Friday, March 31, 2006

Janjaweed slay Chad Army General Abakar Youssouf Mahamat

According to Prensa Latina Mar 31, Chad Army commander General Abakar Youssouf Mahamat died from wounds caused during clashes with Sudanese rebels and militia in the country's eastern zone, government military sources reported Friday. Excerpt:

The news of his death came as a blow to President Idriss Deby and his attempt to boost an offensive against rebels' positions in the east.

According to sources, Janjaweed Arab militias, responsible for the general's death, are fighting in Darfur, backed by the Sudanese government and Chad rebels group.

Deby, a candidate to be re-elected in the May 3 elections, accuses Sudan of supporting those rebels who want to remove him, an accusation Khartoum denies. (mh/iff/mf)

Mercenaries from Sudan attacked Chadian town of Modeina - dozens killed, 4,000 civilians displaced

On Friday, the UN refugee agency said that in the past month several unspecified armed groups seized Sudan refugees in Chad camps, recruiting as many as several hundred men from refugee camps in eastern Chad, reports AP Mar 31, 2006:
"Refugees said recruiters mainly targeted boys and men ranging in age from 15 to 35. Some of them were even younger," said Ron Redmond, spokesman for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.
Also, the report explains an armed group crossed the border from Sudan and attacked a town in eastern Chad, leaving dozens dead on both sides of the conflict and forcing 4,000 civilians from their homes, a government official said Friday:
Twelve government soldiers and dozens of fighters from the armed group died in Thursday's violence in Modeina, Gen. Mahamat Ali Abdallah, Chad's territorial administration minister, said in a statement.

"Forces coming from Sudan and under the control of the regime of Khartoum have attacked the town of Modeina," Abdallah said, adding that government forces "kicked out the assailants, who returned deep into Sudanese territory."

He described the armed group as "mercenaries" but did not elaborate. The fighting displaced 4,000 civilians, Abdallah said. Sudanese officials were not immediately available for comment.
Further reading:

Feb 9 2006 Sudan: Child soldiers in Janjaweed and breakaway Darfur rebel group NMRD

Jan 28 2006 Sudan accuses Chad of shelling Arm Yakui, West Darfur - NMRD Darfur rebels attack Sudan army base in Arm Yakui

Dec 21 2005 Chad and its links to crisis in Sudan's Darfur

Jan 14 2005 Chad-Sudan: A third rebel movement the NMRD has appeared in Darfur

No-flight zone over Darfur would be impossible to implement

UN Secretary General Kofi Annan Monday phoned NATO's chief to develop a range of possible options for supporting the AMIS and its possible takeover by the UN. But officials said there was unlikely to be a step-change in NATO's military commitment.

"There will be a beefed up NATO role, but there will be no NATO lead in Darfur. People here are talking about more of the same, maybe with more planners and logistical help," said one. Appathurai said the 57-year old bloc would look at Annan's request "in the context of what NATO is already providing."

One NATO diplomat told the International Herald Tribune that neither the Sudanese government nor the African Union "want to see white, European troops coming into Sudan," adding that the idea of a no-flight zone over Darfur would be impossible to implement. "Which NATO country would be willing to shoot down a Sudanese plane?"

Full report by Gareth Harding (UPI/ST) 30 Mar 2006.

NATO ruled out sending troops to Sudan's Darfur

"No one is discussing, planning or considering a NATO force on the ground in Darfur. That is not one of the options," spokesman James Appathurai told reporters Wednesday after a meeting of NATO ambassadors.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, a NATO official told United Press International that the idea of the alliance dispatching ground troops to Darfur was a "non-starter with the Africans, a non-starter with the UN and a non-starter with NATO."

Officials in Brussels also criticized the US president for sending out confused messages about what he expects from the alliance. "Bush has been a little bit unclear in his language," said one, referring to the president's call for 20,000 peacekeepers to be sent to Darfur under NATO's command.

Full report (UPI/ST) 30 Mar 2006.

UN invites Sudanese FM for talks on Darfur takeover

Top UN political official has invited Sudan's FM Lam Akol to UN HQ in NY to hold discussions on transitioning from an AU force in Darfur to a UN peacekeeping operation there.

Ibrahim Gambari, UN Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, told reporters of the initiative today in Khartoum where he is meeting with officials who attended the Arab summit yesterday.

In discussions with Sudanese President Bashir and Lam Akol, Gambari "stressed that the UN, if it were to deploy forces, would build on and complement the good work of the AU to achieve peace, security and stability all over the Sudan."

Gambari also met with the Special Representative of the AU in Sudan to discuss the AU's continuing role in Darfur.

Full report (UN News/ST) 31 March 2006.

Private army is ready for hire, company says

Blackwater USA is offering itself as an army for hire to police the world's trouble spots, the Seattle Times reported today:
Peter Singer, a scholar at the Brookings Institution who has written a book on private military companies, said the concept of private armies engaging in counterinsurgency missions raises myriad questions about staffing standards, rules of engagement and accountability.

"No matter how you slice it, it's a private entity making decisions of a political nature," he said.

"It gets dicey."

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Arab leaders fail to fix amount for Darfur aid

AFP says NATO already provides logistical support and training for the AU peacekeepers in Darfur and on Wednesday NATO said it has accepted a UN request to consider extending support for the AU mission and the possible follow-on UN mission. Excerpt:

Arab leaders meeting in Khartoum pledged to help finance an African peacekeeping force in Darfur but dropped an initial plan to provide 150 million dollars in aid.

Also on Wednesday, the Arab summit resolution had initially offered 150 million dollars to an African Union mission but the figure was removed in the final text adopted Wednesday, leaving the amount to the discretion of Arab League member states.

"This ambiguity says a lot about the Arabs' inability to contradict the Americans and about their respect to promises they make to other Arabs," a Palestinian delegate said, adding that Somalia was still waiting to receive a 26-million-dollar aid package promised in 2005.

An Arab diplomat who has attended several Arab summits in the past told AFP that "all Arab summits show political and financial support, but experience has proven that words are rarely followed by acts."

New York Times probed on Sudan ad insert

The US State Department is investigating to see whether The New York Times violated American sanctions against Sudan by publishing an advertising supplement touting investment in the country, reported today.

Note the issue was not the ad's content, but the financial transaction. America has maintained a complex set of sanctions against the North African nation since 1997. The sanctions initially were aimed at punishing Sudan's support for international terrorism, efforts to destabilize neighboring governments and violations of human rights.

See March 22, 2006 links to New York Times supplement on Sudan.

Mesirya tribe leader urges resolution of Abyei dispute

The leader of the Arab Mesirya tribe has called upon Sudan's Government of National Unity to resolve the Abyei border dispute between the Dinka Ngok and the Mesirya communities. Full story (SRS/ST) Mar 29 2006.

Click here for further reading and links to:

Feb 28 2006 Abyei Boundaries Commission: Who bears the responsibility?

Aug 16 2005 Sudan: Abyei Boundary Commission report

Sep 26 2005 Text of the Draft of Interim Constitution of Southern Sudan

Oct 10 2005 Fighting feared in South Sudan's oil-rich Abyei region

Jan Pronk to visit South Sudan after attacks

Special Representative Jan Pronk will visit Juba from 30-31 March to meet various officials, including those from the UN Mission in Sudan (UNMIS), and he will also go to Yei, the site of a deadly attack on UN refugee agency compound in which a staff member died.

After visiting southern Sudan, Mr Pronk will then travel to Abuja in Nigeria from 1-2 April, to meet the parties involved in the Darfur peace talks.
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South Sudan: Jan Pronk says there is a breakthrough...

UN special envoy Jan Pronk, in his Weblog 23 March 2006, writes:
In Sudan many mistakes have been made concerning reconstruction and development. It all started too late. The approaches chosen were often counterproductive. This has resulted in a stalemate. People in Southern Sudan are getting disappointed. What benefits has peace brought for them in their daily lives? However, there is a breakthrough. Read more.

Darfur-Darfur dialogue (DDDC) to be organised after signing of Darfur Peace Agreement (DPA)

The African Union chief mediator for the Darfur peace talks, Salim Ahmed Salim, on 28 March 2006, chaired a meeting with the warring parties to initiate preliminary consultations in preparation for the Darfur-Darfur Dialogue and Consultation (DDDC), Sudan Tribune reported today:

Salim urged the parties to regard the DDDC as an integral part of the peace process, to be organized only after the signing of Darfur Peace Agreement (DPA).

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Arab summit closes with adoption of "Khartoum declaration"

The Arab summit closed today with the adoption of the "Khartoum Declaration" which states the Arab position mainly on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the situation in Iraq and Darfur, Morocco Times reported today:
The final declaration backed Sudan's position against the deployment of UN-led peacekeeping forces in Darfur.

"We will never accept the deployment of international troops in Darfur without our permission," said Sudanese president Omar Hassan El Bachir.

"When we have reached a peace agreement, we will be able to examine the role UN force can play at our request," he added.
Key points re Darfur from the Arab summit's "Khartoum Declaration":

- affirm their support for the African Union peacekeeping mission in Darfur and underline their rejection of deploying other troops here without permission of the Sudanese government, a reference to UN peacekeepers.

- call for parties at the Darfur peace talks to step up efforts to reach a settlement and express their intention "to increase joint Arab forces within the African Union and offer the necessary funding for them to continue their mission."

UNHCR staff member dies of wounds sustained in Yei attack

A staff member of the UN refugee agency who was shot and wounded during an attack by raiders on a UN compound in south Sudan has died, the UNHCR said on Wednesday. Full report (IRIN) 29 March 2006.

