WASHINGTON -- Climate change is partly to
blame for the conflict in Sudan's Darfur region, where droughts have provoked
fighting over water sources, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in a
"Almost invariably, we discuss Darfur in a convenient military and political
shorthand -- an ethnic conflict pitting Arab militias against black rebels
and farmers," Ban wrote in an editorial that appeared Saturday in The Washington
Post. "Look to its roots, though, and you discover a more complex dynamic."
in Sudan began declining two decades ago, a phenomenon due "to some degree, from
man-made global warming," said Ban, who has made both Darfur and climate change
Settled farmers and Arab nomadic herders had gotten along until the drought,
he wrote, but as conditions worsened, water and food shortages disrupted the
peace and "evolved into the full-fledged tragedy we witness today."
Ban said similar ecological problems are behind conflicts in other countries,
including Somalia and Ivory Coast.
The Darfur conflict began in 2003 when local rebels took up arms against the
Sudanese government, accusing it of decades of neglect. Sudanese leaders are
accused of unleashing the pro-government Arab militia, the janjaweed, to fight
them - a charge they deny.
After months of U.N. and Western pressure, Sudan agreed in the past week to
allow a joint U.N.-African Union force of up to 19,000 peacekeepers to replace
the 7,000-member AU mission now in Darfur.
Ban called the agreement "significant progress" after "four years of
diplomatic inertia." But he warned that a long-term solution was needed for "the
essential dilemma" -- the scarcity of good land.
"Any peace in Darfur must be built on solutions that go to the root causes of
the conflict," he said.
The U.N. chief called for sustained economic development, possibly involving
new irrigation and water storage techniques and efforts to improve health,
education and roads.
"The international community needs to help organize these efforts, teaming
with the Sudanese government as well as the international aid agencies and
nongovernmental organizations working so heroically on the ground," Ban said.