October 15, 2007
Jeff and I arrived in London, joined Bob Pastor and Lakhdar Brahimi, and met with former Prime Minister Tony Blair at the home of DCM Richard LeBaron. We then met with Baroness Shriti Vadera, Under-Secretary for International Development, especially for Sudan, and she is very eager to help. Prime Minister Gordon Brown called me from a meeting at Chequers to express his support and to request a future meeting. He was effusive in his praise of the past activities of The Carter Center. Our next meeting was with Ahma Ibrahim Diraige, former governor of Darfur and active participant in all previous meetings between the Government of Sudan (GOS) and rebels.
We then drove to Oxfordshire, where we spent the night and departed the next morning with Archbishop Tutu (Chairman of our delegation) and Founder Richard Branson en route to Khartoum. On the way, we discussed the formidable Sudan schedule and our general strategy for the visit. Graça Machel joined us in Khartoum.
Our first meeting was with those in charge of the United Nations (UN) and African Union (AU) programs in Sudan. They made it clear that there is little cooperation or relationship between Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLM) leader Salva Kiir and GOS President al Bashir. Overall key is the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), between the GOS and Government of South Sudan (GOSS). There has been some progress on the first 2-year program on security, with 86 percent of GOS troops out of the south. The remaining 14 percent occupy the oil areas and are "100 percent of the problem." The status of Abyei is crucial, because of its uncertain heritage and the presence of oil. The deadlocks between North and South wind up in the joint Evaluation and Assistance Commission, where the chairman, Ambassador Tom Vraalson (Norway) can only report to Bashir and Kiir and their unanimous consent is required for him to reveal differences to anyone else. (He later told me that he will soon be resigning in frustration.) The other major problem is that little progress is being made in preparing for the 2009 elections, beginning with a national census (now postponed until February 2008). Also required are an election law and the establishment of a national election commission.
Concerning Darfur, there are about 2.2 million Internally Displaced People (IDPs) in 69 camps, removed from their home areas, plus 4 million that need assistance (all Darfurians are Muslims), being helped by 12,500 aid workers. The Darfur Peace Agreement (DPA) was signed by the GOS and only one rebel group (the leader now works for the government). The recent decision for the UN and AU to hold peace talks in Tripoli, Libya, beginning October 27 is both slightly promising and the cause of increased violence. The earlier assumption that six rebel groups might attend has now expanded to as many as 28, with new ones being formed with a desire for status and possible rewards. They are launching attacks on one another and the general population to obtain money, vehicles, fuel, and weapons. A rebel leader named Abdul Wahid is living in luxury in Paris and refuses to be involved in the peace talks. Note: This arrangement does not yet provide for non-combatants to be represented at Tripoli, but only armed rebel groups.
We then met with Abdul Mohamed (Ethiopia), who is conducting some discussions among the disparate groups of Darfurians.
In meetings with key NGO humanitarian groups, we learned that they have only spasmodic contact with representatives of the GOS to work out problems with visas, travel permits, etc. We learned that security is their main need, the GOS can no longer speak for or control the Arab groups (janjaweed), many rebel groups have no constituencies, Abdul Wahid is attempting to sabotage the Tripoli talks, peace talks will take a long time and much patience, relief workers have minimal access to 4 million people in rural areas outside the IDB camps, and tensions are increasing between GOS and GOSS.
Note: We later arranged for weekly meetings between GOS representatives and the humanitarian groups.
We had an interesting meeting with political opposition leaders, including Bashir Adam Rahma and Al Sadiq al Mahdi, the former president who was overthrown by al Bashir in 1989. They expressed doubts that either GOS or GOSS wish to have a good election, since the CPA let them divide up the country and they do not relish the prospect of sharing political power or oil revenues with others. After three years, there is no peace and tensions (mostly over oil revenues) are increasing. The DPA is even less promising, with many factions (including Abdul Wahid) trying to destroy its effectiveness. Darfur cannot be secured by any sized UNAMID force absent a basic peace agreement. 2009 elections are the only avenue to peace in Sudan. All leaders, including local chiefs, throughout Darfur are appointed by al Bashir. Darfur needs what South Sudan has been promised. About 25 political prisoners are being held, and those indicted by the International Criminal Court (ICC)for human rights crimes are ostentatiously rewarded.
We met with ambassadors from about fifteen nations, who expressed their concerns about an attack by rebels on an outpost of Nigerian troops, with a dozen killed and an equal number wounded – plus about 50 missing and now returning. The rebels got a large payroll plus all the vehicles, fuel, and weapons. Everyone agreed that the CPA is of preeminent importance (elections, North/South border, and Abyei) and the early establishment of the "hybrid" military force to enhance security in Darfur. Tripoli must not be limited to armed factions.
