The Darfur Consortium

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Darfur in the News

U.S. and European Media

August 6, 2023

Reuters: Darfur Rebels Agree on Position For Talks With Sudan. Darfur rebel factions meeting in Tanzania have reached a common negotiating position for final peace talks with the Sudanese government which they want held within three months, international mediators said on Monday. The rebel factions had been meeting at a luxury resort in the northern Tanzanian town of Arusha to try and bury past differences over the leadership and direction of the vast western region of Sudan. "They ... recommended that final talks should be held between two to three months from now," U.N. envoy to Darfur Jan Eliasson told the closing session of the four-day meeting. Eliasson said the groups had reached "a common platform" for negotiations, encompassing power and wealth sharing, security, land and humanitarian issues. Analysts have said the meeting's chance of success was hampered by the absence of some important rebel figures, but nonetheless succeeded in boosting unity. "The key ... is who they are going to send to negotiations to represent them all," International Crisis Group analyst Hannah Stogdon told Reuters. "If they can agree on that publicly, that is a good sign." Diplomats said the presence of field commanders helped bridge a political-military divide in the movements. Eliasson said rebel-government talks could be held in any of the regional nations trying to mediate the conflict or in any other country that the mediation considers suitable. The venue and timing would be taken up with Sudan, he said. The rebels agreed to cease fire if Sudan agreed to do so, he said. They would also guarantee access for aid agencies, refrain from attacking AU peacekeepers, and cooperate with a planned 26,000-strong AU-U.N. peacekeeping force approved by the Security Council in New York last week.

Los Angeles Times: Darfur war crimes suspect has free rein. For a man accused of masterminding massacres, Ahmad Harun seems quite comfortable in the place he allegedly helped destroy. He strolls around the grassy compound belonging to the local governor in Sudan's deeply troubled Darfur region, embracing Arab tribal leaders, soldiers and officials who have come to hear the president. Harun, a tall 42-year-old with high cheekbones and almond-shaped eyes, was in charge of the region's security during the height of the violent attacks on farm villages that caused millions to flee their homes in 2003 and 2004. He allegedly recruited, funded and armed local militias to root out rebels who had attacked the Sudanese army, sweeping away their villages, families and the intricate fabric of Darfur's identity along the way. And yet, on this day three years later, Harun glides unhindered and unapologetic through the parched remains of Darfur. In fact, he is the minister of state for humanitarian affairs in charge of caring for the very people he is accused of displacing. That he holds such a post says much about the limits of international power to cope with a festering crisis. In May, the Hague-based International Criminal Court charged him and a pro-government militia leader, Ali Mohammed Ali Abdalrahman, better known as Ali Kushayb, with war crimes and crimes against humanity. But Sudan has rejected the arrest warrants, saying that the country is not a signatory to the court and that the charges against Harun are false. Instead of being put behind bars, as the court asked, Harun still has the power to decide who lives and dies in Darfur. And without Sudan's cooperation, there is almost nothing the court can do to bring him to justice. Harun faces 42 counts of individual criminal responsibility, including murder, rape, persecution and forcible transfer of population. Militia leader Ali Kushayb, who is accused of participating in the attacks and killing civilians, is charged with 50 counts. "They are our people," he says with a grand gesture toward the ruined land, "and we are taking care of them."

Reuters: Mia Farrow Offers Her Freedom For Darfur Rebel. Mia Farrow has offered her freedom in exchange for that of a respected Darfur rebel figure, virtually imprisoned for more than 13 months, in a letter to Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir. Sudan Liberation Army (SLA) Humanitarian Coordinator Suleiman Jamous has been confined to a U.N. hospital in Kordofan, neighboring Darfur, since the United Nations moved him there without permission last year. Khartoum said if he left he would be arrested, but has said it is open to talks on his release. "Before his seizure, Mr. Jamous played a crucial role in bringing the SLA to the negotiating table and in seeking reconciliation between its divided rival factions," Farrow said in the letter dated August 5. "I am therefore offering to take Mr. Jamous's place, to exchange my freedom for his in the knowledge of his importance to the civilians of Darfur and in the conviction that he will apply his energies toward creating the just and lasting peace that the Sudanese people deserve and hope for." U.N. Darfur envoy Jan Eliasson and his African Union counterpart Salim Ahmed Salim said they had asked for Jamous's release to help with the peace process they are leading. This weekend they brought key commanders and factions together to thrash out a common position ahead of renewed peace talks.

