"All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights."
Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948

Briefings

21 November 2006

The last weeks have been marked by a series of contradictory developments. The government of Sudan conceded that the May accords had failed at a major conference in Addis Adaba, opening up what some called the possibility of ‘historic talks’. These discussions appeared to lead an agreement on the deployment of UN troops (the full text of the Addis Adaba agreement is available here). Moreover, some local rebel commanders from the Sudan Liberation Movement (SLM) signed a political protocol with Khartoum on Saturday 18 November affirming the commitment of the parties to a durable and just peace, development and rehabilition in Darfur.

Yet Khartoum had only agreed to UN troops ‘in principle’. Crucially, details of numbers and locations were to be left to a later date – and several developments cast doubt on the sincerity of the government. The agreement came just days after Sudanese Defence Minister Abdel Rahim Mohamed Hussein bolstered troops in South Darfur by threatening to turn the region into ‘an invader’s graveyard’ for any UN peacekeeping forces. And Sudanese officials indicating they might backtrack on the deal soon after the signing. Senior members of the ruling party have postponed discussion of force composition to a November 29 meeting and made it clear that as far as they are concerned any force would remain under AU command with a minor role for UN troops.

Darfur rebels claimed that the government was actually stepping up attacks. The Sudan Liberation Army (SLA), a Darfur rebel group, claimed to have killed more than 100 government and janjaweed troops, which indicates that fighting remains intense. Such testimony also corroborates previously voiced fears by observers that Khartoum is preparing for an ‘end game’.

Khartoum’s relations with the international community also continued to sour. Jan Egeland, UN Undersecretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, was forced to return early from a trip to Darfur after the Sudanese government prevented him from visiting four of the six locations he wanted to inspect, citing ‘insecurity’. Egeland also announced that the number of civilians in need of aid in Darfur now stands at 4 million after a massive surge in recent months. He labeled the current juncture in humanitarian assistance a ‘moment of truth’.

Louise Arbour, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, warned of mass displacement in Chad as conflicts on the border with Sudan threatened to turn Darfur into a crisis of regional proportions. Estimates put the number of Chadians forced to flee in the last year at 75,000 – 12,000 fleeing after the series of attacks that began on November 4th. Human Rights Watch published a photo essay on the suffering of civilians in Darfur and Chad which bore powerful witness to these statistics.

Finally, after initially indicating that it was backing off from a commitment to international troops the USA threatened to use ‘Plan B’ if the government of Sudan had not made progress in accepting the joint UN/AU force by January 2007. And the leaders of Sudan, Chad, the Central African Republic, Egypt and Eritrea met in Tripoli this Tuesday to ‘discuss’ what action to take on Darfur, which may be read as further delaying tactics.