Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Sudan calls on AU to clarify peacekeeping role in Darfur

Nov 29 2006 Xinhua report excerpt:
The Sudanese government asked on Wednesday the African Union (AU) to clarify its peacekeeping role in Sudan's war-torn western region of Darfur.

The Sudanese government made the call on the eve of an upcoming meeting of the AU Peace and Security Council to be held in the Nigerian capital Abuja to look into the situation in Darfur.

Sudanese President Omar el-Bashir left Khartoum for Abuja on Wednesday evening to attend the meeting.

"We hope that the summit will come up with a clear decision on the AU force in Darfur in the next period and support to be provided by the United Nation to the AU force," Sudanese Foreign Minister Lam Akol told reporters.

Mahjoub Fadel Badri, spokesman of the Sudanese president, announced that President el-Bashir would hold consultations with African leaders on ways of resolving the Darfur crisis on the sidelines of the Abuja summit

"The president will reiterate Sudan's firm position of refusing deployment of UN peacekeeping force in Darfur and the necessity to support the AU force in technical and logistic fields to enable it to continue its mission until the Darfur problem is resolved," the spokesman said.

UN's WFP warehouses looted in Abeche, Chad - Warning ahead of Darfur AU talks

Nov 29 2006 BBC report Warning ahead of Darfur AU talks says UN's aid chief Jan Egeland has warned that conflicts in Sudan's Darfur, Chad and Central African Republic are now "intimately linked".

He said fighters are crossing borders to launch attacks and risking a "really dangerous regional crisis".

His comments in Geneva come as the African Union meets in Nigeria, to discuss help for the overwhelmed and ill-equipped African force in Darfur.

Chad rebels

Photos: This Sunday, Nov. 26, 2006 images made available Monday, Nov. 27 by the United Nations World Food Programme shows looted warehouses in Abeche, Chad. With gunfire sounding in the distance, workers took stock Monday of looted U.N. warehouses and government offices in this town in eastern Chad, the latest victim of unrest that started in Sudan's Darfur region and has spread across a swath of Africa. (AP Photo/United Nations World Food Programme)

Chad rebels

UN: Nearly two million displaced in Darfur

Nov 27 2006 Sapa-AFP report (via M&G) UN: Nearly two million displaced in Darfur
More people have fled their homes in Sudan's Darfur region than at any time since the conflict started nearly four years ago, said the United Nations on Monday in a report on the worsening humanitarian crisis.

"The number of IDPs [internally displaced people] has reached nearly two million, the highest level since the conflict started in 2003 and an increase of [about] 125 000 since the July 1 report," said a summary of the report.

The report reviews the humanitarian situation in Sudan's western region of Darfur covering the months of July, August and September.

"Another two million Darfurians directly affected by the ongoing crisis are in need of humanitarian aid, again the highest number ... since the beginning of the current crisis," the report added.

The conflict started in February 2003 when ethnic minority rebels demanding a greater share of the country's resources took up arms, prompting a scorched-earth campaign by the government and its allied Janjaweed militia.

According to the UN, at least 200 000 people have died from the combined effect of civil fighting and famine since then. Some sources say the toll is much higher, with villages burnt and mass rape being blamed mainly on the militia.

The UN, which runs the largest humanitarian operation in Sudan, also said it was being increasingly obstructed in its relief efforts.
Darfur population figures are estimated at 6 million, 6.5 million, or 6-7 million If true, where are the other 4m I wonder. And where are the bodies of 200,000 - 400,000 Darfurians buried, I still wonder ...

Pundits and activists living in cloud cuckoo land

Funny, I've used the term 'living in cloud cuckoo land' to describe the pundits and activists pushing for war in Sudan.

American blogger Jerry Fowler of Voices on Genocide Prevention notes the new Human Rights Council rejected an attempt to hold the Sudanese government responsible for halting atrocities in Darfur.

Jerry says the Council meets in Geneva but might as well be in cloud cuckoo land for all the good it's doing to protect human rights of civilians in Darfur. I wonder what exactly Jerry hoped they'd do or say at this point in negotiations.

It irks me to read armchair pundits criticising what is being done about Darfur without saying what should be done and spelling out the consequences of any action. Surely if they did their homework and thought through what they were suggesting for Sudan, they might realise they're being irresponsible pushing for more war and possibly the start of World War III.
- - -

UPDATE: Nov 29 2006 Reuters - Annan criticises UN rights body, wants Darfur move - Annan said that a "new atmosphere" was urgently needed but that some of the criticism of the Council was premature.

Sudan set to respond today on planned UN-AU force in Darfur- Annan

Excerpt from yesterday's UN News Centre report 28 Nov 2006:
Secretary-General Kofi Annan said today that the Sudanese Government has promised to respond formally by tomorrow morning about the details for a planned hybrid United Nations-African Union (AU) force to assume peacekeeping duties in the war-torn region of Darfur.

Speaking to reporters at UN Headquarters in New York, Mr. Annan said Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir made the pledge during a telephone call today, one day before an AU summit in Abuja is slated to discuss the proposed joint operation.

Asked about media reports that Mr. Bashir has said he remains opposed to any kind of UN force in Darfur, Mr. Annan said he would "much rather wait" for the formal response.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Annan urges AU to press ahead on 'hybrid' Darfur force

Nov 29 2006 VOA:
U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan says he expects the African Union to press ahead with plans for a U.N.-supported "hybrid" peacekeeping mission in Darfur.

Mr. Annan discussed the so-called "hybrid force" proposal in a telephone conversation Tuesday with Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir. The call came a day after the Sudanese leader told a video news conference his government would not accept U.N.-backed foreign troops in Darfur.

Two weeks ago, after a high-level meeting on Darfur in Addis Ababa, Mr. Annan announced that Sudan had agreed "in principle" to a joint African Union-U.N. mission for the region. U.N. officials said the agreement called for a blue-helmeted force of 17,000 troops and 3,000 police officers to bolster an existing 7,000-strong AU force.

Since then, however, Sudanese authorities have made conflicting statements about their understanding of the deal.

President Bashir added to the confusion Monday when he said foreign peacekeepers coming to Sudan under a U.N. Security Council resolution would be considered "colonizing forces." At the same time, however, he said refusing to accept blue-helmeted troops does not mean Khartoum is not cooperating with the world body.

Secretary-General Annan told reporters Tuesday Mr. Bashir had promised a fuller explanation regarding three questions Sudan had raised about the Addis Ababa agreement.

"The first question was the size of the force, what strength the force should be," said Mr. Annan. "The second question dealt with the appointment of the Special Representative, or the High Representative, who would report to both the African Union and the U.N., and the appointment of the commander, where they felt that the commander should be an African. And we have no problem with that."

Mr. Annan said the Sudanese reply would be discussed at an African Union summit Wednesday in the Nigerian capital, Abuja. He told reporters he expects African Union leaders to "press ahead" with the agreement reached earlier this month in Addis Ababa.

Sudan & UN Troops: Contradiction?

Here is a copy of some comments at Drima's blog entry on Sudan & UN Troops: Contradiction?
The Raccoon Says:
November 28th, 2006
Seems to me like Sudan is playing the waiting game, much like Iran. Just stall everything long enough and there won't be a need for any troops... unless they come with shovels.

Roman Kalik Says:
November 28th, 2006
Yep. The logic seems to be to keep the clock ticking until the problem becomes an even bigger problem, as long as it isn't the regime's problem.

Sudan's president spews anti-Semitism

Thanks to Howie for sending in this report by David Byers, The Jerusalem Post, Nov 28 2006: Sudan's president spews anti-Semitism.

Chad says Saudi Arabia finances and supplies rebels

Chadian government spokesman Doumgor claimed some refugees were working for the Sudanese government to destabilize Chad. He also repeated allegations made a day earlier that Saudi Arabia finances and supplies the rebels to spread the kingdom's strict form of Islam.

Full story by AP 28 Nov 2006 via IHT.

Jan Pronk: Can diplomats write weblogs?

UN SRSG Jan Pronk - Weblog Nov 27, 2006. Copy in full:
After I had been declared persona non grata by the Government of Sudan I have received hundreds and hundreds of e-mails. About ninety percent was positive. People thanked me for candid reporting, shared their criticism of the violations of the peace agreement with me and urged me to continue. A small minority was negative. Some Dutch said that they had been happy that I, as a left wing politician, had left Dutch politics a couple of years earlier. They urged me to stay away. Others, mainly Sudanese, told me that they were fully in agreement with the Government. Some of them told me to stay away from Sudan and threatened me in case I would return. However, I also received quite a few positive reactions from Sudanese people, both from Darfur, the South, Khartoum and the Diaspora. I have tried to answer all mail in person, the positive as well as the critical ones, provided that rational arguing was possible.

Some people have raised the issue of the weblog itself. As I wrote in my previous weblog, nr 37, the Government had argued that throughout the year I had developed a history of hostility against the Government of Sudan and its armed forces. As an example the Government mentioned, in its letter to the Secretary General of the UN, "damaging and negative statements to the media and in his (i.e. my) own website." However, I am convinced that the real reason was that the Government wanted to silence me. I had regularly reported that the Government and the army, despite the signing of the Darfur Peace Agreement, had continued to violate this agreement as well as Security Council Resolutions. They did so, I argued, by bringing more and more military forces to Darfur, by incorporating the Janjaweed in its own para-military forces and by arming in stead of disarming them, by continuing attacks and bombardments on positions of rebel movements and by allowing and supporting attacks on civilians. The Government, I argued, though having agreed to making peace, clearly continued to seek a military victory.

