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.