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Friday, July 17, 2009

DARFUR PEOPLE WANT JUSTICE AND FREEDOM

Updates and comments about the Darfur crisis provided by Mohamed Suleiman, a US-based Darfuri with a broad network of Darfuri contacts from the Diaspora and from IDP camps in Sudan and refugee camps in Chad can be found at


While We Wait Sudan



The Seven Excuses of Inaction for Darfur

Dr. Mukesh Kapila

I was wondering what I should speak about in such a gathering where you must know so much. It is pointless to rehearse the continuing agony of Sudan, and of Darfur in particular, and catalogue yet again the endless human rights tragedies that are taking place all over Sudan and in Darfur. So I will discuss a couple of themes.

One that worries me a great deal is the progressive revisionism in Darfuri history. We are beginning to see now, several years into the latest phase of conflict in Darfur, we notice from many commentators that are gaining prominence a sense of trying to “balance the history,” as they call it. And this revisionist view of what has happened in Darfur, and what continues to happen in Darfur, is something that organizations like yours need to be vigilant of.

The Seven Excuses

And I don’t know why this is the case. But what I do know from my own experience as the former UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator in 2003 to 2004, when the whole Darfur thing exploded in the consciousness for the first time, in recent times at least, I would say that from the constraints and difficulties that I had, I identified what I call seven excuses why people don’t listen to the writing on the wall.

1. Cynicism

The first one is cynicism—a general feeling that, sure, Sudan has got many troubles, it’s a country in conflict, a country that has always been in conflict, a conflict of many decades, and what do you expect in a place like that? Terrible things are done by people in the heat of conflict, so don’t be surprised if rapes take place, if violence against women takes place, and many other forms of horrible abuses take place. So the first excuse people give is to be cynical, or the first reaction is cynical.

2. Denial

The second reaction is denial. “Surely the situation is not as bad as you make it out to be,” they argue. “You’re exaggerating to gain attention.” And so they try and say, “Prove it.” Numbers and statistics and all that. And ultimately the whole ethos of the apologists is to try and reduce the impact of the message, and even to deny—just as we had the Holocaust deniers of the Second World War and still do, many of them—that what is happening in Darfur is a form of crimes against humanity or genocide, whatever you want to call it. There is that denial school.

3. Prevarication

The third reaction, or excuse people have to do nothing, is prevarication. An argument goes, and I had this given to me many times when I was the head of the UN in Sudan, “You have to be patient, it takes time, these are complicated matters, and in any case it’s best if the people of Sudan, the people of Darfur find their own solution to their own problems.” That’s an awful reaction, a sort of prevarication. “Takes time, be patient, these are complicated matters.”

4. Caution

The fourth excuse that people give is caution. “You know that these are very complicated and difficult issues,” they say. “Sudan is not a small country, it’s got a very complex past, a very complicated political and social dynamic. If we intervene it will only make matters worse; let us think carefully and long before we actually do anything.” So, caution.

5. Distraction

The fifth excuse is distraction: You know, we have many other things to do. There is the Middle East, there is Iraq, there in North Korea, there is Iran, there is Myanmar, there is climate change, there is HIV and AIDS, there are Millenium Development Goals, there are cyclones, there is a financial crisis, all sorts of things. We have many other things to do. Let’s solve the other bigger problems in the world first, solve the other problems which are equally important, and then we’ll get around to you on this particular problem.

6. Buck Passing

The sixth excuse is buck-passing. “Why does it always have to be us?” they say. So you go to London, you go to Washington, you go to the Security Council, you go to Brussels, you go wherever you like, and they say, “But you know, why is it that we always have to deal with these sort of issues? All these other countries, groups—the African Union, the Arab League, this, that, and the other—they should all be doing their part in this. So let them take on the leadership on this and then we will join in.” And that’s the sort of buck-passing that is used.

