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September 2008 - Posts

Sudan election could be delayed

 

Map of Sudan

A minister in South Sudan's government has said nationwide elections due by July 2009 could be delayed by at least six months.

Minister for Presidential Affairs Luka Biong said torrential rain and a series of logistical problems could make it difficult to vote as scheduled.

The polls, agreed on in a 2005 peace deal, would be Sudan's first democratic elections in more than two decades.

The peace deal ended a 21-year civil war between the north and the south.

"Practically, it won't be feasible to have them [elections] by July," Mr Biong said, according to Reuters news agency.

He is from the SPLM party of former rebels, which is planning to contest the polls against the NCP of President Omar al-Bashir.

The two parties signed the 2005 deal and share power at a national level but analysts say relations remain tense.

In July, a law was passed, paving the way for the elections.

The peace deal gave the south a semi-autonomous government and provided for a referendum on independence for the south by 2011.

Correspondents say any delay to the elections would also raise worries over the timing of the referendum.

President Al-Bashir Inaugurates Mosque at Headquarters of Khartoum State's Police Forces

 Khartoum, Sept. 12 (SUNA) - President of the Republic, Field Marshal Omer Al-Bashir, Friday noon inaugurated mosque of the Headquarters of Khartoum State Police Forces. The inauguration was attended by the Minister of Defence, Gen. Abdul-Rahim Mohamed Hussein, the General Director of the Police Forces, Gen. Mohamed Najib Al-Tayeb, his Deputy, Gen. Al-Adel Ajib, and assistants, along with leaders of the Police Forces in Khartoum State. In a statement to the Police Press Office, the Director of Khartoum State's Police, Gen. Mohamed Osman Mohamed Nour, said that the mosque's inauguration comes in the context of the Police Headquarters with the religious and Da'awa work and expansion of the lofty values. He said that Holy Quran and religious studies will be taught at the mosque. MO/MO

A round table conference to follow up the implementation of the donors pledges to the DDR process, to be convened in Juba

  Khartoum, Sept 12 (SUNA)- A round table conference will be held in Juba southern Sudan to follow up the implementation of pledges made by the donors with regard to the Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration DDR process in the country. The state minister at a the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, and head of the experts committee in the DDR Council, Ahamed Mohamed Haroon, has pointed out that the council has expressed concern over the slow inflow of international pledges to the DDR Programmes saying the government would not give up and would work to reinvigorate and mobilize national resources in addition to the contribution of some Arab countries for the implementation of the programme. He said the experts committee has also reviewed ways of implementing and following up the decision taken by the council in its last session and the possibility of converting these decisions into programme to be implemented. He said a number of committees have been formed to prepared for the round table meetings and to provide national and Arab funding for the process. MA/MA

Dr. Mutrif Sidik meets AU Commissioner of Peace and Security

  Khartoum, Sept. 11 (SUNA)- Undersecretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Dr. Mutrif Sidik discussed Thursday with the Commissioner of Peace and Security of the African Union (AU), Ramadan Al-Amamra, developments of Darfur issue, the Arab initiative for the political negotiations and expediting deployment of the hybrid operation in Darfur. The Commissioner of Peace and Security of the AU said in a press statement following the meeting that his talks with the Sudanese officials focused on the important initiative of the State of Qatar which has been adopted by the Arab League with full support of the AU, pointing out that the AU will assume its role fully for the success of the initiative. He added that he found similar readiness by the Sudanese government for the success of the initiative. BT/BT

Ugandan Government and LRA to Sign Peace Agreement in Juba Saturday

 Khartoum, Sept. 5 (SUNA)- A peace agreement would be signed Saturday in Juba between the Government of Uganda and the Lord Resistance Army (LRA) through Sudanese sponsorship and under auspices of the mediator and Vice - President of the Government of South Sudan (GoSS), Dr. Riek Machar. SUNA learned that contacts were made last week to arrange for a visit of an envoy of the UN Secretary General to Juba to urge the two Ugandan parties to sign the peace agreement. Contacts were also conducted through Sudan Embassy to Kampala last week to ensure arrival of the UN envoy in Juba. The issue of the peace agreement's signing was one of the issues that the First Vice - President of the Republic and President of the Government of South Sudan, Salva Kiir, has discussed with President Yoweri Museveni during his visit to Uganda in last August. MO/MO

Agreement on Establishment of Micro-finance Institution in South Kordofan State

 Kadugli, Sept. 5 (SUNA) - South Kordofan State and Central Bank of Sudan have agreed to establish a micro-finance institution in the state aiming at provision of funds to small-scale projects of poor and limited income groups. The agreement was reached during the meeting held recently in Kadugli town between South Kordofan State government and a delegation from the Central Bank of Sudan (CBOS). South Kordofan Wali (Governor) Omer Sulieman told the Sudan News Agency (SUNA) that the study on the formation of the micro-finance institution was reviewed during the meeting and the preliminary approval was made. He said the state government will own 30% of the shares against 10% for the unions and some organizations and 50% to be put for public underwriting. He added that procedures of registering the institution would be completed during the coming two days, pointing out that the state government would gradually withdraw from it in three years, leaving it to be completely owned by the private sector. CBOS representative, for his part, said that branches of banks in the state would be directed to exploit the funds allocated to the micro-finance in coordination with the said institution in the state. BH/MA

