Op-eds by Blair, Tutu, Annan - UK Blair urges EU unity on Darfur: "If Darfur is not to be another Rwanda, we must act, and now, to avert catastrophe"
On Saturday 1,000 volunteers from a pro-government militia marched through the streets of Khartoum threatening to kill any uninvited UN visitors, the BBC's Jonah Fisher reports from the city. [more by Reuters: Sudan militia rallies against UN troops for Darfur]
Also, the BBC reports British Prime Minister Tony Blair has written to all the other 24 members of the European Union calling for unity on Darfur:
Mr Blair said the EU should play a "central role" in peace efforts and that the Sudanese government should prepare to face isolation if it failed to respond to diplomatic pressure to end the "slaughter".Here follows a copy of commentary on Darfur by (1) Tony Blair (2) Desmond Tutu (3) Kofi Annan.
"The EU should play a central role in mobilising world opinion on this issue," he wrote in the letter, which has also been sent to European Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso.
"We should strongly call upon the government of Sudan and non-signatories alike to stop immediately the violence in northern Darfur.
"Both sides must abide by the commitments they made under previous ceasefire agreements."
From The Independent by Tony Blair Sep 17, 2006
If Darfur is not to be another Rwanda, we must act, and now, to avert catastrophe
The human catastrophe which engulfed Rwanda 12 years ago was a shameful episode in world history. If good can emerge from such evil, it was the determination of the international community to ensure there must be no repeat of its failure to prevent such slaughter of our fellow human beings. At Britain's prompting, this responsibility to protect was formally adopted last year at the United Nations Millennium Summit.- - -
But words, however well intended, are not enough. The crisis in Darfur is deteriorating rapidly. The violence is escalating, with devastating results. Nearly two million people have fled their homes, three million are dependent upon aid. The refugee camps provide no safe haven from attacks, with rape and kidnappings commonplace.
All this is despite the efforts of African Union peacekeepers who have struggled bravely against overwhelming odds to provide security. Humanitarian agencies, working in appalling and dangerous conditions, have found themselves unable to cope. There seems little sign that the violence has reached its peak, as we had hoped with the signing of the Darfur Peace Agreement in May, with many warning signs that it will get much worse.
This bleak picture of human misery on a vast scale explains why UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan last week warned that the world was on the brink of another calamity. He asked pointedly: "Can the international community, having not done enough for the people of Rwanda in their time of need, just watch as this tragedy unfolds?"
Britain is determined that this time the world will face up to its responsibility. We have been heavily involved from the start in trying to find a way towards a solution of this crisis. We have strongly supported peace negotiations. We took the lead in delivering UN Resolutions to impose sanctions and authorise a UN force for Darfur. We were the first country to announce its financial support for the African Union mission. We have contributed nearly £200m [US $376m] in humanitarian assistance to the region in the past two years.
But I accept, given the human crisis in Darfur, that we have to do more, and urgently. Over the past few days, my discussions with President Bush and Premier Wen of China show these views are shared.
The framework for improved security, which will allow a huge uplift in the provision of humanitarian aid, is already in place. UN Security Council Resolution 1706 sets out international backing for the creation and deployment of a UN peacekeeping mission to replace the African Union mission. In May, the Sudanese government and one of the main rebel movements signed a peace agreement, brokered by the African Union but with the heavy involvement of Hilary Benn and David Triesman. It did not, of course, meet all the demands of both parties but it did show the way forward.
The international community must now urgently use all the levers it has to force other warring groups to sign up, but also to ensure that all parties keep to its terms so that the violence stops. We must also insist the UN peacekeeping mission gets into the region as quickly as possible.
This won't be easy. The government of Sudan has said it will not accept UN troops. Even worse, it is insisting the existing AU mission leaves, claiming that its own military forces will end the conflict. This is unacceptable. It is in defiance of the peace agreement it signed and can only increase the bloodshed, fear and tension in the region. The conduct of the government of Sudan threatens to make an appalling situation even worse.
Now is the time for concerted international action to bring a change of mind and actions from the government of Sudan. We will make clear, at the highest level, the help Sudan can expect if they live up to their obligations and what will happen if they don't. It must agree to the UN mission and allow the African Union forces to remain. We must press, too, all the warring factions to accept and implement the peace agreement as well as ensure that the humanitarian needs of the people of Darfur are met.
