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Debate Grinds On Over Darfur

Prepared by: Mary Crane, Editorial Coordinator
Updated: February 28, 2006

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The unsettled three-year conflict in Darfur continues to disrupt and threaten the lives of millions of Sudanese. Nearly two million people are displaced and tens of thousands have been killed in the western Sudanese province. Arab militiamen called janjaweed are accused of ethnic cleansing in Darfur and are even crossing the border to attack Sudanese civilians in neighboring Chad, according to a new report by Human Rights Watch.

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton has pushed for a UN resolution to send UN peacekeeping forces to Darfur by the end of the month (VOA) to take over from the inadequate African Union (AU) mission there. A recent AU report (PDF) says the organization has had to work with "about half the logistical capacity" necessary. President Bush has even proposed a role for NATO in the peacekeeping process. But the UN Security Council decided it will wait to make a final decision on the handover (Reuters) until early March. The Security Council also recently leaked a list of Sudanese officials considered for sanctions for their role in the Darfur conflict (WashPost). But the body has been unable to agree on a resolution for imposing sanctions—a failure Bolton says could undermine the Security Council's credibility.

John Prendergast, senior adviser to the International Crisis Group, tells cfr.org both U.S. and UN Security Council inaction to date has come at a high cost in Sudan, but says a real international response could make the government in Khartoum change its ways. For too long, he says, the United States failed to invest properly in peacekeeping efforts in Darfur. In a Los Angeles Times op-ed, Prendergast criticizes Washington for placing its counterterrorism interests before its humanitarian efforts.

There is wide agreement that the conflict in Darfur must end; the United Nations International Commission of Inquiry on Darfur, in its January 2006 report (PDF), found the government of Sudan and the janjaweed guilty of "serious violations of international human rights and humanitarian law." And yet the killing continues. According to a CFR Special Report, Giving Meaning to 'Never Again,' the "tragically slow global response" to the unrest in Darfur exposes the international community's inability to deal with humanitarian crises. Even after the United States invoked the term "genocide" to describe the situation in Darfur, it did little to intervene, writes the University of Wisconsin's Scott Straus in Foreign Affairs. Ten years after the Rwandan genocide, Africa continues to test the international community's resolve to prevent mass killings and genocides, says this Council Task Force report on Africa.

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