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March 15 – April 14, 2003


Part I – Sudan

1. Chronology

2. Problems and progress with civilian protection

Part II- Northern Uganda

1. Briefs

Part III- Horn of Africa

1. Briefs

2. Strong link between khat and mental illness: Somaliland study

3. Somali talks still holding together despite splits

Part 1 – Sudan

1. Chronology

March 15: Rebels in Sudan's western Darfur region announced that they are now calling themselves the Sudan Liberation Movement/Army (SLM/A) and have adopted a charter calling for the replacement of Khartoum's Islamic government with a "united democratic" regime.

16: The Khartoum government and rebel Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) have agreed to extend their ceasefire until June 30, Foreign Minister Mustafa Ismail announced.

16: Sudanese security forces arrested General Tawfiq Salih Abu Kadouk, a retired army officer and chairman of the opposition Justice Party. "We regard this act as a violation of basic freedoms and the country's laws permitting political practice by a legal party," said his deputy, Amin Banani New, noting the Justice Party was licensed.

17: Sudanese President Omar el-Bashir warned that Africa would suffer from a U.S.-led strike on Iraq, at the opening of a summit of the 20-member Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) in Khartoum.

18: The Sudan government and the SPLM/A agreed to extend for one year the mandate of the U.S.-sponsored Civilian Protection Monitoring Team (CPMT) for conflict-hit southern Sudan.

19: Mekki Hamed Mekki, a former pilot from Sudan who had pleaded guilty to immigration-fraud charges, was sentenced to six months in prison in the U.S. and ordered to be deported back to Sudan.

19: Key talks between the Sudan government and the SPLA/M on the disputed areas of the Nuba mountains, Southern Blue Nile and Abyei has achieved "limited progress," said Kenya's special envoy to the talks, Lazarus Sumbeiywo. Regarding Southern Blue Nile and the Nuba mountains, the negotiating teams had managed to identify and document the root causes of the dispute. Abyei had proved more difficult, as a dispute had arisen regarding its geographical boundaries.

19: The Darfur-based Sudan Liberation Movement/Army (SLM/A) has put forth its demands to the Fur [tribe in Jabal Marrah] committee. The demands five main points, the most important of which is a general amnesty for the armed group and a [government] pledge to implement intensive development projects in Darfur state.

19: The World Food Programme (WFP) and UNICEF started the first delivery of humanitarian supplies to 115,000 drought and war-affected persons in the Blue Nile State of eastern Sudan. Investigators found that over 90 percent of the total population require food assistance.

19: Canadian oil and natural gas producer Talisman Energy Inc. can be held liable for genocide if it can be proved that the company co-operated with the Sudan government to wage war on civilians near oilfields, ruled a U.S. judge. Talisman cannot escape trial on the civil claims contained in a class-action lawsuit filed on Nov. 11, 2001, U.S. District Judge Allen Schwartz said.

20: The Sudan government broke a ceasefire between it and the Sudan Liberation Movement/Army (SLM/A) operating in Darfur, western Sudan, claimed SLM secretary general Mini Arkoi Minawi.

22: A Sudanese student named Sherif Hassaballah was killed in Khartoum by a stray bullet fired by police to disperse anti-war demonstrators trying to reach the U.S. embassy, police said.

24: The government's chief negotiator on Southern Blue Nile, Farah Ali, said the first session of negotiations on the three areas, held recently in Karen, Kenya, provided a good opportunity to refute the claims of the SPLM/A concerning the Blue Nile area, reported Sudan’s official news agency SUNA. Farah described as unfair the SPLM/A's call for separation between religion and the state because the great majority of the Blue Nile's people are Muslims who are free to choose the system that organizes their life.

25: The Arab Fund for Economic and Social development (AFESD) donated US$10 million to finance water projects in southern Sudan and other regions affected by war.

26: The United States will fight any attempt in the UN Human Rights Commission to ease pressure on the government of Sudan, said U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell. Powell told lawmakers he had already begun the effort after learning of an apparent Libyan-led effort to eliminate the position of special UN human rights rapporteur for Sudan at the commission's annual meeting now underway in Geneva.

26: The State Department reminded Americans that travel to Sudan can be dangerous because of the continuing civil war.

26: Sudanese authorities reported that two students were killed and 100 policemen were injured, three seriously, in pro-Iraq protests in Khartoum. An official statement accused unnamed parties of intentionally exploiting pro-Iraqi demonstrations in the capital, Khartoum, to achieve political agendas, saying that riots had led to casualties, injuries, and destruction of public and private property.

27: The Sudan Liberation Movement/Army (SLM/A) of Sudan’s western Darfur region said it "captured and liberated" Tina, a garrison town on the border with Chad, from government forces.

27: Sudan's ruling National Congress party decided to use force to end a month of rebellion in the western Sudan province of Darfur, bordering Chad, according to Sudan's official news agency, SUNA.

28: Reimund Reubelt, the Executive Director of the German charity Hoffnungszechen (Sign of Hope) voiced concern on the plight of thousands of people who have been forced out of their homes in southern Sudan to make room for the drilling of oil after he visited the region. He said his organisation delivered some 10 tonnes of relief supplies to the affected people this week.

28: Gerhard Baum, the United Nations special human rights investigator for Sudan, said there has been little improvement in conduct either by the government or rebel forces since its civil war began more than 20 years ago. Addressing the annual U.N. Human Rights Commission meeting, he said that, although there have been some improvements, Sudan's overall human rights picture has not changed significantly.

29: The undersecretary at Sudan’s Foreign Ministry, Dr Mutrif al-Siddiq, criticized U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell’s stand on the issue of human rights in Sudan. He said that the Sudan government "would not succumb to any pressures nor would it be dictated upon by anybody on this issue."

30: Sudan government forces have freed four tribal leaders held hostage by rebels in the north-western Darfur region, said the independent newspaper Akhbar al-Youm. The Sudan Liberation Movement/Army (SLM/A) had captured the tribal chiefs when they went to their stronghold in the Jabal Marrah Mountains to negotiate a solution that would end this new rebellion, the newspaper said.

31: The Netherlands is hosting a donor and reconstruction conference for Sudan from April 1-3 to identify and coordinate reconstruction activities in Sudan. Expected to attend are representatives of the Sudan government, the SPLA/M, the United Nations, some European countries, international financial institutions, and several non- governmental organizations.

