August 2008 - Posts
(CNN) -- A Sudanese plane that was hijacked shortly after taking off from Nyala in the country's Darfur region, presumably by rebels, has landed in Kufra, Libya, said Sudan's ambassador to the United States.
"I believe since it started in the sovereign state of Darfur. ... It is more likely something to do with the rebels in that area," John Ukec said.
About 87 passengers and 10 crew members are thought to be on board, Ukec said. It was unclear how many hijackers were on board.
The hijacker or hijackers wanted to land the plane in Egypt, but the Egyptian government refused them permission, Ukec said.
However, an Egyptian civil aviation official disputed that.
"The hijacked plane never entered Egyptian airspace," said Capt. Shirbeeni, the head of Egypt's civil aviation control. "It never requested to land on Egyptian soil. ... We understand that it had a tank that would allow it to fly for four hours. It flew directly toward Kufra."
A reporter from Al-Shuruq, a Dubai-based Sudanese network funded by Sudan's government, said passengers on the plane include some officials from the interim government of Darfur, Sudan's war-torn region.
Libya's state-run Jamahirya television, citing civil aviation sources, reported that the hijacked plane landed in Kufra, in eastern Libya.
"We are in contact with Libyan officials because of this dangerous event," Murtada Hassam Jumaa, an official with Sun Air airlines, told Al-Shuruq. "We want to resolve this situation as soon as we can in a way where we can guarantee the safety of all our passengers."
Asked whether the airline received any threat before the flight took off, he said, "There were no signs of any terrorist or criminal activity on the plane. We checked the plane like we do with all other planes. We followed the regular security checkup. We still don't have any information on what type of weapons were used."
Jumaa also said 87 passengers were on board the plane.
The hijacking follows a Monday attack involving Sudanese government troops at the Kalma refugee camp, 25 kilometers (15.5 miles) from Nyala. It was unclear whether the incidents are related.
The United Nations African Mission in Darfur said the government of Sudan reported that its military and police forces were granted a search warrant for drugs and weapons and raided the camp in executing the warrants. UNAMID said 60 government vehicles surrounded the camp.
The refugees resisted the government's attempts to enter the camp, however, and "the situation escalated into confrontation and exchange of gunfire, with no indication as to who started it." The gunfire lasted about two hours, UNAMID said.
"On the basis of information provided to the UNAMID team while on site, the casualty toll amounted to 64 killed and 117 wounded, of which 49 were evacuated by UNAMID to the Nyala hospital," the organization said in a written statement.
Sudanese military and police were heavily armed, the organization said, but the refugees had only sticks, knives and spears.
Jem leader Abd-al-Aziz Nur Ushar was one of those sentenced to hang
A human rights group has strongly condemned Sudan's special "anti-terror" courts after eight alleged Darfur rebels were sentenced to death.
Hundreds of people remain unaccounted for after a rebel attack near the capital, says Amnesty International.
The government is also preparing to try 109 people in "sham" courts for the attack in May, the group said.
The government has previously promised that anyone arrested for the attack would receive a fair military trial.
Among those sentenced to death on Sunday was senior Justice and Equality Movement (Jem) official, Abd-al-Aziz Nur Ushar.
Mr Ushar is the half-brother of Jem leader Khalil Ibrahim.
More than 220 people were reported to have been killed in the attack on Omdurman, the twin city of the capital, Khartoum.
It represented the first time rebels had got so close to the capital in five years of conflict, and the government reacted with a security crackdown and mass arrests.
There were unconfirmed reports of summary executions during the crackdown.
The government set up special courts in Omdurman and Khartoum to try suspects.
So far, a total of 38 people have been sentenced to death.
"Sudan's anti-terrorism special courts are nothing but a travesty of justice," Amnesty International's deputy director for Africa, Tawanda Hondora, said in a statement.
"Some of the people sentenced [on Sunday] only met their lawyers for the first time during the trial, while several said they suffered torture when they were held incommunicado and that they were forced to confess to crimes."
The group said that those being held without charge or access to lawyers included women and a nine-month-old boy.
Jem is one of several rebel groups fighting the government and pro-government Janjaweed militia in Sudan's western Darfur region over alleged discrimination by the authorities in favour of Arabs.
The UN estimates that some 300,000 people have died in the conflict in Darfur and more than 2 million have been displaced.
Sudan has accused neighbouring Chad of backing Jem, which Chad denies.
