United States Intervention
United States Political Intervention Process as it Relates to Genocide in Rwanda and Darfur
Rwanda was apparently the mark on our conscience that would be the last event of mass genocide allowed to happen. It seems that however, Rwanda provided only a foreshadowing of things to come. Following the massacre of over one million people, we find yet another similar genocide occurring and we find a similar reaction or lack of action from the world community. Insignificant resolutions in the United Nations deciding to officially label what has occurred in Darfur, Sudan only add injury to insult to the millions of displace Sudanese and the thousands who were stripped of their lives. Although it is already too late, the old saying rings true: “it is better late than never.” In this case the former rather than the latter can result in thousands of lives being saved. First, however we must understand the situation and apply it so save precious lives wasting away as we speak.
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Much of the conflict in Darfur stems from tensions that have been building for years. Darfur is located in Sudan, a country in north eastern Africa. There are two rebel groups fighting in Darfur. This fighting stems in part from disputes over land and grazing. The Sudan Liberation Army (SLA) is a group of Arab men who feel that the government protects the interests of the African farmers over their interests. The Justice and Equality Movement (JEM), is a group of African Muslims who feels that the Arab population is being favored over their interests. These groups are demanding a share of the power and decision making in the government. The government, afraid that similar rebellions would crop up in other areas of the country dispatched the military to put down the rebellion. Militias were put together made up of men recruited from the country side. These groups are called Janjaweed. Janjaweed patrol the areas outside refugee camps. This group has committed many human rights violations including torching villages, poisoning water supplies, destroying food sources, killing men and raping women and children who venture too far from the refugee camps searching for food and water.
These refugee camps do not have enough food, water, medicine, or doctors to care for the people who are seeking refuge there. Over 400,000 people have been killed and many more are dieing from lack of food and water. Aid organizations are not able to gain access to all those in need because of the violence in the area. More than 2.5 million people have been forced to leave their homes.
A peace agreement has been in place. According to this agreement, the rebel groups will be absorbed into the national army. The government has promised to disarm the Janjaweed. The government of Sudan has also promised to send more money to the region. This agreement is not a guaranteed end to the conflict or the problems in the Darfur region. Agreements are only good as long as all those involved keep the agreement. Whether or not this happens in Darfur remains to be seen. There is still the problem of what to do with the civilians and refugees who are starving and displaced. They cannot return to their homes because the villages have been destroyed. An international effort will be required to solve the problems in the Darfur region, there is no simple solution.
The Janjaweed militia hired by the Arab-Sudanese government to quell black rebel groups rising up against this unelected Arab government has reigned terror on millions of innocent people since 2003 to ensure the safety of their political leadership. After unfairly establishing rule over Sudan after Arabs lost land due to desertification just north of the Sudan, the black Sudanese population was robbed of the land it had called home for thousands of years.
Poor treatment and lack of civil rights among the black population escalated in 2003 as rebel groups attempted to take hold of the situation. It was the people caught in the middle of this warfare that were the unfortunate casualties of this battle. Mass rapes, murders, exile, and the killing of people’s livestock, which is the main form of wealth in the Sudan, would be the primary ways in which the ruling government would seek to drive out the population,
eliminating any safe harbor for the rebel groups. Such gruesome actions as dunking dead bodies into water wells to contaminate the water supply rendering it undrinkable for the population define this heartless assault.
Yet very little has been done to stop this genocide. Countries such as China continue to openly do business with oil rich Sudan to fuel its disgraceful economic agenda, while the rest of the world community is complacent. Actions like divesting funds from going to the Sudan, freezing government officials’ bank accounts and supporting and increasing the U.N. peacekeeping forces could put an end to this travesty. These actions must be taken or Rwanda will repeat itself, but this time it could be worse.
In the early months of 1994, between 800,000 and 1 million innocent people were murdered in 2 months. Mutilated bodies lined the streets as the world watched the murderers dance with glee. The U.N. proved to be useless in a conflict that was deemed “tribal” and “ancient.” Why would the world, especially the United States, ever allow genocide of this proportion to continue without abatement for over 60 days? Could it be because the victims and perpetrators were all black, and the conflict was taking place in Rwanda, a tiny nation on a continent that has increasingly come to be known as a lost cause?
