Sudan pledges $300m Darfur recompense

Sudan’s president has promised to pay $300-million in compensation to the country’s war-torn Darfur region, tripling a previous pledge, former United States president Jimmy Carter said on Wednesday.

Carter spoke during a tour of Darfur which was marred by a heated exchange between the former president and Sudanese security who prevented him visiting a Darfur tribal leader.

Carter told Reuters President Omar Hassan al-Bashir of Sudan had made the compensation pledge during talks with him and other members of a visiting group of elder statesmen, including South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu, in Khartoum on Monday.

“He promised us there would be $300-million in all coming to the Darfur region in compensation, $100-million coming from the government, and $200-million to be a loan from the Chinese,” Carter said as he set off on a tour of the northern Darfur town of Kebkabiya with the elders party.

Sudan promised to pay $30-million in compensation to Darfur under the terms of a 2006 peace agreement signed with only one rebel group. Other rebel groups who refused to sign angrily rejected the offer as too low and remained unhappy when it was later raised to $100-million.

Soon after making the statement, Carter publicly clashed with a Sudanese security chief who had objected to the visit to a Darfur tribal chief.

“No you can’t go. It’s not on the programme,” Kebkabiya security chief Omar Sheikh told Carter in a raised voice.

Carter angrily replied: “I don’t think you have the authority to do so.
We are going to go anyway. I’ll tell President [Omar Hassan al-] Bashir.”

Carter and rights campaigner Graça Machel were due to meet leaders of the displaced population in Kebkabiya on Wednesday but only three came to meet them.

Carter then asked to visit a nearby school for displaced people where he could meet their leaders. Carter and the delegation walked in the hot sun to the nearby school built by displaced Sudanese for their children.

Sudanese security said for safety reasons they could not allow such a big diversion from the scheduled programme. “I accepted their visit to the school but I can’t go further than that. We cannot be that flexible,” said a spokesman.

Speed help

The elders toured Darfur days after 10 AU personnel were killed in the deadliest attack on their forces in the remote western region.

The African Union said it was still investigating the attack on their base in the rebel-held south-eastern town of Haskanita to determine who carried it out. Rebel splinter groups in the region have been blamed, but key insurgent leaders have denied ordering the assault.

The AU force commander Martin Luther Agwai on Tuesday told the elders AU peacekeepers were outgunned and outnumbered by rebels and militias in Darfur.

Desmond Tutu on Wednesday called on world governments to speed up the deployment of a replacement force of 26 000 joint United Nations-African Union peacekeepers, saying the under-equipping of the 7 000 African Union forces currently on the ground was a “disgrace”.

“I am making a call to people of good will ... for goodness sake, tell your governments to get off their butts,” Tutu told Reuters.

“It is unacceptable that the AU mission is not better equipped. They couldn’t even evacuate the injured after the Haskanita attack because they don’t have military helicopters,” he added

Carter said Bashir had promised to allow international observers into Sudan to make sure national elections scheduled for 2009 were “honest and fair”.

International experts say some 200 000 people have died in Darfur since mainly non-Arab rebels took up arms against the government in 2003. The United States says Arab militia mobilised by Sudan have committed genocide, a term European and African governments have avoided. - Reuters

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