Saturday, December 18, 2010

Darfur Moves Deeper into the Shadow of Indifference

Eric Reeves
With international attention focused so relentlessly on the referenda in South Sudan and Abyei—scheduled to be held less than four weeks from now (on January 9, 2011)—it was all too predictable that the continuing human catastrophe in Darfur would be rendered increasingly invisible. Indifference has begun to replace engagement with the Darfur crisis, as peace talks under African Union and Qatari auspices make no progress, reporting from the ground (including from human rights organizations) has become almost nonexistent, and aid organizations are unable to speak out about humanitarian conditions because of UN timidity. We are thus without any comprehensive chronicling of the massive human misery and genocidal destruction that has gone on for almost eight years.

But Darfur has not been entirely eclipsed, largely because the voices of Darfuri survivors continue to make their way to Sudanese news websites and human rights organizations, including the Sudan Tribune, Radio Dabanga, and the African Center for Justice and Peace Studies (ACPJS). None of these operates inside Sudan; the few workers for Radio Dabanga courageous enough to try to remain in Khartoum have now been arrested by security forces. But all these external sources have surprisingly good access to Darfuris on the ground by means of a range of electronic communication, and in my experience have proved consistently reliable (as opposed to statements by rebel groups, which often turn out to be exaggerations). Darfuris who have fled the region are also a source of news and intelligence, for those with contacts in this embattled diaspora. Read more >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Khartoum Under Fire Over IDP Camp Conditions

The Sudanese government is hampering international efforts to address chronic levels of malnutrition in camps for displaced people in Darfur, according to the country head of the United Nations children’s agency UNICEF.

Nils Kastberg told the justice programme of Dutch-based broadcaster Radio Dabanga, an IWPR co-production, that Khartoum was blocking access to camps as well as delaying the release of vital nutrition surveys required by agencies such as UNICEF and the World Food Programme, WFP, to supply food aid to the region.

“We are extremely concerned,” Kastberg said. “When we conduct surveys to help us address issues, in collaboration with the ministry of health, very often other parts of the government such as the humanitarian affairs commission interferes and delays in the release of reports, making it difficult for us to respond in a timely way.”

Kastberg claimed that the country’s security services also hinder or delay access to the camps.

The grim situation has prompted further warnings from the International Criminal Court, ICC, of a continued campaign of genocide against internally displaced people, IDPs, in Darfur. Since 2003, the war-torn region has seen more than 2.5 million people pushed into these camps.

“The government is using hunger, rape and fear to attack these IDPs in their camps in Darfur,” Islam Shalabi, from the ICC’s office of the prosecutor, OTP, said. “This is another tool of war used by the government of Sudan.”

Prosecutors allege that Khartoum has conducted genocide by employing the national armed forces and allied Janjaweed militia to deliberately bring about the physical destruction of Darfur’s Fur, Masalit and Zaghawa ethnic groups.

The ICC has issued arrest war crimes warrants for three members of the Sudanese regime, President Omar al-Bashir, former humanitarian affairs minister Ahmed Haroun and Janjaweed militia leader Ali Abdul Rahman.. Bashir has been charged with genocide. Read more >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

In Darfur, the worst may be yet to come

By By Morton Abramowitz

Reports are trickling in of increasing government-supported violence against Darfuris, deteriorating humanitarian conditions and widespread attacks on war-torn Darfur's beleaguered civil society. But the world has done little to acknowledge, much less address, this rapidly declining situation. Preparations for the North-South political referendum, which has potential for huge bloodletting, are sucking up all the oxygen. Even if Sudan peacefully splits, Darfur is headed for humanitarian and political purgatory.

Among some of the more dismaying events:

l In recent weeks Sudanese armed forces and elements of the Janjaweed armed militias have renewed attacks on villages throughout Darfur. Radio reports tell of targeted attacks on civilians in areas where Darfuri rebels claim they have no forces. Thousands of displaced people from razed villages are flooding westward into camps in Darfur, deepening problems for the displaced already there.

l Khartoum is likely to close a major camp for more than 80,000 displaced persons in South Darfur soon, reportedly to ensure better security for a nearby airport. Kalma is one of the oldest camps, and among its inhabitants are some of the most radicalized Darfuri rebels; in recent years, Kalma has been the site of intense clashes between rebel and government forces. There are not sufficient places to send the displaced or humanitarian aid to help them, so their future is uncertain. Efforts to move the displaced from Kalma could provoke still greater violence. Read more >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Darfur arms report that angered China goes to UN

The UN Security Council has received a controversial report on violations of the Darfur weapons embargo, after weeks of delays due to objections by China.

The confidential report, which was leaked, says Chinese bullets have been found in Sudan's conflict-torn region.

The document does not say Beijing is necessarily responsible.

But it suggests China is not doing enough to ensure arms it sells to Khartoum do not end up in Darfur. The Chinese have criticised the report.

They say it is vaguely worded and full of flaws.

Beijing had previously refused to allow the Security Council's Sudan Sanctions Committee to formally pass the report to council members.

Ceasefires and peace negotiations have failed to end the conflict in the volatile western Sudanese region. Read more >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

The Obama Administration "Decouples" Darfur

Eric Reeves

The relationship between Darfur and Southern Sudan has never been well understood by the Obama administration, largely because of the incompetence of the president's special envoy to Sudan, retired Air Force General Scott Gration. Gration came to the position in early 2009 without any significant diplomatic experience or familiarity with the extraordinary complexities of Sudan—Africa's largest and most diverse country; he touted as background only his birth in Africa to missionary parents and an apparent facility in Swahili (of no use anywhere in Sudan). But he has enjoyed until recently the full support of President Obama, and this has made informed, tough-minded engagement with the Khartoum regime impossible.

The consequences of this failure are increasingly evident in proliferating news coverage of the critical and unresolved issues between the regime in Khartoum and the southern leadership in Juba. Unsurprisingly, as the scheduled referenda for southern Sudan and Abyei draw nearer, there has been a corresponding proliferation of commentary, nearly all of it from sources as belated as the Obama administration itself in recognizing the dangers looming in Sudan. What these commentaries most conspicuously lack is any sense of the relationship between events in Darfur and Khartoum’s stalling on the southern electoral process.


THE COST of US belatedness in responding to the electoral calendar leading to the two southern referenda has been extraordinarily high (http://www.dissentmagazine.org/atw.php?id=303 ). With less than two months until the January 9, 2011 date on which the votes are to occur, Khartoum has successfully run out the clock and is in a position to extract significant concessions from the US—sweeteners to persuade the regime to allow the referenda to occur as guaranteed by the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), which in January 2005 ended more than twenty years of unfathomably destructive civil war. Desperate to avoid the diplomatic catastrophe of a CPA collapse, the Obama team has been significantly expanded in recent weeks and months; however, it is far from clear that there is enough time to prevent war from re-igniting, the same war ended by the CPA almost six years ago. Warnings unheeded for well over a year have only now set off all the alarm bells; in turn, the most significant part of the US response has been to offer Khartoum more and more in the way of incentives. Read more >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

Monday, November 08, 2010

“The Perfect Ending” – November 7, 2010

“The Perfect Ending” – November 7, 2010

By Eric Reeves

“Misk al-Khitam” is the Arabic phrase—from the Qur’an—reportedly given by the Khartoum regime to its massive military offensive, currently underway in many parts of Darfur and North Kordofan. One rendering of this phrase into English is “The Perfect Ending”—perhaps the equivalent of the Latin “Finis Coronat Opus,” or “The End Crowns the Work.”

“The Perfect Ending” occurs in the midst of disgraceful diffidence and silence on the part of the UN and other international actors concerning humanitarian conditions and constraints in Darfur. Wire reports detailing the November 7 meeting between US Senator John Kerry and the Khartoum regime suggest that Obama administration has decided how it will respond to such terminal ambition:

“U.S. offers Sudan quicker route off terror list”
By Andrew Quinn
WASHINGTON, Nov 7 (Reuters) - The United States will drop Sudan from its list of state sponsors of terrorism as early as July 2011 if Khartoum ensures two key referendums take place on schedule in January and the results are respected, senior U.S. officials said on Sunday.

U.S. President Barack Obama made the offer through Senator John Kerry, who recently told Sudan's leaders the United States was ready to "decouple" the issue of Darfur from Khartoum's terror designation to win cooperation on the January polls, the officials said.

"We like to consider this a pay-for-performance operation," one [senior U.S.] official said. Read more >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

Saturday, November 06, 2010

UPDATE 2-Three Latvian pilots kidnapped in Darfur-WFP

KHARTOUM, Nov 5 (Reuters) - Three Latvian helicopter crewmen contracted to the U.N. World Food Programme were kidnapped in the South Darfur capital Nyala, a WFP spokeswoman said on Friday.

The South Darfur governor, Abdel Hamid Kasha, had earlier said the three were Russian. The abductions are the latest in a wave of kidnaps targeting foreign workers for money in Darfur.

"The abducted crew members are all Latvian nationals," WFP spokeswoman Amor Almagro said.

Kasha said the three men were taken from a minibus in Nyala on Thursday. Security forces were seeking the kidnappers. Read more >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

Nine Darfur activists arrested in Sudan

KHARTOUM, SUDAN (BNO NEWS) -- Nine Darfur activists have been arrested in Khartoum, Sudan, just weeks away from the referendum on the secession of the south, AfricaNews reported on Tuesday

All the activists who were reportedly arrested are from Darfur and most of them worked for the Human Rights and Advocacy Network for Democracy (HAND). A prominent human rights lawyer was also among the group.

