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.

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