Journal of the People’s Pastor

“Writing The History I’ve Lived, Living The History I Write!”

DARFUR DIARY

A Conversation with the Sudanese Ambassador


On May 8, 2007, a delegation from The National Leadership of African Ancestry Concerned About Darfur met with the Sudanese Ambassador His Excellency Abdalmahmood Abdalhaleem. In our delegation was Rev. Dr. Allen Hand, Secretary, Peggy Iman Washington, Special Assistant to the Chairman, and myself. The conference room where we met, set in a strolling complex of offices and conference rooms, was small considering Sudan is the largest African country, bordered by nine other countries. Ambassador Abdulhaleem was very cordial. His round face and small eyes had all the African features. He reminded me of Charles Bobbitt, James Brown’s manager. He wore a blue suit, blue shirt and blue dotted tie. After the preliminaries including the serving of water, juice, tea and coffee, we commenced our conversation.

I began by citing the history of my involvements on the Darfur issue. I recounted the organizing and activities of The National Leadership of African Ancestry Concerned About Darfur. He responded with profuse praise for the work that we have done. He said he knew about our trip to Chad. He underscored our integrity and independence. I made it clear to him that we were not a part of any other organization. I anticipated that he was going to criticize the Darfurian movement in America, in particular, the Save Darfur Coalition.

Then I recited my trip to Chad. The people I met and the interviews I had with refugees, with government, civil, rebel leaders and with young soldiers in the bush. I told him that their stories were consistent. According to them, first came the planes and bombs, then came the trucks and cars with big gun and then came the horseback riders looting, raping, killing and destroying. Now, I said, “We can believe one or two things. All the people were lying. They came together at some point and agreed to make up this lie and then they left their ancestral homes to live in deplorable refugee camps to reinforce the lie. Or we can believe they were telling the truth.” I think any right thinking person would have to believe in the truthfulness of their testimonies. So obviously a terrible wrong has been done to these people. What happened to them and who did what to them? (Even the Sudanese government said that only 9,000 person had been killed since 2003, the UN says 200,000 killed, other sources put the figure at 400,000. Over 2 1/2 million people have been displaced.) His response was, “yes there have been terrible suffering. But it is due to climatic changes. The shortage of rain dries up the grass and crops and that expands the desert. The shortage of resources produces conflict among the tribes. It is an old story he says of Nomads seeking water, food and grazing for their animals and homesteaders/villagers, seeking the same with stability and permanency.”

“Yes,” I said, “but what about the people’s testimonies that airplanes bombed them and huge vehicles with big guns strayed them with bullets? Tribes don’t have these kinds of weapons.” His reply was, “The government has had to enter these conflicts to protect the people.” He said that every tribe has janjaweeds (evil on horseback).” The Darfurian people have accused the Sudanese government of supporting the attacking militia they call janjaweeds. These are Arabs militias. It should be noted that the Darfurian people say the root of the problem is Arabs expansionism and Arablization. While they are all Muslims, the Arab government is embarked on a program to kill and or remove indigenous African from their land and then impose Arab culture on them. The response of the Darfurian leaderships to the government’s claim to protect the citizens is that they are protecting only the Arabs and promoting Arab expansion.

Another question I asked, “Why does the government want to divide the Darfur region?” Presently the region is divided into three states with one governor answerable to the central governors. The Sudanese government wants to divide it into three regions with three governors. It is believed by the darfurian people that it is the intention of the Arab government to make space for Arabs. He said the government believes it can better govern the area divided with three regions and three governors.

Then he referred to the negotiations in Abuja, the new capital of Nigeria, in 2006. At that conference only one Darfurian organization signed the agreement. I was told by various sources that that group was pressured into signing. The other groups refused to sign, believing that their issues were not addressed. The Ambassador mentioned that there were three main areas of disagreement:

? Compensation. The government had offered 100 million dollars in compensation directed toward “hospitals, schools, etc.”. (I learned later that the original amount offered was 30-million. They later increased the amount to 100 million.) The Darfurian leadership wanted the infrustructual package in addition they wanted 1,000 compensation for each.)

? Second was the dividing of the regions as mention above. Darfurian leadership wanted it to remain as is, the government wanted three regions.

Finally, representation in the central government. He said there are over 6 million people in the Darfurian region. There are over 3 million people in the northern region, which is where the capital (Khartoum) is dominated by Arabs. Or where an Arab elite holds power. I asked are these issues negotiable. He replied, yes. The government wants peace and is prepared to negotiate all of the issues.” He said that it is becoming increasingly difficult because of the increasing number of groups who claim to represent the Darfurian people.

We inquired about the well being of the people in refugee camps. He said that conditions are improving. They had just signed an agreement to allow humanitarian aide workers full access to the camps. We asked about the indictments, which the International Criminal Court (ICC) has lodged against two members in the Sudanese government. The United Nations has named 51 persons who are alleged to have committed war crimes and crime against humanity. He said that his government, as is the USA, is not a signatory to the ICC agreement. The ICC is there to assist governments without judiciaries or parliaments. He said his government has both.

I asked what is his government prepared to do about the High Commission of Inquiry Report. The High Commission was instituted by President Ali Bashir to acquaint him with the facts regarding the Darfurian situation. The commission came back with a damaging report regarding members of the Sudanese government’s participation in the atrocities in Darfur. He said that his government wanted peace and to constantly bring up the matters of the past does not solve anything. His government, he continued, wanted to see a Truth and Reconciliation Commission modeled after the South African experience. There would be an admission of wrongs followed by reconciliation. He said, “The USA in particular, and nongovernmental organizations was playing destructive roles. Sanctions will not solve anything nor will military threats.” The Darfurian leadership, the governments and the bordering nations interested in peace need to come together to find a peaceful solution. He said he hope that our organization can help. He appreciated what we’ve done. He knows that we will be trying to help even when the conflict is resolved.

Finally we asked about a trip to Sudan with freedom to met governmental officials, including the president, civic leaders, refugees in the camps as we had done in our visit to Chad. He instructed us to write a letter and he would send it to his government, obviously they would be influenced by his recommendation.

We concluded the meeting on a friendly note and a commitment to work for peace and the welfare of the Darfurian people. The forty-five minute meeting went fast. I regretted I had not inquired about the number and composition of a peacekeeping army. This is one of the major challenges. The UN has recommended 22,500 peacekeepers; the Sudanese government rejects that number. They are suspicious of Euro-American troops on their soil. The African Union (AU) has supplied 7,000 peacekeepers, which is totally inadequate.