Monday, April 25, 2005

Sudan constitution boycott threatened

Dr John Garang, leader of the SPLM, is ready to participate in the Darfur peace talks, says a report today at Sudan Tribune. He is calling for a similar approach to the one used in reaching the Naivasha agreement.

The report also says the Khartoum based Al-Shari al-Siyasi claims Dr Garang is playing an important role in delaying the Darfur peace talks until he is sworn in as vice-president.

A new constitution is crucial to clear the way for the formation of a national unity government and mark the beginning of a six-year interim period called for in the January 9 peace accord that ended 21 years of north-south fighting.

The Gulf Times reports today that a boycott of Sudan's constitution is threatened.

One wonders how it will be possible for his new government to be formalised within the next two months.
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Garang faced with new challenges

Violence has broken out among various factions in south Sudan who are fearful that under an SPLM government, their rights may not be recognised while others are demanding for equal distribution of resources, writes Eliud Miring'uh at April 24. Excerpt:
Some of the southerners, formerly opposed to SPLM have landed key cabinet appointments in the government of President Mohamed El Bashir, an obvious example being the current second Vice President, Prof. Moses Machar.

SPLM faces a rebellion from several factions who claim to have been left out when Garang hammered a peace deal with El Bashir. This reality is what necessitated the convening of a special forum last week in Nairobi dubbed "South-South Dialogue" where representatives from various factions, religious leaders, and civil society met to seek for reconciliation even as SPLM prepares to form a government.
Note, the report ends by saying:
"Despite Garang's persuasive words, a clear picture emerged during the forum; namely that all is not well among various factions. This has been cemented by reports of fresh fighting in the Upper Blue Nile as it emerged that some communities now claim they were not involved in signing the Nairobi accord and whatever was deliberated in Mbagathi is not bidding to their course."
Dr John Garang de Mabior
Photo: Former President Moi greets Sudanese first vice president Dr John Garang de Mabior, the designated first Vice President of New Sudan and leader of the SPLM, during the closing ceremony of the south-south forum in Nairobi, last week, which was sponsored by the Moi Africa Institute.

The meeting held at the Kenya College of Communications Technology (KCCT), Mbagathi was convened under the auspices of Moi Africa Institute where intense negotiations took place during the three-day event. Former President Daniel arap Moi and Kenya's Special Envoy to the Sudan Peace Talks, Lt Gen. (Rtd) Lazarus Sumbeiywo played a key role as they struggled to unite the parties.

At the end of the forum special resolutions were read out detailing power sharing, elections, wealth sharing, and security but it was clear the delegates could not agree on the location of their new capital between Juba and Rembek. Full Story.

UPDATE April 25: Courtesy Sudan Tribune, please click here for the "Text of the Final Communique of the South-South dialogue conference: THE COVENANT OF THE PEOPLE OF SOUTHERN SUDAN - April 21, 2005 Kenya College of Communication Technology, Mbagathi-Nairobi."
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Sudan's last democratically elected prime minister called for a South African model

Here are some excerpts from an interesting interview report by Jean-Jacques Cornish at Sudan Tribune April 25. The interview gives some insight into the complexity of the situation in Sudan and how much work is still ahead. Note, Sadiq Al-Mahdi is an Oxford educated economist and, at 31, was the youngest Prime Minister of Sudan and the last to be democratically elected. He says Sudan is at the stage that South Africa was when the former president FW de Klerk freed Nelson Mandela:

Sadiq Al-Mahdi who was deposed by President Omar al-Bashir in a 1989 coup, spent eight years in jail under both Al-Bashir and former dictator Gafaar Numeiry. He believes the much- heralded peace deal signed last January between the government and the SPLM/A is merely the beginning of addressing Sudan's problems.

Sadiq al-Mahdi, Sudan's last democratically elected prime minister, called for a South African model of negotiation, constitution-building and reconciliation in his country, which has experienced war for all but 10 years since gaining independence more than half a century ago.

"Sudan is at the stage that South Africa was when former president [FW] de Klerk freed Nelson Mandela," he told the Mail & Guardian, in an exclusive interview during his maiden visit to South Africa, where he would seek Pretoria's official intervention.

"We still have to go through the equivalent of a Codesa [Convention for a Democratic South Africa] process and we also need a truth and reconciliation exercise," he said.

"We need to address past grievances in a non-vindictive way. That is the genius of the South African experience. Forgive, but don't forget. The TRC successfully involved the religious dimension. Religion in public affairs addresses certain spiritual, moral and ethical aspects absent in secular politics. These are important bridge builders."

Al Sadig Al Mahdi
Photo: Sadiq Al-Mahdi. The Umma party that he leads has made its mark opposing dictatorships in Sudan. It has recently shown a rise in popular support. Umma won 10 of 12 elections held recently on university campuses. Its next major test of strength will be elections scheduled in three years in terms of Sudan's north-south peace deal.

Sadiq Al-Mahdi, an Oxford-educated economist, who was Sudan's youngest prime minister at 31, said the government and SPLM/A are currently involved in a "happy-go-lucky exercise of taking the spoils in Sudan.

"The international community is happy with a success story in the peace deal and doesn't want to look beyond it. But this apparent utopia won't work. The deal that has been made is short-sighted: Hobson's choice. We need to build an inclusive system that includes more than the government and SPLM/A. People cannot see things in proper reality now, but they will. Wishful thinking is no substitute for reality," he said.
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South Sudan: Swiss takes charge of UN safety in Sudan

A Swiss officer is leading a team in Sudan's capital, Khartoum, to provide security for UN peacekeeping soldiers in south of the country.

