Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Sudan News Briefing: US Escalates Threats Against Oil-rich African Nation

House Passes Bill on Sudan Sanctions

By SAM HANANEL, Associated Press Writer
Monday, September 25, 2006

(09-25) 18:03 PDT WASHINGTON,(AP)--The House on Monday approved a bill that would impose sanctions on the government of Sudan, as lawmakers warned that tougher action is needed to stem the death and suffering in that nation's Darfur region.

The bill, passed by unanimous consent, authorizes sanctions against anyone President Bush determines is responsible for atrocities and war crimes in the conflict that has left more than 200,000 people dead and 2.5 million homeless since 2003.

The Senate passed a nearly identical measure last week and is expected to endorse the House version this week, sending it to the president's desk for his signature.

Penalties under the measure include blocking assets, refusing to grant Sudanese officials entry to the United States and preventing certain ships from entering U.S. ports. The legislation encourages Bush to deny the government of Sudan oil revenues and access to military equipment.

"This bill will do much to help the death and suffering in Darfur, but we, along with the international community, must do more," said Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kan., who has championed the measure. "Aid workers are being killed and the people they were helping are disappearing. The situation is growing worse each day and the world must continue to help in any way we can."

The measure also asks the United Nations Security Council to suspend the Sudanese government's rights and privileges of membership in the U.N. until it agrees to halt attacks against its people.

Passage of the sanctions bill had stalled over language in the House version that would have encouraged the growing movement in some states to divest from companies doing business with Sudan. The Bush administration insisted the provision be removed due to legal questions of whether state divestment interferes with foreign policy.

The Darfur conflict began when rebels of ethnic Africans revolted against the Arab-led government. The government responded with a brutal suppression and Arab militias, known as the Janjaweed, attacked villages.

Last month, the U.N. Security Council authorized a peacekeeping force for Darfur of about 20,000 troops to bolster a smaller African Union force that is undermanned and underfunded. But the Sudanese government has refused to consent and the region has become more insecure for aid workers trying to help refugees.

"As we stand here ... the Janjaweed militia is continuing to rape and kill, wiping out generations of people in Darfur," said Rep. Frank Wolf, R-Va., who sponsored the House measure. "It is unacceptable and the world must act."

Bush last week named Andrew Natsios, the former director of the U.S. Agency for International Development, as his special envoy to work for peace in Sudan. Natsios met Monday with Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., and other lawmakers to discuss his mission and how Congress can continue to work on the issue.

URL: http://sfgate.com/cgibin/article.cgifile=/n/a/2006/09/25/national/w180318D44.DTL

Latest News From Sudan At Sudan.Net

News Article by The Guardian posted on September 24, 2006 at 00:15:11: EST (-5 GMT)

Sorry George Clooney, but the last thing Darfur needs is western troops

The rebels, not Khartoum, scuppered this year's peace deal - the solution has to be an expanded African Union force

Jonathan Steele
September 19, 2006
The Guardian

An air of unreality, if not cant, surrounds the latest upsurge of calls for UN troops to go into Sudan's western region of Darfur. The actor George Clooney takes to the stage at the UN security council, pleading for action. Tony Blair seizes on the issue to write letters to fellow EU leaders. In cities around the world protesters hold a "global day for Darfur" to warn of looming genocide. Is it really possible that western governments, in spite of being burned by their interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan, would use force against another Muslim state?

Groups in the west have long campaigned to have the government in Khartoum replaced. In the US the Christian right and some of Israel's friends portray it as an Islamic fundamentalist regime. Human rights activists raise the issue of slavery to suggest that Arab raiders, supported by the government, are routinely abducting Africans from the south to use as human chattel. The Clinton administration listed Sudan as a terrorist-supporting state because Osama bin Laden once lived there.

Against this background it was always going to be hard to expect fair reporting when civil war broke out in Darfur three years ago. The complex grievances that set farmers against nomads was covered with a simplistic template of Arab versus African, even though the region was crisscrossed with tribal and local rivalries that put some villages on the government's side and others against it.

