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

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

ICC prosecutor: Sudan poll like vote under Hitler

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) said on Tuesday that monitoring Sudan's election next month would be like monitoring a vote in Hitler's Germany.

Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo pressed for the arrest warrant issued by the ICC a year ago against Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir for alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity in Darfur region. Bashir is contesting the poll.

Speaking a day after Bashir threatened to expel international election monitors for saying the vote may have to be delayed to deal with logistical problems, Moreno-Campo told a Brussels seminar:

"It's like monitoring a Hitler election. It's a huge challenge." Read more >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

Thursday, March 11, 2010

STATEMENT: Lord's Resistance Army Finds Safe Haven in Darfur

KAMPALA, Uganda, JUBA, Sudan and WASHINGTON, March 11 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The Enough Project at the Center for American Progress today released the following statement:

The Enough Project confirms that a contingent of the deadly Lord's Resistance Army, or LRA, has taken refuge in areas of south Darfur, Sudan, controlled by the Government of Sudan. The possibility of rekindled collaboration between LRA leader Joseph Kony and Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir - both wanted for war crimes and crimes against humanity by the International Criminal Court, or ICC - should alarm policymakers and demands urgent international investigation and response.

The LRA originated in northern Uganda during the late 1980s. In addition to committing widespread atrocities in Uganda, throughout the 1990s and early 2000s the LRA served as a proxy for the Sudanese government in its war with the Sudan People's Liberation Army, or SPLA, in southern Sudan. In 2005, Kony publicly stated that the Bashir government supported the LRA as a proxy force to destabilize the south, a charge that Khartoum continues to deny despite considerable evidence to the contrary.

"The Khartoum regime's principal tool of war during its 21-year reign has been support for marauding militias such as the Janjaweed, the Murahaliin, and the Lord's Resistance Army," said Enough Co-founder John Prendergast. "Facing no consequences for this destructive method of governing, it is unsurprising that the regime is again providing safe haven for the LRA. Absent a cost for this, we will likely see the LRA unleashed again later this year to destabilize the referendum in southern Sudan." Read more >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

Stop the Humanitarian Blockade of Jebel Marra, Darfur

By Anne Bartlett,

For the people of Jebel Marra, the self congratulatory backslapping and treaty signing in Doha seem to be a world away from the reality of their existence as they starve on the mountain slopes of Darfur. Forced from their villages as a result of a military campaign launched by the Government of Sudan, the idea of peace seems a distant prospect to say the least. Over the last 6 weeks, the displacement of over 250,000 people who are now forced to live in caves or to run from village to village in search of safety also seems far away from the concerns of the International Community, UNAMID, Save Darfur, human rights organizations or indeed anyone who might be expected to help. Instead, innocent people have been left to fend for themselves: their hopes for the future reduced to ashes alongside their villages which the Sudanese government recently burnt.

The big question here is why? Why is blatant genocide being ignored? Why, for example, can the likes of Jerry Fowler of Save Darfur tour the region telling anyone who will listen that: “Organized fighting is not widespread ... Nor is there systematic violence against civilians”. Why, given his “vast” experience on Darfur, is he not able to spot the fact that a quarter of a million people are at this very moment sitting on the side of a mountain not far from him, while he tours around shaking hands? Why, one might ask, with his propensity for “saving” locals, is he not able to see beyond the end of his nose and take some action?

As if the myopia of Save Darfur is not bad enough, then there are the political sideshows which aim to distract attention from the government’s recent activities in Jebel Marra. First there is the carnival of the incompetent in Doha. Susan Rice’s remarks that Doha is a “mere truce between two Islamists factions” are completely correct. Yet given her clarity, why is the US State Department supporting a “peace process” with individuals like Tigani Seisi when he has never been anything more than a puppet of Sadiq Al-Mahdi and the Umma Party? Why should a man who is held in such distaste by the people of Darfur be championed as their leader when his spell as Governor of the region was nothing short of a disaster?

Finally, why is there a systematic attempt to downplay the government of Sudan’s campaign of genocide in Jebel Marra by linking it to fights between opposing rebel factions? This persistent reporting of rebel group infighting when a quarter of a million people face annihilation by the government is bizarre to say the least. The ability to downplay the crisis faced by such a large amount of people demonstrates the effectiveness of the Sudanese government media machine. It also shows how one of the most despicable campaigns that the government has launched to systematically destroy and purge the heartland of Darfur while the world looks the other way, has been successfully disguised by amplifying a lesser story.

