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Powell and Annan Should Urge More International Action on Darfur
While visiting Sudan this week, Secretary of State Colin L. Powell and United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan should call on the international community to do much more to put a stop to the ongoing atrocities in the Sudanese province of Darfur, Freedom House said today.
Despite a recent ceasefire agreement, Sudanese government forces and government-backed Arab militias (Janjaweed) continue to attack black Muslim members of the Fur, Zaghawa, and Masaalit tribes of Darfur. Janjaweed and Sudanese armed forces have reportedly already killed tens of thousands of people, and have displaced over one million more.
United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan will be in Sudan the same time as Secretary Powell.
"The United States is to be applauded for placing a high priority on raising awareness about the plight of the people of Darfur, and for taking action to assist them," said Freedom House Executive Director Jennifer Windsor. "While making clear to the Sudanese government that it must impose an immediate ceasefire, disarm the Janjaweed, and allow immediate, unfettered access of humanitarian aid and of relief workers to Darfur, Secretary Powell should call on the United Nations and the European Union to demonstrate similar resolve in preventing what many credible observers are describing as, at minimum, ethnic cleansing," she said.
Broadcast media should accompany Secretary Powell to Darfur in order to document the humanitarian crisis there, Freedom House said.
Janjaweed and Sudanese air force attacks have reportedly spilled over into neighboring Chad, which is providing refuge for over 150,000 Sudanese refugees.
The impending rainy season in western Sudan threatens to spread disease among vulnerable refugees and to hamper humanitarian access. According to the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), up to 350,000 people could soon die from hunger and disease. Secretary Powell's trip coincides with the beginning of American airlifts of humanitarian aid to Darfur.
The European Union has reportedly so far pledged only $12 million in humanitarian assistance to Darfur. The United States has already spent over $116 million in emergency assistance and recently pledged an additional $188.5 million.
Freedom House urges Secretary Powell to:
- Call on the European Union to substantially increase its pledges of humanitarian aid to Darfur and to assist in passing a binding, Chapter Seven Security Council resolution authorizing additional humanitarian air lifts and the use of multilateral targeted sanctions against top Sudanese government and military officials and Janjaweed militia leaders;
- Make clear to his Sudanese hosts that any interference in air lifts and civilian access to aid will not be tolerated;
- Work to secure the ceasefire so that regional monitors, as previously agreed to by Khartoum, can carry out their work.
On June 11, Secretary Powell announced that the United States is considering whether the atrocities in Darfur constitute genocide.
"Confirming that what is taking place in Darfur is genocide will help further clarify U.S. policy options in addressing this urgent crisis," said Ms. Windsor. "We urge the State Department to make a final determination immediately upon Secretary Powell's return from Sudan."
In its latest global annual survey of political rights and civil liberties, Freedom House ranks Sudan among the most repressive regimes in the world. Freedom House's Center for Religious Freedom has tracked Sudan's record of repression against ethnic and religious minorities and has lobbied extensively for the U.S. to apply consistent pressure on the Sudanese government through a national coalition of churches, religious groups and civil rights organizations it helped coordinate.
The United States was instrumental in recently bringing an end to the genocidal campaign waged by Khartoum for twenty years against the country's southern Christian and animist populations.
A Freedom House background report on Sudan is available online.
Freedom House is an independent watchdog organization that supports democratic change, monitors the status of freedom around the world, and advocates for democracy and human rights.