Washington Post: China's Olympic Organizers Downplay Political Agendas. China's Olympic organizers said Monday they will not allow the 2008 Beijing games to be turned into a sounding board for foreigners with a political agenda, despite pressure from human rights advocates. At a news conference launching a one-year countdown to the games, senior officials of the Beijing Organizing Committee for the Olympic Games reflected concerns here that political advocates could cast a pall over what is intended to be a joyful coming-out party for modern China and its Communist Party government. These concerns have been heightened recently by a chorus of charges from human rights groups that China is reneging on promises of press freedom and other rights that it proffered as part of its bid to host the games. In addition, some U.S. and European entertainment and political figures have called for a boycott of the Beijing Olympics unless China brings more pressure on Sudan to resolve the Darfur conflict. One of those threatening to turn his back on the Beijing Olympics is Steven Spielberg, the movie producer who had agreed to serve as artistic adviser for a spectacular opening ceremony on Aug. 8, 2008, at 8:08 p.m., heeding Chinese folklore that says the number 8 brings good luck. Spielberg's spokesman, Andy Spahn, told ABC News last month he was considering pulling out because of China's role in the Darfur crisis but was awaiting a statement from Beijing that would influence his decision. China is a major oil customer of and arms supplier to the Sudanese government. Because of that relationship, the United States and other governments have urged China to bring more pressure on Sudan's leaders to accept a U.N.-led international peace force in Darfur.

The following editorial appeared in Saturday's Washington Post.

Progress on Darfur?

The United Nations is crawling toward action to staunch the killing in Darfur. On Tuesday, the Security Council finally authorized a joint U.N.-African Union peacekeeping force of 26,000 troops and police to deploy in the France-sized region -- 11 months after first adopting the idea. Yesterday, U.N. mediators met with a dozen of the Darfur rebel groups to try to establish a common agenda for peace negotiations with the central government. Meanwhile, France is organizing a separate police force that will deploy in Chad and the Central African Republic in an attempt to limit the spillover of fighting into those countries.

It's easy to call this progress compared with the relative paralysis of international diplomacy on Darfur a few months ago, when deployment of the expanded peacekeeping force was blocked by the resistance of Sudanese President Omar Hassan al Bashir's government. That there has been movement is due in part to pressure on the government from the Bush administration -- which imposed new sanctions in June -- and from the Chinese government, Sudan's most important ally. The arrival of a new French president eager to act has also helped, and U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki Moon has made Darfur a focus of his first year in office.

Yet the fact remains that the situation in Darfur continues to worsen. According to a recent U.N. report, 25,000 people were driven from their homes in May and June alone, further straining the capacity of the refugee camps. Bombing raids by the government were reported in northern Sudan in late June. According to an internal U.N. report obtained by the Independent, a British newspaper, the government may be trying to repopulate parts of Darfur with Arab settlers from neighboring countries, a potentially explosive new tactic. More than 30,000 Arabs are said to have crossed the border in recent months.

It's hard to be optimistic that the peacekeeping force can fulfill its mission to protect civilians and humanitarian operations. Most of the force probably will not be deployed until next year. The number of troops mandated is too small, but even that force will be hard to raise -- the United States and most European countries are unlikely to participate.

Mr. Bashir has a long history of breaking agreements; he will surely attempt to undermine the U.N. force. And, thanks to compromises by the Security Council, there will be no ready means to exert pressure: The threat of sanctions was deleted from this week's resolution. Peacekeepers and peace talks are two important elements of a solution for Darfur. But a solution won't come without much more pressure on Mr. Bashir.

