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Sudan: African Union on the Spot

AfricaFocus Bulletin
Jan 16, 2006 (060116)
(Reposted from sources cited below)

Editor's Note

"The African Union should not reward the sponsors of crimes against humanity," said Peter Takirambudde, Africa director of U.S.-based Human Rights Watch. "How can the African Union be seen as a credible mediator in Darfur if one of the warring parties hosts its summit and becomes the head of the organisation as well?

With preliminary meetings beginning for next week's African Union (AU) summit in Khartoum, it is still undecided whether the host government will also chair the organization for the next year. Meanwhile, the AU mission in Darfur is running out of funds and discussion of transferring the mission to UN sponsorship is intensifying. But it is still doubtful that either African countries or the "international community" are ready to act decisively with a force that is large enough and has a more comprehensive mandate to protect civilians.

This AfricaFocus Bulletin contains a letter from African nongovernmental organizations appealing to the African Union not to select Sudan's leader as the organization's next chairman, two recent updates from the UN's Integrated Regional Information Networks, and links to other recent reports on Sudan, including new documentation of genocide in Darfur from Physicians for Human Rights and a report from the International Crisis Group warning of escalation of violence in eastern Sudan.

Another AfricaFocus Bulletin sent out today contains excerpts from an essay by Gerald Caplan in Pambazuka News, on lessons to be learned from Rwanda and Darfur.

For earlier AfricaFocus Bulletins, background, and links on Sudan, visit

++++++++++++++++++++++end editor's note+++++++++++++++++++++++

The Darfur Consortium
African and International Civil Society Action for Darfur

PO Box 7785, Kampala, Uganda
Phone (in New York): +12123772700, ext 416 (in Kampala) +25678310494

Open Letter to Members of the African Union

To All Heads of State and Government
Members of the African Union (AU)

Banjul, November 25, 2005

Your Excellencies,

We the representatives of more than 30 nongovernmental organisations representing the Darfur Consortium and other civil society groups from Africa participating at the 38th Ordinary Session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights held in Banjul, The Gambia, 21st November - 5th December 2005, are honoured to present our compliments to your high Office.

We wish to express our deep concern with respect to the ongoing plans to convene the January 2006 AU Assembly of Heads of State and Government in Khartoum, Sudan, and the potential of Sudan being elected to the AU Presidency for 2006-2007. We believe this would seriously undermine the AU credibility and compromise the authority of its institutions.

The human rights and humanitarian situation in Sudan in general and in the Darfur region in particular continues to be one of the worst cases in the world. The Government of Sudan is responsible for this catastrophic situation. More than two million Africans--mainly women, children and other vulnerable groups-- have been ruthlessly and deliberately uprooted from their homes in Darfur since February 2003. This is because of the government's use of the state military machinery including indiscriminate aerial bombardment by military aircrafts and helicopter gunships against civilian populations in Darfur. The situation has been aggravated by daily atrocities committed by the Janjaweed paramilitary groups that are organised, armed and directed by the government of Sudan to commit abhorrent war crimes and crimes against humanity on racist grounds. As a direct result of the Janjaweed atrocities the numbers of internally displaced persons in Darfur continue to increase and the poor conditions in refugee and IDP camps in which they currently live are aggravating.

The government of Sudan and its allied Janjaweed paramilitary groups continue to hold civilian populations in IDP camps as hostages to the war, block access routes to major parts of Darfur and obstruct the work of humanitarian relief organizations. The situation in Darfur continues to be alarming despite AU efforts to end the crisis in the region and help its people to come out of this destructive conflict. The situation was also complicated by the lack of full cooperation with the AU from all parties to the conflict in the region.

Incidents of noncooperation and difficulties faced by the African Union Mission in Sudan (AMIS) were eloquently articulated by H.E. Ambassador Baba Gana Kingibe, when he publicly denounced the Government of Sudan for noncooperation including disguising its troops and military vehicles as well as those of its allied Janjaweed militiamen as AMIS peacekeepers in Darfur. The AU has also decried the Government of Sudan for refusing and delaying entry into the country of the necessary equipments to protect AU troops in Darfur. Of particular concern was the targeted killing of 5 AMIS personnel including three Nigerian peacekeepers and two civilian contractors. They were killed when armed militiamen ambushed their vehicles on Friday, 7th October 2005 around Nyala, South Darfur State, in an area controlled by the Government of Sudan and its allied paramilitary groups.

Furthermore, the Government of Sudan has demonstrated complete disregard to numerous measures undertaken by the AU Assembly of Heads of State and Government and the Peace and Security Council that demanded Sudan to put an immediate end to its military activity in Darfur and dismantle the Janjaweed militia groups. Among others, these measures include Decision Assembly/AU/Dec.68 (IV) adopted by the 4 th Ordinary Session of the AU Assembly of Heads of State and Government (30th- 31st January 2005, Abuja, Nigeria), Decision AU/Dec.54(III) adopted by the 3rd Ordinary Session (6 th 8 th July 2004, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia) as well as Communiqu‚ PSC/AHG/Comm. (XXIII) adopted by the AU Peace and Security Council (PSC), at its 23 rd meeting, at the level of Heads of State and Government (10 January 2005, Libreville, Gabon), Communiqu‚ PSC/PR/Comm.(XIII) and Communiqu‚ PSC/PR/Comm.(XVII) adopted by the AU Peace and Security Council at their 13th and 17th Meetings.