It is true that the government, as often happens in asymmetrical war, overreacted in its use of force when rebels attacked. The so-called janjaweed militias that Khartoum organised and armed did not distinguish between civilians and guerrilla fighters. They burned huts, raped women and put tens of thousands of civilians to flight, forcing them across the border into Chad or into camps inside Darfur. But the rebels also committed atrocities, a fact that was rarely reported since it upset the black-and-white moral image that many editors preferred.

In most wars, governments spin and the media (at least sometimes) seek the truth. Darfur reversed the trend: the media spun while governments were more sophisticated. In spite of efforts to describe the killing in Darfur as genocide, neither the UN nor the EU went along with this description. It was not because of moral myopia, but because they understood the difference between a brutal civil war and a deliberate policy of ethnic cleansing. Darfur is not Rwanda. Only the US accepted the genocide description, though this seemed a concession to domestic lobbies rather than a matter of conviction. Washington never followed through with the forcible intervention in Darfur that international law requires once a finding of genocide is made.

Instead, it supported other western governments in encouraging the African Union (AU) to broker peace talks between Khartoum and the rebels. These culminated in May in an agreement that requires the janjaweed to disarm before the rebels do. It also gives Darfur's rebel leaders powers to run the region on their own. Alas, two rebel groups refused to sign. Any fair account of this summer's relapse into war would therefore put most blame on the rebels, whose field commanders recently split into rival groups while their political leaders squabbled in their safe havens in the Eritrean capital, Asmara.

They may have legitimate reasons for arguing that the peace deal did not give enough. Some of the displaced say Khartoum should have to pay families compensation. Others say the peace deal has no enforcement measures and fails to protect people who want to go back to rebuild their villages. But the answer is to conduct more talks, not resume the war. African and western diplomats are trying to get the rebels to think again, but find themselves frustrated by the rebels' feuds. Blair's letter on Darfur was careful to call for pressure on the rebels as well as Khartoum, even though most of the media chose to see it as one-dimensional.

Putting international peace monitors into Darfur to protect the displaced in their camps was vital. Two years ago the Khartoum government accepted this. It allowed the AU to deploy 7,000 troops. But, short of money, helicopters, and other equipment, the AU went along with western governments earlier this year in asking the UN to take over. This is where the debate is now. No one expects that western troops are going to move into Sudan. It has taken weeks to bolster the UN force in Lebanon, while in Afghanistan most Nato members have held back from sending troops into a failing war. In practice, a UN force would be nothing more than the existing AU one with reinforcements, perhaps from India and Bangladesh.

So, behind all the clamour for UN intervention, what is really being discussed is a change in badges. Having AU troops to handle an African problem has symbolic, cultural and political value. But African governments are overstretched, whereas the UN has an established system of subsidising troop- supplying governments. Ironically, given the demands in the US for firm action, it was Congress that recently refused to fund Bush's request for help to the AU.

What of the effort to indict Sudanese leaders before an international court for committing atrocities? Fear of arrest is said to be one reason why Sudan's president, Omar al-Bashir, has blocked UN troops. Even if a UN force were still 90% African, he might think it could include a western-piloted snatch squad tasked to capture him or his Darfurian lieutenants. If that were the case, the security council resolution that recently called on Khartoum to accept a UN force carefully avoided any reference to international trials. So did an EU statement last week.

In practice, then, there is a good chance that this week's negotiations at the UN will produce a compromise - neither the existing African Union force nor a new UN one, but a hybrid. It could be an AU force with African leadership but under a UN mandate and answerable to the security council. Its contingents might include non-Africans but its mandate would be little different from the current one. After the huffing and puffing of the past few days, this would be a sensible outcome.

