The leadership of the Sudanese Government may be held collectively and individually responsible for what happens to the people of Darfur if they allow the African Union (AU) mission there to leave and then refuse access to United Nations peacekeepers, Secretary-General Kofi Annan said today.
Speaking to reporters at UN Headquarters in New York, Mr. Annan reiterated his message to Khartoum that the planned force of blue helmets in Darfur “is not coming in as an invading force, but basically to help them protect the people.”
On 31 August the Security Council voted to deploy a UN force of more than 17,000 peacekeepers to Darfur, an impoverished region on Sudan’s western flank that has been beset by brutal violence and massive displacement since 2003.
The Council resolution “invites the consent” of Khartoum, but the Sudanese Government has said on repeated occasions that it is opposed to the UN taking over the work of the AU operation, known by the acronym AMIS, which is due to end later this year.
The Secretary-General’s warning comes ahead of a high-level Security Council meeting on Monday to discuss the situation inside Darfur, which he will attend. Representatives of the Sudanese Government, the League of Arab States and the Organization of the Islamic Conference have been invited to participate.
Mr. Annan said the conditions inside Darfur have become so desperate that if there is no AU or UN presence and the numbers of people suffering or being killed continued to grow, then the Sudanese “are placing themselves in a situation where the leadership may be held collectively and individually responsible for what happens to the population in Darfur.”
Scores of thousands of people are thought to have been killed amid fighting between rebel groups, Government forces and allied militias in Darfur, and at least two million others are estimated to have had to flee their homes.