Thursday, November 18, 2004

Genocide out of control yet still the UN refuses to act

When Mr Annan wrote to the Sudanese president in May, it was to warn him that the world was tiring of the killings. We must act, the UN said then, it is urgent.

When Mr Annan travelled to Khartoum in June, the message was the same. We must act, the UN said, it is urgent.

When the UN Security Council passed its resolution on 30 July, they were acknowledging that Darfur had become the world’s worst humanitarian crisis. We must act, they said, it is urgent.

When they met again in September, they gave Sudan more time. But if it did not comply with their demands, they said, they would act.

So, what of today’s meeting? Today, they will say we must act. It is urgent. But they won’t. And in the time it took to read this, another person died.

See full report Genocide out of control yet still the UN refuses to act.

A Sudanese girl cradles her baby sister outside their hut in a refugee camp at Krinding, near the Chad border.
Picture: Getty Images
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Note, China can't afford to approve sanctions that result in the running of its country being affected by a shortage of oil. So it seems sanctions are out. Why can't China, Malaysia, Pakistan and Russia tell Sudan they are sending 80,000 special police to guard the regions oil operations? China have highly trained forces. And at least a one million-strong army. Consider it as the price they have to pay for exploiting Sudan's oil and blocking the Security Council from imposing sanctions on oil. Countries ought not to be allowed to block a UN resolution without coming up with an alternative solution. Does anybody at the Passion know what happened to the petition calling for Kofi Annan's resignation?
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Here is the rest of the above report from today's Scotsman, for future reference:

According to the UN’s World Food Programme, about 10,000 people are dying every month.

Since 13 May, when Kofi Annan, the UN Secretary General, wrote to Omer al-Bashir, Sudan’s president, urging him to disarm the Janjaweed militias, maintain the ceasefire, improve access for humanitarian workers and negotiate a settlement to the conflict in Darfur, 61,500 have died.

Since 30 June, when Mr Annan arrived in Khartoum for the start of a three-day visit to see for himself the extent of the crisis, 46,000 people have died.

Since 30 July, when the UN Security Council voted to take action against Sudan if it did not make progress on the pledges it had made to relieve the situation in Darfur, 36,000 people have died.

Since 6 October, when Tony Blair stopped off in Khartoum and confidently announced he had secured a pledge from the Sudanese government to clean up its act and accept a five-point plan for action, including a force of several thousand African Union troops, 14,000 people have died.

The situation in Darfur is spiralling out of control. Jan Pronk, Mr Annan’s special representative on Sudan, has warned the Security Council that the Khartoum government is losing control of its own forces and the Janjaweed militias that it used to do its dirty work.

"It co-opted paramilitary forces and now it cannot count on their obedience," he said. "The border lines between the military, the paramilitary and the police are being blurred."

Aid agencies say the UN must act swiftly and decisively if it is to halt the killing and turn around a situation that is slipping from its grasp. They also warn that the Sudanese government is continuing to defy the will of the UN. "The Sudanese government continues to terrorise its own citizens even in the face of the UN Security Council arriving in Africa," said Peter Takirambudde, the executive director of Human Rights Watch’s Africa division.

"Unless the Security Council backs up its earlier ultimatums with strong action, ethnic cleansing in Darfur will be consolidated. And hundreds of UN personnel will be on the ground helplessly watching as it happens."

However, the chances of the Security Council taking decisive action against Sudan over the Darfur crisis are remote. China and Pakistan abstained from the original resolution. China relies heavily on Sudanese oil exports; in turn, it sells large quantities of arms to the African country. China has made it clear that it will veto any attempt to impose sanctions on the Khartoum regime. And, given that China is a permanent member of the Security Council, that veto will count.

Critics of the UN’s handling of the crisis - and there are many - say that it has failed to grasp the urgency of the situation in Darfur. They say that, as in Rwanda, the genocide will be over by the time the UN raises itself from its torpor.

Yet, this is how the UN works: the main purpose of today’s special meeting of the Security Council is not to address the crisis in Darfur; it is to try to reach a conclusion on Sudan’s north-south civil war, the longest in Africa, which has been raging for 21 years.

It has taken the UN more than two decades to get around to dealing with that crisis. What hope, its critics ask, can there be for those in Darfur? The UN says that if it sorts out the north-south situation, it will improve the circumstances for a solution to the Darfur crisis. Yet it offers no timetable for such action.

Aid agencies trying to pick up the pieces are at the end of their tether. CARE International, Christian Aid, International Rescue Committee, Oxfam International, Save the Children UK and Tearfund, all say violence and insecurity have escalated since the UN became involved. They say something has to give.

"Previous UN resolutions on Darfur have amounted to little more than empty threats, with minimal impact on the levels of violence," said Cynthia Gaigals, on behalf of the agencies. "The Security Council must now outline specific and time-bound compliance measures and agree to implement them if there is no clear and sustained progress. Idle threats from the Security Council have not, and will not, help the people of Darfur."

Yet, idle threats may be the best they can hope for.

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