March 31st 2008 - Darfur Briefing
On 28 March the WFP announced they had been given emergency funding to keep the Humanitarian Air Service (HAS) in the air for another month.
Previously, the WFP had announced they would have to suspend the HAS due to a severe lack of funding. Kendo Oshidari, the WFP representative in Sudan said: “Thanks to the European Commission, Ireland and other donors, humanitarian work in Darfur and other parts of Sudan will not be interrupted - for the time being. We are hoping that more funds will come in, because there is a big gap between the US$6 million we have now and the US$77 million that we need this year."
The funding came from the European Commission's Humanitarian Aid Office which gave $4.5 million; the government of Ireland, $740,000; the UN Common Humanitarian Fund, $500,000 and $500,000 from Not On Our Watch.
This funding comes as a relief for NGOs in the ground who rely on the HAS to deliver humanitarian aid to those in off-road and awkward areas and to protect the aid workers and their supplies from the increasing risk of banditry on the roads.
Oxfam and 13 other organisations issued a press release on March 28 warning that “over 2 million people risk being cut off from assistance without more funding for vital Sudan aid flight”. Oxfam warned "There is no doubt that if these flights were forced to end or scale down, given the ongoing violence we could not continue to operate much of our work in Darfur."
According to UNJLC “for the whole of Darfur, 28% of the beneficiary case load (559,176 individuals) and 29% of destinations can be accessed by air only” currently.
However, the fact that the emergency funds will only keep the HAS flying for a month is deeply concerning and scandalous, even more so when the main UN contributors talk very publicly about the Darfur emergency, and how the problems on the field should be addressed.
On 25 March the WFP announced that 3 WFP contracted truck drivers had been killed in different states of Sudan.
Attacks on the humanitarian community in Darfur are becoming increasingly concerning, and the UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator said on 26 March that attacks against aid workers in Darfur are jeopardizing vital humanitarian operations in the war-wracked region.
A total of “29 drivers with World Food Programme contract trucking partners and four others working with the State Water Corporation, a key partner of UNICEF, remain unaccounted for having been abducted at gunpoint in separate incidents.”
The humanitarian community is concerned that these attacks will end up creating grey areas where aid will not be able to reach the beneficiary populations, and where, by extension, armed groups will be able to move and wage war undetected from the eyes of the international community, posing severe threats to the Darfuri populations located in these area.
On March 31 Abdul-Waheed Al-Nour, the chairman of a Darfuri rebel faction - the SLA-Free Will - confirmed that clashes between his troops and Minni Minnawi’s SLA-MM faction occurred two weeks ago: He claimed that “17 members of his faction were killed in an attack staged at Kassab area, eastern of Nyala, the capital of South Darfur State, by SLA troops loyal to the senior presidential assistant, Minni Menawi.”
He also accused Minni Minnawi, the presidential aide of trying to impose his hegemony in the war torn region.
This statement being made public is one of the very rare times when the divisions in the rank of the rebels were made clear to the press. The partition of rebel groups into even smaller units is not welcome for observers trying to find a way to achieve peace in the area, as it will mean to bring more participants to the negotiation table, making it all the more difficult to reach an agreement.
Since 2006, Minnawi has been trying to reassert his dominance in Darfur politics, sometimes overshadowed by Bernard Kouchner’s favourite Abdul-Waheed Al-Nour the leader of the SLA-AW.
The UN-AU joint peacekeeping force
On 29 March Kevin Rudd, Australia’s new prime minister accused Sudan’s government of obstructing deployment of the U.N.-AU peacekeeping force which was trying to bring peace to Darfur. He said that action by the international community "is currently being frustrated still by the government of Sudan.’’
Khartoum made it clear that it intended to only let troops from African countries be deployed as UN peacekeepers and they have stated that “while there are Chinese engineers, Khartoum has refused to approve troops from Nepal and Thailand.”
It is thought that this condition set by Khartoum in order to accept the deployment dampens the peacekeeping force as it is taking more and more time to find available troops from African countries.
The UNAMID is currently 9,000-strong out of the 26,000 that the force is intended to be. It has until now suffered very strong logistical issues as well as contingent issues.
Human Rights situation
On 30 March a senior court official from the International Criminal Court (ICC) in the Hague said that the ICC was monitoring the activities of a Darfur war crime suspect within Sudan.
Luis Moreno-Ocampo, prosecutor of the ICC said at the 12th diplomatic briefing that his office is working with unnamed countries to trace the whereabouts of Ahmed Haroun, the Sudanese state minister for humanitarian affairs.
Ocampo said that he is Ocampo said: “Our principal objective is to make sure that the issue of enforcement of the arrest warrants is not put off the agenda of relevant international meetings.” He also aid that he is pushing world countries to assist in the arrest of the Darfur war crime suspects, including those who are not members of the court.
Ocampo also urged countries to press Sudan on extraditing the suspects to the ICC, noting that only one country so far was doing this, but did not name it.