G8 leaders meeting in St. Petersburg on July 15-17 should firmly tell the Sudanese government that it must immediately accept the deployment of a United Nations force to protect civilians in Darfur, Human Rights Watch said today.
Sudanese President Omar El Bashir has refused to consent to a U.N force in Darfur, despite repeated requests from the U.N Security Council, the African Union and the Arab League.
“For the third year in a row, Darfur will be on the agenda at the G8 meeting,” said Peter Takirambudde, Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “This year, the G8 must make a decisive public statement. As the killings continue, G8 leaders need to tell Khartoum that it has no alternative but to accept the deployment of a U.N. force in Darfur.”
Human Rights Watch also called on Russian President Vladimir Putin, as chair of the G8 summit, to tell President Bashir that the G8 leaders want him to accept the urgent deployment of a U.N. force in Darfur. Acting as a major arms supplier to Sudan and having oil interests in the country, Russia has been an ally of the Sudanese government by blocking stronger measures against Sudan by the U.N. Security Council.
In addition, the Russian government has quietly echoed Khartoum’s resistance to U.N. troops in Darfur.
“Russia must stop shielding the Sudanese government and start protecting Darfur’s civilians by persuading Khartoum to respect its earlier pledge to accept a U.N. force ,” said Takirambudde. “President Putin must clearly and publicly express Moscow’s support for a robust U.N. force in Darfur. Russia should also support tough sanctions against Khartoum’s leaders if they continue to block a U.N force.”
The appalling situation in Darfur is spiraling out of control. Two million people violently displaced from their homes in Darfur by the Sudanese government’s campaign of scorched earth and “ethnic cleansing” live like prisoners in camps. They are unable to return home due to continuing attacks mainly by the government-backed “Janjaweed” militias. Some rebels engaged in internal power struggles in Darfur have recently attacked villages, displaced thousands and caused a further deterioration in security.
On June 27, the African Union’s Peace and Security Council decided that the African Union Mission in Sudan (AMIS) would pull its under-resourced 7,000-strong force out of Darfur on September 30, when its mandate expires, unless Sudan agrees with the United Nations to a transition of AMIS into a larger U.N. force. The AU Special Representative in Sudan, Ambassador Baba Kingibe, stated on July 6 that the AU would only consider extending its peacekeeping mission until January 2007 on two conditions: first, to give the United Nations time to fully deploy if Khartoum agrees to the U.N. force; and second, only if international donors provide more financial and technical support to AMIS in the interim. He said that the AU has not paid the AMIS soldiers their June stipend because of funding shortages.
“A strong U.N. force with a Chapter VII mandate to use ‘all necessary measures’ to protect civilians in Darfur is more urgent than ever,” said Takirambudde. “This force needs to be deployed quickly to ensure there are no gaps in civilian protection.”
Some 3 million people, half of Darfur’s population, are dependent on declining amounts of international food aid, and humanitarian agencies are losing access to hundreds of thousands of needy persons due to increasing attacks on relief staff and their convoys. Recent cross-border attacks from Darfur into Chad by the “Janjaweed” militias and Chadian rebels have displaced more than 50,000 Chadians and threaten some 208,000 Darfurian refugees in Chad.
The Darfur Peace Agreement signed on May 5 between Khartoum and the largest rebel faction in Darfur is at risk of collapse due to the parties’ failure to meet their commitments and the woeful lack of international support for its implementation. On July 6, the U.N. Secretary-General’s Special Representative in Sudan, Jan Pronk, said that violence in Darfur had escalated since the agreement was signed and that violations of the agreement were rampant.
“Sudan’s government promised that once a Darfur peace agreement was signed, it would agree to U.N. forces in Darfur,” said Takirambudde. “But the Sudanese government has not kept its word: it has been two months since the agreement was signed, and Khartoum is still refusing to accept an urgently needed U.N force.”