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 You are in: Under Secretary for Political Affairs > Bureau of African Affairs > Releases > Remarks > 2004: African Affairs Remarks

United States Policy in Sudan

USAID Administrator Andrew Natsios
Special Advisor for Sudan Policy Michael Ranneberger, and USAID Assistant Administrator Roger Winter
Washington, DC
April 27, 2004

(10:45 a.m. EDT)

MR. ERELI: Good morning, everybody. Thank you for coming to a special briefing on Sudan. We have three of the Administration's, I guess, most active and expert authorities on Sudan, led by USAID Administrator Andrew Natsios, Special Sudan Advisor Ambassador Michael Ranneberger and Roger Winter, Assistant Administrator of USAID.

These three -- Administrator Natsios will begin with, I think, some observations on the situation in Darfur, what our assessment of the situation there is, what we -- what our policy and efforts have been over the past several months to try to resolve this very difficult and tragic situation and looking ahead to how we want to see it resolved and what our approach is going to be. And then we'll be -- our three experts will be available to answer your questions.

So, Mr. Natsios and --

ADMINISTRATOR NATSIOS: Gentlemen, if you'd like to join me. We are facing in Darfur, which are three provinces -- it's a region of Sudan in the west along the Chad border, actually goes up almost to Libya and down to the Central African Republic -- the worst humanitarian disaster in the world right now. Historically, the Darfur region has had insecurity in it. There have been tribal conflicts for decades. That's not new. I was there in 1991 and there was a tribal conflict going on where hundreds had been killed and where there were maybe 10,000 displaced.

The typical conflicts in the past have been between herders and farmers, which is a typical sort of a conflict in developing countries. The herders want more land to graze, the farmers don't want the animals around and conflicts arise. This conflict, now, is far beyond that. This is no longer just a tribal conflict. It is no longer just a conflict between herders. It has become politicized.

Since February of last year, there has been what amounts to a rebellion, organized with several different ethnic groups, and they have been in conflict with the militia -- the Sudanese military and with a group of Arab militias called the Jingaweit.

The number of dead is unclear at this point, but it's in the thousands. There have been reports as many as 30,000. We cannot confirm that. We do not know how many people have been killed. The United Nations is reporting that at least a million people have been displaced by this: 900,000 who are still in Darfur and 100,000 who are refugees in Chad and the neighboring countries.

The risk at this point is we do not have humanitarian access except for three sites in large cities in Darfur to the displaced populations. They have been displaced for some time. They are borrowing food from their neighbors and fellow members of their ethnic group, but food is running out. Sanitary conditions are terrible. Disease is beginning to spread. The child mortality rates are rising at an alarming rate, and we are facing a deadline. And the deadline are the rains.

The rains are going to start -- we've already had a couple of rains, but by the end of May, and clearly at the end of June the rains will be so bad it'll be impossible to move very large tonnages of food.

The U.S. Government has been responding to this for some time. I went there in July of 2001, before this current conflict, because there was a drought and we didn't want this to blow up. And so the United States, with other donors, helped to start this relief effort.

I went again in October of 2003 with Roger Winter, who is the Assistant Administrator of AID for the Humanitarian Bureau, and I met with Vice President Taha in Khartoum about specifically the situation in Darfur, urged resolution of the issues and access by our staff to the people in the camps.

We have, since the beginning of February when this current level of conflict started, February of 2003, we have provided, between the Population, Refugee, Migration Office of the State Department and AID, $85.5 million worth of relief commodities, including 80,000 tons of food that's either been delivered or is on the way. We have done an immediate -- ten days ago, we ordered another 30,000 tons of food, which is included in that 80,000 ton figure.

Since my visit with Vice President Taha last October, President Bush has spoken to President Bashir, Secretary Powell has made repeated telephone calls, Condi Rice has called, I have called, about not only the North-South talks but most specifically about the situation in Darfur. And we have told the Sudanese Government there will be no normalization of relations unless the atrocities are stopped and there is humanitarian access to the people that we are trying to assist.

President Bush has issued a public statement on this. Roger Winter and Mike McKinley, who is the DAS for PRM, went to N'Djamena with the European Union and the United Nations to negotiate a safe passage ceasefire/humanitarian access agreement between the rebels, who we brought to the talks, and a Sudanese Government delegation.

