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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Year 5/6 Teacher

£100 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: The successful applicant w...

Year 5/6 Teacher

£21000 - £35000 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: The JobThe successful ...

Business Analyst (Systems/ Incident Analyst)

£40000 - £50000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Business Analyst r...

SAP GRC Architect / Consultant

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: I am currently looking for a PERMANENT S...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Believe me, I said, there’s nothing rural about this urban borough’s attempt at a country fair

John Walsh
Tony and Cherie Blair on the day he was elected  

The intensity of the adulation for Blair ought to concern Labour’s ‘new’ man

Steve Richards
Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

Fireballs in space

Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
A Bible for billionaires

A Bible for billionaires

Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
Paranoid parenting is on the rise - and our children are suffering because of it

Paranoid parenting is on the rise

And our children are suffering because of it
For sale: Island where the Magna Carta was sealed

Magna Carta Island goes on sale

Yours for a cool £4m
Phone hacking scandal special report: The slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

The hacker's tale: the slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

Glenn Mulcaire was jailed for six months for intercepting phone messages. James Hanning tells his story in a new book. This is an extract
We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

Child abusers are not all the same, yet the idea of treating them differently in relation to the severity of their crimes has somehow become controversial
The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

For instance, did Isis kill the Israeli teenagers to trigger a war, asks Patrick Cockburn
Alistair Carmichael: 'The UK as a whole is greater than the sum of its parts'

Alistair Carmichael: 'The UK as a whole is greater than the sum of its parts'

Meet the man who doesn't want to go down in history as the country's last Scottish Secretary
Legoland Windsor's master model-makers reveal the tricks of their trade (including how to stop the kids wrecking your Eiffel Tower)

Meet the people who play with Lego for a living

They are the master builders: Lego's crack team of model-makers, who have just glued down the last of 650,000 bricks as they recreate Paris in Windsor. Susie Mesure goes behind the scenes
The 20 best days out for the summer holidays: From Spitfires to summer ferry sailings

20 best days out for the summer holidays

From summer ferry sailings in Tyne and Wear and adventure days at Bear Grylls Survival Academy to Spitfires at the Imperial War Museum Duxford and bog-snorkelling at the World Alternative Games...
Open-air theatres: If all the world is a stage, then everyone gets in on the act

All the wood’s a stage

Open-air productions are the cue for better box-office receipts, new audiences, more interesting artistic challenges – and a picnic
Rand Paul is a Republican with an eye on the world

Rupert Cornwell: A Republican with an eye on the world

Rand Paul is laying out his presidential stall by taking on his party's disastrous record on foreign policy
Self-preservation society: Pickles are moving from the side of your plate to become the star dish

Self-preservation society

Pickles are moving from the side of your plate to become the star dish
Generation gap opens a career sinkhole

Britons live ever longer, but still society persists in glorifying youth

We are living longer but considered 'past it' younger, the reshuffle suggests. There may be trouble ahead, says DJ Taylor