Thursday, 30 April 2009

British Muslim Peace delegation
met South Darfur Governor

Dr. Mozammel Haque

NIYALA: A Ten-Member Delegation of the British Muslim Initiative for Peace and Reconciliation under the leadership of Lord Nazir Ahmed of Rotherham left for Sudan, on Saturday, the 4th of April 2009. The members of the delegation were as follows: Lord Nazir Ahmad, Leader of the Delegation; sister Yvonne Ridley, former reporter of Daily Express and a revert to Islam; Dr. Merve Kavakci of the George Washington University, Washington D.C.; Abdullah Al-Faliq, Researcher of the Cordova Foundation, London; Dr Mozammel Haque, Researcher and Media Advisor, Islamic Cultural Centre, London; Lawrence Khan, Secretary of Lord Ahmad; Barrister Aisha Alvi, human rights activist; Mukhtar of Muslim Association of Britain (MAB) , Shairkhan Jameel Ahmed, representative of Markaz Jamiat-e-Ahle Hadis and Syed Lakhte Hassanain, chairman of Muslim Hands.
The British Muslim Initiative (BMI) for Peace and Reconciliation delegation led by Lord Nazir Ahmad arrived at Niyala, the capital of south Darfur on Monday, the 6th of April and met the Governor of South Darfur state, Mr. Ali Mahmoud Mohamed, at a press conference. The Governor gave a brief background of the state describing the total areas of the state, its population which is four million. The state is suitable for farming and it has animal resources. The two-third of the state has borders with Chad, Central and West Africa.

Meeting with Governor at a press Conference
Speaking about the conflict, the Governor Mohamed said, rebellion started in the north Darfur in 2003 and later on it came to the south. It is an extension.

Speaking about the allegation that the war is between Arabs and Africans, the Governor said, “This statement is false.” Pointing to the people sitting around him at the press conference, the Governor asked, “Can you differentiate between the Africans and the Arabs?” The Governor emphatically said, “There is no difference between Arabs and Africans. But yes, there is difference in the language spoken. Still, the main language is Arabic.”

Speaking about the IDP camps, the Governor Mr. Mohamed said, “The total population of the state is four million, whereas there are 250,000 in the camps. They mainly came from the north Darfur.”

Speaking about security situation, the Governor said, “The security situation is very stable and settle. There are 15 localities in the State. Out of these 15 localities, only one portion is not under the control of the government. But the other 14-plus are under the governmental control. So only a portion is not under the governmental control. Even this portion which is under the control of rebels, the south Darfurian government is controlling its education system.”

Speaking about the NGOs and the gaps thereof due to the expulsion of NGOs, the Governor said, “We have managed to complete the gaps with the removal of the NGOS. There was need for food, clean water and health. These services are delivered by 20 doctors, 24 assistant medical staff. During the presence of the NGOs, there was no doctor.”

Lord Ahmad, leader of the BMI Peace and Reconciliation delegation, after introducing the members of his delegation, said, “As you will be aware that the British Muslim Community was decided to bring peace in Darfur and we had been in Al-Fasher, the capital of north Darfur twice and now we want to hold peace at the local level. Peace will come only with comprehensive peace with the help of the Qatari government, United Nations, European Union and African Unity.”

“Our approach is the bottom-up approach, to bring these things to present and that’s why we are here. In the past, we met with tribal leaders, visited mosques, and had conference with Governor and leaders in north Darfur. In Khartoum, we met with Imam Sadeq Al-Mahdi and other leaders. In London, I also met Abdul Waheed Noor and other rebel leaders and tribal heads at the House of Lords,” said Lord Ahmad and added, “We have no interest, neither political, nor economical or oil. Our interest is humanitarian and peace.”

Lord Ahmad also proposed to hold a conference of all the main leaders of North and South Darfur with the rebel leaders either in London or Doha or Makkah and also to hold a Football match in London between the north and south Darfur teams under the Darfur United Football banner.

