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Rebels reject Darfur deal, Sudan breaks apart

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  • #91
    UNITED NATIONS - Sudan will not allow the United Nations to take control of peacekeepers in Darfur under any circumstance, the president said Tuesday, claiming that rights groups have exaggerated the crisis there in a bid for more cash.

    Omar al-Bashir did say that the African Union, which now runs the peacekeeping mission in Darfur, should be allowed to augment its forces with more logistics, advisers and other support.

    "The picture that volunteer organizations try to give in order to solicit more assistance and more aid, have given a negative result," al-Bashir told a news conference.

    Speaking on the sidelines of the annual U.N. General Assembly debate, al-Bashir claimed that Zionist groups wanted to weaken Sudan and that Jewish organizations were behind dozens of recent rallies there. He said Israel was spreading a lie that Sudanese Arabs are killing Sudanese Africans.

    "We refuse to normalize with Israel, we refuse to deal with Israel," he said.

    The fighting in Darfur has largely pitted Muslims against Muslims, though some identify themselves as African and others as Arab. The janjaweed, the Arab tribal militias unleashed by the government, are accused of some of the worst atrocities.

    The United Nations and many rights groups claim that fighting between rebels and government-backed militias in Darfur has killed more than 200,000 people and displaced 2.5 million since 2003.

    The underfunded AU force has been largely unable to stop the violence, leading AU leaders and the U.N. Security Council to demand a takeover by the United Nations, with its deeper pockets and better resources.

    Speaking on the sidelines of the General Assembly meeting, al-Bashir reiterated his stance that the demands to put peacekeeping in Darfur under U.N. control are part of efforts to protect Israel, carve up Sudan and get access to its oil reserves.

    While he ruled out U.N. peacekeepers at any cost, he said he had no objection to the African Union force receiving logistical, military and communications support, as well as materials and advisers.

    In what could be an encouraging sign, he said the African Union forces should be allowed to remain in Sudan until the region sees peace at last.

    "We want the African Union to remain in Darfur until peace is re-established in Sudan," al-Bashir said.

    Those comments suggest that the African Union will not face any resistance in renewing the peacekeeping force's mandate, which expires on Sept. 30.

    Last month, the Security Council passed a resolution that would put the peacekeepers under U.N. control, but required Sudan's consent.

    In his speech to the U.N. General Assembly earlier Tuesday, President Bush repeated Washington's belief that the Darfur tragedy is a genocide, and said the AU force is "not strong enough" to protect the people of Darfur. He called for the force to be strengthened and demanded the U.N. take control.

    "If the Sudanese government does not approve this peacekeeping force quickly, the United Nations must act," Bush said. "Your lives and the credibility of the United Nations is at stake."

    In that speech, Bush announced that he was naming Andrew Natsios, the former director of the U.S. Agency for International Development, as his special envoy for Sudan.

    The United States and its allies are now weighing whether there are other options for confronting al-Bashir's government, including the possibility of military intervention despite his objections.

    In her speech to the General Assembly, Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf said the stalemate over whether a U.N. or AU force should be deployed "demonstrates a lack of international will to address the sufferings and yearnings of the citizens and residents of Darfur."

    Saying the U.N.'s obligation to protect the helpless and innocent must remain paramount, she called on the Security Council to act under Chapter 7 of the U.N. Charter, which allows military intervention, "to restore peace, security and stability to Darfur."

    Sudan: "We won't accept U.N. peacekeepers"

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    • #92
      The African Union will keep its peacekeeping forces in Sudan's volatile Darfur region until at least the end of the year. The decision eases fears of a security vacuum in Darfur after the current AU mandate expires September 30th:

      The AU Peace and Security Council met Wednesday in New York, where many of its members are attending the U.N. General Assembly debate.

      After a three-hour meeting, Burkina Faso's president, Blaise Campaore, said agreement had been reached to extend the mandate of the AU force in Darfur through December 31. The current mandate expires at the end of this month, and there were fears that a pullout of the force would leave civilians vulnerable to rampant violence in the region.

      Campaore, who also serves as head of the Peace and Security Council, said the underfunded A.U. force would be backed by cash from African and Arab League sources, with logistical support from the United Nations.

      "Yes, there [is] going to be funding and financing support from African countries, logistical and material support from the United Nations and the commitment from the Arab League to finance operation of the troops till December," said Blaise Campaore.

      At a U.N. news conference a day earlier, Sudan's president, Omar Hassan Al-Bashir, said he would not allow the United Nations to take over the Darfur peacekeeping mission. As he left Wednesday's meeting, Bashir shouted "no" to a reporter who asked if he had changed his mind.

