- The Sudanese government is making concessions regarding international demands to disarm its allied Janjaweed militias, lifting restrictions on humanitarian aid and letting African Union troops deploy in Darfur. Pressure on Khartoum nevertheless continues to increase as the government has made similar promises earlier.
The government of Sudan yesterday approved the deployment of 300 soldiers of the African Union to protect the observers of the cease fire in the Darfur provinces. Forces from Nigeria and Rwanda have already said they are ready to be deployed immediately in the western Sudanese region as soon as an agreement with Khartoum was reached. Also Tanzania and Botswana have announced a possible deployment of troops.
Khartoum further approved a lift of current restrictions on the free movement for international aid workers assisting the two million war affected Darfurians. Sudanese Interior Minister Abdul Rahim Muhammad Hussein announced that he yesterday had issued two decrees that were to ease the working conditions for relief agencies, following massive pressure from the UN.
Finally, the Sudanese recently announced it was to disarm the Janjaweed militias, which have been accused of a massive ethnic cleansing campaign in Darfur and according to the UN have been armed and supported by the government.
While the Khartoum government denies any affiliation with the Janjaweed militia and that a humanitarian crisis is unfolding in Darfur, authorities bowed into pressure after a coordinated visit to Sudan by US Secretary of State, Colin Powell, and UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan. President Omar Hassan al-Bashir told Mr Annan and Mr Powell that his government now would disarm the militia.
The announcements had come after strong pressure from the UN and the Washington government. There had been increased talks of charging Janjaweed and Sudanese government officials with crimes against humanity. The US government also is considering asking the UN Security Council to impose sanctions on Sudan, which as a last resort could include an international military intervention.
Also the African Union (AU) has increased its pressure on the Khartoum government. African state leaders gathered at a AU summit in Addis Ababa today urgently called on Sudan to "neutralize" the Janjaweed militia. The AU statement however said that the situation in Darfur "cannot be described as a genocide" and it made no mention of ethnic cleansing. This was considered a diplomatic victory for the Sudanese government.
While fellow African leaders want to control the Darfur situation by sending peacekeepers to the region and moderate the allegations made against Khartoum, pressure is even increased by other institutions and organisations. The UN only yesterday repeated its complaints over poor security for its humanitarian workers in Sudan.
Military personnel, uniformed men and "unidentified persons on camel" had stopped and attacked clearly marked convoys of humanitarian workers on two places in the Darfur region, UN spokesperson Marie Okabe said yesterday. The UN refugees agency (UNHCR) further reported that more than 100 people have arrived at a camp for internally displaced people in the last few days, "telling harrowing stories of attacks by the Janjaweed and Sudanese government forces."
The UN in its reporting strongly indicates that the agreement between the Sudanese government and Secretary-General Annan, following his Khartoum visit last week, were not being implemented. Khartoum was still not disarming the Janjaweed and had yet to "remove all obstacles to relief efforts," UN officials were reporting from New York.
Today, also the influential US-based group Human Rights Watch urges the international community to keep the pressure up on Sudan. "Khartoum has flagrantly broken its earlier promises to neutralise [the Janjaweed]," said Jemera Rone of the human rights group. There was no reason to believe this would change now, and the UN Security Council "must be prepared to intervene with more muscle," she concluded.
The group in a letter to the Security Council today urged the UN body to impose sanctions on Sudanese officials as well as government-backed militias. "Sudanese government officials should also be subject to travel and arms sanctions," said Ms Rone. "The Janjaweed are not an independent body, but a tool created by the Sudanese government," she repeated.
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