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After the Rwandan genocide, Americans again renewed our commitment to the promise to “Never Again” allow genocide to take place anywhere in the world. However, just a few short years later, a new genocide is occurring --- again in a small African nation. In Darfur, Sudan, millions of people have fled their homes, and thousands have been murdered in a conflict that has an ethical basis. Arab-Sudanese have targeted the black region of Darfur in an attempt to drive these Sudanese from the country and create a completely Arabic nation. Americans turn on their television every night to images of innocent refugees fleeing the only homes they have ever known in order to avoid being murdered, raped, and robbed. But then, the United States is again
refusing to lead the world in demanding that this full-scale genocide be stopped. The American Holocaust Museum itself has called the conflict a “genocidal emergency” and has called for American intervention. What is the response of the American government?
Americans have so far called for sanctions against the Sudanese government, and have encouraged increased involvement by the under-funded and often-ridiculed African Union. The nations surrounding the Sudan have called for U.N. involvement, but the Sudanese government is resisting U.N. involvement. One wonders exactly whose side the Sudanese government is on during this conflict. In American politics, it has become very vogue to mention Darfur, and even to be seen with celebrities like George Clooney and Mia Farrow who have become spokespersons for Darfur in the United States. Both the Democratic and Republican debates have touched on the genocide, with a few candidates honestly calling for real U.S. intervention. So, why have American troops landed in Darfur? Or, at the very least, why have Americans not led the way in demanding that the United Nations begin a major peacekeeping effort in Darfur? The answer to these pressing questions is clear, concise, and cynical. Americans simply do not have enough economic and social interests in Africa to risk American lives to save black Africans. We may feel the pull of sadness when we see black African corpses on the television, or feel compassion when we hear a young black Sudanese girl describe her rape by an Arab-Sudanese soldier; but we cannot see the logical trade-off between an American soldier’s life and the well-being of an African (think back to the American response to the incident in Mogadishu that inspired the movie Black Hawk Down). Our foreign policy has always been to intervene in conflicts in regions of the world that can give us resources, such as oil or labor; and to remotely watch people die and suffer in regions of the world that seem disconnected from our economic and political interests. In other words, what could a little black African community like Darfur ever give us in return for sending our soldiers to die on its soil? The answer is: nothing of
economic or political worth, but perhaps everything we need as we search to discover America’s place in the world once more.
If America is ever to regain our status as a nation that extends freedom and security to all peoples of the world, we should not, and cannot, shirk away from our responsibility to contribute to the ending of the genocide in Darfur. Once again, a poor, powerless community of people desperately needs our help to survive; and once again, those people have black skin. If we are to rebuild our credibility as a compassionate nation of peacemakers-and not simply a nation whose military assures our continued economic and political prowess-we must lead the call for ending the genocide in Darfur. Our national conscience is crying out for us to assist this group of beautiful, intelligent people; but we are again turning our heads away and pretending it is not happening.
The Democratic Party in the United States likes to present itself as the “party of compassion.” But when it comes to victims of genocide, the attitude of many Democrats tends to run from cold indifference to outright denial. An interview with Senator John Kerry, who ran for President in 2004, is a good illustration. When asked about the possibility of a genocide taking place in Iraq should American forces withdraw, Kerry suggested that such fears were overblown. He further made the assertion that fears of a bloodbath in Vietnam were overblown and in fact did not occur. Indeed Kerry claimed that he had personally met survivors of the infamous “re-education camps” who are now thriving in Vietnam. This was, to say the least, an incredible example of a kind of Holocaust denial; only in this case the Holocaust in question took place in South East Asia and not in Europe. An investigation by the Orange County Register, for example, estimated that 165,000 people perished in those camps. A million people were imprisoned and suffered unspeakable tortures. And that does not include the million or so boat
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people who lost their lives fleeing the communist regime or the nearly two million people who were killed in Cambodia.
Democratic indifference to the plight of third world victims of genocide is nothing new. President Bill Clinton ignored the genocide in Rwanda where millions of people were killed, not in the coldly efficient way that Nazis did away with their victims with gas chambers, but with men wielding machetes. As far back in history as World War II, Democrats have turned a cold eye away from people being slaughtered en masse. When the reality of the Nazi Holocaust started to become apparent, it was suggested that American air power be used to try to prevent it or at least slow it down. The gas chambers where millions of Jews were being put to death might have been bombed. The rail lines leading to the death camps might have been destroyed from the air, slowing down at least the mass killing that was taking place on an industrial scale.