It is in this regard that we reiterate our concern that convening the January 2006 AU Assembly of Heads of State and Government in Khartoum not only undermines the credibility and authority of the AU, but also confers prestige and honour upon the Government of Sudan that continues to commit crimes against humanity and war crimes against the African people of Darfur with impunity. Sudan should not be rewarded for the commission of these crimes on its territory. Such a move would defeat the core principles and objectives of the AU Constitutive Act to promote peace and stability on the continent and uphold and protect human and peoples' rights.

Most importantly, the entire process of the InterSudanese Peace Talks on Darfur lies in jeopardy should the AU Presidency go to Marshal Omar ElBashir. In light of the leading role played by the AU Presidency in the InterSudanese Peace Talks on Darfur, Sudan cannot, therefore, be entrusted with this responsibility, as it is one of the parties to the conflict.

Your Excellencies,

We hereby respectfully request your government to reconsider its position vis a vis the ongoing AU plans to convene its forthcoming Summit in Khartoum. We strongly believe that the venue of such a prestigious gathering of African leaders should be shifted to another African capital.

Respectfully submitted.

Dismas Nkunda

For Darfur Consortium

UN envoy calls for stronger action on Darfur

January 16, 2006

UN Integrated Regional Information Networks

[ This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations ]

NAIROBI, 16 Jan 2006 (IRIN) - A much bigger peacekeeping force and targeted sanctions are needed to end the ongoing violence in the western Sudanese region of Darfur, Jan Pronk, special representative of the United Nations Secretary-General for Sudan, told the Security Council.

At least once a month, groups of 500 to 1,000 militia attacked villages, killing dozens of people and terrorising others, he said. Only international security guarantees such as those provided by the African Union could help.

"The force necessary to provide such guarantees should be much bigger than the present one," he said on Friday. "It should not be on call, but in place, present wherever people may be attacked.

"It should be strong, able to defend itself, able to deter attacks on civilians and able to disarm militias and the Janjawid, who should have been disarmed by the [Sudanese] government in the first place," he added.

The perpetrators of the wide-scale attacks in 2003 and 2004 had achieved their goal. Many areas of Darfur had been "cleansed", and millions of villagers sitting in camps were too afraid to return home, as the terror continued, he noted.

Pronk urged that a stronger peacekeeping force be supplemented by sanctions on troop movements not in accordance with any peace agreement; arms deliveries; and those who had caused atrocities.

Sanctions should target "the commanders and political leaders responsible for the carnage of 2003 and 2004, and those who have refused to stop the atrocities of 2005", he said.

Salim Ahmed Salim, special envoy of the African Union for the Darfur peace talks, expressed his regret over the lack of progress at the negotiations in the Nigerian capital, Abuja.

"The negotiations so far have been characterised by an unacceptable level of inflexibility in the positions of the parties, suspicion, absence of even the minimum level of confidence and deep distrust," he noted.

Pronk said that one could not ignore the impression that the parties had lost all sense of urgency and did not really care about deadlines.

The continuation of violence, killings, rapes and human rights violations was not only a tragedy for the people of Darfur, it also constituted a violation of the requirements set out in previous Council resolutions, he noted.

The UN envoy stressed that a sustained and lasting ceasefire in the region was of the utmost importance.

Only when the fighting had stopped could the parties, together with others who had not taken up arms - tribal leaders, civil society, representatives of displaced people, intellectuals and others - reach a fair, inclusive and sustainable agreement on governance, power, wealth, land, water and economic development, he said.

Sudan: African Union Extends Peacekeeping Mandate

UN Integrated Regional Information Networks

Addis Ababa, January 13, 2006

The African Union has extended the mandate of its peacekeeping force in Sudan's troubled Darfur region for two months, but will evaluate the option of handing the operation over to the United Nations.

The 6,964-strong AU Mission in Sudan (AMIS) cannot be sustained beyond March without more financial support, AU Commission chairman Alpha Omar Konare said in a report presented at a meeting of the pan-African Peace and Security Council on Thursday.

"The time has come to make a pronouncement on the future of the AU mission in Darfur and means to adapt it to the present challenges, including the hand-over to the United Nations at the appropriate time," Konare said.

The AU's main financial and logistical partners, he added, wanted to see a handover as early as February.

Konare noted the serious financial burden of supporting a mission with operating costs of US $17 million a month: "The funds received so far under the enhanced AMIS are almost exhausted. At present, no commitment has been made by partners for the funding of the mission beyond March 2006."

In a related development, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan called for the international community to continue to finance the current AU mission.

He told reporters in New York on Thursday that any force trying to maintain peace in the region would need to be highly mobile.

"It is a large territory, and I think whichever force is there with this kind of mandate has to be mobile, has to have tactical air support, must have helicopters and ability to respond very quickly," Annan said.

The UN would also look at putting more troops on the ground, he said.

