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12 January 2005

Peace in Darfur 2005 Goal, U.N. Envoys Say

Security Council reviews situation in Sudan's Darfur region

By Judy Aita
Washington File United Nations Correspondent

United Nations -- Pressing for peace in Darfur, U.N. Security Council members said January 11 that sanctions against Sudan are still an option even though a peace agreement was signed ending the 20-year-old North-South civil war.

U.S. Ambassador John Danforth said that "sanctions are still on the table" and the United States will press as intensely to achieve peace in the strife-torn Darfur region of western Sudan as it did to end the North-South conflict.

Speaking with journalists after a closed door Security Council meeting with U.N. Special Envoy to Sudan Jan Pronk, Danforth said that "it is important for all parties in Darfur -- the government and the rebels -- to understand that there is a limit to tolerance, and the fact of sanctions is still something to be considered."

Sanctions were discussed during the session, Danforth noted.  Even though some council members are opposed to sanctions as a general principle, "it may be possible to fashion" sanctions in a way that would be agreeable to a majority of council members, he said.

"Everything that can be done, should be done," he added.  "We must be focused."

Danforth said that council members hope the signing of the peace agreement in early January between Khartoum and the Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM) "is going to have a positive effect in respect to Darfur."  That development, along with the presence of African Union troops, who are providing protection for civilians in Darfur, and upcoming changes in the government in Khartoum to include SPLM leader John Garang, are other reasons for optimism, he said.

Before becoming the chief U.S. envoy to the United Nations, Danforth was President Bush's special envoy to Sudan.  As president of the Security Council in November 2004, Danforth arranged for an extraordinary council meeting in Nairobi, Kenya, to focus on the peace talks between the government and the SPLM under way there.  By the conclusion of the session, the two sides agreed to finalize a peace pact by the end of 2004.  The deadline was met, and a comprehensive peace agreement was officially signed on January 9, 2005.

The ambassador said that "it is impossible to overstate the importance" of the North-South peace agreement.

"The purpose of the United States' engagement in Sudan is to save people's lives, not to make debating points, not to listen to ourselves speak, but to put forward and support ideas that will actually save people's lives," Danforth said.  "We have certainly done that with respect to the North-South peace agreement."

That peace agreement, he pointed out, "has ended a war that has lasted more than two decades and that has claimed more than 2 million lives, and people are pushing that off the front page as though nothing had happened last Sunday [January 9].  Something big happened last Sunday and it was due in large part to the engagement of the United States in this process.

"The next question is Darfur, and we should be engaged in that in precisely the same manner, not to make debating points, but to save the lives of people, especially the innocent people," Danforth said.

In his presentation to the Security Council, U.N. Envoy Pronk said that, "after the conclusion and signing of the comprehensive peace agreement between North and South, there can be no question what should be the priority task for 2005.  The fighting in Darfur must be stopped, the conflict must be resolved, and the people affected must be able to return to their homes."

Pronk said that the North-South peace process can be applied to Darfur and "it must."

"We can make it work," he said.

"It is hard to imagine that the peace dividend promised by the Nairobi agreement will be reaped without an end to the suffering in Darfur," Pronk said.  "International aid will not flow and, more important, in Sudan itself, the achievement will turn out to be vulnerable."

As long as there is war in some part of Sudan, resources will be spent on weapons, not welfare, he said, and "investors will be reluctant, entrepreneurs will hesitate, young people with brains and initiative will want to leave the country, displaced people will wander around."

Offering several suggestions that could encourage a peace agreement, Pronk said that the government and rebels in Darfur must be pressured, reasoned with, and offered alternatives to the status quo.

Suggestions included: As a show of good will, the government and rebel movements should all withdraw behind reasonable and well-defined lines with African Union troops moving in to protect the areas; the government should make a new start in disarming the Jingaweit; the rebel movement should agree not to block or disrupt peaceful seasonal movements of nomadic tribes and their cattle; and the parties must identify practical means to provide basic needs such as food to their forces in order to lessen the urge to steal, loot and kill.

The U.N. envoy noted that only about 1,000 of the 3,000 African Union troops have been deployed, and he urged the international community to "do whatever is required to accelerate the rate of deployment."

"The recent history of Darfur shows that without such an independent and neutral protection force, women and children, elder people, returnees, unarmed persons belonging to an adversary tribe would not be safe," Pronk said.

Danforth also mentioned the possibility of adding international police protection in the camps, and Pronk suggested that the number of human rights monitors in the region be increased from 20 to 150.

The security situation in Darfur is bad and the humanitarian situation poor, Pronk told the council.  Violence has spread into the camps for displaced persons and is directly affecting humanitarian workers as well; refugees are not returning in sufficient numbers to plant sustainable crops; and livestock is being lost on a huge scale, he said.

(The Washington File is a product of the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)



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