United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan says the western Sudanese region of Darfur could descend into anarchy unless a swift political solution to the conflict is found. "The looming threat of complete lawlessness and anarchy draws nearer, as warlords, bandits and militia groups grow more aggressive," he said.
Fighting broke out in Darfur in 2003 after rebels complained that the region had been marginalized by the central government. Rebels affiliated with the Sudanese Liberation Movement and the Justice and Equality Movement attacked Sudanese government facilities. Supported by the Sudanese government, Janjaweed Arab militia responded by launching attacks on civilians from Sudan's African Fur, Masalit, and Zaghawa groups in Darfur.
In July, the Sudanese government and the rebel groups agreed on a declaration of principles, which called for an end to hostilities, the guarantee of tribal ownership of land in Darfur, and increased autonomy for the region. Nearly seven-thousand peacekeepers from the A-U, the African Union have moved into the Darfur region and peace talks have been held. But the violence and attacks on villages continue. Farmers are being harassed and planted fields are being destroyed. Serious violence against women and girls is still being reported to the U.N. on a daily basis. Thousands of civilians are being displaced.
The United States has urged the parties to the conflict to achieve a successful conclusion to the forthcoming seventh round of peace talks. U.S. State Department Spokesman Sean McCormack says the rebels say they are committed to participate in the talks:
" It's important that those groups follow through on that commitment and to actually engage in productive negotiations in Abuja. . . .As we have repeatedly emphasized, the way forward to resolve the situation in Darfur is through political negotiations. Of course, we're going to be there in providing support and assistance to the A-U (African Union) and in terms of humanitarian assistance, the United States is a leader in that regard."
But humanitarian assistance will not be sufficient to help the suffering people of Darfur. U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Robert Zoellick has been working to bring the parties to the Darfur negotiations together. All sides in the conflict, he said, "need to apply themselves to the hard work of peace."
The preceding was an editorial reflecting the views of the United States Government.