      But Peace and Security Council head Campaore said Sudan had indicated a willingness to work with the world body. Campaore said the AU force would be strengthened to meet the security challenge in the vast Darfur region.

      "Definitely there is going to be the strengthening of the African troops, such as reinforcing of course the African troops," he said. "Also strengthening the relationship at the borders with the countries that are next to Sudan. Again, all this is an effort to strengthen the whole process."

      The U.N. Security Council last month authorized a 22,000 - strong force of blue helmeted troops for Darfur. But they cannot be deployed without Sudan's consent.

      President Bashir told reporters Tuesday he views the U.N. force as part of a Zionist attempt to carve up Sudan and gain access to its oil resources.

      Human rights groups have said that three and a half years of war and deteriorating humanitarian conditions have left 200,000 people dead and millions more homeless.

      President Bush Tuesday urged the United Nations to take action unless Sudan allows blue-helmeted peacekeepers into Darfur. He did not specify what that action would be.

      But President Bashir Tuesday said conditions in Darfur are not nearly as bad as portrayed in Western media reports.

      AU peacekeepers to remain in Darfur

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      • #93
        CAIRO, Sept 30 (KUNA) -- Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa is to make a trip to Sudan on Monday during which he is to meet with Sudanese President Omar Hassan Al-Bashir and Sudanese Foreign Minister Lam Akol.

        Discussions between Moussa and Sudanese officials are expected to focus on the crisis in Darfur, specifically UNSC Resolution 1706 along with the discussions on Darfur that took place in New York recently, on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly meeting, AL official spokesman Alaa Rushdi said Saturday.

        Moussa is to hand Al-Bashir a report on the latest political developments on the Arab scene, specifically in Lebanon, Palestine, Iraq and Somalia the spokesman said.

        Moussa to go to Sudan Monday to discuss Darfur crisis with Al-Bashir

        Comment


        • #94
          The president of the European commission, José Manuel Barroso, told Sudan this weekend that Darfur needed a "stronger and more effective" international presence but stopped short of insisting that only UN troops could prevent a further collapse of security.

          On the first visit by a major aid donor to Khartoum since Sudan's president, Omar al-Bashir, warned the UN security council last month that the country would not accept UN troops, Mr Barroso's tone was markedly more conciliatory than that of Washington or London.

          His public remarks made no mention of the contentious UN resolution 1706, which called on Sudan to accept UN troops. Although Mr Barroso insisted he was not "mediating" between Sudan and the US, he repeatedly pointed out that Sudan had refused to agree to UN troops and that "we need a political settlement".

          George Bush has suggested that UN troops might invade Sudan if Mr Bashir goes on refusing to give them a green light. Tony Blair has offered a package of debt relief and a reduction of sanctions if Sudan accepts, but a tightening of the screw if Mr Bashir still says no.

          Mr Barroso's line was similar to that of the UN deputy secretary-general, Mark Malloch Brown, who said last week: "The megaphone diplomacy coming out of Washington and London, 'you damn well are going to let the UN deploy and if you don't, beware the consequences' isn't plausible. Tony Blair and George Bush need to get beyond this posturing and grandstanding."

          During a brief trip to Darfur, Mr Barroso said he told Mr Bashir on Saturday that the "status quo is unsustainable". "We need a clearer commitment to help the humanitarian agencies, to support the African Union mission now, and to de-escalate the violence," he said. "We need a more credible presence of the international community in humanitarian, political and military security terms." But he did not call for it to be based on UN 1706.

          The EU is the biggest financial supporter of the African Union's 7,000 troops in Darfur. The AU mandate has been given a last-minute extension until December 31. Mr Barroso said he hoped the next three months would be used to beef up its presence, not let it run down on the assumption that it would be replaced by UN forces.

          UN diplomats in Khartoum are hoping for a compromise to allow the AU to stay with a UN mandate and some non-African logistical support. Mr Barroso will meet AU leaders today in Addis Ababa.

          EU chief tries a gentler approach to get the UN into Darfur

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          • #95
            CAIRO (Reuters) - Sudan rejects an indefinite presence of African Union troops in war-ravaged Darfur although it welcomes a planned increase in troop numbers for now, a Sudanese official said on Monday.

            "Sudan agrees that the African Union troops stay until the crisis is over, but not indefinitely," an aide to Mohamed al-Dabi, the Sudanese president's top Darfur representative, told Reuters.

            The remarks came as Sudan is under heightened international pressure to allow a robust force of United Nations peacekeepers to deploy in the country's west, where roughly 200,000 people have died since the conflict flared in 2003.

