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6/15/04 - DARFUR SITUATION GRAVE - 2004-06-16

The situation in Sudan’s western region of Darfur remains very grave. Supported by the Sudanese army, Arab militias have attacked and destroyed villages of black Africans in Darfur. Inhabitants have been murdered and raped, and as many as two-million have been forced from their homes. Thousands of displaced people will die if food and other supplies do not reach them soon.

Despite an April 8th cease-fire between the Sudanese government and rebel groups in Darfur, continuing violence remains the greatest obstacle to getting aid to people there. As United Nations Emergency Relief Coordinator Jan Egeland told the U-N Security Council on June 14th, “We were largely prevented from entering Darfur with our relief workers until the last few weeks.” James Cunningham, U.S. Deputy Ambassador to the U-N, says the Sudanese government still is making aid deliveries difficult:

“Unfortunately, the [Sudanese] government continues to deny release of vehicles needed by humanitarian relief agencies. It has also in some cases denied release of the radio equipment needed for workers to securely deploy to remote areas to deliver aid. In addition, the government has also delayed food shipments from Port Sudan, potentially to the point of making the food useless.”

State Department spokesman Richard Boucher says that halting the ethnic cleansing in Darfur and getting aid to its victims is “one of the highest priorities” for the U.S.:

“The United States calls on the government of Sudan to facilitate the provision of humanitarian assistance, including the immediate release of all vehicles and equipment and all food shipments bound for Darfur. But we also call on the parties, that is, the government, the Sudan Liberation Army and Movement, and the Justice and Equality Movement, to cooperate with the United Nations and the humanitarian agencies to avoid all interference with the work and to adhere completely to the cease-fire agreement. We particularly call on the government to stop the attacks by government-supported militias.”

In Darfur, says U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell, “there are at least a million people who are desperately in need, and many of them will die if we can’t get the international community mobilized and if we can’t get the Sudanese [government] to cooperate.”