March 23, 2009: The government order for foreign aid groups to leave Darfur is being obeyed, although slowly. The departure of the aid groups will mean that most of the nearly five million refugees in Darfur will be without food or medical care. The Sudanese government has made no move to replace the departing foreign aid workers, and apparently believes that the West will be forced to rescind the international arrest warrant for president Bashir (for causing the refugee situation in the first place). Meanwhile, Bashir is being warned to not fly to the Persian Gulf for an Arab League meeting, because of the threat of his aircraft being intercepted, and forced down at a place where he could be arrested.
March 19, 2009: The deal reached earlier this month to pull back Sudanese Army and SPLA (South Sudanese forces) from the disputed town of Abeyi seems to be holding. The Sudanese Army and the SPLA pulled back on March 12. Joint/Integrated units (combined units with troops loyal to the Sudan government in the north and to the Government of South Sudan) have now taken over. Yes, it is something of a charade – both north and south loyalists remain; there are oil fields to watch. The idea is that the “J/Is” will also watch each other.
March 18, 2009: Sudan’s UN ambassador announced that the US wants to hold “constructive talks.” The US just appointed a new special envoy to handle US policy toward Sudan. He speaks Swahili, which is a big help. However, the diplomacy right now is especially tricky. Sudan president Omar al-Bashir is under indictment from the International Criminal Court (ICC). Sudan also expelled 13 major aid and relief organizations – and the US is trying to keep relief organizations in Darfur.
March 17, 2009: President Omar al-Bashir finds friends in many places. The latest friend in the Arab League, which says it will not act upon the ICC’s criminal warrant for the arrest of Bashir when he attends an Arab League summit in late March.
AUN peacekeeper serving in Darfur was killed in an ambush in the town of Nyala (South Darfur state). This was a deliberate ambush. Since January 2008, 14 UN peacekeepers have been killed in Darfur. Meanwhile, the government expulsion of relief agencies from Darfur puts the lives of one million civilians “at risk.”
March 15, 2009: The relief workers, serving with Doctors Without Borders, who were kidnapped on March 11, have been released. Officials in North Darfur state believe that the workers were kidnapped by the “Eagles of al-Bashir”, as a protest against the arrest warrant issued for Sudan president Bashir. Rebel and some foreign groups immediately accused the government of backing “Bashir’s Eagles” and alleged that the group is part of a government plan to intimidate aid groups operating in Darfur. One report said that the kidnappers wore camouflage uniforms, which doesn’t prove much since both the government and rebels sport camouflage, but the fact that the kidnappers did not loot the Doctors Without Borders compound is interesting. Lots of looting goes on – that’s what bandits do. The fact there was no looting does suggest this was a straight-forward kidnapping operation. Rebel groups are making that point. The Sudanese government has intimidated foreign relief workers before, but rarely so overtly. Then again, there is a warrant out for the president’s arrest.
March 13, 2009: The Government of South Sudan (GOSS) and the government of Uganda issued statements that said any “deferral” of the arrest warrant for President Bashir should depend upon the government’s “implementation” of peace agreements. The government of Sudan is trying to get the warrants removed. The statement by the GOSS is interesting. GOSS may see the warrants as additional pressure on Khartoum to insure that Khartoum carries out the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement. The government and GOSS are supposed to conduct elections this year.
March 11, 2009: Three aid workers serving with Doctors Without Borders were kidnapped in Darfur by “an armed group.”
March 10, 2009: Four UNAMID peacekeepers were wounded in a firefight with gunmen near the town of El-Geneina (West Darfur).