Washington, DC — Violence and atrocities on a wide scale continue to be committed against the civilian population in Darfur, a vast region in western Sudan. Tens of thousands of men, women and children already have died and hundreds of thousands more remain at risk and in need.
Well before the humanitarian crisis made the front pages, the U.S. began to mobilize the world community to address the unfolding catastrophe in Darfur, even as we worked to advance the north-south peace process to end the longstanding civil war between the government of Sudan and the Sudan People's Liberation Movement. President Bush was the first world leader to call upon the government of Sudan to stop the violence. We then helped to broker a cease-fire agreement between the government and the armed opposition groups in Darfur, and at our urging, the African Union assumed the task of monitoring the cease-fire.
When I visited Sudan at the end of June I delivered a clear message from President Bush to President Bashir that Sudan had to take decisive steps to resolve the crisis in Darfur. Specifically, the Sudanese government needed to stop the violence being perpetrated by Arab Janjaweed militias, facilitate unrestricted humanitarian access by international relief workers, cooperate with African Union monitoring, and enter into political discussions with the Darfur rebel groups.
In all, the government of Sudan was given a list of 14 specific actions to take in order to resolve the crisis. At the same time, we emphasized that the rebel groups also must respect the cease-fire and engage in negotiations. U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan personally delivered a similar, clear message.
To date, the government of Sudan has removed many obstacles to humanitarian access, cooperated with the African Union cease-fire monitors, and agreed to participate in political talks. It has not, however, taken decisive steps to end the violence.
Therefore, last week, the U.S. and six co-sponsors introduced and won overwhelming support for a U.N. Security Council Resolution. We, the United Nations, the Europeans, the African Union, Egypt, the Arab League and many others are coordinating closely to get the government of Sudan to do what it must do. U.N. Resolution 1556 calls for measures to be considered against Sudan, including possible sanctions, by the end of August if Khartoum has not taken the necessary steps on Darfur.
All of us hope that the Sudanese government will use the time provided in the resolution to bring the Janjaweed militias under control. In the meantime, the African Union, with millions of dollars of support from the U.S., the U.K., the Netherlands and the European Union, has deployed to Darfur more than 100 international cease-fire monitors. In the coming days, the African Union will deploy 300 troops to protect them. The international community welcomes the request of the African Union Peace and Security Council that the Africa Union commission chairman submit a plan on how to enhance the African Union cease-fire monitoring mission, including the possibility of transforming it into a peacekeeping mission to protect civilians.
Security is critical. The lack of security is the greatest obstacle to delivering essential aid to those who remain in their villages in Darfur as well as to those in camps for the internally displaced. Without any assurance of safety, the displaced will not return home and we likely will see a rise in the death toll in the camps from disease, despite the international community's valiant humanitarian efforts.
Resources also are essential. The U.S. has already contributed $144.2 million for Darfur relief and others have been generous, but the requirements are extensive and much more will be needed.
International pressure will continue to increase until Khartoum moves decisively against the Janjaweed. While we and the international community are not ruling out any options, only the government of Sudan can end the violence in the short term. The Sudanese government bears the responsibility to face up to the crisis, end human-rights abuses and save the lives of its own citizens.
A U.S. team is on the ground in Chad interviewing Sudanese refugees from Darfur in order to gather information that will help our government make a determination as to whether the violence and atrocities in Darfur constitute genocide under the International Convention for the Prevention of Genocide. This is important work, but regardless of the words used to describe what is happening in Darfur, we are acting with the utmost sense of urgency.
We want to see a united, prosperous, democratic Sudan, and we are ready to work with the government of Sudan. We look forward to a comprehensive peace agreement between the north and south, resolution of the Darfur crisis and normalization of our relations. There is no alternative to peace on all fronts. Far too many innocent lives have been lost already.
(This column by U.S. Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, who is secretary of state, was published in the Wall Street Journal August 5 and is in the public domain.)