Thursday, March 01, 2007

URGENT MESSAGE to European Union: AU still not paying its peace force in Sudan's Darfur

African Mission in Sudan

Please take a moment to think about the terrain and people pictured here below and wonder why African peacekeepers in Darfur are still having to wait months on end for their pay. After all that has been said and done about Darfur over the past four years, I find it sickening that nobody, not even the savedarfurcrowd (puke - see below) or Sudan and its neighbours, cares about the welfare of African peacekeepers in Darfur.

By now, there's no excuse, heads should roll. It's a scandal involving billions of taxpayers' euros and dollars. AU personnel in Darfur, far away from home and family for 6 months at a time, risk their health and lives to help the Sudanese and tens of thousands of aid workers. I say, without a shadow of a doubt, given the circumstances, AMIS personnel have been let down badly by everyone, including the people of Sudan, African Union and Arab League.

To add insult to injury (ie forced to work for free) AMIS have to endure hostile locals (see below) who don't understand AMIS' mandate. AMIS was permitted into Darfur to help protect the observers of a ceasefire agreement. The 10,000 UN peacekeepers in South Sudan are there through an historic Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) signed by all sides. Darfur's Peace Agreement (DPA) has no such clause (long story). In Darfur there is no peace to keep. Darfur rebels and other Sudanese citizens started falling out and fighting each other before the DPA'S ink had dried.

From the outset of the rebellion, slick media-savvy rebels, some residing outside of Sudan in countries such as USA, Canada, France, Germany, UK, Ireland, Italy, Netherlands, Chad, Eritrea (and many others) made extensive use of the world's press to pressure and engineer UN troops onside, which I believe is one of the reasons why Khartoum is against UN troops in Darfur - it would embolden the rebels and cause all sorts of mayhem, encouraging other lowlife opportunists. (See JEM. The International Crisis Group noted that JEM's president Mr Khalil Ibrahim "is a veteran Islamist and former state minister who sided with the breakaway (Popular Congress) in 2002 and went into exile in the Netherlands ... there is additionally evidence of some level of involvement of al-Qaeda with the Islamist JEM organisation")

The Darfur rebels have done everything within their power to manipulate the media, even going as far as to provoke attacks from Sudanese forces and janjaweed, blocking aid access in order to attract attention to denigrate Khartoum and AMIS and succeed in their coup. Imagine the nonsense and propaganda they've conveyed to masses of illiterate locals with no access to world news. Some of the first reports to come out of the Darfur on the rebellion quoted Sudanese people who, when translated, sounded very strange, flowery and exotic in their choice of words> It wasn't long before I noticed eyewitness accounts sounded strangely westernised, I wondered if they were primed by rebels. I think this is one of the reasons why Khartoum gets so up in the air over rape reports. Can you tell the difference between an unarmed Sudanese rebel and a Sudanese civilian? Or Sudanese forces and the Janjaweed? (See 14 Nov 2004 BBC report Frustration of Darfur 'observer')

Although AMIS does not have the mandate of a full protection force (long story, read this blog) millions of illiterate Darfurians will never know how lucky they've been to even have AMIS on the ground monitoring what's going on. Darfur is extremely dangerous. Reporters aren't allowed in many areas. Aid workers are restricted and need to remain neutral. Thank goodness AMIS is there to help, witness and document issues concerning all sides. Given today's communications technology, I feel confident they are in a position to share intelligence, blow the whistle and leak alerts. I say, why not hand out wind-up radios for Darfurians to tune in to BBC World Service Trust radio project in Darfur? I'd love to hear from anyone who has heard Darfur Salaam, does the signal reach Chad?

If necessary, AMIS' soldiers will shoot in self defence but are mandated to remain neutral. They are there to protect military observers monitoring a ceasefire agreement and IDP camps. Put yourself in their boots and imagine the difficulties and logistics of establishing bases in Darfur, a region the size of France or Jordan. Not to mention all the confusion, shuffling of paper, reports and translations. Take a look at the first photo here below. I couldn't do their job for all the tea in China. Could you? If so, would you expect to be paid, and on time? How would you manage your bills if you worked for no pay? What would you tell your family? Imagine the stress and worry, not to mention troop morale. (An aside: please see last line of Jan Pronk's blog entry 24 Feb 2007 conveying a heartfelt message to peacekeepers).

After the miles of reports I've read, covering the work carried out by hundreds of thousands of people worldwide to help Darfur with outside troops, writing this story is now making me cry. I was born into British military life. The British Army runs like clockwork. I've seen first hand how Canada and the US also take good care of their troops. No pay packet? Inconceivable! In a war zone with two young children to bring up, my mother would have hit the roof!

