Saturday, November 18, 2006

Sudan News Update: Conflicting Reports Emerge Over the Acceptance of a Joint AU-UN 'Peacekeeping Force'

Sudan denies agreeing to hybrid force in Darfur

News Article by AFP posted on November 18, 2006 at 15:20:58: EST (-5 GMT)

KHARTOUM, Nov 18, 2006 (AFP) - Sudan denied Saturday it had agreed to the deployment of combined United Nations and African Union peacekeeping forces in the troubled Darfur region.

"We did not agree to the deployment of hybrid United Nations-African Union forces in Darfur, as was declared by UN Secretary General Kofi Annan after the Addis Ababa consultative meeting," Sudanese Foreign Minister Lam Akol told reporters.

Akol, who attended Thursday's talks in the Ethiopian capital, said the Sudanese delegation agreed only on UN technical units to back up the AU forces in Darfur.

"We agreed that the AU forces carry on with their mission and receive support from UN technical units," Akol said. "We also rejected a proposal for a combined AU-UN command, as well as the proposed number of troops."

He said Khartoum still has reservations about the figure of 17,300 troops proposed by the United Nations, and added that talk about troop numbers in Darfur was premature.

"We think it appropriate to leave it to Sudanese, UN and AU military experts to determine the number of the troops required," he said.

Akol said he considered the outcome of the Addis Ababa meeting on Darfur was that UN Security Council Resolution 1706 "has been overtaken, and the search for an alternative that will be acceptable to all parties is under way".

The resolution, adopted on August 31, called for the deployment of 20,000 UN peacekeepers in Darfur -- an option repeatedly rejected by Khartoum.

Annan's announcement on Thursday took many people by surprise because of Sudan's vehement rejections of any UN role and its insistence that only the current AU force can operate in Darfur.

Diplomats and observers who attended the talks that led to the apparent compromise said Khartoum's stance was not entirely clear, as Sudanese officials repeated that no UN peacekeepers would be allowed on the ground.

The war in Darfur erupted in February 2003 when rebels from minority tribes took up arms to demand an equal share of national resources, prompting a heavy-handed crackdown from government forces and a proxy militia called the Janjaweed.

At least 200,000 people have since died from the combined effects of fighting, famine and disease, according to the United Nations. Some sources say the toll is much higher.

News Article by XINHUA posted on November 18, 2006 at 00:01:21: EST (-5 GMT)

Darfur to be "invaders' graveyard": Sudanese government

XINHUA, Nov 17 -- Sudan warned on Thursday that the dreadful consequence of a deployment of international peacekeepers in the country's Darfur region in defiance of the country's objection, saying Darfur would be a "graveyard for invaders."
While addressing officers and soldiers of the western military area in Niyala, south Darfur, Sudanese Defence Minister Abdel Rahim Mohamed Hussein said that "Darfur will be the invaders' graveyard if the (United Nations) Security Council thinks about implementing Resolution 1706," the official SUNA news agency reported.

The defense minister stressed the capability of the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) to impose the security and defend the nation and its citizens, adding that the slogan of the SAF in Darfur was to "wipe out the rebellion and spread the dignity of the country".

He said that Sudanese President Omer al-Bashir was confident of the command of the SAF and its ability to carry out its duties without making pretexts for foreign interference.

The Sudanese defense minister made the remarks on the same day that the African Union (AU) and the UN were holding a joint meeting in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa to reconsider the best way of terminating the bloody conflicts in Darfur.

The UN Security Council passed a resolution 1706 on Aug. 31 calling for the deployment of more than 20,000 international peacekeepers to replace the 7,800 AU forces in Darfur.

But the Sudanese government has rejected the mission transfer, saying it was a violation of Sudan's sovereignty and an effort by the West to colonize the African oil producing country.

The AU Peace and Security Council agreed in September to extend the mandate of its forces in Darfur to the end of this year with the helps to be provided by the UN and the international societies.

