Fighting is intensifying in Darfur, the western province of Sudan. The conflict began in 2003. Rebel groups demanding more autonomy for the area began attacking government targets. And the the Islamist-military government launched a brutal military campaign flanked by pro-government militias, the janjaweed.
More than two million people have fled their homes and many tens of thousands have been killed. Those who escaped the violence are now living in camps across Darfur. 200,000 refugees have crossed the border into Chad.
The African Union (AU) brokered a peace deal in May 2006, but it was signed by the government and only one of the three main rebel groups in Darfur.
Since then the fighting has intensified.
The AU has decided to withdraw its 7,000 peacekeeping troops from Darfur at the end of September and wants the UN to take over peacekeeping duties in the area. The Sudanese regime have strongly rejected that idea.
On 31 August a Security Council resolution was agreed at the UN, seeking to replace the AU force with 17,000 UN troops.
Sudan’s President, Omar al-Bashir, described the call for a UN force as “part of a comprehensive conspiracy for confiscating the country's sovereignty”. The government says it will not allow a UN force on its territory but will replace the peacekeepers with its own force of 10,000 soldiers.
It will be difficult for the UN to send troops without Sudanese agreement. But the US insists that the Security Council resolution means that a force could be sent even without the Sudanese government’s agreement.
A UN force — if it happens — may help stem the bloodshed. If it succeeded only partially that would be a good thing. Even so we can have no confidence in UN interventions (remember Srebrenica!)
On the other hand to either let the conflict rip and/or to let the reactionary Sudanese government “sort out” the situation in Darfur would be a certain disaster.