"We need to get the government to work with us in bringing in an expanded force with troops from outside Africa, because until recently it has maintained that it will only accept African troops, but I think we have gone beyond that now," Annan noted.

Officials said Sudan was opposed to the idea of the UN taking over AMIS.

"Sudan strongly rejects any attempt to cast any shadow of doubt on the role and ability of the African Union to solve the problem of Darfur," Lam Akol Ajawin, Sudanese foreign minister, told reporters at the AU meeting.

Konare insisted in his report that Khartoum take greater steps to protect the rights of civilians in the region. He highlighted an increase in ceasefire violations, with attacks being launched by rebel groups, government soldiers, and militia backed by government troops.

"Arbitrary arrest and detention, unlawful killings, beating, abductions and gender-based violence still continue across Darfur," he said. "Civilians are still being attacked in their communities and forcibly displaced from their homes."

Since May 2005, he added, there had been some 139 violations by the parties to the conflict and other armed militias.

Five African peacekeepers and two civilian staff were killed by unknown gunmen in the last four months. Banditry and attacks against aid workers had also increased.

Recent Sudan Reports

(1) Physicians for Human Rights

Assault on Survival: A Call for Security, Justice and Restitution

Physicians for Human Rights documents the obliteration of the means of survival and the way of life in three villages in Darfur, Sudan, by the Government of Sudan and its proxy militia, the Janjaweed.During three trips to the region between May 2004 and July 2005, investigators interviewed dozens of survivors from three villages and compiled compelling evidence--including hundreds of photographs and hand-drawn maps--of the systematic nature of the attacks on lives and livelihoods in Darfur.

"Killings, rape, torture and other heinous crimes against non-Arabs in Darfur are well-documented", said PHR investigator and report author John Heffernan. "But PHR's in-depth investigation shows that the GOS and the Janjaweed, have in a systematic way attacked the very survival of a people by destroying property, livestock, communities and families , driving victims into a terrain unable to sustain life, and then repeatedly obstructing humanitarian assistance, their only lifeline."

The report also illuminates and analyzes an overlooked clause in the Genocide Convention which defines the crime as including deliberate infliction on a group "conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or part." The PHR investigators documented the precariousness of life in the vast no-man's land beyond the network of villages and transport. One refugee told PHR investigators that she overheard her attacker say, "Don't bother, don't waste the bullet, they've got nothing to eat and they will die from hunger."

To begin to address these particular crimes, PHR has called on the UN Security Council to establish and implement an effective Compensation Commission as recommended by its own Commission of Inquiry report released in January 2005. This would be in addition to the ongoing International Criminal Court (ICC) investigation.

(2) International Crisis Group

Sudan: Saving Peace in the East

5 January 2006

The low-intensity conflict between the government and the Eastern Front risks becoming a major new war with disastrous humanitarian consequences if the Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM) proceeds with its scheduled withdrawal from eastern Sudan this month. Competition to fill the security vacuum could spark urban unrest, reprisals and worse. Yet, there is also a peace opportunity. As a partner in the new Government of National Unity and with troops in the East, the SPLM is in a position to broker a deal. Like Darfur and the South, the East suffers from marginalisation and underdevelopment: legitimate claims for more power and wealth sharing in a federal arrangement should be addressed within the framework of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) the government and SPLM signed in 2005. But the SPLM needs to push for a provisional ceasefire and use its influence in Khartoum to get serious negotiations. International partners, under UN leadership, should facilitate the process.

The CPA has brought no peace dividend to either eastern Sudan or the Darfur region of western Sudan. It dealt with the political and economic marginalisation of the South but ignored the similar structural imbalance in the rest of the country. The ruling National Congress Party (NCP) and the international community are now bearing the consequences of excluding other participants from the long negotiations that were conducted at Naivasha in Kenya. After hundreds of thousands of deaths and the displacement of millions in Darfur, the international community is trying to salvage a peace in negotiations conducted under African Union sponsorship at Abuja. At the same time, however, it may be in the process of repeating its mistake by largely ignoring another powder keg.

(3) An eyewitness account of the massacre of Sudanese refugees in Cairo

Pambazuka News, January 5, 2006

An eyewitness account of the massacre of Sudanese refugees in Cairo

"Screams never stopped; the most acute were children's. My eyes couldn't follow where or where to look. It was cold. It was dark. Soldiers were brutal. They were just beating anyone anywhere, stepping over anyone and anything." This quote is from an anonymous eyewitness account) of events that took place last Friday in Cairo, when Egyptian security police brutally broke up a three-month sit-in protest being held by Sudanese refugees in Cairo. News reports indicate that the number of people killed is approaching 30. As detailed in an October 2005 Pambazuka News article ( the refugees were protesting against their appalling conditions and the constant abuse of their rights and had camped out near the Cairo office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), demanding protection from forced repatriation and protection of vulnerable groups. At that stage one of the protestors vowed: "We will wait here, we will die here. We have no other place to go."

AfricaFocus Bulletin is an independent electronic publication providing reposted commentary and analysis on African issues, with a particular focus on U.S. and international policies. AfricaFocus Bulletin is edited by William Minter.

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