Sudan Re-elected Deputy Chairman in Group 3 of Inter-governmental Authority for Climate Change

 Khartoum, Sept. 5 (SUNA) - Sudan has been reelected as Deputy Chairman of the Third Work Group at the Inter-governmental Authority on Climate Change, representing Africa for the coming six years. Adviser of Environment and Energy at the Higher Council for Environment and Natural Resources, Ismail Al-Jizzoli is to assume this position. The committee is specialized in reduction of thermal emissions. It is to be recalled that the committee won the Noble Peace Prize, sharing it former US Vice President Al Gore. BH/MA

An agreement on establishment of Gafa Sugar Project in White Nile State signed

 Khartoum, Sept. 5 (SUNA) - An agreement for establishment of Gafa Sugar Project in White Nile State was signed between the State Government and Onar Kusmar Company in the presence of Minister of Industry, Minister of Investment, Minister of International Cooperation, White Nile State Wali and a number of officials and specialists in the field of sugar industry. The Minister of Industry Jalal Yousuf Al-Degai affirmed, on the occasion of signing the agreement, progress in investment in sugar industry, adding that his ministry setup the Big Sugar Plan to produce 10 million tons of sugar approved by the Council of Ministers. He added that the plan would enable attraction of 12 billion dollars from the sugar, 3 billion dollars from the ethanol fuel and 3 billion dollars from electric energy to realize the state objectives representing in the increase of revenues from non-oil exports. White Nile State Wali and Minister of Investment affirmed provision of facilities and the required guarantees for expansion in Sugar industry and to attract more investors from within and abroad. BH /MA

Foreign Ministers of Sudan and the Netherlands hold talks

  The Hague, Sept. 4 (SUNA)- The Sudanese and Dutch sides held Thursday talks co-chaired by Minister of Foreign Affairs Deng Alor and his Dutch counterpart Maxime Verhagen on bilateral relations, progress of implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), situations in Darfur and the allegations of the International Criminal Court (ICC) against Sudan. The Netherlands' Minister welcomed at the outset of the session the Sudanese delegation, affirming his country's concern with contacts with Sudan as one of the major donors to the country. Deng Alor, on his part, affirmed Sudan's keenness on its relations with the Netherlands, lauding the Netherlands' declaration of its commitment to host donors conference for rehabilitation of Darfur. The minister gave a briefing on the progress of implementation of the CPA and the solutions reached for Abyei issue, calling on the Netherlands to contribute to the rehabilitation of Abyei. Sudan Ambassador to the Netherlands Abulgassim Abdul-Wahid said in a statement to SUNA that the Minister of Foreign Affairs also referred to the efforts for resolving Darfur issue and establishment of a higher committee for solving Darfur issue and the crisis with the ICC under the chairmanship of the First Vice President of the Republic. Following the talks, the two ministers held a press conference where the Dutch minister pointed to his country's concern with developments in Sudan represented in Darfur issue, stressing the importance of reactivation of the peaceful process, declaring their welcome to the steps made by the Sudanese government in this connection. Deng Alor, on his part, pointed out that efforts are focused now for solving Darfur issue in the context of the initiative of the President of the Republic, which is known as the Initiative of the People of Sudan. Alor affirmed Sudan's welcome of the Joint United Nations and African Union Chief Mediator and its readiness for cooperation with him. BT/BT

Khartoum booms as Darfur burns

 

New Libyan hotel
Khartoum's low-rise skyline has already changed
As middle-class Sudanese couples wipe off the dust to inspect new bathroom suites for sale by the roadside in central Khartoum, they can see a new vision of the city's future rising in the distance.

 

A massive Libyan-financed five-star hotel, shaped like a boat's sail, has already changed the city's low-rise skyline and work is well underway to transform parts of the sleepy city centre into a bustling, gleaming 24-hour metropolis.

The oil-fuelled construction boom may also lead to social changes, although the government shows less sign of loosening its grip here than the economy.

Under Islamic Sharia law, alcohol is banned and unlike most African cities, hardly any music can be heard on the streets, or even in the markets.

But businessmen are revelling in the new opportunities opening up, now that there is peace in the oilfields after the end of the 21-year conflict between north and south.

Reforms

"This is the best situation we have had for 20 years," one Sudanese businessman told the BBC News website.

Less than a decade after the oil came online, Sudan is already the third largest producer in Africa.

The Americans will miss a great opportunity in Sudan
Amir Diglal, al-Sunut
Even better for business, the government, which used to tightly control all economic activity, has passed a host of reforms to make international trade much easier.

"I used to have to queue for ages to buy a packet of breakfast cereal," a hotel owner says.

"Now I have a choice of 20 brands".

The big question, however is whether ordinary Sudanese will benefit from the oil wealth, or whether it will be kept by a small elite, as in countries such as Nigeria and Angola.

Taxi-drivers like Omar, however, prefer home-grown beans and lentils to imported cornflakes.

"Oil, what oil? I haven't seen any oil," he complains, as he drives his battered old yellow cab.

