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.

Tuesday, June 12

Darfur roundup

The cozy relationship between Washington and Khartoum on counter-terrorism finally seems to be coming under some scrutiny. The L.A. Times reports on how Sudan has cooperated with the U.S. in providing intelligence on the insurgency in Iraq. But while most observers think the new U.S. sanctions won't do too much to harm Sudan's booming economy, some financial analysts are saying that Khartoum could take a hit. Meanwhile, the U.S. has a new charge d'affaires at its embassy in Khartoum, Alberto Fernandez.

French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner has stated that Darfur is his top priority, and he is currently visiting Sudan in an effort to make some progress on that score. New President Nicolas Sarkozy proposed a meeting on Darfur in Paris for later this month, but Khartoum has rejected the idea.

G8 leaders ruled out the use of military force - beyond the proposed UN-AU peacekeeping mission - to halt the violence. At the same time, however, a British Foreign Office official hinted that military action has not been ruled out.

The Sudanese government is meeting with the AU and UN in Addis Ababa. UN envoy Jan Eliasson has a new "road map" for reaching a peace agreement. The map doesn't appear to be terribly detailed. The ICC's chief prosecutor has asked the UN Security Council to increase pressure on the Khartoum regime to hand over the suspects it wants for war crimes in Darfur.

The International Crisis Group's Gareth Evans and Donald Steinberg, writing in The Guardian, argue that the recent softening of China's position on Darfur is reflective of a broader shift in Chinese foreign policy toward an approach more acceptable to Western norms.

In a setback for efforts to organize the disparate rebel factions, Abdelwahid Al-Nur said that his Sudan Liberation Movement (SLM) would not participate in the conference of Darfur rebel groups being organized later this month in Juba.

The Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM) condemned the contention by Sudan's ambassador to Washington that the Darfur rebels are terrorists. The ambassador is ostensibly an SPLM member. The rebel Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) praised the SPLM's statement, saying that the ambassador's comments had risked losing support for the SPLM among Darfur rebels.

The World Food Programme has received an additional $18 million for its transport activities.

Arab pop stars have joined their Western peers in promoting Darfur's plight.

Meanwhile, conditions on the ground aren't getting any better. Oxfam has said that increasing violence in Darfur has caused aid access to drop to its lowest levels since the the first phases of the conflict. And the UN reports a couple of incidents of militias attacking civilians in villages.