The arrests began on Saturday and continued until late Monday night. However, the charges against the activists have not been disclosed as well as the location where the detainees are being held. The Sudanese National Security and Intelligence Services denied having information related to the arrests.

"The total number arrested is nine activists, all of them from Darfur," said civil society leader Elbaqir Mokhtar. "One of them is a very active lawyer in the Darfur lawyer's association. It has now really raised alarm bells that probably what is coming is going to be worse." Read more >>>>>>>>>>>>.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Film: Attack On Darfur








Attack On Darfur, which stars Billy Zane, Edward Furlong and Kristanna Loken, is the story of a group of Western journalists in Sudan who visit a small village to gather footage and interviews in hopes of reporting on the atrocities they have seen. When they hear that the Janjaweed are heading towards the village, they are confronted with the dilemma of whether to run for safety or to stay behind and attempt to avert the village’s slaughter. >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

Thursday, October 21, 2010

"Arming Khartoum: China’s Complicity in the Darfur Genocide

by Eric Reeves

On July 8, 2008, at approximately 2:45pm local time, heavily armed Janjaweed militia attacked a joint police and military patrol of the UN/African Union peacekeeping mission in Sudan (UNAMID) (http://www.sudanreeves.org/Article219.html ). The point of assault was approximately 60 miles southeast of el-Fasher, near the village of Umm Hakibah (North Darfur). In a firefight that lasted approximately three hours, seven UNAMID troops and police were killed and twenty-two were injured, seven of them critically. Ten vehicles were destroyed or taken during the attack. Shortly after the assault, then-UN Undersecretary for Peacekeeping Jean-Marie Guéhenno offered a compelling briefing to the UN Security Council in closed session, making clear that those responsible were indeed Khartoum’s Janjaweed militia forces.

Guéhenno told the Security Council that the attack on UN-authorized peacekeepers “took place in an area under Sudanese government control and that some of the assailants were dressed in clothing similar to Sudanese army uniforms. He also said the ambush was ‘pre-meditated and well-organized’ and was intended to inflict casualties rather than to steal equipment or vehicles” (http://www.voanews.com/english/news/a-13-2008-07-11-voa65-66672157.html?rss=africa ). The peacekeepers attacked reported seeing approximately 200 fighters, many on horses—a signature feature of the Janjaweed (Arabic for “devil [or spirit] on horseback”).

Guéhenno declared that the ambush was designed “to inflict casualties” (http://www.hrw.org/en/news/2008/12/01/sudan-rhetoric-versus-reality-darfur ) and was carried out with “equipment usually not used by (rebel) militias” (http://www.sudantribune.com/spip.php?page=imprimable&id_article=28137 ). Separately and confidentially, a UN official went further in confirming to me that some of the arms used, including large-caliber recoilless rifles, had never been seen in the arsenals of the rebel groups. This official said that Guéhenno, who would soon retire, had rarely been so explicit in assigning responsibility for attacks in Darfur.

The weaponry and ammunition in this and many other subsequent attacks on the UN peacekeeping force were in all likelihood manufactured in China and imported into Darfur by Khartoum’s armed forces—in direct violation of a UN Security Council embargo on all such movement of arms or ammunition. This is confirmed in a new, unpublished report from the UN Panel of Experts on Darfur, created by UN Security Council Resolution 1591 (March 2005). According to the Washington Post (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/10/15/AR2010101506100.html ), the UN panel reports “finding recently manufactured shell casings from Chinese ammunition at the site of numerous attacks launched by unidentified assailants against peacekeepers from the joint UN-Union Mission.” This finding clearly implicates Khartoum and its proxies in the attacks on peacekeepers.

As the Post’s Colum Lynch also reports from the UN, China’s response to the report has been “a strenuous diplomatic campaign to block publication.” For the Chinese are well aware of what the report will contain: “at a briefing this month, a UN panel responsible for implementing the [arms] embargo told the Security Council that Sudanese forces have used more than a dozen types of Chinese ammunition against Darfurian rebels over the past two years.” China’s angry response to these factual findings, by an independent UN investigating body, has been to insist that it will “block the public release of the report unless the findings were rewritten.” Chinese UN diplomat Yang Tao urged “the panel of experts to conduct its work under the principles of objectivity and responsibility.” Given the meticulous and comprehensive nature of previous reports from the UN Panel of Experts on Darfur, all fully in the public domain, this demand is preposterous. It reflects nothing more than Chinese embarrassment and anger at being so fully caught out in violating an arms embargo adopted by the Security Council. It also explains why China alone on the Security Council did not vote to renew the mandate of the UN panel (http://www.reliefweb.int/rw/rwb.nsf/db900sid/JDUN-8A97XD?OpenDocument ).

This mandate obliges the panel not only to monitor the arms embargo on Darfur, but to “make recommendations to the [UN Security Council’s Darfur Sanctions Committee] on actions the Security Council may want to consider,” and to identify parties who “impede the peace process” in Darfur; who “constitute a threat to stability in Darfur and the region”; and “who commit violations of international humanitarian law or human rights law.” Perhaps most importantly, the panel is charged with assigning “responsibil[ity] for offensive military overflights” in Darfur—which are categorically prohibited by Resolution 1591 (http://www.reliefweb.int/rw/rwb.nsf/db900SID/EGUA-7XNSQP?OpenDocument ).



And yet despite this mandate, the Security Council has refused to act in any meaningful way, largely because of Chinese obstructionism and a disgracefully acquiescent Western response. The UN Security Council Darfur Sanctions Committee has ceased to function; it considers neither names, nor actions, nor reforms. Indeed, Lynch reports that the former head of the Panel of Experts, Enrico Carisch, “testified before Congress that the Security Council had failed to act on more than 100 panel recommendations aimed at strengthening sanctions.” There are now almost daily reports of aerial military assaults by Khartoum (which alone among the combatants in Darfur has air assets) on civilian targets, especially in the Jebel Marra region. Every such flight is a violation of Resolution 1591, and yet the Security Council does nothing. Read more >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Does UN humanitarian coordinator George Charpentier follow orders of Omar al Bashir's Minister for Humanitarian Affairs ?

By Matthew Russell Lee

KHARTOUM, October 9 -- In the week before the UN Security Council arrived in Darfur, the village of Sora “was completely burned down” as part of “intense ground fighting and aerial attacks in Eastern Jebel Marra.”

These quotes come from a UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs report which was left on the bus of the Press covering the Council's visit.


But the destruction of Sora, and the systematic dismantling of the Kalma Internally Displace Persons camp, were not highlighted to the Council ambassadors by the UN's Humanitarian Coordinator for Sudan, Georg Charpentier.

Inner City Press asked two Permanent Five members' ambassadors, after the Council's final press conference, about the destruction of Sora and dismantling of the Kalma Camp. One had never heard of Sora's destruction, despite briefings ostensibly on humanitarian issues in Darfur.

The other, who said that the dismantling of Kalma Camp had not been discussed, took interest in the wording of the OCHA document Inner City Press quoted from, that the destruction was either from ground fighting or aerial attacks. Which one? Not that the UN Security Council would imposes a no fly zone at this point over Darfur or South Sudan.

The document was brought to and left on the press bus after Inner City Press asked Charpentier why he had not been more vocal about the government's blockage of the Kalma Camp during the summer, and the lack of humanitarian access to Jebal Marra from February to September of this year, and now again, after a single assessmentmission to parts of Jebal Marra.

Charpentier replied that the blockade of Kalma Camp has been “exaggerated” by the media. Of Jebel Marra, he said that food was not a problem but rather blankets, since “it gets cold up there.” He did not mention the destruction of whole villages like Sora, either to the Press or it seems to the Council.

Many in the humanitarian and journalistic communities have doubts about Charpentier's even handedness -- the former saying he tries to assuage Khartoum by saying little, the latter that he has checked his press releases with Omar al Bashir's Minister for Humanitarian Affairs Joseph Lual Achuil. (Charpentier has denied this, but a higher UN official tells Inner City Press it is true, during “this sensitive period.”) Raed more >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

Friday, October 08, 2010

UN Worker Abducted In Sudan's Darfur Region

(RTTNews) - Unidentified gunmen have abducted a civilian working with the U.N.'s peace-keeping mission in the Sudan's troubled region of Darfur, the mission said Thursday.

It said the civilian employee was abducted from his residence in Darfur's capital El Fasher, hours after U.N. Security Council envoys arrived in the city.

"Armed men entered the residence of four civilian staff members in downtown El Fasher. They tied up two of them and made away with the other two in a vehicle. One man escaped and the other is still missing," said a UN mission spokesman.

The spokesman stressed that the incident was "not linked to the Security Council (envoys') visit." Read more >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Sudan: A safe haven for for international terrorism

Hizbullah Puts Fighters at Disposal of Darfur Governor


Hizbullah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah has placed a "contingent of fighters" at the disposal of the Sudanese government to confront what he termed as "colonial troops" in Darfur, the Sudanese newspaper Alahram Today reported Friday.

It said Lodian Mohammed Saeed, a professor at Berlin University, conveyed Nasrallah's position to North Darfur Governor Osman Mohammed Yousef Kibir during a visit to the North Darfur State.