7. Evasion of Responsibility

And finally there is an evasion of responsibility excuse. “Oh, we have brought this to the attention of the Security Council, the President, the Prime Minister, the Pope, the Commission, the Council, the Committee, the whatever-you-like. And everyone is now kind of exercised by this issue. It’s being discussed at a very high level. So let’s see what they decide.”

So, ladies and gentlemen, my message to you, to UN Watch, to Human Rights Watch, to any other Watches that there are, is that watching is not enough. That actually unless you have some practical ways to address these seven reasons—cynicism, denial, prevarication, caution, distraction, buck-passing and evasion of responsibility—then I’m afraid we will continue to be a side event, we will continue to be tolerated in the margins.

If we don’t find practical means to address these kinds of obstacles, then I’m afraid that one group will remain at the margins, and one will remain as kind of a pressure group, and it isn’t going to be enough. That’s my first set of observations. So the challenge to you is: What more can we do?

My second set of remarks is about two current events which are not new ones, and are well familiar to you. The first is the debate between human rights and humanitarianism, and the second is the trade-off between peace and justice. They are different debates, but they are also related debates.

False Dichotomy 1: Human Rights vs. Humanitarianism

Let’s go to the human rights and humanitarianism debate. You heard in the last few weeks, months, after the International Criminal Court indictments, a whole army of humanitarians suddenly rose up and started protesting that the process of the International Criminal Court [indicting Sudanese President Al Bashir for genocide] was going to interfere with the provision of humanitarian aid, suffering is going to get worse, and that this whole judicial process is highly controversial and so on—political as some would argue—that it’s all very well, but it’s really anti-humanity, because it’s actually going to stop the humanitarian organizations. That people are suffering, and now the President of Sudan is going to go sulk in the corner and get very nasty, and throw the NGOs out, and people are suffering more, and what have you achieved?

The humanitarians—including some of the leading humanitarian organizations and leaders of the world—are basically castigating those who were going down the route of due judicial process.

Allow me to just reflect on the true nature of humanitarianism, and the linkages between human rights and humanitarianism, and whether or not there must always be a trade-off, and where the line is.

My own take on this is from my own experiences in Darfur and Sudan, and also dealing with these excuses that you heard me mention. Maybe before we in the international community pass judgment on which has higher precedence—humanitarian access or bringing about actions that will indeed protect and promote human rights—why don’t we actually ask the people of Sudan, and especially the people of Darfur, what they would like?

Now, from my vantage, and I don’t know whether we’ve done any surveys or not, but if we haven’t, then organizations, including Darfuri organizations, should do this, and this is to find out exactly what the people of Darfur are willing to sacrifice—and make more sacrifices if it means a solution to the ultimate problems that they face. I’m willing to bet that many of the people in Darfur will say, and they say this to me in the context I have, they’ll say, “You know, we’ve already suffered a great deal. The desert is colored in blood. Millions of our people have suffered and they’re still suffering. Displaced and refugees and so on, traumatized, and the trauma transmits from generation to generation. Are you saying to us that we can simply forget all this simply in the cause of bringing more food aid, a little bit of water, a little bit of that, we can put aside the sacrifices that have been made?”

And I would say to you that probably the people of Darfur are more resilient than those of us who lead soft humanitarian-conscious lives here. And I would suggest that people are prepared to fight for their liberty. Mandela was prepared to be incarcerated for decades in a labor camp in a prison—for what? For the dignity of freedom, for human dignity. Then I suspect that those humanitarians who kind of dilute the global commitment to bringing about a resolution of the underlying causes of the conflict in Darfur, I think they really should ask themselves whether they’re doing a favor or a disfavor to the world.

I ask those humanitarians: What is a true humanitarian? Is a humanitarian simply one who, when someone is suffering, hands out a piece of bread, as an act of charity, or is a true humanitarian one who asks the question, why are the people suffering?

If you go back to the original roots of humanitarianism, the issue of dignity far overrides the issue of charity. And if that’s the case, then it is true that people who want to achieve their rights have to fight for them. I’m not here to make any political statement about fighting in the armed conflict sense of the term, but I do mean fighting for the rights of people all over the world, for their economic and social and cultural rights.

