The international community has failed in its responsibility to halt the killings in Darfur and must find a way to force Sudan to accept an international force to end the violence, the United States said on Sunday. Speaking on the eve of an international meeting on the humanitarian crisis in the western Sudanese region, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice criticized major powers for not having ended violence that is now in its fifth year.
“I will be very frank. I do not think that the international community has really lived up to its responsibilities here,” Rice told reporters at a news conference with French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner. “Ultimately this is going to come down to will,” Rice added. “Are we prepared to make the difficult choices in the international system that will, I believe, persuade and compel Khartoum to do what it must?”
Sudan on June 12 agreed to a combined United Nations and African Union peacekeeping force of more than 20,000 troops and police, but many diplomats doubt Khartoum will keep its word. The aim of the force is to stop the violence in Darfur, where international experts estimate 200,000 people have died and 2.5 million have been expelled from their homes in more than four years of strife. Sudan says 9,000 people have died. The Darfur problem dates back to early 2003 when non-Arab rebels took up arms, accusing the government of not heeding their plight in the remote, arid region. Khartoum mobilized Arab militia, known locally as Janjaweed, to quell the revolt.
The Janjaweed embarked on a campaign of killing, pillaging and rape. In the past year rebel groups have fought each other and also attacked civilians. In 2004, the United States called the violence genocide, a term Khartoum has rejected.
France has convened an international meeting on Darfur that is expected to draw senior officials from nations including the United States, Egypt and China, which has been reluctant to impose sanctions on Khartoum, one of its oil suppliers. “I know that it has been going on for years. So what? Is that a reason to not be interested and let the massacres go on forever? Even if the massacres were bigger, they must be stopped,” Kouchner said.
Kouchner said Monday’s meeting had three aims: to back the U.N.-AU effort, to offer political backing to those trying to bring together the rebel groups, and to offer financial support for the planned 20,000-strong hybrid international force. Diplomats are dismayed Sudan has sent mixed signals about the force, saying it should be under the AU’s command and control rather than that of the United Nations, and suggesting it should chiefly be comprised of African forces. The existing force of about 7,000 AU troops is widely seen as ineffective.
Earlier, Rice said she hoped China would bring more pressure to bear on the Khartoum government. “I’d like to have everybody, the Chinese included, tell the Sudanese in no uncertain terms that there is no other option and that they need to stop agreeing to terms and then trying to scale them back,” Rice told reporters as she flew to Paris. The United States has been pushing for a new Security Council resolution against Sudan, something China has resisted. Rice suggested no decisions on this were likely soon. Rice said she was grateful to new French President Nicolas Sarkozy for having convened Monday’s meeting. U.S. officials hope it may herald an improved relationship with France. The United States had deep differences with former French President Jacques Chirac, whose opposition to the invasion of Iraq embittered relations with the Bush administration.