Saturday, September 02, 2006
Sudanese Government Launches Darfur Offensive
CAIRO, Egypt - The Sudanese government has launched a major offensive against rebels in war-torn Darfur, human rights activists and African Union officials said Friday.
The fighting, which Human Rights Watch said has involved government aircraft bombing villages, began as a senior U.S. envoy was in Khartoum to press the government to accept the deployment of U.N. peacekeepers in the western region.
Sudan on Thursday rejected as "illegal" a U.N. Security Council resolution paving the way for the replacement of 7,000 ill-equipped African Union peacekeepers in Darfur with more than 20,000 U.N. troops and police.
Government troops Monday attacked and later occupied Kulkul, a rebel-held village north of Darfur's provincial capital el Fasher, David Buchbinder of Human Rights Watch said by telephone from New York, citing local reports. Two other rebel-controlled villages have since reportedly fallen under government control.
An African Union official in Khartoum, Sam Ibok, said more than 20 civilians have been killed and more than 1,000 have been displaced since major clashes started early this week according to reports from the affected areas.
He said that these northern areas were a "no-go" zone for AU forces and therefore he had no precise information.
International observers in north Darfur reported that civilians attempting to flee the attacks in Kulkul were turned back by Sudanese government troops, Human Rights Watch said.
Sudanese officials could not be reached on Friday, a weekend day, to comment on the reports. Rebel commanders did not answer calls.
The AU force has been unable to stop the humanitarian catastrophe in Darfur that has killed more than 200,000 people and left more than 2 million displaced over the past three years.
The conflict in Darfur began in 2003 when ethnic African tribes revolted against the Arab-led Khartoum government. The government is accused of unleashing Arab militiamen known as janjaweed who have been blamed for widespread atrocities.
A May peace deal signed by the government and one of the ethnic African rebel groups operating in the region has had little effect.
The African Union has called for the U.N. to take control of the peacekeeping force, whose formal mandate expires on Sept. 30.
But Sudan's President Omar Al-Bashir has maintained steadfast hostility to the presence of the U.N. force, instead offering to send 10,000 government troops to Darfur.
U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan on Thursday released a letter he had sent to Al-Bashir urging him to accept a U.N force in Darfur, saying only an impartial peacekeeping force could implement the May peace deal.
Annan also expressed alarm over the recent deployment of large numbers of Sudanese troops in Darfur.
Eric Reeves, a professor from Smith College in the United States who is a prominent campaigner for an end to the Darfur conflict, said he had information that Minni Minnawi, leader of the only rebel faction to sign the peace deal, was collaborating with the government offensive. Two other Darfur rebel groups have refused to sign.
He said his contacts told him thousands of troops and janjaweed militias, backed by Antonov planes, have carried out bombing missions and taken control of three villages north of el Nasher, Kulkul, Bir Maza and Sayeh.
"They are bombing villages without any regard for civilians," he said. "It is more genocidal violence. The end game is to take full control of northern Darfur and isolate the rebels."
John Prendergast, an expert from the International Crisis Group, a global think-tank, was in Darfur until the end of last week and said the government offensive was provoking spiraling violence and reduced humanitarian access to the region.
Earlier this week, the U.N.'s top humanitarian official, Jan Egeland, warned "a man-made catastrophe of an unprecedented scale" loomed within weeks in Darfur unless the Security Council acted immediately.
Egeland said there could be hundreds of thousands of deaths if aid operations collapsed. The operations are already at grave risk because of rising attacks against aid workers and massive funding shortfalls.
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at 9/1/2006 5:48:39 AM
Security Council okays UN takeover of peacekeeping in Darfur
UNITED NATIONS (AFP)The Security Council gave its green light for a UN takeover of peacekeeping in Sudan's strife-torn Darfur region, increasing the pressure on Khartoum to lift its strong opposition to the move.
Twelve of the council's 15 members voted in favor of a resolution which states that the deployment of a 17,300-strong UN force would take place "on the basis of the acceptance of the (Sudanese) government."
China, Russia and Qatar abstained. The text calls for UN peacekeepers to take over from the ill-equipped and cash-strapped African Union (AU) mission, which has been unable to stop a conflict which has left up to 300,000 people killed and 2.5 million people displaced over the past three years.
Deploying a robust UN force is seen as crucial to shore up a fragile Darfur peace agreement signed by the Khartoum government and the main rebel faction in May.
"It is imperative that we move immediately to implement it (the resolution) to stop the tragic events unfolding in Darfur," said US Ambassador John Bolton.
In Washington, top State Department official Kristen Silverberg served notice that Khartoum's agreement was not needed to reinforce the UN mission in Sudan."The (UN) resolution invites Sudanese consent; nothing requires Sudanese consent," she said.
In Darfur, a government official said the resolution lacked "legitimacy and credibility."
"The resolution was based on the premise that security is deteriorating in Darfur," North Darfur governor Osman Yusuf Kibir said on Sudan television.
"This is a false assumption as security has improved and prevails all over the region." But Britain's deputy UN ambassador Karen Pierce said the Darfur crisis "has gone on far too long."
The adoption of the text, she added, "sends a clear message on the need for an unbiased, well-equipped third party to implement the DPA (Darfur Peace Agreement) and ensure the protection of Darfur's civilians.
"China's UN Ambassador Wang Guangya, whose country has close energy ties with Khartoum, said he abstained because he felt it "unnecessary to put the draft to a vote in a hurry.
"Jamal Nasser al-Bader of Qatar, the lone Arab member of the council, said more efforts should have been made to secure Khartoum's "voluntary consent.
