ME and Ophelia

Saturday, July 24, 2004

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2m Sudanese are in desperate need of aid

Have 10,000 people from Darfur have been exterminated? Or is the figure 30,000? Have one million been driven from Darfur? Or is the number two million? Have 20,000 fled over the border to the neighbouring country of Chad? Or is it 200,000?

Reports vary on the number of people that have been eliminated from Darfur. The Financial Times seemed to get it right in its report that Arab militia in Sudan have killed up to 30,000 and left 2m in desperate need of aid. But today UN emergency relief coordinator Jan Egeland says the Darfur death toll is at least 30,000 and could be high as 50,000.

Last month, at a meeting in Khartoum, Sudan's President Bashir promised US Defence Secretary Colin Powell and UN General Secretary Kofi Annan to: (1) try the Arab militia leaders believed to be responsible for atrocities; (2) disarm the militia groups; (3) grant freedom of movement to aid workers.

If by the end of this month, the security situation did not improve, President Bashir agreed that Sudan would have to accept the international community's offer of help to get food and aid safely to Sudanese refugees.

The United Nations (191 sovereign member states including U.S. and U.K.), European Union (25 European countries, including U.K.), African Union (53 African nations) and the United States of America now know that no progress whatsoever has been made by the government of Sudan (GoS) in Khartoum.

Despite the past two months of intense political pressure on GoS and the huge amount of aid and diplomatic effort given by the U.S., U.K., Ireland, Italy, Germany, France, Belgium, Holland, Netherlands, Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Kuwait, Libya - the aid and help is still not reaching all of those who need it most.

Aid workers are still being attacked, supplies are being looted, rains are making huge areas impassable, disease is spreading and the killings continue. Even the GoS admitted it cannot disarm the Arab militias that have been running amok for the past ten years.

How can GoS ever provide unimpeded access for aid to safely reach the Sudanese refugees? They can't. Even though the lives of hundreds and thousands of their citizens are at stake, the GoS are rejecting offers of outside help. Why?

The only reason I can come up with is that the GoS cannot see things the way we do. They come from such a different mindset and culture and are a hundred years or more behind us in comprehending human rights.

Well, they need to learn the error of their ways - or else.

Or else -- what? Well, here's the deal and message for GoS in Khartoum: "If you don't listen up and learn pdq, we Brits will come back and sort you out. You've had nearly fifty years to sort yourselves out since we left. Clearly you, and all those before you, can't do it. You'll not get away with threatening us. We weren't an Empire for nothing. So stick that up your flea bitten camel backsides and listen up. Or else -- you're toast.
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EU support for AU mission to include British personnel with military expertise

July 23: UK aid planes left for Darfur.

Prime Minister Tony Blair confirmed he is considering sending troops to Sudan to help distribute aid, lend logistical support to an African Union (AU) protection force to protect refugee camps from marauding militias.

"We rule nothing out, but we are not at that stage yet," Blair told reporters in London. He said the "critical thing", in the short-term, was to try and make the current international strategy work, adding "we want the European Union to make a far bigger commitment on this."

"We have a moral responsibility to deal with this and to deal with it by any means that we can," he told reporters at Downing Street. But he said the first step was to increase diplomatic pressure on the Sudanese government and he stressed the need to work by consensus with African governments through the African Union.

Mr Blair left little doubt about his willingness to consider his sixth overseas military intervention since 1997. He has described the state of Africa as a "scar on the conscience of the world", while the genocide in Rwanda inspired his doctrine of putting humanitarian intervention above state sovereignty.

Britain has been pressing for a United Nations Security Council resolution setting a deadline for the Sudanese government to control the militia and open up access for aid agencies.

Mr Blair held talks last night with Kofi Annan, the United Nations secretary general, about providing assistance for monitoring a ceasefire.
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UK International Development Secretary Mr Hilary Benn said Britain is leading attempts to stop government-backed militias in Sudan from continuing their campaign of murder, rape and terror.

He also confirmed that Britain, the largest cash donor, is heading attempts in the U.N. to force the Sudanese government to take action. "The UK has done as much, if not more, than any other nation in the world" he said.

Mr Benn's comments came as the charity Oxfam prepared to send a third aid flight to Sudan from Manston airport in Kent. The flight carrying 30 tons of water and £90,000 worth of sanitation equipment left at 7pm yesterday.
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UK pushes EU for "joint civilian military team" as backup for AU mission

July 23: UK Foreign Secretary, Jack Straw Friday said: "The Sudan army is at best passive and at worst complicit in these attacks".

Mr Straw is set to visit Sudan, and possibly Darfur, next month and will talk with EU foreign ministers on Monday as he's pushing EU members to take action on Sudan that includes sending a "joint civilian military team".

As he said it would not be a British military operation and would not be a fighting force, my guess is, given that 270 armed troops (led by the AU and funded by the EU) are about to become the first foreign troops to set foot on Sudanese soil anyway, Mr Straw is pushing the EU to support a "back-up" for the mission to include British personnel with military expertise.