EU to give 50 million euros to African Union for Darfur

The European Union has set aside 50 million euros for the AU to help it finance a six-month extension of its mission in Darfur, EU diplomats said on Wednesday.

Reuters also confirms this sum would be the EU executive's contribution at an international pledging conference set for the end of April or May.

Note, this sum would be enough to fund the AU for only two and a half to three months. The AU says it costs around $24 million a month to run its mission, for which it relies on donor nations.

The EU executive has given 162 million euros to the AU for its Darfur mission.

Arab funds for Darfur force too late-AU official

An Arab offer to fund African Union forces in Darfur from October 1st is too late as troops need immediate cash, an AU official said today, reported Reuters:
"This is medicine after death," said Baba Gana Kingibe, the head of the AU mission in Sudan. "We need the assistance now in order to be able to resolve the crisis."

Kingibe said the AU mission, with its increased needs, now cost $24 million a month to run.

"We have assured funding to the end of March," he told Reuters, adding the European Union had also pledged 50 million euros ($60.02 million).
Note, a few days ago, Sudan said it felt a comprehensive peace agreement for Darfur might be reached before the end of April. UN peacekeepers may be negotiated as part of that peace deal, to monitor the truce.

The UN Security Council has asked Secretary-General Kofi Annan to report by April 24 with a plan for the possible take over. The AU has agreed in principle to support the transition. Khartoum said it might be possible to consider UN troops for Darfur when a peace deal has been agreed.

As noted here at Sudan Watch yesterday, some of the opposition to UN troops in Darfur seems to be to do with fears that the 51 people listed at the UN/ICC as suspected Darfur war criminals could be arrested by any UN forces in Darfur. One year or so ago, I'd read a news report about tribal leaders not turning up at Darfur peace and reconciliation talks out of fear of being ambushed, attacked or arrested. Perhaps some sort of amnesty deal could be brokered, in return for disarmament. Who disarms first, the rebels or the Janjaweed? Members of both are among the list of 51 names being investigated by the ICC.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Arabs agree funding for AU troops in Darfur from Oct 1, 2006 plus extra troops from Arab states

News just in from AFP says Arab leaders reached a deal to provide funding for African Union troops in Darfur, officials at their summit in Khartoum said.

Announcing a deal after a closed-door session at the summit, Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh told reporters that China's Xinhua reported eight African Arab nations had also agreed to strengthen the AU force by providing troops from Arab states.

However, an Arab diplomat told AFP that discussions were still underway and that a final accord had yet to be reached.

A further AFP report today says the summit's agenda was squeezed into one day from the originally planned two days, and some leaders have already left Khartoum. But a final declaration is not expected before Wednesday.
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The Arabs are unlikely to have to live up to their pledge

Reuters correspondent Opheera McDoom reported today Arab leaders have promised to fund AMIS from October this year. Excerpt:
"There was a complete commitment from Arab leaders to fund the African Union mission in Darfur from Oct. 1, 2006," said Sudan's minister of state for foreign affairs, al-Samani al-Wasiyla.

Libyan Foreign Minister Mohammed Abdel-Rahman Shalgam said: "The AU is able to finance with the donors still 6 months. After that (during) the second mandate the Arabs are going to support those troops."

Palestinian Foreign Minister Nasser al-Kidwa told Reuters the decision could mean the Arab League would entirely fund the cash-strapped mission if necessary.
Note, the report says that given the AU earlier this month renewed its mission only until end-September, a period the UN considers transitional and are making plans to take over, the Arabs are unlikely to have to live up to their pledge. Further excerpts:
Opposition politicians say the government is scared UN forces in Darfur may be used to arrest anyone indicted by the International Criminal Court, which is investigating alleged war crimes in the region.

The AU says it costs around $17 million a month to run the 7,000-strong mission. The AU relies on the whim of donor nations, mainly, the US, Canada, Britain and the European Union. UN peacekeeping mission are paid for by the UN budget. Arab League officials say the pan-Arab body has already given $200,000 to the AU mission in Darfur and $50,000 to the Abuja peace process.
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In message to Arab League Summit, Secretery-General reviews situations in key areas of conflict

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan told the summit the envisioned UN force would likely include AU troops already on the ground rather than large numbers of Western soldiers in a speech read on his behalf.

Click here to read the text of the message, as delivered today, 28 March, 2006 by Ibrahim Gambari, Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs.
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12 heads of state from 22-member Arab League attended summit

Reuters/Scotsman confirms only 12 heads of state from the 22-member Arab League attended the summit, a disappointing turnout for the Sudanese hosts, who had hoped for a show of solidarity against Western criticism of their handling of the Darfur crisis.

President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt, the most populous Arab state, sent his prime minister while King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, the richest country, delegated his foreign minister.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Interview: Sudan VP Salva Kiir not opposed to UN in Darfur

On March 25, 2006 Sudan said it wanted the international community to use southern Sudan's Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) as a model for Darfur, western Sudan.

Senior members of southern Sudan's former rebel group the SPLM/A (Salva Kiir is its chief, following the death of its founder John Garang) are assisting with the Darfur peace talks. Currently, a UN peacekeeping force is in southern Sudan as part of the south's CPA signed 9 January 2005.

News reports say most people involved with Darfur accept that eventually a similar force and mandate will be needed in Darfur to monitor any peace deal agreed for that region. The difference being is that southerners, six years from the date of their CPA, will be allowed to vote to break away from Sudan. Khartoum says such a deal for Darfur is out of the question. it seems Darfur will remain under Sharia law like the rest of Sudan.

Note, Sudanese rebels in eastern Sudan feel their region is just as neglected and marginalised as Darfur. Eastern Sudan is not yet part of any wealth, power and security sharing deal, causing tension and conflict in the region and along the Sudan-Chad border.

The horrific civil war in southern Sudan lasted for 21 years at a cost of two million lives. Surely the Sudanese people won't allow things to go so wrong again. 4.5 billion US dollars has been pledged by the international community for the development of southern Sudan. As soon as a peace agreement for Darfur is reached, monies pledged by donors will be released. Southerners need the cash asap. Everyone is under real pressure.

The Sudanese government says it is against international troops intervening in Darfur before a peace deal is struck because it would signal the African Union Mission in Darfur has failed (it hasn't, they've done a great job) and give the Darfur rebels what they've wanted all along, namely the UN to take over from AU. Last year, the Darfur rebels even pushed (unsuccessfully) for the UN to take over the AU mediated Darfur peace talks. Darfur's rebels use every opportunity to (unfairly in my view) denigrate AU troops whose hands are tied without a protection force mandate, advanced equipment and helicopters.

Today, VP Kiir told Reuters that UN forces could enter Darfur even before such an agreement was signed, provided they had a clear mandate so that they did not become entangled in the conflict:
"There is really nothing so serious about the coming of the UN to Darfur except the misunderstanding of their coming in by the public that (it) ... may be pre-empting the negotiations," Kiir said in an interview.

"The mission is the first thing to be defined because if you bring in UN forces you must give them a detailed mission."
Read the interview by Opheera McDoom and Jonathan Wright 27 Mar 2006.

AU chairman meets warring sides in Darfur talks - Sudan says peace in Darfur before end of April 2006

Over the past 24 hours the Arab League has called for calm study of UN decision and, before leaving for a meeting with US President George W Bush, the African Union chairman held meetings separately with warring parties in Darfur peace talks - and Sudan told the press peace in Darfur is possible before end of April.

Meanwhile, it is interesting note there are no new reports of violence in Darfur. Once again, this seems to prove all sides use and expend the lives of defenceless women and children simply to score political points. They and the Janjaweed are capable of restraint when it suits. Let's hope they keep on using their brains, not violence, to get what they want.
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China backs Sudan's efforts to resolve Darfur crisis - envoy

The representative of People's Republic of China to the Arab League underlined his country's support to settlement of Darfur issue in the framework of African Union's endeavors. Full story (Sudan Tribune) Mar 27, 2006.

Many absent at Khartoum Arab League meeting

Today, Italian newswire Ham/Aki says according to Arab diplomatic sources cited by Saudi daily al-Watan, at least seven heads of states have announced to the Arab League they will not attend the meeting.

The first to communicate his absence was Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak, who reportedly said he could not be present because of security concerns tied to current tensions between Egypt and Sudan. Excerpt:
The sultan of Oman Qabus bin Said, Tunisian president Ben Ali, Morocco's king Muhammad VI, the king of Bahrain Hamed bin Isa and Iraqi president Jalal Talabani will also not attend, the report said.

The king of Saudi Arabia Abdullah might also reportedly be absent so as to avoid Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, who was among the first to reach Khartoum on Sunday.

The meeting is slated to re-elect Amr Moussa at the helm of the organisation and discuss the Sudanese region of Darfur, the Iraqi crisis and the peace process in the Middle East.

Libya, Sudan leaders meet to discuss Darfur and Chad

Libyan leader Col Gaddafi has held a meeting in Khartoum with Sudanese President Bashir. They discussed Darfur and results of recent African mini summit held in Tripoli to help end tension between Chad and Sudan, LJBC reported March 27, 2006.

