UN could have averted Darfur crisis - MRG

London - The catastrophe in Sudan's Darfur region could have been averted if the United Nations, world media and human rights groups had picked up and acted on warning signals, a human rights group said on Monday.

Minority Rights Group (MRG) accused the international community of failing to learn from the genocide in Rwanda 10 years earlier and to set up a system to predict and thwart escalating ethnic violence.

"Darfur would just not be in this situation had the UN systems got its act together after Rwanda: their action was too little too late," according to Mark Lattimer, the MRG's executive director.

"This level of crisis, the killings, rape and displacement could have been foreseen and avoided," Lattimer said in a statement.

"The warning signs that the conflict was worsening went ignored and the information that trickled in was not effectively used by the international community to prevent the catastrophe."

The MRG report stressed that conflict often arises from human rights violations of minority groups.

In Darfur, for example, the Sudanese government and allied Arab militia, the Janjaweed, have been actively fomenting division among ethnic communities for a long time, it said.

Barring some exceptions, alarms raised by the Sudanese minority groups and human rights activists were hardly heeded by international human rights bodies, the international media and

conflict organisations until 2003.

As early as 2001, the MRG report said, the UN Commission on Human Rights' Special Rapporteur for Sudan began reporting his concerns on the worsening crisis in Darfur.

Despite this, in 2003, the UN's main human rights watchdog, the Commission on Human Rights, removed Sudan from its watch-list and ended the mandate of the rapporteur, it said.

The United Nations still failed to act even as the conflict intensified, and the makings of a full-scale disaster were evident, it said.

"This report clearly shows that the UN was given several opportunities to act on Darfur but failed to do so," according to Zoe Gray, the MRG's conflict and genocide expert.

The report also criticised the international community for focusing on settling the Sudanese government's long war in southern Sudan at the expense of tackling with the emerging crisis in


At least 200 000 people have died as a result of fighting, famine and disease, and more than two million have fled their homes in Darfur since the conflict erupted between local rebels and

pro-government militia. - Sapa-AFP

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