfur and action was not taken against the regime in Khartoum is that they (and possibly the so-called Janjweed and Arab tribal leaders) have been helpful - and continue to be useful - in the war against terrorism.
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Here is a must-read at Jim Moore's Journal: Eleven good reasons to become a nonvoter. Be free! Become a non-voter today! Help form the Nonvoter party.

And more on becoming a nonvoter.

Stay tuned for more on this at a later date.
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UPDATE: I am lost for words on this report, just out from Reuters an hour ago, titled "EU restores ties with Sudan, offers quick aid". Jim Moore at Passion of the Present is the only person who could possibly understand how sickened and disappointed I felt as I read the report - copied here in full:

BRUSSELS, Jan 25 (Reuters) - The European Union restored ties with Sudan on Monday and offered 50 million euros ($65 million) in aid to help boost a peace agreement in the African country, plagued by civil war in the past two decades.

Senior EU and Sudanese officials signed a cooperation agreement, which the European Commission said would launch an immediate aid package of 25 million euros for the northern region and a further 25 million for the south of the country.

"This meeting is the starting point of normal relations between the European Union and Sudan," EU Development and Humanitarian Aid Commissioner Louis Michel told reporters.

The EU, the world's leading aid donor, suspended cooperation with Sudan during the war in 1990. It resumed political dialogue with Khartoum in 1999 but did not relaunch cooperation.

Normal relations between Khartoum and Brussels will mean that Sudan now also has access to a 400 million euro development aid package from the EU's executive Commission.

Rebels in the south and the Khartoum government signed the peace deal on Jan. 9 this year, ending 21 years of north-south war. Two million people, mostly civilians, have died in the south from violence, disease or famine in the oil-rich region.

Sudanese Vice-President Ali Osman Mohamed Taha pledged to implement the peace pact, which in turn could help end the Darfur conflict in which over 1.2 million people have been left homeless by rampaging militia and Sudanese security forces.

"We are committed to use the same drive and to draw from our experience in resolving the conflict in southern Sudan to bring a prompt and fair answer to the conflict in Darfur," Taha said.
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UPDATE: Finally, after one hour of publishing this post, 17 minutes ago on Tue 25/01/2005 at 22:30 GMT a statement by the EU appears online at Google news. It confirms "the European Union reopened its financial aid taps to Sudan Tuesday during a landmark visit by top government and rebel leaders to celebrate a peace accord that has ended one of Africa's longest-running wars." Full Story.

Strange how the EU made no big deal of this meeting before it took place. Maybe they thought some of us might object.

Monday, January 24, 2005

Refugees from Sudan urge action on crisis

'What will you do to stop genocide in Darfur?' one forum participant asks.


Speaking out: Omer Ismail, co-founder of Darfur Peace and Development, discusses the current situation in Sudan during an International Issues Forum.

Full Story.

[Note, it is the Africans and Arabs who are telling the international community it is an African problem]

UN keeping the memory of the Holocaust alive for the future

Going by the Kofi Annan quotes in the press this week to mark the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Nazi death camps, one can only conclude that Mr Annan and the U.N. Security Council have not believed that crimes against humanity and genocide were committed in Darfur.

Here is an excerpt from a report at Deutsche Welle today that quotes Mr Annan as saying new generations born after the war must not grow up unaware of the lessons of the Holocaust:

"The founding of this organisation was a direct response to the Holocaust. Our Charter, and the words 'untold sorrow,' were written as the world was learning the full horror of the death camps," Annan said.

The memory of the Holocaust's horrors must be kept alive so future generations can learn from its lessons, the Secretary General said.

"The evil that destroyed six million Jews and others in those camps is one that still threatens all of us today," he added. "It is not something we can consign to the distant past and forget about it. Every generation must be on its guard, to make sure that such a thing never happens again," he admonished.

