CIVIL WAR Security Council faces tough decisions in Sudan
The government has failed to protect human rights in Darfur, Kofi Annan said.
LOS ANGELES TIMES
UNITED NATIONS -- As the Security Council discussed peace prospects for Sudan with the country's new joint leadership Tuesday, it faced a conundrum: Should it punish those responsible for war atrocities if they are also the ones responsible for future peace?
Sudan's vice president, Ali Osman Mohammed Taha, traveled to New York with his erstwhile enemy and soon-to-be co-vice president, rebel leader John Garang, to tell the council that last month's peace agreement had opened a new chapter in their nation's history. The pact ended a 21-year civil war between the north and south.
But the council also heard from U.N. experts that a separate conflict in the country's western Darfur region was raging on. Sudanese government leaders are key to holding together the north-south peace deal, but human rights groups charged that many of them oversaw the systematic attacks on rebels and civilians in Darfur.
U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan and his special envoy to Sudan, Jan Pronk, placed the blame for the continuing conflict in Darfur squarely on Khartoum's shoulders. The Sudanese government has failed to take promised steps to protect human rights in Darfur, and is allowing those responsible for "atrocious crimes on a massive scale" to go unpunished, Annan said in a report released Monday.
Although the report conceded that rebel groups have launched attacks to provoke government retaliation, it noted that in the past six months, attacks on civilians by government-allied militias have continued and recently intensified.
"Militias continue to attack, claiming they are not part of any agreement. The government has not stopped them," the report said.
In the beginning
The conflict began in February 2003 when rebel groups took up arms against the government. Under Khartoum's "scorched earth" response with allied militias, violence and disease killed perhaps hundreds of thousands of people, and displaced nearly 2 million people from their land in rebel areas.
The United States has labeled as genocide the government-backed militias' systematic killing of black farmers in Darfur.