The Darfur Consortium

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Darfur in the News

U.S. and European Media

December 11 , 2007

Reuters: France likely to expel Darfur rebel Nur-diplomat. France will probably force Sudanese rebel leader Abdel Wahed Mohamed el-Nur to leave the country by the end of the month for failing to attend peace talks on Darfur, a French diplomat said on Monday. Nur, a founder of the Darfur insurgent Sudan Liberation Movement (SLM), is living in France under an authorisation that expires at the end of December, the diplomat said. "His authorisation to stay will probably not be renewed due to his non-participation in the Sirte negotiations," said the diplomat, who declined to be identified. Nur, who controls few troops but enjoys support among Darfuris, refused to attend, demanding a series of conditions including the deployment of an international peacekeeping force and security on the ground before negotiations. His stance infuriated diplomats who said security could not be achieved without talks. A number of countries, including Britain and France, threatened to take measures against Nur, but stopped short of specifying the sanctions. The French announcement was broadly welcomed by diplomats. "We have been pushing for everybody to participate in the talks," said one European diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity. "If this encourages him to do so then it could be a positive thing." But the announcement was criticised by a leading rebel figure, the leader of the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) Khalil Ibrahim. "France does not have the right to expel a refugee," Ibrahim told Reuters. "He went there to escape the suppression of the Sudanese government. It is up to him if he wants to go to peace talks or not. This kind of pressure will not work." Sudan's state news agency Suna reported that French President Nicolas Sarkozy had given Nur a deadline to attend peace talks by the end of December or leave France. An official at Sarkozy's office stopped short of such a comment, saying: "If Nur does not go to Sirte, the president will draw the consequences."

Associated Press: U.N. envoy visits Darfur tribesmen. The United Nations' special envoy for Darfur on Saturday toured the tribal heartland of the region's top rebel leader, trying to draw the reluctant chief's followers into new peace talks that have been stalled since October. But Jan Eliasson's effort faced firm opposition by Fur tribesmen, hardened by what they describe as years of persecution at the hands of the Sudanese government. Most Fur tribal chiefs follow rebel leader Abdel Wahid, who is boycotting the U.N.-brokered peace talks until a U.N.-African Union peacekeeping force of 26,000 deploys in the region and proves effective in ending the bloodshed. Peace negotiations were launched by Eliasson in October, but broke off just after opening in Libya because of the absence of major rebel chiefs. Wahid, who lives in exile in Paris, is the leader of the Sudan Liberation Army. He wields little military power but enjoys widespread loyalty among the Fur, which is Darfur's largest tribe and the source of its name. A peace deal signed in May 2006 has largely failed, in part because Wahid refused to endorse it. And Eliasson was keen Saturday to win over the Fur civilian leadership to the idea of new negotiations. "We want to begin the political talks and deploy the peacekeepers at the same time," Eliasson told a gathering in the Hissa Hissa camp, home to about 50,000 displaced tribe members. "We hope these two processes will reinforce each other."

Christian Post: Evangelicals Carry Darfur-Olympic Torch. In a growing sign of commitment to engage the church on wider social issues, evangelical leaders carried the Darfur-Olympic torch in the nation's capital on International Human Rights Day. Although once criticized for being reclusive and narrow-minded, Christian leaders challenged the stereotype during a torch relay on Monday by marching alongside human rights activists, Darfurians, students, and other faith leaders on the streets of Washington. "We as modern-day, 21st century evangelicals are recovering. We are grasping our history and our past and saying this (social activism) is in the finest tradition of the Gospel and the Christian faith and we are going to do it," said the Rev. Richard Cizik, vice president of the National Association of Evangelicals, to The Christian Post. Other religious leaders who took part in Darfur-Olympic torch relay included the Rev. Bill Schulz, senior fellow at the Center for American Progress and former executive director of Amnesty International; Adam Taylor of Sojourners; and Pastor Gloria White-Hammond, co-pastor of Bethel A.M.E. Church in Boston, Mass. Cizik explained that evangelicals initially got involved because of Sudan's north-south conflict, in which Christians in the south were being persecuted by the Arab government in the north. Following the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement between the north and the south, evangelicals understandably took up the Darfur cause – which was another human rights violation committed by the central government. For months, activists have participated in the Darfur-Olympic torch relay which had traveled around the world to sites of past genocides – including Rwanda, Cambodia and Armenia – before reaching the U.S. capital. In the United States, the campaign was held in some 60 cities including New York, Chicago and San Francisco. Celebrities and Olympic stars present at the Chinese embassy in Washington, where the relay concluded, included Hollywood actress Mia Farrow; U.S. Olympic Gold medalist (speed skater) Joe Cheek; "West Wing" actress Melissa Fitzgerald; and U.S. Olympic Athletes Nathaniel Mills (speed skater), Vince Poscente (skier), and Nikki Stone (skier.)