Since then the facts on the ground in Darfur have shown that I was right. Attacks have continued and intensified. The number of casualties has increased. Villages have been burned down. Many innocent civilians have been killed and chased away. The cleansing continues. There is no peace whatsoever in Darfur. To a great extent this is the responsibility of the Government. I will refrain from documenting this in my weblog of today. It has been documented in the daily situation reports published by UNMIS, in press releases by the African Union, in statements made by my colleague Under-Secretary General Jan Egeland, following his recent visit to Sudan, as well as in reports published by UNHCR and the UN High Commissioner on Human Rights. It is public knowledge.

Should I have published this in my weblog? Some people have argued that my weblog has contributed to the conflict with the Government. In their view I should have exercised restraint in criticizing the Government. I have been told that this is the position of some members of the UN bureaucracy, though none of them ever communicated this to me directly. The bureaucracy is not familiar with the phenomenon of UN diplomats writing blogs. Politicians writing blogs are a more regular phenomenon. From their side I have received only positive comments. In the meeting of the Security Council, which I briefed after I had been expulsed from Sudan, no criticism on my writing of a blog was raised. On the contrary, all criticisms were directed at the Government of Sudan for having taken an unjustified and illegitimate decision. From the side of non-governmental organisations and Sudan watchers I have always been stimulated to continue writing. Some press commentaries were a bit more critical, but the attitude of journalists towards journalistic blogs by people in responsible positions is generally rather ambivalent.

I can understand such an ambivalent position. Politicians, high officials and other decision makers writing about their experiences are not objective, neutral, impartial analysts. They tend to be selective and subjective. They will be inclined to emphasize certain aspects of events more than others and to report in a rather coloured fashion. In writing my blog I was aware of this risk. I have made an effort to avoid undue subjectivity. I certainly did not pretend to write my blog as a substitute for independent writings by journalists.

Why did I write? I had two reasons. First, I like combining my work as a politician with analytical reflections on what I am doing and on the environment within which I am working. I have always done so, by lecturing, by writing articles and essays and by making extensive notes for myself. It helps me focussing. Blogging for me was a convenient extension of this practice, simply by using a new instrument. I had a second reason. Why not sharing my reflections with others? I wanted to be accountable, not only to the UN bureaucracy in New York, whom we were sending regularly extensive analytical reports, but broader. I consider myself much more a politician than a diplomat. Politicians have to be accountable and transparent.

I also wrote to inform in particular people in Sudan itself. I gave quite a few press conferences in Khartoum. However, despite the lifting of press censorship in Sudan one and a half year ago, the press did not always feel free to print what was not to the liking of the Government. Instead of being censored before a text was put to print, which until mid 2005 had daily been the case for all texts of all newspapers, press freedom got increasingly curtailed by a combination of self censorship and threats to be charged with violations of security laws. Moreover, the Sudanese press is not free to visit Darfur on its own initiative. Sudanese radio and TV refused to interview UN personnel or to broadcast information contradicting the official position of the authorities, let alone dissenting opinions. For these reasons reports about events in Sudan, published by UNMIS on its website, news broadcast by radio Miraya and the background information that I provided on my own website were a useful complement to what the general public in Sudan could read in the newspapers, hear on the radio or see on TV.

In my weblog I wrote the same as what I said in press conferences, in interviews with the international press, in public speeches or in reports which were published either by UNMIS itself or through UN Headquarters in New York. It has been said that my blog reflected my personal opinion, different from an opinion in my capacity as Special Representative of the Secretary General of the United Nations in Sudan. This is nonsense. In my blog I said the same as in press conferences and on other public occasions, attended in my official capacity. How could somebody in my position make a distinction between official and private? Such a distinction can only be made for statements about issues which do not fall under my mandate, such as the reform of the UN, the war in Lebanon or the elections in The Netherlands. Once appointed as Special Representative of the Secretary General of the United Nations, any view expressed by me about Sudan, at any time, anywhere and with the help of any medium, is the official view.

As a public official I am a participant in a process, not a spectator. As a participant I am subjective. However, that official subjectivity is rooted in norms and values enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations and the Charter on Human Rights. It is my duty to disseminate these values and to highlight violations. I am duty bound to do so in a credible and legitimate manner. I have always tried to do so, transparently and consistently. For that reason I have set myself some rules which I should keep while writing my blog:

First: Present only facts, not rumours or hearsay. Check the facts; don't make up stories.

Second: Present only quotes of public statements. Do not quote what other persons said in official or informal meetings. In references to such meetings only quote your self. Do not breach confidentiality.

Third: Present criticism in a balanced manner. Approach all parties alike. Be even handed.

Fourth: Do not attack individual persons. Criticize organizations, institutions or movements. Criticize their values, policies and behaviour, when they are in conflict with internationally agreed principles and norms.

Fifth: Do not only present criticism. Do not only report negative developments. Highlight also positive facts. Do not withhold praise, when deserved.

Together these rules can ensure a fair degree of honesty. Of course it is always difficult to combine, in one text, news with commentaries. That is the eternal dilemma of a journalist. As I said, I am not a journalist, but a politician. It is the duty of a politician to present opinions on the basis of facts, and to translate these opinions into action. In my position I had to combine a political posture with a diplomatic approach.

In the end I may not have been successful. However, that has nothing to do with blogging. As I said earlier, I had to combine the two approaches also when giving a press conference and when addressing the Security Council or other forums. The Government of Sudan, requesting me to leave Sudanese territory, did not only refer to what I had written in my weblog, but to 'statements to the media and in (the) website'. They criticized me for the content of my statements, not for the channels that I had used. I utterly disagree with the views and policies of the Government, but in one aspect they are right: it is not important where you say something, but what you say. So, if bureaucrats want to criticize views expressed by politicians or diplomats, they should not criticize the medium, but the message.

Many people have asked me whether I deplore what I had written in my weblog. I don't. Some sentences could have been written differently. If I would have known before how the Government would react, I would have chosen other language. However, the sole purpose of my statements was to persuade the rebel movements to refrain from further attacks on the Sudanese Armed Forces. I succeeded, because the rebel commanders committed themselves to a purely defensive posture and requested me to bring this message to the Government. However, the Government clearly did not want to lose a possible justification for the attacks by the Army and the militia. For that reason they bombed the place where I had met the rebel commanders before I could bring the message to Khartoum. Since then they have continued to seek a military victory. They would have found another reason to declare me persona non grata if I would have persisted in my public criticism.

The Government is still violating peace and ceasefire agreements as well as principles, norms and values of the UN. It continues to do so, despite having signed these agreements and despite that Sudan, as a member state of the United Nations, is bound to uphold these principles. In my capacity as Special Representative of the United Nations I still consider it my duty to disseminate these norms and values and to report about violations.
Great stuff. Historic. Please keep on blogging Mr Pronk! Don't allow them to silence you. Millions of homeless Sudanese people are depending on the truth being told.

Chad rebels shoot down govt plane

The following report tells us foreign diplomats said they believed the plane shot down was one of two aircraft, thought to be Italian-made Marquetti fighters, which Libyan leader Col Gaddafi had made available to Chad's military in recent days to counter the rebel threat.
Reuters report Nov 28 2006 by Stephanie Hancock - Chad rebels say they shot down government plane (via WP) - excerpt:

Chadian rebels said on Tuesday they shot down a government military plane with a captured ground-to-air missile in fighting near the eastern town of Abeche, which they briefly seized at the weekend.

"The plane was shot down by a missile launched by our forces. It was attacking our positions," Mahamat Nouri, leader of the rebel Union of Forces for Democracy and Development (UFDD), told Reuters by satellite telephone.

A military source in Chad said a plane appeared to be missing in action after it failed to return to the air base in Abeche after a sortie on Tuesday morning, but he could not give any further details.

Chadian Defense ministry officials could not be reached for immediate comment.

Foreign diplomats said they believed the plane shot down was one of two aircraft, thought to be Italian-made Marquetti fighters, which Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi had made available to Chad's military in recent days to counter the rebel threat.

UFDD spokesman Ali Ahmat told Reuters the plane was shot down during fighting with government forces 40 km (25 miles) west of Abeche. He said a government helicopter had also been shot down, but that claim could not immediately be confirmed.

Not even 9,000 have died in Darfur, Sudanese president

AFP report : Not even 9,000 have died in Darfur, Sudanese president - excerpt:
Bashir also reiterated his stance supporting the continued presence of AU monitors in Darfur and denied his country's acceptance of a proposal for a "hybrid force" comprising troops from both the AU and the UN.

He charged that the deployment of some 20,000 UN peacekeepers stipulated in the August 31 UN Security Council resolution would de facto place his country under international mandate.

"We would run the risk of having a Bremer Mark II and just look at what he did to Iraq," Beshir said, in reference to Paul Bremer, who headed the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq in the aftermath of the 2003 US-led invasion.

Bashir argued the only solution to the conflict in Darfur was to continue efforts to rally holdout rebel groups to the May peace agreement Khartoum signed with the main rebel faction.

"This is a strategic choice for us," he said.
No doubt Libya and other neighbours will agree with him.

Sudanese criticise Bashir denial of Darfur crisis

Nov 28 2006 Reuters report by Opheera McDoom - Sudanese criticise Bashir denial of Darfur crisis - excerpt:
Sudanese political parties criticised President Omar Hassan al-Bashir on Tuesday, saying that in a news conference broadcast live to nine countries he showed signs of denial and lack of respect for Sudanese lives.

"The people outside will think that the president is lying and he does not respect the international community. This is an attitude of denial which will not solve the problem," said Bashir Adam Rahman of the Popular Congress Party.

"When he denies the sun in the middle of the day that means either he is not serious or he thinks people are fools," added Rahman, who is political secretary of the opposition party.

Mariam al-Mahdi, spokeswoman for the opposition Umma Party, said Bashir has shown a lack of respect for the lives of Sudanese people, adding that a few months ago he had said 10,000 people have been killed in the troubled region of western Sudan, more than the 9,000 he mentioned on Monday night.

"How can our last resort -- the president -- belittle the deaths of Sudanese people?" she said.

