Friday, September 21, 2007

UN chief rings Japanese Peace Bell

Friday 21 September 2007, is the International Day of Peace. At UN Headquarters, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon will open the day with the ringing of the Japanese Peace Bell in the morning accompanied by the UN Messengers of Peace. The Secretary-General will observe a minute of silence, and will call on the world to observe a minute of silence at noon local time in commemoration of the day. In his message, the Secretary-General noted that "Peace is one of humanity’s most precious needs. It is also the United Nations’ highest calling." - UN Pulse

The Japanese Peace Bell

Photo: The Japanese Peace Bell (UN)

“On this International Day, let us promise to make peace not just a priority, but a passion,” the Secretary-General has said. “Let us pledge to do more, wherever we are in whatever way we can, to make every day a day of peace.” - UN


Photo: UN SG Ban Ki-moon waves to the crowd as he visits internally displaced persons at the Al Salam camp in El Fasher, W Sudan Sept 6, 2007 (AFP)

Sep 19, 2007 POTP - France calls for protection force in Darfur neighbours.

Sep 20, 2007 VOA - Chad rebels cautiously await EU peacekeepers.

Sep 20, 2007 (UK's No 10) PM promises "tireless" work on Darfur - The situation in Sudan is "one of the great tragedies of our time", Gordon Brown said as he pledged technical support for peacekeepers due to go to Darfur.
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Sep 20, 2007 Los Angeles Times report by Maggie Farley entitled Darfur shows limits of diplomacy - UN envoy struggles to bring warring parties and allied nations to Sudan peace talks.

Love this snippet from the report:
"... After stopping to admire a baby and converse through an interpreter with a fruit seller, he [UN envoy Jan Eliasson] found himself in the middle of a circle with a Sufi mystic who had been leading a prayer. The mystic presented Eliasson to the crowd.

"This is the man who has come to bring peace to Darfur. Let us pray for him. Let us pray for peace," the mystic said, with his arms uplifted. As people in the crowd lifted their arms and chanted, Eliasson lowered his head and clasped his hands in front of him.

"Pray for peace!" the mystic said. "And pray for rain!"

That afternoon, as Eliasson's small plane lifted off the runway, the rain came. Soon, Eliasson hoped, so would peace."

UN peace negotiator Jan Eliasson meets with tribal leaders in Nyala in the Darfur region of Sudan

Photo: [Sep ? 2007] UN peace negotiator Jan Eliasson meets with tribal leaders in Nyala in the Darfur region of Sudan, where he encourages them to get their representatives to join in the upcoming negotiations. His pitch to one leader: “Take the chance now! The whole world wants peace in Darfur!” (Photographer Carolyn Cole/
I say, Sudanese people sound like such good fun - when they're not killing each other! Here's an idea that's just occurred to me: they could pull together and request World Heritage Status, for Sudan to be conserved, preserved and protected as a Great Wonder of the World to save it from droughts and pollution. If they disarmed to start building instead of fighting, Sudan could end up with systems more advanced than most other countries.

God help the children. Little do they know, time is not on their side. Within ten years, Sudan will start running out of water. Take a look at these two photos - and the other seven at the Guardian's photo gallery on "Climate change: 9 pictures") - Lake Chad has lost 90% of its surface area in 30 years. If, God forbid, Sudan becomes a failed state, the only solution I can think of is assisted migration and 51 beds in The Hague.


Photo: Sea ice, polar bears' natural habitat, has been steadily receding, leaving their long-term future in doubt (Ty Milford/Getty Images/Aurora Creative/Guardian)


Photo: A young boy takes water from Lake Chad to drink, in Koudouboul, Chad, Sunday, Nov. 26, 2006. The lake that once provided adequate livelihoods for 20 million people in west-central Africa, from Chad, Nigeria, Cameroon and Niger, has lost 90 per cent of its surface area in 30 years. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena/Guardian)
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BBC World Service Trust Wins Radio For Peacebuilding Award

Congrats. Great work by Darfur Lifeline. The BBC World Service Trust's humanitarian radio service in Sudan has won first prize for its children’s programme Ursom ala el ard makaanak (Draw Your Place On Earth) in the Youth category of the Radio For Peacebuilding Awards. The prize is awarded by Radio For Peacebuilding Africa. -
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The future is in our hands

UN SG Ban Ki-moon will seek to advance the global agenda on climate change when he meets with heads of state and other top officials from more than 150 countries at UN HQ September 24, 2007. 15 bloggers will be live blogging the event.



