MARGARET WARNER: The situation in Darfur, which the U.S. has labeled genocide, is getting worse. The World Health Organization said last week the death toll in the refugee camps there had reached 70,000 and U.N. member countries are not contributing the money needed for food and medical aid.
That warning was echoed yesterday by the International Red Cross. It said the remaining villages in Darfur face an unprecedented food crisis. There have long been tensions over land in the Darfur region of western Sudan between nomadic Arabs and black African farmers.
Those tensions exploded early last year, when two black African separatist groups took up arms against the Sudanese government.
The government struck back by arming some Arab militias, called the Janjaweed, to help quash the rebellion. Yet the government denies responsibility for the Janjaweed's subsequent rampage against local black villagers.
The violence has forced 1.4 million villagers out of their homes into camps in Darfur, and some 200,000 have fled into neighboring Chad. The United Nations Security Council has issued two resolutions demanding the Sudanese government stop the violence. But early this month the U.N.'s top envoy for Darfur told the Security Council little has been done.
JAN PRONK, U.N. Envoy: In terms of security, because no policies have been carried out to stop the Janjaweed-- they didn't do anything, disarming, and there are no third forces on the ground -- there is no improvement on the ground.
MARGARET WARNER: Yesterday, U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan urged the international community to offer more than words.
KOFI ANNAN: The impression that... which has been gained in some quarters, that if you were only to label it genocide things will fall in place, I'm afraid, is not really correct. We know what needs to be done. We need to have the will and the resources and go in and do it.
MARGARET WARNER: On the civil war front, a cease-fire was declared in April between the government and the rebels. But there have been reports of violations by both sides.
Leaders from other countries in the African Union have dispatched a few hundred cease-fire monitors and said today they would substantially increase that force.
MARGARET WARNER: For an update on the situation in Sudan and Darfur and what today's announcement of additional African Union troops may do to help, we turn to John Prendergast, former director of African affairs on the national Security Council in the Clinton administration. He is now with the International Crisis Group and has written eight books on Africa. He was in Darfur last month.
And Ali Ali Dinar, who was born and raised in Darfur and educated in Khartoum. He's now outreach director of the African Study Center at the University of Pennsylvania. He was in Darfur in August. Welcome to you both.
Mr. Ali Dinar, what impact will this announcement today that the African Union is going to increase their force by tenfold really, what will that do for the situation on the ground in your view?
ALI ALI DINAR: I think that is... It has a very positive impact, a long overdue step which has been waited for a long time from the people of Darfur, from the international community, to come and help. And I think it also reflects the issue of Darfur is not merely being considered by Africans, but by the whole international community is fully concerned about it.
Yes, the troops mainly from Africa, but the money being provided is coming from the EU and from the U.S., and this signifies that... shows Darfur is under the eyes of the whole international community.
MARGARET WARNER: Mr. Prendergast, what impact do you think it will have on the ground?
JOHN PRENDERGAST: Well, I think it's a fantastic first step that the African Union has taken responsibility and offered these forces.
The problem though is that the force is going to go in to monitor the cease-fire, a cease-fire that is not really the problem.
The problem is that the government of Sudan has armed these Janjaweed militias, which we've just seen, to attack civilian populations.
Therefore, the force needs to go in to protect civilians from that attack. That is going to be a secondary objective of this force, not its primary objective. That needs to be clarified and worked on assiduously in order for this force to make a difference for people's lives in Darfur.
MARGARET WARNER: Mr. Ali Dinar, when you were in Sudan last, in Darfur, were the observers, were the African Union troops doing anything for the humanitarian situation or to protect the civilians from the Janjaweed?
ALI ALI DINAR: I mean, there is there no protection for civilians because that was not under their mandate. What they were doing there is mainly observing any cease-fire violations between the two parties.
And I agree with John that the main purpose of these groups is just to provide security to the people who are now either displaced or refugees, but it never solves the questions of the internally displaced people and what is going to happen to them, what is their fate, what is the solution to the whole problem? It will just create a sense of security to people who are now living in camps.
MARGARET WARNER: Do you think, Mr. Prendergast, though, as you read... and we just got wire reports today, but is this force really going to even go in and protect these camps? Is it big enough to do that?
JOHN PRENDERGAST: No, it's not... that's not the objective of the force.
The force is going to go in with a number of cease-fire monitors to ensure that there is separation between the government's forces and the rebel forces.
Again, they're not... the deployment pattern is dictated by the mandate, and if the mandate is not protection of civilians, the deployment pattern, therefore, will not be to maximize the protection of civilians.
