Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Sudan's Omar al-Bashir: Kenya issues arrest warrant

A Kenyan court has issued an arrest warrant for Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir over alleged war crimes in Darfur.

The ruling came after Kenya allowed Mr Bashir to visit in August in defiance of an International Criminal Court (ICC) warrant for his arrest.

The judge said he should be arrested if he "ever set foot in Kenya" again, the AFP news agency reports.

Kenya is a signatory to the treaty which established the ICC in 2002.

But like most African countries, it has refused to enforce the ICC warrant. Read more >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

Friday, November 25, 2011

Darfur: The Genocide the World Got Tired Of

Amidst precarious humanitarian conditions, human security is increasingly threatened in Darfur—by Khartoum’s military as well as by variously re-cycled militia forces, and in particular by the increasingly savage Abu Tira (Central Reserve Police). The UN/African Union Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) is a conspicuous failure, and yet continues to represent the entirety of international efforts in confronting the “responsibility to protect” acutely endangered civilians

Eric Reeves
November 24, 2011

News coverage of the Darfur region of western Sudan, including eastern Chad, has all but vanished. Were it not for the efforts of the Sudan Tribune and Radio Dabanga, two extraordinary journalistic enterprises by Sudanese in the diaspora, Darfur would be largely reduced to the feeble visibility provided by media releases from UNAMID (the UN/African Union peacekeeping force in the region). These stultifying, self-serving dispatches convey nothing of the continuing violence and destruction that afflict Darfuris, both in the camps and rural areas, as well as in towns. The victims continue to be overwhelmingly from the African tribal groups of the region, who make up the vast majority of the more than 2 million people who remain uprooted, most from the most intense phase of Khartoum’s genocidal counter-insurgency effort (April 2003 into early 2005). During the past eight and a half years, some 500,000 people have died from violence or the consequences of violent displacement.

Insecurity and deprivation also define the lives of the Darfuri refugees in eastern Chad, most of whom fled early in the conflict. There, as Human Rights authoritatively established with reports in 2006 and 2007, Khartoum pursued ethnically African Darfuris with Antonov bombers, and turned loose their savage Janjaweed militias (see especially “‘They Came Here to Kill Us’: Militia Attacks and Ethnic Targeting of Civilians in Eastern Chad,” January 2007 and “Darfur Bleeds: Recent Cross-Border Violence in Chad,” February 2006). And yet eastern Chad is, if possible, even less visible than Darfur. But the crisis there continues to be enormous: the UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) estimates this year that there are some 285,000 refugees who remain near the Chad/Darfur border; these people are no closer to safe returns in substantial numbers than they were five years ago.

The figure for Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in Darfur has been badly politicized, particularly by the UN’s Georg Charpentier, who lowered the UN estimate for IDPs from 2.7 million to 1.9 million in July 2010—justifying this only on the basis of a footnote reference to a report by the International Organization for Migration that did not exist, and still is not complete (the undertaking is in partnership with the UN World Food Program as part of an overdue re-registration effort in the camps). This was utterly disingenuous on Charpentier’s part, as is the consistent UN suggestion that the population of IDPs is equivalent to the populations in the camps. This is not so. It should be noted first that camp are populations highly fluid, especially during agriculturally important times of the year, and especially if lands abandoned are in walking distance. But the status of many other displaced persons is even more ambiguous, and a great many people have taken shelter with host families or villages, often far from their homes. This is an enormous population that has never shown up in the census calculations of IDP numbers based solely on camp registrations (this is true of the Darfuri refugee population in eastern Chad as well). To omit the figure for displaced persons not in the camps—without even acknowledging that this population exists, and that it is very substantial—is but another form of disingenuousness on the part of Charpentier and the UN/AU joint special representative for Darfur, Ibrahim Gambari of Nigeria.