In our first meeting with President al Bashir, he claimed that the CPA was 90 percent implemented, and that there is no doubt about its being completed. He blamed any delays on the SPLM, and said they had not complained about the North/South progress or about implementing the Abyei protocol. He said that 86 percent of Northern troops are removed from the South, but only 7 percent of Southern troops from the North (he referred to the 1905 North/South border, instead of 1956). In violation of CPA, there is no joint administration of Abyei, and no government agencies are in the South to collect revenues, etc. He claimed that SPLM was recruiting troops in the north. He insisted that his forces were not bombing civilians and only retaliating when attacked. Ambassador Vraalsen should be removed from the joint committee to resolve North/South disputes. The UN has not kept its pledge for the heavy armament package for joint forces in Darfur, and will be slow or will fail to form the hybrid UNAMID force. He would not permit any non-African troops if qualified ones were available from African nations, and for ground troops there is already an oversubscription of 180 percent. He agreed to accept the heavy armament package plus non-African forces not available in Africa.
He stated that he would provide $100 million from Sudanese funds plus $200 million from a Chinese loan for redevelopment of Darfur when peace comes. He will welcome The Carter Center to monitor the entire election process.
In a meeting with the National Unity government (comprising DOS & DOSS) they expressed appreciation for The Carter Center's work in health. They claimed 18 parties are represented in Congress. SPLM said they had no representation on oil revenue allocation committee, & 1956 N/S border should prevail. All agreed that international news media distorts the situation throughout Sudan. They all professed support for the election plans.
Dr. Nafie ali Nafie is a powerful man who is Assistant to the President, and we met with him and a group of his top government associates. Nafie is very hard-line on all issues, denying the applicability of the ICC to Sudanese affairs, the release of political prisoners, any culpability of GOS regarding delays in CPA or DPA. He said they have passed a political party law, with input from opposition, and are preparing the election law, the commission, and for the census. He will go to Tripoli, representing GOS, with "an open heart and mind."
We also met with Minni Minawi, the only rebel leader who signed the DPA representing Darfur, who is now in luxurious quarters as an "advisor to the President."
We had supper with Minister of State for Foreign Affairs al-Wasila and about a hundred guests, with music, a huge birthday cake, and some dancing. Quite weary, we left at an early hour.
We flew this morning to Juba, in Southern Sudan, placed a wreath on John Garang's grave, and met with President Salva Kiir and a large number of his government officials. His description of the situation was almost the exact opposite of those received from al Bashir and Nafie – except that both sides are insistent that the CPA must be honored and no fighting resumed. The Abyei protocol is not being implemented, North/South boundaries not delineated, Northern troops are still in the oil regions of the South, some areas in South are being absorbed into North, the South has no member on the oil revenue committee, GOS is responsible for integrating the armed forces, and GOSS is complying with all facets of CPA. Expert recommendations regarding Abyei have been rejected by GOS. GOS troops are being strengthened in Upper Nile and Unity regions. He was justifiably proud of helping with peace talks between the Lord's Resistance Army and Uganda. There is a dispute regarding election law about how parliamentarians should be chosen, proportionally or winner-take-all. CPA requires international observers for election, and he would welcome The Carter Center.
We then met briefly with U.S. envoy Andrew Natsios, and I had a report from our Guinea worm project in S. Sudan. There are about 20,000 volunteers working in 3,560 villages, supervised by 200 full-time employees (12 foreign), and showing remarkable results with about 75 percent reduction in cases this year compared with same months in 2006.
We flew from Juba to El Fasher, in North Darfur, where we met with the local Wali (governor). He gave us the government's position, reporting enormous progress, little violence with 92 percent crime reduction since 2004, a great need for donor support, urgent calls for IDPs to return to their villages, and a welcome promised for UNAMID if it is African. In our next meeting with representatives of Darfurians, we heard that tribal reconciliation began two years ago and a desire to meet with rebel leaders (many of whom represent no one except their own troops). There are 38 tribal groups in N. Darfur, already well organized, who could select a small number to represent them in Tripoli. They would be willing for one-third of the delegation to be female.