News Article by AP posted on November 17, 2006 at 13:45:56: EST (-5 GMT)

Top Sudanese presidential adviser says no problem with allowing mixed UN-African peacekeeping force in Darfur

KHARTOUM, Sudan (AP) -- A top adviser to Sudan's president said Friday there was no problem with including U.N. troops with African soldiers in a mixed Darfur peacekeeping force, but that the levels of each side still had to be worked out in a key deal aimed at ending violence in the war-torn region.

The comments by Majzoub al-Khalifa contradicted earlier comments by Sudan's foreign minister, Lam Akol, who insisted the U.N. could only provide technical support to the African Union force.

But al-Khalifa is the top Sudanese official on Darfur and is considered close to President Omar al-Bashir, who is to make the final decision on the agreement.

For months, Sudan has strongly opposed allowing U.N. troops into Darfur. But its representatives agreed in principle to the mixed peacekeeping force during talks Thursday in Addis Ababa. The delegation said they had to consult with the leadership in Khartoum before giving final approval.

The United States and the United Nations have pressed hard for a beefed-up U.N. force to deploy in Darfur, where some 7,000 African Union peacekeepers have been unable to stop bloodshed that has increased this year despite a peace agreement signed by Khartoum and one Darfur rebel group.

The 3-year-old conflict has killed more than 200,000 people and has threatened wider instability in Central Africa. Late Thursday, the parliament in Chad -- which neighbors Darfur -- approved the deployment of troops in the neighboring Central African Republic to fight insurgents there it claims are backed by Sudan.

"The concept of a mixed AU-U.N. force for Darfur is not a problem, as long as it remains clear that the leadership of the force, and its largest component, remain African," al-Khalifa told the Associated Press.

"We can discuss the exact numbers and the command structure later, according to the needs in the field," he said, responding to a UN suggestion for 17,000 peacekepers to join the AU force.

The mixed signals from Khartoum appeared to be aimed at saving face before the Sudanese public over what was a significant reversal by the government. For months, al-Bashir has stoked public opposition to U.N. peacekeepers, calling them colonialists and saying he would go fight them himself if they deployed.

Foreign Minister Lam Akol went on state radio and downplayed the significance, insisting Khartoum's stance had remained consistent. "There should be no talk about a mixed force," he said. "What we are discussing and what is agreed upon, is an African Union force assisted by the United Nations."

"The force will be under the command and control of the African Union, which may accept assistance, technical assistance, from the United Nations," he told Radio Omdurman.

Al-Khalifa's comments suggested Khartoum would allow a U.N. troop presence, but that negotiations over the troop levels and who would hold command over the peacekeepers could be difficult.

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan announced Thursday night that the multilateral agreement -- reached in a gathering of African, Arab, European and U.N. leaders in the Ethiopian capital -- could provide for as many as 17,000 soldiers and 3,000 police officers.

"The next step is for the U.N. and AU to call a meeting of the non-signatories (of the Darfur Peace Agreement) ... and the government of Sudan. It should take place in the next couple of weeks to resolve outstanding issues by the end of the year," Annan said.

Enlarging the existing African Union peacekeeping force in Darfur will take place in three phases over an unspecified period of time, Annan told journalists.

An African Union Peace and Security Council meeting will be held in the Republic of Congo on Nov. 24 during which Sudan is expected to present its final views on what was agreed Thursday in Ethiopia, Annan said.

The senior British government representative at the meeting, International Development Secretary Hilary Benn, called on the Sudanese government to "accept the clear view of all the others present."

Benn said the joint U.N.-AU focus on Sudan was "the best opportunity we have to bring this crisis to an end. In the meantime, we need an effective cease-fire, with all the parties committing to stop the fighting."

The U.N. Security Council voted in August to replace the African Union's 7,000 troops, an underpowered force, with 20,000 U.N. peacekeepers. Annan has hoped to stop the bloodshed in Darfur before he leaves office Jan. 1.

