Da Mail & Guardian del 05/09/2006
Originale su http://www.mg.co.za/articlePage.aspx?articleid=283181

Sudan throws out Darfur peacekeepers

The Sudanese government has told the African Union to remove its peacekeepers from Darfur and rejected their replacement by a United Natons force, after launching a new military offensive to "restore stability" to the blighted region.

The Sudanese troop build-up appears to reflect a determination by Khartoum to use force to end a three-year conflict that has already cost hundreds of thousands of lives through violence and disease, seen the destruction of about 2 000 villages and forced millions from their homes.

The UN has warned of a fresh "man-made catastrophe" because Khartoum's offensive seems to mark the final collapse of a widely criticised United States-brokered peace deal that appears only to have inflamed the conflict since it was signed four months ago.

In an attempt to rescue the situation, the UN security council last week agreed to an Anglo-US resolution to send 17,300 soldiers and 3,300 police officers to Darfur to replace the weak AU force that was unable to protect civilians.

But the Sudanese President, Omar al-Bashir, rejected a UN deployment, calling it "part of a comprehensive conspiracy for confiscating the country's sovereignty".

Critics of the government say it fears the presence of UN peacekeepers could lead to the arrest of officials for crimes against humanity.

Khartoum had favoured keeping in place the under-resourced and ineffective AU force, but its mandate expires at the end of this month. Sudan at first said it wanted the peacekeepers out earlier if the mission was not to be extended but, after criticism from African countries, then said they could stay to the end of September.

The government says it is sending its own 10 000-strong force to Darfur to "consolidate the security situation".

Part of the Sudanese force that arrived in the region last week is reported by AU officials to have launched bombing raids and other attacks on rebel-held villages in Darfur. Government troops have also driven rebels out of the town of Um Sidir, near the capital of North Darfur state.

Last week the UN's humanitarian chief, Jan Egeland, warned of "a man-made catastrophe of an unprecedented scale" in Darfur unless the UN Security Council intervened. Hundreds of thousands of civilians are still reliant on foreign aid, which could dry up if violence increases. "Insecurity is at its highest level since 2004, access at its lowest levels since that date and we may well be on the brink of a return to all-out war," he said.

Survivors of attacks over the past three years say the government attacks follow a familiar pattern in which air raids are followed by attacks by an allied militia, the Janjaweed, to kill, rape and loot.

The former US secretary of state Colin Powell and human rights groups have accused Sudan's government and the Arab militias of ethnic cleansing and genocide against Darfur's black population.

A UN inquiry concluded that there had not been genocide. The international criminal court is investigating alleged crimes against humanity in Darfur by government officials and leaders of their militia allies.

The government offensive marks another blow to the May peace accord. It was widely criticised, in part because only one of the three main rebel groups in Darfur endorsed it. Within weeks of signing, the Minni Minnawi faction of the Sudan Liberation Movement joined government forces in attacks on other rebel groups.

Analysts say the UN could force its mandate on Sudan but there is unlikely to be the political will to do so, given its commitments in Lebanon and the difficulty of finding a country willing to send troops to confront Sudanese forces.

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