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U.S., activists decry genocide in Sudan

The U.S. presidential envoy to Darfur joined activists Tuesday in blaming the world for failing to protect Sudan from genocide.
School children walk next to a representation of the ruins of a Darfur village supposedly destroyed during the war, built by UNHCR as part of global commemorations of World Refugee Day later this week, in London's Trafalgar Square onTuesday June 17. Lefteris Pitarakis / AP
/ Source: The Associated Press

The U.S. presidential envoy to Darfur joined activists Tuesday in blaming the world for failing to protect Sudan from genocide.

"All of us should be impatient. We have failed in our responsibility to the people of Sudan," Rich Williamson, President Bush's special envoy for Darfur since January, told a meeting with U.N. Security Council members.

The United Nations so far has been unable to bring peace to Sudan or to prosecute its alleged war criminals. Williamson pointed to 2 million people dead and more than 6 million displaced in Sudan's north-south civil war.

"And in Darfur, we've another conflagration, a genocide in slow motion. For over 300,000 people have perished, and over 2.5 million people have been driven from their homes," he said at a meeting organized by the U.S. Mission to the U.N. "If we keep doing what we've been doing, we won't save those lives."

Fear of retaliation
Williamson was joined by actress and activist Mia Farrow and other human rights campaigners and non-governmental organizations. Williamson said still other groups were too afraid to take part "because they fear retaliation." Most of the meeting was closed to reporters.

Sudan's Arab-dominated government has been accused of unleashing the janjaweed militia of Arab nomads to commit atrocities against ethnic African communities in the country's western Darfur region as part of a fight with rebel groups.

Farrow spoke of the horrors of seeing a woman's body branded with knives after she was raped by 20 to 30 men, and of a mutilated elderly woman who escaped being burned alive and children dying of hunger because aid trucks were unprotected.

"I ask you: How long will you continue to allow the government of Sudan to manipulate this body?" she told U.N. officials. "Did Adolf Hitler get to choose which troops should be deployed to end his genocide?"

Farrow referred to the Sudanese government's objections to non-African troops for the joint African Union-U.N. force that took over peacekeeping duties in Darfur on New Year's Eve, a week before Williamson became Bush's envoy.

Sudan's U.N. Ambassador Abdalmahmood Abdalhaleem Mohamed told The Associated Press that such statements reflect election-year politics and don't help bring peace to Darfur.

"It is very clear now that Darfur has again become an election item in the United States, unfortunately," he said. "It is not helpful to the people of Darfur, it is not helpful to the issues of the region. If they have anything to do, they have to make pressure on the rebel groups to come to the negotiating table."

Shortages of staff
The peacekeeping force, with 9,000 soldiers and police officers, has contended with chronic shortages of staff and equipment and less-than-adequate cooperation from the Sudanese government.

The U.N. still cannot deploy the full strength of the authorized 26,000-strong A.U.-U.N. peacekeeping force. It also has been unable to persuade the U.S. and other governments to supply attack and transport helicopters, surveillance aircraft, military engineers and logistical support it needs to safely navigate the remote Darfur region.

Some Security Council members just returned from an African trip that included a visit to Darfur.

On Monday, the council unanimously called on Sudan — again — to arrest and hand over two Darfur war crimes suspects for prosecution by the International Criminal Court. The court's prosecutor this month implicated "the whole state apparatus" of Sudan in crimes against humanity in Darfur, linking the government directly with the janjaweed.

Speaking to reporters after Tuesday's meeting, John Prendergast of the Washington-based Enough Project joined Farrow in assigning some of the blame to China's protection of Sudan and faulted the Security Council for not putting enough muscle behind repeated resolutions and statements on Sudan.

"Not one of them has been enforced," he said. "The buck is supposed to stop right here. But it hasn't."