Saturday, March 28, 2009

"Pulitzer Prize" winning photo taken in 1994 during the Sudan famine

"Pulitzer Prize" winning photo taken in 1994 during the Sudan famine

This photo is the "Pulitzer Prize" winning photo taken in 1994 during the Sudan famine. The picture depicts a famine stricken child crawling towards a United Nations food camp, located a kilometer away.

The vulture is waiting for the child to die so it can eat it. This picture shocked the whole world. No one knows what happened to the child, not even the photographer Kevin Carter who left the place as soon as the photograph was taken.

Three months later he commited suicide due to depression.

[This photo from Sudan Watch archives has been viewed 4,554 times. I am leaving it at the top of this page while I take a short break to catch up on resting, reading and emails. Please forgive me if I owe you an email or reply. I receive so many requests for help and information that it is impossible for me to keep up with it all. I regret not having composed a standard reply that I could have sent out as an acknowledgement and thanks. I fear that people think badly of me for not replying to their emails. Meanwhile, I hope that this photo will remind readers of Sudan Watch to think of all the children in Sudan and Chad and pray that the UN Security Council takes advice from Djibril Bassole, the joint African Union and United Nations Chief Mediator for Darfur, to take heed of the African Union's concerns and use the council's power to suspend the ICC's proceedings against Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir]

P.S. Former Sudanese child soldier Emmanuel Jal was a young teenager in southern Sudan when the above photo was taken. He was taken from his family home in 1987 when he was six or seven years old, and sent to fight with the rebel army in Sudan’s bloody civil war. For nearly five years, he was a “child warrior,” put into battle carrying an AK-47 that was taller than he was. Click here to read his incredible true story and view short video clips.

South Sudan DDR: UN says militants re-integrating in Sudan is now underway

Friday, March 27, 2009 report by PANA via
UN says militants re-integrating in Sudan
New York, US - A process to reintegrate more than 180,000 former Sudanese militants back into civil society is now under way, the United Nations said on Thursday.

The Pan African News Agency (PANA) reports that a statement issued by the UN, stated that the ex-fighters were taking part in a disarmament, demobilisation and re-integration programme backed by the UN mission in Sudan (UNMIS).

It said the programme provided former militants, once involved in the 22-year civil war in Sudan, with technical and material assistance to support the transition back into civilian life.

"While a violent insurgency continues between rebels and the Sudanese government in the western Darfur region of Sudan, the UN is supporting the process of helping more than 180,000 ex-fighters reintegrate into the society,'' it noted.

The statement also said that the process was starting in the central-eastern city of Ed Damazin, Sudan.

"Reintegration is the last and most crucial phase of the multi-million-dollar process known as disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration called for by the Sudan's Comprehensive Peace Agreement,'' it added.
Further reading:

UNMIS Information Sheet and map on Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration (DDR) in Sudan.

March 26, 2009 UNMIS report via ReliefWeb: Sudan DDR programme progresses into reintegration phase

March 26, 2009 UN News Centre report: Sudan: UN assists ex-combatants in north-south conflict to return to civilian life

South Sudan DDR

Photo: Ex-combatants from north and south symbolically handed over their weapons and then registered and received a DDR ID card. (UN News Centre)

Friday, March 27, 2009

Making Sense of Darfur: Grading the ICC Prosecutor-And the Bench (Alex de Waal and Julie Flint)

From Alex de Waal's blog Making Sense of Darfur:
Grading the Prosecutor–And the Bench
By Alex de Waal
Thursday, 26 March 2009
My posting on the ICC Prosecutor’s application for leave to appeal against the Pre-Trial Chamber’s decision to reject the genocide charge drew some fierce criticism from some quarters (notably Kevin Heller of So I paused to consider.

Article 58 of the Rome Statute provides that the Pre-Trial Chamber shall, on the application of the Prosecutor, issue an arrest warrant if ‘there are reasonable grounds to believe that the person has committed a crime within the jurisdiction of the Court.’
Two of the three judges of the PTC decided that in the case of the application for an arrest warrant against President Bashir, the Prosecutor had not met the standard. One judge dissented, and the Prosecutor sought leave to appeal. The most significant part of the request is the claim that the judges were not applying the right standard of proof: they were seeking a substantially higher level of proof rather than ‘reasonable grounds to believe.’

My own view is that the Public Application contained plentiful evidence that specific criminal acts had been committed during 2003 and 2004 that might constitute the actus reus of genocide, but that acts committed since January 2005 were most unlikely to fit that requirement. The prosecution’s case rests on demonstrating intent and mode of perpetration. Let us focus on intent. The way the Prosecutor constructs the case is an argument that genocidal intent is the only reasonable inference from the facts of the case. This implies that he is trying to prove the case beyond all reasonable doubt—as he would during a trial. He clearly doesn’t succeed because there are other reasonable inferences from the facts.

But that is not the test that the Pre-Trial Judges should apply. They need to be satisfied only that there are reasonable grounds to believe there was genocide—in both act and intent.

Was I right? I asked three lawyers who are familiar with the issue to comment, independently and anonymously. I didn’t ask anyone who has taken a clear stand on the issue one way or the other. The question broke into two parts.

First, did the PTC apply the correct standard of proof? Reviewer one gave the judges a poor grade. “I think the PTC got it wrong on the standard of proof and did so at a pretty basic level and I would be relatively surprised if the OTP is denied leave to appeal and equally if it were to lose the appeal on that point.” Reviewer two thought that the judges were right to reject the charge. “Whereas ‘reasonable grounds to believe’ is not absolute, the factor ‘only’ (in reasonable inference) is absolute. The question is, which one ‘wins’: should one lower the standards of ‘only’ because it is a pre-trial stage? I wouldn’t say so. If it is evident at this stage already that all the evidence produced leaves open other interpretations, then there are no reasonable grounds to believe…. The philosophy of this stage of the proceedings is to avoid unreasonable charges. If the Prosecutor does not have the right evidence now, will he have later? He should not rely on insufficient material.” But reviewer three asked: “Did the judges err in their application of the evidentiary standard? Probably, yes. … They state several times that genocidal intent must be the only reasonable inference from the actions of GoS in order for the threshold to be met. This is probably untrue, and it is certainly new law.”

So, in deference to a majority of two-to-one, I concede that the Prosecution is right to consider that the PTC got it wrong. Round one to Heller.

Reviewers number one and three (my critics) also considered the wider question: if the judges applied the correct standard, would the prosecution’s case pass the bar?

Number one continued his assessment of the PTC: “There were a million other ways they could have rejected the genocide case but the reasoning they chose was in my view simply an error in law. I think there is a good argument to say that at the very least the public application did not demonstrate even on the lower standard that Al Bashir was involved in the commission of genocide which would have required more showing how he participated in a genocidal plan—about which there is really nothing more than suspicion in my view.”

Reviewer three agreed that the judges had erred unnecessarily, and went on to write, “The reason I say this is unnecessary is that, in the decision as a whole, I think the evidence does not even support reasonable grounds to believe there was a genocidal intent. It just isn’t there. … In fact they are all arguing over the wrong issue—the evidence doesn’t come close to satisfying even Judge Usacka’s diluted ‘reasonable grounds’ test.”

So, on the quality of the Prosecutor’s case, there was a three-to-nothing majority in my favour. Round two to de Waal. A tie. (Albeit not a strictly fair contest, as I got to choose the panel. Kevin: treat this as an invitation to appeal the decision!)

My reviewers also reflected on some other dimensions of the case. Number three suggested that I should have argued against the appeal on the basis of “the test for allowing an appeal to proceed” which is Article 82(1)d, which requires “there to be a real issue, the resolution of which will impact the fairness and expeditiousness of the proceedings and the resolution of which is necessary at the present stage.” This reviewer went on, “in the context where a warrant has been issued and where charges can be amended later there is no real-world impact of a reversal of the decision on genocide in terms of fairness, expeditiousness etc. This is where the application for leave to appeal really flounders.  There is a warrant out there, and adding genocide matters not one jot to its enforcement.” In short, if evidence arises in the course of further investigations, the Prosecutor always has the right to introduce any additional charges—or re-introduce the genocide charge—at a later stage. In the meantime, the only impacts of adding the charge of genocide would be symbolic and political, which should not influence the Court.

The final conclusion is sad and ironic. The tussle weakens an already weak court. My instant reaction to the PTC decision was that the ICC as an institution had been vindicated—its judges had shown independence and rigour. The Prosecutor’s loss was the Court’s gain. As a supporter of the Court on principle I was happy about this. But, it seems, my confidence was misplaced. This was summed up by one of my reviewers: “A bad decision all round—a bad bench and a bad prosecutor. Mon Dieu!”
From Alex de Waal's blog Making Sense of Darfur:
Response to Grading the Prosecutor–And the Bench
By Julie Flint
Friday, 27 March 2009
A fourth reviewer, one of the many senior lawyers and investigators who have left the ICC in disagreement with Moreno Ocampo, argues that the main weakness of the application lies in going for President Bashir alone. Many who have worked on the Darfur referral have been concerned by the prosecutor’s simplistic presentation of the conflict and his failure to grasp the fact that much of what has happened in Darfur since 2004 is the bitter but not necessarily criminal fruit of war. As Moreno Ocampo talks of an ongoing government plan to ‘exterminate’ Darfur’s displaced — an assertion that has deepened the anger currently directed against foreigners in Darfur, making life even harder for the relief workers who remain there — seeking a warrant for the president alone plays straight into the hands of those who seek to defend the Sudan government by arguing that the Prosecutor is making a poorly-disguised attempt at regime change by judicial means.

