The Darfur Consortium

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Darfur in the News

U.S. and European Media

August 3, 2023

Reuters: Darfur rebel factions gather for talks. Darfur rebel factions began arriving in Tanzania on Friday for African Union-United Nations sponsored negotiations aimed at reconciling their differences ahead of peace talks with the Sudanese government. Darfur rebels split into about a dozen groups are meeting to work out a single negotiating position for peace talks with the government, and a date and venue for them. Members of the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) arrived in the Tanzanian resort town of Arusha on Friday, as did some negotiators with factions of the Sudan Liberation Army (SLA). "I think there is no doubt that all the groups want negotiations," AU Darfur envoy Salim Ahmed Salim told reporters. "The only problem arises that sometimes some of them have their own pre-conditions ... if everyone wants to start putting pre-conditions you'll have no meetings whatsoever." Salim said no date for the future rebel-government talks was set, but that he expected them within "about two months." "These are informal consultations that we hope will open the way to the coming consultations and we hope to reach common ground," JEM spokesman Jamali Hassan Jelaladin said. Underscoring the difficulty of unifying the rebel elements, the African Union in a statement on Thursday accused the Sudan Liberation Army/Movement of trying to intimidate peacekeepers in El Fasher by sending "20 heavily armed elements" to the front gate of the AU mission's forward headquarters. "That is regrettable and totally unacceptable, especially at this time when the international community has unambiguously demonstrated a firm commitment to restoring peace and security in Darfur," the statement said. Sudan on Wednesday offered a concession to the rebels, saying it would consider allowing elderly SLA humanitarian aid co-ordinator Suleiman Jamous to leave hospital without threat of arrest once the Arusha talks are underway. Jamous is widely credited with helping to stop violence against aid workers, and analysts say he offers the best hope of uniting the political and military leadership of the splintered rebel groups, without which there is little chance of success.

Los Angeles Times: Sudan rebel affects peace talks by sitting out. At the moment, the headquarters of Abdel Wahid's faction of the Sudanese Liberation Movement is a cafe in Paris. "I may be in exile, but my people know I am still with them," says Wahid, reaching into his bag and pulling out four cellphones and a chunky Thuraya satellite phone with its thumb-like antenna. "This one is for the commanders, so I can tell them what to do and what not to do. This," he said, holding up a newer Nokia, "is for civil society so we can discuss their next move. This one is for [displaced people] and refugees. This one is for students. Sometimes I address their secret meetings by speakerphone." And who is the satellite phone for? "I can't tell you." He smiles. Wahid, a round-faced 39-year-old, is one of Darfur's original rebel leaders, and even from afar, a man of secrets, contradictions and considerable power. He is a holdout who gains influence over the conversation about peace by refusing to talk; a would-be peacemaker who threatens more war; a fighter for the rights of displaced people, yet a figure who derives his power from their misery. And he is one reason it is so hard to stabilize Sudan. Though he has been living in Paris since 2004 for what he says are security reasons, Wahid remains one of the most influential leaders of the Fur tribe, which makes up the majority of Darfur's population and has been the main target of attacks. Wahid's continued popularity explains why U.N. peace negotiators want him at the table at preliminary peace talks due to begin today in Arusha, Tanzania, not at this zinc cafe table sipping Coke Light. The talks are meant to help the splintered opposition find a common platform so they can face the government in negotiations this fall. "Without him, I am afraid the talks won't go forward," said the U.N.'s special envoy for Sudan, Jan Eliasson, who has spent months trying to nudge all the players to the table. "This is the big chance." "Three things will not work with me. Pressure, persuasion, and isolation," he said. "I don't get my power from the international community, I get my power from my people." He paused and frowned. "If they try to make peace without me, I will sabotage everything."

