Scott Straus on Darfur

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Darfur Deal Not Enough, Says Feingold

The Capital Times :: METRO :: B6

Saturday, September 23, 2006

By Matthew Blake The Capital Times/Medill News Service

U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold of Wisconsin is calling for a “rapid deployment of a robust United Nations peacekeeping mission” to the ravaged western Sudanese region of Darfur, calling Thursday’s announcement of a continued African Union presence “inadequate.”

The comments by Feingold, a Democrat from Middleton, and other members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee came on the heels of the U.N. agreeing with the African Union on Wednesday to provide only “material and logistical” support to a peacekeeping mission manned entirely by AU troops.

The Sudanese government vehemently opposes a Security Council resolution for sending a peacekeeping force into the Darfur region by Oct. 1, equating it with colonialism.

Feingold expressed his disappointment at the failure of the U.S. and U.N. to prioritize effective help in Darfur more than two years after President Bush called the Sudanese government’s actions “genocide.”

The Sudanese government is accused of arming the Janjaweed militia group to fight rebel groups, leading to the death of more than 250,000 people and displacement of 2.5 million since 2003. With the U.N. meeting in New York and Congress in session until next Friday, this week was seen as an opportune moment for the U.N. to intervene.

“Times is an issue here,” said Diane Duarte of the Washington, D.C.-based African Action. “People are pulling their hair out in international debates while the situation gets worse.”

But Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir has successfully delayed a U.N. effort to quell Sudanese violence.

“The Sudanese government is showing how weak the international community is in preventing human rights atrocities,” said Scott Straus, an African international relations and human rights professor at UW-Madison.

While the Bush administration has harshly condemned the Sudanese government’s violent suppression of rebel forces, it has not pressured countries including China to support the use of U.N. forces. The U.S. Senate unanimously passed the Feingold-sponsored Darfur Peace and Accountability Act last November. But it has been held in the House and Congress has taken no action on the killings in Sudan.

Laura Weiss of the watchdog legislative group Friends Committee on National Legislation said the bill has partly stalled on whether to include language on divestment from oil-rich Sudan.

On Thursday, U.S. Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., stressed the importance of getting a version of the bill, divestment or no, out of Congress by next Friday. Obama said that some encouraging policy signal must be sent to beleaguered humanitarian groups in the region.

Scott Edwards, Sudan specialist for Amnesty USA, said humanitarian organizations would agree that U.N. personnel and resources need to be in place for effective assistance.

The U.N. has never brought in forces without the consent of a nation, but according to Duarte, “We can’t allow this tragedy to hang on Sudanese consent.”

Some wonder if diplomacy can provide a solution.

“The world is once again witnessing that we have great declarations to protect human rights but no mechanisms,” Straus said.