Arab militias known as Janjaweed have terrorized Darfur's African civilians with the backing of Sudan's government since 2003, despite international clamor against what the U.S. government and human rights groups call genocide. Peace negotiations between the Sudanese government and rebels teetered on the brink of collapse for nearly a week until Friday morning, when the Sudanese government and Sudanese Liberation Movement—the largest rebel faction—agreed to a deal called "a shaky foundation" by the Financial Times. The pact, which rebel leaders agreed to "with reservations," was brokered by U.S., British, and African Union (AU) mediators, including U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Robert Zoellick, who rushed to the talks in Abuja, Nigeria after the sides failed to meet an April 30 deadline (AllAfrica.com). The history and main players of the Darfur crisis are explained in this CFR Background Q&A.
But while the ink dried on the agreement, riots broke out at a refugee camp in Darfur during a visit from an UN envoy, which included Jan Egeland, the UN undersecretary for humanitarian affairs. The BBC reported that Egeland escaped Kalma Camp, but refugees demanding a protective UN troop presence later attacked and killed an AU interpreter mistaken for Janjaweed. On Tuesday, Egeland met with Sudanese government officials and asked for their help in eradicating obstacles to providing humanitarian relief (Reuters). President Bush also applied pressure Monday when he announced a $225 million emergency food aid package for Darfur and stressed the need for a speedy takeover of peacekeeping efforts by the United Nations (VOA).
Almost 2 million Darfurians have been internally displaced and 350,000 have died (UNHCR) as a result of violence, disease, and starvation. Suffering on such a massive scale is the product of decades of strife in Sudan (NYT), but conditions have deteriorated in recent years. In a May 4 interview with Reuters, Louise Arbour, the UN high commissioner for human rights, said that in Darfur "sexual violence against women ... is worsening every day." The World Food Programme predicts it will be forced to cut food rations in half in Sudan due to a shortage in funding. Not surprisingly, the country topped the 2006 Foreign Policy Failed States Index.
There is no lack of suggestions on what to do to alleviate Darfur's suffering. A CFR Special Report makes a number of recommendations, as does a recent Task Force Report on Africa. Roberta Cohen and William G. O'Neill look at the successes and failures of the African Union Mission in Sudan and recommend international support to keep the peace in a recent Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists article. The International Crisis Center urges a swift transition to a larger, UN-led peacekeeping force, which the United Nations says will happen by September 2006.