Sudan Officials Split Over UN Sanction Threat

NAIROBI (IPS) – Sudan has "accepted" a UN resolution to rein in pro-government militias, known as Janjaweed, in the western region of Darfur, within 30 days, a surprising move that seems to reflect a split in the Islamic regime.

Until late Friday, Khartoum had rejected the UN Security Council’s resolution threatening the regime with sanctions if it failed to restore law and order in the troubled region.

"Sudan is not happy with the UN Security resolution, but we have to accept it and implement it," Osman Elsayed, Sudanese ambassador to Ethiopia, told reporters at a hastily organized news conference in the capital Addis Ababa on Saturday.

Elsayed said if Khartoum refused to comply with the UN resolution to disarm and persecute the Janjaweed (men on horseback) "our enemies would not hesitate to take other measures against Sudan."

Last week the U.S. Congress described the killings of black Muslims in Darfur as genocide and urged the government of President George W. Bush to take action and stop the Arab militias.

While visiting Kuwait this week, US Secretary of State Colin Powell said: "I hope Sudan will use the time provided in the resolution to bring the Janjaweed under control." Powell, who visited Darfur recently, said Khartoum was not doing enough to disarm the militias.

Khartoum’s about-turn came just one day after the government rejected the UN resolution, passed on July 30.

The Islamic regime of Omar al Bashir argued that it needed more time to disarm the militias, not threats. It threatened to fight Iraq-style any foreign troops deployed in Darfur. Addressing a news conference on July 29, the usually suave Sudanese foreign minister Mustafa Osman Ismail warned that any foreign troops deployed in Darfur would be regarded as an invading force.

Echoing Ismail’s statement, Neimat Bilal, spokeswoman at the Sudanese Embassy in Nairobi told IPS on Friday: "The government rejects any intervention of foreign forces as demanded by the EU and US The Darfur conflict is a Sudanese affair and an African one. There is no need to extend it to military intervention from outside."

She added: "We only back intervention of the African Union, because the conflict has direct implications on African nations in the region."

The 53-nation African Union (AU) Heads of State Summit, held in Addis Ababa on July 5-8, agreed to deploy 300 peacekeepers in Darfur. The force, which is mandated to protect the 150 unarmed military observers sent to Darfur in May, has not yet arrived.

"Darfur has developed into a human rights crisis and it requires the intervention of everyone including the international community. It is high time the government realized this," noted Mitch Odero, coordinator of Solid Strategy Africa, a Nairobi-based non-governmental organization involved in advocacy work in Sudan.

Before Elsayed’s news conference, Odero suspected a sinister motive on Khartoum’s part to refuse to deploy foreign troops in the Sudan. "The authorities are just being difficult. They want to buy time to continue with the ethnic cleansing that has come to be the Darfur violence," he added.

The Darfur crisis was also discussed at this week’s gathering of top African leaders in Ghana. The meeting was attended by UN secretary general, Kofi Annan, who also recently visited Darfur.

The conflict in Darfur erupted 17 months ago when two rebel groups, the Sudan Liberation Army (SLA) and Justice and Equality Movement (JEM), took up arms to fight the Arab-dominated Khartoum government over the marginalization of their region.

The government responded by enlisting the support of Arab militias who have devastated the region. The Janjaweed have also been accused of abductions and gang raping women and girls.

"This is an agenda of the government to depopulate the black Sudanese from Darfur, which is the size of France, to allow for settlement by Arabs," Odero claimed.

According to aid agencies operating in Darfur, the violence has left 50,000 people dead since it erupted last year. The United Nations estimates that about 1.2 million people have been displaced. Of this, one million have been internally displaced and about 170,000 fled into refugee camps in neighboring Chad.

The displacement has developed into a humanitarian crisis, described by the UN as the worst in the world.

The gravity of the humanitarian crisis has prompted the European Union and the United States to propose sanctions against the Sudanese government if it failed to demobilize the Janjaweed.

Khartoum is wary of the UN resolution, which it suspects was drafted by Washington to topple al Bashir’s regime.

After all, the Islamic regime in Sudan hosted Osama bin Laden – the alleged mastermind of the Sept. 11 terror attacks on New York and Washington and Carlos the Jackal, the elusive Venezuelan terrorist who is now languishing in a French maximum prison – in the mid-1990s.

Read more by Joyce Mulama