|Africa News Digest
Sudan Rejects French Initiative on Darfur
June 11 (EIRNS)Sudan Foreign Minister Lam Akol today turned down a French initiative to host a meeting of key nations on June 25 to deal with the conflict in the Darfur region, after meeting French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner in Khartoum, according to Reuters. Kouchner arrived June 10 from Chad, for a two-day visit.
Lam Akol said the timing was not right, and that his country preferred to await the outcome of Africa Union and United Nations efforts to get peace talks back on track, and put together a peacekeeping force for Darfur.
"At this particular time when we are ... waiting for the roadmap ... to be announced we don't want any distraction," Akol said. "We think that ... the time may not be opportune for that meeting,"
The UN, Africa Union, and the Sudanese government are meeting today at the AU headquarters in Addis Abeba, Ethiopia, to work out details of a joint AU-UN, or hybrid force, to help restore order in Darfur.
Former MSF Head Blasts Imperial Darfur War Scheme
June 11 (EIRNS)Rony Brauman, former president of Doctors Without Borders (Medecins sans Frontieres, MSF), strongly denounced French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner's policy on Darfur, in an interview with Journal du Dimanche yesterday. The paper belongs to the Lagardere group, and often reflects some backroom views of the military. Brauman first states that there is a deluge of catastrophic declarations, that "probably have political aims." Certainly, the war, between 2003 and 2005, left over 200,000 dead and displaced 2 million people. Since then, there is a totally different regime of violence, in which the death rate has fallen from 10,000 people a month to 200. Rather, groups arrange their conflicts, or make violence a way of life. There is no identifiable front, military and insurgents, killers and civilians. Since the May 2006 peace agreements, rebel groups have become increasingly splintered.
Means of assistance are filling up his office, and only the large operations supplying food are preventing starvation in the refugee camps, he said. But if this effort comes to a halt, the consequences will be terrible. The international community generally agrees, however it may be masked by heated debate in France, that pressure should be brought to bear on the belligerents, both Khartoum and the insurgents. There is progress, from the UN, humanitarian groups, and diplomats, but it must be situated in a mindset that renounces the "fantasy of Western omnipotence," which thinks everything can be resolved by sending troops. "It doesn't work like that," he said.
"Is there not an ideological war over Darfur?" Brauman was asked. "Yes," he replied, "there are religious groups, the Christian right, and the American evangelicals which are a very powerful lobby, pushing the United States to undertake a more activist policy. They were already behind the American administration to defend the South in Sudan (Christians and animists). They are continuing. It's an interventionist ideology which puts in the hands of the great Western powers, the responsibility for bringing order to the world. Those in France who are for intervention into Darfur, were for the Iraq intervention, and today, they seem totally indifferent to the fact that it caused thousands of deaths. They don't ask questions, they are in some kind of flight forward: It is in Sudan, that imperial peace must be brought to reign!"
Asked what could be hoped for from the June 25 Paris meeting of the contact group, Brauman replied, "contacts with the belligerents, a diplomatic presence, and consistent policy, to be both a guide and guarantor of the negotiation process. He continued, "If that could allow China to join the dance, that will be good. If, on the contrary, they end up saying they are going to boycott the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, it would make us ridiculous and lead to failure. This threat is politically ridiculous and morally entirely debatable. It is the Sudanese killing other Sudanese, and the Chinese are in no way involved."
Sudan, Chad Pressured To Accept Foreign Troops in Darfur
June 13 (EIRNS)For over a year, Chad and Sudan have been working on a way to improve relations, so that they can quell the conflict along their common border, which separates the Darfur region of Sudan from Chad. Prime Minister Nouradine Delwa Kassire Coumakoye said June 5 that a Saudi-brokered reconciliation pact signed between Sudan and Chad early last month had created a "relative peace" in eastern Chad.
On June 9, Chad and Sudan announced that they agreed to set up joint Chad-Sudanese patrols of 2,000 troops each, to resolve areas of the border where relations have been strained.
Yesterday, in Egypt, Chad President Idriss Deby rejected the idea of foreign troops coming to the area, and underlined the importance of helping Sudan to settle the Darfur crisis through peaceful means. But he also indicated that Chad is being blackmailed to allow foreign troops to come into the country. "Chad is a poor country and it cannot stand up to the pressures by the world's major powers and the United Nations. In the past, we refused the international troops, but now the situation does not allow that, and if there will be further deterioration, we won't be able to resist," he said.
Sudan Accepts AU-UN Peacekeeping Forces
June 13 (EIRNS)On June 12, following two days of high-level consultations between UN, the Africa Union (AU), and the Sudanese government in Addis Abeba, Ethiopia, the Sudan government accepted the proposal of a joint UN-AU force to be deployed in the Darfur region for peacekeeping purposes. The Sudan government said that, "in view of the explanations and clarifications provided by the AU and the UN," it finds the proposal workable.
Sudan's decision was immediately welcomed by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, who called it "a positive conclusion," and said he is "looking forward to expeditiously implementing the hybrid force," his spokesperson Michele Montas told reporters at UN headquarters in New York. Asked whether Sudan's acceptance of the hybrid force was unconditional, Montas noted Khartoum's call for African troops, and added that the UN had always planned to deploy a large number of African troops as well.
At the same time, Washington's response was negative. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack told reporters June 12 that Sudan's reported agreement with the AU to accept the deployment, mandate, and structure of a peacekeeping force includes "fine print" that "the force should be limited to African troops." Under that condition, he said, it would be "very difficult" to achieve the full 17,000 to 19,000 troop level, as called for under the deployment plan.
McCormack deliberately did not take into consideration what Sudan's lead negotiator said. The Sudanese delegation to Addis Abeba was lead by Muftri Sadeeq, Undersecretary at Sudan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Sadeeq stated: "The priority of recruitment [to the peacekeeping force] is going to be from African countries, but if we fall short of meeting the demand from African countries, definitely we will resort to other options."
Bush: Tighten Sudan Sanctions! South Africa And China: Sanctions Are No Longer Needed!
June 14 (EIRNS)After the June 12 breakthrough in negotiations, in which Sudan agreed to the UN-AU proposal for a "hybrid force" in Darfur, the South African and Chinese ambassadors to the United Nations said that sanctions were now no longer needed, according to China Daily. But President George Bush said that the unilateral U.S. sanctions must be strengthened, and new ones added, Xinhua reported June 13.
After meeting Chad's President Idriss Deby in Egypt, Egypt's President Hosni Mubarak blasted the U.S. sanctions as not the right methods to resolve the Darfur dispute. Chad's President was in Egypt for three days, meeting with the Arab League and Mubarak, reports Sudan Media Center online.
The technicalities of the UN-AU-Sudan agreement reported by Xinhua June 13 were as follows:
The UN will have overall operational control of the peacekeeping forces, while there will be African operational control on the ground for day-to-day operations. Rodolphe Adada (former foreign minister of the Republic of Congo) will be the head of mission. He was appointed in May.
Sudan will remain responsible for securing its borders. This issue of sovereignty had been unclear since the joint-force proposal was first made in November.
The mission is to be reviewed regularly, and if there is a political settlement that satisfies all parties, no heavy troop presence will be maintained. This is in response to Sudan's concerned about an "exit strategy."