Attacks by Arab militias on civilians in Sudan’s Darfur region have caused the deaths of thousands of black Sudanese. In addition, the raids by the Sudanese-government-supported militias have driven more than one-million people from their homes. These people are now at risk of death from starvation and disease, says Roger Winter, Assistant Administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development:
“Unless there is a dramatic turnaround, we can expect in the neighborhood of three-hundred-fifty-thousand deaths [by] the end of this calendar year.”
The U.S. is leading an international effort to rush aid to people in Darfur, and to about two-hundred thousand more who have fled into neighboring Chad. Delivery of relief supplies has been delayed by continuing violence by the Arab militias, called the Janjaweed [JAN-jah-wit], and by rebels opposed to the Sudanese government. The Sudanese government has also imposed obstacles to deliveries of aid. Some of the barriers have now been lifted, but the arrival of Sudan’s rainy season is expected to make aid deliveries more difficult. U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell says it is a race against death:
“There are too many tens upon tens of thousands of human beings who are at risk. Some of them have already been consigned to death because of the circumstances they’re living in now. They will not make it through the end of the year, through the fall. So we need immediate improvement in the situation. And if we don’t see that, then the United States and the international community will have to consider further measures.”
Those measures could include United Nations sanctions. The U.S. is circulating a draft resolution at the U-N Security Council calling on the Sudanese government to fulfill its pledge to disarm the Janjaweed, open Darfur completely to international relief workers and supplies, and pursue a political solution to the conflict there.
Better relations between the U.S. and Sudan will be impossible, says Secretary of State Powell, unless “this terrible situation. . .in Darfur is resolved.”