Darfur Rebel Before ICC; Chad Confirms Sudan Attacks

A Darfur rebel accused of taking part in the “most serious attack against peacekeepers in Darfur” voluntarily made his way to the International Criminal Court (ICC) this week.

The rebel, Bahr Idriss Abu Garda, became the first person from the Darfur conflict to appear before the ICC.

Abu Garda maintained his innocence – stating that he surrendered “out of clear conviction that justice be achieved in Darfur”.

In other news, Chad has confirmed that it indeed sent its army into neighboring Sudan to fight against Chadian rebels positioned there – an act the country believes it has a “right” to do “at any time and in any place”. Chad and Sudan have a history of accusing one another of supporting rebels belonging to each other.

Darfur Prisoners Tortured?

Rebel group JEM and Amnesty International are reporting that 82 Darfuri men sentenced to death by the Sudanese government are being subjected to “horrific treatment” – including inhumane conditions and torture.

Up to eight detainees are kept in cells of 2 by 1.5 meters wide, each originally designed for one prisoner. The cells are badly ventilated and detainees have to take turns to sleep. Detainees are prevented toilet facilities between 4pm to dawn and are fed foul food and dirty water. This has resulted in horrendous health problems including numerous cases of kidney infections.

Furthermore, many feel that the death sentences of the men are the result of unfair trials, inadequate legal counsel, and torture as a means of deriving confessions. Confessions under torture are admissible under Sudanese law.

JEM and Amnesty International are urging Sudanese and international authorities to investigate the allegations of inhumanity against the Darfuri prisoners.

On another note, Darfur was included as an “international hot spot” on CNN’s National Report Card for US President Obama’s first 100 days in office.

Sudan to Release Darfur Prisoners

Sudan’s justice minister has announced that the government will release 24 Darfur detainees.

The move comes after Tuesday’s signing of a deal of good intentions between Sudan and rebel group Justice and Equality Movement (JEM).

On its end, JEM released 21 government prisoners-of-war this week.

The justice minister did not specify whether those released would be JEM rebels but did emphasize that the Sudanese government’s aim is to promote peace efforts.

Nevertheless, there are reports that 17 JEM rebels and 11 Sudanese soldiers were killed during fighting in Darfur on Thursday – just two days after the signing of the goodwill deal.

Sudan and Rebels Make Deal

Photograph by Stop Genocide Now

Photograph by Stop Genocide Now

Today, the Sudanese government and rebel group Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) drafted a “declaration of good intentions”.

The deal reportedly includes an agreement to cease attacks on IDP camps in Darfur and the refugees who call them home.

The agreement is to be signed Tuesday.

Both the Sudanese government and JEM know that while this deal is significant, it alone will not bring peace to Darfur. More work lies ahead.

In Pictures: Seeking Shelter

We often speak of the “Darfur crisis” or the “Congo conflict”. On one hand, these situations are separate and distinct. However, on the other hand, Congo, Darfur, South Sudan, and other African humanitarian disasters are often intertwined.

Consider a recent eye-opening slideshow created by BBC News containing pictures of Congolese people fleeing to South Sudan in an effort to escape attacks carried out by Uganda’s rebel Lord’s Resistance Army.

Congo has one set of problems. South Sudan has another. Makes you wonder whether these individuals are fleeing from adversity only to find it once more – just with a change in scenery.

Darfur Town Captured

As expected, the Darfur town of Muhajiriya is now in the hands of the Sudanese army.

Rebel group Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) left Muhajiriya in an effort to prevent further fighting from impacting the town’s 30,000 residents.

UNAMID peacekeepers remained in the town – also for the sake of protecting residents.

In other news, Libyan leader and new African Union chairman Moammar Gadhafi said today that finding a resolution to the Darfur crisis is now his “personal responsibility“.

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.