Both sides signed the agreement, and the problem at this point is provisions of the -- some provisions of the agreement are being followed, some are not, and it is impeding the relief effort.

The United States has brought this up to the United Nations Security Council and asked for a briefing, which UNOCHA has done. Our Ambassador Williamson in Geneva has made a very strong statement on this at the United Nations Commission on Human Rights last week. I have spoken to all my colleagues who are development ministers in Japan, Canada and Europe about a robust international effort to prevent this from becoming a terrible tragedy.

We are prepared to mount a massive relief effort, but we cannot do that unless the Government of Sudan does several things: The first is to implement the humanitarian access agreement that was signed in N'Djamena; two, to respect the ceasefire and disarm the Jingaweit militias; three, to issue travel permits in order to get from the cities within Darfur into the displaced camps outside the cities. They must have permits to do that and must also have permits to go from Khartoum to Darfur.

There have been problems getting visas for 28 people on our DART team who are prepared to go into the country to assist with the relief effort with the United Nations, the ICRC and the NGOs. We have not been able to get visas to allow them into the country.

International monitors are required under the agreement from the European Union, the African Union, the United States and United Nations. Those monitors must be in place so we know what is going on on the ground.

There is very little time left. If we do not have this resolved by the end of June, we are going to face a catastrophic situation by the fall.

The African Union has expressed concern in the last few days over violations of the ceasefire agreement. The United Nations is reporting in some areas, for example, that the Sudanese military has stopped the bombing of targets since the agreement was signed, but the Jingaweit continue their atrocities and their combat in some areas.

So those are what we're doing, what we're prepared to do, what we've already done diplomatically. I brought it up when I went with Jack Danforth in March to the talks in Naivasha between the North and the South. I told Vice President Taha very clearly there would be no normalization of relations. We've repeated that continuously since then and we've begun to mount a major relief effort but we must have access for that relief effort to work.

Any questions? Yes, sir.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) in Geneva used the phrase "ethnic cleansing" to describe some of the things that are going on there. My question is, do you have specific evidence to back up this claim, such as photography, spy satellites, things like that, evidence that points to that?

ADMINISTRATOR NATSIOS: The United Nations has issued a report in which they have clearly said that ethnic cleansing is going on. Mukesh Kapila's report uses very apocalyptic language to describe what was happening. Secretary General Kofi Annan himself, on the 10th anniversary of the Rwandan genocide, described the ethnic cleansing campaign in his statement.

So it is not just the United States saying it. The European Union has issued a statement on this and the evidence is this: The United Nations reports that all the villages -- 400 villages have been burned to the ground; the irrigation systems in those villages are being blown up so people will not be able to return to their villages to grow crops. And we know that the pattern is ethnically based. There are villages that are in fine condition, no problem at all, but if there are four village -- Massaleet village or Zagawa village, which are the three tribes that make up the revolt; in particular, they lead it -- their villages are burned to the ground. There are other tribes next door that are not involved in the combat and so their -- the villages are untouched. So there is a clear pattern of ethnic cleansing going on.

Yes, sir.

QUESTION: You've asked -- the United States has asked for a special session of the United Nations humanitarian commission, I think partly because it was dissatisfied with the language of the commission in describing the situation in Darfur. Do you think you have -- will you have enough votes to actually have such a session?

ADMINISTRATOR NATSIOS: We will proceed with trying to get one, whether we have the votes or not. I don't know what the vote count is at this point. Do you have any idea?

AMBASSADOR RANNEBERGER: No. I might just say, there's a UN Human Rights Commission team that is out right now in Sudan. They are in Khartoum. They have asked to go to Darfur to see the situation. We would like to have the special session to consider the results of that mission. It's too early to say what the votes will be on that, but I can say we will be pushing very, very hard for that session.

ADMINISTRATOR NATSIOS: This gentleman here, please.

QUESTION: I understand raising the ceiling of demands on Sudan Government, because it is --

ADMINISTRATOR NATSIOS: There's no been raising. This is the agreement. They signed the agreement.