Franklin Roosevelt’s reaction was somewhat chilling. Not one allied air craft would be diverted from the war effort. The best way to save the victims of the Nazi Holocaust would be to win the war as quickly as possible. Tough luck for the people going to the gas in the meantime. One estimate that one of the effects of a total withdrawal of American troops from Iraq would result in the deaths of up to a million Iraqis and the making of five million Iraqi refugees. If that happens, do not be surprised by the indifference and embarrassed silence by liberal Democrats. It’s an old tradition for them, after all.
While moral obligations may not be part of Realist philosophy, it is an obligation that Western powers have nevertheless. Over six million Jews died in the concentration camps along with four more million which included handicapped, gypsies, gays and others. Had the United States not stepped in when it did and ended the war and freed the people from the concentration camps, historians have no doubt that Hitler would have made sure that every single Jewish person was eliminated from Europe.
The United Nations was effectively set up to stop genocidal acts from occurring and to foster world peace. However, as an educated person will tell you, the United Nations has been an utter failure like the League of Nations. The acts of genocide in Rwanda were also ignored by most governments around the world until the Hutus were given arms to fight against the genocide brought about by the Tutsies. World leaders like the United States which has the financial power to help end genocide have a moral obligation to do whatever they can to help out a group of people facing elimination.
In Sudan’s western Darfur region, a massive campaign of ethnic violence has claimed the lives of more than 70,000 civilians and uprooted an estimated 1.8 million more since February 2003. The roots of the violence are complex and parts of the picture remain unclear. But several key facts are now well known. The primary perpetrators of the killings and expulsions are government-backed “Arab” militias. The main civilian victims are black “Africans” from three tribes. And the crisis is currently the worst humanitarian disaster on the planet.
The bloodshed in Darfur has by now received a great deal of attention. Much of the public debate in the United States and elsewhere, however, has focused not on how to stop the crisis, but on whether or not it should be called a “genocide” under the terms of the Genocide Convention. Such a designation, it was long thought, would inevitably trigger an international response. In July 2004, the U.S. Congress passed a resolution labeling Darfur genocide case. Then, in early September, after reviewing the results of an innovative government-sponsored investigation, Secretary of State Colin Powell also used the term and President George W. Bush followed suit in a speech to the United Nations several weeks later --- the first times such senior U.S. government officials had ever conclusively applied the term to a current crisis and invoked the convention. Darfur, therefore, provides a good test of whether the more-than-half-a-century-old Genocide Convention, created in the aftermath of the Holocaust, can make good on its
promise to “never again” allow the targeted destruction of a particular ethnic, racial, or religious group.
So far, the convention has proven weak. Having been invoked, it did not --- contrary to expectations --- electrify international efforts to intervene in Sudan. Instead, the UN Security Council commissioned further studies and vaguely threatened economic sanctions against Sudan’s growing oil industry if Khartoum did not stop the violence; one council deadline has already passed without incident. Although some 670 African Union troops have been dispatched to the region with U.S. logistical assistance to monitor a nonexistent ceasefire, and humanitarian aid is pouring in, the death toll continues to rise. The lessons from Darfur, thus, are bleak. Despite a decade of handwringing over the failure to intervene in Rwanda in 1994 and despite Washington’s decision to break its own taboo against the use of the word “genocide,” the international community has once more proved slow and ineffective in responding to large-scale, state-supported killing. Darfur has shown that the energy spent fighting over whether to call the events there “genocide” was misplaced, overshadowing difficult but more important questions about how to craft an effective response to mass violence against civilians in Sudan. The task ahead is to do precisely that: to find a way to stop the killing, lest tens of thousands more die.
Human rights groups, humanitarian agencies, and the U.S. State Department have all reached strikingly similar conclusions about the nature of the violence. Army forces and the militia often attack together, as Janjaweed leaders readily admit. In some cases, government aircraft bomb areas before the militia attack, razing settlements and destroying villages; such tactics have become central to this war. One time, a U.S. official reported that 574 villages had been destroyed and another 157 damaged since mid-2003. Satellite images show many areas in Darfur burned out or abandoned. The majority of the attacks have occurred in villages where the
rebels did not have an armed presence; Khartoum’s strategy seems to be to punish the rebels’ presumed base of support --- civilians --- so as to prevent future rebel recruitment.