We must show, above all, that we mean what we say when we promise to put the values of justice, tolerance and freedom into action across the world. We owe that to the people of Darfur and to the memory of those who died in Rwanda.
From The Sunday Times by Desmond Tutu Sep 17, 2006
A blind eye to genocide
Here is an inconvenient fact about Africa: our genocides tend to happen away from television cameras. Almost 1m people were killed in Rwanda in 1994; 2m died in southern Sudan in the past two decades; and 4m people in the Democratic Republic of Congo have died since 1997. The totals are staggering, and hardly a column inch or minute of airtime have marked them.- - -
On the 10th anniversary of Rwanda there was talk of never again allowing innocent civilians to be butchered with impunity. But even as the politicians were deploring the inaction of the international community, another African genocide was under way.
In our world of 24-hour news cycles, people could be forgiven for thinking Darfur did not exist. The Sudanese government's policy of making it hard for the media and humanitarian groups to get access to its remote western region has paid off.
In Darfur 2m people have been ethnically cleansed since 2003, women and girls are systematically raped and tortured daily, there is cholera in the refugee camps and the violence is spilling into next door Chad, and all without the attention, or response, it deserves.
The World Food Programme warns it cannot reach half the people in Darfur who need help, and those it can feed are on rations below the daily minimum requirement. The Sudanese armed forces and their proxies, the Janjaweed militias, have stepped up their attacks on civilians, and aid workers are being killed despite a recently signed peace deal.
This summer, after 30 days of war between Israel and Hezbollah, and a thousand dead, the international community rightly intervened and dispatched UN peacekeepers. After 3.5 years, and an estimated 300,000 to 400,000 dead in Darfur, it is still unclear if a United Nations force will be sent. We Africans conclude that double standards apply to our continent.
Today is the international day of action for Darfur. Around the world from Cape Town to London, Moscow to New York, concerned citizens are asking why the UN security council's resolutions on Darfur have yet to be enforced. We are still waiting for a no-fly zone, targeted sanctions against the architects of the genocide, and referrals to the International War Crimes Tribunal. No wonder the Khartoum regime denies UN peacekeepers access to Darfur.
Today is also the first anniversary of the adoption by the UN of a policy called the Responsibility to Protect. According to that document the international community should put aside its narrow self-interest and act to prevent genocide or ethnic cleansing.
In practice, people are still being terrorised and murdered in Darfur with impunity. The UN has recognised Darfur as the world's worst humanitarian crisis, but it has not applied sustained pressure on the government of Sudan to accept a strong international peacekeeping force.
Meanwhile, amid the scramble to find excuses to abandon Darfur, experts scour the history books for evidence of "ancient tribal or ethnic hatreds" on which to blame the "savagery" of African genocides (as if it had not in fact occurred in the centre of Europe a mere 60 years ago).
We should be suspicious when people say the ethnic cleansing of defenceless civilians is in fact a civil war. They really mean: "These exotic people are all as bad as each other." How can we be expected to put our soldiers in harm's way when there is no good side to defend?
Another justification for our inaction is: "The situation is more complicated than you idealists appreciate." In Darfur, they say, you cannot conveniently divide the population into Arab aggressors and black African victims.
True, there is intermarriage, and there are underlying issues about land ownership and the shortage of water due to climate change. But people who identify themselves as black Africans are being killed by others who describe them as racially inferior and not entitled to live in the land of their birth. Ninety per cent of black African villages in Darfur have been destroyed.
Here is another inconvenient fact about Africa: many of our nations have been cursed by their natural mineral wealth. Darfur has the misfortune to be in a country with vast oil reserves. China, France and Russia, all members of the UN security council, do business with the government of Sudan and they are reluctant to jeopardise their commercial relationships.
In 2001 Tony Blair declared that if Rwanda were to happen again Britain would have a duty to act. Britain deserves enormous credit for leading the world in the generosity of its humanitarian emergency response in Darfur. The government must also lead the international community in stiffening their resolve to act in the face of genocide.
A few years ago an American politician commented that if his phone had rung off the hook with his concerned voters asking him to do something about Rwanda he would have been forced to act.
