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Sudan fears US military intervention over Darfur

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The Sudanese president, Omar al-Bashir

The Sudanese president, Omar al-Bashir. Photograph: Ashraf Shazly/AFP/Getty Images

Sudan‘s government is increasingly fearful that the incoming US administration will resort to military intervention to end the six-year-old crisis in Darfur that has killed up to 200,000 people and left 2.7 million homeless, diplomatic sources in Khartoum say.

“There is a great need for us to sound the alarm again about Darfur,” Hillary Clinton, who was endorsed as secretary of state yesterday, told the US Senate this week. “It is a terrible humanitarian crisis compounded by a corrupt and very cruel regime in Khartoum.”

Clinton said the Obama administration, which takes office on Tuesday, was examining a wide range of options, including direct intervention in support of a joint UN-African Union peacekeeping force, known as Unamid, which has struggled to make an impact after beginning operations last year.

“We have spoken about other options, no-fly zones, other sanctions and sanctuaries, looking to deploy the Unamid force to try to protect the refugees but also to repel the militias,” Clinton said. “There is a lot under consideration.” Clinton has previously asserted that the US has a “moral duty” to help Darfurian civilians.

The US accuses Khartoum’s leadership of committing genocide in Darfur. Washington has eschewed direct military involvement since the crisis erupted in 2003, despite growing pressure to act from Sudanese insurgents, exiles, and evangelical Christian groups.

But in a surprise move last week, President George Bush ordered the Pentagon to begin an immediate airlift of vehicles and equipment for the peacekeeping force.

Alain LeRoy, head of UN peacekeeping operations, told the Security Council last month that violence in Darfur was intensifying and stepped-up international involvement was urgently required to avoid a descent into “mayhem”.

Influential US-based pressure groups such as the Save Darfur Coalition and Enough are meanwhile demanding that US president-elect Barack Obama act swiftly to fulfil campaign pledges to take more robust action.

“I will make ending the genocide in Darfur a priority from day one,” Obama said in April. He has also previously backed a toughening of sanctions and said the US might help enforce a no-fly zone.

“Obama is the [ruling] National Congress party’s worst nightmare,” said a diplomat in Khartoum. “They wanted [John] McCain and the Republicans to win. They thought they were pragmatists. They think the Democrats are ideologues. They haven’t forgotten it was the Democrats who bombed them.”

That was a reference to a retaliatory US cruise missile attack on a suspect pharmaceutical factory in Khartoum in 1998, ordered by President Bill Clinton after al-Qaida attacked US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. Sudan provided a base for the al-Qaida leader, Osama bin Laden, from 1991 until he moved to Afghanistan in 1996.

A source in Khartoum said Sudan’s president, Omar al-Bashir, was especially alarmed by Obama’s selection of Susan Rice, a former Clinton national security council adviser on Africa, as a cabinet member and US ambassador to the UN.

Rice has spoken passionately in the past of the need for US or Nato air strikes, or a naval blockade of Sudan’s oil exports, to halt the violence in Darfur.

Referring to the 1994 Rwanda genocide, she said: “I swore to myself that if I ever faced such a crisis again, I would come down on the side of dramatic action, going down in flames if that was required.”

Bashir felt only “fear and loathing” for Rice and had told aides: “I don’t want to see her face here,” the source said.

Khartoum’s concerns about American intervention extend to southern Sudan, fuelled by reports, denied by the US, that Washington is arming the separatist Sudan People’s Liberation Army.

The SPLA is the military wing of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement with which the north fought a 30-year civil war. Salva Kiir, the SPLM leader and Bashir’s likely rival in elections due later this year, received red carpet treatment by Bush at the White House last week.

“The government knows the US does not arm the SPLA. They’re already heavily armed,” a Khartoum-based diplomat said. “But the US does train them. It helps with logistics, planning, and so on. And they (the SPLA) do need air defence. Whether to provide air defence to the south will be a key question for the Obama administration.”

