Not even 9,000 have died in Darfur: President
Omar al-Beshir disputed the latest reports on the deepening crisis in Darfur, insisting there was no humanitarian disaster.Updated: Nov 28, 2006 15:55 IST
A defiant Sudanese president disputed the latest reports on the deepening crisis in Darfur, insisting there was no humanitarian disaster and that fewer than 9,000 people had been killed there in four years of conflict.
Omar al-Beshir, who has ruled with iron fist since seizing power in a 1989 coup, rejected any talk of a genocide in the western Sudanese region where he said the violence stemmed from climatic hardships and tribal tensions.
"The figure of 200,000 dead is false and the number of dead is not even 9,000," Beshir said in a video media conference late on Monday.
"All the figures have been falsified and the child mortality rate in Darfur does not exceed that in Khartoum," Beshir also said, accusing western powers of inflating statistics to justify a military intervention.
According to the UN, at least 200,000 people have died from the combined effect of war and famine since the fighting erupted in February 2003. Some sources say the toll is much higher.
A UN report published Monday painted a bleak picture of the humanitarian situation in Darfur, describing it as the worst in two years.
"Any talk of a deterioration of the situation in Darfur is false," said Beshir, claiming that only five out of 23 major towns in Darfur were currently facing security problems.
Washington accuses Beshir's regime of genocide in Darfur and has pushed for UN peacekeepers to be dispatched there.
The Sudanese president has consistently rejected efforts to replace the African Union observers currently deployed in Darfur, accusing the West of seeking to invade his country and plunder its resources.
Commentators say senior regime officials fear that a UN troop presence in Darfur could lead to their indictment by the International Criminal Court.
During the press conference, Beshir insisted that the unrest in Darfur was the result of tribal clashes prompted by drought and had been politically exploited by foreign countries such as Chad.
Civil violence recently broke out in Chad, whose president Idriss Deby is from the one of the main rebel tribes in Darfur, and the Darfur conflict also spilled over into the Central Africa Republic.
Beshir also reiterated his stance supporting the continued presence of AU monitors in Darfur and denied his country's acceptance of a proposal for a "hybrid force" comprising troops from both the AU and the UN.
He charged that the deployment of some 20,000 UN peacekeepers stipulated in the August 31 UN Security Council resolution would de facto place his country under international mandate.
"We would run the risk of having a Bremer Mark II and just look at what he did to Iraq," Beshir said, in reference to Paul Bremer, who headed the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq in the aftermath of the 2003 US-led invasion.
Beshir argued the only solution to the conflict in Darfur was to continue efforts to rally holdout rebel groups to the May peace agreement Khartoum signed with the main rebel faction.
"This is a strategic choice for us," he said.
First Published: Nov 28, 2006 15:55 IST