One year ago this month, former U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell declared that violence in the Darfur region of Sudan was tantamount to genocide. While large-scale fighting between Darfur rebel groups and government-backed troops and militias has abated, incidents of killing and lawlessness continue, even as peace talks ensue in Abuja.
Meanwhile, earlier this year the government of Sudan and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement reached a historic peace agreement that ended two decades of civil war between the predominantly Muslim Arab north and the Christian and animist south. In July the accord resulted in the formation of a government of National Unity. The new Sudanese government was sworn in last week, but power struggles over key ministries challenge the new cabinet.
Charles Snyder, senior representative on Sudan for the U.S. State Department, said that Washington is pressing for a resolution of the Darfur conflict by the end of the year because, unless people are “back on the ground” in time for the planting season that precedes the rainy season next April, the international community will have to feed and support them.
Speaking with host Carol Castiel of VOA News Now’s Press Conference USA, Mr. Snyder said it is up to the government, the rebels, and their mediators to push the peace process to closure. According to him, the rebels need to “take a chance on peace” and trust the United States and the international community and move forward because they cannot win through military means. In turn, the African Union, which was founded just two years ago, also needs support from the international community in its peacekeeping role. According to Mr. Snyder, it is imperative that the international community should deliver on its promises both in the areas of security and humanitarian assistance because the United States is currently providing 80 % of the humanitarian aid to Darfur. Mr. Snyder noted that, while the janjaweed, or Arab militias backed by the Khartoum government, are no longer encouraging or supplying the violence, the janjaweed have not yet been brought under control.
Charles Snyder said the crisis in Darfur and the implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, which ended hostilities between north and south in January, are inter-related. He noted that the north-south peace agreement would remain in effect for six years, at which time the independence of the south could be voted upon. Furthermore, the two sides would split oil revenues 50-50. According to Mr. Snyder, the Sudanese cannot afford another civil war in which 2.2 million died, hundreds of thousands more were exiled, and a whole generation now lacks basic education skills.
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