UN shies away from action to stop massacres in Darfur
The people of Darfur face more months of uncertainty, as the United Nations passed a second resolution that once again merely called on the Sudanese government to end the killings in the west of its country and took little action.
The Sudanese ambassador to the UN condemned the document as "unfair" but said his country would comply with the resolutions. The Sudanese national assembly speaker Ahmad Ibrahim al-Tahir also warned the international community against military intervention, saying: "If Iraq opened one gate of hell for the West, we will open seven of its gates. We will not surrender this country."
The Sudanese government had not fulfilled the requirements of an earlier UN resolution, that also called for the Arab militiamen known as the Janjaweed to be disarmed by the end of August.
People in Darfur had hoped that once it became clear the attacks against civilians had not stopped, the UN would impose sanctions or other punitive measures against Sudan. But instead, the UN Security Council effectively gave the government more time, saying unless the killing stops, the UN "shall consider taking additional measures ... such as actions to affect Sudan's petroleum sector."
In the meantime, it asked for the African Union to send more troops to Darfur to monitor the situation on the ground, and told Sudan to submit the names of any militiamen it has already arrested for human rights abuses. Notably, although the resolution expressed grave concern about the lack of progress in disarming the pro-government Janjaweed militias, it did not give a deadline by which Sudan is to bring them under control.
UN Secretary General Kofi Annan also said he would set up a commission to investigate whether genocide has actually taken place within Sudan.
Inside Darfur, people have no doubt that they are victims of an organised attempt to destroy them. They claim the Sudanese government has continued to support the Janjaweed, even while it promised the international community that it was trying its hardest to rein them in. Abdel Molah, said: "A few days before the Janjaweed and helicopters came to attack my village, some people came to us and said - we will send you blacks away and take this land. There are many riches in the earth and we shall make it ours." Molah's parents and five brothers were killed in two separate Janjaweed attacks in April and August. He has now fled to Chad with his wife and three children, and insists he will not return unless the government changes. "This government does not want blacks in Darfur, only Arabs," he insisted. "As long as they are in charge, we cannot be safe." Others barely understand the politics that are destroying their lives.
More than 50,000 people have been killed in the conflict, and the World Health Organisation has estimated that at least 10,000 people are still dying in Darfur each month as a result of violence and disease.
The families of the bereaved do not care what wording the UN uses against Sudan, as long as the killings stop. Mariam Ayacoub's four sons were shot by the Janjaweed as they slept inside the family's compound in August. Still mad with grief, she looks blank when asked about the UN. "I don't know who they are," she said, rocking back and forth. "My children are dead. I don't know anything else. Maybe God knows. I don't."