Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Sudan News Update: President al-Bashir Denies Darfur War Crimes

Sudan leader denies Darfur crimes

Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir has denied that his armed forces have targeted civilians in Darfur, in an exclusive interview with the BBC.

"I challenge anybody to bring me evidence that proves the Sudanese armed forces attacked and killed citizens in Darfur," he told the BBC's HARDtalk.

In his first TV interview since being indicted on war crimes charges, he dismissed talk of crimes as propaganda.

Mr Bashir was indicted by the war crimes court on 4 March.

He has poured scorn on the International Criminal Court charges, which were the first issued by The Hague-based body against a sitting president.

'Fighting rebels'

In the Sudanese capital, Khartoum, Mr Bashir told HARDtalk: "What has been reported to have happened in Darfur did not actually happen at all.

"What happened in Darfur was an insurgency. The state has the responsibility to fight the rebels."

He added: "We have never fought against our citizens, we have not killed our citizens."

The ICC has accused President Bashir of two counts of war crimes - intentionally directing attacks on civilians and pillage - as well as five counts of crimes against humanity, including murder, rape and torture.

HARDtalk quizzed Mr Bashir about claims the Sudanese armed forces had used excessive force.

The joint United Nations-African Union (Unamid) peacekeeping force has raised concerns over an attack on a refugee camp in Kalma, South Darfur, in August 2008, when 38 people died.

'Human shields'

The Sudanese leader said government forces had been searching for arms used to shoot down a Unamid plane from inside the camp when rebels opened fire.

"Our citizens were used as human shields by the rebels," he said. "Therefore, it was only natural for our forces to carry out their operational duties.

"The shooting started from inside the camp, the soldiers returned fire and yes there were casualties. The issue was resolved with the citizens concerned."

The UN estimates 300,000 people have died in Darfur's six-year conflict and millions more have been displaced.

But President Bashir said figures for casualties in Darfur were "less than one tenth of what has been reported".

"Any talk about crimes committed inside Darfur is a hostile and organised media propaganda to tarnish the reputation of the government and is a part of the declared war against our government," he added.

Mr Bashir has denounced the ICC warrant as part of a neo-colonial Western plot to take over Sudan.

The Darfur conflict began in early 2003, when the government and Arab militias launched a campaign against black-African rebel groups.

You can see the full interview with President Omar al-Bashir on the BBC News channel in the UK on 13 May at 2330 BST and 15 Friday 0430 BST.

International viewers can see it on BBC World News on 14 May at 0330, 0830, 1430, 2030 and 2230 GMT.

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2009/05/12 16:15:57 GMT

Militia clashes with army in North Darfur capital

Tuesday 12 May 2009

May 11, 2009 (EL-FASHER) – The Sudan Armed Forces clashed with a previously allied militia in the state capital of North Darfur on Sunday, the UN-African Union hybrid peacekeeping operation in Darfur reported today.

Pro-government janjaweed militiamen on top of a heavily armed pickup patrol the main road out of the Kirinding-2 refugee camp at the outskirts of Al-Geneina, Sudan Tuesday, April 24, 2007 (AP) Sporadic shooting in El Fasher’s main market were the result of hostilities between the Sudanese military and the Central Reserve Force. There were reports of fatalities during the clashes.

The army has been hunting militiamen accused of killing one of its soldiers. According to the independent Radio Dabanga shortwave, on Sunday there was an exchange of gunfire as soldiers were hunting inside town, wounding at least four people.

Yesterday the Sudan Tribune reported that soured relations between the Sudanese army and a local militia called Border Intelligence Division prompted a visit Sunday by the Minister of Defense Abdel-Rahim Ahmed Hussein.

Two members of the militia had been killed by the Sudanese army after refusing to be disarmed on Friday. On Saturday they then attacked the army and killed two soldiers to revenge the deaths Friday.

Then on Sunday panic broke out amongst the worshippers in the Mosques of Goba, Ziyadiyah, Diem Selk and Nasser. But eventually the militia withdrew from the northern and eastern parts of El Fasher town and calm returned today, reported Radio Dabanga.

Two men were later arrested by the government for involvement in the market shootings, said the peacekeeping mission, known as UNAMID, which dispatched an investigation patrol to the market area to speak with locals about the situation.

In a press statement, the Mission assessed that the security situation in some parts of North Darfur has been “relatively tense” during the last three days.

Though the UN-African Union Mission continues to conduct scores of daily “confidence-building patrols,” escorts and night patrols in and around refugee camps, its own personnel is increasingly targeted.

“A surge of banditry activities targeting UN personnel in North Darfur were recorded and carjacking incidents were reported in both North and South Darfur,” stated the UNAMID daily media brief.

