Rebels Willing to Withdraw, Sudan Unwilling to Accept

For the sake of civilian safety, rebel group Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) has announced that it would withdraw from Muhajiriya, a Darfur town currently targeted by the Sudanese army.

However, JEM said it would only pull out if Muhajiriya is designated as a demilitarized zone controlled by UNAMID peacekeepers – not by the Sudanese government or any other rebel group.

Immediate rejection of the conditional withdrawal came from the Sudanese government, who believes that there is “no room for conditions from JEM” and that Muhajiriya will be taken “in the right time”.

Meanwhile, US Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice condemned the Sudanese government’s recent bombings of the area surrounding Muhajiriya –

It’s been unacceptable for I don’t know how long now – six years, five years – I don’t know what it’s going to take but that’s completely unacceptable.

And that’s not all – the International Criminal Court’s decision regarding issuance of an arrest warrant for Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir looms closer and closer with each passing day.

One thing is certain – right now is a crucial time for the people of Darfur.

Stay tuned.

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Sudan Issues Serious Warning

The Sudanese government has urged UNAMID peacekeepers to leave the Darfur town of Muhajiriya, warning that an attack against rebels is imminent.

We are not ordering them around, we are asking them…It’s sort of like informing them, “Something will be happening here”.

Despite the threats, UNAMID has refused to flee.

We are not going to leave when there are thousands of displaced people around our camp.

Today, the UN and the US “encouraged”the Justice and Equality Movement, the rebel group currently in control of Muhajiriya, to surrender the town.

Reports indicate that the Sudanese army is advancing upon Muhajiriya from three directions. Its intent to storm the town is moving forward with full force.

The US Says Stop

Today, a US State Department spokesperson lashed out against this week’s increased violence in Darfur and called for its cessation –

We demand that all parties to the conflict, including rebel movements, cease all violence and provocations in Darfur immediately and commit to the peace process.

Strong statement by the US.

However, one thing is missing – how about a “or else, we will…”?

To read more about the recent fighting between the Sudanese military and rebel group Justice and Equality Movement, click here.

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words

BBC News has released its 2008 Africa – Year in Pictures. Check it out.

Sadly, most monthly highlights show violence and instability.

Hopefully, 2009 will bring more awareness and aid to regions in need.

IDP Children Injure Peacekeeper

A UNAMID peacekeeper in West Darfur sustained a critical head injury from rocks thrown at him by children from the Hamadiya camp for internally displaced persons (IDPs).

Camp leaders, the UN Department of Safety and Security, UNAMID, and the National Intelligence Security Services met to discuss the incident. An apology was given by camp leaders, as well as a statement that such an event would not happen again.

This incident brought me back to a previous blog discussing the “shabab” or “Darfur’s Generation X” – a growing population of angry, frustrated, and perhaps fearful youth residing in Darfur’s various refugee camps.

Yes, these individuals are acting out. However, the appropriate response is not to condone or condemn their actions. The appropriate response is to ask ourselves why they are committing such actions.

Ethiopian Peacekeepers to Darfur

620Slightly over 100 Ethiopian peacekeepers arrived in Darfur Tuesday. Another 400 are said to be arriving from now until Friday.

Under a 2007 UN Security Council Resolution, Ethiopia vowed to send 5,000 troops to the devastated Sudanese region. Until now, only 340 Ethiopian peacekeepers had deployed in Darfur due to a “lack of equipment and preparations on the ground”.

One should not blame Ethiopia for the inadequate peacekeeping force. In reality, the international community at large has not lived up to its promises regarding deployment to Darfur.

The aforementioned Resolution authorized the deployment of nearly 20,000 military personnel. To date, more than one year later, deployment amounts to an inexcusable 10,700 – a tad over 50%.

Do the people of Darfur only deserve 50% of peace? Should we seek to only alleviate 50% of their suffering?

I am 100% certain that these people deserve more.

Better Late than Never?

612After meeting with Dr. Halima Bashir, a Darfuri woman who experienced first-hand the atrocities taking place in the region, US president George Bush had strong words for Sudan president Omar Al-Bashir.

It’s very important for President Bashir of Sudan to know that he cannot escape accountability; that if he so chooses, he could change people’s lives, the condition of people’s lives very quickly.

Bush also expressed his frustration related to peacekeeping efforts (or lack thereof) in Darfur – “The pace of action out of the United Nations is too slow”.

Will Bush’s most recent statements be accompanied by actions? Or will they simply lead to empty promises as we have seen before? Only time will tell.

Dr. Bashir is the author of the book “Tears of the Desert: A Memoir of Survival in Darfur”.