Darfur's violence is blamed for fueling unrest across the broad region where Sudan, Chad and the Central African Republic meet. The instability in Darfur has provided room for Chadian and Central African Republic rebels to maneuver in their campaigns against their own governments and created tensions among the three governments.

Chad and Sudan have exchanged accustions each is supporting the other's rebels. Chad went a step further Thursday, accusing Sudan of helping Central African Republic rebels and saying it would send troops to help the government there.

In addition, in a region where tribes and ethnic hatreds straddle borders, clashes mirroring Darfur's Arab vs. African violence have erupted in Chad, killing scores, according to the Chadian government and the U.N. refugee agency.

In Darfur, the conflict has forced some 2.5 million people from their homes. In recent days, pro-government militia known as janjaweed have stepped up attacks on villages in Darfur, killing dozens of people, international observers said Wednesday.

After years of low-level clashes over water and land in the vast, arid Darfur region, rebels from ethnic African tribes took up arms against Sudan's Arab-dominated government in 2003.

Khartoum is accused of unleashing the janjaweed, who are blamed for many of the atrocities in a conflict that has claimed 200,000 lives and forced 2.5 million from their homes.

The Sudanese army has denied any connection to janjaweed attacks, saying the claims were politically motivated.

News Article by AFP posted on November 17, 2006 at 13:44:28: EST (-5 GMT)

Questions surround Sudanese acceptance of 'hybrid' Darfur force

ADDIS ABABA, Nov 17, 2006 (AFP) - Questions emerged Friday about UN chief Kofi Annan's announcement that Sudan had accepted in principle a hybrid African Union-United Nations peacekeeping mission for its troubled Darfur region.
The late Thursday announcement here took many by surprise as Khartoum has repeatedly and vehemently rejected any UN role in Darfur and insisted that only the current AU force can operate there.

Diplomats and observers who attended the Annan-led talks that led to the apparent compromise said Khartoum's stance was not entirely clear, as Sudanese officials repeated that no UN peacekeepers would be allowed on the ground.

One diplomat said Sudan had succeeded in preventing the world body from playing a significant role by agreeing to UN logistical and technical support for the AU mission known as AMIS but ruling out all but African personnel.

"It was a victory for Sudan, which has won a commitment that the command of the peacekeeping force will never be with the UN," the diplomat told AFP on condition of anonymity. "Sudan remains in a position of force."

"For the moment, there is no guarantee of any major progress, except that everyone, even the Chinese and the South Africans, support it," the diplomat said, referring to the "hybrid" force concept promoted by Annan.

"The whole question is what the Sudanese want: either they want peace and should accept this since we're no longer talking about a UN operation or they are stalling, hoping AMIS will leave and give them a military option," he said.

The compromise proposal is to be presented soon to the UN Security Council and will also be discussed at a summit of leaders from the 15 members of the AU Peace and Security Council set for November 24 in Congo-Brazzaville.

The three-phase plan aims to boost the cash-strapped and undermanned AMIS with major UN support while the third phase envisions merging the force with a UN mission that will be predominantly African, according to the agreement.

In his announcement, Annan made clear that Khartoum had agreed only "in principle" to phase three, "pending clarification of the size of the force."

Sudanese officials firmly insist that no UN peacekeepers will be deployed in Darfur, where some 200,000 people have died and 2.5 million have been displaced in three years of fighting between local rebels and government-backed militia.

"The whole approach is to support AMIS with logistic support," said Sudan's UN ambassador Abdulmahmoud Abduhaleem. "The UN is saying they want to deploy 17,000 troops, we say it should be less, and only African troops under an African command.

"There will be no UN peacekeepers in Darfur," he said.

One international observer who was at Thursday's meeting in Addis Ababa said the Sudanese would likely take a great deal of time in determining an acceptable force level, possibly waiting for Annan's year-end departure.

"The Sudanese have no interest in conceding knowing that Kofi Annan is about to leave," the observer told AFP on condition of anonymity. "They are playing for show."

Still, AU Peace and Security Council commissioner Said Djinnit said the African Union was pleased that a potential solution to its mission's funding and manpower woes had been reached.

