At Last, Sudan Gets the Message

Here's how the international community has come together in recent days to try to stop the latest ethnic cleansing in Africa:

Last Friday, the US finally threatened top officials in Sudan, the continent's largest country, with this: Either stop the attacks on African Muslims in the western province of Darfur, or face financial penalties and visa denials. The attacks, conducted by Arab militias for over a year with the support of Sudan's military, have forced some 2 million villagers to flee, putting them at a high risk of starvation.

The next day, Sudan's president ordered a "complete mobilization" to disarm the local militias. Then, on Sunday, the chairman of the 53-nation African Union (AU) arrived in Darfur to prepare for a team of 120 observers who will monitor a cease fire, and perhaps prepare for 7,000 African peacekeepers to safeguard Muslim villages.

The AU's action was supported by $14.5 million from the European Union, while the US threat was backed up by talk within the Bush administration to possibly declare the the mass displacements and killings in Darfur as "genocide," a designation that would trigger military action under a treaty obligation.

All these steps are welcome - even though late - in solving the huge humanitarian crisis in Sudan. Not only do they show a healthy US-European cooperation, but they also signal a growing willingness by Africa's leaders to solve trouble spots on the continent before they explode in disasters like the Rwanda genocide of 1994.

More and more, African soldiers are taking part in peacekeeping, part of an AU promise to promote stability and democracy on the continent in exchange for Western aid and trade. This month, the US asked its EU allies to join in providing resources for 75,000 more African peacekeepers, part of a strategy to make sure each region of the world has such troops on the ready.

Sudan's crisis isn't over yet. Moral persuasion, money, peacekeepers, and US might can be powerful pacifiers. What's missing is criticism from Arab nations of the killing of Muslims by Muslims in Sudan.

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