Colonel Jacques Baud took up his office, which is scheduled to last for 12 months, on April 25. His 20-man team is responsible for analysing the situation in Sudan and for the security of the UN mission. The team will not only focus on the political development of the entire country, but also liaise with civil and military authorities and aid organisations.

Baud said the situation in the western Sudanese region of Darfur will also be monitored. Baud will work directly under Jan Pronk, UN General-Secretary Kofi Annan's deputy. - via Swissinfo.

Colonel Jacques Baud
Photo: Baud is responsible for the safety of UN peacekeepers in Sudan (RDB)
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The Untold Stories of Darfur

A UNESCO-supported production team travelled recently to Darfur to start shooting "The Children of Darfur", a youth documentary about the daily stories of children living in Darfur's refugee camps.

TV director Camilla Nielsson (Denmark) reports:
"It is the hardest political environment I have ever shot in, and tensions in the camp and with the military affects our shooting every day. The sandstorms and the 45 degrees are not helping either; however we have had 3.5 days in the camp with cameras now. I'm filming in Kalma, the biggest camp in Darfur, with 150.000 people. We have found a great character, 15 year old Somaya, who fled her village 11 months ago, when her school was attacked and 17 students, including her cousin were killed. We are telling her story - as well as we can with the time and security constraints".
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Plumpy'nut aids fight against hunger

Nutriset is a food company in France, started up by Michel Lescanne in 1986 to make food for humanitarian aid. One of the most popular products for use in emergencies is a sweet spread. It is made with peanuts, sugar, fats, minerals and vitamins. It is called Plumpy'nut.

Plumpy'nut can be given to families without the need to go to feeding centers. It comes ready to eat. It does not have to be mixed with water, the way dry milk does. Clean drinking water is often in short supply in crisis situations. Nutriset says Plumpy'nut can stay fresh for two years.

Plumpy'nut aids fight against hunger

The American group Save the Children is using it to help fight hunger among refugees from the violence in the Darfur area of Sudan. The Wall Street Journal reported that so far, workers have given out more than three hundred metric tons of Plumpy'nut. Aid officials told the newspaper that the product has helped cut malnutrition rates in western Sudan in half.

Nutriset works directly with UN agencies and other organizations. Its products are not marketed through businesses. But it does want to organize a system of independent local production of Plumpy'nut. See - via VOA April 24, 2005 by Jill Moss.
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Top UN refugee official wraps up Darfur visit pledging aid for conflict's victims

Wendy Chamberlin has completed a five-day visit to the victims of the fighting in Darfur with a pledge to do all in her agency's power to help those who have fled the brutal conflict when they decide it is safe enough to return home.

"We, too, look forward to the day you can return to Darfur," she told some of the 21,000 refugees at Touloum camp in eastern Chad, a mere fraction of 200,000 Sudanese who have fled across the border since rebels took up arms, partly in protest at the distribution of economic resources two years ago.

Most of the refugees' requests focused on improving their daily lives, especially for their children. "We want more food, water, firewood and also education for our children, high schools even," refugee leaders told the Acting High Commissioner.

[Note, women and children represent at least 80 per cent of the refugee population in the camps in eastern Chad. The men sometimes go back to the border area in order to take care of the cattle or to check on their land and remaining properties in Darfur.]

UPDATE April 25: UNCHR news report via Reuters Security, funding crucial for Sudan/Chad situation, says Chamberlin:

Chamberlin shared her observations on Omdurman es Salaam, a camp on the outskirts of Khartoum that houses 120,000 internally displaced people (IDPs), many of them from southern Sudan who have been there since the mid-1980s. "The conditions are very bad there, sometimes even worse than in Darfur, and certainly worse than in Chad," she noted. "What really disturbed us is that 13,000 houses have recently been destroyed there, affecting 17,000 families"

The camp has serious health problems, with 22 percent of the deaths caused by diarrhoeal diseases. Sixty-seven percent of the IDPs are unemployed, surviving on the generosity of other IDPs, the local population or humanitarian assistance.

In Darfur, Chamberlin visited a camp near Zalingi, where she asked the IDPs what their three most important concerns were. The reply - "Security, security, security." She underlined that the IDPs, especially the women, highly praised the role of the African Union soldiers who escort them when they venture out of the camp to collect wood,

She described the case of an eight-year-old IDP girl in one camp near El Geneina, Darfur. "This girl had been repeatedly raped, night after night. We of course gave her immediate attention and cared for her. But we went beyond that. We also try to put in place protection processes so that other children will be protected as well. We have established a child-safe centre in this camp and if we have more funds, we have plans to build up similar structures in other camps."

Chamberlin added that UNHCR has a unique role to play in protection, but it cannot fully meet its goals because "we are limited by funds". "In Darfur, we asked for $30 million but only received $2 million for the moment. So we are still looking for $28 million to implement our protection role over there."

In Chad, where 200,000 Sudanese refugees live in 11 UNHCR camps, UNHCR needs over $80 million but has only received $30 million. And for southern Sudan, which counts more than 4.5 million IDPs, the agency is asking for $61 million but has received less than $9 million.
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Daily News Brief

See GIF's daily news round up for April 23-24.

And keep on scrolling at Passion of the Present and Coalition for Darfur.

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