Testimony recorded at different times and locations consistently shows that the attackers single out men to kill. Women, children, and the elderly are not spared, however. Eyewitnesses report that the attackers sometimes murder children. For women, the primary threat is rape; sexual violence has been widespread in this conflict. Looting and the destruction of property have also been common after the Janjaweed and their army allies swoop down on civilian settlements.
This violence has produced what one team of medical researchers has termed a “demographic catastrophe” in Darfur. By mid-October 2004, an estimated 1.8 million people --- or about a third of Darfur’s population --- had been uprooted, with an estimated 1.6 million Darfurians having fled to other parts of Sudan and another 200,000 having crossed the border to Chad. Exactly how many have died is difficult to determine; most press reports cite about 50,000, but the total number is probably much higher. In October 2004, a World Health Organization official estimated that 70,000 displaced persons had died in the previous six months from malnutrition and disease directly related to their displacement --- a figure that did not include violent deaths. By now, the number has probably grown much larger. Despite a huge influx of humanitarian aid since mid-2004, the International Committee of the Red Cross warned in October of an “unprecedented” food crisis; several months earlier, a senior official with the U.S. Agency for International Development told journalists that the death toll could reach 350,000 by the end of the year.
Most of these facts are undisputed; the reports from Darfur by aid workers and reporters have been remarkably consistent (although too little attention has been paid to rebel atrocities). Khartoum has, predictably, denied direct involvement in the attacks against civilians, and both
the Arab League and the African Union have downplayed the gross violations of human rights (focusing on the civil war instead). Still, not much controversy exists over what is actually happening in Darfur. Yet public debate in the United States and Europe has focused less on the violence itself than on what to call it --- in particular, whether the term “genocide” applies.
The genocide debate took off in March 2004, after New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof published a number of articles making the charge. His graphic depictions of events there soon stimulated similar calls for action from an unlikely combination of players --- Jewish-American, African-American, liberal, and religious-conservative constituencies. In July 2004, the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C., issued its first-ever “genocide emergency.” MoveOn.org called on Powell to use the “genocide” label for Darfur, as did the Congressional Black Caucus, African-American civil rights groups, and some international human rights organizations. Editorialists from a number of major newspapers, including The Philadelphia Inquirer and The Boston Globe, made similar appeals. Long concerned with the persecution of black Christian populations in southern Sudan, American evangelicals also called for a formal recognition of genocide and for U.S. action, even though the victims in Darfur were Muslim.
Proponents of applying the “genocide” label emphasized two points. First, they argued that the events in Sudan met a general standard for genocide: the violence targeted an ethnic group for destruction, was systematic and intentional, and was state supported. Second, they claimed that under the Genocide Convention, using the term would trigger international intervention to halt the violence. Salih Booker and Ann-Louise Colgan from the advocacy group Africa Action wrote in The Nation, “We should have learned from Rwanda that to stop genocide, Washington must first say the word.”
Colgan and Booker made a fair point. During the Rwandan genocide --- exactly a decade before Darfur erupted --- State Department spokespersons in Washington were instructed not to
utter the “g-word,” since, as one internal government memorandum put it, publicly acknowledging “genocide” might commit the U.S. government to do something at a time when the President’s White House was entirely unwilling. As a result, the United States and the rest of the world sat on the sidelines as an extermination campaign claimed at least half a million civilian lives in three months. In the aftermath, many pundits agreed that a critical first step toward a better response the next time would be to openly call a genocide “genocide.”
The idea that states are obligated to do something in the face of genocide comes from two provisions in the Genocide Convention. First, the treaty holds that contracting parties are required to “undertake to prevent and to punish” genocide. Second, Article VIII of the convention stipulates that signatories may call on the UN to “take such action ... for the prevention and suppression” of genocide. Prior to the Darfur crisis, and in light of the way the genocide debate unfolded in Rwanda, the conventional wisdom was that signatories to the convention were obligated to act to prevent genocide if they recognized one to be occurring. The convention had never been tested, however, and the law is in fact ambiguous on what “undertaking to prevent” and “suppressing” genocide actually mean and who is to carry out such measures.