Moreover, there has been an increase in burglaries targeting UNAMID staff accommodation. Three cases were recorded last week in which staff members’ houses were broken into and their valuables and personal effects, including cash, were taken away, peacekeepers acknowledged.

Chad rebels say Sudan asked them to leave

Monday 11 May 2009

May 10, 2009 (PARIS) — Chad’s rebels said they moved inside the eastern part of their country because Sudan told them to evacuate their bases in the troubled region of Darfur and to leave the country.

"Based on the Doha agreement signed with the Chadian government, the Sudanese government asked us to leave our bases in Sudanese territory," Acheikh Ibni Oumar, the Union of Resistance Forces (UFR) representative in Europe told Sudan Tribune.

The rebel representative further said all they had done was move inside Chad to draw the attention of the international community to the existing political crisis in the country and the need to pressure President Idriss Deby to implement democratic reforms.

"We didn’t attack the Chadian army but we were attacked" he further underscored.

In reconciliation talks brokered by Qatar and Libya, Sudan and Chad agreed on May 3 to normalize relations and to build confidence in order to ease the current tension between the two neighbouring countries.

The Chadian rebels moved from Darfur into eastern Chad on May 5 two days after the signing of the Doha deal.

Ibni Oumar, who admitted they were supported by the Sudanese government, said they initially arrived into Darfur on the request of the Chadian government and in accordance with the Sirte agreement between the Chadian government and the opposition forces.

According to the Sirte agreement of 25 October 2007, brokered by Libya and Sudan, Khartoum had to host the Chadian rebels ahead of integrating them into Chad’s national army. However, a tripartite committee from Sudan, Libya and Chad has never met to monitor the implementation of this issue.

Already in 2006, Chad had accused Sudan of harbouring the rebels, and following the failure of Tripoli agreement between Sudan and Chad, Libya sought to contain the conflict by convincing the Chadian rebels to negotiate with President Deby.

The rebel official said the aim of their military move last Tuesday was to force the Chadian government to reengage in talks with them in order to negotiate a political solution with them – though other rebel figures acknowledge that the objective of the offensive is to capture the capital Ndjamena. He added that there is a political crisis and Chad’s international partners have to put pressure on President Deby to negotiate with them.

He further said they have contacts with the French government who admit the need for political reform in Chad. "But Paris has failed to persuade him (Deby) to undertake a democratic reform, and this means the failure of the French policy in Chad" he added.

The UFR official also acknowledged that they were defeated by the government army but he said they destroyed a small column, asserting that the major part of their force remains intact.

The Chadian government says 225 rebels and 22 soldiers were killed in two days of clashes on Thursday and Friday south of Abéché.

Acting Chadian Defense Minister Adoum Younousmi said the rebels were finished, saying: "They will take two or three years to rebuild."

Sudan says expecting rebel attack on Darfur capital

Monday 11 May 2009

May 10, 2009 (EL-FASHER) — Sudan said today it was expecting a rebel attack on the capital of North Darfur State, Al-Fasher, expressing its readiness to deal with any assailants.

Minister of Defense Abdel-Rahim Ahmed Hussein Minister of Defense Abdel-Rahim Ahmed Hussein said today that they expect an attack by the Justice and Equality Movement on Al-Fasher. He added the Sudan Armed Forces are ready to deal with any aggression on the country.

The minister pointed to the movements by JEM fighters at the north-western borders of the country’s saying they have the support of the Government of Chad.

The minister made a short visit on Sunday morning to the capital of North Darfur state to inspect the security situation and review military plans to secure the three capitals of the region, particularly Al-Fasher. He also visited Nyala the capital of South Darfur state where he inaugurated some new buildings for the Sudanese army there.

Reports from Khartoum say the security services have expected since a month a major attack on one of the capitals of the three states in Darfur region. JEM rebels also threatened to attack the region.

More than a year ago JEM warned it would attack the West Darfur capital at El-Geneina and told civilians and aid workers to stay in their compounds and away from government military bases. Though the insurgents have never held any of the region’s major towns, a successful raid on the El Fasher airport in 2003 inflamed the situation in Darfur.

Two days ago JEM clashed with the former rebel Sudan Liberation Movement of the Senior Presidential Assistant Minni Minnawi, near Umm Baru, northwest of El-Fasher. JEM official Suleiman Sendal accused the SAF of taking part in the fighting but the army’s spokesperson dismissed the charge.

Reliable sources from El Fasher said the visit of the defense minister to the region was also motivated by the tension between the Sudanese army and a local militia called Border Intelligence Division.

Two members of the militia were killed by the Sudanese army after refusing to be disarmed on Friday. On Saturday they attacked the SAF and killed two soldiers to revenge the deaths Friday.

The Sudanese government and JEM rebels are holding talks in Doha on the resumption of the peace process and the implemtation of the goodwill agreement signed last February.

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