This dissertation examines the humanitarian crisis in the Sudanese region of Darfur during 2003-2004, a situation that has continued through to 2005. Recent reports from the World Food Programme estimate that the violence carried out by the tacitly government-supported militias against the non-Arab civilian population in the region has left 3.5 million people hungry, 2.5 million displaced by the violence and 400, 000 dead.
The Darfur crisis has been a humanitarian disaster unseen since the 1994 genocide in Rwanda. It has been a situation that ultimately foreign governments and international organisations have been unable to ignore.
Chapter two examines firstly the theoretical questions behind humanitarian intervention. The realist theory of international affairsis at the heart of the debate – realism suggests that states should puttheir own security and self interest before any moral obligation to intervene. Set in the context of Darfur, there was nothing within the individual national interest of other individual states to intervene, yet at some point in the crisis the common assumption moved towards afeeling that intervention on the basis of humanity was required. The Rwandan genocide of 1994 and the international response at the time isused as an example of realism dictating the initial response of theinternational community, only to be overtaken by a more moral based response once the sheer scale of the crisis and human rights abuses became apparent.
Chapter three looks at events in Darfur in detail, from the beginnings of the crisis to the current situation. Using media sourcesas well as reports from organisation such as the UN and Human Rights Watch, this chapter summarises the main events of the crisis, with examples of the indiscriminate violence used by the government-backed Janjaweed militias against the civilian population in Darfur. The response of the Sudanese government along with the steps it took to prevent humanitarian intervention are describes, as are the actions, or in many cases, the inaction of sections of the international community. The actions of the Sudanese Government would appear to be driven by the state centric realism that Webber and Smith term “acentral driving force for human motivation, namely a quest for power”
Chapter Four attempts to analyse events in Darfur against the theoretical frameworks detailed in chapter two. Realist assumptions continue to carry a certain weight in international politics, but there are examples of some more ethical policy making within the international community. The roles of the Sudanese Government, the UN, the US and other Western nations are looked at against theoretical positions.
Chapter Five offers some conclusions on the internationalresponse to Darfur.
At the heart of any analysis of the international response to thecrisis in Darfur lies the question why should anyone care about Darfur.Whilst theories supporting just wars and humanitarian intervention fromthe likes of Kaldor and Walzer argue that there is a basic humanmorality that requires states that are able to intervene to stop thesuffering of oppressed people, a realist perspective, one thatrepresented the initial international response to Darfur, is that thekey value of national interest is independence and security. It is aquestion that has been at the crux of international relations forcenturies – intervention in the affairs of another sovereign state isan issue that has generated much debate.
State sovereignty has long been a fundamental pillar of internationalsociety and non-intervention has ensured that individual states canmaintain their political independence and territorial integrity.International organisations have generally supported this principlewith, for example, Resolution 2131 of the UN General Assembly in 1965stating:
“No state has the right to intervene, directly or indirectly in theinternal or external affairs of any other state. Consequently, armedintervention and all other forms of interference or attempted threatsagainst the personality of the State or against its political,economic, or cultural elements are condemned”. Regional organisationshave taken a similar stance – the Organisation of American Statestotally prohibits direct or indirect intervention in the affairs ofanother state. A wide range of political theory also supports the viewthat sovereignty is all-important and one state should not interfere inthe affairs of another.
Nonetheless, international affairs since the establishment of thenation-state have seen intervention by states in the affairs of otherfor a number of reasons. The earliest interventions were for economicand strategic reasons and to secure territorial security – nineteenthcentury European interventions in Africa and Asia to establish coloniesserve as an example of this. In the early twentieth century the USbegan to utilise a different type of intervention, intervening in theaffairs of Central American states such as Nicaragua to encouragedomestic political order, reduce economic corruption and reinforce itsown influence in the region. Such action drew the attention of realistcritics who have influence US foreign policy thinking more recently.Realists have alleged that the adherence to moral principles and thefailure in the past to understand the “power essence” of interstaterelations has led to unwise and unsuccessful policies , for example tofailed humanitarian intervention in Somalia. Certainly, the memories ofSomalia will have effected thinking on a political and humanitarianresponse to Darfur.
The Cold War saw intervention across the globe by the two superpowerseither to enhance their own strategic security or to advanceideological goals, for example the USSR moving to strengthen communismin Czechoslovakia in 1968 or the US challenging anti-democratic forcesin Grenada in 1983.
It is however, humanitarian intervention that is most relevant to thesituation in Darfur, an type of intervention that according to JackDonnelly is foreign intervention that seeks “to remedy mass andflagrant violations of the basic rights of foreign nationals by theirgovernment” The failure of states and subsequent abuses of humanrights in the latter stages of the twentieth century have presentedother governments with numerous scenarios where they have to makedecisions as to whether military intervention for humanitarian reasonsis justified. It is a complex issue that poses a number of legal andmoral issues.
Amstutz argues that humanitarian intervention presents a legalchallenge to the accepted systems of state sovereignty along with amoral challenge to the right of self-determination. Whilst the demandfor order, justice, stability and human rights may override theseconcerns, politicians are also faced with the decision as to whether,how and when their country should instigate humanitarian intervention.Such interventions can generally be justified if two criteria are met:firstly that humanitarian intervention be in the interests of theintervening state, i.e. that it perceives the human rights abuses inthe foreign state as a general threat to the order, legitimacy andmorality of global society, or as a particular threat to its owneconomic prosperity; secondly that the intervention must be in theinterests of the civilian population of the intervened state and thatthe legal and moral issues around military intervention can bejustified by the overall good that is accomplished. NATO interventionin Bosnia can be seen as an example of a situation that met the formercriteria, the situationsin both Rwanda and Darfur would appear to meetthe latter.
