|Africa News Digest
Central African Leaders Reach Agreement at Cannes
The leaders of Sudan, Chad, and Central African Republic met Feb. 15 in Cannes, France, and declared they would not back rebels attacking each other's territory.
Violence in Sudan's Darfur provinces has spilled over into the neighboring states; Chad and Central African Republic (CAR) have accused Sudan of supporting rebels attacking their governments, and Sudan has charged that Chad and CAR have allowed support to be channelled through their countries to anti-Sudanese rebels in Darfur.
Sudan's Foreign Minister Lam Akol said, "There is a commitment in this agreement that each country will respect the sovereignty of the other countries, and no country will support any rebellion within its territory."
The agreement was reached at a mini-summit which took place on the sidelines of the Feb. 15-17 French-African summit in Cannes, with the encouragement of French President Jacques Chirac. The agreement stated that "We reiterate our commitment to respect sovereignties and to not support armed movements."
Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir, Chad's President Idriss Deby, and Central African Republic President Francois Bozize attended the talks, as did Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and African Union chairman John Kufuor.
An earlier agreement along these lines subsequently broke down. Before the summit, Chad's Foreign Minister Ahmat Allam-Mi said that the proposed mini-summit "is useless because it is aimed at distracting international public opinion and moving it away from the real problem, which is that Sudan is attacking Chad.... We are not in Cannes to entertain the crowd."
Since the summit, one of the biggest rebel groups in Darfur has agreed to a ceasefire, and is ready to resume peace talks with the Sudan government.
France is coming under pressure from other nations competing against it in Africa. China has been offering low-interest loans, debt relief, and other incentives to increase its influence in Africa, in return for access to the natural resources it needs to feed its booming economy. China's financial assistance is made without the conditions that Western nations demand. "India, China, Brazil, Iran, the United States ... are very interested in Africa," French Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy told France 3 television. "Competition is fierce," he said.
Sudan President Charges Darfur Rebels Western-Backed
In an interview with the Saudi-owned paper Asharq al-Awsat during the French-African summit in Cannes, France, Feb. 16, Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir Bashir said that the Darfur rebels who rejected a 2006 peace deal were backed by the West. He stated that instead of punishing rebels that rejected the peace deal, a United Nations resolution had put the onus on Khartoum, according to a Reuters release published in sudantribune.com Feb. 18.
"The elements that reject the agreement move with freedom in Western capitals and receive financial and military support ... and due to this support have been successful in controlling the northern section of Darfur," Bashir said. "Is this not a direct threat to Darfur and to security and peace?"
Bashir made his statement before Sudan agreed at talks with its neighbors Chad and Central African Republic not to support rebels attacking each others territory. In the Asharq al-Awsat interview, he charged that Chad had backed Darfur rebels under the nose of the United Nations.
"These movements were initially present in the refugee camps where they were carrying out military training and where Chad opened its borders and airports to get weapons to these groups and to facilitate their movement to Darfur, and this is happening within the sight of the United Nations," he stated.
"No one has condemned Chad or the states that send arms, but accusations are always against the Sudanese government and Janjaweed," he said, referring to a militia that is alleged to be backed by the government.
The day before Bashir's interview, one of the biggest Darfur rebel factions agreed to a ceasefire, and said it was ready to resume peace talks with Sudan's government. The announcement by the rebel faction came after UN Darfur envoy Jan Eliasson and his African Union counterpart Salim Ahmed Salim met Darfur rebel commanders who rejected the 2006 peace deal.
According to the Chinese news agency Xinhua, Bashir on Feb. 16, during the France-Africa summit, said the United Nations should provide logistical, financial, and technical support to Sudan. He reaffirmed Sudan's acceptance of an African Union peacekeeping force in Darfur.
Sudan President Supports African Union and UN Efforts
Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir reaffirmed his support to African Union and United Nations efforts to organize peace talks between the Sudan government and Darfur holdout rebel groups. Bashir made the statement during a Feb. 17 meeting in Sudan with visiting envoys of the AU and the UN, according to SudanTribune online, Feb. 18.
Bashir also said he hoped that stability would prevail in Chad, pointing out that Sudan is keen to normalize its relations with Chad, referring to the positive impact that good relations between the two countries would have on the situation in Darfur.
The visiting envoys were the UN Secretary General for Peace in Sudan, Jan Eliasson, and AU Envoy Salem Ahmed Salem.
Jihadists Active in Sahel Region of Africa
As a reaction to the Bush Administration-led invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq, al-Qaeda has established training bases in the sub-Saharan scrub country running from Senegal to Ethiopia, known as the Sahel, and also has camps in Mauritania, Mali and Niger. A Moroccan activist, Mbar al-Jaafari, arrested in early February in the port city of Tarragona, south of Barcelona, said the Jihadis recruited in Spain have been sent for training in Sahel camps, according to the Spanish paper El Pais Feb. 12.
EU security services, which are on alert because they anticipate terrorist attacks in EU countries in the near future, reported that these militants have heavy weapons, ground-to-air missiles, and satellite phones.
One development in this capability in Africa is the splitting of the Algerian Armed Islamic Group (GIA), which has spawned the Salafite Group for Preaching and Combat (GSPC). The GSPC, which has a large number of north African Salafite jihadists, last month renamed itself "al-Qaeda in the Maghreb," and has become active in Mali, Niger, Chad, and Mauritania. According to El Pais, al-Qaeda sleeper cells in Europe are engaged in recruitment of new jihadis and terror financing.
The activity of this network overlaps the area of Darfur in Sudan, as well as the location of the rebel activity in Chad.
Colorado Legislature Pushes Ban on Sudan Investments
Following the lead of California governor and George Shultz protégé Arnold Schwarzenegger, who last year signed legislation to end California state investments in Sudan, Colorado lawmakers on Feb. 14 approved a bill barring state pension funds from investing in companies that do business in Sudan. The Colorado measure now must be approved in the state Senate.
On the same day, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa jumped on the bandwagon, announcing that the city will withdraw more than $27 million in retirement fund investments from companies that do business with Sudan to protest violence in the Darfur region. "Los Angeles is adding its voice to the international outcry over the genocide in Darfur," a statement released by Villaraigosa said. "We must stand for freedom and basic human rights for all, and we must do everything possible to stop the killing in Darfur."