Monday, March 31, 2008

UNITED NATIONS (AP) - Australia's new prime minister is accusing Sudan's government of blocking deployment of a U.N.-African Union peacekeeping force to help end a five-year conflict in Darfur that's killed more than 200,000 people.

After meeting with U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, Kevin Rudd called Darfur "a continuing humanitarian tragedy" and said the Security Council needs to hold Sudan's government to account.

Rudd says he's agreed to send nine military officers to assist with preparations for the deployment of the force in Darfur, and that Australia would provide $4.58 million in humanitarian aid. Read more >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Lost in the Sahel


By Paul Salopek
Photograph by Pascal Maitre
Darfur—the road to Furawiya

The road was not really a road. Its two ruts led into Darfur, to the war in western Sudan, from the unmarked border of Chad. So much of the Sahel was like this—unmapped, invisible, yet a boundary nonetheless. The land stretched away in a monotony of gravel pans and dried grasses so translucent—so brittle—they seemed made of blown glass. The iron horizons never budged. Yet we were crossing boundaries with every passing hour, mostly without seeing them.

After I was arrested and imprisoned in Darfur, an American soldier told me, shaking his head in disgust, “You fly over this place and all you see is miles and miles of nothing.” But that was an outsider’s delusion. Every outcrop and plain was parsed by unseen tangents, lines, ghostly demarcations. They portioned off the claims of tribes, individuals, clans. They bulged and recoiled according to war and season. No-go zones encircled water holes. Certain unseen lines, masars, dictated the migration routes of nomads. There was nothing haphazard about any of this. To cross one line or to venture too far from another might invite retribution, even death. And that was the ultimate line of them all in the Sahel: the one between knowing and ignorance. Read more >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

China's Wandering Eye

Ominous news from cyberspace: Darfur advocacy groups in the United States--collectively without rival in shaping international efforts to halt ethnically targeted violence in western Sudan and eastern Chad--have been the target of cyber-espionage that most likely leads back to the Chinese government.
Beijing is angry because it is the focus of a large and intense shaming campaign highlighting the fact that China is both host of the 2008 Olympic Games--and thus custodian of the Games's various ideals--as well as complicit in the Darfur genocide by way of its support for the brutal regime in Khartoum. What was to have been Beijing's post-Tiananmen Square coming out party is rapidly becoming a public relations nightmare. And so the Chinese government has sanctioned cyber-espionage against the advocacy organizations most responsible for this shaming campaign. Read more >>>>>

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Make Sudan an Offer It Can’t Refuse

DESPITE almost 1.5 million bombing sorties flown against Germany during the Second World War, the United States and Britain failed for lack of trying to destroy the system of transport that fed the gas chambers and crematoria. Thirty-five years later, America did not, despite its unquestioned naval supremacy, protect the Vietnamese boat people. That we and our two allies capable of projecting power, France and Britain, are now distracted and divided by the wars in the Middle East is terribly unfortunate for the people of Darfur.

The genocide there is thus an unattended stepchild left to well-meaning groups and individuals who further sap the possibility of decisive action by directing attention to delicate measures of relief and equally fragile diplomacy. Blankets are necessary, but they will not stop the razing of villages. As Sudan brazenly defies, if not the world’s will, then, its wishes, and the death toll closes upon half a million, the pity is that the people of Darfur can in fact be saved. In concert with our allies or entirely alone, we have the military potential to accomplish this.

The multinational troops in Darfur have neither the training nor the mobility to defend the population adequately. Seventy-eight countries, each with its own rules of engagement, are represented in what is less a rescue mission than a camping trip to the Tower of Babel. A possibly influential force is developing in Chad, where the European Union, soon to be supplemented by Russian helicopters, will deploy weakly to defend a line drawn across largely empty desert. But why not cross that line? Violating sovereignty is a matter of immense consequence and gravity. Then again, so is genocide. Read more >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

Monday, March 24, 2008

Three Darfur war crimes suspects inaugurate new health facilities


(KHARTOUM) — Three Sudanese officials accused of taking part in the Darfur war crimes inaugurated health facilities in the town of Merowe 350 km north of the capital Khartoum.

Salah Gosh (left); Ahmed Haroun (Center); Musa Hilal (right) The officials included Salah Gosh, the head of Sudan’s National Security and Intelligence Service; Ahmed Haroun, minister of state for humanitarian affairs and Musa Hilal adviser to the ministry of Federal Affairs.

Gosh has been accused by human rights group of being one of the Sudanese officials responsible for orchestrating the war crimes in Darfur and counter insurgency campaign. He was identified by the UN panel of experts as an individual who should be sanctioned.