Thursday, September 20, 2007

New (and Different) Hostilities in Darfur (by Alex de Waal)

Here is a copy of another must-read: Alex de Waal's excellent commentary, dated Sep 19, 2007 at SSRC blog Making Sense of Darfur (hat tip POTP):
"The last few weeks have seen the first significant armed hostilities between the Sudan government and rebel forces since September 2006. What is the significance of this?

The latest round of fighting began with a joint JEM/SLA-Unity military operation in Adila, south-east Darfur, which was followed by a rebel incursion into Kordofan and an army/airforce attack on Haskanita, in eastern Darfur.

Salient points to note are:

1. This is the first significant fighting between the army and rebels since two army offensives were defeated in North Darfur, in August and September 2006. But none of these battles are comparable in size to the hostilities that raged during the perioFebruary 2003-January 2005, or indeed on numerous occasions in Southern Sudan.

2. The fighting was initiated by the rebels. It was provocative, even reckless, and there has since been internal disagreement among rebel commanders over the wisdom of launching these raids, which began in a historically Arab part of Darfur, and then crossed the boundary into Kordofan.

3. The government response has relied on the army and airforce, and not the militia. In Adila, following government warnings that it intended to attack the town, most residents fled, and there were few civilian casualties. The aim of the attack on Haskanita may have been to try to kill the rebel leaders who had assembled there with their forces. In this case, civilian casualties were higher. It is not clear whether Khartoum’s decision to use the regular armed forces, and not militia, was taken for internal operational reasons, or because of international criticism over the abuses that invariably accompany militia actions.

4. Despite the army’s use of MiG fighter-bombers, helicopter gunships, and other heavy weaponry, the rebels got the better of the army. Four and a half years since the outbreak of major hostilities, the Sudan army is still not capable of operating effectively against an enemy that uses mobile desert-warfare tactics. In response to a series of defeats in 2003, the army turned to using the militia, and if the rebel attacks escalate, it will be tempted to abandon conventional military tactics and resort to militia-based counterinsurgency again."
Note, I have hyperlinked the word "Kordofan" mentioned above, as a tip for readers here to watch Kordofan and Abyei. Also, please note my postings today at Niger Watch and Ethiopia Watch (sister blogs of this site, Sudan Watch).

Further reading

Report from Sudan Watch archives dated April 28, 2006: Darfur's SLM/A rebels refuse to disarm until after end of six-year transition period

Qaeda’s Zawahri urges attacks on Darfur peacekeepers

Reuters report in full - via France based Sudan Tribune 20 September 2007:
September 20, 2007 (DUBAI) — Al Qaeda’s second-in-command Ayman al-Zawahri urged Sudanese Muslims in a video posted on Thursday to fight a force of African Union and U.N. peacekeepers set to deploy to Sudan’s volatile western region of Darfur.

In an 80-minute compilation video that touched on a several conflicts, Zawahri criticised Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir’s decision to accept a U.N. resolution that lays the ground for a 26,000-strong joint AU-U.N. operation.

"Bashir announced before that he would oppose the deployment of international troops to Darfur ... but this was a lie ... and he backtracked step by step until he had agreed to everything they imposed on him," Zawahri said in the tape.

Zawahri accused Bashir of abandoning his Muslim brothers to appease the United States and said he did not deserve the protection of Muslims.

"Therefore, I address the nation of Muslim mujahideen in Sudan and remind it that today’s is a great test and the free mujahideen sons of Sudan must organise jihad against the forces invading Darfur as their brothers organised the jihadi resistance in Afghanistan, Iraq and Somalia," Zawahri said.

