Home | News    Tuesday 17 August 2004

Nations should back Rwandan pledge to protect Darfur civilians: HRW

NEW YORK, Aug 17, 2004 (AFP) — Rwanda’s pledge of troops to protect civilians in Darfur should encourage other countries to press Sudan to accept more African Union troops to stop the killing there, Human Rights Watch said.

The 154 Rwandan troops deployed on Sunday to protect AU ceasefire monitors and this weekend, Nigerian troops will join them.

"The Rwandan government deserves praise for deploying troops to Darfur and pledging to protect civilians," said Georgette Gagnon, deputy director of Human Rights Watch’s Africa division.

"Now the international community should increase pressure on Sudan to accept peacekeepers with a mandate for protecting civilians, and it should provide the support that’s urgently needed for this mission," said Gagnon, of the New York-based human rights group.

Khartoum has resisted the idea, although Foreign Minister Mustafa Ismail said Saturday that his government might agree "if the African Union convinces us of the importance of a peacekeeping force."

The UN Security Council last month gave Sudan a stern warning to rein in state-sponsored Arab Janjaweed militias accused of committing atrocities in Darfur by August 29.

The United Nations estimates that up to 50,000 people have been killed since Sudan’s armed forces and the militias cracked down on non-Arab minorities supporting the rebels.

Well over one million more people have fled their homes, with up to 200,000 seeking refuge in neighboring Chad.

Human Rights Watch reported last week that Khartoum has allowed the Janjaweed militias to rape, assault and loot civilians, and to drive more people from their homes.

"Khartoum claims it can’t control the Janjaweed, but at the same refuses to allow international troops to protect civilians in Darfur," Gagnon said.

"If the Sudanese government were truly serious about protecting civilians, it would accept an expanded international presence to stop the atrocities," she said.