July 23: U.K. Liberal Democrats have called for Britain to lead an EU military force dealing with the humanitarian crisis in Sudan.

Lib Dem spokesman Sir Menzies Campbell said this diplomatic work was not working. "It is becoming increasingly clear that food aid and pressure on the Sudanese government alone will not be sufficient to stem the impending disaster in Darfur," he wrote to Straw yesterday. "An EU military force operating under a UN mandate looks like the only answer if we are to prevent a disaster on the scale of Rwanda a decade ago. "With US and British forces stretched to breaking point, countries such as France and Germany have the opportunity to make a significant contribution. But Britain too must also contribute to any such force so far as it can.

July 23: Plaid MP backs task force for Sudan crisis - Adam Price has broken with his party's anti-war ethos to urge the deployment of troops to Sudan. If British troops, backed by a United Nations resolution, were sent in to Sudan, Mr Price promised to support the action. It would be the first time a Plaid Cymru MP backed military action by Britain since the no-fly zones were first established in Iraq in 1983.

The Conservatives have said there is a "good case" for military action.

Yay for Britain.
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The head of the British Army has said

July 23: British Army 'ready' to help in Sudan says ic Wales, UK:

Britain could send 5,000 troops to Sudan to intervene in the humanitarian crisis, the head of the Army has said. The Chief of General Staff, General Sir Mike Jackson, said the Army would be ready if called upon.

He said a brigade of 5,000 soldiers could be ready and fully equipped if the Government decided to send troops in. In an interview to be shown on BBC News 24's HARDtalk, General Sir Mike said: "If need be we will be able to go to Sudan. I suspect we could put a brigade together very quickly indeed."

Asked how many troops that would entail, he replied: "Five thousand."

Yay for the British Army :)

Update -
July 24: BBC: UK troops 'ready to go to Sudan'
July 24: Guardian: UK could send troops to Sudan 'quickly'
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Not to interfere in Darfur

Sudan had the cheek to warn Britain and the United States not to interfere in Darfur after UK Prime Minister Tony Blair said he had not ruled out military aid to help combat the crisis in Darfur.

It is my view that, by issuing the following four statements on Friday, the GoS has sealed its own fate:

(1) "We don't need any (UN) resolutions. Any resolutions from the Security Council will complicate things," said Sudan's Foreign Minister Ismail, who likened U.S. and British pressure as similar to that put on Iraq before the war.

(2) In an interview with the BBC, Sudanese Interior Minister Hussein denied there had been massacres in Darfur. "Disarming the militias is a long process that required patience," he said.

(3) "I don't understand why Britain and the United States are systematically increasing pressure against us," Sudanese Foreign Minister Ismail said yesterday on a visit to Paris." (This) pressure closely resembles the increased pressure that was put on Iraq (before the war)," he said.

(4) Sudanese Foreign Minister Ismail, in Paris this week for talks with French Foreign Minister Barnier, when asked to comment on the report that the UK was considering sending troops to help with the aid, said Khartoum would withdraw its forces from the region if British troops were to be deployed, adding: "We will give him the chance if he can give security to Darfur." "The Janjaweed are a gang of faithless thieves and assassins, who have operated outside the law for some 10 years and who are taking advantage of a state of war," the Sudanese minister told reporters.

Given that Mr Ismail does not understand the reasons why Britain and the United States (the two largest donors of aid relief to Sudan) are pressuring Khartoum for the aid to safely reach the refugees, goes to show their little, if any, understanding of human rights. And of how the Western world thinks and operates.

Clearly, the present regime in Khartoum is not fit to govern. There is enough evidence to prove they can never be trusted to do right by its people. They are no better than the lawlords, outlaws and bandits that they allow to roam Sudan and rule regions by intimidation while make a living from theft and looting.

Sudan has had nearly fifty years of independence since the British left. During most of that time, the Sudanese have endured constant war. Sudan needs help in getting its Peace Accord sorted to give a united "New Sudan" every chance to live and trade in peace.

My conclusion is that the present regime will never be fit to govern and must be removed, sooner or later. Preferably sooner.

Who could act as an interim government? I don't know. Could Darfur come under the protection of the U.N. and be made into a Peace Zone where the refugees could return to and farm while the Peace Accord is being sorted for a united and "New Sudan"? I don't know if such a thing is possible. One thing is sure though, there is enough evidence to prove that the present unelected dictatorship in Khartoum are complicit in war crimes, if only through their neglecting their responsibility to protect its people.

Personally, I would support a call for the present regime in Khartoum, along with the other perpretators of atrocities in Sudan, to be arrested and put on trial at the Hague for war crimes.

Further reading:

July 23: Race & Resources Drive Darfur Conflict - Says human rights center. The head of a US university human rights center says race and resources are the driving forces behind the conflict in western Sudan’s Darfur region. “Khartoum must be put on notice that only an open and inclusive democracy will save it from partition into two states, one black African, the other Arab", says Makau Mutua, professor of law and director of the Human Rights Center at the State University of New York in Buffalo.