            More than 2.5 million people have also been displaced in fighting between Darfur rebels, government forces and militias. Western leaders and humanitarian groups say a U.N. force is the only way to stem the violence.

            But Sudan has ruled out allowing 20,000 U.N. troops to replace a poorly funded, ill-equipped African Union force of 7,000 tasked with monitoring a shaky ceasefire.

            President Omar Hassan al-Bashir has likened U.N. peacekeepers to an invasion force bent on regime change in Khartoum. Analysts say his government is also worried that some officials could be arrested on war crimes charges.

            The mandate for African forces in Darfur expires at the end of the year, and European Commission aid chief Louis Michel said it needs increased United Nations support if it is to continue.

            The aide to Dabi said Sudan was not opposed to beefing up the African forces, echoing remarks by the European Union's head in Sudan, Kent Degerfelt, that Khartoum seemed open to strengthening the African role with increased logistical and financial support from the United Nations.

            The EU is the biggest financial contributor to the AU mission in Darfur.

            Aid officials and diplomats, fearing the possibility of a security vacuum in Darfur if African forces leave, have begun discussing an option for an enhanced African role in Darfur that has been dubbed 'AU-Plus'.

            That would involve an extended mission, augmented by U.N. support, with greater policing power for African troops.

            "The AU-Plus is a Sudanese demand. We want the AU force supported by more troops and logistics," Dabi's aide said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

            Only one of three rebel factions signed an AU-negotiated peace deal with the Sudanese government in May, and a top U.N. envoy has since described the deal as comatose.

            Since May, violence in western Sudan has increased as rebel groups fracture and all sides try to make territorial gains ahead of possible international intervention.

            Sudan rejects indefinite African force in Darfur

            Comment


            • #96
              Foreign aid workers forced to abandon refugee camp

              Fierce clashes between rival African groups in south Darfur have left up to 40 people dead and prompted most foreign aid workers to abandon Greida, one of the world's largest camps for displaced people.

              Fighters loyal to the Justice and Equality Movement, one of two rebel groups which refused to sign an internationally-brokered peace deal in May, used mortars and heavy machines to attack men from a faction of the Sudan Liberation Army which did accept the deal.

              "Exchanges of fire lasted for three to four hours. It was only a mile from the town. It happened on Friday", the Guardian was told by an official from one of several aid agencies which withdrew from Greida to Nyala, the regional capital, at the weekend. They include Oxfam, Save the Children, and Merlin. Only the International Committee of the Red Cross, which has its own helicopters, has stayed in Greida to care for an estimated 130,000 homeless people who live in a vast camp beside the town.

              The fighting appears to be the worst incident in Darfur since the peace deal was signed in May. Clashes in April sent 90,000 people fleeing to the camp but did not cause so many casualties.

              In the first two and half years of the conflict in Sudan's western region so-called janjaweed militia backed by the Arab-dominated government in Khartoum caused most of the killing, with villages being burnt, women raped, and livestock stolen. Hundreds of thousands of people were displaced.

              But the last 12 months, and particularly the period since May, have seen a spate of inter-tribal clashes. Darfur used to have three rebel groups but splits have developed within each of them, creating a bewildering series of factions and a climate of chaos. Bandits are also exploiting the lawlessness.

              In north Darfur 25 aid agency vehicles have been hijacked or stolen since May, in many cases along with satellite phones. The increase in ethnic tension has put staff at risk, if they come across roadblocks thrown up by people from a different tribe. Eleven Sudanese aid workers have been killed in the last three months

              Médecins sans Frontières had two cars stolen from its compound at Saraf Omra. Oxfam lost a lorry in the same area, and its Sudanese driver has not been found, prompting both organisations to withdraw from the area.

              The crisis means that most displaced people in the camps have better access to food and medicine thann those who stayed in their villages. MSF left Korma, a large district centre, in August because of security concerns.

              "When we came here, we deliberately decided to work outside the camps", said Kristel Eerdekens, MSF Belgium's mission head in north Darfur. "Some 20,000 people live in Korma, but not even our local staff can work there now, which means there is no doctor at all."

              In Saraf Omra, with a population of 55,000, the primary health clinic is left in the hands of medical assistants. "No caesarians can be done, and no referrals to hospitals," she added.

              In Kebkebiya three out of nine patients with suspected cholera recently died, partly because MSF staff have had to stop driving out to village clinics. In Jebel Marra where many children have oedema MSF has had to abandon plans to open a therapeutic feeding centre.

