The Darfur Consortium

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July 16

Los Angeles Times: Sudan agrees to meet with rebels. In an international summit Sunday to push peace in Sudan's troubled Darfur region, the Sudanese government agreed to soon meet rebel groups that thus far have refused to join peace talks. If the agreement holds, it will be an important step in re-launching a peace process that has stalled since those key rebel factions rejected the widely unpopular Darfur peace agreement struck last year. The so-called non-signatories will meet the first week of August to prepare a unified position for talks with the government in late August or September. "We've made a serious step forward," said Jan Eliasson, the United Nations' special envoy for Sudan. He and African Union representative Salim Ahmed Salim have devised a blueprint to whittle down competing peace proposals in order to have the government and multiple rebel factions discuss a single plan for peace in Darfur by the end of the summer. After weeks of shuttle diplomacy, leaders from the five permanent members of the Security Council, the European Union, and neighboring and donor nations gathered in Tripoli, the Libyan capital, to endorse the move. Before Sunday, Sudan's neighbors, Eritrea and Libya, had been promoting peace initiatives that highlighted their own interests in the war-torn region, but the countries were persuaded to step back and let the U.N. and AU take the lead. The rival plans had given the government of Sudan a chance to play one against another, diplomats said. "Now we are all going the same direction," Eliasson said. "It's like herding cats, but we did it." Negotiators will tackle tough issues that include how much to compensate families driven from their land, how to protect them when they return and how to disarm roving militias.

Reuters: EU and U.N. considering force for Darfur refugees in Chad. The European Union and the United Nations are considering sending troops and police to protect Darfur refugees and other homeless people in neighboring Chad, a senior U.N. official said on Friday. Stressing that talks were still in the preliminary stage, Jean-Marie Guehenno, the undersecretary-general in charge of peacekeeping, told reporters the United Nations was studying a U.N. Security Council resolution for Chad. This would authorize a European military force and a "multidimensional U.N. mission with a strong police component to address the security situation ... in the refugee camps and the internally displaced people," he said. Eastern Chad has some 230,000 Sudanese refugees and 120,000 of its own citizens chased from villages along the border with Sudan's Darfur, mainly by pro-Sudan government militia. Most live in arid camps in the impoverished country. France last month asked the EU to send up to 12,000 troops to Chad to set up a humanitarian corridor to Darfur refugees but the EU has not responded yet.

Reuters: Sudan bombing civilian targets in Darfur: U.S. envoy. The top U.S. envoy for Darfur on Friday accused the Sudanese government of bombing civilian targets in its war-ravaged western region and rebels of cynically obstructing international efforts to end the conflict. Andrew Natsios told a news conference in Khartoum following a visit to Darfur that both sides were to blame for the conflict that has created one of the world's worst humanitarian crises. "After a halt in the bombing between the beginning of February and the end of April in 2007, the Sudanese government has resumed bombing in Darfur," Natsios said. "This should end and the ceasefire that was agreed to sometime ago should be respected. We urge the Sudanese government to end all bombing in Darfur immediately," he said. "Some rebel leaders are cynically obstructing the peace process and the United States government is very disturbed by this. It needs to end now," he continued. Natsios said the bombing by the Sudanese military focused on the Jebel Marra region, a strong-hold of Abdul Wahid Mohammed Nour, leader of a faction of one of the Darfur rebel groups, and other targets in West and North Darfur.

Reuters: Mass. fund to sell stocks of Sudan-related firms. Massachusetts' state pension fund, one of America's biggest and most successful, plans to sell some $80 million in holdings of companies that invest in Sudan, becoming the latest investor to protest violence there. "Money managers who invest for us and own stocks like Schlumberger (Ltd.) and PetroChina (Co. Ltd.) will be selling those holdings," Michael Travaglini, executive director of the $50.3 billion Massachusetts' Pension Reserves Investment Management Board (PRIM) fund, told Reuters. "In total we expect it will be about $80 million," he said. Exactly when the sales will occur is still unclear, however, and depends on Massachusetts lawmakers, who will soon vote on a bill ordering the divestment. As the State Senate recently approved the bill unanimously and Gov. Deval Patrick endorses it, it should sail through the House without any trouble in the next weeks, said David Guarino, spokesman for House speaker Sal DiMasi.

