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Sudan Pact with Southern Rebels Said to Be in Jeopardy

The Brussels-based research organization, International Crisis Group (ICG), says the deteriorating humanitarian, security and political situation in the Darfur region of western Sudan is threatening to undermine a recently-signed peace accord, which ended more than two decades of war in the south.

Launching the International Crisis Group's latest report on Darfur at a news conference in Nairobi, the organizations' senior analyst, David Mozersky, gave a bleak assessment of the conflict in western Sudan, which has killed some 70,000 people in the past two years.

"A deteriorating security situation, a looming famine, mounting civilian casualties, an ineffective cease fire, negotiating process that is at a stand-still, the splintering of rebel movements and what appears to be the breakdown of command and control, new armed groups being formed in Darfur and neighboring regions," he said.

Mr. Mozersky says what is most alarming about the current situation is that without a movement toward resolving the conflict in Darfur, there is a possibility that the agreement signed two months ago between the government of Sudan and the southern-based Sudan People's Liberation Movement could be severely undermined.

Mr. Mozersky and the ICG worry that if Khartoum is not pressured into living up to the commitments it has made with regard to Darfur, the Sudanese government may be encouraged not to honor promises it has made to the southern rebels.

Much like the southern SPLA uprising two decades ago, the rebels in Darfur launched their war against the Sudanese government, complaining of political and economic neglect.

The peace accord for the south contains a number of provisions, including power and wealth sharing deals, which many people believe could provide a framework for a political solution in Darfur.

In its Darfur report, the ICG lists several steps, which it believes must be taken now to end the chaos and bloodshed in western Sudan.

Mr. Mozersky says the first step should be for the United Nations' Security Council to impose punitive sanctions on the Sudanese government for ignoring U.N. resolutions ordering Khartoum to disarm and disband pro-government Arab militias. The so-called "Janjaweed" militias are accused of committing gross human rights abuses throughout Darfur.

"It's not sanctions for the sake of sanctions,” he added. “It's not part of a policy of regime change. It's sanctions in order to force the government to implement its commitments."

Although a U.N. investigative panel gave evidence last month that crimes against humanity have taken place in Darfur, the Security Council members have not been able to agree on what to do about it.

China, which has strong economic and political ties to Khartoum, has said that it will veto any attempts to impose sanctions on Sudan. And a U.S. opposition to referring Darfur atrocity suspects to the International Criminal Court in The Hague is complicating efforts to find a mechanism for holding people accountable for crimes there.

Mr. Mozersky says without a strong international will to end the war in Darfur, ICG fears the conflict may spread into southern Sudan and destroy any chance of achieving lasting peace in the country.

"If the Security Council doesn't step up and take some kind of steps to hold the parties accountable to the commitments they've signed up to, as well as to what previous Security Council resolutions required of them, then two things will happen,” he explained. “First of all, continued fighting. Secondly, it sends a very strong message that the international community does not hold the parties in Sudan accountable to their commitments and this will have repercussions for the implementation of the north-south peace agreement."

It is not only the U.N. Security Council, which is deadlocked on the issue of prosecuting war crimes in Darfur. On Wednesday, the African Union issued a statement, acknowledging that the 53-member group has also been unable to reach a consensus on how to bring culprits to justice.