The Darfur Consortium

An African and International
Civil Society Action for Darfur


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July 26

Reuters: U.S. wants earlier transfer of force in Darfur. The United States wants a combined U.N.-African Union force to function in Darfur from Oct. 1, three months earlier than proposed in a draft U.N. resolution, a senior U.S. official said Wednesday. "People are dying, there is no reason to wait until December 31st," U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Jendayi Fraser said in an interview with Reuters. A revised U.N. Security Council resolution drawn up by France and Britain and circulated this week sets a target date of no later than Dec. 31 to transfer authority from the African Union to a combined AU-UN force. Fraser said about 7,000 African troops in Darfur should transfer to the joint force by Oct 1 rather than the target date in the draft resolution, which may be voted on in the coming days. "They are fully qualified to be the first element of the hybrid force," Fraser said. "We have the forces on the ground, why don't we get started with this?" She said African capabilities were consistently underestimated and the United Nations did not need to wait for Asian troops to sign on before the handover began. "Essentially they are saying these African forces are not good enough and that is a huge problem. It is just not correct. I don't know where that prejudice is coming from. These are U.N. qualified troops." Fraser said the AU forces currently in Darfur were not being paid and were poorly equipped, problems that could quickly be rectified once the U.N. was on board.

Associated Press: Aid Convoys Under Attack in Darfur. A dramatic increase in attacks on aid convoys in Darfur is hampering the world's largest humanitarian operation, and some 170,000 people are now out of reach of food aid because of the violence, the United Nations' World Food Programme said Wednesday. Nine food convoys have been ambushed by gunmen across the war-torn region of western Sudan over the last two weeks alone, the WFP said in a statement. The U.N. food agency condemned the ''dramatic escalation in attacks on humanitarian staff and food convoys.'' It said the violence was endangering the WFP's ability to deliver assistance to millions of hungry people. ''WFP was not able to reach 170,000 people in June, a sizable increase from the lowest point last March when 60,000 could not be reached,'' the WFP said. The U.N.'s Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said in an e-mail to The Associated Press that 76 vehicles from the U.N. or other aid groups have been stolen in Darfur so far this year and 77 humanitarian convoys were attacked. The WFP said 18 of its food convoys have been attacked this year, and 10 staff, including contractors, have been either detained or abducted. The latest attack occurred Friday when 16 armed men fired at a convoy and then ransomed the drivers, she said by telephone from Khartoum, the Sudanese capital. It took place near the town of Tawila, some 40 miles from the North Darfur capital of El Fasher where Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir said Sunday that Darfur was now largely pacified. Stopping murder in Darfur. Apparently, according to Sudan’s president Omar al-Bashir, everyone has been getting all steamed-up about nothing in Darfur. In fact most of Sudan’s western region is “secure and enjoying real peace”, he announced after a rare visit to Darfur last weekend. “People are living normal lives”, he said. That will come as a surprise to more than 2m desperately poor, vulnerable and hungry internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Darfur itself, and to the 200,000 or so refugees who have fled over the border to camps in neighbouring Chad. Their misery comes on top of an estimated 200,000—400,000 people who have died since 2003 when fighting erupted in Darfur; many of the deaths have been caused by forces controlled by the Sudanese government. But then Mr Bashir and his ministers have spent much of the past year leading a concerted campaign to downplay the severity and significance of what the UN calls the “worst humanitarian disaster” anywhere. Instead, Sudan’s rulers have been trying to get outsiders to focus on the investment opportunities in the oil and financial-services sectors in the booming capital of Khartoum. As one Sudanese official has been quoted as saying, Darfur’s “negative image” bears no relation to all that peace and happiness on the ground—it is solely because of “black propaganda” spread by America and Britain.

NPR: Darfur Activists Push Spielberg to Pressure China. Hollywood heavyweights have been trying to use their star power to end the four-year-old humanitarian crisis in Darfur. Mia Farrow is one celebrity who has been active on Darfur for several years. George Clooney, Don Cheadle, Brad Pitt and Matt Damon founded a group called Not on Our Watch to address the issue. All of them want to draw attention to Darfur, the western region of Sudan in which hundreds of thousands of people have died and millions have been displaced over the last four years. The government of Sudan denies accusations of genocide. To influence Sudan, Farrow decided to put pressure on Beijing. China is Sudan's biggest oil customer and a diplomatic advocate for the Sudanese. The Chinese are looking to the Beijing Olympics in 2008 to raise their image in the world, and they've invited Steven Spielberg to consult on the opening and closing ceremonies. Now Darfur advocates, including Farrow, have criticized Spielberg for working with the Chinese. In March, Farrow went so far as to write that Spielberg could be thought of as "the Leni Riefenstahl of the Beijing games" if he failed to urge the Chinese to pressure Sudan. That reference to the Hitler-glorifying German filmmaker has drawn no public response from the Schindler's List director. But a few days after Farrow's broadside, Spielberg wrote a letter to Chinese President Hu Jintao, outlining his concerns about Beijing's role in Sudan. He called for China to advocate for United Nations action to stop the crisis in Darfur. So far, there is no word of a reply. To listen to the full story, please follow the link provided above.