Musa Hilal, leader of the Darfurian Arab Mahameed clan, has been named by numerous eyewitnesses in Darfur as leading terror campaign against the African tribes in the war ravaged region. Read more >>>>>>>>>>>>>>

Darfur peacekeeping force at risk of failing, already


ABU SUROUJ, Sudan: As Darfur smolders in the aftermath of a new government offensive, a long-sought peacekeeping force, expected to be the world's largest, is in danger of failing even before it begins its mission because of bureaucratic delays, stonewalling by the Sudanese government and reluctance from troop-contributing countries to send peacekeeping forces into an active conflict.

The force, which officially took over from an overstretched and exhausted African Union force in Darfur on Jan. 1, has just over 9,000 of an expected 26,000 soldiers and police officers, and will not fully deploy until the end of the year, United Nation officials said.

Even the troops that are in place, the old African Union force plus two other battalions, lack essential equipment - like sufficient armored personnel carriers and helicopters - to carry out even the most rudimentary of peacekeeping tasks. Some even had to buy their own paint to turn their green helmets United Nations blue, peacekeepers here said. Read more >>>>>>>>>>>>>>

Sunday, March 23, 2008

If China wants attention, it should show it in Darfur

China's leaders may believe the chance for their country to gain global respect lies in the Olympic Games in Beijing, but their real chance to impress lies in Darfur.

China is the largest trading partner of the African nation Sudan and potentially its most influential ally. In November, China sent a team of military engineers to Darfur, the region of Sudan that has seen major bloodshed and turmoil the past five years. China has publicly voiced "grave concerns" about the violence in Darfur and says it is interested in stepping up efforts for an international peacekeeping force there.


If China wants to gain the world's attention, Darfur presents it with an excellent opportunity. As a nation that has sold arms to Sudan and is looking to gain a diplomatic and economic foothold elsewhere, the plight of Darfur gives China the chance to show just how serious it is about becoming a more engaged, influential player — for peace, not conflict. The world already knows about China's might. Now is the time to see its will. Read More >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Deadly Attacks in West Darfur Include Rape and Breach International Law

A report describes extensive looting during and after the attacks, and catalogs "consistent and credible accounts" of rape committed by armed men in uniform.


(DARFUR) - Recent attacks by militias and the Sudanese army on four villages in West Darfur that left at least 115 people dead and some 30,000 displaced violated international humanitarian and human rights law, a United Nations report released today has found.

The report, issued jointly by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and the United Nations–African Union Mission in Darfur (UNAMID), describes attacks on four villages north of El Geneina, the regional capital.

The attacks on the villages of Saraf Jidad, Sirba, Silea and Abu Suruj were carried out as part of a push by the Sudanese Government in late January and early February to drive back an insurgent group, the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM).

The February 8th attacks involved aerial bombardments by helicopter gun ships and fixed-wing aircraft, accompanied by ground offensives by soldiers and armed militia on horses and camels, the report says.

The report describes extensive looting during and after the attacks, and catalogs “consistent and credible accounts” of rape committed by armed men in uniform.

"These actions violated the principle of distinction stated in international humanitarian law, failing to distinguish between civilian objects and military objective," the report concludes.

"Moreover, the scale of destruction of civilian property, including objects indispensable for the survival of the civilian population, suggests that the damage was a deliberate and integral part of a military strategy," it adds. Read more >>>>>>>

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Social Injustice Darfur

Humanitarian Crisis in Darfur Continues

(19 Mar 08 -RV) People in Sudan’s Darfur region are at risk of starvation as security in the area continues to worsen. With numerous supply trucks hijacked and many drivers missing, the UN’s World Food Programme says food deliveries will become increasingly challenging. WFP spokesperson Emilia Casella notes that although the situation has not yet affected the daily rations to refugees, food deliveries have been cut in half..More >>>>>>>>>>>>>>

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Darfur envoys seek more peacekeeping support

By Thomas Atkins

GENEVA, March 18 (Reuters) - U.N. and African peace envoys on Tuesday urged donor nations to speed support to peacekeepers in war-torn Darfur, and called on Chad and Sudan to work harder to cool border tensions exacerbating the long-running conflict.

"If we can get a quicker deployment of the peacekeeping troops then we can convey the message that yes, the security is increasing," said Jan Eliasson, the U.N. special envoy to Darfur.

"For peacekeeping to be successful there has to be a peace to keep," he told a news briefing at the close of two-day talks at the United Nations offices in Geneva.

Efforts to end the conflict in which some 200,000 people are estimated to have died have been dogged by tribal clashes, tensions between Chad and Sudan, divergent interests by the international community and fragmented rebel demands.

