RAY SUAREZ: At least 180,000 people have died in the Darfur region from hunger and disease since October of 2003, according to the latest U.N. estimate. Two million more have been driven from their homes as a result of fighting between rebel groups, government forces, and the Janjaweed militia. As the security situation continues to deteriorate, the international community remains deadlocked over a U.S.-sponsored resolution at the U.N. Security Council.
For more, we get two views. Sen. Sam Brownback, Republican of Kansas, recently introduced the Darfur Accountability Act, a bill seeking U.N. sanctions against the perpetrators of violence, and increased assistance to the African Union troops on the ground in Darfur. He visited the region last summer. Kenneth Bacon is president of Refugees International. He recently returned from a mission to Darfur and the Sudanese capital, Khartoum.
Senator, tell us about your bill. Why is it necessary?
SEN. SAM BROWNBACK: Because no credible action has been taken yet to date regarding the genocide that the Congress and the administration here has found taking place in Darfur. We haven't had legitimate sanctions of any form. We haven't had any actions taken of any credibility towards Sudan in the face of genocide, or at least crimes against humanity, by the U.N.'s own reports, and no credible action. What we're trying to do is force some form of credible action against the government in Khartoum.
RAY SUAREZ: But haven't the efforts so far to introduce a resolution like the one you're advocating been a failure because of the threats to block it by members of the Council that have a veto?
SEN. SAM BROWNBACK: Well, but that's the very point actually, is they need to be brought out in the open, particularly the Chinese and the Russians, and pressed, and Kofi Annan needs to be pressed, which -- I believe Kofi Annan should say to the Chinese and Russians and others that might seek to block this, "Either you remove that or I'm leaving as the head of the United Nations." This is so important. It is genocide; it is crimes against humanity; whatever you want to call it of those two. Either are enormously significant, and thousands of people have already died, and more are dying every day.
RAY SUAREZ: Kenneth Bacon, do you attach the same importance to a U.N. resolution as Sen. Brownback does?
KENNETH BACON: I think the resolution is very important. I think also the Darfur Accountability Act is extremely important because it contains some elements that the U.N. resolution doesn't, such as the imposition of the no-fly zone. And that would be crucially important to stopping this violence.
The senator is absolutely right. The U.S. Congress, Secretary Powell, and President Bush have all called this genocide. And since World War II, the world has said, "never again" to genocide. We've forgotten half of that phrase. We're just saying "again" now. We're not doing anything to stop this genocide. And there's a lot we can do to put pressure on the government of Sudan. There's a lot we can do to put more military forces in on the ground to protect civilians, but we're not doing it.
So we need pressure from the U.S. Congress; that's why his act is important. We need pressure from the U.N. Security Council; that's why this resolution is important. We need pressure outside both these bodies from Europe, from the African Union, from anybody who can apply pressure. We're not seeing enough pressure now.
RAY SUAREZ: Well, senator, in recent days the U.N. has sharply raised its estimates of the dead in Darfur. Just today in four western provinces of Sudan, the U.N. has removed its staff, saying there's too many threats to foreigners and to aid workers. Everything seems to be moving in the wrong direction, even though the world seems to be almost unanimous in deploring what's going on. How come things are going that way?
SEN. SAM BROWNBACK: Because of a lack of credible action on the part of the U.N. Security Council. The United States is pushing some pressure. I think we need to do a lot more. The problem is now we're in a situation, if the U.N. won't act, we're in a situation of repeating Iraq, saying, "okay, we'll gather a coalition of the willing; we'll put a number of African Union troops on the ground; we'll enforce a no-fly zone," all of which we could do, and maybe we're going to have to do it.
But that's not the way this should be. This should be the U.N. Security Council. This should be Kofi Annan, who has enormous international leadership stature, making this happen so it's not a United States-versus-Sudan effort; it's the world community coming together to prevent genocide.
RAY SUAREZ: Some of the African governments that have participated in the AU mission in Darfur say, "look, we're glad to do it, but this has to be paid for by somebody; there has to be more expertise on the ground, and that's going to cost money, too, and so far nobody seems to be stepping up to say, "well, here's the money." Who is going to pay for that?
SEN. SAM BROWNBACK: We're putting forward -- the United States is putting forward a great deal of funding. And we have funding in the supplemental, and if we could get -- and if it comes down to that, I think we will do that, that we will go to a coalition of the willing of African Union groups to get 5-to-10,000 troops on the ground, providing mobility, doing a no-fly zone, which is something that will have to take place with this, as well.