Al-Bashir welcomes Gaddafi

Photo: Sudanese President Bashir (L) welcomes Libyan leader Col Gaddafi, Khartoum Mar 27, 2006.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

PAP urges Sudanese to disarm Janjaweed - Gertrude Mongella, President of PAP

Wednesday, April 27, 2005 - PAP urges Sudanese to disarm Janjaweed - Gertrude Mongella, President of PAP

Note this copy of a report dated April 6, 2005 by Matome Sebelebele, Pretoria via AllAfrica "PAP Urges Sudanese to Disarm Janjaweed":
The Sudanese government has come under fresh criticism from the Pan African Parliament (PAP), which has called on Khartoum to "immediately" disarm the Janjaweed rebels blamed for undermining peace agreements there.

The Midrand-based legislative body sounded the call to Khartoum yesterday after its fact-finding mission handed over its long-awaited 37-page report for debate, prompting angry response from several MPs.

A demand was made to immediately disarm the Arab militia, which MPs argued was not party to the ceasefire agreement.

In its report, the seven-member mission, headed by Ugandan Adbul Katuntu, expressed concerns at the repeated violations of ceasefire agreements, stalled Abuja peace talks and the growing humanitarian crisis in the region. It called on PAP to engage all parties to halt the two-year violent outbreak in Darfur.

The report, which traced the conflict's root causes to British colonial rule that created inequalities and pockets of homelands, could not pronounce on the definition of the conflict as either genocide, crimes against humanity or war crimes.

It nonetheless recommended the expansion of military deployment to "include the protection of the population in Darfur", the creation of a joint commission mentioned in the ceasefire agreement as well as an independent PAP oversight commission that would receive and act on complaints of ceasefire violation.

The report painted a picture of a distressed population besieged by fear and distrust of authority, of displaced people living under "inhumane conditions".

The report called on PAP to establish a trust fund for humanitarian assistance to those affected by the conflict.

On governance issues, the dossier called on the African Union to facilitate the convening of a national conference on peace, democratic governance and development in Sudan with a view to producing a strategic document on wealth and power sharing amongst regions.

The team's findings were welcomed by members of the Pan African Parliament, who argued for the setting up of an ad hoc committee on Darfur as well as availing the report to an AU summit to be possibly held in Libya later.

The debate aroused much emotion, with the house divided on who to blame but agreeing to working with other AU organs to find lasting peace in Africa's largest country.

Some MPs decried what they say is a deliberate plot to marginalise Darfur residents, both economically and politically - an assertion rejected by Khartoum.

Introducing the dossier in Parliament, Mr Katuntu, whose team met and interviewed senior government officials, rebel leaders and international agencies there, told MPs that "the people of Sudan need help and they needed it yesterday".

He added that "the Janjaweed, whom all parties in Sudan describe as bandits, should be disarmed with urgency by the government".

Meanwhile, the United Nations (UN) is said to have handed over to the International Criminal Court's prosecutors thousands of documents and a list of 51 people to be investigated for alleged war crimes in Sudan's Darfur region.

The list reportedly includes Sudanese government officials and government-backed Arab militiamen.

Photo: Janjaweed [Courtesy Middle East Online]
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Gertrude Mongella
The first president of the Pan-African Parliament

At last, signs of great leadership in Africa: the remarkable Gertrude Mongella, is the highest ranking elected woman in Africa. Many refer to her as Mama Mongella or Mama Beijing.

Back in 1995 Gertrude Mongella was Secretary General of the high-profile UN conference on women in Beijing, China. Since then she's worked on women's issues at home in Tanzania and around the globe. Her goal is to lift women out of poverty and into political office so they too can shape history.

In her role today as the first president of the Pan-African Parliament, Mongella is fixing her sights on the challenges facing Africa. Addressing issues like civil war and violence, to poverty and AIDS, she's a strong believer that Africa needs to find ways to help itself. During the first African Women's Forum in Accra in January 1997, she shared her vision of leadership:

"If you want to be a leader," she said, "you have to be clear what you want and what you stand for. You must stand for principle. Principle will never let you down ... You have to be able to choose what are the principles worth dying for ... And you have to add on a little sacrifice. Leadership needs a lot of sacrifice - personal and public sacrifice."

Photo [to be inserted here] of Gertrude Mongella, courtesy interview. In 1996, Mama Beijing founded an NGO called Advocacy for Women in Africa (AWA), which is based in Tanzania. See Gertrude Mongella Profile.
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A dialogue with Ambassador Gertrude Mongella, President of the Pan African Parliament

Note this interesting discussion with Gertrude Mongelia hosted by SARPN and the Southern African Catholic Bishops' Conference, chaired by Trevor Ncube, Pretoria, 14 September 2004.

See 'We must avoid being monkeys' Mail & Guardian (Johannesburg) - September 16, 2004 - AEGiS-DMG.
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No education, no life

This is one of the most heartwarming reports relating to Chad and Sudan that has appeared in the press for a long time. It makes one want to concentrate on the future of Sudan: the children. They need an education and supplies of school materials. They need to learn how to forgive but not forget. Today, I am once again weary of reading about the mess the men in Sudan are making -- and of how Sudanese women are abused and left to pick up the pieces and keep life going.

The report dated April 27, 2005 is titled "Chadian camp lacks resources but does not skimp on school" ... the source is the UN High Commissioner for Refugees - by Bernard Ntwari In Iridimi camp - God bless them:

IRIDIMI, Chad, April 27 (UNHCR) - The ritual unfolds every time someone comes to visit. Schoolgirls and boys run up to surround the visitor and recite expressions learnt in English and French: "Hello, how are you, ok," they repeat. Some are proud to show they know how to count in English while others bombard the visitor with questions.

"Our children are going to build the future. We want to secure a good education for them so that they can help change the situation in our country later," says Hassan Mahamat Juma, one of the teachers in Iridimi camp, located nearly 65 km from Chad's border with Sudan. It is one of the 11 UNHCR camps hosting 200,000 Sudanese refugees in eastern Chad.

Since Iridimi camp opened in March last year, classes have started spontaneously on the initiative of refugee teachers. Despite the lack of resources, the education system is very well organised in the camp, where school-aged children make up about 30 percent of the 17,000-strong population. There is a school in every one of the camp's 10 zones, with young refugees attending either the central school or any of the nine branch schools.

Today, buildings are being constructed to improve schooling conditions. This has made the children very happy because their lessons, which focus on the Sudanese curriculum, help them remember their former life in Sudan. UNHCR, in collaboration with its partners and particularly the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF), has decided to finance this initiative to reinforce education. As part of this plan, UNICEF has just organised a training session for teachers.

"No education, no life," says Hassan, speaking not just as a teacher but also a father.

"We are satisfied with the attitude of the parents, who have proven to be reliable partners on education in the camp," says Christine Lamarque, who oversees community services for UNHCR in Iridimi. She adds that the refugees' top concern is their children's education in the camp.

The teachers are just as committed. "Most of their requests involve the supply of school materials, rather than salary increase," notes Lamarque. The devoted teachers are willing to double their workload to ensure that all registered students receive the education they deserve.

Adam Dewad Djibrin, 13, is in the third year of junior high school. He is happy not only to have passed in the upper class, and also that his brother and little sister are registered in school. "When I grow up, I will be a teacher to educate my sisters and brothers who have stayed in Sudan," he says.

"I will be a doctor when I grow up," adds another student, Oumar Fakara.

A vocational training centre will be opened in Iridimi camp to teach young refugees practical skills like sewing, shoe-repairing or woodworking. A nursery school will also be set up to promote education for little girls. Boys, too, will get the attention they need, with a new system to be established to educate those who tend to livestock for a living and thus are unable to attend school.
posted by IJ at Sudan Watch Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Anonymous said...
Keep up the good work.

April 28, 2005 4:07 PM
Ingrid said...
Anonymous, thank you.

Please note 24 Oct 2005 post:

Calling Mama Mongella: The stability of Sudan is fundamental to the whole of the African continent

October 29, 2005 12:45 PM

Gaddafi arrives in Khartoum for Arab summit Mar 28-29

Contrary to earlier conflicting news reports saying Saudi, Libya among four to shun Arab summit, AFP now confirms Libyan leader Col Gaddafi has arrived in Khartoum to participate in the two-day annual summit 28-29 March of Arab leaders. As Sudan is hosting the summit, it is expecting to preside over the meeting that will include discussions on Darfur.

According to AFP, he had been expected to skip the summit but was the first leader to land in Khartoum for Tuesday's annual gathering of Arab kings and Presidents:
Dressed in a white suit and flaunting a long bright-yellow scarf, Kadhafi walked the red carpet flanked by his Sudanese host Omar al-Bashir and followed by two of his female bodyguards who sported green scarfs under their military hats.

An Arab League official had told AFP Friday that Kadhafi was not participating in 18th Arab summit.
Libya, Sudan leaders in Khartoum

Photo: Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi (L) is welcomed by Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir upon his arrival in Khartoum. Kadhafi arrived in the Sudanese capital to participate in the two-day annual summit of Arab leaders. (AFP/Suna/Yahoo)

What Sudan expects Arab Summit to do for Sudan and the Arabs

Excerpt from Sudan Watch Mar 24, 2006 Sudan will be president of Arab League summit in Khartoum - Interview: Sudan FM Lam Akol:
(Asharq Al-Awsat) Khartoum will host an important Arab summit within days. What have you prepared for this summit? What do you expect this summit to do for Sudan and the Arabs?