DeFacto Agency: Armenian Assembly Participated in Dream for Darfur Olympic. The Armenian Assembly of America joined actress Mia Farrow, Olympian Joey Cheek, and other human rights activists in Washington, DC, for the final Olympic Torch Relay in the United States. The Assembly's participation in the event, which coincided with International Human Rights Day, is a part of the organization's ongoing commitment to increase awareness of past and current genocides. Farrow, who participated in the relay, has been active in the Olympic Dream for Darfur campaign since its inception. "I have passed through these countries that have experienced genocide," Farrow told the Armenian Assembly. "The one common thing is 'how did this happen?'' Farrow said that education was the key to genocide prevention. "As the world community marks International Human Rights Day, it is important to remember all instances of man's inhumanity to man, including the attempted annihilation of the Armenian people in 1915," said Assembly Board of Trustees Public Affairs Chair Anthony Barsamian. "The Dream for Darfur campaign reminds us all that in order to prevent future atrocities, we must first acknowledge the crimes of the past." The Dream for Darfur relay began at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and made its way to the White House and the Sudanese Embassy, before ending at the Chinese Embassy. Washington, DC, is the final stop of the U.S. portion of the relay, which began internationally on August 9th near the Darfur border, exactly one year before the summer Olympics, to call attention to the constructive role that China could play in the Darfur crisis. With the support of activists, actors and athletes, torch lighting ceremonies was also held at sites, where genocide had occurred, including Armenia, Rwanda, Bosnia, Germany, and Cambodia. "We know that there will be tragedy and immense suffering going on during the Olympic Games unless the Olympic hosts acts now to see there is security in Darfur," said Jill Savitt, Director of Dream for Darfur.

Associated Press: Arrests in Chad Ripple Through Africa. The boy was thrown into the fire and left to die by janjaweed fighters in Sudan's bedeviled Darfur province. But 12-year-old Rachid Dahiye Zakaria survived. Then, badly disfigured, he walked for days to a refugee camp across the border in Chad with his sole remaining relatives -- a grandmother and a sister. For months, he has been awaiting operations that would at least allow him to do the simplest tasks alone, such as getting dressed -- surgery available in Africa in only a handful of countries. Everything was ready: South Africa's Children of Fire charity was organizing the operation. The South African government agreed to allow Rachid and his grandmother into the country, even though they lack identity papers. Children of Fire found someone who speaks Massalit, the boy's native language, to translate. Then everything went awry. Bronwen Jones, the Englishwoman who founded Children of Fire in South Africa, said Chadian officials suddenly became wary of foreign offers of help, and she links the cooler attitude to a French charity called Zoe's Ark. Aid workers say their already difficult job along Darfur's border has been complicated by the task of reuniting families separated in the Zoe's Ark affair, and by the suspicion some Chadians now have toward all foreigners professing to offer help. ''The Chadian government is afraid to let Rachid go in case they are accused of allowing him to be kidnapped,'' Jones said. Rachid will need at least three major operations, Jones said, with six-month recovery periods after each.