"Ultimately foreigners are more kind to our people than our president," said Mahdi.

Al-Tayyib Khamis, spokesman for the former Darfur rebel group the Sudan Liberation Movement (SLM), which joined central government after signing a peace deal in May, said Bashir had underestimated the number of dead by at least five times.

"There are no people in the world suffering as much as the people of Darfur," he said. "Without the humanitarian agencies the people of Darfur would be dead."

"We ask the president: 'Where is the security in Darfur?' There's no stability ... there's still rape, the Janjaweed are still burning villages," Khamis said.

But SLM leader Minni Arcua Minnawi, now a presidential adviser, said earlier on Monday that the government was working with the Janjaweed, rearming and mobilising them.

"Minni is right -- the Janjaweed are part of the government and they work with the government," said Khamis.

Rahman said Bashir wanted to have his comments heard ahead of the African Union's Peace and Security Council meeting in Nigeria on Wednesday, which is likely to decide whether to extend the mandate of the struggling AU peace monitoring force in Darfur to beyond the end of the year.

Sudan president rejects UN troops

Nov 28 2006 BBC report Sudan president rejects UN troops - excerpt:
Speaking through a translator, President Bashir said he would only accept logistical and financial support for the current African Union mission.

"We will work with the UN as we have a lot of work with the UN, but this does not mean that we accept this resolution as it is a resolution that will return colonialism to Sudan," Mr Bashir said.

"The focus should be on implementing the [Abuja] agreement, and we do not accept the referral of the AU mission to UN troops."

Mr Bashir's two-and-a-half hour news conference was broadcast live to eight capital cities around the world, including London, Washington, Paris and Berlin.

The BBC's Jonah Fisher, in Khartoum, says Mr Bashir believes the Darfur crisis is the invention of the Western media, designed to deflect attention from military problems in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"We do not say that there is no problem and that there are refugees and displaced, but any talk of a humanitarian crisis is not true," he said.

"They say that more than 200,000 thousand have been killed in Darfur, we affirm that this number is not true and that... the number of deaths has not reached 9,000.

Those who argue that the situation on the ground is deteriorating are liars, Mr Bashir said, with only five out of Darfur's 22 localities affected by violence.

Mr Bashir said he believes only a few thousand more people need to be deployed to Darfur.

And he criticised the vast humanitarian operation in Darfur, feeding two million people, which he said has become an industry.

According to President Bashir, aid agencies - many with a hidden Israeli presence - were fabricating reports of attacks and mass rape in order to expand their operations.

Monday, November 27, 2006

UN's Pronk calls for $1.5 billion a year for African and Arab peacekeepers in Darfur

Despite receiving threats on his life and disgusting treatment by the Sudanese government, UN SRSG Jan Pronk continues to work hard at helping the people Sudan. See Nov 26 2006 AFP report - Pronk slams international passivity toward Darfur. Excerpt:
"The situation is very simple," Pronk said. "The government of Sudan has violated the peace treaty in Darfur to which it was a signatory. And it continues to violate this treaty. It bombs villages. It recruits more and more soldiers, instead of disarming the militias. It always seeks a military solution."

Pronk also called on world powers to finance an African Union peacekeeping force for Darfur to the tune of one to 1.5 billion dollars (760 million to 1.1 billion euros) a year - the amount he says would have been earmarked for a UN peacekeeping force rejected by Khartoum.

The operation should be composed of 17,000 soldiers from both Arab and African counties, Pronk said, so it is not perceived by Islamist militants as an occupation force.

SLM's Nur urges Darfur rebels to join SLM or JEM for peace talks

More good news. The [impeached] leader of the Sudan Liberation Movement (SLM) Abdelwahid al-Nur, who is currently in a European tour, said his group is ready for talks with the Sudanese government on the additional paper for the Darfur peace talks.

Full story from Paris 26 Nov 2006 via ST.

AU, UN ink deal on first phase of 'hybrid' Darfur force

Good news. Compromise has been reached. UN and AU officials signed a memorandum of understanding Saturday for phase one of the plan, they said.

Full story by AFP 26 Nov 2006.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Sudanese intelligence chief was in London for treatment

Gillian Lusk, a former deputy editor of Africa Confidential, has followed Salah Abdallah's career from his days as a violent Islamist student in Khartoum University. She said: "It seems unlikely that Britain and the US's 'intelligence co-operation' with Sudan's Islamist regime will bring much of great use in counter-terrorism: Khartoum is expert at running rings around the international community, and the 300,000 to 500,000 people who have died in Darfur have paid the price of this co-operation." - The Independent (Francis Elliott) via ST 26 Nov 2006.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Interventionism's realistic future (Robert D Kaplan)


Illustration by Dwynn Ronald V. Trazo/Gulf News

Nov 26 2006 Gulfnews Interventionism's realistic future
By Robert D. Kaplan, Los Angeles Times-Washington Post News Service.

Kitchener's boat needs you to get her back in shape

Here is a copy of a great story in The Times Nov 25, 2006 by Ben Macintyre, Khartoum - Kitchener's boat needs you to get her back in shape:
She led the British flotilla at the Battle of Omdurman, and she's been a haven for expatriate gin drinkers. Now the rusting Melik has become an unlikely symbol of Anglo-Sudanese co-operation.

Kitchener's boat needs you to get her back in shape

Photo: The Melik was tossed ashore after the Nile flooded in 1987 and is now a lopsided home for a Bengali worker (Nick Ray)

The mighty gunboat deployed by General Kitchener at the Battle of Omdurman may soon sail again, more than a century after it blasted its way up the Nile to crush rebellion in Sudan.

For the past 20 years, the 145ft Melik has been slowly rusting on the muddy bank of the Blue Nile at Khartoum. But after years of being lobbied for its preservation the Sudanese authorities have now agreed in principle to the establishment of a joint Anglo-Sudanese charity whose task will be to restore the ancient battleship.

"We are hopeful in the next month that we will be able to get this show on the road," says Anthony Harvey, secretary of the Melik Society, a British-based group that has campaigned for 12 years to save the boat. "There is no reason why the Melik should not be fully restored and able to go back in the water."

In some ways, the Melik is an unlikely symbol of Anglo-Sudanese co-operation. The gunboat was a Victorian weapon of high technology and fearsome power, intended to terrorise the Sudanese rebels and to kill as many as possible.

It was built in Chiswick in 1896, then shipped in pieces to Egypt, taken by rail across the Nubian Desert and reassembled at Abadieh on the Nile. From there it led a flotilla of heavily armed gunboats, a vital element in Kitchener's reconquest of Khartoum in 1898.

Thirteen years earlier, Sudanese warriors led by the messianic Mahdi Muhammad Ahmad had rebelled against Egyptian-Turkish rule, besieged Khartoum and killed the Governor-General, General Charles George Gordon.

With most of Sudan under the Mahdi's control, Britain decided to bring the rebellious Sudanese to heel. General Sir Herbert Kitchener, in the name of the Egyptian Khedive, set out to avenge the defeat and subdue Sudan with 8,000 British regulars, a mixed force of 17,000 Sudanese and Egyptian troops and a fleet of gunboats equipped with 12-pounder guns, howitzers and Maxim guns.

Searchlights were mounted on the Melik's roof to ward off a feared attack at night by the Mahdist forces.

The Melik, commanded by General Gordon's nephew, Major W. S. "Monkey" Gordon, was also the first battleship to carry a film correspondent: Frederick Villiers, of the Illustrated London News, brought a cine camera with him - which broke before a single inch of footage was shot. The ensuing battle, however, was reported by Winston Churchill, then a young journalist riding with the 21st Lancers.

Against the British force, the Mahdi's successor (the Khalifa), Abdullah al-Taashi, deployed 50,000 holy warriors, known as Ansar but sometimes referred to as Dervishes, mostly armed with spears, muskets and ancient rifles. The Khalifa had two machine guns; Kitchener's troops had 55.

In the course of the engagement, the 21st Lancers mounted one of the last cavalry charges in history, earning three Victoria Crosses. But the battle was essentially won by modern military methods and brutal firepower, including the Melik's ferocious battery of guns. The Ansar, with their chain-mail armour and crocodile-skin shields, were no match for the Maxim guns, which could fire 500 rounds a minute.

Churchill wrote that the Battle of Omdurman was "the most signal triumph ever gained by the arms of science over barbarians. Within five hours the strongest and best-armed savage army yet arrayed against a foreign power had been destroyed."

At least 10,000 Ansar died; many more were wounded and taken prisoner. Only 48 were killed on the British side.

The Melik transported Kitchener (who was soon to be ennobled as Lord Kitchener of Khartoum) in triumph from the field of Omdurman to the governor's destroyed palace in Khartoum. The Mahdist forces were finally defeated the following year, and the Khalifa was killed at the Battle of Umm Diwaykarat.

In 1926, the Melik was moored to the riverbank at Khartoum and became the clubhouse for the Blue Nile Sailing Club. From her deck, refurbished as a comfortable bar, expatriates would gather to drink pink gins and watch the sailing races on the Nile. She emerged briefly from retirement in 1938 to play a starring role in the Alexander Korda film The Four Feathers.

Understandably, the citizens of Sudan had less fond feelings for the old warship: what British people saw as a souvenir of imperial glory, many Sudanese viewed as a remnant of colonial oppression. In the 1960s, the Melik's steel hull began to corrode. In 1987, the Nile burst its banks, ripped the ship from her moorings and tossed her on to the shore.

Today the gunboat sits in a bed of dried mud and sand in a grove of mahogany trees, its decks tipped at an angle, the roof collapsing. A Bengali worker now eats and sleeps in what were once its panelled staterooms, beneath a rotting roof invaded by creepers.

The bow-gun used to such effect during the Battle of Omdurman remains intact, as does the wheel in the disintegrating wheelhouse, but the bar is crumbling. Pink gin is forbidden in Sudan, a Muslim country.

