Photo credit for "Darfur" graphics: © 2007 see embedded video»
Photo credit for "Africa" graphic, above: © 2005 Jennifer Lewis
SIZE OF UN FORCE FOR DARFUR MEANS FIRST MAJOR POLICING PRESENCE FOR INT'L COMMUNITY IN WAR-TORN REGION
1 August 2007
Darfur, beset by years of bloody internecine violence, with the Khartoum-backed janjaweed militia killing civilians in numbers the US government has officially declared to be genocide. For years, human rights groups have pleaded with the international community to intervene, with or without the support of the Khartoum government. Now, the UN Security Council has ordered the world's largest peacekeeping mission to secure Darfur.
Current estimates suggest at least 200,000 people have been killed in Darfur, with more than 2 million refugees unable to return home, some since 2003. UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon has noted the scale of the mission is "unprecedented" and told the Security Council "You are sending a clear and powerful signal of your commitment to improve the lives of the people of the region, and close this tragic chapter in Sudan's history".
After years of staunch opposition and threats, the government in Khartoum has said it will "support" a UN force to police Darfur, but only after intense negotiations, the backing of China, a key Sudan ally, and the "toning down" of language attacking Khartoum for involvement in a deliberate campaign of genocide. China's backing allowed for a unanimous vote in favor of the peacekeeping mission.
Despite the mission being the UN's largest peacekeeping force, and having the support of China, "major powers" are said to continue to threaten harsh sanctions against the government in Khartoum if the violence, the displacement and the humanitarian crisis in Darfur do not improve. The UK ambassador to the UN hailed the vote as an opportunity for a new beginning in the troubled history of Darfur, though he acknowledged that the vote itself is not enough. [s]
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. [Full Story]
DARFUR AGAIN VERGES ON MASS KILLING, MILLIONS IN PERIL
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]