Al Qaeda-linked groups have waged attacks on U.S.-led forces and their allies in Afghanistan and Iraq after the invasions of 2001 and 2003. In Somalia, Islamists the United States says are linked to al Qaeda have been waging a guerrilla campaign against a U.S.-supported transitional government.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon visited Darfur earlier this month, promising to step up pressure for a political solution to the festering conflict.

Sudan, which hosted al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden in the 1990s, has been on the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism since 1993.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Secretary-General's address to the United Nations Association in Sudan

United Nations (New York)

5 September 2007
Posted to the web 5 September 2007

By Ban Ki-Moon

Khartoum, Sudan, 3 September 2007

Good evening, ladies and gentlemen.

It is a very great pleasure to be with you today, here on my first trip to Khartoum as Secretary-General.

I am happy to have a chance to address the UN Association in Sudan. And I am pleased to see so many students at this gathering, as well as representatives of civil society. The fact that I am meeting with you this evening, having only just stepped off my flight from Europe, testifies to the importance that I attach to this visit, and to this particular audience -- you in this room.

Ultimately, it is you who will carry forward the work of building a lasting peace in Sudan. It is you who will need to work, hard, to bring unity and prosperity to your beautiful country.

I have a special attachment to this land, Sudan, both personally and officially. Officially, Sudan has recently been at the centre of the UN's agenda for restoring peace and security in the region.

Personally, this is the country where my daughter began her career as a young, junior officer with UNICEF.

For all these reasons, I urge you to think of the United Nations - and me, personally - as your friend, always by your side. I urge you to do everything you can to advance our common cause - building a better Sudan, and a better world, for yourselves and for future generations.

My friends,

Let me explain why I am here. For four long years – too many years – your country and fellow countrymen in Darfur have been torn by conflict. For too long the international community has stood by, as seemingly helpless witnesses to this tragedy.

That now is changing. As you all well know, in July the Security Council adopted a resolution authorizing the deployment of 26,000 multinational peacekeepers in Darfur, jointly run by the United Nations and the African Union. This unprecedented operation marks a new era in UN-AU cooperation. It is one of the largest and most complex peacekeeping missions the UN has ever undertaken. It reflects the international community's commitment to contribute to bringing peace to your country.

I should also say that this agreement comes after many months of very difficult diplomacy. Much of it was invisible, conducted across time zones and in quiet meetings in many capitals of the world. We all must seize this historic opportunity.

That is the first reason why I have come to Sudan. I want to see for myself the plight of those we seek to help, and the conditions under which our peacekeepers in Darfur will operate. But most of all, I want to see the foundations of a lasting peace laid down. My goal is to lock in the progress we have made so far. To build on it so that this terrible trauma may one day end.

Yet there must be a peace to keep. Peacekeeping must be accompanied by a political solution. That is the second reason I am here. It is so very important that we keep moving ahead with the Darfur political process. Everyone agrees there can be no military solution. We need a ceasefire now. The violence must stop. I want to see us begin a new and conclusive round of peace negotiations as soon as possible. My aim is to keep up the momentum, to push the peace among the parties with a view toward issuing invitations to a full-fledged peace conference as soon as possible.

During my visit, I will meet with President Omar al-Bashir and many other senior leaders. I look forward to a frank and constructive and fruitful discussions. The goodwill and cooperation of your Government has been instrumental in the progress we have made so far. I will also meet with First Vice-President Salva Kiir in southern Sudan, as well as opposition representatives.

At the same time, we also need to push ahead on a broader initiative, underscored by my visit to Juba. That's the Comprehensive Peace Agreement between the north and the south. As you know well, this remains an essential -- and rather fragile -- cornerstone of peace across the whole of Sudan, well beyond Darfur.

The third reason for my visit involves humanitarian aid and development. Any real solution to Darfur's troubles involves something more – it requires sustained economic development and solutions that go to the root causes of the conflict. But we cannot effectively address development issues until there is a peaceful environment in Darfur and a political solution to the conflict.

Until then, the world's largest humanitarian operation, currently assisting more than 4.2 million people – must continue. I urge to you do your part to ensure an immediate end to violence and a rapid political solution.