Associated Press: Darfur's Arab Tribes Battle Each Other. Darfur's nomadic Arabs, some of them part of the feared janjaweed militia implicated in atrocities against civilians, have turned on each other in clashes that reportedly killed dozens this week. Arab tribal fighting, increasing since last fall, may add to the difficulties facing a force of 26,000 U.N. peacekeepers who are expected to deploy to Darfur by the end of December. The U.N. Security Council on Tuesday authorized the peacekeepers to try to stop the bloodshed in the Sudanese region, where most of the violence has raged between Arabs and ethnic Africans. The rival Arab tribes are believed to be battling over land in southern Darfur, some of it left behind by ethnic Africans who fled janjaweed attacks in the region. Sudan's government, which has led over a dozen reconciliation efforts between the tribes, denied on Thursday that the violence was getting out of hand. The tribal violence recently stepped up in South Darfur over control of agricultural and grazing land around Nyala, about 600 miles southwest of Sudan's capital, Khartoum. The independent daily Al-Sudani and the opposition Rai Al-Shaab newspaper, reporting from Nyala, the provincial capital of South Darfur, said Thursday that clashes between the Rizzaigat and the Tarjem tribes near the city left at least 82 dead and at least 20 others wounded. Rai Al-Shaab quoted eyewitnesses as saying that on Tuesday a group of Rizzaigat tribesmen, mounted on 12 heavily armed pickups, attacked a group of Tarjem men in an open area some 20 miles southwest of Nyala, where they were attending the funeral of a man slain earlier in the week in another clash between the two tribes. The paper said 52 people were killed on the spot and 20 others were injured. Later, 30 people were killed while returning home from the funeral. Separately, the Al Sahafa independent daily reported that clashes also occurred Monday between the two tribes near al-Gawaya, some 35 miles south of Nyala. That violence left 74 people dead and injured, the paper said.

Associated Press: Group: China Cracking Down on Activists. One year before the start of the Beijing Olympics, the Chinese government has failed to live up to promises of greater human rights and has instead clamped down on domestic activists and journalists, Human Rights Watch said Thursday. China, which has long been criticized for its human rights record, has cracked down on dissent to stave off potential political instability, the human rights group said. "The government seems afraid that its own citizens will embarrass it by speaking out about political and social problems, but China's leaders apparently don't realize authoritarian crackdowns are even more embarrassing," Brad Adams, the Asia director of New York-based Human Rights Watch, said in a statement. In bidding for the games back in 2001, Chinese leaders promised International Olympic Committee members that the Olympics would lead to an improved climate for human rights and media freedoms. Instead, there has been "gagging of dissidents, a crackdown on activists and attempts to block independent media coverage," Adams said. The group also criticized Beijing's ties with oppressive regimes and dictatorships in Sudan, Burma, Cambodia and Zimbabwe. China has been accused of not doing more to stop the bloodshed in Darfur, where more than 200,000 people have been killed and 2.5 million others displaced since February 2003. China buys two-thirds of Sudan's oil exports, exports weapons to the country and is an investor in Sudanese dams and other infrastructure projects. Beijing has urged a political solution to the Darfur crisis and, as a veto-wielding member of the U.N. Security Council, has blocked efforts to sanction Khartoum. Steven Spielberg, who is working as a consultant on the Games' opening ceremony, has urged Chinese President Hu Jintao to change his government's policy on Sudan after the filmmaker was publicly branded a collaborator by Mia Farrow. Farrow, a U.N. goodwill ambassador, has labeled the Games the "genocide Olympics." After resisting calls for intervention, China dispatched a special envoy and lobbied Sudan to accept a U.N. peacekeeping force. The U.N. unanimously agreed Tuesday to send a 26,000-strong peacekeeping force to Darfur by the end of this year.

The following editorial appeared in today's New York Times.

A First Step to Save Darfur

The United Nations Security Council has at last taken a meaningful step toward stopping the genocide in Sudan’s Darfur region, authorizing a joint United Nations-African Union peacekeeping force to begin operations this fall. With 26,000 soldiers and police officers, it will be the world’s largest peacekeeping effort.

The Security Council should have acted a long time ago. The cost of four years of temporizing is at least 200,000 people dead, 2.5 million driven from their homes and a crisis that has spilled over the borders into Chad and the Central African Republic.

Sudan’s government must now follow through on its promises to support rather than obstruct the effort: providing the landing strips, flight clearances and on-the-ground cooperation the international force will need.

The core of the mission is protecting the endangered civilians of Darfur, enforcing peace agreements negotiated between armed rebel groups and the Sudanese government, suppressing attacks by any side and curbing illegal arms shipments. While this sort of peacekeeping is urgently needed, Darfur needs a lot more help if the killing is to finally end.