Fears of direct confrontation with Washington are being fuelled by expectations that the International Criminal Court, backed in this instance by the US, will issue an arrest warrant for Bashir within the coming weeks. The ICC chief prosecutor charged Bashir last year with genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity relating to Darfur.

A call this week by a leading Sudanese opposition figure, Hassan al-Turabi, for Bashir to surrender himself to the ICC to avoid further confrontation with the US and the west has added to tensions in Khartoum. According to family members, Turabi was subsequently arreste

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Written by torit1955

January 16, 2009 at 8:56 am

Posted in Global

Tagged with , ,

Sudan:’Thousands made slaves’ in Darfur

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‘Thousands made slaves’ in Darfur

A Sudanese rebel fighter watches an abandoned village less than an hour after Janjaweed militiamen set it ablaze in Darfur in September 2004

Strong evidence has emerged of children and adults being used as slaves in Sudan’s Darfur region, a study says.

Kidnapped men have been forced to work on farmland controlled by Janjaweed militias, a coalition of African charities says.

Eyewitnesses also say the Sudanese army has been involved in abducting women and children to be sex slaves and domestic staff for troops in Khartoum.

Up to 300,000 people have died since conflict began in Darfur in 2003.

At least 2.7 million people have fled their homes.

Sudan’s government has not yet commented on the allegations in the report, published by the Darfur Consortium on Wednesday.

Refugee

Being in a refugee camp is no safeguard against attack by militiamen

The group of 50 charities says it has around 100 eyewitness accounts from former abductees.

Thousands of people from non-Arabic speaking ethnic groups in Darfur have been targeted, its report says.

Victims have been rounded up during joint attacks on villages by the Arabic-speaking Janjaweed and the Sudanese Armed Forces, according to the study.

Civilians are also tortured and killed while their villages are razed to ethnically cleanse areas, which are then repopulated with Arabic-speaking people, including nomads from Chad, Niger, Mali and Cameroon, it says.

They were kept telling us that we are not human beings and we are here to serve them
Testimony from unnamed boy

Most of the abductees are women and girls, but there is new evidence in Darfur of kidnappers targeting men and boys for forced agricultural labour, says the report.

The abducted women and girls, meanwhile, are raped and forced to marry their captors as well as carry out household chores and sometimes cultivate crops, according to the study.

‘Told to serve’

The report includes the testimony of children forced to become domestic workers.

Child refugee

Kidnapped children are made domestic slaves, says the study

One boy said he had suffered regular beatings from his Janjaweed abductors.

“They were treating me and the other boys very badly, they kept telling us that we are not human beings and we are here to serve them, I also worked on their farms,” he said.

A woman said she was kidnapped from a refugee camp and her captors “used us like their wives in the night and during the day we worked all the time.

“The men they abducted with us were used to look after their livestock. We worked all day, all week with no rest.”

Sudan’s government has always denied the existence of slavery in the country, although Khartoum has previously admitted abductions occurred in the north-south civil war of 1983-2005, when up to 14,000 people were kidnapped.

A Rwandan African Union soldier surveys an abandoned village in Darfur in June 2006

The report calls for the joint UN-AU force to be beefed-up

But a senior Sudanese politician who did not wanted to be named said kidnappings had also occurred more recently in Darfur.

“The army captured many children and women hiding in the bush outside burnt villages,” he told the report’s authors.

“They were transported by plane to Khartoum at night and divided up among soldiers as domestic workers and, in some cases, wives.”

Call to action

The report urged Sudan’s government to disband the Janjaweed and other militia and to fully co-operate with the United Nations and the African Union.

Dismas Nkunda, co-chair of the Darfur Consortium, said: “Urgent action is clearly required to prevent further abductions and associated human rights violations, and to release and assist those who are still being held.”

The study also calls for the mandate of the joint United Nations-African Union peacekeeping force in Darfur (Unamid) to be beefed up so it can use force to protect civilians.