Chad and Sudan are seen to be fighting a proxy war using each other's rebels.
Neither Turkey nor Sudan recognise the authority of the international court
Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir is attending a summit of African leaders in Turkey, his first foreign trip since he was accused of war crimes.
Last month, the International Criminal Court's chief prosecutor asked the court to issue an arrest warrant related to crimes in Darfur.
Neither Sudan nor Turkey recognise the international court based at the Hague.
During a meeting with Turkish President Abdullah Gul, in Istanbul, Mr Bashir denied the accusations against him.
"We are not committing genocide in Darfur," Mr Bashir said, according to a Turkish official quoted by Reuters.
"We are saddened by events there," he added.
Mr Bashir is attending a Turkey-Africa economic co-operation summit taking place at a palace on the Bosphorus Strait. Some 54 African heads of state are at the meeting.
Turkey is keen to complete its membership of the African Development Bank Group, which would allow Turkish firms to compete for development contracts in Africa.
It also wants access to Africa's abundant raw materials to fuel its fast-growing manufacturing sector.
On Monday, Turkey's foreign minister asked that African nations back the country's bid for a temporary seat on the UN Security Council, pledging to become its "voice of Africa".
ACCUSATIONS AGAINST BASHIR
Killing members of the Fur, Masalit and Zaghawa ethnic groups
Causing these groups serious bodily or mental harm
Inflicting conditions of life calculated to bring about these groups' physical destruction
Crimes against humanity:
Attacks on civilians in Darfur
Pillaging towns and villages
African and Arab states are pushing for the suspension of the court's indictment which they say could damage the path to peace in Sudan's troubled Darfur region.
Sudan has warned of "serious consequences" for UN staff and facilities based in the country if an arrest warrant is issued for its president.
ICC Chief Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo sought an arrest warrant against Mr Bashir in July.
He accused Sudan's leader of running a campaign of genocide that killed 35,000 people outright, at least another 100,000 through a "slow death" and forced 2.5 million to flee their homes in Darfur.
Mr Bashir has said he is not worried by the accusations and his government has denied mobilising the Janjaweed militias, accused of widespread atrocities against Darfur's black African population.
The UN estimates that five years of conflict in Darfur have left 300,000 people dead and more than two million people homeless.
While the UK prepares for yet more flooding the Sudan is experiencing what some are describing as the worst floods in living memory.
The heavy rain and flash floods have resulted in overflowing rivers forcing hundreds of families to seek higher ground to escape the floodwaters.
More than 50 people have been killed and 20 injured, while over 18,000 houses have been destroyed across the country in the past few weeks.
The worst hit areas are in the east, southeast and around the Khartoum (capital city) area, where police helicopters and government planes were flying in emergency aid and tents.
The Republic of Sudan is desert for most of the year until the rainy season arrives, usually around June and lasts until September. The rains do occasionally bring flooding to Sudan, especially in the east, but this year is of particular note due to the amount of people affected.
JUBA, 6 August 2008 (IRIN) - At the new headquarters of the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA), some 10km north of Juba town, signs mark the finance, administration and operations directorates.
Photo: Heba Aly/IRIN
|"Transforming people is not a simple job," said SPLA spokesman, Maj Gen Peter Parnyang
Laminated name plates with Southern Sudan's official colours line the desks in the new air-conditioned offices. Laptops and internet service are coming soon.
It is a new look, and a new way, for the former rebel movement that fought for liberation in the forests of Southern Sudan for two decades.
"When we started as guerillas, we walked from Sudan to Ethiopia, carrying food and ammunition on our heads," said Col Kamilo Tafeng of the SPLA's new directorate for political and moral orientation. "Now, with the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, the SPLA has been transformed into a conventional army ... There is a tremendous change."
The 2005 peace deal between the Southern rebels and the Sudanese government recognised the SPLA as the official army of a semi-autonomous Southern Sudan. Since then, the SPLA has been transforming itself, not only in appearance, but also in attitude.
Commanders and alternate commanders have taken on more conventional titles: colonels, brigadiers and generals. Uniforms have been standardised and a literacy campaign is encouraging all soldiers to go to school.
"During the war, we were thinking of fighting. Now we are thinking of human resource development," Tafeng said.
Last week, the first batch of SPLA senior officials graduated from an eight-week course on international humanitarian law, which covered human rights, good governance and the role of a transformed army in peacetime, said Col Awur Maweil, coordinator of the SPLA's colleges directorate.
