Despite international condemnation, renewed fighting is being reported in Darfur, Sudan. A European Parliament delegation returning from the crisis area is calling for more aid and increased pressure to end the conflict.
Some two million people are affected by fighting in Sudan
While the United Nations Security Council deliberates its response to Secretary General Kofi Annan's report on the crisis in Sudan, the European Parliament sent its own delegation to the war-torn region of Darfur. The six-member team will present an evaluation of the humanitarian situation when the parliamentarians return to session next week. It is also very likely that the subject will make it into the official round of debate as the parliament mulls a possible response to the ongoing crisis.
Late last week the European Union renewed its threat to slap sanctions on the Sudanese government if it does not do more to rein in militias fighting in the western Darfur region. Dutch Foreign Minister Bernard Bot, whose country currently holds the EU presidency, welcomed the fact that some progress has been made on improving the humanitarian situation in Darfur, but lamented that security remains a problem.
"Whereas we note some progress in the humanitarian field we are still particularly worried at the security situation caused by lack of progress in disarming and controlling the Janjaweed" pro-government militias, he said.
Increase international pressure
The European Parliament (EP) is also not ruling out increasing pressure on Khartoum to comply with international demands for an immediate cease-fire. Apart from continuing efforts to help alleviate the humanitarian crisis, which displaced over two million people in Darfur, members of the parliament's Development Committee stressed the need to find a political solution for Sudan.
Fiona Hall, one of the six parliamentarians who traveled to Sudan, told Deutsche Welle that in the face of renewed attacks it was "very important to keep the pressure on the government."
"I am particularly concerned about the lack of the security the people in the refugee camps feel," she said in an interview. After traveling in the Darfur region, meeting with Sudanese authorities and speaking with aid workers, refugees and African Union observers she said, "basically the message we got was that people wanted to go home but were petrified that there might be new attacks."
"We spoke to local activists and tribal representatives and they said it is not really a conflict between Arab and African tribes," as the crisis has sometimes been presented, "but that the government is responsible."
Hall, a European parliamentarian from Great Britain, described the experiences many of the refugees had as "quite harrowing." Although she acknowledged that things had improved slightly in the refugee camps themselves, especially since non-government organizations have bee granted free access, she said there is still quite a bit of work to do to ensure that aid reaches all the displaced people.
"There are around 1.2 million displaced people in Sudan. Some of them are still out of the reach of NGOs. About 200,000 people are impossible to reach because of rain and another 200,000 because they are in a region controlled by the rebels," she said.
Hall echoed an earlier evaluation by the EP that the emergency in Darfur is likely to continue for more than a year. "Really this is a long-term crisis. The people who fled their villages have not had a chance to cultivate their land. So they will depend on international aid for up to 18 months." However," she warned, "there is no help in the pipeline beyond the end of November that would be sufficient."