by Joyce Mulama
(IPS) NAIROBI -- As the Kenyan capital prepares to host a two-day meeting of the United Nations Security Council this week, reports about the situation in Darfur, western Sudan, are piling up on the desks of bureaucrats and journalists.
On Tuesday, Amnesty International (AI) -- the London-based human rights watchdog -- issued a report entitled 'Sudan: Arming the Perpetrators of Grave Abuses in Darfur'.
The document came on the heels of an earlier report by Human Rights Watch, based in New York, which called on the Security Council to back its criticism of Khartoum with actions against key Sudanese officials.
Sudan's government is accused of attacking civilians in Darfur as part of efforts to quell a rebellion by two factions -- and of arming Arab militias known as the Janjaweed ("men on horseback") to terrorise these civilians on Khartoum's behalf.
In its report, Amnesty accuses several countries of facilitating human rights abuses in Darfur by supplying arms to the Sudanese government.
The Russian Federation, China and Belarus are said to have sold military aircraft and related equipment to Sudan, in the face of reports that these planes were being used by government to bomb villages.
"Two Antonov airplanes, five helicopters and two MiGs attacked our village at around 6AM. Five tanks came into town. The attack lasted until 7PM," said Aziza Abdel Jaber Mohammed, a resident of Kornoy village in northern Darfur who is quoted in the AI report.
"The inhabitants fled from their homes but our brother-in-law was killed when running away. Eighteen men and two children from our family were killed when fleeing," she added. The attack in question took place in December 2003; both government and Janjaweed forces are said to have been involved.
Russia and Belarus, along with Poland, are also accused of supplying tanks, other military vehicles and artillery to Sudan -- while China, France, Iran and Saudi Arabia are said to have provided it with rifles and other light weapons, ammunition and grenades.
In addition, Amnesty claims that firms in Britain and Ireland have brokered deals between Sudan, the Ukraine and Brazil for the sale of aircraft, military vehicles and pistols. If true, this would place the companies in contravention of a European Union arms embargo on Sudan.
In light of these allegations, AI is calling on the Security Council to extend an arms embargo that it passed against non-governmental groups in Sudan, to include the government. The council voted on the weapons ban against non-governmental groups in July this year.
Amnesty says strict monitoring procedures in- and outside Sudan should also be introduced to ensure the embargo is respected.
"What we are asking the UN Security Council to do is to impose a full mandatory arms embargo on Sudan with action. The embargo must not contain words only, but should be followed with action," Brian Wood, an AI arms researcher, told journalists in Nairobi Tuesday during the launch of the report.
"In July the UN passed an arms embargo on Sudan, but so far the language on the (embargo) is weak. We want the embargo to address the use of arms (by) all groups in Sudan, not only some," he added.
According to the report, "Sudan's oil wealth has played a major part in enabling an otherwise poor country to fund the expensive bombers, helicopters and arms supplies which have allowed the Sudanese government to launch aerial attacks on towns and villages and fund militias to fight its proxy war."
In a bid to highlight this trend, Amnesty has also called on oil multinationals that are active in Sudan to make public the revenues they and the government earn from operations related to oil exploitation.
The main purpose of the Security Council's meeting in Nairobi (from Nov. 18 to 19) is to press for a conclusion to another conflict in Sudan: the war between Islamic authorities in Khartoum and Christian and animist rebels in the south, that has dragged on for more than two decades.
But, the political and humanitarian crisis in Darfur is also likely to be a central topic of debate.
The situation in the region deteriorated from February last year, when the Sudan Liberation Army/Movement (SLA/M) and the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) began attacks against the government to protest against its alleged neglect of Darfur.
Prior to this, the region was dogged by disputes over land and water between nomadic Arabs and settled ethnic groups, who are now suspected of providing support to the SLA/M and JEM.
According to the UN, about 70,000 people have been killed in Darfur during recent months, while over 1.5 million people have fled their homes.
For its part, Khartoum denies claims that it is responsible for what some believe is a campaign of ethnic cleansing in Darfur.
"There is no human rights abuse in Darfur. Why is everyone talking about rights abuse in Darfur when there is genocide in Falluja, Iraq -- and poverty and hunger in the world," Ali Nimeri, Sudan's ambassador to Kenya, told IPS in a telephone interview Tuesday.
"We are looking for a total peace agreement in Darfur and the entire Sudan, and recently we signed two security agreements for Darfur. This shows the government wants peace in Darfur," he added.
The accords in question were signed Nov. 9 in the Nigerian capital, Abuja, during peace talks mediated by the African Union (AU). The AU has deployed about 700 troops in Darfur to monitor a ceasefire drawn up in April, and is expected to send more than 2,000 additional troops to the area.
Fears have been expressed that the conflict in Darfur could undermine efforts to end the war in southern Sudan.
This is despite the fact that several protocols on power- and wealth-sharing have been signed by Khartoum and the rebel Sudan People's Liberation Movement/Army in the course of peace talks that have been underway in Kenya since 2002.
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