"Hizbullah will have the honor of fighting in Darfur," said the message conveyed by to Kibir from Nasrallah.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Nadia Plesner: A gigantic art work for Darfur

The Death of “Ahmed” of Kassab Camp

The young boy from Kassab Camp is unnamed, unidentified except by the name of his camp. He drowned last week, and notice came only in the form of a brief announcement from Radio Dabanga, which has sources throughout Darfur:


A boy died by drowning in Kassab Camp in North Darfur on Saturday. Several houses collapsed in the camp after heavy rains that fell on the region. A source said that dozens of displaced families are in the open after the loss of their homes.”

Without this notice from one of the world’s more obscure news sources, the boy’s anonymity would have been complete—joining the hundreds of thousands who have perished in similar anonymity over the past eight years. And perhaps I should be more concerned about the “dozens of displaced families”—potentially hundreds of civilians—exposed in North Darfur during the very height of the rainy season, facing ominously high malnutrition rates. But there are times when I find the world’s inability to look with any particularity at the human suffering and destruction in Darfur a cause for rage, for a desperate urge to make this suffering and destruction into a recognizable, an undeniable, an inescapably disturbing portrait. So I will construct an all too plausible history for this boy from Kassab Camp, and his place in Darfur’s ongoing agony. Read more >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

Saturday, September 11, 2010

“Clinton Says Sudan Is a ‘Ticking Time Bomb’: But Will She Be Able to Defuse It?"

Finally! A sense of urgency about Sudan. In a major foreign policy address on September 8, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton described the country as a "ticking time bomb" (http://allafrica.com/stories/201009090002.html ). Yet it may already be too late. The “bomb” has been ticking for over five and a half years, and neither the Bush administration nor the Obama administration has been willing to devote the appropriate attention to defuse it.

Self-determination referenda are scheduled for early January 2011, in both Southern Sudan and the contested border enclave of Abyei. There is precious little time to avert a return to civil war in the next 120 days, as unresolved issues between the Khartoum regime and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement in the South threaten to derail the voting process spelled out in the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA). A host of important electoral mechanics and procedures remain to be agreed upon, and Khartoum gives every sign that it is trying to run out the clock, thereby forcing Southern Sudan either to delay the referenda or to make a unilateral declaration of independence. Either could easily become a casus belli, as could Khartoum’s blunt refusal to honor the results of the referenda—or an attempt to preempt those results militarily.

So how can we maximize the chances of a peaceful separation within Africa’s largest, and ethnically most diverse, country? How can we deal with the perverse fact that Sudan’s oil reserves lie so near the North/South border, as do vast quantities of arable land? The question is made especially difficult by the fact that these oil reserves are chiefly in the South—80 percent is a common figure—while Chinese-constructed oil infrastructure lies mainly in the north. Moreover, the border regions, including Abyei, are among the most populous in Sudan, and ethnic tensions are close to boiling. How can we resolve the various disputes that have festered for so many years? Read more >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

Sunday, September 05, 2010

Sudan: THE GATHERING CLOUDS OF WAR

By Eric Reeves

DESPITE A historic peace agreement between northern and southern Sudan five years ago, the threat of renewed civil war looms closer by the day. Any resumption of hostilities would be disastrous for a country that has suffered from years of bloodshed and unfathomable destruction. But the United States and the rest of the international community are failing to take vital steps to avert a new war, and time is running out.
More than 2 million people died, and 5 million were driven from their homes, in a north-south war that dragged on from 1983 to 2003. The linchpin of the peace agreement is a referendum, scheduled for this coming January, in which the people of southern Sudan will have the option of secession. But the brutal regime that prolonged that war with the south — the same regime that has waged a genocidal campaign against the people of Darfur — remains in power in the capital, Khartoum. This regime appears increasingly determined to abrogate the peace deal.

Dismayingly, the thugs in Khartoum, led by President Omar al-Bashir, secured a veneer of legitimacy by winning easily in April elections widely viewed as a travesty. International observers — including ones from the United States — were well aware of the extent of fraud and manipulation, but could bring themselves to say only that the elections “did not meet international standards.” US special envoy Scott Gration disingenuously declared that the elections would be “as free and fair as possible.” Read more >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Bashir using tactics to avoid arrest: ICC prosecutor

By Adrian Croft

LONDON (Reuters) - The International Criminal Court (ICC) chief prosecutor has accused Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir of abusing African hospitality and threatening the West as he seeks to avoid arrest on genocide charges.

Kenya chose not to arrest Bashir on the ICC charges when he visited the country on Friday for a ceremony marking the East African nation's new constitution.

The ICC, to which Kenya is signed up, accuses Bashir of war crimes and genocide in Sudan's Darfur region, where the United Nations estimates 300,000 people have died in a humanitarian crisis resulting from a counter-insurgency campaign.

Bashir denies the charges, saying they are part of a Western conspiracy.

"President Bashir is fighting for his freedom using different tactcs," ICC Chief Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo told Reuters in an interview on Saturday during a visit to London. Read more >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

Friday, August 27, 2010

Who Speaks for the UN on Darfur?” The Role of Nigeria’s Ibrahim Gambari

Darfur has never been so vulnerable to a collapse of humanitarian operations, never so insecure, and never so unprotected by the peacekeeping force that the UN has deployed. As the recent events at Kalma camp in South Darfur demonstrate, now is perhaps the last moment for decisive leadership on the part of the peacekeeping force in Darfur, known as UNAMID. Kalma camp—one of the largest and most politicized of Darfur’s Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) camps—has been the focus of a three-week standoff that has seen a complete shutdown of humanitarian access and a brutal dispersal of much of this population of some 100,000 civilians to other camps and nearby villages. Further, an acute challenge to UN authority has been posed by officials of the National Congress Party regime in Khartoum, which has demanded that UNAMID surrender six Kalma IDPs who sought sanctuary at a UNAMID police center a month ago following an outbreak of violence.


As I noted in my most recent post on this politically fraught situation, there is a standoff: so far the UN has refused to yield to Khartoum’s demand, insisting that the regime guarantee that it will “[bring the six IDPs] to trial in accordance with international standards of justice.” Since such “standards of justice” prevail nowhere in northern Sudan—and least of all in Darfur—the UN has effectively boxed itself in. For Khartoum is adamant about the turnover of these IDPs, and its actions over the past two weeks have been ever more ominous. More than half the camp, some 50,000 people, has now fled in fear, many encountering violence. For its part, the regime has announced plans to dismantle the camp and remove the remaining IDPs to new (and of course unconstructed) camps.

So who is the voice of the UN in this crisis? Who is in charge of UNAMID? Who will make the final decision about whether or not to hand over the six IDPs purported to be politically responsible for violence in Kalma? Who will presume to weigh the consequences of such a turnover to Khartoum’s security officials, whose treatment of these people, we may be sure, will be brutal and not at all concerned with “fairness and due process of law”? Negotiations over a stand-down continue, but without a demonstration of UN leadership that has been nowhere in evidence in Darfur over the past six years, capitulation seems inevitable. Certainly all actors are aware that in the event of UN acquiescence, whichever local officials are nominally in charge of receiving the six IDPs, these civilians will certainly be turned over immediately to Military Intelligence, the most powerful regime presence in Darfur. Read more >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

Friday, August 20, 2010

The Disappearing Genocide

Last month, the International Criminal Court (ICC) issued a warrant with additional charges against Sudanese president Omar Al Bashir: three counts of genocide in Darfur. It was an important historical moment. Never before had the court leveled genocide charges at a current head of state. But, for policy and opinion-makers in Washington, the event was merely a footnote lost among a host of other competing priorities.

That's because, two years after candidate Barack Obama criticized then-President Bush for a policy of “reward[ing] a regime in Khartoum that has a record of failing to live up to its commitments,” he has appointed a special envoy who is the very embodiment of such accommodation. Indeed, former Air Force General Scott Gration publicly complained in mid-July that the genocide charges would “make my mission more difficult.” In part as a consequence of such attitudes, the United States and much of the international community have been visibly incapable of responding effectively to the interlocking crises in Sudan. Their attention has been sliding from emergency to emergency—from the expulsion of humanitarian aid from Darfur in March 2009, to the frantic damage-control efforts during President Al Bashir 's fraudulent reelection campaign in April 2010 , to the multiple agreements that must be finalized before the January 2011 referenda on South Sudanese self-determination—and they have been outmaneuvered by a Sudanese regime that has successfully played these crises off each other. There's a very real chance that this state of affairs could have catastrophic repercussions for the north and the south, including a resumption of the country's civil war. And, in addition, there is a hidden cost: This lack of focus is producing terrible, perhaps permanent consequences for the people of Darfur.

Here's the situation there right now: Humanitarian indicators, especially in North Darfur, are ominous, particularly malnutrition levels ; yet both U.N. agencies and International Nongovernmental Organizations (INGOs) refuse to speak about conditions candidly. In the wake of the March 2009 expulsions, the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs no longer produces its comprehensive, detailed accounts of humanitarian conditions throughout Darfur. The 13 expelled international humanitarian organizations, which together provided approximately half the aid capacity in Darfur, have been only partially replaced; and the overall quality and capacity of aid operations remains much reduced. Malnutrition studies have been held hostage by Khartoum with no effective protest, despite the importance of such data for work in the field. Regime officials have demanded, and been granted, a role in the collection, analysis, and promulgation of humanitarian data—and have made clear they are willing to use their veto power if studies are judged too damning. And, most importantly, access for aid workers is at an all-time low, and shrinking rapidly, chiefly for lack of security.