Hundreds of thousands of people around the world, many in positions of power and influence, follow daily news on Sudan but nobody cares enough to rectify this grossly unfair situation. The Holy Bible says it is wrong to withold the pay, even for a day, of hired workers. Professional soldiers deserve to be treated respectfully. Not paying them is a slap in their face and, I feel, sullies the reputation of EU funding. Just like you, AU soldiers have homes, families, food expenses and bills to pay. They are gainfully employed, not amateurs working for amusement or pin money.

Who knows what is really going on? Surely the UN chief of staff, pictured here below, is aware of the situation. Perhaps the African Union is starving its mission in Sudan (AMIS) of hard cash in order to secure UN funding, training and support or it regards peacekeepers' pay a low priority, or what? I can't think of another reason because this widely reported issue has gone on far too long. I find it hard to believe the EU is lying when it says it has paid the AU (see June 1, 2006: What's going on? AU Mission in Darfur costs $1 billion a year - SA troops in Darfur still waiting to be paid: EU said there was no delay in funding.

The EU gave birth to the AU, an historic initiative costing millions (maybe billions) of euros to empower Africans and enable them to provide African solutions for African problems. Drima, The Sudanese Thinker tells us about Sudan's diversity and identity crisis: Sudanese folk see their country as Afro-Arab, not African. I'm not aware of the Arab League coughing up funds for the African Union's mission in Darfur, are you? Sudan's President Bashir says of his country, "We're all Africans, we're all black - talk of Arabs killing blacks is a lie". (Also, see Feb 17 2007 Interview: Sudanese President Bashir)

Contrary to what you might have read, quality news reports from Africa tell us there is no shortage of African soldiers willing to serve on peacekeeping missions. African countries are saying they can't commit troops until they know all what's involved. I guess this could be made clear if the UN's chief receives a reply to his letter sent to Mr Bashir re a crucial phase of the new AU-UN hybrid force. (See Feb 16 2007: Sudan's Plan for Darfur - Letter from UN's Ban to Sudan's Bashir Jan 24 remains unanswered)

Please don't miss this copy of a Soldier of Africa blog entry by Werner, a South African soldier (and great blogger) currently serving in Darfur:
Feb 28 2007
Last night I went to Zamzam and took this photo of some of the sixty Egyptians who have finished their mission. Thirty three of them should have left on 05 December, but since they had not yet received their money they were forced to stay to wait for the money. According to my calculations the inability of the AU to pay these Military Observers has already resulted in the AU losing $252 450 and with the inclusion of the twenty seven Egyptian CIVPOL members who ended their mission days ago that amount has gone up sharply. Every day they stay here means the AU loses more money. It would make sense that to pay them on time would have resulted in a massive saving. Constantly the AU approaches especially EU countries for more funds and these countries just give, but maybe somebody should start asking some questions. The last time I was paid was three weeks ago when I was paid up to November 2006. If there is a legitimate problem with the AU paying us then why do they not inform us of the problem? The AU's constant silence leaves me with a list of unanswered questions that, if asked, will leave them squirming in their seats. The time is fast approaching that many of these questions have to be answered.
And one of the comments posted:
Anonymous said...
yes please we want our money...we do not like working for free if we give all that we can for this mission...
This rotten problem has irked me so much over the past three years (Kalma Camp is another), I am ceasing this blog in protest until I find news of the issue being resolved. My round-up of media reports and blog entries relating to ICC will have to wait. Sorry, I feel this is more important.


Photo: An AMIS outpost in Darfur. There are more than 25 of these bases scattered over 8 sectors. (Photo/caption via Soldier of Africa)



Photo: The people of El Fashier demonstrating against the UN taking over from AMIS. (Photo/caption via Soldier of Africa) Photo taken Jan 17, 2006, posted to Flickr Nov 27, 2006.



Photo: Soldiers of AMIS being used to protect the force commander. Not that his life is in any danger. (Photo/caption via Soldier of Africa)

Maj Wolmarans


Photo: Maj L. Wolmarans, the commanding officer at Mahla. (Photo/caption via Soldier of Africa) Photo taken Nov 22, 2006.

Priests on Tarmac


Photo: The death of another member of AMIS. I did not take this photo. (Photo/caption via Soldier of Africa) Photo taken July 10, 2005.

Also, see Feb 17 2007 news report Sixth Rwandan peacekeeper dies in Darfur.

UN Chief of Staff


Photo: UN Chief of Staff of the new hybrid force in Darfur reading a document. (Photo/caption via Soldier of Africa) Photo taken on Jan 7, 2007, posted to Flickr Jan 8 2007.
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As mentioned above, here is a copy of an email received from David Rubenstein, Save Darfur Coalition, Wed 19:15 GMT Feb 28 2007.
Dear Supporter,

New Goal, 10 Hours Left

Help us raise the $88,142 we need to reach our new $300,000 goal by midnight tonight.

