Friday, May 05, 2006

Darfur rebels 'agree peace deal'

Taken from the BBC News Website

The largest rebel group in Sudan's Darfur region has agreed to sign a peace deal with the government.

The breakthrough came when SLM leader Minni Minnawi returned to the talks, following a late-night session.

However, two smaller groups say they are not happy with the terms of the deal on offer. The government has also agreed to sign.

International negotiators say the deal is the best hope for peace in Darfur, where 2m people have fled their homes.

The BBC's Alex Last, who is at the talks in the Nigerian capital, Abuja, says a huge round of applause was heard shortly after Mr Minnawi returned to the talks.

"I accept the document with some reservations concerning the power sharing," Mr Minnawi said.

One of his officials told the Reuters news agency that the SLM wanted more seats in parliament but had agreed to the deal to end the suffering of the people in Darfur.

But the smallest rebel group, the Justice and Equality Movement (Jem), insists that it still wants fundamental changes to the document.

The group's chief negotiator, Ahmed Tugod, reiterated the rebels' demands for the post of vice-president in the Khartoum government and for Darfur to have a greater share of national wealth.

"We decided not to sign it unless changes are made," he said.

The larger Sudanese Liberation Movement (SLM) is divided into two factions.

The smaller faction, led by Abdelwahid Muhamed El Nur, refuses to sign.

"We need the document to be improved upon," he said.


Our correspondent says mediators are now hoping Mr Minnawi will be able to persuade the two other rebel groups to change their minds.

But our correspondent says that looks doubtful.

Mediators have said this will be the last attempt to secure a peace deal for the three-year-old Darfur conflict, which has claimed some 200,000 lives and displaced more than two million people.

The rebels took up arms in 2003, accusing the government of discriminating against the black African residents of Darfur.

Pro-government Arab militia then launched a campaign, described as "genocide" by the US. The Sudan government denies backing the Janjaweed militias accused of the worst atrocities, such as mass killing, rape and looting.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Tharcisse Mukama

About the history of segregation & resulting conflict in Rwanda

I was born in Ruhengeri and so were my father, grandfather and great-grandfather. I finished school in 1942 and married in 1950. Then in 1959, King Rudahigwa died and Kigeri was put on the throne. Jérôme Bicamumpaka opposed this and passed word to the Hutu about eradicating Tutsi. War broke out. The next thing we knew, our houses were being set on fire by the Hutu amongst us. They were our friends and neighbours, but they had been taught propaganda about Tutsi. Nevertheless, they didn’t kill anybody then; it was just burning houses. We all ran to the churches. The people who had gone to the provincial town were all packed in cars and sent off to Bugesera. I had my own land, so I went back to it. Vitari Basekwa, the leader of my hill, told me to go to Bugesera right away. I didn’t even sleep at my house that night. Early next morning, I left for Nyamata as a refugee with my two kids, my wife, my mother and grandmother.

They sent us to this area because it was a bad place with forests, wild animals and the tsetse fly. But the land was fertile and we had good rain, so we had good harvests and settled there. In 1963, those who had fled to Burundi invaded, but their attack failed. Then there were some killings of Tutsi, but only of those who were rich or educated. We stayed at home but others ran to the church. In 1966, there were killings again. We took refuge in the church. Soon it was over and we went home. Every time we went back, we had to rebuild our homes. Every time they killed, they also looted and burned. If you had crops, you would find empty fields. If you had a cow, it was eaten. You had to start all over again. That was the way of life for Tutsi in Bugesera. In 1973, Habyarimana removed President Kayibanda in a coup. In 1990 the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) attacked from Uganda.

Then in 1994 Habyarimana’s plane was shot down. Things got bad. People ran. They came to Nyamata, and because there were roadblocks no one could go back. Killings started here on 11 April. We fought for two days. Up to then, they had been fighting with bows and arrows, which we also had. On the third day, we saw a man called Murekezi going up in the air, then we heard the gunshot and he fell to the ground. He was our best archer. When this happened, we ran. The next morning we saw fires everywhere and heard gunshots from all corners. Most of the people ran into the Ntarama church, but we ran into the tall grass in the valley. My wife died there; she was with my children. I had eight children; six died in the genocide.

