Published January 14, 2015
The U.N. Security Council (search) adopted a U.S.-drafted resolution Friday threatening diplomatic and economic "action" against Sudan if it does not disarm Arab militias blamed for killing thousands in Darfur (search) — but it backed away from directly threatening sanctions.
The resolution was adopted with 13 votes. China and Pakistan, which opposed the sanctions threat, abstained, despite U.S. efforts to overcome objections by modifying the wording to delete the word "sanctions."
"The resolution in stern and unambiguous terms puts the Sudanese government on notice that it must comply," U.S. Ambassador John Danforth (search) said. "Sudan must know that it faces sanctions if it refuses to do so."
Supporters had pressed for "speedy adoption" of the resolution despite continued objections, saying it was important to send a strong message to the government in Sudan. At least 30,000 people have been killed as pro-government Arab militias staged a brutal campaign against black farmers in a 17-month conflict.
China abstained because it felt the measures were unnecessary because it said it believed the Sudanese government has been cooperating and would continue to do so.
China "hopes and believes that the government of Sudan will continue to actively honor its commitments," including disarming the militias known as the Janjaweed (search), Ambassador Wang Guangya said.
Aid groups had criticized the final version of the resolution, which was revised four times in a week, saying it wasn't tough enough and relied too much on the Sudanese government.
The Arab League's representative at the United Nations, however, said more time was needed and sanctions would be "detrimental" to the efforts of the African Union.
"Imposing sanctions will ... make the situation worse," he said before the vote.
The international debate came amid new reports of horror. According to an African Union monitoring team, militias "believed to be Janjaweed" chained civilians together and set them on fire earlier this month.
In Kuwait, Secretary of State Colin Powell told reporters the United States wanted to make the resolution acceptable to a broader number of Security Council members.
"At the same time, everybody recognizes that pressure is needed or else we wouldn't get any action at all," Powell said.
U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, in his native Ghana for an African summit, appealed to the Sudanese government to "abide immediately by its commitments" to protect refugees from the conflict in Darfur.
A statement from his office said Annan was "gravely concerned about reports of continuing intimidation, threats and attacks against internally displaced persons in Darfur."
The statement said "government security personnel" have been threatening internal refugees, as opposed to those who have fled to camps in the neighboring country of Chad.
The new draft resolution still calls on Sudan to disarm the Arab militias and would impose an arms embargo on individuals, groups or governments that supply the Arab militias or black African rebel groups.
It requires Annan to report every 30 days and "expresses its intention to consider further actions, including measures as provided for in Article 41 of the (U.N. Charter) on the Government of Sudan in the event of noncompliance."
While Article 41 does not authorize the use of armed force, it could be used to authorize "complete or partial interruption of economic relations ... and the severance of diplomatic relations."
The previous text had specifically threatened "the imposition of sanctions."
The Darfur conflict stems from long-standing tensions between nomadic Arab tribes and their African neighbors over water and farmland. Those tensions exploded into violence in February 2003 when two African rebel groups took up arms over what they regard as unjust treatment by the government.