Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Darfur Update

Darfur Refugees Plead for Protection
By ALFRED de MONTESQUIOU, Associated Press Writer 10/15/2006

KASSAB, Sudan - Refugees in the camps scattered across Darfur live in fear, saying the African Union peacekeeping mission does little to protect them even as rising violence is driving away crucial humanitarian aid.

"You have been here for three years now, and what have you done for us?" a tribal leader bitterly asked a delegation of AU soldiers and police that came to the Kassab refugee camp last week.

"If there is nothing you can do, then you might as well go home, so that the United Nations come," Adem said.

He referred to refugees' widespread hope that August's U.N. Security Council resolution to send 20,000 U.N. peacekeepers to Darfur will be implemented. The AU force's mandate expires at the end of the year.

However, Sudan's president fiercely opposes the proposal, saying it would breach the country's sovereignty. For now, the U.N. seems bent on buying time by sending more than 100 military and civilian advisers to reinforce the AU mission and pushing for its mandate to be prolonged in order to avoid a dangerous security vacuum.

"Every day we risk being beaten, or even worse," said Kharidja Ibrahim, some of whose family had gone wood-gathering that morning. "We're waiting. In a few hours, we'll hear what has happened to them."

Tribal leaders say security has grown so bad that armed men now plunder the camp at will.

"Four days ago, they came in broad daylight and stole 84 goats," said Sheik Abdallah Shariff. He said nights are even worse.

"We can't sleep, we go to bed with our shoes on," in case they have to flee, he said.

Egyptian Maj. Ahmed El Serafy, who commands AU police in the sector of Darfur that includes Kassab, says improving security in Kassab is urgent for what few forces he has "82 police for an area of 13,000 square miles."

"I knew it was going to be bad, but I never thought it would be this bad," he said.

Several readers have written that the U.N. and the Western Nations have built up false hope. Many believe that the long awaited troops will never materialize. Some cynically believe that the U.S. and France and Great Britian have absolutely no intention of supplying troops or support. The promises of support and relief are just ways to ease the pangs of guilt felt by citizens world wide.

I disagree. I believe the efforts of the Western European nations and the United States are genuine, if timid. Today, with the U.S. stretched to the limit in Iraq, no one is willing to take on China and Russia and risk a prolonged war in Africa.

Still, the Western nations continue to send special envoys to Khartoum, each pleading for the opportunity to provide relief to the troubled region. Sudan fears the imposition of these troops would allow the U.N to turn around and arrest government leaders for war crimes.

British minister says Darfur needs more troops
By Opheera McDoom, Reuters

KHARTOUM (Reuters) - More troops are needed to stem the violence in Sudan's Darfur region, where struggling African Union forces are failing to protect millions of endangered civilians, a British minister said on Monday.

Minister for International Development Hilary Benn, on a one-day visit to Sudan, did not manage to convince President Omar Hassan al-Bashir to accept a U.N. Security Council resolution to deploy 22,500 U.N. forces in Darfur and so avoid a confrontation with the international community.

Benn said the AU could not adequately patrol Darfur, a remote western region the size of France, because it could not find enough soldiers and did not have the money to fund them.

"The African Union for about a year and a half has been trying to find one extra battalion," he said.

The AU is still not at the full strength dictated by its mandate of more than 7,000 troops and police.

Britain, the United States, Canada and the European Union are the main donors funding the AU mission. Benn added it was impossible to continue that level of funding indefinitely.

It's tragic that the combined of Great Britian, France, Canada and the United States are being twarted by Sudan, Russia, China and some of the Middle Eastern countries.

Meanwhile, the United States continues to attempt to place pressure on Sudan. But, is it enough? Or is it just a "feel good" measure with no teeth?

This is what Congress and the President have done. How far would you be willing to go?

President Bush Signs Darfur Peace and Accountability Act
By Carrie Loewenthal, Washington File Special Correspondent

Washington -- President Bush signed into law October 13 the Darfur Peace and Accountability Act of 2006 (DPAA) and issued an executive order "blocking property of and prohibiting transactions with the Government of Sudan."

The DPAA imposes sanctions against "persons responsible for genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity; supports measures for the protection of civilians and humanitarian operations; and supports peace efforts in the Darfur region of Sudan," a White House statement says.

The president's executive order, which takes effect upon the enactment of the Darfur Peace and Accountability Act, specifically forbids transactions relating to Sudan's petroleum and petrochemical industries, sectors in which the president noted that the Government of Sudan has a pervasive role that poses a "threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States."

In a letter to the speaker of the House of Representatives and the president of the Senate, Bush notes that "the Government of Sudan continues to implement policies and actions that violate human rights, in particular with respect to the conflict in Darfur, where the Government of Sudan exercises administrative and legal authority and pervasive practical influence."

The DPAA and the executive order do not limit or restrict humanitarian aid to Darfur. The United States has provided more than $1 billion in humanitarian assistance to the people of Sudan, including $400 million during the past 12 months, for emergency food aid to the region.

Much of the news today was dominated by a scathing report by the Minority Rights Group International, a leading worldwide human rights group. The report concentrated on the early days of the building Darfur crisis and the failure of world organizations to spot and react to the warning signs.

Here is a summary of the report from an editorial in today's Arab News:

Editorial: Failure in Darfur

A report just published bears out concerns that the United Nations failed to recognize the danger signals for the murderous conflict in Darfur. In 2001 UN personnel in western Sudan reported a rising tide of inter-communal violence with civilian populations being punished for the activities of rebel groups.

Their warnings, however, either did not reach or were ignored by the UN Commission on Human Rights which 18 months later closed down its watching brief on the Sudan. This effectively signaled there was no human rights problems at almost the very moment it was becoming apparent that there was.

After investigating the events leading up to the start of the tragedy, the widely respected organization, Minority Rights Group International, concludes that the UN failed to learn the terrible lessons of the Rwandan genocide a decade earlier. This report has been widely described in the media as damning. There certainly was a mistake, a breakdown in communications or a refusal to trust information coming from UN people actually in Darfur.

    Until the United Nations and/or the world community can persuade Sudanese President Omar Bashir to accept UN troops this situation is likely to further deteriorate. The only other option would be to persuade Russia and China to allow UN troops into Darfur with or without Khartoum's approval.




      1 comment:

      Vigilante said...

      "And if thy hand offend thee, cut it off: it is better for thee to enter into life maimed, than having two hands to go into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched: Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched. And if thy foot offend thee, cut it off: it is better for thee to enter halt into life, than having two feet to be cast into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched: Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched. And if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out: it is better for thee to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye, than having two eyes to be cast into hell fire: Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched". (Mark 9:43-38).