Fundamentally, the fight in Darfur — some 600 miles west of Sudan’s capital, Khartoum — is over scarce resources and the Sudanese government’s deadly discrimination against the region. While newly tapped oil wealth is flowing into Sudan, almost all of it is going to the capital’s elite and next to none to Darfur. When people there rose in revolt, Khartoum launched a genocidal repression carried out by army-backed militias known as the janjaweed. Darfur is also internally divided between nomads and farmers forced to compete for dwindling water supplies.

Stopping the slaughter would require not only disarming the janjaweed, but bringing all of Darfur’s rebel groups into the still partial peace agreement. An effort to do that begins today in Tanzania.

Reaching a comprehensive political settlement will require a change in mentality, starting with the discriminatory mentality of Khartoum. And to keep a new internal war from erupting again over resources, there will also have to be a new framework for the region’s development.

World pressure, begun by grass-roots campaigners, but joined early on by President Bush and more recently by China and the Arab League, is finally being felt in Khartoum. That pressure will have to continue so that Sudan’s president, Omar Hassan al-Bashir, finally understands that he will not be allowed to turn Khartoum into a bubble of oil-fed prosperity while Darfur’s people are murdered and raped and the survivors left to die of hunger, thirst and disease. And that pressure will have to continue in the crucial months ahead if the new peacekeeping force is to succeed.

Stopping the slaughter must come first. But the challenge of saving Darfur does not end there.

The following editorial appeared in today's Christian Science Monitor.

The UN blinks on Darfur

Rather than plan for an invasion of Darfur to end a genocide, the UN Security Council decided Tuesday to send in 20,000 peacekeepers – not peacemakers. And the Blue Helmets will operate only without usurping Sudanese authority. Why the compromises? Two reasons: China and Iraq.

First, China. With its veto power within the Council, Beijing has delayed tough UN action on Darfur for years. It treasures Sudan's oil for its booming economy more than saving hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians in Darfur. But with global activists launching a save-Darfur campaign against China's hosting of the 2008 Summer Olympics, it recently sent diplomats to its erstwhile allies in Sudan for a little arm-twisting.

That, and some limited sanctions on Khartoum by the UN, led to limited concessions for a much-constrained UN force to enter Darfur. The result is a complicated peacekeeping mission – the largest ever for the global body – that will take months, perhaps a year, to see if it can bring long-lasting peace to Darfur's survivors – just long enough for Beijing to finish up the Games next summer.

China, in essence, won a decent interval so it can use the Olympics to mark its ascendency as a world power.

Second reason, Iraq: Before the US invasion in 2003, many officials at the United Nations were moving toward a doctrine of intervening in any country where a civil war or a humanitarian crisis was getting out of control. That was the UN's main lesson from the 1994 Rwanda genocide. But then the post-9/11 "preemptive intervention" in Iraq to destroy then-alleged weapons of mass destruction put a bad name on such well-meaning meddling.

The UN now remains wary of acting in such an assertive, sovereignty-busting way – even in the face of another genocide. And the result in Sudan is global intervention by dribs and drabs – and with many doubts.

Sudan did allow in a force of 7,000 soldiers from the African Union in 2004. That proved ineffectual, as expected, and left more than 2 million refugees still vulnerable to attacks. But even with the new UN African Union Mission in Darfur (Unamid), peacekeepers won't be able to disarm militias or arrest suspected war criminals. They can only protect civilians. And they are allowed to operate only "without prejudice to the responsibility of the government of Sudan," according to Tuesday's UN resolution. That's a loophole for Sudan to block anything.

In addition, the UN officers must be African, no sanctions are threatened if Sudan doesn't comply, and the UN secretary-general is not obligated to report violations.

Perhaps this UN move is the baby-step needed to end Darfur's tragedy and provide enough security to feed the refugees. If it fails, and China agrees, the UN can move to tougher sanctions. Still needed is international pressure on Darfur's rebel groups to unite and negotiate a peace deal with Khartoum – one that equitably distributes power and wealth to Sudan's regions. It is that inequality that lies at the heart of the dispute.

Since 2003, the conflict has claimed more than 200,000 lives and has shown the weakness of the UN as a global body. To end both, Darfur first needs a peace. Only then can it use peacekeepers.


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].


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