Annan urges reassessment of Sudan efforts
UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan called on the U.N. Security Council Wednesday to urgently reassess its efforts to end nearly two-years of conflict and bloodshed in Sudan's western Darfur region, saying the current approach isn't working.
Both Annan and the council expressed deep concern Tuesday at the deteriorating security situation in the vast region where rebels and government-backed forces have repeatedly broken pledges to stop fighting and only 900 troops of a 4,000-strong African Union force have actually been deployed.
But the secretary-general went further Wednesday, saying "quite frankly our approach isn't working."
The council on Tuesday condemned repeated cease-fire violations and warned it would consider "a full range of options" to pressure both sides to comply with council resolutions if fighting doesn't stop. But no further meeting has been scheduled this month.
Two Security Council resolutions have threatened possible sanctions, but U.S. Ambassador Jack Danforth has said members won't consider such tough measures.
China, which imports Sudanese oil, has been most reluctant, but China's U.N. Ambassador Wang Guangya said Wednesday his government would consider further action if both sides are targeted.
"Whatever measure it is, we are going to study it, but it has to be targeted on both sides, not just on one side," Wang said. "Clearly the information from the ground is that both sides are making the troubles, not one side. So we need to take a balanced approach."
The conflict in Darfur has killed 70,000 people and driven 1.8 million from their homes since non-Arab rebel groups took up arms in February 2003 against what they saw as years of state neglect and discrimination against Sudanese of African origin. The government responded with a counterinsurgency campaign in which the Janjaweed, an Arab militia, has committed wide-scale abuses against the African population.
The Sudanese government said Monday it was ordering its troops in three areas of Darfur to observe an immediate cease-fire. On Tuesday, representatives of the two main rebel groups in Darfur announced at peace talks in Nigeria that their fighters would not initiate attacks.
The top African Union official in Sudan, Jean Baptiste, said that as of Wednesday, "We have not heard of any fighting between the belligerents."
However, humanitarian groups say the insecurity continues. They say it is impeding their ability to deliver food and other forms of aid to the 1.8 million people displaced by the 22-month conflict.
"We still have locations that continue to be inaccessible due to lack of security," said World Food Program spokeswoman Laura Melo. The insecurity was due to bandits as well as fighting between the rebels and government soldiers.
Annan said Wednesday that "the situation is deteriorating," the people forced from their homes are suffering, and "the African Union has not been able to put in as many forces as we had hoped and they need desperate help."
"What can the council do, working with the AU and others, to accelerate the rate of deployment and ensure that we have more troops on the ground to assist? What other measures can we take to put pressure on the parties and hold some of the individuals who are responsible accountable ... for us to be able to move forward?" he asked.
U.S. deputy ambassador Stuart Holliday suggested Tuesday that Annan make another trip to Sudan, calling the situation in Darfur "very disturbing" and saying "the continued engagement of the secretary-general is critical."
The secretary-general went to Sudan this summer and got an agreement from the government to disarm the militias ¡ª a pledge the U.N. envoy to Sudan says has not been kept.
Annan didn't rule out another trip to Sudan, but said action is needed first in New York by the Security Council "and so while a trip to the region may sometime be necessary, the reassessment is urgent."