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?


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 >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>