War, Refugees and Hunger instead of Peace

The government of Sudan came under fire by the publication of two reports on the humanitarian situation in the Darfur region. Human Rights Watch accused Khartoum of ethnic cleansing. A UN report accused the government of deliberately starving civilians.

The government of Sudan came under fire by the publication of two reports on the humanitarian situation in the Darfur region. Human Rights Watch accused Khartoum of ethnic cleansing. A UN report described sanitary and medical conditions as "appalling" and "inhumane" and accused the government of deliberately starving civilians. Ludger Schadomsky has the details.

photo: AP
Fighting in western Sudan's Darfur region has forced more than 600,000 people to flee their homes

​​The publication of the report comes on the heels of a row between the US and Sudan over Sudan's re-election to the UN's Human Rights Commission. Meanwhile, peace negotiators in neighbouring Kenya say they are only days away from a framework agreement on the future of Sudan.

In its report, titled: "Darfur destroyed: Ethnic cleansing by government and militia forces in western Sudan", Human Rights Watch documents indicate how Sudanese government forces have overseen and directly participated in massacres, summary executions of civilians and the burning of towns and villages inhabited by African ethnic groups.

The human rights watchdog calls on the United Nations Security Council to strongly condemn the actions of the Sudanese government. The Security Council is due to be briefed on the situation in Darfur on Friday (7.5.).

The world's worst humanitarian crisis at present

On Wednesday (5.5.), fresh fighting erupted between Sudanese government forces and rebels in the west of the country despite a cease-fire signed in April. The year-old war has killed at least 10,000 people and forced a million to flee their homes in what the United Nations says is the world's worst humanitarian crisis at present.

Amna El Agib, a human rights activist from Darfur, uses even stronger language: "They violated human beings, killing, it's a genocide, even ethnic cleansing. Before I saw it I thought it was being made up, but that's exactly what's happening."

Meanwhile, the tug of words between the US and Sudan over Khartoum's re-election to the UN's Human Rights Commission turned ugly on Thursday (6.5.) when Sudan's envoy called the United States one of the world's worst abusers of human rights, citing the scandal over abuses in Iraq.

The row comes as Washington and Khartoum are trying to mend fences after the US included Sudan on its list of rogue states. Washington has on a number of occasions complained that Khartoum is preventing urgently needed assistance from reaching the people in Darfur.

Agreements on the status of Khartoum

But there was also good news. Negotiators from the Sudanese government and the main Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) rebel group meeting in Naivasha, Kenya, have reached an agreement on key issues, including the status of the capital Khartoum.

Amin Hassan Omar, a member of the government team at peace talks, said a framework agreement would be signed within the next few days. This would pave the way to a six year interim period after which the South will decide whether it wants to remain with Sudan or break away.

However, Alfred Taban, editor of the opposition newspaper "Khartoum Monitor" says he doesn't believe in a lasting solution: "Government is not negotiating in good faith. Things that divide the country are things they want to promote, like Sharia. This will not bring peace, or unity, for that matter", Taban claims.

Civil society excluded

His sentiment is echoed by Emam Ahmed El Khawad of the Sudanese Women Initiative for Peace Association. She says civil society has not been given a stake in the peace negotiations: "Negotiations are only between the government and the SPLA. Civil society organisations are completely absent and this may threaten the sustainability of the peace agreement."

Alfred Taban says there cannot be peace in Sudan unless the situation in Darfur is brought under control: "It's difficult to sustain a peace agreement in Naivasha without a settlement in Darfur. The fighting there has a direct effect on the peace process in Southern Sudan, so it's imperative that a peace agreement must be found in order for the peace to be sustainable."

While some observers of the peace talks have criticised the US for exerting undue pressure on the negotiating parties, Al Hag Warag, a journalist with the daily Al Sahafa paper, says more pressure is needed in order to wrap up the talks: "Not less, more pressure."

Ludger Schadomsky


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