It is no secret that some of the best legal minds in the ICC have quit, the vast majority of them in disagreement with Moreno Ocampo. They feel the Darfur investigation has been characterized by a series of disastrously bad strategic decisions, each one compounded by the next. The first was the decision, by the Prosecutor, to issue a summons for Ahmad Haroun, who was in Jordan at the time and could have been arrested with a sealed warrant. Moreno Ocampo justified his decision on the ground that a summons was the only way to have an impact on the ongoing crimes. The greatest impact, surely, would have been to arrest Haroun. But in 2006 Moreno Ocampo had been severely criticized in two amicus curiae briefs — by Prof. Antonio Cassese and Louise Arbour — and was set on proving them wrong. This demanded headlines. Never mind whether he got results or not. And he did not: neither Haroun nor Ali Kushayb has been arrested three years on, and Khartoum has not been cowed into cooperation with the Court. Quite the opposite: Haroun makes daily headlines as minister of state for humanitarian affairs, Ali Kushayb has reportedly been recruiting near the Chad border, and President Bashir is thumbing his nose at the ICC, jumping on planes at the drop of a hat while the displaced begin to feel the pinch of the arrest warrant against him.

After the first warrants, against Haroun and Ali Kushayb, the Prosecutor had a range of options. A strong feeling inside the Court was that the best move — politically, legally and strategically — would have been to charge a number of senior ranking military and militia figures, insisting on a critical review of evidence in all its shades. The worst possible second step, many insiders felt, was to go for Bashir alone — risking the repercussions against humanitarians that Alex and I warned of (to cries of ‘doom and gloom’ and ‘chicken little’, and assertions that our fears were ‘overblown’). In ignoring his colleagues’ advice and targeting the president in isolation from other ranking figures, Moreno Ocampo has strengthened the perception that he seeks regime change as the ultimate justice. The immediate result is twofold: a rallying of political and popular opinion around President Bashir, which has strengthened his position at least in the short term, and renewed criticism of the already-beleaguered ICC.

I have just spent two weeks in Darfur and do not recognize the place depicted either by the Prosecutor or a substantial part of the media. (More of that in a later posting.) It is true that the war-affected in the camps want Bashir indicted, and want him indicted for genocide — the buzz word of the last five years, which has reached every corner of the camps, and the cornerstone of a multi-million-dollar activist movement. But it is equally true that every other Sudanese I spoke to has profound misgivings about the arrest warrant — ranging from fears of uncontrollable instability if this government falls apart to ‘genocide against the Zaghawa’ tribe of Minni Minawi. In the words of one astute Darfurian: ‘The real genocide will happen if Bashir is removed. Zaghawa, and to a lesser extent Fur, will face a very critical position if Bashir is removed.’
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Note from Sudan Watch Ed: I have used red to highlight text for my own reference. This part got me thinking:
"There is a warrant out there, and adding genocide matters not one jot to its enforcement. [...] the only impacts of adding the charge of genocide would be symbolic and political, which should not influence the Court."
After the miles of reports on Sudan that I have read over the past five years, I have a vague recollection of reading about compensation for war affected individuals. Now I am wondering if rates of compensation differ for survivors of genocide. I have just Google searched "compensation for genocide survivors" and found the following article at the top of the search result.  The article gives clues to the scope of the issue:  survivors of the Rwanda genocide are still awaiting reparations.  This tells me that a genocide ruling benefits survivors.  I shall copy this note and post it in the comments box at Alex de Waal's blog post Grading the Prosecutor–And the Bench and ask if he thinks that adding the charge of genocide might benefit war affected individuals in Darfur. I hope this all makes sense. I know what I am trying to say but it is now 23:08 Friday night here in England and I am overtired. Too tired to re-read and check all of this before posting.

From Human Rights Tribune (
Genocide survivors tired of promises
Aimable Twahirwa - IPS
20 April 2006 - KIGALI - More than a decade after the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, the need for compensation to victims of this tragedy continues to present difficulties for government and genocide survivors alike.

Upwards of 800,000 minority Tutsis and moderate Hutus lost their lives in the killing spree, which began after a plane carrying Rwandan President Juvenal Habyarimana and his Burundian counterpart, Cyprien Ntaryamira, was shot down over Rwanda’s capital - Kigali - on Apr. 6 1994.

Since then, a court - the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) - has been set up in the northern Tanzanian town of Arusha to bring the alleged masterminds of the genocide to book, while Rwandan courts have struggled to try the huge number of persons accused of carrying out the killings.

Hutu militants and members of the Rwandan army are held largely responsible for conducting the massacres.

Those who survived the genocide are still awaiting reparations, however, says François Ngarambe, president of Ibuka ("Remember", in English) - one of the main non-governmental organisations for genocide survivors.

This is despite numerous promises of help from government regarding school fees for orphans, medical assistance and accommodation for poor survivors.

Unrealistic promises

"We are sick of continuing to hear unrealistic promises made by politicians who have little sense of our suffering," said Marie Claire Murorunkwere, a Tutsi genocide widow from Ngoma, a district in the east of the country.

Adds Jean Glaubert Burasa — director of publication for ’Rushyashya’, a bi-weekly newspaper published in Kigali — "This refusal to compensate the survivors is another way of humiliating victims, and supporting those responsible for the genocide."

Rwanda’s authorities admit that the need for reparations has confronted them with a dilemma.

"The Rwandan government is not in a position today to promise what it will never have the means to deliver," Edda Mukabagwiza, minister of justice and institutional relations, told IPS.

Simply listing the victims, and damages sustained in terms of physical and psychological injuries, as well as goods destroyed — is a huge task that the Rwandan government cannot take on alone, notes Mukabagwiza.

Faced with government’s limitations in the matter of compensation, certain associations for genocide victims have started income-generating activities. These include the Association of Genocide Widows of April 1994 (l’Association des veuves du génocide d’avril 1994, AVEGA) which last year began making small baskets for decoration — and export to the American market.

Named ’Basket of Peace, the project has received support from Canada. At present some 200 women are participating in the initiative, including genocide widows and women whose husbands are in prison on genocide charges — AVEGA president Bellancille Umukobwa told IPS.

Joséphine Nyirantwali is one of those who has benefited from ’Basket of Peace’. Previously, she depended entirely on aid of 60 dollars a month provided by the Assistance Fund for Genocide Survivors, set up by government in 1998.

Husbands in detention

Today, however, Nyirantwali is able to support herself. "It’s the sad experience of the past that gave me the courage to stand in solidarity with my other colleagues," she said.

Donatille Mukagakwaya, a Hutu woman whose jailed husband stands accused of helping to carry out the genocide, voices similar sentiments.

"We are not responsible for what happened in Rwanda. Our husbands are in detention, and we cannot predict what will happen tomorrow. We therefore need to join forces to meet the needs of our families."

According to Mandiaye Niang — special councilor at the ICTR — the United Nations Security Council has discussed setting up a special fund to compensate genocide victims, on the basis of individual or collective demands.

"The ICTR could eventually be given a new responsibility…to co-ordinate compensation to victims who have appeared before it, as witnesses," he explained.

The tribunal has already launched a programme of assistance for witnesses, in Rwanda.

The first phase of this initiative, which began in September 2000, included legal advice, psychological counseling and physical rehabilitation.

A second phase involved financial aid for a resettlement programme.

According to ICTR spokesman Tim Gallimore, the tribunal has contributed 15 percent of financing (about 52,000 dollars) towards the initial cost of construction for 23 houses in the "Village of Peace" in Kamonyi - a district in central Rwanda.

Baby camel

Baby camel

An one-day-old camel named Jenny is seen with her 17-year-old mother, Jolan, at the Budapest Zoo Park and Botanic Garden in the Hungarian capital. Picture: AFP/GETTY

Source: UK Telegraph Animal pictures of the week: 27 March 2009

UNHCR: 16,000 refugees from DR Congo have fled to South Sudan

The various rebel attacks in North Kivu, DR Congo have since last year displaced over 250,000 people, while in Orientale region, nearly 190,000 have been displaced in the last six months, and some 16,000 refugees have fled to South Sudan.

Source: Friday, 27 March 2009 report by UNHCR. See this site's sister blog Congo Watch: FDLR and PARECO have surrounded the village of Pinga, some 80 km north-east of Walikale in North Kivu
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South Sudan on the brink of collapse
Source: Refugees International (RI) via ReliefWeb
Date: Thursday, 26 March 2009 - excerpt:
Refugees International also expressed concern over increasing localized conflict and instances of insecurity. Communities voiced concerns to RI about the lack of police patrols and lack of protection by the Government of Southern Sudan and the UN peacekeeping mission in southern Sudan (UNMIS). According to UN statistics, from January to November 2008, 187,000 people were forcibly displaced by tribal and armed conflict in south Sudan. RI is concerned that UNMIS, the UN and non-governmental organizations have yet to develop clear contingency planning and protection strategies in the case of large outbreaks of violence.
It's a wonder that anyone in the Sudanese government can get important work done to help the people of Sudan when ruthless rebels and ICC sap everyone's time and energy day in day out, month after month, year after year. To me it looks like chaos by design and has the hallmarks of Al-Qaeda.