Please pray for Darfur today. Then let your prayer inform your actions: ask your elected representatives to call for a significant UN force with an effective mandate to protect the civilians in Darfur. "Faith without works is dead" (James 2:26).
From The Los Angeles Times by Kofi Annan Sep 16, 2006 [via Sudan.Net - hat tip POTP and CFD]
Join Me to Help Save Darfur
TOMORROW, SEPT. 17, people around the world will be taking part in a "Global Day for Darfur" to show support for the people of Darfur and to put pressure on governments to protect innocent civilians. They are right, and I hope their call will be heard.FURTHER READING AND UPDATES
The glimmer of hope that many of us felt when the Darfur peace agreement was signed four months ago albeit by only two of the warring parties is being extinguished by renewed fighting among the factions. In violation of the agreement, the Sudanese government has sent thousands of troops to Darfur and renewed its bombing.
I strongly condemn this escalation. The government of Sudan should stop its offensive immediately. All parties should perform what they have promised and abide by the resolutions of the United Nations Security Council.
These latest clashes have brought yet more misery to the people of Darfur, who have already endured far too much. The total number of displaced people stands at 1.9 million. Nearly 3 million people depend on international aid for food, shelter and medical treatment, while aid workers have increasingly become the targets of violence 12 have been killed just in the last two months.
A year ago, world leaders meeting at the U.N. agreed that all states have the responsibility to protect their populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity. The government of Sudan, if it fails in this sacred responsibility, will face opprobrium and disgrace throughout the world. Neither those who decide such policies nor those who carry them out should imagine that they will not be held accountable.
Once again, I urge Sudan to avoid this by accepting the Security Council's decision to deploy a U.N. peacekeeping operation, which would be better equipped and funded than the current African Union mission and have a clearer mandate to protect those in danger.
About 10,000 U.N. troops are already in Sudan. For more than a year, they have been helping to implement the peace agreement between northern and southern Sudan. On Aug. 31, the Security Council, while reaffirming its commitment to the sovereignty, unity, independence and territorial integrity of Sudan, authorized the deployment of up to 17,300 additional troops to Darfur to implement the peace agreement. There is no hidden agenda, no other ambition than to help the people of Darfur to live in peace and in dignity. But the government of Sudan has refused.
Putting the extra U.N. troops in place will in any case take time. Therefore, the Security Council also called for strengthening the African Union mission, or AMIS, so that it can carry on until the U.N. arrives. The Africans have repeatedly asked for this transition but say that in the meantime their troops, who have performed valiantly in very difficult conditions, need help.
The U.N. has agreed to support AMIS during the crucial transition period. But AMIS will also need increased support from donors including the League of Arab States, which has offered vital backing and wants AMIS to stay until the end of the year.
I have tried repeatedly to explain the transition to the government of Sudan and to clear up any misconceptions or myths. In public and in private I have stressed the humanitarian situation and appealed to the government's own pragmatic good sense.
But my voice is not enough. Whoever, in Africa or beyond, is in a position to influence the government of Sudan must do so without delay.
The Security Council, and especially its five permanent members Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States have a particular responsibility to ensure that the message to the government of Sudan is strong, clear and uniform. But every voice raised makes a difference, and therefore the responsibility is shared among us all. I urge everyone to join their voices with mine in asking the government of Sudan to embrace the spirit of the Security Council's resolution, to consent to the transition and to pursue the political process with new energy.
There can be no military solution to the crisis in Darfur. All parties should have understood by now, after so much death and destruction, that only a political agreement in which all stakeholders are fully engaged can bring real peace to the region.
Twelve years ago, the United Nations, and the world, failed the people of Rwanda in their time of need. Can we now, in all conscience, stand by and watch as the tragedy deepens in Darfur?
Text: UN Security Council Resolution 1706
EU's Barroso & Michel To Visit Sudan Amid Growing Darfur Concerns - AP via EB 17 Sep 2006:
European Commission's President Jose Manuel Barroso said Sunday he was planning a visit to Sudan soon to press for a solution to the crisis in Darfur.- - -
"We must step up our political engagement, to do what we can to avoid a humanitarian crisis," Barroso said.
His statement followed an appeal from British Prime Minister Tony Blair for the EU to take a lead role in pressing for an end to the violence in Darfur.
