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Sudan - What's Next for Darfur

The Save Darfur Coalition is one of the groups that has been pushing for tough international action on Darfur.

Amjad Atallah is the group's senior director of policy and advocacy. In Washington, he spoke with VOA English to Africa Service reporter Joe De Capua about what happens now that the International Criminal Court prosecutor is filing charges against Sudan's president.

"The ICC has basically set a high bar for fulfilling its mandate and doing its job. Now the (UN) Security Council member states basically have to rise to the same standard. So far there have been three pieces to this. There's been the justice and accountability piece. There's been peacemaking. And there's been protection. And so far it's only on the justice component that the ICC has been working double time," he says.

The other areas he says have fallen short. For example, he says, "On the protection (issue), we're one year from the time that the United Nations passed a resolution to send a joint UN/AU peacekeeping force into Darfur. And now, almost one year later, we still don't have the helicopters and the heavy trucks that the troops need to be mobile in an area the size of France."

Atallah says that at the "end of the day" there has to be a peace agreement that affects all of Sudan. However, he says, "So far, the international community is still at square one and we're nowhere closer to a peace agreement than we were a year ago."

He says many countries are looking for ways "to be engaged rhetorically" on Sudan, but "not to be too engaged on the ground." He says that the ICC prosecutor's decision to file charges against President Bashir has put many countries in an unexpected position. "Now the ICC has actually gone ahead and done a slam dunk (basketball term) and it's leaving them in the position where they're just staring with their mouths open. And they've got to actually catch up to them. I would put the responsibility on all the individual member states, and including some of those that are in Africa, and the P5, the permanent five members," he says.

The Save Darfur Coalition policy director agrees it may take years before President Bashir may be brought to trial. "A lot of this depends on what the government of Sudan does. The government of Sudan is obviously under tremendous pressure now and it can move in a number of different directions. One direction it could potentially move is to try to be as cooperative as possible with the international community in ending this conflict. It's hard to believe they'll actually go in that direction… If on the other hand they decide to remain intransigent, become more intransigent, then three years may sound like a long time for us, but I think for the government the idea that President Bashir might one day be imprisoned in The Hague…is…a catastrophe for them," he says.

Atallah says African Union countries may issue statements that appear to support Bashir, "but they won't actually supply him with support. And in fact they will probably be looking now for ways to move Sudan out of this, because it's not what happens to President Bashir that's important. It's what happens to Sudan that's important."

As for China, he says that it has often helped Sudan get around political and diplomatic problems relating to Sudan. China denies it has done anything inappropriate regarding Sudan.