Thursday, May 28, 2009

In Somalia, African Union takes the offensive in information war

The Christian Science Monitor (US)
27 May 2009

NAIROBI, KENYA - No sooner do officials from the African Union stabilization force arrive in Somalia's battlefield of a capital, Mogadishu, than Islamist insurgents send them a warning.

"AMISOM," reads the text message on their phones, "we're going to kill you."

Fighting in Mogadishu has escalated in the past month, and the undermanned and underfunded African peacekeeping force known as AMISOM is increasingly bearing the brunt of the ugly conflict, which pits extremist Islamist insurgents against a new, more moderate, transitional government.

Analysts say the mission has held up well, given the circumstances. But AMISOM officials say they – and the fragile government they aim to protect – are losing on one important front: the information war.

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Darfur Peacekeepers Call for Aid for Civilians After Battle

Bloomberg News
25 May 2009

NAIROBI - United Nations-led peacekeepers in Sudan’s western Darfur region called for “urgent humanitarian aid” after a rebel attack on a garrison town left 63 people dead, according to the Sudanese army.

“Urgent humanitarian aid, particularly food, water, medical supplies and tents, is needed to help civilians displaced by the fighting,” the joint UN-African Union force, known as Unamid, said today in an e-mailed statement.

Sudanese forces said they repelled a rebel attack yesterday on Um Baru town in northwestern Darfur, killing 43 rebels, injuring 54 others and destroying 32 vehicles, the Khartoum- based Sudanese Media Center said, citing army spokesman Osman al-Agbash.

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Radio Interview on Sudan

The Graham Bensinger Show (US)
29 March 2009

The Foreign Correspondent calls in from Kenya to discuss Darfur and being kicked out of Sudan by the government.

Listen here.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Sudan: Peace in Darfur - one step forward, two steps back

UN Humanitarian News Service (IRIN East Africa)
18 May 2009

NAIROBI - Rebels in Sudan’s Darfur region are showing signs of unity, but it has not brought their region any closer to a comprehensive peace, analysts said, as the government wrapped up another round of unsuccessful discussions with the most active rebel group.

Since the indictment on 4 March of President Omar al-Bashir for war crimes, the Justice and Equality Movement claims to have made big strides towards uniting fractious rebels by bringing other groups under its umbrella.

“We are quite hopeful that by mid-June [at the latest], we will have one organisation,” Gebreil Ibrahim, JEM’s economic adviser and brother of the group’s leader, Khalil, told IRIN. “Now we have started calling it the New JEM.”

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Aid Agencies Expelled by Sudan Could Return, Diplomat Says

Bloomberg News
8 May 2009

NAIROBI - Thirteen international relief agencies expelled by Sudan in March may be able to return if they operate under different names, a Sudanese diplomat said.

“The situation has arisen now in which some people would take off one hat, say Oxfam U.K., and wear another hat, which is Oxfam U.S.A., and carry on working,” Khalid Almubarak, spokesman of the Sudanese Embassy in London, said yesterday in a telephone interview. “No individuals were actually mentioned by name.”

Sudan accused the aid agencies, including U.K.-based Oxfam, U.S.-based CARE and the French and Dutch arms of Médecins sans Frontières, or Doctors Without Borders, of spying for the International Criminal Court. The court issued an arrest warrant for President Umar al-Bashir on March 4, accusing him of war crimes in the conflict in the western region of Darfur.

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Saturday, May 2, 2009

Kenyan cure for chaos: no sex tonight

The Globe and Mail (Canada)
2 May 2009

NAIROBI -- Off a main road in a suburb of Nairobi, two young women wearing high heels, hoop earrings and tight Western clothes discuss the latest gossip in Kenya: a sex strike.

"For me, I can't strike!" says 25-year-old student Vivian Nachii, laughing nervously at the question while leaning against a Toyota, rap music spilling out.

