Monday, October 23, 2006

Sudan expels UN official for blog revealing Darfur military defeats

The buffoons running Sudan have shot themselves in the foot trying to expel UN SRSG Jan Pronk. Hopefully, this latest fiasco will show the Khartoum regime for what it is, and result in an agreement on UN troops for an "AU Plus" peackeeping force in Darfur.

It's difficult to believe more than a few people would approve of Khartoum's move to expel Mr Pronk. In fact it's a wonder how anyone can take Khartoum seriously anymore. Bashir's days now seem numbered. For his outfit to stay in power (better the devil you know) I thought it needed onside both the AU and UN. Surely people in southern Sudan (and its government!) won't take kindly to Khartoum's latest move to hurt relations with the UN and expel Mr Pronk who heads up the UN's peacekeeping in the region. Maybe soon we'll see press photos of Sudanese people marching with placards in support of Jan Pronk/UN!

Oct 23 2006 Guardian report by Jonathan Steele - excerpt:
The highly unusual expulsion of a UN official is likely to sour relations between Khartoum and the UN, which were already tense because of Sudan's refusal to accept a security council resolution calling for 20,000 troops to move into Darfur to protect civilians. Ironically, Mr Pronk had made it clear he personally agreed with Sudan's position that African Union troops could do the job just as well, provided they had proper funds and equipment. He was also a critic of the Bush administration for its confrontational line towards Khartoum.

Mr Pronk, 66, had a reputation for being outspoken as a minister in two Dutch governments but he took the unusual step of writing a regular weblog after his appointment as Mr Annan's special representative in Khartoum two years ago. This seems to have been his main sin. The weblog in which he often described the war in Darfur in graphic terms without the usual caution of a diplomat became required reading for everyone watching Sudan's war-torn western region closely.

The Sudanese government has admitted suffering two recent setbacks on the battlefield, at Um Sidir to the north of the main town El Fasher, and again near the Chadian border two weeks ago. But Mr Pronk's weblog gave new details. "The losses seem to have been very high," he wrote.

"Reports speak about hundreds of casualties in each of the two battles with many wounded and many taken as prisoner. The morale in the government army in north Darfur has gone down.

"Some generals have been sacked; soldiers have refused to fight. The government has responded by directing more troops and equipment from elsewhere to the region and by mobilizing Arab militia. This is a dangerous development. Security council resolutions which forbid armed mobilisation are being violated. The use of militia with ties with the Janjaweed recalls the events in 2003 and 2004. During that period of the conflict systematic militia attacks, supported or at least allowed by the SAF [Sudanese Armed Forces], led to atrocious crimes."

Foreign ministry spokesman Ali al-Sadiq explained the expulsion as resulting from "the latest statements issued by Mr Pronk on his website regarding severe criticism of the Sudanese Armed Forces and the fact that he said the government of Sudan is not implementing the Darfur peace agreement".

Mr Sadiq said rebels would consider Mr Pronk's comments as encouragement to continue their military campaign.

Mr Pronk also annoyed the army by crossing frontlines and meeting rebel leaders in Darfur this month, although he made it clear on his weblog that he urged them to accept a ceasefire and think about signing the peace deal brokered in May.

He wrote: "In a mass meeting with them - I counted about 300 military commanders and political officials - they promised not to attack the Sudanese Armed Forces ... I demanded more: stop considering AMIS, the African Union Peace Keeping Force, as your enemy. Guarantee that bandits and rogue commanders no longer harass aid workers and steal their vehicles. Do not reject the Darfur Peace Agreement, but consider this text as a basis for peace, as a starting point for further talks."

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