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Wednesday, March 24, 2010

WHERE DO YOU GO WHEN YOU CAN'T GO HOME?

West silent over Darfur crisis despite risk of spiralling violence
24 Mar 2010 15:31:00 GMT
Displaced Sudanese women walk past an armoured personnel carrier  of the United Nations-African Union Mission in Nyala, southern Darfur.  REUTERS/Zohra Bensemra
Displaced Sudanese women walk past an armoured personnel carrier of the United Nations-African Union Mission in Nyala, southern Darfur. REUTERS/Zohra Bensemra

By Alex WhitingLondon (AlertNet) - There's a deafening silence over the humanitarian crisis in Sudan's Darfur region. Few on the ground are talking and the powers that be are pushing out a single line - the war between Darfur rebels and the government is over.

This statement does not tell the whole story, experts say. Widespread fighting may have eased, but the humanitarian crisis continues and insecurity poses serious problems for aid workers and peacekeepers. Fighting is still uprooting thousands of civilians, and another 2.6 million are living in worsening conditions in displacement camps.

Those who could challenge the government line are international aid agencies, but they fear being expelled, while Western governments and the media have shifted their focus to the fragile north-south peace process as it reaches a critical stage.

The country's first multi-party elections in 24 years are due next month and in January 2011 south Sudan is to vote on whether to secede from the north. If the oil-rich south does vote for independence, many experts say the north may not give up without a fight - despite government assurances to the contrary.

International Crisis Group's special advisor on Sudan, Fouad Hikmat, says the peace process is "the bigger stuff"."Darfur is now the secondary issue... Everyone thinks they should focus on the (north-south) Comprehensive Peace Agreement," he told AlertNet.

John Norris, executive director of U.S.-based campaign group Enough Project, agrees. "The international community is guilty of whistling past the graveyard - they hope Darfur will sort itself out." But nothing coming out of the ongoing peace talks with Darfur rebel groups is likely to lead to sustainable peace, he added.

THREAT OF SPIRALLING TENSIONSThere may be a high price for the international community's silence on Darfur.The future of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), which ended Sudan's 21-year civil war in 2005, is bound up with peace in Darfur. If violence escalates in Darfur, it will distract Khartoum from the CPA which "would be dangerous for the CPA itself", Hikmat said.

And there are good reasons why violence may escalate in this highly militarised and polarised region. Any chance of lasting peace depends on addressing the root causes of the war which include the region's political and economic marginalisation and tensions over access to land.

Opposition political parties have already said that a failure to register the displaced in Darfur as voters casts doubt on the legitimacy of the national results. A win by the ruling National Congress Party (NCP) in these circumstances may anger opposition parties further, deepening their hostility towards Khartoum. In addition, a victorious NCP is likely to stop offering Darfur rebel groups compromises and boost its military operations against the insurgents, Hikmat said.

Tensions are also likely to spiral if the government carries out its plans to close the displacement camps and force people to return home.Arab pastoralist and nomadic populations have moved into many of the villages abandoned by the displaced, most of them from non-Arab tribes, or turned them into grazing land, says Sudan analyst Eric Reeves.

"Forced returns amid present insecurity is a formula for renewed violence, and on a large scale," he said.Although widespread fighting has eased, bandit attacks on civilians and sporadic clashes between rebel groups and government forces continue.

The government's recent ceasefire agreements with rebel groups Justice and Equality Movement and Liberation and Justice Movement are fragile, and the key Sudan Liberation Army/Abdel Wahid rebel group is still active in the region.

Moreover, the U.N. Panel of Experts on Sudan - which monitors the situation on the ground - said in December it had found strong evidence, including written battlefield orders, for the Sudanese military's continued use of brutal Arab Janjaweed militia groups as auxiliary forces in Darfur. This is despite government claims they have all been disarmed as required by a 2004 U.N. Security Council resolution.

Sudanese officials have also threatened peacekeepers with military attack, according to the U.N. secretary-general's November 2009 report to the Security Council.

"We cannot say it is peaceful, or the war is over," Hikmat said. "Sometimes the conflict has more intensity, and sometimes a lengthy period of calm."In February this year thousands were displaced in a government offensive against the Sudan Liberation Army/Abdel Wahid group.

"It's shocking that the international community has said almost nothing about the military offensive. (U.S.) President Barack Obama said he'd judge the situation by the facts on the ground - and that's another 45,000 to 100,000 people displaced and hundreds killed in Jebel Marra," Norris said.

He added that one reason for the silence is that diplomats are scrambling to get a full peace deal in Darfur and do not want to jeopardise the fragile talks. "So if the government dangles a carrot saying 'we're in the peace process, we're serious', it knows it can engage in a military offensive at the same time - and can walk away from the agreement at a later stage," he adds.

