Sudan still not the right fit to head African Union

(ADDIS ABABA, January 23, 2008) Reports that the Sudanese government has once again submitted a bid to head the African Union has met stiff resistance from human rights advocates gathered in Addis Ababa ahead of the 10th African Union heads of states summit.

“Impossible: the situation in Sudan is still as bad, or even worse than it was two years ago and it would be a huge blow to the credibility of the AU and its capacity to respond independently to the crisis if Khartoum is elected to chair the continental body,” said Dismas Nkunda, spokesman for Darfur Consortium, a grouping of  over fifty international and African activist organizations working to end the suffering in Darfur.

“While the suffering continues in Darfur, Sudan is hampering deployment of UNAMID, which is aimed at safeguarding the people of Darfur and supporting the struggling AU mission on the ground,” said Nkunda from Addis Ababa. The success of UNAMID rests directly on the shoulders of African troops, who need strong support from the all African States, particularly the Chair of the AU. 

Activists cautioned that the Sudanese government’s leadership of the African Union was a scenario that would complicate the UNAMID deployment even further, impede efforts to bring to justice the perpetrators who are wanted by the International Criminal Court for committal of crimes against the people of Darfur, and complicate efforts to restart peace talks.

“How can the AU maintain a credible leadership role in the ongoing peace negotiations if it is headed by a party to the conflict?” Nkunda said. “Tensions between Chad and Sudan are also escalating. The AU needs a leadership which can mediate independently.”

“The African Union’s refusal to extend the Presidency to Khartoum in 2006 and 2007, sent a strong message to Sudan’s leadership that continental leaders considered resolution of the Darfur crisis a top priority. Nothing has changed in Khartoum’s handling the situation of Darfur, and continental leaders must maintain their commitment,” he added 

According to media reports close to the Khartoum government, Sudanese Undersecretary at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Mutrif Siddiq recently submitted a last minute nomination for Sudan to be considered as a candidate for the East African block to head the continental body for the year 2008.

Over 200,000 people have died in the conflict, with millions displaced internally and living as refugees in neighbouring Chad and Central African Republic.

In 2006 summit held in Khartoum, Sudan lost the presidency to Denis Sassou N’guesso of Congo Brazzaville. Last year, the Summit once again passed over Sudan, this time handing the presidency to President John Kufuor of Ghana, whose term expires at the end of January.

For more information, please contact Dismas Nkunda at +251 913 26 64 88.