David Cameron: We cannot remain silent in the face of this horror in Darfur

We should freeze their Swiss bank accounts if they do not comply

Share

Last week I met Yasir (not his real name), a father of five, in a camp in Darfur. He told me his village was attacked by government troops and that his family were forced to flee from their homes with nothing. When I asked him how he knew that these were government troops, he responded: "Because they got out of government helicopters in government uniforms."

Yasir's story was one I heard time and time again when I visited the al-Salaam and Abu Shouk camps, home to around 100,000 people in makeshift huts, on the outskirts of El Fasher, the capital of North Darfur. People with their homes destroyed, villages emptied and relatives slaughtered. Most shocking was that, in many cases, it is their government which is responsible.

The world has a number of pressing concerns, but we cannot afford to close our eyes to four million people on humanitarian relief; over two million internally displaced and up to 300,000 killed. It is the biggest humanitarian crisis facing the world today. We have a profound moral duty to work round the clock not just to alleviate the suffering, but to stop the fighting.

The Darfur crisis is complex. There are tribal militias fighting each other. There is banditry on a massive scale. And there are rebel troops taking the opportunity to ransack villages. But at its heart, there is a simple dynamic: the Janjaweed militia, sponsored by the Sudanese government, is driving people out for reasons of ethnicity. This is ethnic cleansing - and we cannot remain silent in the face of this horror.

First, there needs to be an unequivocal ceasefire. Second, talks are needed to establish the framework for a settlement that will underpin lasting peace. And third, the international peacekeeping force needs to be strengthened in terms of numbers and the power it wields.

In El Fasher, I met the commander of the African Union peacekeeping force. He has just 5,000 poorly equipped troops to oversee an area the size of France, with over two million people in 173 camps. This force needs to be much larger, better equipped and, vitally, have the link to the UN without which it will not be able to do its job properly.

The Sudanese government is insisting that only African troops be allowed in Darfur, but they know that the AU will struggle to put together a force to do the job effectively. Internationalising the peacekeeping force would be an important step towards increasing its effectiveness.

It is far from certain whether Khartoum is willing to adhere to the terms of the recent agreement in Addis Ababa. I saw for myself how well practised Sudanese government officials are at offering slippery explanations for the violence their regime is perpetrating.

Shortly after that agreement was made, Sudanese forces attacked Birmaza, the town where subsequent ceasefire talks with rebels were supposed to take place. I challenged officials on this latest display of contempt for the peace process and was given four different responses by four different people.

Darfur presents a test case for the international community and its ability to handle humanitarian disasters. It is speaking with one voice in its condemnation. It was encouraging, for example, that China, which has oil interests in Sudan, urged the Sudanese to sign up to the Addis Ababa agreement.

If the Sudanese fail to comply, we should be ready to freeze their Swiss bank accounts, extend travel bans and make it clear to the generals and politicians that the International Criminal Court will pursue them vigorously for the crimes being committed in their name.

While visiting one camp, I saw a perfectly kept hut with beds made and a satchel hanging on the wall. It was a remarkable symbol of the resilience and spirit of the victims caught up in this terrible conflict. We owe it to them to show a similar resolve in bringing about its end.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Senior QA Engineer - Agile, SCRUM

£35000 - £50000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior QA Engineer (Agil...

Marketing Executive - West Midlands - £28,000

£26000 - £28000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Digital Marketing Executive (SEO, PP...

Retail Business Analyst

£40000 - £50000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our retail client ...

Senior C++ Developer

£400 - £450 Per Annum possibly more for the right candidate: Clearwater People...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

i Editor's Letter: We are winning the fight against extreme poverty and hunger. It's time to up the ante

Oliver Duff Oliver Duff
David Cameron addresses No campagn supporters in Aberdeen  

Scottish independence: Cameron faces a choice between destroying his country or his party

Matthew Norman
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week