Darfur: Coming Weeks Crucial For International Action


4-20-06, 9:03 am


As Darfur Crisis Worsens, Coming Weeks Crucial For International Action

Violence escalates in Darfur & Chad, humanitarian situation deteriorating rapidly; UN to present options for possible peacekeeping mission in Darfur next week Wednesday, April 19, 2006 (Washington, DC) - With the security situation in Darfur, Sudan, continuing to deteriorate, Africa Action today emphasized the need for urgent international action on this crisis in the coming weeks, as several key deadlines approach.

Next week, on April 24th, the United Nations (UN) Secretary-General will present to the Security Council a range of options for a possible UN peacekeeping mission in Darfur. In addition, next week will see the April 30th deadline for a peace deal between the Sudanese government and Darfuri rebel groups in Abuja, Nigeria. The UN Security Council is also currently discussing the possibility of sanctions against some individuals involved in crimes against humanity in Darfur. Africa Action urges the international community to prioritize the needs of the people of Darfur and to focus on the achievement of a UN peacekeeping mission for Darfur as soon as possible.

Recent reports confirm a spike in violence in Darfur and in neighboring Chad, as the government of Sudan and its proxy 'Janjaweed' militias continue to target civilians in their genocidal campaign. Africa Action notes numerous accounts of new attacks on villages and camps in the last several weeks, and an increase in the number of displaced people who are inaccessible to humanitarian agencies. As the rainy season approaches, the organization emphasizes the increasingly precarious situation in the region and the urgent need for international protection for vulnerable civilians and for humanitarian operations.
Salih Booker, Executive Director of Africa Action, said today, 'Nothing short of an international peacekeeping force in Darfur can stop the violence and provide protection for people in that region. Unless the international community acts quickly and asserts its responsibility to protect the people of Darfur, the death toll will rise rapidly in the coming weeks and months, as the government of Sudan pursues this genocide with impunity and humanitarian access shrinks still further.'

Africa Action emphasizes the urgent need for a robust UN peacekeeping force to be authorized and deployed to Darfur to complement and reinforce the African Union (AU) mission on the ground and to respond to the protection needs of the people of Darfur. As the UN prepares to present options for a possible peacekeeping mission to Darfur, Africa Action urges the U.S. and international community to work with the AU and other stakeholders to overcome any obstacles to the rapid deployment of such an international peacekeeping force to the region. This week, Assistant UN Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, Hedi Annabi, is in Khartoum for meetings with senior Sudanese government officials, and the UN says it is continuing to work with the AU to expedite planning for the possible transition to a UN force in Darfur.

Ann-Louise Colgan, Director of Policy Analysis & Communications at Africa Action, said today, 'The need for a UN peacekeeping force in Darfur is clear, but while there has been increased discussion about this possibility in recent weeks, such a mission is far from assured. The U.S. and UN must expend every diplomatic effort to overcome the objections of Khartoum to a UN peacekeeping operation in Darfur, and the Security Council must be prepared to act on the options present by the Secretary-General next week. It is widely accepted that an effective UN peacekeeping force for Darfur will require at least 20,000 personnel and a Chapter 7 mandate to protect civilians. This must be authorized and deployed as quickly as possible to the region.'

As attention focuses on progress towards a peace deal on Darfur, Africa Action emphasizes that a deal in Abuja must not be seen as a pre-condition for the deployment of a UN peacekeeping force to Darfur, since such a force could actually help facilitate the peace process by enforcing the cease-fire and acting as a stabilizing force on the ground. Africa Action notes that a robust international protection force is also needed in Darfur to stop the violence, provide security to urgent humanitarian efforts, and ultimately support the voluntary return of displaced people to their lands.

Marie Clarke Brill, Director of Public Education & Mobilization at Africa Action, said today, 'Growing numbers of people from across the U.S. continue to raise their voices demanding real action from the Administration to protect the people of Darfur. On April 30th, Africa Action will join thousands of these voices on the National Mall in Washington, DC, to highlight the depth of national concern about the crisis in Darfur and the need for the U.S. to match its rhetoric with new and concrete actions to stop the genocide.'

For more information and analysis from Africa Action on the Campaign to Stop Genocide in Darfur, see http://www.africaaction.org/darfur