Search this site powered by FreeFind

Quick Link

for your convenience!


Human Rights, Youth Voices etc.

click here


For Information Concerning the Crisis in Darfur

click here


Northern Uganda Crisis

click here


 Whistleblowers Need Protection


The Word is Genocide:

By declaring the regime in Khartoum innocent of genocide, Canada can continue to do nothing to stop the killing

Article by Hon. David Kilgour, M.P.

Ottawa Citizen

November 25, 2005

If the tsunami and earthquake tragedies in Asia brought out the best in both Canadians and our government, the response to the continuing horrors in Sudan's western province of Darfur is evidence of an indifference that suggests the Canadian government has forgotten the important lessons of the Rwandan tragedy.

The recent declaration in Sudan's capital by all three members of the prime minister's task force that the murders in Darfur did not qualify as genocide is only the most recent indication. Ambassador Robert Fowler, the government's issue manager, reportedly downplayed the entire situation by asserting that it is simplistic to blame the Sudanese government for what continues to occur in Darfur. Both messages were presumably intended to convince Canadians that the ongoing crisis is not really as serious as many of us think.

We certainly live in unfortunate times. Two well-researched books were published very recently about this government-created catastrophe, which was escalating even as the books reached bookstores. Darfur: The Ambiguous Genocide by Gerard Prunier of the University of Paris, who also wrote about Rwanda's experience in 1994, is clear that the mass killings, gang rapes and forced-starvation deaths of displaced Darfurians -- being "Africans" -- at the hands of "Arab" janjaweed militias, are continuing. Another brutal raid by 400 janjaweed and government of Sudan helicopter gunships on three villages in West Darfur occurred only a few weeks ago.

The Ambiguous Genocide is good at disentangling complex truths from oversimplified and usually partisan fictions. It explains, for example, how, while virtually all six million or so Darfurians are black and Muslim, the nomadic community came to be called "Arabs," while farmers are called "Africans." A preventable famine in 1984, systematic blatant discrimination against Africans by Khartoum officials in favour of Arabs, decades of marginalization of the province -- all had created a time bomb in Darfur by the late 1990s.

The outside world ignored the growing turmoil in the province until late 2003, when the United Nations head of emergency relief, Jan Egeland, declared that the humanitarian situation had become "one of the worst in the world." His UN colleague then in Darfur, Mukesh Kapila, who had observed happenings on the ground in Rwanda earlier, added that the only difference between the two situations was the number of deaths.

In mid-2003, Khartoum unleashed its janjaweed, which played a role strikingly similar to what the Interhamwe did in Rwanda, to crush all "non-Arab" Darfurians with the help of its bombers and gunship helicopters. A common method was to surround a village, rape the women and girls (as young as eight), steal the cattle, burn the homes and shoot anyone who couldn't flee. Prunier: "Small children, being light, were often tossed back in the burning homes."

Julie Flint and Alex de Waal (of Harvard University's Global Equity Initiative), who wrote the second book, Darfur: A Short History of a Long War, have done research, together or separately, on Sudan for fully two decades. They document carefully how successive governments of Sudan began as early as 1985 to deploy Arab militias in the 21-year North-South civil war. The same tactics of terrible destruction have now been applied systematically for more than two years across Darfur.

Short History documents the detailed planning, creation and control of the regime over the various militias. Musa Hilal, head of the janjaweed in Darfur, has made it clear that the goal of his political masters in Khartoum and himself is to "empty (Darfur) of African tribes." With an estimated 400,000 African Darfurians dead of unnatural causes -- probably about half murdered -- since April 2003, it's difficult to see how any impartial body would not find a deliberate violation of the UN convention on genocide.

The UN commission of inquiry, though declining to reach this conclusion, at least had the courage to note that between 700 and 2,000 villages across Darfur were destroyed in a "nightmare of violence," and to find that the widespread and systematic pattern "may amount to crimes against humanity."

Whether war crimes, genocide or crimes against humanity, Khartoum is continuing to use national sovereignty as a shield for mass murder against the African community in its western province. Governments such as Canada's, following the unprincipled lead of others, declare the regime innocent of really heinous acts and can thus continue to do nothing effective to stop the killing. What happened to our federal government's responsibility-to-protect principle when hundreds of thousands of Darfuri villagers desperately need it? Or to our much-cited human-security policy?

Despite some rhetoric critical of U.S. President George W. Bush's Sudan policy coming from Robert Fowler and the two other Canadians temporarily in Khartoum, Canada's own role is little different in substance. The U.S. assistant secretary of state, Robert Zoellick, also in Sudan's capital this month, completely mischaracterized Darfur as a "tribal war."

In reality, of course, it is a government-directed campaign to wipe out the African community in Darfur.

Canada's own policy in Darfur represents no visible Canadian value.


Home Books Photo Gallery About David Survey Results Useful Links Submit Feedback