/ 17 September 2007

Mandela’s ‘Elders’ to visit Sudan

A council of peacemaking world leaders and Nobel laureates launched by former South African president Nelson Mandela is taking up Darfur as its first mission, with a trip to Sudan planned later this month, the organisation said on Monday.

Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who chairs the group known as The Elders, will lead a delegation that will include former United States president Jimmy Carter; Mandela’s wife Graça Machel, a long time campaigner for children’s rights; and Lakhdar Brahimi, a former United Nations envoy to Iraq.

Mandela will not be part of the mission.

”We want the suffering to end — and we hope to contribute to that,” Tutu said in a statement.

More than 200 000 people have died in Darfur and 2,5-million have been displaced in four years of fighting between rebel groups and government-backed militias.

Tutu’s delegation, which will be in Sudan from September 30 to October 5, will meet in Sudan’s capital with government and opposition, civil society and international organisation representatives, and will then travel to Darfur to visit local community leaders and displaced people.

”We want community leaders in Darfur to feel that they have been heard by us. And to the extent that we could then communicate their aspirations, their longings, particularly the women’s groups, we will do so,” Tutu said.

The new humanitarian alliance was launched to celebrate Mandela’s 89th birthday in July and is dedicated to finding new ways to foster peace and resolve global crises, and to support the next generation of leaders.

The brainchild of British entrepreneur Richard Branson and musician Peter Gabriel, its members include former United Nations secretary general Kofi Annan; former Irish president Mary Robinson and Muhammad Yunus, founder of Grameen Bank, the pioneering micro-credit institution. ‒ Sapa-AP