Note, the report points out the UN was criticised for its insufficient response to the Rwandan genocide in 1994 in which at least 800,000 people were killed -- and that some 10 years later, the organisation hopes it has learned from its mistakes as it prepares to hear from a special commission on whether acts of genocide have been committed in Darfur.

UPDATE: Further reading Reuters Jan 24: "UN on Holocaust: Evil Wins When the Good Are Quiet" --

"How could such evil happen in a cultured and highly sophisticated nation-state in the heart of Europe whose artists and thinkers had given the world so much," Annan asked. "Truly is has been said: "All that is needed for evil to triumph is that good men do nothing."

"The purveyors of hatred, were not always and may not be in the future, only marginalized extremists," he said.

Although the world rightly says "never again," action is harder. Since the Holocaust genocide has occurred in Cambodia, in Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia, he said.

And at this moment, "terrible things are happening today in Darfur, Sudan," Annan said. He asked the Security Council to take action once it received a report on Tuesday determining whether genocide has occurred and identifying gross violations of human rights.

UN must end Sudan violence, say Americans - support war crimes trials for Darfur

Many adults in the US want to stop the civil war in Sudan, according to a poll by Knowledge Networks for the Program on International Policy Attitudes, Jan 24.

74 per cent of respondents believe the UN should step in with military force to end the conflict in Darfur.

60 per cent of respondents say the US should be willing to contribute troops to a military operation to stop the genocide in Darfur, but only 42 per cent believe the international community will actually step in to end the violence.

Polling Data

Do you think the members of the United Nations (UN) should or should not step in with military force and stop the genocide in Darfur, Sudan?

Should step in

Should not step in

No answer

If other members of the UN are willing to contribute troops to a military operation to stop the genocide in Darfur, do you think the U.S. should or should not be willing to contribute some troops as well?

Should be willing

Should not be willing

No answer

Do you think the international community, including the US, will or will not step in with military force and stop the genocide in Darfur?

Will step in

Will not step in

No answer

Methodology: Interviews to 801 American adults, conducted from Dec. 21 to Dec. 26, 2004. Margin of error is 3.5 per cent.


Further reading: Jan 24 The Conservative Voice News: "3 Out of 4 Americans Favor UN Military Intervention in Darfur"
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South African police contingent for Darfur

A news report out of Pretoria today confirms South Africa is readying 100 peacekeepers for Darfur. The report says SA's Cabinet approved a request by the AU for South Africa to contribute a contingent of 100 police officers to Darfur, as part of the civilian police component of the AU Peace Mission.

"The advance guard of this police contingent is meant to establish the police headquarters in Darfur during January. The AU police mission will be under the command of SAPS," the Cabinet statement said.
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Support War Crimes Trials for Darfur

On Jan 21, the US State Department rejected a proposal to have the International Criminal Court prosecute war crimes committed in Darfur. Spokesman Richard Boucher said the department has "a number of objections" to the tribunal.

In a Washington Post opinion piece today titled "Support War Crimes Trials for Darfur", Jack Goldsmith, a professor at Harvard Law School, suggests the Darfur case would allow the US to argue that UN Security Council referrals are the only valid route to ICC prosecutions and that countries that are not parties to the ICC (such as the US) remain immune from ICC control in the absence of such a referral.

Prof Goldsmith concludes by saying, "it is possible that the concrete threat of an ICC prosecution could temper the killings in Darfur without adversely affecting the recent peace deal between Sudan's Islamic government and its southern rebels. If so, the Bush administration should play the difficult hand likely to be dealt it by the Cassese commission to its own political advantage. A more moderate stance toward the ICC could be a more effective one." [See below copy of report in full]

A displaced Sudanese woman carries a bucket of water in northern Darfur in 2004. The United States backed prosecution of Sudanese suspected of committing atrocities in the Darfur region but opposed bringing them before the International Criminal Court (AFP/File)

Note, international prosecutions are needed to deter ongoing atrocities in Darfur, Human Rights Watch said today in a report documenting crimes the Sudanese government and its allied militias have committed with complete impunity.
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The Washington Post has put up a registration page blocking Prof Goldsmith's article, so here is a copy in full:

Support War Crimes Trials for Darfur
By Jack Goldsmith
Monday, January 24, 2005

A U.N. commission chaired by the former president of the Yugoslav war crimes tribunal, Antonio Cassese, is expected to issue its recommendation this week on whether the International Criminal Court should investigate human rights abuses in the Darfur region of Sudan. If the Cassese commission does propose an ICC investigation, a Security Council referral will be necessary for the ICC to proceed, because Sudan has not ratified the ICC treaty.

