Rabbi Mordechai Liebling/ Abrahamic Religious Delegation, 6/29/2005
In May, I received a phone call from Rev. (and former Congressman) Walter Fauntroy, inviting me as director of The Shalom Center to join a multireligious delegation that would very soon visit the Sudan to work for peace and an end to the violence in Darfur.
I very much wanted to go, but my responsibilities as director of The Shalom Center were especially intense. I did not think The Shalom Center could afford for me to be away for two weeks.
I decided to ask Rabbi Mordechai Liebling, director of the Torah of Money project of The Shefa Fund, former director of the Jewish Reconstructionist Federation , and chair of the Board of The Shalom Center, to go, in part representing The Shalom Center.
Among other qualifications of seichel and menshlichkeit (prudent wisdom and deep humanity) , Rabbi Liebling is the child of survivors of the Nazi Holocaust: I knew he had deep personal reasons to be powerfully concerned for the communities of Darfur thatr had been under genocidal attack. Indeed, it seemed to me he would be the best of all possible Jewish members of this delegation.
Talking with him since, and reading the delegation's report, I believe he was indeed crucial to its work.
I am proud to make his and their reports available.
Rabbi Arthur Waskow
Dear Friends and Colleagues,
Attached is a copy of the report prepared by the delegation in which I participated. The trip and its aftermath are humbling experiences, in trying to understand both the truth of a complicated situation and the relationship between peace and justice. Ive been involved in peace activism in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict for 30 years, and the Sudanese situation seems far more complicated.
We were not a fact-finding or a political delegation; we were a faith-based group seeking to both find out what was going on and deliver a spiritual message about peace. You will see from the report that we spoke to a wide range of people.
It is important to note that the Reverend Walter Fauntroy was the senior member of our delegation. He was a very close associate of Martin Luther Kings, but more to the point, three years ago he chained himself to the Sudanese embassy to protest their policies, last fall he picketed the embassy every day for three months, and couple of years ago, at great risk, he secretly flew into southern Sudan to observe the conditions. He is the co-chair of the Divest Sudan campaign.
The delegation agreed that this is not the moment to pursue divestment or sanctions. We agreed that this is the moment to have a wait-and-see attitude. A new government based on the peace treaty with the south, and with a new constitution, is supposed to take power this summer. There are peace talks currently taking place with the rebels from Darfur. If the new government takes power and the peace talks move along, we believe that it is time to call for a lifting of sanctions. Sudan needs aid and investment.
Horrible violence has occurred, including systematic rape. The AU, UN, and NGO people that we spoke all agree that the systematic nature of this has ended and that the government is not involved at this time. There must be accountability and people need to be brought to justice. It is very important that African systems of justice be a part of the solution, such as the Truth and Reconciliation model in South Africa or the special courts on Rawanda.
The sound bites that we get in the news do not tell the full picture of outside involvement in the conflict, by multi-national corporations, arms dealers and neighboring countries. There are over 400 ethnic groups in Sudan speaking over 100 languages, the political cross currents are a maelstrom. The legacy of colonialism and current world conflicts all play a role. As usual US media does a terrible job of informing us.
I would be happy to discuss this further with anyone.
Rabbi Mordechai Liebling
Torah of Money Director
The Shefa Fund
SUMMARY REPORT OF THE ABRAHAMIC FAITH PEACE DELEGATION VISIT TO SUDAN
JUNE 6TH THROUGH JUNE 13TH, 2005
Background related to the delegation visit:
From June 6th through June 13th, 2005, a delegation of seven leaders and activists from Jewish, Christian, and Islamic organizations and communities in the United States traveled to Sudan to confer with diverse parties in the Republic of Sudan representing various organs of the government of Sudan (GoS), Sudanese government opposition groups, interfaith leadership, humanitarian organizations, the African Union (AU), the United Nations Organization, and leaders in the Darfur region of Western Sudan.
Representatives of the delegation also had dialogue, prior to our departure from the USA, with representatives of the United States State Department, opposition groups in Darfur, and a representative of the Mission of Sudan to the United Nations.
This delegation was sponsored and led by Imam Mahdi Bray, the Executive Director of the Muslim American Society Freedom Foundation, and co-led by Rev. Walter Fauntroy of Washington, D.C., a former member of the United States Congress (1971-1991) and for six years, the Chair of the House Banking Committee on International Development, Finance, Trade, and Monetary Policy.
The remaining five members of the delegation were:
Chaplain Nurah Amatullah, Founder and Executive Director of the Muslim Womens Institute for Research and Development (MWIRD);
Phil Jones, Director of the Washington office of the Church of the Brethren;
Rabbi Mordechai Liebling, Torah of Money Director of the Shefa Fund;
Jim Hardenbrook, Moderator of the Church of the Brethren, and Idaho House of Representatives Chaplain
Ibrahim Abdil-Muid Ramey of the Fellowship of Reconciliation, USA, and board member, MWIRD.