Darfur has been beset by unrest since early 2003 when mostly non-Arab rebels took up arms against Khartoum, accusing the central government of neglect. More story >>>>>>

Monday, March 17, 2008

EU boycotts China oil firm over funding of Darfur regime

By Kim Sengupta
Monday, 17 March 2008


The European Parliament has disinvested in a firm accused of being one of the chief bankrollers of the Sudanese regime's military campaign in Darfur after pressure from MEPs and human rights activists.


The Independent can reveal that, in a significant step in boycotting firms whose revenues are said to fuel the genocide, the EU has sold its shares in the Chinese oil giant PetroChina/ CNPC. The move follows revelations that MEPs' pension funds continued to be invested in the company, despite widespread criticism of Chinese support for the regime in Khartoum.

The decision strengthens the international campaign to apply pressure on the Sudanese government over the continuing killings, rapes and forced evictions in Darfur by its own troops and the Janjaweed militia which colludes with state forces.

China is the foremost foreign investor in Sudan and a main supplier of weapons. It buys two thirds of Sudanese oil output.

Eighty Nobel laureates, politicians and artists have written to the Chinese President Hu Jintao urging greater action on Darfur. The actors George Clooney and Mia Farrow, as well as the film director Steven Spielberg, who recently withdrew from his role as artistic director of the Beijing Olympics, have been among those highlighting the suffering resulting from some of the Chinese-linked revenue.

The Independent revealed last week that the conflict in Darfur had entered a violent and deadly new phase. Internal reports by humanitarian agencies operating in the region reveal that the active Sudanese government-backed military phase of the conflict, thought to have ended early in 2005, has resumed, with horrifying consequences. Read more >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Oil for China, Guns for Darfur

A new report by a nongovernmental organization links Beijing's access to Sudan's oil with China's sale of small arms used in the Darfur conflict
by Moira Herbst

China's thirst for oil is causing bloodshed. So says New York-based nongovernmental organization Human Rights First, which on Mar. 13 released a report linking China's rising imports of Sudanese oil with sales of Chinese small weapons to Khartoum, used to further the deadly conflict in the western region of Darfur. The report is part of a broader campaign called Made in China: Stop Arms Sales to Sudan, timed to coincide with the runup to the Beijing Olympics in August. "China's huge appetite for oil from Sudan filled Khartoum's coffers, enabling Sudan to buy Chinese arms," says Betsy Apple, a Human Rights First program director and author of the report. "It's a toxic oil-for-arms relationship." Apple says the group is calling for China to halt arms sales to Sudan immediately. Read more >>>>>>>>>>>>

Pressure on China to act

THE bloodshed in Darfur, rather than abating after UN peacekeepers finally deployed to the war-torn region in western Sudan earlier this year, has instead gotten worse.

The tragedy is that such news should come as no surprise. Sudan, which has thumbed its nose at the world for five years, either ignoring or undermining efforts by the international community to stop government-backed, murderous attacks on civilians in Darfur, has recently stepped up assaults, again, on innocent inhabitants in the region. Observers say the level of violence – including murder, rape, looting and destruction of property – is now as bad as its worst levels, seen back in 2003 and 2004.

For Sudan’s government, embroiled in a brutal war with rebels from the Darfur region, the world’s reluctance to press the regime with more than heated words and half-hearted attempts to intervene have emboldened the authorities. Despite the carnage – which some experts now say has cost 400,000 lives and displaced more than three million people – the UN has so far been able to field just over 9,000 members of a planned contingent of 26,000. And most of those now on the ground representing UNAMID (United Nations African Union Mission to Darfur) have come from the previous, and largely ineffective, African Union force of some 7,500 soldiers. Read more >>>>

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

We were armed by Sudan, say Darfur killers

By Nima El Bagir

Adjusting his camouflage turban, the commander pointed at the weapons and vehicles inside his camp in Sudan's war-torn region of Darfur.

Telegraph TV: Preview of 'Unreported World: Meet the Janjaweed'
"All the hardware that we have - where did we get it from?" said Mohammed Hamdan. "Do you think we just magicked it out of the air? It belongs to the government."


With those words, he destroyed a myth carefully crafted by Sudan's regime.

Hamdan commands hundreds of gunmen from the notorious Janjaweed militia, which human rights groups blame for countless atrocities in Darfur's civil war.

Instead, Mr Bashir has denounced them as "bandits and thieves" and denied giving them any arms or supplies.

Yet Hamdan spoke near a Toyota Land Cruiser, mounted with a heavy machinegun, and his fighters were armed with mortars, anti-aircraft guns and Kalashnikov rifles. "The weapons, the cars, all that you see, we got it from the government," he said. Read more >>>>>>>>>>>

Saturday, March 08, 2008

U.S. and Canada team up for Darfur initiative

Steven Edwards , Canwest News Service

UNITED NATIONS - Canada partnered with the United States on Thursday in a bid to speed up deployment of a 26,000-strong peacekeeping force to Sudan's Darfur region.