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

Delay, Obstruction and Darfur

The world's leaders say they care desperately about Darfur's suffering, until they get distracted. It took years of international hand-wringing before the United Nations Security Council passed a resolution to send in 26,000 peacekeepers to replace a current force of 7,000, to try to halt the killing. With the deployment now set for Jan. 1, major countries are ignoring the U.N.'s appeals for essential aircraft, and Sudan's government — which unleashed the genocide — is again reneging on its promises to cooperate.

Khartoum is now refusing to accept some non-African peacekeeping units — including a Thai infantry battalion and a Nepalese special forces unit — in what is intended to be a joint United Nations-African Union force. It is also trying to limit the peacekeepers' use of helicopters, refusing to provide land for a peacekeeping base and insisting on other untenable restrictions, including advance notice of all troop movements.

Khartoum never seems to run out of ways to demonstrate its contempt for the United Nations.

After the International Criminal Court indicted Ahmad Harun, Sudan's minister of state for humanitarian affairs, for war crimes in Darfur, Sudan's president, Omar Hassan al-Bashir, refused to turn him over for prosecution. Instead, Mr. Bashir put Mr. Harun on a committee overseeing deployment of the new peacekeeping mission.

President Bashir and his henchmen may be the worst problem, but not the only one.

There are serious questions about whether the United Nations can manage such a large peacekeeping operation. Meanwhile, major players — including South Africa, Russia, China, Ukraine and NATO — have not heeded a direct appeal from Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to provide the helicopters and planes that the force will need to do its job, or even defend itself, in a region the size of France.

The United States has already flown in troops for the new force, promised $40 million in equipment and offered to pay 26 percent of the total cost of the operation. If others don't step in quickly, Washington will need to twist their arms or do even more itself.

By some accounts, deaths in Darfur are down, but the region remains in severe crisis. People who flocked to refugee camps as a temporary escape from the government-backed janjaweed militias have been trapped there for nearly five years. Life inside the camps, where crime is rampant, is only slightly better than life outside. The rebel groups who claim to be Darfur's defenders are increasingly fragmented and adding to the violence.

Darfuris have high hopes that the new United Nations-African Union mission will save them, but so far there is no peace to keep.

Sudan has showed time and again that it does not care about the suffering in Darfur. Without a lot more international pressure, Sudan will continue to obstruct the peacekeeping mission and spread ever more suffering and mayhem. China, one of Sudan's major trading partners, and the Arab League must bring on that pressure. And the U.N. and other envoys must work full time for the resumption of peace talks.

The credibility of the Security Council is on the line. So are the lives of 2.5 million Darfuris.

The following editorial appeared in today's Middle East Times.
Is Darfur being forgotten?
Once more, posturing trumps action. Despite all the hot air expended in U.N. debates and news conferences by Western politicians, the people of Darfur continue to be left to their grim plight.

Last summer, the U.N. Security Council passed Resolution 1769, authorizing the creation of a hybrid U.N./African Union mission to protect the Darfuris. The plan calls for 26,000 soldiers and civilian police.

But a combination of Sudanese intransigence and Western inaction is threatening the so-called UNAMID before it even gets off the ground. Literally. The force needs a couple of dozen helicopters to carry out its work. Not a single NATO country has delivered. Couple that with the fact that the Khartoum regime is blocking landing rights for the heavy aircraft needed by the force and has imposed a set of other conditions that makes its task nearly impossible, and you have a recipe for disaster.

The head of the U.N.'s peacekeeping operations says it is possible UNAMID may be stillborn. Late last month, he offered this grim choice: "Do we move ahead with the deployment of a force that will not make a difference, that will not have the capability to defend itself, and that carries the risk of humiliation of the Security Council and the United Nations and tragic failure for the people of Darfur?"

That such a question is even being asked speaks volumes about Western commitment to saving the people of Darfur. Make no mistake, finding the right formula to checkmate the Sudanese regime is a diplomatic challenge that cannot be underestimated. But finding a few helicopters is another matter entirely.

If members of the Security Council can't come up with the equipment needed to support a mission for which they voted, it is not a matter of Khartoum humiliating them, they will have already humiliated themselves.


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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