NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan urged the Security Council to issue “the strongest warning” to all forces fighting in Sudan, saying that ending a 21-year civil war in the country’s south would also help halt a humanitarian catastrophe in its Darfur region.
The council’s meeting in the Kenyan capital — a rare appearance outside the United States — was intended to focus attention on two wars that have left millions dead or homeless.
Southern rebels have been fighting the government since 1983, and the western region of Darfur erupted into violence in February 2003.
“I regret to report that the security situation in Darfur continued to deteriorate despite the cease-fire agreement signed earlier,” Annan told council members.
“When crimes on such a scale are being committed, and a sovereign state appears unable or unwilling to protect its own citizens, a grave responsibility falls on the international community, and specifically on this council,” he added.
The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, John Danforth, said holding the meeting in Nairobi would “put Sudan and the problems of Sudan at the center of the world stage.”
“This is a very unusual thing for the Security Council to do,” Danforth said. “In the view of the Security Council, Sudan is important and establishing peace is so important to Africa.”
The southern war has pitted Sudan’s Islamic government against rebels seeking greater autonomy and a greater share of the country’s wealth for the largely Christian and animist south. The conflict has left more than 2 million people dead, largely through war-induced hunger and disease.
Another conflict in the western Darfur region started in February 2003, when the government tried to crush two non-Arab African rebel groups who took up arms to fight for more power and resources. The government responded by backing Arab militias, who are accused of targeting civilians in a campaign of murder, rape and arson.
The Bush administration believes the militias have committed genocide, Danforth said. The conflict has driven 1.8 million people from their homes, and at least 70,000 people, mostly civilians, have died since March. “Only a comprehensive political solution for the Sudan as a whole offers any longer-term hope,” Annan said. “The strongest warning to all the parties that are causing this suffering is essential.”
But the council was expected to pass a resolution today that only promises it will monitor the situation in Sudan and “take appropriate action” against any side that fails to support the peace process.
While two previous resolutions have threatened sanctions against the government, Danforth said this one would offer positive reinforcement if steps toward peace are taken.