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World Must Step Up in Darfur, Activist Says

November 24, 2006 at 6:30 PM EDT
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TRANSCRIPT

JUDY WOODRUFF: Finally, we wrap up a week of conversations about what the world can and should do about Darfur. And then we look at a museum exhibit of images from the world’s newest genocide.

Over the past several days, we’ve heard proposals for military action, more active diplomacy, and economic sanctions. Now, Ray Suarez talks to a human rights activist who calls for stronger action from the international community.

RAY SUAREZ: And that idea comes from Albaqir Mukhtar, senior fellow at the U.S. Institute of Peace, an organization promoting conflict resolution. Originally from north Sudan and now a British subject, Mukhtar was previously campaign coordinator for the Middle East and North Africa region for Amnesty International. He travels to Sudan regularly.

And, Albaqir Mukhtar, what’s your main suggestion for ending the conflict in Darfur?

ALBAQIR MUKHTAR, U.S. Institute of Peace: For the international community to show a resolution, to show that they are serious about protecting the civilians in Darfur at the moment, because they’re in dire need for protection.

And then to show determination that they have to end this conflict and to bring the two parties — the NRF, the National Redemption Front, that are fighting in Darfur and the government — to the negotiating table, and to admit that the Darfur peace agreement is now dead in the water.

And they have to renegotiate a new settlement, because it’s essentially a bad, quickly fixed agreement that was obvious to everybody it’s not going to work, and now it proved it’s not working.

Measures for Khartoum

Albaqir Mukhtar
U.S. Institute of Peace
Khartoum should know that there will be consequences if it continues to hold the whole international community hostage to its whims.

RAY SUAREZ: Now, you say, "show resolution."

ALBAQIR MUKHTAR: Yes.

RAY SUAREZ: Does that mean that it would bring the international community directly into conflict with the Khartoum government?

ALBAQIR MUKHTAR: The Khartoum government has always been in conflict with the international community; there is nothing new about that. They've been in conflict with its own people, and it's been in conflict with all of its neighbors, and it's been in conflict with the international community, because it's simply a regime, a rogue regime.

RAY SUAREZ: Now, officially, the government denies links to the Janjaweed, denies links to any armed force that's been targeting civilians in Darfur. But up until now, every time they've put on the brakes, every time they've put up a stop sign, every time they've said, "We don't want this to continue," the world has backed off. What are you saying should happen now?

ALBAQIR MUKHTAR: The international community has been sending wrong messages to Khartoum. The resolution itself, the 1706 U.N. Security Council resolution, is weak.

It included a clause saying that U.N. peacekeeping forces should be deployed in Darfur with the consent of the government of Sudan, and the government of Sudan refused to give its consent. And I think now the right message that the international community should send to Khartoum is that we are going to deploy these forces, whether with or without your consent. This is one thing.

Khartoum should know that there will be consequences if it continues to hold the whole international community hostage to its whims. There should be concrete measures that to be sent to Khartoum: If you are not going to abide by this, if you are not going to allow us to protect the people in Darfur and to deploy this U.N. peacekeeping force, then we are going to enforce a no-fly zone, for instance.

We are going to target, to have a blockade on your trade with the world. We're going to hit you where it hurts. This is the only message that would make Khartoum rethink its position.

RAY SUAREZ: Will the international community have the will, have the desire, have the organization to start being tougher on the government in Khartoum? So far, it hasn't been able to.

ALBAQIR MUKHTAR: The United States administration has to bring Russia and China on board. This is the first step. Then, the rest will be obvious, because they cannot blockade, or veto, or delay, or water-down any resolution that is going to come from the Security Council.

Security concerns

Albaqir Mukhtar
U.S. Institute of Peace
The real security concerns are the security concerns of the people of Darfur who've been paying by their lives on a daily basis, in killing, in rape, in displacement and deprivation of many, many of their rights.

RAY SUAREZ: Does the government, the Sudanese government, a recognized government around the world, have some reason, because of Sudan's history, because of Sudan's recent past, to insist on its sovereignty, to insist on control over its borders, and to say, "Well, we've got rebels fighting against our government here. We have to have control of this situation."

ALBAQIR MUKHTAR: And this is exactly what Khartoum is saying, and this is not true.

I mean, first of all, the security concerns, the real security concerns are the security concerns of the people of Darfur who've been paying by their lives on a daily basis, in killing, in rape, in displacement and deprivation of many, many of their rights. So this is going on. It is going on as we speak.

This should be stopped. And the international community should be concerned with this first. Khartoum is not concerned with it, because Khartoum is the culprit who's doing it. So they're not concerned about this, actually.

If a state failed to protect its own people -- more than that, if a state is targeting and killing its own people, it disqualifies itself. It abdicates its own sovereignty by its own action, and the international community should take the responsibility to protect these people.

Exploiting weaknesses

Albaqir Mukhtar
U.S. Institute of Peace
Whenever there is a loophole or there is a weakness in the international position, this government is going to exploit it to the end.

RAY SUAREZ: Do you believe that, if the world was ready to be tougher on the Sudanese government, that government would back down?

ALBAQIR MUKHTAR: I'm absolutely positive in that. I'm absolutely positive. Because the history of this government, since it came to power, it did not respond to anything but real threat and real resolution.

Whenever there is a loophole or there is a weakness in the international position, this government is going to exploit it to the end. And it's exploiting now the weaknesses in their Resolution 1706, exploiting it to the end, because there is no consequences that Khartoum could fear would happen to it if it rejected the resolution.

And it rejected it, and it's telling the whole world, the international world, and it is holding now the international community hostage, because they can't do anything, because there is no strategic approach to doing it, because they talk, and they do not do anything. There is no real threat.

This is why the message which is received in Khartoum is that, "Well, we can challenge the international community. We can even challenge the American administration. And we are safe. Nothing is going to happen to us."

RAY SUAREZ: Albaqir Mukhtar, thank you.

ALBAQIR MUKHTAR: Thank you.