UN has abdicated responsibility in Darfur, claims Trocaire

The UN has abdicated its responsibility to the victims of the Darfur humanitarian crisis with its totally inadequate response, according to the Irish aid agency Trócaire.

Trócaire Director Justin Kilcullen said that the UN has shown an unacceptable determination to avoid the issue – when what the crisis really needed was "incisive political action".

More than 1.2 million people are displaced from their homes in Darfur and another 200,000 have to live as refugees in neighbouring Chad because their homes were damaged or destroyed or they fear for their lives if they return.

The UN's report, based partly on the findings of Special Representative for Sudan, Jan Pronk, found that a "scorched-earth policy" by armed militias had caused most of the violence since the conflict began there early last year.

In July, the UN and the Sudanese government signed a joint communiqué which committed the authorities to disarming the Janjaweed militias and preventing them from conducting further attacks.

On 30 July the Council gave Khartoum 30 days to show progress on the commitments, warning that otherwise it may take action under Article 41 of the UN Charter. This includes unspecified economic penalties and the severing of diplomatic relations.

However, reports of the destruction of villages and of people being raped or killed when they venture far from the displaced camps in search of food or firewood are still filtering through.

The charity's Regional Manager in Northern Ireland, Roisin Shannon, who returned from Darfur this week, said the Janjaweed militia continued to act with impunity.

“The UN cannot pretend that the Sudanese government has done anything to prevent this,” she said.

“They have not shown the will to address the issue. Members of the Janjaweed are being incorporated into the police force and the Popular Defence Force. In effect, the perpetrators are being sent back to the camps as protectors. The UN needs to address this situation and see what tools are available to it to protect these people.”

The UN’s humanitarian response had not been strong enough, she added. The international community must also play its part, with governments delivering on their commitments to provide aid, she warned.

“People are still hungry, frightened and traumatized. The situation is appalling and it’s getting worse. The UN is playing politics with people’s lives," Ms Shannon claimed.

On Saturday, the UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan said that the international presence in Sudan's war-torn Darfur region must be expanded as soon as possible because attacks against civilians are continuing and the vast majority of militias have not been disarmed.

In a report to the Security Council, which met on Friday to discuss what progress the Sudanese government had made in meeting its pledges to restore security, Mr Annan said that "some of the core commitments" have not been achieved.

Mr Annan said that "no concrete steps" had been taken to identify the militia leaders or bring them to justice, ensuring there was a "culture of impunity around human rights violations".

In a letter to the Council, Sudanese Foreign Minister Mustafa Osman Ismail disputed the report's findings, saying Khartoum had made "relentless efforts" to meet its obligations to the UN.

He said Sudanese authorities have convicted 12 Janjaweed militia members and sentenced three to the death penalty; donated large amounts of food relief; dramatically stepped up access to hospitals and health centres across Darfur; and taken part in ongoing peace talks in Nigeria with Darfur's two rebel groups.

Ambassador John Danforth of the United States, also speaking outside the Council meeting, said Mr Annan's report was wrong to suggest that there was no evidence of attacks by government airplanes since the communiqué was signed.

Mr Danforth said the AU Ceasefire Commission reported that two government helicopters attacked two Darfur villages on 26 August - an attack confirmed by aid workers operating in the areas.


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