Home | News    Monday 30 August 2004

Mandela says he was "worried and pained" about Sudanese refugees

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By Brendan Boyle, The Sunday Times

JOHANNESBURG, Aug 28, 2004 — Former [South African] President Nelson Mandela was "worried and pained" about the plight of refugees in Darfur who asked through the Sunday Times for his intervention to end their agony, a spokesman said yesterday.

Jakes Gerwel, a longtime friend and adviser, said Mandela had seen the reports by a Sunday Times team that spent two weeks inside Sudan’s refugee camps.

"Mr Mandela is worried and pained about what is happening there, but he is confident that South Africa is doing what it can and ought to ease the situation," Gerwel said.

Abdueizz Abdulla Adam appealed to the Sunday Times team as he buried his grandmother to carry a message to Mandela.

"Please tell him I said salaam alaikum [peace be with you], and that he must come to Sudan and speak out against the killings in Darfur," he said.

Similar appeals were made by many others who spoke to the Sunday Times.

Foreign Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma said this week she had visited Mandela after the publication of the Sunday Times report to brief him on the African Union’s efforts to relieve the crisis in western Sudan.

"After the briefing, we felt that for now we needed to give a chance to these processes that the AU and [Nigerian] President [Olusegun] Obasanjo are involved in," she said.

Gerwel said, however, that Mandela had not been asked officially to intervene in the Darfur crisis.

"If he was approached, his first response would be not to be involved, but to pass the appeal to the government. He really has retired and he does want to rest," he said.

Meanwhile, the BBC reported that peace talks between rebel groups in Darfur and the Sudanese government resumed in the Nigerian capital, Abuja, yesterday. The rebels were presenting their case after talks were halted on Thursday to give them more time to prepare.

Up to 50 000 people have been killed and about one million driven from their homes since violence erupted at the beginning of 2003.

The BBC said the rebels wanted to link an improvement of conditions to their political demands.

The AU is behind the move to broker an interim agreement between the rebels and the Sudanese government, which it hopes will include the disarmament of both the rebels and their enemies, the Arab militias including the Janjaweed.

This could pave the way for the deployment of a larger AU protection force.

The AU is exerting heavy pressure, backed by the threat of UN sanctions, against the Khartoum government.

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