Sudan's Bashir travels to Eritrea, Egypt, Libya are not to challenge ICC

From Radio Dabanga
Travels Bashir not challenging ICC
Thursday, 26 March 2009
KHARTOUM (27 March) – The international attorney specialized in the issue of the Darfur indictement of the International Crime Court, Abdel Hadi Shallouf, says that the travels of president Omar Al Bashir to the neighbouring countries are not important and have no significance. President Al Bashir traveled to Eritrea, Egypt and Libya during the last week after the ICC issued an arrest warrant. The lawyer Shallouf says: “During these short trips he is not passing international airspace. In this way he is not challenging the International Criminal Court. Anyhow, the procedures of exchanging criminals will take a long time, also if an arrest would happen in countries like England and France”, Shallouf told Radio Dabanga. [End]
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Bashir arrives in Libya

Photo: Sudan's President Omar Hassan al-Bashir (C) arrives in Libya's capital Tripoli, March 26, 2009 to hold talks with leader Muammar Gaddafi, a Libyan official said. (Reuters/Sudan Presidential Press Unit/Handout)

Sudan's Al Bashir in Libya

Photo: Thursday, 26 March 2009, Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi greets Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir, right, upon his arrival in Tripoli, Libya, the third country that Mr Bashir has visited in four days. (AP Photo)

Bashir and Gadaffi

Photo: Thursday, 26 March 2009, Libya's leader Muammar Gaddafi (R) welcomes Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir. (Reuters/Sudan Presidential Press Unit/Handout)

Sudan's President al-Bashir arrives in Libya
Thursday, 26 March 2009 report by DPA via M&C - excerpt:
Tripoli- Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir arrived in Libya Thursday in an unscheduled visit for talks with Libyan leader Muammar al-Qadhafi, the Libyan news agency (JANA) reported.

The satellite news channel al-Arabiya reported on Thursday that Al-Bashir, who arrived in Egypt Wednesday, had been scheduled to make Ethiopia the latest stop in his tour of countries that have not signed the Rome Statute on the International Criminal Court (ICC) and so are not obligated to execute the arrest warrant.

At the end of al-Bashir's meeting with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak Wednesday, Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul-Gheit reaffirmed Egypt's commitment to send doctors to Sudan to help make up for al-Bashir's expulsion of 13 aid organisations soon after the ICC issued its warrant for al-Bashir's arrest earlier this month.

Aboul-Gheit repeated Egypt's promise to coordinate with Arab and Islamic aid groups to help fill the gap left by the 13 international aid agencies' expulsion.
Sudan's Bashir goes to Libya, defying ICC
Thursday March 26, 2009 Reuters report - excerpt:
Gaddafi, who is also the current president of the African Union, said last month that "foreign forces" including Israel were stoking the Darfur conflict and urged the ICC to stop proceedings against Bashir.

Libyan Prime Minister Al-Baghdadi Ali Al-Mahmoudi and top government and military officials welcomed Bashir at the airport in Sirte, Gaddafi's home town 500 km (300 miles) east of the capital Tripoli, Libyan state news agency JANA said.

Bashir, flanked by a delegation including Sudan's foreign and industry ministers, met Gaddafi over lunch and thanked the veteran Libyan leader for his staunch support, it said.

"President al-Bashir thanked the leader of the revolution ... for his solid pro-Sudan positions in regional and international forums, a position that reflects the depth of the relationship between the two brother countries," JANA said.

The two leaders discussed ways to address the humanitarian situation in Darfur and Sudan's relations with Chad, while Gaddafi "stressed his rejection of the decisions of the so-called "criminal court"", it said.

They agreed to focus on a "social solution" for Darfur and work towards a free and fair referendum for its population, JANA added.

Gaddafi says Africa can solve its own problems without outside meddling and has made a number of attempts to broker peace between Darfur rebels and the Khartoum government.

(Reporting by Andrew Heavens; Writing by Cynthia Johnston and Tom Pfeiffer; Editing by Charles Dick)
Reports: Sudan president arrives in Libya
Thursday, 26 March 2009, report by Xinhua - excerpt:
Bashir will hold talks during the visit with Libyan leader Muammar Ghaddafi on ways to promote bilateral relations, the Darfur issue and the dispute between Sudan and the ICC, said Egypt's official MENA news agency, without naming a source.

The Sudanese president visited Eritrea and Egypt earlier this week.
Bashir and Taha

Photo: Thursday, 26 March 2009, Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir (L) is welcomed by Sudanese 2nd Vice President Ali Osman Taha upon his arrival in Khartoum from Libya. (Reuters/Mohamed Nureldin)

Sudan's Bashir & Egypt's Mubarak

Photo: Wednesday, 25 March 2009, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, right, meets with Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir at the Presidential Palace in Cairo, Egypt. (AFP/Cris Bouroncle)

Bashir and Taha

Photo: Wednesday, 25 March 2009, Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir, front left, is accompanies by Sudanese 2nd Vice President Ali Osman Taha, right, upon his return to Khartoum airport, Sudan, following his visit to Egypt, Wednesday, March 25, 2009. (AP Photo/Abd Raouf)

Sudan's Bashir in Eritrea

Photo: Monday, 23 March 2009, Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir (L) addresses a news conference as his Eritrean counterpart Isaias Afwerki (R) looks on in Asmara, Eritrea. (Xinhua/Reuters Photo)

Sudanese president pays first visit abroad in spite of ICC arrest warrant
Monday, 23 March 2009 report by Xinhua - excerpt:
The Sudanese president said that the visit came at the invitation of President Afewerki to show the positions of Eritrean supporting Sudan and to make sure that it stands with Sudan in the same trench.

Eritrean President Afewerki, on his part, reiterated his government's refusal of the ICC decision, according to the SUNA report, terming the decision as a political one aiming at undermining the security and stability in Sudan and complicating the Darfur issue.

"Our problems on the African continent are imposed from the outside," the Eritrean president said, stressing the capacity of the African leaders to overcome these challenges.
Sudan president returns from Eritrea

Photo: Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir is welcomed by Sudanese 2nd Vice President Ali Osman Taha upon his return from Eritrea (AFP) Source: Al-Ahram

Qatari PM

Photo: Tuesday, 24 March 2009, Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir, right, meets with Qatari prime minister and minister of foreign affairs Sheik Hamad bin Jassem Al Thani in Khartoum,Tuesday, March 24, 2009. Talks focused on the second round of Darfur peace agreement in Doha, Qatar, and Bashir's participation in an Arab Summit there. (AP Photo/Abd Raouf)

Bashir meets Somali President Sheikh

Photo: Sunday, 22 March 2009, Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir (R) meets Somali President Sheikh Sherif at the state house in the capital Khartoum, (Reuters/Mohamed Nureldin)
- - -

ICC prosecutor: Al-Bashir's trips abroad a "sign of desperation"
Thursday, 26 March 2009, report by DPA via M&C:
Amman - International Criminal Court (ICC) chief prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo on Thursday said Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir's trips to neighbouring countries was 'a sign of desperation.'

'It seems to me that al-Bashir's trips are nothing more than a sign of desperation rather than a challenge to the ICC,' Moreno- Ocampo said in a telephone interview with the Doha-based al-Jazeera satellite television channel.

'Al-Bashir carries out short-distance trips to countries neighbouring Sudan to give the impression that he can travel, but he cannot go farther,' he said.

The Sudanese president, who is the subject of an international arrest warrant issued by the ICC on March 4 for alleged atrocities in Sudan's western Darfur region, on Thursday visited Libya.

Earlier this week he made similar trips to Eritrea and on Wednesday he visited Egypt, where he met with President Hosny Mubarak.

Al-Bashir has been invited to the regular Arab summit conference due to be held in Doha at the month, but Sudan's top Islamic scholars have advised him not to attend.

Qatar, Egypt, Eritrea and Libya have not signed the Rome Statue that established the ICC. All countries were, however, 'supposed to implement international law and help us to stop the genocide in Darfur,' Moreno-Ocampo said.

'The arrest of al-Bashir may take time, but he must be eventually arrested,' he said.
Note from Sudan Watch Ed:  Surely Prosectuor Moreno-Ocampo is aware that the way he talks is music to the rebels' ears. Why should the rebels give up on violence and make peace when they have the ICC on their side and a prosecutor who behaves like the savedarfurcrowd aiming to topple Sudan's sitting head of state? Mr Moreno-Ocampo's cavalier style reminds me of an old Hollywood cowboy movie The Lone Ranger.   Sorry.  Bad joke.  Bad mood.  After five years of blogging at Sudan Watch it is unbearably angering and sad watching recent developments unfold when they could have so easily been avoided.  The only hope left is that the UN Security Council takes advice from Chief Mediator Djibril Bassole and uses its power to suspend the ICC's proceedings against Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir.

The Lone Ranger
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South Sudan on the brink of collapse
Source: Refugees International (RI) via ReliefWeb
Date: Thursday, 26 March 2009 - excerpt:
Refugees International also expressed concern over increasing localized conflict and instances of insecurity. Communities voiced concerns to RI about the lack of police patrols and lack of protection by the Government of Southern Sudan and the UN peacekeeping mission in southern Sudan (UNMIS). According to UN statistics, from January to November 2008, 187,000 people were forcibly displaced by tribal and armed conflict in south Sudan. RI is concerned that UNMIS, the UN and non-governmental organizations have yet to develop clear contingency planning and protection strategies in the case of large outbreaks of violence.
Who can get any important work done when the rebels and ICC sap everyone's time and energy. I believe that Mr Bashir's travels to Eritrea, Egypt and Libya are important visits to fight for Sudan, shore up support and get things done and sorted out, not to challenge or defy the ICC. The reason I believe that is because it is what I would do if I were in his shoes.

