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U.S. Stiffens Sanctions on Sudan over Darfur

President Bush stiffened economic sanctions against Sudan on Tuesday in a bid to end the bloody conflict in the African nation's western Darfur region.

Reiterating that Washington will not just ignore genocide there, the president said during a White House briefing that the U.S. will continue to push for full implementation of a peace agreement.

"I promise this to the people of Darfur: The United States will not avert our eyes from a crisis that challenges the conscience of the world," he said.

Under the sanctions, 31 companies owned or controlled by the government of Sudan are barred from doing business in the United States and it is a crime for American companies and individuals to willfully do business with them.

One of the companies "has been transporting weapons to the Sudanese government and militia forces in Darfur," Mr. Bush said.

Also, individuals responsible for the violence will be prevented from doing business with any U.S. citizen or company, he said, singling out three people: Awad Ibn Auf, Sudan's head of military intelligence and security; Ahmed Harun, the minister for humanitarian affairs; and Khalil Ibrahim, a rebel leader who has refused to sign the Darfur peace agreement.

President Bush directed Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to consult with the United Kingdom and other allies on a new United Nations Security Council resolution to strengthen international pressure on the Sudanese government of President Omar al-Bashir.

"This resolution will … impose an expanded embargo on arms sales to the government of Sudan," Mr. Bush said. "It will prohibit the Sudanese government from conducting any offensive military flights over Darfur. It will strengthen our ability to monitor and report any violations."

The sanctions are designed to force the government to stop blocking international efforts to end the bloodshed in Darfur, which the Bush administration has labeled genocide.

"It's not too late, but it may still be too little," Tom Malinowski, the Washington advocacy director for Human Rights Watch, said of the sanctions. "But to be fair, we need to wait and see the impact."

Actress Mia Farrow, a UNICEF goodwill ambassador who has just returned from her fourth visit to Darfur, agreed that the U.S. effort is late and lacking. She derided the sanctions as little more than an "inconvenience" to a relative few.

"There should be a full-time envoy – a team – dedicated to securing a peace agreement in Darfur," Farrow said on NPR's Day to Day. "What we have is a part-time envoy, a series of diplomats who come and go out of Khartoum. Nobody's working on it 24/7 as the situation warrants."

She said she is not in favor of U.S. troops heading into Darfur, largely because of the commitment to Iraq.

"We have no stomach for any further military engagement," she said. "It would be viewed as an invasion, and it's debatable what the result would be."

In 2003, the Sudanese government responded to an insurgency with a scorched-earth campaign against the rebels and the tribes they came from. The government used aerial bombardments, while its Janjaweed militia allies attacked civilians on the ground.

More than 200,000 have been killed in the fighting, while others have died from malnutrition and disease that have spread in the wake of the conflict. Some 2 million have been forced from their homes and villages into camps, mostly in neighboring Chad.

He said al-Bashir's actions during the past few weeks "follow a long pattern of promising cooperation while finding new methods of obstruction."

"The people in Darfur are crying out for help, and they deserve it," President Bush said, noting that the U.S. has contributed more than $1.7 billion in humanitarian and peacekeeping assistance to Darfur since the conflict began.

The president threatened to impose the new sanctions in a speech last month. However, he decided to hold off, allowing U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon more time to find a diplomatic end to the four-year crisis.

Under a tentative peace deal, al-Bashir agreed in November to a three-phase U.N. plan to strengthen the overstretched, 7,000-strong African Union force in Darfur.

After five months of stalling, the Sudanese president gave the go-ahead in April for the second phase — a "heavy support package" with 3,000 U.N. troops, police and civilian personnel along with six attack helicopters and other equipment.

During the weekend, however, al-Bashir reiterated his opposition to the deployment of a 22,000-strong joint U.N.-African Union force, saying he would only allow a larger African force with technical and logistical support from the United Nations.

President Bush said the Sudanese government must stop opposing the joint U.N.-African Union force, quit supporting violent militias and let humanitarian aid reach the people of Darfur.

The hostilities erupted in early 2003, when two rebel groups — the Sudanese Liberation Army and the Justice and Equality Movement — attacked government targets, claiming that the predominantly African region was being neglected by the Arab-dominated government in Khartoum, the capital.

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