Darfur Peacekeepers Shot

Four UNAMID peacekeepers operating in Darfur were shot yesterday by “unknown armed men”.

The number of attacks against UNAMID peacekeepers in 2009 now exceeds that for 2008 – and it’s only March!

This was the first incident since last week’s ICC indictment of Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir.

Meanwhile, the US embassy in Khartoum has announced that it is allowing all non-essential embassy staff to leave Sudan.

Bashir Indictment: The Days After

A lot is going on right now in Darfur and Sudan overall. Here are some highlights – 

The UN Security Council remains undivided about a response to Sudan’s expulsion of aid groups.

Ban Ki-moon, UN Secretary-General, believes the expulsion will leave Darfur aid “irrevocably damaged” yet the Sudanese government maintains that its decision is “irrevocable“.

Khartoum has accused the aid groups of being “thieves” and “messing up everything as far as stability and security in Darfur”.

Despite the issuance of an arrest warrant for him, Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir remains defiant. Less than 24 hours after his indictment, Bashir was seen smiling and dancing in the streets with supporters.

Displaying indifference to the ICC’s decision, Bashir uttered these words –

The true criminals are the leaders of the United States and Europe…one day we will take them to justice.

Bashir traveled to Darfur Sunday, where he delivered a strict warning to diplomatic missions in Sudan –

If anyone goes further than the rule of the country, we will kick them out directly. 

Aid Agencies Kicked Out of Sudan

No one expected Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir to welcome his ICC arrest warrant with open arms and words of apology…but his response today was unbelievable.

The Sudanese government ordered up to 10 humanitarian groups to leave Darfur and took possession of the agencies’ assets.

According to a UN spokesperson, groups expelled include –

The main providers of life-saving humanitarian services, such as water, food, health and sanitation. Their departure will have an immediate and serious impact on the humanitarian and security situation in North Sudan and especially in Darfur.

Oxfam America was among those agencies kicked out. The group and its 450 staff members in Sudan bring aid to 600,000 people in the country.

Oxfam released a statement today confirming that its license to operate in North Sudan was revoked and it intends to appeal the decision.

Oxfam’s International Director is urging the Sudanese government to reverse the expulsion –

Oxfam is an independent, impartial non-governmental organization, with absolutely no links to the ICC. Oxfam does not have an opinion on the Court’s activities, and our sole focus is meeting humanitarian and development needs in Sudan.

One can only hope that humanitarian groups will be invited to return to Darfur. The people of Sudan have already suffered devastation beyond belief. Items like food and water are currently so hard to obtain – without aid agencies, they will be downright impossible to obtain.

President Bashir, I am not sure whether the ICC’s arrest warrant makes you fearful or angry (or both). However, I am sure that you cannot deal with the feelings by lashing out against the people of Darfur.

They did not charge you with crimes against humanity – they lived your crimes against humanity.

UN: Peacekeepers Will Stay

Today, the chief of UN peacekeeping operations announced that UNAMID peacekeepers will remain in Darfur even if the ICC issues an arrest warrant for Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir on March 4th, as expected.

The Government would assume its full duty of protecting UN missions in Sudan against any negative impact that may result from the ICC’s possible decision against Sudanese political leadership.

The chief also stated that the UN will have “contingency planning to try to react to any situation”.

In other news, the leader of rebel group Justice and Equality Movement warned the Sudanese government today against harming Darfur civilians in response to the ICC’s decision.

If they harm civilians, JEM will react.

Hope Remains at IDP Camp’s Obama School

Photograph by Stop Genocide Now

Camp Djabal - Photograph by Stop Genocide Now

After Barack Obama was elected US president in November, School No. 1 at the Djabal refugee camp in Chad was renamed the Obama School.

NY Times writer and Darfur advocate Nicholas Kristof recently visited Djabal, home to thousands who have fled the genocide in Sudan.

Regarding the Obama School, Kristof writes –

It’s a pathetic building of mud bricks with a tin roof, and the windows are holes in the wall, but it’s caulked with hope that Obama may help end the long slaughter and instability in Sudan.

Is there reason for the residents of Djabal to be hopeful?

Kristof thinks so.

This Wednesday, the International Criminal Court will release its decision on issuing an arrest warrant for Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir. There is talk that top Sudanese officials may oust Bashir if a warrant is issued.

Additionally, several current US leaders back the Darfur cause, including President Barack Obama, VP Joe Biden, Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, and UN Ambassador Susan Rice. The Obama administration plans to conduct a review of the policy on Darfur led by human rights defender Samantha Power.

I agree with Kristof. Hope is not lost. Not for those living in Djabal. Not for the refugees in other Darfur IDP camps. And not for the millions around the world who refuse to turn a blind eye to the extermination of a people.

Breaking News about Bashir Indictment

Get out your planner and circle Wednesday, March 4th.

According to the International Criminal Court, this is the day on which it will announce its ruling on the issuance of an arrest warrant for Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir.

Bashir is facing allegations of murder, deportation, torture, rape, war crimes, crimes against humanity, and extermination.

“No One Will Give A Damn”

Today, the US, Britain, and France announced their opposition to any deferral of an International Criminal Court indictment of Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir.

On Wednesday, the UN said that the ICC had decided to issue an arrest warrant for the man behind the Darfur genocide. However, Thursday, the ICC denied that a decision had been made.

If a warrant is issued, Bashir would become the first sitting head-of-state to be indicted.

Sudanese officials continue to dismiss allegations against Bashir.

In the words of Sudan’s UN ambassador –

For us, this so-called indictment doesn’t exist. No one will give a damn in the country. If it has any merit, it has united the whole Sudanese people around our president.

The ambassador also vowed that Sudan will not cooperate with the ICC.