US, activists decry Darfur ‘failure’

UNITED NATIONS – The U.S. presidential envoy to Sudan’s troubled Darfur region joined activists Tuesday in blaming the world for failing to protect residents of the African nation from widespread violence.

“All of us should be impatient. We have failed in our responsibility to the people of Sudan,” Rich Williamson, President Bush‘s special envoy for Darfur since January, told a meeting with U.N. Security Council members.

The United Nations so far has been unable to bring peace to Sudan or to prosecute its alleged war criminals, Williamson said.

He pointed to Sudan’s north-south civil war that ended in 2005, but only after it claimed 2 million lives and displaced millions of others.

“And in Darfur, we’ve another conflagration, a genocide in slow motion. For over 300,000 people have perished, and over 2.5 million people have been driven from their homes,” he said at a meeting organized by the U.S. Mission to the U.N. “If we keep doing what we’ve been doing, we won’t save those lives.”

Williamson was joined by actress and activist Mia Farrow and other human rights campaigners and non-governmental organizations. Most of the meeting was closed to reporters.

Sudan’s Arab-dominated government has been accused of unleashing the janjaweed militia of Arab nomads to commit atrocities against ethnic African communities in the country’s western Darfur region as part of a fight with rebel groups.

Farrow spoke of the horrors of seeing a woman’s body branded with knives after she was raped, a mutilated elderly woman who escaped being burned alive, and children dying of hunger because aid trucks were unprotected.

“I ask you: How long will you continue to allow the government of Sudan to manipulate this body?” she told U.N. officials.

Farrow referred to the Sudanese government’s objections to non-African troops for the joint African Union-U.N. force that took over peacekeeping duties in Darfur this year.

Sudan’s U.N. Ambassador Abdalmahmood Abdalhaleem Mohamed told The Associated Press that such statements reflect election-year politics and don’t help bring peace to Darfur.

“It is very clear now that Darfur has again become an election item in the United States, unfortunately,” he said. “It is not helpful to the people of Darfur, it is not helpful to the issues of the region. If they have anything to do, they have to make pressure on the rebel groups to come to the negotiating table.”

The peacekeeping force, with 9,000 soldiers and police officers, has contended with chronic shortages of staff and equipment and less-than-adequate cooperation from the Sudanese government.

The U.N. still cannot deploy the full strength of the authorized 26,000-strong A.U.-U.N. peacekeeping force. It also has been unable to persuade the U.S. and other governments to supply attack and transport helicopters, surveillance aircraft, military engineers and logistical support it needs to safely navigate the remote Darfur region.

On Monday, the council unanimously called on Sudan — again — to arrest and hand over two Darfur war crimes suspects for prosecution by the International Criminal Court. The court’s prosecutor this month implicated “the whole state apparatus” of Sudan in crimes against humanity in Darfur, linking the government directly with the janjaweed.

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~ by richart123 on June 18, 2008.

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