Suspicions remain on all sides. Khartoum feels betrayed by the US. After making a peace deal in the south that rules out sharia law and provides for a referendum on secession, it expected US sanctions would be lifted. It felt it had shown it was not fundamentalist or even Islamist since its new government of national unity includes southern Christians and other non-Muslims. As for terrorism, Washington has produced no evidence for a decade.

Meanwhile, many of Khartoum's critics suspect the government has not abandoned its indiscriminate bombing raids and excessive use of force against rebel villages. No foreign peacekeepers, whether AU or UN, can monitor all the vast terrain of Darfur. Sudan's government must discipline its own commanders.

That said, the compromise of an expanded AU force, whether labelled UN or not, is still the best option. The "something must be done" brigade will be upset, but sending foreign troops into Sudan without Khartoum's consent would be nothing short of disaster.

News Article by XINHUA posted on September 25, 2006 at 12:51:21: EST (-5 GMT)

Sudanese President announces travel restrictions on U.S. officials

XINHUA (09/25) -- Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir announced on Sunday a travel ban on U.S. officials, significantly restricting their movement in the Eastern African country.

Under the measures, no American official in Sudan is allowed to travel more than 25 km away from the presidential palace in Khartoum without a special permit, Bashir told a press conference.

"Any American official who comes to Sudan, we will stamp his passport for only 25 km from the presidential palace," he said, adding that the restriction would be effective as of Monday.

Bashir said the move was in response to similar restrictions imposed by the U.S. administration on Sudanese officials in the United States.

"The (U.S.) decision was that any Sudanese official has only 25 km (as a radius) from the White House in Washington," he said.

Relations between the United States and Sudan, which have been soured for years, were further strained in 2005 when Washington described the violence in Darfur, west Sudan, as genocide, a claim vehemently rejected by Khartoum. The U.S. government, along with its Western allies, has been pressuring Sudan to agree to a UN peacekeeping operation in Darfur.

News Article by AP posted on September 25, 2006 at 12:48:43: EST (-5 GMT)

Sudan's president accuses U.S., through U.N., of meddling in Darfur

KHARTOUM, Sudan (AP) -- Sudan's president lashed out at the U.S. on Sunday, saying Washington's plans to create a "new Middle East" were behind an international push to replace African Union peacekeepers with U.N. forces in war-ravaged Darfur.

President Omar al-Bashir has always opposed United Nations intervention in Sudan's remote Darfur region, but he escalated his anti-Western rhetoric Sunday, targeting America in an appeal to muster domestic support for what he implied would be a lengthy face-off.

In a speech to cabinet ministers and journalists gathered in Khartoum, he said the United States and Britain wanted to recraft the region in Israel's interests.

"They want to use the Darfur issue to re-colonize Sudan," al-Bashir said defiantly.

The Sudanese leader, just back from an overseas trip to gather support from nonaligned nations and attend the U.N. General Assembly in New York, said Sudanese officials were unfairly scrutinized by U.S. Homeland Security during the visit.

In response, no American official in Sudan would be allowed to travel more than 25 kilometers away from the presidential palace in Khartoum without a special permit, al-Bashir said.

"The measure is effective as of Monday," he said.

The fact that the U.S. wasn't sanctioned for invading Iraq "in breach of every international treaty," nor Israel for "killing thousands of women and children in Lebanon," proves the U.N. is biased, al-Bashir said.

At least 200,000 people have been killed and 2.5 million chased from their homes in Darfur, an arid remote region of western Sudan where the government-backed Arab Janjaweed militia are blamed for what international observers have called a genocide against ethnic African villagers.

But al-Bashir said the humanitarian crisis there had been overblown by the Western media.

"I challenge any precise statistic that shows the fighting killed more than 10,000 people in Darfur," he said, adding that others may have died from famine.

Al-Bashir again voiced his "total rejection" of the Aug. 31 U.N. Security Council resolution that calls for 20,000 U.N.-commanded soldiers to take over peacekeeping in Darfur.

"The resolution would in effect put Sudan under an international mandate," al-Bashir said. "It negates every institution of the Sudanese state."

