(New York, August 18, 2006) – The United Nations Security Council should reject a Sudanese government plan for “strengthening security and restoring stability” in Darfur, Human Rights Watch said today. The government proposes to send 10,500 new government troops to Darfur, in direct violation of the Darfur Peace Agreement signed by the Sudanese government on May 5.
The government and the largest Darfur rebel group signed the peace deal in Abuja, Nigeria, under the auspices of the African Union. But two smaller rebel groups refused to sign and continue to fight the government; “Janjaweed” militias and bandits also persist in attacks. The U.N. reports that violence in Darfur is worse than ever despite the deal, putting almost 500,000 civilians in need of humanitarian aid beyond reach.
On August 17, the United States and the United Kingdom introduced a draft resolution to the Security Council that would mandate a U.N. force to protect civilians in Darfur. The draft resolution is based on the Secretary-General’s July 28 report to the Security Council recommending a transition from the AU force of 7,700 to a U.N. protection force of 17,500, plus 3,300 civilian police in Darfur. The African Union mandate expires on September 30, 2006, and AU officials have asked the Sudanese government to agree to a transition to the U.N. force, in which many AU soldiers would be “rehatted” and become U.N. peacekeepers.
President Omar El Bashir of Sudan, who is slated to become AU president in January 2007, reneged on early indications that he would accept the U.N. force. Even after the Security Council held a meeting in Khartoum in June 2006 to discuss the proposal, Bashir made several statements rejecting a U.N. presence in Darfur to protect civilians.
At the AU Summit on July 1-2 in Banjul, Bashir told U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan that he would present a “new” post-peace agreement plan to resolve problems in Darfur. The plan, dated August 2, was submitted to the Secretary-General.
“This Sudanese plan is just the latest maneuver to prevent a U.N. force from helping protect civilians in Darfur,” said Takirambudde. Human Rights Watch said the Sudanese plan ignored the carefully negotiated provisions for civilian protection that appeared in the Darfur Peace Agreement.
“Where is the permanent ceasefire, the demilitarized zones around the displaced camps, the buffer zones between forces?” asked Takirambudde. “There is nothing about demobilization, disarmament or the withdrawal of forces. If this government plan is accepted there will be nothing left of the peace agreement.”
At the same time that it submitted the plan to the U.N., the Sudanese government began moving large numbers of troops to Fashir, North Darfur, apparently readying for an assault on rebels in that state. Shortly before that troop movement, the African Union and the U.N. denounced a similar government plan to launch attacks in West Darfur as a violation of the permanent ceasefire in the Darfur Peace Agreement.
“Two years ago, Sudan promised to disarm its Janjaweed militias, but has failed to do so,” said Takirambudde. “Security Council members should know better than to trust Khartoum and its Janjaweed with ‘security’ for civilians in Darfur.”
The Security Council has issued 10 resolutions on Darfur since mid-2004, but there has been little improvement regarding civilian protection.