Agencies and churches urge UN action on Darfur
Leading NGOs and church groups in the United States and France are urging sponsorship of a United Nations Security Council resolution that will mandate peace enforcement operations in Darfur, Sudan. Protect Darfur (UK) is also a partner in the initiative.
"This joint declaration is important because it recognizes the influence that the US, the UK and France can have in urging the international community to get involved in stopping the genocide in Darfur," says Dr Antonios Kireopoulos, associate general secretary of the National Council of Churches USA.
Estimates for Darfuri Africans killed by government forces and militia since February 2003 range from 180,000 to 400,000. Over 2.5 million people have been displaced and remain at mortal risk, facing continued violence, malnutrition and disease, say US development agencies. British agencies emphasise the seriousness of the situation, but do not use the term 'genocide'.
Earlier this month and in June Sojourners (headed up by the Rev Jim Wallis), Cedar Ridge Community Church, Africa Action, Genocide Intervention Fund and the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism in the USA organised a series of five worship vigils in Washington DC highlighting the Darfur situation. The action was called Worship for Justice.
"Specific steps need to be taken, and one is to get all of the Security Council members to act on behalf of the victims in Darfur," Mr Kireopoulos declared. "Peacekeeping forces are needed to protect the civilians in this crisis, and only a concerted effort by those who have influence can actually make it happen."
"As three of the permanent five members, the governments of the USA, France and the United Kingdom have significant influence at the UN Security Council," says the joint statement issued by the Save Darfur Coalition (USA), of which the National Council of Churches is a
member, Collectif Urgence Darfour (France), and Protect Darfur (UK).
"We therefore call on our governments to show leadership and immediately sponsor a resolution at the UN Security Council that will mandate peace enforcement operations in Darfur," the statement continues. "Action now, though two years into the genocidal crisis, will go down in history to their credit. Failure to act, however, would go down in history to their shame - and rank alongside the failure of previous governments to prevent mass murder in Bosnia and genocide in Rwanda. Now is the time to show that lessons have been learned, not by words alone but by actions."
Organizers of the effort hope to spur the UN Security Council to act promptly.
"It is imperative that the UN Security Council give a mandate, through a new resolution, for the protection of Darfur's African population through peace enforcement in Darfur," the statement says. "The Government of Sudan bears primary responsibility for their protection, but has failed to provide it. As a matter of urgency, this must now become an international responsibility."
The National Council of Churches USA and its partners in the Save Darfur Coalition are seeking specific outcomes to alleviate the situation in Darfur, Kireopoulos explained.
"The coalition is seeking the expansion of the African Union's mandate, and thus increase the number of African Union forces, to protect civilians," Kireopoulos said. "The US effort is critical to influencing this outcome. American, British and French support is critical for the UN Security Council resolution."
The coalition is also seeking the appointment of a US special independent envoy to work on this issue and is calling upon President Bush to emphasize the issue in his public statements.
It wishes to see the imposition of various measures to ensure Sudanese cooperation in ending the violence, such as travel and asset sanctions, and logistical support for the African Union, Kireopoulos noted.
However, some British agencies appear less convinced about the desirability of moving from peacekeeping to peace enforcement, for strategic reasons.
Christian Aid told Ekklesia yesterday that they had not specifically been involved in this initiative, which seems partly to be a response to the Sudan visit of secretary of state Condoleeza Rice.
Christian Aid are seeking a more robust and pro-active interpretation of the peace keeping role. Their immediate concern is about the putting into place of the African Union (AU) forces. The possibility of expanding its activities follows on from developing its ability to carry out existing ones, they point out.
At the end of May 2005 Christian Aid argued that there should be a stronger civilian protection mandate for the AU forces.