Photo credit for "Africa" graphic, above: © 2005 Jennifer Lewis
CRISIS SWELLS AMID VIOLENCE, IMPUNITY, HUNGER, DELAYS
5 January 2007
The peace agreement signed between the main rebel faction in Darfur and the Khartoum government last May was tenuous at best from the outset, and seems in serious jeopardy of failing. The desperate situation in Darfur is now deteriorating, as violence against civilians not only continues but appears to be escalating, and foreign forces remain ineffectual.
Two rebel factions refused to sign up to the peace agreement, and illegal janjaweed marauders are not effectively controlled or dissuaded by its provisions or by the government. At least two million people have been forced to flee their homes, in a situation too unstable to allow NGOs to effectively administer the medical and food aid desperately needed across western Sudan and the Chad border region.
The situation along the border has worsened, as life in the increasingly overfull camps is becoming less secure. There are reports of armed groups harrassing refugees, creating a possible new level of violence, intimidation and dispersion among frustrated refugee populations, some of whom are entering their third year in camps.
The camps themselves are spreading not only into eastern Chad, but also into the Central African Republic, putting pressure on authorities and local populations in both countries, and leading to what may be added sectarian conflict. Tensions between Chad and Sudan have at times escalated to dangerous levels, and exiled Darfuris have been put at greater risk by the political instability.
According to the International Rescue Committee (IRC), "Women and girls are at high risk of violence when they leave the camps to gather firewood, wild foods, water or animal fodder", with more than 200 reports of sexual assault in just 5 weeks in the summer of 2006 near the Kalma camp.
Rights and aid groups are calling on the international community to step up pressure to reach a real "humanitarian ceasefire" in Darfur, to bring all parties to stop using violence against civilians, and to permit much needed aid to reach those in need. As these problems go unaddressed, there are legitimate concerns the crisis could deepen and the world could see mass death reaching into the millions, amid indecision, inaction and impunity. [s]
The troubled western region of Sudan, Darfur, is again at the center of a kind of perfect storm of cynicism, ignorance and neglect. Even as the UN Security Council has voted to authorize a force of 20,000 "blue helmet" peacekeepers, incorporating the 7,000 African Union (AU) soldiers already in the region, Sudan's ruler Omar al-Bashir has ordered the AU out and massed 10,000 soldiers on the edge of Darfur. [Full Story]
CHAD CONFLICT RISK IN TURBULENT REGION
In the region of the Chad-Sudan border, it is Sudan that has won most of the outside world's attention in recent years. This has been due to separate civil wars with rebels in the east, south and west of the country, the peace deal with the southern rebels and the ongoing campaign of ethnic cleansing in Darfur. Now Chad, which has taken in huge numbers of refugees fleeing the genocide in Darfur, has a severe crisis with its own stability. [Full Story]