This would place the Bush administration in a bind. The administration has condemned the Darfur abuses as genocide. But at the same time, it strongly opposes the ICC, which it believes is staffed by unaccountable judges and prosecutors who threaten politically motivated actions against U.S. personnel around the globe. These concerns explain why the United States has opposed ratification of the ICC treaty and has sought bilateral assurances that other nations will not send U.S. nationals to the ICC. News reports suggest that the Bush administration would oppose a Security Council referral on Darfur out of fear that it would confer legitimacy on the international court.

In fact such a referral would be consistent with U.S. policy on the ICC. The United States has never opposed ICC prosecutions across the board. Rather, it has maintained that ICC prosecutions of non-treaty parties would be politically accountable and thus legitimate if they received the imprimatur of the Security Council. The Darfur case allows the United States to argue that Security Council referrals are the only valid route to ICC prosecutions and that countries that are not parties to the ICC (such as the United States) remain immune from ICC control in the absence of such a referral.

This course of action would signal U.S. support not only for the United Nations but for international human rights as well, at a time when Washington is perceived by some as opposing both. And it would give the United States leverage in seeking genuine sanctions against Sudan, especially with France, which for oil-related reasons has quietly resisted U.S. efforts on Darfur. France would have a hard time opposing a package of sanctions that included U.S. support for an ICC referral. Opposition by China and Russia would be harder to overcome but would at least make clear to the world that those two powerful nations are even more opposed to the ICC than the United States.

U.S. support for a Security Council referral might also point the way to a compromise with European nations that are anxious to secure U.S. backing for the international court but oppose state-to-state deals that overtly immunize U.S. citizens from ICC jurisdiction. Agreement on the need for Security Council approval for ICC prosecutions would provide a more principled way for Europe to alleviate U.S. concerns about rogue ICC prosecutions. Critics would decry this approach as a double standard for Security Council members, who can protect themselves by vetoing a referral. But this double standard is woven into the fabric of international politics and is the relatively small price the international system pays for the political accountability and support that only the big powers, acting through the Security Council, can provide.

The fears of "legitimizing" the ICC are overstated. It's too late to kill the International Criminal Court. The Security Council (including the United States) presupposed the ICC's authority when it voted in 2002 and 2003 to immunize U.N. peacekeepers from ICC prosecutions. And the institution is now up and running, preparing for cases already referred to it. For better or worse, the ICC is not going away anytime soon.

Another potential obstacle is a 2001 congressional bar on U.S. cooperation with the ICC. But this statute exempts acts taken pursuant to the president's constitutional authority, and it specifically permits the president to communicate to the ICC U.S. "policy with respect to a matter." The congressional ban would preclude U.S. financial support for the ICC, but all that means is that the United States can, for a change, enjoy the fruits of international justice without having to pay for it.

Not that there will necessarily be much fruit. Prosecutions by other international criminal courts have done little to bring reconciliation to Rwanda or the former Yugoslavia, or (as the Darfur tragedy shows) to deter future crimes in other nations. Nonetheless, it is possible that the concrete threat of an ICC prosecution could temper the killings in Darfur without adversely affecting the recent peace deal between Sudan's Islamic government and its southern rebels. If so, the Bush administration should play the difficult hand likely to be dealt it by the Cassese commission to its own political advantage. A more moderate stance toward the ICC could be a more effective one.