If genocide is about intent, then it is hard to find clearer evidence of a systematic attempt to annihilate a group of people in a given geographical area than in Jebel Marra today. In the eastern and southeastern areas of the Jebel Marra -- in towns such as Kidinyeer, Leibei, Faina, Dirbat, and Jawa -- there is a clear attempt to encircle the area with the express intention of preventing people from being able to enter or leave. Once the population is locked into the area, the real work of genocide can proceed apace. Water sources are buried leaving locals without any way to access clean drinking water. Grain stores are burnt, cutting the supply of food to nothing. Grinding mills are taken away to ensure that no flour can be made. The government forces which invaded the region have also looted houses, markets and removed all the livestock. Even the humanitarian organizations that were operating have been forced to withdraw from the area as a result of their offices being looted. Food is now in scarce supply; potable water absent and the scene is set for carnage on a massive scale.

If slow starvation and thirst is not enough, then consider the cases of four women from Kidyneer. Unable to escape fast enough from government forces, they have been captured and turned into sex slaves. For Hawwa Mohamed Ali Hassaballa 58, Haram Abulgasim Hassaballa 56, Bahria Mohamed Saleh 54, Khadija Abdulrasul Abulgasim 32 their life today is one of brutality. Raped on a continual basis and held with government militias, they probably wonder whether they will even survive. Contrast this with all participants in Doha with their fancy suits, per-diems and disingenuous hand-shaking. Has Sudan’s political strata been reduced to a parade of the greedy and corrupt, while innocent women – mothers, daughter and wives – are brutalized and receive no protection from those who are supposed to help them?

Whichever way one views the situation, one thing is clear: all that counts today is the strength of one’s political connections and how much one can talk. All that counts are the sham peace talks, expensive airline tickets and the empty rhetoric of the international community. Those without such connections are simply forgotten. For those without power, human rights conventions mean nothing; hard-fought conventions to stop genocide buy them no time. Today the people of Jebel Marra wait hoping that tomorrow will bring a better day. They wait hoping that someone will come to their rescue and stop the humanitarian blockade of their region. Unfortunately however with the current apathy of those in power, it may be some time before their plight is noticed. Let us hope that it will not be too late.


Dr. Anne Bartlett is a Professor at the University of San Francisco. She may be reached at albartlett@usfca.edu

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Oumou Sangare ' Kun Fe Ko

Mali: Oumou SANGARE - Ko Sira

MALI: Oumou SANGARE - Diaraby Nene

Djeneba SECK - Maliba

Screening of 'Darfur' hits close to home

By Lisa A. Abraham


The horrors of the genocide in Darfur, Sudan, were revealed in graphic detail this afternoon when the main Akron-Summit County Public Library hosted the American premiere of the movie Darfur.

''It happened like that, exactly like that. It's real,'' said David Manyuon, a senior at the University of Akron and a Sudanese refugee. Manyuon cried throughout the film because of the stark memories that it stirred within him.

Manyuon's brother, Aleer Yol ''Michael'' Manyoun, who also attends UA, said that the movie was difficult for him to watch because it brought back so many memories.

The brothers are members of the Sudanese Lost Boys of Cleveland, refugees from the country's long civil war. They attended the screening and held a discussion afterward about their own experiences during the war and their relocation to the United States.Read more >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

Saturday, March 06, 2010

Darfur: US says UN Council Not Enforcing Sanctions

UNITED NATIONS - Susan Rice, the US ambassador to the United Nations, criticized the 15-nation Security Council for failing to enforce an arms embargo in Sudan's Darfur region, saying there were "cavalier violations" of UN sanctions as well as offensive military actions by Khartoum.

"We heard that there have been, and continue to be, major and frequent violations of UN sanctions on Sudan that were imposed in 2005. We know that weapons continue to flow into Darfur, acts of sexual and gender-based violence continue unabated and with impunity, military over-flights and offensive actions continue. And though there has been the recent signing of the framework agreement (between the government and the Justice and Equality rebel group), the fact is we continue to receive reports of offensive military actions by the Government of Sudan in Darfur." Read more >>>>>>>>

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Darfur Children 'On Brink Of Starvation'

Darfur is on the brink of a new human catastrophe, with children increasingly at risk of starvation because of drought and neglect, says a children's charity.

The children, many of whom have known nothing but war, are uncared for and the situation is getting worse, Kids For Kids charity founder Patricia Parker said.

"I am struggling to come to terms with what I saw in the hospital in El Fasher, the regional capital of North Darfur," she told Sky News Online.

"Small babies, their sunken eyes too big for their little faces, legs and arms stick thin, gazed solemnly at me, too weak to cry.

"They come from the villages and no one seems to want to know about them. The world is weary of Darfur." Read more >>>>>>>>>>>>>>

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

US 'extremely concerned' by reported Darfur offensive

WASHINGTON — The United States is "extremely concerned" about a reported Sudanese military offensive against rebels in the war-torn western region of Darfur, the State Department said Tuesday.

Sudanese military operations in the Jebel Marra area of Darfur "have reportedly caused significant civilian casualties, displacement, and the evacuation of humanitarian organizations," spokesman Philip Crowley said.