In July, the U.S. House of Representatives entered the rhetorical fray by unanimously passing a resolution labeling the violence in Sudan “genocide.” The resolution called on the Bush administration to do the same and, citing the convention, to “seriously consider multilateral or even unilateral intervention to prevent genocide” if the UN Security Council failed to act. The Bush administration, however, interpreted its international obligations differently. Facing mounting appeals to call Darfur “genocide,” Powell insisted that such a determination, even if it came, would not change U.S. policy toward Sudan. Powell argued that Washington was already pressuring Khartoum to stem abuses and was providing humanitarian relief; applying the
“genocide” label would not require anything more from the United States. He did, however, commission an in-depth study of whether events in Darfur merited the “genocide” label.
Meanwhile, other world leaders and opinion makers continued to show reticence about calling Darfur “genocide.” EU, Canadian, and British officials all avoided the term, as did UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who was pilloried in the media for limiting his description of Darfur to “massive violations of human rights.” Human Rights Watch and the Pulitzer Prize-winning author Samantha Power favored the slightly less charged term “ethnic cleansing,” arguing that Darfur involved the forced removal of an ethnic group, not its deliberate extermination, and that genocide is hard to prove in the midst of a crisis.
The debate took a surprising turn in early September when, testifying before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Powell acknowledged that “genocide” was in fact taking place in Sudan. Powell based his determination on the U.S. government-funded study, which had surveyed 1,136 Darfurian refugees in Chad. Their testimony demonstrated that violence against civilians was widespread, ethnically oriented, and strongly indicated government involvement in the attacks. Two weeks after Powell’s speech, Bush repeated the genocide charge during an address to the UN General Assembly.
Taken together, the congressional resolution and the two speeches were momentous: never before had Congress or such senior U.S. officials publicly and conclusively labeled an ongoing crisis “genocide,” invoking the convention. Nor, for that matter, had a contracting party to the Genocide Convention ever called on the Security Council to take action under Article VIII as the United States has done. But the critical question remained: Would the Genocide Convention really be any help in triggering international intervention to stem the violence?
So far, the answer seems to be no. In late July, before Bush or Powell ever spoke the word “genocide,” the UN Security Council had passed a resolution condemning Sudan and
giving the government a month to rein in the militias. That deadline passed without incident, however. After Powell spoke out in September, the council passed a second, tepid resolution, which merely called on Kofi Annan to set up a five-member commission to investigate the charge. The resolution also vaguely threatened economic sanctions against Sudan’s oil industry, although it gave no concrete deadline for when sanctions would be imposed; and welcomed an African Union plan to send a token force to the region to monitor a cease-fire, to which neither side has since adhered. Despite its weak wording, the resolution almost failed to pass. China, which has commercial and oil interests in Sudan, nearly vetoed the measure, only agreeing to abstain --- along with Algeria, Pakistan, and Russia --- after Annan strongly endorsed the resolution.
In mid-November, the Security Council held an extraordinary meeting in Nairobi, Kenya, to discuss Sudan. The session won a pledge from Khartoum and the southern rebels to finalize a peace agreement by the end of the year. On Darfur, however, the Security Council managed only to pass another limp resolution voicing “serious concern.” Conceivably, Annan’s commission could still determine that genocide has occurred in Darfur --- giving the Security Council yet another chance to take concrete action. Given recent history, however, such action is unlikely. So far, the immediate consequences of the U.S. genocide determination have been minimal, and despite the historic declarations by Bush, Powell, and the U.S. Congress, the international community has barely budged. Nor has the United States itself done much to stop the violence.
The genocide debate and the Darfur crisis are thus instructive for several reasons. First, they have made it clear that “genocide” is not a magic word that triggers intervention. The term grabs attention, and in this case allowed pundits and advocates to move Sudan to the center of the public and international agendas. The lack of any subsequent action, however, showed that the Genocide Convention does not provide nearly the impetus that many thought it would. The
convention was intended to institutionalize the promise of “never again.” In the past, governments avoided involvement in a crisis by scrupulously eschewing the word “genocide.” Sudan, at least so far, shows that the definitional dance may not have mattered.