Michael Walzer who has written extensively on just war theory andintervention argues that humanitarian intervention should be seen asdifferent from instigating a military conflict. As well as the legalistargument against intervention in the affairs of another state, there isalso the difficulty of intervention in a country that has not committedaggression against another state – there is a danger that interveningstates can be seen as portraying the message treat your people the waywe believe you should or be subject to the threat of armed punishment.Walzer nonetheless believes that even if intervention threatens theterritory and political independence of another state, there are timeswhen it can be justified. The onus of proof of justification howeverlies with the leader of the state that intervenes and this can be aheavy burden, “not only because of the coercions and ravages thatmilitary intervention brings, but also because it is thought that thecitizens of a sovereign state have a right, insofar as they are to becoerced and ravaged at all, to suffer only at one another’s hands”.
Arguments that states should, regardless of how they are governed,should be left to deal with own affairs and influenced by the thoughtsof John Stuart Mill who argued from a utilitarian viewpoint stronglyfor the right of a single political community to determine its ownaffairs – whether or not its political arrangements are free is not anissue for other states – members of any political society mustcultivate their own freedom in the way that individuals must cultivatetheir own virtue, self-help rather than intervention from an externalforce must be the way towards a just society. Such arguments do notstand up when applied to some of the systematic and well-documentedhuman rights abuses of the twentieth century – foreign governments makedecisions based on a realist perspective not to intervene, butnon-intervention based on the idea of self-determination is to avoidthe issue and hide behind outdated ideas. There is a point at whichrealism has to be put aside and some form of moral stance must betaken. For Walzer, there are three situations in which theinternational resistance to boundary crossings can be ignored:
1. when a particular set of boundaries clearly contains two or morepolitical communities, one of which is already engaged in a large-scalemilitary struggle for independence; that is, when what is at issue issecession or ‘national liberation’
2. when the boundaries have already been crossed by the armies of aforeign power, even if the crossing has been called for by one of theparties in a civil war, that is, when what is at issue iscounter-intervention; and
3. when the violation of human rights within a set of boundaries is soterrible that it makes talk of community or self-determination or‘arduous struggle’ seem cynical or irrelevant, that is, in cases onenslavement or massacre
His criteria present a realistic scope for intervention. For all theideas of ethical foreign policies there has to be some realism ininternational relations in that states cannot simply intervene in everydispute between neighbours or outbreaks of political unrest in otherstates. Walzer’s criteria, particular his third, limit interventionwhen serious abuses of human rights appear to be taking place. At thispoint, political expediency and national self-interest should be putaside.
Ultimately, Walzer’s thinking lead him towards an ethical theory ofpeace on the basis of sovereignty and other widely accepted states’rights. His values form the basis of a legalist paradigm, which providethe moral and legal structure for maintaining international peace. Hislegal paradigm also outlines the criteria for use of force tointervene. Its six key principles are:
1. An international society of independent states exists;
2. The states comprising the international society have rights,including the rights of territorial integrity and political sovereignty;
3. The use of force or threat of force by one state against another constitutes aggression and is a criminal act;
4. Aggression justifies two types of action: a war of self-defence bythe victim and a war of law enforcement by the victim and any othermembers of the international society;
5. Nothing but aggression justifies war
6. After the aggressor state has been militarily repulsed, it can be punished.
Irrespective of the situation in a particular state and the legal ormoral issues around any form of intervention, the realist view ofinternational affairs can lead statesmen to decide againstintervention. Realists from Thucydides, Hobbes and Machiavelli throughto the likes of Kissinger and Waltz remain strictly sceptical aboutmoral concepts within international relations and assume that statesgoing to war or engaging in any form of intervention are more motivatedby power and their own national security than any moral issues. Thephrase “all’s fair in love and war” is often applied to the realistperspective with Walzer writing “referring specifically to war,realists believe that it is an intractable part of an anarchical worldsystem, that it ought to be resorted to only if it makes sense in termsof national self-interest” – in effect there are no moralconsideration in regard to military intervention, the human rightsabuses occurring in another state are of little importance to realists,intervention will only be considered if it is considered to beeconomically or strategically of value to the intervening state or itsleaders. This value can be political on occasions. There is littledoubt of the power of modern media to put pressure on politicians. TheUS intervention in Somalia and NATO action in Bosnia were to someextent related to public pressure on politicians to do something aboutscenes being broadcast into the homes of the electorate.
Thinking on humanitarian intervention has had to adapt more recently tothe new type of wars that have proliferated across the globe since theend of the Cold War, for example the conflicts in the former Yugoslaviadriven by ancient ethnic hatreds. Certainly with the demise of thestand off between two military superpowers there has been greater scopefor the UN and individual states to become involved in conflictresolution and throughout the 1990s the UN has found itself constantlyinvolved in providing humanitarian aid, establishing safe havens,disarmament and demobilisation operations, monitoring and maintainingceasefires.
New wars have involved a blurring of the distinction between war(usually defined as violence between states or organised politicalgroups), organised crime (violence undertaken by privately organisedgroups for private purposes, usually financial gain) and large-scaleviolations of human rights (violence undertaken by states orpolitically organised groups against individual). Some of the ethnichatred that has fuelled new wars has in particular led to terriblehuman rights abuses; events that put moral pressure on others states toconsider intervention. Mary Kaldor suggests that there are two types ofresponse to new wars – one is to draw on the old war idea of the nationstate and look for solutions along the lines of intervention and peacekeeping whilst the other response is a more negative and fatalisticoutlook: “because the wars cannot be understood in traditional terms,they are thought to represent a reversion to primitivism or anarchy andthe most that can be done therefore is to ameliorate the symptoms. Inother words, wars are treated as natural disasters.”
Kaldor’s view rightly challenge the realist assumption that statesshould not involve themselves in humanitarian intervention unless thereis some advantage to be gained in a self-interested pursuit of power.What is required is a more political response to new wars and theattacks on human rights that accompany them. The internationalcommunity should be looking towards politics of inclusion that capturethe hearts and minds of protagonists and any such politicalmobilisation should override traditional geopolitics or short termdomestic concerns. This type of thinking moves closer to a type ofneo-realism which places more of an emphasis on the structural featuresof the international system and avoids the stress on the often anarchicstriving for power that reflects traditional realism. The drawback tothe neo realist approach is that its reliance on the determining impactof the structure of the international system allow policy makersrelatively little discretion. This can be seen to some extent in Darfuras representative from various states struggled to find a solution tothe crisis that met with consensus.