April 1: Sudan President Omar Hassan Ahmed el-Bashir is due to arrive in Nairobi on April 2 on his one-day state visit to Kenya, said the Sudanese embassy in Nairobi. During his stay, el-Bashir is expected to meet his Kenyan counterpart Mwai Kibaki and discuss with him wide range of issues including the ongoing Sudanese peace talks, held in Nairobi. He is also expected to meet with SPLM/A leader John Garang. It would be the first meeting between the two in one year.

1: Chad said it would close its borders to prevent the infiltration of the SLM/A in Karnawi and Jabal Marrah of western Darfur State into neighbouring Chad.

1: A three-day donor conference on the reconstruction of Sudan began in Noordwijk, near the Dutch city of Amsterdam. The aim of the conference was to identify and coordinate reconstruction activities that could begin immediately after an agreement was concluded between the Sudan government and the SPLM/A, a Dutch foreign ministry statement said.

1: More than half a million Sudanese, most of who are from oil-producing regions in the southern part of the country, were forced to flee government forces and government-backed militias during the past year, according to a report released in Geneva by the Global IDP Project. Another 30,000 have fled their homes in fighting between government forces and the SPLA, bringing the total number of internally displaced persons in Sudan to 4.5 million, or more than 14 percent of the country's total population of some 32 million people, said the report.

2: Sudan President Omar el-Bashir and SPLM/A leader John Garang met in Nairobi and said that they are committed to reaching a deal in three months to end the war.

2: The Sudan Catholic Bishops' Regional Conference (SCBRC) has called for the renewal of the mandate of the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in the country. "It is especially important that the mandate be renewed, because of the present peace process and the continued human rights violations that threaten the process," the SCBRC said in a March 12, 2003 statement issued in Nairobi.

4: The Sudan government will argue that it has done all it can to reach a peace dwal with the SPLM/A to avoid being slapped with U.S. sanctions, said Foreign Minister Mustafa Osman Ismail. "The government has prepared a report that would support its position (that it has worked for a peace deal) in compliance with demands stipulated in the U.S. Sudan Peace Act," Ismail told reporters.

4: Sudan's human rights status should not be "upgraded" by the United Nations Human Rights Commission, said the Cairo-based Sudan Human Rights Organisation (SHRO). SHRO said it was "deeply stressed" that the commission might "upgrade" Sudan's status from an item 9, which mandates a special rapporteur to the country, to an item 19, which provides UN technical assistance, such as human rights training. The commission is due to take a vote on the matter on April 16.

4: The resumption of peace talks in Nairobi between the Sudan government and the SPLM/A has been deferred to April 7, mediators said. The next phase of the talks will discuss "security arrangements" during an envisaged six-year transition period when the south will be autonomous.

5: Dr Qutbi al-Mahdi, the political adviser of Sudan President Umar el-Bashir, accused Eritrea of spearheading a plan to undermine the cessation of hostility agreement between the Sudan government and the SPLM/A. It also accused Eritrea of agitating for military operations in the east of the country, as well as trying to disrupt the efforts for realization of peace.

6: Arab League Secretary-General Amr Musa met with the head of Sudan's National Democratic Alliance (NDA) Muhammad Uthman al-Mirghani. In statements, Mirghani said the meeting addressed the situation in Sudan and the role the pan-Arab organization in south Sudan would play.

7: The Sudan government and the SPLM/A began a new round of peace talks to deal with security issues. The two sides will discuss a comprehensive cease-fire, monitoring of the cease-fire, disengagement of their forces, demobilization of combatants and peacekeeping in an interim administration, said Sudan's deputy ambassador to Kenya.

7: The Civilian Protection Monitoring Team (CPMT), which was established under the framework of the Sudan peace process to monitor attacks on civilians, says it has been grounded in Rumbek and Khartoum since March 7 and therefore unable to conduct any investigations. "There is a lack of agreement between the government of Sudan and the team on their responsibilities," said CPMT Director of Operations Laney Pankey.

7: Southern Sudanese rebel leader John Garang expressed hope that comprehensive peace would be achieved in war-torn Sudan by the end of the year. Garang, leader of the SPLM/A, made the comment following a meeting in the Egyptian capital with Arab League Secretary General Amr Mussa. Meanwhile, in Parliament, Sudan President Omar el-Bashir reiterated that his aim was to reach a peace settlement with southern rebels by June.

7: Sudanese volunteers could be fighting alongside Iraqis against U.S. and British forces, admitted Foreign Minister Mustafa Ismail. He told reporters that of the estimated 6,000 Sudanese working in Iraq before the war started last month, only a third had returned home. The other 4,000 are ones with "political leanings," he said, implying they were members of the national Baath party, which has links to Iraqi President Saddam Hussein's ruling party of the same name.

7: Sudan President Omar el-Bashir demanded an "immediate end" to the U.S.-led war on Iraq and the withdrawal of forces taking part in "this illegitimate aggression."

7: France will team up with Libya on the UN Human Rights Commission to lift international restrictions on Sudan, press reports said in Khartoum. The move is expected to further spoil relations between Paris and Washington.

8: According to Muhammad Adam Yahya, chairman of the U.S.-based Masalit Community in Exile, the Sudan government has stepped up attacks against indigenous communities in Darfur, western Sudan, as part of its response to the recent formation of a new armed movement.

8: Sudan President Omar el-Bashir arrived in Cairo for discussions with his Egyptian counterpart Hosni Mubarak on a number of regional issues and the conflict in Sudan. Presidential sources said that the two leaders would also discuss the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the United States-led war against Iraq during el-Bashir's one-day visit to Egypt.

8: In an analytical paper, two independent Sudan researchers – Justin Corbett and Paul Murphy – urged mediators in the ongoing peace talks between the Sudan government and the SPLM/A to include the disputed regions of Abyei, Nuba Mountains and Southern Blue Nile if any lasting solution to the country's long-running conflict is to be reached.

8: Egyptian President Hosni Muabarak and his Sudanese counterpart Omar el-Bashir have again called for an end to the U.S.-led war in Iraq during their talks.

8: Eritrea said that it fully backed efforts to bring a negotiated settlement to the war in Sudan and rejected Khartoum's accusations to the contrary. "We have fully supported Machakos, we fully support the peace process," said Yemane Gebremeskel, the head of President Issaias Afeworki's cabinet. "Peace in Sudan will serve primarily the interest of Sudan, but also Eritrea, because then we will not have problems coming up from the Sudan."

9: Sudan's government and southern rebels remain far apart on the key issue of how to share oil, SPLM/A leader John Garang was quoted as saying in an Egyptian newspaper. Al Ahram quoted Garang as maintaining the central government should get no more than 40 percent of oil revenues, while the government was demanding 90 percent.

