Rebels in the Darfur region of Sudan Sunday attacked a Sudanese Army convoy near the border with Chad and claim they defeated two battalions of soldiers in the clash, something the authorities denied. This is the second clash between rebels and the Army in the past week in Sudan. A 26,000-strong United Nations peacekeeping force is due to be deployed in January in hopes of stopping the violence in the war-torn region.
The rebels claimed to have captured 29 soldiers, 32 vehicles, and a number of heavy weapons, reports the British Broadcasting Corp. "Sudan's army confirmed a clash outside el-Geneina, the capital of West Darfur, but denied suffering heavy losses."
This is the second time in a week that [Justice and Equality Movement] Jem rebels have said they have inflicted a heavy defeat on government troops, the BBC's Adam Mynott reports from Nairobi.
They said their forces had attacked an army garrison in Kordofan in central Sudan last Tuesday.
Again, the Sudanese government denied the claims.
A rebel report that they had taken over a Chinese-run oil field was denied by the Chinese embassy in Khartoum, which did, however, confirm there had been fighting.
Leaders of the JEM told Reuters that the attack on a Chinese-run oil field was the second in two months, and attacks would continue until the Chinese left Sudan's oil industry.
"The government uses the oil money to buy Chinese weapons in Darfur," said Ibrahim. He said JEM had attacked another field in the area two days previous called the Khadra field.
The fields are operated by the Chinese-led consortium Greater Nile Petroleum Operating Company (GNPOC), which involves India's ONGC, China's CNPC, Malaysia's Petronas and Sudanese state-owned Sudapet in Sudan's Blocks 1, 2 and 4 producing the light Nile Blend crude.
Many officials from Sudan's opaque energy ministry declined to comment on the report. The ministry had denied previous attacks which were later proved true because the rebels had taken oil workers hostage.
Nile Blend makes up around 265,000 barrels per day of Sudan's total output of more than 500,000 bpd. The area straddles Sudan's north-south border.
China has come under increasing criticism for its close ties with the Sudanese government. Referring to recent protests against China in the region's refugee camps, one opinion piece in the Sudan Tribune said China is paying for earlier mistakes.
Since around mid-nineties China has been supplying the government of Sudan with all types of weaponry, and ammunitions, including jet fighters, helicopters, small arms, machines guns etc…not only that, but China has upped its economic support for the internationally isolated government pouring billions of dollars into ill prepared infrastructure projects (such as Merowe dam).
.. The protest of the displaced in Darfur camps should come as a surprise only to Chinese policy makers. The displaced communities have for long time known that the planes which attack their villages are Chinese made, and that the bombs that flattened their houses and burnt their huts are supplied by China. The fuel and lubricants that the planes use are produced by Chinese companies.
Meanwhile, the UN Human Rights Council Friday dissolved a group of experts meant to monitor abuses in the region following demands from African countries to "ease political pressure on Sudan," reports the Associated Press.
The unanimous decision to halt the mission of the seven [human] rights experts comes a week after the group accused Sudan of failing to protect civilians in Darfur from rape, torture and other violence.
The task of overseeing the Sudanese government's progress in protecting human rights in Darfur will now fall to the U.N.'s special envoy to Sudan, Simar Samar, whose mandate was extended for a year.
Rights groups condemned the decision not to renew the experts' mandate.
"There has been an unacceptable compromise by the council on the issue of Darfur," Julie de Rivero of the New York-based Human Rights Watch told reporters.
A senior officer with the African Union peacekeeping force was also attacked Friday by gunmen who wounded his driver, reports the Agence France-Presse. The target was a Ghanaian colonel in north Darfur, according to a spokesperson.
In preparation for the deployment of UN peacekeepers, President Bush approved transferring 34 US-operated camps and related assets to the UN mission, reports Reuters.
The United States on Jan. 1 will turn over about $40 million worth of camp equipment, communications and other assets that it has been operating and maintaining since 2004, White House spokesman Gordon Johndroe said.
Nevertheless, questions have been raised about the preparedness and ability of the new UN force to stop the bloodshed in the region. Writing in the Daily Star, Darfur expert Julie Flint says the force is nowhere near ready.
With less than a month to go before the force is due to deploy, senior United Nations officials say the best-case scenario is for 6,500 troops to be in Darfur by January 1, 2008, the date of the official transition from the present 7,000-man African Union force to a "hybrid" UN-AU force (UNAMID). Of the 24 helicopters that are needed, not one has been forthcoming. The Sudanese regime is throwing up obstacle after obstacle, as it promised it would.
... No matter what UN officials say publicly, many in the organization believe that the biggest problem with UNAMID is UNAMID itself. It is, they say, "the world's worst peacekeeping operation" - too big, too top-heavy, too disorganized and with no strategic plan. Just how does the force plan to "protect" almost 2.5 million displaced people, even if, miraculously, it reaches full strength and does not confine itself to base at the first hint of trouble?