(Akol) The Arab summit will be held in Sudan, which will celebrate its 50th independence anniversary this year and the 1st anniversary of the peace agreement. The first topic on the summit agenda is Arab-African cooperation. There are many other topics on the agenda. These include issues related to Sudan like establishing a fund to help the areas affected by war in southern Sudan. There is also a clause on the Arab African countries' participation in the African peace-keeping forces in Darfur. There are also issues related to the Arab Justice Court, the Arab Peace and Security Council, and other such issues. There are many topics on the summit agenda. We expect large participation. We also expect the summit to issue clear resolutions that serve the Arab homeland as a whole, particularly Sudan at this stage.
Sudan expresses appreciation of Gaddafi's peace brokering efforts

Libyan news report Mar 26, 2006 says Sudanese presidential adviser Mustafa Osman Ismail hailed the Libyan leader's efforts to end tension and expressed high appreciation for the Col Gaddafi's pioneer role to end tension between Sudan and Chad

Note, over the past two years, Col Gaddafi has worked hard behind the scenes to help broker peace for Darfur. Recently, it was reported he will urge Sudanese President al-Bashir to hold direct talks with Darfur rebel leaders.

Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi

Photo: Libya's leader Col Gaddafi leads noon prayers with a Sudanese delegation from Darfur before their meeting in his traditional tent in Tripoli, Libya, Monday May 9, 2005. The first flight taking food from Libya directly into Darfur in western Sudan took place as the U.N.'s food agency launched a campaign to reach nearly 2 million people during the rainy season. (AP Photo/Yousef Al-Ageli)

On March 15, 2006 it was reported Libya to host summit on Darfur - Sudan, Egypt leaders to attend but according to Sudanese FM Akol's recent interview this did not take place - excerpt:
(Asharq Al-Awsat) Dr Mustafa Uthman. He talked about a tripartite summit by Al-Bashir, Mubarak, and Al-Qadhafi although you denied that there were any plans to hold such a summit. Did the summit take place?

(Akol) The summit did not take place. This means foreign policy is still in the hands of the Foreign Ministry. However, every person has the right to make statements. Not only Mustafa Uthman is entitled to this right but others who make statements about foreign policy issues. This is their right, but the state policy is well known and the responsible state departments are known. The Council of Ministers is the side which approves polices and the Foreign Ministry implements these policies in cooperation with the presidency.
Mar 24 2006 Interview: Sudan FM Lam Akol says Sudanese government calls for strengthening of AU mission in Darfur

Kadhafi, Bashir and Mubarak

Photo: Libyan leader Moamer Gaddafi (C) receives Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak (L) and Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir (R) as Libya hosts a two-day summit of African leaders on finding peace in Darfur on May 16, 2005.

Nov 20 2005 CIA met Gaddafi - Sudan rounded up extremist suspects for questioning by CIA

Feb 18 2005 Tony Blair hails Gaddafi's efforts for Darfur

Feb 21 2006 Libya's Gaddhafi and Senegal's Wade discuss African solution to Darfur crisis - United States of Africa?

Feb 23 2006 Libya offers African Union 100,000 troops, 1,000 tanks, 100 aircraft to close Chad-Sudan border

Feb 24 2006 Libya's Gaddhafi and Sudan's al-Bashir discuss Darfur crisis - see list of further reports

Feb 26 2006 Chad-Sudan border peacekeeping force - AU chair and Libyan leader Col Gaddafi follow up on Tripoli mini-summit

Feb 28 2006 Libya's Kadhafi urges Africans to fund AU troops in Darfur

Feb 28 2006 Egypt, Libya leaders reject UN Darfur force

Map of Libya

Map of Libya courtesy Wikepedia - click on image for link to notes on Libya's history and politics.

Mar 6 2006 Libya sets up surveillance groups on Chad-Sudan borders

Mar 8 2006 Libya receives Sudanese Vice-President Ali Taha

Mar 9 2006 US hopes Libya could expand its mediation efforts for peaceful solution to Darfur conflict

Mar 24 2006 Sudan will be president of Arab League summit in Khartoum

Mar 24 2006 Gaddafi lashes out at 'backward society' in Middle East

Mar 25 2006 Sudan says UN takeover of AMIS would encourage intransigence from the armed groups - Sudan wants South Sudan CPA as a model for Darfur

Mar 25 2006 Sudan believes Arab summit supports Khartoum stance on Darfur

Spelling of Libyan leader Gaddafi's name

"Muammar Gaddafi" is the spelling used here at Sudan Watch for the sake of archive searches. This spelling (Muammar Gaddafi) used in Wikipedia articles is also TIME magazine's preferred spelling. According to Wikipedia Gaddafi's name has, however, been transliterated in a wide variety of ways:

For example, an article published in the London Evening Standard on March 29, 2004 lists a total of 37 spellings; a 1986 column by The Straight Dope counted 32. The Associated Press and affiliates (such as CNN and FOX News) use the spelling Moammar Gadhafi. Al Jazeera uses Muammar al-Qadhafi. The US State Department uses Mu'ammar Al-Qadhafi.

In 1986, responding to a Minnesota school's letter in English, he used the spelling Moammar El-Gadhafi. According to his personal website, he prefers the spelling Muammar Gadafi, although the domain name gives yet another version, al-Gathafi.

Janjaweed leader Musa Hilal says Sudanese government call to arms is carried out through tribal leaders

Osama bin Laden in Sudan

Photo: Archival Footage of Osama bin Laden in Sudan (via Watching America Mar 23, 2006: Al-Jazeera TV Qatar posted in Jan 00:02:31 MEMRI)

Janjaweed soldier

Photo: A soldier of the Janjaweed Militia [in Green] chats with Sudanese policemen in North Darfur, Sudan. (via Watching America Mar 23, 2006)

Soldiers believed to be Janjaweed

Photo: Soldiers believed to be Janjaweed. (Sudan Tribune)

Musa Hilal

Photo: Musa Hilal, leader of the Janjaweed (BBC). Click on photo for further details.

Sudan's government call to arms is carried out through tribal leaders

Excerpt from The New Yorker by Samantha Power 23 Aug 2004:

During the conflict with the rebels based in the South, the Sudanese military had honed strategy for combatting insurgents: the Air Force bombed from the sky, while Arab tribesmen, armed by the government, launched raids on the ground. In Darfur, the Sudanese Army needed to rely even more heavily upon local Arab militias. A majority of the Army's rank-and-file soldiers were from Darfur, and they could not be trusted to take up arm against their neighbors and kin. (Many Darfurians had served with the Army in the war against Garang's rebels.) By July, 2003, the government was appealing to Darfur's Arab tribal leaders to defend their homeland against rebels whom they branded as "tora bora" (an allusion to the terrorist fighters based in the caves of Afghanistan)

Musa Hilal, a forty-three-year-old Arab sheikh, was one of the first to answer the government's call, and he soon became the coordinator of the janjaweed in Darfur. I met Hilal recently, at the Khartoum airport, outside a hangar for charter flights. [Edit]

As I talked with Musal Hilal in the El Fasher airport waiting room, he discussed the possibility that he and other janjaweed leaders could have their assets frozen and their ability to travel curtailed. "I have no assets in international banks, so that is not a problem," he said as he watched Sudanese soldiers ready our plane for its flight back to Khartoum. "But the travel ban - that would be a humiliation. I am a tribal leader. My reputation comes above anything and everything."

Hilal is aware that if the international pressure on Khartoum intensifies the government might sell him out. This explains why he courts Western journalists, staging elaborate shows of African-Arab unity. But he also knows how risky it would be for the government to challenge him - even if it wanted to appease its international critics. Khartoum's leaders rely on tribal militias as their main weapon of war. And, in Hilal's case, the Sudanese government helped create him, and he knows too much.

"The government call to arms is carried out through the tribal leaders," Hilal said. "Every government comes and finds us here. When they leave, we will still be here. When they come back, we will still be here. We will always be here."
- - -

Sheiriya Gereida

Photo (by Paula Souverijn-Eisenberg) UN top envoy Jan Pronk in Darfur, western Sudan talking politics with the Commissioner of Mershing. Courtesy Jan Pronk's blog entry - Mar 5, 2006, quote: "In February I had had difficult encounters with tribal and traditional leaders in Nyala and El Fashr. Most of them were strongly against a UN force in Darfur. They accuse the United Nations of being manipulated by the United States. They fear that Western countries and NATO want to re-colonize and occupy Sudan. They speak about a conspiracy against Islam and against Arab nations."
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AU soldiers on patrol in Darfur

Photo and caption via Watching America Mar 23, 2006: "African Union troops on patrol on Darfur. Is Washington hoping for them to fail?"
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US President to welcome chairman of African Union to the White House

Olusegun Obasanjo

Photo: Chairman of African Union, President Olusegun Obasanjo of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Mar 25 2006 The White House - excerpt: President Bush will welcome President Olusegun Obasanjo of the Federal Republic of Nigeria to the White House on March 29, 2006. Nigeria is a strategic partner of the United States in Africa and the visit provides an opportunity for the President to thank President Obasanjo for his leadership as Chairman of the African Union in the deployment of African troops in response to the genocide in Darfur, Sudan. The two leaders also will discuss a broad range of regional and international issues including continuing cooperation in the areas of Darfur, regional security, energy security, fighting corruption, strengthening democratic institutions, and the need to bring Charles Taylor to justice.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

UN reform - US will only remain part of UN as long as it does not try to have a "standing army"

The UN Security Council has too often failed to act swiftly and effectively to contain international crises and needs reforming, the head of the UN nuclear watchdog said today. Reuters/Scotsman report excerpt:
"Too often, the Security Council's engagement is inadequate, selective or after the fact," said Mohamed ElBaradei, last year's Nobel Peace Prize winner.

