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Sudan Tribune

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US pressures Sudan over Darfur situation

NAIROBI, June 16, 2004 (IRIN) — The United States government is threatening to
take action against Sudan over what it said were ongoing human rights
atrocities in the western region of Darfur.

“We do not intend to stand by while violence and atrocities continue in
Darfur,” said Deputy Assistant Secretary for African Affairs Charles
Snyder in a statement before the US Senate Committee on Foreign Relations
on Tuesday. “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. Time is of the essence. Do not doubt our determination.”

Snyder said the US administration was “exploring actions” it could take
against individuals responsible for the situation in Darfur, specifically
by “freezing assets they may have in the US and prohibiting the issuance
of visas to them”.

US Secretary of State Colin Powell said last week that the US government
was considering whether the mass displacements and killings in Darfur
constituted “genocide”. He said the matter was being discussed
“inter-agency” and that lawyers and policy officials were looking into it.

The Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide –
to which the US is a signatory – defines genocide as acts “committed with
intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, [ethnic], racial or
religious group”. Such acts include killing; causing serious bodily or
mental harm to members of a group; and deliberately inflicting conditions
of life calculated to bring about the physical destruction of a group in
whole or in part.

Over one million non-Arabs have been displaced within Darfur,
predominantly by attacks conducted by Arab Janjawid militias, who are
reportedly allied to the government. Up to 200,000 people have fled to
neighbouring Chad, while estimates of numbers killed vary from between
15,000 and 30,000. According to the US Agency for International
Development, a further 350,000 may die over the coming months from a
combination of hunger and disease.

Snyder said the situation in Darfur was one of the US government’s highest
priorities. “We have surprised the government of Sudan by our tough
actions on Darfur. 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
now understands that.”

He said the conflict was clouding prospects for the implementation of a
comprehensive peace accord between the government and the Sudan People’s
Liberation Movement/Army. “We cannot and will not lessen pressure on the
government of Sudan and allow what is happening in Darfur to continue in
order to achieve a north-south peace accord… Continued instability in
western Sudan would fatally complicate efforts to implement a north-south
accord.”

Last week, the Sudanese government, which denies any responsibility for
the human rights abuses, accused US media of a “smear campaign” against it
over the conflict, saying coverage was “unbelievably biased” against
Khartoum.

On 14 June, Sudanese President Umar Hasan al-Bashir announced on Sudanese
television that the army was “in control of the situation” in Darfur and
that “peace” had been achieved because of the sacrifices made by the armed
forces. He added that the army would continue to guard and defend the
peace “with all the means at its disposal”.

A ceasefire signed on 8 April by Khartoum and Darfur’s two rebel groups,
the Sudan Liberation Movement/Army and the Justice and Equality Movement,
has reportedly reduced levels of insecurity to some degree, according to
relief workers. But thousands of Janjawid – whom the government is
committed to neutralising under the terms of the agreement – are
continuing their attacks against civilians, while the army has also
reportedly conducted aerial bombardments.

In May, a London-based think-tank, Justice Africa, reported that grave
human rights abuses being committed had compelled Sudan watchers to ask
who was responsible for the policies being enacted. “Suspicion falls upon
the clique of senior security officers who have, over the years, presided
over serious abuses in Juba, the Nuba mountains and the oilfields, and on
those who have been most closely associated with the militia strategies in
Kordofan and Darfur”, reaching back as far as the early 1980s, it said.

The report can be found at: http://www.justiceafrica.org/bulletin.htm

The Sudanese deputy ambassador in Nairobi, Kenya, Muhammad Ahmad Dirdeiry,
told IRIN on Wednesday that he had no comment on any issues relating to
Darfur. “I have no idea about Darfur,” he said.

Snyder said that the conflict in Darfur had, in act, “profoundly shaken”
the Sudanese government, because it posed a greater threat to it than the
war in the south ever did. Support for Darfur’s rebels was coming from
Darfur’s predominantly Muslim population and could fuel other insurgencies
in other parts of northern Sudan, he noted. “This, I believe, explains why
the government of Sudan has adopted such brutal tactics in Darfur. The
government is determined to defeat the JEM and the SLM/A at any cost to
the civilian populations.”