The Blue Nile Sailing Club survives, but lacks the funds needed to maintain the ship. "An important source of revenue for the club dried up when alcohol was banned," Mr Harvey says.

The Melik Society was established in 1994, with the present Earl Kitchener as patron, to try to preserve and restore the ship. Tortuous negotiations involved Britain, various Sudanese government bodies, including the Sudanese Ministry of Culture and Ancient Monuments Service, and the Blue Nile Sailing Club, which insists that it still owns the boat.

Ian Cliff, the British Ambassador to Sudan, says: "We would like to see restoration of the vessel, to see it sailing again on the Nile, which is perfectly possible."

Sudan is facing escalating violence in Darfur, political instability and widespread poverty, so if the Melik is to be saved, the money will have to come from charitable donations.

The Melik Society recently commissioned Fraser Nash, the marine engineers, to carry out a survey of the ship. The engineers concluded that, just as the Melik was assembled in pieces in 1896, so it could be deconstructed, by unbolting its sections, before being repaired and reassembled.

"It will not cost a vast amount of money," says Mr Harvey, pointing out that the Khartoum shipyard is just a few hundred yards away on the other side of the Nile.

The refurbished Melik would have to earn her keep, as a floating tourist attraction, perhaps providing battlefield tours by river to nearby Omdurman.

Jabril Mafuz, a shipworker from Bengal, has now taken up permanent residence inside the immobilised ship. He takes the wheel and looks out across the glittering waters of the Nile through a broken and rotted window. His expression is proudly proprietorial.

General Kitchener must once have stood in the same place as he steamed upriver, loaded down with guns and imperial hubris.

"Very good ship," says Mr Mafuz, affectionately patting the wheel-house. "Very comfortable. But not in rainy season. Would you like a cup of tea?"


Battle statistics

11 The months Gordon held out in Khartoum before he was routed and killed in 1885

13 The years it took before the British could avenge Gordon's death

1896 The year in which the Melik was built in Chiswick, England

25,000 The total number of men by which Kitchener was outnumbered at the Battle of Omdurman

500 The number of rounds a minute the Melik's Maxim guns fired

Source: The Melik Society
Plot Summary for Khartoum (1966)

Khartoum (1966)

English General Charles George Gordon, a devout Christian, is appointed military governor of Anglo-Egyptian Sudan by Prime Minister Gladstone. Ordered to evacuate Egyptians from the Sudan, General Gordon stays on to protect the people of Khartoum, who are under threat of being conquered by a Muslim army. His Christian faith and military command are challenged by Mohammed Ahmed el Mahdi, "the Expected One," the head of the Muslim forces.

[Summary written by Jon C. Hopwood]

Khartoum (1966)

Rebels 'enter key Chadian city' How can anyone tell who is Arab and non-Arab?

Here's another post for Drima and the Mideast youth bloggers.
Nov 25 2006 BBC news report entitled Rebels 'enter key Chadian city' says "the UN estimates that more than 200,000 refugees from Sudan are in Chad and that more than 50,000 Chadians have been displaced by fighting between Arab and non-Arab groups".
How can anyone tell who is Arab and non-Arab?
- - -

Heh. Drima has a new ticker tape on his blog saying:
"Shame on the MSM [mainstream media] for not reporting enough on Darfur"
- - -

United power ...

Note, the importance of water is not lost on the author of Noli Irritare Leones blog who's inviting comments and looking for blogs from Chad and CAR. See Noli Irritare Leones - Africa blogwatch and a little background on Darfur/Chad/CAR. Excerpt:
Some interesting stuff from Drima, The Sudanese Thinker: About Darfur (note: one of the root causes of the conflict is water shortage - I'm thinking sometime I should work on a post, or a series of posts, on water problems in Africa) and there's a Sudanese blogosphere in the making. Both via SudanWatch. I think I will now fill up my Bloglines with Sudanese blogs, still looking for blogs in Chad and the CAR.
Abu Shouk refugee camp Darfur

French embassy in Chad issues warning to its citizens

The French embassy said a significant number of rebels planning to overthrow the government of President Idriss Deby were moving west - deeper into the country.

Officials said a "large column of rebels" had entered the province of Ouaddai.

The News - International Nov 25 2006.

Sudanese authorities hold journalist without charges

Sudanese journalist Al-Tahir Satti is held incommunicado since two days without charge, a newspaper said on Friday. Security services arrested the journalist without informing journalists union as provided for by law.

Despite the signing of the CAP and the adoption of the Interim constitution in January and July respectively, Sudanese journalists are still subjected to harassment and arrest by the different security services.

ST (Khartoum) 24 Nov 2006.

Sudan Partnership Weblog: Sudan Journey Completed

Nov 10 2006 blog entry by Adjumani of Sudan Partnership Weblog - Sudan Journey Completed - excerpt:
"... There was no accommodation for travelers in Torit as no one has yet started building traveler's lodges there. We were told no one is making bricks for building, yet. In Nimule and Magwi we could use Ugandan currency but in Torit and Juba only American dollars and Sudanese Dinar are accepted. Food for travelers is not abundant either. After 4 p.m. food was hard to find in the little shacks called hotelies. And these are only a few of the complexities of just traveling, let alone living in Eastern Equatoria.

We stayed one night in Magwi and saw some definite growth there as people are trickling back to their homeland. Magwi seems to be moving forward faster than the large town of Torit. It does seem a positive sign that it will be a good place to locate a residence and center for work. But the crying need of Magwi is for access roads to be built SOON. The existing primary road is becoming little more than rock and river bed.

Again we came away deeply challenged to pray and to return to help begin the rebuilding of this nation and her people. It was an incredible privilege to travel in Southern Sudan, to pray as the immensity of the task the Sudanese face was made so clear. We are impressed with people like Lam Michael who remain undaunted and work with compassionate, dedicated heart to continue the peace process and rebuilding of their land. Do please pray for Michael. He is fighting active Tuberculosis and has a long road ahead to full recovery. He actually came to meet and travel with us from Gulu, Uganda where he's getting treatment. It's that kind of commitment which speaks of one man's heart for his people."

Unwilling or Unable?: To Intervene or Not to Intervene in Darfur? (Peter Quaranto)

This post is for Drima. Not yet had a chance to read Nov 6 2006 blog entry by American blogger Peter Quaranto - Unwilling or Unable?: To Intervene or Not to Intervene in Darfur?

I've followed Peter's blogging over past few years as he maintains a number of sites mainly focusing on publicising the humanitarian crisis in Northern Uganda where ongoing atrocities and neglect of people in need are far worse than anything going on in Darfur. To see what I mean, scroll through a few years of headlines at Uganda Watch, a sister blog of Sudan Watch, and take a look at some of the photos - Congo Watch too.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Sudan working on International Islamic Bond

Sudan is looking at selling an international Islamic bond and is working with the Saudi Arabia-based Arab Investment Co. on the proposed issue, an official at firm's Bahrain branch said Thursday. Dow Jones 23 Nov 2006 via ST.

Sudanese people blogging for Darfur

Don't miss Drima's must-read About Darfur. Excerpt:
If you ask any person who's heard about the Darfur conflict what they know about it, they'll most probably tell you, "it's a genocide being waged by Arabs against Africans" and that "UN troops must go in to protect the innocent people". That's about all they know. Darfur is so much more complex than that and hardly anybody who's heard about it truly understands what's going on there.
And (smile) Sudanese Blogosphere in the Making!! Wohoooo!! [I've always wondered what took them so long. Better late than never. Wohoooo]

Thursday, November 23, 2006

France sends more troops to CAR after rebel attacks

Nov 23 2006 Reuters report via WP. Excerpt:
"Given the situation in CAR (Central African Republic), the Boali detachment of roughly 200 men has been reinforced in the past days with the equivalent of one company, or around 100 men," French armed forces spokesman Christophe Prazuck said, referring to a contingent in the country.

He said the French troops, which were mainly based in the capital, Bangui, would support Central African Republic forces and a regional force sent by regional bloc CEMAC.

"Their main roles are providing logistical support for these forces, support in terms of intelligence and assistance in the planning and conduct of operations," Prazuck added.

France is providing similar assistance in Chad, where it has land and air forces stationed permanently.

Rape and torture among war crimes in Darfur, says international court

Nov 24 2006 Reuters report via Gulfnews. Excerpt:
The Hague: The International Criminal Court's chief prosecutor has nearly completed an investigation into war crimes in Sudan's Darfur region and has sufficient evidence to file charges soon, he said on Thursday.

"Based on a careful and thorough source evaluation of all the evidence collected, we were able to identify the gravest incidents and some of those who could be considered to be the most criminally responsible," Luis Moreno-Ocampo said in a speech to the annual meeting of the court's member states.

"I plan to have collected this information by the beginning of December," Moreno-Ocampo said.

Sudan Closing off Darfur to Outside World

Excerpt from commentary by Katharine Houreld, Christian Science Monitor (hat tip Sudan Man)
Nov 17, 2006 (AL-FASHIR) - The African Union patrol was only seven miles from Sirba, the site of one of the latest Darfur massacres, when they were forced to turn back. Nearly 400 Arab militiamen in Sudanese government uniforms, with new Land Cruisers and weapons, blocked the dusty track.

Tuesday's incident was only the latest in a crackdown on access for international observers, journalists, and humanitarian organizations - a pattern that is becoming wearily familiar to those working in Darfur. "The timing is no coincidence," says Leslie Lefkow of Human Rights Watch. "[Sudan is] stemming the flow of information from Darfur while it continues to commit massive crimes and run a military campaign."

As outgoing UN chief Kofi Annan began a major push to stem the escalating crisis during high-level meetings in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Thursday, the Sudanese government told top UN humanitarian official Jan Egeland that all his proposed destinations on a three-day trip to Darfur are too insecure to visit this weekend.