"Ask the government, they've got the oil."

 

Sanctions

Nevertheless, the International Monetary Fund has praised Sudan's reforms and expects the economy to grow by 11% this year - one of the highest rates in Africa.


And a massive project is taking shape in the heart of the capital, where the Blue Nile meets the White Nile.

Some are calling it Africa's Dubai, as the al-Mogran development is hoping to mop up some of the billions of petrodollars being generated both domestically and across the Middle East.

It is still a vast building site but developers say $4bn will be invested over the next few years, generating 40,000 permanent jobs directly and many more indirectly.

The impressive plans show gleaming new shops, huge office blocks, 10 top-class hotels and a huge residential hinterland of 1,100 villas and 6,700 flats.

Amir Diglal, from the al-Sunut company behind the project, says the first of several international banks is due to open its doors later this year, with the entire project to be completed by 2014.

The United States is threatening to impose sanctions on Sudan because it has blocked UN attempts to boost the numbers of peacekeepers in Darfur, where at least 200,000 people have died in four years of conflict.

But Mr Diglal is not concerned.

"The Americans will miss a great opportunity in Sudan," he says.

AL-MOGRAN PROJECT
Model of al-Mogran project at night
Hotels: 10
Jobs: 50,000
Cost: $4bn
Residents: 61,000
Sudan is already under US sanctions, because of previous ties to Osama Bin Laden.

Sudanese companies cannot use the US dollar - a huge obstacle to international trade.

One German businessman complained that his goods destined for Sudan from South America had been impounded when the ship carrying them made a brief stop in the US.

But this does not seem to have prevented the al-Mogran development.

Companies from China and Malaysia, which are closely involved in pumping Sudan's oil, are among the biggest investors.

 

Cultural change

Mr Diglal hopes the project will do more than just provide an economic boost.

"The challenge is not money or engineering but changing the culture."

Cranes at al-Mogran site
Al-Mogran remains a vast building site
He paints a picture of, no-doubt wealthy, Sudanese people strolling along the banks of the Nile from a top class restaurant to a cinema showing the latest releases.

Sudan's first 18-hole golf course is also planned, along with at least two marinas, for yachts stopping off on their Nile tours.

Some go even further.

"One day, we might even have nightclubs," says one of those involved in the project.

But that looks like being a distant dream - the man who suggested this insisted that his name was not used in case it led to problems with the authorities.

Khartoum residents believe that state security agents recently paid a warning visit to a cafe serving ice cream and patisseries, where young Sudanese men and women were mingling a bit too freely.

Signs have now been put up warning patrons to "observe respectable behaviour and appearance".

Head-to-head: Darfur situation

 

Gamal Nrumah (L) and Eric Reeves (R)
Gamal Nkrumah and Eric Reeves debated Darfur's complex issues
Gamal Nkrumah, the foreign editor of leading Egyptian newspaper, Al-Ahram, and Eric Reeves, professor at Smith College (Massachusetts) and a Sudan researcher and analyst, debate what action the international community should take over the worsening conflict and humanitarian crisis in Sudan's Darfur region.

 

Eric Reeves, Massachusetts, US

In the face of rapidly accelerating genocidal destruction in Darfur, and given the ongoing collapse of humanitarian operations in vast areas of this devastated region, the international community should issue an ultimatum to the National Islamic Front (National Congress Party) regime in Khartoum: Immediately accept the robust force stipulated in UN Security Council Resolution 1706 (31 August, 2006) or face non-consensual deployment of the forces required to protect civilians and humanitarians.

 

 

Gamal Nkrumah, Cairo, Egypt

The phrase "international community" is often used as a euphemism for the United States and other Western powers' political agendas. Non-consensual deployment of foreign, non-African troops, is a non-starter.

It is an act of aggression that infringes on the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Sudan.

Peacekeepers on guard at the Kutum base of South African peacekeepers in northern Darfur
About 7,000 African Union troops are deployed in Darfur

As stipulated by Resolution 1706, the deployment of foreign peacekeeping troops must have prior and explicit approval of the Sudanese authorities. Previous US-led military intervention in Afghanistan and Iraq have aggravated the situation in the respective countries. The worse scenario is for Darfur to denigrate further into an Iraqi or Afghan quagmire.

The only way forward is to strengthen the African Union peacekeeping contingency in Darfur in both financial and logistical terms.

 

 

Eric Reeves, Massachusetts, US

The international community, as represented in Resolution 1706, has implicitly but clearly recognised the radical inability of the African Union force in Darfur.

Two refugee girls leave Fata Borno's refugee camp to fetch water in Darfur, Sudan
No conceivable augmentation of the AU can possibly staunch the flow of genocidal violence in Darfur
Eric Reeves
Sudan researcher and analyst

No conceivable augmentation of the AU can possibly staunch the flow of genocidal violence in Darfur, protect the more than four million conflict-affected persons in this vast region (including eastern Chad), or provide the protection necessary for the humanitarian operations upon which this desperate population depends - operations that are now collapsing ("in free fall" was how they were described by UN humanitarian chief Jan Egeland a month ago).

Although 1706 "invites" Khartoum's consent, it does not require it.

