U.S. Stiffens Sanctions on Sudan over Darfur

Read President Bush's statement on Darfur and the stiffening of sanctions on Sudan.

Read more about how scarce resources and ethnic strife are fueling the conflict in Darfur.

President Bush stiffened economic sanctions against Sudan on Tuesday in a bid to end the bloody conflict in the African nation's western Darfur region.

Reiterating that Washington will not just ignore genocide there, the president said during a White House briefing that the U.S. will continue to push for full implementation of a peace agreement.

"I promise this to the people of Darfur: The United States will not avert our eyes from a crisis that challenges the conscience of the world," he said.

Under the sanctions, 31 companies owned or controlled by the government of Sudan are barred from doing business in the United States and it is a crime for American companies and individuals to willfully do business with them.

One of the companies "has been transporting weapons to the Sudanese government and militia forces in Darfur," Mr. Bush said.

Also, individuals responsible for the violence will be prevented from doing business with any U.S. citizen or company, he said, singling out three people: Awad Ibn Auf, Sudan's head of military intelligence and security; Ahmed Harun, the minister for humanitarian affairs; and Khalil Ibrahim, a rebel leader who has refused to sign the Darfur peace agreement.

President Bush directed Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to consult with the United Kingdom and other allies on a new United Nations Security Council resolution to strengthen international pressure on the Sudanese government of President Omar al-Bashir.

"This resolution will … impose an expanded embargo on arms sales to the government of Sudan," Mr. Bush said. "It will prohibit the Sudanese government from conducting any offensive military flights over Darfur. It will strengthen our ability to monitor and report any violations."

The sanctions are designed to force the government to stop blocking international efforts to end the bloodshed in Darfur, which the Bush administration has labeled genocide.

"It's not too late, but it may still be too little," Tom Malinowski, the Washington advocacy director for Human Rights Watch, said of the sanctions. "But to be fair, we need to wait and see the impact."

Actress Mia Farrow, a UNICEF goodwill ambassador who has just returned from her fourth visit to Darfur, agreed that the U.S. effort is late and lacking. She derided the sanctions as little more than an "inconvenience" to a relative few.

"There should be a full-time envoy – a team – dedicated to securing a peace agreement in Darfur," Farrow said on NPR's Day to Day. "What we have is a part-time envoy, a series of diplomats who come and go out of Khartoum. Nobody's working on it 24/7 as the situation warrants."

She said she is not in favor of U.S. troops heading into Darfur, largely because of the commitment to Iraq.

"We have no stomach for any further military engagement," she said. "It would be viewed as an invasion, and it's debatable what the result would be."

In 2003, the Sudanese government responded to an insurgency with a scorched-earth campaign against the rebels and the tribes they came from. The government used aerial bombardments, while its Janjaweed militia allies attacked civilians on the ground.

More than 200,000 have been killed in the fighting, while others have died from malnutrition and disease that have spread in the wake of the conflict. Some 2 million have been forced from their homes and villages into camps, mostly in neighboring Chad.

He said al-Bashir's actions during the past few weeks "follow a long pattern of promising cooperation while finding new methods of obstruction."

"The people in Darfur are crying out for help, and they deserve it," President Bush said, noting that the U.S. has contributed more than $1.7 billion in humanitarian and peacekeeping assistance to Darfur since the conflict began.

The president threatened to impose the new sanctions in a speech last month. However, he decided to hold off, allowing U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon more time to find a diplomatic end to the four-year crisis.

Under a tentative peace deal, al-Bashir agreed in November to a three-phase U.N. plan to strengthen the overstretched, 7,000-strong African Union force in Darfur.

After five months of stalling, the Sudanese president gave the go-ahead in April for the second phase — a "heavy support package" with 3,000 U.N. troops, police and civilian personnel along with six attack helicopters and other equipment.

During the weekend, however, al-Bashir reiterated his opposition to the deployment of a 22,000-strong joint U.N.-African Union force, saying he would only allow a larger African force with technical and logistical support from the United Nations.