So you see where I stand. I would say that if there’s a debate between the humanitarians or the human-rightists, then it must be the human-rightists that must prevail. Otherwise, the suffering of Darfur will simply go on, and in any case none of the humanitarian organizations—even if you double the access, quadruple the resources, and had a government of Sudan which suddenly turned itself into a humanitarian-minded government—would be able to solve the humanitarian issues of Sudan.

False Dichotomy 2: Justice vs. Peace

My third and final point is on the debate between peace and justice. It’s extraordinary that there are still people in the world—I can’t understand how ignorant—who don’t appear to have learned any lessons from three to four decades of conflict- management around the world. Wherever we go in the world—go back to the wars of Latin America during the seventies, go back to the struggles in Africa or in other parts of the world—we know that peace agreements, if they’re not founded on a foundation of justice, always unravel.

I myself, at the time when I was head of the Humanitarian Conflict Department in the British Government, in the Department for International Development, had a direct involvement in the negotiations and proceedings that went on in Liberia and particularly in Sierra Leone. I don’t know how many peace agreements there were in Sierra Leone—some 16 or 17—and all of them failed, until one could address the issues of accountability and justice.

This does not mean that people have to be locked up in prison, or to be hung or whatever, but rather a process of saying: “I’m sorry, I did wrong, it was my fault, and let us learn lessons, let us make up, let us offer some compensation.” Compensation in the sense that anyone can offer—it’s not money that is the matter here, it is simply the acknowledgement of ill-doing, and the desire to correct that ill-doing and to move on. If we don’t do that, then there is no peace in Sudan, in Darfur, or any other region like that in the world.

This we know from history, from all the examples of every single peace agreement that we can be conscious of over the last years. Not a single peace agreement has ever succeeded unless there has been a foundation addressing the issue of accountability. So I would say to watchers generally that one has to bring these issues together: the human rights issue, the humanitarian issue, the justice issue, and systematically address the obstacles and excuses people give. And to do that in a forensic and decisive manner. Only by doing that in a very targeted manner will we actually make progress against the vast forces and the resources that are aligned together against the cause of peace, justice and human rights in Darfur.

(Transcribed by Abigail Chernick and edited for publication by Hillel Neuer.)

Date: 7/13/2009


The above text is based on remarks delivered by Dr. Mukesh Kapila, theformer UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Sudan, at a June 16, 2009 panel on “Women in Conflict and the Human Rights Situation in Sudan,” organized by UN Watch as a NGO side event during the 11th session of the UN Human Rights Council, together with the Darfur Peace and Development Center and LICRA. The other panelists were Hillel Neuer, Gibreil Hamid, and Diagne Chanel.

Source: www.unwatch.org

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Court says Abyei ruling on July 22nd despite objections by Sudan’s NCP

Wednesday 15 July 2009

Source: sudantribune.com

July 14, 2009 (WASHINGTON) — The Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) at The Hague announced today that its ruling on the disputed North-Sudan border region of Abyei shall be rendered on July 22nd at 10 am, according to a press statement.

The Sudan ruling National Congress Party (NCP) and Sudan People Liberation Movement (SPLM) have both disagreed on the date and the manner through which the PCA ruling should be made public.

On June 30th the SPLM sent a letter to the PCA asking that the parties should be given "at least one week notice" of the decision date.

The ex-Southern rebel group said that the request is made "so that the parties have the opportunity to put in place arrangements for communication of the award in Abyei and wider Sudan" the letter said.

"This advance notice will allow the parties to immediately implement the award, educate the people of the Abyei area prior to the award, facilitate dissemination of the award and take steps to prevent violence, enhance security and consolidate peace in and around Abyei area at the time the award is communicated."

But the NCP rejected the arguments put forward by the SPLM in a rebuttal to the PCA submitted July 7th warning that "neither party is authorized to take unilateral steps" in connection with the security arrangements in the oil rich region.