              The World Food programme curtailed food deliveries to large parts of north Darfur this summer because of the surge in insecurity. They were resumed to the town of Malha, north-east of El Fasher, last month after the government regained control of the main road, but German Agro Action, the non-governmental organisation which runs the local distribution of food aid, has to contact rebel commanders to get clearance.

              Rebel attacks have made numerous areas inaccessible. "One WFP truck was taken north of Kutum a week ago by people with National Redemption Front written on their vehicles. We negotiated, and got it and the driver back, but the food was gone," said Chris Czerwinski, the WFP's regional mission head. "Two weeks earlier the same happened with two trucks. Again it was NRF. The drivers were held for 10 days." The National Redemption Front is one of the new splinter groups which reject the peace deal.

              Janjaweed militia have also set up roadblocks, where WFP drivers have been beaten and had their possessions stolen, but the trucks and food were not taken, Mr Czerwinski said.

              No aid official is willing to quantify how much of the crime is done by pro-government groups and how much by rebel groups or bandits, since the raiders rarely identify their loyalties. "It would be unfair to point the finger only at the government. All parties have done their share of creating insecurity," said Ms Eerdekens.

              Alpha Konare, a former president of Mali who now chairs the African Union commission, last week blamed the rebels for most of the collapse in security.

              Rebel groups kill 40 in Darfur

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              • #97
                UNITED NATIONS - Darfur is creeping ever closer to catastrophe, with rape and violence on the rise, the U.N. chief said in a report Thursday, as Sudan warned that any nation offering troops for a future peacekeeping force in its vast western region would be committing a "hostile act."

                In the report to the Security Council, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said a May peace deal was not being followed, and that humanitarian access is at its lowest level since 2004. Sudan‘s armed forces, as well as rebel factions and the militias, continue to violate international human rights law and humanitarian law with impunity, he said.

                "Unless security improves, the world is facing the prospect of having to drastically curtail an acutely needed humanitarian operation," Annan said.

                A key stumbling block to the peace so far has been President Omar al-Bashir‘s rejection of an August Security Council resolution that would allow the United Nations to take control of and significantly expand a peacekeeping force in Darfur, run so far by the African Union.

                "In the absence of Sudan‘s consent to the deployment of U.N. troops, any volunteering to provide peacekeeping troops to Darfur will be considered as a hostile act, a prelude to an invasion of a member country of the U.N.," the letter said.

                The sharp words in the letter prompted the United States to convene an emergency meeting of the U.N. Security Council U.N. Security Council to consider a response. U.S. Ambassador John Bolton called the document an unprecedented rebuff to the council.

                He warned darkly that people should ask if "other possibilities are going to have to be pursued" if the United Nations cannot address the Sudan issue effectively, though he did not specify or go as far as President Bush , who said this week that the United Nations should not wait any longer to approve a force for Darfur.

                The United States later circulated a draft presidential statement that would deplore and express regret about Sudan‘s attempts to "intimidate" potential troop contributors, and call the letter an "aggressive gesture."

                Tanzania‘s U.N. Ambassador Augustine Mahiga called the tough U.S. stance unhelpful to breaking the deadlock in Darfur. He said more time was needed to persuade al-Bashir to allow U.N. troops in.

                In a separate letter to Annan on Thursday, al-Bashir himself repeated his position that the government would allow the U.N. to help support the African Union peacekeepers.

                The African Union force, which currently has about 7,000 troops, is meant to monitor a peace deal signed between al-Bashir‘s government and the rebels in May and intended to end the fighting that has left more than 200,000 dead and displaced some 2.5 million since 2003. The government is accused of backing a band of militias known as the janjaweed.

                Annan sounds alarm over crisis in Darfur

                Comment


                • #98
                  The United States demanded on Oct. 5 that the U.N. Security Council respond to Sudan’s warning that any nation pledging U.N. troops for Darfur was committing a "hostile act" and a "prelude to an invasion."

                  U.S. Ambassador John Bolton, who called for a special closed-door council session, said he expected the 15-member body to react later in the day to what he called Khartoum’s attempt to intimidate potential troop contributors.

                  Sudan’s U.N. mission sent an unsigned letter to dozens of states, many of whom attended a meeting on Sept. 25 on troop and police contributions to a future U.N. force in Darfur. Sudan has rejected such a force.

                  "In the absence of Sudan’s consent to the deployment of U.N. troops, any volunteering to provide peacekeeping troops to Darfur will be considered as a hostile act, a prelude to an invasion of a member country of the U.N.," the letter said.

                  Bolton said he would circulate a statement to all council members later in the day. But this may be difficult as a statement requires unanimous consent and Qatar, the only Arab council member, sides with the Sudan government. "I think they’re trying to intimidate troop-contributing countries," Bolton told reporters. "This is a direct challenge to the authority of the Security Council in its efforts to alleviate the tragedy in Darfur and clearly requires a strong response by the Security Council."

