Yearly Archives: 2008
Via the Save Darfur Coalition, the three remaining presidential candidates just issued a rare (unprecedented?) joint statement affirming their commitment to resolving the violence in Darfur.
Today, we wish to make clear to the Sudanese government that on this moral issue of tremendous importance, there is no divide between us. We stand united and demand that the genocide and violence in Darfur be brought to an end and that the CPA be fully implemented. Even as we campaign for the presidency, we will use our standing as Senators to press for the steps needed to ensure that the United States honors, in practice and in deed, its commitment to the cause of peace and protection of Darfur’s innocent citizenry. We will continue to keep a close watch on events in Sudan and speak out for its marginalized peoples. It would be a huge mistake for the Khartoum regime to think that it will benefit by running out the clock on the Bush Administration. If peace and security for the people of Sudan are not in place when one of us is inaugurated as President on January 20, 2009, we pledge that the next Administration will pursue these goals with unstinting resolve.
Read the whole statement.
Here’s the video
>>China – Chinese authorities are evacuating 150,000 citizens who are threatened by a gigantic lake that formed in Tangjiashan when a river was blocked by mudslides set loose by the earthquakes this month. Engineers continue to dig drainage areas in hopes that the lake’s size might be decreased. Meanwhile, a 5.4 magnitude aftershock destroyed 420,000 houses in Sichuan’s Qingchuan county and injured 63. China is seeking help from Japan’s military.
>>Israel – Israel’s defense minister Ehud Barak called for Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to step down today, a day after American businessman Morris Talansky testified in a Jerusalem District Court that he had handed Olmert envelopes full of up to $150,000 in cash. Both Olmert and Talansky have admitted the transfer but denied it was a bribe.
>>Syria – In a meeting with British members of Parliament, including the Interior Minister, Syria’s president Bashar al-Assad said that Syria intends to maintain normal relations with Iran while negotiating with Israel, contrary to Israel’s demand that it abandon its alliance. The two nations confirmed indirect talks last week, the first since 2000.
- IHT: Even With Access, Distributing Aid in Myanmar is a Challenge
- Ambush on UNAMID Peacekeepers
- UN Plaza: Talking Human Rights Council Elections
After meeting with the Secretary General last week, the Burmese military junta finally relented from their opposition to letting foreign aid workers into the country. Still, that doesn’t mean delivering that aid is easy in a country where the military tightly controls the economy. From the IHT:
An SUV for $250,000 and a cellular phone for $3,000. As foreign aid workers test Myanmar’s commitment to allow them to operate inside the country as part of the relief effort for Cyclone Nargis they face not only administrative hurdles erected by a xenophobic military government but an economy warped by years of misrule.
Myanmar’s military limits the sale of mobile phones, bans satellite phones, sharply restricts car imports and rations gasoline to one or two gallons (between 3.5 and 7 liters) a day. The main beneficiaries of this system are government employees and military officers, who profit by selling permits, gasoline and many other items on the black market.
Aid workers from the United Nations and private aid agencies continued Wednesday to travel into the Irrawaddy Delta, the area hardest hit by the May 3 cyclone, following an agreement last week reached with the Myanmar government. Richard Horsey, the spokesman for the UN relief effort, said the military was requiring aid workers to give 48 hours’ notice before traveling into the delta but that he was hearing only positive news about their access.
“I assume we will be running out of quite a lot of things when the influx comes,” said Hakan Tongul, deputy country director in Yangon of the World Food Program, a UN agency delivering supplies to the victims of the storm. “There will be logistical problems for sure.”
Last week’s ambush of a convoy of Nigerian peacekeepers in Darfur — at the hands of 60 well-armed bandits (likely janjaweed militias), wearing military uniforms and wielding machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades — adds yet another exclamation point to the urgent need to bolster UNAMID, the joint UN-AU peacekeeping force still struggling to patrol an area the size of France with just 9,000-odd troops. UNAMID’s spokesman, Norredine Mezni, captures the difficulties faced by the force well:
“We have bandits and we have armed groups and we have the (rebel) factions. With our very limited number of troops, it is not an easy job,” Mezni told Reuters.
“We are a peacekeeping organisation but there is no peace on the ground to keep. We are appealing for the cooperation of all sides in this conflict. We are here to help.”
Mezni could not be more on the mark. As much as the attack underscored the urgency both of deploying more peacekeepers and of better supplying those currently on the ground, the need for “cooperation of all sides” is ultimately the bedrock on which UNAMID — as a neutral, peacekeeping force — must operate. NYT correpondent Lydia Polgreen characterizes the attack as “a humiliating blow,” but the scales seem far too overwhelmingly stacked against UNAMID to justify calling this an embarrassment. Rather, the ambush emphasizes how unattainable the mission’s goals are in an atmosphere of such uninhibited obstruction from all sides. UNAMID simply cannot function when continually harassed by rebels, militias, government bureaucracy, and opportunistic raiders. Instead of depicting the UN-AU peacekeepers as hapless victims, though, the international community should recognize their unsustainable position, and take stronger steps to address the root causes of their situation.
In this week’s UN Plaza, Matthew Lee and I discuss the “gold for guns” allegations in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ban’s diplomacy in Myanmar, the chaos in Sudan, and hopeful trends in Nepal. In the segment below, we chat about recent elections to the Human Rights Council.
In such a lawless society, perhaps this is not surprising:
U.N. experts investigating violations of an arms embargo against Somalia report that countries and private traders are supplying weapons to warlords and militants, South Africa’s U.N. ambassador said Thursday.
Even more disturbing, though, is who seems to be providing the weapons. The UN monitoring group contends that the presence of Ethiopian troops backing Somalia’s unstable government itself violates the arms embargo and that, in addition, some Ugandan members of the African Union peacekeeping force in the country have been selling weapons back to the insurgents that they are disarming. Both Ethiopia and Uganda have denied the allegations, but they nonetheless reflect the dangerously complicated situation in a country with all too many weapons and armed groups, and not nearly enough food or humanitarian involvement.
Many Somalis already resent what they term the Ethiopian “occupation” of their country, and the UN group’s findings certainly will not improve Ethiopia’s image in their eyes. The news about the peacekeepers from Uganda, which was one of only a few countries willing to contribute troops to the severely undermanned AU contingent in the country, helps explain why South Africa’s UN ambassador — who was also the head of the committee monitoring Somalia’s arms embargo — was so excited about the Security Council’s recent agreement that they should begin planning to step up the UN presence there.
The SG: In Ethiopia over the weekend, the SG is now in the United Arab Emirates. Today he met with Sheikh Mohammad bin Rashed Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE, where the two discussed developments in the region, including Syria, Iran, Lebanon, Egypt and Jordan, and in the Middle East Peace Process.