Home | Comment & Analysis    Saturday 3 July 2004

More pressure on Sudan


Editorial, The International Herald Tribune

July 03, 2004 — The growing disaster in the Darfur region of Sudan, which has probably killed as many people as the last 15½ months of fighting in Iraq, demands more than Secretary of State Colin Powell and U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan making the kind of welcome but government-manipulated visits we saw this week. Without tough and immediate actions, as many as a million people could die before the end of the year from Sudanese government-sponsored attacks and the starvation and disease that inevitably follow.

To save these lives, as many countries as possible must put direct pressure on Sudan’s leaders by freezing their foreign assets and banning their arms purchases until they keep their promises to disband the Janjaweed militias that having been attacking non-Arab Sudanese in Darfur for more than a year. Allowing relief workers and observers in while the attacks continue is not enough. The Sudanese government must stop supporting the Janjaweed, disarm its fighters and fulfill its duty to protect the non-Arab people of Darfur.

Sudan’s leaders may imagine that ending the long and deadly civil war in the south of the country is enough to allow them to reap an economic bonanza. But there can be no peace in Sudan without an end to the killing in Darfur.

Any illusion that Sudan’s leaders are now prepared to act responsibly without being compelled to do so should have been dispelled by their cynical behavior during the Powell and Annan visits. Whip-flailing government soldiers drove Darfur residents away from Powell as he visited a carefully selected model refugee camp on Wednesday. University students seeking to deliver a petition on Darfur to Annan in Khartoum were shot and wounded by security forces. That night, Sudanese authorities forcibly cleared out a Darfur refugee camp that Annan planned to visit.

The Bush administration has been far too timid so far in targeting only Janjaweed leaders for punitive sanctions. It would be much more effective to put direct pressure on the leaders of Sudan’s government, who have the power to shut down the insurgency quickly.

The Security Council remains divided between critics and apologists for Sudan’s government and has been unwilling to take strong action. Powell and Annan need to follow up their visits by breaking this deadly diplomatic stalemate.

If the Security Council still refuses to act, the United States, the European Union and African countries that assert a claim to continental leadership, like Nigeria and South Africa, should work together to persuade Sudan’s leaders that their government will become a political, economic and moral pariah if it does not stop what looks increasingly like genocide in Darfur.

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