Last week, the Norwegian Refugee Council announced it was being forced out of Darfur after its permit to operate had been indefinitely suspended for the fifth time, making working conditions "impossible." Other foreign aid workers say they have been denied permission to reenter the country after leaving to attend a family emergency or to seek medical treatment.

Thirty villagers were reported killed this week in Sirba, but no outside investigators have been able to enter the town to confirm the reports. Sudanese rebels accused government troops and militias Thursday of killing more than 50 people in another attack. Two weeks ago, 63 people were reported killed in Jebel Moon, and their bodies buried in the desert.

In that case, investigators were able to access the massacre site, and found that more than 20 of the victims were children. Some of them had been shot through the head. Survivors described Arab men in uniforms, with Thuraya satellite phones, new vehicles, and animals, similar to the group seen only a few miles away barring the road to Sirba.

After the government signed a peace deal with one of the three rebel factions last May, the militias, known as the janjaweed, were supposed to be disarmed. Instead, the government appears to be using them as a proxy force to avoid accusations of cease-fire violations. But accurate reporting of militia movements, and alleged massacres, is becoming increasingly difficult.

Journalists able to secure a visa face a bewildering array of permits and paperwork; the Sudanese government must be informed in advance of any travel in Darfur. Officials insist on listening to interviews; they intimidate interviewees, and have attempted to confiscate notebooks.

"I can take any of [your permits] I want ... you're going to hell," one official hissed at this reporter. "Do you think this is a free country?" Last week, all permits for journalists to travel to the region were being denied.

The African Union (AU) monitoring force of nearly 7,000 soldiers is also frequently stymied in its investigative attempts. Officials say fuel is stolen, government permission for them to leave their bases is refused, and their soldiers have been killed when convoys were attacked.

During the one-day talks in Ethiopia with UN, EU, and Arab League officials Thursday, Mr. Annan pushed for a "hybrid" force of AU and UN peacekeepers to be allowed into Darfur. But early indications were that Sudan would reject this.

Sudan FVP Kiir to visit S. Africa on Darfur, post-war rebuilding

Nov 23 2006 Xinhua report via People's Daily Online - excerpt:
Issues to dominate discussions between Mbeki and Kiir would include the implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) in Sudan, the situation in Darfur and the situation with regard to the expiration of the mandate of the African Union Mission in Sudan (AMIS) at the end of this year, according to the statement.

They will also discuss post-conflict reconstruction and development initiatives within the context of the April 2005 Oslo Pledging conference and the Capacity and Institution Building Project for Southern Sudan.

South Africa now chairs the African Union's Post-conflict and Reconstruction Committee on the Sudan.
Nov 22 2006 ST article - Salva kiir holds talks in Cairo on South Sudan development: The two parties signed a number of memos of understanding in the field of irrigation, including completion of studies on Jonglei canal and other projects.

Sudan FM wants international border patrols

Nov 23 2006 MND report - excerpt:
Sudan's minister for foreign affairs says an existing agreement to form a special AU patrolling unit between Sudan and Chad and the Central African Republic, must be activated to monitor arms trafficking and stabilize the borders. The minister spoke in Tripoli where he attended an AU/EU conference on migration. From there, Sabina Castelfranco reports.

Khartoum's minister for foreign affairs, Mohamed El-Samani El-Wasila, says a joint patrol, under control of the African Union, must be deployed to put an end to arms smuggling between Sudan, Chad and the Central African Republic.

He says the recent instability in Chad is not related to Sudan, but due to internal political developments that have led to unrest. Sudan, he added, wants stability in Chad because this affects the situation in Darfur.

"The internal political developments in Chad led to the support of the rebellious from Sudan because there are some factions in the Chadian government supporting the factions of rebellious from Darfur," he said. "And due to the fact that the border between Sudan and Chad is open and uncontrollable, and moreover we share about at least 20 tribes, so nobody can know who is who crossing."

He said, "What we need now from the international community is to encourage getting on board all the factions because no matter how the volume of troops, the nationality of troops, or the composition of troops, if you bring them there in Darfur, unless you get and involve all the factions from Darfur you cannot make sure that you are going to achieve peace," he said.

African Union accuses Darfur rebels of ambush plots

Rebels have long sustained their operations by ambushing and stealing from UN, aid and AU convoys in Darfur, condemned by UN officials. The rebels deny any looting but Reuters witnesses have seen UN trucks and other vehicles in rebel areas.

Full story by Opheera McDoom, Reuters, 23 Nov 2006.

UN says 4m in Darfur need aid - UN & AU call meeting of rebel groups refusing to sign Darfur Peace Agreement

Nov 23 2006 AP report by Edith M Lederer - U.N.: Four Million in Darfur Need Aid - via Guardian. Excerpt:
In a report to the UN Security Council and comments to reporters afterward, he [Jan Egeland] said the best hope for peace is an agreement last week between Sudan and the United Nations that could open the door to the deployment of thousands of UN troops in Darfur as part of a "hybrid" UN-African Union force.

The agreement also called for a revitalized effort under UN and AU auspices to persuade more rebel groups to sign the Darfur Peace Agreement.

Secretary-General Kofi Annan, briefing the council later, said the AU and the UN would soon call a meeting of groups that have refused to sign the peace agreement "with the hope of resolving outstanding issues by the end of the year."

If there is "massive pressure on the parties" from all 15 members of the Security Council, and from Asian, African and Islamic countries, Egeland said, "we may make historic deals on the political front."

Hi and welcome to "We blog for Darfur"

This project is still in its start.
"We haven't officially launched it yet. Once we do, we hope that as many bloggers as possible will join us in spreading awareness. Let's not rely on the main stream media. Let us get the word out and spread awareness on the blogosphere instead. Let us inform. Let us give a voice to our voiceless fellow human beings. Let us blog, blog and blog some more."

We blog for Darfur
Blogging for Darfur

See Grandiose Parlor Blogging For Darfur:
"... a new blogging initiative: “We blog for Darfur” - launched by Drima, an African blogger at Sudanese Thinker, and some Middle Eastern bloggers - aims to shed more light on the events in Darfur. Drima, is a Sudanese student in South East Asia whose eight month blogging stint has been impressive.
See Global Voices Online - Sudan: we blog for Darfur: Grandiose Parlor writes about a new blogging initiative, We Blog for Darfur.

More later. So much to track and absorb right now. Still reading and digesting important news reports, posted here below past few days. Scroll down this page and glance through headlines to see what I mean.

Annan awaits Sudan letter on hybrid UN force for Darfur; UN aid chief warns of 'abyss'

Nov 23 2006 African News Dimension report:
United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan today said he was awaiting a letter from Sudan's Government regarding the agreement reached last week on a hybrid UN-African Union force for strife-torn Darfur, while the world body's top aid official warned the Security Council that the region was heading towards an 'abyss' of suffering.

"I spoke to President [Omar Hassan Al] Bashir today and he has indicated that he will be writing to me shortly and I think I should wait for his letter. But in Addis Ababa we agreed to the three phases," Mr. Annan told reporters after briefing the Council on last Thursday's deal reached in the Ethiopian capital.

"The Sudanese delegation had a few questions [on the force] that they wanted to go back and discuss and that's why in presenting the issue to the public I said they had agreed to hybrid operations in principle subject to the clarification of the three issues. And the three issues were the size of the force, the appointment of the Force Commander and the Special Representative, which would be jointly reporting to UN and African Union."

The communique that came out of last week's high-level meeting recommended a peacekeeping force of 17,000 with 3,000 police however, as the UN's top aid official warned the Council today before Mr. Annan's briefing, it may take months for these forces to be deployed but "Darfurians can not wait another day."

"We need therefore the attacks to stop now... All of this leaves the situation in West Darfur, and in Darfur at large, closer to the abyss than I have witnessed since my first visit in 2004," said Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Jan Egeland, who recently returned after his fourth mission to the region was cut short because the Government refused him access to several areas, citing security concerns.

"The Government's failure to protect its own citizens even in areas where there are no rebels has been shameful, and continues. So does our own failure, more than a year after world leaders in this very building pledged their own responsibility to protect civilians where the Government manifestly fails to do so."

Painting a particularly grim picture of the humanitarian situation in Darfur, where 4 million people - two thirds of the region's population - are now in need of emergency assistance, Mr. Egeland also repeated his warning of the conflict's wider impact in Africa, while criticizing the Government for its state of denial toward the atrocities.

"Large new militias are being armed as we speak while none are being disarmed... New displacement is also fuelled by cross-border raids of armed groups who receive arms and safe haven on both sides of the Chad-Sudan border, thereby rapidly pushing the conflict towards a regional escalation," he said.

"The rampant insecurity, proliferation of arms, and banditry on roads has taken its toll on the delivery capacity of an increasingly beleaguered humanitarian community... If this trend continues and the world's largest humanitarian operation falters, if the lifeline for millions of civilians collapses, the situation in Darfur will spiral out of control," he warned.

"Earlier, each time I have travelled to Sudan, I have hoped to see a fundamental change in the attitude of the Government, an attitude that has been characterized by denial, neglect and the blaming of others. Yet again, I saw this time no such change, but rather a further entrenching of this attitude. Senior Government officials continue to deny the killings, the displacements and the rape of women."

Mr. Egeland expressed his hope that last week's deal reached in Addis Ababa can "mark an historic turning point to something better," but he also expressed the fear that "time is now lost in talks on the intricacies of the AU/UN partnership rather than the immediate deployment of a more effective force with a more proactive mandate."

At least 200,000 people are estimated to have been killed in Darfur as a result of the conflict between Government forces, allied militias and rebels seeking greater autonomy, and more than 2 million others have been displaced.

But the Government has rejected the expansion of the UN Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) to Darfur and at present the UN assists a 7,000-strong African Union mission (AMIS) and is currently working on a $21 million support package. However the AMIS mandate expires on 31 December and Mr. Annan warned yesterday that the world "cannot afford a gap, a vacuum at the end of the year."