Second, the Darfur crisis points to other limitations of using a genocide framework to galvanize international intervention. Genocide is a contested concept: there is much disagreement about what qualifies for the term. The convention itself defines genocide as the “intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such.” The document also lists several activities that constitute genocide, ranging from obvious acts such as killing to less obvious ones such as causing “mental harm.” One often-cited problem with the convention’s definition is how to determine a perpetrator’s intent in the midst of a crisis. And how much “partial” group destruction does it take to reach the genocide threshold? In April 2004, an appeals chamber of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia addressed the definitional question, upholding a genocide conviction of the Bosnian Serb commander Radislav Krstic for his role in the 1995 massacre at Srebrenica. In that case, the tribunal concluded that “genocide” meant the destruction of a “substantial part” of a group, which the court defined as 7,000-8,000 Bosnian Muslim men from Srebrenica.
By this standard, the violence in Darfur does appear to be genocide: a substantial number of men from a particular ethnic group in a limited area have been killed. For many observers, however, genocide means something else: a campaign designed to physically eliminate a group under a government's control, as in Rwanda or Nazi Germany. The definitional debate is hard to resolve; both positions are defensible. And the indeterminacy makes genocide a difficult term around which to mobilize an international coalition for intervention.
Assuming that humanitarian intervention remains a common goal in the future, one way forward would be to revisit and strengthen the ambiguous provisions in the convention. The
confusion associated with the word “genocide” is not likely to disappear, however, and the term, at least as currently defined, excludes economic, political, and other social groups from protection. A better strategy might therefore be to develop a specific humanitarian threshold for intervention--including, but not limited to, genocide--and to establish institutional mechanisms to move from recognition of a grave humanitarian crisis to international action.
Darfur also shows that a genocide debate can divert attention from the most difficult questions surrounding humanitarian intervention. Any potential international action faces serious logistical and political obstacles. Darfur is vast and would require a substantial deployment of troops to safeguard civilians. The area has poor roads, and although it is open to surveillance from the air, ground transportation of troops would be difficult. International action also would need to address the complicated but enduring problems that have given rise to the violence in the first place. Such a strategy would require pressure on both the Darfur rebels and Khartoum to make peace.
Already heavily committed in Iraq and having lost considerable international credibility over the last two years, the Bush administration is not well positioned to lead such an effort. The hardest question about humanitarian intervention thus remains, Who will initiate and lead it? The problem is not just theoretical: the killing continues in Darfur and is unlikely to end soon. Until a powerful international actor or coalition of actors emerges, many more thousands of civilians are likely to die in western Sudan. If the international community fails to act decisively, the brave language of the Genocide Convention and the UN Charter--not to mention the avowed principles of the U.S. government and other states--will once more ring false.
It has already been made clear that the United States and the United Nations should be the pioneers in genocide intervention. The United States is the world's last remaining superpower and its presence in Darfur and other areas undergoing genocide would pose as a domineering
threat to those guilty of such crimes. The United States is one of the few states in the world that has the power, and the power projection, to implement strategies to eliminate tragedies like the one in Darfur. However, the United States cannot act alone in this distinguished endeavor and needs the full support of the United Nations to undermine the legitimacy of its undertaking. It has become apparent that, as in most situations of violence, the presence of peace peacekeepers is not necessarily sufficient to stop violence. The need for peacemakers, who have the ability to act offensively against groups involved, is apparent and the time for troop deployment is now. The United States and the UN, should lead the charge against such atrocities, thus deterring future genocide and ending current ones, in an aggressive manner using both soft and hard power. This means the deployment of military and troops, as well as economic sanctions and diplomatic pressure. In addition, those who break international laws outlined in the Genocide Convention should stand before the International Criminal Court and face the consequences for their actions. Finally, the UN must seek to establish zones of peace surrounding states with conflict to prevent further issues.
