Sun, Aug 08, 2004 - Page 6 News List

Sudan, UN reach Darfur action pact

30 DAYS OR ELSE With 30,000 already dead, Sudan faces Security Council sanctions if it doesn't control its own forces and violent militia that have left armies of refugees


A Sudanese woman helps a girl carry water on Friday in a refugee camp in Chad.


Sudan has pledged to set up safe areas for uprooted Darfur villagers, and said it will work to disarm marauding militia and stop misconduct by its own troops in civilian areas, according to an agreement completed on Friday.

The Plan of Action for Darfur would also curb military movements by pro-government militia as well as rebels opposing them around the safe areas, to be set up in camps for displaced people and near towns so people can search for food and water and tend their animals.

The first draft of the agreement was reached on Wednesday between Sudanese Foreign Minister Mustafa Osman Ismail and UN envoy Jan Pronk. It outlines steps the government must take within a month to improve security in its western Darfur region, site of what the UN has called the world's worst humanitarian crisis.

It is to be signed by both officials tomorrow; it was sent to the 15 UN Security Council members on Friday by UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan.

The Security Council threatened to consider sanctions in 30 days if Khartoum did not curb Arab militia known as Janjaweed who are accused of killing and raping civilians and uprooting thousands of African farmers, leaving 2 million people in need of food, medicine and shelter.

Pronk told reporters in Khartoum on Thursday he hoped that if Sudan followed the agreement, there would be no need for the council to consider sanctions.

Annan, in a statement, welcomed the plan and said he looked forward "to swift and sustained action" by Khartoum to implement its commitments. He must report to the council within a month about whether Sudan has complied with the resolution.

Specifically, Sudan would identify areas of Darfur that can be made "secure and safe within 30 days," including camps for uprooted villagers. It would then use police to provide secure routes to towns and villages and allow people access to water and food sources and the freedom to tend animals.

Sudan promised that "all offensive military operations" by its army, which has backed the Janjaweed, would "cease immed-iately" in the proposed safe areas. This would include government actions against African rebel groups, which became active in early 2003 alleging violence and neglect by the regime.

Khartoum then turned to Janjaweed militias, drawn from the nomadic Arab population, to suppress the rebels.

The Sudanese army would be "redeployed in such a way that they are not in direct contact with the camps and civilians" in an effort to "demonstrate political will and help build confidence amongst the local population," the agreement said.

The rebels and the militia are to lay down their weapons, which would be collected later as part of a mutually agreed disarmament program, the agreement said.

As for the Janjaweed, who are referred to in the agreement as "armed militia," the government would "identify and declare those militias over which it has influence and instruct them to cease their activities."

The Sudanese government said it would invite the African Union cease-fire commission to monitor and report on the commitments. And it made an "un-equivocal declaration" to restart peace talks with the rebels as soon as possible.

The US estimates that up to 30,000 people have been killed in the 17-month conflict. UN agencies predict more deaths by December, when the rainy season floods farms.

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