UN-AU Chief Mediator Djibril Bassole called on UN Security Council to heed AU concerns

UN Chief and UNAMID Chief Mediator for Darfur

Photo: UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon meets Dijbril Bassole, the joint African Union and United Nations Chief Mediator for Darfur, at United Nations headquarters in New York Wednesday, 25 March 2009. (Reuters/Chip East)

Darfur mediator says Bashir warrant imperils talks
Friday, 27 March 2009 report from Reuters by Patrick Worsnip
(UNITED NATIONS) An International Criminal Court arrest warrant for Sudan's President Omar Hassan al-Bashir may have compromised the quest for peace in Darfur, a U.N. and African Union mediator said on Thursday.

The official, Djibrill Bassole, called on the U.N. Security Council to heed the concerns of the AU, an organization grouping 53 African countries that has urged the council to use its power to suspend the ICC's proceedings against Bashir.

Bashir was charged by the court with war crimes in Darfur.

Bassole was addressing the 15-nation council, which later appealed to Sudan to reconsider a decision to expel some aid groups in Darfur after the ICC move. Khartoum has accused the groups of supplying information to the ICC, which they deny.

Bassole, who represents the U.N. and AU jointly, said his task of bringing together Sudan's government and Darfur rebel groups for talks was "currently blocked by the intransigent positions of the warring parties" following the ICC move.

"In all likelihood, the process to find a political solution to the crisis in Darfur has been significantly slowed and even compromised," he told the closed-door meeting, according to a text of his speech seen by Reuters.

Bassole, a former Burkina Faso foreign minister, suggested the Security Council heed the African Union's position.

The AU and Arab League have urged the council to use its power under Article 16 of the ICC statute to defer court action. That call is backed by China and Russia, but Western states holding vetoes in the council have rejected it for now.

French Ambassador Jean-Maurice Ripert reaffirmed the Western view. "We respect the position of the African Union," he told reporters. "It doesn't mean we have to share the same position. ... We think that for the moment there is no reason to accept any Article 16 solution."


The six-year conflict in Darfur, a region in western Sudan, has resulted in up to 300,000 deaths and the displacement of about 270,000 people, according to U.N. officials.

Darfur peace talks were held in Libya in October 2007, but fizzled out because key rebel groups boycotted them.

Last month, the Sudanese government and the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM), a major rebel group, agreed to meet for peace talks, but last week the JEM canceled the plan until Khartoum allowed back the aid groups it expelled.

Bassole said the rebels were contesting the legitimacy of Bashir and waiting to see what happened. He said it was important to try to save the peace process and expressed hope that the Sudanese ultimately would overcome their differences.

Khartoum ordered out 13 foreign groups and shut down three local ones after the ICC issued its warrant.

In a non-binding statement, the council said its members "stressed the importance of continuing the distribution of humanitarian assistance to all the needy in Darfur."

They urged Sudan's government "to continue cooperating with the United Nations and humanitarian organizations and appeal to it to reconsider the decision on suspending the activities of some non-government organizations in Sudan."

The statement was read to media by Ambassador Mohammed Abdel-Rahman Shalgam of Libya, this month's council president. Diplomats said it had been agreed to unanimously by all 15 council members, including Libya, a neighbor of Sudan, and China, which has been Sudan's chief ally on the council.

Bashir, defying the international arrest warrant, traveled to Libya on Thursday for talks with leader Muammar Gaddafi, Libya's government said.

It said they discussed the humanitarian situation in Darfur and would try to narrow the divisions between the Khartoum government and the U.N. mission in the region.

"The Sudanese government reiterated its willingness to accept new partners through agreement between Sudan and the United Nations," said the statement carried by Libyan state news agency JANA.

U.N. humanitarian chief John Holmes told the council that while efforts by remaining aid groups and Sudan's government "can plug some of the holes for the next few weeks" after the expulsions, "the cumulative effects over time ... significantly increase the risks to well over a million people."

But Sudan's envoy Abdalmahmoud Abdalhaleem told reporters, "The humanitarian situation is absolutely under control."

(Additional reporting by Tom Pfeiffer in Rabat; Editing by Will Dunham)
Note, the report contains a mispelling of Djibril Bassole's name.  Also, the reporters seem to presume that French Ambassador Jean-Maurice Ripert reaffirmed the 'Western view' (see text highlighted in red). From what I can gather, the 'Western view' on the Sudan crisis has been as clear as mud since the emergence of a global economy crisis.

In news from the BBC today, France has showed its true colours by seeking to exploit the natural wealth of poor African countries, such as the uranium rich DR Congo and Niger, in the guise of peacemaking.  Now it seems a little more clearer to me why France is so interested in Chad and hosts Darfur rebel leader Al-Nur while permitting him to direct his Darfur war from Paris.

See the BBC report at Sudan Watch, Friday, 27 March 2009 - Sarkozy outlines Congo peace plan - excerpt:  "French President Nicolas Sarkozy has continued his two-day African tour by visiting the neighbouring Republic of Congo, previously a French colony. He is expected in uranium-rich Niger on Friday. Mr Sarkozy is joined by ministers and other executives from French firms - including France Telecom, cement maker Lafarge and construction group Vinci - chasing contracts in various sectors."

France seeks to exploit Africa - DR Congo has major uranium reserves

French President Nicolas Sarkozy has continued his two-day African tour by visiting the neighbouring Republic of Congo, previously a French colony. He is expected in uranium-rich Niger on Friday.

Mr Sarkozy is joined by ministers and other executives from French firms - including France Telecom, cement maker Lafarge and construction group Vinci - chasing contracts in various sectors.

March 27, 2009 report from BBC News:
Sarkozy outlines Congo peace plan
French President Nicolas Sarkozy has suggested using the mineral wealth of the Democratic Republic of Congo to help bring peace to central Africa.

Addressing parliament in Kinshasa, he also praised Congolese President Joseph Kabila's joint operation with Rwanda against rebels earlier this year.

The region has been plagued by rival militias for more than a decade.

He said the region's people could become rich by working together or continue to fight and remain poor.

French nuclear giant Areva's chief executive has taken advantage of the visit to sign a deal to exploit uranium in DR Congo.

Sarkozy is forgetting that Congo has been sharing its wealth with the world for such a long time - what has it got in return?

Congo responds to Sarkozy

No further details were released but DR Congo has major uranium reserves and was the source of some of the raw material for the atomic bombs the US dropped on Japan in World War II.

Mr Sarkozy has continued his two-day African tour by visiting the neighbouring Republic of Congo, previously a French colony.
He is expected in uranium-rich Niger on Friday.

Mr Sarkozy is joined by ministers and other executives from French firms - including France Telecom, cement maker Lafarge and construction group Vinci - chasing contracts in various sectors.

Sarkozy's Africa policy shift

Addressing Kinshasa's national assembly in the first visit by a French president to the former Belgian colony in a quarter of a century, Mr Sarkozy suggested Kinshasa and its Great Lakes neighbours work together for their mutual benefit.

"The peoples of central Africa will not be changing their address.

"If they can develop good neighbourly relations, the peoples of central Africa will have a rich and peaceful life. If it's a case of might is right, the peoples of central Africa will stay poor and unhappy," he said.

He gained a round of applause from MPs for saying that Congolese sovereignty would not be violated.


Preparations for the visit were overshadowed by comments Mr Sarkozy made in January when he suggested DR Congo share its mineral wealth with Rwanda as a way to end violence around the main eastern city of Goma.

The idea triggered uproar with the Congolese media accusing Paris of seeking a "Balkanisation" of the country and trying to use DR Congo's mineral wealth to help mend its ties with Rwanda.

Paris and Kigali have been at loggerheads for years over who is to blame for Rwanda's 1994 genocide, in which some 800,000 people were slaughtered.

Kinshasa resident Jean Pierre Mafuta told the BBC News website:

"What Mr Sarkozy is forgetting, is that DR Congo had been sharing its wealth, its people and its land with the world for such a long time - what has the Congo got in return?"

Ahead of the visit, aides in Mr Sarkozy's office said: "There is no French peace plan, no plan to share riches, it is not the right moment," reported AFP.

On Thursday Mr Sarkozy also praised as "brave" the Congolese leader's decision to invite Rwandan troops into his country in January for a five-week joint operation against rebel militias plaguing the neighbours' border.

The move was politically sensitive as Rwanda has twice invaded the country in recent years and many Congolese distrusted the Kigali forces' presence.

The aim of the military campaign was to flush out rebel forces each government has accused the other of backing and which have been at the heart of the region's conflicts since Rwanda's genocide.

The DR Congo parliament's speaker was forced to quit on Wednesday after criticising Mr Kabila's decision to let in the Rwandan troops.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

UNAMID: Security situation in Darfur March 26, 2009

From United Nations - African Union Mission in Darfur (UNAMID)
March 26, 2009 Daily Media Brief via APO
Security situation in Darfur

The security situation in Darfur was reported to be relatively calm with few incidents of banditry activities.