Your gift will help us expand our crucial efforts - click here to donate now.

The commitment of the Save Darfur Coalition's supporters is truly inspiring.

We're 10 hours away from the midnight deadline and 3,595 people have already contributed $211,858 to our February fundraising campaign!

Thanks to them, we have exceeded our original $200,000 goal. Because there is so much more work to do, we now hope to achieve a new goal: $300,000 for Darfur by midnight tonight.

Can you help us get there? Click here to make your secure, tax-deductible gift now.

With your help, the Coalition is raising awareness of the crisis, putting our global leaders' feet to the fire to demand action, and bringing hope to the innocent people in Darfur in the process.

But we need to do more in order to stop the genocide and bring the killing, rape, mutilation and terror to an end.

And we need your help to make that possible.

Please consider making a secure, tax-deductible donation to help us expand our crucial advocacy efforts on behalf of the innocent men, women and children of Darfur. Click here to donate now.

This month marks the fourth anniversary of the start of the horrific violence in Darfur. Hundreds of thousands of innocent Darfurians have lost their lives, and millions more have been displaced from their homes.

The violence in Darfur will continue until enough of us decide to take a stand.

We need your help to ratchet our efforts up another notch and make this year the last year of this genocide.

There are only a few hours left before the deadline. Please click here now to make a secure, tax-deductible gift to help us expand our efforts to save Darfur.

Once you've made your gift, please consider forwarding this message to your family and friends and asking them to join you in making a last-minute gift to help end the genocide in Darfur.

Thank you again for helping us to bring hope to the innocent people of Darfur.

Best regards,

David Rubenstein
Save Darfur Coalition
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UN'S Pronk: Hidden forces undermining Sudanese president authority

Don't miss Wasil Ali's fascinating interview (Sudan Tribune 12 Feb 2007) with the former UN Secretary General envoy to Sudan, Jan Pronk of The Netherlands.
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Photo: I took this photo from the guard tower earlier today. As you can see the sky was still dusty. In the foreground one can see the coloured concrete platform from where the guard of honour take up position every morning to salute the Force Commander and any visiting VIP's. Feb 25 2007. (Photo/caption via Soldier of Africa)
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Stuck between a rock and a hard place

Mar 1 2007 SA News 24 report - 'No military solution in Darfur' - excerpt:
The African Union's chief administrator on Wednesday said the conflict in Sudan's Darfur region cannot be solved militarily, and urged all sides to adhere to a peace agreement.

AU Commission chairperson Alpha Oumar Konare lamented that only one Darfur rebel group has signed a peace accord reached in Abuja, Nigeria, in May 2006 aimed at ending the civil war.

"We have always been convinced that the problem does not have a military solution and that we must continue working to make all Sudanese - the government and rebel movements - adhere to the Abuja accord," Konare said at a news conference alongside Brazilian foreign minister Celso Amorim in Brazil.

"When we had to ask for UN troops, we asked, and we want it. But unfortunately, due to trust problems, we have not obtained this," Konare said.
See Feb 24 2007 AU says it does not have the capacity to end Darfur rebellion.
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See Feb 18 2007 news report - Sudan welcomes EU envoy for DDDC.
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Town Hall Meeting

UN Town Hall meeting in Sudan

Photo from Jan Pronk's Weblog along with this excerpt:
Since my departure from Sudan, having been declared persona non grata by the Government of Sudan, my deputy Mr. Taye Zerihoun, has taken over as Officer in Charge. Taye Zerihoun had been the Principal Deputy Special Representative of the UN Secretary General in Sudan. In that capacity he had in particular dealt with political affairs. The second deputy, Manuel Aranda da Silva, will continue as well. He is dealing in particular with humanitarian affairs and fulfills at the same time the position of United Nations Resident Humanitarian Coordinator in Sudan.

This picture has been taken at a so called Town Hall meeting attended by all staff of the United Nations Mission in Sudan, two weeks before my departure on 24 October.

From left to right: Taye Zerihoun, Jan Pronk, Manuel Aranda da Silva. Photo: Frederic Noy
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See Sep 29 2006 AP report - UN's Pronk calls for AU force to be extended indefinitely.
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Notable Quote

"To save Darfur, start studying history."

By Elliot Stoller, a student at OPRF High School, USA, 27 Feb 2007 via
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Are you a Sudanese living abroad?

Via Sudanese blogger BLACK KUSH:
Are you a Sudanese living abroad? Do you want to go home and serve your country?

The UNDP TOKTEN programme is the best for you. Let us turn the brain drain to brain gain. Your country needs you!
Good luck. Peace and love. Ingrid.

On guard