There have of course been embarrassments for individual states andinternational organisations with attempts at humanitarian interventionin the 1990s, setbacks that will give weight to realist theory thatsovereign states should on the whole be left well alone. Kaldorconcludes that humanitarian intervention has had mixed success:
“at best, people have been fed and fragile ceasefires have beenagreed….at worst the UN has been shamed and humiliated, as, forexample, when it failed to prevent genocide in Rwanda, when theso-called safe haven of Srebrenica was overrun by Bosnian Serbs, orwhen the hunt for the Somali warlord Aideed ended in a mixture of farceand tragedy”.
Nonetheless, the arguments for humanitarian intervention remain strong.Darfur is as good an example as any for this. As Orend writes “whyshould foreign states, which themselves respect human rights, be barredin principle from intervening in such illegitimate regimes?”
Rwanda in particular serves as an example of both foreign states andinternational organisations initially taking a realist stance only toeventually to be spurred into action by the sheer scale of the genocidetaking place. In France’s case, the links between the powerful elitesin the two countries had long been established – not only had Francelong supported the Hutu regime but Francois Mitterand and RwandanPresident Habyarimana were personal friends, whilst their sons, JeanChristopher and Jean-Pierre were also friends and business associates.The two countries had mutual economic interests and there is evidencethat Jean Christopher was one of France’s biggest arms dealers to Rwanda.
The French response to the developing crisis, when it came, was farfrom glorious. Rather than intervene to provide further killings itdecided to pull out its troops. In the previous week, the first of thegenocide they had evacuated as many as 1361 people including 450 Frenchnationals and 178 Rwandan officials and their families. No otherRwandan nationals were evacuated, not even Tutsi personnel from theFrench embassy or well-known opponents of the regime who had alreadybeen targeted by the militia.
The role of the United Nations mission (UNAMIR) has receivedconsiderable criticism in analyses of the genocide. The UN had its owninternal politics to contend with and its policies on Rwanda were inturn determined to some extent by realist self-interest. As anorganisation it was largely reliant on the support of its most powerfulmembers on the Security Council. These nations, mindful of thedisastrous US intervention in Somalia were wary of investing troops andfinances into another African conflict. Realism came to the forefrontof the early decision making process. Human Rights Watch, in additionto criticism of the UN for not taking heed of Dallaire’s warnings, isalso critical of the scale of the mandate itself. It describes thedetails of the mandate as follows:
“Not only was the UN slow, it was also stingy. The United States, whichwas assessed 31 per cent of UN peacekeeping costs, had suffered fromthe enormous 370 per cent increase in peacekeeping expenses from 1992to 1993 and was in the process of reviewing its policy on such operations.
Quite simply the UN was not equipped to keep the peace in Rwanda.Members on its influential Security Council did not have the politicalwill to get involved, nor were they willing to take on the financialburden. The US and the UK, although less involved in Rwanda thanFrance, were similarly guilty of happily ignoring warnings of possiblegenocide and working towards the maintenance of the status quo. Bothhad sold arms to the Hutu regime and had trading links with Rwanda.Both also had little desire to see their own troops caught up as partof an UN force in Rwanda. The theory of non-intervention, as opposed torealism is another view that opposes humanitarian intervention. The keyassumptions and values for this concept are
• the existing anarchic international system is morally legitimate
• peoples have a right to political self-determination
• states have a juridical right to sovereignty and territorial integrity
• states have an obligation to resolve conflicts peacefully
• force is a illegitimate instrument for altering the existing territorial boundaries
Non –intervention theory argues in favour of an internationallegitimacy of states in which existing states are entitled to autonomyand domestic legitimacy which assumes that states are entitled torespect and support when they fulfil their core obligations as states.In terms of domestic legitimacy, in the light of the fact that thereare wide disparities in conceptions of human rights, this canessentially be interpreted that whether a state is entitled tonon-intervention depends largely on its subject’s approval of theregime itself.
The counter-arguments of realism and moral intervention continue toplay a major role in international politics and are likely to continueto do so. It is a sad fact that the list of oppressive governments andmassacred populations is lengthy. Walzer points out that for every Naziholocaust or Rwanda there will be a number of smaller examples ofinjustice and abuse – so many that the international community cannothope to deal with. On a small scale at least, Walzer’s suggestion that“states don’t send their soldiers into other states, it seems, only tosave lives. The lives of foreigners don’t weigh that heavily in thescales of domestic decision-making” rings true – humanitarianintervention in smaller-scale situations is simply not realistic. Agreater test for the moral resolve of NGOs and wealthier nations istheir response in the face of large-scale humanitarian disasters andhuman rights abuses, again using Walzer’s words, when dealing with acts“that shock the moral conscience of mankind”.
Ethical questions around the issues of international moral obligationstowards nations suffering from oppressive regimes and human rightsabuses are not easily resolved. Whilst humanitarian aid or interventionis generally seen as a morally correct route of action, politicalexpediency quite often takes precedence. Whilst it is generallyaccepted that, as Grotius believed, war ought not to be undertakenexcept for the enforcement of right and when once undertaken it shouldbe carried on within the bounds of law and good faith, national selfinterest does not always allow for a strategy led by such moralincentives. In Darfur, the action of the Khartoum Government couldcertainly not be described as driven by moral incentives whilstelsewhere early responses to the crisis were driven by politicalexpediency Major states have to ask themselves which moral valuesshould influence their foreign policies and which international valueis more important – sovereignty or human rights? The answer should behuman rights, yet there is a fine line between using these values froma moral perspective or manipulating them into a realist opportunity toindulge the national interest with intervention elsewhere. There areother difficult questions – do human rights violations justify foreignintervention and at what scale? Does international political moralityrequire the removal of illegal military regimes and the restoration ofdemocracy? There are countless regimes around the world to which theworld might turn its attention and ask itself these questions. For themost part, small conflicts and small-scale abuse of human rights are,rightly or wrongly, ignored. The situation in Darfur from 2003 onwardshowever gave the international community a scenario that it could notignore. The world had to make decisions upon hundreds of thousands oflives would rest.