The AU Peace and Security Council is scheduled to meet in Abuja on 29 November when they will discuss Darfur and AMIS.

The Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, Jean-Marie Guehenno, also briefed the Council today on UN support to AMIS as well as on a fact-finding mission to Chad and the Central African Republic (CAR) regarding the impact of the killings in neighbouring Darfur.

Representatives from almost 20 countries also spoke during the Council session.

Sudan's Bashir informs Blair and Annan of his rejection of UN force - UN awaits letter from Bashir

Via Sudan Tribune:
Nov 22, 2006 (KHARTOUM) - In phones calls with British Prime minister and UN Secretary General, the Sudanese president repeated his rejection of any UN forces or UN command for the African Union peacekeeping forces in Darfur.

The President pointed out to the unchanged position of the Sudan that the command of the force remains African while accepting assistance from the Untied Nations based on the understandings reached in Addis Ababa, the official SUNA reported.

Expressing his welcome for the logistic and technical assistance to be provided by the UN for the African troops, al-Bashir said that the details of the reinforcement plan would be worked out by a tripartite committee formed by the Sudanese government, the African Union (AU) and the UN.

Kofi Annan confirmed to the press Wednesday Sudanese president call but Bashir said nothing to him, according to the UN secretary general.

"I spoke to (Sudanese) President (Omar) al-Beshir today and he has indicated he will be writing to me shortly," Annan told reporters at the end of the closed-door council consultations. "I think I should wait for his letter."

Following last Thursday's meeting in Addis Ababa, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan announced that Sudan had agreed in principle on the deployment of a joint AU-UN peacekeeping force in Darfur.

But the Sudanese government has denied the agreement, saying the UN could only play an supplementary role in the reinforced African troops in the war-torn region.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

UN envoy Jan Pronk says Darfur peacemakers must listen to legitimate Arab concerns

AP report via IHT Nov 22, 2006 CAIRO, Egypt:
Darfur peacemakers must take into account the legitimate concerns of the region's Arab population, distinguishing regular Arabs from the "criminal janjaweed" militia responsible for atrocities, said Jan Pronk, the expelled head of the UN operation in Sudan.

"We should take away some of the motives which inspire the janjaweed to attack," Pronk said in an e-mail to The Associated Press in Cairo.

Separately, Pronk said he would be returning to his Khartoum office in early December to prepare the transition to his successor, who has yet to be appointed.

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan expressed full confidence in Pronk but withdrew him for consultations. Pronk had intended to step down on Dec. 31.

The three-year conflict in Darfur in western Sudan has become a battle between African rebels and government troops allied with the Arab militia, known as janjaweed. But it stems from a decades-old competition between African and Arab ethnic groups in Sudan for land, water and grazing rights.

More than 200,000 people have been killed and about 2.5 million people displaced in the fighting. U.N. investigators have blamed the janjaweed for the bulk of the rapes, arson, looting and killing.

But after world outcry over janjaweed atrocities, Darfur's Arab minority feels more vulnerable, fearing it would lose out in any settlement. Some Arab nomads have recently voiced exasperation at the facilities in Darfur's refugee camps, where aid groups provide drinking water and food to Africans who have had to flee their homes.

"Without the Arabs in Darfur, there is no political solution," Pronk wrote Monday.

"If we could distinguish between, on the one hand, Arabs with legitimate concerns and demands and, on the other, (the) Arab criminal Janjaweed, we could further the political process," he added.

Pronk said that during his two and a half years in Darfur he regularly met Arab leaders, particularly those in West Darfur, to discuss security arrangements for U.N. humanitarian workers and to hear Arab views on peace initiatives.

Those Arabs who resort to violence have various motives, he said. "Many attacks are only criminal. Many are genocidal, aiming to cleanse an area. Some are (a) form of retaliation against other tribes, or against looting of camels, or against tribes which are considered to support the rebels."

Pronk said he also had tried to meet Musa Hilal, the reputed leader of the janjaweed in North Darfur.

"At a certain moment Musa Hilal wanted to see me. We arranged a meeting, but (Sudanese) National Security prevented him (from keeping) the appointment. Thereupon I took the initiative to meet him. However, he avoided me," Pronk wrote in the email.

Hilal, a tribal chief, is currently in a janjaweed camp near the North Darfur town of Kutum, according to a UN official in Darfur who spoke on condition of anonymity. In April the U.N. Security Council and the United States imposed financial sanctions on Hilal, accusing him of orchestrating atrocities in Darfur.

Sudan's government has long denied any connection with the janjaweed. But U.N. officials who investigated the conflict reported in 2005 that the state had armed the militia. And militiamen such as Hilal have confirmed in past interviews that the janjaweed took its orders from the regular army.

The U.N. undersecretary-general for humanitarian affairs, Jan Egeland, accused Sudan's government on Saturday of arming the janjaweed and said it was committing acts of "inexplicable terror" against civilians. The Sudanese Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs accused Egeland of lying.

Associated Press reporter Alfred de Montesquiou contributed to this report from Khartoum, Sudan.

African leaders agree to resolve Darfur conflict - VP Taha reiterates Sudan's rejection of any type of guardianship or foreign intervention

Nov 22 2006 Aljazeera (Agencies) 22 Nov 2006 - African leaders agree to resolve Darfur conflict - excerpt:
Arab and African leaders held a mini-summit on Darfur in Libya, where they agreed to work together to resolve the conflict "without foreign intervention."

The presidents of Libya, Egypt, Sudan, Chad, Eritrea and the Central African Republic met in Tripoli on Tuesday amid rising impatience from both the United States and United Nations, who pressure the Sudanese government to fully accept a plan that would allow the deployment of an international peacekeeping force in Darfur.

"This summit opens the road for us to approach the end of the current situation in Darfur and end the tension between Sudan and its neighbors, Chad and the Central African Republic," Egypt's state news agency, MENA, quoted President Hosni Mubarak as saying.

Ali al-Treiki, Libya's secretary of African affairs, also said that the summit participants agreed on an "African solution" for Darfur, and called on the rebel groups to sign a January peace accord known as the "Abuja agreement".

He added that Chad's Idriss Deby Itno and CAR President Francois Bozize agreed to go to Khartoum to iron their differences.

Meanwhile, President Idriss Daby said he was optimistic the Tripoli meeting would revive a deal between Chad and Sudan, in which both nations agreed not to back rebels on the other's soil. "Today I return with great hope to my country, because this meeting was better than those before in February," he said.

The Darfur conflict has spilled over the border into eastern Chad and the northern CAR, who accuse Khartoum of trying to destabilize their countries.

On the other hand, Khartoum accuses Chad of backing the rebels in Darfur.

Mixed AU-UN force

The Tripoli meeting comes a week after Sudan signed a deal with the United Nations that allows the deployment of an international peacekeeping force to back the African Union mission in Darfur.

Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir and other regional leaders have long rejected plans to replace the existing 7,000-member AU peacekeeping force with a stronger UN mission. But the Sudanese government said it signed the recent agreement to deploy a mixed AU-UN force in the war-torn region.

Triki said that the deployment would be discussed between Sudan, the UN and the AU, adding that African and Sudanese leaders "want an African solution to their problems without external intervention and without the putting pressure on Sudan."

Another Libyan official, who demanded anonymity, said Tripoli was keen to find a "radical solution to the Darfur crisis to avoid the deployment of international forces."

Earlier this week, Libyan President Moammar Gadhafi said that the presence of UN forces in Darfur would amount to a return to "colonialism", adding that Sudan's army can curb violence better than foreign troops.

Meanwhile, Sudan's Vice President Ali Osman Mohamed Taha reiterated his country's "rejection of any type of guardianship or foreign intervention in the country".

Addressing a meeting of the ruling party politburo in Khartoum on Wednesday, Taha also said that "there's no room for medium positions in the question of the UN forces."
Bashir in Tripoli

(AFP Photo) Sudanese President Omar Bashir upon his arrival to Tripoli.

Sudanese FVP Kiir wants troops in Darfur even without Khartoum's OK

SudanTribune 22 November 2006 (CAIRO) - excerpt:
The international community should send peacekeepers to Darfur with or without Khartoum's approval, the Sudanese regime's number two Salva Kiir has said.

"My position has always been very clear... that international forces should come to save lives," the Sudanese first vice president told reporters in Cairo after meeting Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit on Wednesday.

Asked if the Sudanese government's consent should be a prerequesite to any deployment, Kiir said: "It should not be a condition. There will be no reason, if people are dying... and it should not restrict the international community from coming in to save lives."

His comment came a day after a Darfur summit in Libya attended by Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir agreed to seek an "African solution" to the crisis which has rocked Africa's largest country for four years and threatens to spill over into neighbouring states.

VOA: Agreement On Darfur

The following editorial reflects the views of the United States Government -

VOA News 22 Nov 2006 - Agreement On Darfur:
A plan has been approved to protect victims of atrocities committed in the Darfur region of Sudan. The agreement came at a high-level meeting held at African Union headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

In a written statement, Andrew Natsios, the U.S. special envoy to Sudan, said, "Representatives from the African Union, including Gabon, South Africa, Senegal, Rwanda, Nigeria and the Republic of the Congo, the Arab League, including Egypt and Libya, the United States, the United Kingdom, France, China, Russia, the European Union, and Sudan affirmed the major elements of United Nations Security Council resolution seventeen-oh-six. This includes the expansion of the peacekeeping force in Darfur to some seventeen-thousand soldiers and three-thousand police - mostly from African countries. Mr. Natsios says, "The United States welcomes the successful outcome of this historic meeting."

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice says the agreement "is certainly a real opportunity to resolve an extremely difficult problem."

