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U.S.: Sudan attacks racially based

From CNN State Department Producer Elise Labott

Displaced Sudanese wait for food in a camp in Darfur.
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United States
United Nations
Richard Boucher

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- While not directly calling the crisis in Darfur a genocide, the U.S. State Department has said that interviews with Sudanese refugees indicated attacks against the regions' black Africans appeared to be racially motivated.

State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said Washington was assessing its interviews of more than 1,100 Darfur refugees in Chad.

A report of those interviews, currently being compiled by the State Department, will be a major factor in determining whether genocide occurred.

The interviews with the refugees about their experience, Boucher said, were conducted in a "systematic way" to determine whether the atrocities against Darfur's black Africans were racially motivated.

Officials have said the project, in essence, was a genocide investigation.

Boucher said information from the interviews "coincides with the pattern that we have seen that government forces, Janjaweed militias, Arab groups -- there's a pattern of attacks against non-Arab populations."

"Exactly what that constitutes in terms of the crime of genocide and how that needs to be examined and looked at is something that we have to address," he said.

Boucher said that Secretary of State Colin Powell was likely to address the issue when he appeareds before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee next Thursday.

Boucher also said that the United States was drafting a new U.N. Security Council resolution on Darfur and would be speaking to council members in the coming days.

On July 30, the Security Council passed a resolution threatening action against Khartoum if it failed to disarm the Arab Janjaweed militias, ostensibly backed by the Sudanese government, who were killing Darfur's black Africans, and restore security within 30 days.

The 30-day period expired on Monday.

The situation in the Darfur region has become a dire humanitarian crisis. In addition to the villagers who have been killed, more than a million people have been displaced from their homes, fleeing to other places in Sudan or across the border to Chad.

On Thursday the United Nations' special envoy to Sudan, Jan Pronk, said that the African nation's government is making some progress but that the situation remains dire and that there are two key areas where the government has not met its commitments -- stopping attacks by militia against civilians and failing to take steps to bring militia leaders to justice.

But U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. John Danforth disputed Pronk's statement that Sudan stopped offensive military operations, saying there has been evidence of air attacks on villages in late August.

Still, the Bush administration said it was not ready to push for sanctions against the Sudanese government. Boucher said Wednesday the United States was considering other measures to stabilize the situation in Darfur.

And Powell said Wednesday, "It has always been a case of orchestrated pressure in a way that moves the government along, improves the situation and keeps the pressure up, but not to the point where you might get a consequence that you would not like or is unintended."

Boucher and Powell both said the international community is discussing expanding the current monitoring force led by the African Union, which is protecting aid workers. UN Secretary General Kofi Annan has advocated an increase in the force.

The conflict in Darfur began last year when black Sudanese rebels attacked government property, accusing the government of neglecting Darfur in favor of the Arab population in Sudan.

The government responded by putting forward the Janjaweed to put down the rebellion. The warring factions recently agreed to a cease-fire but violence between them has continued.

Several international human rights groups estimate that 15,000 to 30,000 civilians have died in Darfur since fighting broke out in February 2003.

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