Stop another genocide
Stop another genocide
A Critical Window to Bolster Sudan’s Next Government
A Critical Window to Bolster Sudan’s Next Government
Op-Ed / Africa

Stop another genocide

The signing of a peace agreement between contending forces in a neglected conflict is often the prelude to a brief spasm of attention from the world's rulers and media, followed by a quick flight to the next story. The pattern should be broken in Sudan where, after the recent peace deal, the world needs to pay more attention, not less, to what is happening in Africa's largest country.

Since February last year, armed assaults and the systematic destruction of villages in the western Darfur region by government-supported Janjaweed militias have caused about 30,000 deaths and large-scale displacements. Now, hundreds of thousands of people are at imminent risk of starvation. Many of those in flight from their destroyed villages are being pursued over Sudan's border to Chad. If even more devastating suffering is to be averted, the international community cannot look away.

The three protocols signed by the government and the Sudan People's Liberation Army in Naivasha, Kenya, on May 26 certainly mark a milestone in ending the decades-long civil war between north and south that has claimed the lives of some two million people.

But the process does not cover Darfur, where the government's response to a separate insurgency has been brutal. There, the Janjaweed militias have slaughtered tens of thousands of civilians, burned their villages, committed systematic rape and left 1.5 million people homeless. Of these, 1.2 million are internally displaced within Sudan, most slowly starving or dying from illness in concentration camps surrounded by Janjaweed guards. The remainder have fled to Chad, where even there they are not safe from attack by the militias. At least 350,000 people could die by December.

What will stop the impending humanitarian catastrophe is swift action by the international community. Along with preparing a massive aid effort, the world must ensure that the killing stops. The UN Security Council must pass a resolution threatening international military intervention if the government of Khartoum does not act swiftly on its frequent promises to disarm and disband the Janjaweed and end their rampage.

Moreover, if Khartoum ignores the assurances it has made on relief provision and continues to prevent humanitarian aid access to those internally displaced within Sudan, then the UN must authorise a force to deliver that aid. In short, if the government cannot or will not protect its own people from murder, ethnic cleansing and starvation, the outside world must take on that responsibility.

For the sake of the 1.5 million people facing starvation and deadly disease in the government-controlled camps in Sudan and the refugee camps in Chad, a security council decision to take resolute action must come quickly.

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