"The tragedies of recent years in Rwanda, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Darfur are cases in point," he told

The Egyptian diplomat said the 15-nation Security Council had shown its ineffectiveness by failing to tackle violence in Sudan's Darfur region. "Darfur continues to suffer from the inability of the Security Council to muster sufficient peacekeeping troops and sufficient resources to prevent the continuing atrocities."
International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Secretary General Mohamed ElBaradei

Photo: International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Secretary General Mohamed ElBaradei. (IslamOnline) Click here to read speech in full.
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US Congress passed a law that states that the US will only remain part of the UN as long as it does not try to have a "standing army"

Here are some snippets I've extracted from Ali's blog entry last year at The Salon, entitled The UN Awakens .... Ali is a bright young Congolese man living in America whose mother works at the UN:

If the UN had a well trained - militarily and psychologically, well conditioned, well equipped, and motivated standing peace keeping/enforcing force, much of these problems would not be. The problem is that some countries - the US is the first among them - believe that their constitution is such a work of divine perfection, that it can NEVER be subordinated to anything... even an organization that they RUN, like the UN. Thus the US Congress passed a law that states that the US will only remain part of the UN as long as it does not try to have a "standing army". As a result of that, the Blue Helmets have to be recruited when there is the need, from a number of countries, with varying degrees of military training, human rights training, income, and corruption. [Edit]

A body of 191 states, and thousands of nations, cannot be turned into a puppet of ONE country's policies. It's simply impossible. The US might think they know best, and that their foreign policy is the way, the truth and the light to salvation and prosperity for all people... but it still has to convince people! It cannot simply seek to impose its will, using the UN as a rubber-stamp. That power-dynamic of misperceptions and disdain - as well as the Cold War, and the dictatorships it created - are the cause of the mess today, IMHO.

So what to do? Let the US put its money where its mouth is. Let the UN reforms that Annan is proposing go through, and create a more balanced United Nations, with Africans holding veto-wielding pernanent seats in the Security Council. Let the UN enforce culturally sensitive peace and democracy, in a multilateral way. And give the UN secretariat the resources and the power - as well as the broad-based (meaning not only the almighty US congress, but all nations) oversight - it needs to do its job on the field. Then, if that doesn't work, you can come and tell me that the UN is hopeless. [Edit]

Arab FMs meet in Khartoum - Sudan believes Arab summit supports Khartoum stance on Darfur

The Arab Foreign Ministers' meetings began today at the Friends Hall in Khartoum in preparation for the upcoming 18th Arab Summit. The meeting was chaired by Sudanese Foreign Minister, Lam Akol Ajawin, Bahrain News reported March, 25 2005 - excerpt:
"Sudanese Foreign Minister Dr Lam Akol expressed his hope in a speedy response by the Arab countries to give contributions to the Arab Fund to support Sudan to develop the South and war-torn areas, in addition to placing a program for these activities on the basis of priorities.

The minister hailed the support provided by the Arab countries for Darfur civilians through the Arab League's participation in all the phases of Sudan's negotiations with armed movements. Dr Ajawin expressed his hope in the Arab countries' abilities to provide the necessary support for the African Union forces and to support the peace agreement with armed groups to maintain stability in the country.
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Sudan believes Arab summit to support Khartoum stance on Darfur

China's PDO Mar 25, 2006 reported: "The Arab League will also play a basic role in the post-war reconstruction process in Darfur after a peace agreement is signed between the government and the rebel movements," Sudan's Information Minister Al-Zahawi Ibrahim Malik underlined.

Sudan says UN takeover of AMIS would encourage intransigence from the armed groups - Sudan wants S Sudan CPA as a model for Darfur

Today, Sudan urged the UN to stop sending negative signals to Darfur rebels after the UN Security Council voted to speed planning for a new peacekeeping force there, Reuters reported. Excerpt:
Darfur rebels have from the beginning of the conflict demanded UN troops be deployed in Darfur and the government feels the UN takeover would encourage intransigence from the armed groups.

"They should refrain from mentioning these negative messages and taking the wrong decisions at the wrong time," state minister of foreign affairs al-Samani al-Wasiyla told reporters in Khartoum.

Wasiyla added Sudan did not reject a U.N. force outright, but had to decide when or if it was necessary for U.N. troops to take over from the Africans already deployed. He said that time could be after a peace deal was agreed in the Nigerian capital Abuja, where faltering talks continue.
Note, the report explains Sudan signed a separate peace deal last year to end Africa's longest civil war in its south. Under that deal 10,715 UN troops and police are being deployed to monitor the ceasefire, and goes on to say:
"Wasiyla said that should be used as a model for the international community for Darfur.

Wasiyla said Sudan was opposed to UN forces because that would imply a failure of the AU mission, which is unable to complete its work because of a lack of funds and equipment. He said the international community should fulfil those needs.

"We do not want to be the reason for the failure of the African Union," he said, adding the United Nations should be trying to strengthen the AU as a regional peacekeeping body."
Presidential Advisor Mustafa Osman Ismail on Friday told reporters Sudan would be asking Arab leaders meeting in Khartoum for an annual summit next week to provide more money to the AU mission to continue its work.
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South Sudan's Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA)

CPA one year later: suspicions, feeling of unfairness IPS/ST reported March 25, 2006.

UN Security Council authorises planning for UN troops in Darfur and asks Annan to liaise with AU, Khartoum and rebels

UN special envoy Jan Pronk, in his blog entry March 13, 2006, writes about the Sudanese government's nasty vicious political campaign against UN personnel (including threats to his own life) and explains, quote:
"The attacks on the United Nations cannot be attributed to the Government only. The Government is under pressure by powerful groups. Sudan is not a democratic society, far from it. The regime is a conglomerate of power groups, dependent on each other, checking each other and wheeling and dealing behind the scenes. Political pressure is not exerted in a democratic fashion, in a free and independent parliament, a free press and public meetings."
Mr Pronk goes on to say:
"Initially the position of the Government towards a UN force in Darfur was not so negative. Ministers had told me that they understood that such a transition would be inevitable if the African Union itself would decide in favor. For them the mandate of a UN force and its composition were crucial. A UN peace keeping force with a Chapter 6 mandate and without NATO troops would be acceptable. However, when some powerful groups in Sudan demanded the Government never to accept any new foreign peace keeping force, the President changed his position. It is like always in Sudan: policies are determined by one overriding motivation only: how to stay in power."
Note, last May I blogged a news report that gives a rare insight into Sudan's inner circle. It makes fascinating reading. See excerpt at Sudan Watch March 25, 2006: Sudan's ruling elite and "security cabal" - the National Islamic Front: the men who control Africa's largest country.
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UN Security Council authorises planning for UN troops in Darfur and asks Annan to liaise with AU, Khartoum and rebels

The UN Security Council has voted unanimously to speed up preparations for UN peacekeepers to be deployed to Darfur, the BBC reported March 25, 2006.

The council is calling on UN Secretary General Kofi Annan to come up with a range of options within one month and to liaise with the African Union, Khartoum and the rebels to come up with a plan.
"It's a real step forward in building peace across the entire country," Britain's UN Ambassador Sir Emyr Jones Parry said in a statement.
The resolution also extended the mandate of a separate UN peacekeeping mission in southern Sudan, which was due to expire on Friday.
The head of UN peacekeeping operations, Jean-Marie Guehenno said: "There is a sense of urgency, I think from everybody, that there are people who are dying, that there is still violence in Darfur. That needs to be stopped."
Edith Lederer's report for Associated Press May 25, 2006 says the resolution approved by the council also urged the UN force "to make full use of its current mandate and capabilities" against rebels from Uganda's Lord's Resistance Army and other armed groups who have been attacking civilians and committing human rights abuses in Sudan - excerpt:
"Jones Parry told reporters the request to the UN force for help in apprehending the Ugandan rebel group is "very important" and "acknowledges the regional dimension of the conflict," which includes eastern Congo as well as Uganda and Sudan."

A year ago, the council voted to send 10,700 U.N. peacekeepers to monitor a January 2005 peace agreement between Sudan's mostly Muslim north and the Christian and animist south. Some 2 million people died in the conflict. Over 7,000 peacekeepers are now deployed.

Friday's resolution extends the U.N. force's mandate until Sept. 24, "with the intention to renew it for further periods."

It called on Annan to present to the council by April 24 "a range of options" on a U.N. operation in Darfur. It also asked Annan to make recommendations by that date on how U.N. peacekeepers and U.N. agencies "could more effectively address the problem of the LRA."
UN Security Council meeting

In this photo released by the United Nations, The UN Security Council votes unanimously Friday, March 24, 2006 at UN HQ, to keep UN peacekeepers in southern Sudan to monitor a peace deal ending a 21-year civil war and authorised planning for the expected extension of the UN force's operations to Darfur in western Sudan. (AP Photo/The United Nations, Evan Schneider)

Note, after reading varying and conflicting news reports, it seems clear (to me anyway) UN officials have said they will not send in troops to Darfur without the approval of the Sudanese government - and the Sudanese goverment says it may be possible to consider the possibility of UN peacekeepers in Darfur when a peace agreement is reached at the AU mediated Darfur peace talks in Abuja, Nigeria.

Further reading:

Mar 25 2006 (AP/ST) Sudan FM reiterates rejection of UN force to Darfur - Sudan Saturday repeated its rejection of UN peace keeping forces to Darfur, reacting to the Security Council's decision to expand the monitoring operations. "We reject sending any further troops to Darfur," Sudanese Foreign Minister Lam Akol Ajawin told at a preparatory meeting of his Arab counterparts in Khartoum, the capital of Sudan, ahead of the Arab summit next week. Sudan had said before the Security Council's Friday vote that it opposed a UN takeover of the African peacekeeping mission.