SPLA spokesman Maj Gen Peter Parnyang said the army would create a new child protection unit in the coming weeks to ensure that no children are part of the SPLA's ranks.
Pointing to new bookshelves in his office, Parnyang looked around the well-furnished room: "This is what we have been dreaming of. It was difficult. It was hard, but we are on that track."
Military restructuring and reform in southern Sudan is largely funded by the southern government's share of oil revenue, but external sources of funding include the US government - which has earmarked some US$41 million in 2008.
Lack of discipline
However, there are challenges and progress is sometimes slow.
"I was a rebel for 21 years," said Parnyang, wearing a dark green uniform and beret, red collar tabs denoting his new rank. "Transforming people is not a simple job."
Observers speak of a continued “war mentality” that results in aggressive behaviour among soldiers and officers.
"There are repeated reports of a lack of discipline by certain members of the SPLA," David Gressly, head of the UN team in Southern Sudan, told IRIN. "This is well-known within the SPLA and senior leadership as well, and something they would like to bring better under control.
"They need to move away from a situation where some people fear either the police or the army."
Gressly said the army was also struggling to pay its soldiers on time and to disarm excess forces that were absorbed by the SPLA as part of the peace deal. The command and control system needed to be strengthened, he added.
"In the West they say Rome was not built in one day," the SPLA's Tafeng said. "For 21 years, the SPLA has been a guerilla army. You can't expect it to change in six years."
The political wing of the former rebel movement, the Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM), is also re-branding itself as it vies to be a national political party. In three years, a government of Southern Sudan has been created from scratch, complete with a legislative assembly, ministries and departments.
"That alone … to be achieved within three years is really incredible," said Malick Ceesay, who has worked for the UN Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) for three years. "They really deserve a pat on the back."
|When we started as guerillas, we walked from Sudan to Ethiopia, carrying food and ammunition on our heads
The party has said it would contest every position in the 2009 elections, including the presidency.
Speaking to IRIN in November 2007, Southern Sudanese Vice-President Riek Machar said: "We want to win the election of 2009 as Sudanese and capture power in Khartoum through elections."
Ceesay, however, warned that both the SPLA and the SPLM needed continued support.
"There is still a lot of work to be done," he said. "[They] need capacity-building and capacity-strengthening, in order for them to realise their dreams of being a full-fledged functioning government."
BOR, 5 August 2008 (IRIN) - Forced by civil war to flee her village in Southern Sudan, Rebeka James Galwak found her way to the northern capital of Khartoum and lived there until the conflict formally ended.
Photo: Heba Aly/IRIN
|Rebeka James Galwak fears her children could be abducted
With a peace agreement signed in Nairobi in January 2005, Galwak thought her Nuer village in Jonglei state would be safe enough for her to return but within a year of returning, she said, fighters from the Murle community attacked her home.
"They abducted six children, killed six men in my family and stole cattle," Galwak told IRIN. "We haven't seen those children since. It was a very sad day."
She still lives in the same village, near Yuai town, and works as a nurse. "[But] I am too afraid to bring back my children until we make peace with the Murle."
The children live with their grandmother in neighbouring Upper Nile state, and she sees them twice a year.
Three years after the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) was signed, complete stability still eludes the southeastern state of Jonglei, where child abductions, cattle raiding, village burning and fatal clashes are still common.
Millions of Southern Sudanese who had fled during the war were encouraged to return home following the signing of the CPA. But, according to the deputy governor of Jonglei state, inter-communal conflicts have forced tens of thousands to flee once more.
"Most of the villages are deserted ... simply because they are afraid of the raids," Hussein Mar Nyuot told IRIN in the state capital, Bor. "They move to where the government is, where they can be rescued quickly."
This has also been a concern for those who have yet to return from Kenya, Uganda or Khartoum, where they sought refuge during the war.
"When they hear that they are being returned to Jonglei, they say, 'What happened with the militias and the raids? Are we going to lose our children to others? Is there proper security in place so that we are not harmed?’" the deputy governor said.
But speaking this week, Jonglei Governor Kuol Manyang Juuk, said "I congratulate Murle…. for stopping cattle raiding and child abduction... but Nuer Lou must [also] stop raiding", according to the Sudan Tribune.
Photo: Heba Aly / IRIN
|Returnees at the government verification center in Bor
The returns to the south were also boosted by the desire to participate in the April national census, a key step in the peace agreement which leads towards elections in 2009 and a referendum on independence in 2011.
