The more things change, the more they stay the same in Darfur, the troubled region in western Sudan where more than 200,000 people have died and 2.5 million more have been driven from their homes in 5 years of fighting between rebel forces, the Sudanese army and government-backed militias.
President George Bush recently voiced frustration at the international response to the crisis, urged that more peacekeepers be dispatched to the region and pledged continued U.S. aid to Darfur civilians.
Mediation efforts to settle the conflict also continue to win U.S. backing. “We recognize in order for there to be peace in Darfur that parties must come to the table in good faith and solve the problems,” Mr. Bush said.
Only recently has Sudan’s president, Omar Hassan al-Bashir, agreed to participate in peace talks organized by the United Nations and African Union. He also pledged to punish anyone guilty of crimes in Darfur through use of government-created courts. Since many of the attacks of refugee camps and other outrages in the region trace back to his government, and since the judicial mechanisms of which he speaks have yet to materialize, however, President Bashir’s change of heart is open to question.
The chief prosecutor at the International Criminal Court in The Hague asked the Court to issue an arrest warrant against Bashir for genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes in Darfur. President Bush says the U.S. will keep up the pressure on the question of Darfur accountability as well.
“It’s very important for President Bashir to know he cannot escape accountability,” Mr. Bush said, urging the Sudanese Government to make progress in good faith on Darfur. “If he so chooses, he could change people’s lives, the condition of people’s lives very quickly.”