The government of Sudan and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement signed three protocols May 26th. These documents represent a major milestone on the road to peace. Together, these protocols represent the resolution of the remaining substantive issues which could lead to a lasting peace in the country. Sudan’s civil war, as President George W. Bush has said, has been “one of the worst humanitarian tragedies of our time, responsible for the deaths of two-million people over two decades.”
Further negotiations will be necessary before a formal cease-fire can be signed. And as U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell stressed, “Sudan will not be at peace until the problem of Darfur is resolved.” Mr. Powell called on the Sudanese government “to stop the violence being perpetrated by the Janjaweed militias, protect civilians, facilitate unrestricted humanitarian access. . . .and create conditions for the safe return of internally displaced people and refugees.”
In the past year, attacks by Sudanese government and militia forces in Sudan’s western region of Darfur have driven some two-million people from their homes. The victims in Darfur are black African farmers. They have been attacked by militias, mainly the Arab Janjaweed, that are armed and supported by the Sudanese army. The militias have burned villages and committed numerous atrocities, including systematic rape and murder.
Acting Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Charles Snyder represented the U.S. at the negotiations in Kenya that led to the recent agreements. He says the Sudanese government will not achieve the benefits it seeks unless it stops the violence in Darfur:
“It has to be reversed. Ethnic cleansing can’t be allowed to stand. The people have to be gotten back on the ground they were driven off."
The situation in Darfur is at a “crisis” point, says Mr. Snyder. The U.S. and other countries are contributing millions of dollars to a United Nations relief effort for the two-million people displaced from their homes. But without cooperation from the Sudanese government, thousands in Darfur will die.