Home | News    Friday 28 May 2004

German Bundestag expresses concern about humanitarian catastrophe in W. Sudan


By Helmut Stoltenberg

Berlin, May 26, 2004 (ddp) — The Bundestag [German Federal parliament] is warning urgently of a humanitarian catastrophe in the West Sudanese region of Darfur. The local conflict with flagrant human rights violations raises "the most serious concern", reads a resolution by all parties’ Bundestag groups, which was passed unanimously by parliament on Wednesday.

The nomadic Janjawid militiamen, who proceed with the approval or support of the Sudanese government, are accused of the "most serious human rights violations" and mass murder. In the resolution, the parliament calls for further pressure on the Sudanese government so that the militia immediately cease attacks on the civilian population and human rights violations, and are disarmed.

Experts expect up to 350,000 dead in the Sudan in the coming months. According to estimates by aid organizations, some 1.2m people are in flight, one million of them in Darfur and up to 200,000 in neighbouring Chad. Since February 2003, 30,000 people are said to have already lost their lives.

In addition to the decades of civil war between the Islamic North and the Christian-Animistic South, for over a year Darfur has been the theatre of a second civil war front in that African country. With government backing, Arab militias try to drive black Africans out of the mountainous region. In the debate, representatives of all Bundestag groups addressed the most serious accusations to the government in Khartoum.

Development Aid Minister Heidemarie Wieczorek-Zeul (SPD) [Social Democratic Party of Germany] emphasized that the Sudanese government must accept the reproach "that it approves and even promotes ethnically motivated expulsions, mass murder and mass rape." In Darfur, there is a "war by the Sudanese government against the people in the entire region". But ethnic expulsions, wherever they happen, must not be tolerated, exhorts the minister. At the same time she demanded a "comprehensive UN weapons embargo in order to increase international pressure on Sudan."

The state minister in the Foreign Ministry, Kerstin Mueller (Greens), called it a "top priority demand" on the Sudanese government to immediately grant entry for international aid organizations to Darfur. If people cannot be supplied in time before the upcoming rainy season, hundreds of thousands are threatened by starvation in the coming months. If it were to fail to achieve free access of the aid organizations to Darfur, the international community must "take further steps to prevent a catastrophe".

FDP [Free Democratic Party] parliamentarian Ulrich Heinrich advocated, if necessary, dispatching UN troops with a "robust mandate". One must not let oneself "be taken for a ride" by the Sudanese government. If the human rights violations cannot be stopped, "one must intervene," admonished Heinrich.

CDU [Christian Democratic Union] parliamentarian Egon Juettner emphasized that Sudan is becoming "the acid test for Africa’s profession of commitment to human rights, constitutionality and democracy." Countries such as South Africa must not simply keep silent about the human rights violations in Sudan. Rather, African states themselves are called upon to "raise their voices and also to act". Like other speakers, the CDU politician also warned of another genocide as in Rwanda in the 1990s: There must not be a second Rwanda here."

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