Darfur rebels said on Monday that more than 200 civilians had been killed in clashes with Sudanese government troops over the past week around the Darfur region's central Jebel Marra plateau. Read more >>>>>>>>

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Genocide in Darfur: How Sudan covers it up

By John Prendergast and Omer Ismail

Washington; and Doha, Qatar —
Most governments don’t acknowledge it. The Sudanese president dismisses it. Darfurians demand that it be recognized. Academics, activists, and lawyers dispute whether it is still occurring or whether it occurred at all. International Criminal Court (ICC) judges debate standards of evidence surrounding it. The nature of recent attacks this past week by Sudanese government forces and militia allies against defenseless civilians potentially augurs its resurgence. And if a fledgling peace process continues to move forward, then any evidence of it ever happening may well be swept under the rug.

The “it” in question is Darfur’s genocide. Seven years after a small rebellion in western Sudan by Darfurian insurgents unleashed a massive counter-insurgency strategy by the Sudanese government and its Janjaweed militia allies, the debate continues: What should be done about the genocide? How can justice and peace simultaneously be pursued?

The ICC’s recent ruling that genocide charges against Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir are possible gives new life to the issue. And responding to a YouTube question posed by the Enough Project, President Obama appeared to reverse his administration’s stated policy of an “ongoing genocide” by referring to it in the past tense. How do we make sense out of all this?

In our eight trips into Darfur over these past seven years, we have never met a Darfurian who does not believe genocide has occurred. But genocide is ultimately the subject of international law. The Genocide Convention states that the crime pertains when a party intends to destroy – in whole or in part – a particular group of people based on their identity. Although judges will ultimately rule on this, we believe the evidence for genocidal intent is there.

Eyewitness reports this past week of aerial bombardment of villages followed by attacks on civilians populations by armed horsemen echo back to a period just a few years ago when much of Darfur was literally on fire. These reports are emerging simultaneous to a series of framework ceasefire agreements, thus complicating the Darfur landscape further. What we do know, though, is that these recent attacks and their aftermath reinforce a disturbing trend: evidence of the human rights crimes that have been and are being committed is being concealed and compromised.

The ruling party in Sudan responsible for the bulk of the crimes in Darfur is covering up the evidence for previous and ongoing human rights crimes in five unique ways. The international community must act now – in the context of peacemaking efforts – to blow the lid off this elaborate and deadly cover-up.

First, most of the aid agencies that were thrown out last year by President Bashir were working quietly to support survivors of sexual violence and to protect thousands of women and girls from rape. One of the principal tools of war in Darfur has been systematic rape, a factor in any argument supporting the existence of genocidal intent. By removing most of the groups that were protecting or caring for rape survivors, the cover up is on.

Second, the Khartoum regime has systematically denied access to the United Nations/African Union observer mission to investigate attacks on civilians, so many of these attacks go unreported and the culpability remains mysterious. The observer mission has had no access to the areas of recent government attacks, and thus the UN mission has been totally silent in the face of major attacks. What is the role of this hugely expensive mission if not to observe and report? Denial of access is part of the Khartoum regime’s ongoing cover-up of new crimes, so the false argument can be strengthened that rights violations in Darfur are a thing of the past.

Third, there continue to be humanitarian black spots, areas where aid agencies simply can’t go, such as the areas affect by this week’s fighting, leaving over a third of Darfur unreached by food and medical aid. We don’t know the scale or scope of this problem, but we do know that when access is denied or when aid agencies are expelled, people are much more at risk of disease or malnutrition, which have been by far the biggest killers in Darfur.

Fourth, Khartoum has systematically denied access to journalists and human rights investigators, and repressed independent Darfurian civil society groups, thus robbing us of another means of independently ascertaining what is happening today in Darfur, or gathering evidence about past crimes. Illustratively, there is a total media blackout of the attacks being undertaken now in Darfur.

Fifth, the Bashir administration has intimidated aid agencies and UN bodies so no independent information gets released about human rights issues, because to do so would mean certain expulsion for the responsible organization. Read more >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

Monday, March 01, 2010

Hundreds feared dead in Darfur clashes -- U.N.

By Andrew Heavens

KHARTOUM, Mar 1 (Reuters) - Hundreds of civilians are feared to have died in a surge of fighting between the Sudanese army and rebels in the turbulent Darfur region, a U.N. source told Reuters on Monday.

A spokesman for Sudan's army denied any fighting was taking place in Darfur's mountainous Jabel Marra region and accused insurgents of harassing and attacking locals.

Reports of clashes throughout last week have marred Khartoum's announcement of a new peace push in the region and come just over a month ahead of national elections.

"We think that we have a mounting number of casualties ... The lower estimate is around 140. The higher estimate is closer to 400," said a U.N. source. He said the figures referred to civilian deaths.Read more >>>>>>>>>>