Back to Darfur

WHEN UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan called for ‘reassessing’ the Darfur strategy yesterday, he may have given expression to the international community’s growing concern over the issue. Annan wasn’t exaggerating when he warned that the attempts to end the conflict in Darfur weren’t simply working.

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Published: Fri 24 Dec 2004, 11:23 AM

Last updated: Thu 2 Apr 2015, 1:13 AM

Things are really not good in Darfur. After a few months of looking positively hopeful, the Darfur situation is deteriorating fast. According to the UN, thousands of people who had fled their homes after the outbreak of violence in February 2003 are still suffering. Thousands of others have succumbed to diseases. Aid agencies are finding it difficult to reach the most vulnerable sections of the affected people because of dangerous security situation. The UK charity, Save the Children, has pulled out from Darfur after four of their staff were killed. Medicines Sans Frontieres may soon follow the suit.

As Annan says, the situation in Sudan is crying for the world attention. The country has a genuine problem in Darfur. But it can be solved only with the help of the government in Sudan, not by isolating it or getting past it. It is not possible, nor advisable. The ongoing Western policy — approved by Washington, of course — of engaging Khartoum and pushing it to strike peace with the rebels in Darfur must not be abandoned in favour of a more aggressive approach. Pushing for UN sanctions on Sudan is never going to work. Instead of resolving the conflict, it may very well aggravate the situation in Darfur.

The African Union’s involvement in the peace process has been quite positive. The UN and US should encourage the AU to involve itself even more. The AU knows and understands the intricacies of the Sudan crisis and is in a better position than the West to promote peace in the region without hurting the local sensibilities. The AU was supposed to deploy 4,000 troops for peacekeeping in Darfur. However, it has been able to spare about 1,000 troops so far, which is terribly inadequate for the vast affected region. The deployment of AU peacekeeping force in greater numbers could help restore security and peace in Darfur. International aid can reach Sudan only if relief agencies are allowed to operate in adequate security.

The government in Khartoum would do well to realise the seriousness of the situation and the concern it has generated around the world. While the clashes between the rebels and pro-Khartoum militias have contributed to the crisis, the Sudan government cannot shrug off its responsibility of keeping peace in Darfur. Any more negligence on Khartoum’s part can invite international censure, punitive sanctions and much more. Sudan must cooperate with the international community to restore peace in Darfur. It is in its own interest.

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