A medical officer with an NGO clinic in Khor Abeche, South Darfur, reported that two unknown armed men broke into his house and fled with 2700 Sudanese pounds, a satellite phone and a mobile phone. The incident was reported to Government of Sudan (GoS) Police.

Meanwhile, UNAMID military and police personnel continue to conduct their daily activities including confidence-building patrols, escorts and night patrols. UNAMID Military conducted 23 confidence-building patrols, 14 escort patrols and seven night patrols covering 41 villages and IDP camps. UNAMID Police conducted 88 patrols in and around the villages and IDP camps.

UNAMID facilitates airlift of exam materials to North Darfur schools

UNAMID today assisted in the airlift of exam materials to remote secondary schools located across North Darfur. Three helicopter flights distributed the exam papers for 12 subjects to nine locations around the state, including Umm Kaddada, Kutum and Malha.

This is the second such airlift that UNAMID has conducted for the 2009 certificate examinations, which are being held across Sudan and are scheduled to start on 30 March 2009.

One of the teachers supervising the distribution of the materials, Abdalla Ahmed Bakeet, thanked the Mission for its assistance, which followed a request from the Wali (Governor) of North Darfur.

“These exams are very expensive to organize so it’s very kind of UNAMID to help out with the flights,” he said. “All the people of Darfur thank them.”
Abu Shouk refugee camp

Photo: UNAMID peacekeepers patrol a road at the Abu Shouk refugee camp, near the Darfur town of al-Fasher, Sudan, Thursday, March 26, 2009. (AP Photo/Nasser Nasser)

UNAMID force commander

Photo: UNAMID force commander Gen. Martin Agwai, center salutes his officers, unseen as he leaves after his visit to the Nertiti military base near the southern Darfur town of Nertiti, Sudan Tuesday, March 24, 2009. Gen. Agwai conducted a one day field trip that included two of his operating UNAMID military units in the Darfur remote towns of Kas and Nertiti. (AP Photo/Nasser Nasser)

Unidentified aircraft destroyed suspected arms convoy in E. Sudan last January (Update 4)

Reuters report by Andrew Heavens in Khartoum, Thursday, 26 March, 2009:
Aircraft destroyed suspected Sudan arms convoy - officials
KHARTOUM, March 26 (Reuters) - Unidentified aircraft attacked a convoy of suspected arms smugglers as it drove through Sudan toward Egypt in January, killing almost everyone in the convoy, two senior Sudanese politicians said on Thursday.

The politicians, speaking on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the issue, told Reuters the strike took place in a remote area in east Sudan but did not say who carried it out.

Media reports in Egypt and the United States have suggested U.S. or Israeli aircraft may have carried out the strike. Sudan's foreign minister Deng Alor told reporters in Cairo on Wednesday he had no information on any attack.

Any public confirmation of a foreign attack would have a major impact in Sudan, where relations with the West are already tense following the International Criminal Court's decision this month to issue an arrest warrant for President Omar Hassan al-Bashir on charges of Darfur war crimes.

Egyptian independent newspaper Al-Shorouk quoted "knowledgeable Sudanese sources" this week as saying aircraft from the United States were involved in the strike, which it said killed 39 people.

The U.S. Embassy in Khartoum on Thursday declined to comment. Sudan remains on a U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism, but the State Department has said that Sudan is cooperating with efforts against militant groups.

U.S.-based CBS News, however, reported on its website on Wednesday that its security correspondent had been briefed that Israeli aircraft had carried out an attack in eastern Sudan, targeting an arms delivery to the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas in Gaza.

A senior Israeli defence official on Thursday described the report as nonsense.

The two Sudanese politicians who knew about the January attack said it was still unclear where the aircraft came from. But one of the sources, a senior politician from eastern Sudan, said his colleagues had spoken to a survivor of the raid.

"There was an Ethiopian fellow, a mechanic. He was the only one who survived. He said they came in two planes. They passed over them then came back and they shot the cars. He couldn't tell the nationality of the aircraft ... The aircraft destroyed the vehicles. There were four or five vehicles," he said.

The politician added that the route, in a desert region northwest of Port Sudan on the Red Sea cost, was regularly used by groups smuggling weapons into Egypt.

"Everyone knows they are smuggling weapons to the southern part of Egypt," he said.

The second Sudanese politician, an official in the capital Khartoum, said the attack had become an open secret in the remote part of eastern Sudan where it happened.

He said that as recently as two weeks ago, representatives of an Arab tribe had made an official appeal to government authorities for the return of the bodies of more than 30 people killed in the raid. The official said he could not speculate on why the Sudanese government was not confirming the attack took place.

(Additional reporting by Joseph Nasr and Dan Williams in Jerusalem and Khaled Abdelaziz in Khartoum; Editing by Dominic Evans)
- - -

Mubarak calls for humanitarian assistance to victims of east attacks
Source: Miraya FM via ReliefWeb
Date: Friday, 27 March 2009:
The State Minister of Transport and a senior member of eastern Sudan Free Lions' Front, Ma'brook Mubarak Salim, has called for humanitarian assistance to victims of February air strikes in Eastern Sudan. Salim said the attack, which left (200) widows and orphaned (600), is a crime against humanity as he puts it.

Speaking to Miraya FM Salim said the victims were attacked early morning on eleventh of February this year.

He added that the victims where trying to immigrate to Europe through Egypt.
- - -

How Israel Foiled an Arms Convoy Bound for Hamas
By TIME STAFF Monday, March 30, 2009
By Nili Bassan / EPA
Israeli fighter-bombers, backed by unmanned drones, were responsible for a mid-January attack on a 23-truck convoy in the Sudanese desert carrying arms to Hamas militants, two highly-placed Israeli security sources revealed to TIME. The attack was a warning to Iran and other adversaries, showing Israel's intelligence capability and its willingness to mount operations far beyond its borders in order to defend itself from gathering threats.

The sources revealed exclusive details about the bold air attack on what they said was an Iranian weapons convoy, which had been transporting rockets and explosives destined for Gaza during the Israeli assault on the small Palestinian territory. They denied earlier news reports that U.S. aircraft had been involved in the attack on the arms convoy as it crossed at night through the Sudanese desert heading for Egypt's poorly guarded border. "The Americans were notified that Israel was going to conduct an air operation in Sudan, but they were not involved," a source said. He denied prior claims by a U.S. television network that a ship and a second convoy were destroyed. "There was only one raid, and it was a major operation," he said, adding that "dozens of aircraft" were used. (See pictures of the recent Gaza conflict)

F-16 fighter-bombers carried out two runs on the convoy, while F-15 fighter planes circled overhead as a precaution in case hostile aircraft were scrambled from Khartoum or a nearby country. After the first bombing run, drones mounted with high-resolution cameras passed over the burning trucks. The video showed that the convoy had only been partially damaged, so the Israelis ordered a second pass with the F-16s. During the 1,750-mile (2800 km) journey to Sudan and back, the Israeli aircraft refueled in midair over the Red Sea. (See pictures of violence in Sudan.)

The bombing raid came after an intelligence tip-off. In early January, at the height of Israel's assault on Gaza, Israel's foreign intelligence agency Mossad was told by an informant that Iran was planning a major delivery of 120 tons of arms and explosives to Gaza, including anti-tank rockets and Fajir rockets with a 25 mile range and a 45 kg warhead. With little time to plan the operation, naval vessels and helicopters were rushed to the Red Sea in case Israel had to rescue a downed pilot, and the plan was rushed through. "The Israelis had less than a week to pull this all together," a source said.

The Iranian shipment was bound for Port Sudan. From there, according to the security sources, the Iranians had organized a smuggler's convoy of 23 trucks that would take the weapons across Egypt's southern border and up into the Sinai. Hamas would then take charge of the weapons and smuggle them into Gaza through the tunnels unscathed by Israeli bombardments. (See pictures of Gazans digging out.)

It was a route used occasionally by Hamas, but never before on such a large scale, sources said. "This was the first time that the Iranians had tried to send Hamas a shipment this big via Sudan — and it is probably the last," he said. Several Iranians were killed in the raid, along with Sudanese smugglers and drivers, the source claimed. "No doubt the Iranians are checking back to see who might have leaked this to the Israelis," he said.

Even if the shipment had reached Gaza, it's doubtful that it would have changed the outcome of the battle, in which Israeli forces sliced into the heart of the Palestinian enclave, killing over 1,300, many of them civilians. But the deadly new armaments and missiles would almost certainly have raised the Israeli death toll, both among soldiers and civilians living within the range of the Fajir rockets. Eleven Israelis died during the Gaza offensive. (See pictures of Israeli soldiers sweeping into Gaza.)

One Hamas official, while not denying that the arms convoy was theirs, said it numbered only 15 trucks and was laden with fewer weapons than the Israeli source claims. "The Israelis are trying to overplay the quantity of arms as a way to justify this raid, and to mobilize the Europeans to crack down on smugglers in the Mediterranean," he said. In January, Cypriot authorities seized an Iranian freighter that the U.S. and Israel claim was shipping arms to Hamas in Gaza. (See pictures of life under Hamas in Gaza.)

