Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Is Darfur a Genocide?

The United States has recognized the conflict in Darfur as a genocide. So what? What has happened as a result? Is it really a genocide -- if it is -- then we are bound by international law to stop it from happening. Why haven't we?
Genocide is defined as (according to the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide) as: "any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial or religious group, such as; killing members of the group; causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group; deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part; imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group; forcibly transferring children of the group to another group". Check, check, check, etc., etc., So why is it still continuing? Megan G., our guest blogger, has some ideas below....
Dr. D.

“Darfur is not a genocide, it’s just one ‘tribe’ killing another ‘tribe.’”[1]

The conflict within Darfur began with tribal disputes between nomads and farmers. Initially, no persons were killed, and tribal leaders dissolved the disputes. The conflict grew, however, due to a drought lasting 20 years, in effect, increasing the conflict between the nomads and the farmers over land and water. The conflict occurring between the Northern and Southern regions of Sudan then permeated into the Darfur region, creating the most intense civil war ever experienced within Sudan—one that now encompasses the entire country and has gained national attention.

The conflict within Sudan was further escalated by the development of inroads created by the SPLA through Darfur to reach the Northern region by surprise. The placement of armed militia throughout Darfur by the Northern region in response illustrated that Darfur was no longer a neutral area. These armed militia men are known in the news as the Janjaweed, and they are openly supported by the government of Sudan. The Janjaweed has been raiding villages within Darfur for their own personal benefit; resulting in the development of a Darfur rebel movement, know as the Darfur People’s Liberation Army (DPLA). The region of Darfur has become the battleground for the conflict between the Northern and Southern regions of Sudan.[2] The development of the DPLA was to protect the neutral inhabitants of the Darfur region. Despite the DPLA’s efforts to remain neutral within the conflict, they have been persecuted by the Janjaweed for their involvement without just reasoning. This accounts for the overwhelming number of massive killings in the region prompting the question as to whether or not the conflict can be classified as a genocide.

On September 9, 2004, former United States Secretary of State, Colin Powell, took a monumental step by classifying the conflict within Sudan as a genocide.[3] This classification provides a warrant for external forces to intervene in the Sudanese civil war. As monumental as this classification is, the distinction of Darfur as a genocide is NOT REMOTELY SIGNIFICANT as the United States has yet to take action. The United Nations has been reluctant for more than a year now to make this same classification, because the criteria for determining a genocide are “questionable.” The United Nations claim is that because she is such an important and powerful organization on an international scale, she must be sure to make accurate accusations before prompting international intervention.

In addition, the Sudanese government has responded to the United States’ claim by saying that the conflict is far from that of a genocide because the government does support the Janjaweed, however they do not control their actions. They also claim that the killings are random and not aimed at a specific ethnic group, but instead the killings are in defense of the government against the rebels.

This is complete, total and deliberate distortion of the facts. Sudan appears to be a democratic state on paper, but in reality, the government is an illegitimate politically closed authoritarian regime.[4] The Sudanese Constitution of 1998 states that all decisions of the court must be made by a consensus of the majority, but power rests solely in the hands of the President.[5] All officials in the Sudanese government are members of the National Islamic Front. Their major goal is to create a productive Islamic state, as evidenced by the government’s adoption of Islamic Sharia Law in 1983.

Darfur is undoubtedly in the midst of a genocide. “…Khartoum’s failure to respond to the desperate economic needs of the region, the decayed judiciary, the lack of political representation, and…the growing impunity on the part of Arab raiders” are just a few factors for the precipitation and continuation for the armed conflict.[6] No one can deny that the Janjaweed and essentially, the Sudanese government, are committing acts “deliberately inflicting on the [people of Darfur] conditions of life calculated to bring about [their] physical destruction in whole or in part”—a direct violation of the 1948 UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.

Women and children have been captured in raids by armed government militias and have been sold through the slave trade or forced to work as laborers.[7] Child trafficking and exploitation have also been a result of this ongoing genocide. The Southern People’s Liberation Army (SPLA), the militant group in the Southern region of Sudan fighting for separation from the Northern Islamic government, has been criticized for their use of children within their armies.[8] These children were taken from their homes and forced to adopt values of violence.

Many reports have been filed regarding the mistreatment of women as rape is being used as a tactic of war. Often brutally gang-raped, this is a deliberate attempt to scar these women and make them undesirable as brides or mothers. It’s worth noting that rape is something that the Sudanese government does not see as a problem needing to be addressed.[9] The government seems completely aloof from the destruction currently underway in Sudan.
What needs to be done?