10: Sudan Foreign Minister Mustafa Osman Ismail said that Sudan needs international help to improve education, health, and development if it is to improve its human rights record. He said the government supported many of the goals advocated by the U.N. Human Rights Commission, but needed time and money to achieve them. The U.N. commission was expected to criticize Sudan in three main areas: sexual discrimination, sentences handed down under Islamic law calling for amputation of limbs, and the continuing practice of female circumcision, or genital cutting.

12: Henri de Cognac, special envoy French President Jacques Chirac for the Sudan peace process, appealed to the Kenyan government to ensure that France is given observer status at the ongoing Sudan peace talks.

13: Sudan and Chad have pledged to crack down on acts of instability and armed banditry along their common border, said the state news agency SUNA. Sudanese President Omar el-Bashir met his Chadian counterpart Idrisse Debbe in Fashir, capital of North Darfur state in west Sudan on April 12, where they discussed security cooperation between the two countries, SUNA said.

13: Sudan President Omar el-Bashir is expected to discuss the post-war situation in Iraq during a two-day state visit to Syria, a government newspaper said. Bashir's visit, which begins Monday, would be followed by a stopover in Saudi Arabia for similar talks, the daily Al-Anbaa said.

14: Uganda has expelled the local representative of the U.N. refugee agency (UNHCR) after he opposed the relocation of thousands of Sudanese refugees to northwestern Uganda, where they are in danger of rebel attacks from the Lord’s Resistance Army, according to the agency. The government didn't confirm that it was expelling Saidy Saihou.

14: Sudan has declared a military zone in a western province bordering Chad where a tribal rebellion is under way, said government officials. The declaration came two days after Sudanese President Omar el-Bashir met his Chadian counterpart Idriss Deby in Darfur province for talks on the rebellion, which is undermining stability on the Sudan-Chad border.

14: Sudan President Omar el-Bashir kicked off a two-day official visit to Syria with formal talks on Iraq and other "regional developments" with his Syrian counterpart Bashar al-Assad, the official SUNA news agency reported.

2. Problems and progress with civilian protection

(reprinted from IRIN, April 9)

Sudan's is Africa's longest running civil war. It is controversial not only because the humanitarian community has faced severe problems in securing free and unhindered access to affected populations, but also because of persistent reports of the deliberate military targeting of non-combatants.

Some two million people have been killed in the war and the number of Sudanese refugees, most of whom have fled fighting in the south of the country between the Khartoum government and the rebel Sudan People's Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A), has swelled to more than half a million.

Sudan also has the highest number of internally displaced persons (IDPs) in the world. About four million people having been forced from their homes, mostly by war or humanitarian emergencies exacerbated by violent conflict.

Many humanitarian, human rights and state parties have, over time, accused the Sudanese government of targeting or failing to protect civilians in the civil war, and for denying or restricting access by aid agencies to vulnerable populations, despite having formally endorsed the principle of unimpeded access.

The government, in particular, has been criticised for the indiscriminate bombing of civilians, restricting or endangering relief operations, and reportedly operating a "scorched earth policy" to clear oil production areas of civilian populations.

The UN special rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Sudan, Gerhart Baum, in November 2001 condemned "the constant disregard by both parties to the conflict of their own commitments, and lack of observance of human rights principles and humanitarian law," and drew attention to the appalling conditions of the civilian population resulting therefrom.

But a series of positive developments arising out of peace negotiations being conducted under the auspices of the regional Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) has ensued in a relatively improved humanitarian outlook for the populations of most of Sudan's war-affected regions in recent months.

This improvement in the available humanitarian space began with the July 2002 signing of the Machakos Protocol between the government and SPLM/A, which placed the issue of civilian protection high on the agenda of those talks.

A major breakthrough came in October 2002 with the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on Cessation of Hostilities, thereby undertaking, among other things, to take all necessary steps to facilitate the immediate voluntary return of the civilian population of western Upper Nile to their villages. Under the same MOU, the parties agreed to allow "unimpeded humanitarian access to all areas and for people in need, in accordance with the Operation Lifeline Sudan [OLS] Agreement."

The OLS agreement, signed in 1989 by the UN, government of Sudan and SPLM/A, was then considered a considerable achievement in the implementation of humanitarian principles towards securing a sound basis on which to deliver humanitarian assistance outside the traditional, bilateral framework.

On February 5 this year, the parties signed an addendum agreement that further strengthened the October 2002 MOU. It also announced the formation of a Verification and Monitoring Team (VMT), which would incorporate elements of the work of existing Civilian Protection Monitoring Teams (CPMTs) already working on the ground to verify reports of civilian violations.

Western Upper Nile

Despite the signing of these agreements, a number of problems have emerged, especially in January, when a fresh wave of attacks by government troops and allied militia were reported in the oil-rich western Upper Nile.

The CPMT team sent to verify the situation laid the blame squarely on the Khartoum government. In its January report, it stated that thousands of civilians had been forcibly displaced from their villages by direct military attack. Most villages are now empty or completely destroyed along the Bentiu-Adok road, according to the CPMT.

It cited eyewitness accounts of military attacks and subsequent actions by soldiers and pro-government militia, in violation of the letter and spirit of the agreement on civilian protection.

Humanitarian observers insist that the militias attack villages with the full backing of the Khartoum government. "Nowhere in the world do militia use helicopter gunships and heavy artillery," one such source told IRIN. "So, by definition, these are groups operating under proxy of the government of Sudan - the government is supporting them. The militia must be seriously addressed in the peace process, and be dealt with as well."

There are clear signs that fighting is continuing in certain areas of western Upper Nile, despite commitment by both parties to the conflict to agreements on cessation of hostilities and civilian protection, according to humanitarian sources.

The oil factor in the region has in particular assumed critical importance in the Sudanese conflict, adding a dynamic that has brought even more severe humanitarian consequences to the region's civilians, who are routinely displaced from their homes to pave the way for oil exploration, a recent research jointly commissioned by the Nairobi based Africa Centre for Technological Studies and the South African-based Institute for Security Studies noted.

The research's findings, documented in a book entitled Scarcity and Surfeit: The Ecology of Africa's Conflicts, revealed that oil had become the most valuable of Sudan's contested resources, rendering civilians in the western Upper Nile region and other oil-producing areas especially vulnerable.

Senior Sudanese diplomats involved in the peace negotiations have admitted that the "skirmishes" in the western Upper Nile region were alarming, but deny any government policy deliberately targeting civilians militarily.

