afrol News, 16 June - The US government does "not intend to stand by while violence and atrocities continue in Darfur," a US State Department official said, warning the Sudanese government it had to cooperate putting an end to humanitarian crisis in Darfur. "Do not doubt our determination," he told the Khartoum government. A military intervention is being considered.
Charles Snyder, head of the Bureau for African Affairs at the US State Department, made these clear statements at a Sudan hearing in the US Senate Committee on Foreign Relations. He told the US Senate that his Department was "exerting strong leadership" in matters regarding Sudan; both the north-south peace deal and the crisis in Darfur.
Mr Snyder also sent a clear message to the government of Sudan, threatening to take action against the country if Khartoum did not take action on Darfur. "Our message to the government of Sudan is clear: do what is necessary now, and we will work with you. If you do not, there will be consequences," he said, adding there was no time to lose.
The United States for months has been the nation exerting the strongest pressure against Khartoum regarding the government-supported ethnic cleansing campaign in Darfur, which has led to a humanitarian disaster. The international community so far however has been slow following the US leadership in this case.
Recent UN reports from Darfur however support the US call for quick and decisive action. Jan Egeland, the UN's emergency relief coordinator, on Monday said UN agencies and humanitarian aid organisations were still being hampered in reaching civilians in Darfur and offering help. Aid workers were prevented from doing their job because of visa delays by Sudanese authorities, he explained.
The high UN official went far in confirming the worst-case assumptions of the international community. Mr Egeland personally assessed the situation in Darfur as an "ethnic cleansing" campaign. Many displaced already were dying of hunger. "It's not genocide yet and we can prevent it" from becoming so, he added. However, this necessitated a higher degree of cooperation from Sudanese authorities.
Mr Snyder of the US State Department says he now expects the Khartoum government to cooperate on saving the lives of the more than one million Darfurians displaced by the conflict. He also repeated earlier US and UN demands that Khartoum immediately disarm the government-sponsored "Arab" militias known as the Janjaweed, responsible for terrorising the Darfur population.
- We have surprised the government of Sudan by our tough actions on Darfur, Mr Snyder to US Senators. Clearly, the government of Sudan had calculated that our desire to see a north-south accord might lead us to adopt a softer approach on Darfur. That was a major miscalculation, and the government of Sudan now understands that," he added.
According to the US official, Khartoum cannot expect improved US-Sudanese relations before the Darfur crisis is resolved. "Our linkage of normalisation of bilateral relations with the government of Sudan to [Khartoum's] behaviour in Darfur as well as to a north-south accord highlights our seriousness," Mr Snyder said.
US demands regarding Darfur are not limited to Khartoum's cooperation on humanitarian aid to the region's displaced population. "It is also essential that the results of ethnic cleansing not be allowed to stand," said Mr Snyder. "The African ethnic groups forced from the land must be allowed to return voluntarily and their protection must be ensured," he demanded. Further, "the perpetrators of the violence and atrocities in Darfur must be held accountable."
The US and Sudan have had troubled relations for decades, since an Islamist regime took control in Khartoum. Khartoum has accused the US of giving support to the southern independence rebels, while Washington has accused Sudan of supporting international terrorism.
Despite the US government's major role in the nearly succeeded north-south peace process, Washington is met with great international scepticism in most of its actions and statements regarding Sudan due to past conflicts. Anti-Sudan resentments among several conservative pressure groups in the US have also contributed to this scepticism. Washington has nevertheless succeeded in putting the Darfur crisis on the international agenda.
Within the US, the government is met with increasing pressure to take stronger action against the Khartoum regime. The Washington-based Africa Action yesterday urged the Bush administration to declare the situation in Darfur "genocide", thus legally obliging the government to send troops to Sudan and disarm the Janjaweed.
According to statements made by US Secretary of State Colin Powell to the daily 'New York Times', President George W Bush indeed is currently considering to issue a declaration of "genocide" in Darfur. Government lawyers are now considering the question, Mr Powell told the newspaper.
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