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by David Cronin

Darfur Activists Say Bush Sanctions on Sudan Will do Little

(IPS) -- A famine is looming in Darfur, according to members of the European Parliament who have just returned from a visit to the war-ravaged Sudanese province.

The 785-strong Parliament will vote Thursday on a resolution urging that European Union governments impose targeted economic and diplomatic sanctions -- such as a travel ban and an asset freeze -- on Sudanese figures implicated in the ongoing violence in Darfur.

This follows a visit by five MEPs to Darfur ending July 6, where they witnessed first-hand the precarious conditions in which those uprooted by terror are living.

Frithjof Schmidt, a German Green MEP, said that the security situation is imperilling the distribution of food aid to the 2.5 million people who have been displaced since 2003.

Last month Oxfam announced that it was phasing out its activities in Gereida, the largest refugee camp in Darfur, where more than 130,000 people have sought refuge. Oxfam claimed that insufficient action was being taken by those controlling the surrounding area to address attacks against aid workers. Several other relief agencies have also decided that it is too dangerous for them to work in Darfur.

"If the security situation cannot be quickly stabilized, then the aid organizations will no longer be able to provide even basic food supplies," said Schmidt. "A famine of dramatic extent is looming."

Schmidt attributed the security problems to both the "enduring terror" inflicted by the Janjaweed militia, who are widely believed to be a proxy force for the Khartoum government, and to turf wars among guerrilla fighters opposed to the government.

"The growing fragmentation of the rebel groups into about 18 competing groups increasingly threatens the implementation of international aid efforts," he added. "Arrangements concerning humanitarian convoys are scarcely possible any more, and bandits are becoming an increasing menace."

He also warned that no improvement may come in the foreseeable future. A promized 'hybrid force' composed of troops from the African Union and the United Nations may not be deployed in Darfur for another eight to 18 months, he said. In the interim, the mandate of the 5,000 African Union peacekeepers in Darfur should be transformed, said Schmidt, so that it is tasked with the active protection of the civilian population.

The EU and its member governments provided 400 million euros (550 million dollars) to the African Union Mission in Sudan (AMIS) in 2004-06.

Schmidt said that financing of the operation has to be assured, and called on the EU to "contribute significantly" for a longer duration.

Josep Borrell, chairman of the Parliament's development committee who led the MEPs' visit to Darfur, described the situation in the province as a "devil's brew," which the African-led mission cannot contain. "All they can do is write reports," he said.

"The only solution is to allow a different force than AMIS," added Borrell, a Spanish Socialist. "That is no panacea. But there will only be a solution if someone there is able to impose a solution."

Representatives of the Sudanese government that met the MEPs had claimed that there was a "Hollywood plot" of Western antipathy to Sudan, he said.

The Parliament's resolution accuses Khartoum of "blatant violation" of the UN's arms embargo on Sudan. It urges China, the largest buyer of oil from Sudan, to cease exporting weapons to the country and to lift its objection to UN sanctions against Khartoum.

The MEPs are demanding, too, that Sudan should hand over Ahmad Muhammad Arun, its humanitarian affairs minister, and Ali Kushayb, a Janjaweed leader, to the International Criminal Court. In February, ICC prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo implicated the two men on 51 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity. Harun had personally led a campaign of incitement and recruitment that allowed atrocities in Darfur to continue, according to the prosecutor.

Lotte Leicht, director of the Brussels office of Human Rights Watch, criticized EU governments for failing to impose effective sanctions against Khartoum.

She argued that the Union should be identifying what assets the Khartoum authorities and those linked to them have in Europe so that they can be frozen. A precedent for carrying out an investigation had been set by the Union when it tracked the foreign interests of former Yugoslav dictator Slobodan Milosevic and his family, she noted.

"If the EU is not even doing its homework, then that only leads Khartoum to one conclusion: the EU is not serious so why should we change?" she told IPS.

Portugal, the new holder of the European Union's rotating presidency, should "articulate loud and clear," she added, that "full cooperation with the ICC" is essential.

"Sudan must surrender the humanitarian minister and the other indictee, who is already in custody," she said. "We are not talking about people who are on the run."

The EU is the principal donor of humanitarian aid to civilians in Darfur, having pledged some 285 million euros ($393 million) this year.

But another MEP, French Liberal Thierry Cornillet, said there is scope for greater assistance. "The important thing is to save lives," he added. "We must increase the European Union's humanitarian aid, while not forgetting that a political solution is needed to the conflict and to work towards that in parallel."

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Albion Monitor   July 11, 2007   (

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