Saturday, April 16, 2005

UN and AU condemn 'premeditated' militia attack in Darfur - Commentary on Charles Snyder's interview - Why Nuba feel betrayed

An AFP report April 14 via Reuters says Khor Abeche, which was controlled by the Sudan Liberation Movement, the main rebel group in Darfur, was reportedly attacked because the rebels refused to turn over the bodies of two assailants killed during an earlier militia raid on the village on March 9.

The attack that was launched on April 7 by some 200 militiamen on horseback led by Nasir al Tijani, backed up by a group of 150 people hailing from Niteaga, a joint statement by AU and UN envoys.

"We expect that Government authorities will also take appropriate action against Al Tijaniwho had in their very presence, repeatedly threatened the destruction of Khor Abeche until he finally did so on April 7," the two envoys said.

"The AU had prepared to deploy its troops in Niteaga and Khor Abeche since April 3, to deter precisely this kind of attack, but was prevented from acting by what can only be inferred as deliberate official procrastination over the allocation of land for the troop's accommodation," they added.

Note, the Darfur rebel group SLA agreed Monday to resume stalled peace negotiations with the government, retracting earlier conditions it had set for returning to the peace table. But it might not mean very much because the UN's situation report posted here recently says there are splits within JEM, the other main Darfur rebel group. Notice how the rebels split whenever they are pressed in a corner to negotiate? Scroll down here today to see what may be bubbling over in the Nuba Mountains in southern Sudan.
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African Union protects women from attacks in North Darfur camp

Here is some good news. April 14 Reuters report says African Union (AU) personnel in North Darfur have started providing armed escorts for displaced women and girls to protect them from attacks, an AU official told IRIN on Wednesday.

"The women from Abu Shouk IDP [internally displaced person] camp in North Darfur are escorted by AU soldiers once a week, when they venture outside the camp to collect firewood," said Justin Thundu, AU's public information officer at El Fasher, the capital of North Darfur.

Thundu said the AU considered these escorts an integral part of its protection mandate in Darfur. "Beside our daily patrols, it is one of the activities we carry out to promote confidence-building among the IDPs."

"We haven't heard of any harassment cases around Abu Shouk over the past weeks," Thundu added. "It has been a very successful exercise. We are doing it in a few other camps as well"
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Commentary on Charles Snyder's important interview

On April 11, 2005, I posted here a copy of AllAfrica's important interview with Charles Snyder, the leading U.S. negotiator for Sudan.

Here is a copy of a comment I bashed out and left at Eugene's post on the interview with Charles Snyder. I planned to write a post on the interview but since my comment covers most of what I would have written, it will act as the post for here:

Hello Eugene, I can't recall when I last read such an open in-depth interview with a politician currently involved with Sudan. You have to wonder about the reason for this interview. As you well know, they're usually not so forthcoming with details. Who knows, maybe it's for the benefit of the rebels - for them to accept Bashir's Nuba mountain type deal as a way to stop the fighting and spend the next year or two negotiating a peace deal. Jan Pronk recently said after the ICC resolution, the rebels have no need to fight anymore - that it's over.

See what Charles Snyder said about the delay in getting the AU troops there? He says it's not to do with lack of resources, but that everyone who wants to be there is there right now -- meaning: nobody else until May/June/July is willing to go (seems difficult to believe).

Perhaps the UN/AU strategy is to complete north-south deal, wait for Garang et al to be situated in Khartoum, get funding in place + 10,000 UN peacekeepers before offering again the 10,000 SPLM/A troops that Garang suggested for Darfur last year (to be matched with 10,000 Sudanese troops and 10,000 from the UN). Interesting too - and I haven't seen it reported elsewhere - the Nuba type deal that Bashir put on the table (why didn't he offer to corral the Janjaweed in the peace zones? No doubt the peace zones he offered to the rebels are not in the areas of Darfur where the oil and minerals lay).

Garang's team should have arrived in Khartoum within 2 weeks of the Jan 9 peace deal - they only arrived this weekend which means they are two months behind schedule. Why nobody has demanded a proper explanation for the delay in the long awaiting 1,000 AU troops is beyond me. I can never shake the feeling that there is a lot more going on than meets the eye - and we know only a fraction of what is happening behind the scenes. The media does so little investigative reporting.

It's interesting to see Charles Snyder giving Khartoum more than an A grade on the terrorism front - wonder what he meant by that - and who he meant by "the others" working alongside the Janjaweed. South Darfur seems like real trouble, ie the area where the latest big raid took place. You have to wonder what is the attraction of that particular area - the UN and AU say Sudanese officials have been delaying AU troops getting accommodation there (why the AU needs permission is amazing).