The humanitarian community lives in fear following the expulsions, and rightly so. Two senior expatriate workers for the vital International Organization for Migration were recently expelled, apparently in retaliation for the ICC’s action last month, further reducing humanitarian capacity. The killing and abduction of humanitarians has continued to increase from already intolerable levels. And the U.N. peacekeeping mission that is supposed to be protecting them, UNAMID, is itself hamstrung by inadequate resources, a lack of trained personnel, poor morale, and brazen obstruction of its investigations by Khartoum's security forces. It has become the target of militia elements clearly aligned with the regime, and, at this point, 27 UNAMID peacekeeping personnel have been killed. Many others have been wounded and abducted. And there are questions as to whether UNAMID's mission can be sustained in light of harassment from Khartoum—even though withdrawal would lead to uncontrollable violence. Read more >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Aid groups again denied access to Darfur camp

UNITED NATIONS — Sudanese authorities on Tuesday again prevented aid workers from entering a camp for 80,000 displaced people in South Darfur, a day after allowing a small group in for the first time in two weeks to deliver medicine and fuel to operate water pumps.

United Nations deputy spokesman Farhan Haq said representatives of U.N. agencies and humanitarian organizations wanted to return to Kalma Camp to further assess conditions and additional humanitarian needs but were denied access.

Tensions have been high at Kalma since late July, when demonstrations by opponents of peace talks with the government turned violent, leaving at least five people dead. The camp has a strong base of supporters of the rebel Sudan Liberation Army, which is not taking part in talks in Doha, Qatar, aimed at ending the seven-year war in Darfur.

International aid workers travel to the camp every day, and when they arrived on Aug. 2 Sudanese authorities refused to let them enter and the ban was extended to local aid groups as well.

On Monday, several U.N. agencies and local aid groups working in Kalma were allowed in for the first time since then for a quick assessment.

The team visited different areas of the camp, finding parts empty after people fled following the recent tensions, said Samuel Hendricks, spokesman for the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in Sudan. They also delivered fuel for water pumps, which ran out of fuel last week, and medicine to one clinic.

Although aid workers have been barred from Kalma, the joint U.N.-African Union peacekeeping force has stepped up patrols in the camp. Read more >>>>>>>>>>>>>>

More gunfire at Darfur camp, aid workers barred: UN

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - There was an exchange of gunfire at a refugee camp in Sudan's western Darfur region that has been the focus of a tense standoff between international peacekeepers and Khartoum, a U.N. spokesman said on Wednesday.

Sudan has demanded that U.N.-African Union peacekeepers in Darfur (UNAMID) hand over six Darfuris accused by Khartoum of instigating clashes in South Darfur's Kalma Camp in late July that killed at least five people. UNAMID has refused to do so.

"The situation in Kalma remains tense and insecure," U.N. spokesman Martin Nesirky told reporters. "There were reports of gunfire overnight."

It was not clear who fired the shots, though there has been sporadic fighting between supporters of Darfur peace talks in Doha and those who oppose the talks.

The six had sought refuge with UNAMID, which says it will not hand them over to Sudan without proof of their crime or guarantees of a fair trial. U.N. peacekeeping chief Alain Le Roy said last week that UNAMID had asked Khartoum to drop the request for the six.Read more >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

Sunday, August 15, 2010

http://www.dissentmagazine.org/atw.php?id=216

On July 12 a three-judge panel of the International Criminal Court issued a warrant for the arrest of Sudan’s brutal strongman, President Omar al-Bashir. The new charges are for three counts of genocide in Darfur, adding to the many counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity for which al-Bashir was charged by the ICC in March 2009. These recent charges are without precedent in the pursuit of international justice. As the Washington Post noted, this was “the first time the Hague-based court has accused a sitting head of state of committing the most egregious international crime.”

So what was the response of President Obama’s special envoy for Sudan, former Air Force General Scott Gration? “The decision by the ICC to accuse Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir of genocide will make my mission more difficult…” This seems an extraordinarily cynical response to a critical moment in the effort to end impunity for atrocity crimes, precisely the impunity that sustains human suffering and destruction in Darfur. So, we may wonder, just what is General Gration’s job that it is made “more difficult” by such action? How can these historic first steps, pursuing international justice in the wake of massive ethnically-targeted human destruction, make his task harder? And even if harder, what does Gration have to say to the millions of Darfuris who enthusiastically support the ICC and its actions against al-Bashir? Read more >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

Sunday, August 08, 2010

Bashir threatens to expel UN

Omar al-Bashir, the Sudanese president, has warned the United Nations mission in Darfur and foreign aid organisations to "support government authorities" or face expulsion.

"Any aid group or UN or African Union agency, even Unamid, their mandate is to support government authorities," Bashir told a gathering of Darfuri leaders in Khartoum on Saturday.

Unamid, the joint African Union and United Nations mission in Darfur, has more than 15,000 peacekeepers deployed in the region.

"I tell my brothers, the governors of Darfur, that anyone who exceeds these boundaries or their mandate can be expelled the same day," Bashir said.

Bashir's remarks come amid an ongoing dispute between the Sudanese government and Unamid over six people wanted by Khartoum. Read more >>>>>>>>>>

Saturday, August 07, 2010

Sudan denies aid agencies access to Darfur camp

KHARTOUM, Sudan — Sudanese authorities have denied the U.N.'s humanitarian arm access to a Darfur refugee camp after an outbreak of violence, a U.N. spokesman said Friday.

Kalma camp is home to around 100,000 of the more than 2.5 million people displaced by fighting in the large region of western Sudan since 2003.

The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs spokesman Samuel Hendricks said at least five people have died and thousands have fled the camp since demonstrations protesting peace talks turned deadly a week ago.

He said 5,000 people from the camp gathered for protection at a nearby community policing station, and many hundreds remain displaced inside the facility.

Talks were under way to persuade authorities to allow the agencies to go in and distribute aid, he said.

"All we can do is keep talking to authorities," Hendricks told the Associated Press.

He said that other humanitarian agencies have tried to get into the Kalma camp but failed. Read more >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

Oumou SANGARE - Ko Sira

Saturday, July 31, 2010

A letter submitted to ICC by Civil society organizations

The Hague 30 July 2010

International Criminal Court
Maanweg, 174
2516 AB, The Hague
The Chief Prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo


Your Excellency Mr. Moreno Ocampo,

Since 2003, Sudanese government has unabatedly been committing gross crimes against the people of Darfur with utter impunity.

Three years after the Security Council requested you to investigate the crimes in Darfur, and based on the evidence collected, you, The Chief Prosecutor of The International Criminal Court, concluded that there are reasonable grounds to believe that Omar Hassan Ahmad AL BASHIR bears criminal responsibility due to his role in the horrendous crimes committed in Darfur.

You, then, announced the indictment of the president of the Sudan Omar Hassan Al-Bashir on counts of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity on July 14th 2008 and requested the judges of Pre-Trial Chamber I to issue an arrest warrant against Al-Bashir. Pre-Trial Chamber I at the International Criminal Court (ICC) issued a first warrant of arrest against Marshal Omar Hassan Ahmad Al-Bashir for his role in escalating violence and the humanitarian crisis in Darfur, Western Sudan. He was accused of committing war crimes and crimes against humanity in Darfur since 2003.

Despite the first arrest warrant against him, al-Bashir seemed defiant and unwilling to cease committing war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide. The Pre-Trial Chamber I of the International Criminal Court then issued a second warrant of arrest against the president of Sudan, Omar Hassan Ahmad Al Bashir, for three counts of genocide committed against the people of Darfur.

Justice done and seen to be done is one of the main demands of the people of Darfur. Fundamental justice that overarches the suffering of the victims of the conflict in Darfur commands that all individuals responsible for authorising, organising or executing the massive crimes committed against innocent civilians should be held accountable. That is what you have done and are still doing to help the people of Darfur realized the dream that they have so long wished for.

We, the undersigned civil society organizations, unequivocally support the decision of the judges of Pre-Trial Chamber I by issuing a second arrest warrant on July 12th, 2010 and your persistent efforts to bring the gross atrocities to the attention of international community to stop genocide in Darfur. It has come at a time when violence, insecurity and impunity in Darfur have significantly increased.


Thank you,

Signed by:

1- Darfur Union in The Netherlands
2- Darfur Union in UK and Northern Ireland
3- Darfur Relief and Documentation Centre – Switzerland
4- DPDC - Darfur Peace and Development Centre - Switzerland
5- Darfur Culture and Heritage Belgium
6- Darfur Call - Netherlands
7- Darfur Community Belgium
8- Darfur Solidarity Ireland – Republic of Ireland
9- Darfur Union in Germany
10- Darfur Union in Italy
11- Darfur Association - France
12- Darfur Solidarity Group - South Africa
13- Darfur Friedens- und Entwicklungs-Zentrum – Switzerland
14- Darfur Community Association -South Africa
15- Sudanese Union of Marginalized Majority – South Africa
16- Darfur Union in Norway

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Justice for Darfur Victims - Jail for Bashir

By Don Kraus,

The indictment of Sudanese President al-Bashir on charges of genocide by the International Criminal Court (ICC) is a critical step forward for the victims of Darfur. This action sends a clear signal to world leaders that there is no immunity for genocide.

This is the first time the ICC has brought charges of genocide against a sitting head of state. The charges send a clear signal from the world community that crimes against humanity, genocide and war crimes will not be tolerated. The message is "mass atrocities = jail."