"This is an area where a CPMT is operating," Muhammad Ahmad Dirdeiry, the charge d'affaires at the Sudanese embassy in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, told IRIN. "I don't think anyone would be justified in saying there is ethnic cleansing, because there is a team which is on the ground to monitor and verify the situation."

Dirdeiry, while admitting some responsibility on the part of pro-government militia, has also attributed the clashes in the region to the "absence of democracy" within areas controlled by the SPLM/A. "Some of the militia have a political agenda; others exist because of some economic factors," he said. "And some of these issues are not properly being addressed by the SPLM/A. This is the reason for the clashes from time to time."

He is, however, hopeful that this problem will be addressed through the verification process that began with the CPMT to ensure that each party became accountable for the militia it controlled. "One party will always be answerable on the issue of militia," he said. "In the meantime, we think this problem should also be addressed. The militia will also have to resign to the reality and accept the fact that they have to change their way of life."

Civilian protection monitoring

The existence of the CPMTs, which are on the ground to monitor alleged abuses against civilians in disputed regions of Sudan, is largely credited to the U.S. special envoy, Senator John Danforth, who negotiated important humanitarian agreements as part of the confidence-building measures towards a comprehensive ceasefire.

The CPMT mechanism has been hailed for addressing one of the most significant components that had been missing in the Sudan peace process: human rights and humanitarian verification and reporting. The March talks held by the IGAD extended its mandate for another year.

Humanitarian observers said the CPMT had bridged a gap that could not have been filled by OLS, the UN-led humanitarian coalition, whose humanitarian nature would have been jeopardised by documenting and reporting on abuses.

Independent human rights organisations, on the other hand, had "had little influence on the policy making process, and their recommendations were easily disregarded by the warring parties," one observer told IRIN.

"To me, the CPMT is an incredible step," this observer said. "It has a reporting mechanism that can directly influence issues at the political level. Now we have a channel everyone can feed into."

However, critics of the CPMTs argue that their mandate remains unclear and its progress has been slow.

According to Jamera Rone, a researcher with the New York based Human Rights Watch (HRW), the CPMT process is short of personnel with knowledge and experience of Sudan, its peoples and history.

The CPMT had also ignored important investigations on civilian abuses in Khartoum, where there are extensive reports of forcible recruitment of southerners living in the city by a government militia leader, Rone told IRIN. "The CPMT has not utilised its capacity fully, particularly in the crucial area of gathering information from the civilian victims it is supposed to protect," Rone said. "Examination of shrapnel alone will never tell us how many civilians were injured or killed by a bomb."

The CPMT's strength, according to the HRW researcher, has been its logistical capacity and military analysis. "It has demonstrated to the government of Sudan and its militias, and to the SPLM/A, that it can gather hard military forensic evidence of what has really happened," Rone said. "It has shown that it has the capacity to cut through the propaganda war and the parties' exaggerations and untruths about what is really going on in remote areas of Sudan."

Peter Adwok, a Sudanese scholar, is also unimpressed with the work of the CPMTs so far. "I don't think they have done anything since the team was established last year," Adwok told IRIN. "The war on civilians continues, and they don't interfere. We are wondering what they are doing. They don't even go to the ground to look for information. They just get second-hand information."

There are also emerging concerns that confusion over the CPMT's mandate has led to increased restrictions on its operations. CPMT Director of Operations, Laney Pankey, told IRIN in April that the work of the two teams based in Rumbek and Khartoum, had been grounded for nearly a month.

The teams had been unable since March 7 to make any visits to sites to complete investigations or initiate new investigations into fresh reports of abuses, he said. "There is a lack of agreement between the government of Sudan and the team on their responsibilities," Pankey said. "We have only been able to conduct administrative flights to deliver supplies or relocate personnel."

According to Pankey, normal procedure would involve the CPMT notifying the Sudanese foreign ministry of any planned investigations, which would in turn notify a military intelligence division. However, Sudanese military intelligence had stopped processing these notifications since March 7.

Pankey emphasised, however, that the teams did not require any permission or authority to travel to conduct their investigations, but they did need "the full support and cooperation" from the military and local militias for reasons of safety and security. "We think the agreement is very simple, concise, clear and precise, in that they will facilitate and support our visits and investigations where required to," he said. "They are supposed to provide security protection and acknowledge what we are going to do," he said.

Nuba ceasefire

The January 2002 Nuba Mountains ceasefire between the Sudanese government and the SPLM/A has achieved a good measure of success, especially in allowing humanitarian access to the area, which had long been closed to relief agencies. In January 2003, the ceasefire was extended for another six months.

Brokered by the US and Swiss governments, the Nuba ceasefire was an undertaking by the Sudanese government and SPLM/A to end the abduction of civilians; allow international monitors to investigate attacks on civilians; and establish tranquillity to facilitate the delivery of humanitarian aid in the Nuba region of Southern Kordofan, south-central Sudan.

The ceasefire is being managed and monitored by a Joint Military Commission, comprising representatives from both the government and the SPLM/A and an international monitoring presence, including military and civilian staff.

The negotiated ceasefire, which came into force on January 22, 2002, curbed large-scale fighting in the Nuba Mountains and paved the way for large humanitarian operations, which helped avert what had been flagged as a potential famine looming in the region.

The region had been blocked to humanitarian access for over a decade by access denials – flying in the face of international humanitarian law – and intensive fighting.

A baseline study on the Nuba Mountains, carried out by the Office of the UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator in Sudan in November 2002, said the ceasefire had contributed to an improvement of people's lives and facilitated increased freedom of movement, as well as improved access to assets and resources.

In the words of Dirdeiry, the Nuba ceasefire is a "really remarkable" step towards development in the region. "For over a year, a monitored ceasefire is in place," he said. "In the past, there was concern in that area over humanitarian access. That has completely been addressed."

Dirdeiry said that as a result of the progress in Nuba, the parties were encouraged to move on towards negotiating a final peace deal for the region in the ongoing round of talks, which have also focused on the disputed areas of western Upper Nile and southern Blue Nile.

The Nuba Mountains ceasefire and its implementation may provide a model for the entire Sudanese peace process, particularly due to its historic interaction with both the north and the south, according to one analyst. "The ceasefire has held very well and may be very predictive of what may happen in the context of a final ceasefire," he told IRIN.

Despite the success of the Nuba ceasefire, analysts have stressed that the humanitarian agreements signed could not be implemented without a clear framework for enforcement of the recommendations of the monitoring teams. Some sources have said the success of the agreement depends on sustained pressure being brought to bear by the U.S. on the Sudanese government, which it still lists among the world's leading state sponsors of terrorism.

