Annan can't find the refugees in Sudan
As if proof was needed that the ruling government in the Sudan was not exactly playing straight with the world about its growing humanitarian crisis, there's this bit of news from yesterday:
MESHKEL, Sudan, July 1 -- After U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan visited one of the best-maintained refugee camps in this war-rattled region of western Sudan on Thursday, he climbed back into an SUV and headed down a bumpy desert road.
He was scheduled to tour a scene of even greater desperation in what has been called the worst humanitarian crisis in the world, this time a camp that has not received any international aid.
But when his convoy arrived at the settlement, the 3,000 people who had been living there Wednesday afternoon were gone. Instead, there was only a muddy field with a few soldiers stepping through the muck.
In a move that befuddled U.N. officials, the Sudanese villagers in the camp were moved overnight and in the morning, said Jan Egeland, the U.N. undersecretary general for humanitarian affairs. They were loaded into government trucks "apparently to be dumped," he said, at the gates of the already overcrowded Abu Shouk camp, 12 miles away, where 40,000 people live in a stretch of open desert. A U.N. team confirmed that the villagers had been moved to Abu Shouk.
The Sudanese government is trying to hide the extent of this crisis. It is well-known that, with the rainy season about to emerge, hundreds of thousands of refugees are at risk of sickness and death in the camps if they remain. Abu Shouk is nothing more than a show camp, designed to prove to the international community that the refugees are cared for well. Most of the camps are in embarrassing disrepair. And none of these refugees can return to their homes, because of the unchecked aggression and violence from Arab militiamen.
The world community needs to be more forceful and less accepting of the Sudanese's repeatedly false claims. Incidentally, Passion of the Present is a good compendium of updated news about the Sudan crisis. And The Washington Post, who has taken the lead on this story domestically, has an excellent analysis of who could be doing more to head off this crisis. I thought the study of Arab government's unwillingness to intervene was particularly enlightening:
"What are the Arabs doing about this atrocity in their own back yard?" ask the editors of the Daily Star in Beirut, Lebanon.
"The answer, of course -- as usual -- is nothing. At the conclusion of this year's annual Arab League summit just a few short weeks ago, a statement was issued. On Sudan, the statement 'reaffirm(ed) ... the Arab states' solidarity with the sisterly Republic of Sudan and their keenness to preserve its territorial integrity and sovereignty and reinforce all peace initiatives started by the Sudanese government with the international and regional parties.' "
"We are sick of vacuous statements," the Daily Star editors concluded. "The time for action is now. In fact, the time for action was yesterday, last week, last month, last year, last decade."
The Arab League is the same coalition that allows virtually no Palestinian immigrants into their repsective countries, preferring to let them rot under occupation. They deserve some blame.