Foreign intervention is imperative in this situation. Without massive humanitarian intervention, hundreds of thousands more will die. Because of this, humanitarian intervention must have all necessary military support, and security must be provided to the vulnerable civilian populations concentrated in camps. Food aid must also be implemented as the people of Darfur are suffering the effects of a huge hunger gap. As Eric Reeves writes, “if the international community cannot find the will to intervene in Darfur, if we acquiesce in what is unmistakably genocide by other means, it can only mean that the real lesson of Rwanda is that there is no one ready to learn the lesson.”[10]

[1] Entire web blog came from: Zein-Elabdin, Eiman. Personal Interview. 17 Nov. 2004.
[2] Zein-Elabdin, Eiman. “Darfur and the Larger Conflict in the Sudan.” 14 Oct. 2004.
[3] Nordlinger, Jay (2005). About Sudan—What has been done? What can be done? The National Review. 23 May 2005. p. 1.
[4] Diamond, Larry. “Thinking About Hybrid Regimes.” Essential Readings in Comparative Politics. Eds. Patrick O’Neil and Ronald Rogowski. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., 2004. p. 166-177.
[5] “Compilation of Selected Laws of Sudan.” Ch. 5. Line 20.1. (1998).
http://www.sudan.net/government/constitution/comile.html (11 Nov. 2004).
[6] Reeves, Eric. Darfur: Ongoing Genocide. Dissent. Fall 2004. p. 19.
[7] Sommerset, Carron. “Slavery. The Human Rights Encyclopedia. Eds. James R. Lewis and Carl Skutsch. Vol. 3. Armonk, NY: Sharpe Reference, 2001. p. 900.
[8] Zein-Elabdin, Eiman. Personal Interview. 17 November 2004.
[9] Zein-Elabdin, Eiman. “Darfur and the Larger Conflict in the Sudan.” 14 October 2004.
[10] Reeves, Eric. Darfur: Ongoing Genocide. Dissent. Fall 2004. p. 23.


zahra said...

i completely agree with what has been said in the blog for sudan. yes, there needs to be international humaniterian intervention, but who will that be? the US obviously has shown to be unprodictive since they are not acting although the law states that it is your responisbility once you call something a genocide. i feel that this may be because they are frightened about what happened in somalia. as for the UN, i feel that they are the ones that need to be doing something. the fact that they are not sure whether it is a genocide or not is total nonscence. i feel that they just do not want the commitment since this is going to be a long term affair. also, i feel that somtimes it is hard for the 'western world' to interfere since it is such a clashing of different civilizations. i feel that the west does consider the situation in sudan to be "just african tribes fighting each other".

rward said...

I also agree, however, I think in addition to what Zahra wrote, one problem is lack of U.S. public support or interest in the present genocide in Darfur. I think that this is due in part to low press coverage and also, the debate on whether or not it is a "real" genocide. Many people simply do not know what is going on there and what is happening. This may be overly optimistic, but I'd like to think that if more people knew and understood the situation in Darfur, they would be concerned and upset, and in turn, pressure our government to act. Of course, this may not be realistic, but I do think that in general, a main reason for U.S. inaction is partially due to public apathy.

laura said...

I think Rachel made an interesting point about lack of news coverage. I read the New York Times and watch the news pretty regularly (at least more so than most college students), and I honestly think if I was not in this class I would have almost no idea what was going on in Darfur. Occasionally, there is an op-ed about the lack of action in Africa by the world, but other than that the news media is consumed by Katrina, Iraq, and human interest stories. So personally, I think the media is partly to blame for not making people more aware of the situation in Darfur.

Thomas T. said...

I agree that a large part of the continuing genocide in Darfur (it's picking up speed again for those of you that don't know) is because the rest of the world either does not know or does not care. When there is 50 times more news coverage of the Michael Jackson trial or 12 times more news coverage of the Runaway Bride story than anything to do with the genocide in Darfur in the same time period, it becomes easy to see what the news media cares about more.
A common excuse for the lack of coverage is the legitimate explanation that the Sudanese government does not allow many reporters into the country. The restrictions on reporters and aid workers is so extreme that an aid-worker blogger in the region has been forced to blog anonymously. (by the way, check out the link at http://sleeplessinsudan.blogspot.com/). The Sudanese government has been extremely efficient in preventing any international body from obtaining the entire story and has actually made the UN consider leaving the country all together. No wonder there's not news story. And because the US government has enough other things to worry about, and because few people are telling the government to do something about Darfur, the situation remains a low priority.