The charges also provide an important opportunity for the Obama Administration to work with the Court to bring one of the world's worst criminals to justice and to create a more peaceful future for Sudan. Read more >>>>>>>>>>>>>

Monday, July 12, 2010

Pre-Trial Chamber I issues a second warrant of arrest against Omar Al Bashir for counts of genocide

Today, Pre-Trial Chamber I of the International Criminal Court (ICC) issued a second warrant of arrest against the President of Sudan, Omar Hassan Ahmad Al Bashir, considering that there are reasonable grounds to believe him responsible for three counts of genocide committed against the Fur, Masalit and Zaghawa ethnic groups, that include: genocide by killing, genocide by causing serious bodily or mental harm and genocide by deliberately inflicting on each target group conditions of life calculated to bring about the group’s physical destruction.

This second arrest warrant does not replace or revoke in any respect the first warrant of arrest issued against Mr Al Bashir on 4 March, 2009, which shall thus remain in effect. In the previous arrest warrant, the Chamber considered that there are reasonable grounds to believe that Mr Al Bashir is criminally responsible for five counts of crimes against humanity (murder, extermination, forcible transfer, torture and rape) and two counts for war crimes (intentionally directing attacks against a civilian population as such or against individual civilians not taking direct part in hostilities, and pillaging).

On 4 March, 2009, Pre-Trial Chamber I had rejected the Prosecutor’s application in respect of the crime of genocide. On 6 July, 2009, the Prosecutor filed an appeal against this decision.
On 3 February, 2010, the Appeals Chamber rendered its judgment on the Prosecutor’s appeal, reversing, by unanimous decision, Pre-Trial Chamber I’s decision of 4 March, 2009, to the extent that Pre-Trial Chamber I decided “not to issue a warrant of arrest in respect of the charge of genocide in view of an erroneous standard of proof”. The Appeals Chamber directed the Pre-Trial Chamber to decide anew whether or not the arrest warrant should be extended to cover the charge of genocide. Applying the standard of proof as identified by the Appeals Chamber, Pre-Trial Chamber I concluded today that there are reasonable grounds to believe that Mr Al Bashir acted with specific intent to destroy in part the Fur, Masalit and Zaghawa ethnic groups. Read more >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

Saturday, June 26, 2010

First rains on Darfur

Kristalina Georgieva

I arrive in Nyala after a day in Khartoum, Sudan's capital and most prosperous city. The contrast is so dramatic that it is hard to believe we are still in the same country. Khartoum, the city where the Blue and White Nile meet, is booming — oil revenues fuel construction everywhere. It is a capital of a middle income country and only the occasional donkey on the busy streets reminds of Sudan's rural soul.

Nyala, in the South of Darfur, has none of Khartoum's glamour. It is visibly poor, with mostly unpaved streets, lots of mud houses and frequent electric power failures. But Nyala is well off compared to the camps, hosting millions of internally displaced and refugees across Darfur. Power cuts don't exist there for a simple reason - there is no power to cut. Read more >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Going, Going Gone: UN Troops in Chad, Home to Darfur Victims

No one quite knows why but the United Nations is pulling its peacekeepers out of Chad, home to hundreds of thousands of victims of Sudan's war in Darfur. The government of President Idriss Déby wants it that way.

Despite some successful UN training of Chad's own police unit (known as DIS, the Détachement intégré de sécurité), neither the Chadians nor the UN peacekeepers have enough personnel to ensure safe delivery of humanitarian goods to about half a million needy people.

The UN Security Council on Tuesday made it official, authorizing the gradual withdrawal of 3,300 troops -about two-thirds of its intended strength - down to 1,900 in Chad and 300 in the Central African Republic, also home to Sudanese refugees. The UN troops only arrived last year.

Withdrawal of the remaining uniformed personnel and 300 UN civilian police begins on Oct. 15 and by Dec. 31, they will be gone. The seven-page resolution gives a variety of tasks to the peacekeepers, known by their French acronym of MINURCAT, before they leave and tells the Chadian government what it must do after they leave, although there is no way to enforce this.Read more >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Shot at in Darfur

By the time I finally got to Darfur in October last year, its reputation had long preceded it. The same was true of Unamid, a hybrid of UN and African Union troops, which were charged with peacekeeping in the area. I had long known about Unamid, famously lacking in resources, stuck in the sand, peopled with troops from countries better known for their needs than their ability to provide fully equipped peacekeeping units. But hearing is totally different from seeing, and I was curious. I wanted to see for myself.

It took me the better part of a year, but finally I ended up spending three weeks embedded with Unamid – travelling through north, south and west Darfur, with troops from Rwanda, South Africa and Senegal. However long it had taken me to get there, it took no time at all to encounter the rumoured problems – and to contemplate them lengthily while spending hours stuck in sand or broken down on the tracks. Read more >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

In Focus Darfur: Broken Promises

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Has Obama Forgotten Darfur?

By NICHOLAS KRISTOF

Darfur seems to have been forgotten, but the killings continue. After a lull, the pace of killings has increased lately, with some 600 people killed violently last month alone. As Newsweek notes, that’s more than in any month since U.N. peacekeepers arrived.

The International Criminal Court’s chief prosecutor, Luis Moreno Ocampo, addressed the Security Council today, giving a blunt report about Darfur:

The entire Darfur region is still a crime scene. The attacks against civilians not participating in the conflict continue. Thousands of civilians were attacked immediately after the signing of a peace agreement and public commitments to peace earlier this year. Rapes continue. The process of extermination against millions displaced in the camps continues. And why not, since the criminals enjoy impunity?


But the Security Council seems mum, frozen, passive, paralyzed. Instead of insisting that Sudan take further action, it shrugs and looks the other way. It used to be that the problem countries on the U.N. Security Council, in terms of getting action on the slaughter in Darfur, were China and Russia. But now the U.S. and Britain seem equally complicit. President Obama, who was one of the leaders on the Darfur issue when he was in the Senate, seems to have forgotten about it as president. Read more >>>>>>>>

UN council alarmed over spike in Darfur violence

By Patrick Worsnip

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - The U.N. Security Council expressed grave concern on Monday over a spike in violence in Sudan's western Darfur region, which a U.N. envoy said was seriously hindering protection and aid for civilians.

The envoy, Ibrahim Gambari, told the council 447 people had died in May alone -- a lower figure than given last week by U.N. officials, but still what he called a "serious escalation" in fighting between Sudan's government and Darfur rebels.

Gambari, head of the U.N./African Union peacekeeping mission in Darfur, or UNAMID, said military clashes were likely to "continue for some time unless urgent efforts at ensuring a ceasefire are made by the international community."

The Darfur conflict began in 2003 when mostly non-Arab rebel factions took up arms against Sudan's government, accusing it of neglecting the region's development. Khartoum mobilized mostly Arab militias to crush the uprising. Read more >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

Sunday, June 13, 2010

In a bind over Darfur

By Louise Roland-Gosselin,

Today, in an unprecedented step, the prosecutor for the international criminal court formally asked the UN security council to take action against Sudan if it continues to refuse to hand over a former minister and a militia leader indicted for war crimes in Darfur. Through this referral, the court is attempting to demonstrate its ability to take sanctions against those who deny its authority. But for the international community this referral presents a conundrum that gets to the heart of the problem with Sudan: how to balance the seemingly competing aims of pursuing justice against the Sudanese president and his government for the ongoing atrocities in Darfur, while cajoling them towards a successful referendum on the secession of southern Sudan in January 2011.

As has been the case so many times in the past, Omar al-Bashir, the Sudanese president, who has himself been indicted by the ICC, knows he has the UN in a bind. The UN sees its choice as being one between pursuing justice and risking Bashir sabotaging the referendum, or giving in to him, allowing the indictments to be sidelined and confirming what dictators across the world already assume: that there is no such thing as international justice. There are no easy answers but, with the death count in Darfur rising, ensuring that this conflict does not get sidelined in the bid to win Bashir's favour will be an important task for the international community, and one in which the UK has an obligation to take a leading role. Read more >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

Sunday, June 06, 2010

Sudan’s president not invited to AU meeting, says Museveni

Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir, who faces the risk of arrest on war crimes charges, has not been invited to next month’s African Union conference in Uganda, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni said in a statement.


The International Criminal Court (ICC) has an indictment against Bashir over crimes in Sudan’s western Darfur region and African states that are signatories to the agreement establishing the court are obliged to arrest him.

Mr Museveni’s office issued a statement late yesterday saying Sudan would be represented at the conference by “other government officials” and not Bashir.

In March 2009, the Hague-based ICC issued an arrest warrant against Bashir on seven counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity in Darfur, charges that he rejects. It was the first indictment for a sitting head of state.

The year before, the court accused him of masterminding a campaign of genocide in the troubled region, prompting a round of protests from the government in Khartoum.

The African Union has sought a deferment of the arrest warrant, saying it complicates peace efforts in Darfur.

Reacting, Human Rights Watch said Uganda’s decision to not invite President Bashir proves the International Criminal Court is gaining strength in Africa.

This is a welcome statement from the president of Uganda,” Mr Richard Dicker, international justice director at the New York-based group, told AFP.