While 1706 explicitly guarantees the Sudan's national sovereignty, it was passed under Chapter VII authority and confers enforcement authority upon a deploying force. What is required is not Khartoum's consent but the international will to accept unambiguously the "responsibility to protect" civilians threatened by genocide, ethnic cleansing, or crimes against humanity - a responsibility unanimously accepted by the UN at its World Summit in September 2005 and explicitly reaffirmed by the unanimous passage of UN Security Council Resolution 1674 (April 2006).

 

 

Gamal Nkrumah, Cairo, Egypt

A girl in a Darfur refugee camp
More than two million people have been displaced during the conflict

The international community would serve the interests of the people of Darfur if wealthier countries - oil-rich Gulf Arab, Western and Japan - treble humanitarian relief assistance, development aid and step up medical and relief supplies in the short term.

In the longer term, trade and development aid, including investments in medical and educational services, would be vital.

Also of paramount importance is improved logistical and financial support for African Union peacekeepers in Darfur.

 

Eric Reeves, Massachusetts, US

There can be no doubt that when violence finally ends, the people of Darfur - particularly the targeted non-Arab or African tribal populations - will need immense financial resources to rebuild their lives and communities after three-and-a-half years of genocidal destruction orchestrated by the Khartoum regime.

See which parts of Darfur are too dangerous for aid workers

This destruction has included the burning of thousands of villages, deliberate poisoning of water wells with human and animal corpses, destruction of food- and seed-stocks, and looting of cattle (representing generations of wealth).

But while international assistance will be required, most of this reconstruction financing should come from Khartoum, which is overwhelmingly responsible for the deliberate, ethnically-targeted destruction of lives and livelihoods throughout Darfur.

International mechanisms, with effective enforcement mechanism, should be devised so that Sudan's massive oil revenues (Sudan is now the third largest oil producer in Africa) are directed equitably and efficiently to Darfur.

Other international aid will be required; but the genocidaires must be forced to accept responsibility for the economically devastating consequences of their brutality and savage conduct of the war.

 

 

Gamal Nkrumah, Cairo, Egypt

The flurry of diplomatic activity concerning Darfur shows that Sudan is already attracting world attention. British international cooperation minister Hilary Benn and US Sudan envoy Andrew Natsios's recent trips to Sudan, for example.

President Bush talking to Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade about Darfur
It is Sudan's oil, like Iraq's oil, which fuels American interest in Sudan
Gamal Nkrumah
Al-Ahram Foreign Editor

I suspect, though, that oil and not human rights are the main motivation behind the heightened interest of US President George W Bush in Sudan.

It is Sudan's oil, like Iraq's oil, which fuels American interest in Sudan.

Moreover, it is oil which is strengthening Sudan's international position. UN Security Council permanent member China, for example, which imports 6% of its oil from Sudan, will veto any anti-Sudan sanctions.

The Sudanese authorities capitalise upon Chinese support.

 

 

Eric Reeves, Massachusetts, US

Critical to understanding the issues of oil development and revenues in Sudan is the country's geography: all current oil development, exploration, and production occurs in southern Sudan or along the traditional North/South border.

There is no evidence of oil in Darfur
Eric Reeves
Sudan researcher and analyst

Moreover, the concession rights for oil development are virtually all sewn up by Asian companies and TotalFinaElf of France. The effort to suggest that oil interests in Darfur - where there is no present oil production or exploration - are what lie behind Western diplomacy is deeply misleading.

In fact, there is no credible evidence that Darfur has significant oil reserves.

As has been suggested, what is of real significance is that China, Khartoum's primary diplomatic ally at the UN, dominates the two major producing consortia in southern Sudan and southern Kordofan province.

If we want to understand why the National Islamic Front (National Congress Party) feels so emboldened in defying the international community, and in pursuing its genocidal counter-insurgency warfare in Darfur, we should look not to Western but to Chinese oil interests.

 

 

Gamal Nkrumah, Cairo, Egypt

Chad, Darfur's neighbour to the immediate West has huge oil reserves, there is no doubt that there are oil reserves in Darfur itself. The Chinese and TotalFinaElf of France know all too well that the potential for exploiting Darfur's oil in commercial quantities is tremendous.

The US is most concerned about the Chinese, other Asian and French monopoly of Sudanese oil.

Darfur is of great strategic importance it straddles Libya, Egypt, Chad, and the Central African Republic.

Sudan has accepted African Union peacekeeping troops in Darfur. So it is best for all concerned if AU troops are deployed to keep the peace in Darfur.

The AU troops, however, must have financial and logistical support from the UN and Western powers as well as oil-rich Gulf Arab countries. Only then will peace prevail in Darfur.

 

 

Eric Reeves, Massachusetts, US

There is no evidence of oil in Darfur.

Reserves in more westerly parts of Chad tell us nothing about Darfur; there is no geologic evidence, no seismic data - nothing that indicates there is oil in Darfur.

But there is a terrifyingly great deal of evidence about the scale of human destruction that will ensue if we do not respond urgently to the acute lack of human security.

