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02 octobre 2007

Elders Visit Darfur For First Mission

A group of world-renowned humanitarians is visiting Sudan to address the “immense human suffering” in the Darfur’s ongoing crisis, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, the chair of The Elders has said in Khartoum.

"We are here in Sudan because we want to listen to the voices of those who have not been heard and want to explore ways that we can lend our own voices to peace,"
Archbishop Tutu said.

Tutu is heading the Elders delegation to Sudan, which also includes former United States President Jimmy Carter, rights activist Graça Machel, and former United Nations envoy Lakhar Brahimi. The Elders is a group of leaders, formed by former South African President Nelson Mandela in association with British businessman Richard Branson and rock star Peter Gabriel, who seek to use their experiences to find solutions to the world's biggest problems.

The Elders delegation will meet with with Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir in Khartoum before heading south to Juba to meet with Vice President Salva Kiir. The Elders delegation is visiting South Sudan to "find ways to contribute to the peace process," Tutu said.

The delegation will conclude its visit with stops in Darfur in hopes of gaining of better understanding of events on the ground. "We hope to lend our strength to those who are determined to bring an end to this devastating war," Tutu said.

The visit comes during an upsurge in violence in the Darfur region. On Saturday, an attack killed 10 African Union peacekeepers, and the AU believes that up 40 peacekeepers are still missing and presumed captured. General Martin Agwai of the African Union told the BBC that the the group responsible for the attack "broke away from a faction called SLA United."

UN Secretary-General Ban ki-Moon called the attack "outrageous." When asked about the attack, Tutu told the BBC, "it just shows how desperate the situation is, how desperately we've got to find a peaceful solution so that incidents of that kind don't happen."

Tutu reported that the Elders delegation will finish its visit on October 3, and write a report shortly thereafter.

Mandela formed The Elders on his 89th birthday. The Darfur visit is The Elders' first mission. When he announced the formation of The Elders, Mandela said, "This group can speak freely and boldly, working both publicly and behind the scenes on whatever actions need to be taken. Together we will work to support courage where there is fear, foster agreement where there is conflict, and inspire hope where there is despair."

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