The writer, a professor at Harvard Law School and a former Bush administration official in the Justice and Defense departments, is the author of "The Limits of International Law."

Sunday, January 23, 2005

Racism at the root of Darfur atrocities

Within the next 24 hours, we will probably know the findings of the UN's inquiry into genocide in Darfur.

After nine months of blogging almost daily about Darfur, my view is that racism is at the root of all the troubles within Darfur. If the UN report does not conclude that crimes against humanity have been committed in Darfur, I will be shocked. To me, the following extract, from an opinion piece titled "Inside Darfur: Ethnic Genocide by a Governance Crisis" just about sums it up:
"Darfur is not an accidental apocalypse of mass slaughter, enslavement, pillage and ethnic cleansing. The Darfur pogrom is part of a historic continuum in which successive Arab governments have sought to entirely destroy black Africans in this bi-racial nation."
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62-year old Arab Muslim Mohammad Ali Salih, Washington correspondent for Saudi-owned London-based newspaper Asharq al-Awsat, writes an interesting story of a security alert he recently experienced in Washington. Sadly, such experiences must be commonplace in many other countries. People never cease to be defined by their origins. Although my mother is Austrian born, she has been a British citizen for the past 52 years. My late father was English born. My brother and I received a British education and consider ourselves wholly British, as does our mother. A few years ago, an English person upon hearing me say my mother was born in Austria, turned to me and said vehemently (60 years after WWII) as if speaking of an enemy: "yes, but WHOSE side was SHE on in the war?"

Apathy toward African tragedy - Everyone should leave Darfur and walk out of Sudan

On Jan 21 the LA Times/Washington Post published an opinion piece by Briton Terry George, the director, producer and co-writer of the movie Hotel Rwanda. He and his partners have worked with the UN to establish an International Fund for Rwanda.

Mr George says more than three weeks have passed since a powerful tsunami destroyed much of the coastline of southern Asia and washed over more than 150,000 souls. He writes about the tsunami-waves of aid and describes his feelings turning from empathy to anger.

My reaction was the same when within the space of four days the whole world proved it was capable of reacting to disasters. On day four, I thought to myself, hold on -- 400,000 people from Darfur alone have perished at the hands of humans. Crimes against humanity can be halted whereas a natural disaster lasting a matter of minutes cannot.

My theory is the disaster in Asia is something the public can identify with and easily understand. Many people around the world have at one time or another travelled to Asia and its paradise like resorts. Almost every person in the West knows someone who knows someone affected by the disaster. It touched almost everyone. TV pictures showed areas in Asia where there were not enough people left alive to bury the dead. Donations for the victims was clear cut: if aid and water was not delivered within a matter of hours to the eleven countries affected, disease would spread across the vast region incurring a loss of many more lives. Donations were earmarked for the victims and so the aid was bound to help the victims directly not like in Africa where it is intercepted and stolen or funds misused in different directions by corrupt people.

All civilians in Darfur should make a stand and leave now

The African continent over the past 50 years has built itself a reputation for corruption and railing against help from the West. Seldom do we hear words of appreciation out of Africa. On the contrary, all we hear this end is African politicians being downright antagonistic and disrespectful claiming that the West has ulterior motives and foists help on it.

Generally speaking, Africans give the impression they resent help from the West and class it as interference. Africans insist they want to solve their own problems and even rally up other countries to support this view. This has gone on for decades and although the West has not given up on helping Africa, the public generosity towards tsunami v Sudan, Congo and Uganda is understandable and is only to be expected. Africans need to be aware of the reputation they have built for themselves in the West. The African people themselves (not the politicians) need to wake up and stand up and do something and tell us what we can do to help.

