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UN Faults Sudan for Failing to Halt Attacks on Darfur Civilians - 2004-10-05


U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan has criticized Sudan for failing to stop atrocities by pro-government militias in the western Darfur region.

Sudan's government has made no progress in ending attacks on civilians in Darfur over the past month, and has done nothing to prosecute those responsible for atrocities.

Those were the conclusions of a monthly report Secretary-General Kofi Annan submitted Tuesday to the Security Council.

Presenting the report, Special envoy to Sudan, Jan Pronk, presented a picture of continuing clashes between government forces and Darfur rebels, as well as hijacking, banditry and tribal conflict. He laid blame on the rebels as well as on government troops, but he saved his most severe criticism for the pro-government militias known as Janjaweed.

"Most civilian deaths were caused by militia attacks, some of which were quite atrocious in the beginning of September," he said. "Toward the end of the month militia attacks became less frequent. In the same period, however, armed banditry rose at an alarming rate, endangering both the local population and aid convoys."

The Secretary-General's first monthly report in September prompted the Security Council to pass a resolution threatening sanctions against Sudan's oil industry. The resolution also endorsed the deployment of an African Union peacekeeping force to the region.

Sudan's foreign minister told the Council last week that an A.U. force of more than 3,500 troops would be permitted into Darfur. At the moment, the A.U. has fewer than 100 unarmed monitors in the region, which is roughly the size of France.

After Tuesday's Council session, Sudan's U.N. Ambassador Elfatih Mohammed Erwa said his government is awaiting the arrival of the A.U. force. He blamed the government's failure to halt Janjaweed attacks in Darfur on the region's continuing civil war.

"It didn't improve because there were certain security problems, the environment on the ground, especially the attacks and counter attacks," said Ambassador Erwa.

An obviously exasperated U.S. Ambassador John Danforth emerged from the Council session saying it is critical to get an expanded African Union force into Darfur without delay. He questioned the Sudanese government's commitment to reining in the Janjaweed.

"I think we have to raise the question of, 'is the Government of Sudan serious or not?' Is there ever going to be a time when they try to disarm the Janjaweed? Is there ever going to be a time when they bring to justice the people who've committed these atrocities?" said Ambassador Danforth.

The U.S. ambassador said Washington has earmarked $20 million to assist in getting A.U. officers on the ground in Darfur. Another $75 million is being considered in next year's budget appropriation.

But at a time when U.N. officials estimated 6,000 to 10,000 people are dying each month in Darfur, Ambassador Danforth admitted that those A.U. troops are not likely to arrive before the end of the year.

Darfur has been the scene of widespread atrocities since rebels took up arms against government troops 19 months ago. U.N. officials say nearly two-million Darfur residents have been driven from their homes in that time, and 50,000 people have been killed, in what the United States has labeled genocide.

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