QUESTION: But what I am saying is to raise the ceiling is good. I'm not against that. But what I am saying is the pressure groups in the United States, the same groups that were raising in the past in the South are the ones who are raising the same demands with the same language. My question to you, given the Sudan as it is now, with all its problems and limitations, can they really meet -- because what we see as Sudanese is that the Sudanese Government, while people are fighting in Iraq and other, they are talking. Finally, they are talking. Can you give them any credit? Can anybody give them any credit and encourage them? And I think what is absent here is encouragement.

All this, you know, because we know what kind of government we have. There are hawks who are demanding even more, and we are saying, just, let's be careful not to strengthen the hawks in the government by raising the ceiling like this.

ADMINISTRATOR NATSIOS: Well, we're not raising the ceiling. The agreement was signed in Naivasha for international monitors -- that's in the agreement; for humanitarian access -- that's in the agreement; and for a humanitarian ceasefire -- that's also in the agreement. And it specifically says that the militias will be stopped from doing what they are doing. That -- they all signed that; the rebels signed it and the government signed it.

The government has implemented part of the agreement. They have had a ceasefire between the Sudanese military and the rebels. The problem is the Jingaweit militia, which has been committing the worst atrocities, apparently are still active in some areas.

The United Nations reports -- this is not human rights groups, this is the United Nations Office of -- Humanitarian Coordinator's Office, OCHA -- reports that a Sudanese general is in command of the Jingaweit militias and that Sudanese logistical systems and communications systems are being used to coordinate the attacks. So they have some control over that.

We are aware there are hawks in Khartoum. I've met with the hawks. I've also met with the people who believe a negotiated settlement is appropriate. There have been talks on the political issues because all we're -- all the United States is interested in is not a political settlement. That may take a very long time. What we're interested in is a ceasefire so we can get in humanitarian supplies to feed people.

Our -- this is -- it is not in the interest of the Sudanese Government to let this continue. In the longer term it will destabilize the region even more if this gets more out of control. So this is not like the North-South because all of the people in Darfur are Muslims. This is not Muslims versus Christians. This is Muslims versus Muslims. It is not in the interest of the Sudanese Government to have this going on.

QUESTION: Could I follow up on that?

ADMINISTRATOR NATSIOS: This gentleman had a next question.

QUESTION: I just wanted to make sure I got it right here. I think you meant to say Chad, not Naivasha before when you were --

ADMINISTRATOR NATSIOS: No, I was in Naivasha with -- on the North-South talks with Jack Danforth in March.

QUESTION: Yeah, but I wasn't aware that Darfur had -- that the Darfur ceasefire arrangement, the humanitarian ceasefire was signed in Naivasha. I thought it was in N'Djamena.

ADMINISTRATOR NATSIOS: No, no. I meant in N'Djamena. I apologize for that.

QUESTION: I just want to make sure.

ADMINISTRATOR NATSIOS: At Naivasha we did discuss Darfur.

QUESTION: Can I ask you about the access? Secretary Powell said he had spoken to the Foreign Minister on Sunday about this question of access for your DART team.

ADMINISTRATOR NATSIOS: Right. Not just for us, but, you know.

QUESTION: Well, right, but I mean, well, he said, "my people," so I assume he was talking about everyone but specifically the U.S. people.

ADMINISTRATOR NATSIOS: Right.

QUESTION: Where are they? What is the problem? Are they still -- are they stuck in Washington?

ADMINISTRATOR NATSIOS: They're here.

QUESTION: And what's --

ADMINISTRATOR NATSIOS: We cannot get visas to get into the country.

QUESTION: Because the embassy just won't give them to you?

ADMINISTRATOR NATSIOS: No, it's not just the embassy. The foreign ministry will not grant them.

QUESTION: And do you have any idea what was the explanation?

ADMINISTRATOR NATSIOS: Well, we had trouble getting visas for the UN to get in, and after there was pressure put, they did agree to it and Jim Morris, my good friend, the head of WFP, is -- should be going in right now with a UN team. But we want to get our teams in there. These are logistics teams. They are there to do -- run the food aid program.

QUESTION: But the explanation for nothing happening is?

