ASIAN AGE -- APRIL 6, 2004
- By Siddhartha Kumar
Amidst reports that Sudan faces the world’s gravest humanitarian and human
rights catastrophe, a representative of Africa’s largest nation to India,
Sudan ambassador Abdalmahmood Abdalhaleem, dismisses reports that ethnic
cleansing of the non-Arab population is under way in the country’s western
province of Darfur. He asserts that the Sudanese have fled from Darfur into
neighbouring Chad owing to a prolonged drought and atrocities perpetrated by
armed bandits. Sudan will have "good news to tell the world" in a matter of
few days, he told Siddhartha Kumar, as his government should successfully
conclude a peace agreement with the Sudan People’s Liberation Army/Movement
rebels. This will put an end to their decades-long guerilla war against the
Q: Ambassador, there are reports of killings and ethnic cleansing in Western
Sudan. Could you give us a sense of the situation as it is on the ground?
A: There is no ethnic cleansing. At a time when Sudan is consolidating its
democratic institutions and the unity of its diverse peoples, a handful of
NGOs are destabilising our region by telling lies.
Q: UN representatives have said there is a genocide under way in Darfur
comparable to the 1994 Rwandan genocide in terms of human rights abuses.
There are hundreds of thousands of refugees fleeing into Chad. What exactly
is happening in Darfur?
A: The reports are malicious and false. We don’t need those who turned their
back during the Rwandan crisis to give us lectures on moral science. These
are the same people who were the backbone of apartheid in South Africa. We
have made it clear to the UN Secretary-General not to take at face value the
reports of NGOs providing such baseless information.
The truth is Darfur has suffered from a prolonged drought for the last
decade. Owing to meagre resources, there has been an emergence of armed
bandits, who are terrorising local people, robbing them of their property
and causing the dislocation into Chad.
It is basically a question of conflict over resources in an area affected by
And this law-and-order problem is localised; it is not widespread. It
affects only 5 out of 23 municipalities in Greater Darfur.
Q: What steps are being taken to deal with the crisis?
A: Restoring peace and addressing grievances are the top-most priority for
our government. Chad is now hosting talks between those carrying arms and
the government, and the immediate goal is to achieve a ceasefire and provide
humanitarian assistance to the needy.
Q: What is the status of talks with the SPLA/M?
A: The government is busy concluding the peace agreement with SPLA/M rebels
in the South. At the moment, meetings are continuing in Kenya, under the
Inter-Governmental Authority on Development initiative. Not a single bullet
has so far violated the cessation of hostilities. All major issues have been
addressed, and now a few more issues remain after which a final agreement
will be signed.
Though this is a conflict, which began two years before Sudan’s independence
in 1956, the world will hear about the announcement of a peace agreement in
the next few weeks.