Fighting broke out in Darfur in 2003 after rebels complained that the region had been marginalized by the central government. Rebels attacked government facilities. In response, Sudan's government armed a militia called the Janjaweed that attacked not only rebels but also civilians. The Janjaweed murdered men, raped women, and beat children to death. More than two-hundred-thousand people in Darfur have died from fighting, famine, and disease. Some two-million now live in refugee camps in Darfur or in neighboring Chad.

A seven-thousand member African Union force has been trying to provide security. In August, the U-N Security Council authorized the transformation of the African Union force into a larger U-N peacekeeping force.

President George W. Bush says the U.S. and others feel they must do something about the suffering in Darfur:

"The government of Sudan must understand that we're . . . earnest and serious about their necessity to step up and work with the international community."

Mr. Bush says, "The situation in Darfur is on our minds. The people who have suffered," he says, "need to know that the United States will work with others to help solve the problem."

UK Blair warns Sudan of 'tougher measures' over Darfur

British Prime Minister Tony Blair said he would speak to Sudanese President Bashir later Wednesday.

"It's important we keep up the pressure on the Sudanese government... This is a very very serious situation. We have the prospect of a way forward, but we need to take it," Blair said. - AFP Nov 22 2006.

SLM's Nur demands Libyan plan to stop Darfur war

Abdelwahid Mohamed al-Nur, the chairperson of the rebel Sudan Liberation Movement has urged the Libyan leader Muammar Gadhafi, who rejected the deployment of the UN troops in Darfur, to present a plan to stop "genocide in Darfur." - SudanTribune reported 22 Nov 2006.

Col Gaddafi seems a great joiner of people, it would be good to know his plan for stopping Darfur war. In February, he offered African Union 100,000 troops, 1,000 tanks, 100 aircraft to close Chad-Sudan border and was quoted as saying:
"We can settle our problems ourselves," Col. Gadhafi insisted, stressing that UN peacekeepers were not needed.

"Libya is ready to put 100,000 troops with 1,000 tanks and 100 aircraft at the disposal of the African Union to close the border," he informed at the summit. "All our forces are at the disposal of the African Union."

The Libyan leader said it was vital that the region's leaders agree on an "African solution" to the problem in order to "avoid foreign interference and keep the door firmly shut to outside machinations."

Annan expects Sudan's reply on peacekeepers next 2 days

Secretary-General Kofi Annan said Tuesday he expected Sudan's government to respond within two days on outstanding issues of an agreement signed last week that would allow U.N. peacekeepers into Darfur.

Full story by AP (via Morningstar/Dow Jones) 21 Nov 2006. Excerpt:
Al-Bashir was scheduled to visit Libya Tuesday for a meeting on Darfur hosted by Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi. Delegations are expected from Sudan, Chad and Egypt.

"I suspect they will come up with some definitive answer," Annan said. "I'm quite hopeful."

Sudan expels Norwegian refugee body from Darfur

Sudanese officials said they had ordered the Norwegian Refugee Council to leave South Darfur state, accusing the aid agency of espionage and publishing false information.

"We have decided not to renew the technical agreement with Norwegian Refugee Council in South Darfur state," said Mohammad Salih, the head of international relations department of South Darfur.

"They have made reports on military movements of armed forces ... which is in the domain of espionage," he said.

Via Gulfnews (Agencies) 22 Nov 2006.
- - -

Nov 21 2006 S Darfur State expels Norwegian Refugee Council - Darfur has the world's largest aid operation with 14,000 aid workers

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Darfur mini-summit in Libya pledges to work for peace

Reuters report just in via Sudan Tribune says the leaders had agreed to continue to try to expand the Darfur peace agreement concluded in Abuja in May to include all factions and end the current crisis.

Libyan and Egyptian officials say the six leaders want the Darfur rebel group, the National Redemption Front (NRF), to sign the May accord between Khartoum and another rebel group.
- - -

Nov 21 2006 - 4 African leaders arrive in Libya for Darfur summit

Darfur crisis worsening, Cameron warns

Nov 21 2006 Telegraph report - Darfur crisis worsening, Cameron warns.

UK Cameron in Sudan

Photo: David Cameron talks to soldiers from the African Union Mission in Sudan.

Images from Darfur projected on US Holocaust Memorial Museum

Information war

Images from Darfur region of Sudan are projected onto the outside of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum building in Washington November 20, 2006.

The week-long show by photojournalists on the Darfur genocide is aimed at calling attention to the crisis in the region.

REUTERS/Larry Downing (UNITED STATES) Nov 20 2006 Yahoo News

Images from Darfur and Chad

Photographic images taken in Darfur and Chad are seen projected exterior walls of the Holocaust Memorial Museum, Monday, Nov. 20, 2006, in Washington, as part of an exhibit to bring attention to the ongoing genocide in Sudan. The museum declared the crisis in Dafur, Sudan, a genocide emergency in 2004. (AP caption photo/Nick Wass)

Egypt arrests another blog critic - Bloggers are at the centre of Egyptian political activism

Nov 20 2006 BBC report Egypt arrests another blog critic [hat tip Miss Mabrouk of Egypt]:
Police in Cairo have detained a blogger whose posts have been critical of the Egyptian government.

Rami Siyam, who blogs under the name of Ayyoub, was detained along with three friends after leaving the house of a fellow blogger late at night.

No reasons have been given for Mr Siyam's detention. The other friends were released after being questioned.

Human rights groups have accused Egypt of eroding freedom of speech by arresting several bloggers recently.

BBC Arab Affairs analyst Magdi Abdelhadi says blogging in Egypt is closely associated with political activism in a culture where democratic freedoms are severely restricted.

In recent weeks, bloggers have been exposing what they say was the sexual harassment of women at night in downtown Cairo in full view of police who did not intervene.

Mr Siyam's host on Saturday night, Muhammad Sharqawi, was detained for several weeks earlier this year.

The most recently detained blogger, Abdel Kareem Nabil, was detained in Alexandria on 6 November and was charged with disrupting public order, inciting religious hatred and defaming the president.

Amnesty International says Mr Amer appeared to have been detained for expressing critical views about Islam and Egypt's al-Azhar religious authorities.
- - -

Egypt detains blogger in random security check

Nov 19 2006 Reuters report [via Miss Mabrouk of Egypt] - excerpt:
Egyptian police detained an opposition blogger in a chance security check on Sunday, a human rights group said.

Blogger Rami Siyam, who runs, was detained with three other bloggers leaving a friend's house in downtown Cairo around dawn, said Gamal Eid, director of the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information.
- - -

Blogger Kareem Arrested Again

Via Miss Mabrouk of Egypt - Big Pharaoh says "I am starting to become very worried about internet freedom of speech in Egypt especially after the state knew how powerful blogs can be after they exposed the mass sexual harassment incident in downtown Cairo."

AMIS Medal

All those serving the African Union Mission in Sudan (AMIS) will receive this well deserved campaign medal.

AMIS medal

Source: Soldier of Africa: AMIS Medal

We blog for Darfur

See We blog for Darfur.

Thanks to Drima of The Sudanese Thinker -

A Campaign is in the Works.

More later.

Soldier of Africa blogging from Darfur views UN taking over as a very good thing


Soldier of Africa in Darfur tells us these pallettes and shipping containers have been outside AMIS HQ for a while now. They are for extra office space for incoming UN people. UN taking over is imminent?

Note in the comments, Werner, who authors Soldier in Africa, says he views the UN taking over as a very good thing. btw Werner is, I believe, a Brit. [UPDATE - Got it wrong. Thought Werner was British born. Werner is South African.]

Never thought Darfurians fear remains the same after 3 years - UN

TEXT of press conference with Jan Egeland, the Undersecretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator held on 18 November 2006 in Geneve. Excerpt:
"I returned yesterday from my fourth visit to Darfur. It is two and a half years since I was here. Never would I have thought that in my fourth and final visit the number of people in need of assistance would have gone from 1 to four million; and never would I have thought that the fear, the angst among the civilian population of Darfur would remain the same after 3 long years. Just imagine that this is now 1,000 days and 1,000 nights with defenseless civilians living in fear for their lives, for their future, for the life of their children, for the lives of their beloved. [edit]

In North Darfur [referring to the map], this is the exact x-ray of access where we have limited access and where we have no access. As you can see, there are large areas of North Darfur that are either no-go or we can only go a few days per month. It is very difficult to run an operation in that way. Who is to blame for that? Rebels have to blame for that; government has to blame for that; militias have to blame for that. There are many involved in this. Everybody seems to be to blame for that."

PINR - Intelligence Brief: Rebels Advance on the Central African Republic

Just in from Adam Wolf, editor for PINR's Africa region: PINR - Intelligence Brief: Rebels Advance on the Central African Republic. Excerpt:
"As long as the conflict in Sudan's Darfur region continues unresolved, Khartoum's lack of oversight in the area provides a rear base for both Chadian and C.A.R. insurgents that are seeking to gain control of their respective countries. More concerning, however, is the risk of a regional war should troops from either Chad or C.A.R. support attacks on Sudanese territory."

4 African leaders arrive in Libya for Darfur summit

This sounds promising. If they, along with Col Gaddafi and the rebels can't sort Darfur, who can? I'd love to be a fly on the wall at this meeting.

Nov 21 2006 AP report (via ST) - excerpt:
Four Arab and African heads of state arrived in Libya on Tuesday for a summit on the conflict in Darfur, Sudan, hosted by Moammar Gadhafi.

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, Chadian President Idriss Deby and Eritrean President Isaias Aferwerki flew to Tripoli, the Libyan capital, where they were scheduled to hold talks late Tuesday with Libyan leader Gadhafi.

Central African President Francois Bozize was expected to arrive on Tuesday evening, making the summit a six-nation affair.

An African diplomat said the leaders would coordinate their efforts to try to resolve the crisis in Darfur, where at least 200,000 people have been killed and about 2.5 million people have had to flee their homes during the past three and a half years of fighting.

