Tags: Activists | Around | the | World | Focus | Darfur

Activists Around the World Focus on Darfur

Sunday, 17 September 2006 12:00 AM

LONDON -- Peace activists around the world staged a day of action on Sunday to highlight the "forgotten war" in Darfur where tens of thousands of people have been killed and more than 2 million left homeless.

In London, Christian, Muslim and Jewish leaders delivered a plea and said prayers outside the Downing Street residence of British Prime Minister Tony Blair.

In Rwanda -- scene of a 1994 genocide which some have evoked in comparison with the Darfur crisis -- survivors of the 100-day slaughter that killed 800,000 people called for action.

"When I think of the people in Darfur today, it makes me sick to the stomach because I know what it's like to watch your protectors walk away and I know the fear of waiting for help that never comes," said survivor Didier Sagashya.

The western region of Sudan bordering Chad has been plagued by political and ethnic violence since 2003 when rebels took up arms against the government.

A new estimate of the number of people killed in Darfur published last week put the toll at 200,000 or more. And the more than 2 million people displaced by conflict have created one of the world's worst humanitarian crises.

Western leaders, some African presidents and humanitarian groups are piling pressure on Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir to accept a U.N. resolution to deploy more than 20,000 U.N. peacekeepers in Darfur.

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan warned last week of "yet more death and suffering, perhaps on a catastrophic scale" if the government in Khartoum does not allow international peacekeepers into the region.

The mandate for 7,000 poorly equipped African Union (AU) troops expires on September 30 and Sudan has said they would only be allowed to extend the mission if they remained under AU control.

Bashir reiterated at a meeting of Non-Aligned nations in Cuba on Saturday under no circumstances would he accept U.N. troops in western Sudan.

"We don't want the United Nations back to Sudan no matter the conditions," he told a news conference in Havana.

Bashir has likened a U.N. presence to an invasion force bent on regime change in Khartoum, which would result in an Iraq-style quagmire. Analysts say the government might also be concerned U.N. troops could arrest suspects eventually named in war crimes warrants by the International Criminal Court.

In a protest march in Khartoum on Sunday to coincide with the global "Day for Darfur" dozens of Sudanese pro-government activists marched to U.N. offices to oppose new peacekeepers.

A statement by the Sudan Council of Voluntary Agencies said a U.N. force would "only add to the complexity of an already volatile situation," and said funds would be better spent on development, confidence-building measures, and peace-building.

In London, Blair has said he would propose an incentive package for Sudan to accept the troops as part of a new initiative to end the crisis.

British cabinet minister Baroness Valerie Amos said the British government had been at the forefront of the "carrot and stick" approach to the crisis.

"But the international community needs to work together on this. It can't just be the European Union or the United States," she told Sky News.

International human rights groups, including Amnesty International, have declared Sunday a global Day for Darfur and organisers said protests and rallies were planned in major cities worldwide.

Critics say the world has lost sight of Darfur amid the conflicts in Iraq, the Middle East and Afghanistan.

Around east Africa, a string of protests and events were organised to draw attention to western Sudan.

Rwandan genocide survivor, Freddy Umutanguha, said: "In 1994, the world left Rwandans to their fate and a million people were murdered. Today, the world must stop genocide in Darfur.

"We survivors stand with the victims in Darfur. We know what it is like to lose our mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, sons and daughters. We know what it is like to lose everything and see all who are dearest to us destroyed."

James Smith, chief executive of international NGO Aegis Trust, said: "I have listened to world leaders say they are sorry for what happened in Rwanda, where the most appalling mass murder took place after they turned their backs.

"If a word of that is true, let them prove it by their actions for Darfur today."

(c) 2006 Reuters. All rights reserved.

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LONDON -- Peace activists around the world staged a day of action on Sunday to highlight the "forgotten war" in Darfur where tens of thousands of people have been killed and more than 2 million left homeless. In London, Christian, Muslim and Jewish leaders delivered a...
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2006-00-17
Sunday, 17 September 2006 12:00 AM
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