Los Angeles Times: Darfur war, mismanagement threaten key Sudan industry. Farmers here call these sandblasted acacia orchards the "gardens of our grandfathers," and for centuries the sticky amber sap flowing from them helped to bind civilization. Today Sudan accounts for more than 60% of the world market in the all-purpose tree sap. Gum arabic is so vital to Western consumers that U.S. lawmakers carved out an exemption for the commodity after President Clinton first imposed trade sanctions against Sudan in 1997, despite reports that Osama bin Laden had once dabbled in the industry. When President Bush recently tightened economic sanctions against Sudan to protest the conflict in Darfur, gum arabic suppliers were once again left off the list of targeted firms. The U.S. buys about one-quarter of Sudan's gum arabic. The ancient industry is facing its biggest threat yet because of the conflict in Darfur and government mismanagement. Its future could affect not only the nearly 5 million Sudanese whose livelihoods depend upon the commodity, but also the price, quality and availability of hundreds of popular Western consumer products. Since the war began between Darfur rebels and government-supported militias, known as janjaweed, harvesting has been difficult, if not impossible, in western Sudan, which accounted for a quarter of the country's gum arabic production. Desperate displaced families in Darfur have resorted to cutting down trees for charcoal or firewood. What little gum arabic that can be produced in the volatile region is now smuggled across the border into Chad. Last year, exports by Sudan's government-controlled Gum Arabic Co. fell to the lowest level on record, to less than 9,000 metric tons, compared with 30,000 tons in recent years and a peak of 50,000 in the 1960s.

The following op-ed by Nicholas Kristof appeared in today's New York Times. He Rang the Alarm on Darfur

Some day, an American president will visit a genocide museum in Darfur and repeat the standard refrain: If only we had known ...But that excuse will ring hollow, because there was a whistle-blower in the heart of the Bush administration. Roger Winter, whom President Bush had appointed in 2001 to a senior post in the U.S. Agency for International Development, frantically tried to ring alarm bells — but instead the administration turned away.

If there was a hero within the U.S. government on Darfur, it was Mr. Winter. But it was doubly frustrating for him because in 1994 he had the same experience during the Clinton administration, when he was running a refugee organization and desperately trying to galvanize officials to respond to the Rwandan genocide. In outrage at Bill Clinton’s inaction during the Rwandan slaughter, Mr. Winter abandoned the Democratic Party and became a Republican. Mr. Winter, 65, who also served in the Carter and (briefly) Reagan administrations, traveled regularly to Sudan for the Bush administration, trying to end the 20-year war between northern and southern Sudan. On those trips, Mr. Winter encountered the slaughter in Darfur as it began.

In May 2003, long before any newspaper noticed, Mr. Winter warned in Congressional testimony that violence was erupting in Darfur. Then, on Nov. 3, 2003, the U.S. Embassy in Khartoum transmitted a message warning Washington that “the situation in Darfur is critical” and adding that “ethnic cleansing ... is underway. ”But Washington shrugged. State Department officials apparently worried that an uproar over Darfur would derail the north-south agreement in Sudan, a prize achievement for the Bush administration. So they looked away. The State Department was even angry when the Agency for International Development released satellite photos showing the burned villages in Darfur.

Before testifying to Congress, Mr. Winter had to submit prepared remarks to the State Department for vetting. Frustrated by State’s passivity, he used his off-the-cuff remarks to speak passionately — and uncensored — about the horrors in Darfur. Mr. Winter once took an administration colleague with him to fly over Darfur from Chad, to show him the Janjaweed militias as they burned villages. Administration officials aren’t supposed to invade another country’s air space and buzz militias as they slaughter civilians, but Mr. Winter was desperate to get another administration witness. “We were trying to get everybody’s attention, including the White House and State Department and everybody else,” Mr. Winter recalls. When Sudanese forces blocked a road to aid groups, Mr. Winter invited aid groups to join his own convoy and insisted on going down the road to assure humanitarian access. It was agonizing, he says, to feel that Mr. Bush wanted to do the right thing on Sudan — and yet see the administration acquiesce on mass murder. Later Mr. Winter served as State Department envoy for Darfur, but at State he burned with the same frustration and retired last year, deeply disillusioned. “Khartoum looked the U.S. in the eye, and we looked away,” Mr. Winter said, adding: “There was no real intention of taking effective action. They saw that. They read us. And so they weren’t threatened.

”Mr. Winter favored — and still favors — a no-fly zone over Darfur. We wouldn’t keep planes in the air, or even shoot planes down. But after Sudan bombed civilians in Darfur, we would later destroy a Sudanese attack helicopter on the ground. Aid groups worry that such a strike would endanger their efforts. But I think Mr. Winter, who has 26 years’ experience in Sudan, is exactly right that a no-fly zone is the best way to shake up Sudanese officials and make them negotiate seriously for a peace agreement in Darfur. “What we have done with our handling of Darfur is show Khartoum that in certain circumstances we are a toothless tiger,” he says. “No matter how forceful the words we use, we don’t act. Or we act in ways that the bad guys in Khartoum find tolerable. ... It tells them that they can get away with mass murder.

”The upshot, Mr. Winter believes, is that Sudan is increasingly likely to resume its war against southern Sudan, erasing one of Mr. Bush’s genuine achievements. Mr. Winter says of administration officials, “They’re turning a silk purse into a sow’s ear. ”Mr. Winter admires Mr. Bush for pushing for north-south peace but fears that the administration is simply running out the clock on Darfur. “Where we have gotten to with Sudan,” he says heavily, “is a tragedy.”


The Darfur Daily News is a service of the Save Darfur Coalition.  To subscribe to the Daily News, please email [email protected]. For media inquiries, please contact Ashley Roberts at (202) 478-6181, or [email protected].