Capt. Brian Steidle, the retired Marine that was over and just brought the photographs out of what's taking place, talks about this doesn't require a large commitment of troops. It's only a few actually, that if they can get between them and the Janjaweed and the government of Sudan helicopters, the killing stops. But it's got to take place and it's got to happen now.
RAY SUAREZ: Well, Ken Bacon, until the world is able to pull off an operation like the one the senator is talking about, NGOs are in there trying to help out, but an AU leader said this week that food and security is deepening. The World Food Program of the United Nations suggested they don't have enough food to keep all the people who are displaced alive. Here we are on the edge of what may be another failing rainy season.
KENNETH BACON: Yeah. It's a problem. But let me be very clear: The humanitarian conditions in Darfur have improved dramatically over the last year. People are being fed, and the people who are being fed in camps, well over -- it's about 1.6 million people now being fed in camps, have a much lower malnutrition rate than the general population. So food is getting in there. Medical care is getting in. We've avoided some of the disastrous medical scenarios people were predicting a year ago -- cholera, for instance, disease outbreaks. The international community has rallied. It's doing a relatively good job.
The second piece of good news is, that the African Union force, where it is, is doing a very good job. It's providing security. It's allowing displaced people to go back to their villages, when they're there. But there are only 2,200 of them, and they can't be many places at once. So that force has to be four or five times larger than it is now. That would be a huge start, as the senator said. So there's a lot we can do short of moving NATO troops in, for instance. There's a lot we can do.
I think it would be great if NATO troops would go in, but they're not going to do it. They've been pretty clear that NATO is not going in, and the U.S. has been pretty clear that we're not going in at this stage. I hope that changes. But until it does, we have to rely on the African Union. We have to get more of them in there. We have to give them more support. They need more helicopters and they need more backing, in terms of air support, than they're getting now.
RAY SUAREZ: Sen. Brownback, the international community has been in an argument about who will try the people who are responsible for these atrocities, many of whom are widely known and easily named. Nigeria stepped into the fray, saying it can put together an African tribunal to take the place of the international criminal court. Might this break the impasse with the United States?
SEN. SAM BROWNBACK: It could, and I hope it does, but to me that's just not the current and pressing issue. The current pressing issue is we've got to get more African Union troops in with a broader authority and mobility, and I would hope a no-fly zone so that the killing and the dying stops. And then we can sort out what court you want to take the people in front of, which is a legitimate issue. But the pressing need is to stop the killing and the people being marauded against by the Janjaweed supported by the government of Sudan.
RAY SUAREZ: And that government, while it says it doesn't support them, you feel, Ken Bacon, that it clearly -- the Janjaweed can't exist without the government?
KENNETH BACON: There is no doubt. The U.N. did a massive report in January, a commission of inquiry report. They found without a shadow of a doubt that the Janjaweed militia are being supported by the government. They're being armed. They're getting uniforms. They come in right after the helicopter gunships attack villages. There is no doubt that they're closely coordinated.
Now we're hearing -- and the U.N. says this -- that the Janjaweed is infiltrating the police department and the indigenous security forces. So they're actually spreading their influence at a time when they should be withdrawing. This is a very duplicitous government that says one thing and does another. It's been very difficult to deal with. They say they want peace, but they continue to kill. They continue to allow their forces to rape.
They have never denounced rape as a weapon of war, and yet the Doctors Without Borders and other groups, Refugees International, have all concluded that rape is a very brutal but systematic part of these genocidal acts. And yet the government has never denounced it. What shred of decency is lacking in a government that won't even denounce rape by its own troops?
RAY SUAREZ: Well, senator, who can you work with there in Sudan? Is there a partner to help end this humanitarian crisis?
SEN. SAM BROWNBACK: The African Union. But the government of Sudan is not a partner you can work with. Certainly the Janjaweed isn't a partner that you can work with. I don't see us working with other groups within the Sudan. But the African Union I think is the clear one to be able to work with. It's indigenous to Africa. They are already there on the ground. Their troops need to be beefed up. They need to be given broader authority and greater mobility. That's clearly who we should be working through and with.
RAY SUAREZ: Sen. Sam Brownback from Kansas, thanks for being with us. Ken Bacon, good to see you.
SEN. SAM BROWNBACK: Thank you.
KENNETH BACON: Thank you.