Barroso said he would travel to Sudan shortly with the EU's top aid official Louis Michel. They gave no date for the visit, but are due to be in the region Oct 2 for talks at the headquarters of the African Union in Ethiopia.
Photo: A guardsman marches past supporters of the International Darfur Day as they wait after a march in London September 17, 2006. Peace activists around the world staged a day of action on Sunday to highlight the 'forgotten war' in Darfur. (Reuters/Luke MacGregor)
Photo: Sudanese women joined a counter-protest in Khartoum. In Khartoum, a small group of people staged a counter-demonstration branding the Darfur Day events a Jewish conspiracy. The demonstrators also opposed the deployment of a proposed UN peacekeeping force in Darfur. (Aljazeera 17 Sep 2006)
Other commentary and blogs
Ian Davies on Taking responsibility seriously:
After the Holocaust and the genocides in Bosnia and Rwanda, member states acknowledged their "responsibility to protect" (R2P) and vowed to banish the sorry lament of "never again" for good.Note, amusing comment by Waltz in the UK:
The 2005 World Summit outcome document endorsed the R2P concept, and in April 2006, the UN security council unanimously adopted resolution 1674 on the protection of civilians in armed conflict. Resolution 1674 contains the historic first official security council reference to the responsibility to protect: it "reaffirms the provisions of paragraphs 138 and 139 of the World Summit Outcome Document regarding the responsibility to protect populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity".
"Maybe some of those British-born jihadis who like to go off to places like Afghanistan and Iraq to fight the Evil Infidel Occupiers could be persuaded to instead go to Darfur and fight to protect the black Muslims there from being massacred by the Khartoum-backed Arab Muslims.FlackBrancis in the UK replied:
But then again jihadis don't seem to care much about Muslims killed by other Muslims; it's only when Muslims are killed by Infidels that they get their knickers in a twist."
"Waltz - Do Muslims wear knickers? From the infantile behaviour they frequently show, I'd have had them down as Pampers-wearers."- - -
Sep 17 2006 Black Looks blog:
African Action, one of the oldest online African activist sites present a report which looks at the similarities between the US response to Rwanda and its present response to Darfur. Whilst this report specifically highlights the actions or non-action of the US in Rwanda and in Darfur it has to be emphasied that the broader international community, the Arab League and the African Union have all, implicitly or explicitly, acquiesced to Khartoum and as such abandoned the people of Darfur.- - -
Sep 17 2006 Scotsman - Activists around the world focus on Darfur: In a protest march in Khartoum on Sunday to coincide with the global "Day for Darfur" dozens of Sudanese pro-government activists marched to U.N. offices to oppose new peacekeepers. A statement by the Sudan Council of Voluntary Agencies said a UN force would "only add to the complexity of an already volatile situation", and said funds would be better spent on development, confidence-building measures, and peace-building. British cabinet minister Baroness Valerie Amos said the British government had been at the forefront of the "carrot and stick" approach to the crisis. "But the international community needs to work together on this. It can't just be the European Union or the United States," she told Sky News. Around east Africa, a string of protests and events were organised to draw attention to western Sudan.
Sep 17 2006 The Sudanese Thinker - UN Resolution for Darfur is Flawed: I'm no legal expert, but according to this, the UN resolution 1706 is flawed.
Sep 17 2006 Jeannie's Blog - Today's WWII - The Stakes are High: The Jihadis, the militant Muslims, are basically Nazis in Kaffiyahs -- they believe that Islam, a radically conservative form of Wahhabi Islam, should own and control the Middle East first, then Europe, then the world. And that all who do not bow to their will of thinking should be killed, enslaved, or subjugated. They want to finish the Holocaust, destroy Israel, and purge the world of Jews. This is their mantra. "Peace Activists" always seem to demonstrate here in America, where it's safe. Why don't we see Peace Activist demonstrating in Iran, Syria, Iraq, Sudan, North Korea, in the places that really need peace activism the most? The liberal mentality is supposed to favor human rights, civil rights, democracy, multiculturalism, diversity, etc., but if the Jihad wins, wherever the Jihad wins, it is the end of civil rights, human rights, democracy, multiculturalism, diversity, etc.