"Khartoum is still very sensitive about the evil tag it got from the Bush administration as one of the leading state sponsors of international terrorism," one observer told IRIN. "They want to be seen to be cooperating in the peace process."

Access in Blue Nile

Another breakthrough regarding civilian protection in Sudan was achieved in March when the UN's leading humanitarian agencies began sending food relief to Blue Nile State in the east.

The area was opened to aid agencies following lengthy separate bilateral negotiations between the UN, the Government of Sudan and the SPLM/A in mid-January, followed by a joint assessment of the humanitarian situation in the region.

The World Food Programme and United Nations Children's Fund announced on March 19 that they had started the first large-scale operation to deliver essential assistance to 115,000 drought and war-affected persons in the region.

The humanitarian assessment had indicated that over 90 percent of the total population was in need of food assistance, the statement said. The situation was worse for internally displaced persons, 60 percent of whom were children and women, whose survival was challenged by inadequate food and frequent illnesses.

The protracted conflict in the region has destroyed nearly all infrastructure and created large-scale humanitarian needs, according to recent humanitarian assessments. Until now, the southern Blue Nile region has been inaccessible to large-scale humanitarian operations carried out by OLS, due to objections by the Khartoum government.

Humanitarian programmes in the region have been limited to a few non-OLS relief agencies. Monitoring groups were only able to assess humanitarian needs in the region following the cessation of hostilities agreement reached during last year's Machakos negotiations.

Increased humanitarian access to southern Blue Nile has also been credited to a U.S. government focus on Sudan, and increased U.S. pressure on the Khartoum government, which had argued that southern Blue Nile was outside the area historically considered southern Sudan, and lay outside the OLS humanitarian mandate.

Recent assessments indicate that southern Blue Nile requires sustained emergency assistance, due primarily to prolonged insecurity. Global malnutrition levels have risen to more than 20 percent in the region, according to aid workers. "People are leaving in search of water and food. These people need assistance. It is getting too late," a relief worker told IRIN.

Humanitarian prospects

Although agreements for the Nuba Mountains and other disputed areas of Sudan have served to improve humanitarian access, analysts stress that, without efforts to arrive at a genuine settlement to the Sudanese war, this is superficial.

The March round of the IGAD talks focused on the administration of the three disputed areas of southern Blue Nile, and the Nuba Mountains and Abyei areas of Southern Kordofan. The talks also extended the mandate of the CPMTs to monitor and verify claims of attacks on civilians. IGAD ministers from Kenya, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Djibouti and Uganda also agreed that member states should contribute personnel to the VMT, an IGAD statement said.

There have, however, been fears that concessions secured on the protection of civilians would be lost with the US government's preoccupation with its war on Iraq. Such fears appear to have gained credence with recent lapses in the Cessation of Hostilities, but are dismissed by Kenyan Foreign Minister Kalonzo Musyoka, who said they were based on exaggeration of the US input in the peace process.

"There is no parallel between the peace process and the war [in Iraq]. This is a regional countries' undertaking, which we must see through if we hope to have a stable community," Musyoka told journalists in Nairobi.

With new challenges emerging on the political front - especially in determining the future status of disputed areas of Nuba Mountains, Abyei and southern Blue Nile, which are not considered part of the south by the government, but where much of the population backs the southern rebellion - civilian protection will continue to be a key focus area in the ongoing peace process.

"Through the IGAD process, we have reinvigorated efforts to bring peace to Sudan," Dirdeiry told IRIN. "Civilian protection is one of the areas in which we have made significant progress."

In Sudan, a key problem will be moving from positive rhetoric and signed agreements – often delivered in the past – to establishing a culture of civilian protection and an end to impunity for violations of international humanitarian law.

In that light, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) recently welcomed the creation by President Umar Hasan el-Bashir in February of a national commission on international humanitarian law, describing it as "a major step toward effective implementation of humanitarian law in Sudan."

The commission's task would be to advise and assist the government in spreading knowledge of and applying international humanitarian law, and thus meeting its international obligations, said the ICRC in Khartoum. The government, it said, "must adopt laws to ensure, for example, that prisoners of war, wounded and sick combatants and civilians benefit from the guarantees to which they are entitled."

Yet, barely a week after the release of the ICRC's statement, the Brussels-based International Crisis Group (ICG) noted that, in continuing violation of agreements it had signed, the government and proxy forces were continuing attacks in oilfield areas of western Upper Nile, and that "the primary victims of the violence are civilians."

Calling for the political engagement that would support and copper-fasten peace agreements and improved humanitarian access, ICG Africa Programme Co-Director John Prendergast called on the international community to "immediately condemn the new and continuing attacks."

"The parties must be held accountable for agreements signed in the context of the peace process", he said. "Otherwise, neither the government, the SPLM/A nor the Sudanese people can be expected to take the process seriously."

[This article is one of a series of reports and interviews that comprise a new IRIN Web Special on Civilian Protection in Armed Conflict. See IRIN’s site, for more details].

Part II- Northern Uganda

1. Briefs

March 17: The Uganda government extended its cessation of hostilities for a further five days to allow contact between the government peace team and the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) rebel group. A spokeswoman for the government peace team, Betty Aketch, said that this time around the team would make every effort to meet the rebels.

18: Rebels of the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) killed eight people during an ambush on a truck in Mucwini, Kitgum district, in the north of the country, according to the Ugandan army. The eight were reportedly killed instantly when the LRA hit the truck with a rocket propelled grenade.

21: Uganda President Yoweri Museveni will decide on March 22 whether to extend the ceasefire in two locations in Pader district, in the north of the country, to allow for peace talks with the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) rebel group.

21: The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has warned that Uganda must stick to its budget plans, particularly in the area of defence. "They [IMF directors] note with concern that, in the fiscal year 2002/03, in light of the security problems in the north of the country, defence spending will be considerably higher than budgeted," said the IMF in a summary of its annual review of the Ugandan economy. The IMF is concerned that there is under-financing of some social and economic programmes.

26: Rebels of the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) reportedly killed a government peace envoy, dampening hopes for a peaceful end to the 17-year insurgency in northern Uganda. Media reports said Okech Kuru, a Ugandan army officer, was killed at Lapul, a sub county of Pader district, during a peace mission. He had established contact with the rebel group to deliver a message and some communication equipment to an LRA commander, Charles Tabuley, Uganda's independent 'Monitor' newspaper reported.