The largely destroyed and abandoned market place in Madu village, Darfur
Four million people have been affected by the conflict in Darfur

With or without Khartoum's consent, the international community must uphold its "responsibility to protect civilians" in Darfur - civilians not simply unprotected by the National Islamic Front/National Congress regime - but targets of an ongoing genocidal campaign orchestrated in Khartoum.

Such "responsibility to protect" supersedes claims of national sovereignty. This principle was the explicit conclusion of the UN World Summit Outcome Document, paragraph 139, unanimously adopted in September 2005.

The AU is simply incapable of being transformed into a force that can take up this responsibility with sufficient urgency; it cannot possibly become the force contemplated in UN Security Council Resolution 1706.

To pretend otherwise is the treat with a scandalous moral carelessness the lives of more than four million conflict-affected Darfuris.

 

 

Gamal Nkrumah, Cairo, Egypt

The interests of the US should not be confused with the interests of the international community. It is clear that the aggression against Iraq was a pretext to control the vast oil reserves of that country.

The US must stay out of Darfur
Gamal Nkrumah
Al-Ahram Foreign Editor

Human rights and democratisation had nothing to do with the Bush administration's aims.

Abu Ghraib and numerous other atrocities committed against the people of Iraq clearly demonstrated that the US is not interested in the welfare of the people of Iraq. Neither is the Bush administration interested in the welfare of the people of Darfur.

The main goal of the Bush administration, with its extensive oil interests, is to challenge Chinese oil interests and economic clout in Sudan.

The so-called "international peacekeeping force" is a euphemism for foreign military intervention which is destined to have disastrous repercussions for the people of Darfur and Sudan as a whole.

The US must stay out of Darfur.

 

 

Eric Reeves, Massachusetts, US

To invoke Iraq and Abu Ghraib when the issue clearly is saving lives in Darfur is disingenuous.

That Iraq was a terribly misconceived debacle that will haunt US foreign policy for years could not be clearer; but this doesn't diminish in the slightest the extraordinarily urgent need for international protection of the more than four million human beings the UN estimates are affected by genocidal conflict in Darfur and eastern Chad.

Just as urgent is the protection of those aid operations upon which this vast population grows increasingly dependent: humanitarian access shrinks almost daily, with many hundreds of thousands of Darfuris completely beyond the reach of food and medical assistance, living without adequate clean water or shelter.

Khartoum continues its large military offensives in North and West Darfur, and in such a context the African Union force currently deployed, even if augmented, is simply incapable of providing protection to the civilian and humanitarian populations.

UN Security Council Resolution 1706, which Khartoum defiantly rejects, provides an appropriate international force of 22,500 troops and civilian police, as well as a strong civilian protection mandate.

This force must deploy with or without Khartoum's consent, with whatever additional forces are required if consent is denied.

The alternative is to watch from afar as - in the words of UN humanitarian aid chief Jan Egeland, "the lives of hundreds of thousands could be needlessly lost."

 

 

Gamal Nkrumah, Cairo, Egypt

The ongoing aggression of the Sudanese authorities against innocent civilians is deplorable. However, a Western, US and Nato-led military intervention to end the Darfur crisis would have the opposite and extremely negative impact on a volatile region.

Co-operation between Arabs and indigenous non-Arab communities is the only way forward
Gamal Nkrumah
Al-Ahram Foreign Editor

The fighting in Darfur cannot be seen in isolation of the wider regional context.

The arid Sahel region of Africa, and Darfur is very much a part of the Sahel, has witnessed a scramble over meagre resources especially between nomadic, mainly but not exclusively, Arab tribes and pastoralists with non-Arab agriculturalists, and has become endemic in the area.

The crisis-ridden region of the Sahel is a political powder-keg.

Western intervention would exacerbate matters.

In Niger ethnic Arabs, known as the Mahamid, have recently been threatened with deportation. In neighbouring Chad, the authorities have accused Khartoum of supporting the armed opposition groups including the Union of forces for Democracy and Development.

The only way forward is to strengthen the AU forces by logistical and financial support on a massive scale.

Oil-rich Arab countries, Western nations and Asian trade partners of Khartoum must step up aid and trade with Sudan in order to reinvigorate the Sudanese economy, and especially the Darfur economy shattered by years of war.

The international community must multiply humanitarian and development assistance to Darfur instead of sending in troops and instigating more fighting.

Peace must prevail in Darfur and the entire Sahel region.

Co-operation between Arabs and indigenous non-Arab communities is the only way forward, but it must be buttressed with international development aid.

 

 


What do you think? Do you agree with Eric Reeves or Gamal Nkrumah? What should the international community do?

I agree primarily with Eric Reeves. While a cursory, Google-powered investigation of the natural resources in Darfur suggests to me that there may in fact be commercial quantities of oil in the region, I do not believe that the concern of the thousands of people agitating internationally for UN intervention in Darfur is neither commercial nor imperial. Resolution 1706 stipulates that a multinational force should use force to prevent and intervene in acts of violence against civilians and, as in southern Sudan, this intervention in the context of an effective political settlement has the potential to bring at least a tentative peace to the region.
Isaac Rowlett, Milwaukee, WI (USA)

Since Darfur has been declared as a place where genocide is committed, the Sudanese govt has no right to dictate what forces intl community will bring to restore peace. I agree with Mr Gamal because he has first hand knowledge of what western intervention will bring. The downfall of Khartoum govt. It happened to his father - the champion of African cause.
BAKRI KENNA, phoenix, usa

I strongly agree with Eric Reeves. I think what the international community should do is to apply the UN resolution 1706 immediately. The lives of the civilians are very important. The case of Darfur is only to be solved by international community. AU or Arab community can not and will never do it. It is beyond their power and control.

