Friday, April 08, 2005

Darfur: 10,000 aid workers in the Sudan need minders

Waging Peace UK website says:
"On April 11th the World Bank and UN are holding an international donors' conference in Oslo where they will raise nearly $8 billion to rebuild Sudan. Why should the government of Sudan listen to our concerns about Darfur when we are rewarding them with $8 billion for finally signing the peace deal with southern Sudan's rebels (allowing the development of Sudan's oil reserves)? Please contact your MP now, in the run-up to the election, and ask them to raise this issue with the Foreign Office and DFID.
Obviously, it's good to see a UK initiative concerning Darfur but I doubt if much can be done to stop the funding for South Sudan which was promised on condition of a signed north-south peace deal. [By the way, the figure mentioned by Waging Peace UK is misleading: Sudan plans to chip in the lions share of the $8 billiion from its oil revenues. International donors may end up contributing around 2 billion, which I believe also includes the cost of peacekeeping forces.]

Politicians involved in brokering the peace deal for South Sudan seem to believe the road to peace in Darfur goes through the Naivasha agreement. If Naivasha can be completed for southern Sudan it could change the face of Sudan's politics and provide a basis for similar deals concerning western and eastern Sudan. John Garang's new South Sudan government urgently needs funding to build a solid foundation for the 'New Sudan' and prepare for the return of its people - not to mention 10,000 UN peacekeepers and everything else involved in bringing about lasting peace in the region.

Personally, I would like to see an unarmed minder provided for each aid worker in hotspots without further delay. At the moment in Sudan, there are at least 1,000 international aid workers alongside 9,000 Sudanese workers. If minders, armed with satellite phones and cameras, were provided as guards for aid workers it might help if more witnesses were in the field. Here in Europe, during war time, women used to carry phials of pepper to throw into the eyes of assailants. You'd think these days, there would be some sort of stun gun or non-violent deterrent that could be used against would be rapists and attackers. I've read somewhere of a ruling that says firewood should be provided with aid - if that is the case, and firewood is not supplied, then minders ought to accompany displaced people collecting fuel for cooking food.

Satellite phone-cameras could transmit evidence of attacks and maybe help as a deterrent, especially since Sudan has been referred to the International Criminal Court. Khartoum always object to armed forces, but can hardly complain about 10,000 more aid workers while Darfur awaits the long overdue protection forces. Maybe the UN or aid agency insurance companies ought to insist that each aid worker is accompanied by a trained minder. There are plenty of strong young unemployed Africans able to speak Arabic and English who could be hired and trained as minders for humanitarian work.
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Peace deal fails to halt the flood of refugees

Here is a copy of a recent report by Rob Crilly in Kakuma refugee camp, Kenya [apologies for mislaid link]:

STARVING refugees are pouring over the border from Sudan to Kenya despite a peace deal designed to end the 21-year war between the Khartoum government and southern rebels, according to aid agencies.

In a region where hunger is often used as a weapon of war, the new arrivals say they have come in search of food after poor rainfall disrupted last year's harvest. Refugees from Darfur, in western Sudan, have even made the 1,000-mile journey to the Kakuma refugee camp, about 50 miles into Kenya.

Next week, international donors will meet in Oslo to pledge more than a billion dollars to begin the process of reconstruction. They will be asked to help fund clean-water projects, new schools, hospitals and roads. However, many of the 67,000 Sudanese refugees in Kakuma say they will not go home until security and basic health services are improved.

George Okoth-Obbo, the Kenyan representative for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, said only a handful of families had made "reconnaissance" trips home. Yesterday, the reception centre at Kakuma was packed with women and thin-limbed children.

The World Lutheran Federation, which runs the centre, said 3,360 people had been registered at the facility this year. In the 12 months before the peace deal was signed in January this year, a total of 3,749 people were recorded.

Achiek Ajak Chol is among the new arrivals. Her frail body shows the strains of a tough life. She supported her family after her son lost his arms fighting for the rebels of the Sudan People's Liberation Army. "For four years I could cope. I was able to cultivate. But now there is nothing. We have been eating wild fruits and leaves for four months," she said. She collected enough nuts to support her two young grandchildren for the eight-day trek and set off for Kenya, arriving on a lorry earlier this week.

Southern Sudan's vast oil reserves should make it one of the richest regions in Africa. But today it has one of the world's lowest life expectancies: 42.

After nearly 50 years of war - with only the barest of respites - the country's infrastructure is virtually non-existent.

More than two-million people died and about four million fled their homes during the conflict.

Under January's peace deal, Khartoum and the former rebels will set up a coalition government, share oil revenues and form joint military units.

Abdullah Merghani Ahmed is one of the refugees who made the long journey from Darfur. He left after Janjaweed militia swept through his village, killing his brother and raping his sister. "When he left we weren't thinking about Kenya," he said. "But we had nothing left to lose, so we just kept going until we felt safe."
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Further reading:

April 8 Human Rights Watch on the upcoming donors conference: Donors Must Boost Protection Force in Darfur - "The current situation for civilians in Darfur is unacceptable. They need immediate protection from ongoing attacks so they can return home and begin to rebuild their lives," said Takirambudde. "Donors should immediately provide support for an expanded African Union protection mission."

April 8 Irish news says UN is running out of cash to feed more than one million people living in Darfur. Carlos Veloso, WFP Emergency Coordinator for Darfur, said the non-cereal part of the daily ration would be cut by half next month as a last resort to help stretch current food supplies through July and August - the region's traditional lean months.

April 8 Latest overview by Eric Reeves on the current security and humanitarian relief situation in Darfur.

April 8 BBC says Sudan's militias 'threaten Chad'. Chad has accused Sudan of seeking to destabilise it by recruiting Chadian nationals into militias operating in Darfur. Chad's government spokesman said the 3,000-strong force operated just 25km (15 miles) from their common border.

April 8 Arabic news: Egypt's President met yesterday with Sudanese FM Ismail. President Mubarak received a telephone call from Sudanese President Omar Al Bashir during which they tackled ways of achieving comprehensive Sudanese reconciliation in the Sudan and the Darfur summit. Egypt's FM said the ICC would level charges but if the judiciary in the state concerned played its role properly, there would be no need for the international court. More on this at Reuters: "Sudan Darfur Trials Can Evade Hague Court: Egypt".

April 7 UNICEF calls on Arab funds to boost response to global emergencies.

April 6 (AFP) -- Sudan's government accused rebels Wednesday of attacking the town of Tawilah and wounding several residents in Darfur. The rebel group was not identified, nor was the number of casualties released. AU spokesman said it had "no evidence" to support the allegations.

April 5 (AFP) -- US Deputy Secretary of State Robert Zoellick will travel next week to Sudan and Darfur, a senior State Department official said Tuesday.

April 5-7 Darfur News roundup at GIF.

Note new blog by Wau Nar African Herbsman, USA.

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