The following op-ed by Nicholas Kristof appeared in Sunday's New York Times.

Mr. Bush, Here’s a Plan for Darfur

Frustrated by the genocide he is tolerating in Darfur, President Bush has suggested to aides on occasion that maybe the U.S. should just send troops there.

He alluded to that when he told a woman in Tennessee who asked him about Darfur: “The threshold question was: If there is a problem, why don’t you just go take care of it?” Mr. Bush was talked out of the idea by Condi Rice, who told him that the U.S. just couldn’t start another war in a Muslim country. So, as Mr. Bush told the questioner: “I made the decision not to send U.S. troops unilaterally into Darfur.”

That was the right decision. The Sudanese regime would use our invasion as a rallying cry against infidels and make the crisis harder to resolve.

But the upshot was that Mr. Bush, lacking a military option, hasn’t taken up other options. He seems genuinely appalled by the horrors of Darfur — he raises them regularly with foreign leaders, even when aides haven’t put them on his talking points — yet he has done little, apparently because he doesn’t know quite what to do. So here are some practical suggestions.

First, the administration should invest far more energy toward seeking a negotiated peace between rebels and government — the only long-term solution to the slaughter. Instead, the diplomatic focus has been on U.N. peacekeepers, and they are a terrific addition but not a solution in themselves.

The preliminary step is for the rebels to form a united negotiating front, and they are now meeting in Tanzania to do so. The U.S. desperately needs to assist that process to the hilt.

Second, we should back an international appeal for Sudan to release Suleiman Jamous, an elder who is one of the best hopes for uniting the rebel factions and leading them to peace.

Third, we need to work with other countries to insist that Sudan stop importing tens of thousands of Arabs from neighboring countries to repopulate those areas where it has slaughtered the local population. These new settlements seal the demographic consequences of genocide, outrage the survivors and make peace harder to achieve.

Fourth, we need to increase intelligence coverage over the area, and release occasional satellite photos so that Sudan knows it is being watched. Releasing a photo of the beleaguered Gereida camp, for example, would reduce the chance that Sudan will slaughter its 130,000 occupants.

Fifth, Mr. Bush can join Nicolas Sarkozy and Gordon Brown in the trip they have discussed to Chad. They should also publicly invite the leaders of China and Egypt, two countries that are critical to pressuring Sudan, to join them.

Sixth, the U.S. can quietly encourage Muslim leaders to push for peace. Malaysia’s prime minister, who is also the head of a group of Islamic countries, has prepared a peace proposal, and Saudi Arabia is interested in helping.

Seventh, Mr. Bush can use the bully pulpit. He can give a prime-time speech or bring Darfuri refugees to the White House for a photo-op.

Eighth, the U.S. should begin contingency planning in case Sudan starts mass slaughters of people in camps, or in case Sudan resumes its war against its south. If the former, we could secure camps and create a corridor to bring survivors to Chad; if the latter, we should arm South Sudan and perhaps blockade Port Sudan.

Ninth, we need to work much more with China, which has the most leverage over Sudan. The goal should be to get China to suspend arms transfers to Sudan until Khartoum makes a serious effort at peace.

Tenth, we can work with France to stabilize Chad and Central African Republic. President Sarkozy is pushing for European peacekeepers to rescue both countries after Sudanese-sponsored proxy invasions, and he deserves strong support.

Finally, we should work with Britain and France to enforce the U.N.’s ban on offensive military flights in Darfur. At a minimum, we should seek U.N. sanctions for Sudan’s violations. In addition, when Sudan bombs a village, we can afterward destroy one of its Chinese-made A-5 Fantan fighter bombers that it keeps in Darfur.

Many aid workers disagree with this suggestion, for fear that Sudan will retaliate by cutting off humanitarian access. But after four years, I think we need to show President Omar Hassan al-Bashir that he will pay a price for genocide. And he values his gunships and fighter bombers in a way he has never valued his people.

