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Sudan Leader Orders Gangs Disarmed

June 20, 2004|From Reuters

KHARTOUM, Sudan — With his government facing threats of more U.S. sanctions, Sudanese President Lt. Gen. Omar Hassan Ahmed Bashir has ordered "complete mobilization" to disarm all illegal groups in the western region of Darfur, including the Arab militias that have been killing African villagers.

A statement released Saturday by the Sudanese presidency said all government agencies should mobilize "to control and pursue all outlaw groups, including rebels and janjaweed," as well as "disarm the outlaws and present them to justice and prevent any groups from crossing into neighboring Chad."

Janjaweed is the local word for the Arab militias whom the Darfur rebels blame for much of the conflict in the region. The rebels say the government has backed the janjaweed, but the government has repeatedly denied that.

International organizations have criticized the Sudanese government for failing to control the militias, which have driven hundreds of thousands of Africans out of their villages into camps for displaced people or into exile in Chad.

The U.S. threatened Friday to impose sanctions on Sudanese officials as a way of intensifying the pressure to help ease a humanitarian crisis in Darfur.

The State Department is studying whether the militias are responsible for genocide in Sudan and if it can impose sanctions on individual officials, spokesman Adam Ereli told reporters.

The Sudanese announcement implied a tougher line against the janjaweed and a more balanced policy toward the conflict.

Sudanese government officials have previously said it would be difficult to disarm the Arab militias as long as the two main rebel groups were active in the region.

The announcement also was a response to Chadian complaints about janjaweed incursions into Chadian territory. A source close to Chadian President Idriss Deby said Friday that the Chadian army killed 69 janjaweed in a clash near the border Thursday.

The Sudanese presidential statement also said that the judicial authorities in Darfur should set up prosecution offices and courts to prosecute criminals, including gang members who plunder villages, "without delay."

Sudanese police should deploy to protect villages and enable displaced people to come home, it added.

Analysts say part of the problem in Darfur is that the central government in Khartoum, 600 miles from the border with Chad, does not have the resources to control the area.

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