President Bush said the Sudanese government must stop opposing the joint U.N.-African Union force, quit supporting violent militias and let humanitarian aid reach the people of Darfur.

The hostilities erupted in early 2003, when two rebel groups — the Sudanese Liberation Army and the Justice and Equality Movement — attacked government targets, claiming that the predominantly African region was being neglected by the Arab-dominated government in Khartoum, the capital.

Scarce Resources, Ethnic Strife Fuel Darfur Conflict

An African Union soldier patrols a camp for the internally displaced in the war-torn western region i

An African Union soldier patrols a camp for the internally displaced in the war-torn western region of Darfur, Sudan, June 2006. The U.N. Security Council passed a resolution in August to replace the A.U. forces with more than 20,000 U.N. troops, but Sudan's president opposes the move. Charles Onians/AFP/Getty Images hide caption

itoggle caption Charles Onians/AFP/Getty Images
An African Union soldier patrols a camp for the internally displaced in the war-torn western region

An African Union soldier patrols a camp for the internally displaced in the war-torn western region of Darfur, Sudan, June 2006. The U.N. Security Council passed a resolution in August to replace the A.U. forces with more than 20,000 U.N. troops, but Sudan's president opposes the move.

Charles Onians/AFP/Getty Images
Darfur map i

Darfur, a region in western Sudan, borders the Central African Republic, Libya and Chad. Darfur is the site of an ongoing, Muslim-on-Muslim conflict between black African tribes and Arab-speaking populations. Many of those displaced by the fighting have fled across the border to refugee camps in Chad. Melody Kokoszka, NPR hide caption

itoggle caption Melody Kokoszka, NPR
Darfur map

Darfur, a region in western Sudan, borders the Central African Republic, Libya and Chad. Darfur is the site of an ongoing, Muslim-on-Muslim conflict between black African tribes and Arab-speaking populations. Many of those displaced by the fighting have fled across the border to refugee camps in Chad.

Melody Kokoszka, NPR

About the Author

Before joining NPR's foreign desk as an editor in 2001, Didrik Schanche was a newspaper and wire service reporter. From 1987-94, she was The Associated Press' East Africa correspondent based in Nairobi, Kenya.

Rebels from the Sudanese Liberation Army

Rebels from the Sudanese Liberation Army play cards in a house in a deserted village in northern Darfur, May 2006. This branch of the SLA refused to sign the peace deal concluded in May between Sudan's government and another SLA faction, led by Minni Minnawi. Ramzi Haidar/AFP/Getty Images hide caption

itoggle caption Ramzi Haidar/AFP/Getty Images

The deadly conflict in Darfur has deep roots in a vast, arid and long-neglected region in Sudan's west, where battles over water and grazing rights stretch back generations.

The demographic shift that plays out across Africa's north helps feed the conflict. Darfur is on the leading edge of the continental demographic divide, where sub-Saharan black Africa melds with Arabic-speaking populations. And in this Muslim-on-Muslim battle in Darfur, it is the civilians who suffer.

The current hostilities erupted in early 2003, when two rebel groups - The Sudanese Liberation Army (SLA) and the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) - attacked government targets, claiming that the predominantly African region was being neglected by the Arab-dominated government in Khartoum. The rebel movements - from different ideological backgrounds - cooperated in their fight against the government.

But during peace talks in 2006, the rebels went their separate ways. The SLA, led by Minni Minnawi, signed the accord, while the JEM, led by Mohammed Tugod, did not. Since then, the insurgents have splintered and there are now more than 20 offshoots of these groups.

Long-Standing Ethnic Tensions

Tension between the region's African farmers and Arab pastoralists has existed for decades. Wangari Maathai, a Kenyan environmentalist and winner of the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize, described the roots of the conflict.

"To outsiders, the conflict is seen as tribal warfare. At its roots, though, it is a struggle over controlling an environment that can no longer support all the people who must live on it," she said in an interview with The Washington Post.

A sense of inequity was exacerbated by years of official Sudanese government support for groups in the region who identified themselves as Arab. An administrative reorganization in 1994 divided the vast territory into three regions and put Arabs in positions of power.

