- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 12, 2004

A coalition of U.S.-based nongovernmental organizations called on the United States at a briefing at the National Press Club Friday to immediately introduce a resolution invoking Chapter 7 of the U.N. Charter to stop what they called “genocide” in the Darfur region of Sudan.

It has been nearly 100 days since Sept. 9, when Secretary of State Colin L. Powell declared on behalf of the Bush administration that “genocide has been committed in Darfur, and that the government of Sudan and the Janjaweed [a mounted militia of Sudanese Arabs] bear responsibility,” said Salih Booker, executive director of Africa Action, a Washington-based organization working on African affairs.

But, at that time, Mr. Powell said “no new action is dictated by this determination.”

“Does the United States stand for the universal application of international law or a double standard?” Mr. Booker asked during Friday’s briefing.

In the 13 weeks since Mr. Powell’s remarks, the United Nations and international leaders have not taken any action to stop the suffering in western Sudan.

“The situation is worse than when we called it the worst catastrophe in the world,” said Omer Ismail, director of Darfur Peace and Development.

The United Nations estimates that up to 1.5 million of Darfur’s population of 6 million have fled their homes because of the conflict, and since February 2003, about 200,000 of those displaced have moved into northeastern Chad to escape the violence between the government of Sudan and various rebel factions.

A U.N. report issued by Secretary-General Kofi Annan this month said nearly 2.3 million people — more than a third of the Darfur region’s estimated population — are in need of aid. Some 22 percent of children under 5 reportedly suffer from malnutrition, while close to half of all families do not have enough food.

“Are we going to allow the situation to deteriorate further?” Mr. Ismail asked.

During the briefing, the speakers called on the United States to do everything necessary to pass a U.N. Security Council Resolution invoking Chapter 7, authorizing a multinational intervention force to stop the suffering.

Under Chapter 7 of the U.N. Charter, the Security Council has authority to intervene in conflicts in situations where there is threat to peace, and to take any measures to maintain and restore international peace and security.

Though the Bush administration would rather save its diplomatic capital in the United Nations for future discussions over Iraq, anything less will make the United States complicit in the genocide, Mr. Booker said.

Genocide is a crime against humanity and 136 countries around the world, including the United States, have undertaken to prevent and punish the crime as signatories to the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, whose 56th anniversary was celebrated Thursday.

While the United States and other major powers are reluctant to intervene, the African Union struggles to help despite logistical and financial challenges.

“The African Union became a tool of convenience,” said Mr. Ismail. “They lack funding, they lack logistical support, they don’t have the experience in peacekeeping, and the mandate itself is not theirs.”

Mr. Booker rejects the slogan “African solution for African problems.”

“We believe that the West, the Security Council, are using this as a way of washing their hands of any responsibility for addressing the genocide in Darfur, knowing so well that the African Union … lacks the capacity … [to end] this genocide,” he went on.

The speakers, on behalf of Africa Action, International Crisis Group, Darfur Peace and Development, and Amnesty International, asked for a new U.N. resolution:

• Taking into account Khartoum’s unwillingness to comply with previous resolutions.

• Providing the African Union force with a mandate to protect civilians in Darfur and enforce a cease-fire.

• Expanding this force by soliciting support from U.N. member nations.

• Enforcing the no-fly zone over Darfur.

• Freezing the assets of companies owned by the ruling party.

• Imposing an immediate arms embargo on the government of Sudan.

“Ten years after Rwanda, we cannot make the same mistake,” Mr. Booker said.

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