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Darfur, anyone?

india Updated: Sep 19, 2006 01:53 IST

On Sunday, hundreds of thousands of demonstrators across the world showed their outrage against what is going on in Darfur. It is, however, doubtful if such an angry display will prevent the Sudanese government from throwing out African Union (AU) peacekeepers from strife-torn Darfur at the end of September. Sudan stridently opposes the larger and stronger UN force scheduled to replace the AU contingent, claiming that Sudanese soldiers are up to the task. If something is not done fast, there will be even more blood shed than has been already.

The conflict in Darfur began three years ago when tensions between the mostly nomadic Arabs and farmers from the Fur and Zagawa ethnic groups over sharing land and grazing rights boiled over. Rebels attacked government targets, accusing Khartoum of oppressing Christian Black Africans in favour of Arabs who took the lion’s share of civil service jobs and oil revenues. The government denied this and shrugged off any responsibility for the Arab Janjaweed militias that plundered Darfur. Khartoum apparently argues that the proposed UN force — even with a Security Council mandate — will violate Sudanese sovereignty. President Omar Al-Bashir even alleges that UN deployment is a ploy for the removal of an Islamic-oriented government — a blackmailing tactic if there was one.

It is time the UN called Mr Al-Bashir’s bluff even if it has limited options at its disposal: sanctions or military intervention. Sanctions, however, may not work, as the embargo could hit the people instead of the regime. A military solution may not be the best answer either, if only for the logistical nightmare of operating in a land 40 times the size of Sierra Leone. But sending in peacekeepers may be the only way to prevent the world’s worst genocide since Rwanda from unfolding in Sudan.