A new United Nations report doesn't call the killing in Darfur
'genocide," but it may provide African nations with enough evidence
to leverage the key players to stop fighting.
The report, for example, documents that Sudanese government
officials were involved in ordering government-backed militias to
carry out "indiscriminate attacks ... rape and ... pillaging." Some
70,000 people have died and 2.3 million have been displaced in
western Sudan over the past two years.
The report, issued Monday, also urges the International Criminal
Court (ICC), based in The Hague, to investigate further.
But the Bush administration, which has been the world's prime
proponent of action on Darfur, is balking at using the ICC, because
it fears the court may someday prosecute US soldiers. And besides,
experts say the ICC would be only one part of a what needs to be a
comprehensive plan to stop the violence.
The debate of using the ICC is another sign of the international
community's ultimate unwillingness to take serious action, says
Richard Cornwell of the Institute for Security Studies in Pretoria,
South Africa. Even if the report had determined there was genocide,
he notes, "What would the world have done - had all the lawyers
continue to argue over what to do?"
Instead, he says, there's new evidence the African Union, a sort
of UN for Africa, wants to address this problem on its own. "The AU
is determined to see this thing through - and prove themselves"
capable of solving Africa's problems, says Mr. Cornwell.
Indeed, they're behind peace talks between the Sudanese
government and Darfur rebels, which are slated to restart this
month. In the negotiations, which will take place in Nigeria, a
sealed list of suspects from the report may be used as leverage to
persuade Sudan's leaders to resolve the situation.
One hint that Sudan's government is already moving toward peace
in Darfur is that it recently put Vice President Ali Osman Taha in
charge of peace talks. This is the same man who finalized a Jan. 9
peace deal ending Sudan's other war - a conflict between north and
south that had been Africa's longest. "This is a sign they're
getting serious at last," says Cornwell.
Also, the AU is the only body with boots on the ground in Darfur.
Eventually it plans to have 3,300 troops in a region the size of
France - although there are only about 1,400 there now.
And even with that troop presence, violence against civilians in
Darfur has continued. Last week the UN said 4,000 people fled their