UNITED NATIONS - The United Nations is reluctant to impose punitive economic
sanctions on Sudan accused of genocide in the politically troubled province
of Darfur because embargoes have a relatively poor track record, according
to senior UN
officials and diplomats.
"If the Security Council wants to punish Sudan," says one Third World
diplomat, "it may not resort to economic sanctions particularly
after what happened in Iraq, where the unintended victims were mostly women
and children, not the country's political leaders."
UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who has long criticized sanctions as "a
blunt instrument," has urged the 15-member Security Council to take "urgent
action" to stop the killings in Darfur and asked Western nations to provide
funds and logistical support for a 3,000-strong African peacekeeping force in
Asked whether his call for action by the Security Council also includes sanctions,
Annan told reporters Thursday: "I have indicated that the Security Council
has not imposed sanctions. It has told the Sudanese authorities that they have
to perform and keep the promises they made to the international community, or
they would face further consequences, including sanctions."
Last month Annan cautioned the United States against the imposition of sanctions
on Syria, a country designated by the U.S. State Department as "a terrorist
U.S. Ambassador John Danforth told reporters last week that sanctions "was
not the be-all and end-all" of Sudan. "The threat of sanctions,"
he said, was merely a tool to exert pressure on the government in Khartoum.
The move to impose sanctions on Sudan has also generated reservations from
at least four members of the Security Council: China, Russia, Pakistan and Algeria.
Both China and Russia have strong economic and military interests in Sudan.
Sudan, which produces about 250,000 barrels of oil per day, has contracted to
sell some of it to China. Both China and Russia, on the other hand, are also
major arms suppliers to Sudan.
The frontline fighter planes in the Sudanese air force include Russian MiG-23s
and Chinese Shenyang MiG-17s. Sudan also has Chinese-made Silkworm missiles
and battle tanks, along with Russian-made armored combat vehicles.
Faced with the threat of a Chinese veto last week, the United States has watered
down its draft resolution, which demands that the Sudanese government rein in
the Arab militias
accused of genocide.
If the government fails to comply, the Security Council "shall take"
action for noncompliance, according to the original draft resolution proposed
But with increasing pressure, mostly from China, the United States revised
its draft resolution this week to read "shall consider" taking action
particularly against its petroleum sector. The new revised resolution is
expected to go before the Council for a vote early next week.
But still, Chinese Ambassador Wang Guangya has expressed reservations even
on the new draft because of the implied threat of sanctions. China's opposition
is primarily against singling out Sudan's oil industry for possible sanctions.
The atrocities in Darfur where an estimated 30,000 black Africans have
been killed and over 1.5 million displaced have been committed by a marauding
Arab militia called the Janjaweed ("men on horseback"). The Sudanese
government has not only been accused of creating the militia but also turning
a blind eye to its continued killings.
Rev. Gabriel Odima, president of the Africa
Center for Peace and Democracy, said that Darfur has become a household
name around the world. "The only images beaming on the world's television
screen are the hunger-stricken skeletons in Darfur. It is almost too late to
change the situation," he said.
"But the change in the draft resolution on Sudan to please China will
not help the people of Darfur. Instead Washington should build a new consensus
of support in the U.S. Congress and among American people for a responsible
foreign policy that will bring China, Russia, Algeria and Pakistan on board,"
Odima told IPS.
He also said that the Sudanese military, the rebel groups, the politicians
and the international community have all failed the people of Darfur.
"Likewise today China, Russia, Pakistan and Algeria are overlooking the
real tragedy facing the people of Darfur. A strong UN resolution on Sudan will
help contain the situation in Darfur," he added.
Joan Russow, of the Global Compliance Research Project, said the international
community must resist both "humanitarian" military intervention or
the imposition of sanctions which often affect the most vulnerable and disadvantaged.
"Year after year, serious conflicts emerge over resources, territory,
ethnicity and religion and the UN Security Council is called upon to act. But
because of the vested interests of its five permanent members the United
States, Britain, France, China and Russia the Security Council has demonstrated
that it is incapable of preventing the scourge of war," Russow told IPS.
She said that the 191-member General Assembly, which reflects the sovereign
equality of all states, should be given the mandate to strive to prevent war
through addressing the fundamental inequities in the global community, and the
disquieting increase in global militarism which foster conflict.
Annan told reporters Thursday the Security Council is discussing a draft resolution
"which may require me to appoint an international commission to decide
whether acts of genocide have been committed."
"If this resolution is adopted, I shall of course do so with all speed,
and we are making preliminary preparations. But I want to make it clear that,
no matter how the crimes that are being committed against civilians in Darfur
are characterized or legally defined, it is urgent to take action now,"
"I have urged the Security Council to act on the draft resolution without
delay, and to be as united as possible in the face of this crisis," he
Annan also pointed out that this is the first time in the Council's history
that it will be acting under the provisions of the Genocide Convention, which
calls for the protection of civilians who are victims of mass killings.
(Inter Press Service)