"Politics and marriage should not mix," says 23-year-old Arthur, from inside the car. "If my wife refuses to have sex with me," he says, "she goes back to her mother. That is my right."

"In any case, it's not African," Ms. Nachii's friend Liz Aywak pipes in. "We don't discuss sex in public."

But that's just what some Kenyan women are doing. On Wednesday, a coalition of more than 20 women's groups began a weeklong boycott, withholding sex from their husbands in protest against what they call poor leadership in a patriarchal society that risks plunging their country back into chaos.

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Sudan Gunmen Say They Freed Two Western Aid Workers

Bloomberg News
29 April 2009

NAIROBI - Gunmen said they freed two Western aid workers who were kidnapped in Sudan’s Darfur region on April 4, and a Sudanese foreign ministry official confirmed the claim.

“We released them,” a man identifying himself as Abu Mohamed El-Rizeigi, a spokesman for a group calling itself the Falcons for the Liberation of Africa, said in a satellite telephone interview from Darfur. “They are free.”

The women were released today “for humanitarian reasons” and “to give France a chance,” El-Rizeigi said.

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Sudan Holds Aid Workers 'Hostage' Over Severance Pay, NGOs Say

Bloomberg News
24 April 2009

CAIRO - Two aid agencies expelled from Sudan said the government refused to allow some of their workers to leave the country until they paid “illegal” severance packages to domestic staff amounting to millions of dollars.

Employees of the French and Dutch arms of Médecins Sans Frontières, the Geneva-based medical charity known as Doctors Without Borders, were “held hostage” until the funds were paid, Jane Coyne, head of mission for the French arm of MSF, said in an interview yesterday from Paris.

“It was really an act of intimidation,” Coyne said. “It’s hostage taking.”

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Sudan: NGOs accuse government of "extortion"

UN humanitarian news service (IRIN East Africa)
24 April 2009

CAIRO - Staff of some of the NGOs expelled from Sudan last month have accused the government of “extorting” large sums of money from them. Khartoum has defended its demands, saying those who failed to pay what it called “compensation” might be jailed.

“They asked us to pay an exorbitant amount of money... [and said]: ‘We have your passports. Once you agree to pay, you can leave the country’,” said Jane Coyne, head of mission for Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF)-France, one of 13 aid agencies ordered to leave Sudan for their alleged provision of information to the International Criminal Court. On 4 March the ICC indicted Sudanese President Omar el-Bashir on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

On 19 March, Sudan’s Labour Ministry ordered all of the expelled agencies to pay their local staff members six months’ severance pay, rather than the one month in lieu of notice that the law stipulates in most cases.

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Hostage Darfur Aid Worker is Sick, Colleague Says

Bloomberg News
22 April 2009

CAIRO - Two women aid workers taken hostage in Darfur on April 4 are being fed one meal a day and spend most of their time sleeping as they wait to learn the outcome of negotiations for their freedom, one of them said.

Claire Dubois, a French nurse who had arrived in Darfur just two weeks before she was kidnapped, is suffering from diarrhea, her Canadian colleague, Stéphanie Jodoin, said yesterday in a satellite telephone interview arranged by the kidnappers.

“We don’t have anything here,” said Jodoin, of Montreal. “My NGO tried to send things, but it did not arrive -- drugs, food, water.”

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Without Food, Darfuris Go Hungry

The Christian Science Monitor (US)
21 April 2009 During his visit to Sudan last week, Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry (D) of Massachusetts visited the conflict-ridden region of Darfur, calling it a "humanitarian tragedy" that remains a "high priority."

More than a month and a half after13 major international aid agencies were expelled from Sudan for allegedly spying on the government, the situation on the ground is ever more grim in a region that was – before the expulsions – home to the world's largest humanitarian aid effort.

Concerns about the humanitarian situation in the semi-arid western Darfur region – where 2.7 million people live in camps for the displaced – come amid increased insecurity for aid workers in the region and claims that rebel groups are uniting in preparation for "change."

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