The United Nations is warning of impending chaos in Sudan's western Darfur region, with increasing violence and a breakdown of order. The United States responded to the warning with a call for tougher action to end Sudan's two civil wars.
Briefing the Security Council Tuesday, Undersecretary General for Political Affairs Kieran Prendergast blamed both the Sudanese government and the rebels for what he called a "marked deterioration of security conditions in Darfur" in the past few weeks.
Mr. Prendergast charged that rebels seem intent on provoking government retaliation. But he reserved his harshest criticism for the government, which he said has consistently failed to rein in Arab militia known as the Janjaweed.
"Regrettably, the government has made no progress in disarming the Janjaweed," he said. "Moreover, the government has made no effort to stop recent retaliatory attacks by the Janjaweed. Indeed, unconfirmed reports continue to circulate that the armed militias continue to receive arms from some quarters in Khartoum."
Mr. Prendergast said as violence reached a peak in late November, 2.3 million Darfurians, a third of the population, were without access to humanitarian aid.
Washington's U.N. Ambassador John Danforth emerged from the briefing expressing exasperation at the lack of progress toward peace.
"Well, we're getting nowhere with respect to Darfur," he said. "We've tried everything. We've tried the carrot [incentive] approach. We've tried the stick [threats] approach, and we're getting nowhere. The report we had today was extremely troubling. Both sides, rebels and the government and the militia, all sides are complicit in the disaster. They sign agreements that apparently mean nothing at all, and this remains a very serious situation. Question is, where do we go from here?"
Ambassador Danforth, who served previously as President Bush's special envoy to Sudan, urged the Security Council to send additional police, peacekeeping troops and human rights monitors to Darfur as quickly as possible
The U.S. ambassador said he was mystified at the motives driving the rebels to continue fighting.
"Frankly, I don't understand what the rebel groups in Darfur are driving at," he said. "I don't understand what their political program is, but they also have been engaged in breaking ceasefires and humanitarian disaster, and it's important for them to recognize that they will be held accountable as well as the government."
He said all sides must understand that international aid to help Sudan will only be forthcoming after the violence stops. He added, "Nobody has clean hands with respect to Darfur. There are no good guys".
Ambassador Danforth led the Security Council to Africa last month in an effort to pressure the warring parties in Sudan to make peace.
In addition to Darfur in the west, there is a separate conflict between the government and southern rebels. The government and the southern rebels are under pressure to reach a peace deal by December 31. But the latest U.N. report suggests they will have trouble meeting that deadline.
In the meantime, diplomats say Darfur rebels have stepped up their attacks in apparent hopes of achieving a better negotiating position in any future peace talks.