Thursday, December 31, 2009

How to solve a problem like Darfur

PALO ALTO — In Darfur, disease, rape, carnage and death have been regular features of life since February, 2003. Now President Obama says he wants to talk to the Sudanese government. All I can say is, that has been tried before.

In October 2004, Tony Blair, then British prime minster, came to Khartoum and climbed the steps of the presidential palace to see Omar Bashir, Sudan’s dictator. On those same steps, in 1885, an Islamic rebel leader beheaded Gen. Charles Gordon, the British administrator of Sudan. This time, Blair reached the second floor without incident, sat with Bashir in his lair and came away with a promise.

Sudan would withdraw its forces from Darfur and reach a peace agreement with the Darfur rebels by the end of that year. At that time, the United Nations estimated that 50,000 people had been killed and at least 1 million others driven from their homes.

After Blair’s visit, a succession of world leaders climbed those steps, sat with Bashir and came away to brag before the microphones about the concessions he had offered. All of it came to naught. Read more >>>>>>>>

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Officials outline new human rights violations in Darfur

Human rights officials are raising concerns about continued attacks on civilians in Darfur, Sudan. Since 2003, some 2 million have been displaced and hundreds of thousands killed. Many say the conflict was directly supported by the government in Khartoum and the massacre of civilians has been called a genocide, including by the US government. Luis Moreno Ocampo is prosecutor of the International Criminal Court. He says they have evidence of new human rights violations.

"Crimes are continuing. There are still indiscriminate bombings of civilians causing casualties and forced displacement; continued imposition of conditions of life to exterminate displaced persons including hindering of humanitarian aid and expelling of assistance providers with the consequence of reducing access to food, water and services; rapes and sexual violence constituting mental and bodily harm; and use of child soldiers. As recently as last week, on 25 November, there were reports of Militia/Janjaweed attacks against Al Harra and Jabel Issa, two villages in North Darfur, in which civlians were captured, villagers beaten and properties looted."

The International Criminal Court has been trying to bring Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir to court since March, when the ICC issued an arrest warrant for him and two other officials. Ocampo said President Al Bashir has refused to appear in Court and has refused to appoint a lawyer to represent his position.

"President Al Bashir will face justice. Any leader committing these type of crimes will face justice. Power does not provide immunity. There was no immunity for President Milosevic, there was no immunity for Prime Minister Kambanda; there was no immunity for President Taylor." Listen to the radio news segment and read more >>>>>>>>>>....

Thursday, December 24, 2009

We cannot afford to let Darfur slip away


THE REBELS gathered their technicals – pickups mounted with machine guns and rocket launchers – before dawn. More than 100, engines revving, surrounded the army base deep in Darfur’s northern desert. There was not much of a fight. The government soldiers simply turned and ran, leaving behind guns, bombs and mugs of steaming tea.

By the time I arrived a few days later, the rebels had taken their pick of the AK-47s and mortar rounds. They left the only fatality rotting in a ditch. The smell of the dead soldier wafted through the town of Kornoi. Unburied and forgotten.

The army returned a few weeks later in force and the rebels gave up their conquest just as easily as they had taken it.

This was the war of 2009: a to and fro between rivals. A series of feints and boasts, all far beyond the gaze of the outside world.

That was my most recent trip to Darfur, slipping across the Chadian border in a rebel column to avoid the bureaucracy, minders and rules that prevent journalists seeing the conflict for themselves. The war I found was at odds with the popular perception.

On a continent of forgotten wars, there was always supposed to be something different about Darfur. This was the first genocide of the 21st century. A slaughter of the innocents. The land’s African farmers were being wiped out by Arab raiders – the dreaded Janjaweed – doing the bidding of an evil Islamist empire in Khartoum.

The timing couldn’t have been more fortunate for the humanitarian agencies desperately trying to raise funds and awareness. Ten years after Rwanda’s genocide, politicians, movie stars and a huge array of activists lined up to do their bit.

Headline after headline urged the world to act: send in peacekeepers, enforce no-fly zones or boycott Sudan’s allies.

Only nothing much changed. The war moved from one act to the next, settling into a low-level insurgency that rumbles on today. Meanwhile, we watched Congo’s complex mishmash of rebellions flare once more. Then Somalia’s pirates dominated the world’s coverage of Africa.

Darfur faded into the background. Read more >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Time to Take Away Sudan's Credit Card

Omar al-Bashir's brutal Sudanese regime certainly has nerve. On Dec. 14, as Bashir's National Congress Party (NCP) thugs violently suppressed the second peaceful demonstration by opposition groups in seven days, the Sudanese minister of finance met with the U.S. Special Envoy to Sudan Scott Gration and urged the United States to lift sanctions on Khartoum and cancel Sudan's foreign debt -- in other words, bailing out the government that brought you such atrocities as Darfur and the decades-long civil war with South Sudan that now ominously threatens to reignite.