ADMINISTRATOR NATSIOS: The explanation is that they just -- they have diplomatic issues with us in terms of their own embassy staff here, which has nothing to do with this. These are not diplomats we're sending. These are relief workers.

QUESTION: Okay, and the last thing is, I am correct, right, that you -- that the United States was the only country, or one of the only countries, to vote against this resolution last week at the UN?

ADMINISTRATOR NATSIOS: We did not believe it was aggressive enough. And they had prepared a report on what was going -- the High Commission, but they withdrew the report because the Sudanese Government that had agreed -- that had prohibited the United Nations Human Rights Commission reporters from going in, then at the meeting, in order to postpone the release of the report, said, oh, you can come in now.

So there was a series of moves that really, we thought, was diverting attention from the real issues.

Yes.

QUESTION: Well, I'm unclear. Actually, I have two questions. I'm unclear to what extent you think the Jingaweit are acting on behalf of the government, kind of like in Haiti when these rebels are acting kind of on behalf of the government.

So when you say that, you know, that you've -- that the government has stopped, you know, that you've stopped some of the fighting between government forces and the rebels --

ADMINISTRATOR NATSIOS: That's right.

QUESTION: -- you know, is it really -- is it one and the same here with the Jingaweit?

ADMINISTRATOR NATSIOS: I have had members of the Sudanese Government tell me that they armed -- this was last fall -- they armed the Jingaweit militia. They told me that. They said there were hawks in the administration that supported that and they did it last year.

QUESTION: Hawks in their administration?

ADMINISTRATOR NATSIOS: Pardon me?

QUESTION: Hawks in their administration?

ADMINISTRATOR NATSIOS: That's correct.

QUESTION: Okay.

ADMINISTRATOR NATSIOS: Yeah, we're not talking about any other administration.

(Laughter.)

QUESTION: Okay.

ADMINISTRATOR NATSIOS: And more importantly, we have a United Nations report from UNOCHA that was issued publicly several weeks ago, which said in it, which I did not know, that a Sudanese general is reportedly the commander of the Jingaweit and that they're providing logistics support and communications support, which would have been, if they didn't have, it would have been impossible for them to carry out some of the military operations that the Jingaweit were carrying out.

And I also have to say I had civilian officials in the Sudanese Government bitterly complaining to me about the Jingaweit behavior. So this is not a matter of one side. Members of the Sudanese Government at the national level and the provincial level bitterly complained to me.

QUESTION: After having armed them.

ADMINISTRATOR NATSIOS: Yes.

Yes, go ahead.

MR. WINTER: In addition, we have repeatedly asked the government to take enforcement actions against the Jingaweit. You have to understand, they call the rebels -- the so-called rebels or the armed opposition -- they call them criminals and they call the Jingaweit criminals. But they only take enforcement action, they only fought the rebels.

And we repeatedly -- Mike and I were amongst the crowd repeatedly asking them to take some actual enforcement actions against the Jingaweit. They wouldn't do it. In fact, they haven't done it to this day. There is no single case that anybody can point to where the government has actually sought to interfere in a Jingaweit attack against civilians or take any similar kind of enforcement action.

QUESTION: Well, I'm sorry to be so dense about it, but why would they if they're acting on their behalf?

ADMINISTRATOR NATSIOS: Well, they're denying that they act on their behalf.

QUESTION: After having armed them?

ADMINISTRATOR NATSIOS: Yes. Well, they don't -- they didn't announce they armed them. I'm just telling you what some people told me privately within the Sudanese Government.

QUESTION: Okay, I just have one last question.

ADMINISTRATOR NATSIOS: Yes.

QUESTION: There's been a lot of kind of political back and forth over whether this is a genocide in the making. I mean, I'm not sure --

ADMINISTRATOR NATSIOS: This is clearly an ethnic cleansing campaign. Genocide has a particular meaning, which is that you are out to exterminate an entire population because of their religion or their race or their ethnic group. It does not appear to us right now that that term is appropriate. However, the atrocities that have been committed -- the mass rape, systematic rape of women, many of whom have been branded, according to the Human Rights Watch report are branded after they're raped -- and this is done in a systematic basis. This is not soldiers out of control.

So by the razing of villages, the creating of a large displaced population and the attacks on women, it is -- the atrocities are very real.