One of the most tragic displays of brutality in our world is the mass murder of innocent people, and it should be the role of international leaders to deter this type of behavior. Victims in such situations deserve immediate intervention and relief from the United States and other states alike. In cases where governments are a direct threat to their citizen's human rights, powerful actors should be required to assist. Furthermore, it is important to prevent dangerous leaders that commit such acts from retaining power and from drawing their neighbors into conflict. Finally, because of the passing of the Genocide Convention, the UN is not only morally, but also legally obliged to intervene in genocide. Despite frequent rebuttal, there is no rational reason for isolating these victims. It is in the interest of powerful nations to prevent these types of devastating conflicts. Adversities such as Darfur are desolate and ongoing dilemmas that tend to
last for many years. It is the responsibility of utmost importance of the United States and other powers to establish strict international policy for dealing with genocide to ensure that future generations do not have to face its hardships. Ethnic cleansing is a hateful crime that victimizes far too many citizens in our world and it is time the international community responded swiftly and strongly to end its negative impacts on global politics.
Yet there was another reason for hope. Pushed by an unlikely coalition of domestic pressure groups, the US Congress and Executive publicly declared that Darfur constituted a genuine genocide under the 1948 Convention. Such a radical and dramatic step was unprecedented in American history. Both chambers of Congress hastily and unanimously passed their own resolutions declaring Darfur to be a genocide with barely an explanation, let alone debate, and President Bush and Secretary of State Colin Powell each eventually followed with their own concurring declarations. To the genocide prevention community, this seemed the moment they had so long dreamed of and planned for. What would be the point of making this declaration unless significant action was being planned? It was true the Bush government, and others, were modestly generous in providing humanitarian aid to the displaced and the refugees as well as funding for the Africa Union Mission to Darfur. But now, surely, with these declarations, was the long-awaited moment of qualitative escalation. Now we would see the kind of forceful intervention denied Rwanda and that was crucial if the travesty in Sudan was to be ended.
In fact, all that was needed was to pay heed to the second part of Colin Powell’s statement before the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Yes, the US had decided, upon looking at evidence it had specifically commissioned - the exact opposite of Rwanda - that a genocide was taking place before the eyes of the world. Within mere months of the American government’s determination of genocide in Darfur, a new Bush administration betrayal of Darfur
was exposed. First came the revelation that the CIA had sent a plane to Khartoum to ferry the head of Sudanese intelligence, General Salah Abdallah Gosh, to Washington for discussions with his American peers on the “war against terror.” Sudan, it appears, had become “a crucial intelligence asset to the CIA.” (Suzanne Goldenberg, “Ostracized Sudan emerges as key American ally in “war on terror”,” Guardian Weekly, May 6-12, 2005.) Never mind that General Gosh’s name is widely assumed to be among the 51 leading Sudanese officials named by the UN-appointed International Commission of Inquiry on Darfur. The “war on terrorism” obviously trumps genocide.
There are still Darfur activists who believe that despite close working relationships between the Bush administration and precisely those Sudanese leaders against whom the International Criminal Court intends to issue warrants, the US can still be relied on as an ally in pressuring Khartoum to end its war against the Fur and other Africans. I wish I could agree. The Khartoum government is as canny as it is treacherous, and blithely uses its leverage to continue getting away with murder in Darfur. It now has trump cards with the Americans, the Chinese and the Russians. Those of us who urge intervention on strictly humanitarian grounds have no comparable influence whatever. The result is virtually pre-ordained: the death and rape and suffering in western Sudan will continue.
Are there now lessons from Darfur, having seen that the only lesson from Rwanda that proved relevant was the most despairing one? It is almost too disheartening even to ask. But for those committed to genocide prevention or to interventions on strictly humanitarian grounds, tough questions must again be asked, creative new directions and mechanisms sought. The alternative is too ghastly to contemplate.
My modest aim in this paper has been to explore to what extent, if at all, the Rwandan genocide positively affected international response to similar or comparable tragedies in Africa.
That is, whether the international community would react any differently today. Using the ongoing Darfur crisis, the paper demonstrates that international attitude to Rwandan genocide was the norm and not the exception as far as responses to tragedies in Africa are concerned. By its less than tepid response to Darfur, the international system has once again, betrayed its racist character and its inhumanity. It has further exposed the continuing irrelevance and hollowness of much international normative and institutional ordering to the lives and circumstances of Africans, especially victims of internationally recognized crimes. In a world where the imperatives of humanitarianism are dictated by racial affinity and identity, Africans appear too different and, perhaps, less human to matter.
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