                  But Council President Kenzo Oshima of Japan said he would speak to Sudan’s U.N. envoy, seek clarification and convey the opinion of some members that the letter was "offensive" and "inappropriate in tonality, in language."

                  Sudan’s letter also said Khartoum "fully supports" augmenting an African Union force now in Darfur but said again that Khartoum rejected a U.N.-run operation. The African Union has some 7,000 troops and monitors but has been unable to stop the violence that has driven 2.5 million people from their homes and left an estimated 200,000 dead since 2003.

                  The U.N. peacekeeping department on Sept. 25 organized a meeting to discuss troops for any future force in Darfur so the world body could move into Darfur as soon as Sudan agreed. But the force, approved by the Security Council, is still on paper only with its goal of 22,500 soldiers and police.

                  Greece’s U.N. Ambassador Adamantios Vassilakis, who said he had also received the letter, said the Sudanese position was nothing new. "For me what is important is how we find a solution to save lives. That is the most important thing," Vassilakis said. Asked if the letter was a threat to attack any U.N. soldier in Darfur, he said, "Before they do they will think twice."

                  At the moment, the world body is trying to reinforce the African troops by sending 100 personnel to run communications and other equipment as a prelude to a U.N. operation.

                  Some diplomats as well as Jan Pronk, the U.N. representative in Sudan, have suggested that countries should push for a prolonged and beefed up African Union force. But so far the Security Council and top U.N. officials have rejected this plan.

                  U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, in a report, circulated on Oct. 5, said Darfur was at a critical stage. "Unless security improves, the world is facing the prospect of having to drastically curtail an acutely needed humanitarian operation," he wrote.

                  U.S.: Sudan tries to intimidate UN troop contributors

                  Comment


                  • #99
                    Bush and Blair are raising false hopes among rebels and refugees, at the same time as blocking the best mechanism for peace:

                    A cruel hoax is being perpetrated on the desperate people of Darfur. With their constant demands for UN troops to go to Sudan's western region as the only way to protect civilians, George Bush and Tony Blair are raising hopes in a grossly irresponsible way. When reality dawns and new despair takes over, Washington and London will have to take the blame.

                    It is not just that the Khartoum government rejects the idea of UN troops. More important, Bush and Blair know that, even if Khartoum were to back down, they will not be sending US or British troops to replace the African Union (AU) force. Nor will other European governments. Why does this matter? Because hundreds of thousands of displaced villagers who sit in miserable camps across Darfur are under the impression that European soldiers will soon be riding over the hill to save them.

                    After spending hours talking to homeless families and their community leaders, I can report that the demand for the UN to send troops to Darfur is overwhelming. The Arab-dominated government in Khartoum has orchestrated demonstrations in the capital denouncing US and UK interventionism, and warning of "another Iraq". The Arab press hammers the same theme, which may well resonate among its readers.

                    In Darfur's camps, however, the mood is different. It explains why Jose Manuel Barroso, the European commission president on a trip here on Sunday, was not allowed to make the usual camp tour. No reason was given, but EU officials said they were sure it was to prevent him hearing pleas for a UN force.

                    If UN troops are sent here, where do you think they will come from, I asked everyone I met. "British, American, all the European countries," said Abdullah Hassan Karamidin, an elderly imam in a white knitted cap who sat with six other men in a clearing between their miserable homes in the Abu Shouk camp at El Fasher. What if the UN troops turned out to be from India, Bangladesh, or Turkey? "No, they can't solve our problem. They're like Arabs. Arabs can't protect us," the imam replied, while the others nodded in agreement.

                    In Zamzam camp, south of El Fasher, I came across four guerrilla fighters, unarmed but wearing trademark white scarves wrapped into their turbans. Two were festooned with small leather pouches, each carrying a verse from the Qur'an. The amulets they were wearing protected them from bullets, they said. The fighters belonged to a faction that signed a peace deal with the government in May, which allows them to protect the camp. They and most of the camp's inmates are from the Zaghawa tribe.

                    The rebels are known to fellow-Africans as "Tora Bora". My translator laughed at my surprise. "They don't like the phrase mujahideen because they are Muslims, not Islamists. But they know Tora Bora is a place of caves in Afghanistan where the Americans hunted local fighters and couldn't find them, just as the government here couldn't do."

