Home | News    Wednesday 16 March 2011

Arab League SG a "racist" says Darfur JEM, demands public apology

March 15, 2011 (WASHINGTON) – The Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) today directed fierce criticism at the Arab League Secretary General Amr Moussa over remarks he made last week in which he downplayed the gravity of the Darfur conflict compared to the evolving crisis in Libya.

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Secretary General of the Arab League Amr Moussa (AP)

The United Nations says that more than 300,000 people were killed and 2.7 million displaced in the eight-year conflict in Sudan’s Western region. Khartoum counters these figures saying no more than 10,000 perished.

"Darfur is no Libya. Darfur since years back the restive situation was a result of foreign interferences and exaggerations in evaluating the situation in Darfur. But we succeeded in recent years in putting the Darfur process on the negotiation table and now there are talks under the [auspices of the] United Nations and the African Union and the Arab League [hosted] by Qatar and there is progress, " Moussa said in response to a question posed by a journalist on why the Arab League moved swiftly to ask the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) to impose a No-Fly Zone over Libya to protect civilians and not in Darfur.

"There is a peace agreement related to Darfur. This is a totally different situation from what is happening now....but the situation in Libya is an explosive one as we saw and heard and therefore the two situations are different in terms of the factors in each case and the timeframe," he added.

The turmoil in Libya started since an uprising against Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi in mid-February. Gaddafi has launched a crushing counteroffensive against the rebels who managed to capture several towns including Benghazi which is the second largest city in Libya.

Rights groups say thousands of people have been killed so far since the revolt began and many more injured.

JEM which is considered the most heavily-armed Darfur rebel group chided the Arab League chief saying his remarks "demonstrate his ignorance and racism".

"If there was genuine Arab League organisation, Moussa would have resigned on spot. What he said is racism in its ugliest forms stemming out of his desire to please Khartoum and preserve whatever interests he has with them," JEM spokesperson Ahmed Hussein told Sudan Tribune by phone from Doha.

He suggested that Moussa has his eyes set on winning the Egyptian presidency which he announced last week he is running for.

Hussein recalled a revelation made to him by the director of the Arab League department for African affairs Samir Hosni on a report crafted by a fact-finding mission dispatched to Darfur by the Pan-Arab body.

"[Then foreign minister] Mustafa Ismail made a scene about it with Moussa forcing him to withhold the report which confirmed the mass atrocities committed against our people in Darfur. I challenge him to show the world what the mission found in Darfur. If not then he [Moussa] is the coward we believe he is," the JEM official said.

The International Crisis Group (ICG) said in March 2007 that the Arab League report condemned the violence in Darfur describing it as " massive violations of human rights".

However, the statement and the report were taken off the website after a "negative reaction from the Sudanese government". They have yet to be made public.

The JEM spokesperson said it was "hypocritical" of the Arab League Secretary General to pinpoint air raids by Gaddafi’s forces against civilians while turning a blind eye to same violations by forces of Sudanese president Omer Hassan Al-Bashir against Darfuri civilians.

"His position would be reasonable only if we were to agree with his implied assumption that Darfuris are sub-humans," he said.

"This is an insult to the feelings of the victims [in Darfur]. Our people in the camps and the Diaspora are infuriated to say the least. Those people [Arab League] never had the courage to condemn anything that occurred in Darfur over all these years" Hussein added.

The JEM official declared that his movement will sever all contacts with the Arab League.

"If Moussa believes that the Darfur conflict is exaggerated then the Arab league should not be engaged in the mediation efforts. An honest broker is someone who acknowledges that there is a problem that needs resolution. That is not the case with him," Hussein said.

"We will not meet with any Arab League official unless Moussa issues a clear and unequivocal public apology. We will not accept anything short of that." he added.

This is not the first time remarks by the Arab League SG have angered Darfuris.

In March 2009 Moussa said that the crimes in Darfur were different from those committed in the Gaza strip during the Israeli assault in the same year.

“What is happening in Darfur is a semi-civil war and its responsibility is shared by many parties” the Arab League Secretary General said at the time.

“The arrest warrant [by the ICC] is against a sitting president but what is occurring in Palestinian us a military occupation responsible for all that is committed on the ground” he added.

Moussa was reacting to a question on why the Arab League is adamant on having the International Criminal Court (ICC) prosecute those responsible for crimes in Gaza but oppose the court’s actions with regard to Darfur.

Sudan’s Bashir, who came to power in an Islamist-backed military coup in 1989, is the only head of state haunted by an International Criminal Court (ICC) warrant alleging his role in war crimes and genocide in Darfur.

Despite this he has won backing from Arab, African and Islamic countries.