Stop Politicking, People Are Dying, Say African Church Leaders

By Stephen Mbogo | July 7, 2008 | 8:15pm EDT

Nairobi ( - With the passing this week of a United Nations deadline for Sudan to restore security to the war-torn Darfur region, Christian leaders in Africa are urging the international community to take stern action against Khartoum for failing to do so.

So far, however, no Security Council action is planned, despite attempts by the U.S. and Britain to pursue a tougher line against Sudan.

A U.N. report released Wednesday said Khartoum had fulfilled some of its earlier pledges to the world body, but had done little to disarm the Janjaweed militia, accused of atrocities against the black Muslim community in Darfur.

But the report did not recommend sanctions against Sudan, despite a July 30 Security Council resolution which held out the prospect of actions against Khartoum if the government did not show after 30 days that it was fulfilling its promises to disarm the militia and restore security.

The U.N.'s special envoy to Sudan, Jan Pronk, called for an expanded multinational force to be sent to Darfur, to prevent an escalation of a conflict which has already cost an estimated 30-000-50,000 lives. Currently there are just 300 African Union troops there.

Sudan's Catholic bishops called on the international community to avoid further discussion and compromise.

"We ask all concerned authorities to stop politicking. This is a time for action to save innocent people," the bishops said in a statement.

At stake in Darfur were the lives of hundred of thousands of innocent people, particularly children, the women and the elderly, they said. There was therefore no room for further statements, discussions, or deliberations.

In Nairobi, the head of the All-African Council of Churches, the Rev. Mvume Dandala, said church leaders were unhappy with the world community's failure to take action on Sudan.

"Our concern is that the situation in [Darfur] should not divert attention from the south Sudan", said Dandala, referring to the fact that talks aimed at fine-tuning a peace agreement between Khartoum and southern rebels have been suspended as a result of the current crisis.

That peace deal between the government and rebel Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) is intended to end a two-decade civil war between the Arab Muslim north and African Christian and animist south.

This week's U.N. report was released as the U.N.'s World Health Organization (WHO) warned about the chances of communicable disease outbreaks in the conflict zone.

WHO cited a number of health problems facing people who have been displaced as a result of the fighting, including malnutrition, hepatitis-E, acute respiratory infections, diarrhoea, malaria and conflict-related trauma.

The agency said it was concerned about the lack of primary health care services, including insufficient supplies of essential medicines and lack of health personnel, both in Darfur and across the border in eastern Chad, where Darfurian refugees have fled.

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