The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Josephine Lee

Eliza Brinkmeyer
Fenton Communications

Crisis in Darfur: Where Are the Windows to Peace?


The international community-including the US and members of the Arab
League and the African Union-must act now to resolve the political and
humanitarian crises facing Sudan and bring stability to the region.
This, according to a panel of leading Sudan experts at a briefing today
hosted by Nobel Laureates Jody Williams and Wangari Maathai held at the
National Press Club. Some of the panelists warned that peace will not
come to Sudan if efforts at justice are not respected, including the
International Criminal Court's arrest warrant for Sudanese President

> View the webcast of the panel.

"We were heartened by the Quatar process, and the efforts of Arab
leaders to advance progress on peace talks between the government of
Sudan and the main rebel group. However, these peace talks are now
disintegrating, and Bashir is not being held accountable for the
further suffering of the Sudanese people," said Jody Williams, chair of
the Nobel Women's Initiative. "What Sudan needs now are real brokers
for peace, instead of support for leadership that is wreaking yet more
havoc in the region."

Williams, Maathai and other panelists also addressed the unique role
of the Arab League and African Union countries in Darfur. Since the
ICC's arrest warrant was issued on March 4, Bashir traveled to the Arab
League summit in Doha, Qatar at the end of March, and visited several
other Arab countries (including Libya, Saudia Arabia and Egypt) as well
as Eritrea.

"We are calling on the leadership in Africa and in Arab League to do
their part in working to solve this political and humanitarian crisis,"
said Wangari Maathai, who just last week published a new book, The
Challenge for Africa, which calls on African leadership to step up to
the plate on solving Africa's biggest problems including Darfur.

"It is not acceptable that Bashir is not only traveling in defiance
of his arrest warrant, but more gravely, has expelled humanitarian
agencies from the area around Darfur. Sudan must allow these groups
back in, or we are looking at more lives lost due to starvation and
lack of basic services."

In retaliation for the ICC's arrest warrant, Bashir forced 13 major
humanitarian organizations out of Darfur, causing massive suffering in
the already war-ravaged region. These organizations include 3 leading
indigenous Sudanese organizations, whose staff have since been
harassed, interrogated and detained. According to the United Nations,
1.1 million people will go without food, 1.5 will go without healthcare
and over 1 million will go without water as a result of the expulsions.

"It is critically important that US Senator Kerry, who is in
Khartoum this week, take the opportunity to push hard for the
restoration of humanitarian services in the area around Darfur," noted
Williams. "It is not acceptable that the government of Sudan be allowed
to use his people's suffering to make a political point."

Williams and Maathai also emphasized the importance of restarting
the faltering Qatar peace talks, which stalled after the withdrawal of
the rebel group the Justice and Equality movement, and incorporating
both the Sudanese rebel groups as well as women.

"It is vital that any and all peace talks include the women of
Sudan, who are already building a path to peace through their efforts
to create dialogue and a consultation process. When women are not part
of the peace process, their access to justice, reparations and the full
range of their rights is jeopardized," said Maathai.

At the briefing, Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) released new data
on the rape of Darfuri refugees. After interviewing nearly 90 women at
the Farchana Refugee Camp in eastern Chad, PHR found that 19% of
respondents had been raped in Darfur, 17% had been raped in Chad, and
that most rapes occurred outside of the refugee camp when they left to
collect firewood. Experts on the panel noted that the current
humanitarian aid crisis will likely lead to an increase in sexual
crimes against women.

PHR was founded in 1986 on the idea that health professionals, with their specialized skills, ethical duties, and credible voices, are uniquely positioned to investigate the health consequences of human rights violations and work to stop them. PHR mobilizes health professionals to advance health, dignity, and justice and promotes the right to health for all.