01 July 2004
Powell terms Darfur "Complex Situation"
Security is needed so people feel safe and can return home
The situation in the Darfur region of Sudan is a "mixed picture" and a "complex situation" that defies easy description, U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell told reporters June 30.
Speaking aboard his aircraft en route to Khartoum after touring Darfur, Powell said: "I'm sure there are parts of the country where there is famine. I'm sure there are parts of the country where people are starving. But there are other parts of the country where the camp system is working and people are being taken care of, as you saw today. So it's a mixed picture."
He reminded everyone, however, that with camps come diseases, and he said the best solution is to solve the security crisis in Darfur so people can return to their home villages to live in safety and security.
Following is the transcript of Secretary of State Powell's remarks:
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
Office of the Spokesman
For Immediate Release
June 30, 2004
REMARKS TO THE PRESS
BY SECRETARY OF STATE COLIN L. POWELL
June 30, 2004
En route from Darfur to Khartoum, Sudan
SECRETARY POWELL: Okay, what are your questions?
QUESTION: What did you think?
SECRETARY POWELL: I had good conversations with the NGO workers. I got a better assessment of the conditions in that camp and in the region. I also got a good briefing for the growth of the Monitoring Team from General Okonkwo, who is a General who I worked with in Liberia last year when he led the ECOWAS [Economic Community of West African States] force going into Liberia.
And the camp itself, you saw it: large crowds, taking care of forty thousand people, considered one of the better camps. But, that is not the solution; the camp is not the solution. And whether all the folks in that camp live in that camp or some came in for today is not really relevant. Camps are not the solution. I'm reinforced in my belief that the solution for this crisis has to be a revision of security, the breaking of the Jingaweit -- and that's been my steady message to the Foreign Minister, who is up front with me. And if I am able to see the Vice President on the way out at the airport, that will be my message to him.
There's no famine in that camp, obviously. And I suspect that those camps which there is an element of security to the camp and NGO workers are able to get in, there is food in the country, there is food in the pipeline, but the Soviet cargo liner you saw behind us was unloading food and the NGOs are able to do their work.
There are many camps, however, that are not accessible, don't have the degree of access that we saw in this camp and where I suspect people are not being as well taken care of.
The greater concern are the people who are not in camps, but essentially are still out in the countryside and making do as best they can. The reason the security is so important is so that we can get people moving back home again voluntarily, not forcefully, and start to rebuild their villages and put crops in the ground. If we don't get them back home so they can start to rebuild their lives and put crops in the ground, then there won't be crops to harvest the next harvesting season, and then the requirement for international aid and camps becomes even greater. And the only way to break that cycle is to break the security problem. And this has been the focus of my discussion with the Foreign Minister and the President last night and with the Minister of the Interior, who is with us, who has been given new responsibilities to deal with it. I have a pretty good handle on that being the immediate solution to the problem.
There were other problems that were raised by the NGOs that we were familiar with and we'll work with the government on and gave them very specific things we think they should do right away with respect to getting vehicles out of customs, getting radio systems out to where the monitoring team is going to need them, easing visa restrictions, easing travel permits so people can get out and about.
We need a lot more access and we need to grow the monitoring team faster than it is growing now. You saw them all out there in the pictures we took, but we want to get it up to 120, with another 300 people to protect them as they go out and set up six spots around the country so they can get their work done. So, we need to build up the capability, but not believe that that is the solution. The solution is getting control of the Jingaweit problem, the militia problem.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, members of the SLA that we talked to said they really need a peacekeeping force, that these monitors are not enough. Is there any prospect of that?
SECRETARY POWELL: I don't, I mean this is a huge place. I've heard it variously described as the size of France or larger. And the expectation that there is a peacekeeping force that could come in and place security over a land that big is unlikely. Even though I know, as I said to you the other day to you, that there are people looking at it. But I cannot see, in my own mind, where such a peacekeeping force with the capability to sustain itself over such a large area would come from. So I believe the solution has to rest with the government doing what's right. And we have to put the focus of the international community and the pressure of the international community on the government to provide the security that these people need.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, is the gap between your perception of the problem and the government's perception of the problem as great as it seems? The Foreign Minister said last night ‘there's no disease, no malnutrition' and no something else. Is what you saw today, does it reinforce your impression that you had before going in?
SECRETARY POWELL: It put texture on what I knew going in. Going in from reports and analyses done by intelligence agencies and my own people. But I'm sure there are parts of the country where there is famine. I'm sure there are parts of the country where people are starving. But there are other parts of the country where the camp system is working and people are being taken care of, as you saw today. So, it's a mixed picture.
There is disease -- the camp we just visited had a measles outbreak not too long ago. And any time you have people living in those sorts of circumstances, there will be the potential for disease. In talking to the gentleman who was escorting me around from the ICRC [International Committee of the Red Cross], they're getting the immunization materials they need, they've been able to set up some clinics and hospitals. But I'm not deceived into thinking that there is no cause for concern with respect to disease.
The concern that the NGOs had was that, with the onset of a rainy season, the population is more susceptible to additional vector-borne diseases. That is why we're trying to get as much as we can done. The rainy season has started, as you can see from the overcast that we had out there. We've just got to get more done right away and I got right back to security.
These people want to go home. They need to go home. And they can't go home if they can't be safe. We may have some more conversations at the airport about what the government is at least conceptualizing as to how to get people home in security. Take a tribal chief back home, see that the village is secure, convince the tribal chief that there will be sufficient forces to protect the village and let's see if that will cause the tribal chief to feel confident enough to bring his people home from the camps.
But, it is a complex situation. Any one word that you take to describe Darfur can't describe Darfur.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, you said everyone wants to see them return home, but a lot of them, it seems, don't have anything to return to -- wells have been poisoned, irrigation destroyed. What can they do once they get there?
SECRETARY POWELL: They have to go back and rebuild with our help. Three and a half million Afghans didn't know what they were going home to when they left the camps in Pakistan, but they went, and they are busily rebuilding their lives. If you had told me in the fall of 2001, after the Taliban was crushed, that three and a half million Afghans would be leaving the camps in Pakistan and Iran and just walking back home to start rebuilding their lives, I would have found it hard to believe. But they've done it.
And we have seen in many other crises, situations and sustained conflicts of this time, when you can get the conflict ended and the security restored, people will go back and rebuild their lives. Angola is another case where it is happening. Liberia is another place where it is starting to happen, which doesn't happen until you calm things down, make things secure. And then people will build the life that they built once before; they'll do it again.
Okay, I'll see you.
(Distributed by the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)
|Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list|