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To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment. Ralph Waldo Emerson said it; I believe it.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Another Day Goes By in Darfur (2)

I am attending a Council on Foundations Conference in MD this week; we had the pleasure of hearing about how the philanthropic world is attempting to keep human rights on the forefront of the international conversation, from three individuals from South Africa, Ireland, and the US. The crisis in Darfur continues and I will highlight it in my own small way until it ends. This is an article updating the status of the conflict. Another day goes by...

UNITED NATIONS, New York: The conflict in Darfur is deteriorating, with full deployment of a new peacekeeping force delayed until 2009 and no prospect of a political settlement for a war that has killed as many as 300,000 people in five years, UN officials said.

In grim reports to the Security Council, the United Nations aid chief and the representative of the peacekeeping mission said that suffering in the Sudanese region was worsening. Tens of thousands more have been uprooted from their homes and food rations to the needy are about to be cut in half, they said.

"We continue to see the goal posts receding, to the point where peace in Darfur seems further away today than ever," said John Holmes, under secretary general for humanitarian affairs at the UN.

The conflict began in early 2003 when rebels took up arms against the Arab-dominated central government of Sudan, accusing it of discrimination. Many of the worst atrocities in the war have been blamed on the janjaweed, the militia of Arab nomads allied with the government.
A joint UN-African Union peacekeeping force took over duties in Darfur in January from a beleaguered AU mission of 7,000 officers. But only about 9,000 soldiers and police officers of the 26,000 authorized for the new mission have been deployed.

"We are late, and we are trying to speed up the deployment of this mission, and we facing many obstacles," said Rodolphe Adada, the envoy for the UN-AU force. "But eventually, with the help of some donors, we could be in a position to achieve maybe 80 percent of the force by the end of this year."

The mission faces major problems in putting troops into a very hostile environment, Adada said. It still lacks five critical capabilities to become operational - attack helicopters, surveillance aircraft, transport helicopters, military engineers and logistical support.

Holmes said that further progress in deploying the joint peacekeeping force, known as Unamid, would help protect civilians and possibly humanitarian convoys.

"But only an end to all violence and concrete steps toward a political settlement will make the fundamental difference needed, as the rebel movements themselves above all need to recognize," Holmes said.

The UN and the AU have tried for months to open peace talks between Sudan and rebel groups after the failure of a 2005 agreement to stem violence. But most rebel chiefs are boycotting the negotiations, and security in Darfur has further deteriorated in recent months.

Adada told the council that "unfortunately, it is commonly understood today in Darfur that peace is not at all attractive - neither economically nor politically."

When Jan Egeland, the former UN humanitarian chief, brought the Darfur conflict to the Security Council's attention in April 2004, he said approximately 750,000 people were in danger.

Now, Holmes told the council, "of Darfur's estimated six million people, some 4.27 million have now been seriously affected by the conflict."

Holmes said that many of them have had to flee their homes, with 2.45 million people sheltering elsewhere in Sudan and 260,000 more in neighboring countries. Approximately 100,000 civilians have been forced to flee this year, he said. Sixty thousand of them were displaced in West Darfur, which has recently seen an increase in violence.


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