QUESTION: So, I mean, if this is left unchecked or un, kind of, addressed, I mean, it's possible that they could, you know, wipe out the entire population --

ADMINISTRATOR NATSIOS: The United Nations -- and I'm only quoting their reports -- Mukesh Kapila talked about pre-genocide conditions. Kofi Annan used the same apocalyptic language in the statement he made on the 10th anniversary. I only refer you to their comments.

Yes, sir.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) follow-up, even though I understand you're in the aid business. Are any steps being taken by the U.S. Government to gather the international community to take some stronger form of action to prevent what you say might be -- might come about?

ADMINISTRATOR NATSIOS: We have been in continuous conversation with the European Union, various European capitals and the Canadians and the Japanese, both about the logistics efforts and the financial commitments that will be needed to stop a terrible tragedy from unfolding -- it already has unfolded, but to prevent it from getting worse.

But we've also discussed with them the diplomacy, the relief diplomacy needed to get access. The European Union has been involved, engaged with us from the beginning on this issue because we believe getting the donors unified on this does help create clear pressure on the government to change their activities.

Yes.

QUESTION: Is anybody talking about putting any troops in from outside to ensure that aid gets through?

AMBASSADOR RANNEBERGER: Let me just add to what the Administrator said there. We took the lead in the United Nations to mobilize a briefing on Darfur some weeks ago. That briefing was then critical in getting the government to come to the table to agree to a ceasefire, which this was negotiated in N'Djamena. We were at those ceasefire talks and we essentially brokered that agreement along with the European Union and the African Union.

Subsequent to that, we've been working with the African Union, the European Union, the Government of Sudan and the armed opposition in Darfur to get the ceasefire monitors on the ground. We have said that we have people available to go in immediately, including with air assets, once the government agrees. So we've been taking a number of steps.

We've also made very clear to the Government of Sudan that we will keep this issue before the Security Council, we will keep this issue before the United Nations Human Rights Commission, and we will take further very vigorous action unless the situation in Darfur is remedied, and very quickly.

QUESTION: Can I follow up on that? I don't think one can perhaps call it a stick, but it's certainly withholding a carrot when you say that you're not going to normalize relations until they deal with this. Have you given any consideration, or are you now considering, sticks, sanctions of any sort, to try to prod the government into doing what you want them to do?

ADMINISTRATOR NATSIOS: Every sanction that exists in world history is now in operation against Sudan. I don't know of any more sanctions that we could create --

QUESTION: I mean, the Sudanese --

ADMINISTRATOR NATSIOS: -- because of the war in the South --

QUESTION: -- if I'm not mistaken, the Sudanese Peace Act specifies explicit sanctions that you could take if the President were to determine, relative to different conflict, that the parties between the North and the South were not negotiating in good faith.

So clearly, there are sanctions that you haven't taken that you could, and I'm wondering if you're considering those.

AMBASSADOR RANNEBERGER: We're considering, you know, all possibilities should the situation in Darfur not improve. But let me just emphasize, we are hoping that the Government of Sudan will take the steps necessary here to allow the international monitors to come in, to issue the visas and to give people humanitarian access.

But on the Sudan Peace Act, there are a range of sanctions called for in that. Most of those sanctions, if you look at it closely are already in operation: vote against IMF-World Bank loans already on the books. Arms embargo: already on the books.

The one step that that does call for that is not yet -- that has not yet been taken is to actually take the issue of Sudan to the UN Security Council and call for sanctions in the Security Council.

And as I've just said, we are going to keep this issue before the Security Council. I don't want to prejudge what action we would seek or call for because, again, we are hoping for positive action on the part of the Government of Sudan, but we're not prepared to wait indefinitely for that.

QUESTION: And then a follow-on, if I may. You said that you have either given or delivered 80,000 tons of food. Can you give us the figure for how much has actually been delivered? Because clearly one of the problems you have is getting the stuff there. So strip out the -- what's on the way. What has actually gotten through?

ADMINISTRATOR NATSIOS: There is 30,000 tons of WFP and NGO food, much of it from the United States. Two-thirds of all donations for the relief effort are from the United States for Darfur at this point. But there's --

QUESTION: Are they (inaudible)?

