Describing Darfur as a potential humanitarian catastrophe, Africa’s first democratically elected female leader today urged the United Nations to step in to restore peace and security to the war-torn region in western Sudan.
Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, President of Liberia, told the annual general debate of the United Nations General Assembly that the most recent reports about the situation inside Darfur have been frightening.
“The world must not allow a second Rwanda to happen,” she said, referring to the genocide that claimed the lives of more than 800,000 people in less than 100 days during 1994.
“My Government therefore calls on this General Assembly and the Security Council to exercise the Chapter VII authority to restore peace, security and stability to Darfur,” Mrs. Johnson Sirleaf said, referring to the UN Charter provision allowing for enforcement measures to deal with threats to peace and security.
The Liberian President’s remarks come amid mounting concern over what will happen at the end of this month, when African Union (AU) troops currently stationed in Darfur – which has been beset by brutal violence and massive displacement since 2003 – are slated to leave.
Last month the Security Council voted to deploy more than 17,000 UN peacekeepers to Darfur, but Khartoum has said repeatedly it is adamantly opposed to any force of blue helmets.
Mrs. Johnson Sirleaf said “the continued stalemate over whether an AU or UN force should be deployed or maintained in the region exposes weaknesses in international cooperation and collaboration, and demonstrates a lack of international will to address the sufferings and yearnings of the citizens and residents of Darfur who plea every day for international intervention.”
During her address Mrs. Johnson Sirleaf also called for a review of the Security Council structure, which she said “appears to be undemocratic and hegemonic… In the new Millennium, the UN should not operate on the structures designed 61 years ago.”