US is not interested in the oil of any nation as Cairo think. Instead Cairo wants Southern Sudan and Darfur to surfer and remain poor and if possible all must die because of the water of the Nile. God of Heaven has entrusted American Nation and UN to solve the problems of the oppressed people as well of the whole world. According to my opinion, US and UN should use force as they did in Afghanistan and Iraq for sake of children and women in Darfur.

And I am also appealing to US and UN to protect the CPA between the South and the North Sudan so that no one should play with the agreement. Until we vote on 9.01.2010 for the independence of the Southern Sudanese people. Long live George Bush and long live American people and long live UN.
Francis Oryem Oyet Anakleto, Newcastle, Australia

I'm quite disturbed at Nkrumah's arguments - in the face of what is by any measure a genocidal crime by Khartoum; I fail to understand why anyone would hide behind anti-western propaganda to let the people of Darfur suffer. I agree with Reeves - there is utterly no need for any consent from Khartoum. Every day the international community fails to act, I become more convinced that the life of a black Africa is seen as dispensable. Is there any morality in international politics? I wonder.
Justice Tankebe, Cambridge, UK

Mr Nkrumah predictably blames the USA and the west whereas Mr Reeves is entirely naive. These problems have 2 causes:
1. British and French colonialist mindset when between the two of them they created dozens of 'artificial' countries completely ignoring tribal and ethnic make-up of the region.
2. Islam's drive for expansion at non-Muslims expense (because that's what it is).
Marcel, The Hague

The best solution for Darfur's on going conflict is to support the AU forces that already in Sudan. The paranoia way of thinking of Sudan govt. and majority of Sudanese people towards UN keeping force is based on countless evidences of UN partiality and mysterious agenda in post conflict environments in many parts of the world. Just look to the gross partiality that exercised on daily bases by the UN peace keeping force in the tiny state of Eritrea. The UN peace keeping force there is always working in favour of the USA's ally "Ethiopia" although Eritrea has win the award of the international arbitrary court to their disputed territory.

Regrettably, there is no a clear definition between the UN and USA. This ambiguity is supported by the endless interference of US administration in the work of UN. Please leave the Sudan for the Sudanese. We are capable of solving our own created problems by our own will.
Ahmed Qasm Elbari, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia

UN extends Darfur peace mission

 

Peacekeeper stands guard next to a UN helicopter in north Darfur (9 July)
The UN-AU mission lacks helicopters and has yet to be fully deployed

The UN Security Council has renewed the mandate for peacekeepers in Sudan's Darfur region for another year just two hours before it was due to expire.

The decision had been complicated by the International Criminal Court's move to indict Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir for alleged genocide.

The resolution notes an African Union request for the Council to postpone the ICC's work but does no more than that.

Fourteen of the Council's 15 members voted in favour but the US abstained.

The African Union had asked the UN Security Council to use its power to suspend the ICC's proceedings for a year, saying prosecuting Sudan's president would set back peace in Darfur.

The United States abstained in the vote, because language added to the resolution would send the wrong signal to the Sudanese president
Alejandro Wolff
US deputy ambassador to the UN

Libya and South Africa, backed by Russia and China, wanted to include this in the resolution on renewing the mandate.

But the UK, France, the US and central American countries objected, saying there should be no link between the peacekeeping force and whatever the court might do.

Faced with the prospect that the force might not have its mandate renewed, a compromise was found after much wrangling.

The new resolution takes note of the African Union's position without committing the Security Council to doing anything.

But the US abstained, saying the revised resolution sent out the wrong message.

"The United States abstained in the vote, because language added to the resolution would send the wrong signal to the Sudanese president, Bashir, and undermine efforts to bring him and others to justice," Alejandro Wolff, the US deputy ambassador to the UN, said.

 

HAVE YOUR SAY
Troops should be allowed to co-operate with selected NGOs such as Medecins Sans Frontieres.
Jaffe, Krefeld, Germany

Sudan's UN Ambassador Abdalmahmoud Abdalhaleem told Reuters it was an "acceptable" text.

The UN estimates five years of conflict in Darfur have left 300,000 people dead and more than two million homeless.

Aid agency Oxfam says about 1,000 people are being displaced every day in the region.

Khartoum says the scale of the violence and suffering has been exaggerated by the West for political reasons.

It denies charges that it organised the Arab Janjaweed militias, accused of widespread atrocities against Darfur's black African population.

On Thursday, two courts sentenced 22 Darfur rebels to death for their involvement in a raid on the capital in May, the first time rebels had reached Khartoum.

Blue plastic bags

Meanwhile, a report has found that the UN-African Union force lacks vital equipment.