Israel never officially admits to carrying out overseas actions against its foes, but it is suspected of sending planes to destroy a Syrian nuclear facility in 2007, and is also blamed for the Damascus car bomb killing in February last year of Hizballah military commander Imad Mugniyeh. Outgoing Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, who will step down on Tuesday, hinted that Israel was behind the Sudan raid, saying: "We operate in many places near and far, and carry out strikes in a manner that strengthens our deterrence."

Meanwhile, the London-based Arabic newspaper al-Sharq al-Awsat reported on Monday that a few days before the alleged Israeli raid, a senior U.S. official warned Sudan to stop smugglers from bringing weapons to Hamas in Gaza, but Sudan failed to comply. (See TIME's Pictures of the Week.)

A Hamas security official contacted by TIME waved off Israeli reports that the destruction of the weapons convoy was a major setback to the Islamic militants who govern Gaza. "We have our own 'home delivery' set-up for weapons," he said with a laugh, explaining that Sinai's tribes of Bedouin smugglers are still bringing arms to the many secret tunnels snaking into Gaza. This is no idle boast. On Sunday, a senior Israeli security chief told Olmert's cabinet that since Israel ended its 22-day offensive in Gaza on Jan. 1, Hamas had smuggled in 22 tons of explosives and "tens" of rockets, readying for another round of fighting. Israeli officials can breathe easier knowing that the longer-range fajir missiles did not get through. Iran and Hamas, no doubt, will try again.
- - -

From The Economist print edition
A mysterious air raid on Sudan - A battle between two long arms
April 02, 2009
The shadow-boxing between Israel and Iran moves from Gaza to Sudan

GIVEN the ferocity of Israel’s onslaught on the Islamist militants of Hamas in the Gaza Strip in the first three weeks of January, it stands to reason that Israel would also be doing everything in its power to stop them getting more weapons. Only now is a murky story emerging of how far (about 1,400km, or 870 miles) Israel was prepared to go.

“Who needs to know, knows,” said Ehud Olmert, Israel’s outgoing prime minister, thereby tacitly confirming a flurry of media reports that Israeli aircraft and/or unmanned drones had destroyed a convoy of 23 lorries carrying Iranian arms destined for Hamas in mid-January in north-east Sudan. After some confusion, the Sudanese government admitted that such an attack, “probably” by Israel, had indeed taken place just north of Port Sudan on the Red Sea. Exotic but unverifiable claims in various media aver that Israel’s Mossad intelligence service got a tip that the arms were going to be smuggled into the Gaza Strip via Sudan and Egypt; that Israel’s air force had only a few days to prepare its raid; and that 40 or so people in the convoy, including Iranians, may have been killed.

Israel’s aim is said to have been to stop Hamas acquiring Iranian Fajr rockets, designed to be stripped down and carried in parts through the tunnels from Egypt into Gaza, from where their range of at least 40km would have given Hamas a longer reach than its homemade Qassam rockets or the Grad rockets it has already smuggled in and fired at Israel. A secondary aim may have been to remind Iran of Israel’s own “long arm”, and that Israel may one day dare to use it against Iran’s nuclear programme. In September 2007, in another raid Israel confirmed only by nods and winks, it destroyed what America said later was a secret nuclear reactor being built with North Korean help in Syria.

Iran and Sudan have had close links ever since Sudan’s Islamic revolution of 1989, which brought the present government of Omar al-Bashir to power and was inspired by the Iranian version a decade earlier. Hassan al-Turabi, the Islamist ideologue who organised the coup that installed Mr Bashir, explicitly sought a Sunni version of Iran’s Shia revolution, complete with Revolutionary Guards, severe dress codes and sharia courts. Mr Turabi hoped to cast himself as an Ayatollah Khomeini of east Africa.

Despite doctrinal differences between the two countries, Iran swiftly recognised a useful ally in an unfriendly neighbourhood. As a token of friendship, Iran’s then president, Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, visited Khartoum in 1991, along with no fewer than 157 officials. Under agreements signed during Mr Rafsanjani’s visit, Iran agreed to help train Sudan’s version of the Revolutionary Guards, the Popular Defence Forces. To this end Hassan Azda, an Iranian who had been training Hizbullah fighters in Lebanon, was posted to Sudan in 1992.

Iran also helped to set up Sudan’s fledgling arms industry, now the third-largest in Africa. The missiles that Israel is said to have destroyed in the January raid were probably shipped into Port Sudan via Yemen from Iran. But it is also possible that some of the arms were manufactured not in Iran but in Sudan’s own military-industrial complex south of Khartoum. The Iranian defence minister spent four days in Khartoum last year, where he signed another co-operation agreement “in the fields of military technology and the exchange of expertise and training”, according to a Sudanese newspaper.

Apart from technical help, Iran and Sudan support each other in diplomacy. The Sudanese have backed Iran in its confrontation with the United Nations over its nuclear programme, and Iran has supported President Bashir in his own confrontation with the International Criminal Court at The Hague, which wants him arrested for alleged war crimes in Darfur. Israel’s raid, however successful in stopping the convoy bound for Gaza, will have done nothing to weaken, and may have strengthened, the bond between these two governments.
- - -

Update: See Sudan Watch April 05, 2009: Africa Confidential heard that another arms convoy was moving north near Red Sea coast and Egyptian forces were moving to Sudan border to block it

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Sudan's Darfur camp leaders should be held publicly accountable for the crime of denying humanitarian access to suffering civilians

From Inside Peacekeeping in Darfur blog
Wednesday, March 25, 2009
Hunger Strike
Residents, or at least a few powerful leaders, of Kalma camp in South Darfur and two other camps in North Darfur have rejected offers of humanitarian assistance to the camps.

In both written and spoken statements, camp spokesmen claim they cannot accept national or international NGO’s that were not expelled from the country to fill the gaps in medical, sanitation, schooling or other services left by the recent expulsions of nearly half the AID organizations operating in Darfur

At best, this refusal represents the consensus of a group of violence-affected and wary residents mistrustful of the intentions of the government - who believe that any agency left operating in Darfur is either too biased or too weak to be of any good,

At worst, the refusal is the result of manipulative rebel leaders wagering the suffering of their supporters against the possibility of portraying a negative media image of the Sudanese regime.

In theory, it doesn’t matter. Humanitarianism, by its very nature, is supposed to above the fray. As long as people are suffering as civilians during wartime due to factors beyond their control, humanitarians should provide assistance.

Yet, it seems to matter. Engaging with IDP leaders who have refused AID (through dialogue, persuasion, or negotiation), in order to continue providing services sets a disturbing precedent. The refusal will continue until leaders feel they are loosing more than they are gaining from the tactic – which may be after a significant number of deaths – and anything we as a humanitarian community give is chalked up in the gains column (be it legitimacy, political advocacy, or physical assistance)

At the very least, the leaders should be held publicly accountable for the crimes.

In Darfur in the past year, there have been many examples of such humanitarian bargaining. In one camp, fearing a retaliatory attack by militia after killing some members, residents took hostages and demanded the arrival of UN ‘protection’ troops before their release.

In another case camp leaders refused access to UNAMID police and military patrols for months until compensation had been paid to the owner of a motorcycle damaged by a UNAMID vehicle.

One of the few valuable things that IDPs have ownership of is their own image as victims/recipients. For Darfuris, that image becomes is prominent and a powerful negotiating tool – perhaps, an unintended consequences of the huge American advocacy campaign for action in Darfur.

The question now is, how far are we willing to compromise humanitarian principles of neutrality and impartiality to give AID? Can we let a group of people dictate the terms of AID just to ease our conscious about letting people die in faraway places?

How is this refusal substantively different than the Sudanese government’s harassment of NGO’s - except without the excuse of sovereignty?

Should the leaders who have orchestrated the refusal be condemned publicly by UNAMID for the crime of denying humanitarian access to suffering civilians?

[Hat tip: Making Sense of Darfur blog post: INGOs Expelled from Darfur: Time to Acknowledge the Smoking and Loaded Gun]

See Sudan Watch Tuesday, March 24, 2009: Expulsion of major NGOs and Darfur rebel leaders' call to refuse Sudan gov't aid prompt food and health fears

Britain's PM asks 'whole world' to pressure Sudan


Britain's PM asks 'whole world' to pressure Sudan
Associated Press report March 25, 2009 (UNITED NATIONS) -
The British prime minister says he wants "the whole world" to demand that Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir reverse his expulsion of 13 foreign aid organizations and three local ones that worked in Darfur.

Gordon Brown says the aid groups that al-Bashir kicked out were doing "vital work" that is "absolutely essential to the protection of people in Sudan" and should be allowed back in to the western region of Darfur.

Al-Bashir expelled the groups after the International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant charging him with war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Brown spoke to reporters Wednesday after meeting with the U.N. chief.

A day earlier, a joint U.N.-Sudanese assessment reported that if the gaps in aid aren't filled, more than 1 million people in Darfur will go without food in May.
Too late. Disassociate from France and US on Sudan. Retire Malloch-Brown.

An aid worker's story: The day they kicked us out of Sudan

The day they kicked us out of Sudan
19 March 2009
Written by: an international aid worker expelled from Darfur
As I flew out of Sudan, all I felt was guilt. I knew we had no choice - we were being forced to go - but I kept thinking of the people I had to leave behind: my Sudanese friends and colleagues; the children smiling and shouting "OK" every time they see a stranger; and most of all the people living in the camps, who have already suffered so much and are now having to suffer even more.

