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IN THE NEWS – Sudan Update - 2004-08-07

Broadcast: August 7, 2004

This is Steve Ember with In the News, in VOA Special English.

The United Nations is preparing to send a team of human rights observers to Sudan. Eight observers are expected in the capital on Sunday. Plans call for six of them to leave Khartoum and go to the Darfur area in western Sudan. The U.N. team will supervise efforts to disarm the pro-government groups known as the Janjaweed militias.

Sudan and the United Nations signed an agreement this week about disarming the Arab fighters. The observers are to tell U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan if Sudan is making progress to improve security in Darfur. On Thursday, President Bush approved ninety-five million dollars in humanitarian aid.

The United Nations says tens of thousands of people have been killed in Darfur in the past eighteen months. More than one million are homeless. Almost two hundred thousand have fled across the border into Chad. The United Nations has described the situation in Darfur as ethnic cleansing.

Fighting began in February of last year between the Janjaweed and two rebel groups of black African Muslims. The Sudanese government has denied that it supports the Arab fighters.

But a U.N. investigator says there is no question that the government of Sudan is responsible for the killings of "large numbers of people." Asma Jahangir of Pakistan visited Sudan in June; she presented a report on Friday. She says there is great evidence that government forces and government-supported militias carried out the killing together. She says killings have also taken place in Upper Nile State.

The U.N. investigator says the government is also largely responsible for the current humanitarian situation in Darfur. She says millions of people are at risk. She says many will likely die in the months to come from starvation or disease.

Last week the U.N. Security Council passed a resolution that called on the government to disarm the Janajweed within thirty days. If not, the resolution says Sudan is to face international action, but it does not say what kind. Some diplomats criticized the resolution as not strong enough.

This week, thousands of Sudanese marched to the U.N. offices in Khartoum to protest the resolution. News reports said the government organized the protest.

The African Union may increase its troop strength in Sudan to as many as two thousand peacekeepers. Three hundred soldiers are in Sudan now to enforce a cease-fire between the government and rebels in the south. Most people in the south are Christian or animist. The cease-fire comes after more than twenty years of civil war.

Poor farmers in Darfur rebelled after the government agreed to share power and oil profits with the south in the future. The people of Darfur demanded the same treatment.

In the News, in VOA Special English, was written by Jerilyn Watson. This is Steve Ember.