Darfur Consortium Challenges African Union
(ABUJA, 26 January 2005) Representatives of over fifty African and international civil society organizations attending the preparatory meetings of the 4th Session of the Assembly of Heads of State and Government of the African Union today asked the continental organization to protect the people of Darfur and ensure that those responsible for the crimes against humanity in Darfur are urgently identified, brought to justice, and excluded from the political process.
The civil society groups met in Abuja under the auspices of the Darfur Consortium. The Consortium includes African and international non-governmental organizations working on different aspects of the situation in Darfur, Western Sudan. Also present at the meeting were representatives of leading African and international human rights organizations, including the Pan African Movement, Justice Africa, RADDHO-Senegal, Amnesty International, Open Society Justice Initiative, the Open Society Initiative for West Africa, Alliances for Africa and the Human Rights Institute of South Africa.
Speaking on behalf of the Consortium, Mr. Abdelbagi Jibril said: “Darfur is a test of the credibility of the African Union. The investigation mission of the AU last year found concrete evidence of war crimes and crimes against humanity in Sudan. The International Community has said the same thing. The Constitutive Act of the African Union requires the African Union to intervene effectively to end war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide. The world is looking to the AU to send out a clear message that human life in Africa matters. The AU is in the last chance salon with Darfur.”
The civil society representatives urged the AU to take effective measures further measures to comply with its own Constitutive Act and ensure that the government of Sudan complies with its regional and international obligations, and in particular to:
* Fully and unconditionally respect its obligations under the AU Constitutive Act, the UN Charter as well as the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and all other regional and international human rights treaties to which the Sudan is a state party.
* Immediately halt all attacks against civilians in Darfur and end the impunity with which grave violations of human and peoples’ rights are being committed in Darfur, in particular the forced de-population of entire areas in the region, and to cease all support, including the provision of supplies and weapons to the Janjaweed and other government-sponsored militia groups which continue to terrorize defenseless African civilians and aggravate the precarious situation in the region.
* Provide the necessary support to international agencies and humanitarian organizations and ensure them immediate, full, safe and unhindered access to the conflict-affected people in Darfur in order to facilitate the delivery of the necessary relief material and assistance to the needy people.
They also call upon the AU to:
* Strongly condemn the government of Sudan for its unwillingness to protect civilian populations victims of the conflict as well as disarming the Janjaweed and other government-sponsored militia groups and apprehend their leaders and supporters that are largely responsible for the humanitarian crisis in the region as demanded by the AU 3rd Summit of Heads of State and Government and the Peace and Security Council most recently at its 23rd Meeting held at the level of Heads of State and Government, in Libreville, Gabon, on 10 January 2005.
Express its strong condemnation for the repeated violations – by all parties to the conflict – of the N’djamena Agreement on Humanitarian Ceasefire of 8th April 2004 and the Abuja Protocols of 9th November 2004, in particular the government’s irresponsible handling of the humanitarian crisis in Darfur and its continuous policy of massive military build up in the region.
* Strengthen its military presence in Darfur and extend the mandate of its current monitoring force in the region to include clear and specific provisions for a peace–keeping mission to protect civilians, disarm the Janjaweed militia and apprehend their leaders and supporters. To this effect the peace-keeping force in Darfur should number at least 50,000 individuals.
* Take concrete steps to end the state of impunity with which serious crimes are being committed in Darfur and help create conditions of security that permit civilians to safely and voluntarily return to their areas of origin. In this regard, measures taken by the government of Sudan, which affect IDPs including their removal to the so-called “safe designated areas,” should not create a situation of prolonged displacement or a permanent resettlement of IDPs away from their areas of origin. Occupation of villages from which IDPs have been forcibly expelled should be stopped and reversed immediately.
* Fully support the work of the International Commission of Inquiry on Darfur which was established by the UN Secretary General pursuant to UN Security Council Resolution 1564 of 18th September 2004 to “… investigate reports of violations of international humanitarian law and human rights law in Darfur by all parties, to determine also whether or not acts of genocide have occurred, and to identify the perpetrators of such violations with a view to ensuring that those responsible are held accountable …” In this respect the AU should urge all parties to the conflict to cooperate fully and unconditionally with the Commission of Inquiry on Darfur to identify the crimes that have been committed in Darfur as well as those responsible for their commission, bring them to justice and repair the damage done to the victims.
African Union Chairman, Professor Alpha Oumar Konare, reported at the beginning of January that over 2.3 million people had been forcibly displaced and another 70,000 killed in atrocities in the Darfur region of Western Sudan since 2003. Professor Konare also reported that grave violations of human rights and international humanitarian law in the Darfur by mostly Sudanese government and its allied Janjaweed militia personnel in Darfur. These violations included: systematic attacks on civilians, destruction and burning of villages, targeting of centres for internally displaced persons (IDPs) and of civilians by the government army and its allied Janjaweed militia; the removal by force of Fur, Zaggawa, and Massaleet communities from their villages; the forced relocation of IDPs to new areas away from their areas of origin and the lack of adequate protection of and assistance to civilians; the widespread recourse to rape and other forms of sexual violence, including against children, as a means of warfare in violation of both human rights law and international humanitarian law and the abduction and forced labour of women and children;
At the request of the United Nations and AU member States, the AU plays a leading role in the search for resolution of the crisis in Darfur. The Nigerian Presidency of the African Union hosts the inter-Sudan peace talks. In October 2004, the parties to the talks agreed a protocol on humanitarian access. With international support, the African Mission in Sudan (AMIS) has been deploying in Darfur since 2003. However, less than half of the 3,320 members of the mission had been deployed at the beginning of 2005 and their mandate does not equip them to take effective measures to protect civilians.
In October 2004, the Secretary General of the UN established a 7-person international Commission of Inquiry to investigate the atrocities in Darfur and report to the Security Council. The Commission, headed by former President of the International Criminal Tribunal for Yogoslavia, Judge Antonio Cassese has concluded its work. It reported back to the Secretary-General on or about 25 January 2005.
On 9 January 2005, in Naivasha, Kenya, the Government of Sudan signed a Comprehensive Peace Agreement with the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A). AU through the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) and international facilitators mediated the agreement. This Agreement does only covers the conflict between the government of Sudan in the North and the movements in southern Sudan. Described as “Africa’s oldest civil war” the conflict in southern Sudan and other adjacent areas reportedly caused the death of more than two million individuals and displaced more than 4 million others.