If I were there in Darfur, I would exhort everyone to leave the Sudan -- to walk over the border into Chad, Libya or wherever and refuse to return until an adequate number of UN peacekeepers could ensure security. Three million people from Darfur turning up unexpectedly would soon capture the world's attention. TV crews would have something new to film. There are no news blackouts over the border. Aid agencies would have to go into overdrive, international security would be needed to handle such an exodus. The host countries would be under pressure - along with the UN. Without any civilians in Darfur, the rebels (if they care to stay) and their government can get on with it. Leave them to their own bloodbath and endless talk. It is their choice. Civilians - especially all the women and children - need to make a stand. Leave the Sudan. Now.

As for the 500,000 Sudanese expected to return to southern Sudan: I say, stay where you are. The UN are working now on setting up camps and infrastructure to accommodate the expected return of at least 500,000. Don't you find it odd that all of a sudden the UN can think in terms of catering for such a massive influx without any sense of urgency in getting UN peacekeepers in place? I do.

Here is an excerpt from Terry George's op-ed "Apathy toward African tragedy":
Of course our politicians will come up with any number of excuses as to why Sudan and Central Africa are different-political complexity, geographical remoteness, cultural complexities. Enough! The tsunami aid effort has clearly proved that when the great powers have the will they can respond rapidly and decisively. Have you ever heard those two words-''rapidly" and ''decisively"-used to describe intervention in, or aid for, Africa? Why not?

You can find my answer to all these questions in Hotel Rwanda, when Nick Nolte's character, Col. Oliver, explains why Rwanda is being abandoned by the West. ''You're dirt," he says. ''We think you're dirt, less than dirt, you're worthless. You're not even a nigger- you're an African."
Further reading:

Jan 23 BBC SA police to charge 40 'scam MPs' -- Several high-profile MPs could face criminal charges. Forty members of South Africa's parliament will be charged with fraud on Monday, police say. The charges arise from a $2m scam in which MPs allegedly colluded with travel agents to inflate their travelling expenses."

Jan 23 Times Online Q&A: Wendy Chamberlin Deputy High Commissioner at the United Nations' refugee agency.

Jan 23 op-ed Why blase response to horror in Darfur? by Jeremy Levitt, assistant professor of law at DePaul University College of Law, writes: Several justifications might explain why the tsunami tragedy has received greater attention than Darfur, including donor disinterest and fatigue with Africa's crises; donor apprehension about peacekeeping in Africa in the wake of the Somalia debacle; extensive media coverage of the tsunami (access to Darfur is difficult and raw footage of acts of genocide are rare); responses to natural vs. manmade disasters, and the climbing death toll in Asia.
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Taiwan looks forward to closer oil cooperation with Chad president

Last year, it was reported there is oil to be found on the Chad-Sudan border. Today, a report from Taipei says President Chen Shui-bian said Sunday the Republic of China looks forward to expanding petroleum exploration cooperation with Chad. Chen made the remarks while holding talks with visiting Chadian President Idriss Deby at the Presidential Office. The report explains:

Chad formally became an oil exporting country in October 2003 and has signed a memorandum of understanding with Taiwan on cooperation in oil exploration and petrochemical development. The Chadian leader was accorded full military honors in the ceremony, including a 21-gun salute. Chen also lauded Deby for his contributions to helping resolve armed conflicts in the Darfur region in Sudan to promote stability in Africa. Deby has on many occasions spoken out in support of Taiwan's bid to join the United Nations, the World Health Organization and other major international organizations.
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Sudanese VP asks Libyan leader to help resolve Darfur issue

The following Jan 22 report from Libyan/Sudanese TV is copied here in full for future reference [note it reveals that Bashir has entrusted Taha with the "Darfur problem file"]

Sudanese First Vice-President Ali Osman Mohamed Taha has handed over a copy of the comprehensive peace agreement between the Sudanese government and the Sudan People's Liberation Movement to the Libyan leader Muammar Al-Qadhafi and urged him to continue his efforts to resolve the Darfur problem.

In this context, Al-Qadhafi received today Ali Osman Mohamed Taha, the first vice-president of the Republic of Sudan.

