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Violence in Darfur may further destabilize the rest of Sudan

10 May 2004

Without urgent action by the international community and the Sudanese government the current situation in Darfur threatens to further destabilize the rest of Sudan, according to experts speaking at a meeting in London yesterday [1]. Thousands of civilians, mostly from the non-Arab tribes of Darfur have been killed and up to a million people displaced following attacks by the Arab Janjaweed militias, backed by government forces. A recent United Nations mission to the region has reported indiscriminate attacks on civilians, rape and sexual violence against women, destruction of property, disappearances and persecution, and has acknowledged a distinct ethnic dimension to the violence. There are growing concerns about an acute humanitarian crisis, yet reports are emerging that some communities fear that the delivery of aid will make them more vulnerable to attacks by the militias. The Sudanese government is failing to acknowledge the nature and extent of the problem, or the role of government forces.

Speakers at the London meeting called for action by the Sudanese government and the international community, including the appointment of human rights monitors and the implementation of effective mechanisms to bring those responsible for human rights abuses to justice. Steps should be taken to ensure that humanitarian aid can be safely delivered and received.

It is critical that African governments play a key part in action to bring about change in Darfur. Representatives from Minority Rights Group International (MRG) called on the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, which opens in Banjul next week, to issue a strong condemnation of the events in Darfur, and adopt practical recommendations to contribute to a solution.

Former UN Special Rapporteur on Sudan, Gerhart Baum, warned the meeting that continuing violence in Darfur undermines the likelihood of sustainable peace in the rest of Sudan. There is a danger that conflict could spread to other parts of western Sudan (Kordovan province). Further, in a country where civil war has continued for much of the past five decades, [2] the pattern of piecemeal solutions to conflict in different areas has proved ineffective. There is a need for country-wide political solutions recognizing and involving all communities if the current situation in Darfur is to be addressed and not repeated elsewhere.

Notes for editors

  1. Minority Rights Group International / Royal Institute for International Affairs meeting on Sudan, 10 May 2004. Main speakers: Jonathan Prentice, senior UN member of staff and a member of the UN team that recently visited Darfur to investigate human rights abuses; Dr Eltigani Seisi, former Governor of Darfur who is also from the region; Gerhart Baum, former UN Special Rapporteur on Sudan (and formerly Minister of the Interior in Germany); and Mark Lattimer, director of Minority Rights Group International.
  2. In 1955, the Torit mutiny of Southern soldiers in Equatoria marked the beginning of the first civil war. In 1972 the Addis Ababa agreement ended the civil war, but war resumed again in 1983. Peace negotiations have been underway since 2002.

For more information, contact the MRG Press Office on [email protected].