Home | News    Thursday 29 December 2005

Sudan’s hosting of AU summit offers undue reward to genocidal regime - ONG

Dec 29, 2005 (KHARTOUM) — Human rights groups and opponents of the Sudanese government charge that the hosting of next month’s African summit by Khartoum offers undue reward to a regime accused of genocide in Darfur.

The most strident opposition to the venue for the January 23-24 summit has come from neighbouring Chad, which recently declared it was in a "state of belligerence" with Sudan over its alleged support for army deserters in the border region.

"A country with more than two million displaced persons does not derserve to host a summit" of the African Union, Chadian President Idriss Deby was quoted as saying in Nigeria on Tuesday.

The Islamic regime in Khartoum violently repressed an uprising by ethnic minority rebels in the western region of Darfur that kicked off nearly three years ago, drawing international condemnation.

Marked by mass killings, torture, rape and pillage, the scorched earth campaign has left up to 300,000 dead and 2.4 million people displaced, according to a British parliament report.

The UN Security Council has demanded prosecution before the International Criminal Court in The Hague of a reported 51 suspects, including high Sudanese government officials, identified by a UN commission of inquiry.

The biggest Darfur rebel group, the Sudan Liberation Movement, agreed that bringing the summit to Khartoum would reward President Omar al-Beshir’s regime, stressing it would also hamper efforts to end the war.

"Sudan is not qualified to host such a summit. It’s a country that interferes in other state’s affairs... On the issue of Darfur, the summit will end Khartoum’s diplomatic isolation and further complicate the peace negotiations," SLM spokesman Mahjoub Hussein told AFP.

Peace talks to end the violence in Darfur have so far been held in Nigeria, which could relinquish the AU chairmanship to Sudan after the summit.

Human Rights Watch published an open letter to AU member states last month warning that such a move would do lasting damage to the credibility of the pan-African body.

"Appearances are important, and the holding of the summit in Khartoum while there are still serious open issues between the AU and the Sudanese government would make it appear that any country can thumb its nose at the African Union," the New York-based watchdog said.

The African Union, which was founded in 2002, sent its first ever peace mission last year to Darfur, but has often failed to quell the violence and its replacement by UN troops is now being considered.

In an article entitled: "Darfur betrayed", US Sudan analyst Eric Reeves used strong words to condemn the hosting of the summit by Khartoum.

"The countries of the AU have evidently concluded that a regime guilty of massive, ongoing genocidal destruction can serve as an appropriate host for the business of Africa," he said.

"It is a profound scandal that not a single African leader has publicly objected to this travesty," Reeves added.

Besides Chad, few voices have dared to challenge the venue of the summit.

In South Africa, the opposition Democratic Alliance has urged President Thabo Mbeki to use his influence on the continent to call for the summit to be moved "to a less controversial" capital.

But Sudanese foreign ministry spokesman Jamal Mohammed Ibrahim stressed that "the hosting of the AU summit in Khartoum was decided by the previous AU summit and no member state can reverse this decision."

He also played down concerns that the summit’s venue could poison future efforts to solve the crisis in Darfur and defuse the flare-up with Chad, pointing out that the AU constitution did not require that the summit hosts also take on the chairmanship.

"The summit may decide to re-elect Obasanjo for another term... In any case, we expect Obasanjo to continue to be in charge of the Abuja negotiations," Ibrahim said.