Human Rights Groups Call For More Action on Darfur

By Stephen Mbogo | July 7, 2008 | 8:17pm EDT

Nairobi, Kenya ( - A new assessment report on Sudan's troubled western region of Darfur has called for a travel ban and assets freeze for Khartoum officials who are helping perpetuate what the human rights group Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) has called "systematic genocide."

The group wants the United Nations Security Council to pass a resolution compelling diversion of Sudan oil and other commodities profits to compensate civilians who have been displaced by its security forces and a militia it supports.

Another group, the Washington-based Africa Action, wants President George W. Bush's administration to take greater action in Darfur. A Nairobi-based peacekeeping scholar, however, suggested the African Union should instead take a greater military and peacekeeping role to end the conflict.

The PHR report comes in the wake of similar recommendations this week to the council by the panel of UN experts. The PHR group of researchers made several trips to three Darfur villages bordering neighboring Chad and in Chad itself, where millions of displaced people are living.

John Heffernan, the lead researcher and author of the report "Darfur:
Assault on Survival - a Call for Security, Justice and Restitution," said Khartoum and its militia, the Janjaweed, "have in a systematic way attacked the very survival of a people by destroying property, livestock, communities and families."

Refugees interviewed by the researchers spoke of early morning attacks by armed men on horseback or in pick-up trucks, backed up by Sudanese military aircraft. The attackers killed and raped villagers, then looted and burned houses and shops, poisoned wells, stole livestock and torched prime farmland.

One such testimony was given by a 33-year-old mother from Furawiya Village, who said she traveled for five days, through which she lived off berries and a little food supplied by the international organizations.

"Sometimes, I would have to wait in line all day just for one bucket of water. After two months, my donkey died from not having enough food. And then my youngest child, a three-year-old girl, got sick. There were no medicines to help her. She died about a month before they moved us to the camp."

"With wells poisoned, homes and shops burned to the ground and attackers often in hot pursuit of their victims, survivors fled into the harsh desert. Many wandered through the bleak landscape for weeks or months. They escaped death by eating wild foods growing in the desert and eventually found their way to outside assistance," the report said.

The report recommends that the international community should press for a Security Council resolution to immediately authorize a multinational intervention force in Darfur.

Sudanese authorities have previously rejected an international force, preferring a regional AU force that currently stands at 7,000. The force, however, faces continuing challenges of finance and logistics to protect civilians.

African peacekeeping teacher at Kenya's Defense College, Patrick Maluki, said what Africa needs is a rapid reaction force that will be able to stop such conflicts as soon as they start and a viable peacekeeping force to help restore communities affected by such conflicts.

Ann-Louise Colgan of Africa Action said Friday in a statement that, "In the face of the first genocide of the 21st century, the U.S. must not hesitate to use the opportunity of its presidency of the Security Council in February to initiate new action to address the crisis in Darfur."

The group wants U.S. action that would "re-hat" the existing AU operation in Darfur as a UN mission with a robust mandate to protect civilians and humanitarian operations, and authorize a UN peacekeeping force to be deployed to the region as soon as possible.

The Security Council authorized the sanctions against perpetrators of the conflict in March 2005 but is yet to impose them on anyone. Reports said implementation of that report was temporarily blocked by Qatar and China.

New A.U. estimates say at least 400,000 people have died and 2.5 million more have been displaced since conflict between two regional rebel groups and Khartoum started in early 2003.

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