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Darfur in the News

U.S. and European media

July 10, 2023

AP: Analysis: Africa still on back-burner for Obama. Never mind that Barack Obama has never set foot in Ghana before. This country has a message for the American leader when he makes his first trip to sub-Saharan Africa as president this weekend: "Welcome Home." But so far at least, Africa is getting no special treatment: it remains on the back-burner of U.S. foreign policy, aid levels are roughly unchanged from the Bush years, and Obama's message is clear: Africans must take responsibility for curing their own ills. For now, Obama appears simply to be continuing the legacy of Bush, who was regarded by many as having done more for Africa than any other U.S. president in history. During his tenure, U.S. development aid to the continent tripled, with major drives launched against malaria and HIV. "They should be applauded for maintaining the Bush programs, but the nitty gritty of engaging in political leadership, of laying out strategy, they have yet to show their metal," said Peter Pham, an Africa expert at James Madison University in Virginia. Pham criticized Obama for failing to appoint an ambassador to the African Union half a year into his term. And Jerry Fowler, president of the Save Darfur Coalition, told The Associated Press the Obama administration "still has not settled on a coherent and comprehensive strategy" for one of the continent's most pressing crises -- the war in Sudan's war-wracked west.

AFP: Cooperation with Sudan key despite ICC charges: US envoy. A US special envoy to Sudan on Thursday stressed the need for cooperation with the country's leadership after a prosecutor said there was enough evidence for a further arrest warrant against Sudanese president Omar al-Beshir for genocide. "Right now President al-Beshir is the president of the country and we have to work with him to solve those issues that are facing the people (of Sudan) and (that) are facing the region," said Scott Gration. "But that does not mean that (Beshir) does not need to do what's right in terms of facing the International Criminal Court and those charges," he told AFP. ICC prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo argued Tuesday he had enough evidence for a further arrest warrant against Beshir for genocide. "We in the United States believe that everybody needs to be accountable, and in due time, when the situation is right, the international community will hold (accountable) folks that may have been involved in crimes against humanity and genocide," he said.

AP: Sudan is negotiating release of 2 foreign aid workers in Darfur with the aid of tribal leaders. Sudan is negotiating with the kidnappers of two Darfur aid workers for their safe release, preferably without paying the demanded ransom, Sudanese officials said Thursday. Six gunmen snatched an Irish woman and her Ugandan colleague from their compound in the northern Darfur region of Kutum last week. They worked for the Irish aid group GOAL. "We want to negotiate the dignified and peaceful release of these two ladies, but we are counseling others against the idea of paying any ransom," Ambassador Omer Mohamed Ahmed Siddig said, explaining that it would only encourage further kidnapping. "The negotiations are now going on with the kidnappers with the help of local tribal leaders in Darfur," he added. "We have asked aid groups to agree to police protection and escort. Some aid groups agreed. We will work with the aid groups to ensure their safety," Jailani said.

This op-ed written by Jonathan Zimmerman was featured in the Boston Globe.

Obama's test in Ghana.

'OBAMA FEVER Grips Ghana.'' So read a recent front-page headline in a local newspaper, as Ghana prepares to host President Obama this weekend. Wherever you look - from billboards and wall murals to T-shirts and soccer balls - you see Obama's smiling face. His picture is often paired with a photo of Ghana's new president, John Atta Mills, and adorned with a simple slogan: "Partnership for Change.''

Like Obama, Mills won his office last fall on the theme of change. He also capitalized shamelessly on Obama's international popularity, even placing Obama's picture next to his own on campaign posters.

This weekend we'll have an opportunity to find out how much change they envision in Africa, especially in the matter of human rights. That's because the African Union recently decided not to help arrest Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir. Bashir has been indicted by the International Criminal Court on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity in Darfur, where an estimated 300,000 people have died and more than 2 million have fled their homes since 2003.

Some African Union representatives condemned the indictment last week as "racist'' and urged Western powers to stay out of African affairs. Yet five of the ICC's 18 judges hail from Africa, as do 30 of the 108 nations that signed the treaty establishing the court. Racist? The real racists are the butchers in Khartoum, who regard the black Africans of Darfur as inferior to Sudan's Arab ruling class.

Other African Union leaders said the charges against Bashir would interfere with the "peace process'' in Darfur. But you can't build peace when one side continues to rape and murder, as 20 African human rights organizations argued in a joint statement last month.

According to news reports, African Union representatives engaged in a vehement debate about the Bashir indictment last Thursday. Yet once the resolution passed, just one member nation - Botswana - announced that it would not abide by the Union's decision to ignore Bashir's arrest warrant.

That's because Botswana is a democracy. Most African nations are ruled by despots, who worry that an indictment of Bashir - or of any other African leader - will bring new international scrutiny of their own human rights conduct. But Botswana - with its open elections, independent judiciary, and free press - has nothing to fear.

So what's stopping Ghana? Ghanaians are justly proud of their democracy, too, which transferred power to President Mills after a bitter but violence-free campaign. The election marked 16 years of uninterrupted civilian rule. On a continent marred by coups and military dictatorships, that's truly something to celebrate.

Most of all, Ghanaians are proud of their historic role in the African freedom struggle. As the first independent nation in sub-Saharan Africa, Ghana has been a beacon of hope for black people around the world. So it's particularly disappointing to see Ghana backing the African Union resolution on Bashir, who is allegedly responsible for the murder of thousands of Africans. Ghanaian foreign minister Muhammad Mumuni noted that Ghana joined an AU petition back in February to lift Bashir's arrest for a year, but the United Nations Security Council, which has the power to suspend ICC indictments, refused to do so.

"Ignoring that request was a slap in the back,'' Mumuni said. But ignoring the warrant against Bashir is a slap against Africans everywhere. "What benefit is there in Ghana ruining its international reputation so needlessly, by supporting the untenable position of the AU and giving comfort to a mass murderer who is busy killing our fellow black Africans?'' asked Ghanaian blogger Kofi Thompson. "Do we not pride ourselves as a democratic nation with solid pan-Africanist credentials?''

With respect to Atta Mills and his ministers, Thompson added, "Ghanaians did not vote them into office to give succor to African dictators, who brutalize and kill scores of their own people.'' So when Obama visits this weekend, Mills should announce that Ghana will continue to press for Bashir's arrest. If he doesn't, Obama should urge him to do so. A joint statement from these two leaders might trigger a new commitment to human rights across the continent. Now that's a change we could all believe in.

Jonathan Zimmerman is a professor of history and education at New York University, and is the author of "Small Wonder: The Little Red Schoolhouse in History and Memory.'' 

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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