Mar 25 2006 (Prensa Latina) Arab League Rejects UN Troops to Sudan - In a press conference in Jartum Friday, Arab League chief Amro Musa pointed out that most of the Sudanese people, local institutions, and the Executive oppose arrival of UN Blue Helmets to Darfur. He said there is a fear that the south of Sudan would become like occupied Iraq (by US troops).

Mar 24 2006 (UN News Centre) Extending Sudan mission, Security Council lays groundwork for UN Darfur force - - via CfD

Mar 24 2006 (Reuters Irwin Arieff) UN speeds planning for sending UN troops to Darfur

Mar 25 2006 Op-Ed News opinon piece - If the Bush administration is serious about its concern for the people in Darfur he should provide weaponry and logistical support for the AU. That would be the least controversial remedy to the violence and it would allay the government's fears of re-colonization by Europe and America. Instead, Bush has called for doubling the size of a UN "peacekeeping" force and expanding the role of NATO in the region. This has only intensified suspicions that the intervention is not driven by selfless concern for the welfare of others.

Sudan's ruling elite and "security cabal" the National Islamic Front: the men who control Africa's largest country

Note May 3, 2005 report Sudan's Unbowed, Unbroken Inner Circle by Emily Wax, Washington Post, reprinted at MSNBC and PoTP - excerpt:

Tight web of savvy leaders withstands international criticism

The men who control Africa's largest country -- the key architects of the conflict in Darfur -- hail from two tiny, interwoven Arab tribes. Many of them grew up together and graduated from Khartoum University. They often sit together in cafes beside the Nile, bickering about politics and religion over endless cups of sweet tea.

They attend the weddings of one another's sons and daughters, who frequently marry within the two tribes. They are neighbors and rivals, nephews and cousins. Politics in Sudan is often a family affair, and as in any family, there are occasional feuds.

For instance, Hassan Turabi, a college professor and radical Islamic cleric, led a military coup in 1989 against his brother-in-law Sadiq Madhi, the country's popularly elected leader. The main backers of the coup were Turabi's proteges, Omar Hassan Bashir and Ali Uthman Muhammad Taha, now Sudan's president and vice president. Yet not long before that, Madhi had presided over the wedding ceremony of Taha and his bride, Turabi's cousin.

"In Sudan we say, 'You meet your enemies at weddings,'" said Turabi's son Issam, 39, whose father has been jailed or under house arrest for nearly five years after a bitter falling-out with Bashir and Taha. "All of politics in Khartoum is a bunch of warring families trying to stay in power over one another."

This is Sudan's ruling elite: shadowy and insular, cliquish and fractious. It's an unusual arrangement for a continent more accustomed to the rule of patriarchal Big Men, such as Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe and Zaire's Mobutu Sese Seko, with a single personality dominating the national psyche.

Despite their tendency to feud, the ministers and security officials in Sudan's inner circle form a tight web of power that combines tribal, religious and military elements. Its formal name is the National Islamic Front, but it is known in Khartoum as the "security cabal."

The cohesion of this club has enabled the government to weather the chill of world condemnation for years -- first in the 1990s for harboring terrorists such as Osama bin Laden and waging a protracted war against African rebels in the south, and now for carrying out a second armed campaign in the western region of Darfur.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Jan Pronk's weblog accuses Sudanese government of a political campaign against the United Nations

Jan Pronk, the UN's special envoy in Sudan, in his weblog that dates back to November 2005, publishes the following intro on his homepage that links to his blog entry dated March 13, 2006:
"A political campaign against the United Nations has been orchestrated by the Government of Sudan. The press is full of nasty attacks. Sudanese movements warn the UN mission. Staff members receive threats. The Government has declared to resist a UN peace force in Darfur. Read more."
Sheiriya Gereida

Photo: Demonstration in Nyala against a potential AMIS-UN transition. (Paula Souverijn-Eisenberg) Source: March 13, 2006 entry at Jan Pronk's weblog.

[link via Daimnation! with thanks]

Mar 24 2006 Coalition for Darfur publishes an excerpt from Jan Pronk's weblog.

Sudan will be president of Arab League summit in Khartoum

The Arab League summit in Khartoum is expected to support Sudan reported Reuters March 24, 2006 - excerpt:
Sudan, which has spared no expense to prepare its capital to host Arab leaders at a summit next week, is expected to be rewarded with the presidency of the Arab League and support on issues such as Darfur.

"Of course the host of the summit will be the president and in our opinion (the host) should have been the president of the African Union too," Amr Moussa, head of the Arab League, told reporters in Khartoum this week as he prepared for the summit.
Amr Musa

Photo: Arab League chief Amr Musa
Moussa said the Arab League did not share its African brothers's reservations about having Sudan, accused of widespread atrocities in its western Darfur region, at the head of the pan-Arab body.

Sudanese opposition politician Mubarak al-Fadil said Arab leaders were not likely to push on the Darfur affair as they traditionally have sat on the fence on divisive issues.

"They wouldn't like to entangle themselves in it," he said. "You are in someone's home - you say these things behind his back but you don't say it to his face."
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What Sudan expects Arab Summit to do for Sudan and the Arabs

Excerpt from Interview: Sudan FM Lam Akol:

(Asharq Al-Awsat) Khartoum will host an important Arab summit within days. What have you prepared for this summit? What do you expect this summit to do for Sudan and the Arabs?

(Akol) The Arab summit will be held in Sudan, which will celebrate its 50th independence anniversary this year and the 1st anniversary of the peace agreement. The first topic on the summit agenda is Arab-African cooperation. There are many other topics on the agenda. These include issues related to Sudan like establishing a fund to help the areas affected by war in southern Sudan. There is also a clause on the Arab African countries' participation in the African peace-keeping forces in Darfur. There are also issues related to the Arab Justice Court, the Arab Peace and Security Council, and other such issues. There are many topics on the summit agenda. We expect large participation. We also expect the summit to issue clear resolutions that serve the Arab homeland as a whole, particularly Sudan at this stage.

Interview: Sudan FM Lam Akol says Sudanese government calls for strengthening of AU mission in Darfur

Note this excerpt from Sudan FM Lam Akol interview by Muhammad al-Hasan Ahmad in Khartoum, printed at Asharq Alawsat 22 March 2006:

(Asharq Al-Awsat) There are contradictions even within the Foreign Ministry. I have noticed that acting Foreign Minister Ali Karti made statements criticizing the African Union. At the same time, Al-Samani al-Wasilah, minister of state in the Foreign Ministry, praised the African Union. He said what is required is the Union's continuation of its role. What is your comment in this regard?

(Akol) The official government position is that it commends the African Union's role in Darfur and calls for the continuation of its mission there. The government also calls for strengthening this mission so that it can be accomplished in the required manner. We have also contacted other countries to urge them continue to extend financial and logistic support to these African forces.

Lam Akol

Photo: Sudanese Foreign Minister Lam Akol, seen here in October 2005, gave the cold shoulder to a UN proposal to take over from African Union peacekeepers in Darfur and urged the world to prop up the African body with more funds. (AFP/File/Salah Omar)

Sharia row hits South Sudan peace deal - Sudan's SPLM pull out of team drafting Khartoum constitution

A row over whether Sudan's capital Khartoum should be subject to Islamic law has hit relations between South Sudan's former rebels SPLM and its partner in government, BBC reported today:
Pol Ring, head of the former rebel SPLM in Khartoum's parliament, said the draft constitution proposed for the city was the same as the existing Sharia law. This was unacceptable because Khartoum is the capital for the whole country, he said. The SPLM has now pulled out of the committee drafting Khartoum's new constitution.
The BBC correspondent says under South Sudan's peace deal, Sharia law will continue, with special protection for non-Muslims.

Note, there are thousands of different religions. Surely religion ought to be separate from government.

See Mar 24 2006 Sudan's SPLM pull out of team drafting Khartoum constitution

Gaddafi lashes out at 'backward society' in Middle East

Libyan leader Col Gaddafi, in a speech to attendees at a Columbia University panel discussion on democracy Thursday (speaking in Arabic during a live video appearance) lashed out at what he described as "backward" societies in the Middle East, arguing that government heavy-handedness in dealing with political opposition stemmed from the violent nature of that dissent, reported Asharq Alawsat March 24, 2006. Quotes from the article:

"You ask us, 'Why do you oppress opposition in the Middle East? Opposition in the Middle East is quite different from opposition in advanced countries. In our countries, the opposition takes the form of explosions, assassinations, killing. Because opposition in our country is different from opposition in your country. Our opposition resorts to bombs, assassinations, explosions, subversive acts, trains in military camps -- in some cases before the Sept. 11th events. How many countries have seen this form of opposition. This is a manifestation of social backwardness," said Gadhafi.

Gadhafi said the protests stemming from the publication of cartoons ridiculing Islam's Prophet Muhammad elicited a coarse reaction from all sides. "Our methods are very backward indeed. The methods of opposition in our country are also quite different." "Even when it comes to demonstrations, they are against Muhammad cartoons, they use bullets. You use tear gas or hoses; the police in our countries react in a backward way because they are part of a backward society."

