Monday, June 11, 2007

Sudan News Update: Government Rebuffs France on Darfur; Rebels Ready to Talk

Sudan rebuffs French meeting over Darfur

Opheera McDoom
Khartoum, Sudan
11 June 2007 01:38

Sudan on Monday rebuffed a French initiative to host a meeting of key nations to find a solution to Sudan's war-torn Darfur region on June 25, saying the timing was not right.

Sudanese Foreign Minister Lam Akol said his country preferred to await the outcome of African Union and United Nations efforts to get peace talks back on track and put together a peacekeeping force for Darfur.

"At this particular time when we are ... waiting for the roadmap ... to be announced we don't want any distraction," Akol told reporters after meeting French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner in Khartoum.

"We think that ... the time may not be opportune for that meeting," Akol added.

Akol said all initiatives being proposed to resolve Darfur needed to be streamlined under the AU and the UN

A joint AU-UN effort to renew peace talks and provide an effective peacekeeping force has largely been recognised by all parties to the conflict as the best way forward.

Since French President Nicolas Sarkozy took office, France has taken a more proactive stance towards Darfur, which borders its former colony, Chad.

Sarkozy announced last week that foreign ministers from an "enlarged contact group", including the United States, Egypt and Sudan's ally, China, would meet in Paris on June 25 to seek a way to end to the Darfur crisis.

Aid operation

Darfur's aid operation, the world's largest, will need $650-million this year and the 7 000-strong AU peacekeeping force costs $40-million a month to sustain.

"Interest is not only money," said Kouchner, declining to say whether France would increase its aid to Darfur.

Washington calls the violence genocide, a term European governments are reluctant to use and Khartoum rejects. International experts estimate 200 000 have died in Darfur, while Sudan puts the figure at 9 000.

The UN, AU and the Sudanese government were meeting in Ethiopia on Monday to thrash out details of a hybrid force to help restore security in Darfur, where 2,5-million have been driven from their homes in more than four years of fighting.

Differences over the command and control of the force have emerged between the participants at the talks.

"The command and control structures are to be provided by the United Nations," said Akol. "The structures and the system, but not necessarily the personnel," he added.

The force will be headed by a Nigerian commander.

He said the details being discussed in Addis Ababa included the mandate, a timetable for deployment, exactly how many personnel would be needed and what equipment they would need.

Akol urged the UN Security Council to resolve to fund the force and get it quickly in place once the details were agreed.

"And we hope that the [UN] system will expedite rapid deployment of that force so that the situation in Darfur will be brought back to normal as quickly as possible," he said.

Mostly non-Arab rebels took up arms in early 2003, accusing Khartoum of neglecting the arid region. Khartoum mobilised militias, known locally as Janjaweed, to quell the revolt.

The International Criminal Court has issued arrest warrants for a junior government minister and a militia leader accused of colluding to commit war crimes.


UN: Darfur factions ready for talks

Opheera McDoom
Khartoum, Sudan
08 June 2007 10:54

All sides in the conflict in Darfur are ready to start talks to renegotiate a year-old peace accord rejected by many Darfuris as inadequate, the top United Nations humanitarian chief in Sudan said on Friday.

In his last interview before leaving his post after three years, Manuel Aranda da Silva said a descent into anarchy in Darfur is hindering the world's largest aid operation and an African peacekeeping mission.

"The security ... is worse today than it has ever been and this is linked to the breakdown in law and order. There are no good guys there anymore," he told Reuters.

Previous rounds of talks to end the violence have been stymied by rebel divisions and fighting. But Da Silva said: "I think the moment is the right moment now [for talk])."

"The government will not put any objections to the negotiation process," he said, adding all rebel factions also said they were ready to attend talks under a joint UN-African Union mediation.

"It must [start]. If it doesn't it's a disaster for Sudan. It must start soon, before August."

Da Silva said the more than a dozen rebel factions did not need to unite before talks, but needed to voice a unified position.

He said it was a political fact that the unpopular Darfur peace agreement signed between only one rebel faction and the government in May 2006 was not inclusive enough.

"The document is not a bad document. It will be renegotiated in the sense there will be areas of the [deal] that need to be changed to improve," he said.

Mostly non-Arab rebels took up arms in early 2003 accusing central government of neglecting the remote west. The revolt and subsequent government counter-insurgency campaign have driven 2,5-million people from their homes and international experts estimate 200 000 have been killed. Sudan puts the figure at about 9 000.

Arrest warrants

Da Silva said cooperation between the government and humanitarian agencies was improving through dialogue, although government suspicions remained about the 14 000 aid workers in Darfur.

The government has often accused aid workers of spying for the International Criminal Court (ICC) or Western governments.

The ICC has issued arrest warrants for a militia leader and junior government minister accused of conspiring to commit war crimes. Khartoum does not recognise the court.

Da Silva said half a million lives have been saved by the aid efforts in Darfur, which have cost billions of dollars.

"Up to now we don't have people starving to death or dying from diseases," he said, adding malnutrition rates were almost as they were before the conflict.

But Da Silva, from Mozambique, said he was most concerned about the violence against civilians, humanitarian workers and even the peacekeepers and government workers in Darfur.

"Even if the leadership of the government or rebels are not promoting these policies it is still happening," he said.

US President George Bush said this week he would consider imposing a no-fly zone in Darfur to stop government bombardment.

But Da Silva said he did not think that was seriously being considered by the international community at this time.

"Nobody has approached us and asked us what we think about no-fly zone. We consider this is more speculation than anything else at this moment."


1 comment:

Pan-African News Wire said...

Sudan accepts hybrid AU-UN force in Darfur

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
12 June 2007 04:28

Sudan on Tuesday accepted the deployment of a hybrid African Union-United Nations force to its war-ravaged region of Darfur, according to a joint statement by the AU, UN and Sudan.

It said the Sudanese government had "accepted the joint proposals of the hybrid operation" after obtaining explanations and clarifications from the two international bodies.

Delegates at the three-way talks in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, "agreed on the need for an immediate, comprehensible ceasefire accompanied by an inclusive political process", said the statement read by the AU Peace and Security Commissioner Said Djinnit.

"The proposed operation would contribute considerably to the stabilisation of the situation in Darfur, in its political, humanitarian and security dimensions," he said.

Khartoum had previously rejected attempts to send UN peacekeepers to Darfur, where a four-year conflict has killed at least 200 000 people and forced more than two million from their homes, according to the United Nations.

Sudan contests the figures, saying 9 000 people have died since the war erupted in early 2003 when ethnic minority rebels rose up against the Khartoum government, which then enlisted the Janjaweed militia group to help crush the rebellion.

There are currently about 7 000 AU peacekeepers in the region but they have been unable to stem the clashes in the region the size of France owing to a severe lack of funding and equipment.

Khartoum reached a peace agreement with Darfur rebels on May 5 2006 in Nigeria but only one of three negotiating rebel factions endorsed the deal and violence has since spiralled.

The violence, which has hindered effective humanitarian operations, and the fragmentation of the Darfur rebels, has scuppered efforts to stabilise the region.