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4/13/04 - DARFUR CEASE-FIRE - 2004-04-13

A cease-fire has been signed by the Sudanese government and two armed opposition groups in Sudan’s western region of Darfur. Over the past year, thousands of people have been killed and hundreds of thousands displaced in fighting that has included widespread atrocities, especially by militias armed by the Sudanese government.

Adam Ereli is deputy spokesman for the U.S. State Department. He says that implementing the cease-fire “is a crucial first step toward ending these atrocities and reversing the humanitarian crisis in Darfur”:

“All parties agreed to neutralize the armed militias and we’ve made it clear to the government of Sudan that we expect it to take immediate steps to stop the violence and atrocities being perpetrated by these militias.”

Over the years, Arab and African communities in Darfur have often clashed over land and scarce resources. The current conflict began about a year ago when two African opposition groups, the Sudan Liberation Movement, or Army, and the Sudan Justice and Equality Movement, demanded that the government deal with grievances over Darfur’s lack of development. The government responded by supporting Arab militias, mainly the Janjaweed, in their campaign of killing and village-burning.

An estimated seven-hundred-thousand members of Sudan’s African community have been driven from their homes. According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, another one-hundred-ten-thousand have sought refuge in neighboring Chad.

The situation in Darfur, says U-N Secretary-General Kofi Annan, leaves one “with a deep sense of foreboding”:

“It is vital that international humanitarian workers and human rights experts be given full access without further delay. They need to get to the victims. They need to get to those we should help.”

The U-N is sending officials to Darfur to follow up earlier missions that identified many humanitarian needs. Meanwhile, the U.S. and other countries are rushing aid to the area. Through the World Food Program and other U-N agencies, the U.S. has already provided more than fifty-million dollars in aid. The U.S. will maintain the pressure necessary to assure that the cease-fire is implemented and provide help to the suffering people of Darfur.