Instead, he praised the African Union's extension of its peacekeeping mission in Darfur as "a major victory." The underfunded and ill-equipped AU mission was scheduled to end Sept. 30, but has been extended until at least the end of the year.

African Union officials in Khartoum said Sunday that the AU would send more peacekeeping troops to Darfur region and toughen the soldiers' role in protecting civilians until the U.N. reaches a compromise with the Sudanese government.

"We are being asked to assume a broader and broader mission, but we need the means to do so," Monique Mukaruliza, acting head of the AU mission in Sudan, told The Associated Press.

AU leaders are finalizing plans to add 1,200 soldiers to the existing 7,000-strong force, officials said. Even more soldiers could come if NATO provided adequate logistics support and the Arab League and other international donors provided funding, the officials said.

Officials said AU peacekeepers would soon have new rules of engagement, under which they would not only monitor violence and investigate incidents, but also actively interfere to prevent attacks on civilians by the multiple rebel groups and pro-government militias that plague the region.

The AU's spokesman in Sudan, Nouredinne Mezni, said the new rules would enable peacekeepers to better implement the Darfur Peace Agreement signed in May between Sudan and the main rebel group there.

"With our current resources, we don't really have the means to fully implement the peace agreement," Mezni said.

Jan Pronk, the head of the U.N. in Sudan, said last week that the accord was "in a coma," and international aid groups say violence has only worsened since it was signed.

Infighting among splinter rebel factions is a major cause of the violence, along with a new offensive by the Sudanese military against rebels who refuse to join the peace deal. Khartoum is accused of bombing villages where these groups hide, in effect causing more civilian casualties.

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan has strongly condemned the escalation, warning that Khartoum was at risk of "disgrace" in Africa for refusing a U.N. peacekeeping force.

Some 100,000 more people have been displaced since the intended cease-fire in May, the U.N. says.

At least a quarter of all people in northern Darfur are now suffering from malnutrition, the U.N. has said. More than 350,000 are largely cut off from food aid and medical care because fighting makes the north too dangerous for aid agencies, U.N. officials say.

1 comment:

Pan-African News Wire said...

News Article by KUNA posted on September 26, 2006 at 17:10:54: EST (-5 GMT)

Sudan left with no alternative but resistance -- Defence Minister

AMMAN, Sept 26 (KUNA) -- Sudanese Defense Minister Staff Lieutenant General Abdel-Rahim Mohammad Hussein on Tuesday reiterated his country's refusal to let international peace-keeping troops be sent to Darfur.

The minister, who was making a visit to Jordan, said his countrymen had no other alternative but to resist.

"We regard any multi-national troops sent to Sudan under UNSC
Resolution 1706 as an act of war against Sudan, specifically since the Sudanese government and parliament have expressed opposition to such plans," the minister said.

He added his country was "ready for general mobilization to face up to such an eventuality." He said his country would never accept any multi-national troops stepping on Sudanese soil and regarded this as a "sort of renewed foreign occupation of Sudan." He added that foreign media had blown the Darfur issue out of proportion and made it look like an ethnic cleansing one.

He said that targeting Sudan was part of the "New Middle East" plan for re-colonization of Arab land by foreign powers.

He pointed out that the Darfur issue regarded only two of a total of 26 provinces in Sudan and the UN resolution 1706 targeted not only Darfur in reality but the entire Sudan and went contrary to the Abuja peace accord.

Sudan to mobilize against UN deployment

AMMAN, Jordan, Sept. 26 (UPI) -- Sudan has threatened to mobilize its army and masses to confront any possible deployment of U.N.-mandated international forces in Darfur province.

Sudanese Defense Minister Maj. Gen. Abdel Rahman Mohammed Hassanein reiterated at a press conference in Amman Tuesday his country's rejection of Security Council Resolution 1706 which calls on Khartoum to accept the deployment of some 17,000 troops in Darfur in west Sudan.