ADMINISTRATOR NATSIOS: No, there's 30,000 tons in Darfur, but we cannot deliver because we can't get to the camps.

QUESTION: Oh.

ADMINISTRATOR NATSIOS: There is a large sorghum surplus of 1.3 million tons of sorghum in the Kasala area and the Gazira irrigation scheme in the eastern part of the country, so there's local surpluses. But we can move all the food we want to, but we only can get it to Darfur. We can't get it into the camps, which is where it's needed.

QUESTION: So how much have, just so it's clear, how much have you actually been able to deliver? None of that 80 --

ADMINISTRATOR NATSIOS: Oh, I think 600 tons were delivered last week for the first time in some of the camps, but it was a relatively modest amount, given what is needed.

QUESTION: Okay, and then --

ADMINISTRATOR NATSIOS: It's not just food. It is also immunization of the children, because the children are highly, when they get into displaced camps, they're much more vulnerable to epidemic diseases. By the end of June, the meningitis season will begin. That's the meningitis belt of Africa, and if people are enclosed in areas with poor sanitation, the risk of epidemic disease increases substantially.

MR. WINTER: Think shelter needs.

ADMINISTRATOR NATSIOS: And shelter need as well, when the water starts -- when the rains start.

MR. WINTER: Think shelter needs. With the rains coming, these people are living in what they call local housings. It's a little bit of straw. There's nothing else. There's no roofs. They get wet, they get measles, they get everything else. That's where your big body count arises.

QUESTION: When will the rains actually begin? Did you say June?

MR. WINTER: They've already started now.

MR. WINTER: Yeah, some have started in western Darfur, but around the very end of May, the beginning of June would be the heavier part of the season beginning.

ADMINISTRATOR NATSIOS: And by the end of June, the roads will be impassable.

QUESTION: And then just one other -- and I realize that your ability to get information on the region is very limited, given the fact that the monitors aren't there and so on, but do you have reports that attacks by the government-backed militias have continued even in the last few days, that this is current and ongoing?

ADMINISTRATOR NATSIOS: Yes. We do.

QUESTION: And then finally, there are conflicting reports out of Khartoum today on whether the government and the rebels have reached some kind of an agreement to hold a conference on finding a political solution here.

The government apparently says "yes." The rebels, according to our stories, say "no." Do you have any clarity on whether there has been any such agreement that was supposedly signed on the 25th?

AMBASSADOR RANNEBERGER: There was an agreement signed in, in N'Djamena. You know, when the ceasefire agreement was reached, there was a provision in there that within two weeks there would be political talks, so this is ostensibly what that is.

The preliminary information we have, and I think it's too early to say, is that the elements represented at these talks in Geneva may not have been from the mainstream of these two rebel, of these two rebel movements.

We're waiting, basically, to hear what the leadership of the two rebel movements has to say about this agreement. Again, the leadership of those two movements was not at these talks.

QUESTION: Thank you.

ADMINISTRATOR NATSIOS: Yes, sir.

QUESTION: There's a broader question here, both in terms of Darfur, in terms of now the government is digging in its heels around the status of Khartoum, and the continuing issue of those disputed states, Abyei and whatnot.

Do you consider at this point that the Sudan Government is actually serious about attempting to reach a peace settlement between --

ADMINISTRATOR NATSIOS: Between the North and the South?

QUESTION: Between the North and the South, or with Darfur, I mean to say --

ADMINISTRATOR NATSIOS: Well, Darfur is a different issue.

QUESTION: Okay.

ADMINISTRATOR NATSIOS: We don't know yet, Darfur. But the North and South, I think it's fair to say all of us believe they are serious about it. They are close to an agreement.

Yeah, this lady right here.

QUESTION: Yeah, well, I mean it's sort of a related question. I mean, what -- we can't just look at Darfur in isolation. I mean, how, what --

ADMINISTRATOR NATSIOS: No, we don't look at anything in isolation. Believe me.

QUESTION: Right. So what impact is it having on the peace process?

