The Darfur Consortium

. . .

Darfur in the News

U.S. and European Media

August 13, 2023

Reuters: AU diplomat says enough African troops for Darfur force. African nations have pledged enough troops for war-torn Darfur's 26,000-strong peacekeeping force and non-Africans are not needed, the African Union's top diplomat Alpha Oumar Konare said. "I can say ... that we have enough pledges from African nations so that we do not need to turn to forces from non-African countries," Konare said, according to an AU statement on Monday. After meeting Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir in Khartoum on Sunday, Konare said the United Nations now had to fund the force. The U.N. Security Council last month authorized the 26,000-strong joint U.N. and African Union force, but the General Assembly has to approve funding for the operation, which will come from the U.N. peacekeeping budget. Earlier this month, a senior U.N. peacekeeping official said there were sufficient troops for the force, mostly from Africa, but some would come from Asian countries too. European countries have also pledged soldiers and police.

Reuters: Darfur Campaign Starts Olympic Torch Genocide Tour. Actress Mia Farrow and fellow campaigners have begun an Olympic-style torch relay through countries that have suffered genocide to press China to help end abuses in the Darfur region of its ally Sudan. Farrow, a goodwill ambassador for U.N. Children's Fund UNICEF and outspoken critic of abuses in western Sudan, lit a torch just across the border in Chad almost exactly a year before the Beijing Olympics are due to open on August 8, 2008. "This flame represents and honors all those who have been lost, and all those who still suffer," said Farrow as she held the symbolic torch in Oure Cassoni refugee camp, 3 miles from Chad's border with Sudan. "This flame celebrates the courage of those who survived and represents the hope we all share for an end to the violence, and a safe return home," she said. During a fierce rain and dust storm which engulfed the camp, the actress then wrapped up the ceremony by symbolically leading away a refugee boy into the distance, still holding the torch high in her other hand, to cheers from fellow activists. "The Olympic torch travels the world before the games to represent peace and brotherhood. We are doing this torch ... to also represent peace and brotherhood for the people of Darfur," Jill Savitt, of Organizers Dream for Darfur, told reporters. Ruth Messinger, president of the American Jewish World Service, and Ira Newble, an NBA basketball player with the Cleveland Cavaliers, also took part in last week's ceremony. The Dream for Darfur torch is due to continue to visit genocide sites in Rwanda, Armenia, Bosnia, Germany and Cambodia as well as touring nearly two dozen cities across the United States ahead of next year's Olympics.

New York Times: Concern Rises About Reports of New Fighting in Darfur. The African Union is investigating reports of a new round of intense fighting between Sudanese government troops and rebels in Darfur in which more than 100 soldiers may have been killed, an African Union spokesman said Friday. Several aid organizations said the fighting was imperiling humanitarian programs in a swath of southern Darfur that has become so lawless and violent — and rebel-controlled — that it is considered a no-go zone even for peacekeepers. “We’re looking into several reports about the fighting and we’re very concerned,” said Noureddine Mezni, a spokesman for the African Union, which has 7,000 peacekeepers in Sudan. “What’s most disappointing is that this broke out just days after the Arusha agreement.” An agreement was signed this week in Arusha, Tanzania, by more than half a dozen of Darfur’s many rebel groups, which pledged to work together to end the bloodshed in Darfur that has claimed more than 200,000 lives and destabilized a large area of central Africa. The Sudanese government welcomed the rebels’ agreement tepidly, saying it supported the idea of a cease-fire, but was disappointed that several insurgent groups had boycotted the peace process. According to aid workers, the fighting in southern Darfur has been exacerbated by increasing tensions among nomadic tribes, which until recently had sided with the government. At the same time, United Nations officials have said that attacks on aid convoys and aid workers across Darfur are rising sharply, and that some towns as close as 15 miles apart can now be reached only by helicopter because the roads are so dangerous.

