Annan Gives Prize to Darfur Relief

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The New York Sun

UNITED NATIONS – Under increased pressure from the press and Congress, Secretary-General Kofi Annan yesterday decided to transfer $500,000 in prize money, which he received from Dubai, to the people of Darfur, Sudan, whose international contributions have diminished of late.

Mr. Annan’s about face, having said he would use the Emirates’ environmental prize as seed money for a charity in Africa bearing his name, came as Darfur took center stage at the international arena. It also happened on a day in which the United Nations’ top humanitarian coordinator, Jan Egeland, was forced to run for his life during a visit to the war-ravaged Darfur region.

In Washington yesterday, President Bush highlighted the situation in Darfur, which his administration has defined as genocide, by calling on the world to give refugees and war victims “more than sympathy.” Mr. Bush said he called Sudan’s President al-Bashir “both to commend him on his work for this agreement and to urge the government to express clear support for a U.N. force.”

Speaking at the White House yesterday, Mr. Bush was flanked by Secretary of State Rice and her deputy, Robert Zoelick. It was Mr. Zoelick who late last week negotiated the “agreement” Mr. Bush referred to, between the Government of Sudan, its proxy militias known as Janjaweed, and anti government forces in Darfur. Some rebel factions, however, did not sign on. Many of the nearly 2 million refugees are skeptical that Khartoum will stick to the agreement.

The Sudanese Government has yet to allow U.N. planners to enter Darfur to lay the groundwork for the arrival of a 20,000-troop U.N. peacekeeping force that would replace the current African Union force of 7,000 troops. The AU troops are “patrolling an area nearly the size of Texas, and they have reached the limits of their capabilities,” Mr. Bush said. “The vulnerable people of Darfur deserve more than sympathy. They deserve the active protection that U.N. peacekeeping can provide.”

In the refugee camp of Kalma yesterday young men with knives and sticks tried to attack an aid worker, who escaped in a U.N. vehicle and was unhurt. As Mr. Egeland arrived in the camp, he was received by several thousand demonstrators of the camp residents who chanted, demanding more international involvement to protect them.

The camp is controlled by a rebel faction that has not signed the Abuja agreement. Yesterday, Mr. Egeland, who was recently denied access to the area by the government, had to flee the angry rebels.

The half million dollar prize awarded by a panel of environmental experts to Mr. Annan became a source of embarrassment from the moment the secretary general accepted it in February. One of the judges on the board that awarded the prize, Achim Steiner, was recently appointed by Mr. Annan to become head of the U.N. Environmental Program.

Congressional aides made inquiries into the use of the prize late last week. “Given the massive shortfall in contributions to the Darfur relief effort,” Mr. Annan’s spokesman, Stephane Dujarric said yesterday, “he now feels that the money is more urgently needed there.”

The New York Sun

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