AMBASSADOR RANNEBERGER: What we've said -- and again, if you read the Sudan Peace Act Determination and the Justification Memo -- that Darfur has clearly cast a huge shadow over the peace process in a couple of very explicit ways. And we have said, when the President made the Sudan Peace Act Determination, he took five things into account. One of those five things is what is happening in Darfur.

And we said, explicitly, that that does call into question, is the government serious about achieving peace in the country? Is the government serious about implementing an agreement? Well, we will see.

You know, Jack Danforth, the Special Envoy on Sudan likes to say he's from the "Show Me" state, so we're waiting for results here.

Now, our perception is that in the peace talks, the North-South peace talks, they are very, very close to an agreement. They're not dug in, I don't think, on any of these issues. They accepted the compromise proposal that we tabled at Abyei. So we've basically taken that issue off the table.

They are still talking about some of the details on Southern Blue Nile and Nuba Mountains. They are exchanging ideas quite actively in the capital, and then there are five or six other details on power sharing that need to be cleaned up.

All of this could be done, literally, in a matter of days. I think they're grappling with these final political decisions. We have a senior person out there working on this, and we believe there's a reasonable chance to bring it to closure. But in the meantime, this Darfur situation does cast this huge shadow, and that's why we said in the Sudan Peace Act that we would not -- you know, we've always told the Government of Sudan, if there's a peace agreement we will normalize relations with you. Now we've said, well, if there's a peace agreement we will not normalize relations with you until the Darfur thing is addressed. That's how, in a quite explicit way, the Darfur thing has complicated the North-South peace process.

Yes.

QUESTION: You mentioned that you're working against a deadline of the rains coming to avert a disaster. Is there any possibility or do you foresee any sort of UN-backed or military-backed humanitarian intervention?

ADMINISTRATOR NATSIOS: We're trying to work within the agreement that was reached in N'Djamena at this point. We'd like to hold both sides to the agreement. If we do that, we can prevent a tragedy from taking place.

QUESTION: And if not?

ADMINISTRATOR NATSIOS: Well, if we can't get in, I don't even think -- I don't think there are other alternatives. The only alternative that's serious at this point is implementing that agreement because of the time we're dealing with.

Yes.

QUESTION: On the question of the rain, when we talk about Darfur we are talking about the Sahara Desert, and when we are talking about southern Sudan we are talking about tropical Africa.

ADMINISTRATOR NATSIOS: Right.

QUESTION: And I think by using the rain here in such ambiguity, we are misleading people. There is no rain in Darfur.

ADMINISTRATOR NATSIOS: There is rain --

QUESTION: It is a drought area. People are dying in the last 20 years because of drought.

ADMINISTRATOR NATSIOS: I understand that.

QUESTION: What rain are you talking about?

ADMINISTRATOR NATSIOS: I was in Darfur when it rained on a massive scale. Huge wadies filled up with water and you could not move your trucks through the wadies. There is rain. It is not the Sahara Desert except in the northerly half of it. The central and southern part is, in fact, the Sahel, and Sahelian areas do get rain. They have these giant haffirs that they fill up with water, and that's what they live on the rest of the year.

So there's a rainy season. It lasts for a short period of time, but there's a massive amount of rain and the wadies fill up and you can't move around, and the roads that you do have become muddy and the trucks get stuck in the mud. It's not the Sahara. That's only in the very far north and that's very thinly populated.

Yes, sir.

QUESTION: Do you believe the Sudanese Government's strategy is, to use an American term here, play out the clock, given the fact that they know that the rains are coming, you obviously know the rains are coming, and that is why they're being so recalcitrant in providing visas, as one example, or really doing as much as they could?

ADMINISTRATOR NATSIOS: I don't think that's the reason. I think the reason may come from reporting we're getting from human rights organizations that are telling us that the Government is in the villages attempting to move mass graves, they are attempting to disguise some of the events that took place the last six months. That's what we're told. But I don't know if that's true. I'm simply reporting to you what one of the human rights organizations that's been interviewing refugees across the borders is reporting very recently, in the last week.

QUESTION: Which NGO is that?

ADMINISTRATOR NATSIOS: Is it Human Rights Watch? Can you -- we'll get you the name of it afterwards.

Okay, yes.

QUESTION: What explanation have you been given for why the United Nations did not release its most recent report on Darfur last week?

