Nobel Peace laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu brought a group of international peacemaking leaders in Sudan on Sunday as part of a mission to listen to the people affected by the violent conflict in Darfur and see how they can lend their support.
Tutu chairs the council of world peacemakers and Nobel laureates known as The Elders, which was launched by former South African President Nelson Mandela. The group's first mission is Sudan, and the delegation that arrived in Khartoum included former U.S. President Jimmy Carter and Lakhdar Brahimi, a former U.N. envoy to Iraq.
"We, The Elders, are here because we care deeply for the fate of our planet, and we feel intensely for the suffering of millions of people in Darfur who yearn for nothing more than peace and dignity," Tutu told a reporters at a hotel in Khartoum.
He said the goal of the group is to listen, learn and report on the views of the people of Darfur and others concerned with the crisis.
Tutu's delegation, which is scheduled to be in Sudan until Friday, will meet government and opposition leaders and representatives from international organization representatives in Khartoum. It also plans to travel to southern Sudan and to Darfur to visit local community leaders and displaced people.
More than 200,000 people have died in Darfur and 2.5 million have been displaced in more than four years of fighting between rebel groups and government-backed militias.
Ten African Union peacekeepers were killed in an attack by rebel forces who overran their base in northern Darfur over the weekend. Several others were wounded and dozens remain missing in the unprecedented violence.
In a statement issued after his news conference, Tutu said the attack on the AU peacekeepers shows "how desperate the situation is."
The Elders was launched to celebrate Mandela's 89th birthday in July and is dedicated to finding new ways to foster peace and resolve global crises, and to support the next generation of leaders.
The brainchild of British entrepreneur Richard Branson and musician Peter Gabriel, its members include former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan; former Irish President Mary Robinson and Muhammad Yunus, founder of Grameen Bank, the pioneering micro-credit institution.