- The Washington Times - Friday, September 3, 2004

As the humanitarian crisis continues, the government of Sudan appears to have managed to avoid sanctions from the U.N. Security Council. Khartoum has done just enough to head off broad support for U.N. sanctions. All the same, the United Nations can swiftly help millions of suffering Sudanese by endorsing the role of the African Union in restoring stability in the western Darfur region and allocating U.N. funds to pay for the mission. The mission now in Sudan is too limited to substantively help mitigate the crisis.

In February 2003, Darfur rebels rose up against Khartoum, frustrated by the government’s marginalizing of farmers. Rebels said the government had been systematically favoring nomadic tribes with some cultural and ethnic links to Middle Eastern Arabs. Khartoum then armed its allied tribes in Darfur, known as the Janjaweed, to put down the rebellion. The result has been a humanitarian catastrophe, with the Janjaweed unleashing a murderous campaign on Darfur’s farming communities. So far, about 50,000 people have been killed and more than 1.4 million have fled their homes. Darfur is now at the height of the rainy season, which further complicates aid efforts and causes a range of illnesses to spread.

More positively, African countries are beginning to muster the resolve needed to deal with the Darfur crisis. South African Deputy President Jacob Zuma acknowledged publicly this week that his government is putting pressure on Khartoum, through the African Union, to accept a deployment of 3,000 troops to disarm the Janjaweed militia and restore stability. Nigeria, Africa’s other power-broker, has long been trying to facilitate peace and humanitarian access in Darfur.

Khartoum has staunchly resisted an AU deployment of peacekeepers to Darfur. The so-called back door to such a mission would be the deployment of cease-fire monitors, accompanied by a peacekeeping force to protect the monitors. Currently, there are 133 AU monitors in Darfur, protected by 300 troops, and that force needs strengthening.

The rebels should be pressured, too, and it is a good sign that they are in negotiations with Khartoum in Nigeria, where the goal is to facilitate a badly needed peace agreement. Without such a deal, Sudan will continue to tear itself apart.

Also, Khartoum should stop stonewalling and ink a deal that already has been reached in principle with rebels in the south. The prospect of a larger AU force in the region, coupled with ongoing peace talks, indicates some relief could be on the way for the people of Darfur.

While the international community responded too late to the ward off the catastrophe, the Security Council should quickly endorse a strong AU mission in Darfur — and do some hard thinking on what to do in the long term.

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