Friday, July 23, 2004

US threatens Sudan with UN sanctions

Arab militias, called Janjaweed

The United States has circulated a United Nations resolution threatening sanctions against the Sudan government if Khartoum did not prosecute Arab militia leaders in the western Darfur region.

In the measure, which does not define the sanctions, the Bush administration also advocated an immediate embargo on weapons given to Arab militias, called Janjaweed, as well as any other armed group terrorising Darfur civilians.

The revised draft UN Security Council resolution was submitted on the day US Secretary of State Colin Powell planned a visit to New York to work on a joint strategy on Darfur with secretary general Kofi Annan.

Each visited Sudan and Darfur this month. The 15-month conflict has killed at least 30,000 people, forced villagers into concentration-camp type compounds and left 2 million people without enough food and medicine in Sudan's western region.

The new resolution tightens language on a weapons ban and on what Khartoum must do to avoid sanctions, such as "bring to justice Janjaweed leaders and their associates" within 30 days. "The resolution demands that Sudan apprehend Janjaweed leaders and bring them to justice," said US representative Stuart Holliday. In 30 days, if there is no compliance, the council will look to take action, including the imposition of sanctions. We would like the government to work with us to honour their commitments, he said.

The resolution also says any UN planning for peacekeepers in southern Sudan, where a decades old civil war is coming to an end, should consider including Darfur as well.

Washington faces an uphill battle in the 15-member council, where several members, including Russia, China, Pakistan and others, opposed even a threat of sanctions against Khartoum. Diplomats said the United States might have to soften the draft or call a vote next week and dare nations to oppose the measure. The arms embargo is difficult to enforce, with the Khartoum government having been accused of using its aircraft and helicopters to aid the Janjaweed, who are blamed for murder, widespread rape, pillaging and driving African villagers from their homes. "The initial reporting that I have received is very disturbing as to the actions of the Janjaweed and how the Janjaweed were supported by the Government of Sudan," Mr Powell said.

Sudan, in an agreement with Mr Annan two weeks ago, pledged to protect displaced civilians, disarm the Janjaweed and other armed groups, suspend visa and travel restrictions on relief workers, allow African Union human rights monitors and punish those responsible for atrocities.

The conflict began in February 2003, when African rebel groups protested government policies, saying the Darfur region had been ignored by Arab government in Khartoum. The United Nations, the United States and the African Union, which has sent a team to Darfur, are monitoring whether Sudan complies with its pledges.

By In Solidarity 23 July 04


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