Chapter Three – The crisis in Darfur
The current situation in Darfur can be traced back to February 2003when fighters from the Sudanese Liberation Movement (SLM) and theJustice and Equality Movement (JEM) launched joints attacks againstgovernment garrisons in protest at what they saw as decades ofpolitical oppression and economic neglect by the Sudanese government.The attacks came at the same time that there had been high hopes of apeace settlement to the war in southern Sudan that had been ongoingbetween the government and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army(SPLM/A) since independence in 1965.
The government’s response was unequivocal. Citing the rebels as anaggressive force against the state it set out to crush the rebellion byforce and utilised the powerful force of Arab Janjaweed militias toattack not particularly rebel soldiers but the civilian populationsfrom where the rebels would have originated. The government expectedto crush the revolt, partly as it had done so in 1991 when a SPLA unitinfiltrated Darfur, and partly as it expected a lack on internationalinterest as Darfur was an internal Northern Sudanese issue with noChristian population and no oil interests involved. Khartoum –ledmilitary activity in late 2003 to early 2004 was brutal (“acounter-insurgency of extraordinary ferocity”) and carried out whilstthe government prevented any humanitarian aid reaching the civilianpopulation. It was an action led by political expediency withabsolutely no regard for the human rights of an innocent civilianpopulation. Hugo Slim describes the military action as completelydisproportionate to the targeted guerrilla warfare of the two Darfurinsurgent groups and states that “systematic and widespread governmentand Janjaweed assaults on civilians, their villages, theirinfrastructure and their livelihoods along with forced displacement andland-grabbing, intended to make it impossible for the terrorised andevicted populations to return. As this went on, the Government alsoenforced what was almost a complete ban on humanitarian aid accessingthe country between October 2003 and February 2004.
Early talks on the crisis saw the Khartoum Government deliberatelystonewall on major issues. It objected to upgrading the small AUobserver force from 300 to 3500,with an increase in its mandate toinclude protecting civilians, and was then forced to accept thismeasure by the UN Security Council. It was a realist approach – lookingsolely after its own interests and using delay in an internationalresponse to move along with its aim to displace the population ofDrafur.
Government and Janjaweed Cooperation
There is little realdoubt that the government has worked closely with the Janjaweedmilitias. Human Rights Watch (HRW) investigations concluded thatgovernment forces and militia troops have taken part in massacres andsummary executions of civilians, burnings of towns and villages andforcible depopulation of areas across Darfur. ”We are the government”has been a common response of Janjaweed at checkpoints and whenentering villages and HRW reports that “the government and itsJanjaweed allies have killed thousands of Fur, Masalit and Zaghawa –often in cold blood, raped women and destroyed villages, food stocksand other supplies essential to the civilian population.”.
In the early stages of the conflict, the Sudanese government barelyattempted to conceal its close working with the Janjaweed. Mans writesthat “the Janjaweed militias are said to be of largely Chadian originand finance themselves through plunder and pillage, reportedly enjoyingimplicit support from the Government in Khartoum.” But this isunderstating the relationship between the two. In April 2004, theSudanese Foreign Minister, Mustafa Osman Ismail, admitted a commoncause with the Janjaweed stating “the government may have turned ablind eye to the militias…This is true. Because these militia aretargeting the rebellion.” President Bashir also had spoken on 31December 2003 of the government’s determination to defeat the SLArebellions and warned darkly that “the horsemen” would be one of theweapons it would use.
There is other clear evidence of well established links between thegovernment and Janjaweed leaders. Many of the militia leaders areestablished emirs or omdas from Arab tribes who have previously workedin government. For example, Abdullah abu Shineibat, an emir of the BeniHalba tribe is a Janjaweed leader in the Habila-Murnei area, whilstOmar Saef, an omda of the Awlad Zeid tribe is leader of the Janjaweedfrom Geineina to Misterei. Other evidence pointed to a similarconclusion of complicity between government and militia: Janjaweedbrigades were organised along army lines with forces wearing similaruniforms and officers using the same stripes; militia forces used thesame land cruisers and satellite phones as army personnel and there isevidence that Janjaweed members were given assurances that they wouldnot face local prosecution for crimes, with police forces beinginstructed to leave them alone. Again, the prevailing issue here ispolitical expediency overcoming any possible humanitarian response.Both the Government and Janjaweed had interests in devastating Darfur –there was political gain for the Government and financial gain for theJanjaweed. Both took the realist option of looking after themselves.
Government and Militia forces attack civilians
One of the mostnotable traits of the crisis in Darfur has been the fact that bothgovernment and militia forces have largely ignored rebel forces,preferring to use their weapons against the civilian population inareas that rebels may have originated from. HRW investigationsuncovered 14 incidents in Dar Masalit alone between September 2003 andFebruary 2004 in which 770 civilians were killed. It also gatheredwitness testimony to mass executions in the Fur areas of Wadi Salihprovince over the same period.
Aerial bombardment of civilians has also been commonplace. The SudaneseGovernment has made extensive use of attack aircraft, dropping bombsloaded with metal shards to cause maximum injury and also utilisinghelicopter gun ships and MiG jet fighters. Bombing has also beendeliberately targeted at villages and towns where displaced citizenshave gathered – for example on August 27 2003, aircraft carried out anattack on the town of Habila which was packed with displaced civiliansfrom surrounding areas. 24 were killed.
Government and Janjaweed forces have also systematically attacked anddestroyed villages, food stocks, water sources and other essentialitems essential for the survival of villages in West Darfur. Refugeesin Chad have confirmed a sweep south east of Geneeina in February 2004saw the destruction of a number of villages including Nouri, Chakoke,Urbe, Jabun and Jedida.
