Do we laugh or do we cry? From Inter-Press Service, Jan. 29:
Resolving the conflicts in Somalia and Darfur will extend well beyond the two-day African Union (AU) summit, according to academics and civil society activists.
But, they say, the 53 African heads of state and government cannot wait to take decision on the candidacy of the beleaguered Sudanese President Omar al Bashir for the chairmanship of the pan-African body, which is meeting in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, from Jan. 29. Bashir has been accused of genocide in the troubled western Sudanese region of Darfur.
His candidacy has divided Africa. If elected, he will carry with him the mandate to handle African conflicts such as Darfur and Somalia for a year – the duration of his chairmanship…
More than 200,000 people have been killed and another two million displaced since Darfur rebels, seeking autonomy, took up arms to fight the Khartoum government in 2003, according to a Jan. 28 statement by the New York-based Human Rights Watch urging AU to deny Bashir the chairmanship.
But Bashir said last year (Nov. 27) in a press conference in Khartoum that “counting all those killed in battles between the armed forces, the rebels and the tribes, the number (of dead in Darfur) does not reach 9,000.” The government of Sudan has consistently denied the mass forced displacement, killings and rape, according to Amnesty International.
So far, Bashir has rejected a United Nations Security Council proposal to deploy 20,000 blue helmets to replace the 7,000 ill-equipped and cash-strapped AU peacekeepers monitoring the peace in Darfur, a territory the size of France.
Meanwhile, the ceasefire supposedly brokered by New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson has been an astonishing success, as this Jan. 24 report from Lebanon’s Daily Star indicates:
The African Union (AU) has confirmed that Sudan’s military bombed two villages in North Darfur, violating cease-fire agreements and jeopardizing efforts to revive a stalled peace process, days ahead of the expected arrival of a team of investigators from the International Criminal Court (ICC) to probe genocide allegations.
Separately, the United Nations reported an assault on aid workers, saying that about 20 AU, united Nations and private-aid agency staff were arrested at a social gathering and five were beaten by police in Darfur, with some sustaining serious injuries.
In the first independent confirmation of rebel reports that the government bombarded their positions in Anka and Korma on January 16 and 19, the AU condemned the attacks.
“The [AU] cease-fire commission is once again calling on all parties to refrain from any activities that will jeopardize the peace process,” a statement sent late on Monday said.
Rebels are trying to hold a conference in Darfur to unify their position ahead of a renewed push for peace talks. They want government guarantees that the conference will not be attacked, but the military has bombed rebel positions three times in the past two months, the AU says.
Sudan’s armed forces spokesman denied all reports of bombing in the past two months…
Rebels also accused the government of bombing their positions in Ein Sirro on January 20, killing 17.
The AU has not confirmed yet that bombing, but a UN bulletin seen by Reuters on Tuesday said it also had reports of bombing at Ein Sirro, which killed two civilians and a large number of cattle.
The UN bulletin also said that it was investigating the arrest and assault on five of its staff and 15 others by police in South Darfur’s state capital, Nyala, on January 19.
“The UN staff were beaten both with hands and with rifles,” Edward Carwardine, a spokesman for the UN children’s agency UNICEF, said on Tuesday. The staff were international, he added. All were subsequently released.
“The United Nations will also officially protest to the government of Sudan the assault of the staff by local police, in violation of basic principles of rule of law and due process,” it said.
And yet another celebrity delegation is dispatched to Darfur, which seems to be the world’s substitute for actually doing anything substantive. A United Nations press release, Jan. 26:
Jody Williams, winner of the 1997 Nobel Peace Prize and co-founder of the Nobel Women’s Initiative, will lead a five-person high-level mission to evaluate the human rights situation in the war-ravaged Darfur region, the United Nations Human Rights Council announced today.
The Council’s President, Mexican Ambassador Luis Alfonso de Alba, appointed the five “highly qualified persons” comprising the Darfur mission after conferring with the Council and Sima Samar, the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Sudan, who will also participate in the mission.
The other four members of the mission are: Mart Nutt, an Estonian Parliament Member and Member of the Council of Europe’s European Commission Against Racism and Intolerance; Bertrand Ramcharan, the former Acting and Deputy UN High Commissioner for Human Rights; Patrice Tonda, Gabon’s Permanent Representative to the International Organizations in Geneva; and Indonesian Ambassador Marakim Wibisono, President of the 61st session of the Commission on Human Rights. These members will serve in their personal capacity.
The appointments come more than a month after the decision to convene a high-level panel to assess the human rights conditions in Darfur, which has witnessed countless instances of abuses, among them mass rape, abduction and forced relocation.
See our last post on Darfur.