Security for these displaced persons remains appallingly inadequate. Despite Gambari’s fatuously self-serving public claims, UNAMID is almost completely dysfunctional in protecting civilians. Certainly Darfuris are uniformly scathing in their assessment of UNAMID’s performance and protection abilities. It is true that large-scale armed conflict between Khartoum (along with its Arab militia allies) and the rebel groups has declined in recent months; but we have seen such declines a number of times over the past eight years, and invariably fighting has resumed (moreover, two ominous recent reports indicate that dry season fighting may be about to begin). Khartoum has for the present re-deployed a great many of its military air assets to el-Obeid (North Kordofan), to South Kordofan, and to Blue Nile—including a newly expanded air field near recently captured Kurmuk (southern Blue Nile). This expansion includes helipads for combat helicopters, both gunships and troop-ferrying aircraft. From these locations, Khartoum’s military aircraft are engaged in what all accounts suggest is daily bombardment and aerial attacks on civilians, including refugees from South Kordofan who have made it to South Sudan.

Reduced fighting in Darfur, almost certainly temporary, thus gives the world an excuse to pretend that UNAMID is somehow an adequate international response to the violence and continued displacement; in fact, it is yet another in a long line of obscene failures to make the “responsibility to protect” something more than a feel-good exhortation. It is worth noting that since UNAMID officially took up its mandate on January 1, 2008, almost 1 million Darfuris have been newly displaced, according to figures from the UN High Commission for Refugees. This vast number in itself makes nonsense of Charpentier’s claim that the number of IDPs may be reduced by over 800,000, a claim that Khartoum delights in.

The realities of human security in Darfur are simply not represented in any meaningful fashion by a thoroughly intimidated UN; this in turn offers special representative Gambari the opportunity to make any number of absurd claims about the success of the mission he now oversees, and which he clearly hopes to use as a stepping-stone in his career (much as his disastrous performance in Burma won him appointment by Ban Ki-moon to his present position). But the causes for concern are many, and the daily violence experienced by Darfuris, even without major fighting or regular aerial bombardment, needs some meaningful accounting. There should be, for example, major concerns about the mercenaries who have returned to Darfur from Libya, with their substantial weaponry. These men could easily become an additional source of insecurity for civilians, but UNAMID has said nothing that suggests it even perceives a threat.

Further, the epidemic of rape that has stalked Darfur for more than eight years continues; Radio Dabanga provides continuing accounts on this immensely destructive phenomenon, which is rippling cruelly through families and generations. (See below for a compendium of recent reports on the continuing outrage of widespread rape, including the rape of girls, with no accountability.) Camps continue to be attacked, rural farms seized, civilians casually murdered, and arson is deployed more frequently as a means of destroying key institutions, including schools.

The Central Reserve Police, or Abu Tira, are now Khartoum’s primary instrument of destruction and intimidation, and they operate throughout Darfur with total impunity, sustaining a climate of fear and violence that at once endangers humanitarian operations and presents intolerable threats to civilians. Julie Flint offers a perspicuous overview of this force

“A gendarmerie officially under the Interior Ministry, although more likely at the behest of the [former] National Intelligence and Security Service of Salah Gosh, the Central Reserve Police has become increasingly active in the conflict in Darfur (and neighbouring Kordofan). Some analysts believe this is a result of the reduced effectiveness of the Popular Defence Forces, a paramilitary group that has taken on a political dimension that makes it more useful as a political rallying tool than a fighting force; others link it to restrictions imposed on Sudan Armed Forces by the Darfur Peace Agreement. In 2004, the Central Reserve Police opened a training centre in Musa Hilal’s Misteriha barracks in North Darfur.” (“Beyond ‘Janjaweed’: Understanding the Militias of Darfur,” Small Arms Survey [Geneva], June 2009)

It was Musa Hila, the most notorious of the Janjaweed leaders, who announced in 2004 the ambition that still animates Khartoum’s efforts in Darfur: “change the demography of Darfur and empty it of African tribes.”

None of this is suggested anywhere in UNAMID’s representation of conditions in Darfur.

“Peace for our time”? Read more >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

Thursday, November 10, 2011

The president of Burkina Faso Blaise Compaore and his foreign minister Dijibril Bassole offered rare defense by African politicians of the International Criminal Court (ICC) work in the continent.