The stated and shared objectives of the interfaith delegation included:
Seeking dialogue with various parties in Sudan, including parties in conflict, in order to discern the current political, geopolitical and social realities in that country, especially in the context of the recent Comprehensive Peace Agreement between the Sudan Peoples Liberation Movement (SPLM) and the GoS, and also the current peace negotiations in Abuja, Nigeria between the GoS and rebel parties in Darfur conflict;
Expressing the call of the interfaith community of the United States for an end to all forms of armed conflict and human rights violations in Sudan, and
Discerning, in consultation with the parties in Sudan, how members of the Abrahamic faith communities of the United States might play a constructive role in providing humanitarian aid for the relief of the immense suffering created by both war and the uneven distribution of material resources in the nation.
Background to the delegation visit and prior engagement with issues related to Sudan:
Both Imam Bray ( Muslim American Society Freedom Foundation) and Rev. Fauntroy had engaged in dialogue with Sudanese government representatives in the USA and expressed strong concerns regarding human rights violations in Sudan committed by both the GoS and various armed groups opposing the GoS.
Rev. Hardenbrook and Rev. Jones, as leaders in the Church of the Brethren, had previously visited Sudan and established a supportive relationship with the Council of Churches in Southern Sudan. Sister Amatullah, and Ibrahim Ramey, although not having previously visited Sudan, are both long-time activists for human rights, economic justice, and nonviolence, and had both traveled to the African continent on numerous occasion.
It should be noted also that representatives of the U.S. Department of State, both in Washington and Khartoum, were open in their affirmation of the peace processes being developed in Sudan, but perhaps not as unanimous in their assessment of the issue of sanctions, which remain a component of official US policy toward Sudan.
(Important note: while we did not have a formal appointment with U.S. Embassy representatives in Khartoum, we were able to informally speak with the outgoing U.S. Charge d Affairs, who spoke at a reception we attended and expressed his support for ending U.S. sanctions against Sudan.
(These sanctions, as we experienced them, prevent normal commercial relations with Sudan and restrict some forms of people-to-people interaction between the two nations.
(For example, Sudanese students face restrictions when they apply for visas to enter the United States, and U.S. citizens cannot enter into business contracts with Sudanese entities or even use most American bank credit cards while in Sudan.)
Brief background information on Sudan:
The Republic of Sudan (officially, Jamhuryat es-Sudan) located in Northeast Africa, is the largest nation in Africa in terms of land area, covering some 967,493 square miles, an area roughly 1/4th the area of the United States. Sudan is the home of the ancient civilizations of Nubia and Cush ( from which the Khmetic (Egyptian) civilization of Lower Egypt traces its roots more than 4,600 years ago), modern Sudan in the home of more than 500 tribal/ethnic groups, who speak more than 100 distinct languages, with Arabic serving as the official language of the nation, and with English widely spoken.
Officially (according to the 2005 Time Magazine Almanac), African ethnic groups constitute 52% of the population, while Arab people make up 39% of all Sudanese people ( note: we did not experience that Arab and African ethnic groups are distinctively separate; in fact, our delegation was constantly reminded by many parties in Sudan that these two groups, especially in the Darfur region, were integrated by bloodlines and cultural assimilation). Approximately 70% of Sudan is populated by Sunni Muslims, while traditional African religious practitioners (Animists) and Christians make up 25% and 5% of the Sudanese population, respectively.
The Sudanese Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of more than US $70 billion greatly exceeds that of any of Sudans neighboring nations, including Chad, Ethiopia, Eritrea, the Central African Republic, and Uganda. Sudan is also the third largest petroleum producer in Africa ( after Nigeria and Angola), with production soon to reach 500,000 barrels of oil per day. This significant source of national wealth will, no doubt, become a growing factor in future internal and international political and social events.
In terms of recent history, a tragic 20 year civil war between the SPLM and the GoS ended in the signing of a peace agreement ( the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, or CPA) between the parties in May, 2004. Some 2 million people, mostly in South Sudan, were killed, and hundreds of thousands were internally displaced during the course of this conflict. The SPLM and the GoS have agreed to form a coalition government in Khartoum beginning on July 9th, 2005 (but possible delayed until August 9th), with SPLM leader John Garang slated to assume the position of First Vice President in the coalition government.
The Darfur region of Western Sudan comprises three states in Sudan with a combined land area roughly the size of France, and a population of some 6 million people. Since 2003, there has been an armed rebellion in Darfur between the GoS and two major rebel factions ( the Justice and Equality Movement and the Sudanese Peoples Army). Also, irregular armed bands of marauders, called Janjaweed, are also parties in the conflict and are generally believed to be responsible for numerous armed attacks, rapes, and the wholesale destruction of numerous villages in Darfur, often in collusion with the GoS.
Peace talks between GoS and representatives of the rebel groups in Darfur began in Abuja, Nigeria in June, 2005. Our delegation had originally planned to visit Nigeria to confer with theses parties, but logistical and travel complications prevented us from completing this planned leg of our visit to Africa.
