30 August 2007

Sudan Violence Surge

unexploded bomb in Sudan [Credit: DarfurGenocide.org]Just days before UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is due to visit Sudan next week, Darfur rebels have accused the Sudanese government of today bombing South Darfur — but the latest attack in an aerial campaign that has driven thousands of people from their homes over the past month.

Some, such as Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton, argue, "We should have a no-fly zone over Sudan because the Sudanese government bombed the villages before and after the Janjaweed come and we should make it very clear to the government in Khartoum that we're putting up a no-fly zone. If they fly into it, we will shoot down their planes. It's the only way to get their attention."

However, aid agencies are unanimously against the prospect of a no-flight zone, fearing that Khartoum might respond by forcing them to leave and, even if they were allowed to stay, would almost certainly ground humanitarian aircraft. If this happened, Darfuris would soon suffer lethal food and health crises, as millions who rely on humanitarian assistance for food, shelter and clean water can only be reached by air, with some agencies delivering as much as 90% of their supplies using aircraft and United Nations and African Union traffic accounting for 90% of flights in Darfur. Besides which, given that Darfur covers an area greater than Iraq and that the nearest airfields in Chad are a vast distance from any NATO base, enforcing any no-fly zone would be a phenomenal challenge.

No, as the retiring UN police chief, Mark Kroeker, says, "The countries that have been talking about Darfur need to now do something about Darfur with their deployment of police in probably the most desperate place in the world" — that means us, not just the new joint UN-AU peacekeeping force UNAMID.