On a visit to Washington, D.C., Thabo Mbeki, president of South Africa, met with President George W. Bush. Mr. Mbeki says that both he and Mr. Bush agree that the number of peacekeeping troops in the Darfur region of western Sudan must be increased:
"Hopefully the [U-N] Security Council will move quickly on that to do that larger deployment of troops. It's very urgent, very necessary, and we will absolutely do everything to make sure that, from the African side, we remove any obstacle there might be to such bigger employment in Darfur. It's very necessary."
Mr. Bush says there is a "need for South Africa and the United States and other nations to work with the Sudanese government to enable a peacekeeping force into that country to facilitate and save lives":
"I expressed my concerns about the situation with the President. He shares my concerns that the situation is dire. And now is the time for action."
Fighting broke out in Darfur in 2003 after rebel groups took up arms out of frustration over the Sudanese government’s marginalization of the Darfur region. Rebels attacked Sudanese government facilities. The Sudanese government responded by arming, funding, and encouraging a militia called the Janjaweed. More than two-hundred-thousand people in Darfur have died from fighting, famine, and disease.
More than two-million now live in IDP (internally displaced person) camps in Darfur or in refugee camps in neighboring Chad and the Central African Republic. A total of four-million-three-hundred-thousand people have been affected by the conflict.
In May 2006, 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. In August, the U-N Security Council authorized the extension of the United Nations Mission in Sudan to Darfur, including transition of the seven-thousand member African Union force already there to U-N command. Yet the fighting continues and the Sudanese government has been reluctant to allow deployment of U-N forces in Darfur.
The U.S., says Mr. Bush, "is appalled by the genocide in Darfur, which had led to the spread of fighting and hostility in the Republic of Chad and the Central African Republic." Mr. Bush says the U.S. "call[s] on the government of the Republic of Sudan and the rebel groups to cease fighting and pursue peace."
The preceding was an editorial reflecting the views of the United States Government.