“The trend is African state-parties standing up for accountability and ending impunity.” Read more >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

Saturday, June 05, 2010

Global Witness uncovers evidence of oil exploration in Darfur

Satellite evidence obtained by campaign group Global Witness suggests an area in the far north of Darfur in Sudan is being explored for oil. Darfur, a region roughly the size of Spain, has been torn apart by war since 2003. As a result, an estimated 300,000 people have died and 2.7 million have been displaced from their homes. Global Witness believes that oil wealth could provide an incentive for peace were the revenues to be equitably distributed.

The satellite images[1] obtained by Global Witness reveal that a grid of over 500 kilometres of straight lines, characteristic of seismic exploration, appeared in the northwest corner of Sudan's oil exploration block 12A, near the Libyan border, between September 2009 and March 2010. A further image[2] (below) confirms the presence of a camp in this area with what appears to be 23 accommodation huts, nine 4-wheel drive vehicles, and a small structure outside the walls that resembles a storage depot for explosives. Seismic exploration sometimes requires the use of explosives. Read more >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

Sunday, May 30, 2010

UN relief chief sounds alarm on Darfur's dire humanitarian situation

29 May 2010 – Visiting Darfur today, the top United Nations humanitarian official emphasized that the situation in the war-ravaged Sudanese region remains serious, as recent clashes between the Government and rebels have uprooted tens of thousands of people from their homes.

Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have suspended operations in eastern Jebel Marra due to insecurity.

In his meetings today with the acting Governor of South Darfur and other officials in Nyala, Under-Secretary-General John Holmes emphasized the need for the Government to allow and facilitate access for humanitarian agencies.

“The problem in eastern Jebel Marra is that we don't know what the situation is because we don't have access,” he said.

Mr. Holmes – on the third day of his four-day visit to Sudan – also expressed serious concern over the safety of aid workers in Darfur. A staff member from the United States working with the NGO Samaritan's Purse has been held since being abducted in South Darfur on 18 May, the latest in a string of kidnappings in recent months.

In Nyala, he toured the Sakale Ali Wali settlement, where some 1,000 displaced families have been given title to their land for building permanent structures. While they have been given relatively little assistance, their initiative in providing a better life for themselves and their children is evident, despite difficult circumstances.

“We need to recognize and to support the efforts of IDP [internally displaced persons] communities to build and sustain livelihoods and move beyond hand-outs,” he said. “We can see here a step in that direction and it is encouraging.” Read more >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

Darfur's invisible killing fields

By Rebecca Tinsley

A 16th-century English diplomat, Henry Wooton, described ambassadors as men who are “sent abroad to lie for their countries.” Last week, diplomats from around the globe beat a path to Khartoum to attend the inauguration of an indicted war criminal, President Omar al-Bashir of Sudan.

Among them were senior United Nations officials, paying respects to a man who, by general agreement, rigged his country’s ballot last month. Even the most conciliatory and appeasing foreign election observers admitted the voting process was deeply flawed. Yet, representatives of the international community dusted down their Sunday best to honor a man accused of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Hypocrisy as usual, you might think, and you would be right. The world wants to do business with oil-rich Sudan, and they are “on our side” in the war against terror, so we avert our eyes to human rights abuses and election fraud.

But there were ghosts at the inaugural banquets in Khartoum — the ghost of Darfur. The arid, war-torn western region of Sudan has recently become invisible. The Sudanese regime systematically denies reporters or humanitarian groups any access to vast swathes of the country. In an area a third of the size of Texas, we have no idea what is being done to civilians by the dictatorship’s armed forces. In an age when we in the United States are bombarded by information 24 hours a day, there are still places where unimaginable horror is taking place without witnesses.

Our human rights group, Waging Peace, gets fragmentary reports from civilians in Darfur. They tell us that their government continues to bomb them, and Khartoum’s Arab nomad proxies are still invading their villages and killing black African men, women and children. Sudanese officials deny access to aid workers, and, according to the U.N.’s own former Sudan rapporteur, Sima Samar, they arrest and torture humanitarian workers.

In February, there were widespread reports of a major Sudanese government air and ground offensive in the Jebel Marra region of Darfur. It is thought that 100,000 people were made homeless by the Sudanese armed forces, and an unknown number of civilians are dead. Read more >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

Monday, May 24, 2010

Washington DC Marchers Protest Darfur Genocide

More than 100 people marched and attended an interfaith rally Sunday in Washington to protest the status of genocide victims in the Darfur region of Sudan.
"President Obama, President Obama, President Obama, President Obama, stop the violence in Sudan, stop the violence in Sudan."

The march began under gray skies and light rain symbolically at the Holocaust Museum, where the murder of six million Jews in World War II is documented and remembered.

Darfur rebel groups have been fighting troops and militia of the Sudanese government since 2003.

The United Nations says the violence has killed up to 300,000 people and displaced some 2.7 million others.

The march was called Hope for Darfur, Justice in Sudan.

"We are hoping to send out a message to people in Darfur that there are people who still care, people who worry about them and people willing to work and take to the streets to support their needs and their cause," said march co-chair Richard Young.Read more >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Mariam Amu: the other voice of Darfur

DARFUR’S FORGOTTEN REFUGEES AND THE HUMANITARIAN CRISIS IN CHAD

By Dr. Eric Reeves

Ongoing human suffering and destruction in Darfur have been largely eclipsed both by recent national elections in Sudan and by growing, if belated, international attention to the imperiled southern self-determination referendum (slated for January 9, 2011). Even more completely obscured by recent events in Sudan, however, is the continuing humanitarian crisis in eastern Chad.

Refugees from Central African Republic, internally displaced Chadians, and Darfuri refugees together make up a population of approximately 500,000 civilians, almost completely dependent upon international aid. Half this population has come from the east, fleeing the killing fields of Darfur and the predations of Khartoum’s brutal Janjaweed militias, and its regular military forces. Recently the fleeing has begun again, just as Chadian President Idriss Déby is preparing to expel the U.N. force tasked with providing security in the region. Once more, the U.N. and the international community are acquiescing before the supremely callous demands of a ruthless regime.

A great many Darfuris fled the early attacks of 2003-2005, and the refugee population in eastern Chad grew rapidly; many more fled subsequently, fearing further attacks and the ongoing, ethnically-targeted destruction of livelihoods. Perversely, in Chad, they again became the victims of genocidal assault. A January 2007 report from Human Rights Watch, or HRW, titled “‘They Came Here to Kill Us’: Militia Attacks and Ethnic Targeting of Civilians in Eastern Chad” remains our best contemporaneous account of violence perpetrated against Darfuri refugees and other civilians. In October 2006, Khartoum’s military aircraft “bombed villages in eastern Chad (…) [as] part of a broader pattern of indiscriminate bombing attacks against civilians in Darfur.” During its month-long field investigation, HRW also uncovered evidence “linking some attacks against civilians in eastern Chad with known Janjaweed militia commanders or with Sudanese government paramilitary forces known to include many Janjaweed militia members.” Read more >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

Friday, May 21, 2010

Obama Setting Up a Clash With the Hague Over Darfur

By BENNY AVNI

UNITED NATIONS — President Obama is setting up the next big clash between America and the International Criminal Court, according to human rights activists who say Washington’s Sudan envoy undermines the Hague-based world judicial body’s prosecution of President Bashir.

In stark contrast to the Bush administration, which has eyed the ICC’s concept of “international jurisdiction” with much healthy skepticism and declined to join the court, Mr. Obama’s team has sent observers to ICC gatherings and vowed to cooperate with Hague investigators in what is largely seen as an attempt by some of the president’s top jurists to promote full American membership.

At the same time, Mr. Obama’s personal envoy to Sudan, Scott Gration, testifying at the Senate last week, said he is supporting an African Union initiative to create locally-based “truth and reconciliation mechanisms.” Hague watchers fear that such mechanisms will undermine the ICC’s ambitious – and first ever – indictment of a sitting head of state. Read more >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Hundreds flee Sudan army and Darfur rebel buildup

Separately, long running tribal clashes in the remote western region have killed 107 people since March, the joint U.N./African Union UNAMID peacekeeping mission said.

The security situation has deteriorated in the strife-torn territory after peace talks between the government and rebels stalled in February.

UNAMID said it had reports government troops and forces from the insurgent Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) had been massing in North Darfur state's Shangil Tobay area.

"Approximately 70 percent of (people) living in the New Shangil Tobay Camp have left fearing clashes," it said in a statement. UNAMID said 2,000 people lived in the camp.

JEM was one of two rebel forces that launched a revolt against Sudan's government in 2003, accusing it of starving Darfur of funding and marginalizing its population.

Sudan's president Omar Hassan al-Bashir, who mobilized militias to crush the uprising, is facing International Criminal Court (ICC) charges of masterminding war crimes in the region. Read more >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

It's Time For A Change In Dealing With Sudan - Congressman Wolf

Washington, DC — Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA), long recognized in Congress for his work on Sudan, today called for a change in how the Obama Administration deals with Khartoum.

In a press conference on Capitol Hill, Wolf said it is time for Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice to re-take control of U.S. policy involving Sudan.
Below is a copy of a letter Wolf sent President Obama urging a change in course in dealing with Khartum. A copy of Wolf's statement at the press conference follows the letter.

Dear Mr. President:

"If President Obama is ever going to find his voice on Sudan, it had better be soon." These were the closing words of New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof two weeks ago. I could not agree more with his assessment of Sudan today. Time is running short. Lives hang in the balance. Real leadership is needed.

Having first travelled to Sudan in 1989, my interest and involvement in this country has spanned the better part of 20 years. I've been there five times, most recently in July 2004 when Senator Sam Brownback and I were the first congressional delegation to go to Darfur.