                    One of the ex-rebels said: "The African Union troops only go along the main roads. If there's an incident, they do nothing except write it down. They're useless." Asked where the UN would get its troops from, he said: "Why not British or American?" His friend was one of the few people I found who was willing to have troops from India, Bangladesh or Turkey, "as long as they can protect people. If that's the case, we have no problem".

                    A group of community leaders sat under a tree. "We're in need, and we want UN troops," said Sheikh Ali Ishag Hamid. "They should come here even if the government refuses. The government cannot confront the UN." Where would the UN get its troops from? "Britain, America, Nato." And if they were from Asia? "We will only welcome Europeans," he insisted.

                    Bush and Blair should get the message. Unless they deliberately intend to disappoint Darfurians, it is time for honesty in place of grandstanding. Let's have some constructive nimbyism. Next time they thunder on about the need for UN troops, they should add the qualifier: "Of course, we won't be sending our own soldiers. Other countries will have to send theirs." The two leaders should also start looking for a compromise. Both sides have backed themselves into a corner. Sudan refuses to have a UN force. Washington insists there is no alternative. With three months until the AU force's mandate expires, common sense requires that this interval be used to negotiate a solution.

                    The first principle should be a security council commitment to extend the AU mandate indefinitely, until it is safe for the displaced to go home. Last month's brinkmanship, when it looked as if the AU would withdraw, leaving a security void, must not be repeated in December. The threat of a pullout creates new fears for traumatised people.

                    The second principle should be that the AU's contingents are transformed into a robust force from the demoralised units that have not been paid for the past two months. Western governments must fund more AU troops and better equipment, particularly helicopters and surveillance technology. At the moment the AU reacts slowly, if at all.

                    Darfur was hardly heard of when the UN's founding fathers drew up its charter in 1945. Unwittingly, they wrote seven paragraphs that offer the best mechanism for bridging the gap between Washington's and Khartoum's intransigence. Known as chapter eight, these allow the UN to subcontract peacekeeping to a regional organisation. Instead of the current wrangling over UN troops, why not let the UN give the AU a mandate for Darfur, while requesting that rich member governments, either western or Arab, fund a stronger AU-led force?

                    In Kosovo and Afghanistan, Nato took charge in a similar way, though under a different chapter and without the request that non-Nato members chip in. Nato, after all, is richer than the AU.

                    At the UN, senior officials are aware of chapter eight. Jan Pronk, the secretary general's special representative in Sudan, mentioned it in New York a fortnight ago. Sudanese leaders have hinted they would accept it. Shamefully, however, Washington and London are trying to suppress the idea. They reject any suggestion that UN resolution 1706 (which called for UN troops) might be superseded. It would let Khartoum off the hook, they say. But the real people on the hook are Darfur's 2 million displaced. They need quick international agreement on better protection, rather than the mischievous illusion that western troops are on the way.

                    Be honest: the West isn't sending troops to Darfur

                    Comment


                    • KHARTOUM - A new Darfur rebel alliance is ready for talks with the government but demands self-determination for the war-torn, arid west of the country, senior rebel leaders said yesterday.

                      A May peace accord was signed by only one of three negotiating rebel factions and tens of thousands of war victims have rejected it saying it does not give them enough compensation or Darfuris enough political representation.

                      Following the agreement signed in the Nigerian capital Abuja, non-signatory rebels formed a new alliance called the National Redemption Front (NRF) and renewed hostilities against the government.

                      "We are ready for talks with the government," said Khalil Ibrahim, a senior member of the NRF. "But we ... will not just accept the Abuja agreement, we want separate talks."

                      "We now want self-determination, autonomy for Darfur," he added.

                      Ibrahim said the NRF wanted a similar deal to one reached to end more than two decades of north-south civil war. That agreement gave the south autonomy and the right to a referendum on secession by 2011.

                      Fighting has escalated in Darfur since the May deal and a struggling cash-strapped African Union force has been powerless to stem the violence.

                      UN envoy to Sudan Jan Pronk said the government lost two battles with the NRF in North Darfur earlier this month and took heavy losses. There was no immediate Sudanese army confirmation.

                      Thousands of people have fled their homes to escape the latest fighting, sparking warnings of a return to the emergency of 2003 and 2004 when UN officials said Darfur was the world's worst humanitarian crisis.

                      Senior NRF leader Bahr Idriss Abu Garda told Reuters from Darfur field commanders were ready to talk but were waiting for the government.

                      "If the government is ready to make new talks and add the actual demands of the people of Darfur we are ready to sit for talks," he added.

                      Foreign Minister Lam Akol said the government had not received any official confirmation of a desire for negotiations from the NRF. The government calls the NRF "terrorists".

