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Marchers Challenge Abyei Verdict, US Darfur Policy


Protesters at an anti-genocide rally near the White House on Wednesday voiced surprise about an international Permanent Court of Arbitration decision on Sudan’s oil-rich Abyei region.

The Hague's remedy, adjusts Abyei's borders to favor oil rights for Sudan’s northern-based national government. It raised concerns as a coalition of Sudanese and American demonstrators marched from Lafayette Park to the State Department. The rally was organized to spur stronger action by the Obama administration on Darfur.

Marchers handed U.S. officials letters urging enforcement of the International Criminal Court (ICC) indictment against Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir and support for the return of humanitarian aid workers expelled from Darfur by Mr. Bashir last March.

The rally was timed to coincide with an upcoming trip to Sudan by U.S. Special Envoy Scott Gration. Protesters expressed concern the issue of Abyei will draw attention away from the crisis in Darfur.

“Darfuris especially feel like the Obama Administration is supporting CPA (the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement for southern Sudan) more than Darfur. It’s a matter of serious concern for all of us,” said Darfur native Mohamed Yahya, Executive Director, Damanga Coalition for Freedom and Democracy.

“The main goal for our rally is to support the International Criminal Court and arrest President Omar al-Bashir and the other suspects because the ICC should be supported,” he said. The ICC has issued arrest warrants for Mr. Bashir who is accused of war crimes in Darfur.

The Darfur coalition also wants the U.S. to push for immediate deployment of a U.N. peacekeeping force, security for refugee camps in Darfur and neighboring Chad, and sanctions against Chinese oil companies and businesses that sell arms and trade with Sudan.

Meanwhile, Yahya said the Obama administration is not living up to its pledge to take stronger action against the Khartoum government on the issue of Dafur.

Violence has flared in Sudan’s western region for six years at an estimated cost of 300,000 civilian lives and the displacement of 2.5 million Darfur citizens.