Precisely what these development activities will entail is unclear. But we need to begin thinking about it, now. There must be money for new roads and communications, as well as health, education, sanitation and social reconstruction programmes. The international community needs to help organize these efforts, working with the Government of Sudan as well as the host of international aid agencies and NGOs working so heroically on the ground, in very difficult circumstances.

Ladies and gentlemen,

In your very kind invitation, you asked me to speak a bit about how I see the UN and its role in a changing world, particularly in this part of the world.

Let me say, here, something about who I am. I am not a philosopher. I have never put much stock in grand rhetoric – dreams of the future, “visions” that promise more than can be delivered. I am a realist, a man of action. I believe in results, not rhetoric.

As I look out at the coming year, and beyond, I see a growing number of extraordinary challenges. Darfur and the crisis in Sudan are among my very top priorities.

But there are many others. Iraq, where we are likely to be tasked with ever greater responsibilities. Climate change. Making development work in Africa, so that we can fully realize our Millennium Development Goals.

The list goes on, from Somalia and the Middle East, to new crises and opportunities that the world will bring our way. It think it is fair to say that the demands to be placed upon us have never been greater in our 62-year history, even as the resources available to us grow proportionally more scarce.

Where does Sudan stand in relation to the UN, and more broadly in the international community?

You are the largest country in Africa, rich in natural resources. But there is a need to create conditions enabling more development. Fighting has claimed the lives of hundreds of thousands of people. Many more have become refugees and displaced persons, making Sudan among the world's trouble spots. This is regrettable, given the great potential of your country.

The UN has broad responsibilities, which can be thought of as three pillars. 1) Peace and security. 2) Economic and social development, as set forth in the UN Millennium Development Goals. 3) Human Rights.

The UN has a direct responsibility to advance in all three of these areas. As for the first, that's why I am in Sudan.

With respect to the second, much has been done in advancing our MDGs in Sudan. In southern Sudan, for example, the number of children enrolled in school grew from 343,000 in 2005 to more than 1 million in 2007. We have vaccinated cattle, distributed food and vitamin supplements to children, drilled hundreds of new water wells, and helped rebuild roads. Still, much more needs to be done if Sudan is to be on track to meet the Millennium Development Goals.

As for human rights, we have only to look around us to see how far Sudan has to go in upholding human rights and protecting people from suffering. Justice is an important part of building and sustaining peace. A culture of impunity and a legacy of past crimes that go unaddressed can only erode the peace.


Let us now turn our thoughts to how we can work together, and how the UN can make a difference in your lives and help create a better future.

As I said earlier, I am not a man of dreams and high rhetoric. I believe in solutions that are real solutions. And I know that there can be no solutions to Sudan's political problems without sustainable economic development.

I've mentioned some of the ways we are already helping, and what more we can do -- from helping to provide better health care to promoting better agricultural techniques to encouraging small business development.

But when it comes to providing root solutions to the country's problems, it begins with a core issue facing so many people in Sudan and elsewhere in this region.

You all know that the conflict in Darfur began, long ago, in part because of drought. When the rains failed, farmers and herders fell into competition for an increasingly scarce resource. The decisions of man to wage war over these precious natural resources further compounded other factors and challenges.

But the fact remains. Lack of water, and a scarcity of resources in general, has contributed to a steady worsening of Sudan's troubles. As part of the solution, the Government with international assistance will have to ensure that the people of Darfur have access to vital natural resources – water being chief among them. The UN stands ready to assist in this effort.

I realize this all sounds very practical and down-to-earth. It is. If you were hoping for high-minded declarations of global principles, I may have disappointed you. But that is the point. As Secretary-General, I would like to look only for results. Tangible action, solutions you can see and touch, measurable progress. After all, who can eat or drink only words?

I have discussed this matter with our European partners, as well as the world's aid and financial institutions. I'm going to host an MDG Africa Steering Group meeting next week in New York. I promise you that I will pay as much attention to this as I have to matters of peace and security.

I am very happy to have been able to meet with you here. It has been a pleasure speaking with you. I look forward to seeing more of your beloved country. I count on your continued support.

Thank you very much for your strong commitment to the United Nations, and for your help in our work - present and future.

Shoukran jazeelan.

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