Gadhafi also criticized Islamic fundamentalism and what he said was its blight on education, research and health care. "In a good number of Islamic countries the school curriculum would prohibit many scientific researches," he said. "In some Islamic countries, to see the fetus inside the pregnant woman is prohibited because only God, to some people, knows the gender of that fetus. How could that be prohibited? That is because of backwardness."
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Mar 24 2006 Reuters report says US not ready to remove Libya, Sudan, Cuba, Syria, N Korea, Iran from terrorist list.

Mar 24 2006 Khaleej Times - Libya feels "cheated" that it will remain on the US State Department's list of state sponsors of terrorism this year even though it has made security concessions, the North African country's top envoy to Washington said on Friday.

Nigeria condemns Sudanese govt over Darfur

Nigeria has condemned the Sudanese government for instigating the local population against African Union's efforts toward peace in Darfur, reported the Tide online March 23, 2006. Excerpt:
Nigeria's Foreign Affairs Minister, Olu Adeniji who appeared on a News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) Forum in Abuja at the weekend, said that such blunder was bad for the regional body's painstaking efforts.

With the government and rebel groups yet to agree on a deal toward permanent peace in Darfur, Adeniji said that the least the government could do was to allow the AU to explore all available peace initiatives.

"Before you get peace, you must talk and that is what the AU is doing. That is where we come in. It is imperative that the government takes note of this," he declared.

He said that the AU at its peace and security council meeting in Addis Ababa, resolved that it should maintain its 7,000 peace keeping force in Darfur, but also unanimously resolved that the UN must now be "greatly involved."

Sudan urges Arab support to African peacekeepers in Darfur

Sudan's Federal Minister of Finance and National Economy al-Zubair Ahmed al-Hassan called for contributions by Arab countries for logistical and financial support to African Union forces in Darfur.

He invited Arab league to convene - in coordination with the AU and Sudan Government - a conference for reconstruction and development in Darfur after signing a peace agreement in Darfur which is expected to be reached soon, reported Sudan Tribune Khartoum Mar 23, 2006.

Al-Zubair Ahmed al-Hassan

Photo: Al-Zubair Ahmed al-Hassan (ST)

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Peace agreement sparks huge investment in South Sudan

Foreign investors attending a 'Southern Sudan International Investment and Development Conference' held in Nairobi March 14-15, expressed fears over the availability of trained manpower in the country and the transparency in the oil industry, reported PDO/Xinhua March 23, 2006. Excerpt:
Southern Sudan's Minister for Industry and Mines Albino Akol said the transparency in the management of the oil resources in the country, especially in the management of oil fields in the south was a key concern the government is addressing.

"The oil industry is governed by the provisions of the Comprehensive Peace Accord (CPA) through the National Petroleum Commission. We need to demarcate borders of oil fields in the south to ensure transparency because sharing of the profits is based on the proceeds of the oil in the south," Akol told the investors.
Note, the article explains that despite the success of the conference, some regional experts predict uncertainties and difficulties ahead:
Southern Sudan has seen virtually no development since the 1950s. The peace accord allows the southern Sudanese to hold a referendum on independence in six years, setting up the possibility of more conflict with the north, analysts say.

Harvard divests from stock held by HMC in China Petroleum and Chemical Corporation (Sinopec Corporation)

Harvard Corporation's decision to direct Harvard Management Company (HMC) to divest itself of stock held by HMC in Sinopec Corporation (but no sale of stake in Russian firm with reported Sudan links) was announced by Harvard University in Boston today:
"This is the right thing to do in light of the ongoing events in Darfur," University President Lawrence H. Summers said in a statement today, reported Harvard Crimson March 23, 2006.
Sorry, it is difficult to understand any good that comes of divestment, unless of course it means the cash is re-invested into Western companies to benefit the people of Sudan. Sudan is burdened by terrible debt and relies heavily on foreign revenue, particularly from oil, generated by companies operating in the Sudan.

Let's hope that Harvard and all the others who are divesting, re-invest in Western companies that specialise in beneficial services such as water and agriculture, and encourage them to operate in the Sudan. That way, Sudan could diversify, develop and grow and would not need to rely so heavily upon its oil.
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Divestment remains unproven solution

Mar 24 2005 (Yale Daily News by Matthew Gillum) Divestment remains unproven solution - excerpt:

"I can't help but think that Yale's divestment crew got caught up in do-gooder groupthink and actually has no idea if divestment is effective or not. This innocence of evidence is a problem that plagues many activists at Yale on both sides of the political spectrum (one example on the right would be those who moralize against homosexuality on religious grounds ignoring the vast abundance of same-sex activity in nature). I weep for America if this style of thinking is as prevalent among our future leaders as it seems. "

Response Mar 27, 2006 (Yale, Eric Bloom) Activists' work goes beyond divestment - "Divestment creates a lot of press that otherwise goes to Nick and Jessica. Whenever a university such as Yale divests, it gets noticed; within 24 hours of Yale's announcement of its divestment, for example, publications in places as diverse as North Dakota and South Africa had covered it. Take that and replicate it with Harvard, Stanford, Dartmouth, Amherst, Brown and the University of California system, and all of a sudden people are reading about the atrocities of Darfur instead of a few sick birds in Southeast Asia."

UPDATE: Another point of view published at Passion of the Present: A Wise Divestment: Harvard was right to dump its Sinopec shares ("Harvard Crimson" editorial)

Britain is to lead a UN Security Council mission to Sudan

Today's Times reported Britain is to lead a UN Security Council mission to Sudan in June as part of a series of diplomatic initiatives to press for peace in Darfur, diplomats said. It remains unclear if the officials, from the 15 council members, will visit the war-torn province.

Darfur sanctions on Sudanese and Chadian leaders still deadlocked as ICC considers prosecutions?

On Feb 28, 2006, Fred Bridgland noted at Institute For War & Peace Reporting that the UN Security Council met on Feb 27 to consider sanctions against officials deemed to be a threat to the peace effort or human rights in the area. Excerpt:
"The UN Security Council decided last March to impose an asset freeze and travel ban on anyone who hinders the peace process or violates human rights.

It asked a special panel headed by Antonio Cassese to come up with sanction recommendations, and last December the Italian judge gave the council a secret list of names of people he said should be punished.

The list, which was subsequently leaked to the press, includes Sudan's interior minister Elzubier Bashir Taha, intelligence chief Salah Abdalla Gosh and three rebel commanders of the Sudan Liberation Army, which has targeted civilians and aid workers during its insurgency against the Khartoum government. It also names five others against whom the panel is considering recommending sanctions, including Sudan's president Omar Hassan al-Bashir and President Idriss Deby of Chad."
Unless I've missed something, there has been no further news on this following the UN Security Council meeting on Darfur held March 21, 2006.

Siry Emyr Jones Parry at UNSC meeting

Photo: Britain's UN Ambassador Sir Emyr Jones Parry (left) Jackie Sanders, Deputy US Ambassador to the UN (center) and John Bolton, US Ambassador confer after a Security Council meeting on Darfur at UN HQ in New York March 21, 2006 (AP Photo/David Karp)
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AU chief and UN chief pow-wow

On Monday, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan called for his fellow Africans to work together to end violence that is holding back the world's poorest continent.

Mr Annan also met with the new African Union chief Denis Sassou-Nguesso, saying afterward the two leaders discussed lynchpin elections in Ivory Coast and Congo and ongoing violence in Darfur.

AU chief and UN chief pow-wow

Photo: Current head of the 53-nation African Union and President of the Congo, Denis Sassou-Nguesso (right) and UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan (left) seen during a meeting at the city of Brazzaville, Congo, March 20, 2006. (AP Photo/Anjan Sundaram)

NATO chief and US president

Photo: NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer looks on as US President George W. Bush (R) makes remarks from the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, DC. See AFP/ST report Bush hopes to see NATO "take the lead" in Darfur (Photo AFP/JIm Watson/ST)

Note on Feb 22, 2005 The White House's website posted a transcript of a meeting that day between President Bush and NATO Secretary-General de Hoop Scheffer held at NATO HQ in Brussels, Belgium.

DARFUR: Sudan has all the potential ingredients to be a failed state - How to avoid another Iraqi quagmire in Sudan (Dr Paul Moorcraft)

People who cry out for military intervention (an act of war) in Darfur ought to take a few minutes to read a most insightful opinion piece by veteran war correspondent Dr Paul Moorcraft, a Brit who has worked in thirty war zones over twenty years and visits Sudan and Darfur regularly.

In my view, Dr Moorcraft's op-ed provides an excellent easy to read summary of Sudan's complex situation and rightly concludes Sudan has all the potential ingredients to be a failed state and that, quote:
"More important is the recognition that there is no military solution in Darfur. Neither side can win the war, nor can the AU (nor UN) impose peace where there is none. It will take nine months to a year for the AU to be beefed up. Use this precious time to enforce the peace process, not least in the Nigerian capital, Abuja."
Paul Moorcraft, formerly in the UK's Ministry of Defence, is now director of the Centre for Foreign Policy Analysis, London. The op-ed entitled How to avoid another Iraqi quagmire, published at icWales 23 March 2006, is copied here below, in full, for future reference.

Last weekend the African Union delayed its decision to hand over its peacekeeping role in Darfur to the UN. The repercussions, for Africa and the West, could be significant, writes Paul Moorcraft:

Dr Paul Moorcraft

GEORGE BUSH set the cat among the pigeons during an un-scripted question- and-answer session in Tampa, Florida, last month.