July 23: Rebels in western Sudan say the pro-government Janjaweed militiamen have attacked civilians in the Darfur region several times this week, despite Khartoum's pledge to disarm the militia. The rebels also accuse the Sudanese government of sending military planes to support the Janjaweed and to harass civilians."

July 23: "A conspiracy of silence on Darfur ... in Beirut" by Julie Flint who writes: "The opportunity to engage in a debate about the monstrous goings-on in Darfur was lost as Khartoum's ambassador in Lebanon was allowed to hijack the presentation of the report and turn it into a platform for Sudan's lies and propaganda. Who was responsible for throwing neutrality in the dustbin by permitting the Sudanese ambassador to speak to his heart's content (and beyond) from a preferential seat on the podium, from where he questioned the integrity of Amnesty International, heaped scorn on human rights concerns and brazenly asserted that he would offer a visa to Sudan - but only to an "Arab" researcher "under my supervision." (Ecstatic applause.) ..."

July 22: Amid Sudan crisis, Khartoum takes delivery of Russian fighter jects: Despite Khartoum's denials of any role in the deaths, groups including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch say they have evidence that shows the government is arming pro-government Arab militias and using MiG aircraft to attack black Africans in Darfur. "When I was in Chad in February, I collected a number of testimonies from refugees from Darfur who specifically identified MiGs as having been involved in the bombings of villages and so on," said Leslie Lefkow, a researcher for Human Rights Watch who has interviewed people caught up in the conflict. "They drew pictures of what the planes looked like."

July 24: Editorial from Arab News on Darfur Crisis.
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That threatens sanctions

Yesterday, the US Congress passed a resolution calling on Sudan to arrest the leading members of the militias within 30 days. The text calls for an immediate arms embargo in Darfur and raises the possibility of sending peacekeepers to the region. Experts from the 15 Security Council nations were to discuss the draft on Friday, diplomats said.

Today, US President Bush has told Sudan to halt violence in the troubled Darfur region. Mr Bush urged Khartoum to rein in the Arab militia known as the Janjaweed, and allow relief agencies to work. His comments came after the US Congress - in a non-binding vote - called the Darfur crisis a "genocide".

Resolution key points excerpts: US to lead an international effort to prevent genocide in Darfur; US to consider multilateral or even unilateral intervention; Impose targeted sanctions; Establish a resettlement and rehabilitation fund.

The United Nations Security Council is also pressing for a resolution that could see sanctions imposed on Khartoum if it does not stop the ethnic cleansing. In the UN, Secretary-General Kofi Annan says he believes the Security Council is likely to back a draft resolution threatening Sudan with sanctions over Darfur.
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U.S. U.N. resolution that threatens sanctions

Yesterday, US Congress, by a vote of 422 to zero, passed a non-binding resolution qualifying the atrocities committed in Darfur as "genocide" and calling on the White House to lead international efforts to intervene in the region.

According to the U.N. Genocide Convention, countries are obliged to take action to stop genocide wherever it is taking place. Congress hopes it can now put further pressure on the international community to intervene.

The motion which has passed Congress goes so far as to call on the Bush administration to intervene unilaterally, should the United Nations Security Council fail to act.
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Pope John Paul II on Thursday dispatched a special envoy to Darfur, with the Vatican comparing Darfur to "Rwanda in slow motion" -- an allusion to the 1994 genocide that left at least 800,000 Rwandans dead.

French Foreign Minister Michel Barnier is due to visit Darfur next week.

Update - July 23: Patrick Hall at The Horn of Africa blog has a link to the government of Sudan's response to US Congress declaring the massacres in Sudan as genocide.
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July 22: Two rebel groups from Darfur say they will resume peace talks they broke off with the Sudanese government a few days ago. The agreement to resume negotiations was concluded during crisis talks held at the Geneva-based Center for Humanitarian Dialogue.

Reps from the AU, Chad and the UN attended the one-day meeting to try to persuade rebels hat dialogue was the only way to achieve peace.

At the end of the closed-door session, AU chief mediator said the SLM and the JEM had agreed to continue consultations with the Sudanese government in Khartoum immediately.

However, he acknowledged that the problems, which precipitated the rebel walkout have not been resolved.

The rebels abruptly broke off talks after the Sudanese government refused to demilitarize the so-called Janjaweed Arab militia, and to discuss an exchange of prisoners as preconditions for negotiations.

A spokesman for the Center for Humanitarian Dialogue, confirmed that the parties want to keep the peace process going. "The two sides have shown commitment, and what we do hope is that they follow through with that commitment, and that the innocent people of Darfur that are caught up in the fighting, that their lives can be improved and that we are not too late,"said the CHD spokesman.

Note: At a news conference earlier in the day, the U.N.'s top human rights official, Louise Arbour, expressed her concern over the events unfolding in Darfur. She said outside intervention may be necessary, if the government is unable to protect its own people.

# posted by Ingrid J. Jones @ 7/24/2004
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