Day By Day

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Darfur Update -- The Shame of the African Union

In case you were wondering how the world has been responding to the ongoing genocide in Darfur, Dan Simpson, writing in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, provides a useful summary.

1) The African Union (AU) -- a 53 member body of African states, is holding its annual summit in Khartoum, the capital of Sudan, where the atrocities are taking place. This indicates at the least AU insensitivity to the ongoing violence and, at worst, AU endorsement of the Sudanese government's policies that have not only tolerated, but have actually exacerbated the criisis. What is worse, the Sudanese President, Lt. Gen. Omar Hassan al-Bashir, has been chosen to head up the AU in 2007.

2) The AU is using the suffering of the people of Darfur as a tool to extort money from the West. Here's the situation. Islamic, pro-government, Arab militias [the Janjaweed], are preying upon Black Christian and animist Africans, raping, murdering, enslaving, etc [the usual] in Darfur. The Sudanese government has been sponsoring endless nonproductive talks aimed at ending the assaults, but these are a sham -- simply a cover for continuing violence, something to point to when critics demand that something be done. To its shame the US government, along with other western powers, has bought into this fiction as an excuse for inaction. The AU has stationed 7,000 "peacekeepers" in the region, but they have been totally ineffective. As with the peace talks the peacekeepers simply serve as a cover for continued violence. Now here comes the scam. The AU has announced that it cannot afford to maintain a peacekeeping presence in Darfur unless the West coughs up money. The US was asked to contribute $50 million.

3) The UN has offered to send peacekeeping forces to replace those the AU proposes to withdraw. Sudan has rejected this offer for the obvious reason that UN forces, for all their ineffectiveness, would not be under Sudanese control. This refusal precludes any effective response to the ongoing crisis in Darfur.

So what's the upshot?

The absolute worst part is that, while Khartoum, the other African capitals, New York and Washington fiddle, Darfur burns: Women are raped, children starve and economic activity is non-existent. The last question is, how long can this go on?

The answer, unfortunately, is that it has already gone on for three years and it seems that the Sudanese capacity for suffering is endless. It simply should not be that the rest of Africa's and the world's ability to stand by without acting is also, apparently, endless.

Read it here.

This is the continuing legacy of anti-colonialism. Cynicism, corruption, systematic extermination, widespread indifference to suffering, and an the inability of western governments to affect the situation to any meaningful extent.



Nick Kristof, writing in the NYT Book Review characterizes the situation in Darfur as "Genocide in Slow Motion."

He writes:

In my years as a journalist, I thought I had seen a full kaleidoscope of horrors, from babies dying of malaria to Chinese troops shooting students to Indonesian mobs beheading people. But nothing prepared me for Darfur, where systematic murder, rape, and mutilation are taking place on a vast scale, based simply on the tribe of the victim. What I saw reminded me why people say that genocide is the worst evil of which human beings are capable.

On one of the first of my five visits to Darfur, I came across an oasis along the Chad border where several tens of thousands of people were sheltering under trees after being driven from their home villages by the Arab Janjaweed militia, which has been supported by the Sudan government in Khartoum. Under the first tree, I found a man who had been shot in the neck and the jaw; his brother, shot only in the foot, had carried him for forty-nine days to get to this oasis. Under the next tree was a widow whose parents had been killed and stuffed in the village well to poison the local water supply; then the Janjaweed had tracked down the rest of her family and killed her husband. Under the third tree was a four-year-old orphan girl carrying her one-year-old baby sister on her back; their parents had been killed. Under the fourth tree was a woman whose husband and children had been killed in front of her, and then she was gang-raped and left naked and mutilated in the desert.

Those were the people I met under just four adjacent trees. And in every direction, as far as I could see, were more trees and more victims—all with similar stories.

Read the whole thing here.

Kristof marvels at the inaction of the West and, this being the NYT, takes a few gratuitous and somewhat dishonest swipes at the Bush administration, but the story told in his article and the books he is reviewing is one of the great shames of our time. I applaud him for attempting to bring it to public attention.

The great tragedy of the Iraq War is that resistance to it was so widespread and determined that it makes subsequent interventions almost impossible, but as Darfur shows, great power intervention is a necessity if anything is to be done to save these people.

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