Thomas T. said...

The Sudanese government also uses numerous different tactics to deny that genocide is even occurring. Essentially, by confusing and frustrating the casual observer, it creates a hopeless feeling among anybody that may actually be interested in doing something to stop the conflict. If you are interested in learning the 12 ways to deny genocide, go to this link:

The rest of the world is confused as to what is happening in Darfur, and it is extremely difficult to find the truth.

Thomas T. said...

Sorry, the link is as follows:


All of it is one continuous line.

Thomas T. said...


Last time, I swear.

Robyn Z said...

you mentioned that the rest of the world is confused as to what is going on in Darfur. My question is even if the rest of the world knew, would they help?
The rest of the world knew exacting what was going on in Rwanda, but did not send their troops or any form of help. In fact many troops, including UN troops, were evacuated from the country. And in addition to that, the world knew that a genocide was taking place, however, that word was never used to describe the situation in Rwanda. The U.S. claimed that "acts of genocide" had occurred, and the UN refused to even call the atrocities that. So the world did know, and did nothing.
Is it possible that even if the world knew exactly what was going on in Darfur that they would be willing to help? Because I feel that people are aware as to what is going on, and yet our government has done nothing to actually alleviate the situation. So what would make this situation different from Rwanda? Why would the U.S. choose to help now, when it has turned its back on Africa so many times before?

Thomas T. said...

I am also skeptical that the world would do anything to help even if everybody knew in detail what is going on. As you have nicely explained, the United States does not have a good track record in stopping genocides. There are still tons of people, however, that have never even heard of the genocide in Darfur, and they don't even have the possibility to offer help. But as you said, even if everybody knew that there is genocide going on, that unfortunately does not mean that we will actually do anything to stop it.

Meghan said...

Several of my fellow-students have commented on the lack of media coverage. The fact of the matter is that the situation in Darfur has been occurring for more than a year now—people have lost interest as any report of the crisis remains largely the same—gruesome and gut-wrenching. Unfortunately, this loss of interest has exacerbated the problem.

If we can remember the beginning of the crisis, the United States immediately responded with food aid. This form of humanitarian aid was not remotely successful, however, as trucks were being intercepted by rebels and members of the Janjaweed. Planes dropping additional food reserves were dropping them outside of refugee camps in areas where refugees dare not go as they risked losing their lives. In addition, monies were given to “charitable organizations” committing to aid in the prevention of the atrocities, and yet this money ended up in the hands of the Sudanese government. What else can we do to ensure that the people currently being victimized will have a chance of hope?

I regret to admit that I feel as though we are now at a point where military intervention may be the only option to end the crisis. Although this resort seems anything but feasible with the situation currently underway in Iraq, something needs to be done. If not the United States, some country needs to come to the aid of Sudanese victims and it cannot be in the form of UN peacekeeping troops. These troops have already exhausted their efforts and have proven to be ineffective.

Africa continues to be a stain on the foreign policies of many countries. It is with deep disappointment that I realize that because many countries have little invested interest in the country of Sudan, they have few qualms about the current situation of the continent.

All I can say, as one individual, is that African lives are worth saving. By ignoring a people in complete despair, the superpowers of the world have lost the bulk of their credibility.

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Thomas T. said...

I agree with much of what you said, but the primary factor for the failure of the African Union peacekeepers is lack of funding. The countries that donate troops to the force are in no way capable of funding such a large mission. Currently, the African Union mission is in a funding shortfall of $150 million dollars. This is where the United States and the West have failed. We do not need to send our troops into the region, because there are troops already there. What the African Union needs is money so it can buy phones for its offices, fuel for its cars and armored vehicles (as well as more cars and armored vehicles), helicopters, and any other staple items that modern-day peacekeeping missions need.
Military action on the behalf of the United States would be a HUGE failure. What we need to do is fund the international troops that are already there.

Lyndsay said...

