U.N. Weighs Force to Protect Darfur Aid Efforts The International Criminal Court accuses two people of war crimes in Sudan's Darfur region. One is a former state minister, the other a militia commander. Meanwhile, the U.N. Security Council weighs a peace force for Chad and the Central African Republic.
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U.N. Weighs Force to Protect Darfur Aid Efforts

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U.N. Weighs Force to Protect Darfur Aid Efforts

U.N. Weighs Force to Protect Darfur Aid Efforts

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STEVE INSKEEP, host:

Today the International Criminal Court named the first two suspects accused of committing war crimes in Sudan's Darfur region. One is a former state minister; the other is a militia commander. This announcement comes as the United Nations Security Council is considering ways to deal with Darfur crisis. In particular, it's focusing on the spillover of violence across the border from Sudan to neighboring countries, and the U.N. is considering the possibility of sending U.N. peacekeepers. Aid workers say that kind of help is overdue. Consider the numbers in just one of those neighboring countries - Chad.

Here's NPR's Michele Kelemen.

MICHELE KELEMEN: There are 220,000 refugees from Darfur living in camps in Chad and more than 110,000 internally displaced people. Nikki Bennett of Oxfam describes attacks reminiscent of those in Darfur, with villages destroyed and ordinary people bearing the brunt.

Ms. NIKKI BENNETT (Chief Executive of the Voluntary Sector, Oxfam International): I was in a camp called Gourounkoun. I was speaking to a grandmother who had fled with several of her children and grandchildren, and who told me that 15 members of her immediate family were killed and that she still feels unsafe.

KELEMEN: She says the woman was too afraid to send her remaining family members out to gather water and firewood.

Ms. BENNETT: In this camp there isn't a water source at the moment. You have to walk for several miles, sometimes for six hours to gather water. And the aid agencies like Oxfam are trying to respond to that, but the needs are just so great and people are still arriving. We're struggling to provide security, because that's not our job.

KELEMEN: Bennett, who spoke from London, is hoping the U.N. will take on the job. Not only in Chad but also in the Central African Republic, two countries that borders Sudan's Darfur region.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon has suggested about 500 peacekeepers for the Central African Republic and up to 11,000 for Chad. U.N. officials privately acknowledge that this is a big number that may be hard to fill. That's a thought echoed here in Washington by Shannon Meehan, the director of Government Relations and Advocacy for the International Rescue Committee.

Ms. SHANNON MEEHAN (Director of Government Relations and Advocacy, International Rescue Committee): I was like wow, that's pretty bold, was my first reaction. Logistically, it probably would take the peacekeeping operation department of the United Nations a very long time to get to that number.

KELEMEN: She also says that peacekeeping is not the panacea, certainly not in the Central African Republic, where the U.N. has been focusing mainly in areas along the border with Sudan.

Ms. MEEHAN: It's not just northeastern Central African Republic. Northwest Central African Republic is in conflict and has been stirring for a couple of years. Each country - Chad, Sudan and CAR - have their own internal problems that need to be resolved internally, diplomatically.

KELEMEN: All that takes time and aid workers say there is an urgent need now to make sure the violence in Chad and CAR doesn't get worse.

Mr. DAVID KAATRUD (Member, U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs): Let's be preemptive here and try to, you know, contain it now before it does get out of hand.

KELEMEN: That's David Kaatrud of the U.N.'s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Asked about Darfur, he said the situation is as dire as ever with attacks continuing on civilians, and aid workers also targeted by roving militias and bandits.

Mr. KAATRUD: We now have attacks on compounds themselves, carjacking and the like for teams that are trying to move around and do, you know, assessments and monitoring. And we have to do that because it's a real, almost swirling affair where some areas are quite difficult for a while and then it moves to another area. It shifts continually. So we have to continue that we're mobile to understand what's going on.

KELEMEN: The U.N. Security Council passed a resolution last year authorizing U.N. peacekeepers for Darfur, but Sudan's government rejected that. Aid workers are hoping the U.N. will have an easier time getting the government of the Central African Republic and Chad to open the door for better security.

Michele Kelemen, NPR News, Washington.

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