ME and Ophelia

Wednesday, June 23, 2004

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To resolve crisis in Darfur

23 June Nairobi Kenyan Foreign Minister Kalonzo Musyoka says Nairobi is prepared to take a leading role in resolving the political crisis in the Darfur region of western Sudan. The 17-month conflict in Darfur has caused more than one million people to flee their homes, creating what the United Nations describes as the world's worst humanitarian crisis.

Foreign Minister Musyoka says that in a recent telephone conversation, U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan requested that Kenya lead efforts to bring peace to Darfur. "He specifically requested that if Kenya could play a leadership role in this conflict in western Sudan, the Darfur region, "I'm sure this is a challenge you would want to take," said Mr. Musyoka.

Kenya has hosted peace talks between the Sudanese government and rebels from the Sudan People's Liberation Army, which is based primarily in the south of the country. A final peace agreement is due to be signed in the coming weeks.

But Mr. Musyoka says that peace deal will mean little if the Darfur question is not addressed, and with Kenya's help. "Although we have successfully tried to mediate in the conflict in the south, there cannot be sustainable peace in Sudan without making sure that even the west is comfortable. So we are ready to take up that challenge," he added.

Black African rebels in Darfur started an insurgency against government forces in February 2003, because of what they saw as neglect by the government, which is predominantly ethnic-Arab. Human rights groups charge that Arab janjaweed militias, supported by the government, are attacking Darfur's black civilian population in response. More than one million people have fled their homes for the relative safety of refugee camps in Darfur and over the border in Chad. For more than a year, Sudan allowed little access to international aid groups. The refugees face shortages of food, possible outbreaks of disease and continued attacks by the militias.

Last week, Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir pledged to disarm all the militias. His government has also recently allowed greater access to the refugee camps by aid groups.
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Agree to disarm militias

23 June Khartoum Reuters: Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir said Africa's largest country had agreed with neighbouring Chad to disarm militias on both sides of the border, a semi-official news service reported on Wednesday.

Two rebel groups launched an uprising in February 2003 accusing the government of neglect and of arming Arab militias to loot and burn African villages. The Khartoum government denies the charge, saying that the Arab militia groups, known locally as Janjaweed, are outlaws.

"We have completed an agreement with Chad to collect arms in Darfur and the Chadian lands neighbouring Darfur at the same time," Sudanese Media Centre reported 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. Aid workers say about 158,000 refugees from Darfur have fled into Chad. Humans rights groups, aid agencies and refugees have said that Janjaweed, with government support, have crossed several times into Chad to attack local villagers and refugees.

Bashir ordered "a complete mobilisation" to disarm all illegal armed groups in the Darfur region on Saturday, including the Janjaweed, who have been accused of burning African farming communities to the ground to drive away villagers. The government and the rebel groups signed a truce with the government on April 8, but each side has since accused the other of truce violations.

# posted by Ingrid J. Jones @ 6/23/2004
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