"There is no option for Sudan but to reject the resolution and resist any attempt to implement it," Hassanein said, charging that the international decision was tantamount to a new colonization of Sudan.

He said the resolution constituted a "blunt violation of Sudan's sovereignty" and would turn the North African Arab country into another Iraq.

Hassanein warned that any country that will contribute troops to the U.N. force for Darfur will be regarded as declaring war on Sudan, stressing that the Sudanese government will resist the international forces and is preparing itself politically, economically and militarily to confront an international intervention.

He charged that the U.N. decision sabotaged the Abuja agreement signed between the government and three main factions in the war-torn province "which had provided a suitable settlement that guarantees equitable sharing of wealth and power."

Resolution 1706 passed under chapter 7 of the UN charter that allows the use of force in implementing international decisions provides for the deployment of the international troops by January to put an end to violence that swept Darfur since 2003.

News Article by AFP posted on September 26, 2006 at 17:03:05: EST (-5 GMT)

UN to send 105 officers to bolster African Union troops in Darfur

UNITED NATIONS, Sept 26, 2006 (AFP) - The United Nations said Tuesday it would send 105 staff officers and technical experts to bolster ill-equipped African Union (AU) peacekeepers in Sudan's troubled Darfur region.

UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said the dispatch of the UN officers followed an agreement reached in New York last week between the world body and the Pan-African organization.

"The package agreed between the UN and the AU will lead to the eventual deployment of about 105 UN staff officers and other experts to help AMIS (the 7,200-strong AU force in Darfur) in its current work," Dujarric told a press briefing.

He said the UN staffers would provide communications and transportation assistance to boost AMIS as quickly as possible.

Dujarric said the dispatch of UN officers to AMIS headquarters in Darfur would result in "freeing up a number of African Union officers to go from desk duty to the field."

Last Wednesday, 15 AU leaders agreed at a New York summit to extend the mandate of cash-strapped AMIS for three months until December 31 after receiving promises of financial and logistical support from the United Nations and Arab states.

Monday, the AU said it would boost its contingent in Darfur to 11,000 troops, although it cautioned that such plans were uncertain due to a chronic lack of funds that has undermined the effectiveness of AMIS.

Sudanese President Omar al-Beshir is adamantly opposed to a proposed UN takeover of peacekeeping in Darfur, warning that such a move risks worsening the situation in the region, where at least 200,000 people have lost their lives since violence broke out in February 2003.

At the weekend, Beshir said his government would deploy a new integrated force comprising the army, police and security forces to work alongside AU peacekeepers, and reiterated his rejection of the handover.

News Article by WPW posted on September 26, 2006 at 17:15:03: EST (-5 GMT)

Dispute Mounts Among South Sudan Groups Over Oil

By Steve Mbogo
26 Sep 2006
World Politics Watch

A simmering conflict is threatening to start another war in Sudan. This time, it is as much about oil as it is ethnicity. Unequal distribution of oil revenues, bungled oil contracts, and differences in ethnic power sharing are creating new fault lines in an already divided country.

The South Sudan Defense Front (SSDF), a former ally of the Khartoum government in its battle against the rebel Sudanese People's Liberation Army (SPLA), has threatened to attack SPLA positions once again. The group, formed by Riek Marchar, now vice president of the Government of South Sudan, or GOSS, complains that its people are not benefiting from oil revenues.

The Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), signed in January 2005, ended a two-decade war between the SPLA and Khartoum. It requires Khartoum to channel 50 percent of oil revenues to the GOSS. The southern government must then commit 2 percent of the revenue to communities within the oil fields.

But the SSDF says that is not happening. Most of the oil fields fall within areas formerly controlled by the SSDF and inhabited by a supportive ethnic group known as the Nuer.

The peace agreement may be part of the problem. When the CPA was being negotiated, the SPLA was recognized as a sole representative of the interests of southern Sudan despite the presence of other armed groups in the region, including the SSDF.

