ME and Ophelia

Sunday, July 18, 2004

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Until there's unimpeded access for aid and a war crimes enquiry

Yesterday (July 16) the two main rebel groups from Darfur SLM and JEM were supposed to attend a meeting in the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa. The meeting was an ad hoc task force set up by Khartoum over which government of Sudan (GoS) Foreign Minister Ismail presided. It was to review a joint 3-month action plan to stabilise Darfur. Reps from donor states and UN organisations also attended the meeting.

Instead of attending the meeting, the two rebel groups handed in their "terms" to the AU. The rebels do not believe the location of the meeting is neutral. Their terms state they won't attend any more peace talks until there's: (1) an international enquiry into genocide or ethnic cleansing; (2) unimpeded access for aid; (3) release of prisoners of war; (4) agreement on a neutral venue for future talks. They've been saying this for the past several weeks.

Sounds like GoS are cornered as they can't disarm Janjaweed outlaws who feel no need to follow orders from Khartoum. (Note: two reports on interviews with the Janjaweed leader are copied in a previous post below).

AU officials say a key concern at their Addis Ababa planning sessions has been signs of political divisions in Khartoum and some evidence that Sudan's President Bashir may not be in firm control of the military in Darfur. They say elements in the army and military intelligence are encouraging continued attacks by the Janjaweed in defiance of orders by the country's political leadership.

According to a recent report on the Janjaweed's leader, he and his outlaws do their own thing and don't need to listen to Khartoum. Seems Khartoum will have no option but to take up the international community's offer of help by July 30. What else can they do? Maybe GoS are so against accepting help from the international community because they see it as writing on the wall that spells the beginning of the end of their regime.

Going by the many reports that I've read, from dozens of different sources, here's my take on the situation:

As noted in my next post below, Colin Powell, when he recently met with Sudan's President Bashir in Khartoum, demanded unimpeded access for international aid and assistance and stipulated that, if it did not happen by July 30, the international community's offer of help would have to be accepted. Bashir agreed - but on one condition: that everyone stops using the word genocide. Powell agreed this (in my view: knowing it was highly unlikely that Bashir would or could comply). Perhaps that is why Kofi Annan and others are so careful over not using the word "genocide" in press releases and interviews.

No doubt, before now, Darfur could have been legally classified by the UN as "genocide". My guess is that ever since US President Bush phoned Bashir and Garang in early April, the UN wheels have been grinding into motion, albeit slowly. Since April, many "observers" from several different countries have been to Sudan to gather evidence and witness statements of genocide in Darfur; intelligence reports and satellite photos have been gathered and circulated; US/UN/EU/AU leaders have been in constant contact; several meetings in Europe have taken place between European politicians, the Darfur rebels and delegates from Khartoum; politicians from at least a dozen countries have visited the GoS in Khartoum; UK funding for humanitarian aid for Darfur is being pledged for the next 3 years; EU leaders have signed a declaration that the perpetrators must be held accountable; and a special EU fund has been set up for large AU-led peacekeeping missions.

I'd be very surprised if things don't start moving quickly by July 30. By that time, the 270 AU-led armed troops (EU funded) from Rwanda, Nigeria, Botswana and Tanzania, will be legally working in Sudan to protect the ceasefire observers. Apparently, it is the first time foreign troops will have set foot officially on Sudanese soil, which goes to show how much is changing in Africa.

It is worth noting here that the EU supports AU-led peacekeeping missions from its new 250 million euros Africa Peace Facility fund. Seems feasible (to me) that the EU is in a position to support a larger mission in Sudan. Note also, that on June 26, 2004, days before Kofi Annan and Colin Powell were due to meet in Khartoum to issue a final warning, the US and EU leaders - at an EU summit in Ireland (which held the EU presidency) that US President Bush attended - issued a joint declaration stating that those responsible for the atrocities must be held accountable.

By my reckoning, there are already quite a few hundred, possibly 500 or more, special forces - from several different AU and UN countries - on the ground in Sudan (sent in unnoticeable dribs and drabs) in the guise of observers and aid workers. This week, Libya opened its border to allow access for aid getting through into Darfur. (See my post above: maybe that's why GoS moved their people back into Darfur: to monitor what's going on). Libya even sent a plane load of aid for Darfur.

Where are all these aid planes landing? I haven't come across any reports in mainstream media that explain the logistics behind these multi million dollar missions, paid for from the public purse. If there are any controversial film makers like Michael Moore reading this, I believe there's a great story to be told on the "aid" scandals going on behind our backs and feel that it's about time we were told the whole sorry story. That'd be a good way to make the aid agencies accountable and get some heads rolling.

Personally, I would like to see Darfur become a Protectorate of the U.N. - and made into a Peace Zone - until things can be sorted through peace talks and agreements, and enough time given for a Peace Accord to be signed that would give Sudan it's one and only chance of stability.

If the peace talks break down, and the Peace Accord and ceasefire agreements fall apart, then it seems likely that military intervention on a large scale will become necessary, which would mean that Bashir and his gang are toast. I've read that large scale military intervention would entail the removal of the present regime. Hopefully, it may eventually become possible - without large scale military intervention - for the present regime in Khartoum to rub shoulders with Milosovisch in court at The Hague.

When I was very young, my father was serving in the British Army and we lived in Nairobi. Kenya for three years because of the Mau Mau war. The unforgettable sights, sounds and scents of Africa made a huge impact on my life. The Africans that I recall were tall, beautiful, gentle minded and kind. African warriors can be lean, mean and keen - and savage too. Their climate, terrain and culture are unlike anywhere else on this planet. Not to mention Arab tribal leaders. Going to war in Sudan would make Baghdad look like a piece of cake.

U.S. Congress is preparing to vote next week on officially declaring "genocide" in Darfur. (More on this in another post here, below). I've never been under the impression that America intends sending troops to Africa - or that it would ever be willing to do so. From what I can gather, they're prepared to provide humanitarian aid and assistance but expect the war to be fought by African Union led forces that are funded and supported by the European Union. If anyone reading this believes that America would send American troops to Sudan, please do comment or email. Thanks.

Hopefully, the Peace Talks will be given every chance. It seems like the US, UN and EU have made great strides over the past 12 weeks. If "genocide" is officially declared after the end of this month, it would appear the UN and EU paperwork and funding has been put in place to handle the ramifications of such a declaration. The slowness of the political and legal process is heart wrenching. Same goes for the aid agencies. I still stand by the post I wrote not long after I started posting here on the Sudan crisis: questions ought to be raised - and should heads roll - over why those in the multi billion dollar business of providing timely aid to those who need it, get away with half of it not happening and blaming the donors and weather on delays.

The UN has existed for sixty years. The charities have been raking it in for decades. Almost twenty years have gone by since Bob Geldof left his jacket behind in Darfur. Our Prime Minister, Tony Blair, has spent several years working towards cancelling the debts of the world's poorest nations. Next year, the UK will preside over the G8 summit - and it will be Live Aid's 20th anniversary. Hopefully, by that time, we will have something to celebrate.
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Update, what other blogs are saying:

July 16: Passion says Darfur groups ask for implementation of government agreements with UN, US.
July 17: Passion writes about how talks have broken down between Darfur groups, government of Sudan.

# posted by Ingrid J. Jones @ 7/18/2004
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