31: Uganda President Yoweri Museveni said that the government was not spending enough on defence. "The country's insecurity has been lingering on because of underspending on defence, which is a big mistake that will not be repeated," he told a conference of the ruling Movement party in Kampala. He said the war against the LRA in the north had been going on for a long time "because we do not have good military equipment." April 1: The Ugandan Constitutional Court upheld a law that allows the execution of Ugandan soldiers without appeal to the Supreme Court.

1: President Yoweri Museveni’s decision to allow political parties to operate freely in Uganda could help end a 17-year insurgency in northern Uganda and increase the prospects for peace with the rebel Lord's Resistance Army (LRA), according to regional analysts. David Mafabi, the political director of the Kampala based think tank, the Pan African Movement, said that opening up the political space in Uganda would reduce the number of political groups taking up arms.

3: Ugandan opposition leaders have vowed to block the decision by members of the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) to allow President Yoweri Museveni to run for a third term in office. The decision to remove the presidential term limit provided for in the constitution was reached this week by some 200 members of the NRM's top decision-making organ, the National Executive Committee (NEC), at a conference in the capital, Kampala. Museveni, whose current term ends in 2006, is Uganda's longest-serving president.

7: A senior military official and the head of the presidential peace team in Uganda, Salim Saleh, threatened to leave the team if the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) rebels do not show commitment to peace talks. The rebels declared a unilateral ceasefire on 1 March, but have been accused of numerous violent incidents and abductions since then.

10: The rebel Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) has reportedly said the Ugandan government must declare an unconditional ceasefire before it will nominate a peace negotiating team.

11: A report released this week by the Uganda Human Rights Commission has accused government security agents of torture. The report heavily implicated the Chieftaincy of Military Intelligence (CMI) – a military intelligence security department in the Ugandan People's Defence Force (UPDF) – and the Internal Security Organisation (ISO), part of the ministry of internal affairs, which controls internal security. There were 158 cases of torture reported in 1999, 97 cases in 2000 and 152 in 2001, the report said. The majority of cases occurred while victims were being held in custody.

Part III- Horn of Africa

1. Briefs

March 17: The UN Security Council called on Ethiopia and Eritrea to accept an independent ruling on demarcation of their common boundary. In a resolution, adopted on March 14, the 15-nation council also approved a six-month extension of the UN peacekeeping mission's (UNMEE) mandate, until September 15.

17: The authorities in the self-declared republic of Somaliland reiterated that they would not take part in the ongoing Somali reconciliation talks in Kenya. According to a statement issued on Sunday by the region's information minister, Abdullahi Duale, Somaliland was not a party to the Somali conflict.

18: The Ethiopian government's Disaster Prevention and Preparedness Commission (DPPC) and the UN have appealed for more aid to address the humanitarian crisis in the country. In an addendum to their joint appeal for 2003 issued in December, they estimated that about 20 percent of Ethiopia's population was at risk due to the drought currently affecting the country.

18: The food crisis in Afar - one of Ethiopia’s hardest hit regions - is improving, according to the UN’s Emergencies Unit for Ethiopia (EUE). But it warned that the crisis was not over yet.

18: Bethuel Kiplagat, the Kenyan chairman of the Somali peace talks, said the Somali National Reconciliation Conference would soon start work on setting up a provisional, broad-based federal government for Somalia, but appealed for guidance on how this should be done.

19: Fears are growing that women and girls could be subjected to sexual abuse after being forced from their homes because of the drought currently gripping Ethiopia, said UNICEF. It said emergency peacekeeping and humanitarian operations must insist on a zero tolerance approach to sexual abuse.

19: Military leaders from Ethiopia and Eritrea were scheduled to meet in Djibouti today as the war of words over border demarcation intensifies. The talks, part of the regular Military Coordination Commission (MCC) meetings held under UN auspices, come amid growing tension between the two sides with border demarcation just over three months away.

19: Heavy fighting has again broken out in the Medina district of Mogadishu, according to sources in the Somali capital. The fighting pits militias loyal to faction leader Muse Sudi Yalahow against those led by his former right-hand man, Umar Mahmud Muhammad Finish. The clashes began on March 18. At least 10 people have been killed and scores wounded.

19: Ethiopia and Eritrea are to play a role in the disarmament of Iraq, according to the U.S. government. They will join 28 other countries that have agreed to be coalition members, the U.S. said. The list of countries was released by the State Department on March 18.

19: The town of Badme "has been Eritrean and will remain so," Eritrea's acting Information Minister Ali Abdu Ahmed stated in an open letter to the British Broadcasting Corporation. The minister pointed to the April 2002 border ruling issued by an independent boundary commission, which "asserts that Badme is in Eritrea," and therefore Eritrean forces could not have invaded their own territory.

20: As campaigning kicked off for Somaliland's first multiparty presidential elections, leading opposition contender Ahmed Muhammad Silaanyo said the international community should support the self-declared republic's fledgling democratic process. "What Somaliland is doing is an experiment which is, yes, nebulous and new, but worthwhile and which I believe the international community should help with," he said.

21: Ethiopia says it has given the U.S. overflight and landing rights in the war against Iraq.

21: An armed Eritrean Islamic group claimed responsibility for a mine blast last month that killed five Eritrean militia, including a colonel, in the buffer zone separating Eritrea and Ethiopia. The opposition Eritrean Islamic Jihad Movement (EIJM) claimed on the Internet that the "Mujahedin" were behind the landmine ambush.

21: Eritrea has accused Ethiopia of laying mines in the buffer zone between the two countries, an allegation Addis Ababa described as "surprising." The claims were made by Eritrea's Commissioner for coordination with the UN peacekeeping force, Brigadier General Abrahaley Kifle, after military leaders from both countries met in Djibouti earlier in the week.

21: UN force commander Robert Gordon praised the Ethiopian and Eritrean armed forces for their "disciplined and faultless" commitment to the peace process. His comments were contained in a statement released by the UN Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea (UNMEE) after the 16th Military Coordination Commission (MCC) meeting.

24: The UN Secretary General's Special Representative, Legwaila Joseph Legwaila, said that security plans for the impending demarcation of the border between Ethiopia and Eritrea are being drawn up.

24: The UN’s Emergencies Unit for Ethiopia (EUE) warned of a new food crisis "in the making" because of a lack of planting seeds for farmers. The unit said hundreds of thousands of farmers are in urgent need of seeds so that they can plant crops to harvest after the current short rains in the country. Without the seeds, farmers will once again be forced to rely on international aid to survive.

24: The force commander of the UN peacekeeping mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea (UNMEE) held talks with the head of the U.S. anti-terror taskforce based in Djibouti. The two-day talks, which took place the previous week between UNMEE's Major General Robert Gordon and Major General John F. Sattler, focused on security in the Horn of Africa and how to ensure long-term stability in the war-ravaged region.