"All the parties fell into agreement on the compromise formula, except for Sudan on certain points," he told AFP.

"Through this plan we will now be able to ensure lasting and appropriate financing for AMIS without which it would not have been able to work if we waited much longer," Djinnit said. "The credibility of Africa goes from there."

News Article by LAT posted on November 17, 2006 at 15:44:18: EST (-5 GMT)

UN Peacekeepers might go to Chad

U.N. frustrated in efforts to deploy troops to neighboring Darfur

Los Angeles Times

NAIROBI, Kenya — Frustrated in its attempts to deploy peacekeeping troops to Sudan’s troubled Darfur region, the United Nations is considering sending forces to neighboring Chad instead, the chief of the world body said Wednesday.

“We are looking at the possibility of putting observers or some international presence on the border and working with the government of Chad,” U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said in Nairobi, where he was attending a summit on climate change.

Annan said such a presence would reduce cross-border incursions into Chad and protect the estimated 200,000 Darfur refugees who have fled violence in western Sudan.

Annan is heading today to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, for a strategizing session on Darfur with African Union leaders and diplomats from the United States and other Western nations.

The conflict between Darfur rebels and the Sudanese government, which began in 2003, has killed at least 200,000 people and displaced 2 million.

For much of this year, the government of Sudan has opposed a U.N. proposal to send about 20,000 troops to replace the 7,000 African Union troops in Darfur.

In the latest attempt to reach a compromise, U.N. officials are proposing a “hybrid” security force including both African Union and U.N. troops. It remained unclear how Sudanese President Omar Hassan Bashir would react to the hybrid proposal or to the idea of security on the border.

News Article by VOA posted on November 18, 2006 at 00:01:33: EST (-5 GMT)

Women Politicians, Community Leaders in Sudan Call for More Influence on Government

Voice Of America
By William Eagle
16 November 2006

This past week, a meeting of Sudanese women from across the political spectrum ended in Khartoum urging that women be included at all levels of governance and peace making.

The meeting was arranged by The Initiative for Inclusive Security – a program of Hunt Alternatives Fund based in Boston, Massachusetts. The Fund advocates for the participation of all stakeholders, particularly women, in peace efforts around the world.

In their final communiqu̩, the participants at the conference urged that women make up 30 percent of all commissions Рincluding those dealing with land, oil and civil service.

They also challenge the current administration to ensure that women make up half of all posts at the national, regional and local levels of governance. Currently, government policy calls for 30 percent of all posts to go to women. The participants call for economic policies that better serve the needs of the poor. They urge increased transparency in decision-making to ensure women have access to economic opportunities.

Among those attending the meeting was Agnes Nyoka, a parliamentarian in the current national assembly, and a representative of the Sudan Peoples Liberation Movement.

She says that women across the political divide are united on a number of issues that affect women. Women make up a majority of the people of Sudan, and nearly three-quarters of those caught in conflict.

On the political level, Nyoka says women played a significant role in the negotiations that finalized a Comprehensive Peace Agreement two years ago between the national government and forces in the south.

“Women were involved at the last moment,” she explained,
”through advocacy, and lobbying.”

Nyoka says women leaders are affected by a lack of financing for their campaigns, especially in an environment where a number of political parties are pursuing limited funds. (Security issues – such as the number of land mines yet to be neutralized – also limits the campaigns of many women candidates).

She says women’s groups have been affected by a law allowing the government to approve or deny outside financing of non-governmental organizations. Nyoka says most of the financial support for women’s groups comes from foreign donors.

The new parliament has only been sitting for about a year. So, far, Nyoka says it has not acted on women’s issues. But she’s hopeful. Among the projects that she’d like to see tackled are poverty, and sexual abuse:

“Culturally,” she says, “you’re not supposed to mention anything about rape, torture within the (local) community.”

Nyoka hopes that support is provided for NGO’s and other groups that document abuse against women. She also wants the National Assembly to ratify the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women.

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