The International Response
The international response to the situation in Darfur has been mixed,characterised by a willingness to condemn the Sudanese Governmentalongside a dragging of heels in actually intervening to stop what theUS Government has labelled genocide. Alex De Waal suggests thatpolitical repercussions for the Sudanese Government were gravewriting: “International attention and condemnation exceeded allexpectations, culminating in Darfur being brought before the UnitedNations Security Council in July 2004” This analysis however fails tomention the scale of the crisis in the preceding months and suggests amore positive and effective response by the international communitythan was actually the case.. The international community may eventuallyhave come around to taking Darfur seriously – but much later than wasrequired. As Hugo Slim concludes: “the international community has notdenied, but it has delayed and dithered. Once engaged it fumbled andtook far too long to achieve a united and sufficiently assertiveresponse.”
There was a notable reluctance from the UN in particular to use theword genocide in relation to Darfur, a similar pattern to that had beenfollowed in Rwanda a decade earlier. It was in fact US Secretary ofState Powell that announced on September 9th 2004 that the USgovernment’s conclusion was that “genocide had been committed inDarfur…and may still be occurring” The US stance may have beeninfluenced by domestic political considerations. According to a seniorUS official who had served as ambassador to the UN, the Bushadministration described the Darfur atrocities as genocide in order toplease the Christian right ahead of the American presidentialelections. John Danforth, made the admission in an interview in whichhe confirmed that the Bush administration's stance was dictated bydomestic considerations and had aligned its position with that of theUS Congress, which urged President Bush in a vote in July 2004 to callthe mass killings and ethnic cleansing in western Sudan 'by theirrightful name: genocide'. Again, this serves as an example ofpolitical expediency at the fore – US policy was being influenced bypublic opinion and therefore its own self interest. In this case, arealist perspective may actually have helped to instigate action, butnonetheless from the administrations viewpoint, policy was not beingled by its own moral incentives.
Foreign policy decision making in the US was also affected by othertheoretical factors. Clinton’s administration had attempted tointroduce a new doctrine of ‘enlargement and enlargement’ that waslinked to the enlargement of the democratic world and the expansion ofinternational cooperation. The policy was based on the precept thatinternational cooperation would reduce the need for the US to interveneabroad (in situations such as in Darfur). In addition to this was arealisation that gaining consensus for intervention in the US was verydifficult. Following the like of Vietnam and Somalia, realism prevailedover humanitarian motives and the perception was that during the 1990s,the use of force by the US was only possible in clear cut situations,where the moral force of arguments for intervention was very strong (asstrong as the practical need to defeat the enemy) and casualties couldbe kept to a minimum.
UN fortnightly situation reports painted a worrying picture aboutDarfur from 2003 onwards, again listing evidence of attacks oncivilians, displacement of populations and famine. Its report for Feb10-19 2004 focussed on the ongoing difficulties that NGOs were havingin gaining access to the region. The report stated that high-level UNdelegations had to exert pressure on the Sudanese government forunimpeded access so that meaningful humanitarian programmes could bedelivered . Security incidents across West Darfur were logged, as werereports of militia looting cattle from resident populations andentering camps at night, raping women and looting property.
Rape has become a hallmark of the crimes against humanity in Darfur. Ithas proven one way for the Janjaweed militias to continue attackingDarfurians after driving them from their homes. Families must continueto collect wood on a daily basis, fetch water or work in their fields,and in doing so, women put themselves and their children at repeatedand genuine risk of rape, beatings or death as soon as they are outsidethe relative safety of the camps, towns or villages (even being insidepopulation centres however does not guarantee safety). It is assumedthat the hundreds of rapes actually reported and treated grosslyunderestimate the actual number committed, as victims of rape in Darfurare often too scared or too ashamed to seek help. In a culture whererape draws heavy social disgrace, victims will often be ostracised bytheir families and communities. Women and children have been forcedfrom their communities and even punished for illegal pregnancy as aresult of being raped.
Months later, situation reports for September, whilst concentrating oncamp management and humanitarian aid for displaced people, stillreferred to attacks on civilians. In South Darfur: for example an INGOreported armed Arab militia attacks on Amdur, 16km north east of Nyalaand Mummu villages, , along the route to Ta’asha on 16-17 September. The INGO reported that Arab militias, for the past three days had beenburning villages along Wadi Amdur. The report also referred to attemptsto alleviate malnourishment – in West Darfur there were reports thatsince mid-August NGOs had established a number of CTCs (CommunityTherapeutic Care) covering five sites around El Geneina includingDorti, Riyad, Ardamata and Abuzar School. The program at that time hadregistered approximately 2,000 children about 250 of which are severelymalnourished. UN situation reports for the whole of 2003-04 wouldconsistently refer to food shortages in camps and malnutrition amongstchildren. It was clear that was what happening in Darfur was alarge-scale humanitarian disaster.
July 2004 saw the issue of a Joint Communiqué between the UN and theGovernment of Sudan following visit by Secretary General Kofi Annan.The communiqué registered the fact that the UN was deeply concernedwith the grave situation in the region and was aware of the urgent needto stop Janjaweed attacks on the civilian population and to ensuresecurity in the region as per the humanitarian ceasefire agreement thathad been signed by the Government and rebel groups in May. By thisstage, the UN was able to recognise some improvement in achievinghumanitarian access to Darfur for UN and African Union officials andwelcomed an increase in the provision of assistance to the internallydisplaced and other vulnerable groups by both local and nationalauthorities as well as from international agencies and NGOs. The facthowever that the Government had obstructed humanitarian aid to its owncivilian population gives some indication as to the severity ofoppression in Darfur.
The communiqué included some assurances, verbal at least, from the Sudanese Government. It committed to:
• Implementing a ‘moratorium on restrictions’ for all humanitarian workin Darfur and the removal of other obstacles such as visa restrictionsfor aid workers
• Freedom of movement for aid workers and suspension of restrictionsfor the importation and use of all humanitarian assistance materials,transport vehicles, aircraft and communication equipment
• Ensure that individuals and groups accused of human rights violations are brought to justice
• Allow deployment of human rights monitors
• Establish a fair system, respectful of local traditions, that willallow abuse women to bring charges against alleged perpetrators
On many occasions, the Khartoum Government would be stalling for timeto continue its programme of ethnic cleansing when agreeing toconcessions. Its denial of links with the Janjaweed also gave it theopportunity to claim that Government forces were complying withagreements whilst in reality the Government-backed Janjaweed couldcontinue its work with relative impunity.
