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 D├ęby 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 >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>