25: The Somali peace talks currently underway in Kenya have achieved very few tangible results, said members of Somali civil society. In a statement, the group listed a range of objectives it said had not been met. These included "peace and national reconciliation, agreement on a provisional charter and other core issues, as well as the establishment of a national government."

27: Ethiopia and Eritrea, both reeling from severe drought, are to receive an additional 200,000 mt of food aid from the U.S.

27: Sudanese oil shipments to Ethiopia are expected to restart in April after grinding to a halt barely two weeks after deliveries began, said an official at the Ethiopian petroleum ministry.

27: President Isayas Afewerki's top economic adviser, Dr Woldai Futur, on accused the international community of subjecting Eritrea to "double standards" over human rights issues. Speaking to reporters at the Office of the President in Asmara, he said conditions imposed on Eritrea in the field of human rights were "much harsher" than those imposed on other countries.

28: Somali women attending the ongoing peace conference in Nairobi called for women's rights to be included in all stages of the peace process. The women met Kenyan mediator Bethuel Kiplagat to urge his support for their cause. Somali women delegates have agreed to advocate for at least 25 percent representation in the new institutions, including parliament.

28: The independent Boundary Commission has rejected calls by Ethiopia for variations to the contested border with neighbouring Eritrea and called for moving ahead with demarcation. In an 11-page "observations" report issued on 21 March, the Eritrea-Ethiopia Boundary Commission (EEBC) also stated that the now-symbolic village of Badme – where the two-year border war flared up – was in Eritrea.

31: The UN refugee agency, UNHCR, says the voluntary repatriation of Eritreans from Sudan is set to resume soon. The convoys, returning Eritrean refugees to their homeland, stopped last October due to military activity in the Kassala area of Sudan and the closure of the Eritrea-Sudan border.

31: Somalia's Transitional National Government was not planning to leave peace talks in Nairobi, Kenya, despite a meeting in Mogadishu at the weekend between the TNG and faction leaders, said TNG spokesman Ahmed Isse Awad.

April 1: Tsirgay Berhe, the president of Ethiopia’s Tigray region, which borders Eritrea, warned of local clashes following a recent announcement that the controversial village of Badme is in Eritrea.

1: A United Nations panel of experts has recommended imposing sanctions on violators of the UN arms embargo on Somalia. "As the arms embargo has been consistently violated since its imposition, it has no normative value, and none of the Somali faction leaders or their regional sponsors has been held accountable. A feeling that 'business as usual' will continue indefinitely prevails," said the report to the Council.

1: A high-level UN team recently visited the Somali capital, Mogadishu, to discuss issues of humanitarian access and security, said a UN official. The team, led by Maxwell Gaylard, the UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for Somalia, held talks with the president of the Transitional National Government, a number of faction leaders, and members of the business community and local NGOs, said OCHA representative Calum McLean.

2: The Somali Reconciliation and Restoration Council (SRRC) has strongly objected to the recent creation of a Harmonisation Committee (HC) by the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development's (IGAD) Technical Committee steering the Somali peace talks being held in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, according to a senior SRRC member.

3: The Paris-based media watchdog, Reporters Sans Frontieres (RSF), called on the E.U. development commissioner Poul Nielson, who is currently visiting the Horn of Africa region, to link the resumption of economic aid to Eritrea to the release of 18 detained journalists.

4: The African Development Bank (ADB) approved an aid package of US$1 million for Ethiopia and Eritrea to help them fight devastating drought.

4: The UN expressed "concern" over the fragile state of the peace process between Ethiopia and Eritrea. Its warning came as the independent boundary commission upheld a ruling that the symbolic village of Badme was in Eritrea – a decision opposed by Ethiopia.

7: A major resettlement programme for thousands of people is underway in northern Ethiopia, despite a warning that facilities like water and health supplies are not in place. Some 75,000 people are expected to be moved from central Tigray to western areas of the region within the next five months. Several thousand started moving in late February. But according to the UN’s Emergencies Unit for Ethiopia (EUE), local officials in charge of the resettlement are cautioning that supplies are not ready for the move.

7: Eritrean President Isayas Afewerki has become the first head of state from the Horn of Africa to visit the operational headquarters of the Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA) aboard the USS Mount Whitney, according to a press statement from the CJTF-HOA. The two sides discussed a number of topics, "primarily focusing on the CJTF-HOA mission to detect, disrupt and defeat transnational terrorist groups in the Horn of Africa region."

7: The Ethiopian government voiced its opposition to an independent boundary ruling that places the symbolic village of Badme in Eritrea. In a statement, the information ministry accused the Eritrea-Ethiopia Boundary Commission (EEBC) of "misinterpreting" the Algiers peace accord of December 2000 and the border ruling of 13 April 2002.

8: There will be no elections in the disputed regions of Sool and Sanaag when Somaliland holds its presidential polls next week, according to the neighbouring self-declared autonomous region of Puntland. Both the self-declared republic of Somaliland and Puntland claim the regions, which geographically fall within the borders of the former British Somaliland, but where the majority of the clans inhabiting them are associated with Puntland.

9: Almost all parts of the self-declared republic of Somaliland are facing serious water and food shortages, said its minister of pastoral development and environment, Muhammad Muse Awale.

9: The UN Security Council has ordered an extension of the mandate of the UN panel of experts investigating violations of the arms embargo against Somalia for a further six months. UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan named the three-member panel last September. The UN imposed the embargo in 1992, following the outbreak of civil war in Somalia.

9: Farmers in lowland areas of eastern Ethiopia are increasingly turning to the narcotic khat, according to the UN’s Emergencies Unit for Ethiopia (EUE). It said the sharp rise in the use of the mild stimulant may be due to the fact that local people were becoming despondent about their future in the drought-hit Haraghe region of eastern Ethiopia.

10: More than 1,000 people were victims of "unlawful killings" in Ethiopia last year – many at the hands of the security forces, according to the U.S. State Department. In an annual report, released by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labour, the U.S. also criticised the Ethiopian government’s human rights record.

11: Top party officials have been touring European countries to warn Eritreans to "be prepared for any eventuality" ahead of border demarcation. According to Shaebia, the website of the ruling People's Front for Democracy and Justice (PFDJ), the party's secretary-general Al-amin Mohammed Seid told a recent meeting of Eritreans in Rotterdam, Holland that Ethiopia "is trying to disrupt the peace process and seems to be heading for war."