According to Sudanese-based intelligence sources, the SSDF's attempts to join the CPA negotiations were thwarted when SPLA and U.S. delegates insisted that the rebel group was "part of Khartoum." It was understood that, once the CPA was signed, the SPLA-led administration would work to incorporate other armed and political groups into the government.

That process was disrupted in August, when John Garang, SPLA leader and GOSS president, died in a plane crash while returning from Uganda. The region's new leader, President Silva Kirr, continued the talks and, in January, got the SPLA and SSDF to sign the Juba Declaration.

The declaration was meant to fulfill the CPA provision for taking care of "Other Armed Groups," and requires both parties to protect the peace by continuing to integrate their armed forces and political parties into the government.

Some SSDF officials, however, are not happy with the results of the negotiations. When senior SSDF military commander Paulino Matip joined the SPLA, the SSDF viewed it as a defection and blamed President Kirr. According to the SSDF external liaison office, that defection raised fears that dialogue would take a back seat in the new southern Sudan.

The SSDF-SPLA relationship is further complicated by the reality that each of the groups predominantly represents the interests of a single ethnic group. The SPLA (and, by extension, the GOSS) is dominated by members of the Dinka tribem while the SSDF is dominated by members of the Nuer tribe. Some smaller tribes have also joined the SSDF.

Dinka-Nuer ethnic conflict is not new and continued even as Khartoum was exterminating the black population in the south.

According to Human Rights Watch, a 1999 peace agreement ending eight years of Dinka-Nuer cross-border raids has failed to end the animosity. These raids involved thousands of civilian casualties, large-scale theft of cattle, abduction of women and children, and destruction of hundreds of villages. In addition, says the human rights monitoring agency, the government in Khartoum only made this conflict worse by arming whichever faction or militia would fight the SPLA.

"The Khartoum strategy of divide and destroy has worked extremely well in the past," said Human Rights Watch in a report published five years ago. They keep "southerners split -- Dinka from Nuer, and Nuer from Dinka."

The division can be seen in the current government. Within the GOSS cabinet of 22 ministers, four are Nuer. The peace agreement stipulates that 70 percent of the representatives of the southern government should come from the SPLA, 15 percent from the northern ruling National Democratic Party of President Umar al-Bashir, and 15 percent from other southern parties. In the eyes of some, this gives the oil-rich SSDF short shrift. What's more, the failure by the southern government to dedicate 2 percent of oil revenues to surrounding communities is seen as discrimination against the Nuer people.

David Chand, the deputy leader of the SSDF's political wing, said in an interview that while most of the oil fields are located in the Nuer land, the Dinka-dominated government is taking all the revenue.

"Why should my people's resources be used to build up outsiders?" he asked. "How would you feel if your land was expropriated at your own expense? The war is not yet over. The SPLA has attacked us and we will respond accordingly. This is the bottom line."

Jarch Oil Contract

Civil conflicts in Africa -- especially those related to equity in national resources -- usually feature a foreign element. Groups like Global Witness have noted this in profiling the main actors of wars in Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Angola. In Sudan, that presence is Jarch Management Group, a firm based in the British Virgin Islands and Hong Kong. For Jarch, however, it is not about resource plundering, but rather the recognition of a legitimate oil exploration contract signed by southern Sudan leaders. Those leaders have disowned the contract.

Phil Heilberg, an American investor and the chairman of Jarch, says Paulino Matip Nhial, a former SSDF and current SPLA leader signed numerous agreements with Jarch for oil and gas exploration on March 1 and 7, 2004. He says that several ministers, in addition to John Garang, were present. Further, according to Heilberg, the agreements included a provision stating that they "shall remain in force and survive if the SSDF joins forces with other groups in southern Sudan to form the GOSS."

Heilberg notes that "Mr. Paulino and the GOSS have not enforced this clause, contrary to assurances from Mr. Paulino that he would, with the current president of the GOSS, Mr. Salva Kiir.

