Wednesday, June 23, 2004

"Annan seeks to evade Sudan blame," BBC Headline, June 22, 2004 

Eric Reeves
June 23, 2004

At least efforts at self-exculpation for the Rwandan genocide waited
until the terrible events were completed. In Darfur---"Rwanda in
slow-motion," in the all-too apt phrase of International Crisis Group's
John Prendergast---the unseemly efforts of avoiding blame for the
impending deaths of hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians have
already begun. Perhaps this is understandable in the context of
self-interest: failures of responsibility and leadership already abound,
even as the real season of death has barely begun. But this disgraceful
diversion of energies from the essential humanitarian tasks at hand, and
the essential militarily support for such tasks, says all too much about
why Darfur continues its relentless slide into deeper catastrophe.

Of course, while Darfur may be Rwanda in "slow motion," it is also an
accelerated version of what has been transpiring in southern Sudan over
the past two decades. Here more than 2 million have already died, and
more than 4.5 million have been displaced internally or into neighboring
countries. In the south, too, we have seen the deliberate destruction of
African tribal groups (especially in the Nuba Mountains and more
recently in the vast oil regions of Upper Nile). Indeed, precisely
because the African populations of Darfur are entirely Muslim, and the
Muslim population of southern Sudan, the Nuba Mountains, and Southern
Blue Nile is relatively small, it is clear that being African is the
salient fact in Khartoum's determination of those human populations that
will be targeted.

Moreover, the strategies of human destruction are remarkably similar:
the massive killing or starving of civilians as a means of fighting a
counter-insurgency war; the use of paramilitary and militia forces for
much of the civilian destruction; the use of Antonov bombers to drop
huge loads of anti-personnel bombs on civilian and humanitarian targets;
the manipulation of food and humanitarian aid as a weapon of war;
destruction or poisoning of water sources; de facto concentration camps
(called "peace camps"), populated by desperately hungry displaced
persons who become utterly food-dependent on Khartoum's military forces;
"scorched-earth" tactics (again, especially in the oil regions; see the
definitive "Sudan, Oil, and Human Rights," Human Rights Watch, November
2003 www.hrw.org/reports/2003/sudan1103/).

The full effects of Khartoum's genocidal assault on the African tribal
groups of Darfur, so long clearly in prospect, are beginning in earnest.
Having for many month relentlessly and "deliberately inflicted on the
[African tribal groups of Darfur] conditions of life calculated to bring
about [their] physical destruction in whole or in part" (UN Genocide
Convention), Khartoum now need only watch as the genocide accomplishes
itself. The obstruction of humanitarian access continues, but is hardly
necessary given the extreme insecurity throughout the vast rural areas,
created and sustained by Khartoum's Janjaweed militia allies. (See an
extremely compelling new report on "indicators of genocide," based on a
recent assessment mission to the Chad/Darfur border region, from
Physicians for Human Rights at: http://www.phrusa.org/research/sudan/;
discussed below.)

The rains have begun in earnest, with torrential downpours flattening
many makeshift shelters (BBC, June 23, 2004) and severing many more road
corridors; humanitarian capacity and access is woefully inadequate, and
fewer than 50% of those in need are receiving assistance (and this
percentage is trending lower); the more than 1.3 million people who have
been driven from their homes, and the 2.2 million people described by
the UN, the US, and the European Union as "war-affected" are dying at a
rate of over 5,000 per week according to data from the US Agency for
International Development (see:
global acute malnutrition and severe acute malnutrition rates are
soaring according to Doctors Without Borders/Medecins Sans Frontieres
and other humanitarian organizations; deaths from water-borne diseases
are now rapidly accelerating, and malaria will soon take a huge toll as
well; the World Health Organization yesterday (June 22, 2004) issued an
alarming report on an outbreak of polio in western and central Africa
that could see a huge number of victims this fall in Darfur (the polio
"high season") without an increasingly unlikely "massive immunization
response"; some of the camps with humanitarian access are already
experiencing "catastrophic mortality rates," and the concentration camps
without international access are in effect extermination sites.

These are the instruments of Khartoum's war by genocide.

The racial animus in this vast maelstrom of human destruction remains
unambiguously clear. Khartoum continues to stoke racial and ethnic
hatred among the Janjaweed militia, and reports of the consequences
continue to stream in. New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof,
recently back from his second assessment trip to the Darfur/Chad border,
has been emphatic in his description of Darfur as the site of genocide.
He reports today on the entirely characteristic and endlessly replicated
horror suffered by men, children, and women in Darfur:

"Hatum Atraman Bashir, a 35-year-old woman who is pregnant with the
baby of one of the 20 Janjaweed raiders who murdered her husband and
then gang-raped her. Ms. Bashir said that when the Janjaweed attacked
her village, Kornei, she fled with her seven children. But when she and
a few other mothers crept out to find food, the Janjaweed captured them
and tied them on the ground, spread-eagled, then gang-raped them.