ACCUSATIONS AGAINST BASHIR
Genocide:
Killing members of the Fur, Masalit and Zaghawa ethnic groups
Causing these groups serious bodily or mental harm
Inflicting conditions of life calculated to bring about these groups' physical destruction
Crimes against humanity:
Murder
Extermination
Forcible transfer
Rape
Torture
War crimes:
Attacks on civilians in Darfur
Pillaging towns and villages

Only about a third of the intended 26,000 peacekeepers have so far been deployed on the first anniversary of the decision to deploy troops in the region.

Many do not have the equipment they need, according to a report backed by 36 human rights groups and non-governmental organisations (NGOs).

It said some soldiers even have to wear blue plastic bags on their heads because they do not have the standard blue UN helmet.

The report, published by the Save Darfur coalition, says helicopters are vital to the success of the mission but no country has offered a single one of the aircraft.

It says military powers like the US, Britain and France are tied down in wars and other peacekeeping operations.

But it named the Czech Republic, Italy, Romania, Spain, Ukraine and India, saying they have more than 70 suitable aircraft needed for the mission.

The report says a militia attack three weeks ago on a UN-AU convoy that left seven peacekeepers dead and 19 wounded underscores the critical importance of helicopters.

No return for Sudan's forgotten slaves

 

Akech Arol Deng


By Joseph Winter
BBC News, southern Sudan

Akech Arol Deng has not seen his wife and son since they were seized by Arab militias from their home in south Sudan 19 years ago.

His son, Deng, was just three years old at the time but Mr Arol is sure they are still alive, being used as slaves in the north.

"I miss them so much. I really hope that one day they come back," Mr Arol told the BBC News website mournfully in his home of Malualbai, just a few hours' on horseback from the Bahr el-Arab river which divides Muslim northern Sudan from the Christian and Animist south.

 

Arek Anyiel Deng
It's like I was still in the camp, it's the same situation as in the north
Arek Anyiel Deng

Some 8,000 people are believed to be living in slavery in Sudan, 200 years after Britain banned the Atlantic slave trade and 153 years after it also tried to abolish slavery in Sudan.

But rows about money mean no-one is doing anything to free them.

In the same year that Mr Arol's family was kidnapped, Arek Anyiel Deng, aged about 10, was seized from her home, not far from Malualbai.

Arab militias rode in to her village on horseback, firing their guns. When the adults fled, the children and cattle were rounded up and made to walk north for five days before they were divided between members of the raiding party.

Forced conversions

Ms Anyiel returned home under a government scheme last year.

"My abductor told me that I was his slave and I had to do all the work he told me to - fetching water and firewood, looking after animals and farming," she said.

Boys were forced to look after cattle all day.

"When I was 12, he said he wanted to sleep with me. I could not refuse because I was a slave, I had to do everything he wanted, or he could have killed me."

Such raids were a common feature of Sudan's 21-year north-south war, which ended in 2005.

The northern government is widely believed to have armed the Arab militias in order to terrorise the southern population and distract rebel forces from attacking government targets.

According to a study by the Kenya-based Rift Valley Institute, some 11,000 young boys and girls were seized and taken across the internal border - many to the states of South Darfur and West Kordofan.

The boys generally looked after cattle, while the girls mostly did domestic chores before being "married", often as young as 12.

Most were forcibly converted to Islam, given Muslim names and told not to speak their mother tongue.

War of words

Sudan's government has always rejected claims that people are living in slavery but admits that thousands were abducted during the war. It says this is an ancient tradition of hostage-taking by rival ethnic groups.

One senior government official strenuously denied there was any slavery in Sudan but bizarrely acknowledged: "It was the same as when people were taken from West Africa to America."

map

The United Nations defines slavery as: "The status or condition of a person over whom any or all of the powers attaching to the right of ownership are exercised."

Ms Anyiel and several others we spoke to certainly seemed to have been living in conditions of slavery - having been abducted, subjected to forced labour and often beaten.

To be able to work with the return programme the government set up in 1999 under intense international pressure, donors agreed to use the euphemism "abductee".

About 3,000 were taken back home before the programme ran out of money in 2005.

Donors pulled out, saying some were not genuine slaves, some had been returned against their will and had been left to fend for themselves in the desolate, under-developed south.

The government then funded the return for a while but strangely, the end of the war seems to have taken the urgency out of the project.

The governments in both north and the autonomous south seem more interested in spending their new oil wealth.

Officials from both administrations say they are still working out their new policy on the "abductee file".

Disillusioned

Ahmed Mufti from the government's Committee for the Eradication of Abduction of Women and Children (CEAWC) says the Arab tribal leaders are now more than happy to release the "abductees" but his group does not have the $3m he estimates it would need to arrange transport and pay officials to organise the operation.

Dinka woman with traditional facial scars
Dinka facial markings help identify children even if they have forgotten their names
Faced with this lack of progress, James Aguer, the man at the forefront of the campaign to free Sudan's slaves, is becoming increasingly disillusioned after spending some 20 years risking his life for the cause.

"With peace, I thought they would be freed by now," he says bitterly.

He says he has the names and location of 8,000 people, who could easily be freed from the Arab cattle camps, as soon as the political will is there.

He says the true number of those being forced to work against their will without pay in Sudan is more than 200,000, although most donors believe that is an exaggeration.