Both the SPLA and the SSDF signed the agreements under the "right of self-determination" clause of the CPA and 1997's Khartoum Peace Agreement. Heilberg believes that, because of this, Jarch's contracts are valid.

According to the documents held by Heilberg, in February 2003 the SPLA signed a contract with Jarch Management Group and its partners to allow exploration in an area called Block B. In addition, this contract gave Jarch exclusive rights to all commodity contracts until 2009. Further, the SPLA was required to contact Jarch prior to any commodity deals.

"Eighteen months after the signing of our agreement," lamented Hielberg, "the SPLM/A signed a contract with a public company called White Nile Ltd."

"Jarch Capital," he continued, "considers the signing of this new deal a violation of the representations and warranties given by the SPLM/A, and a violation of the agreement as a whole." He estimates that damages could exceed $10 billion.

The Block B area in southern Sudan is also claimed in whole or part by Total, Petronas, White Nile, Moldova's Ascom Group, and Edge Petroleum.

Jarch's expanding relationships with regional rebel groups is a factor to watch as reports emerge of armed clashes between the SPLA and the SSDF. The company has strong relations with an Ethiopian rebel group known as the Ethiopian Unity Patriots' Army (EUPA) which operates from Sudan's eastern border with Ethiopia. Thowath Pal Chay, the EUPA's commander, sits on the newly constituted board of Jarch Management Group. Also on the board is David Chand, leader of the SSDF's political wing and professor at the University of Nebraska.

The SPLA has dismissed Jarch's claims, but is now retreating. According to media reports, the SPLA has asked Heilberg to bring his documents to the National Petroleum Commission so they may examine them to determine their validity.

Internal GOSS Conflict

In addition to oil, representation, and ethnic disputes, internal conflicts within the GOSS are resurfacing and threatening to erode what stability there has been. Paulino Matip, who joined the government from the SSDF, has threatened to remove his 3000 fighters from the government if they are not given eight months of back pay before the end of the month.

The SSDF's political office also claims that both Matip and current vice president Riek Marchar are negotiating a defection to the SSDF. Analysts say such a move would weaken the GOSS.

SSDF has asked Khartoum to stop oil revenue transfers to the GOSS and the international community to suspend $4.5 billion in pledged aid until further negotiations can take place. The group, which has threatened to attack oil companies, says such moves are needed to avoid war in southern Sudan.

For now, however, the SSDF is only waging propaganda war, printing t-shirts, and caps calling on oil companies to vacate their land.

Steve Mbogo is an investigative journalist based in Nairobi, Kenya. He writes on Africa's terrorism and security trends, socio-economics, international relations, politics and biotechnology.

News Article by AFP posted on September 26, 2006 at 16:58:50: EST (-5 GMT)

Stars back Schwarzenegger over Darfur bill

LOS ANGELES, Sept 25, 2006 (AFP) - Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed a bill Monday barring California state pension funds from investing in companies with interests in Sudan amid international pressure over the Darfur crisis.

Schwarzenegger said he believed the bill would send a message that California "does not stand for murder and genocide", referring to the humanitarian crisis in strife-torn Darfur.

"We cannot watch from the sidelines and be content to mourn this atrocity as it passes into history," Schwarzenegger said.

"We must act and that is exactly why we will divest from the Sudan. Divesting will show our defiance against the murderers and their inhumanity."

The Republican actor-turned-politician won support from noted liberal Hollywood idol George Clooney, as well as Oscar-nominated "Hotel Rwanda" and "Crash" star Don Cheadle, both of whom attended a signing ceremony with the governor.

"I couldn't be more proud of this bipartisan effort, and thank Governor Schwarzenegger for his leadership at this most crucial time," Clooney said. "It's a great step forward in holding people responsible for their actions, and a great blueprint for other states.

Since the war in Darfur broke out in February 2003, at least 200,000 people have died from the combined effects of fighting, famine and disease, according to the United Nations. Some sources say the toll is much higher.