"He noted that Qatar would have preferred to see increased UN financial and logistical support to the 7,000-strong AU force in Darfur to enable it to complete its mandate. He also bemoaned the fact that the council did not respond to Sudanese President Omar al-Beshir's alternative plan to deploy 10,500 Sudanese government troops by early January to enhance security in Darfur.
But UN chief Kofi Annan told Beshir in a letter, also relayed to council members, that Beshir's plan "fails to provide for the envisaged transition from the African Union force to a UN operation in Darfur. Ghana's UN Ambassador Nana Effah-Apenteng said the resolution "does not close the door to further dialogue" with Sudan.
He said consultations would also continue with the Arab League, the Organization of the Islamic Conference and the African Union, which were invited to meet with the Security Council September 8.
In a bid to sway Khartoum, the text expresses the council's
"determination to work with the government of Sudan in full respect of its sovereignty.
"The resolution expands the mandate of the 12,273-strong United Nations Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) currently operating in the vast African country, and urges "member states to provide the capability for an expeditious deployment.
"It calls for raising UNMIS strength to up to 17,300 troops and up to 3,300 civilian police to monitor implementation of the Darfur peace deal, deploy to buffer zones and refugee camps, and help Sudanese authorities rebuild shattered institutions.
Acting under Chapter Seven of the UN charter, which authorizes military action in cases of threats to international peace and security, the UN force is mandated to use all necessary means to protect UN personnel, humanitarian workers and Darfur civilians.
Washington accuses Sudanese government troops and the Janjaweed militia of genocide over their fierce repression of the uprising launched by ethnic minority rebels in February 2003. And Beshir, in turn, charges that Washington and other Western powers are furthering imperialist aims in Darfur.
If Khartoum refused to give its consent, "the Security Council must sanction those Sudanese officials responsible for blocking UN efforts to protect civilians in Darfur," said Peter Takirambudde, Africa director at Human Rights Watch.
31/08/2006 22:13:41 UST
News Article by AFP
posted on September 01, 2006 at 13:45:25: EST (-5 GMT)
Sudan VP vows resistance to UN peacekeepers
KHARTOUM, Sept 1, 2006 (AFP) - Sudanese Vice President Ali Osman Taha vowed the regime would maintain its opposition to a UN peacekeeping force for Darfur and hailed Hezbollah as a model of resistance, official media said Friday.
"We have options and plans for confronting the international intervention," state news agency SUNA quoted Taha as telling a rally in the North Kordofan State capital of El-Obeid late Thursday.
He cited the toll Shiite militant group Hezbollah had "exacted in the ranks of the army of the Zionist enemy" in this summer's devastating conflict in Lebanon "due to the determination, patience and political will the party enjoys".
"We are prepared for all possibilities," the vice president said, adding that "the battle with the international community requires patience and strict precautions."
He called for "an effective working programme and strenuous action" to oppose the UN force approved by the Security Council Thursday.
Taha was the third government official to speak out against the Security Council's decision to take over the longstanding African Union peacekeeping mission in Darfur if Khartoum approved.
North Darfur governor Osman Yusuf Kibir said the Security Council resolution "lacks legitimacy and credibility."
State television quoted presidential adviser Majzoub al-Khalifa Ahmed as saying the resolution was "entirely unacceptable" and warning that it could "incite sedition".
The Security Council overwhelmingly approved the deployment of a 17,300-strong UN force to strife-torn western Sudan, with the United States pressing Khartoum to lift its opposition.
Twelve of the council's 15 members voted in favour of the resolution, which states that the deployment would take place "on the basis of the acceptance of the (Sudanese) government", while China, Russia and Qatar abstained.
The text calls for UN peacekeepers to take over from the ill-equipped and underfunded AU mission, which has been unable to prevent killings, rape and the internal displacement of civilians in Darfur.
Deploying a robust UN force is seen as crucial to the success of a fragile Darfur peace agreement signed by the Khartoum government and the main rebel faction in May.
News Article by DPA
posted on August 30, 2006 at 16:10:00: EST (-5 GMT)
Hundreds of Sudanese take to the streets in anti-UN force protest
Khartoum (dpa) - Hundreds of Sudanese rallied in Khartoum on Wednesday, decrying the prospect of United Nations intervention in Sudan's embattled Darfur region.
Much of the protestors' venom was aimed at the United States and though the rally was largely peaceful, some young men threatened to fight any international force that is sent to Darfur.
"Any American who comes to Sudan will die in Darfur," said one, student Ahmed el-Tayib.
The government-backed protest was largely composed of young men and students who were released from school to attend the rally.
Hundreds more packed atop buses and trucks and drove through the city streets waving banners and singing nationalist songs.
"Sudanese have said with one voice, no, no for America. No United Nations," said another protestor, Ahmed Adam.
Sudan is under intense pressure from the international community, to allow a United Nations force to replace a struggling African Union mission.
The AU has said it will run out of funds in October and currently has only 7,700 troops monitoring volatile Darfur.
Washington dispatched Assistant Secretary of State Jendayi Frazer to Sudan this week in an attempt to coax Sudan into accepting a UN mission.
But Frazer was rebuffed when Sudanese President Omer al-Bashir, first refused to meet with her on Monday, stating that he was too busy.
After acquiescing to a meeting, Bashir continued to insist that he will not allow the United Nations to enter Darfur.
The UN already has 10,000 peacekeepers in northern and southern Sudan, monitoring a peace deal that ended twenty-one years of civil war between the north and south.
The conflict in Darfur has raged for three years since rebels attacked government positions in the region, complaining that it remained undeveloped due to neglect.
The government is charged with arming Arab milit
ias to crush the rebellion.
Some 200,000 people have died and two million more have been displaced in what the UN calls genocide.