It has to be understood that the international response to Darfur wasdictated to some extent by tensions between bilateral and multilateralapproaches. Peace talks to end the lengthy conflict in Southern Sudanwere at a critical stage and few diplomats wished to see this processaffected by Darfur. Hugo Slim confirms as such, stating: “there werecompeting political priorities within Sudan, within the region and inthe world at large which acted to distract and inhibit politicalresponse to what was happening in Darfur”
There are however, a number of positive aspects that can be found inthe international response. Early fact-finding work carried out on theground in Chad and Darfur was impressive, humanitarian and human rightsorganisations also provided solid field reports on the situation andthe public display of satellite images offered by the US gave clearevidence as to patterns and the actual extent of destruction anddisplacement. Other individual nations, in particular Chad, theNetherlands, Germany and the UK maintained a consistent diplomaticpressure on the Sudanese Government. Criticisms of a lack of funding inDarfur once access for humanitarian missions had improved has also beenlevelled at the international community. Despite the UN calling for adonor’s conference in June 2004, the amount given has consistentlyfallen short of what is needed. Oxfam has pointed out the discrepancybetween international funding in Sudan and in Iraq. In the first threemonths of 2003, the appeal for Iraq had raised US$2 billion whilst theappeal for the whole of Sudan had only raised US$200 million out of anappeal for US$639 million. The donors conference asked for US$236million, yet only raised pledges of US$126 million. Politicalexpediency must be seen as a factor here – war in Iraq is a policycarrued out with a strong commitment by the US Government – the samecannot be said to apply to Darfur.
The response of the European Union to Darfur, like the UN has beenmixed and uncoordinated. In February 2004 it expressed its “seriousconcern” and that it was “alarmed at reports that Janjaweed militiascontinue to systematically target villages and centres for IDPs intheir attacks” The EU condemned such attacks and the EuropeanParliament followed suite with strong statements and resolutions on thecrisis. Individual states, particularly the British and the Dutchcontinued to lobby the Sudanese Government about its human rightsrecord.
Despite strong words however, and condemnation from the EU as a body,there was relatively little in terms of public condemnation of theSudanese Government from individual member states during 2003-04. Thelikes of the British, Dutch and French all had embassies in Khartoumand, whilst willing to use private diplomacy, shied away from publiccomment for fear of upsetting the ongoing peace talks in Naivasharegarding Southern Sudan. The talks had been going on for some time,and, as the crisis in Darfur broke out, were reaching a crucial stage.The Government feared that an ongoing insurgency in Darfur coulddevelop into a widespread movement in the North that would ultimatelythreaten the regime. The international community was equally aware ofthis and so, whilst horrified by the situation in Darfur, had toconsider alternatives – if the insurgents in Darfur eventually broughtdown President Bashir, a totalling unravelling of the country mightoccur and a situation of near anarchy that might grow into a worsetragedy than in Darfur alone. In effect, and perhaps without making aconscious decision to do so, the vast majority of the internationalcommunity settled for what can be described as a tacit sequencingstrategy that involved dealing with one war after another. Such apolicy would eventually get around to dealing with Darfur, but would beunable to prevent further atrocities in the meantime.
Competing political strategies amongst individual states also hamperedpractical resolution to the Darfur crisis. All states privatelycondemned what was going on, yet all had different relationships withthe Sudanese Governments, or their own domestic or regional issues thateffected their actions. China for example took a noticeably softer linewith the Khartoum Government, partly due to its close economic tieswith Sudan and partly due to fears of drawing attention to its own poorhuman rights record. From the US, there came strong words andaccusations of genocide, yet a reluctance to involve the InternationalCriminal Court – a reluctance undoubtedly influenced by concerns thatits own actions in Iraq could be open to similar charges. The processof aligning such a wide range of positions was time consuming and timewas a commodity that displaced civilians in Darfur did not have. Anongoing antagonism over who is and who is not prepared to back anyagreement with financial aid also creates tension and delays.
The African Union and its member states, Chad in particular, gave someimpressive support to the Western powers in looking for a response toDarfur. The AU had not long prior to the crisis developed its own Peaceand Security Council and through this channel was able to issue anumber of informed and critical communiqués about the violence andhuman rights abuses in Darfur. The AU gave strong support to theinitial N’djamena peace talks through its envoy and its offices inAddis Ababa and followed this by successfully taking on the role ofofficial mediator in the Abuja peace process, indicating that as arational organisation, it has the will, the expertise and the technicalcapacity to deliver critical diplomatic results.
In contrast, multilateral support and cooperation with theinternational community from the Arab league and the Organisation ofIslamic Countries was notably less forthcoming. Again, other politicalissues overshadowed the situation at hand – for example the Arab Leaguewas at the time focussed on US military action in Iraq and Israelimilitary action against the Palestinians and paid little attention toDarfur. The League played little part in the N’adjamena process otherthan turn up to sign the agreement in May and its main role in theAjuba process appears to have been to support the Khartoum Governmentin its efforts to avoid US and European intervention. It did not offerany of its own troops to support an international response.
The real beginnings of an international response, as delayed as it was,came in April 2004, led by the US, Chad and the AU. The US has exertedpolitical pressure on the Sudanese Government during the N’adjamenatalks and leading members of the US administration backed this up withphone calls. A June visit by Secretary of State Powell also emphasisedthe strength of US determination to instigate some form of humanitarianaction, even if this would not entail a commitment of its own troops.US funding, along with donations from EU and Britain was able to securethe ceasefire commission process. The UN Security Council on the otherhand, remained quiet and ineffective during 2004. Its statementsremained statements of concern rather than of action and focussed onthe protection of civilians, humanitarian access and the KhartoumGovernment’s responsibility for both. There was little in the way ofthreatening or sanctioning UN measures against the Sudanese Government.It was a poor response from the UN, giving weight to the theory that interms of strong political leadership, it is the US that leads the wayin international politics. The Security Council, in particular haslooked divided and ineffective over Darfur, with self-interestseemingly influencing the Russian and Chinese positions.