The black African tribes - the Fur, Zagawa and Masalit - found themselves increasingly marginalized. People in Darfur refer to themselves as "black," and many Darfuris say that the dispute with the Arab-dominated government in Khartoum is ethnically based. Droughts and diminishing resources ignited regular communal hostilities, which came to a head with the rebel assaults in 2003.

A Scorched-Earth Response

The government responded with a scorched-earth campaign against the rebels and the tribes they came from. The Sudanese government used aerial bombardments, while government-backed Janjaweed militia attacked civilians on the ground. Janjaweed come from Arabic-speaking pastoralist communities. They herd camels in northern Darfur and cattle in southern Darfur.

The attacks razed villages, resulted in the deaths of tens of thousands - most as the result of disease and starvation - and displaced millions of people, many of whom fled across the border to refugee camps in Chad. The Janjaweed have been accused of the systematic rape and ethnic cleansing of Darfur's black residents. Sudan's government denies it supports the militia.

Shaky Peace Deals Fail to Stem Violence

The African Union brokered a shaky truce between the government and the rebels in May 2004 and sent a small force of military observers to monitor the pact. But violence continued. Citing a "consistent and widespread" pattern of atrocities, the United States in September 2004 accused Sudan's government and Janjaweed militia of genocide.

The African Union troops were bulked up to a force that eventually numbered 7,000. But the soldiers were badly outnumbered and outgunned. Funding problems mean they often went weeks without pay. Their weak mandate, combined with poor resources and insufficient numbers to patrol a region the size of France, left them incapable of halting abuses.

Fighting escalated as rebel factions splintered and new insurgent groups were formed. Civilians continued to suffer attacks from insurgents, government forces and Janjaweed militia.

In June 2007, Sudan bowed to international pressure and agreed to a detailed plan by the African Union and the United Nations to send a joint peacekeeping force of nearly 26,000 troops to Darfur. But by late 2007, that force still had not been assembled — due in part to the logistics involved in assembling such a force and also, say some, on bureaucratic roadblocks thrown up by Sudan's government.

In September, 10 African Union troops were killed when rebels overran their camp.

In a renewed effort to forge peace in Darfur, Libya invited all parties to the conflict to African Union-United Nations mediated talks in Sirte, Libya, at the end of October. But those talks foundered over the absence of the key rebel leaders, the SLA's Abdul Wahid Mohammed el-Nur and the Islamic Justice and Equality Movement's Khalil Ibrahim.

Aid Efforts Snarled by Ongoing Violence

Throughout this conflict, international aid groups have worked to care for Darfur's victims. But continuing attacks have made their jobs increasingly difficult. More than a dozen employees of international aid organizations have been killed in the violence. The lack of security has forced many relief organizations out of the region altogether, and limited access for those that have stayed.

One of the most difficult things about providing assistance to the people of Darfur is just getting there. Darfur sits in the middle of the continent, just below the Sahara Desert. Ships carrying food aid for Darfur are docking at ports on three sides of the continent, in Cameroon on the Atlantic, in Libya on the Mediterranean and to the east at Port Sudan on the Red Sea.

Once the food gets to Africa, it has to be trucked over land in all-terrain vehicles to refugee camps in Chad and Sudan. During the rainy seasons, the land becomes impassable.

The U.S. government remains one of the biggest donors of humanitarian aid to Darfur.

Bush Administration's Response to Darfur

The Bush White House became the first and only government to label the conflict in Darfur as genocide in September 2006 when then-Secretary of State Colin Powell appeared before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. "We concluded — I concluded — that genocide has been committed in Darfur and that the government of Sudan and Janjaweed bear responsibility and genocide may still be occurring," he said.

President Bush named former USAID administrator Andrew Natsios as special envoy to Sudan, in an effort to get greater weight behind an international peacekeeping force and maintain momentum on peace mediation efforts. However, the situation is little changed. Civilians continue to be killed and uprooted in violence that has only escalated with time. And those committing the violence remain largely unpunished.

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