Three years into the crisis, the killing goes on

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The Independent Online

Almost half a million people have been affected by the Darfur conflict since 2003, when it was described as the one of the world's worst humanitarian conflicts.

To the 232,000 Darfurians displaced from their homes in western Sudan, we must now add 90,000 Chadians and 48,000 from the Central African Republic. Not to mention the 200,000 who have been slaughtered by the Janjaweed Arab militia allied to the Islamist government in Khartoum.

That is a lot of people, and plenty of time for the world to have mobilised to stop the killing. Yet three years into the crisis, the killing goes on, and Sudan's government continues to lead the rest of the world on a merry dance.

Khartoum, strong in the knowledge that the Iraq invasion has diminished its chances of having an international force imposed against its will, has shut out international envoys and ruled out a UN force. President Omar al-Bashir has been deaf to the personal appeals of other leaders.

Only yesterday, the United Nations was forced to evacuate more than 70 aid workers from the biggest refugee camp in Darfur, its largest such evacuation since the UN launched its humanitarian campaign in 2004. In Darfur, an under-equipped African Union force has been struggling to enforce an inadequate mandate.

Diplomats say the Security Council has not given up hope that Sudan's leader will eventually accept a proposal for a "hybrid" force of UN and African Union peacekeepers. There are no signs that President Bashir will change his mind. On Friday, the council expressed "grave concern" about the fighting in Chad, and is awaiting proposals from the UN peacekeeping department for a force to be deployed on the Chadian border.

Frustrated with the lack of progress, 15 former foreign ministers have suggested that Sudan should be given until the end of the year to agree to an international force or face sanctions. These would include travel bans and the freezing of assets directed at military and civilian leaders. Second, they argued, measures should target Sudan's oil industry. Third, the International Criminal Court should "up its investigations into those who order or commit crimes against humanity in Darfur".

But in the Security Council, Russia and China have blocked the imposition of harsh sanctions against their ally Sudan. Maybe it is only more indictments from the criminal court that will bring about a change in policy by Khartoum.