In Darfur, Africa Left to Take Lead ; the UN Says 'Crimes against Humanity,' Not 'Genocide,' Were Committed in Sudan; Sends Problem to World Court

By Abraham McLaughlin writer of The Christian Science Monitor | The Christian Science Monitor, February 2, 2005 | Go to article overview

In Darfur, Africa Left to Take Lead ; the UN Says 'Crimes against Humanity,' Not 'Genocide,' Were Committed in Sudan; Sends Problem to World Court


Abraham McLaughlin writer of The Christian Science Monitor, The Christian Science Monitor


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 homes. …

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