THE HUMANITARIAN CRISISMeanwhile, human suffering in Darfur is as acute as ever. An estimated 4.7 million people rely on humanitarian aid, including more than 2.6 million people who have fled to displacement camps. Their situation has worsened since Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir expelled 13 international aid agencies and three local ones in March 2009, after the International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant for him on charges of war crimes in Darfur.

The gap left by the expulsions has "contributed to an increase in malnutrition levels, particularly in rural areas, where relief assistance is stretched beyond capacity", says the U.N. secretary-general's November 2009 report to the Security Council.

Kidnappings of foreign aid workers have also become commonplace, forcing many agencies to scale back their presence outside the biggest towns, according to Oxfam's Sudan spokesman Alun McDonald.But the biggest impact of the expulsions has been the scaling back of education and livelihood projects and of support for the many victims of rape, said McDonald.

Despite the worsening humanitarian situation, aid agencies are reluctant to speak out for fear of expulsion. Many are also afraid their staff will be attacked by pro-government agencies, said one expert on humanitarian operations in Darfur who did not want to be named.

Other independent information on the region is in short supply. Peacekeepers are denied access to parts of Darfur - including displacement camps - as is the U.N. Panel of Experts on Sudan. Other independent monitoring mechanisms for the international community have been disbanded or reorganised as joint mechanisms with the Sudanese government, the panel says.

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Find my *comment below that I left at the State Department's facebook category:
U.S. Department of State: Engaging the Community on Foreign Affairs POLL: What is your biggest foreign policy concern, moving forward in 2010? http://www.facebook.com/EngageStateDept?ref=mf

Poll: http://apps.facebook.com/opinionpolls/poll.php?pid=1269031636

*The worst behavior is targeting people to hurt based on bitterness, resentment, hatred or the need for power at the expense of others. Vitriolic behavior can be found everywhere, but when it is systematic and by a government, it should command us to act. But, we don't. If we want peace, we must work for justice.

I believe the time for being proactive to end what has been happening in Sudan since 2003 is overdue. And our legacy has been to stand by and do nothing effective.

The letter below from President Obama shows understanding, but actions have not been evident.

Dear Sandra Hammel,

Thank you for your letter urging action to end the genocide in Darfur. I share your outrage over the hundreds of thousands of lives lost, and the suffering of millions more. It has gone on for far too long. Bringing relief to the battered region of Darfur is a top priority for my Administration.

As President, I will build on America's efforts that I previously championed in the Senate. I led in calling for the joint African Union/United Nations peacekeeping force now on the ground, and insisted on comprehensive sanctions against the Khartoum government. Going forward, my Administration will continue this work withunstinting resolve to end the genocide.

In my discussions with other nations, I will work to ensure that tough sanctions on the Khartoum government continue as a part of a growing global effort involving our allies, interested countries, and other multilateral institutions. It is equally critical that we focus on the civilians who are in dire need of life-saving assistance. I will work with Congress to provide necessary humanitarian aid because America must lead with our words and our actions.

Thank you again for expressing your concern about this human catastrophe we are working hard to address. It is very encouraging to hear from Americans like you who act not on self-interest, but on a moral imperative. Our action and leadership will demonstrate who we are as a Nation and as a people.

Sincerely,

Barack Obama

Standing with Darfur

If you want peace, work for justice
إذا كنت تريد السلام ، أعمل من أجل العدالة

StopGenocideNow.org



Tweet this button to read: @JimLangevin Call for a Intelligence Committee special hearing re: #Sudan policy review and demand pressures and consequences #SudanSham

GENOCIDE WILL only STOP WITH US - Our leaders have taught us this







Contact links:

President Obama:
http://www.whitehouse.gov/contact
or for organizations at
http://www.whitehouse.gov/contact/organizations

Secretary of State Clinton:
http://contact-us.state.gov/cgi-bin/state.cfg/php/enduser/ask.php

State Department Facebook:
http://www.facebook.com/#!/EngageStateDept


Ambassador Susan Rice:
http://archive.usun.state.gov/Issues/Contact2.html

Vice President Biden:
http://www.whitehouse.gov/contact
or for organizations at
http://www.whitehouse.gov/contact/organizations

And at http://sudansham2010.org/page3/page3.html
do the tweets but replace any reference to Senate Resolution 404
with something important like "Gration has got to go"
in words of your choosing.

* Action to take: US RI Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, Call (401) 453-5294 or Email

Message:
I would like to thank Senator Whitehouse for his continued efforts for Darfur and Sudan. The Sudan Policy’s quarterly review just happened. Sudan has clearly violated benchmarks, and Obama’s policy promised consequences and pressures if and when this happens. Senator Whitehouse, as a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, should hold a hearing about the Sudan Policy quarterly review. The Senate Intelligence Committee members should ask about the specific benchmarks, pressures, and incentives in the policy, holding our administration to their word.

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