Bush joins calls for UN to stop Darfur slaughter
|The Sunday Times, 17 Septembre 2006|
THE United Nations should consider sending troops to prevent genocide in Darfur even if the Sudanese government objects, US President George W Bush has urged. He suggested a UN resolution telling Sudan: “We’re coming in with force in order to save lives.”
Bush was joined in highlighting the crisis by Tony Blair, who proposed an “incentive package” yesterday to secure the admission of a 20,000-strong peacekeeping force to Darfur. British officials warned Sudan that it would face “serious consequences” if it failed to comply. “The situation is unacceptable,” Blair said.
A bloodbath is predicted when African Union troops pull out at the end of this month. George Clooney, the actor, told the UN security council last week: “After September 30, you won’t need the UN. You will simply need men with shovels and bleached white linen.”
President Omar al-Bashir of Sudan has rebuffed the UN’s offer to send peacekeepers, accusing it of “neo-colonialism”, and vowed to fight any attempt to impose them.
About 7,000 Sudanese troops have arrived in Darfur with the avowed aim of crushing rebel groups that have failed to sign up to a peace deal. Aid workers in the region say there is a build-up of munitions and predict that a new offensive is about to start.
The conflict has left up to 300,000 dead and turned 2.5m people into refugees in squalid, overcrowded camps. Black Africans are being hounded by Janjaweed, the government-backed Arab militia. “I can understand the desperation people feel for women pulled out of these refugee centres and raped. And now is the time to act,” Bush said.
Theo Murphy, of Amnesty International, said starving villagers were being forced to forage for food and wood in the dead of night. “They have to be back before dawn. If they are caught, the women are raped and beaten and taken as slaves and the men are killed.”
In the run-up to the UN general assembly this week, Bush said: “A lot of Americans are frustrated with the United Nations. I’m frustrated with the United Nations in regard to Darfur.” The region has become an important cause for conservative Christians close to Bush. Allen Hertzke, the author of Freeing God’s Children, an account of the growing Christian human rights movement, said: “Evangelicals used to be isolationist but they’ve become much more interested in the ‘global south’.”
Today has been designated a global day for Darfur, with rallies in New York, London and other cities. Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Sir Jonathan Sacks, the Chief Rabbi, and Sheikh Ibrahim Mogra, a Muslim scholar, will read prayers outside No 10.
John McCain, the Republican senator, and Robert Dole, the former Republican presidential candidate, jointly urged the UN last week to prepare to send in a “robust force” without Sudanese consent. “People of conscience were shocked by, and ashamed of, our failure to stop the genocide in Bosnia and Rwanda,” they wrote in The Washington Post. “We must not repeat these mistakes.”
Russia and China, each with a security council veto, have told Khartoum they will oppose any attempt to send peacekeepers without its approval. Both trade arms and oil with Sudan.
After one attack south of Darfur, children wandered around the desert holding jagged metal tubes with Russian markings that had fallen from helicopter gunships.
UN vacillation has given conservatives another reason to mistrust the body and Kofi Annan, its secretary-general. Nile Gardiner, director of the Margaret Thatcher Center for Freedom at the Heritage Foundation in Washington, said: “Annan’s record of dealing with genocide from the Balkans to Rwanda has been spectacularly poor. The Americans are losing patience with the ability of the UN to prevent more mass killing.”
Gardiner believes the time may come for America to override the UN. “If the UN is unable to meet the task in Darfur, there will be calls in Washington for a ‘coalition of the willing’, perhaps involving a Nato intervention force.”
With US troops overstretched in Afghanistan and Iraq, America is reluctant to commit its own forces to the region. The hope is that Bush’s sabre-rattling will persuade Sudan and the UN to settle their differences.