- The Washington Times - Saturday, August 14, 2004

KHARTOUM, Sudan — Sudanese President Omar Bashir ordered tribal leaders in the Darfur region to form security forces to disarm Arab militias blamed for a rampage of violence that has killed 30,000 people during an 18-month conflict.

The decision, announced late Thursday after two days of talks between government officials and Darfur tribal chiefs, comes amid intense international pressure to end the Darfur crisis, which has left more than 1 million people homeless.

The United Nations describes Darfur’s plight as the world’s worst humanitarian crisis. The European Union, United States and humanitarian groups accuse Mr. Bashir’s government of backing the Arab militias, known as the Janjaweed, with vehicles, helicopters and airplanes — a charge denied by Sudanese officials.

It was not clear how effective the government’s move would be. Despite the government’s previous efforts to restore order, including the deployment of police to the troubled region, U.N. officials and aid groups say fighting and other violence continue.

Darfur’s troubles stem from long-standing tensions between nomadic Arab tribes and African farm communities over dwindling water and agricultural land in the vast, arid region of western Sudan.

Those tensions exploded in February 2003 when two African rebel groups, the Sudanese Liberation Army and the Justice and Equality Movement, took up arms over what they regard as unjust treatment by the government. Since then, the Janjaweed have burned villages and slaughtered farmers across the region.

According to a government communique issued Thursday, Mr. Bashir ordered some 100 tribes in Sudan’s three Darfur states to create their own security forces, including armed camel riders, to disarm the militias.

The Civil Administration of Darfur’s Grand States, which comprises the region’s tribes, also was told to work with 6,000 police sent to disarm the Janjaweed. The communique said the Civil Administration would take charge of dealing with neighboring states “to hand in wanted outlawed persons to Sudanese authorities and control weapon smuggling across borders.”

On July 30, the U.N. Security Council gave Sudan 30 days to quell ethnic violence in Darfur or face economic or diplomatic penalties.

Sudanese officials and the Arab League said the government needed more time to end the crisis. But the Bashir government agreed to comply with the resolution and this week signed an agreement with the United Nations to establish “safe areas” in Darfur within 30 days where civilians will be free of attack.

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