"'They said, "You are black women, and you are our slaves," and they
also said other bad things that I cannot repeat,' she said, crying
softly. 'One of the women cried, and they killed her. Then they told me,
"If you cry, we will kill you, too."' Other women from Kornei confirm
her story and say that another woman who was gang-raped at that time had
her ears partly cut off as an added humiliation." (New York Times, June
23, 2004)

This is the context in which Kofi Annan is devoting energies to blaming
UN member nations for a catastrophe that will now, inevitably, claim
hundreds of thousands of lives---perhaps as many as 1 million. Such
efforts are all the more disgraceful because of his strong words on the
grim tenth anniversary of the Rwandan genocide (marked on April 7,
2004---over two and a half months ago). At the time, Annan explicitly
invoked Darfur in the ominous context of the Rwandan genocide, which
occurred while Annan was head of UN peacekeeping. For Darfur, he
promised a response that could include the use of military force if
needed. Now, having reneged on this clear promise of all necessary
action, Annan is seeking to avoid blame rather than articulating plans
for the necessary humanitarian intervention. Perhaps by way of further
self-exculpation, he claims that he has seen nothing that justifies a
finding of either genocide or "ethnic cleansing."

This claim is made despite the repeated and emphatic finding of "ethnic
cleansing" by UN Undersecretary for Humanitarian Affairs Jan Egeland, by
former UN humanitarian coordinator for Sudan, Mukesh Kapila, by the US
State Department and the US Agency for International Development, by
Human Rights Watch, the International Crisis Group, and many more (see
analysis of UN, US, human rights, and other findings of genocide and
"ethnic cleansing" in Darfur by this writer; June 18, 2004, available
upon request).


Despite Annan's profession of ignorance, the overwhelming evidence of
genocide in Darfur has compelled more and more knowledgeable observers
to declare this reality publicly and to make increasingly forceful
comparison to the Rwandan genocide. The highly authoritative Africa
Confidential explicitly referred to "continued genocide in Darfur"
(Africa Confidential, June 11, 2004; Volume 45, Number 1). In speaking
on June 18, 2004 to the question of whether Khartoum's conduct of war in
Darfur constitutes genocide, the also highly authoritative researchers
of Justice Africa declared unambiguously, explicitly referencing the
1948 UN Genocide Convention, "there is no doubt that the answer is yes"
("Sudan: Justice Africa Analysis,"

Representing the International Crisis Group in testimony before the US
Senate Foreign Relations Committee (June 15, 2004), John Prendergast
spoke of unfolding "evidence of conditions of genocide," and then
declared that "in the International Crisis Group's judgment, the
situation in Darfur more than satisfies the Genocide Convention's
conditions for multilateral preventive action" (testimony at:

The distinguished Physicians for Human Rights, which recently completed
an assessment mission along the Chad/Darfur border, today issued a
superbly authoritative and well-documented report, analyzing in detail
"indicators of genocide" in Darfur and calling for humanitarian

"Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) has gathered compelling information
that a genocidal process is unfolding in Darfur, Sudan. The terms of the
Genocide Convention commit parties to the Convention to act to prevent
when there are indicators that there is intent to destroy, physically or
mentally, in whole or in part, a group on the basis of ethnicity,
language, religion, or race [PHR here references the 1948 UN Convention
on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide]."

"In the case of Darfur, PHR has concluded that there is ample
indication that an organized campaign on the part of the Government of
Sudan is underway, targeting several million non-Arab Darfurian
inhabitants for removal from this region of the country, either by death
(most commonly through immediate violence or slow starvation) or forced
migration. Government of Sudan forces, allied with the Janjaweed
militia, have caused intense disruption and destruction of non-Arab
Darfurian land holdings, communities, families, and all means of
livelihood and necessities. By destroying, stealing, or preventing
access to food, water, and medicine, the Government of Sudan and
Janjaweed are creating conditions destined to destroy the non-Arab
("Physicians for Human Rights Calls for Intervention to Save Lives in
Sudan: Field Team Compiles Indicators of Genocide," June 23, 2004; at

The introductory summary concludes with these extraordinary words:

"Having reviewed PHR's findings, Justice Richard Goldstone, former
Chief Prosecutor for the International Criminal Tribunals for the former
Yugoslavia and Rwanda and a PHR board member said, 'After all that we
know and have learned from the last decade's genocides and mass
atrocities, it is unconscionable for the world to witness these crimes
and fail to take steps to protect and save the lives of tens of
thousands of innocent men, women, and children. We owe it to the victims
of Darfur and potential victims to do everything we can to prevent and
account for what the PHR report establishes is genocide and reverse the
intolerable acts of forcing entire populations from their land,
destroying their livelihood and making it virtually impossible to
("Physicians for Human Rights Calls for Intervention to Save Lives in
Sudan: Field Team Compiles Indicators of Genocide," June 23, 2004; at

Susan Rice (Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs in the
Clinton administration) and Gayle Smith (senior Africa advisor at the
National Security Council in the Clinton administration), humbled by the
memory of Rwanda, declared in a Washington Post op/ed of May 30, 2004:

"[Bush administrations efforts to bring peace between Khartoum and
southern Sudan] will have been wasted if we allow the Sudanese
government to continue committing crimes against humanity. Not only will
the international community have blood on its hands for failure to halt
another genocide, but we will have demonstrated to Khartoum that it can
continue to act with impunity against its own people. In that case, any
hard-won peace agreement will not be worth the paper it's signed on."
(Washington Post, May 30, 2004)

Justice Africa (Washington) launched a petition drive on June 15, 2004,

"Africa Action today [June 15, 2004] states, 'the term "genocide" not
only captures the fundamental characteristics of the Khartoum
government's intent and actions in western Sudan, it also invokes
clear international obligations.' Africa Action notes that all permanent
members of the United Nations Security Council---including the US---are
parties to the 1948 Convention on Genocide, and are bound to prevent and
punish this crime under international law. Genocide is described as the
commission of acts with 'intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a
national, ethnic, racial or religious group.'"
[To sign the petition, visit Africa Action's website:


Meanwhile, the Bush administration dithers in its own determination of
whether realities in Darfur rise to the level of genocide, and even
whether the evidence rises to a level obligating action to "prevent
genocide" under Article 1 of the 1948 UN Convention on the Prevention
and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. This is so despite
overwhelming evidence from the ground, the very substantial results of
aerial and satellite reconnaissance, and a huge refugee population from
Darfur in Chad, with accounts that are terrifyingly similar.

At the same time, the John Kerry presidential campaign refuses to
answer the difficult political questions about humanitarian
intervention, and thus refuses to demonstrate what kind of leadership he
would show in a humanitarian crisis if elected President.

Despite all this, there are some signs of moral and political resolve
in Washington. Tragically, this is unlikely to translate into timely
action, as the countries of the European Union and Canada refuse to show
any comparable resolve.

A press conference was held today (June 23, 2004) by Africa Action,
members of the Congressional Black Caucus, and House Democratic Leader
Nancy Pelosi in Washington to urge the Bush administration to take more
action in halting genocide in Darfur. At 5pm today, all members of the
Congressional Black Caucus will sign the Africa Action petition, calling
on the Permanent Members of the UN Security Council to uphold their
obligations under the Genocide Convention.

As early as tomorrow, a bipartisan Congressional resolution will be
introduced, declaring that the atrocities of Darfur must be called
genocide; urging the Bush administration to call the atrocities being
committed in Darfur "by their rightful name: genocide"; reminding the
international community, including the United States government, of
obligations under the 1948 UN Convention on Genocide; calling on the
administration to do more to prevent genocide in Darfur, including (if
necessary) mounting a humanitarian intervention without UN
authorization; and demanding that the Bush administration target
sanctions against the members of the Khartoum regime responsible for
atrocities and genocide in Darfur.

Further, an extraordinary event will be held tomorrow in the Hall of
Witness at the US Holocaust Memorial Museum: "Bearing Witness for
Darfur: Can We Prevent Genocide in Sudan?" (10:30am, June 24, 2004,
Washington, DC). The Committee on Conscience of the Holocaust Memorial
Museum has urgently reiterated its "genocide warning" for Sudan, with
particular emphasis on Darfur.

Two Republican senators, John McCain of Arizona and Mike DeWine of
Ohio, today co-authored an op/ed in the Washington Post that declared:

"Imagine that we could rerun the events that occurred in Rwanda 10
years ago. With the certain knowledge of horrific events to come, would
the world's great nations again stand idle as 800,000 human beings faced
slaughter? If the recent expressions of grief and regret from world
leaders are any indication, the answer is no---this time things would be
very different. Yet, in 2004, just as in 1994, the international
community is on the verge of making a tragic mistake. Mass human
destruction is unfolding today in [Darfur,] Sudan, with the potential to
bring a death toll even higher than that in Rwanda." [ ]

"A survivor of the Rwandan genocide named Dancilla told her story to a
British humanitarian group. She said: 'If people forget what happened
when the U.N. left us, they will not learn. It might then happen again
-- maybe to someone else.'

All Americans should realize one terrible fact: It is happening again."
(Washington Post, June 23, 2004)

But without leadership and urgency from senior members of the Bush
administration, without an immediate move toward robust international
action---foregoing UN authorization if necessary---genocide will
"continue to happen...again."

The imperative of humanitarian intervention could not be clearer, even
as most of the world seems increasingly to have resolved upon the easy
course of uttering sanctimonious words, and a perverse determination not
to make any consequential finding concerning genocide in Darfur. Let us
be clear, then, on this most critical issue; for such determination
could not have greater consequence or urgency. A finding of genocide,
along with international acceptance of obligations under the Genocide
Convention, is likely all that offers Darfur even a glimmer of hope
within the darkness of unfathomable destruction and suffering.

This is the simple truth. It shields no one from blame.

Eric Reeves
Smith College
Northampton, MA 01063

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