Creating a Comprehensive Peace…

Col. Norman Atkins from UN and Bushara Dosa from Darfur People's Association

It’s the five year anniversary of the CPA- the U.S. brokered Comprehensive Peace Act between North and South Sudan that ended 23 years of civil war.  Comprehensive is a misleading word, given that concentrated power in the North has left many in other regions of Sudan marginalized which has resulted in violence.   It has been 7 years since the fighting started in Darfur.

Last Wednesday, Col. Norman Atkins representing the UN Peacekeeping efforts in Sudan, gave a presentation to the NYC Coalition for Darfur, which meets monthly at the Church of St. Andrews on 86th Street between Broadway and West End.

Col. Atkins gave an overview of the various arms of the UN and of regional instability outside of Sudan–Somalia, Eritrea, DRC, CAR, Chad.   In Sudan, there are two separate missions, UNAMIS and UNAMID.  And three peace agreements ( The CPA from 1-9-05,  the Eastern Peace Agreement from 14 Oct 06, and the Darfur Peace Agreement  from 5 May 06, which he noted was not a peace agreement.)He had a Dag Hammerskold quote on one of his slides, ” The UN was not created to take humanit to heaven but to save it from hell.”

National elections are to be held in April. One audience member asked how it was possible for the President Omar Al-Bashir to be indicted by the International Criminal Court, and still be a viable candidate in April.  Col. Atkins responded that while the ICC can indict, it has no powers to arrest, and unless the president travels to a country that won’t protect him, he can’t be arrested.

The CPA referendum will be held in 2011, where the south gets to vote whether it wants to stay or secede and form two countries divided by the 1-1-56 border.  The south controls all the oil and natural resouces, while the north has the infrastructure.  A comprehensive peace includes holding a fair referendum.

The UN mission in Darfur has the largest budget ($1.9 B), and once fully deployed (26,000 troops), it will be the largest surpassing MONUC, the mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo.  It is a combined effort between the UN and the African Union and the only UN mission comprised predominantly of troops from African Nations.  One audience membter asked about the lack of helicoptors in UN missions and whether this $1.9 allows for helicoptors.  Col. Atkins responded that he has been trying to get donor countries to supply helicoptors and that 5 have been donated by Ethiopia and will be there in February.  UNAMIS in South Sudan has all the resources it needs, but the donor countries there don’t want to contribute those resources to Darfur.

Col. Atkins and a recent article in the New York Times noted that in 2009, the number of deaths in South Sudan was more than the number in Darfur.  The article was titled a “Fragile Calm Holds in Darfur After Years of Deaths” :

People need to update their perception of Darfur,” said Daniel Augstburger, the director of the African Union-United Nations humanitarian liaison office in Darfur. “It’s not like there are still janjaweed riding around, burning down villages.”

“Frozen,” said Lt. Gen. Patrick Nyamvumba, the Rwandan commander of the 20,000 peacekeepers in Darfur. “That is a good word for the situation. It is calm, very calm at the moment, but it remains unpredictable.”

Members of the Darfur Diaspora in New York were in attendance at the meeting last wednesday and expressed their response to this New York Times Article.

Bushara Dosa, president of the Darfur People’s Association of New York, gave a report of incidents in the past few weeks that have occured based on correspondences with people back home and tidbits from Radio Dabanga.

  • 12/25/09- A man was killed inside the Kalma IDP Camp in South Darfur.  This was reported to authorities but no action.
  • 12/22/09- Government of Sudan Antonov aircrafts have been flying over camps to make people run out of camps or feel unsafe.  20 people were attacked by an unknown armed group.
  • 12/29/09- There was an Attack in a camp in South Darfur.   Radio Dabanga reported on rape in camps.  In a town in North Darfur, there was An attack by Chadian rebles in a market area.  150 people lost their goods and a village was wiped out.
  • 1/1/10- In another area, a farm man was killed and his farm taken aay.  In a Masalit area, 4 members of a family were killed and slaughtered like animals including a 6 month old son, a 17 year old daughter, and the parents.

Abdelbagy Abushanab from the Darfur Rehabilitation Project, also provided an update regarding the conditions in the Chadian Refugee camps. Mr. Abushanab traveled to Chad with 24 hours for Darfur, to conduct civilian surveys on what peace and justice means to them.

It has been nearly seven years, and refugees are still arriving in large numbers to Eastern Chad, he said.  It takes 2-3 weeks to process them before they receive any aid, and in the mean time are living aoutdoors.

He worried the NYT article gave too optimistic a picture of the situation, that activists will think the fight is over, when in fact it is more critical than ever to continue to keep our eye on the situation.

The NYT article cited that some families returned to their villages to start farming again.  It doesn’t necesarily mean that there is peace, justice and reconciliation.  It could also mean that civilians are not feeling safe in the camps and not adequately protected, that they are leaving.

He told a story about running into a man in Chad who told him, he knows his niece.  He brought Mr. Abushnab to the tent where the niece was, but she was crying and could not come out to see him.  He later learned that she shared one piece of clothing with the other women in the family.  He came by the next day to meet the mother, and the following day to meet the daughter.

Women in the camps stand in line from 3 am to 10 am waiting for water.  The UNHCR local staff are Chadians that don’t speak Arabic. There are many difficulties in the camps, and there are 12 camps in Chad.  The problem is not over.

He closed with saying that in Darfur, we cannot compromise justice for peace.  The South went for peace and not accountability.

A Comprehensive Peace perhaps is one that includes the voices of the civilians in the IDP and Refugee camps and brings justice and accountability.

Yesterday hosted a drumming event in Washington Sq. Park on the 5th anniversary of the CPA.  I wasn’t able to attend, but will leave a video of it here.


~ by sangamithra on January 10, 2010.

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