So the women that are being raped every day as they venture outside the camps to find firewood and the men who are being attacked in their villages as they still remain living there, those are not people that are going to be prioritized. They can be; we can still change that and fix that with more pressure on the government of Sudan. But as of now, the deployment today, you are not going to get that kind of protection for people.
MARGARET WARNER: So why isn't the mandate broader, Mr. Ali Dinar?
ALI ALI DINAR: I think because there are a lot of national interests from the African governments as well as from other countries, because that is what they will do.
And that also just brings this issue about what the international community could do in such situations in which... situation in which a country commits this horrendous act against its civilians and at the same time also to respect its sovereignty.
That dilemma is, I think... the mandate of the peace force is just reflecting that issue.
MARGARET WARNER: Pursue this a little further, Mr. Prendergast. Who decided what the mandate is? And what would you add to what Mr. Ali Dinar said about why it isn't broader if the need is so great?
JOHN PRENDERGAST: Well, Ali is absolutely right. It's the issue of sovereignty that is the problem. And, of course, the foundation of our nation state system is the internal sanctity of what happens inside each country's borders. So the African Union initially wanted to establish a mandate that would protect civilians.
They were very aggressive and assertive about that publicly, but then when the government of Sudan was allowed to shape that mandate through the bilateral consultations that ensued, they said no way; you can come in and you can monitor the cease-fire but you cannot overtly protect civilians as the primary purpose of this deployment of force.
MARGARET WARNER: How bad, Mr. Prendergast-- staying with you for a minute because you were there most recently-- is the humanitarian situation? In other words, since we last looked at it in August or early September?
JOHN PRENDERGAST: I think we saw throughout the summer an improvement in humanitarian access because the international spotlight was so bright. I mean, you had Secretary Powell and the secretary-general of the United Nations visiting Sudan and putting a spotlight on those obstacles and those restrictions to providing assistance.
Since August we've seen another sort of decline in that access as the spotlight has shifted to other issues like the issue of deploying cease-fire... these monitors from the African Union. There has been less effort undertaken to ensure that humanitarian access continues to improve. So what we have now: Increased numbers of people who are at risk. We're now in the order of 2.25 million people who need food assistance now, but we are only reaching about a million to a 1.25 million of these people.
After all this information, all this attention, all this political pressure-- alleged political pressure-- we have still half of the people who are at risk of starvation, at risk of grave humanitarian need, not receiving assistance.
MARGARET WARNER: How do you explain that, Mr. Ali Dinar?
ALI ALI DINAR: I think the Sudanese government is just taking a chance because there is no teeth to all the international threats for it to respect what it signs, to respect what it says with regard to protecting the civilians. And to the extent that even at the time when we labeled what is happening in Darfur as genocide, but there's no active steps, which is mandated by the convention when a genocide like this occurs.
So I think that the Sudanese government is seeing that there is not much is coming against it, because for a time now we are consumed about the actors in the ground; we are consumed about depicting this thing as between Africans and Arabs; and consumed also by depicting this affair is mainly by Janjaweed, and we never go behind that. I think, who created the Janjaweed? Who brought the Janjaweed? Who orchestrated all these human disasters in Darfur?
MARGARET WARNER: A quick follow-up to you, Mr. Ali Dinar. What is your view, if you can sum it up in a nutshell, of why the government is taking this course? In other words, should we take at face value that they simply wanted to create these militias as a counterinsurgency against the rebels, or is there something else going on?
ALI ALI DINAR: I mean, the government, at some point it has miscalculation in doing this, but creating a militia, fighting the insurgency side by side against a rebel, this is not something new, because the government did the same thing with the same casualties in southern Sudan, in the Nuba Mountains and the world never said anything. So it was under that assumption that what it will do in Darfur, it will just go like... as it did in the past.
MARGARET WARNER: Mr. Prendergast, final quick question to you. After Rwanda, the western powers said "never again." Why hasn't the Security Council moved with more urgency to do whatever it takes to stop the violence, the killing, the ethnic cleansing?
JOHN PRENDERGAST: We have no system; we have no approach in the international community to deal with mass atrocities in peripheral zones of the world like Africa. So we just... we scramble around in an ad hoc way every time. But in the Sudan case I think we have two specific things. The first one is the sovereignty issue. That is, we are not going to go in there without the sovereign consent of the government of Sudan.
And secondly, oil. A number of the Security Council members have investments in the oil sector in Sudan and they're not going to go against the Sudanese government. That's the sad fact.
MARGARET WARNER: All right, and we have to leave it there. John Prendergast and Ali Ali Dinar, thank you both.
JOHN PRENDERGAST: Thank you.