Before 1959, Hutus and Tutsis got on well together. There was no problem at all. The Hutus weren’t mean, it was other people who taught them bad things. They taught them first to burn houses and then, thinking that was not enough, they taught them to kill. I think things will get better, now that segregation no longer exists. In the past, we had our race written on our identity cards; first it said which clan a person belonged to, then later they changed it to race. Today, it has been removed; if things continue this way, they’ll get better. We fight segregation today. People are one. Children are taught as one, taught the same things by the same teacher. If people are united at such an early stage, they will not become separated again. Division is created by bad leadership. The Rwandan government is fighting against segregation. This gives me hope. I do have hope in the future. The most important thing everyone asks for is peace – even if you have only a little to eat, to be able to eat it in peace. Even though I’m old, I ask for peace and I have it now. I am sad, but I have peace. I’m in a peaceful country.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Romain Kabahizi

I grew up in Kicikiro. We had a good childhood and played with the other kids with no problem, but once we got into school, the teacher started asking questions like, “Which of you are Hutu? Which are Tutsi?” All your friends went to one side of the class; you had to go to the other. That was a slap in the face. It felt like, “You're not one of us.” In 1990 the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) attacked. Things got worse and worse. Multiple political parties were allowed then; there was a demonstration every other day and you couldn't go out when they were happening. Killings would often happen at night.

The UN had a camp nearby, in the ETO high school. On 6 April, we went there because we thought we would be in good hands. About a week later, they left. People tried to lie down in front of their trucks, but the soldiers kicked them away. I knew we were going to be killed, so I hid. I saw the Interahamwe jumping the fence. I saw them chasing women and children and I could hear kids screaming. I saw them hacking, kicking and hitting with the butts of their guns. One woman was screaming, “Please, please, don't kill me.” They just said, “Shut up.” One child was crying and they cut him, but didn't finish him off; he was dying, and I could hear all those things.

My parents, my brother and his pregnant wife, and many of my family and friends were killed. Every time I go to Kigali, everywhere I walk, I remember. As long as I live it will be impossible to forget. I can forgive, but I can't forget. I can forgive because that's the way to heal myself, to get over the anger, but even if I forgive it doesn't mean I want to see them walking the streets free as they are doing now. I think the UN failed to prevent genocide in Rwanda simply because we Africans were not that important. The international community could still help with justice. And the International Tribunal in Arusha is very slow. I think people should learn that as long as you acknowledge a problem exists, you can solve it. As long as we ignore things, they are going to keep on happening. I think there is hope for Rwanda. Reconciliation is something we have to achieve, but reconciliation and trust are two totally different things. I can have my Hutu friends again, but I have lost my trust in them. But in the next generation, I want my children to have the trust I have lost. For me, the scars are too deep to heal. It's going to take generations of healing to regain that trust.
-Romain Kabahizi

Thursday, March 23, 2006


Taken from the BBC News website
Written by Jonah Fisher

The African Union is faced with the most difficult decision in its short history.

Created three years ago with the idea of "African solutions for African problems" at its heart, it must decide whether to handover its first major peacekeeping operation to the United Nations.

Seven thousand AU troops are deployed in Darfur but they have failed to end a conflict that has so far killed more than 100,000 people and left millions in overcrowded camps.

The last year has seen a steady deterioration on the ground with militia attacking civilians, rebel movements splintering and the arrival of armed groups from neighbouring Chad.

Given the mess they were sent to resolve many feel the AU never stood a chance.

Originally deployed to observe a ceasefire that existed in name alone, the force was strengthened on a piecemeal basis until it reached its current size.

In a few areas the peacekeepers have made a difference - keeping the parties apart and encouraging some people to return.

But until recently they had to rely on pick-ups for transport leaving them vulnerable to attack and reluctant to step in when trouble flared.


On those occasions where AU forces have found themselves in the midst of things it has gone badly.

In October 2005, four Nigerian soldiers and two contractors were killed in an ambush.

The very next day, 38 AU soldiers were taken hostage without a shot being fired. It was clear they were losing the respect of the warring parties.

Maj Gen Collins Ihekire is the Nigerian Force Commander of the AU in Darfur.

"If someone hasn't got wings and you say he has failed to fly - I don't think you can call that failure," he said when asked how he assessed then achievements of the AU mission.

"If we're given what we request for then we'll get the job done." Maj Gen Ihekire would like to see AU assault planes and more troops but that now seems unlikely.

The United States and the European Union, who have funded the AU until now, are reluctant to give any more and want the UN to take over.

A UN mission they say would be bigger, better equipped and more capable of aggressively responding to Darfur's myriad armed groups.

Its estimated budget of $1bn would also be funded directly by all UN members.

About turn

Having regularly criticised the AU mission throughout its one-and-a-half years in Darfur the Khartoum government has suddenly become its biggest supporter.

Sudanese diplomats have toured the continent lobbying African leaders and looking for the funds to keep the mission going. They have even threatened to quit the AU if things do not go their way.

On the domestic front, Khartoum's newspapers have led a government-backed anti-Western campaign.

Bounties have apparently been put on the heads of two Western diplomats and international journalists were labelled terrorists by a government minister.

President Omar al-Bashir has promised to make Sudan a graveyard for foreign intervention and government-backed militia say they are preparing for a holy war. The message they are trying to send is clear - Sudan is not safe for the UN.

