Monday, June 28, 2004

Sudan: Darfur round-up

Haven't been posting much on Sudan ... so thought I would catch-up in one mammoth post.

Interesting bit of news here (haven't seen independent confirmation of this)...
Some 3,000 Sudanese who fled fighting in the troubled Darfur region several months ago have left makeshift camps and returned to their homes around Al-Fashir, a state newspaper [Al-Anbaa] said.

[...] Both Powell and Annan, due to arrive here Tuesday and Wednesday respectively, are scheduled to tour camps for internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Al-Fashir that Al-Anbaa said are now being voluntarily evacuated by their inhabitants wanting to resume normal lives at home.
(UPDATE: More on the story above in this post.)

US Secretary of State Colin Powell will be in Khartoum tomorrow and then travel on to Darfur where he will meet people displaced by the fighting, top officials, relief workers and a cease-fire commission trying to stop the violence.
Asked what his message was for the government, Powell said: "Let the aid flow freely. Let humanitarian workers in. Use government forces and political influence to end the attacks."

"The situation is so dire that if we were able to do everything we wanted to do tomorrow there would still be a large loss of life because of the deprivations that people are under," he told reporters. "This is a catastrophe."

[...] A senior U.S. official said Powell would tell Khartoum they "should not expect any growth in the U.S.-Sudan relationship or benefits from the U.S.-Sudan relationship until they have corrected their behavior (in) Darfur."
UN Secretary General Kofi Annan will also be in Sudan (either Tuesday or Wednesday) ... and will also travel to a refugee camp in Darfur. On Friday, he told reporters that though he is not ready "to send in the cavalry", he said all countries should begin considering committing troops to protect civilians if the government does not disarm the militias in Darfur.

On Saturday, the government of Sudan again said it would crack down on the Janjaweed militias in Darfur.
The extra troops [deployed from the south of the country] will be used to secure relief corridors into the area and to arrest Janjaweed militia members, [Sudanese Foreign Minister Mustafa Osman] Ismael said.

[...] Other measures Sudan had taken included the establishment of an independent inquiry committee to probe alleged abuses of civilians, the appointment of delegates to talk to rebel factions, and the implementation of a fuel price hike to generate revenues for the relief effort, said Ismael.

[...] It has also been announced that [President Omar Hassan] al-Bashir has appointed close aide and interior minister Abdrahim Hussein as Presidential representative to coordinate efforts to restore law and order to the three Darfur states, help resettle refugees and displaced persons and smooth the relief effort.
Last week, there was word that Sudan and Chad had agreed to disarm the Janjaweed militias on both sides of the border.
"We have completed an agreement with Chad to collect arms in Darfur and the Chadian lands neighbouring Darfur at the same time," [semi-official news service] Sudanese Media Centre reported [President Omar Hassan] Bashir as saying on Tuesday during a meeting with invited journalists.

"To disarm the groups in one area without the other would not help in resolving the problem," Bashir said.

[...] Chadian President Idriss Deby's adviser on foreign affairs warned last week that Sudan's inter-tribal violence could spill over the border and said the Janjaweed had been seeking the backing of Chad's Arab tribes. [About 10 days ago, a group of Janjaweed clashed with Chadian forces.]
And according to this report, Sudan and Chad have also agreed to disarm those armed (rebel) groups that have been fighting the Janjaweed. (More on the rebels below.)

Last Friday ... word that a Sudanese government delegation is in Paris for talks with one of the Darfur rebel groups.
"We don't want to go into it [details about the talks] for the moment, that was part of the deal," Mohammed Yusef Abdallah, Sudan's minister of state for humanitarian affairs told a media conference, said as he confirmed the meeting with members of the rebel Movement for Justice and Equality (MJE).

Contacts "have already been made on the ground, during which we have discussed several problems.... The discussions are continuing," he said.

He added that talks with the other main rebel group in Darfur, the Movement for the Liberation of Sudan, would begin "very soon".
In English, the names of the rebel groups are usually written as "Justice and Equality Movement" (JEM) ... and "Sudan Liberation Movement/Army" (SLM/A)

Quick backgrounder -- SLM/A and JEM launched their revolt against the government in February 2003 after a long conflict between Arab nomads and African villagers, accusing the government of arming the Arab militias known locally as Janjaweed (rough translation - "armed man on horseback") and supporting them with aerial firepower. The government denies the charge, saying that the militias are acting independently.

The government and the rebel groups last signed a truce on April 8, but each side has since accused the other of violations.

In other news ... it seems the US is considering sending aid to Darfur through Libya.
"We have committed more than $100 million for the humanitarian and relief efforts in Darfur, and there is probably more to come," she [US National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice] said.

She added that the United States is exploring all of its options to make sure the aid gets to where it is needed. "We are working with others, with the Libyans, to try to get a third route for supplies to get in to Darfur. And we have been putting a lot of pressure on the Sudanese government to stop the janjaweed militia from doing the horrible things that they are doing in that region," she said.
The World Food Programme too has been considering the Libya route ... you can read more here about all the different routes aid agencies are considering and why.


Alternative spelling ... "Janjaweed" ... "Janjawid" ... "Jingaweit"

will continue adding alternative spellings in this space, as I find them