                      The government has repeatedly refused to entertain the idea of secession for Darfur. Khartoum and the rebel faction that signed the Abuja deal have both so far refused to accept any changes or additions to the unpopular agreement.

                      But the top UN envoy in Khartoum has said additions are needed to the deal bring all those non-signatories on board and stop the bloodshed in Darfur.

                      Mostly non-Arab rebels took up arms in early 2003 accusing central government of neglecting the remote west.

                      Experts estimate 200,000 people have been killed and 2.5 million forced from their homes in 3-1/2 years of conflict.

                      The government armed Arab militias to quell the revolt. The militia, known locally as Janjaweed, stand accused of a campaign of rape, murder and pillage, called genocide by Washington.

                      Khartoum denies genocide and calls the Janjaweed "bandits". The International Criminal Court is investigating alleged war crimes in the region.

                      Darfur rebels demand new talks, self-determination

                      Comment


                      • The Sudanese military has declared the UN special envoy to the country persona non grata, accusing him of "waging war against the armed forces".

                        The general command accused on Friday Jan Pronk, UN chief Kofi Annan's personal representative in Sudan, of "openly intruding in the armed forces' affair".

                        The decision is the latest escalation in a war of words between Khartoum and the international community.

                        The Sudanese military considers the envoy's presence and movements in Sudan "a military threat that adversely affects the performance of the armed forces and [he] has therefore become a persona non grata", a statement said.

                        It complained that the envoy had travelled around Sudan without government permission and dealt with rebel groups fighting the military in the western region of Darfur.

                        Sudan's foreign ministry said Pronk made "unacceptable" comments in his personal internet blog about battles between Sudanese troops and rebels in Darfur, state television reported.

                        Pronk, a former Dutch diplomat, wrote on October 14 that government forces had lost "two major battles" in Darfur where they have been fighting the region's ethnic African population.

                        "Losses seem to have been very high. Reports speak about hundreds of casualties in each of the two battles, many wounded soldiers and many taken as prisoner," Pronk wrote.

                        "The morale in the government army in North Darfur has gone down. Some generals have been sacked; soldiers have refused fighting".

                        The military said the remarks amounted to "psychological warfare on the armed forces by propagating erroneous information that casts doubts about the capability of the armed forces in maintaining security and defending the country".

                        The UN said it had received no formal communication from Sudan that Pronk had been declared persona non-grata. But state television quoted Major General Mohammed al-Amin as saying he expected "the political and the military leaderships to take further measures to either expel Pronk or ask him to leave".

                        Sudan: UN envoy persona non grata

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                        • KHARTOUM, Oct 22 (Reuters) - Sudan on Sunday ordered the top U.N. envoy, Jan Pronk, to leave the country within three days following comments he made that the army's morale was low after suffering two major defeats in the violent Darfur region.

                          "He has until mid-noon on Wednesday to leave," said Foreign Ministry spokesman Ali al-Sadig.

                          "The reason is the latest statements issued by Mr. Pronk on his Web site regarding severe criticism of the Sudanese Armed Forces and the fact that he said the government of Sudan is not implementing the Darfur peace agreement," al-Sadig added.

                          He said the Foreign Ministry met with Pronk on Sunday and had informed him of its decision.

                          Pronk has previously had problems with the government because of comments he published on his Web log Jan Pronk - Welcome. The latest blog entry said Darfur rebels had beaten the army in two major battles in the last two months.

                          He said generals had been sacked, morale was low and soldiers were refusing to fight in North Darfur. The army was furious and issued a statement on Friday calling Pronk a danger to the nation's security.

                          One army source said they were asking President Omar Hassan al-Bashir, the commander-in-chief of the army, to expel Pronk.

                          Pronk's spokeswoman declined comment. U.N. officials in New York were not immediately available to react to the decision.

                          Experts say 200,000 people have been killed and 2.5 million forced from their homes in 2-1/2 years of revolt in Darfur. Pro-government militias are accused of a campaign of rape, murder and pillage, which Washington calls genocide.

                          Rebel commander Jar el-Naby told Reuters from North Darfur that militias had attacked again on Saturday around 100 km (62 miles) northwest of Darfur's main town of el-Fasher, raping two girls and looting villages.

                          Khartoum denies genocide but the International Criminal Court is investigating alleged war crimes in the region.

                          Only one of three negotiating rebel factions signed a May peace accord brokered by the African Union. Many non-signatories formed a new alliance called the National Redemption Front (NRF) which renewed hostilities with the government in June.

                          Since the deal, violence has only escalated in Darfur with rebel infighting and NRF clashes with the government. Tens of thousands more have been displaced and dozens of people killed.