The Darfur Consortium also wants Khartoum to prosecute all those responsible for abductions and ban them from holding public office. It notes that no-one has ever been arrested over the wave of kidnappings.

Written by torit1955

December 17, 2008 at 11:24 am

President Salva Kiir credibility gap in Darfur

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President Salva Kiir credibility gap in Darfur

By Steve Paterno

December 15, 2008 — According to the Sudan people Liberation Movement (SPLM) official statement by Yein Mathew, the chairman of the SPLM, Salva Kiir who is the Commander-in-Chief of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA), President of Government of South Sudan as well as Vice President of Khartoum led government, will visit the genocide stricken region of Darfur in the near future. Plans are already underway with the arranged visit of the party’s high ranking delegation―scheduled for this month―to prepare the ground for Kiir’s visit.

Kiir’s visit to Darfur could not come at a worst time than when his credibility suffers and sinks to the lowest level ever. The SPLM/A chairman’s inability to impact on a resolution to the conflict in Darfur, his lack of assertive leadership at the national level, and nothing to show-off as an effective leader in South Sudan clearly diminishes the mission and whatever objectives of his visit to Darfur.

Just this month, a Darfur splinter faction of Sudan Liberation Movement (SLM), announced in a press statement that it has suspended its former chairman, Abdel Shafi. He is accused of implication to have collaborated with the South Sudanese soldiers, SPLA, for the killing of Sediq Abdel Karim, the group’s chief field commander. According to the statement from the faction, in early October this year, their chief field commander, Karim had a conflict with Shafi in the Southern Sudanese city of Wau. As a result, the SPLA intervened and arrested the commander with some of his soldiers. Few days later, their corpses tragically turned up in the vicinity of the town. The group is pressing for thorough investigation on the killing. Shafi was propped-up to the chairmanship of the group in Juba under the auspices of SPLM. He is considered to be SPLM/A darling being intimately close to some of the SPLM/A top officials. Though SPLM/A promises to probe on the killing, it has already lost its neutrality and impartiality, necessary for the role of the party to play among the Darfur factions.

Even prior to this incident, the SPLM/A was losing very fast the positive role it’s supposed to play among different Darfur factions. For example last year, a poorly orchestrated plan, duped as unification of Darfur movements, the SPLM/A brought to Juba from Darfur nine individuals alleged to represent nine factions from Darfur. Since then, some of those individuals ended up stranded in Juba without even logistical means to travel beyond the town. The coalition that was supposedly formed by these different factions has crumbled―with some of the individuals involved in the coalition―escaped from Juba in frustrations: that is for those who could afford logistics and means to get out of the town. For many in Darfur, the effort of SPLA in this respect is seen as negative involvements as well as fracturing Darfur movements to individual factions.

Again in 2006, at a Darfur peace talks in Abuja, the movements of Darfur was exposed to the worst brunt of SPLM/A tactics. Some of SPLM/A went to the Abuja peace talks, with a false claim of experienced and being skillful in negotiations so as to assist Darfur movements achieve a peaceful settlement. Unfortunately, two of SPLM/A top officials, Dr. Lam Akol who was then Khartoum foreign minister and Dr. Lual Deng, the Khartoum minister of state for finance were accused for attempts to bribe and extort the Darfur movements leaders to sign the peace deal, even if it was not in the interest of the those leaders to have done so. In the end, only one Darfur movement, the faction of Minni Minawi obliged to sign that agreement and the rest rejected it. Though the actions of those two top SPLM/A officials were probably the bidding on behalf of the National Congress Party (NCP), the image of SPLM/A and its capacity to act positively in Darfur were diminishing gradually.

The people of Darfur like the people of other Sudan’s marginalized regions have great deal of expectations and hopes from the people of South Sudan who leads the way for the liberation struggle. The liberation movements in Darfur sprung into actions by gaining their inspirations from the people of South Sudan. The Sudan People Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A) originated in South Sudan in the same manner the Sudan Liberation Movement/Army (SLM/A) originated in Darfur as an inspiration of SPLM/A with similar acronyms, a mirror imaging if you like. The SPLM/A ideals of freedom, equal citizenship and participatory rights, resonate very well with the people of Darfur. They feel for the most part that their dreams were finally realized when the SPLM/A became a partner in the government of Khartoum and Salva Kiir as the vice president.