While no Western country is rushing to hand out money to Bashir, the international community has disagreed over how to persuade Sudan to end its genocidal ways, and the United States is still the only country to impose sanctions. One unlooked-for upside of the global financial crisis may be that it offers new economic leverage with Khartoum. Following the crash, Sudan now holds roughly $36 billion in external sovereign debt that it is struggling to repay. This debt gives the rest of the world a new opportunity to finally affect the course of Sudanese political reform and even end the conflicts in Darfur and South Sudan, if Western countries are willing to act boldly. Read more >>>>>>>>>>>

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Five myths about genocide and violence in Sudan

By John Prendergast

During Sudan's half-century of independence, few spots on Earth have witnessed as much death and destruction, with 2 1/2 million war-related fatalities during the past two decades alone. Although the Darfur genocide that began in 2003 is only one of the conflicts raging in the country, they all stem from the same cause: the abuse of power. The ruling party represses independent voices and supports militias that have used genocide, child soldiers and rape as weapons of war.

Sudan faces a critical new year, with an unfree election coming in April and a referendum on the independence of the south the following January -- tripwires that could provoke a return to full-scale war. In Washington, meanwhile, few challenges have produced a greater chasm between words and deeds. A first step toward closing that gap is debunking the myths about Sudan that persist among policymakers, diplomats and the public:

The genocide in Darfur is largely over.

1.Because the regime's mass burning of villages in Darfur has ended and mortality rates have plummeted, some have concluded that the worst is done. African Union officials have even claimed that the war in Darfur is over, while Scott Gration, President Obama's special envoy for Sudan, referred in June to the ongoing violence in Darfur as "remnants of genocide." But the government is blocking all independent avenues of reporting, so there is no way to know the level of targeted violence or its perpetrators. Read more >>>>>>>>>>>>>>

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Sudan heading towards 'violent breakup': think tank

KHARTOUM — Sudan is heading towards 'violent breakup' due to the lack of implementation of peace deals between Khartoum and the west, south and east of the country, the International Crisis Group warned Thursday.

"Sudan is sliding towards violent breakup," the Brussels-based think tank said in a report entitled "Sudan: Preventing Implosion."

"Unless the international community, notably the US, the UN, the African Union Peace and Security Council and the Horn of Africa Inter-Government Authority on Development (IGAD), cooperate to support (peace deals), return to north-south war and escalation of conflict in Darfur are likely," the ICG said.

"The main mechanisms to end conflicts between the central government and the peripheries -- the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (with the south), the Darfur Peace Agreement and the East Sudan Peace Agreement -- all suffer from lack of implementation, largely due to intrasigence of the National Congress Party," of President Omar al-Beshir, the report said.

"It is essential to move rapidly on a number of fronts, including to negotiate a Darfur peace agreement that allows all Darfuris to vote in national elections," in April 2010, it continued.

The report recommends adding an additional protocol on Darfur to the CPA, which was signed in 2005 to end two decades of war between north and south, in order to "unite the several peace processes." Read more >>>>>>>>>>>>>

Monday, December 14, 2009


Hollywood star ANGELINA JOLIE has swapped acting for journalism to urge U.S. President BARACK OBAMA to step up efforts to resolve the Darfur crisis.

The Tomb Raider actress has written an article for America’s Newsweek magazine on the plight of refugees in the war-ravaged Sudan region.

Jolie, who is a Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations (U.N) refugee agency, put pen to paper to mark Human Rights Day on 10 December (09) and took the opportunity to address the Obama administration, urging the government to intervene in Darfur.

She writes, “Like many Americans, I support the administration’s willingness to engage diplomatically, even with regimes we abhor. I believe President Obama (and his government) will do their best to bring peace to the region. Their policy, though, raises a number of questions. How is the Obama administration’s approach to Sudan an evolution of justice? In addition, when the administration says it intends to work to ‘improve the lives of the people of Darfur,’ I would like to know what that means, besides the obvious point that their lives could hardly get worse. Read more >>>>>>>

Sunday, December 13, 2009

South Sudan backs 'hybrid courts' for Darfur

KHARTOUM — The former rebels of south Sudan on Saturday threw their weight behind the creation of "hybrid courts" for Darfur as proposed by the African Union despite reservations from Khartoum.

"We support the creation of hybrid courts for crimes against humanity and war crimes committed in Darfur because we do not have confidence in the independence of the Sudanese judiciary," said Pagan Amum, secretary general of the Sudan People's Liberation Movement.

Amum was speaking to journalists after a meeting in the southern capital of Juba with South Africa's former president Thabo Mbeki, who heads an African Union panel on the Darfur conflict.

The panel has proposed the creation of a special criminal court made up of Sudanese and foreign judges to try crimes committed in the western Sudanese region.

An adviser to Sudanese President Omar al-Beshir, who faces an international arrest warrant for alleged war crimes in Darfur, has expressed reservations about the proposal because of a "lack of clarity" over the makeup of the court.