Civil Administration Meeting
Lord Ahmad addressed the tribal leaders, elders and representatives of various tribes and various organisations in the Civil Administration meeting. Lord Ahmad said, “We do not want to speak, we want to listen. The British Muslim Initiative for Peace and Reconciliation started last year and we had meetings twice at Al-Fasher with honourable brothers and sisters like you. We decided to listen to their grievances and to see how we can build peace and reconcile. Of course, we know all the people of Darfur are Muslims; 100 per cent Muslims. The Qur’an gives us very clearly the guidance. I do not have to remind you because you can understand classical Arabic better than me. But the Qur’an is full of how you make peace; Qur’an is full of peace.”

“All what we wanted is to listen to you and how you can make peace. I will remind you when Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) was only 16-17 years of age, in Halful Fadhul, he brought everybody together; people who were non-believers, people who had faith; of course there were no Muslim then. All he wanted then was to make peace. Today all the brothers and sisters that have come from the United Kingdom, of course sister Merve Kavakci from the United States, we are all here to listen to you on the Sunnah of the Prophet on how you can make peace,” said Lord Ahmad.

The Speaker then asked the leaders of different tribes to speak their ideas how to solve the problem. Twelve speakers expressed their opinions, views and ideas and plus a note from a leader was read out. Thus, 13 leaders expressed their views and opinions. They represent eleven tribes.

Lord Ahmad proposed to hold a conference before a civil administration meeting where more than sixty leaders, representatives of different tribes were assembled and thirteen of the Sixty expressed their opinions and views. They welcomed the Lord Ahmad’s proposal of having a Football match between two Darfur Teams under the Darfur United Football in London in summer on the back of holding a conference of different leaders of Darfur with the rebel leaders also at the capital of the United Kingdom.

The leaders of various tribes expressed their views on many issues. They talked about lack of development projects, about education, health, clean water and non food items. They also mentioned about the lust for power, authority and people wants to rule. Another speaker praised the British government as a great power and said many graduates came out from the British universities. But he lamented that Britain has not played its role properly. He requested the members of the delegation “to convey our greetings to the British people and government.”

Another speaker suggested two things before the conference: firstly, there should be ceasefire before the negotiation; secondly, to unite the rebellions in one body and they should represent in that one body. While supporting the idea of holding a conference outside Sudan, another leader expressed his ideas of solving the problem between nomads and farmers and also to solve other tribal conflicts. Problems will not be resolved unless the problem of poverty is solved; because of poverty, there is theft and robbery.

Football Match
After that the Governor of South Darfur took the BMI Peace delegation to a Football Match between the Tahrik Football team and the Helal Football team. Lord Ahmad presented gifts to each scorer.

Meeting at the Legislative Assembly
There was a meeting at the Legislative Assembly of the South Darfur which is composed of, according to the interim Constitution of 2005, the executive bodies, state Governor, 73 members; six women; ten executive committees in various forms; among these, there are Economic, Law, Planning, Humanitarian Affairs, Women Affairs, Agriculture and Animal resources.

The members of the Legislative Assembly represent different localities of the state. Lord Ahmed addressed the members of the Legislative Assembly. He mentioned his visit to Gaza. He also mentioned the role British Muslims are playing. Lord Ahmad said, “You have to understand, there has to be a peace process.”

On Tuesday, the 7th of April, the Governor of South Darfur took the BMI peace delegation to the biggest market place of Niyala where there are all the locally produced vegetables, fruits and hand-made shoes and garments. The Governor was shaking hands with the people, young and old, boys and girls, men and women. He was very friendly with them.

Baba Village
The British Muslim Initiative for Peace and Rehabilitation delegation visited the Baba IDP returnees’ villages at Niyala, South Darfur on Tuesday, the 7th of April 2009. Internal Displaced Persons (IDP) returned in July 2008 to their villages. Baba village is one of them. In the Baba village, there are 465 households or families. There are two schools for boys and girls and two water pumps, the village leader said.

“To make it a model village for the IDPs, they need water tanks, water-pipes inside their house. So far as the education is concerned, they have one school for boys and girls. Governor of South Darfur promised to build house for teachers,” said the village leader.

