Background Briefing

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International Response to the Crisis in Darfur

If the Sudanese government were genuinely committed to the safety and prosperity of its citizens, it could remove and prosecute the Janjaweed, who have repeatedly broken the criminal laws of Sudan.  The Sudanese government, however, is responsible for recruiting, arming, and jointly operating with the Janjaweed against Darfurian rebels. This is the main reason why the government has failed to undertake prosecutions or investigations of the Janjaweed or their leaders, or to disarm them.  

The U.N. Secretary-General finally recognized this crucial fact in his report of November 4, 2004 to the U.N. Security Council, discarding the diplomatic fiction that the Sudanese government is separate and apart from the Janjaweed militia.  “It [the Sudanese government] has responded to increasing pressure from the SLM/A attacks by launching operations using combined forces from the army, police and militia, including groups known to the local population and internally displaced persons as ‘Janjaweed,’”91 he noted.  The Security Council has lost precious time by pretending that the Sudanese government is neutral as to the Janjaweed and the rebels in Darfur, and that it was not responsible for the scorched earth campaign that ruined the economy of Darfur, cost the lives of thousands of Darfurians, and burned hundreds of villages.

Despite several “early warnings,” the matter of Darfur was not even on the Security Council agenda until April 2004.92  The Security Council on July 30, 2004, ended its protracted delay in taking action on Darfur and passed Resolution 1556.93 This resolution, to the credit of the Security Council, gave the government of Sudan thirty days to “disarm the Janjaweed militias and apprehend and bring to justice Janjaweed leaders and their associates”94.  It threatened “further actions” if the Sudanese government failed to comply with the resolution. 

The Sudanese government failed to disarm the Janjaweed or bring any to justice. Instead, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Sudan, Jan Pronk, was treated to a “show” disarmament of 300 Popular Defense Force members.95 At the same time, many reported that numerous Janjaweed, far from being disarmed, were being transferred to the uniformed police, armed forces, and PDF—and into a specially created “Border Intelligence Guard.”

The Secretary-General’s report to the Security Council on August 30, 2004 flatly stated that the government of Sudan had not met its obligation to stop attacks against civilians and ensure their protection “fully, despite the commitments it has made and its obligations under resolution 1556.”96  Despite this conclusion, the report did not recommend any specific action against the government of Sudan but merely urged it to accept the A.U. offer to provide troops to protect civilians in Darfur. 

The next Security Council resolution (Resolution 1564) on September 18, 2004 did not follow through on the threat of “further measures” from the previous resolution. The resolution instead continued to threaten, this time specifying the possibility of sanctions for noncompliance, including on the petroleum sector and on individual members of the government. In a positive move, the Security Council authorized the establishment of an international commission of inquiry to “investigate reports of violations of international humanitarian law and human rights law in Darfur by all parties, to determine also whether or not acts of genocide have occurred, and to identify the perpetrators of such violations with a view to ensuring that those responsible are held accountable”97

The U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, Louise Arbour, visited Darfur from September 20-24 with the Secretary-General’s Special Advisor on the Prevention of Genocide, Juan Mendez.  They denounced the total impunity enjoyed by perpetrators of atrocities and recommended the deployment of an international police force in Darfur to protect civilians and investigate crimes.98

The second monthly report of the Secretary-General to the Security Council was delivered on October 5.  In a briefing to the Security Council, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Darfur, Jan Pronk, stated that “there was no systematic improvement of people’s security and no progress on ending impunity.”99  In the third monthly report, dated November 4, the Secretary-General noted with some alarm the increase in violence and insecurity in Darfur.

From the start of the crisis in Darfur, the Security Council, in effect, delegated to the African Union the responsibility to provide the international military presence needed to bring security to Darfur, in the face of Sudanese government’s de facto refusal to protect its citizens. The fledgling A.U. offered to increase its forces and to expand its mandate to include civilian protection, in a sharp change from its predecessor, the decidedly non-interventionist Organization of African Unity. After protracted negotiations, the Sudanese government consented to increased A.U. forces and a slightly expanded mandate.

The A.U. worked to build up the expanded protection force, but as of November 4, there were only 136 A.U. ceasefire observers, protected by 625 A.U. troops, in an area the size of France. As of early November, only 287 Nigerian and Rwandan troops had been added to the 310 already on the ground since August. The A.U. planned to boost its force to 2,341 troops to protect 450 unarmed military ceasefire observers and deploy 815 civilian police by the end of 2004.100 The deployment schedule was facilitated by airlifts of African troops provided by the E.U., U.S., Australia, and others.

The A.U. ceasefire monitors, struggling with inadequate logistics inside Darfur which impeded their ability to deploy sufficiently outside of five bases, nevertheless investigated the cascade of complaints and confirmed that the ceasefire agreement signed in N’Djamena, Chad, on April 8, 2004 has been broken daily by all parties.

A special Security Council meeting was scheduled in Nairobi, Kenya for November 18-19 to bring pressure on the Sudanese government and the southern-based rebels the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A) to finalize the North-South peace agreement—negotiations for which had dragged into the third year—and end the twenty-one-year war fought mostly in southern Sudan; the special meeting would also address the worsening situation in Darfur.

Sanctions are reportedly not on the table for consideration at the Nairobi meeting. But the Security Council cannot afford to allow the Sudanese government to further flout its resolutions. The Secretary-General has now stated that the Sudanese government is responsible for the actions of the Janjaweed militia. The Security Council has given the Sudanese government more than enough time to ensure the security of its citizens – but the Sudanese government has rewarded this indulgence with more stalling as attacks on civilians continue and ethnic cleansing is consolidated.

[91] United Nations Secretary-General, “Report of the Secretary-General on Sudan pursuant to paragraph 15 of Security Council Resolution 1564 of 18 September 2004, and paragraphs 6, 13 and 16 of Security Council resolution 1556 of 30 July 2004” (New York: United Nations, October 2004).

[92] In late 2003 the U.N.’s emergency chief Jan Egeland warned that Darfurians were living the “worst humanitarian crisis in the world.” Sudan was not on the agenda of the Security Council until April. The government of Sudan responded to this show of interest and concern by quickly signing a ceasefire agreement with the rebels; by April 2004, however, the damage had been done: one million people had been evicted from their farms and rendered destitute on account of their ethnicity. They missed the 2004 planting season, guaranteeing that the international community would be called on to provide continued emergency relief for another year.

[93] The Security Council President issued a statement on Darfur in late May. The Council was briefed on the humanitarian and human rights crisis in Darfur repeatedly in April-June and U.N. officials continued to visit Darfur, including Secretary-General Kofi Annan in early July.

[94] United Nations Security Council Resolution 1556, July 30, 2004.

[95] Reportedly, the weapons turned in were handed back to the PDF members the next day. Amnesty International, “Darfur, Sudan: UN Security Council must challenge human rights violations,” Press release, September 2, 2004,

[96] United Nations Secretary-General, “Report of the Secretary-General pursuant to paragraphs 6 and 13 to 16 of Security Council resolution 1556 (2004)” (New York: United Nations, August 30, 2004).

[97] United Nations Security Council Resolution 1564, September 18, 2004.

[98] United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour, “Statement to the Security Council on the situation of human rights in Darfur”, September 30, 2004.

[99] “Sudan: U.N. envoy criticizes government over Darfur,” IRIN, October 6, 2004.

[100] The one-year operation will cost an estimated US $220 million. African Union, “The African Union deploys more troops in Darfur as part of its efforts to strengthen AMIS,” Press Release No. 098/2004 (Addis Ababa, October 28, 2004).

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