The EU must act in Darfur
The EU must act in Darfur
What’s Left of Sudan After a Year At War?
What’s Left of Sudan After a Year At War?
Op-Ed / Africa 4 minutes

The EU must act in Darfur

For four years, violence and terror have ruled in Darfur. After many futile efforts, the European Union (EU) must get tough with the perpetrators.

Darfur is a humanitarian catastrophe: more than 200,000 dead, thousands raped and tortured, and 2.6 million people displaced, owing to the Sudanese government’s war against its own people.

Originally an anti-insurgency effort, the campaign quickly mutated into a killing and expulsion operation. Sudan’s government has been recruiting and paying the local "Janjaweed" militiamen, who have attacked hundreds of defenseless villages and towns, often in close coordination with the Sudanese air force.

The consequences are devastating. Roughly a third of Darfur’s population has been forced from their homes and are now in displaced persons camps inside Sudan, where they remain subject to the Janjaweed terror, or in equally vulnerable refugee settlements in Chad. International humanitarian efforts to help those in Sudan are hampered by Sudanese government harassment and pointless bureaucratic hassles.

Even if the aid arrives, the point, to quote one senior U.N. official, seems to be "keeping people alive with our humanitarian assistance until they are massacred."

Darfur demands consistent and firm international action. We all bear responsibility to help the displaced return to their homes. In the last three years, the United Nations Security Council has passed 10 resolutions requiring the Sudanese government to change course and fulfill its obligation to protect its own people. These include a demand from the Security Council to disarm the Janjaweed. Yet the Sudanese government never follows through on its repeated promises to do so.

In November 2004, a peaceful solution was within reach, when the government and rebels signed a ceasefire and humanitarian agreement. For a short moment, there was reason to hope that peace was at hand. A Security Council resolution and international negotiation efforts had paved the way to end the 20-year war in southern Sudan _ a breakthrough that in fact led to a deal signed by the government and southern rebels in January 2005. At that time, it appeared that a similar breakthrough in western Sudan would follow.

But the worst was yet to come. After an apparent lull in aerial bombardments, the planes soon returned, and the Janjaweed resumed their campaign of murder and destruction. The next round of peace negotiations, which opened in December 2004, stalled because the government launched a military offensive just as they started, in defiance of the ceasefire. This behavior is symptomatic of the lack of respect Sudan’s government has shown towards its obligations.

A Security Council resolution last August mandated a 20,300-strong U.N. peacekeeping force to replace the small and overwhelmed African Union mission currently on the ground. Not surprisingly, the government in Khartoum rejected the idea.

Subsequent negotiations led to a compromise agreement in November for a hybrid AU(African Union)-U.N. force that would deploy in three stages. Talks continue to this day, but despite the occasional newspaper headline announcing a deal, the Sudanese government has been using every opportunity to delay or to attempt to add conditions to the force’s mandate. The result is that the second phase of the deployment has still not taken place even though it was accepted by Khartoum six months ago.

The heart of the matter is this: the Sudanese government is either unable or unwilling to protect its own citizens from mass violence. In accordance with the ``responsibility to protect’’ doctrine, adopted unanimously by heads of state and government at the U.N. World Summit in September 2005, if a state fails to meet this primary obligation, responsibility shifts to the international community, which may exercise various measures, including, if absolutely necessary, military force.

But military intervention in Darfur without the Sudanese government’s consent is not an option today. Not only is there insufficient political will for an international force, but, more importantly, there are valid doubts about the feasibility and prospects for the success of such an operation.

Even so, the international community still has options. Although it would be best if these options were adopted by the U.N. Security Council, the EU itself can and must act to increase the costs to the Sudanese government of its continued obstruction of aid deliveries and its delaying tactics on deployment of international peacekeepers.

That is why it is so important that EU foreign ministers heed the European Parliament’s call for serious sanctions against the Sudanese government, whose key players were clearly identified by a U.N. Commission of Inquiry and Panel of Experts. The EU must freeze these individuals’ assets and impose an EU-wide travel ban on them.

In addition, measures should target the Sudanese government where it hurts most: revenue and foreign investment inflows into Sudan’s petroleum sector, and supply of goods and services to that and associated sectors. The EU and its member states’ governments must enact legislation to ban companies based in their countries from direct involvement in Sudan's petroleum sector and in industries related to it.

Moreover, an investigation into the offshore accounts of Sudanese businesses affiliated with the National Congress Party, the ruling majority party in Khartoum, should be launched, paving the way for sanctions against the regime’s commercial entities, which form the main conduit for financing its Janjaweed proxies in Darfur.

Such targeted sanctions would affect the power and privileges of the key players in this crisis. By imposing them, Europe would finally take a real step towards stopping the killing in Darfur and extending meaningful help to its people.

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