I’m confused. I agree that the AU needs the international community’s assistance to improve intelligence, military strength, and humanitarian aid to fight the genocide in Darfur; however, according to the UN Report on Darfur, Sudan is still a member of the AU and is scheduled to host and chair the AU Summit this January 2006. Sudan, whose government is responsible for the deaths and displacement of millions still sits on the U.N. Human Rights Commission, according to Nordlinger’s acticle. Futhermore, even if the UN decided to intervene, they most likely would be met with vetos from China, France, and Russia based on those countries' secured interests. The ICC has the ability to place fear into Sudanese officials by investigating and citing those responsible for the atrocities, yet the Bush administration refuses to support it. How do we get the international community to actively stop the genocide when it seems inevitable that a state’s economic and strategic interests trump that of its moral obligations? And why is Sudan still allowed on the UN Human Rights Commission??

Kelly L. said...

I think it is important to note that much of the aid we provide to African nations never actually makes it to the people that need it. I would be interested to hear what any of you propose to be a way that the United States can help in Darfur and many other African nations without the deployment of troops?

Thomas T. said...

For one, Congress could pass the Darfur Peace and Accountability Act that has been stagnating for the better part of a year. The US could also work in the UN to give the African Union a better mandate in Darfur so they can better protect civilians. But most of all, actually funding the African Union peacekeepers would be a big plus.

Noor M said...

Why only the U.S. though? Why doesn't any other country take the initiative? I have been so riled up with the information I have been reading recently that I called my mother in India and asked her to call our representitive and threaten him that we were not going to vote for him. She said he would go to the slums and promise the people water or electricity and they would all vote for him and my phone call wouldn't make a difference.
I realised then that in the third world problems come in layers and are interlinked to other issues in a way that is almost inseperable. Sometimes, I think it is impossible for any person in my country to run for office and actually go good for the people because politics has turned into mud flinging. Then I think of people like Paul Rusesabagina and I draw the strength to say: My phone call will make a difference. If everyone thought like me and make one phone call, it would make a world of a differnce. Maybe, we should stop relying on countries and the international community and as individuals push ourselves to take action, whatever that may be. It could be educating your friends and family and urging them to take action or supporting various organizations like Amnesty that is trying to stop human rights abuses or even educating yourself about the appropriate steps (as Thomas has outlined for us) and preassuring your representitive to lobby for them.
We must begin to believe in the power of one person. Only then, will we find the strength to change the whole world.

Thomas T. said...

I agree completely with Noor. After all, the United States government does (at least in theory) act on the will of the people. If tons of people give a phone call to their representative expressing more desire for involvement, things will get done real fast. Unfortunately, this isn't so, so the response is quite slow.

victoria said...

In response to what can be done in Darfur without troops, tougher economic sanctions or arms embargo could have been tried when the conflict first started. US policy has basically been to try and deliver food as well as apply pressure, which has not been effective. Furthermore, Kofi Annan has said that "aid without protection is folly." So what is the point of our folly efforts? Why spend the money and discuss the problem if we are not going to take it seriously or adress it in a way that will truly make an impact? The UN needs to step in and create consequences that will lead to change. Due to the magnitude of the problem in Darfur, these options should have been examined and applied much earlier on, as now the Janjaweed have been allowed to run rampant with no consequences and I fear that force will be the only way to stop the massacres. I call it a fear because I believe that the UN as well as the US will not act and will allow another human right tragety to occur, another country where we could have intervened and didn't.

Anthony Pepe said...

To tie in with what Thomas was saying about how Sudanese officials deny that a genocide is even occuring, here is the text of a letter to the editor that I found in the October 3, 2005 issue of TIME Magazine:

"The Sudan Situation
Your article 'Who Speaks for Her?' [on the violence against women commited by the Janjaweed militiamen in Sudan's Darfur region] was badly out of date and portrayed the situation in a sensational and inaccurate manner [Sept. 5]. In recent months the goverment of Sudan, in cooperation with others in the international community, has taken significant steps that have stabilized and improved the situation in Darfur. The government agreed to take concrete measures to protect women against rape and violence. We are implementing those actions. Sudan will address the problems of Darfur and permit our country to enter a new era of peace, national unity and reconstruction.

This begs the question, exactly what actions are the Sudanese implementing to resolve the situation? Correct me if I'm wrong, but I sure don't think that hiding the truth from the international community constitutes a solution to the ongoing problems in Darfur. And notice how Mr. Ahmed calls the genocide and violence a "situation" and condemns TIME's reporting as sensational and inaccurate? Sure sounds like denial to me. I can't believe that even a diplomat can just brush off the events in his country and claim that the situation has stabilized when it clearly has not. Somehow I get the feeling that the era of peace and national unity that he envisions will not include the survivors (assuming there will be any) from the groups targeted in this atrocity.