France tells Sudan 'disarm Darfur militias by force'

7th July 2004, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, July 7 (AFP) - France called on Sudan to forcibly disarm pro-government militias in the troubled western Darfur region if they refused to lay down their weapons, while expressing concern that tens of thousands of displaced people there were facing a humanitarian crisis.

PARIS, July 7 (AFP) - France called on Sudan to forcibly disarm pro-government militias in the troubled western Darfur region if they refused to lay down their weapons, while expressing concern that tens of thousands of displaced people there were facing a humanitarian crisis.

"They should hand their weapons in and if they don't give them up, they have to be taken from them," junior foreign minister Renaud Muselier told a Paris media conference.

"The Janjawids' Arab militias have had a certain free reign and have committed totally unacceptable acts and massive human rights violations," said Muselier, who went to Darfur on a June 20-24 fact-finding trip.

He said Paris would not let up its pressure on the Sudanese government, which had promised Sunday the "immediate" disarmament of the militias during a visit by UN Secretary General Kofi Annan.

Top UN officials have described the situation in Darfur, where a rebel uprising in February 2003 prompted a vicious response from government forces and the allied militias, as the worlds worst humanitarian crisis.

Some human rights organisations have talked of genocide in the region, where more than 10,000 people have been killed, over a million displaced, and the threat of a major famine looms.

Muselier said Darfur "is on the eve of a terrible drama" because of the number of displaced people forced to find shelter as the rainy season approaches.

He added that French Foreign Minister Michel Barnier had spoken on the telephone to the Sudanese external relations minister, Mustafa Osman Ismail, and planned to visit Sudan at the end of July.

France, Muselier said, had contributed EUR 10 million (USD 12 million) to the international aid effort in Darfur through bilateral and EU channels.

A Paris-based non-governmental organisation, Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF, Doctors Without Borders), said Wednesday any attempt by Sudanese authorities to force the displaced people back to their homes without first addressing the widespread insecurity would cause a "health catastrophe".

"The displaced are not willing to go home because they fear being murdered," MSF president Jean-Herve Bradol told a separate press conference.

He said his organisation estimated that a third of the villages in the region had been destroyed and the lack of food meant there was now a risk "of losing a large segment of the population".

The UN's World Food Programme, he said, was currently only operating at half its capacity, and visa delays were slowing the ability of aid workers to deploy.

Bradol said he did not, however, see the crisis as a genocide or ethnic cleansing, but asserted that the persistent violence had wiped out around five percent of Darfur's population, "most of them men aged 15 to 45".

© AFP

Subject: French news

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