I kept thinking of the women - who shared everything, no matter how little they had, who always had so much work to do, yet despite their hardship always managed a smile.

Just a few months ago the government closed down the women's centres in the camp - where women who have suffered abuse could find support. But the women didn't give up. Last week they made plans to celebrate International Women's Day in the camp, and I promised I would be there to help them organise it. But I didn't even have the chance to say goodbye.

It's still hard to believe I'm not in Darfur anymore - we are not in Darfur anymore. How is it possible that years of so much hard work can be torn apart within a few hours?

The day it happened will be imprinted on my mind for years to come. We had a meeting with the staff that morning - nobody imagined that it would be our last.

At 4 p.m. we all crowded in front of the TV to watch the announcement that the International Criminal Court was indicting Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir for war crimes. It was all that anybody in Sudan had been talking about for the last few months, and nobody knew what was going to happen.

An hour after the ICC announcement, we received the call. The Government had revoked our licence and we must close all our programmes. No further explanation.

That night none of us could sleep. We have had nothing to do with the ICC and we couldn't understand why the government was blaming us - and making vulnerable Sudanese people suffer as a result.

We tried to cheer each other up by saying it would all be resolved by the morning. But first thing the next day we were told all international staff had to leave Darfur by 4 p.m.

We were in shock. We had to throw everything we could into a few small bags. We barely had time to tell our friends and colleagues we were leaving.

The hardest part was when our Sudanese colleagues came to our house to help us pack. We tried to say goodbye, but they refused to believe it - they kept saying, "You will be able to come back in a few days."

Government officials quickly arrived at the office, confiscating all our assets - our phones and computers to start with. A few staff were taken off by National Security officials for questioning. We didn't know what was going to happen to them.

We set off for the airport - stopping only to say a tearful goodbye to bemused friends and colleagues who we passed in the street. I didn't know what to say to them.

We drove past some of the camps where we have worked - that was even more difficult. I wanted to stop and tell people what was happening, that we were not abandoning them and that we had no choice.

I couldn't stop thinking about what would happen to the people there. What about the water pumps and the food distributions? The health centres and the children's classes? So many important projects, all being stopped almost overnight.

At the airport, National Security were waiting for us. They searched through all of our bags. They took - stole - all kinds of personal items: cameras, iPods, our own computers with hundreds of photos of our lives and friends in Darfur.

By the time we reached Khartoum, our entire organisation had only a couple of phones and computers left to share between us. A few days later we were out of the country.

It has been a week now and everything still feels surreal. Every phone call I make to Darfur reminds me of what has been destroyed.

Millions of people - who have lived through years of war and violence - are going to suffer as a result of this decision. I may never be able to speak to my friends living in the camps again, but I promise them I will keep working to try and help them.
[Hat tip: The Thirsty Palmetto]

Reuters list of best websites around for analysis and news on Sudan

Thanks to Reuters AlertNet for linking to Sudan Watch. Here below is a copy of the sites they've chosen to link to. Thank goodness they've not pointed their readers to American warmongers Eric Reeves and Nicholas Kristof. I've not had a chance to visit and read the Sudanese Optimist, Humanitarian Relief or Thirsty Palmetto (Update: I've just loaded their RSS feeds into my newsreader but Thirsty Palmetto's Atom feed won't load). Alex de Waal's blog Making Sense of Darfur ought to be compulsory reading for any Sudan watchers. Incidentally, Rob Crilly's tweets make amusing reading even though he recently left Khartoum and is back at his base in Nairobi where he is writing a book on Darfur.

From Reuters AlertNet
Sudan: Useful links
23 Mar 2009
Some of the best websites around for analysis and news on Sudan:

Sudan: Humanitarian snapshot map - ReliefWeb graphic

Making Sense of Darfur - Alex de Waal and others blog about the ICC ruling

Sudanese Optimist - a Sudanese citizen's view plus lots of links to other bloggers in the "Sudanosphere"

Humanitarian Relief - former aid worker Michael Kleinman provides his take

Thirsty Palmetto - an aid worker's view from south Sudan

Rob Crilly - freelance journalist writing about Sudan

Sudan Watch - frequently updated with news from a wide range of sources

Enough Project - blogs about Sudan and the ICC from anti-genocide group

Twitter updates from Andrew Heavens - Thomson Reuters journalist in Khartoum
P.S. Hi to Rob and Andrew. Loved your tweets, especially Rob's from Darfur.

UNAMID investigating fatal fire at Abu Zar camp, W. Darfur

From United Nations-African Union Mission in Darfur (El Fasher)
Sudan: UNAMID Investigating Fatal Fire Outbreak at Abu Zar Camp in West Darfur
25 March 2009 via AllAfrica
Two internally displaced persons (IDPs) died today after a fire broke out at the Abu Zar IDP camp near the West Darfur state capital of El Geneina.

A joint team of UNAMID military and police personnel that was dispatched to the camp to investigate the fire's cause was informed by residents that two armed men in military uniform and two others in civilian clothes were seen entering the camp, starting a fire about 12:30 a.m., and then fleeing.

One female IDP died at the scene and a 22-year-old male IDP died later after being taken to hospital. Three other seriously injured IDPs are receiving medical treatment at El Geneina hospital. The blaze spread relatively quickly because of strong winds at the camp and as many as 1,500 residents were affected by the fire.

Senior UNAMID military and police officials, speaking on behalf of the Mission, expressed their deep concern to the IDPs at Abu Zar following the incident.

Hey ICC: Shut up and get on with investigating insurgents and slayings of peacekeepers

Everyone (myself included) is making my blood boil today. What's going on at the ICC? They seem dangerously out of control. Who are they accountable to? I'm sick of reading their media spinning. They're acting like a bunch of cowboys in a bad Hollywood B movie. Someone ought to grab them by the scruff of their necks and tell them to shut up, keep their heads down and get on with investigating insurgents and the slaying of peacekeepers.

AFP report Wednesday, March 25, 2009 - No Way Out For Sudanese President - International War Crimes Court:
THE HAGUE --International war crimes prosecutors Wednesday warned Sudanese President Omar el-Bashir, who is visiting Egypt, that there was way of escape as long as he is the subject of an arrest warrant.

"We want all political leaders who might meet Omar el-Bashir to explain to him there is no possible way out," said a member of the office of Luis Moreno-Ocampo, the International Criminal Court prosecutor, in The Hague.

"Arresting him is a process that will take time," he said, emphasizing that the office was "monitoring" the movements of the Sudanese president who met his Egyptian counterpart Hosni Mubarak Wednesday.

"There can be no question of 'business as usual' with someone who is the subject of an arrest warrant on charges of such crimes," according to the office of the prosecutor.

Bashir's visit to Cairo is the second trip abroad he has undertaken since the ICC issued a warrant for his arrest on March 4, accusing him of war crimes and crimes against humanity in Darfur in western Sudan where a civil war has been in progress since 2003.

Arab League and African Union members have criticized the issuing of the warrant.

The ICC has no police force and relies on the cooperation of states to execute its arrest warrants.

Source : Dowjones Business News

Hey Google News: Quit mixing in activism with news

Activists are making my blood boil. Here is a snapshot from this afternoon's newsreel at Google news. Note that the 'Breaking News' from Amnesty International (copy here below) is merely a statement of opinion from their website.

Darfur / UNAMID Daily Media Brief
Organisation de la Presse Africaine (Communiqué de presse) - ‎43 minutes ago‎
UNAMID conducted 19 confidence-building patrols, 11 escort patrols and one night patrol covering 21 villages/IDP camps within two of Darfur’s three states. ...

BBC News
Nubia: Lost civilisation of Egypt
BBC News - ‎44 minutes ago‎
Fifty years ago this year Egypt and Sudan asked for international help to save ancient sites threatened by the construction of the Aswan High Dam. ...

Breaking News: al-Bashir visit to Egypt is a missed opportunity to ...
Amnesty International - ‎51 minutes ago‎
They should apply a similar standard to crimes committed in Sudan". Amnesty International is calling on all members of the international community to ensure ...

Voice of America
Bashir in Egypt, Defying ICC Arrest Warrant
Voice of America - ‎52 minutes ago‎
Sudan says the death toll is around 10000. Mr. Bashir has said that despite the arrest warrant, he plans to attend an Arab summit in Qatar next week. ...

Amnesty International's so called 'breaking news' leads to a statement on their website as follows:

25 March 2009
"Egypt and other members of the League of Arab States should not shield President al-Bashir from international justice", said Irene Khan, Amnesty International's Secretary General. “His presence in Egypt today should have been an opportunity to enforce the arrest warrant issued by the International Criminal Court.”

"By declaring that President al-Bashir has immunity from the arrest warrant for war crimes and crimes against humanity, the Arab League has undermined international law which provides no such immunity for anyone, even a serving head of state, for such grave crimes.

"The Arab League was right to demand international justice for war crimes and other serious violations of international law committed during the recent conflict in Gaza. They should apply a similar standard to crimes committed in Sudan".

Amnesty International is calling on all members of the international community to ensure full accountability for crimes under international law committed in Sudan, Gaza and wherever else they occur.
Shame on Amnesty International for issuing such a useless statement that does nothing to help educate readers at such a sensitive time when millions of lives are at stake. Aside from their pompous self promotion, what was the point of issuing such a statement? And they have the cheek to class it as "breaking news." I object to such press releases turning up in Google's newsreel, mixed in with mainstream media, without it being labelled as a press release. It is misleading to readers who may not be aware that Amnesty International's website is purely opinion and self promotion, not professional journalism or hard news.