Tragically, Darfur is hardly an anomaly. We saw the same scorched earth tactics from Khartoum in the brutal 20-year civil war with the South where more than 2 million perished, most of whom were civilians. In September 2001, President Bush appointed former Senator John Danforth as special envoy and his leadership was in fact instrumental in securing, after two and a half years of negotiations, the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), thereby bringing about an end to the war. I was at the 2005 signing of this historic accord in Kenya, as was then Secretary of State Colin Powell and Congressman Donald Payne, among others. Hopes were high for a new Sudan. Sadly, what remains of that peace is in jeopardy today. What remains of that hope is quickly fading. Read more >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

Saturday, May 08, 2010

DARFUR IN THE WAKE OF SUDAN’S ELECTIONS

What do Sudan’s recent elections mean for the people of Darfur? In all likelihood, they augur increasing violence and deteriorating humanitarian conditions. There has already been a sharp increase in military activity by the Khartoum regime and its Janjaweed militia allies over the past four months, particularly in the Jebel Marra and Jebel Moon regions, where rebel presence is most significant. All signs since the elections suggest an even greater increase in violence. And as has been the case since the beginning of the genocidal counter-insurgency effort that began in earnest in 2003, civilians are the ones bearing the brunt of renewed attacks by the regime. Numerous reports come from The Sudan Tribune and Radio Dabanga, both of which have extensive contacts on the ground; additional reporting comes from Darfuris in the diaspora who remain in close touch with their families, villages, and important leaders in the region.

One ominous result of the electoral triumph by Omar al-Bashir and his National Congress Party is that negotiations with Darfur’s rebels will almost certainly become more unyielding. Claiming the mantle of national authority on the basis of April’s hopelessly fraudulent elections, al-Bashir and his security cabal will give less and demand more of the rebel negotiators, who themselves seem to be weakening politically. With the rapprochement between Khartoum and N’Djamena and the associated loss of military might, the Justice and Equality Movement, or JEM, has lost significant negotiating strength in Doha. (Chad has long been the mainstay for JEM logistics, weapons, and safe haven.) The various factions that make up the newly formed Liberty and Justice Movement have yet to prove themselves to be a cohesive force, either on the ground or in the talks in Doha, which seem to be withering. JEM formally suspended participation in the Doha process on May 4 because of ongoing military actions against them, despite the February 23 cease-fire signed by Khartoum—only the latest that the regime has failed to honor. Read more >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

Friday, May 07, 2010

The Jewish community must keep its attention focused on Darfur

In this era of the 24-hour-a-day news cycle, media outlets are always looking for the next big story. An earthquake happens; there is 24-hour saturation coverage, and then a few days later (if that), it’s on to the next big story. The crisis of today, whether it is a war or a plume of volcanic ash from Iceland, can be gone tomorrow. Some issues, however, must not be allowed to slip away. Some things are just too important.

The ongoing genocide in Darfur is one of those issues. After intense international pressure, a peace agreement was signed to end the conflict in the Darfur region of Sudan. One of the elements of that agreement was the provision for free and fair elections in that country. Those elections took place last month. They were not, however, free or fair.

The government of President Omar al-Bashir conducted a campaign of intimidation and outright fraud. This is not surprising given his history. Why should anyone expect a leader who has organized genocide against the inhabitants of a region in his own country to then turn around and permit fair elections?

The Sudanese government, organizers of the suffering and genocide, is doing nothing to change its behavior. It is time once again to apply all possible pressure to put an end to that horrible situation. Read more >>>>>

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Sudan 101: Why is President Bashir accused of war crimes in Darfur?

By Scott Baldauf, Staff writer

Khartoum, Sudan
President Omar al-Bashir is accused of organizing a war against non-Arab rebels in the Darfur region, who were protesting Darfur’s neglect by Mr. Bashir's Arab-dominated government.
In this war, his military and political agents in the region are accused of recruiting Arab nomadic tribes into militias called the janjaweed. These nomads attacked Darfuri farmers, who tended to come from non-Arabic speaking tribes.

The United Nations estimates that some 300,000 of these non-Arabs were killed.

The International Criminal Court has issued an arrest warrant for Bashir for war crimes and crimes against humanity, and is taking a second look at charges of genocide.

To prove genocide, the ICC prosecution has to prove that Bashir and his agents intended to kill off an ethnic group, in the same way that Adolf Hitler had a specific plan to eliminate Europe’s Jews in World War II and that Rwandan Hutu leaders intended to kill off the Tutsi minority in the spring of 1994. Read more >>>>>>>>>>>>

Sunday, May 02, 2010

Inside a Darfur refugee camp

By Hiroyuki Saito

KASS, Sudan — Hundreds of Darfuris fled violence in their home villages to seek shelter in Hass, a camp for displaced people. But they found little peace.

In February, gunmen riding horses and camels invaded, raiding the thatched huts and seizing people without explanation, according to the displaced residents. The invaders beat people, tied them up and pushed them in the gutters while making their way through the camps.

Eighteen residents of the camp were taken captive, including Sheik Sidig, the chief of the attacked camps. The prisoners were ordered to pay “diya,” also known as blood money, for a Sudanese police officer who was killed at the camp two days earlier.

According to the locals, blood money often plays a significant role as a form of compensation to solve intertribal issues, particularly murder cases like this.

“When I got out of my place, I found the streets filled with gunmen. I ran into a man, who said to me, ‘Your people killed someone and we want you to pay the blood money,’” said Sheik Sidig. Read full story >>>>>>>>>>

US committed to bringing Sudan president to justice: Clinton

WASHINGTON — US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Sunday the United States was committed to bringing Sudanese President Omar al-Beshir to justice.

"I can't take anything seriously that Beshir says," Clinton told NBC television's "Meet the Press" program.

"He is an indicted war criminal. The United States is very committed to seeing him brought to justice."

Beshir, who is wanted by the International Criminal Court for alleged war crimes in Darfur, was re-elected on Monday with 68.24 percent of the vote, the country's first multi-party poll in 24 years.

But the credibility of the election was undermined by opposition boycotts, allegations of fraud and questions from international monitors about transparency.

Clinton said "it was by any measure a flawed election.

"There were many, many things wrong with it," she explained. Read more >>>>>

Saturday, May 01, 2010

Wanted, Sudan’s President Can’t Escape Isolation

By MARLISE SIMONS

PARIS — On the international summit circuit, no one can clear a room more quickly than Sudan’s president, Omar Hassan al-Bashir.

Leaders have maneuvered to stay out of photographs with him, dashed away from an official lunch to avoid sitting next to him and gone as far as canceling an entire international meeting to keep Mr. Bashir at bay.

The evasions are all part of the diplomatic dance that began a year ago when the International Criminal Court in The Hague issued a global arrest warrant for Mr. Bashir, citing charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity, for his role in the bloodshed in the western Darfur region of Sudan. The warrant, scoffed at by the Sudanese president, has also set off private and not-so-private scoffing at the suspect in various capitals.

The latest snub has come from Paris, which has plainly told Mr. Bashir that he is not on the guest list for the African-French summit meeting in Nice, on the French Riviera, on May 31. “Sudan is invited,” a French Foreign Ministry official said, “but President al-Bashir was asked to designate a representative.” Read more >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Omar al-Bashir's re-election in Sudan is a farce

By Louise Roland-Gosselin

Omar al-Bashir has been re-elected in the first "multiparty" elections in Sudan for over 20 years. Many had hoped these elections would hail the beginning of a process finally bringing peace and justice to Sudan. Instead, they have proved to be nothing more than a way for Bashir to entrench his control and to become the first head of state to be elected while facing charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity from the international criminal court (ICC).

To those of us who have worked in Sudan, Bashir's conduct is entirely unsurprising. As a master of manipulation, rigging elections presents no great challenge. But what is endlessly frustrating is the role that the international community plays in legitimising this behaviour, once again choosing to believe that Bashir will "come right" despite all the evidence to the contrary. Read more >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

Thursday, April 22, 2010

ICC Prosecutor condemns Sudan noncooperation

By MIKE CORDER

THE HAGUE, Netherlands — The International Criminal Court prosecutor wants judges to report Sudan to the U.N. Security Council for refusing to hand over a government minister and a militia leader accused of atrocities in Darfur.

Luis Moreno Ocampo said in a written request to the court's judges publicized Thursday that Sudan is refusing to arrest Humanitarian Affairs Minister Ahmed Harun and Janjaweed militia leader Ali Kushayb.

The court ordered the men arrested in 2007 on 51 charges of crimes against humanity and war crimes.

It is unclear what effect — if any — the request will have on Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir. He also is wanted by the court for allegedly ordering atrocities in Darfur and has repeatedly refused any cooperation.

Moreno Ocampo said that Al-Bashir's regime "continues to commit crimes, promotes and protects the persons sought by the Court, and harasses all persons who are considered to be in favor of justice." Read more >>>>>>>>>>>>>.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Sudan Vote Lagged International Norms, Observers Say

By Maram Mazen

April 17 (Bloomberg) -- Sudan’s first multiparty elections in 24 years did not reach international standards, European Union observers and former U.S. President Jimmy Carter said.

Sudan yesterday started counting ballot papers of the election for presidency, parliament and regional offices, after five days of voting that ended April 15.

“The elections did not meet international standards yet,” even as they have paved the way for democratic transformation, Veronique De Keyser, head of the European Union’s Election Observation Mission in Sudan told reporters in Khartoum today as she presented a preliminary report.