Our Consultations with Parties in Sudan and the International Community ( with the exception of the meeting in El Fasher, Northern Darfur State, and the meeting with the African Union military command in El Fasher, all meetings took place in Khartoum, capital of the Republic of Sudan).
Also the report notes, from the onset, that women were, with very few exceptions, absent from the official meetings held with representatives from the GoS. One woman political officer was present on our meeting with the AU in Khartoum; another woman gave a presentation during our meeting with Islamic Relief in Kratoum, and another woman leader spoke during our meeting with a delegation from the Sudan Peoples Liberation Movement on June 19th.
However, the absence of representative voices from women's organization and women's social and political leadership ( as well as in the composition of our own delegation) was a constant reminder of our recognition of the centrality of women in the process of peacemaking and reconciliation.
Meeting with Prof. Al-Tayib Zein Al-Abdin, Secretary General of the Sudan Inter-Religious Council ).
Professor Al-Abdin informed our delegation that the SIRC was established in July, 2003, as a Christian-Muslim collaborative interfaith organization. The organization, which was established to resolve practical problems between the religious communities, is equally composed of Christian and Muslim representatives, with the Chair rotating between Muslims and Christians. He offered the opinion that there is no grassroots problem between Muslims and Christians in Sudan, but rather, a problem between the GoS and Christian institutions.
Interfaith co-operation has resulted in Christian-Muslim work on issues related to resettlement of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs), and the removal of land mines in war-affected areas. The SIRC was also instrumental in resolving conflicts between (1) the GoS and a local Catholic organization in Khartoum, which resulted in the return of the Catholic
Center previously confiscated by the government and (2) a conflict resolved by the removal of vendors who had encroached on a Christian cemetery property.
Professor Al-Abdin also commented on the work of the SIRC in creating pairing relationships between Christian and Muslim congregations.
Professor Al-Abdin noted that there are some 250,000 IDPs in the Khartoum area, located in 6 camps. According to his data, some 54% of them people have indicated an interest in returning to their land in Southern Sudan.
The United States Institute for Peace had previously sponsored a conflict resolution training for the SIRC, and a July 25th-26th is planned.
SIRC organized a conference ( date unclear) on the issue of Darfur. Some 18 papers on the topic were submitted, and the GoS was not happy with the conference.
Christian missionary/conversion activities in Darfur by the Safe Harbor organization (from the USA) were mentioned as a source of tension and concern.
Professor Ahmad El-Bashir, a former Professor at the University of the District of Columbia who accompanied the delegation as a representative of the Council for International Peoples Friendship ( part of the Sudanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs), spoke about the need to end the United States sanctions imposed on Sudan as a positive step toward normalization of Sudan- U.S. relations.
Meeting with Dr. M. Ahmed, Minister of Agriculture of Sudan and Chief Negotiator with the Rebels in Darfur
Dr. Ahmed offered his views of the complexity of the situation in Darfur: that the conflict between ethnic groups in Darfur has gone on (at least) since 1932; that the tribal system in Darfur is strong, and that the model for reconciliation in Darfur must be grounded in indigenous community/tribal reconciliation models.
He mentioned, also, that the conflict between pastoral and nomadic peoples, and the overall competition for land and water ( as well as the historic lack of resources provided for the Darfur region by the central GoS in Khartoum) are all factors in the overall situation in Darfur.
Regarding the current conditions in Darfur, Dr. Ahmed stated that health conditions are much better now in the IDP camps in Darfur, that the GoS is sincerely seeking agreement with the rebels, and that the GoS has established three separate committees to deal with issues related to the opening of roads, the reconciliation of the conflict, and reparations for those affected by the war. The GoS has claimed that those responsible for human rights violations (on the GoS side) will be punished.
Also, a key to peace, in his view, is the commitment of the GoS to both the redistribution of national resources and a commitment to a genuine multiparty democracy with the full engagement of civil society. The dignity of the people of Sudan must be respected, tribal chiefs in the area should be consulted with, and the problem of Darfur must be solved by the people of Sudan themselves.
Rev. Fauntroy reiterated our interest in providing a dimension of interfaith support (from the USA) for peace and justice, and our commitment to support nonstop negotiations for peace.
Meeting with Dr. Riak Gai Kok and members of the Coordinating Council of Southern States (CCSS), July 15th
Imam Bray presented the delegation and stated our desire, as members of the Abrahamic faith leadership community in the USA, to learn more about what we can do to support positive change in Sudan.
Dr. Kok, a former rebel commander in the SPLM/Sudanese Peoples Liberation Army , introduced his colleagues on the CCSS Executive Committee and gave us a brief history of the CCSS: the Council was founded in 1997 as a break-away from the SPLM/SPLA because of ( in his words) the political confusion and lack of political objectives in the SPLM, including questions around the issue of the objective of a socialist Sudan. This followed earlier events in Sudan, including the attempt (by former Sudanese President Nimeiri) to impose Islamic law on the South and split the South into three separate states in the 1970s, a split in SPLM leadership in 1991, and the subsequent dialogue between the Khartoum government and dissident SPLM elements based on the belief (of the dissidents) that a military solution was not possible.
