Building resilience and peace in resource-scarce Darfur (15.03.2019)

Like many Darfuris, Aziza, 52, has lived for decades in a fragile environment, characterized by growing climatic variability and periods of shortage.

NEW YORK, United States of America, March 15, 2019 – Four years ago, Aziza Mohammed Abdallah Mukhtar was scraping a living growing tobacco in the community of Zamzam in Sudan’s arid North Darfur State.

Like many Darfuris, Aziza, 52, has lived for decades in a fragile environment, characterized by growing climatic variability and periods of shortage. Her crops took seven months to mature under normal conditions, stretching the widowed mother of five’s resilience to breaking point.

Now, thanks to a project that spreads seasonal water to increase agricultural productivity and reduce soil erosion, Aziza has yielded thriving crops such as watermelon, sorghum, tomato, okra and sesame.

“This project has enabled me to finance my children’s education,” she says. Three of her children are now studying at universities in Khartoum.

UN Environment has been implementing the European Union-funded Wadi El Ku Catchment Management Project since 2014, partnering with local organization Practical Action, the Government of Sudan and communities such as Aziza’s.

Before the US$7.7 million project, Aziza’s land, close to the state capital of El Fasher, did not receive water from the wadi (a channel that fills up in the rainy season). The seven-metre-high water spreading embankment built under the project, which extends 1.2 kilometres along the Zamzam administrative area, has helped her and other locals to diversify agricultural output.

Two other embankments, three water channels and two water reservoirs have been constructed or rehabilitated. This has enabled nearly 1,600 households from 34 village councils to triple production of sorghum and millet, and grow vegetables and cash crops well into the dry season.

The benefits are not restricted to increasing resilience to droughts. With resources like water and land increasingly scarce, grievances also often arise between competing communities in Darfur. These lead to local conflicts, and played a major role in the war that broke out in 2003.

The project has helped reduce tensions, especially between pastoralists and crop farmers. Community councils from many villages meet to evaluate the best way of using the water, while committees ensure technical and political engagement at state level.

The second phase, launched in November 2018, aims to expand integrated water resource management to communities upstream and downstream of the Wadi El Ku catchment. It will directly benefit 80,000 households within the area.

“Less water availability impacts on health and food security. It triggers displacement of people and political instability,” says Jean-Michel Dumond, the European Union’s Ambassador to Sudan. “Our hope is that the same model could be reproduced in other regions. This will help local populations to better manage their natural resources in partnership towards a peaceful and profitable future.”

In East Darfur State, meanwhile, another UN Environment and European Union project, implemented by the UN Office for Project Services, is starting to make a similar difference to communities struggling to manage their resources.

“When I was growing up, there were less than 50 households here,” says Abdulrahman Ismail, a cleric who lives in East Darfur’s Bakhiet village. “Now, it has risen to more than 5,000. Trees have been decimated due to cooking energy demands.”

These environmental changes are just as common in other parts of the semi-arid state, which covers an area slightly larger than Greece and is home to about 1.5 million residents.

The East Darfur Natural Resources Management Project supports six communities by increasing their ability to implement natural resource management policy reform. In May 2018, nearly three years since the project’s launch, the East Darfur State Legislature passed the 2018 Council Act for Coordination and Management of Natural Resource Policies for East Darfur State.

The legislation is the first of its kind in Sudan and provides a framework for the joint management of resources by the state government and local communities. Through a separate piece of legislation passed in September, East Darfur is also working to promote the joint management of water yards, dams and other water sources within its Territory.

As climate change bites harder and populations continue to grow—in Darfur and many other regions across Africa—efforts that help communities share their resources will be crucial in preventing conflicts and minimizing the impacts of dry spells.

UN Environment has provided environmental support to Sudan since the 1990s. Its work spans natural resource management, livelihoods, climate change adaptation, environmental governance, peacebuilding and conflict resolution, and strengthening women’s roles in local peacebuilding processes.

Sudan: 30 women detained in inhumane conditions following involvement in protests (20.02.2019)

The detainees include members of opposition political parties, human rights defenders, journalists, teachers and doctors.

PARIS, France, February 20, 2019 – The African Centre for Justice and Peace Studies (ACJPS) and FIDH are deeply concerned about the safety of 30 women detained without access to lawyers or family members by the Sudanese National Security Intelligence Services (NISS) in Omdurman women’s prison. The detainees were targeted for their participation or suspected involvement in the ongoing protests calling for the resignation of president Omar al-Bashir. ACJPS and FIDH have gathered disturbing information about the detention conditions of these women, all of whom have been subjected to invasive strip searches, amounting to acts of sexual violence.

