Darfur : Heavy Storm Warning
The lives of children and mothers have been placed at high risk by the forced withdrawal of non-governmental organizations (NGO) from Darfur, Sudan. The withdrawal was an act of vengeance on the part of the Sudanese President, Omar al-Bashir when arrest warrants of the International Criminal Court (ICC) were signed against him. The people who suffer are Sudanese victims of five years of violence in Darfur. Nearly three million people have been displaced as villages have been destroyed, crops burned and farm animals deliberately killed. Wells which provide water have been filled in with sand. As a result, a large percentage of the population depends on food, shelter and medical aid from the United Nations and humanitarian NGOs.
President al-Bashir has expelled 13 of the major international NGOs and closed down three of the most active Sudanese relief organizations accusing them all of being “spies” for the ICC. The ICC had no need for “spies” to collect accurate information on the tragic situation in Darfur. From the start of the Darfur conflict in 2003, there have been staff people from UN agencies, NGOs and journalists present and making accurate information available to UN human rights bodies. Many observers were in the Sudan to help rebuild after the destructive 1982-2005 North-South Civil War. Darfur had been peripheral to this struggle, though there had been warnings from the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Sudan that violence in Darfur was likely if social and economic measures were not taken quickly.
Efforts are being made by some Arab and African governments at the UN in both New York and Geneva to have the arrest warrants postponed for a year — a possibility which exists in the rules of the ICC. Such a postponement would not improve the situation in Darfur. It is not a lack of time but of political will which has prevented a negotiated settlement to the Darfur conflict. However, pressure from the combined weight of the League of Arab States and the African Union — Sudan is a member of both — could modify Sudan’s position.
The Office to the United Nations, Geneva, Association of World Citizens, recommends letters to the UN office of both the League and the AU appealing that the ban on humanitarian relief organizations be lifted and that serious negotiations on Dafur be undertaken. Letters should be sent to:
1) H.E. Mr Yahya Mahmassani,
Permanent Observer for the League of Arab States to the UN
866 UN Plaza (Suite 494), New York, NY, 10017, USA
2) Permanent Observer of the African Union
305 East 47th Street (5th Floor), 3 Dag Hammarskjold Plaza
New York, NY 10017, USA
Rene Wadlow, Representative to the United Nations, Geneva, Association of World Citizens