New concerns have been raised about the situation in Sudan's western Darfur region. Acting in response to U-N Security Council resolutions, U-N Secretary General Kofi Annan has reported, "There are strong indications that war crimes and crimes against humanity have occurred in Darfur on a large and systematic scale. This has been confirmed by a number of senior U-N human rights specialists who have visited the region."
One disturbing recent development in Darfur is what appears to be a Sudanese government campaign to remove people by force from camps for displaced persons. On November 2nd, at a camp near Nyala in southern Darfur, soldiers and police destroyed shelters and forcibly relocated hundreds of people.
State Department spokesman Richard Boucher says the U.S. "strongly supports the U-N Secretary General in expressing deep concern over ongoing Sudanese government efforts to forcibly relocate civilians from camps in south Darfur, and also deep concern about the denial of humanitarian access to these camps":
"Forcible repatriation is direct contravention of the United Nations guiding principles on internal displacement and a violation of [U-N] Security Council resolutions 1556 and 1564, and we call on the government of Sudan to cease the forcible relocation of civilians, disengage forces surrounding other camps, and allow humanitarian workers immediate access."
The latest conflict in Darfur began in 2003, when African Sudanese rebels attacked government installations. In response, the Sudanese government began supporting Arab militias, called the Janjaweed, in attacking both rebels and civilians. Thousands have been killed in the attacks and hundreds of villages have been destroyed. Large numbers of African Sudanese women have been systematically raped. More than one-and-a-half million people have fled into camps, where tens of thousands have died of disease or malnutrition and others remain at risk without continued outside aid.
Under the auspices of the African Union, talks are underway between rebels in Darfur and the Sudanese government. With U.S. help, the African Union has also begun moving monitoring troops into the area. It is essential, as the U-N Security Council has made clear, for all violence in Darfur to end and for those responsible to be punished.