Los Angeles Times: In Darfur, another obstacle to peace. Three years after it was burned to the ground, the village of Tulus in Darfur is springing back to life. Corn and sesame sprout from fertile fields. Children play around newly built huts. Smoke from cooking fires once again rises from the land. Problem is, those rebuilding Tulus are not the original inhabitants, who were chased away by pro-government Sudanese militias in 2004 and are afraid to return. Instead, their place has been taken by Chadian Arabs, who recently crossed the border to flee violence in their own country. "It's comfortable here," said Sheik Algooni Mohammed Zeean, 42, leader of 150 Chadian Arabs who in March settled on a grassy plain not far from the ruins of Tulus' abandoned homes and school. Gesturing toward the fields bearing their first harvest in Sudan, he smiled. "I feel like this is my home now." Over the last six months, nearly 30,000 Chadian Arabs have crossed into Sudan, many of them settling on land owned by Darfur's pastoral tribes that have been driven into displacement camps, aid groups say. This migration has quickly become the latest obstacle to peace in western Sudan, drawing the attention of international observers and protests from those displaced from Darfur, who accuse the Sudanese government of orchestrating an "Arabization" scheme by repopulating their burned-out villages with foreigners. "This is a government plot to give our land to Chadian Arabs," said Mohammed Abakar Mohammed Adam, 27, a farmer from the village of Bechabecha, which he said was abandoned after armed nomadic tribes known asjanjaweed, widely believed to be backed by the government, attacked in 2003. But in recent months, Chadian newcomers have begun building homes atop the remains. "The mere presence of people on this land will make it more difficult for [displaced persons] to return home," said Ita Schuette, head of the Habillah branch of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, the world body's refugee agency, which has been monitoring the influx.

New York Times: Beijing ’08: Let the Politics Begin. The Communist Party expends much effort trying to remove politics from daily life in China, and now it wants to remove politics from the Olympics, too. Beijing Olympic officials are taking the line that political protesters agitating about China are violating the spirit and charter of the Games. But if anything was evident last week when Beijing staged a one-year countdown to the 2008 Games, it was that eliminating politics from the Olympics was about as likely as eliminating medals. Beijing may have envisioned a public relations opportunity, but so did an array of advocacy groups that spent the week whipsawing China on human rights violations, press freedom and Tibet. “All of these voices are going to become stronger and stronger, not weaker and weaker, as the Games approach,” said John MacAloon, an Olympic historian who has advised the Beijing Olympic committee on managing the traditional torch relay. “All Olympic Games are, of course, highly politically charged and sensitive in some regions of the world. How could they not be?” Without question, the Communist Party is eager to stage a successful Olympics, and the Chinese public is ecstatic about holding the Games. China regards the event as a coming-out party to highlight its economic rise and emergence as a world power. But that eagerness is also providing an opening for the party’s critics. That was never clearer than when the actress Mia Farrow attacked China for contributing to the atrocities in Darfur through its huge subsidies to oil-rich Sudan. China had seemed indifferent about international criticism over its role in Sudan until Ms. Farrow wrote an article in The Wall Street Journal in March that popularized the phrase “Genocide Olympics.” The article called out Steven Spielberg for his involvement in the staging of the opening ceremonies in Beijing. By August, China was suddenly part of a unanimous United Nations Security Council endorsing peacekeepers for Darfur.

Reuters: Activists say Sudan divestment campaign working. The campaign to persuade U.S. companies and investors to halt the flow of dollars to war-torn Sudan through China and other countries is making significant progress, activists say. U.S. sanctions on Sudan, where conflict in the Darfur region has been branded "genocide" by President George W. Bush, already limit most transactions, though humanitarian aid and agricultural assistance have been allowed. But U.S. institutional investors, mutual funds, and Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway have billions of dollars invested in companies that operate in -- or have ties to -- Sudan, particularly the oil business. Activists have lobbied for investors to dump shares and bonds in PetroChina Co. Ltd., whose parent company China National Petroleum Corp. is helping Sudan tap its oil reserves, as well as India's Oil and Natural Gas Corp. Ltd. and Malaysia's Petronas "The burgeoning Sudan divestment movement has already facilitated a response from companies operating in Sudan, institutional investors and mutual fund managers," said Adam Sterling, director of the Sudan Divestment Task Force. He cited 19 U.S. states, nine cities including Los Angeles, and 54 universities that are beginning to divest from Sudan. Sterling also noted major companies, such as Britain's Rolls-Royce, have withdrawn. U.S. states have billions of dollars to invest, typically from pension funds, and are increasingly paying attention to political dynamics in their decisions.

The following column by Art Thiel appeared in today's Seattle Post-Intelligencer.

Cheek puts his gold to good use

The worst thing about the fallout from Barry Bonds, Michael Vick, the Tour de France and NBA referee Tim Donaghy is the toxicity their dubious deeds unleash upon big-time sports.

So we interrupt the spread of cynicism today with another chapter in the story of Joey Cheek, one-man haz-mat unit.