Sitting on the dusty ground outside the abandoned mud hut where she and her five children now live, Ms Anyiel is delighted to have finally gained her freedom and to be able to make decisions about her own life.

But freedom is not necessarily easy - she now has to support the children on her own, with no assistance from donors or the government.

Her only income comes from collecting firewood in the bush to sell in the local market.

"It's like I was still in the camp, it's the same situation as in the north," she complains.

Tribal markings

Ghada Kachachi, from United Nations' children's agency Unicef, uses Ms Anyiel's case to explain why funding was stopped for CEAWC's return programme.

She says those who are freed must be helped when they get back home - both economically and socially, as they move from an Arabic society to the Dinka community some left 20 years ago.

South Sudan is one of the least developed parts of the world and life here is tough.

But campaigners say the first priority must be to free them from slavery and then sort out the details of their return.

Ms Kachachi also points out that it can be difficult to trace the parents of children abducted in a war zone up to 20 years ago.

Some have forgotten their real names and where they come from, although they can sometimes be identified by the marks cut into their faces as children - a part of Dinka traditions.

Save the Children UK is still helping foster parents look after some children several years after they returned "home".

While officials debate the best way to organise the return, Mr Arol and many others are just desperate to see their loved ones again.

He has gone to meet four different convoys of returned abductees in the hope of being reunited with his family, only to be disappointed each time.

"I always ask God, why other children come back but not mine. What have I done to deserve this?" he asks.

Bashir move bold but problematic

 

President Omar al-Bashir
Mr Bashir is the first sitting president sought for war crimes
The decision by the chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court to seek the arrest of President Omar al-Bashir of Sudan is a bold human rights intervention, but one that will cause problems on the diplomatic front.

It is bound to complicate, some will say destroy, attempts to increase the presence of an international peacekeeping force in Darfur and to encourage negotiations on a settlement between the government of Sudan and the rebel groups in Darfur.

But the ICC is independent and is not concerned with diplomacy.

It is concerned with justice. The court believes that, in this case, it is doing exactly what it was set up to do in 2002 - prosecute crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.

It does not have to make a calculation and weigh the balance between justice and realpolitik.

Similar arguments were heard when, in 2005, the court issued an arrest warrant for Joseph Kony, the leader of the Lord's Resistance Army in Uganda. That warrant remains unenforced and a peace deal remains unsigned.

Head of state

This is the first time that the prosecutor has made charges against a sitting head of state, breaking new ground in the reduction of national sovereignty rights that have characterised international law in recent years.

Luis Moreno Ocampo
ICC Chief Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo is a determined figure
The trials of the former Yugoslav president Slobodan Milosevic and of Charles Taylor of Liberia required special decisions by the United Nations.

The chief prosecutor, Luis Moreno-Ocampo, who showed his determination as a prosecutor in Argentina when he acted against former junta leaders for the massacre of civilians, said in his presentation of evidence that Mr Bashir "committed the crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes in Darfur".

He stated: "The prosecution evidence shows that al-Bashir masterminded and implemented a plan to destroy in substantial part the Fur, Masalit and Zaghawa groups.... His alibi was a 'counterinsurgency'. His intent was genocide".

'Disaster in the making'

However, there has been criticism of the prosecutor's decision from the former US Special Envoy for Sudan, Andrew Natsios. In an article on the website of the Social Science Research Council titled "A disaster in the making", Mr Natsios says: "This indictment may well shut off the last remaining hope for a peaceful settlement for the country.

"Without a political settlement Sudan may go the way of Somalia, pre-genocide Rwanda, or the Democratic Republic of the Congo: a real potential for widespread atrocities and bloodshed as those in power seek to keep it at any cost because of the alternatives. An indictment of Bashir will make it much more difficult for any country or international organisation to help negotiate a political settlement with the Sudanese government."

Security Council mandate

Sudan has not signed up to the ICC but the court has authority to act in this case because the Security Council gave it a mandate to do so, with resolution 1593 in March 2005.

Under that mandate, the court issued arrest warrants in 2007 for two Sudanese citizens.

It alleged that one of them, government minister Ahmed Haroun, organised the Janjaweed militia in Darfur and that the second, a Janjaweed leader known as Ali Kushayb, ordered the murder, torture and mass rape of western Darfur villagers.

Sudan refused to hand them over.

In July 2008, Mr Moreno-Ocampo told the Security Council that Sudan was not co-operating and that he had "compelling evidence" identifying "those most responsible for crimes against civilians".

The Council then warned Sudan that it had to cooperate.

The warrant request for Mr Bashir will now be considered by a panel of three court judges.

If they issue the warrant, Sudan will be obliged to arrest its own president, in effect the president handing himself over, which nobody expects will happen.

However, under Article 89, Mr Bashir might also be liable to arrest if he visits one of the 106 states that are parties to the treaty.

Article 89 of the court's statute says that the court "may transit a request for the arrest and surrender of a person...to any state on the territory of which that person may be found..."

A warrant would also pose some other difficulties, for example, to those maintaining contacts with Mr Bashir.

This might affect China, a major arms supplier to Sudan.

It is new diplomatic territory.