                          Al-Sadig said rebels would consider Pronk's comments as encouragement to continue their military campaign.

                          The Darfur conflict has spilled over the border into Chad where tens of thousands of civilians have been forced to flee militia attacks from Darfur.

                          Sudan orders top U.N. envoy to leave within 3 days

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                          • The humanitarian catastrophe in Darfur is worsening by the day, as dramatic increases in fighting and militia raids on villages force thousands of people to flee their homes.

                            Up to 2,000 refugees a day are now flooding into camps, many travelling hundreds of miles crushed together like livestock, piled one on top of the other, often with 300 people in a single truck.

                            Other refugees have made the journey on foot, walking for 20 days or more in searing heat in order to reach the camps. Many though, whether through ill health or militia attacks, did not survive. Aid workers in Darfur say several of the camps have taken in up to 12,000 refugees in the past two weeks, and say they expect a further 10,000 arrivals before the end of the month. Many are seriously malnourished, dehydrated or in critical need of medical assistance.

                            Non-governmental organisations are working tirelessly to cope with the sudden surge of refugees, but a lack of funding, complex internal bureaucracy and increased harassment from government officials is making their work all the more difficult.

                            Camp Otash on the outskirts of Nyala has had 10,000 new arrivals in the past 10 days, and although the camp was built for 25,000 to 30,000 people it now holds 50,000, a figure expected to rise to 60,000 by the end of October.

                            The people here look tired and beaten. Unfed and thirsty, many are sleeping without shelter in the dust. The camp is filled with women, children and the elderly as the men are either out fighting or have been killed. Many of the children have hair tinted orange, a sign of serious malnutrition.

                            The camp itself seems boundless, stretching well out of sight. Sizeable areas are covered with Unicef-tarpaulin clad shelters, the frames made from wood gathered from the fields around the camp. The children dress mostly in ragged robes, or clothes donated by charities hundreds of miles away from here. Only around half of them have anything on their feet.

                            UN reports say the fighting has now become "far more brutal towards civilians than previous attacks", with witnesses saying they saw women and children being thrown into burning houses. In Buram, a town 80 miles south of Nyala, five days of fighting between the Habbania and Falata tribes saw 500 people killed. An estimated 120,000 people have been forced to flee north in search of refuge.

                            Up to 2,000 refugees a day flood into Darfur's camps of despair

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                            • UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan has called his special representative in Sudan back to New York amid allegations that the envoy had launched a "psychological war" against the Sudanese army, UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric announced on Sunday.

                              In a statement released by the spokesman, Annan said he had received on Sunday morning a letter from the Sudanese government requesting him to recall Jan Pronk, who was named by Annan as UN special representative for Sudan in June 2004.

                              The Secretary-General was reviewing the letter and had, in the meantime, requested Pronk to come to the UN headquarters for consultations, Dujarric told reporters.

                              It was reported that the Sudanese foreign ministry had given Pronk 72 hours to leave the country. The Sudanese side has accused the UN envoy of launching a psychological war against its army by spreading fabricated information doubting the force's capability of maintaining security and stability.

                              Pronk wrote in his personal blog last week that the Sudanese army had lost two major battles in Darfur, suffering heavy casualties. One of the battles took place in Umm Sidir last month and the other was in Karakaya earlier this month.

                              Conflicts flared up in Sudan's western region of Darfur in February 2003, after local rebels took up arms against the government, accusing it of neglecting the barren region.

                              The violence has killed and displaced many people.

                              UN chief calls back special envoy in Sudan

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                              • MILITIA attacks on refugee camps in Sudan's Darfur region this week killed scores of civilians, including 27 children under the age of 12.

                                The militias attacked eight settlements including a camp sheltering some 3500 people driven from their homes by the violence in war-torn Darfur, UN spokeswoman Marie Okabe said.

                                The attacks took place in Darfur's Jebel Moon area on October 29 and 30, forcing thousands to flee, Ms Okabe said.

                                UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan urged all parties in the area to end attacks and appealed to Sudan's government to do all it could to protect civilians from such attacks, she said.

                                Tens of thousands of people have been killed in a three and a half-year revolt in Darfur that has forced 2.5 million people to flee their homes to live in squalid, poorly protected camps.

                                UN officials say Darfur is one of the world's worst humanitarian crises and that the fighting among government troops, rebels and militias is increasing despite a peace agreement brokered earlier this year by the African Union.

                                A UN push to deploy a huge peacekeeping mission in Darfur to take over from the poorly-equipped and underfunded African Union force there now has been stymied by Sudanese government opposition.

                                Scores killed in new attacks on camps

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