It is easy to underestimate the scale of the atrocities in Darfur.Certainly it is a humanitarian and human rights disaster unparalleledsince Rwanda. It will take many years for the international communityto repair the damage done to the region. Even before this can begin, itis vital that Janjaweed are brought completely under control. Even atpresent they continue to launch attacks on civilians whilst many havebeen officially integrated into the police and army, something thatcannot fill the population of Darfur with confidence for the future.The whole infrastructure of the region has been severely damaged.Populations are displaced across the region and tens of thousands havefled into neighbouring Chad. It is unlikely that many of the displacedpopulation will return to their land by the next planting season, thusensuring that the cycle of food shortages goes on. Above all elsehowever, it should be recognised that events in Darfur were not anaccident. They were not sparked by some form of natural disaster, butcontrolled by a Government set on a policy of ethnic cleansing againstits black African population. For all the dithering of the UN aboutdefinitions, by all intents and purposes, what happened in Darfurduring 2003-04 was genocide.
Chapter Four – Darfur in the context of theoretical perspectives on humanitarian intervention
Assessing the Darfur crisis against the theoretical framework ofinternational relations is not an easy task. The sheer diversity ofviewpoints and incentives held by key players entails that ageneralisation is impossible. To suggest that realism or particularmoral values drive the response of the international community is toosimplistic. Some states and NGOs appeared to be switching from actionto inertia almost on a monthly basis, clearly unable to decide betweenpolicies of intervention, non-intervention or a detached realism. Themotives of the various actors need to be analysed separately.
Firstly it is clear that the scale of the crisis in Darfur is one,which by Walzer’s definition should ‘shock the moral conscience ofmankind’ . By March 2005, estimates varied but the most conservativespeak of around 80,000 dead, in addition to the 180,000 who have beenkilled by hunger and disease during the past 18 months. Close to 2million people have been displaced. The situation in Darfur is one thatdemanded humanitarian intervention from 2003 onwards yet failed toreceive it. Regardless of any theoretical analysis of the internationalresponse, the clear fact is that the international community has to bemorally obliged to intervene in a disaster of such magnitude.
Realism at its most basic and cynical can be seen in the attitude ofthe Sudanese Government towards Darfur, both rebel forces and itscivilian population. Walzer uses the phrase “inter arma silent leges –in time of war the law is silent” to describe the inhumanity that manwill sometimes attempt to justify in times of conflict. Within theconflict in Darfur there are hints of Thucydides classic tale ofAthenian generals Clemodes and Tisias in dialogue with the magistratesof the island state of Melos – instead of talking of glory and justice,they spoke of what was feasible and necessary. They knew that they hadthe power to crush the island’s population and would do so to show thestrength that they possessed. The Sudanese Government decide upon itspolicy in Darfur with a similar realism. It knew that it had themilitary might to crush the population in Darfur and that it had anopportunity to do so whilst the international community focussed onother world issues and peace talks in other parts of Sudan. Even as theinternational community woke up to the true scale of the horror inDarfur, its initial indecision gave the Sudanese Government a few moremonths to continue with its ethnic cleansing. Quite simply, Khartoumput any moral issues aside and sanctioned widespread atrocities in thebelief that this course of action best served its own interests.
The US Government combined realism with some degree of morality and acommitment to the value of human life. For the US, the concept ofrealpolitik lies at the heart of its foreign policy and this is seen inits handling of the situation in Darfur.
As the world’s major superpower, the US has to ask itself certainquestions whenever it is expected to intervene across the globe onhumanitarian grounds. Is intervention morally warranted? Given famineand suffering across the world, how does it make a compelling case forintervention in one particular country? Should national interests orglobal values guide the US? What is the long term picture – doeshumanitarian intervention carry with it the moral obligation to thenattempt to remedy the underlying conditions behind such suffering? Should the US, following a humanitarian intervention look to disarm anddemobilise warring factions? Perhaps the most difficult question is todistinguish between different disasters. Why did it intervene inSomalia and not Rwanda? How does Darfur compare to the two of them?Such questions border on the imponderable. In reality the US is unableto devise a strict set of criteria to apply as humanitarian crisesemerge. It has to treat each situation on its merits and makejudgements on its action and policies according to circumstances. Forpeople suffering at the hands of oppressive regimes, the hope has to bethat moral imperatives rather than a self-serving realism will prevailin their instance.
At the outset of the Darfur crisis, Iraq was the main foreign policyconcern for the US, but by the spring of 2004 its own satellitephotography was providing indisputable evidence of a humanitariancatastrophe in Darfur generated by systematic atrocities. The situationwas that “international interest and self-interest began to coalescearound Darfur….something had to be done. Key players in theinternational community started to push for talks to restart”. Withpublic opinion at home, led by the Christian Right increasingly callingfor action, the US administration had to be seen to be doing something.
