U.S. Tells Sudan to Restrain Militias
Violence Continues In Darfur Region
By Colum Lynch
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, July 21, 2004; Page A15
U.S. Secretary of State Colin L. Powell said yesterday that he warned senior Sudanese officials on Sunday that President Bush and other foreign leaders "remain completely dissatisfied" with Khartoum's efforts to end the violent campaign by Arab militias in the Darfur region of Sudan.
Powell said he told First Vice President Ali Uthman Muhammad Taha and Foreign Minister Mustafa Osman Ismail that the government has not done enough to control the Arab militias, known as the Janjaweed, believed responsible for killing tens of thousands of black Africans in Darfur and driving more than 1 million from their homes.
The Sudanese government has responded to some extent to pressure in recent weeks from the United States, other countries and the United Nations, which are demanding a halt to the violence and better access for relief workers trying to feed and care for homeless civilians. But Powell and U.N. relief agencies say the violence against civilians continues.
"While I took note of some marginal improvement in the humanitarian side," Powell said, "I also pointed out to them as clearly as I could that I, the president and the international community remain completely dissatisfied with the security situation. Not enough is being done to break the hold of the Janjaweed."
"Rapes are still occurring," Powell added. "People do not feel safe leaving the camps to go out and forage for food. The situation remains very, very serious, and first and foremost the security has to be dealt with."
The crisis in Sudan began in February, when two rebel groups in Darfur took up arms against the Khartoum government, citing mistreatment of the region's main black African tribes. Human rights groups charge that Sudanese officials have organized the region's Arab tribes into an armed militia and provided them with military and political support as they carried out an ethnic cleansing campaign against the rebels' followers.
U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations John C. Danforth met with senior U.N. officials in New York, including U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan's personal envoy, Jan Pronk, to keep the pressure on Sudan. Pronk, who returned this week from a visit to Khartoum, is to brief the 15-nation Security Council tomorrow.
U.S. officials hope that a stern message from Pronk could help them persuade the council to adopt a tough resolution criticizing Sudan's government and raising the prospects of sanctions against it.
But several key Security Council members, including Pakistan and China, along with the African Union, the Arab League and the Organization of the Islamic Conference have urged the council to show restraint. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said U.S. officials were conducting interviews near the Sudanese border in Chad, where more than 100,000 refugees fled the violence, to determine whether the killings in Darfur meet the legal definition of genocide.
© 2004 The Washington Post Company