In Sudan’s western region of Darfur, attacks on civilians by the Janjaweed Arab militias continue. Supported by the Sudanese government, the militias have been carrying out a campaign of ethnic cleansing against black Sudanese. The sixteen-month campaign has included massacres, systematic rape, and the destruction of more than three-hundred villages. As many as thirty-thousand people have been killed, and more than a million have been driven from their homes.
Secretary of State Colin Powell visited one of many refugee camps in Darfur. It was obvious that many children were suffering from malnutrition. “I’m also absolutely sure,” said Mr. Powell, “from other information I have, that there are other places in the country, camps and places where there are no camps, where there is famine, where there is disease.”
The U.S. has led the rush to get aid to Darfur, as well as to neighboring Chad, where more than one-hundred-thousand Sudanese have sought refuge. But in Darfur, the Sudanese government has prevented aid from reaching many of those most in need.
After separate talks with Secretary of State Powell and United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan, Sudanese officials promised to eliminate barriers to the flow of aid and to stop the Arab militia attacks on black Sudanese civilians. But Jemera Rone of Human Rights Watch says that such promises have been made before and simply broken:
“Usually, they make promises and then they know that the international community will give them a certain time period to see if they’re really living up to the promises. And then when they don’t live up, then they make another promise.”
But time is running out. Unless a lot more aid reaches the people of Darfur soon, says the U.S. Agency for International Development, more than three-hundred-thousand people could die of disease and starvation in the coming months. “Words are not enough,” says Secretary of State Powell. The Sudanese government, he said, must “break the back” of the Janjaweed and “provide full humanitarian support to these people in need.”