November 9, 2011 (WASHINGTON) – The president of Burkina Faso Blaise Compaore and his foreign minister Dijibril Bassole offered rare defense by African politicians of the International Criminal Court (ICC) work in the continent.
The two officials made the remarks at The Hague where they attended a seminar on international justice, peace and crisis management held Wednesday at the Peace Palace. The event was organized by the Swedish embassy to pay tribute to late UN secretary general Dag Hammarskjold who was killed fifty years ago in a plane crash.
They emphasized the need to change the negative perceptions by Africans toward the ICC.
"There is a misunderstanding, a misapprehension when it comes to the cases launched by the ICC on the continent," Compaore said at the seminar.
"It is our duty to sensitise Africans... We must continue to convince them that such a court is essential," he added.
The Hague based court came under fierce attack from the African Union (AU) in the aftermath of the arrest warrant issued for Sudanese president Omer Hassan al-Bashir in 2009 charging him with war crimes allegedly committed in Darfur.
The continental body issued resolutions instructing members including those who ratified the Rome Statute of the court to ignore their obligations and not apprehend Bashir should he visit. So far Kenya, Chad, Djibouti and Malawi have allowed that to happen.
A similar directive was made with respect to late Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi who was charged by the court last June.
AU officials particularly its commissioner Jean Ping have also slammed the fact that all cases handled by the court so far are in Africa and accused the ICC of double standards.
Uganda, Central African Republic (CAR), Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Ivory Coast have asked the ICC to launch investigations into crimes committed on their territories.
The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) in 2005 and 2011 referred the situation in Darfur and Libya respectively to the world court under a chapter VII binding resolution.
It was only the case of Kenya where the ICC prosecutor used his authority to launch investigation in a member state after top officials in the East African nation expressed their desire that he makes this move.
Compaore and Bassole said it was not surprising that ICC cases are all in Africa.
"When there are thousands of victims, it is impossible to handle for our national jurisdictions," Compaore argued.
"We all know the majority of crises take place in Africa” Bassole said.
"Many African countries believe that the ICC was a tool from the Western world against African countries," he added. "There’s a perception to be changed."
The ICC is the world’s only independent, permanent tribunal with the jurisdiction to try genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.
Bassole also used the opportunity to deny that his country ever offered refuge to Gaddafi despite the arrest warrant.
"No, we did not offer asylum to Gaddafi," he said. "And if he had asked asylum in Burkina Faso, we would have proceeded exactly as the president indicated, knowing that we are a member of the ICC and that we have recognized the national transition council at that time."
"We are part of the ICC with all resulting obligations," Bassole added. "If a perpetrator of crimes is indicted as part of ICC, we can’t protect this person. We fully obey to the obligations derived from our membership of the ICC”.
Bassole who was the chief joint mediator for Darfur, acknowledged in his remarks today the impact of Bashir’s warrant on his work.
"In my position of Joint Chief Mediator, I had to observe neutrality, in the interest of the process. Any statement from me, in favor of the proceedings would have been rejected strongly by the Government. In the other hand, the armed movements would have condemned any attitude against the proceedings," he said.
"The two institutions [AU and UN] that have mandated me to find a political settlement to the Darfur conflict, namely the AU and the UN, had different reactions and approaches toward the arrest warrant against President Bashir”.
"I don’t want to give any details here, but it is obvious that it was very difficult to work under two institutions that had different attitude vis-à-vis the arrest warrant".
Bassole also appeared to suggest incentives to Bashir to finalize the Darfur peace process and implement the recently signed agreement.
"If there is a need to encourage President Bashir, I think that this way deserve to be explore," he said without elaborating.
The UNSC has refused to take on request by the AU to consider a 12-month deferral request for Bashir’s warrant.
The Sudanese government lobbied several UNSC members this year to table the motion but so far no formal consultations have taken place in New York

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Darfur: Darfur civil Society awarded Mr Pronk a Certificate of Appreciation

October 29, 2011 (The Hague, The Netherlands) - During the events of Africa Day held at The Hague in The Netherlands on October 29th 2011, Darfur Civil Society Organizations awarded Mr Jan Pronk with a Certificate of Appreciation for his outstanding work in coordinating humanitarian assistance to the people of Darfur and facilitating a peace agreement for Darfur from 2004 till 2006.

Mr Pronk was a special Representative of the Secretary General of the United Nations in Sudan between 2004 and 2006. He was declared persona non grata by the Government of Sudan because he had a meeting with rebel commanders in October 2006 wherein he got them to consent to a policy of not attacking government targets. Before conveying this message to Khartoum, government forces bombed the areas where he met the rebel leaders. He said this as betrayal and indifference to a peace process. The Sudanese government was not amused and shortly declared him as persona non grata.