14: Ethiopian Foreign Minister Seyoum Mesfin said his government has the "right to reject unjust decisions" regarding the border with Eritrea, but it will not resort to force, the pro-government Walta Information Centre reported. "We are simply appealing to the [Eritrea-Ethiopia Boundary] Commission to reconsider its unjust decisions in some parts of the border," he told reporters in Addis Ababa.

14: Voters in the self-declared republic of Somaliland started casting their ballots in the breakaway region's first multi-party presidential elections. The chairman of Somaliland's Electoral Commission Ahmed Haji Ali "Adami" said that voting was proceeding "very well" and there was a high turnout. Over a million Somalilanders are eligible to vote.

14: The Swedish government has announced it will double aid to Ethiopia, but warned that the deal could be jeopardised if war breaks out with Eritrea. Lars Ronnas, deputy head of the Department for Africa in the Swedish government, said it would be "difficult" to justify a major aid package during renewed conflict in the Horn.

2. Strong link between khat and mental illness: Somaliland study

By Cathy Majtenyi

One family out of every five in the self-declared republic of Somaliland is caring for at least one family member with severe mental health problems, says a report that was recently presented at the Somali peace talks being held in Nairobi.

Most of those members with mental health problems are former fighters. And, in virtually all cases, they had abused khat, a local plant – which contains an amphetamine – whose leaves are chewed, according to the study, conducted jointly by the Italian-based non-government organisation VIVO and the German aid agency GTZ.

The study, released in February of this year, said that 20 percent of former fighters suffer from some form of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and a further 20 percent from depression, conditions that led most of them to abuse khat.

"Increasing evidence emerged that the interaction between traumatisation (PTSD) and drug abuse (khat) can have devastating effects on the mental health of the ex-combatants by leading to a high prevalence of severe drug-induced psychosis: paranoid delusions and hallucinations elicited subsequent de-realization, fear, aggression and mental incapacity," said the study.

The VIVO-GTZ study, titled "War-trauma, Khat Abuse and Psychosis: Mental Health in the Demobilization and Reintegration Program Somalia," arose out of GTZ’s Demobilization and Reintegration Program in Somaliland, explained Dr. Harald Hinkel, DDR specialist with GTZ.

Two years ago, program staff noted that an unusually high number of ex-fighters referred to GTZ’s program seemed "not 100 percent normal," but there were no mental health professionals on hand to verify this observation, Dr. Hinkel explained.

At first, staff thought that their partners had "pre-selected" and sent GTZ the "difficult" cases to reintegrate back into Somaliland society. After linking up with VIVO, GTZ decided to research the matter in late 2001.

The results were startling: a full 30 percent of ex-fighters had mental health problems, and many more men than women suffered from these problems (usually, an equal number of men and women suffer from mental health problems).

GTZ and VIVO then decided to conduct a second study to see what was the prevalence of mental health problems in the Somaliland population as a whole. In early 2002, they randomly surveyed 612 households in Hargeisa, Somaliland’s capital, to determine the incidence of mental illness.

The results were even more disturbing. Researchers discovered that 2.8 percent of those surveyed displayed schizophrenia disorders: the percentage in all populations in the world is about one percent. "We have a significantly higher percentage only in that country [Somalia]," said Dr. Hinkel.

Khat abuse was found to be present in 80 percent of the cases of schizophrenia disorders, said the study. The study also noted that ex-fighters "are four times more likely to suffer from severe mental ill-health than the general Somaliland population and two times more likely than civilian war survivors."

The studies confirmed GTZ’s darkest thoughts: "Our assumptions or fears about any pre-selection by our partners were wrong; this is the reality," said Dr. Hinkel.

Although this is one of the first studies of its kind related to khat use, Dr. Hinkel said the literature contains similar reports of cases of amphetamine-induced psychosis in Europe and the United States.

And, other former fighters have suffered similar fates. "You have the similar situation in American soldiers, after the Vietnam War, [who abused] alcohol," he said, adding that alcohol exacerbated problems of violence due to PTSD flashbacks and other situations. "The problem with khat seems to be that there are indications for the damage being irreversible."

Before the outbreak of the war in 1991, people traditionally chewed khat on Thursdays, which enabled them to pray and read the Qu’ran before Friday, the Muslim day of worship.

Following the war’s outbreak, many people – particularly fighters – would chew khat constantly for three or four days on end, then take tranquillisers to sleep. After two days of sleep, they would wake up to repeat the cycle again. They would only drink sodas or tea, as khat is a "de-appetizer," said Dr. Hinkel.

The equivalent in the west is that "if you would drink two bottles of hard liquor every day [for three days] without eating, then take valium to sleep [for two days] for three years, I would assume that you would not be considered as a normal person either," he said.

And the results of this abuse have been devastating. Most mentally ill people are chained to concrete blocks inside their homes and are cared for by women who are subsequently marginalized because it is widely believed that the mental illness is contagious. These women are commonly underfed while their charges eat well, he said.

Dr. Hinkel said that when the report was presented to the disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration committee at the Somali National Reconciliation Conference, members acknowledged that there was a problem.

"Everybody knows that this kind of problem is there; nobody knows to which extent," he said, adding that some denied the problem existed because they were afraid that they would have to give up using khat. He said people can still use khat occasionally like in the past, not every day for days on end.

Asha Abdalla, Minister of Demobilization, Disarmament and Reintegration in Somalia’s Transitional National Government (TNG), said that khat abuse has a big impact on Somalia’s economy and social structure.

"It makes them [khat abusers] lazy," she said. "All night long they chew khat and sleep during the day."

She said that the khat trade benefits Ethiopia, Kenya, and Yemen, the main sources of khat in the area.

3. Somali talks still holding together despite splits

By Cathy Majtenyi

A peace-building meeting that several faction leaders attended at the end of March in Mogadishu should not be seen as a "parallel" initiative to the Somali peace talks currently being held in Nairobi, said a representative of Somalia’s Transitional National Government (TNG).

During the last weekend in March, TNG president Abdiqassim Salaad Hassan met with faction leaders from the United Somali Congress (USC), the USC/Somali National Alliance (SNA) – Nakuru group, the Juba Valley Alliance, and the Rahanwein Resistance Army to discuss peace and security issues in Somalia’s capital and beyond. Sources say the League of Arab Nations funded the meeting.

The move was widely seen as a vote of non-confidence for the troubled Somali National Reconciliation Conference, which began in Eldoret, Kenya last October under the direction of the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD).

According to Hussein Farah Aideed, chairman of the USC/SNA and co-chairman of the Somali Restorat

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