The elections were marred with boycotts by the major opposition parties who accused President Umar al-Bashir’s National Congress Party of restricting free speech, using state resources for his campaign and intimidating opponents. The boycotts reduced competition in the north, the statement said. Ruling parties in northern and southern Sudan dominated the elections, as they benefited from unequal resources, it said.

“It is obvious the elections will fall short of international standards,” Carter told reporters today in Khartoum. “Sudan’s obligations for genuine elections, in many respects the people’s expectations, have not been met,” he said. Read more >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Rights Activists Describe Sudanese Elections as Rigged, say U.S. Not Tough Enough

Human rights activists sharply criticized the Obama administration’s efforts in Sudan Wednesday and described the ongoing Sudanese elections as rigged and a sham.

John Prendergast, co-founder of the Enough Project at the Center for American Progress, says, “As bad as they are, the elections are a real diversion from the issues that are going to determine whether Sudan goes back to full-scale national war or not.”

He describes U.S. diplomatic efforts in Sudan leading up to the elections as “amateur hour,” saying the Obama administration has failed to address “multiple crises.”

Get tough

“By not responding forcefully or robustly,” he says, “to the multiple violations of the electoral process and the other things that are happening in Sudan, the U.S. sends a very important signal that emboldens the (ruling) National Congress Party in Khartoum and it demoralizes the Sudanese people.” Read more >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

Sunday, April 11, 2010

European Union Pulls Observers out of Darfur

The European Union (EU) on April 7 pulled its election observers from Darfur amid security concerns.

Sudan is on the cusp of its first multi-party elections in 24 years, but the election is being marred by boycotts from opposition forces who say it will be nothing more than a farce and that conflict will continue in the war-torn country.

“I have decided to come back with…. the six EU observers who are in Darfur,” Veronique De Keyser, head of the EU’s election mission in Sudan told reporters. “In some parts of Darfur the violence is terrible. The humanitarians cannot access this area and if [their] aid cannot access [it], we cannot access.”

The six EU observers arrived in Darfur in March, but have had difficulty performing their task because of the violence in the region.

“We can only have a very partial view, so how can we observe properly in Darfur,” De Keyser said. “The credibility of the mission is at stake. People have been asking how can you observe in Darfur, and this is a question I have to answer.” Read more >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

A Memorial to a Hero Needs Your Support!

The Martin Luther King Jr. National Memorial will be the first on the National Mall to recognize a person of color and a man of peace, not a president or a veteran of war. In 1996 Congress authorized the Memorial Foundation to raise funds to establish a national memorial to honor the legacy of Dr. King on the National Mall. The memorial’s very existence signifies that we as a people believe Dr. King and his legacy deserve this esteemed placement in what can be considered America’s “Hall of Fame.”

We want to commemorate the life and work of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. by leading a collaborative funding, design, and construction process in the creation of a memorial to honor his national and international contributions to world peace through non-violent social change.. Read more and watch video >>>>>>>

Saturday, April 03, 2010

Taking Darfur to the stage as it fades from the headlines

By Fiona Zublin

Estimates vary, but some hundreds of thousands of people have been slain in the Darfur region of Sudan. The civil war has displaced millions, who are forced to live in refugee camps where gang rape is endemic and disease runs rampant. In 2003, government-backed gunmen belonging to nomadic African Arab tribes began exterminating villages of African farmers across the region. You can think of it as a conflict between Africans and Arabs, between farmers and nomads, between government and citizens -- when you think of it at all these days. The facts are complicated, the emotional truth even more so.

But emotional truth is what Winter Miller does. She's the author of "In Darfur," a play that seeks to put a face and a name to a genocide that has faded out of the headlines of late. The play, directed by Derek Goldman, opened at Theater J on Wednesday.

Miller, 36, is a playwright -- but in 2004, she found herself working as a research assistant for Nicholas Kristof, the New York Times columnist now known for his investigative work on Cambodian sex trafficking, child marriage and, of course, the genocide in Darfur. Read more >>>>>>>>

Sudan: Lesser of two evils

Five years ago a peace treaty ended two decades of civil war in Sudan. It envisaged free elections which would prompt "democratic transformation". These are due to take place in 10 days' time. What they have created instead, according to the International Crisis Group, is a manipulated census, crooked voter registration, gerrymandered electoral districts and bought tribal loyalties.

On Thursday night the five political parties that constitute the main opposition said they would boycott the poll, a day after south Sudan's leading party, the former rebel Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM), withdrew its candidate Yasir Arman. If the opposition parties remain out of the race, the election, the first multi-party contest since 1986, would lose its credibility. President Omar Hassan al-Bashir needs that legitimacy, not least to fend off indictments on charges of crimes against humanity in Darfur by the international criminal court. After some western election observers advised the government to postpone the vote, Bashir threatened to cut their fingers off. He also threatened the SPLM that if they withdrew completely from the vote, he would torpedo their forthcoming referendum on independence, which is another requirement of the 2005 peace treaty. Read more >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Workaholic ICC prosecutor hunts war criminals

"My duty is to apply the law without political considerations," Luis Moreno-Ocampo said in a speech in 2007. "Law is the only efficient way to prevent recurrent violence and atrocities."

That approach has earned the Argentine national both admiration and criticism.

Some legal observers have argued the court's actions risk prolonging conflict by jeopardizing peace deals, such as in Sudan's Darfur region or in Uganda, where charges have been made against Joseph Kony, the leader of the Lord's Resistance Army.

But Moreno-Ocampo, 57, has pushed ahead, not only expanding the number of ICC cases, but also winning a ruling in February opening up the possibility of Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir being charged with genocide in Darfur. Read more >>>>>>>>>>

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

International vows to end Darfur crimes remain empty

By Eric Reeves

— For all the attention Darfur has received and for all the humanitarian assistance that it has been provided, innocent civilians are once again being killed as part of a ruthless counterinsurgency campaign by the Khartoum regime. Poised to retain power in next month’s thoroughly compromised national elections, this regime will continue its 20-year history of civilian destruction throughout Sudan until the world gets serious about pressuring it to stop.

The assaults are mainly in the mountainous region of Jebel Marra, where genocidal violence first exploded eight years ago. There is a ghastly familiarity to Khartoum’s assault on the region, including deployment of combat aircraft as well as Janjaweed militia forces. Many reports confirm the brutal nature of attacks on civilians, chiefly those from the Fur tribe— the largest in Darfur and the primary target of Khartoum’s counterinsurgency war.

Although purportedly directed against the increasingly fragmented Sudan Liberation Army faction led by Abdel Wahid al-Nur, the widespread attacks are clearly bent on razing entire villages and pillaging whatever has survived at this point in the war. A way of life is being destroyed.

Estimates of civilian casualties exceed 400. The French medical aid organization Medecins du Monde estimates that 100,000 civilians have been displaced by recent violence, which has compelled the organization to evacuate its personnel. A vast population is now left without humanitarian assistance, becoming more vulnerable each day.

The assault on Jebel Marra, long a rebel stronghold, occurs even as the international community congratulates the Khartoum regime for signing a peace agreement with the rebel group Justice and Equality Movement. This congratulation comes despite deep suspicion of the group by Darfuri civil society, which was excluded from the peace negotiations in Doha, Qatar.

Khalil Ibrahim, the movement’s leader, has an ugly role in Sudan’s recent history. He was an eager member of Khartoum’s National Islamic Front in the 1990s, embraced its radical Islamism, and engaged in military campaigns in southern Sudan as part of the paramilitary Popular Defense Force. These campaigns during Sudan’s North-South civil war included civilian massacres, rapes, and human enslavement.

Even so, Scott Gration, the US special envoy to Sudan, declared that the Feb. 23 agreement between Khartoum and the Justice and Equality Movement marks "an unprecedented opportunity for a significant reduction in violence in Darfur." Other international actors have been more restrained, but nonetheless enthusiastic. Yet the provisional framework agreement bears all the hallmarks of the failed Darfur Peace Agreement reached in Abuja in 2006.

That agreement, also signed by only one rebel faction, worked to splinter Darfur’s rebel groups, failed to include Darfuri civil society, and imposed no obligations on Khartoum. It serves as an example of how not to conduct peace negotiations for Darfur, a lesson clearly not learned by those in Doha.

The peace agreement with the Justice and Equality Movement offers only a vague nod to the staggering problems confronting three million Darfuris who have been displaced. It is little more than a promise of further negotiations between the movement and the regime.

Although the agreement does contain announcement of a ceasefire, Khartoum sees this as exclusively with the Justice and Equality Movement. Thus intra-factional fighting within the Sudan Liberation Army became an opportunity for Khartoum’s conquest of a region that had long been impregnable. Confident that the Justice and Equality Movement — militarily the most powerful of the rebel movements — had been neutralized, the regime accelerated its campaign, and has received no rebuke from the international community.

Meanwhile, ethnically-targeted civilian destruction continues in Darfur; international vows to end these atrocity crimes remain empty. President Obama — so forceful about Darfur during his campaign — has appointed an envoy who seems more interested in accommodating Khartoum than pressuring the regime to halt its military campaign. Without a fundamental shift in US policy, hundreds of thousands of Darfuri lives are at increased risk.

Eric Reeves is author of “A Long Day’s Dying: Critical Moments in the Darfur Genocide. This article was previously published in The Boston Globe on March 26, 2010