Home | News    Friday 19 November 2004

UN adopts resolution on Sudan as foes pledge to clinch peace

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NAIROBI, Nov 19 (AFP) — The UN Security Council unanimously adopted a resolution pushing for peace in war-ravaged Sudan, but it was immediately slammed by aid agencies as weak and wrong-headed.

UN Security Council chairman John Danforth (c) signs a declaration flanked by Government of Sudan representative Yaya Hussein Babikar (l) and SPLA (Sudan People Liberation Army) Nhial Deng Nhial (r) during a special session of the Security Council focused on Sudan in Nairobi.(AFP).

The protagonists in Sudan’s main civil war, which ignited in 1983, also pledged in an annex to the resolution to conclude two years of talks with a comprehensive peace accord by the end of the year.

Aimed at fostering "lasting peace and stability and to build a prosperous and united Sudan," the UN resolution 1574 specifically urges the Khartoum government and southern rebel Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A) to make good on that pledge.

It dangles the prospect of massive development aid if a deal is struck, and suggests its signing would help to bring peace to other areas of Sudan, notably the western region of Darfur, where a separate conflict has spawned what the UN terms the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.

It demanded that government and rebel forces in Darfur, where war erupted in February 2003 "cease all violence and attacks, including abduction (and) refrain from forcible relocation of civilians."

But it removed a direct threat of sanctions against Khartoum if it failed to end the violence.

Human rights groups place most of the blame for massive human rights abuses and crimes against humanity in Darfur on government forces and their allied militia.

And the international aid agency Oxfam was first off the mark to damn the resolution, slamming it even before it was officially adopted as "weak" and "dithering"

"Instead of responding to the ongoing crisis" in Darfur "with concrete action, the Security Council could only agree to ’monitor compliance’ with previous resolutions," Oxfam said in a statement.

"For the people of Darfur, ’monitoring compliance’ has become UN speak for more death and suffering," the statement added.

While the resolution does indirectly recall that the threat of sanctions hangs over Khartoum if it fails to rein in militias blamed for widespread human rights abuses in Darfur, it stipulates that such sanctions would only be effected after yet another resolution.

Although Oxfam recognised that the point of the resolution was to push for a north-south peace deal and that this would have long term benefits in Darfur, the agency stressed that "people are dying there every day."

"From New York to Nairobi, a trail of weak resolutions on Darfur has led nowhere," Oxfam’s Caroline Nursey said in the statement.

UN officials have said Darfur is in the throes of the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, which UN chief Kofi Annan told the council on Thursday was currently getting worse as attacks on civilians and ceasefire violations by all parties continued.

Tens of thousand of people have been killed since the Darfur conflict flared up in February 2003 and around 1.6 million displaced.

"We needed the council to take action now, not yet more diplomatic dithering," Nursey added.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) said the council "appears to have watered down its previous threats to hold the government of Sudan accountable for the continuing human rights abuses in Darfur.

HRW pointed out Friday’s resolution "leaves out the specific demand in (previous) resolutions for the government of Sudan to disarm and prosecute the government-backed Janjaweed militias."

The New York-based group also lamented that the text weakened the threat of possible future international action against Khartoum.

"We fear that the government of Sudan will take this resolution as a blank cheque to continue its persecution of the civilian population in Darfur," HRW’s Sudan researcher Jereman Rone said, describing the resolution as "wishy washy."

"Don’t leave the people of Darfur in the dust," she added.

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