He said he wanted an expanded international role in Sudan's Darfur battleground, suggesting a "Nato stewardship". This statement caught many policy-makers off-guard, although there is a growing bi-partisan movement in the US Congress for a greater effort in the region, where hundreds of thousands have been displaced or killed.

At first glance there is much to be said for an augmented Nato role. Already the alliance and the European Union are assisting with logistics, especially American air transport, for the 7,000 peacekeepers of the African Union (AU) operating in Darfur. The US air force has transported tons of supplies and thousands of African troops, and provided some but not all of the promised $190m for training and building camps for peacekeepers. The idea is for the west to provide a stop-gap until a large UN force - perhaps 20,000 troops - can replace the AU. A more robust and better-led force could do much to prevent the tribal fighting.

This sounds good. The problem is: it won't work. Putting white, western, Christian troops on the ground in Darfur is the only thing which would unite all the warring tribes - but in a holy war against outsiders. Defence officials in London and Brussels caution Washington by invoking the debacle in Somalia in 1993. And, in the last few days, the Bush administration has been backpedaling.

Darfur has been consumed by a brutal conflict, but it is not genocide. Khartoum is accused of sending in Arab militiamen - the so-called Janjaweed - to wipe out African tribespeople. The complex origins are tribal and political, but not racial. Intermarriage makes it usually impossible to physically differentiate "African" from "Arab" among the 35 tribes and ethnic groups. Darfur's Arabs are black, indigenous African Muslims - just like Darfur's non-Arabs.

Darfur's conflict is founded on historical banditry and the struggle for grazing lands and water. It is also about national politics - Islamic extremists in Khartoum, disciples of the disgraced spiritual leader, Hassan al-Turabi, have stirred the pot in Darfur. Turabi has backed one rebel Darfur group with the express purpose of destabilising the new government of national unity in Khartoum. Western intervention would play into the hands of Turabi's Jihadists. The tribal politics of next-door Chad have also intervened.

In 2003, when the renewed fighting began in Darfur, military intelligence in Khartoum - believers in a military solution - acted aggressively to crush the rebels who claimed that their region had been marginalised.

There is already a framework for peace. Sudan, Africa's largest state, ended the continent's longest war in 2004 - the 50-year on-off struggle between the Islamic government in Khartoum and the largely Christian/animist south. Washington - aided by London and Oslo - banged heads together during the complex haggling in Kenya. The west invested much time, patience and political energy in securing the peace deal, which will lead to more than 10,000 UN troops being positioned in the south.

Both sides in Darfur have committed terrible atrocities, and disrupted one of the world's largest humanitarian aid programmes. Rightly, the overstretch in Iraq and Afghanistan has not blinded the US and London to the killing grounds in the three Darfur states, an area bigger than France.

Khartoum violently opposes UN military intervention (though it accepts the 13,000-strong UN- led humanitarian workforce). The new government of national unity - involving former warring parties from north and south - has said it might quit the AU, if that body decides to hand over to the UN. The government in Khartoum is under great pressure already; many within the former ruling Islamic junta argue that too much has been given away.

The new government in Khartoum could implode, not just along north-south lines, but also because of bitter divisions among Islamic hardliners. All the years of international negotiations would have been in vain. Sudan has all the potential ingredients to be a failed state.

UN troops have been accepted in the largely non-Muslim south; they would be treated very differently in the fervently Islamic west. At the beginning of March nearly one million militant Sudanese in the north personally pledged to fight a Jihad if western troops intervened.

This is not a call for inaction. More people are being killed in African wars than in all the rest of the world. But the number of UN troops has nearly quintupled since 1999, from 12,700 to over 60,000 (and a lot more if you add police and UN civilians). The system is under acute strain.

African Union credibility is at stake. It should not be seen to fail in its first real attempt at international peacekeeping. On March 10, the AU decided to extend its Darfur peace mission until September at the earliest, before a possible handover to the UN. And, yes, the AU force should increase its size.

More important is the recognition that there is no military solution in Darfur. Neither side can win the war, nor can the AU (nor UN) impose peace where there is none. It will take nine months to a year for the AU to be beefed up. Use this precious time to enforce the peace process, not least in the Nigerian capital, Abuja. Despite some useful US assistance there, the peace talks and ceasefires in Darfur have been relatively ineffective. What is required is the same international effort put into Sudan's north-south peace agreement signed in Kenya in January 2005.

The independent Sultanate of Darfur was conquered by the British 90 years ago. It is surely time for London and Washington, who played a highly credible political role in ending Sudan's north-south war, to do the same in the west.

Further reading:

Feb 2005 (Paul Moorcraft Abstract) Sudan: End of the Longest War? - The Royal United Studies Institute Journal.

Nubians will be displaced from ancient seat by lake built for dam

Irish Times commentary [via Sudan Tribune] by Pieter Tesch Aug 9, 2006:

Far away from the war that has flared up again in Darfur in western Sudan, Nubian peasants in the Fourth Cataract of the Nile in northern Sudan are coming to terms with the fact that their centuries-old way of life is coming to an end soon.

Workers excavating an ancient church near the Nile’s fourth cataract, where a $1.8 billion dam is to be built. (NYT).

"Until the Chinese actually moved into Merowe a few years ago, we all thought that all government talk about a dam was just a joke. But now we have to accept that it is becoming reality and we all have to go within the next years," Ali Yousif Ali (47), the spokesman for the hamlet of ed Doma said.

The Merowe Dam Administration in Khartoum finally gave The Irish Times - through the intervention of Dr Salah Mohamed Ahmed, field director of the National Commission for Antiquities and Museums (NCAM) - permission to visit the area over Christmas. Living conditions for the peasants on the Nile bank in the Nubian desert and the numerous islands on the Nile are still very much as they were 2000 years ago.

Even though the Sudanese authorities are concerned about another region of strong opposition to the Khartoum government, Dr Salah said it was important to show the world the groundbreaking results of the archaeological salvage campaign in the Fourth Cataract area. This is the home of the civilisations of ancient Kush and medieval Christian Nubia.

The area in the big S-bend of the middle Nile in northern Sudan will be inundated by a 174km (108 mile) lake after the completion in 2008 of a dam under construction above the modern town of Merowe.

The $1.8 billion (1.52 billion) Merowe Dam, designed by Lahmeyer International of Germany and built by CCMD of China, is to produce 1,250 megawatts of electricity and provide water for the irrigation of the potentially very fertile Dongola reach of the Nile valley. It is understood that 5,000 of the 17,000 Chinese in Sudan work on the Merowe Dam, the remainder working in the burgeoning Sudanese oil industry.

It is the biggest project of its kind since the construction of the Aswan High Dam in southern Egypt in the 1960s. And it is just as controversial - not only because important archaeological sites will disappear under water, but also because of the resettlement of 49,000 local people who have lived for centuries along the banks of the Nile, tilling their small fields.

The memory of the traumatic resettlement of Nubian people in Egypt and northern Sudan as a result of the new Aswan High Dam is still fresh. Local people are anxious to secure strong guarantees for compensation from the Sudanese government for the loss of their family farms. They also want back-up to start new lives in the resettlement areas on four locations outside the inundated area.

Recently, villagers in the area held a number of meetings with Merowe Dam Administration that have been described as heated. "We have to accept that the dam is for the greater benefit of Sudan, but we want cast-iron guarantees that the government honour its promise to us," said Ali Yousif.

He explained that the people were unhappy with the impression that the dam administration was positioning itself between the people and the government in Khartoum, making direct contact impossible. The government was already so far away, he said.

Ali Yousif stressed that they wanted better relations with government and had rejected approaches from Sudan’s notorious Islamist politician Dr Hassan al-Turabi.

"We don’t want anything to do with people stirring up trouble for their own reasons," he said.

The lessons of the resettlement of Sudanese Nubians from the Wadi Halfa area on the border with Egypt in the 1960s had been learned, said Muawla Mohamad Salih Elbager, environmental affairs director of the Merowe Dam Administration.

The resettlement areas are closer to the original homeland than in the 1960s, and each family would be given a farm of six feddan (a feddan is roughly 200sq m or 656sq ft).

But land on the banks of the Nile is much better than irrigated land in the desert, said Ali Yousif, who farms a plot of two feddan under a grove of date palms in changing rotation between summer and winter. Especially good date palms - his main cash crop - are slow to mature.

At the moment, ed Doma was the home also of the archaeological mission of the British-Museum-based Sudan Archaeological Research Society.

One advantage of the building of the dam is that he was beginning to learn more about his own history, said Ali Yousif, who described his wife Melka ("queen" in Arabic) and their nine children as "pure Manasir", a local Arabised Nubian tribe. "I did not know our forefathers had been Christians," he said.

Dr Derek Welsby of the archaeological research society explained that the Fourth Cataract was far from a backwater as had been long assumed - it had been outside the major old caravan routes. Instead, it had seen continuous human habitation since Mesolithic times and covered all major northern Sudanese civilisations from the first kingdom of Kush (the so-called Kerma culture, between 2500 and 1500 BC) to the Christian Nubian kingdom of Makuria in the Middle Ages.

In the desolate but strangely beautiful landscape of the Fourth Cataract, it is not unusual to come across large burial sites from the Kerma period, those from the transition period between pagan antiquity and the Middle Ages, and Christian cemeteries, all close to each other, while the nearby rocks are covered by drawings from all periods.

It was a hard life to farm in the Fourth Cataract and probably there were better opportunities in the new villages for his children. But Ali Yousif will miss feeling the breeze from the Nile in the shade of the date groves that he, his father and his grandfather had tended and planted.

(Irish Times)