Global Protests Call for U.N. Intervention in Darfur
Monday, September 18, 2006
LONDON, Sept. 17 -- Demonstrators around the world staged a day of action Sunday to highlight the war in Darfur, a region of western Sudan where hundreds of thousands of people have been killed and more than 2 million have been driven from their homes.
In New York, a crowd in Central Park estimated by organizers at about 20,000 demanded that the Bush administration pressure the Sudanese government to stop the killings and displacements in Darfur and to allow a U.N. peacekeeping force to enter the country.
"The world must act and it must do so now because time is not on our side," former secretary of state Madeleine Albright said.
In London, Christian, Muslim and Jewish leaders delivered a plea and said prayers outside the residence of Prime Minister Tony Blair, and demonstrators rallied outside the Sudanese Embassy.
A string of protests and events to coincide with a "Day for Darfur" were held in several other European and U.S. cities, in Canada, Cambodia and around east Africa.
In Rwanda, where hundreds of thousands of people perished in a frenzy of ethnic killings, survivors of the genocide called for action.
"In 1994, the world left Rwandans to their fate and a million people were murdered. Today, the world must stop genocide in Darfur," said Freddy Umutanguha. "We survivors stand with the victims in Darfur. We know what it is like to lose our mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, sons and daughters. We know what it is like to lose everything and see all who are dearest to us destroyed."
Governments abroad and humanitarian groups are pressing Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir to accept a U.N. resolution to deploy more than 20,000 U.N. peacekeepers in Darfur.
U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan warned last week of "yet more death and suffering, perhaps on a catastrophic scale" if the government in Khartoum does not allow international peacekeepers into the region.
The mandate for 7,000 poorly equipped African Union peacekeeping troops expires on Sept. 30 and Sudan has said they would only be allowed to extend the mission if they remained under A.U. control.
In a counter-protest in Khartoum Sunday to the global "Day for Darfur" events, dozens of Sudanese marched to U.N. offices to oppose new peacekeepers.
A statement by the Sudan Council of Voluntary Agencies said a U.N. force would "only add to the complexity of an already volatile situation" and that funds would be better spent on development, confidence-building measures and peace-building.