The next meeting with representatives from AMIS (African mission) and UMIS (United Nations mission) was dominated by the disturbing report from General Martin Agwai, the very impressive leader of African Union troops in Darfur. He has had minimal support from the international community, and his troops are relatively unarmed and incapable of defending themselves against the increasingly militant rebel groups. They have no military equipment with which to fight, no helicopters or planes, and there are no roads. Their camp at Haskanita was overwhelmed three days earlier with a total loss of money, fuel, vehicles, weapons, and suffered about two dozen casualties. The only helicopters to arrive were constrained by policy against becoming involved in combat and could not even evacuate the wounded. GOS finally did this. There is no place in Darfur where he has more than 100 troops on a site. His "battalions" range from 530 to 680 people, and should be 800. Prospects for improvement are not good, requiring donor generosity and massive air transport. Squabbles regarding makeup of UNAMID are counterproductive. Completion of heavy support package and additional African troops supplemented by non-Africans to fill gaps is the agreed formula. IDP returns to their villages are premature until peace is restored. There are an additional 30,000 IDPs each month. Without peace, the complete UNAMID force will not resolve the problems.
Graça and I led half our delegation to Kebkabiya, traveling about 75 miles westward by helicopter, while the others went to Nyala by plane. We learned in advance that the five leaders of the IDPs who were to meet with us were intimidated and would not be present, so we left the meeting place and went to the local school area where children of villagers and IDP were being taught. Some of the main IDP leaders were there and we had a constructive discussion. The village normal population is 16,000, and they have absorbed 53,000 IDPs, who use their already scarce water and firewood. They are not in a camp, but live among their hosts. The children attend school together. Both villagers and IDPs are afraid to leave the village because of persistent attacks.
When I started to leave the school grounds to visit the local village chief, a security officer told me that this was not on the schedule and was not permitted. I insisted on seeing the chief, and we soon worked out a compromise with the chief coming to join me. After our brief public meeting, he rode with us to the helicopter landing.
We received a crumpled hand written memo before leaving, which described persistent attacks, including rape of women. The IDPs are threatened by the GOS to prevent describing their plight to visitors. Distribution of food, plastic sheeting, and cooking utensils are never distributed to IDPs. They professed loyalty to Abdel Wahid - and demand peace in Darfur before they will support peace talks!
Back in El Fasher, Graça and I met with a group of women and discussed their problems. Of the 25, only one was an IDP, so there was a more rosy picture painted of the overall situation in Darfur.
In Khartoum, the Elders and Founders assembled for supper and prepared questions for Al Bashir and statements for the later press conference. At the palace, the president reiterated that they were not bombing civilians, GOS forces would withdraw from the South, funds would be provided for the census and election process, no complaints had been raised by GOSS in the Evaluation and Assistance Commission but chairman Vraalsen would step down, Darfur will be included in the election, and funds will be provided (from Sudan and donors) for the repatriation of all IDPs, including updated homes and tools for farming, etc. He insisted that SPLM was included on the committee for distribution of oil revenues. He wants The Carter Center to monitor the entire election process. He is adamant against non-African troops if qualified Africans are available.
Our final event in Sudan was a midnight press conference, with presentations by Archbishop Tutu, Mrs. Machel, Lakhdar Brahimi, and me. We emphasized the importance of full compliance with the CPA, DPA, the ending of security violations, deployment of UNAMID, participation of all rebel leaders and civil representatives at Tripoli and patience in the negotiations, and an immediate ceasefire.
Early next morning I flew to Hamburg, Germany with Richard Branson and drove to the beautiful city of Luneburg, where I met Rosalynn. We had good meetings with relatives of Mashuq Azkerzada and participated in events with Sue Sehgal and the leaders of the new Leuphana University. I spoke to about 1,300 students, then visited City Hall for press conferences and official visits, then attended the presentation ceremonies of awards for outstanding services by students to surrounding communities.
Results: Although only time will reveal the results of this first project of the Elders, there are some potential benefits:
a) Additional attention brought to the plight of the people of Darfur, with special emphasis on the needs of women and children;
b) A clearer description of the remaining obstacles to implementing the crucial Comprehensive Peace Agreement between the Government of Sudan (GOS) and the Sudan People's Liberation Movement;
c) Emphasis on the need for implementation of the Darfur Peace Agreement, with a call for the peaceful citizens of Darfur to be represented in Tripoli talks as well as rebel groups who live by the gun;
d) Agreement for weekly meetings between representatives of the GOS and humanitarian groups;
e) Pledges from the GOS to provide $300 million in funds to repair damage to Darfur plus help for Displaced Persons to return to their homes and resume normal lives;
f) Pledges from all sides to proceed with plans for a census followed by elections to restore democracy in Sudan, with approval for The Carter Center (and hopefully others) to monitor this process;
g) We offered the services of the Elders in helping to resolve any future deadlocks between GOS and SPLM re the CPA;
h) We became more familiar with the overall situation in case our influence is needed during the peace talks in Tripoli.