Saturday 16 September 2006

Darfur: Time to Act to Offer Protection but also to Tackle the Arms Trade

With 300,000 people having already died and 2.5 million made homeless by the conflict the reports from Darfur are depresssingly reminiscent of Rwanda, when the world failed to act. Withdrawal of the African Union troops could augur a genocidal attack on the refugee camps by the Sudanese troops and the Janjaweed.

The world needs to intervene via the UN to secure protection for the refugees. I support the call today by a wide range of academics, artists and human rights activists for the Government to prioritise the issue of Darfur until a UN force is deployed and the people of Darfur are protected. However the role of the US and Britain in the Middle East has largely destroyed the credibililty of Bush and Blair internationally in being capable of leading a peace initiative. This means allowing and encouraging the UN to play a direct leadership role in pressurising and negotiating with the Sudanese government to enable the necessary security arrangements to be put in place.

The evidence is mounting that for months weapons and bombs have been pouring into the region and are being amassed by the Sudanese forces for use against civilians. This tragedy should prompt us now to open up a global debate on the role of the arms trade. It is time for us in Britain as a major arms manufacturer and supplier to take the lead in facilitating a global process by which we can secure control over the international arms trade via the UN or new bodies of global governance.