Sudan bids to chair African summit

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The Independent Online

African human rights and civil society groups have written to the continent's leaders expressing alarm at Sudan's bid to chair the African Union, despite violence in its Darfur region.

In the letter, dated yesterday, more than 50 groups warned such a move could destroy efforts to resolve a conflict that has killed 180,000 people and displaced 2 million since 2003.

"The human rights and humanitarian situation in Sudan's Darfur region continues to be one of the worst in the world," they said. "The government of Sudan is one of the parties considered responsible for this situation."

The signatories include the Africa Peace Forum, the Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation and the Southern Africa Non-Governmental Organisation Network. Sudan's President, Omar El-Bashir, was to have chaired the summit of the 53-nation bloc in the Sudanese capital, Khartoum, on 23 January. But this would place it as participant and mediator in ongoing peace talks.