WBUR (Boston): Darfur Divestment. Today, the House Financial Services Committee could make it easier for investment firms such as Boston-based Fidelity Investments to take their money out of Sudan. There's been a lot of pressure lately from an activist campaign to sever financial ties to the country's troubled region of Darfur. But until now if mutual fund companies did so, they could have faced shareholder lawsuits. The proposed legislation from Massachusetts Democrat Barney Frank would protect against such litigation. As WBUR's Business and Technology Reporter Curt Nickisch reports, the measure bolsters an activist campaign that's trying to get mutual fund companies to divest from Sudan. The audio for this story will be available on WBUR's web site after 10 a.m. on Thursday.

The following column by Dan Simpson appeared in yesterday's Pittsburgh Post Gazette.

Dealing with Darfur

Pittsburgh benefited last week from the visit of retired U.S. ambassador Larry G. Rossin, currently serving as senior international coordinator for the Save Darfur Coalition, represented here by the five-organization Pittsburgh Darfur Emergency Coalition.  
Mr. Rossin has experience dealing with tough problems, including as U.S. Ambassador to Croatia and assignments in Haiti and Kosovo. As problems go, Darfur is as bad as it gets. He remains upbeat and has ideas of how to push ahead.

Darfur, which means "place of the Fur people," is part of Western Sudan. Its problems have spilled over into neighboring Chad and the Central African Republic. The adjacent regions of both of those countries share with Darfur excruciating dryness and poverty, isolation and now displaced people and conflict. It is estimated that more than 2.5 million people have been dislodged by the Darfur troubles, which began in 2003, with between 200,000 and 400,000 killed. One must add that whenever numbers like that are rounded off to the nearest hundred thousand it means that no one really knows how many have been displaced or killed. But it's a lot.

Partly because the Darfur problem has been around for a while it receives some attention. On Thursday President Bush said he had considered sending U.S. troops there -- but had rejected the idea. (It might have been the matter of 170,000 U.S. troops in Iraq with more possibly to be sent to enhance the "surge.") On Friday, meeting in Paris, new British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and new French President Nicolas Sarkozy pledged to do something about Darfur, in the U.N. Security Council or somewhere, joining Mr. Bush in talking about what a terrible problem it was and how something had to be done about it by someone.

Darfur stays in front of a not-awfully-interested U.S. population because of the good work of people like Mr. Rossin and the Rev. Carmen A. D'Amico, pastor of St. Benedict the Moor Catholic Church on the Hill, which hosted a public meeting Thursday night. One reason the Darfur issue continues to get attention is that it has been called genocide.

This means, first, that peoples who have been victims of genocide, such as Armenians, Jews and Rwandans, are interested in Darfur due to fellow-feeling and the sympathy of shared pain and grief, and because they don't want their own fates to be forgotten by history.

Second, genocide is something that no one wants to be accused of perpetrating, or of having condoned by inaction. This is what gets Mr. Bush to talk about it, although he has yet to do anything that has any significant impact in Darfur or Sudan.

Although Darfur is a perfectly ghastly problem, it is not easily susceptible to becoming an issue in the U.S. presidential elections because it is too complicated. It is hard to see the candidates making a point in a speech about Darfur, starting by hoisting a map to show where the place is.

Here are some of the reasons why Darfur is so hard.

Like real estate, location. No infrastructure. No roads. No air strips. Not even any cities. Geographically it is in the middle of the roughest part of Africa.

It is in Sudan, a country that has been the epitome of difficult African countries since well before independence in 1956. If anyone saw the movie "Khartoum," remember when the Mahdi, played by Sir Laurence Olivier in black face with an Indian accent, organized the death by spearing of Charlton Heston, playing British General Sir Charles Gordon, on the porch of his office? Sudan is and always has been an uneasy combination of pastoralists speaking Arabic, darker-skinned farmers speaking African languages and others, living in a large country with little water and few resources. The pastoralists, with a general, Omar Hassan Ahmad al-Bashir, as president now, have been on top pretty much since the beginning. His group's approach to human rights has been very mixed.

Sudan was torn by north-south civil war for decades, ending with a fragile agreement in 2005. Some people speculate that the reason the world hasn't pushed Sudan harder on Darfur is because of the risk of the north-south accord, which was difficult to achieve, coming unglued.

The Sudanese government is quite artful at fending off attempts to influence its behavior through international pressure. It allowed basically clawless African Union peacekeepers to be sent to Darfur. It has bobbed and weaved about allowing in potentially more competent U.N. peacekeeping forces.

Sudan found oil. Chinese companies have staked out most of it. China has also quietly assumed the role of protector of Sudan in the United Nations and other forums. There is some thought that China's wishing to host a quiet and unprotested Olympic games in 2008 will make it susceptible to pressure to push the Sudanese to be reasonable about Darfur. I am skeptical. If one wanted to push the Chinese about something in connection with the Olympics, one could easily think of trying to ensure the human rights of the Tibetans, the Uighars or Falun Gong, under China's own roof.

Apart from giving the Sudanese independence of action, its oil also serves as a deterrent to U.S. involvement in the Darfur affair. All it would take is for someone to suggest that the United States was interested in intervening in Sudan to get its hands on the country's oil -- as it is sometimes suggested with respect to Iraq -- or, worse, that the United States was, in fact, zeroing in on another Muslim country, and our engagement could become unwelcome indeed.

I see some hope in increased French interest in Darfur, since it has military and other resources in neighboring Chad and the Central African Republic. I think, for now, however, that the United States has other fish to fry, although the Darfur coalition should definitely keep the heat on Washington on this issue.


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].