Bishop doubts political will exists to resolve Sudan crisis

By Ecumenical News International
August 5, 2007

Despite the UN Security Council's vote to authorise up to 26,000 peacekeeping troops for Darfur, a Sudanese Roman Catholic bishop says he believes there is not enough political will to end the crisis in this troubled part of Sudan - writes Fredrick Nzwili from Nairobi, Kenya.

"There is not much interest in resolving the crisis," Bishop Antonio Menegazzo of El Obeid told ENI in an email interview. "Compromises are needed by both the parties but it seems that nobody is ready to come to one."

In addition, Menegazzo, whose diocese covers the Darfur region - an area the size of France - said that the Sudan government is supporting the Janjaweed, the militia accused of carrying out most of the atrocities in the conflict.

"The rebel factions should unite in order to be stronger in their requests. On the contrary, they are divided more and more. It seems that they are looking for power and personal interests, more than the welfare of the people," Menegazzo told ENI.

The joint UN-African Union operation was mandated on 31 July to protect civilians and end the violence that has plagued Darfur since 2003. Nearly 2.1 million people have been displaced, and more than 200,000 killed in the conflict.

The largest United Nations peacekeeping mission ever carried out will begin in October 2007.

"The situation is bad. There is sporadic fighting here and there. The cause of insecurity is the Janjaweed, who still assault villages of innocent people. The fighting and the Janjaweed make life and roads insecure," said Menegazzo.

News agencies have reported that the Sudanese government has promised its cooperation with the new UN-backed force. The rebel factions are also reported to have welcomed it.

"I'm comfortable with the resolution," Abdalmahmood Abdalhaleem Mohamad, Sudan's UN ambassador, was quoted by Reuters AlertNet as telling reporters. He said the negotiators had gone to great lengths to satisfy Sudan's demands.

But the Rev David Ibon of the Presbyterian Church of Sudan said the government may frustrate the peacekeepers’ efforts.

"Khartoum fears foreign force may undermine its authority. There are also rumours of new mineral finds like mercury and gold. I don't see the government fully giving support," Ibon said.

The US and Britain have threatened sanctions, and the Save Darfur Coalition, an alliance of more than 170 faith-based advocacy and humanitarian organizations, has launched a petition to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to ensure the mandate succeeds.

[With grateful acknowledgements to ENI. Ecumenical News International is jointly sponsored by the World Council of Churches, the Lutheran World Federation, the World Alliance of Reformed Churches, and the Conference of European Churches]

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