Gerald Herbert/AP
President Barack Obama meets with United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in the
Oval Office of the White House.

President Obama Says Darfur Crisis “Not Acceptable”

March 12, 2009 12:33 PM
by findingDulcinea Staff
After meeting with U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, President Obama expressed U.S. support for creating peace in Darfur.

President Obama Focuses on Darfur

In his remarks after meeting with U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, President Obama offered U.S. support in working with the United Nations to create a “path for long-term peace and stability in the Sudan.” He also stated, “I impressed upon the Secretary General how important it is from our perspective to send a strong, unified, international message that it is not acceptable to put that many people's lives at risk; that we need to be able to get those humanitarian organizations back on the ground.” 

Five U.S. Congress members have asked President Obama to send a special envoy to Darfur. One of them is Rep. Frank Wolf, R-Va., who has said of Darfur, “The people there are suffering and it’s time to move.”
President Obama’s remarks, and the push for a special envoy to Darfur, come a week after the International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant for Sudan’s President, Omar al-Bashir. In a press release, the Prosecutor of the Court, Luis Moreno Ocampo, charged al-Bashir with war crimes and crimes against humanity stating, “He is suspected of being criminally responsible, as an indirect (co-)perpetrator, for intentionally directing attacks against an important part of the civilian population of Darfur, Sudan, murdering, exterminating, raping, torturing and forcibly transferring large numbers of civilians, and pillaging their property.”

This is the first arrest warrant the ICC has issued to a sitting Head of State.

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Key Players: SPLM, Janjaweed and the African Union

The Sudan’s People Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A) emerged in February 2003 as a rebel group seeking greater political and economic rights. The SPLM/A argues that the successive governments in Sudan have only made “superficial attempts” to solve the economic and political strife in southern Sudan.

In response to the formation of these rebel groups, the Janjaweed, an African Arab pro-government militia, formed. They are accused of widespread attacks on civilians, including ethnic cleansing through rapes, killings and forced displacement.

The African Union is the only United Nations-funded peacekeeping regional force deployed in Darfur. The AU was established in 1999 by the Heads of State and Government of the Organisation of African Unity to accelerate “the process of integration in the continent to enable it to play its rightful role in the global economy while addressing multifaceted social, economic and political problems compounded as they are by certain negative aspects of globalisation.”

Historical Context: Civil war in Darfur

The humanitarian crisis in Darfur began in 2003 as rebel groups in the region began to clash with government forces over the allocation of natural resources. Since then, rebel groups have fought against the national army and the Janjaweed, a militia that many accuse of being funded by the government.

The UN believes that between 200,000 and 300,000 people have been killed in Darfur and 2.5 million have been made homeless since 2003.

After a 21-year civil war, the government and rebels signed the Comprehensive Peace Agreement in 2005, which provides the South limited autonomy.

Reference: Aid organizations in Darfur

The Save Darfur Coalition is an alliance of more than 180 faith-based organizations that aim to end violence in Darfur. The Coalition’s mission is to “raise public awareness about the ongoing genocide in Darfur and to mobilize a unified response to the atrocities that threaten the lives of two million people in the Darfur region.”

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