The U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, John Danforth, says the recently signed peace memorandum between the government of Sudan and the Sudan Peoples Liberation Movement offers the best hope to end the humanitarian crisis and bring peace in Darfur, in the western part of country.
The 15-member U.N. Security Council traveled to Nairobi, Kenya last month to oversee the signing of the memorandum, which calls for a signed peace agreement between the two sides to end civil war that has ravaged Sudan for 21 years. It was only the fourth time in its history that the Security Council has met outside of the United Nations' New York headquarters.
The peace agreement is designed to end the north-south conflict, which has claimed two million lives. But Ambassador Danforth says it will also help end the humanitarian crisis that broke out two years ago in Darfur because the peace settlement addresses the root causes of conflict in Sudan, including the historic clash between nomadic Arabs and Black Africans.
"Two people claiming the same real estate, it requires a legal system, a constitutional system which makes it possible to incorporate into one country diverse interests," he noted. "The north south peace agreement is designed help do that through the creation of a federal system where there is a central government, but where there are very clear strong roles to be played by provincial governments as well plus a sharing of the resources of the country on a provincial level."
Mr. Danforth was joined by video link at a news briefing by the United States representative to the U.N. Food and Agricultural Organization in Rome, Italy, Tony Hall.
Ambassador Hall recently accompanied a shipment of feed and aid from the United States to Chad and Sudan via a new route through Libya. The United States has delivered half of one billion dollars in food and assistance to Sudan in the last 13 months.
Ambassador Hall says if refugees do not go home to plant crops in the next four to five months, they will not have a harvest next year and will have to remain in the more than 130 refugee camps. But he says convincing people to go home is a challenge, because they live in fear of both the government and the rebels.
"They are not going to leave those camps until they have some security," said Mr. Hall. "That is the second biggest issue, the lack of security in the area. Women go out at night to gather firewood or during the day to try to make a little bit of money on farms that might be working. They get violently attacks, oftentimes raped. Men, of course, they cannot go out. They get either beat up or killed."
Mr. Hall says the international community must closely monitor Sudan once the peace settlement takes effect. Eight hundred African Union troops in Sudan are due to increase to 3,500 by mid-January but Ambassador Hall says more may be needed.