ME and Ophelia

Thursday, June 24, 2004

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Colin Powell will visit Khartoum Tuesday

Today Reuters reports Secretary of State Colin Powell will visit Sudan's Darfur region next week to pressure Khartoum to stop the humanitarian crisis caused by government-backed militias attacking residents.

Interesting news but not unexpected given that the Peace Accord talks formally open in Kenya tomorrow and Kofi Annan is due to visit Darfur next week. The rebel SPLM/A and JEM launched a revolt in Darfur last year, accusing the government of neglect and of arming Arab units known as Janjaweed militias, who loot and burn ethnic African villages. Khartoum has denied the charges. Sudanese government teams met with the SPLM/A and JEM in Paris (and possibly Germany) early this week as the first round of peace talks and workshops began on Tuesday June 22 before formally starting in Kenya tomorrow June 25.

Report excerpt: "The State Department said Powell will visit the capital, Khartoum, on Tuesday as well as the western region of Darfur, where U.S. officials accuse Khartoum-supported militias of 'ethnic cleansing' against black Africans.

"The secretary will make clear our concern about the people in Darfur (and) will make clear that we believe that much of the hardship has been caused by the activities and the violence perpetrated by the militias," State Department spokesman Richard Boucher told reporters.

"The secretary's visit to Sudan is intended to continue to call attention to the dire humanitarian situation in Darfur, to do whatever we can to stop the violence there, and to make sure that the needy people of that region receive supplies," he added.
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Update inserted 21.10 HRS June 24 via Xinhuanet: Swiss Foreign Minister Micheline Calmy-Rey left Switzerland today for a three-day trip to Sudan where she is expected to witness the humanitarian crisis in Darfur.

It is the first visit by a Swiss foreign minister to the African nation, which has been plagued by fighting and civil war for 21 years. According to the foreign ministry, Calmy-Rey will visit camps set up for displaced persons in Darfur.

Calmy-Rey is also expected to discuss the peace process and bilateral relations with Sudanese officials in the capital, Khartoum, during her visit. But the foreign ministry would not confirm whether Calmy-Rey was traveling to Sudan to mediate a peace deal for Darfur.

Switzerland played a key role in brokering a truce between the Muslim-led government in the north and rebels in the Christian south. But despite encouraging steps towards peace in southern Sudan, the separate conflict in the western region of Darfur has continued to rage since early 2003.
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Update 24 June: UN: UN health envoy visits Darfur camps to assess humanitarian needs.
June 24 allAfrica: "Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA) and Sen. Sam Brownback (R-KS) today announced they are leaving Washington on Friday night for Darfur to assess humanitarian crisis.

# posted by Ingrid J. Jones @ 6/24/2004
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