Home | Comment & Analysis    Friday 9 July 2004

Al-Bashir should take heed

Editorial, The Nation

NAIROBI, July 09, 2004 — Sudanese President Umar al-Bashir is a man on the spot. African leaders meeting in Addis Ababa under the auspices of the African Union are piling pressure on him to disarm Arab militias who have been on a pogrom to annihilate the African population from the Darfur region.

The Janjawid have killed tens of thousands of black Africans and forced a million others to flee as refugees to neighbouring Chad. And all this has been happening under the watchful, and gleeful eye of the Khartoum regime which is actually said to have armed the militias with sophisticated weaponry.

Last week, Mr Al-Bashir promised visiting UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan and American Secretary of State Colin Powell to disarm the militia. But the atrocities have not stopped.

Now the Americans have gone one better, sending an ultimatum to the Sudanese regime that unless ethnic cleansing stopped, unspecified measures would be taken against it.

Mr Al-Bashir should take these exhortations and warnings seriously. After all, these racially-motivated atrocities are happening under the very nose of African leaders meeting in a neighbouring state. Are they be expected to look the other way as they did during the Rwanda and Burundi genocides?

Secondly, the Americans have already poured enormous resources into efforts to ensure the peace process in Sudan stays on course. Surely Mr Al-Bashir cannot expect to have his cake and eat it too! If the president cannot put off the fire he started, then he could always seek help.