Sudan: Mendez says a "non-consensual" military intervention in Darfur will not improve things
IPS: What is your evaluation of the situation in Sudan?
JUAN MENDEZ: I think it's getting worse. Since September the threat has grown for those displaced by the violence, and there is a greater danger of massive attacks. The military presence of the African Union (AU) has increased, but the local forces that are fighting are getting used to the presence of foreign troops, and are largely able to avoid them. In some cases they have even attacked them.
There have also been attacks on aid workers from humanitarian groups, which is bad enough in and of itself, besides giving rise to the possibility that humanitarian workers could withdraw and leave the people they are helping at even greater risk.
I believe this is a very important time for making decisions, because if we fail to curb the spread of violence, another catastrophe in Darfur could occur, as serious as the one the region suffered from mid-2003 to early 2004, and with unpredictable consequences.
IPS: Have you classified the situation in Darfur as a case of genocide?
JUAN MENDEZ: No, because my task is prevention. It is not up to me to decide on definitions. I am to act when I observe a situation that can lead to genocide if something is not done. If I were to classify the situation as genocide, that means I have arrived too late.
Besides, the task of determining whether or not what is occurring in Darfur amounts to genocide was assigned by the U.N. Security Council to an international commission of inquiry.
IPS: Are you in favour of a military intervention in that region?
JUAN MENDEZ: Despite the gravity of what I have seen, I'm not convinced that a non-consensual military intervention will improve things. On the contrary, it could make them much worse.
I do believe that in some cases the only solution is to send troops. But it must be a last resort, and the possible consequences must be gauged.
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U.S., NATO troops not likely to be sent to Darfur, says Gen. Jones
Yesterday, the top commander of NATO and U.S. forces said it is unlikely alliance troops will be dispatched to Darfur any time soon.
Marine Gen. James Jones told Stars and Stripes that although some key leaders have been pressing for action, no plans are in works to help in Darfur. Full Story at European and Pacific Stars & Stripes, March 5, 2005.
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Ugandan troops on standby for deployment to Darfur
The UPDF has been put on standby for deployment in Darfur, says a report out of Kampala via Sudan Tribune, March 6, 2005.
On March 4, military sources said a battalion-size military force of 1200-1500 soldiers from Uganda has been put on alert for immediate deployment in Darfur. The final decision will come after the conclusion of talks between the UN and the Ugandan Ministry of Defence.
"About 30 officers have been put on standby to lead the mission to Darfur," a reliable military source said, March 4. An assistant chief of staff was said to be handling the operation on behalf of the ministry. And an army and defence spokesman neither confirmed nor denied the Darfur deployment. "I can't tell you its true or not true until I have been briefed," he said.
A military source conversant with the UPDF operations said some of the selected leading UPDF officers have already undergone briefing on the military exercise.
[Note, At the moment there are 1,800 African Union troops in Darfur. A further 1,500 AU troops were expected months ago. The Ugandan soldiers mentioned in the report could be the long awaited battalion. If the report is true, we will find out soon enough]
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Southern Sudan: militia attack former southern rebels SPLM/A?
5 March Rumbek, Sudan (Reuters) report -- Southern Sudanese rebels said militia fighters allied to the northern Khartoum government had attacked them despite a peace deal.
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Southern Sudan rebel leader hopes to solve Darfur crisis ... in July
In July, John Garang, leader of southern Sudan's former rebels SPLM/A will replace President Bashir's right hand man Taha as Sudan's First Vice-President. Mr Garang talked to Reuters yesterday re Darfur, after speaking at an international conference in Brussels. Here is what he said:
"At the end of the day, humanitarian assistance (and) protection of the civilian population will not be enough -- you need a political solution. When the SPLM becomes part of the government ... I believe there is every reason to be optimistic that there will be a solution to Darfur," he said. "You cannot make peace in the south and make war in Darfur," he said. "It is untenable."
Meanwhile, in Sudan, a SPLM/A chief commander told Reuters late on Friday that militia fighters allied to the Khartoum government had attacked positions held by the former rebels, warning it could undermine the peace agreement.
A senior US official said on Wednesday March 2 that Sudan's government and Darfur rebels have a "reasonable chance" of securing an effective ceasefire at African Union-sponsored talks due to start this month.
But Garang voiced doubt about the current government's sincerity. "The government of Khartoum is complicit in the events in Darfur," he said. "You cannot turn around and ask the same government to solve the problem."
Garang called in February for the creation of a neutral force of up to 30,000 troops from the government, the SPLM and other countries to stop the fighting in Darfur. He said the proposal was under discussion but that the Khartoum government was "not comfortable" with it.
International aid agency Oxfam has said only half of the 3,320 personnel promised by the African Union have arrived in Darfur and their efforts have been hindered by shortages of funding and a lack of logistical support.
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Darfur rebels demand Government withdrawal before peace talks
Today, March 6, the Darfur rebels demanded that the Sudanese government withdraw its troops before the next round of peace talks due sometime this month.
Reuters photo: Teenage Sudan Liberation Army fighters in the rebel held village of Bodong in North Darfur.