Currently, he said, there is great need for the resettlement of refugees from the South, and as for Darfur, the primary problem is the war itself. The problem of Darfur began as an issue of armed robbery and escalated into political conflict, with the central problem in Darfur ( as in the South) of underdevelopment. However, Dr. Kok emphasized that the CPA can offer a common framework for negotiated agreements between the GoS and rebel elements in Darfur as well as with the SPLM
in Southern Sudan. The July 9th implementation of the coalition government in Khartoum is critical for Sudan
In conclusion, Dr. Kok asserted that the problem in Southern Sudan is not between Africans and Arabs or Christians and Muslims, but rather, the conflict between the GoS and the Southern region. Southerners must be helped wherever they are and the basic infrastructure of South Sudan ( including roads, water systems, etc.) must be re-built.
Meeting with State Minister El Tigani Fedail, Ministry of Foreign Affair
Minister Fedail, a Darfurian, offered the following comments related to the issue of Darfur:
The crisis in Darfur goes back to conflicts in the region dating from the 1970s and 1980s. Many Darfurians who left Sudan for employment in Libya were forced to return when economic prospects abroad dimmed; educational and employment options in Darfur were few.
Some Arab groups wanted to expel others from land.
Nomadic people and migrating farmers put pressure on diminishing cultivatable land and water resources.
The situations regarding a lack of water and seeds for crop planting must be addresse
Arms funneled into Darfur from Chad ( and presumably, Libya) have heightened the conflict.
Rev Fauntroy emphasized the need to deal with the problem of demobilizing and re-educating child soldiers and the need to redistribute national wealthn and of addressing the issue of the authority of traditional tribal leaders( and their means of resolving conflicts) that had been disbanded by the government of former Sudanese leader General Gaafar Mohamed Nimeiri in the 1970s.
Meting with Mr. Jean-Baptiste Ndama of the African Union Peacekeeping Mission in Sudan
Mr. Ndama, an AU official from Burkina Faso, provided a summary of the African Union mission in Sudan and an analysis of some of the fundamental problems facing the prospects for permanent peace in Darfur.
Currently, the AU has less than 2,500 peacekeeping troops in the Darfur region, but plans to deploy more than 3,500 additional troops by September 2005. He emphasized that the crisis in Sudan is an African problem requiring an African solution, and that non-African peacekeeping forces should not intervene in the peacekeeping process. The AU forces provide a security zone of 20 Km surrounding the IDP camps in Darfur, and provide a safety corridor for women in the camps who venture out to collect fire wood ( note: this activity has produced many of the incidents of assault and rape committed against Darfurian women by the Janjaweed. The peacekeeping mission is enhanced by the deployment of some 12,000 civilian police (CivPol) by the GoS.
Also, in violation of the cease-fire agreement, rebel forces have attacked UN peacekeepers and have not revealed their positions to the UN, as required by terms of the CFA. However, there had been a large reduction in both armed violence and attacks against civilians in the region, due largely to the presence of the AU peacekeeping force.
Regarding the issue of GoS armed attacks against civilians in Darfur, there was confirmation that some of these attacks had in fact occurred, due in part to the proximity of rebel forces to villages. We were told that the GoS is now paying compensation to victims of these attacks.
Meeting with Major General Fazle E. Akbar of Bangladesh, Commander of U.N. Peacekeeping forces in Sudan, and with Mr. Vladimir ( last name not recorded), a political advisor to the U.N. Mission
Gen. Akbar, a senior commander of the U.N. peacekeeping force in Sudan (which is designated for future deployment in the Southern sector of the country to safeguard the transition to the Unity government scheduled to come into force on July 9th, 2005) and his associate, offered comments and observations on issues related to the situations in both Darfur and South Sudan.
Among their points:
The United Nations mission in Sudan is pursuant to Security Council resolution 1519, and enforces a line of demarcation between SPLM and GoS forces (Line 1156). UN Peacekeeping forces will include troops from Zambia and Kenya ( but not Egypt or Malaysia), and they will be deployed only when a Status of Force Agreement )SOFA) between the GoS and forces in the South ) has been established.
Some unified command units composed of SPLA/GoS forces have been established, but there has been a lack of UN access to some areas in the South under SPLM control ( there are 7 sectors established to monitor the CPA). Gen. Akbar stated that a full contingency of UN peacekeeping troops will not be deployed until the SOFA is in place.
The peace issue has been complicated by an internal power struggle within the SPLA, and by an overall lack of capacity of the SPLA.
Regarding the issue of compliance by the GoS and other parties with the prosecution of suspected war criminals by the International Criminal Court: Gen. Akbar stated that the ICC process is a very long term one, but that targeted sanctions ( by the international community against the GoS) had been helpful in stopping human rights violations in Sudan.