Taha, left Khartoum this morning for Libya to follow-up efforts being exerted in the framework of the Tripoli conference for the people of Darfur which is being sponsored by the Libyan leader, Col Muammar al-Qadhafi, on solving the Darfur problem.

During this meeting, Sudanese First Vice-President handed over to the Libyan leader a copy of the comprehensive peace agreement between the government of the Republic of Sudan and the Sudan People's Liberation Movement, signed in Kenya this 9 January.

Taha pointed out that Libya was the first African and Arab country he was visiting after the signing of this agreement in appreciation for the brother leader of the revolution's personal role and for the Great Jamahiriyah's efforts to reach this agreement.

He also hoped that Col al-Qadhafi, would honour the implementation of this agreement with his personal presence [in Sudan], out of the pride in his continuous role and interest in the stability, security and unity of Sudan.

During this meeting, which Maj-Gen Mustafa Mohamed al-Kharrubi attended, the Sudanese first vice-president conveyed once more the appreciation of President Omar Hassan al-Bashir and the Sudanese government and people for the brother leader's efforts to find a solution to the Darfur problem.

The Sudanese first vice-president, currently entrusted by President Al-Bashir with the Darfur problem file, appealed to the brother leader's help and continuous efforts to find a just solution to this problem acceptable to all the parties.

Sudanese First Vice-President Ali Osman Mohamed Taha and the delegation accompanying him left Libya this evening.

Saturday, January 22, 2005

Sudan's southern leader returns

Today, a BBC report confirms John Garang, leader of the SPLM has returned to his base, the remote town of Rumbek, for the first time since signing a historic peace deal.

Mr Garang was received at the airport by a delegation including the UN chief envoy to Sudan, Jan Pronk, and greeted by a marching band, traditional dancers and a large crowd of onlookers. As he got off the plane, Mr Garang stepped over a white cow that had been slaughtered on the tarmac. A white cow is considered a peace offering among Mr Garang's Dinka tribe.

"It feels great after a peace agreement - honourable and dignified - you can see the people are very happy," Mr Garang told the BBC. "Our first task is to ratify the agreement. That's why we have come to Rumbek. The same thing will be done in Khartoum."

Mr Garang has said the first priority for the planned SPLM administration in the south will be the voluntary repatriation of refugees and the provision of basic humanitarian needs. Here's hoping he will get down to working out the details of UN peacekeepers without further delay.


Mr Garang received a rapturous welcome after flying into the town of Rumbek in southern Sudan. He steps over a white cow which was slaughtered on the tarmac as he got off the plane, Saturday, Jan. 22, 2005. Garang recently signed a peace deal in neighboring Kenya to end 21-years of conflict in southern Sudan. (AP Photo/Karel Prinsloo)


Cattle follow a woman through central Rumbek, Thursday, Jan. 20, 2005 in southern Sudan. 21 years of civil war in southern Sudan has destroyed the infrastructure in the region and reconstruction is slowly starting with three international investors operating in rebel held areas of southern Sudan. (AP Photo/Karel Prinsloo)

US opposes global court use for Darfur war crimes suspects

According to a Washington Times report here below, findings of the UN's investigation into genocide in Darfur may come as early as Monday.

The International Criminal Court (ICC) based in The Hague was set up specifically to handle cases concerning suspected war criminals. Setting up an ad hoc court is extremely costly, which is one of the reasons for the creation of the ICC. If an ad hoc court was set up for Sudan simply to accommodate the Americans, one would guess the US would have to foot the bill. Imagine how many peacekeepers for Darfur could be hired instead.

The US is aligning itself with several rogue states that are refusing to recognise the ICC. Britain and other countries have no problems signing up to the global court, so it is not easy to understand why the US refuses to be subjected to the same standards.

No doubt Kofi Annan is not too sad watching the US squirm on this issue, after all it was the US who made a big deal out of declaring Darfur as genocide. It is still unclear what they intended doing about it. They have ruled out US troops for Darfur and refuse to join forces in bringing the perpetrators of atrocities committed in Darfur, to a global court. The US appears to have no firm alternative even though the UN inquiry, carried out over the past three months, will report its findings in a few days time.
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An AFP report today confirms the US has backed prosecution of Sudanese suspected of committing atrocities in Darfur, but opposed bringing them before the International Criminal Court.