"We don't want intervention in our internal affairs," Jamal Ibrahim, the foreign ministry spokesman said.

"We don't want it to lead public opinion into not respecting its own government."

Saving face

The irony of the Sudanese government's position is that it already has a large international presence.

Ten thousand mainly Asian peacekeepers are being deployed to southern and eastern Sudan and the UN's gleaming white four-wheel-drive vehicles can be seen all over the northern capital, Khartoum.

In Darfur, the AU has scores of international observers and advisers, and at least one American in every camp.

But with money running out AU foreign ministers must either find $200m a year to keep the mission going or handover responsibility.

Any UN takeover is likely to take between six and nine months - and the transfer would initially involve little more than a change of hat colour for the soldiers, from green to blue.

UN Secretary General Kofi Annan has approached the US and Nato for assistance but it is likely that Western help would be logistical and the bulk of troops remain African.

Having waged such a high profile campaign against UN troops a mechanism may yet be found to enable the Sudanese government to save face.

Western diplomats, however, are convinced that in the long-term, Khartoum and the AU will have little choice but to accept a bigger and more robust UN mission in Darfur.

-Jonah Fisher
To see the full report - click here

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Isaac Mugabe

An orphan’s story of survival and hope for the future.

Before the genocide, I lived a happy life with my parents. My father was a contractor in the construction business. Mum was a housewife although she was educated and qualified as a nurse. Problems started in school after 1990 when people’s race had to be entered in their student files. If you were a Tutsi student, you’d have no peace; there was always someone bullying you. My father worked with men who helped young people to get to the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF). I remember when the RPF troops came as part of the Arusha agreement, my father was very excited and took me to see them.

When the genocide began on 6 April 1994, some of us ran to St Charles' church in Nyamirambo. There were bodies in the church. Next day the soldiers and Interahamwe came to remove them. I heard them saying that they didn't want the bodies to be seen or found. We realised we would be caught, so we went to the school just behind. Soon the school was surrounded by the Interahamwe, who climbed the walls and came in, slaughtering people. I jumped over a wall and ran home. By luck, I found everybody alive at home. When our neighbours were killed, however, we knew we would be next. Father sent me to a family friend named Ally Kamegeri. He hid me, along with the younger children, even though our parents couldn’t come. He hid about 20 kids in total. That’s how we lived until the end of genocide.

Father was killed. An attack group made him walk all around the neighbourhood naked. That was because before the genocide, he wouldn't take their nonsense. I heard that he was beaten badly and never made it alive to the hole in Gatare which they intended to throw him into. They dragged his body there. His remains are still in that hole. I haven’t yet been able to exhume him and give him a proper burial. Three days later, my mother was rescued by the RPF. In our hiding place, we had no news of Mum, but we knew that Dad had been killed. We just thought they had both been wiped out. After the genocide, we ran into Mum by sheer luck.

Mum was never the same after the genocide. She seemed depressed and discouraged, unhappy with life, and as time passed she developed ulcers and had stomach problems. My older brother developed mental health problems after the genocide as well, which destabilised her even more. Her stomach problems got so bad that if she tried to eat, she would vomit. I thought Mum was only sick, but she died. At first my brothers and sisters lost all hope. I lost hope as well, but as the oldest, I had to calm them down and I showed them examples of other people orphaned before us. It made them see that they weren’t the only orphans. And they're not completely orphans because we are still together. At the moment I’m studying in the Université Libre in Kigali. In my daily life, I do my best to ensure a good life for my brother and sisters. I can't take the place of our parents, but I try to do most things that parents would do. I am like their parent.

-Isaac Mugabe

Friday, March 17, 2006

Rebuilding Rwanda after the genocide

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

The Archbishop of Birmingham sees Shooting Dogs

Below is a letter from Vincent Nichols (Archbishop of Birmingham)

Thank you very much indeed for your letter of the 22 February and for sending me a review copy of the BBC film Shooting Dogs.

I would like to express my appreciation of the film and to say how very moving I found it. It has clearly been made with great sensitivity, indeed affection, for all those caught up in the tragedy at the Ecole Technique Officielle. The film portrays the dilemmas faced by many people with perceptiveness and respect. I was particularly appreciative of the fact that if anything the film understates not only horrendous nature of what occurred, but also the human dilemmas. In this it leaves space for the viewers own imagination and reflection.

I was particularly impressed by the way the characters of Father Christopher and the young English teacher were drawn. The crises that they faced were not minimised nor over dramatised. I think everyone who sees this film will always retain a vivid memory of the terrible events that took place. They will also be drawn into a profound reflection on the limitations of human nature as well as the demanding summons of the Christian faith.

I am grateful to have had a chance to see this film and I look forward to its general release from the 31st March.

With every good wish,

Yours sincerely

Vincent Nichols
Archbishop of Birmingham

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