Another complication in the situation in Southern Sudan is the sheer diversity of both the population at large and the armed opposition to the GoS. There are five major ethnic groups, speaking more than 100 languages, in Southern Sudan. Both UN authorities stated that more than 40 militias in the South, some with as many as 3,000 armed fighters, had been identified ( and are outside of the SPLA command structure), and that very fluid alliances among these groups can be established or broken over a truckload of grain.
There is also the presence in South Sudan, as a de-stabilizing factor, of elements of the Lords Resistance Army, an Acholi ethic rebel/criminal force in Northern Uganda ( and an opponent of the Uganda government in Kampala) and parts of South Sudan notorious for their wholesale rape of girls and women and their wanton attacks against villages.
The following observation of political and military issues were offered with regard to the situation in Darfur:
The GoS had traditionally created counter- insurgent forces to fight rebel attacks against central government authority. In that sense, the Janjaweed is a kind of Frankenstein created by the GoS that is now longer controlled or constrained by them;
Libya has provided heavy arms, including multiple barrel rocket launchers and heavy machine guns, to Darfur rebels through Chad, and resources from the Darfur diaspora in Europe has been used to buy weapons.
Darfur rebels in the (newer) Justice and Equality Movement are politically connected to both Hassan El-Turabi, the charismatic, Islamic opposition leader now imprisoned by the Khartoum government, and to Sudanese military intelligence.
Finally is an acknowledgement that the AU peacekeeping force in Darfur, while lacking necessary personnel, logistical and transportation resources, is doing a good job protecting civilians and keeping order.
Visit to El Fasher IDP Camp and African Union compound in Darfur
Our delegation traveled by plane to an IDP camp and an African Union compound in the town of El Fasher in Northern Darfur state.
Brig. General Delaunay ( a liaison officer from the European Union coordinating with the African Union (AU) military mission in Darfur) gave us his assessment of the current on-the-ground situation in Darfur. He offered the following observations and facts:
The current deloyment of AU peacekeepers ( now 2,800 in number) will increase by a factor of 3X by Sept. 2005, with additional civilian police deployed in the region. There are eight AU military zones in Darfur, and 16 deployment sites. The AU does not have the power to arrest suspected armed violators of the agreement ( or those suspected of genocide by the U.N. investigation in 2004 or by the International Criminal Court.
One month ago, an estimated 80% of cease fire violations were from the GoS and Janjaweed side. Now, the GoS is in compliance with the Cease Fire Agreement.
The major armed attacks on villages have ceased, and violence in much of Darfur is sporadic and irregular. AU forces, now 180-400 troops per camp location, are deployed to protect camps and provide escort for women from the camps who go outside foraging for firewood.
Some ( but not all) NGOs in Darfur/Sudan are actively cooperating with the AU mission.
The General, in conclusion, noted that while the Darfur situation is a political problem, it is a moral and spiritual problem as well.
Our meeting concluded with a circle of prayer for the safety and success of the African Union peacekeeping mission in Sudan.
Meeting with Adnan Chima and staff from Islamic Relief
Our delegation met with staff members of Islamic Relief, an international Muslim humanitarian aid organization with numerous programs in Sudan. Islamic Relief provides food, water, medical, and other forms of humanitarian assistance to communities throughout Sudan, without regard to the religious or ethnic or religious identities of those being served.
One innovative program, directed by a female member of the Islamic Relief staff, is a project serving the needs of numerous orphan children in Sudan.
Our delegation expressed profound thanks for the humanitarian work of the staff, both in Sudan and throughout the world.
Meeting with officials in Darfur ( Friday, June 10th, 2005)
We were received by Mr. Osman Muhammad Yusuf Kiba, Governor of the Northern Darfur State, who welcomed the delegation with refreshments and a recitation from the Quran. He addressed the questions of the delegation relate to the source(s) of the conflict in Darfur, the current situation regarding violence, and future plans for regional development.
The governor noted (as had others) that the conflict in Darfur had evolved from very long conflicts over time ( 27 conflicts over 30 years), and tribal/ethnic in nature and related to ancient competition for grazing lands and water. Armed attacks between groups escalated into warfare, with some weapons introduced from sources outside of Sudan ( Note: in contrast to other observations, the governor did not acknowledge advanced or sophisticated weapons coming from outside sources).
While the overall level of violence in Darfur is diminishing, some rebel groups engaged in clashes (presumably with GoS or AU forces) and occasionally imposing taxes on people traveling through the area. He expressed a need for police forces, rather than troops, to support an end to this violence.
He concurred that he peacekeeping operation in Darfur is an African issue, and, although they started hesitantly, the AU force is now stronger.
The African-Arab division often used to characterize the conflict is not useful, and the racial distinction made ( in U.S. media) between Arab and African Darfurians is not usually possible.
The international donor community, which met in Oslo earlier this year to assess the development needs of Darfur and to pledge development assistance, has not yet fully kept its promise to provide material assistance for Darfurian reconstruction.