The detainees include members of opposition political parties, human rights defenders, journalists, teachers and doctors. Of the 30 women currently held at Omdurman, 18 were arrested during protests held between December 20, 2018 and February 2, 2019. They were forced to climb into NISS pickup trucks and to face downward so that they could not recognize where they were being taken. The other detainees were arrested over the same time period during NISS raids of their private residences and political party offices. The oldest detainee is in her late 70’s whilst the youngest is 24 years old. At least one is suffering from asthma.

Sudanese authorities must preserve the safety of the 30 women detained in Omdurman prison and ensure they have immediate and unequivocal access to their family members, medical services and to lawyers of their own choosing. Those arbitrarily detained must be released and for those charged, authorities must ensure due process of law and a fair trial including the right to promptly access courts and to review the legality of their detention”, declared Mossaad Mohamed Ali, ACJPS Executive Director.

ACJPS and FIDH have received reliable information indicating that the 30 women were made to sit for hours while facing the wall as they waited for admission into the prison. After having their phones confiscated and inspected, all of the women were subjected to body searches by NISS agents including in their private parts, amounting to acts of sexual violence. While in detention, they have not had access to sanitary towels, thus exposing them to risks of infection. Many have been subjected to verbal abuse including calling them prostitutes. At least eight women are obliged to share a single cell measuring approximately 5×5 meters.

NISS authorities have used detainees’ family members to pressure them to reveal information. The husband of at least one detainee was brought to the prison by NISS agents to force her reveal the identity of members of the Sudanese Professionals Association. Before the arrest of another detainee, her nephew was arrested by NISS to force her to report to their offices. Her nephew was eventually released.

“The information we have received suggests that the 30 women detainees may have been subjected to various forms of acts of torture, inhuman and degrading treatment, including acts of sexual violence. Authorities must take immediate action to end these violations, to carry a prompt investigation into these acts and to hold those responsible to account”, declared Sheila Nabachwa, FIDH Vice President.

At least 816 people have been arrested and detained and 40 others killed since protests broke out across Sudan on 19 December 2018. While protests initially focused on denouncing increases in prices of basic commodities, they quickly developed into calling for the resignation of Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir, leading to a violent response from security agencies. On 29 January 2019, the Director of NISS ordered the release of all detainees  but only a few of those detained were released. Security agencies have continued to arrest protesters and disperse rallies. Most recently, on 10 February 2019, police used teargas to disperse hundreds of protesters participating in a march organized by the Sudanese Professionals Association calling for the release of all women detained since the December 2018 protests. Police intercepted the protesters as they marched towards Omdurman women’s prison and arrested several people.

ACJPS and FIDH are deeply concerned about the detention conditions of all those who have been arrested and detained in relation to the protests, considering NISS’s well-documented record of acts of torture against detainees. Our organisations urge authorities to guarantee the safety of all detainees, in compliance with provisions of the Sudanese 2005 Interim Constitution and with regional and international treaties to which Sudan is party.

ACJPS and FIDH further reiterate their call upon Sudanese authorities to end all acts of harassment and intimidation of citizens who seek to exercise their rights to freedom of expression, association, and peaceful assembly.

High level UN delegation concludes a three-day visit to Sudan (12.02.2019)

Their visit focused on the transition of the UN’s engagement in Darfur in the context of the drawdown of the United Nations-African Union Hybrid Operation in Darfur, known as UNAMID.

KHARTOUM, Sudan, February 12, 2019 – On 12 February 2019, the Assistant Secretary-General for Peace Operations, Bintou Keita; the Assistant Secretary-General of the United Nations Development Programme, Mourad Wahba; and the Assistant Secretary-General for Peacebuilding Support, Oscar Fernandez-Taranco concluded a three-day visit to Sudan. Their visit focused on the transition of the UN’s engagement in Darfur in the context of the drawdown of the United Nations-African Union Hybrid Operation in Darfur, known as UNAMID.

From 9 to 11 February, they visited Darfur where they engaged with local and State authorities, native administration, IDPs and Civil Society among others in order to ensure a smooth transition of peace-building tasks from UNAMID to UN Agencies, Programmes and Funds and the relevant authorities of the Government of Sudan (GOS). On 11 February, the delegation returned to Khartoum where they met with the Assistant Undersecretary for Foreign Affairs, Ambassador Elham Ahmed and a high level delegation from all Government bodies working with UNAMID.

The discussion revolved around issues related to the transition and eventual exit of UNAMID by June 2020.

The high level UN delegation held a broader meeting between UNAMID, the UN Country Team (UNCT) and the Government of Sudan in order to coordinate efforts to facilitate a smooth transition.

During these engagements the three Assistant Secretaries -Generals emphasized that the responsibility of achieving peace, stability and development for the people of Darfur lies with the Government of Sudan while all other entities can play a supporting role.

This joint mission reflected the United Nations’ commitment to supporting this important process and ensuring national ownership for sustaining Peace.

