More than 100,000 people participated in a state-organized protest Wednesday against a U.N. Security Council resolution giving Sudan 30 days to stop Arab militia violence in the western region of Darfur or face economic and diplomatic penalties.
Protesters also warned that Sudan could become a battlefield like Afghanistan or Iraq if foreign military forces enter this African country to try to end the 17-month Darfur conflict, which has killed 30,000 people, forced a million from their homes and left an estimated 2.2 million in urgent need of food, medicine and other basics.
“Targeting Sudan means you will fall into a third swamp, after Afghanistan and Iraq,” said a senior member of the ruling party, Mohammed Ali Abdullah, in comments directed at President Bush and British leader Tony Blair.
“There are lions here in Sudan who would like to confront the Americans.”
Although no Western government has threatened to invade Sudan, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan has mentioned the possibility of such intervention since it became clear the Khartoum government was failing to curb the violence in Darfur. France has deployed a small force along Chad’s border with Darfur to stop Arab militia from crossing over.
In Ethiopia on Wednesday, the African Union said it would send a peacekeeping mission of 1,600 to 1,800 troops to Darfur to speed up humanitarian aid and counter the repeated violations of an April 8 cease-fire deal between the Sudanese government and two rebel groups.
It was unclear when the force would be sent.
On Friday, the U.N. Security Council passed a resolution giving Sudan 30 days to disarm pro-government Arab militias blamed for the violence in Darfur or face penalties.
Annan has said he expects Sudan to cooperate with the resolution, but warned of consequences if Khartoum does not.
In a July 29 statement, Annan accused Sudanese “government security personnel” of threatening displaced people and expressed grave concern about “reports of continuing intimidation, threats and attacks against refugees.”
Wednesday’s protesters, many chanting “No to America and its followers,” delivered a memorandum to the U.N. envoy’s office in Khartoum demanding Annan retract his “misleading” remarks about the Darfur situation or resign.
“You, as the secretary general of the United Nations, hold all the responsibility for escalating the crisis in Darfur as your remarks formed the basis of the misleading, antagonistic Western propaganda against Sudan,” the memorandum said in Arabic.
The United Nations and international aid organizations accuse the pro-government Arab militia, known as Janjaweed, of waging a brutal campaign to drive Sudanese citizens of African origin out of Darfur, which borders Chad.
The memorandum also accused Annan of collaborating with the United States and Israel in “expressing enmity to Sudan.”
The ruling National Congress party’s secretary-general, Ibrahim Ahmed Omar, led the demonstrators from the U.N. offices to the presidential palace in Khartoum’s Martyrs’ Square, where he accused foreign nations of threatening Sudan in a bid to gain access to the country’s natural resources.
“They will return empty handed ... (because) we used to be Mujahedeen and we are still Mujahedeen,” Omar told the protesters, who included people holding banners threatening holy war and students wearing military uniforms.