However, these hopes and expectations were quickly dashed-off when Vice President Kiir could not affect any single decision from Khartoum. The people of Darfur soon discovered that their situation continue to deteriorate daily since Vice President Kiir came into the presidency in the Republican Palace in Khartoum. As recently as earlier this month, the International Criminal Court (ICC) Prosecutor, Luis Moreno-Ocampo who is investigating the conflict in Darfur warned the United Nations Security Council that “genocide continues” in Darfur. The UN humanitarian assessment of the situation is even bleaker. For example, in one of the UN recent reports, it states in part that “in Darfur, the lack of security is likely to displace more people and prevent sustainable return.” The report goes on to say, the conflict “continues to affect millions of people and create a complex and volatile political and security situation that remains a challenge for the humanitarian community.”

Despite the much talk of Sudan’s national general elections to be held next year, which is expected to transform Sudan, the people of Darfur cannot count on that as they will not have elections given the deteriorating security situation and the worsening humanitarian conditions in the region. It is worth mentioning that the prospects of Vice President Kiir’s and his SPLM/A party in the said elections are slim like that of the people of Darfur for one to count on. At a personal level, Vice President Kiir is caught in a constitutional dilemma as for his status to run in the elections. This leads the SPLM to be uncertain of who in the party will run for the presidency. The odds are stacked against the leader of the party. If he runs, the chances are that he may miserably lose and if he loses, there is no chance but for him to be jobless. He declared his nomination to run for the presidency and quickly withdrew it to avoid getting trapped. Now confused, he is hoping for miracles to rescue the situation. Many Sunday trips to the church seem to have not yielded result as of yet.

In view of the fact that the chairman of the party is still indecisive on the elections, his party is as much stuck on the issue or even at a complete loss. There are no preparations whatsoever from the party to set grounds for the elections. The party officials found comforts in issuing contradicting statements on the elections. It seems they are not even aware on when the elections will be held. Luka Biong, the minister for presidential affairs stated that elections will be delayed by months to allow for more preparations. He was only to be contradicted by Riek Machar, SPLM/A deputy chairman, that there will never be delays on elections. In another monotonous contradiction, the SPLM/A officials do not seem to agree or know whether Kiir will be the nominee for the presidency. Each one of them speaks their minds by dismissing the other as speaking their personal opinions on the matter. Apparently, the NCP is the only one gaining from this uncertainty. The NCP, through its influential senior official, Nafie Ali Nafie, declared that they “will stay in power even if elections were delayed for a century.”

Crown with the mismanagements of the affairs in the South Sudan under the rule of Kiir, the people of Darfur are not any more enthused about Kiir’s visit to their region. They expected Kiir to have visited them long time ago and champions for their cause thereafter, but it seems that this arranged visit is a little too late as the people of Darfur have already lost confidence in the SPLM/A leader. They have likely concluded that if Kiir cannot do the least in the South, how much will he do for the people of Darfur. Salva Kiir may visit Darfur, but whether he will be highly welcomed as it would have been if he visited earlier and championed for their cause, remains to be seen. At least for President Omar al-Bashir, when he visited Darfur and was faced with shortage of crowd to receive him, the civil servants were rounded up and forced to show up at his rally to portray an image that he is still popular in the region. For Salva Kiir, he has to pull something up, but we don’t know yet what that will be. Hopefully there is a Catholic church in Darfur that can draw some significant crowd since the fellow seems to have been doing pretty well with the church crowd in Juba.

Steve Paterno is the author of The Rev. Fr. Saturnino Lohure, A Romain Catholic Priest Turned Rebel. He can be reached at stevepaterno yahoo com

Written by torit1955

December 16, 2008 at 10:11 am