The United Nations says up to 300,000 people have died from the combined effects of war, famine and disease and more than 2.7 million fled their homes since the Darfur conflict pitting separatist rebels against Khartoum erupted in 2003. Read more >>>>>>>>

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Fruits of Engagement in Sudan : Khartoum's hard men and Obama's diplomacy.

In his Oslo address Thursday, President Obama mulled the trade-offs in dealing with repressive regimes. "There's no simple formula here," he said. "But we must try as best we can to balance isolation and engagement, pressure and incentives, so that human rights and dignity are advanced over time."

From Nobel theory, we move to practice in Sudan. As a candidate, Mr. Obama stood with the human rights champions of Darfur and pledged tougher sanctions and a possible no-fly zone if a Sudanese regime infamous for genocide didn't shape up. His tone has changed in office.

Unveiled in October, the Administration's Sudan policy emphasized carrots for the regime to ease up in Darfur and implement a peace deal in southern Sudan; any sticks were relegated to a secret annex. The President's special envoy to Sudan, retired Major General Scott Gration, was reluctant even to allude to tougher sanctions. He said that "cookies" and "gold stars" are preferable to threats and that Darfur was experiencing only "remnants of genocide."

President Omar al-Bashir, whose Islamist National Congress Party took power in a 1989 coup, got the message and decided to test the limits of this new indulgence. Almost immediately the regime hardened its stance on implementing the peace accord. Brokered by the Bush Administration in 2005, the deal calls for political reforms, including free parliamentary elections now scheduled for April, and a referendum on independence for the south in two years. Long before the ethnic cleansing in Darfur turned into a Hollywood cause célèbre, a two-decade war between the Muslim north and the Christian and oil-rich south took two million lives. Read more >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

Jolie asks Obama to do more for Sudanese people

Actress and humanitarian Angelina Jolie wants President Obama's administration to take greater steps towards establishing peace in Sudan.

Jolie, in her role as the co-chair of the Jolie-Pitt Foundation, wrote an op-ed piece for Newsweek magazine on Thursday, the day Obama accepted the Nobel Peace Prize.

Jolie wrote that Obama's administration has not yet announced any serious moves to bring corrupt Sudanese leaders to justice and said she is worried that the administration does not have a clear enough plan to improve the lives of the Sudanese people.

"I believe President Obama and his special envoy Scott Gration will do their best to bring peace to the region," Jolie, a U.N. goodwill ambassador, wrote. "Their policy, though, raises a number of questions. How is the Obama administration's approach to Sudan an evolution of justice? In addition, when the administration says it intends to work to 'improve the lives of the people of Darfur,' I would like to know what that means, besides the obvious point that their lives could hardly get worse."

In the piece, headlined "Justice Delayed Is Not Justice Denied," Jolie suggests the administration "explore ways to bring [Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir] to justice." Read more >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

Monday, December 07, 2009

Sudan police detain opposition leaders in crackdown

KHARTOUM — Sudanese police arrested three senior figures from the south's ruling party and dozens of protesters on Monday including a state minister in a crackdown against a pro-reform protest, witnesses said.

Pagan Amum, Yassir Arman and Abbas Gumma from the ex-rebel Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM) were led away as they arrived by car at the parliament building in Khartoum's twin city of Omdurman, they said.

Amum is the SPLM?s secretary general, Arman its deputy secretary general in northern Sudan, and Gumma is a state minister at the country's interior ministry. Amun was moved to a local jail.

Police had announced that the demonstration to push for reforms ahead of national elections and over an independence referendum for south Sudan would be considered illegal.

But by mid-morning, several hundred opposition protesters trailed by armed police were marching on the streets of Khartoum and Omdurman, waving placards and chanting: "We want our freedom."

Police clashed with the protesters, using tear-gas and beating them with batons. Read more >>>>>>

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Darfur crimes continue, Sudan not cooperating with ICC, official says

United Nations (CNN) -- The International Criminal Court's chief prosecutor reported Friday to the U.N. Security Council that violence continues in Darfur and that the Sudanese president and his government are not cooperating with investigators.

Luis Moreno-Ocampo noted positive developments in judicial proceedings and "fruitful" cooperation with international bodies, but said there still remain many setbacks. He explained that crimes continue in the region, including "indiscriminate bombings of civilians ... rapes and sexual violence" and the "use of child soldiers."

Moreno-Ocampo also highlighted Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir's role in the situation. "Any leader committing crimes will face justice. Power does not provide immunity."

Al-Bashir has refused to appoint a lawyer to represent his position in court and, because of the ICC-issued warrant for his arrest, has not risked traveling to attend high-level events such as the U.N. General Assembly or a meeting held by the Organization of the Islamic Conference, or to other countries where it had been thought he might go, such as Uganda, Nigeria and Venezuela.

Moreno-Ocampo said respect for the International Criminal Court's decision to issue the warrant would send a clear message that al-Bashir "will face justice." Read more >>>>>>>>