ADMINISTRATOR NATSIOS: They had a report which they wrote based on refugee interviews in Chad. They tried to get into Darfur; the Government would not allow them in. And so, from their perspective, it was not the optimum situation. They would have wanted to go into the villages themselves.

But they wrote the report based on these interviews they did, and the report was a very strong report. But then at the Commission hearing, the Government reversed itself on access and allowed the same rapporteur, the same investigative team to go in, and what meant was they postponed the release of this very disturbing report that they had written.

QUESTION: One more question?

QUESTION: Were they worried about the security of their team going into Darfur?

ADMINISTRATOR NATSIOS: Say that again?

QUESTION: Were they worried about the security --

ADMINISTRATOR NATSIOS: It wasn't -- they couldn't get travel permits to go in.

QUESTION: But after they did get --

ADMINISTRATOR NATSIOS: That just happened last week. Right now, today, the teams are supposed to be going in.

QUESTION: But did they put the report on hold because they were worried about the security of the --

ADMINISTRATOR NATSIOS: No, it has nothing to do with it. At least, that's not the report I have. No.

Yes.

QUESTION: Mr. Natsios, (inaudible) only consider yourself (inaudible) under consideration now just working through the January agreement?

ADMINISTRATOR NATSIOS: Right.

QUESTION: Why is that? I mean, why shouldn't one view this as a situation, you know, when the Rwanda ten-year anniversary came around, why shouldn't one assume that in this case the reason you're not considering anything else is there just isn't the political will to try to use troops to actually go in there?

ADMINISTRATOR NATSIOS: Troops are not going to help us right now. We have two months. We have six weeks, basically. I mean --

QUESTION: You couldn't airlift --

ADMINISTRATOR NATSIOS: It's not a matter of airlift. It's nothing to do with airlift. There's 30,000 tons of food in Darfur right now. We can deliver it tomorrow. We cannot get access to those camps. The problem is travel permits. The problem is visas. That is what is the problem at this point.

QUESTION: Absent the Sudanese Government giving you permission to do those things, clearly there are ways you could do it without their permission, right?

ADMINISTRATOR NATSIOS: The people in the villages who received assistance asked us, in some cases, not to deliver it to them because when they got it they were getting attacked by the Jingaweit and the stuff would be looted from them.

QUESTION: So your basic view the only way you can do this is with their permission, government's position, ultimately.

ADMINISTRATOR NATSIOS: Well, at this point. But even if we had an airlift in, the airlift would have to be with government permission. We don't do airlifts anywhere in the world if the government is, you know -- particularly in an area like Darfur under these circumstances. We did some airlifts in the south; I shouldn't say that. But in areas that were controlled by the SPLA we did them. We did not do airlifts, I'm not aware of, in areas that were controlled by the government.

MR. WINTER: No, and it's a different situation. The government military can pretty much go where it wishes to go, with the exception of some mountainous areas, whereas in the South you had huge geographical areas that were clearly permanently, more or less, in the hands of the rebels so you could fly in and out. Sort of different situation.

MR. ERELI: One last question. Charlie.

ADMINISTRATOR NATSIOS: Yes.

QUESTION: If you were to get visas, travel permits, this week, how fast could your people be in there and working?

ADMINISTRATOR NATSIOS: Within a matter of a couple of days.

QUESTION: Where are they now?

ADMINISTRATOR NATSIOS: They're here and some of them are in the region. Some of them are in Nairobi. We've had -- we have a couple of people in Khartoum now, but they were there before. They've been there for a year. We need a large-scale relief effort with logisticians to go in.

Let me just say one last thing in terms of why this is the -- because you've got a deadline, you have an agreement in writing that both sides have signed, effectively it's much easier to negotiate something that someone's agreed to than to go through endless negotiations on something new. We have one document they've agreed to. What we need to do is enforce the document.

QUESTION: It sounds like you're involved in endless negotiations to get the visas and the travel permits.

ADMINISTRATOR NATSIOS: No, it's not endless negotiations. They simply refuse to issue them. But we're hoping this press conference will release the visas. That's one of the purposes of our discussion today.

QUESTION: Thank you very much.

2004/453


Released on April 27, 2004

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