It was surprising and disappointing to see Egypt's Darfur summit cancelled for April 20 - there is a large meeting a few days before - I wonder how much involvement the Libyan leader has and what is behind the hold up on the opening up the route through Libya that he offered last year for aid trucks to get through into Darfur. Rainy season will be falling again soon. Note President Bush is meeting at the White House with Rwandan President April 15 re peacekeeping for Sudan and the Great Lakes region. Bye for now. Kind regards. Keep up the great blog. Ingrid | Homepage | 04.11.05 - 4:22 pm

Eugene's reply to the comment:

Your point about the inability to get AU troops to Darfur is a good one. As we all know, they are far short of their mandated strength right now and seem unable to get more troops into the region.

This raises an interesting point about calls to increase the size of the AU mission to Darfur to somewhere around 25,000 - 50,000 (at least that seems to be the necessary number, according to the few military people willing to talk about it.) If the AU can't even get 3,000 troops to the region after all this time, how are they going to get 50,000 there?

Talk of an expanded AU mission is all well and good, but if nobody wants to actually send troops, it is just a lot of empty talk.

Also, the issue of terrorism is one that seems important, but ignored. Eric Reeves' two latest anlysis pieces both hinted at the presence of Islamic terrorists in the region or some sort of tie between them and the Janjaweed. It is all rather vague thus far, but if Reeves is hearing about it from his sources on the ground it must mean something and it makes you wonder about Snyder's willingness to give Khartoum "a better than an 'A' grade." Eugene Oregon | Homepage | 04.11.05 - 5:08 pm

Note: Eugene has since posted some follow ups -- see April 13 post titled Lacking the Political Will and April 13 post on The Destruction of Khor Abeche.

Also, in an April 8 post highlighting a few key points from Eric Reeves' latest update, Eugene selected this excerpt:
[O]ne nongovernmental organization (NGO) that has had an especially important reporting presence in Darfur indicates confidentially that it received explicit threats from the Janjaweed and Khartoum officials in February 2005 to the effect that if there were an ICC referral from the UN, "there would be an explosion of violence against NGO and UN workers"; "Musa Hilal [the most notorious of the Janjaweed commanders] will join Osama bin Laden; the Janjaweed will become a branch of al-Qaeda --- these were the types of threats we heard."

A Darfuri in exile, with exceptionally good contacts on the ground in Darfur, also reports that in the wake of the UN's referral of Darfur war crimes to the ICC, there is a "feeling among the NGO and humanitarian aid community that the Janjaweed would escalate their attacks on foreigners." This source also refers to Khartoum's opening of "camps for training foreign Janjaweed and Arab mujahadeen from other countries to fight [foreigners]. These people may now target the foreign [humanitarian aid] community in Darfur."


"Sudanese officials greet the ICC recommendation [by the UN Commission of Inquiry] with a combination of annoyance and arrogance. Foreign Minister Mustafa Osman Ismail recently threatened the 800 to 1,000 international humanitarian workers in Darfur by warning that referrals to a criminal court could lead to 'a direct threat to the foreign presence... Darfur may become another Iraq in terms of arrests and abductions.' A [paramilitary Popular Defense Force] official told Refugees International that 'if the wanted on the list are penalized, it will not solve the problem. It will start war again.' His colleague added, 'There will be an explosion.'"
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After 21 years of fighting, the Nuba feel betrayed

Following on from the post above re Charles Snyder's interview, Mr Snyder spoke of a Nuba Mountain type deal the Sudanese President recently put on the table for the Darfur rebels to consider. The following report "Politics-Sudan After 21 Years of Fighting, the Nuba Feel Betrayed," authored by Darren Taylor in Nairobi, was published online April 6, 2005 [apologies for mislaid web link to original report]. Here is a copy, in full:

As nations from around the world scramble to secure lucrative contracts to develop southern Sudan following the signing of a peace deal in January, one of the war-torn country's minority groups is preparing for a fresh battle.

During the 21-year conflict between the Arab-dominated government in Khartoum and the Sudan People's Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A), the Nuba people were anomalies: Muslim camel keepers who fought side by side with the black, largely Christian, cattle herders of southern Sudan against the repressive Islamic rulers in Khartoum.

Their homeland, the Nuba Mountains, is an isolated, arid wasteland in northern Sudan, on the border with the south, where only hardy brush, scorpions and tough nomads survive. The government branded the Nuba "traitors to Islam" for allying themselves with the SPLM/A. Yet the Nuba consistently refused to abandon the darker skinned peoples of the south.

For their 'betrayal', Sudanese government Antonov aircraft and helicopter gunships showered the Nuba with bombs and bullets. Schools were razed; water supplies destroyed. "Many, many killed in explosions; many died of hunger and thirst," said Saeed Anwar, an SPLM/A official in the Nuba Mountains.