The following column by Carol Slezak appeared in Sunday's Chicago Sun-Times.

A real world champion

Are you tired of hearing about dog-abusing, steroid-using, contract-squabbling athletes? Then listen to what Olympic speedskater Joey Cheek has been up to lately.

Proving that an athlete's mantra is not always ''What's in it for me?'' Cheek is trying to help save lives. Toward that end, he recently visited the Chinese embassy in Washington to urge China to use its influence to stop the genocide in Darfur, Sudan. And between now and the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, he hopes to unite athletes around the world to put a spotlight on Darfur in the hope of ending the crisis. Yep, good guys still exist. They just don't necessarily make for juicy headlines.

If it bothers him that the travails of Michael Vick, Barry Bonds and other suspected scoundrels dominate the news while more worthy subjects get shoved aside, Cheek isn't letting on. But he knows how the system works.

''There are many big and sensational stories that people are interested in, and that's the job of [the media] -- to cover news responsibly,'' he said. ''But there are people doing good work -- athletes, celebrities and ordinary people -- who do get underserved [by the media]. This issue is both worthwhile and newsworthy. It affects millions of lives.''

It's an issue that transcends sports, but Cheek, who won gold and silver medals for Team USA at the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin, Italy, is using his Olympic platform to spread the message. On the Web site Where Will We Be? -- -- he invites Olympic and professional athletes to join the cause.

'A cause greater than sports'
''Imagine if a Woods, a Pele, a Yao Ming, and a host of other international athletes united their voices behind a cause greater than sports,'' a statement on the site reads. ''The entire world would take notice.''

Can you imagine that happening? Neither can I. Most professional athletes are loathe to embrace political causes, especially one that might interfere with their endorsement contracts.

A hopeful Cheek pointed out that all but two Cleveland Cavaliers players signed a letter written by their teammate Ira Newble protesting China's role in the Darfur crisis. He neglected to mention that LeBron James, who has a shoe deal with Nike, which has factories in China, didn't sign the letter. (In July, James told Time that he ''didn't have enough information on the situation'' and that he's ''trying to read up on things.'')

''I don't spend so much time thinking about what others aren't doing,'' Cheek said. ''I stay focused on what I can do.''

What causes an athlete to see outside the insular world of his sport?

''It took me a long time to realize the place athletes can have in the world,'' said Cheek, who is 28. ''When you travel to Europe or Asia, as I have, you hear about issues that are never covered in the U.S. Most Olympians are very aware of the world and interested in helping. Darfur has been going on for years. It's a massive humanitarian crisis.''

Because China, which happens to get a lot of oil from Sudan, will host the 2008 Games, activists see this as a great opportunity to pressure the superpower about Darfur. On behalf of the Save Darfur Coalition, Cheek delivered petitions signed by more than 40,000 people to the Chinese embassy July 26.

'Something that will last'
''I can't say it went over incredibly well,'' he said. ''I went there with a large group, but they said they would only allow me in. Then I stood at the front door, and they didn't open it. It was just me and the door for 35 minutes before an emissary brought me inside. He stated his position -- that China has been working behind the scenes for several months to find a solution and that it's an internal problem with the Sudanese government. And I stated my position -- that millions of lives are in peril and that China has been actively supporting the militia that is killing these people.''

Ever hopeful, he wonders if some good might have come from his visit to the embassy.

''I suggested to the emissary that we do a trip together, a goodwill gesture,'' he said, ''that Chinese and American and European athletes all visit Darfur. He seemed interested in that. At least he did not shoot the idea down.''

Cheek plans to study economics at Princeton this fall. He won't be competing in Beijing, so it will be tougher to find a spotlight to shine on the cause. But he vows to see this through. As he writes on his Web site: ''As athletes, our time to shine on the field, the ice, or the track is gone in an instant. But given the chance, united by a shared belief in a better world, we can achieve something real -- something that will last.''

Something we never would tire of hearing about.


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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