The governor noted that in terms of the current reality, there are:
700,000 Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in Darfur
120,000 persons in four IDP camp
400,00 in uncontrolled camps (scattered villages)
100 persons affected by the severe drought.
On the very sensitive issue of the rape and violation of women in the conflict, the governor claimed that, while rape did occur, the number of reported violations was exaggerated by Western media. He further claimed that the incidents of rape were 1-2 per day, and that ( in his view) incidents of rape had been staged by outsiders to place pressure on the international community to intervene in Darfur. ( Note: this assertion in contradicted by numerous international and humanitarian NGOs who assert that there are thousands of rape victims in Darfur, including female children.
Visit to the El Fasher Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camp
Our delegation made a brief visit to the IDP camp in El Fasher, and met with one of the tribal leaders in the camp who came there when some 114 villages in his area were destroyed by armed attacks in the area. According to the information provided to us:
The camp houses 70,000 persons ( the largest one in Darfur)
Residents receive an allotment of 10-15 liters of water per day
Displaced persons typically traveled some 70 kilometers to get to the camp
Health clinics and primary schools are available for the residents, with services provided by the ICRC, UNICEF, the German Red Cross, and other agencies. Numerous bags of food grains were stacked openly outside tents within the camp-apparently without being guarded.
There is no tribal violence in the camps, and people there want representation in the National Assembly in Sudan. The camp is also the haven for persons who, while not displaced by the war, migrate there for food, water, and medical attention.
We were not allowed time to visit more with the residents of the El Fasher camp, and especially to speak with women there. One delegation member said that the location was referred to as a show camp.
Note: While speaking with a group of 15 or so men in the camp, we learned that one major problem for them is the absence of identity and work papers required for employment through the G0S. This issue, and an appeal for its resolution, was raised by a delegation members in a subsequent meeting with a GoS official.
Following the visit to the IDP camp, the delegation was hosted by the Governor of Northern Darfur to a luncheon and the presentation of gifts.
Note: The severity of the drought condition in Darfur cannot be over-emphasized as a factor in the human tragedy of the region. 20 years ago, the region was 58% green, but with advancing desertification and drought, the green area of Darfur is now only 18% of the region.
Meeting with Dr. Syeed Al-Khatib, Director, Center for Strategic Studies (Khartoum) and Chief GoS negotiator in Abjua, Nigeria peace negotiations with Darfur rebel groups.
Dr. Al-Khatib, after exchanging warm greetings with the Abrahamic Faith Delegation, made reference to the long and ancient history of Sudanese civilization ( with roots that go back more than 4,000 years), to the long struggle against British colonialism in the 19th century, and to the influence of Islam, which came to Sudan not through violent conquest but as a result of the values demonstrated by early Muslim traders.
In more recent terms, he praised the constructive role of the US government in encouraging the current peace talks in Sudan, but he also noted unfairess of the image of Sudan in the US media and the negative role of the American Religious Right in fostering strained relations ( noting that subheadings in the American Bible Association Book of Isaiah that God will destroy the Sudan).
He also stated that United States FBI and Central Intelligence Agency investigations, concluded at the end of 2001, concluded that Sudan housed no terrorist camps.
He also noted that:
The GoS and the three states in Darfur are not without blame in the matter of the war in Darfur
The timing of the ICC demanding turning over suspected war criminals and perpetrators of genocide ( from the GoS side) was not useful;
In order for the Darfur negotiations to be successful, the rebel groups must be convinced that a fair proposal from the GoS is on the table;
Internationally monitored elections have been accepted by the GoS;
The GoS will begin with a $1.3 Billion US pledge for national reconstruction ( applied to the North as well as Darfur), with the international community committed to an additional $4.3 Billion. An independent body will determine which reconstruction programs need to be addressed.
Sudanese Unity is desired by the GoS.
Dr. Al-Khatib also noted that while much development aid targeted for people affected by war does not actually reach those actually victimized (17 cents out of every aid dollar is actually devoted to people in need) , the best development plans come from local communities themselves. A Joint national Transition team has begun work on the reconstruction problem in the South prior to the installation of a National Unity Government on July 9th.
He concluded with the observation, on the matter of the peace agreement between the GoS and the SPLM, that the peace agreement in the South is very fragile and that a South-South dialogue is necessary.
Meeting with Under Secretary for Humanitarian Affairs Ahmed Abu Doom.
After introductions from Imam Bray, the delegation was asked to offer our perceptions on the image of Sudan in the US news media. We offered the following characterizations:
1.The conflict is portrayed as representing Arab versus African racism;
2.The GoS is in denial of the conflict;
3.Emphasis on the issue of Muslim-on-Muslim violence in Darfur;
4.The GoS lacks an affective response to the crisis;
5.Some people in the USA are using the issue to advance their own agenda
6. While Sudan, in the Muslim world, is a leading advocate of the elevation of the role of women in public life, women in Sudan are portrayed in the US media only as victims.