The ruling party referred to the Abyei Protocol signed as part of the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) saying that the Abyei Executive Council "is entrusted with the supervision and promotion of security in the area."

Furthermore, the NCP says in its letter that the United Nations mission in Sudan (UNMIS) also has the task of promoting security and improve conflict prevention efforts.

Last year Abyei witnessed deadly clashes between Sudanese government troops and SPLA that left the town deserted after 50,000 of its inhabitants fled the fighting.

The NCP said that it is "regrettable" that the SPLM "have been waging a media campaign stating that they will win the arbitration – conduct which is not conducive to promoting security in the area."

It also said that the announcement of the PCA decision should be in line with the agreement reached between the two parties last month in Washington which states that they agree to "to develop a plan with assistance from US to facilitate dissemination of the arbitration decision at the local level in anticipation of the decision."

The NCP proposed that they along with the SPLM shall develop the plan, beef up UNMIS presence in the area before the ruling should be made public.

But the SPLM responded on July 9th suggesting a meeting to be held at the Hague for the award to be communicated as long as this would not delay the decision date, otherwise they said that the PCA should sent the ruling via email to both sides.

The PCA issued a statement on July 10th saying that they decided that a formal ceremony for communicating the ruling shall be held at the seat of the court in The Hague and ordered both parties to deliberate and agree on a date for the event.

The response was to be delivered by Monday July 10th.

Yesterday the legal counsel for the NCP informed the court that both parties were unable to agree on a date. The letter stated that the NCP proposed the ceremony to be held on August 21st.

The SPLM reiterated to the PCA in a letter the same its position that the decision should not "be delayed in any way."

Today the PCA issued a statement saying it took note of both parties’ position but that "due to the inability of the Parties to agree on a new date for the rendering of the award" the tribunal will stick to the July 22nd date.

The ceremony will be public and attended by delegations from the NCP & SPLM and CPA witnesses. The PCA extended invitation to the chiefs of the Misseriya and Ngok Dinka communities and a representative of the CPA Assessment and Evaluation Commission, to attend.

Observers fear that the highly awaited decision may spark fresh clashes between the tribal communities in the region.

The Abyei protocol signed as part of the CPA provided for the establishment of a commission known as the Abyei Boundaries Commission (ABC) to "define and demarcate the area of the nine Ngok Dinka Chiefdoms transferred to Kordofan in 1905, referred to herein as Abyei Area".

However, the NCP rejected the findings of the ABC report accusing its members of impartiality and violating its mandate.

A year ago the two sides agreed to refer their dispute over the findings of Abyei Boundary Commission to the Permanent Court of Arbitration.

The arbitration tribunal has to determine whether or not the Abyei Boundaries Commission (ABC) experts exceeded their mandate "to define and demarcate the area of the Nine Ngok Dinka Chiefdoms transferred from Bahr el Ghazal to Kordofan in 1905, as per the Abyei Protocol, the Appendix, ABC Terms of Reference and Rules of Procedure."

If the PCA determines that the ABC exceeded its mandate then it shall proceed to define the borders of the region.

Today the US urged the NCP and SPLM to implement the tribunal’s decision.

"The United States calls on both parties to the Comprehensive Peace Agreement ... immediately to prepare for the implementation of the decision," US State Department spokesperson Ian Kelly said in a statement.

"Measures include a readiness to implement fully the court’s decision, to disseminate widely accurate information about the decision, and to take the necessary steps to eliminate opportunities for violence in the region," he said.

The US presidential special envoy to Sudan Scott Gration will travel to Abyei a day before the ruling. Gration arrived today in Khartoum at the start of a ten-day visit.

Under the 2005 peace accord residents of Abyei will chose to join the north or south in 2011, when the entire south will vote on secession from the north.

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The i-ACT team of Stop Genocide Now finally make it back to Camp Kounoungo. They sit down to chat with old friends like Adam and Yakub who have been at Kounoungo for many years. Posted stopgenocidenow

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