Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Chad-Sudan: Muslim countries are failing the people of Darfur

Refugee children from Darfur racing in the camp of Oure Cassoni. Donkeys are used to look for wood or water

Human rights advocates and religious leaders are using a conference in the Senegalese capital Dakar to tell leaders of predominantly Muslim countries they are failing the people of Darfur.

"It is the OIC's [Organisation of Islamic Conference] responsibility to say 'enough is enough' and to put pressure on the government of Sudan – which is a member state of the OIC – to end the killing in Darfur," Amir Osman, international advocacy director for the Washington-based group Save Darfur, told IRIN.

The international community must act "whenever a government is killing its own citizens", Osman said. "Some of the Arab and Muslim leaders are hesitant to speak out because of their economic and political interests with Sudan."

Islamic scholars and representatives of human rights and aid groups met in Saly, Senegal, on 9 March to finalise a declaration to be submitted to OIC heads of state - expected to include Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir - due to gather in Dakar on 12-14 March.

The declaration states: "It is absolutely necessary that the heads of state of the OIC take bold measures during the meeting in Dakar to respond to the humanitarian crises in Muslim communities around the world, and to collaborate with the wider international community."

Alioun Tine, president of the human rights coalition RADDHO, said that Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade had agreed to present the declaration to the heads of state.

Activists at the Saly meeting told IRIN this was the first time civil society groups had brought their concerns about Darfur to the OIC, mainly because of Wade's willingness to take up the issue. "We have the ear of President Abdoulaye Wade," Tine said.


Sudanese human rights lawyer Salih Mahmoud Osman told participants: "As NGO activists, we find it embarrassing to tell you that we don't feel that there is sufficient support [for the Darfur people] from the Islamic countries."

Osman and others at the meeting said one way to support the people of Darfur was to push the deployment of a hybrid African Union-UN force to protect civilians in the region. The force has begun setting up bases in neighbouring Chad and Central African Republic but has not yet been able to operate fully in Darfur, held up partly by Sudan's continuing refusal to allow non-African troops.

"Without the international component there will never be effective protection for the people of Darfur," Osman said.

"African Union forces have been there for more than three years but unfortunately they failed to protect the lives of the people. This is because they don't have the means. We Africans should put pressure on Sudan to allow the international element to be added."

The groups' declaration says all sides in the Darfur conflict - including the government and rebel groups - are responsible for human rights violations. Sultan Salahdine Mahamat Fadoul of Darfur told IRIN, "The OIC and international community must also put pressure on Darfur rebel groups to be more serious at joining negotiations aimed at ending the humanitarian crisis in Darfur."

Disclaimer:This material comes to you via
IRIN, the humanitarian news and analysis service of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. The opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of the United Nations or its Member States.

Photo: Copyright