Africans demand action on Sudan atrocities

THE African Union demanded yesterday that Sudan arrest and prosecute Arab militiamen accused of committing atrocities in western Sudan, but said the violence in the Darfur region did not constitute a genocide.

The demand came as Sudan agreed to allow the deployment of 300 African Union troops in Darfur, where thousands of people have been killed and more than a million black Africans have fled attacks by Arab militiamen known as the Janjaweed.

The African Union demanded that Sudan immediately arrest those responsible for the violence and destruction and compensate the victims.

“The crisis should be addressed with urgency,” a statement said.

The union said in its statement that “even though the crisis in Darfur is grave, with unacceptable levels of death, human suffering and destruction of homes and infrastructure, the situation cannot be defined as a genocide”.

No major Western or UN officials have publicly called the situation in Darfur a genocide, but UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan has said the crisis is “bordering on ethnic cleansing”.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair warned the Sudanese government yesterday to expect tougher international action if it failed to help aid get through to starving people in Darfur. “We expect the government of Sudan to co-operate in this and if they do not cooperate we will have to consider what further measures we take,” Mr Blair said.

German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer is considering making a visit to Sudan as part of international efforts to keep up pressure over Darfur, his spokesman, Walter Lindner, said.

Mr Fischer is in contact with US Secretary of State Colin Powell and Mr Annan on the issue, and could go to Sudan before a 10-day Asian tour that starts next Tuesday, Mr Lindner said.

Human rights groups have accused Sudanese President Omar el-Bashir’s government of backing the Janjaweed in a campaign to violently expel African farmers from the region.

UN officials have called the situation in Darfur the worst humanitarian crisis in the world. Sudan denies the allegations, but last week Mr el-Bashir promised Mr Annan and Mr Powell, both of whom were visiting the country, his government would disarm the militia.

The UN has said thousands of people have been killed and more than a million others have been forced from their homes, most taking shelter in camps along the Chad-Sudan border.

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