"We have had a number of objections to the International Criminal Court, and therefore don't believe it's the best option for this," said State Department spokesman Richard Boucher.

The US has refused to recognise the ICC, based in The Hague, fearing the court could be used to prosecute politically motivated charges against US diplomats or troops around the world.

Boucher said various options were under consideration to bring suspected Darfur war criminals to justice, including use of the ICC set up in Tanzania to try Rwanda genocide suspects. He said Washington was awaiting the results of a UN inquiry in Darfur and would then discuss the issue of prosecutions.

"We want to find effective and appropriate means of accountability and will consider various options for doing that," he said.
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A report in the Washington Times today says the US has urged European officials to consider setting up a new court or empowering UN lawyers who are now prosecuting accused perpetrators of genocide in Rwanda to take on Darfur cases, two senior Bush administration officials said. Extracts from a report by the Washington Post:

European envoys have cited US misgivings about these ad hoc courts in pushing for the ICC. UN ambassadors from Britain, France and Denmark told John Danforth, the former US representative to the UN, in a private meeting earlier this month that the ICC was the best option for obtaining justice in Darfur.

"From our point of view, it doesn't make sense to create another special court but rather to use the international court we have just created for these instances," said Germany's UN ambassador, Gunter Pleuger, who was not at the meeting but is a leading European advocate of the ICC.

UN Secretary General Kofi Annan backed the Europeans on Wednesday, saying the ICC, which is based in The Hague, is the "most logical place" to try Sudan's accused war criminals. "They need to be held accountable so that we don't give the impression that impunity is allowed to stand," Annan said.

Court advocates have urged the Bush administration to waive the legal provision that bars US cooperation with the ICC. "There is not a possibility of any unfair prosecution of Americans resulting from an ICC investigation" in Darfur, said Richard Dicker, an expert on the court at the New York-based advocacy organisation Human Rights Watch.

The US, he noted, has previously "favored a Security Council trigger" for ICC investigations, "and that's exactly what this is."

Even some critics of the ICC have encouraged the administration not to rule it out for Darfur.

"I'm of two minds," said Lee A. Casey, a Justice Department official under President Ronald Reagan who has written extensively about the ICC.

"On the one hand, I think it's important for the United States not to indulge the court until some fundamental areas are settled, most importantly that it does not have jurisdiction over US citizens," Casey said. But "no one has actually come up with a much better idea, so perhaps that is something to be considered," he added.
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UPDATE: SA police prepare for duty in Darfur

South African news online Jan 22 reports the South African Police Service (SAPS) is readying a contingent of peacekeepers for service in Darfur. "Discussions are under way and arrangements are being made," national police spokesperson told reporters today.

Cabinet on Friday announced that it had approved a request by the AU for South Africa to contribute a contingent of 100 police officers to Darfur, as part of the civilian police component of the AU Peace Mission.

"The advance guard of this police contingent is meant to establish the police headquarters in Darfur during January. The AU police mission will be under the command of SAPS," the Cabinet statement said. - Sapa

Further reading: New York Times Jan 22 Analysis: Bush's Smiles Meet Some Frowns in Europe.

Friday, January 21, 2005

British and Dutch embassies open joint office in south Sudan

Over the past month, UK/European news reports on Sudan seem to be few and far between. Many things are going on behind the scenes but, for some reason, they are not being reported.

However, a report today says British and Dutch embassies this week opened a joint liaison office in Rumbek, a sprawling town of scattered thatch huts 900 kilometers (560 miles) south of the capital, Khartoum, which the rebel SPLA has made its headquarters. "This is really donors' effort to establish an operational presence in the south to facilitate the implementation of the peace agreement," Dutch Ambassador said.
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Business appears to be booming in Rumbek. "We have certainly never seen anything like this size of influx before," said Terry Light, from Ithaca, New York, one of the first foreign businessmen to set up here 14 years ago. He runs a tent camp next to the airstrip -- Rumbek's version of a luxury hotel.

