|Africa News Digest
International Rescue Committee Accused of Arming Darfur Rebels
The Chief Prosecutor for Sudan's Southern Darfur State, Babikr Abd al-Latif, said Jan. 14 that numerous organizations operating in Darfur under humanitarian pretenses were in fact doing no humanitarian work, and named the International Rescue Committee (IRC), headquartered in New York City, as having just paid $200,000 for the smuggling of weapons into Darfur from Jordan. He was addressing the Arab Journalists' Union assembled in Nyala, Sudan.
Last week's Africa Digest (No. 3) reported that three Israelis with a connection to Israeli intelligence, who were interrogated by Jordanian authorities, had confessed to supplying weapons to the two main rebel movements in Darfur, according to Sudan's State Interior Minister Mohammed Haroun, as quoted in the Sudanese press Jan. 8.
The IRC has a substantial presence in Darfur, ostensibly for providing health and "reproductive health" services and aiding the victims of sexual violence.
The late Leo Cherne of Freedom House fame was chairman of the IRC board for 40 yearsa simple fact that makes the prosecutor's charge plausible. Cherne's "humanitarian" work usually included a hidden political agenda. (The 2002 biography of Cherne by Andrew F. Smith fittingly has a foreword by Henry Kissinger.)
Darfur Insurrectionists Quit Ceasefire Talks in Nigeria
A spokesman for Sudan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in a statement to the press Jan. 12, denounced the decision of the Darfur insurrectionary movements to suspend their participation in the meetings of the joint committee for a ceasefire, in Abuja, Nigeria.
In a related development, Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir has just put Vice President Ali Osman Taha in charge of peace talks with the Darfur movements. Taha was in charge of the negotiations that led to the agreement with John Garang and the SPLM/A. The State Department's Charles Snyderidentified in a Sudan Media Center release as the U.S. official responsible for Darfur issuestold reporters in Washington Jan. 14 that the appointment of Taha was a positive step.
Khartoum Reaches Agreement with Exiled Movements
The government of Sudan Jan. 16 initialled an agreement with the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) that adopts the conception of "democratic pluralism"better known to Anglo-American insiders as undemocratic pluralism. The NDA is the umbrella body of exiled northern political organizations. The agreement, initialled in Cairo, calls for a "democratic and pluralist" form of government that respects "democratic freedoms and human rights," in the words of the text. The initialling was witnessed by Egyptian officialswho had hosted the talks over more than a yearincluding the head of intelligence, Omar Suleiman. Formal signing will take place Feb. 12 in Cairo.
The NDA was formed in 1989 of political bodies opposed to President Omar al-Bashir's coup in that yearbodies that went into exile in Egypt, Eritrea, and Saudi Arabia. Of the 13 NDA member organizations, the leading member is the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) of Mohamed Osman al-Mirghani and his family's Katmiyyah sect. These organizations suffer from Anglo-American influences. The Mirghani family's loyalty to the British goes back to the 19th Century.
The agreement calls for abolishing the emergency laws and statutes restricting freedoms, according to AP Jan. 16. It also seeks "equitable participation" of the opposition in government and forms a joint committee to discuss how many NDA members will participate in Federal and local governments, AP reported.
AFP reported Jan. 17 that Sudanese "President Omar al-Bashir wants the regular opposition reintegrated into political life, but to keep the Islamists excluded."
The negotiations with the NDA began in December 2003. In their final phase, beginning in June 2004, Vice President Taha led the government team.
World Bank To Reopen Office in Sudan
The World Bank is reopening an office in Sudan after an absence of ten years, according to Reuters, which interviewed Ishac Diwan, the World Bank country director for Sudan in Washington, Jan. 17. Diwan said the Bank was preparing an assessment of Sudan's rebuilding needs for an April meeting of donor countries in Norway. The assessment would precede a World Bank plan to manage foreign donations for Sudan from two trust fundsone for the North and one for the South.
Sudan's foreign debt is $20 billion including interest. The World Bank left Sudan in 1993, when Sudan defaulted on its debt. It gave technical advice on wealth-sharing in the recent North-South peace process. Diwan said that the Sudan government has already demonstrated "economic discipline."
When oil revenues started pouring in, in 1996, rapid growth in the transportation, communications, manufacturing, and electricity generating sectors ensued.
Sudan Opposition Party Demands 'Democratic Pluralism'
The Umma Party, the major legal opposition party in Sudan, is demanding immediate implementation of "democratic pluralism" in the transitional government, a step that would end Khartoum's resistance to globalization. The party, by its own choice, is still left out of the new Sudan equation. It is historically the largest, based on the Ansar Islamic sect. The party is led by Sadeq al-Mahdi. In 1989, Prime Minister Al-Mahdi was ousted by Bashir in his bloodless coup. Al-Mahdi is the grandson of the Mahdi (that is, "the divinely guided one") who (temporarily) drove the British out of Sudan and killed British Imperial hero Gen. Charles "Chinese" Gordon in Khartoum in 1885, in the process. Ironically, Al-Mahdi's party is the most British-influenced today.