US's John Bolton says the most logical answer is to empower the Sudanese and others to overthrow Bashir

In the following opinion piece by John Bolton, former U.S. ambassador to the UN, Mr Bolton writes:
The most logical answer to Bashir’s murderous ways is not to indict him from the safety of The Hague, but to empower the Sudanese and others to overthrow him. Then, with new, legitimate authorities in place, the Sudanese could themselves deal with Bashir and hold him accountable for the crimes he has long committed in their name. That is a far better way, if there are to be prosecutions, than trying to hold Bashir accountable in a court thousands of miles away from the crime scene.
Blimey. I'm flabbergasted at Mr Bolton for even thinking those words. I'm stunned at his mindset and fear he is not alone in the way he thinks about the Sudan crisis. I'm trying to work out why I have hesitated over publishing this item. On the one hand it is inflammatory warmongering, but on the other hand it shows a good example of why Sudanese rebel groups feel encouraged and not interested in making peace. I am disgusted by Mr Bolton's statement. The US is up to its eyeballs in debt and hasn't the slightest intention of invading Sudan militarily. As a British citizen, I implore the British government - as a matter of vital importance and urgency - not to be associated in any way with the stance that the insurgents, France and the U.S. are taking against the Sudanese people and their government.

Sudanese Dictator Thumbs His Nose at U.N.’s 'Criminal Court'
By John R. Bolton, U.S. ambassador the the United Nations
March 25, 2009
The recent indictment of Sudan’s leader, Omar al-Bashir, by the International Criminal Court (“ICC”) graphically demonstrates why the ICC is fundamentally flawed. Criticizing the ICC, of course, is not equivalent to defending Bashir for his actions in Sudan’s Darfur region. We can simply assume, and probably correctly, that Bashir is guilty of every offense the ICC has charged.

Bashir’s evil, however, does not justify the ICC’s indictment. The ICC is a potentially huge source of unaccountable power, exercising the weighty executive authority of prosecution, and the enormous judicial power of trial and sentencing, all without the slightest accountability to real people or their elected representatives. Moreover, for Americans, mixing executive and judicial powers in one self-contained institution is itself deeply troubling.

ICC advocates respond that it is responsible to the 108 governments now party to the Rome Statute establishing the ICC. But this defense actually demonstrates the ICC’s unaccountability: an international meeting of 108 governments is rarely capable of anything but platitudes, and certainly not the hard decisions required to oversee sensitive prosecutions.

Because the ICC lacks effective oversight, there is every risk it will take actions that have unforeseen effects in difficult crisis situations. In real governments, decisions can be coordinated to form an overall national policy. The ICC, however, is disconnected and autonomous, causing consequences for which it bears no responsibility.

In fact, Sudan’s decision to expel Western humanitarian aid groups in retaliation for Bashir’s prosecution now threatens to make the grave humanitarian crisis in Darfur even worse. While the Security Council has tried for years to create an effective international peacekeeping force in Darfur to reduce the violence and provide security for humanitarian relief deliveries, the ICC’s indictment has simply made matters worse, and will continue to have that unfortunate effect well into the future.

For too many Westerners, the ICC is a substitute for a truly effective response against the repression and violence taking place in Darfur. Unable or unwilling to do what is necessary to resolve the Darfur crisis, these Westerners are content with “gesture politics,” symbolic acts which may make them feel better about themselves, but which have no positive impact where the tragedy is actually occurring. The world’s hard men, like Bashir, are not deterred from committing outrageous and inhumane acts for fear of being arrested if they travel to the great capitals of Europe. That may deter those who create institutions like the ICC, but Bashir and his ilk are quite content to stay in the world’s Khartoums and run their cruel and authoritarian governments as they see fit. Moreover, many other governments around the world, attracted to Sudan’s rich oil reserves, will happily finance Bashir and those like him, making Sudan’s current government essentially immune from economic pressure.

Although many sincere people argue for “humanitarian intervention” in Darfur, or “the responsibility to protect” its suffering population, no government has yet been willing to take the difficult steps to actually carry out such an intervention. Nor is there any prospect for such action in the foreseeable future because of the tangible -- if unpleasant -- reality that stopping the Darfur atrocities is not sufficiently in any other country’s national interest that it will order its own citizens into harm’s way to end them.

The most logical answer to Bashir’s murderous ways is not to indict him from the safety of The Hague, but to empower the Sudanese and others to overthrow him. Then, with new, legitimate authorities in place, the Sudanese could themselves deal with Bashir and hold him accountable for the crimes he has long committed in their name. That is a far better way, if there are to be prosecutions, than trying to hold Bashir accountable in a court thousands of miles away from the crime scene.

A representative Sudanese government might, in fact, chose not to prosecute Bashir and his cohorts, but instead follow South Africa’s route after the end of apartheid. There, the new democratic government created a Truth and Reconciliation Commission to bring to light the facts of apartheid’s cruelty, and thereafter to move forward. One can advocate either prosecution or reconciliation, but that decision should ultimately be for the Sudanese to make. Removing the decision from them nurtures false but superficially appealing charges of “Western imperialism,” and ultimately impedes Sudan’s own political development

Even among the most outspoken Western critics of Bashir, no one is lining up for “regime change.” That should tell us something, and no one knows it better than Bashir, faced with the ICC indictment. He had no fear in expelling non-governmental organizations providing aid to the very people the indictment is theoretically supposed to be vindicating. Until the West understands the inherent conceptual defects of the ICC and the consequent real-world risks of its actions, we can, unfortunately, simply expect more tragedy like this in the future.

Mr. Bolton is former U.S. ambassador to the United Nation.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Al Qaeda terrorists are already entrenched in Sudan, U.N. Envoy Jan Pronk warns

This news report is from Sudan Watch archives March 2006.

Al Qaeda Is Entrenched In Sudan, U.N. Envoy Warns
By BENNY AVNI, Staff Reporter, New York Sun
March 01, 2006
UNITED NATIONS - Secretary-General Annan's envoy to Sudan, Jan Pronk, warned yesterday that Al Qaeda terrorists are already entrenched in Khartoum, and that if the current force composed of African Union troops in Darfur is replaced too quickly with a more robust force under the U.N. banner, Al Qaeda could "retaliate" against it.

President Bush has suggested NATO could get involved to protect victims of genocide in Sudan. Earlier this month the Security Council backed in principle an American proposal to create a U.N. force capable of halting the atrocities against villagers in Darfur. Estimated at more than 20,000 troops, this force will replace the current 7,000-troop contingency that was sent to Sudan by the African Union.

Khartoum, however, is resisting any infringement of its sovereignty by allowing the presence of a U.N. force. "We are strongly opposed to any foreign intervention in Sudan, and Darfur will be a graveyard for any foreign troops," President al-Bashir was quoted as saying to Sudanese newspapers, according to Al-Jazeera.

Mr. Pronk said Sudan sent envoys to capitals of key members of the African Union and the Security Council to plead with them to reject the transition to a U.N. force. The A.U. was scheduled to decide on the Darfur transition on Friday, but a meeting in Addis Ababa was postponed to March 10, the A.U. announced yesterday.

One observer familiar with the Addis negotiation, who asked for anonymity, told The New York Sun yesterday that most of the resistance there to a U.N. force comes from the two members of the A.U.'s peace and security commission who are also members of the Arab League, Egypt, and Algeria. Qatar, which represents the Arabs on the Security Council, also has raised objections.

American ambassador John Bolton said that along with the Sudanese government, the African Union, the Arab League, and other concerned groups, America has tried to negotiate a resolution to send a U.N. force to Darfur to try to "stop the genocide." Addressing Mr. al-Bashir's resistance to the idea, Mr. Bolton said, "One can only hope that the government of Sudan shares the objective that its own citizens should live."

A spokesman for the American U.N. mission, Ben Chang, added, "We will expect the Sudanese government, as well as the rebels, to accept and accommodate the U.N. peacekeeping force once the transition takes place."

But according to Mr. Pronk, there is "a lot of talk about Al Qaeda in Khartoum," where the government is spreading conspiracy theories about foreigners trying to turn Sudan into another Iraq or Afghanistan. Sending NATO there without Security Council approval, the way the Clinton administration did in the Balkans, is a "recipe for disaster," Mr. Pronk said.

Citing multiple sources, Mr. Pronk told reporters there is "intelligence information that there are [Al Qaeda] people in Khartoum who have not been there before," and that those people have issued "threats" and "letters," warning of retaliation if the Sudanese people believe their country is invaded by the West.

Khartoum hosted Osama bin Laden in the late '90s, but the Sudanese government has played both sides by supplying America with some intelligence for the war on terror while continuing to raise the Al Qaeda specter as a warning to the West.

Mr. Pronk said that unlike failed states like Somalia, Sudan's government has firm control in the country, and that even street demonstrations are orchestrated to the last detail and the crowds "know how far they can go."

Currently, he added, the climate against the U.N. in Khartoum "is heating up," and therefore it would be "foolish not to take such warnings [of Al Qaeda attacks against a U.N. force] seriously."
- - -

See Sudan Watch, Tuesday, 24 March 2009: Bin Laden deputy calls for Sudan jihad (Update 10)