The graves of Nuba people killed in government attacks line the region's hillsides. Perhaps rumours of vast oil and diamond deposits under the desert sands were responsible for both the southern forces and the northern government claiming the area as theirs. In any event, the deadlock over who would rule the Nuba Mountains in peacetime had for years prevented agreement being reached, and war persisted. But, under immense pressure from the United States especially, SPLM/A leader John Garang signed the deal Jan. 9 and, say analysts, effectively betrayed his erstwhile allies, the Nuba.

The praise singers point out that the peace agreement has won important concessions for the southern Sudanese: provision for wealth from resources such as oil to be shared by the previously opposing forces; the withdrawal of government troops from the south, and the right for southerners to vote, following a six-year interim period, for unity with, or secession from, the north. But the document is also clear that the Nuba Mountains will form part of the north and its people will continue to be subject to the government and its harsh Islamic sharia law.

Daudi Mohamed, 46, a former SPLA guerilla living in exile in Kenya, lamented: "Our women will still be taken like animals to Khartoum to be stoned (for alleged adultery) and to work as slaves in Arab homes. Our men are still going to be forced to join the northern armies. Any one of us accused of stealing, our hands will be chopped (off). I, like my people, am crying! "What have we fought for?" he shouted, his words cutting through the noise of a nearby metal grinder.

Mohamed was born, raised and taught how to launch rocket grenades in the Nuba Mountains. Instead of going to school, he went to war. "We have fought for nothing. Garang has sold us out," he scoffed, slouching in the doorway of his sparse, oil stained auto spares shop on the outskirts of Kenya's capital Nairobi.

Under the agreement, the Nuba, who fought alongside the SPLM/A for decades for self-determination and religious and economic freedom, will be denied the opportunity to vote for secession as the peace deal unequivocally defines them as 'northerners'.

And although president Omar Hassan al-Bashir and his government have committed themselves to what the agreement terms 'popular consultation' in the area, this would probably prove "meaningless because local government will be dominated by government delegates," said John Ashworth, a respected human rights monitor who has worked in Sudan since the war erupted in 1983.

According to the deal, only a few token seats in the Nuba legislature will be reserved for SPLM/A officials leaving them with little political power. "This is a very bad agreement for the Nuba Mountains; they've really got very, very little out of it. When I challenged some senior SPLM people there about what they would do about the situation, they said: 'well, then we'll go back to war'," Ashworth stated.

The SPLM/A governor of the Nuba Mountains, Abdul Aziz Hilu, was not available for comment, but one of his officials told IPS: "Our leaders were sidelined in the peace talks. But the feeling in the end was: let's sign the peace and see what happens. We can always rebel later. Let's have an imperfect peace rather than no peace at all. If we continue to be oppressed we will rise up and continue to fight."

But Ashworth feels that should the Nuba return to arms, "they'll be wiped out", because they can no longer count on Garang's guerillas, and sympathy from the world at large for this tiny ethnic minority - who are estimated to number around 1.4 million - will also be "thin" as they will be seen as "rebelling against peace".

For a diplomat who has watched the peace process unfold for the past three years, the sidelining of the Nuba came as no surprise. "Garang has always acted primarily in the interests of his Dinka people (the largest ethnic group in Sudan). He has therefore sacrificed his minority allies in order to secure peace for the majority," he reasoned.

Observers say the lesser ethnic groups of Sudan - most notably the Nuer, Shilluk and Beja - tolerated Garang for his ability as a fiery warmonger but are less likely to accept him as their political leader when he is confirmed soon as al-Bashir's Vice-President.

Tribal animosities have simmered under the SPLM/A's apparently united surface since the war began. The tension boiled over in 1991 when Garang's deputy, Riek Machar - a Nuer - and senior official Lam Akol - a Shilluk - rebelled against Garang. The insurrection resulted in a bloody war within a war that almost destroyed the liberation movement. But it is the Muslim minority groups of SPLM/A's northern allies, like the Nuba, who have been the biggest losers with the signing of the peace agreement.

"We are alone," Mohamed sighed. "We do not expect anyone to help us. It will be suicide to begin fighting again without the Commander's (Garang's) backing. We wanted to be part of the south; we wanted to feel the joy of voting for independence. But now we are back to being slaves."

And he returned to his spanners and drum of old oil.
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Closure of Libyan-Sudanese border devastates Darfur

"The currently limited prospects for migrant workers in Libya, combined with the threat of detention, the difficulties of return to Sudan, and the loss of contact with their families in Darfur and uncertainty about their fate, have created a sense of despair among many migrant Darfurians in Libya."

This was the conclusion of a report Darfur Livelihoods Under Siege, published by the Feinstein International Famine Center at Tufts University in Massachussetts. The report was the subject of a discussion meeting held in London April 15, 2005, under the auspices of the Overseas Development Institute. Full story at Mathaba.Net News April 15, 2005.

Closure Of Libyan-Sudanese Border Devastates Darfur


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