Darfur, western Sudan: An International Responsibility to Protect
By Gareth Evans
The International Crisis Group is calling for major international action to address the humanitarian crisis unfolding in Darfur, western Sudan. You can support our efforts - for more information go to our Darfur campaign page.
UN Secretary General Kofi Annan has called it "ethnic cleansing". President Bush has condemned the "atrocities, which are displacing hundreds of thousands of civilians". Others are starting to use the word "genocide". Whatever you want to call what's going on today in Darfur, the time for forceful outside intervention is unmistakably approaching.
Since it came to power, the Khartoum regime has undertaken one scorched earth campaign after another in Sudan. In the past year, it has done so against Muslims of African descent in the west of the country, arming and supporting Arab "Janjaweed" militias to inflict collective punishment against the civilian populations in Darfur it accuses of supporting a rebellion there – principally the Fur, Zaghawa and Massalit tribes. Supported by aerial bombing, Janjaweed attacks have led to wholesale destruction of villages, targeted destruction of water reserves and food stores, indiscriminate killings, looting, mass rape and huge population displacement.
To date, tens of thousands have been killed, and over one million displaced, many now living in squalid camps where they are dying from disease and malnutrition. According to USAID, even if the war were to stop immediately, as many as 100,000 people will likely die in Darfur in the coming months due to the desperate humanitarian situation. Another 110,000 have fled to neighbouring Chad.
ICG is calling on the United Nations Security Council to urgently pass a resolution that includes these five points:
First, it must condemn what has been happening and demand that it stop: the violations of international humanitarian law in Darfur, the indiscriminate targeting of civilians, the obstruction of humanitarian assistance by the government, and its continued support of the Janjaweed paramilitary forces.
Secondly, it must impose an arms embargo, insist Khartoum disarm the Janjaweed, demand respect for the "humanitarian" ceasefire signed on 8 April in Chad, and support internationally facilitated political negotiations between government and rebels in Darfur.
Thirdly, the resolution must call for the safe return of displaced persons to their villages of origin, reversing the ethnic cleansing in Darfur.
Fourthly, it should authorise a high level team to investigate the war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in Darfur.
Finally, it should warn Khartoum unambiguously. The UN Secretary General should be asked to provide a further report to the Security Council within three weeks, reviewing progress. And it should be made clear beyond doubt that – in the event this report indicates a continuing humanitarian crisis in Darfur, ongoing indiscriminate targeting of civilians and obstruction of humanitarian assistance by the government – the Security Council will authorise the application of military force on "responsibility to protect" principles.
Khartoum may be betting that the world is too preoccupied with Iraq to care what happens in Darfur. If Sudan ignores this resolution, the international community must be ready to show that this is not the case by providing the necessary political will and military resources to hold it comprehensively to account.
If you want to find out more about the Darfur crisis, you can go to our Darfur campaign page. This page has details of ICG's reports and opinions.