Further reading: British and Dutch flags are flying in Rumbek as Dutch Minister opens Liaison Office.


Rumbek has no paved roads or multi-storey buildings and hardly any running water or electricity.
A man pedals past the satellite dish of Network of the World, Rumbek's first cell phone provider.
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Training of UN peacekeepers for southern Sudan to begin in Kenya

China View report Jan 21 says the training of the UN peacekeepers for southern Sudan will begin in Kenyan capital Nairobi starting Feb 15, officials disclosed Friday.

The UN has requested the Kenyan government to offer the training and limited logistical support for the deployment of the peacekeepers. The officials didn't confirm when the peacekeepers will be deployed to Sudan, but sources say that might be happening in two or three months.

[Strange how the AU has reportedly opposed the move, saying the parties in Sudan are implementing a mutually agreed ceasefire accord, which does not require foreign intervention. However, the SPLM, despite moves to delay the deployment of UN troops, appears in news reports to welcome the upcoming deployment, saying it was the main pillar of achieving security]
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South Sudan disagrees over UN mission nations

Considering the large number of international personnel in Sudan and problems with getting aid to those most in need, it's disconcerting to read reports of how the SPLM and AU appear to be thwarting the deployment of UN peacekeepers into southern Sudan.

A Reuters report out of Rumbek today says southern Sudan's SPLM spokesman said the former guerrilla group had expressed reservations about the countries that have volunteered staff for the UN peacekeeping mission to southern Sudan. Excerpt:

"We told the UN that these countries must be agreed on by the two parties. They've chosen countries without consulting us," the spokesman said by telephone from Nairobi.

Differences over the peacekeepers threaten to stall the deployment of the force which was due to be completed within six months of the UN mandate being approved, UN sources said. Several countries including Egypt, Kenya, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Malaysia and India have offered troops for the mission, one UN source said.

The source added that the SPLM were concerned about the predominance of Muslim nations on the list. "We have reservations about the whole list," a SPLM spokesman said without elaborating. He did not name the countries involved.

The Under-Secretary of Foreign Affairs Mutrif Siddiq told Reuters in Khartoum that the only requirements both sides had placed on the forces were that they speak both Arabic and English, the official languages of the post-peace country, and that they respect the cultures of the areas they were working in.

"These are the only conditions set from the two parties and we left the rest of the selection to the UN," he said. "There is nothing to do with religion here - it is a matter of respect of culture and medium of language."

He added that the government had not complained that the ceasefire monitoring commission in the Nuba Mountains area was a non-Muslim force, and that he had not heard about the SPLM complaints about the UN force.
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AU force in Darfur soon to reach 1,365

Reuters Jan 21 report confirms the AU said today its protection force in Darfur would soon grow to 1,365 soldiers, with the impending deployment of 313 troops from Nigeria and Senegal.

AU spokesman Assane Ba said no fixed date had been agreed, but the troops would be airlifted in the "immediate future".

The AU force there is ultimately supposed have 3,320 troops, but it has grown slowly because the pan-African body is relying on foreign aid to pay for it.

Note this from the report: "So far, the AU has received $186.7 million of the $221 million it budgeted for the Darfur operations. Contractors building the camps to house the troops have also been behind schedule, Ba said."

Who are these contractors, and why are they behind schedule? Clearly, the African Union are not short of funds. It seems to me that AU troops are being held up and now UN peacekeepers are being held up -- there is a delay all round in more troops going into Sudan: why? It will be interesting to read the findings of the UN's investigation into genocide in Darfur.
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Note this report, uploaded 21 Jan 2005:

Also, Moderate Islam vs. Santa Claus by Peter Fisher.