Min. Abu Doom offered the following comments:
1.Darfur has been historically a peaceful area.
2.The region has a unique population of mixed Arabs and Africans. The Arab-African division of the Darfur population was based on the division between pastoral (animal grazing) people and farmers, and not a racial dichotomy
3.Darfur is wealthy in petroleum, Uranium, Iron ore, and underground water (Note: Rev. Fauntroy mentioned that the International Resource Institute (IRI) has determined that Darfur possessed oceans of underground water and petroleum.
4.The crisis was affected by the refusal of the GoS to provide water resources for nomadic tribes in Darfur.
5.Most of the villages burned in Darfur were destroyed after the inhabitants fled; some of the images of destruction seen in the media are fabricated.
6.Small arms introduced into Darfur from South Sudan and from neighboring countries ( ie., Chad and Libya) heightened the war.
7.In violation of the terms of the CFA (Cease Fire Agreement) Darfur rebel forces are not disclosing their positions to the AU peacekeeping command
8.80 International NGOs now operate in Darfur, and 80% of food aid to the region comes from the USA.
9.Further to the issue of the rape of women in Darfur ( and the question from Sister Amatullah regarding the unwillingness of some victims to testify before men), the delegation was told that the GoS is taking the allegations of rape seriously, and that investigations of rape are being done by female teams of police officers and social workers in all three states in Darfur.
Meeting with Mahdi Ibrahim Mohamed, Deputy Secretary General of the National Congress of Sudan and former ambassador from Sudan to the United States.
Ambasador Mahdi Ibrahim began by welcoming the delegation and expressing his belief that our the mission of our delegation was courageous and that our initiative deserved worldwide recognition. After recounting his extensive travel within the United States and his intimate familiarity with the people of America, he offered these facts and observations:
1.Sudan, which became independent in 1956, is made up of some 583 tribed who speak 400 dialects. Arabic is the Lingua Franca and the unifying national language.
2.A long and intense anti-colonial struggle was waged against Britain in the 19th Century; Sudanese are a very proud people, and the hearts of the Sudanese people can be won only through friendship, and not through intimidation.
3.The 1983-2003 Civil War in Sudan was encouraged by President Clinton.
4.When, during the Civil War, masses of internally displaced South Sudanse moved into the Khartoum area, there was no internecine war that was waged against them by the GoS. Often, media and human rights groups who report on Sudan have their own agenda
5.In economic terms, Sudan is a boom country in Africa: Inflation, which averaged 166%/yr in the early 1990s, has been lowered to 7-8% per annum over the last six years, and economic growth is positive.
Finally, the Ambassador commented that the current American administration had been constructive and helpful in the work for peace in Sudan.
Meeting with His Excellency Gen. Omar Al-Bashir, President of the Republic of the Sudan
Our delegation was welcomed into a 30 minute meeting with President Al-Bashir, who received our thanks to him and our appreciation for the hospitality of the Sudanese government and people expressed by Imam Bray. The Imam also expressed, for all of the delegation, that we believe that Sudan has arrived at a great historical moment for peace and reconciliation that can benefit all of the continent of Africa. Individual members of the delegation then expressed our thanks and concerns to the President, include
concern for peace and nonviolence in the nation, the protection of citizens from war, the establishment and strengthening of inter-religious dialogue and cooperation, and the need for the representation of women in all aspects of peace and justice building in Sudan.
President Al-Bashir affirmed the commitment of the GoS to the peace process, noting
( with reference to the conflict in the South) that peace with secession is better than unity with war. However, in his view, all (parties) who take up arms against a central government authority are described as terrorists-except in Sudan.
Regarding the issue of U.S. sanctions against the GoS, President Al-Bashir observed the vicious circle that Sudan is now in: war brought sanction, which deprives the government of its ability to serve people, which produces even more discontent in the nation.
Our meeting with President Al-Bashir concluded with a circle of prayer, which expressed our mutual spiritual commitment to seeking peace and justice for all the people of Sudan.
Meeting with delegation from the Sudan Peoples Liberation Movement
Background: The SPLM, led by John Garang, is the primary rebel opposition group in South Sudan, The SPLM leadership is primarily made up of Christians and non-Muslims; they will enter into a coalition government with the process in Khartoum.
Mr. Steve Wondu, the SPLM representative in the USA, greeted our group. He characterized the SPLM as the weak party in negotiations with the GoS, and the one on the receiving end of injustice and discrimination. He asserted that the
fanatical interpretation of religion ( in the North, among Muslims) must end, and massive international aid must be forthcoming. To that end, Mr. Wondu commented on the need for the international aid donor community to honor their commitments for aid to reconstruct the area of South Sudan, and especially to provide material care for the voiceless young mothers in the South. Everything depends on the implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement; the SPLM will request waivers of US sanctions to allow monies and programs to come into Sudan that are beneficial.
Also, the SPLM group affirmed the need for formal structures to insure that religiou
problems are solved, with the goal of building a tolerant multi-faith society.
