Thursday, June 24, 2004

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400 villages destroyed in Sudan

Things are getting very bad in Sudan, as Edith Lederer reports for the Associated Press:

NASA photos of the Darfur region of western Sudan show destruction in nearly 400 villages, and there have been reports of fighting or threatened attacks in every camp for displaced people, the U.S. aid chief said Wednesday.

Andrew Natsios, administrator of the Agency for International Development, warned that time is running out to help 2 million Sudanese in desperate need of aid in Darfur. He said his agency's estimate that 350,000 could die of disease and malnutrition over the next nine months "is conservative."

Fighting between Arab militias and African residents has killed thousands of people and forced more than 1 million to flee their homes. International rights groups say the government has backed the Arab fighters in an ethnic cleansing campaign against the African villagers.

Natsios put the blame for the crisis squarely on the Sudanese government, saying U.S. and U.N. reports from the country show clearly that the Sudanese military is directly connected to Arab militias, known as the Janjaweed, that are fighting in Darfur.

"They arm them, they use them, and now they have to stop them," Natsios said in an interview with two reporters after meeting with U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan....

On Saturday, Sudanese President Omar el-Bashir ordered the military to begin disarming all militia groups. But Ambassador Michael Ranneberger, a U.S. State Department expert on Sudan, said "until now, we have not seen any systematic action to rein in the Janjaweed."

"What we've seen is a series of half-steps by the government in response to international pressure," he said.

U.S. officials have been highlighting the plight of the displaced Sudanese, mindful that the world's inattention to Rwanda a decade ago may have contributed to the genocide that occurred there.

Natsios said the U.S. government has spent $116 million on the relief effort in Sudan — more than all other donors combined — "and we pledged $188 million between now and the end of next year."

The United States is moving "with a maximum sense of urgency to try to save lives," said Ranneberger, who accompanied Natsios. "We don't have time to sit around also and decide, is this ethnic cleansing or is this genocide, or what is it."

posted by Dan on 06.24.04 at 10:47 AM


I've just gotten back from a CARE-sponsored breakfast with Nicholas Kristof, who spoke about his observations of the Darfur situation. I've posted some thoughts on his comments here, if you're interested.

posted by: Daniel Geffen on 06.24.04 at 10:47 AM [permalink]

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