TOPICS: Working together to save Darfur

Earlier this month, we (both former Nobel laureates), participated in a discussion on Darfur in the European Parliament, having been invited to offer suggestions of concrete actions that the European Council and European Union could take to alleviate the misery endured by the people of Darfur. We very much appreciated the passionate concern expressed in the room and believe that that passion can and must result in stronger action to end the conflict. We hope the discussion and thoughtful suggestions by many there will influence the EU to take decisive action to protect Darfurians and bring the government in Khartoum back to the negotiating table.

Along with many parliamentarians, we are dismayed that despite much rhetorical concern in many world capitals, little has been done to end the conflict, now in its fifth year. Hundreds of thousands are dead, hundreds of thousands are in refugee camps in Chad, and millions are displaced inside Darfur. Rape, endured by countless thousands of women, continues to be used as a weapon of war. Thousands of villages have been razed, crops and livestock have been stolen or destroyed, and water has been polluted in a scorched-earth policy of ethnic cleansing carried out by Khartoum and its allied janjaweed militia. Splintered and splintering rebel groups are no saints either when it comes to human rights, but the overwhelming responsibility for the war crimes and crimes against humanity in Darfur rests with the government.

While our suggestions were made to the EU, other governments and international bodies must come together in coordinated action to stop the carnage. Sudan should be treated like apartheid South Africa and be isolated politically and economically. Those clinging to power in Khartoum must feel real consequences for what they are doing to Darfur. Every time Khartoum hears hollow threats, its belief in its impunity is bolstered. It is time to stop accepting Sudan’s promises and excuses and hold that government accountable for its actions and its inaction.

It is time to make demands of Khartoum with deadlines for action. United Nations forces must be allowed unimpeded access to the region. Khartoum must fulfill its obligation to disarm its janjaweed militia, including those who have merely changed uniform to become part of its “border intelligence,” “defence forces,” or “police.” Until the UN “hybrid force” is fully deployed, it is imperative that African Union forces be given the equipment and other resources. And their mandate should clearly include the ability to defend Darfurian civilians.

We heard European parliamentarians express their frustration that dozens of statements of concern expressed in the EU and European Council have not been followed by meaningful action. The EU can and must play a leadership role in bringing this war to an end. Despite our collective outrage, frustration, and sometimes despair, we cannot give up on Darfur. Its people are counting on all of us. — The Christian Science Monitor