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
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
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.