Sudan Doctors Syndicate: New trends of violence and brutality against civil protestors in Sudan (08.02.2019)

The Sudan Consortium: An Open Letter to the African Union – 35 African civil society organisations call for stron AU response to popular uprising in Sudan (06.02.2019)

Sudan: Release Doctors from Unlawful Detention, Stop Obstructing Health Care Delivery (04.02.2019)

The Sudanese government of President Omar Hassan al-Bashir is detaining doctors and targeting hospitals with tear gas amidst mass protests against the al-Bashir regime. Physicians for Human Rights demands that the Sudanese government release doctors and health care workers being held unlawfully, provide medical care for detainees in need, and allow medical responders and hospitals to function without threat of violence.

PHR has been tracking attacks on doctors and health care facilities in Sudan since the start of protests in December and is in close touch with medical professionals on the ground. Twenty-seven doctors remain imprisoned, almost entirely denied communication with their families, as well as being left untreated for injuries sustained when arrested and for preexisting medical conditions.

Seven hospitals have been directly attacked. Security forces have raided facilities, shot bullets and tear gas into them, and detained doctors, leaving patients suffocating from tear gas, terrified to seek medical care, and without enough health workers to attend to them.

Physicians for Human Rights medical expert Dr. Rohini Haar, said the following in response to the ongoing attacks against Sudanese doctors and health care facilities:

“Detaining doctors and attacking hospitals not only represent egregious violations of international law but also cause significant downstream health impacts for the entire community. The government must release Sudanese physicians who have come together to take a leading role in demanding respect for basic human rights and fulfilling their duty to provide medical care to all. The government’s use of tear gas, live ammunition, and violence – both within hospitals and on the streets – to quell peaceful protests must cease immediately.

“The doctors who have been arbitrarily detained and kept in isolation from other detainees without the ability to contact their lawyers or family members must be released immediately and permitted to continue their life-saving work. The government must stop the illegal targeting of health care facilities, be held accountable for the killing of Dr. Babiker Salama, and allow any detained doctors access to medical care.”

Dr. Salama was shot and killed in January while trying to care for an individual injured during a protest. Among the doctors known to be detained with health conditions are Dr. Alfateh Omer Elsid, who suffers from cancer and is being denied chemotherapy treatment, and Dr. Muaz Faisal, who fell and broke his leg while detained. Dr. Hiba Omar is the only doctor who has been allowed a visit with family; she told her husband that she was pressured to give up names of doctors leading the Central Doctors Committee.

Since 1988, PHR has documented assaults on medical workers, including systematic attacks on doctors in Bahrain, jailing of doctors in Iran, attacks and persecution of medical workers in Turkey, and targeting of medical facilities and health workers in Syria and the former Yugoslavia.

Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) is a New York-based advocacy organization that uses science and medicine to prevent mass atrocities and severe human rights violations. Learn more here.

Sudan: Forces Signatories to the Declaration for Freedom and Change – A Joint Statement, Khartoum February 2, 2019 – Shadows of Death (02.02.2019)

Sudan: Qatar Airways and Kenya Airways temporarily suspend Ticketing Authority (28.01.2019/24.01.2019)

Sudan: Amidst deaths, injuries, imprisonments, UNICEF stresses children’s protection ‘at all times’ (24.01.2019)

Children are likely among the dead during a month of nationwide protests in Sudan with “scores” of others injured and detained, according to a top UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) official, who spelled out that “children should never be targeted nor used or exploited”.

NEW YORK, United States of America, January 24, 2019 – “Children were reportedly killed in ongoing turmoil that broke out last month in Sudan,” Geert Cappelaere, UNICEF Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa, said on Wednesday, noting that “scores of children were also injured and others detained”.

Against the back drop of an “unprecedented hike in the cost of living and shortages in bread and fuel” he said that poverty has increased, “forcing some families into negative measures like taking their children out of school”.

Pointing to information it had received, UNICEF revealed that there has been an uptick in the number of Sudanese children now requiring health and nutrition care, since the anti-Government protests began.

“While it is difficult for UNICEF to verify these reports, children must be protected at all times from all forms of violence, harm, cruelty and mistreatment whether physical or mental” stressed Mr. Cappelaere.

“UNICEF calls on the authorities in Sudan to prioritize the protection of children and safeguard their rights to education and health in accordance with the Convention on the Rights of the Child” concluded the UNICEF Regional Director.

News agencies have reported that demonstrations against an on-going economic crisis have been taking place across the country on a near-daily basis, since 19 December. Large crowds, including teenagers and demonstrators in their 20s, have been calling for an end to the 30-year rule of President Omar al-Bashir.

There have been reports of many being fired on with tear gas and bullets, and thousands being detained. The UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet, expressed alarm at the use of “excessive force” last Thursday.

A Government crackdown against journalists covering the protests is also reportedly underway. At least 26 people are reported to have died, including two security officers.

Sudan: University of Medical Sciences & Technology – Graduates’ Union – Statement (19.01.2019)

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