Sudanese Leaders Still Rejecting U.N. Protection for Darfur
(New York, August 14, 2006) – The United Nations Security Council should impose sanctions on Sudan’s top officials for blocking U.N. efforts to protect civilians in Darfur, Human Rights Watch said today in a letter to Security Council members.
The Secretary-General’s July 28 report to the Security Council, now under consideration, strongly urges that a U.N. peacekeeping force assume the protection role of the beleaguered 7,000-plus African Union Mission in Sudan (AMIS) forces already in Darfur.
“The Sudanese government has no basis on which to reject a more effective international protection force,” said Peter Takirambudde, Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “Civilians in Darfur are in urgent need of protection and the Sudanese government admits it can’t save them from the violence.”
The Sudanese government reportedly assured international negotiators at the Darfur peace talks in April that it would agree to a U.N. peacekeeping force once a peace agreement was signed. On May 5, the Sudanese government and the largest Darfurian rebel faction signed a permanent ceasefire and peace agreement in Abuja, Nigeria.
But the government reneged on its assurances about U.N. troops for Darfur almost immediately, with President Omar El Bashir threatening to personally lead Sudanese troops against U.N. “foreign troops” attempting to “occupy” or “colonize” Darfur.
The agreement was to end the three-year Darfur conflict that has forced some 2 million people from their homes. But a recent U.N. human rights report said that human rights abuses were ongoing, by “Janjaweed” militia, government forces and rebels.
The rebels have split badly over the May peace agreement; two rebel groups did not sign. The signing and non-signing rebel groups have been fighting each other and committing yet more human rights abuses.
“In the three months since the peace agreement, the Darfur conflict has warped into a bloody three-sided free-for-all,” said Takirambudde. “All are to blame: the original rebel groups, the new one, the Janjaweed militias and Sudan’s government. Civilians are still the victims.”
Bashir is the most powerful actor in the Sudanese government, but there are other officials who support U.N. troops in Darfur, including First Vice President Salva Kiir Mayardit and the newly inaugurated Senior Presidential Advisor Minni Minawi Arkau, who heads the Darfurian rebel group that signed the peace accord.
“Foreign governments, including the U.S. and the U.K., also bear responsibility for this tragic state of affairs as members of the Security Council,” said Takirambudde. “The Council should impose personal, targeted sanctions on top Sudanese officials responsible for preventing U.N. troops from being sent to Darfur.”
The Sudanese government has defied the Security Council for two years. In July 2004, it promised that it would disarm the Janjaweed militias, which it has backed. But although Sudan failed to neutralize its abusive militias by the promised deadline, the Security Council has not responded.
The Secretary-General’s July 28 report recommends that the U.N. bolster the AMIS forces in the short run, before the U.N. forces deploy on January 1, 2007.
Human Rights Watch specifically urged the Security Council to:
Apply targeted sanctions to Sudanese officials should the government not consent by August 15 to the U.N. deployment in Darfur;
Expand the arms embargo to cover all of Sudan, not just Darfur;
Provide a robust mandate for the U.N. force for Darfur, including Chapter VII powers to use “all necessary means” to protect civilians;
Have the U.N. force assume the duties of AMIS; and,
Authorize at least 17,300 U.N. troops and 3,300 civilian police for Darfur.
Sudan is the largest country by area in Africa, with an estimated population of at least 36 million. Darfur is the size of France, with a population estimated at 6 million and very little infrastructure or economic development.
Two million civilians have been forcibly displaced from their burned and looted homes and farms, most by government forces and proxy militias committing war crimes and crimes against humanity. Those displaced largely remain in camps because security has not been restored; more than 208,000 refugees are in Chad, where cross-border attacks in 2006 have produced 50,000 Chadian internally displaced persons.
The 7,000-plus AU forces grew out of 300 personnel initially sent to Darfur to observe an April 2004 ceasefire between the Sudanese government and two rebel groups, the Sudan Liberation Army/Movement and the Justice and Equality Movement. Its mandate was expanded to include “protection of civilians” in October 2004, and its forces were gradually increased almost to the authorized strength of 6,171 military personnel and 1,560 unarmed civilian police.
An AMIS transition to U.N. forces in Darfur had been under discussion for months. In March 2006, the AU’s Peace and Security Council recognized that U.N. forces should assume the AU’s protective mandate for Darfur and extended the AMIS mandate until September 30.
On May 5, the African Union brokered a peace agreement signed by one major rebel group and gave the unwilling rebels until May 31 to sign on. Individual commanders joined, but the two other main rebel factions did not. At the June 27 AU Summit in Banjul, the AU Peace and Security Council reiterated its decision to end its Darfur mandate on September 30 in part because it did not have funding to extend its mission.
The Secretary-General’s July 29 report to the Security Council stated that the best configuration for a U.N. force would be a 17,300-strong U.N. military force and 3,300 police officers take over the AU mission in Darfur as of January 1, 2007, with a robust mandate that gives priority to civilian protection.