The United Nations Security Council approved the joint UN-African Union force last year, but equipment shortages and some administrative foot-dragging by the Sudanese government has meant only 9,200 soldiers are currently on the ground - and 7,000 of them had been there in an earlier AU force.

The U.S.-Canadian initiative aims at bringing together what one official called a "captive audience" of countries willing to fill equipment needs.


Canada has already delivered 105 armoured personnel carriers as part of a much wider aid package, but the mission still lacks vehicles and helicopters both for ground and air mobility and for firepower.

Belgium, Britain, France, the Netherlands, Norway and Italy were among countries attending the first of weekly meetings Thursday hosted by U.S. and Canadian diplomats at UN headquarters. Russia said Wednesday it is in talks aimed at delivering helicopters.

"Canada and other partners are concerned about the delays and is encouraging discussion. . . to create security in the region and to support renewed peace talks," said Eugenie Cormier-Lassonde, a spokeswoman with the Foreign Affairs Department. Read more >>>>>>>>>>>>>

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Sudan 'still bombing in Darfur'

A BBC correspondent in Chad has seen helicopters drop bombs over the Sudanese border in Darfur.
Stephanie Hancock says she saw a helicopter flying across the sky, then heard explosions and saw clouds of smoke coming from the ground.

Nations sending peacekeepers to Darfur are due to discuss how to speed up the force's deployment later at the UN.

Earlier, Russia offered to provide some of the helicopters which the force needs to move around the vast area.

So far only 9,000 of the planned 26,000 troops are on the ground.

Scared

Our correspondent in Baga Katala on the eastern Chadian border with Sudan was with a group of refugees who had fled previous bombing in Darfur.


They said Sudan's military wanted to stop them returning home.
Thousands of people have fled a recent government offensive in West Darfur.

Our correspondent said the helicopter was a dark colour - the refugees said the Sudanese military helicopters are black. Read more >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Beijing's Propaganda Campaign Can't Obscure Complicity in Darfur Genocide

Recent massive civilian displacement and destruction in West Darfur, orchestrated by the National Islamic Front regime in Khartoum, has been amply chronicled by UN and nongovernmental humanitarian organizations, as well as by journalists on the ground (see especially an excellent overview by Lydia Polgreen of the New York Times, “Scorched-Earth Strategy Returns to Darfur” [dateline: Suleia, West Darfur], March 2, 2008, http://www.nytimes.com/2008/03/02/world/africa/02darfur.html?em&ex=1204693200&en=d7ed1f3a93bc9c6f&ei=5087%0A. See also my two recent analyses of this brutal campaign at
http://www.sudanreeves.org/Article205.html and http://www.sudanreeves.org/Article204.html). Hundreds have been killed or died as a result of the violence and subsequent flight. Some 60,000 people have been newly displaced, more than 13,000 of these into a highly insecure region of Eastern Chad. Some 20,000 civilians are effectively trapped in the mountainous Jebel Moun region to the east of the initial assaults, and are prey to Khartoum’s ongoing bombing attacks, as well as ground attacks by regular army forces and Janjaweed militias. Read more >>>>>>>>>>

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Arab militias, backed by the government, return in Darfur


SULEIA, Sudan: The janjaweed are back.

They came to this dusty town in the Darfur region of Sudan on horses and camels on market day. Almost everybody was in the bustling square. At the first clatter of automatic gunfire, everyone ran.

The militiamen laid waste to the town - burning huts, pillaging shops, carrying off any loot they could find and shooting anyone who stood in their way, residents said. Asha Abdullah Abakar, wizened and twice widowed, described how she hid in a hut, praying it would not be set on fire.

"I have never been so afraid," she said.

The attacks by the janjaweed, the fearsome Arab militias that came three weeks ago, accompanied by government bombers and followed by the Sudanese Army, were a return to the tactics that terrorized Darfur in the early, bloodiest stages of the conflict.

Such brutal, three-pronged attacks of this scale - involving close coordination of air power, army troops and Arab militias in areas where rebel troops have been - have rarely been seen in the past few years, when the violence became more episodic and fractured. But they resemble the kinds of campaigns that first captured the world's attention and prompted the Bush administration to call the violence in Darfur genocide.

Aid workers, diplomats and analysts say the return of such attacks is an ominous sign that the fighting in Darfur, which has grown more complex and confusing as it has stretched on for five years, is entering a new and deadly phase - one in which the government is planning a scorched-earth campaign against the rebel groups fighting here as efforts to find a negotiated peace founder. Read more >>>>>>>>>>>>>