The diplomat, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he isn't authorized to reveal the meeting's agenda, said the summit would urge the Darfur rebels who rejected the May peace agreement to change their position and sign it.
- - -

New bid to solve Darfur impasse

Nov 21 2006 BBC report - excerpt:
According to Libya's head of African affairs Ali Trekki, the agenda will concentrate on how to improve the performance of the 7,000 African Union troops already stationed in Darfur, as well as to seek to increase that number to 17,000.

Speaking in Geneva, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan said he was hopeful that the meeting would help resolve Sudan's outstanding issues about the size and make-up of the peacekeeping force.

Libyan leader Col Muammar Gaddafi is persistently discouraging the involvement of UN peacekeepers in Darfur, calling them a colonising force, our correspondent says.

France invites SLA-Nur for Darfur talks in Paris

From AKI [via CFD] today - France Invites Rebels For Talks:
France has invited the main rebel group in Sudan's ethnically troubled Darfur region, the Sudan Liberation Army/Movement (SLA) for talks in Paris, its leader Abd al-Wahid Muhammad Ahmad al-Nur told Adnkronos International (AKI) on Tuesday. Talks between the SLA and the French government revolved around "the way to achieve peace in Darfur," and not the African Union-sponsored peace accord in Abuja, Nigeria, which the SLA has not adhered to, he said, speaking in the French capital.

Al-Nur praised France's role in Darfur saying he "welcomed" any initiative by Paris to resolve the conflict, which he said was rooted in three issues: "authority, resources and land".

The SLA leader denied that his group has receiving weapons from abroad saying it had to draw on its "own strengths" in its struggle against the Sudanese authorities and their allied local Arab militias, the Janjaweed. "We get our weapons through raids against the army and the police from whom we seize what they've got," said al-Nur.

Addressing a news conference in Paris, al-Nur also praised the role of the United Nations and the United States in Darfur, but asked for "more incisive action" to end the "mass killings".

Al-Nur said his movement controls 70 percent of Darfur, a territory as large as France.

The SLA was formed in 1992 with the aim of keeping the state and religion separate in Sudan in contrast to moves by the central government Khartoum to turn the country into an Islamist state.

Sudan, Egypt, Libya have Darfur summit today

Wish we could read a transcript of today's Sudan-Egypt-Libya summit on Darfur.

Sudan plans to establish 30 villages for W. Darfur displaced

Via Sudan Tribune 21 Nov 2006:
Nov 20, 2006 (EL-GENEINA) - The State of West Darfur has drawn plans to construct thirty villages, provided with all basic services therein that to house displaced persons and refugees at the level of the state, each village costing about one billion Sudanese pounds, Finance and Economy Minister in the state Mohamed Hashim said.

He said the villages would take into account the new demographic changes that occurred as a result of the unrest in the region, explaining that the villages would be linked to the main roads all in close consultation with the villagers themselves and that the citizens in those villages would be part of the overall activities in the state.

The minister said this move would not, in any way, mean villagers could not be able to return back to their original home villages. He said it would be in their full right to return to their home areas or possess new plot of land in the new model villages, the state-run SUNA reported.

He said it would be the responsibility of the government to provide all the basic services in a way that would take into consideration the economic, security and political map, stressing that those villages would be open to all people.

S Darfur State expels Norwegian Refugee Council - Darfur has the world's largest aid operation with 14,000 aid workers

Oh dear, not again. On 5 April 2006 the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) in Darfur was forced to suspend all aid work in the region after being evicted by the Sudanese authorities.

Excerpt from Sudan Tribune 20 Nov 2006 Sudan decides expulsion of Norwegian humanitarian agency:
South Darfur State has expelled a Norwegian humanitarian organization form working in the region saying it has published a false report on rape cases, and serving foreign agenda.

The Minister of social affairs and information, acting governor of South Darfur State and spokesman of the state government, Farah Mustafa, said that the state government has expelled the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) from the state, affirming that it has received on Monday 20 November a letter on its expulsion form the state.

The minister said in a press conference in Nyala, capital of South Darfur, that NCR has issued a report on occurrence of 80 rape cases in Kalma displaced people camp in the state.

The state government's spokesman pointed out that after establishment of a committee, which includes the AU, the government, organizations and the concerned parties, it was proved that there was no case of rape at the camp. He affirmed that what written report by Norwegian Council was considered false and unfounded and serves foreign agenda, pointing out that the state government has dealt in patience with the violations of NCR.

NCR announced on 10 November the closure of its humanitarian action in Darfur because it had been suspended for two moths without any explanation from the Sudanese authorities. NCR said it was forced to take this decision.

Mustafa pointed out that NCR has been working against the country’s sovereignty, saying that it refused the presence of the state’s senior officials to attend the secretary-general of the UN meeting that it has held in Kalma camp. He said that the Norwegian Refugees Council has been instigating displaced persons not to return home voluntarily.

NCR was providing humanitarian relief to 300.000 IDPs in South Darfur camps: 93.000 in Kalma camp, 19.000 of these, children enrolled in NCR's education program, 128.000 in Gereida camp, 10.000 in Otash camp, 52.000 IDPs receiving food aid in Nyala. Darfur has the world's largest aid operation, with 14,000 aid workers supplying humanitarian help to miserable camps in the region.

In May 2005, two senior members of Medecins Sans Frontieres Holland were arrested charged with espionage and publishing false information after the organisation issued a report detailing hundreds of rape victims they had treated in Darfur hospitals.
It's inconceivable NCR or any other reputable aid agency would falsify reports on rape. Sudanese officials seem in the habit of not giving credence to the testimony of displaced people, especially females. Note the report reminds us Darfur has the world's largest aid operation with 14,000 aid workers.

See 31 May 2006 - Norwegian Refugee Council returns to Darfur after eviction:

US threatens "plan B" if Sudan does not act before Jan 1

"On January 1st, either we see change or we go to Plan B," US envoy to Sudan Natsios told reporters at the US State Department. When pressed what he meant by this, Natsios replied: "I am not going to get into that ... Plan B is a different approach to this." - ST
- - -

Sep 11 2006 Sunday Times - Plan B would be to do everything possible to get the AU to stay and strengthen it.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Darfur children dragged from mothers and shot

Nov 19 2006 Sunday Times (Katharine Houreld, Tine, Darfur) - Darfur children dragged from mothers and shot:
WHEN the fighters came, the mothers of Jebel Maun could not protect their children. Screaming toddlers were ripped from their grasp and shot; older children who tried to save their brothers and sisters were hunted down.

"Four children escaped in a group and ran under a tree for protection. An attacker came and shot at them, killing one of the children," said a witness in an account to United Nations staff.

Another group, aged five, seven and nine, tried to run away. The five-year-old fell down and was shot dead. Another boy stopped and told the attacker: "You killed this child. Please let me go." It was no use. He too was killed, one of more than 20 children who died that day.

Local people in the Darfur region of Sudan put the number of dead in the attack earlier this month at 63, mostly old men and children. The African Union, which has a peacekeeping force in Darfur, said 92 people died in the eight villages attacked.

"They took the babies and children from their mothers' arms, beat the women and shot the children," said one witness, Adam Gamer Umar. "They said, 'We're killing your sons and when you have more we will come and kill them too'."

Mariam Abakr Yehya's three-year-old was one of those killed. "They said they would kill this one next time," she said, referring to the baby boy in her arms.

Details of the latest massacres emerged as a deal was brokered last week by Kofi Annan, the UN secretary-general, for a "hybrid force" of African Union troops with logistical support from the UN. However, there was no agreement on the timing or mandate of this force and the Sudanese government has continued to resist calls for 20,000 UN peacekeepers to replace a relatively ineffective African Union force of 7,000.

The villagers of Jebel Maun say their attackers wore government uniforms and badges and carried new guns and satellite phones. A similar description was given by the inhabitants of Sirba, another Darfur village, where 30 people were killed. Last Tuesday militiamen with new weapons and Landcruisers barred the road to African Union investigators. Khartoum denies responsibility for the atrocities and blames a rogue Arab militia.

Five peace treaties have been signed and torn up since conflict erupted in Darfur in 2003. Local tribes, mostly "African" farmers, formed rebel movements to protest against the neglect of their region and the arming of Arabic-speaking nomadic militias. The government responded by encouraging the militias, known as the janjaweed, to target civilians it suspected of supporting the rebels.

At least 200,000 people have been killed and 2m made homeless in the ensuing carnage. Since only one of three rebel factions signed the latest peace deal in May, the violence has worsened.

Vast swathes of northern Darfur have become no-go areas for aid groups providing vital food, medicine and clean water for refugees. Thirteen aid workers have been killed in six months. Organisations that speak out against abuses, such as gang rape and intimidation, find their members arrested or permits to operate revoked. Laptop computers are confiscated and searched at the airport. In El Fasher, the capital of north Darfur, one official tried to seize papers belonging to The Sunday Times containing confidential interviews with civilians who had suffered at the hands of government forces.

There is plenty to hide. In a clear violation of the peace treaty, 1,000 janjaweed moved into the desolate outpost of Tine, on the border between Sudan and Chad, three weeks ago to support 3,000 government troops already stationed there. Almost all the 70,000 residents have fled. Now fighters sporting flip-flops, assault rifles and a mishmash of uniforms lounge insolently in the marketplace.

At their nearby camp the 200 African Union soldiers say there is little they can do. Outnumbered by government forces and lacking a mandate to intervene, they are calling in vain for UN action It is already too late for the children of Jebel Maun and there is no one left in Tine to protect. "This is a ghost town. All the people are dead or have run away," said Virginia Mukuka, one of 30 civilian police attached to the African Union force in Tine. She says she has dealt with only one complaint in four months.

"We came to help our brothers and sisters," she said, "but they are gone."
[hat tip The Sudanese Thinker]