STOPPING THE DARFUR GENOCIDE NOW
Friends of Darfur,
Thank you all for coming today. Sorry we don’t have Don Cheadle, Angelina Jolie and George Clooney up here, but they are all using their star power to do excellent things for our common cause elsewhere. As Don Cheadle said last week, “(Unlike Rwanda) it’s not too late to act in Darfur.” Thanks to them all.
Time is short so permit me to speak briefly to three issues: (1) what continues to go on across Sudan’s western province, (2) why the genocide has not been stopped to date, and (3) a new proposal for concerned governments to bring the violence to a halt quickly.
The 21st century’s first genocide astonishingly has now entered its third year while the world watches. According to an analysis of UN data by Eric Reeves of Smith College, fully 215,000 Darfuri civilians have been murdered since early 2003, with approximately 200, 000 more dead from disease and malnutrition.
With more than 400,000 Darfurians already dead, will the international community allow this to increase to half a million before acting? To 800,000 as in the case of Rwanda? To one million?
At what point, will governments say, “Enough is enough; Khartoum’s murderous claim of national sovereignty is simply no longer tenable to anyone with a conscience.”
At least two million African Darfurians in more than a thousand villages have been uprooted in the Khartoum government’s hideous campaign of deploying its Janjaweed militias to “empty” Darfur of its “African” residents.
Capital “R” Racism
It cannot be stressed too strongly that what is happening in Darfur is not a religious conflict. Both the “African” and “Arab” communities in Darfur share the same Muslim faith.
The continuing mass killings, gang rapes of girls as young as eight, village burnings and starvation across Darfur and recently also in Chad, along with the burning of “African” mosques, are motivated by capital “R” racism in Khartoum. As one scholar, Gamal Adam, put it the other day:
“Since the 1990s, (Khartoum’s) policy has aimed at relocating the indigeneous ethnic groups of Darfur from their home regions and settling Arabs in their areas in order to accelerate ‘Arabization’…It sent the Janjaweed to relocate the indigenous population and when individuals from (that) population organized themselves to defend…, the government (in Khartoum) response was the adoption of genocide because it was looking for a pretext for the destruction of the indigenous population of Darfur.”
An African professor who visited Darfur also noted bluntly: “The Khartoum regime does not consider African Darfurians to be human beings.”
Some have mischaracterized what is occurring as a “tribal war”, presumably in an attempt to reduce the need for an international humanitarian intervention. Those opposed a similar initiative in Bosnia in the mid-1990s spoke then of “ancient hatreds” to justify continued inaction. Once the world grasped the real nature of what was going on, including the massacre of 8,000 Bosnian men and boys at Srebrenica, eventually more than sixty governments, including Canada’s, would send more than 60, 000 peacemakers to Bosnia.
Consider what a Darfurian Canadian said at a recent conference. Showing us photos of his family’s bombed and shot-up village, including the remnants of his father’s tiny store, he stressed that African and Arabs in Darfur have lived in harmony for centuries and that many Arabs continue to oppose Khartoum efforts to inflame racial conflict. He quoted President Bashir as saying publicly of the continuing attacks on villagers: “I don’t want (any) wounded”. He reminded us that Bashir’s government is destroying displaced persons camps so that there will eventually be no place of refuge at all.
Why Nothing Achieved
The general confusion across the world about what is really at issue in Darfur helps friends of the military dictatorship in Sudan, including Osama bin Laden, oppose any international intervention under the banner of “Responsibility to Protect”. Meanwhile, African Darfurians try to survive in more than 200 dreadful camps and are fed by increasingly terrified international aid workers. On Friday, the UN’s World Food Program announced that it was halving the daily food ration to six million people sheltering from violence in Sudan to 1050 calories a day because it lacks funds.
Haven’t Darfurians suffered enough? Government-sponsored harassment is now forcing many of the remaining international NGOs to leave Darfur, which is, of course, what Khartoum wants. What will happen to the refugees once the province is emptied of foreigners?
Despite everything, no foreign country has been willing to stop the slaughter if it involves any risk or burden. A Kosovo-like intervention could stop the genocide, but instead we are repeating the errors of pre-intervention Bosnia.
Meaningless UN Security Council deadlines will simply no longer suffice. The Council last week finally managed –with the abstentions of China and Russia -- to impose a travel ban and foreign asset freeze on the Janjaweed commander, Musa Hilal, who with his bosses in Khartoum is responsible for the dying screams of thousands of African Darfurians.
An Intervention Plan
Here is a three point intervention proposal developed by an international group of concerned individuals:
1- Establish a no-fly zone over Darfur. Since Khartoum is continuing to use its helicopter gunships and bombers to help the Janjaweed attack defenceless villagers, a no-fly zone must be created and enforced.
2-Hold an assembly of representative leaders and stakeholders from across Darfur, going far beyond those groups now meeting in Abuja, and establish a legitimate and functional regional government for Darfur.
3-Create an implementation force of international peacemakers, hopefully co-ordinated by the African Union and UN, to protect civilians and enact other measures, including disarmament, cease-fire monitoring, the neutralization of any obstructive forces as well as the training and support of Darfuri police.
All of this, of course, will require hard work and focused determination by participating governments and persons of goodwill. It will mean risk and pain. If successful, however, the genocide could finally be halted and Darfuri villagers can begin to rebuild their shattered lives in peace. It was too late for Rwanda, but not yet for millions of African Darfurians.