Interviewed in Khartoum by Reuters Jan. 16, al-Mahdi indicated that he was demanding the actual implementation of the "democratic pluralism" that the government agreed toin namewith the exiled parties of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) that same day in Cairo (see item above).
The background: The NDA accepted the accord between the government and the SPLM/A, which provides thatuntil elections, to be held before the end of the third year of transitioncabinet posts and other portfolios shall be apportioned as follows: 52% to the ruling National Congress Party; 28% to the SPLM; 6% to other southern parties; and 16% to northern opposition parties. The accord also provides that membership in the National Assembly shall be apportioned in the same way.
Al-Mahdi told Reuters, "If you talk about 52%, it should be for the North, not for a party in the North, and 28% should be for the South, not a party in the South. That way you make the agreement nationally acceptable for others." He said that this (and other elements) had to be ratified through a national constitutional or all-party conference, or else his party would not take part in the interim government.
Sudan To Release Turabi, All Other Political Prisoners
The government of Sudan is working toward releasing Hassan al-Turabi and all other political prisoners. Sudanese Foreign Minister Mustafa Osman Isma'il told journalists in Khartoum Jan. 16 that the government and the ruling National Congress Party "have initiated procedures of holding talks on lifting of the state of emergency and release of all political prisoners, including the chairman of the opposition Popular National Congress (PNC), Hassan al-Turabi," in the paraphrase of Khartoum's Al-Ayyam. Isma'il said the government wants a comprehensive accord that does not sideline anyone, "be he a member of the PNC or any other opposition, inside or outside Sudan," and that "We hope no one will remain in Sudanese prisons except criminals and the unjust."
As of Jan. 22, the government has released 35 members of the outlawed PNC, including its foreign relations secretary, Lt. Gen. (ret.) Mohammed Amin al-Khalifa, formerly a high government official before the split between Bashir and Turabi. Turabi and his son Saddiq have not yet been released.
Iranian President Tours Africa; Makes Economic Agreements
Iranian President Mohammad Khatami began a tour of seven African nations Jan. 13 in Nigeria, with a focus on economic agreements with each country. The seven are Nigeria, Mali, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Uganda, Benin, and Zimbabwe.
Accompanying Khatami are the Iranian ministers of foreign affairs, industry and trade, energy, transport, health, finance, and agriculture; governor of the central bank; head of the Air Industries Corp.; managing director of Iran National Railways; and managing director of the Iran Agricultural Bank.
In Nigeria, Iran agreed to make a $1.5-million grant to conduct a feasibility study for the establishment of a transformer manufacturing plant. There was also an agreement between Nigeria's Power and Steel Minister and the Chairman of Iran's Export Development Bank; a memorandum of cooperation between the respective ministers of industry; and a memorandum of understanding (MOU) between Nigeria's National Electric Power Authority and Sunir, the Iranian power company, signed by their respective CEOs. Nigeria's ambassador to Iran hinted that Iranian investors in the power sector would soon arrive in Nigeria to hold talks.
In Senegal, a contract was signed for a 24-million-euro power transmission line of 170 kilometers. An MOU concerning the construction of a Samand auto production line in Dakar was also signed. Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade praised Tehran's stands at the International Atomic Energy Agency. Khatami said that the crises facing African countries were created by "some certain big powers who were to waste the power and potentials of the continent's developing states."
Iran To Build Tractor Assembly Plants in Zimbabwe, Uganda
Iranian President Mohammad Khatami, continuing his tour of seven African countries at the head of a high-powered delegation, spent Jan. 17-19 in Zimbabwe, according to reports in the Star (Johannesburg) Jan. 20 and the Herald (Harare) Jan. 19. Ten agreements were signed during his visit, including these:
* Iran is to set up a tractor assembly plant in Zimbabwe to produce at least 5,000 tractors annually for local and regional markets.
* Iran will help Zimbabwe build a commuter railway system linking Harare with Chitungwiza.
* Iran will assist in completing the Kariba South Bank power generation project.
* Iran will help establish a Harare-Entebbe-Dubai air link.
* Iran will help Zimbabwe in the local manufacture of HIV/AIDS drugs.
Zimbabwe has also asked Iran for help in handling and packaging foodstuffs to lower spoilage on the way to market.
Khatami said that Africa must exploit its "huge resources" to emerge as a power, and that Zimbabwe could be a torchbearer of that process.
Zimbabwe opened an embassy in Tehran in 2002. In 2003, Iran extended a line of credit to Zimbabwe of US$15 million for the importation of tractors and other agricultural implements. In December 2004, Iran provided a loan facility of 20 million euros to Zimbabwe's agricultural and communications sectors. The loans are long term and at low interest.
From Zimbabwe, Khatami and his 80-member delegation went to Uganda, where Khatami and Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni signed an MOU, "giving the Islamic republic a big chunk of land for agricultural mechanization, the establishment of a tractor factory in Uganda, and cooperation in the broadcasting industry," according to the Monitor (Kampala) Jan. 21. Museveni expressed support for Iran's pursuit of nuclear power production.