The US has unilaterally imposed new sanctions on Sudan, despite resistance from the United Nations. The sanctions are aimed at pressuring Sudan into carrying out the UN peace plan in Darfur. President Bush ordered the sanctions in a brief speech on Tuesday. The economic sanctions target three high-ranking Sudanese individuals and 31 Sudanese companies including state-run oil companies. They have all been banned from the US financial system.
However the UN has so far declined to endorse the stronger US measures. The UN Security Council has already imposed an arms ban on rebels and government-aided militias alike and has a no-fly zone in the region. There are also travel sanctions on Sudanese officials. However Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon remains cool about the latest developments. "This is a decision of the US government," he said. "And I hope the international community can work in a mutually reinforcing way to bring resolution to this matter as soon as possible."
The three individuals targeted in the American sanctions are a) Ahmad Muhammed Harun, the state minister for humanitarian affairs who planned military operations in Darfur between 2003 and 2005 b) Awad Ibn Auf, Sudan's head of military intelligence and security who acted as a liaison between the Sudanese army and the Janjaweed militia and c) Khalil Ibrahim, leader of the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) a rebel group that has refused to sign the Darfur Peace Agreement.
Human rights groups such as Human Rights Watch and the Save Darfur Coalition have welcomed the US announcement. David Rubenstein, executive director of the Save Darfur Coalition praised President Bush’s decision to finally impose stronger targeted sanctions on the al-Bashir regime but stated these measures are “too late and too little”. David Rubenstein, the Coalition’s executive director, said the US should now act quickly to implement the measures. “President Bush must not give further months to determine whether these outlined measures work, “ he said, “the Darfuri people don’t have that much time”.
However Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir is unlikely to change his position despite the new sanctions. Al-Bashir, who has led Sudan since 1989, has consistently opposed a UN peacekeeping force in Darfur. Sudanese Presidential advisor, Ahmed Bilal Osman has said Sudan will consider any army entering Sudan as an invading army, even if it happens on the orders of the UN.
IN 2006, then UN boss Kofi Annan described Darfur as the world's worst humanitarian crisis. The crisis began in 2002 when ethnic African rebels rose against the Arab central government in Khartoum. In response, the Sudanese Government unleashed militia groups to quell the rebellion. A flimsy peace accord has been in place since 2006. The UN say at least 200,000 people have been killed and another two million displaced in Sudan’s westernmost region. Sudan rejects these figures and say only there have been only 9,000 deaths. The Sudanese government supported and armed the Janjaweed militia group who have done most of the killing.
In addition to the new sanctions, the US will also press the UN Security Council to agree to new international penalties against Sudan. Although the EU is open to the idea, it is likely the other two permanent Security Council members will veto the idea. China buys two-thirds of Sudan's multi-billion dollar oil exports and both China and Russia also sell arms to Sudan. Earlier this week Liu Guijin, China's special envoy on Darfur, said Chinese investment helps stop the bloodshed while sanctions were counter-productive. "The Darfur issue and issues in eastern Sudan and southern Sudan are caused by poverty and underdevelopment,” he said. “"Only when poverty and underdevelopment are addressed will peace be there in Sudan”.
But US Special Envoy to Sudan, Andrew Natsios remains optimistic the Chinese will back the sanctions plan. “(China has) done a number of things in the last few months that go far beyond what they're typically disposed to do on a diplomatic issue of this sort, “ he said. “So I think the Chinese position is actually more forthcoming that it may be apparently publicly”.