UN Security Council greeted by anti-American protesters in visit to Sudan

By John Heilprin, AP
Thursday, October 7, 2010

UN Sec. Council greeted by anti-US chants in Sudan

EL-FASHER, Sudan — Hundreds of Sudanese women chanted “Down with the USA!” after the U.N. Security Council landed in the western region of Darfur on Thursday as part of a fact-finding trip ahead of a January independence vote that could see violence flare.

The Security Council was escorted by U.N. police in a heavily armed convoy several dozen vehicles long. Hundreds of protesters — chanting slogans against the U.S. and in support of Sudan President Omar al-Bashir — delayed the council from leaving the airport.

Darfur has seen mass atrocities over the last decade, killings that have resulted in the International Criminal Court filing charges of genocide against al-Bashir.

Earlier in the day the council visited Southern Sudan, which is three months from a self-determination referendum that many worry could spark a new war. North and south Sudan ended a 21-year civil war in 2005 with the signing of a peace accord — the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, or CPA — that guaranteed January’s independence vote.

“We have come to Sudan to underscore that the Security Council and the international community are united in its determination to support the parties to conduct on time, peaceful, and credible referenda consistent with the terms of the CPA,” said Susan Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.

Rice told reporters that Southern Sudan President Salva Kiir told the Security Council during a two-hour meeting late Wednesday that if the north tries to delay the Jan. 9 vote, the south would hold the vote on its own.

“All members of the Security Council are saying that they are united behind pressing both parties to make the necessary preparedness, to tackle the necessary issues, to allow the referenda to take place, on time, be credible,” British Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant said.

The oil-rich region of Abyei also holds a referendum on Jan. 9 to decide if it will be in Sudan’s north or south.

Southern Sudan has much work to do if it is to become the world’s newest nation next year. Diplomatic relations with the world community must be established, a new currency created, and agreements made with north Sudan over oil rights and the standings of past international treaties.

Rice acknowledged the work that needs to be done.

“Is any state ready to be born out of whole cloth?” she asked. “All there was was a half kilometer (1 mile) of paved road in 2005″ in the Southern Sudan capital of Juba.

Earlier on Thursday the Security Council watched demonstrations by Southern Sudan’s police force, which is preparing to deploy during the vote. Police in deep blue camouflage staged an exercise in which they captured a bandit as members of the Security Council watched. Such police work could be badly needed if violence flares Jan. 9.

The aid group Oxfam said in a statement that it hopes the Security Council will focus on resolving outstanding issues over the south’s independence vote. Preparations for the vote are well behind schedule. The north-south border hasn’t been demarcated and there is little agreement on who is eligible to vote, Oxfam said.

“The longer uncertainty drags on, the more likely violence could flare up. People here are waiting eagerly for the chance to decide their future and expectations are extremely high,” said Charlotte Scawen, acting head of Oxfam in Southern Sudan.

The Southern Sudan Police Service is training 5,400 officers to take part in a force that will provide security during the vote.

The U.S. State Department has provided helmets, shields and thick black body armor for the officers, some of whom are studying specialized skills like crowd control, border policing and VIP protection.

When training began in January there were 6,000 police recruits. That number has dropped by 10 percent in part because of the “difficult circumstances” at the training site, said Lt. Gen. Tito Acuil Madut, inspector general of the police. Officers bathe in the Nile River, cook on open fires and live in poor sanitary conditions, he said.

Southern Sudan’s Minister of Internal Affairs Gier Chuang told Rice and other Security Council members that “we need your support in a serious way” ahead of the referendum.

The young officers were in good spirits during the Security Council’s visit.

Anthony Atugo, 21, from the town of Wau, said he felt he was fulfilling his duty to the country by serving in the police.

“I want my country to be in freedom,” he said.

Atugo, like many in Southern Sudan, is ardently pro-independence, though he said he has not received his salary during the past 10 months of his training.

Associated Press reporter Maggie Fick contributed from Rajaf, Sudan.

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