Sudan: Now or Never in Darfur
23 May 2004
The international community must act urgently - and be prepared to use force if necessary - to save hundreds of thousands of civilians whose lives are at risk because of Sudan’s brutal counter insurgency in its western region of Darfur.
Sudan: Now or Never in Darfur
,* the International Crisis Group's latest report, calls for immediate, focused action, especially from the UN Security Council, to stop the killing and widespread atrocities, prevent mass starvation, reverse ethnic cleansing, and encourage a peace process. The Security Council and key governments must also increase pressure in order to finalise a peace deal that ends Sudan's main civil war, the two-decades old insurgency of the Sudan People's Liberation Movement/Army (SPLA), but the Khartoum government must not be permitted to use that negotiation to obtain a free hand in Darfur.
"There is just enough time to save the hundreds of thousands of lives directly threatened by government-supported Janjaweed militias and looming starvation, but only if the world acts very urgently", says John Prendergast, Special Adviser to the ICG President for Africa. "If 'never again' means anything, then it's now or never in Darfur".
Since it erupted in February 2003, the long-simmering conflict in Darfur has claimed some 30,000 lives and forced an estimated 1.2 million from their homes. One million are in squalid camps within Darfur, the remainder refugees in Chad. The government continues to manipulate access for aid workers and supplies. The displaced remain vulnerable to attack by the "Janjaweed", who drove them from their homes in the first place.
Experts warn that an additional 350,000 people could perish in the next nine months, mainly from famine, disease and malnutrition. More will die if the Janjaweed - who are provoking clashes with Chad’s army by following refugees across the border - are not stopped.
International action cannot end with getting aid to those at risk. A political resolution is also needed. There must not be a repeat of much of the last twenty years in southern Sudan, when two million people perished as the aid faucet was turned off and on at the whim of the Khartoum government, and little was done until recently to deal with root causes.
The UN Security Council, which fumbled an opportunity earlier this month, should meet at once and adopt a resolution calling on Sudan's government to allow immediate, full access for aid operations to war-affected populations in Darfur. The Council should also authorise planning for a humanitarian military intervention if that is necessary as a last resort and move to reverse the ethnic cleansing by deploying human rights monitors to accompany IDPs back to their home areas.
"Urgent international action is required on several fronts if 'Darfur 2004' is not to join 'Rwanda 1994' as shorthand for international shame," says John Prendergast.