We do not want to go back to war, he said
Meeting with Mr. Ahmed Ogel, Secretary-General of the Ummah Party
Mr. Ogel was elected to the Parliament of Sudan in 1986, and he became an opposition leader ( to the GoS) in 1989. He is a member of the Zegat, the largest ethnic Arab tribe in Darfur. In his view, the tribal conflict in Darfur was influenced by the conflict between Libya and Chad, and by the introduction of weapons from the outside into Darfur
In his view, some leaders in Darfur were using the conflict for their own personal gain; he claimed to know a number of rebel leaders personally, and he knows the personal weight that they have inside their tribes.
He characterized the peace process (between the GoS and the two primary rebel groups, the Justice and Liberation Movement(JEM) and the Sudan Liberation Army
(SLA) as good, but the process must be expanded: There are currently, according to Mr. Ogel, some 60 tribes in Darfur, but only two of them are represented at the negotiating table in Abuja
The rebels do not represent the people of Darfur, Mr, Ogel stated.
Concluding observations and points of agreement from our Abrahamic Delegation.
All of the members of our delegation expressed profound thanks to the various parties in Sudan for their warm hospitality and willingness to discuss a number of profoundly difficult and, on occasion, contentious issues related to the realities in their nation.
However, we believe that, in general, some officials were more transparent and truthful than others about admitting to the gravity of the situation of war and violence in Sudan; in particular, we observed that the issues related to the rape of women and the magnitude of violence committed against the civilian population in Sudan ( in part by GoS forces and their allies) were minimized or completely denied by some officials, and more honestly admitted to by others. This was also made evident bin the comment made by the Governor of North Darfur State that villages burned by marauding bands of Janjaweed were uninhabited.
The virtual absence of women in the delegations who we met with-especially women who could tell their own stories- was also a disappointment and a missing component in our otherwise very comprehensive set of dialogues.
Further, the GoS and international organizations like MSF( Doctors Without Borders) present widely divergent understandings of the issue of violence and rape to international media and global human rights constituencies.
We believe that all allegations regarding rape, human rights violations, and genocide must be fully investigated, and that any and all responsible parties must be held fully accountable by both the laws of Sudan and the statutes if international law as well.
The delegation also expressed our confidence in, and support for, the work of the international peacekeeping forces of the African Union and the United Nations in Sudan. We urge the international community to fully support their missions and provide them with the material and political support necessary for their success.
Therefore, in light of our shared belief in the God of Abraham and in the commandments to all of the Children of Abraham to be upholders of peace, truth, and love for all of humankind, our delegation is committed to the support of principles that uphold the ideals of peace, justice, human solidarity, and the reconciliation of all forms of war and conflict in the Sudan.
We afffirm the right of self-determination of the people of Sudan to build and direct their future. But we also firmly believe that institutions and individuals in the international community must support them in their collective work to heal their nation and build a new and better reality.
Accordingly, our Abrahamic delegation both calls for, and supports:
An end to all forms of war, violence, and armed conflict in Sudan
The respect for the human rights for all Sudanese people
Broad peace and conflict resolution negotiations in Abuja, Nigeria, representing all parties in Darfur
The ongoing protection of women, children, and those most affected by war
The new national government of unity in Sudan to provide appropriate development resources for both South Sudan and Darfur, and to implement the just distribution of development resources throughout the nation
Deeper inter-religious dialogue among religious communities in Sudan and their mutual work
for national peace, justice, and reconciliation
The recognition of the central role that women in Sudan play in all dimensions of national leadership, and actively bringing women in to all levels of conflict resolution and peace building work
Honoring the previous commitments made by the international community to provide appropriate levels of reconstruction and material aid for the rebuilding of Sudan, based on the self-determination of the needs of the Sudanese people and not the agenda of Non-Governmental Organizations or the aid organizations themselves;
The cooperation of the new national unity government of Sudan with all parties in the building of peace and justice;
Building peace on the rich foundation of the culture of the Sudanese people, as it relates to the traditional resolution of conflict in society;
Calling the international faith-based community, and especially the community of the United States, to help relieve suffering in Sudan and to appropriately contribute to the development of the nation.
With regard to the issue of war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide committed against individuals and communities in Sudan, our delegation recognizes that all parties responsible for acts of genocide and violence in Sudan must be made fully accountable for their actions, either in courts in Sudan or through the international justice system. We support an ongoing process of criminal investigation and the arrest of any parties determined to be responsible for war crimes, crimes against humanity. or genocide.
Further, we are hopeful that normal diplomatic relations between the government of the United States and the new national unity government of Sudan can be re-established at the earliest possible date, and that this will include the lifting of sanctions imposed by each nation against the other, as well as the flow of economic investments to Sudan from the USA that will support the stability and material well-being of the Sudanese people.
Finally, we offer our prayers, our support, and our love to the people of Sudan, in this critical time of building peace, justice, and unity for their own nation, and for the people of Africa.