Critics, however, say the government encouraged people to return despite an unstable environment.
"The government does not care," an aid worker said. "They have a political reason to bring all the people back home."
IRIN spoke to Jacob Anyuon Achol as he passed through a returnee verification centre in Bor on his way back to his home village of Jengle, after years living as a displaced person on the border with Uganda.
"Up to now, I am still worried," he said. "The situation is still not that good."
Cattle-raiding is one of the causes of continuing violence. Men are traditionally obliged to give cattle to their wife’s family but many cannot afford the bride price.
Malick Ceesay, head of the UN Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) office in Bor, said the cultural and traditional roots of cattle-raiding made it hard to eradicate.
After 21 years of war, guns are commonplace among civilians and minor disputes can easily become serious.
"You can call it a conventional war on themselves," deputy governor Mar said. "You get one family with five rifles ... they can make their own platoon."
Government and UN officials say the situation has improved since 2007, when 128 children were abducted in the last half of the year.
Jonglei is one of the first states in Southern Sudan to begin a government-sanctioned disarmament programme in June. While the process has begun in some counties, however, it has yet to reach the most troubled areas.
"It has started, but it is very slow," Mar said. "In Jonglei, it has not started to the best of our expectations."
Photo: Heba Aly / IRIN
|South Sudan police officers being trained by UNMIS in Bor
When residents heard the army was coming to disarm them, Mar added, they fled to other areas, fearing they would lose their only defence.
In the past, conflict has broken out between soldiers and armed civilians during disarmament. In 2006, more than 1,500 people died during the forced disarmament of the Lou Nuer community. Mar said the government had learned its lessons and was doing proper sensitisation this time.
Disarmament, he added, should be complete within one year and "the issue of arms will be over".
UNMIS is also training Sudanese police officers to help build capacity to protect civilians.
For the moment, according to Ceesay, the officers lack the capacity and strength to provide adequate security across the state. "The reality of the matter is that there is still a lot of insecurity in most parts of the south," he added.
Al Hilal failed to extend their lead at the top of Group B
Sudan's Al Hilal could only draw 1-1 with Cotonsport Garoua of Cameroon in the third round of African Champions League group games on Friday.
Kelechi Osunwa opened the scoring for last year's Sudanese semi-finalists halfway through the first half.
Baba Ousmaila equalised for Cotonsport 14 minutes from time.
Al Hilal remain top of Group B with five points.
Enyimba of Nigeria can overtake them at the top of the group if they beat TP Mazembe of Democratic Republic of Congo on Sunday.
TP Mazembe have failed to to score any goals in either of their two group games.
The rebels say they are preparing to defend themselves
Sudan's government has launched a major offensive against rebel bases in the far north of Darfur, two rebel factions have said.
A commander from a faction of the Sudanese Liberation Army (SLA) said about 270 vehicles and 500 Janjaweed fighters were involved in the attack.
Nine rebels and nine civilians had been killed, he said.
An army spokesman declined to comment. The government has previously denied links to Janjaweed fighters.
A commander from the Abdul Wahed faction of the SLA, Sulieman Marajan, told the BBC that the Janjaweed had attacked on camel and horseback.
He said the attacks were part of a plan by the government to destroy all of the rebel bases in northern Darfur, adding that he believed rebels from neighbouring Chad were taking part in the operation.
Chad has accused Sudan of harbouring and supporting Chadian rebels. Analysts say the two countries are fighting a proxy war using each other's rebel forces.
The Sudanese army now controlled the area around Wadi Atron, near the border with Libya, the SLA commander said.
A spokesman for a rival rebel group, the SLA's Unity faction, said rebels had been expecting an attack and were preparing to defend themselves.
The government was trying to clear the rebels out of the far north of Darfur so that Chinese companies could explore for oil, he said.
North Darfur is part of Sudan's oil Block 12A, operated by a consortium led by the Saudi Arabian company al-Qahtani, the BBC's Amber Henshaw reports from Sudan.
Sudan's oil ministry could not immediately confirm whether any exploration had begun in Block 12A.
Violence in Darfur began in 2003 when rebel groups complaining of discrimination against black Africans began attacking government targets.
The government mobilised what it called "self-defence militias" in response, but denies any links to the Janjaweed, accused of trying to "cleanse" black Africans from Darfur.
The UN estimates that more than 300,000 people have been killed and two million displaced during five years of fighting.