The human rights group Amnesty International is reacting to
the latest ceasefire announcement for Darfur. It says such announcements have
had little effect in the past.
an official statement, Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir says, "I
hereby announce our immediate unconditional ceasefire between the armed forces
and warring factions provided that an effective monitoring mechanism be put
into action and be observed by all involved parties."
Tawanda Hondora, deputy director of Amnesty's
Africa program, spoke from London to VOA English to Africa Service reporter Joe
De Capua about the announcement Wednesday from the Sudanese president.
"Amnesty International's reaction is that we've
had so many declarations of ceasefires since the conflict began in 2003 in
Darfur, but none of those ceasefires has resulted in any change for people on
the ground. And we're saying that this must not be another occasion where the
political declarations of ceasefires do not result in any change on the ground.
What the people of Darfur need are not political declarations. What they need
is real tangible change…especially with regards to security and with regards to
provision of humanitarian aid," he says.
Hondora says Bashir's announcement contains a
caveat. "He (Bashir) is obviously making it subject to UNAMID presumably
creating a unit or perhaps a force that's able to…monitor and enforce security.
Now, what we say is that all parties to this conflict should make sure that
civilians are not targeted whether or not there's a ceasefire…. What we are
asking for is that both the government of Sudan, as well as armed opposition
groups, must desist from activities that put civilians in danger. At the
moment, both parties engage in activities that result in civilians being
targeted, in civilians becoming displaced and in women and children being
particularly affected," he says.
UNAMID is the hybrid UN/African Union
peacekeeping force in Darfur.
The Sudanese president also called for "an
immediate campaign to disarm the militias." Hondora says, "That is one of the
recommendations that was made and been consistently made by the United Nations
Security Council. It is also a call that Amnesty International has been issuing
since the start of this conflict when we raised the issue of Janjaweed militia
that was being used by the government of Sudan in attacking civilians, which
resulted in millions being displaced and hundreds of thousands being killed. And
the government of Sudan has over the years said that they were disarming
Janjaweed militias, yet precious little has resulted or changed on the ground."
Amnesty International's Hondora says the
organization is calling on the Sudanese government to "abide by its
international obligations and the promises that they have made, which is to
disarm them, whether or not there is a ceasefire. They do have that
The declaration comes at a time when
President Bashir faces a possible arrest warrant from the International
Criminal Court for alleged war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide.
Hondora says, "It is critical that those who committed war crimes and crimes
against humanity and brutalized the people of Darfur do need to face justice. There
must be no impunity for their crimes irrespective of the positions they hold or
not in government."