U.S. will end attempts to halt Sudan conflict if warring parties show no commitment to peace

By Andrew England, Associated Press Writer

Nov 17, 2001 (AP)

The United States will terminate its mission to help end Sudan's 18-year civil conflict after two months if the warring parties fail to show a commitment to peace, the U.S. envoy to Sudan said Saturday.

John C. Danforth said that unless the Sudanese government and the rebel Sudan People's Liberation Army adhere to four proposals he presented to them, he will tell U.S. President George W. Bush there is nothing more the United States can do.

"If they don't want peace they will tell us by inaction. ... If that is what happens and it's clear to me by mid-January, I'm simply going to report to the president that we tried, we did our best and that there is no further useful role the United States can play," Danforth said.

Danforth, who was in Nairobi after spending six days visiting both rebel and government-held areas in Sudan, was appointed by Bush Sept. 6 amid growing concern in United States about Sudan's war which has claimed 2 million lives, mainly through war induced famine.

The Episcopal minister and former Republican senator from Missouri met with both President Omar el-Bashir and SPLA leader John Garang during his trip.

The proposals Danforth presented to el-Bashir's Islamic government and the SPLA call for access to Sudan's Nuba Mountains for humanitarian agencies, a cessation of hostilities in the mountains, a halt to the bombing of civilians, and the creation of "zones of tranquility" to allow aid to be delivered to conflict areas.

He described the proposals as tests of "good faith," and said he would return to Sudan mid-January to verify if they had been adhered to.

The army and rebels have fought over the Nuba Mountains, 500 kilometers (310 miles) southwest of the capital, Khartoum, for years, leaving tens of thousands of people destitute or displaced.

After Danforth's visit to Khartoum, the World Food Program began air-dropping food into the region for the first time in a decade.

War has plagued Africa's largest nation for 34 of the 45 years since it gained independence from Anglo-Egyptian rule in 1956.

The latest conflict broke out in 1983 and has forced 4 million people to flee their homes, while 3 million survive on humanitarian aid.

The SPLA took up arms against the government in the predominantly Arab and Muslim north in an attempt to obtain greater autonomy and religious freedom for the south where most of the people follow traditional African beliefs. About 5 percent are Christian.

Numerous peace initiatives have failed to end the fighting which is caused by historical struggles, competition for resources, ethnicity, religion and politics.

"We have gone well beyond words ... we have had enough quibbling," Danforth said after meeting Sudanese who had experienced all the "agonies of war," including slavery and ariel bombardments.

When asked if he was optimistic about the prospects for peace, Danforth said he wouldn't "bet much on this."

"They have been at it for a long, long time and there's a great deal of distrust between the parties," he said. "But on the other hand what is this fighting accomplishing ... what political interest gets satisfaction in misery huddled together in camps? So it maybe that people will say enough is enough."