UN's Mendez on Darfur: "Left unattended, the situation may degenerate into genocide"
Juan Mendez said the African Union force in Darfur has been hampered by a lack of funding and support for its troops and "half measures" by the Sudanese government in support of its mission.
The failure to protect civilians in a conflict zone could lead to genocide, Mendez warned. But he refused to characterize the current killing in Darfur as genocide, stressing that he has no legal authority on the issue. Instead his role is the prevention of genocide.
The UN on Friday marked the 12th anniversary of the massacre of 800,000 Rwandans by holding a debate on ways to prevent genocide. The worsening situation in Sudan was a focus of the debate.
AU FORCES HAMSTRUNG BY KHARTOUM
Mendez, who bears the title of UN special envoy on prevention of genocide, accused Khartoum of "bad faith" in its dealings with African peacekeepers.
Khartoum has only allowed the AU to import limited amounts of fuel, ammunition and armoured carriers for its troops and blocked imports of jet fuel, which forced the AU to ground critical flights to monitor the vast region of Darfur, he said.
KHARTOUM PLAYED GAMES
"The Sudanese have played games with the consent that they originally gave to the AU," Mendez said. "In my mind, it's a bad faith attitude toward the consent the Sudanese government has given.
"It is high time that the AU, the UN Security Council and all of us tell the government of Sudan that consent is indispensable and should be given in good faith," he added. "The situation has become urgent."
Due to the lack of funds and war equipment, the AU has decided to withdraw its 7,000 troops from Darfur by year's end. The UN Security Council is discussing the formation of a UN peacekeeping operation to replace the AU despite opposition by Khartoum, which prefers the African force.
Mendez said Khartoum's expulsion of a Norwegian relief group from Darfur this week would make the civilian population more vulnerable to attacks. He said Khartoum has "more than once" expelled international humanitarian groups from Darfur.
"Left unattended, the situation may degenerate into genocide," he said.
[hat tip Coalition for Darfur]