Lord Ahmad said, “I am conveying you the greetings of three million British Muslims and six million American Muslims, because sister Marwah is, though from Turkey, but now lives in America. You are like our brothers and sisters. When you feel pain we also feel pain in the UK, USA, Arabia and 1.3 billion Muslims live all over the world. We want to bring peace and hope. We don’t want killings.”

Speaking about himself, Lord Ahmad said, “My father came to the United Kingdom from Kashmir and now I am in the House of Lords, the oldest Parliament of the world.”

Giving hope to the IDPs, Lord Ahmad said, “This place has so much potential. You have oil, gas and plenty of animal resources. Why Darfur cannot be like Dubai and Abu Dhabi which were like you 40 years ago?”

Lord Ahmed also promised to “come again and instead of living in the Governor’s House at Niyala, we will stay with you one night in the village here.”

The Chairman of the UK-based Muslim Hands, said, “You came back to your village. Allah the Almighty gave you protection, security and long life with your family and children. Insha Allah, peace will come. Darfur state has lot of oil and resources. Your basic needs are water, health, sanitation, Mosque and Madrasah. Insha Allah, we will try to help you continuously and our manager will come time to time to see you.” After Muslim Hands made his promise, Lord Ahmad said, “Our delegation will see he delivers his promises.”

The UK based charity Muslim Hands started its work in south Darfur in July 2004 after its visit to Niyala. Since 2004 Muslim Hands has set up its office in Niyala. Its first Mosaih camps used to have two schools with 1600 students, three Khalwahs (Madrassahs), Health unit and dozens of latrines; one water hand pumps. Most of Mosaih people have returned to their homelands in Galdee, Banut and Draib Arreh.

In Niyala area, the Muslim Hands has done over 22 Water hand pumps, 100 improved latrines, six Madrassahs. It also helped a lot of people of Sani Dalaibah with environment protection projects such as latrines and spraying, mosquito nets health and medication and plastic sheets.

Preparatory Symposium for Darfur
Women Conference at Khartoum

The preparatory symposium for Darfur Women Conference was organised by the Sudan International University, held at Friends House, Khartoum, on 8th of April, 2009. It was a women symposium. Lord Ahmad started the symposium by reciting Surah Ar-Rahman from the Holy Qur’an. Then the President of the Sudan International University Dr. Omar Bakri said, “We are trying to focus and throw light on how to improve the life of women in Sudan.”

Lord Ahmad said, “We have only one hope – peace. We have no political interest, no interest in oil or gas. Sisters are organising this conference.”

“I must admit: war is man’s creation, they create war and the women suffer. Its women who suffer; lost their homes, their near and dear ones, shortage of foods, they were being thrown into this; they have to bring family together those who are fighting, who are fighting outside,” Lord Ahmad said.

Addressing those people who are fighting, Lord Ahmad said, “Stop fighting – stop destroying the family. Women have every right to live in peace.”

Lord Ahmad also pointed out, “We are not in competition; we are trying to bring people together; we go to the villages, meet with members of the tribes; for us we reach out and give this message of hope, message of peace, message for humanity. Darfurians are brave Muslims because Darfurian soldiers were in the Ottoman Empire. Why Darfur cannot be like Dubai and UAE which were like Darfur 30/40 years ago. You need peace. Just bring peace. That is the most important.”

Lord Ahmad also mentioned that the Women Conference which will be held at Khartoum on 21 May 2009 will be addressed by many Members of the British Parliament. “My colleague, Clara Short will be the keynote speaker in those conferences.”

Earlier, the BMI peace delegation led by Lord Ahmed met Dr. Ghazi Salahuddin, Adviser to the President and also Leader of the Parliamentary Majority and discussed about the NGOs, refugee issues and ICC indictment. In the Sunday evening, the delegation met with Dr. Nafi Ali Nafi – Assistant to the President, National Congress Party Vice President and also Dr. Mariam Sadig Al-Mahady of the Ummah Party.

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