Sudan’s president, vowing to never allow U.N. peacekeepers into Darfur, blamed “Jewish organizations” for pushing for their deployment.
President Omar al-Bashir made the assertion Tuesday while a joint United Nations and African Union team was in Sudan to plan for a large U.N. force to take over peacekeeping in Darfur from the AU’s poorly equipped 7,000 troops who have been unable to halt more than three years of violence.
President Bush, who has called for the United Nations to take over peacekeeping in Darfur, reiterated Wednesday that he viewed the government-backed attacks on civilians there as genocide.
“I declared Darfur to be a genocide because I care deeply about those who have been afflicted by these renegade bands of people who are raping and murdering,” Bush said in Vienna at a news conference with Austrian Chancellor Wolfgang Schuessel and European Union President Jose Manual Barroso.
‘This shall never take place’
The U.S. and Europe have been pushing for the quick deployment of U.N. peacekeepers in Darfur.
“This shall never take place,” al-Bashir told reporters at a news conference with South African President Thabo Mbeki on Tuesday. “These are colonial forces and we will not accept colonial forces coming into the country,” he said in his strongest rejection yet of a U.N. peacekeeping role in Darfur.
“They want to colonize Africa, starting with the first sub-Saharan country to gain its independence. If they want to start colonization in Africa, let them choose a different place.”
A day earlier, al-Bashir said he would personally lead the “resistance” to such a force if it came.
Sudan already has 10,000 U.N. peacekeepers in its south, where they are helping to implement a January 2005 peace agreement that ended a separate conflict — more than 20 years of civil war between the north and the south of the country.
When journalists pressed al-Bashir on his objection to U.N. troops in Darfur, he replied: “It is clear that there is a purpose behind the heavy propaganda and media campaigns” for international intervention in Darfur.
“If we return to the last demonstrations in the United States, and the groups that organized the demonstrations, we find that they are all Jewish organizations.”
Rallies in Washington and several other U.S. cities in April drew thousands of demonstrators protesting against atrocities in Darfur and attracted celebrity speakers such as actor George Clooney as well as politicians. Jewish groups were among the organizers.
Nearly 200,000 people have died, many of them from hunger and disease, since members of ethnic African tribes rose in revolt against the Arab-led Khartoum government in early 2003. Some 2 million people have been displaced. The government is accused of responding by unleashing Arab militias known as the janjaweed who have been accused of the worst atrocities, but it denies any involvement.
After Sudan’s government signed a peace agreement with the main Darfur rebel group May 5, it gave some indications it might allow a U.N. force. The Sudan Liberation Movement, the rebel group that signed, said it wanted the U.N. peacekeepers.
But al-Bashir’s government has since backtracked, saying the Darfur conflict should be dealt with by Africans. Tuesday’s comments were the president’s most direct rejection.
Opposition says leaders fear prosecution
Officials and tribal leaders have often stirred up public opposition by painting the force as colonialist or prompted by Jewish or Israeli pressure.
“As far as security is concerned, I think they are the most capable forces,” Mohammed Eltijani Eltayeb of the Sudan Liberation Movement told The Associated Press on Wednesday in The Hague, where he was attending Dutch-hosted talks on reconstruction.
A leading government opponent, Hassan Turabi, has said the government opposes the United Nations in Darfur because the world body has vowed to prosecute all those involved in war crimes.
“They are afraid of the U.N.’s efficiency. The government fears that too many of its allies will end up in an international criminal court,” said Turabi, who is believed to be influential with one of the Darfur rebel groups.
Last week, a prosecutor for the International Criminal Court reported to the Security Council that a “significant number” of massacres, in which hundreds of people were killed at a time, had occurred in Darfur and certain tribes had been singled out for attack but Sudan’s courts had shown little desire to investigate crimes against humanity.
Al-Bashir’s government has refused to hand over any Sudanese for prosecution by the ICC in the Hague.