Africa Matters is a blog that follows the news and offers analysis of African affairs. Our aim is to delve deeper into the issues of African politics and development. We don’t presume to be experts, and we don’t presume to have all the answers—we are just trying to ask the right questions.

Thursday, May 10

Darfur roundup

According to the 2006 State Department terrorism report, released last week, "the Sudanese government was a strong partner in the War on Terror and aggressively pursued terrorist operations directly involving threats to U.S. interests and personnel in Sudan." This is one of the main reasons that, despite all the huffing and puffing, the Bush Administration still hasn't imposed any serious costs on Khartoum for its actions in Darfur. A group of Senators led by Russ Feingold has sent a letter to the National Intelligence Director questioning the above characterization.

The UN's envoy on Darfur, Jan Eliasson, said the conflict is reaching a "moment of truth", though we'll see if this moment is any truthier than the last dozen times we've heard that.
Congo-Brazzaville's Foreign Minister Rodolphe Adada has been tapped to head the joint UN-AU mission being assembled. But an UNMIS official said that the deployment of the support package could take six months, so it looks like we may have some waiting to do yet.

Amnesty International accused China, Russia and Kuwait of supplying arms to Sudan for use in Khartoum. And over 100 congresspersons sent a letter to China's Hu Jintao warning him about the risk to his country's reputation if people associate the 2008 Olympic games with China's acquiescence in Darfur. Perhaps in response to this kind of pressure, China has offered to supply a few hundred engineers to help prepare for the UN support package.

The SPLM, the former rebels and the main political force in the South, is returning towards a more active role in Darfur. This week, SPLM legislators in Darfur called on Khartoum to hand over the war crimes suspects wanted by the ICC. And the SPLM is also trying to organize a unity conference for Darfur rebel groups in South Sudan.

President Omar al-Bashir was in Cairo this week to talk Darfur with Egypt's President Hosni Mubarak. Mubarak is urging the parties to stick to last year's so-far highly unsuccessful Darfur Peace Agreement and to try and get more rebel groups on board. He also said he will propose a "road map" for addressing the conflict. Mubarak and Chad's Idriss Deby are now in Tripoli for more talks on Darfur. President Bush also called Mubarak this week to discuss the conflict.

French intellectual Bernard Henri-Levy, last seen retracing Alexis De Toqueville's path across America, recently took a little trip to Darfur. After hanging out with some SLA rebels for a few days he wonders whether we should start arming them against the janjaweed militias. I'm sure his heart's in the right place, but given his quite-brief foray into the dynamics of the conflict, his evaluation comes off as a little naive.