Sports fans who watched the 2006 Winter Olympics may recall that Cheek carried the American flag during closing ceremonies in Turin, Italy, where he won gold and silver medals in long-track speedskating.

He carried the flag because he earlier carried the Olympic day by donating his cash winnings very publicly to an organization, Right to Play, that distributes sports equipment and hands-on help to kids in impoverished regions, mostly in Africa.

Fast forward 17 months to July 25, when Cheek was carrying something more provocative -- petitions signed by 42,000 people imploring China to help stop the civilian genocide in Darfur, Sudan.

More dramatic was where he carried the petitions -- to the door of the Chinese Embassy in Washington, D.C.

He rang the bell. For 35 minutes, backed by fellow members of an organization called Save Darfur Coalition, he waited. This moment wasn't about fundraising, wasn't about speechifying, wasn't about interviews or any of the other, more secondary, experiences in helping a worthy endeavor.

This was a personal act of direct political confrontation with a world superpower, which not coincidentally is the one to host the next Olympics.

This was a world-class athlete sticking out his neck for a cause during an event without a scripted outcome.

Finally, the embassy door opened. Only Cheek was allowed to enter. He was politely received, his thick binders taken, his plea heard to take Chinese and American athletes to tour the devastated region of Sudan, for which China is a large, influential trading partner.

Aside from some international media attention, the gesture has yet to produce anything. But quick results are rare in diplomacy. Just as with world-class sports.

"I'm glad that no one ever told me how hard it would be to win a gold medal," he said. "It's the same thing here. Being an athlete helps you deal with goals that seem far away."

In entering the embassy, Cheek, from Greensboro, N.C., also crossed a more figurative threshold. He became that rare athlete engaged publicly in political controversy.

"Since that point, my interviews and experiences have had a different tone," he said by phone late last week from the capital. "It's not that there's been disagreements; it's just that the issue is very much about the will of nations.

"It's not just the friendly waters of sports."

He stepped into an arena for which he had little training or experience.

"I'd be lying if I said I don't have days where I wonder what have I got myself into," he said. "Fortunately, there are a lot of people involved who are smarter and more dedicated than me, or we'd be doomed."

Cheek moved aggressively to make sure his Olympics generosity did not fade into a little-remembered publicity stunt. He followed word with deed. He created his own organization, Where Will We Be? (, which aims to gather athletes from around the world to help keep pressure on China and other nations to end the atrocities in Sudan.

He has met with Presidents Bush and Clinton and former U.N. chief Kofi Annan, twice visited Africa, and spoke in front of thousands in New York's Central Park and Washington's National Mall.

There's one thing he didn't do -- use his athletic achievements to beg off any public social responsibility.

In today's sports world driven by corporation-think, the conventional wisdom is that top athletes avoid any public involvement that carries political or business risk. That's a different thing than the considerable time and money many athletes devote to charitable causes involving disease, abuse, education, etc. Those charity works receive little push-back.

But what if, for example, a pro athlete (or a university, or a pro team) is under contract with Nike, the athletic-apparel colossus that does most of its manufacturing in China? What would the China/Nike empire think about one of its high-profile jocks campaigning for change in China's foreign policies, or worse -- its domestic-labor policies?

Tough call, especially for players whose pro careers last an average of less than five seasons. Most athletes just say no, a decision encouraged by teams, agents and family.

Cheek has it easier than team-sport athletes. He's retiring from Olympic competition to begin his long-postponed college studies at Princeton, where he will major in economics. No one has leverage over him.

It is Cheek who has leverage. He chose to exploit it.

A bronze medalist in the 2002 Winter Games, he first learned of the enormous media attention accruing to winners, and how quickly it dissipates. He arrived in Turin with a plan.

"Everyone in the world wants to talk to you (when you win) -- you're very famous and then you're history," he said. "Sports reporters ask banal questions, and every athlete answers that it's awesome, which everyone knows anyway. Honestly, it doesn't make anything happen.

"I realized that I will always be (to the world) a gold medalist, and in the U.S. that gave me the ability to reach out to people and other athletes. It allows me to do something much bigger than sports and have a legitimate shot to change the lives of some people."

Unlike some Americans who want the U.S. to boycott the 2008 Games, Cheek wants everyone in Beijing. His goal is to have in his organization a member from each sport and every nation. He'd like them to do as he did -- speak their hearts and minds in a world forum.

Especially for athletes used to being self-absorbed and self-protective, it's a risk. The kind that always must be taken before progress is made.


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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