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Meanwhile, Darfur Suffers On

Prepared by: Michael Moran
June 27, 2006

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Much disagreement surrounds events in Darfur—over the extent of the Sudanese government's complicity in the genocide there, the willingness of rebel groups to coexist (Allafrica.com), the competence of the African Union force sent to keep the peace (PBS), and the viability of a recent peace deal (PDF).

One thing, however, is crystal clear: Sudan does not want a UN force (CNN) comprised of professional, well-equipped, and capable military units on its territory. Yet a UN Security Council resolution passed in May calls for just that. Can Sudan bar the door? UN Secretary General Kofi Annan will try to convince Khartoum not to at this week's African Union summit (Reuters).

Since the conflict began in 2003, Khartoum has blown hot and cold on the subject of international involvement in the region, as this Backgrounder explains. For years, Sudan denied the conflict completely, even after the United States declared what was going on in Darfur to be "genocide" (CNN). Mounting evidence and growing international pressure ultimately forced Khartoum to admit to mobilizing "self-defense militias," as this BBC Q&A explains, and to allow in the 7,000-strong African Union peacekeeping force. But the government still denies supporting the Arab militias—known as janjaweed—behind most of the civilian murders and displacement, despite clear evidence of its involvement in this 2005 UN investigation (PDF) and many others.

The United Nations has also documented some 1.65 million people made homeless internally, with another 200,000 fleeing to neighboring Chad. The situation in Chad has deteriorated into a crisis that nearly disrupted recent elections. The UN's top official for internally displaced persons this week warned that refugees and aid workers in Chad are threatened by militias (ReliefWeb) (PDF).

The pace of UN action—inaction, say critics—frustrates many, including the American officials who were early proponents of sanctions or some other form of intervention. Human Rights Watch charges the world's great powers with a moral failure in Darfur. But with U.S. forces tied up in Iraq and Afghanistan, Washington is unwilling to lead a Sudan initiative. CFR Fellow Max Boot suggests that, given Europe's reticence on military intervention and the African Union's inability to stop the bloodshed, even mercenaries would be an improvement on the present situation.

So far, Security Council threats of action have failed to impress either Sudan or advocates of a tougher line against Khartoum. The Security Council warned Khartoum to disarm militias or face "further action". That was in 2004. It took until April of this year to get any sanctions passed, and those only apply to four Sudanese officials (PDF).

Now, however, the United Nations has opened another front against Sudan via the International Criminal Court, which has been gathering evidence of genocide and mass rape. The ICC presented a report on the topic to the Security Council last week (Guardian).

For further reading, Michigan State University offers this Darfur resource guide.

CFR Task Force on Africa | CFR Special Report on Darfur | UN Report on Darfur

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