The US response showed realism in its reluctance to use a militaryintervention force – there was little in terms of its own nationalinterests that would have been achieved by humanitarian intervention,despite the scale of the crisis suggesting that there would have been afairly compelling moral argument to do so. Walzer’s just war theorycontends that war can be morally justified, provided it is for theright reasons and adheres to a code of conduct. The US took a moralstance in its diplomacy in regard to Darfur but was unwilling to extendthis moral stance to military intervention. A military intervention inthis case may have saved tens of thousands of lives. The war in Iraqobviously raises serious questions about the justification of USintervention abroad yet Darfur remains a completely differentsituation. The scale of the humanitarian crisis through 2003/04 wouldjustify intervention by most criteria, certainly those set out by thelikes of Kaldor and Walzer. Nonetheless, its diplomatic and financialintervention seems to have more ethical motives at heart. There mayhave been some self-interest in terms of appeasing domestic pressuregroups that wanted to see action in Darfur, but the overall tone of theUS in diplomacy around Darfur has been a positive force. Its reluctanceto support any use of the ICC of course injects a further note ofrealism into its actions. The Bush administration regards the ICC aspart of a covert agenda to put US soldiers on trial, and has repeatedlyblocked moves to bring it into play. Again, political considerationoverride what should be an option to prevent human rights abuses,
The UN, although guilty over indecision and delays in its response toDarfur can at least be said to have taken a moral stance towards thesituation. Slim sums this up stating: “despite the very late responseof the international political community to the atrocities in Darfur,there seems little doubt that key states, UN organisations and NGOs didrespond with this post-Rwanda sense of responsibility. They were neverin denial about Darfur. They never downplayed the violence ormisrepresented it as something other than it was.” This can be seen inthe language of much of the UN documentation on Darfur – terms such ascivilian protection, humans rights violations, war crimes andinternational responsibility feature highly in the vocabulary. Whilstthe UN in particular was keen to avoid use of the word genocide, theexperience in Rwanda alerted it to the fact that Darfur could come intothis category – certainly other pressure groups in the US and UK werewilling to use the term genocide.
One view is that the UN’s reluctance to use the word ‘genocide’ hasplayed into the hands of those committing atrocities in Darfur. Asrecently as February 2005 the UN has met and decided the Darfur did notmeet the criteria of genocide. This cannot be understated as had itruled the other way, there would have been an automatic obligation onthe rest of the international to intervene to stop it. In effect, thenon-interventionist argument would have been void. Of course the UN hasused other strongly worded statements. It has said that ethniccleansing, war crimes and possibly crimes against humanity haveoccurred in Darfur. This of course still leaves the rest of theinternational community with a dilemma. As Freedland asks: “so wheredoes this leave us, ‘the rest of the world’? Are we happy to stand bywhile the killing, maiming and village burning continues?” His view isthat for the UN and Western states, a realist view takes precedence –our direct concerns, that is our own people or economic being are notaffected by events in Darfur, so why bother? The war in Iraq can alsobe an argument for realists – both Britain and the US are simply toocommitted to Iraq to do anything practical elsewhere. Even though the US
has branded the Darfur calamity “genocide", it remains in no hurry to act. It
just does not have the men or kit to spare.
This type of philosophy is a product of the of the anti- interventionist conservative
right - a philosophy embodied by the Balkan lethargy of Douglas Hurd in the
1990s. There is also a negative type of realism on the left, which,since Rwanda, has concentrated on the disastrous effects of previousinterventions and argued against Western intervention from this angle..So, for example, the Rwandan genocide was
partly the product of a Belgian colonial legacy that left the society
divided between Hutus and Tutsis. British meddling in Sudan pitted the north
against the south, a conflict that endures to this day.
In the UK, a further factor also causes Government to hesitate morerecently when considering humanitarian intervention – the lack of trustin Prime Minister Blair following the invasion of Iraq. Intervention inKosovo back in 1999 seemed to herald the dawn of an era of liberalinterventionism to provide humanitarian assistance when needed. It wasthe era of an ethical foreign policy by the British Government. Blairspoke at the time of an end to realpolitik inertia that had allowed theslaughter in Rwanda and the Balkans to go unheeded for so long.Following the invasion of Iraq however, the high moral ground has beenlost for the British Government at least. The public would be deeplysceptical about any future intervention on humanitarian grounds,cautious of believing any Government information about human rightsabuse. In the words of Peter Wallward: “Fresh from an illegal anddeceitful war of aggression, Anglo-US forces now have only one moralresponsibility: to stay at home”.
Other commentators have been less positive about the UN response. A leading article in the Independent wrote scathingly:
” The UN has floundered pathetically in the face of this growingemergency. It initially allowed considerations about a peace accord inanother part of Sudan to distract it from the atrocities of Darfur.Countries sympathetic to Sudan on the Security Council - China, Russia,Pakistan and Algeria -buried attempts to impose sanctions.” Such aconclusion is harsh on the UN overall. Certainly, some individualstates, notably Russia and China have looked at Darfur from very much arealist perspective, decided to protect their own economic andstrategic interests and thus voted on the Security Council accordingly.This may cast some aspersions on the overall effectiveness of the UN,but still it would appear that the vast majority of those within theorganisation looked to take a moral stance towards Darfur, yet werehindered by its cumbersome bureaucracy and the cynical realism of aminority of member states.. China, in particular seems to have put allmoral considerations aside in protecting its own national interest. Aneager customer of Sudan's oil output, it appears to have blocked an oilembargo, which would have bought unequivocal economic pressure onKhartoum.
International responses to Darfur show an international community tornbetween realism and a nagging moral imperative to do the right thing.The fact that major states and organisations such as the UN can bedriven by moral incentives has to be seen as positive but clearly thiscommitment to the value of human life runs into problems when it has tobe converted into action. Realism kicks in when the time for actionarrives, perhaps inadvertently but in such a fashion that there aredelays in formulating a response to a crisis that costs lives.
As Slim succinctly concludes: “tensions arising from other areas ofinternational politics like Iraq, potential oil deals and concerns overspheres of influence are always played out in the immediate business ofbuilding and configuring an international alliance and shaping astrategy….the time it takes to form a coherent and assertiveinternational response when people are being killed is alwayssurprising. And, once again, over Darfur it took far too long”.
Sadly, it is likely that there will be another crisis such as that inRwanda. In the age in ‘new wars’ with their ferocious ethnic hatred,atrocities and wide scale abuses of human rights are likely toresurface across the globe. The fate of the civilian populationsaffected will be in the hands of other major states and internationalorganisations. For a successful intervention to be put in place thesestates and organisations will have to weigh up moral considerationsagainst their own interests and competing priorities and then worktogether to find a common response. Its has to be hoped that thebalance between realism and moral prerogatives tips the way of those inneed of help.
When set against the two often conflicting ideas of politicalexpediency and humanitarian imperative, Darfur falls somewhere in themiddle. A realist approach held by many in the international communitysaw political expediency prevail in the early stages of the crisis, tobe replaced by more humanitarian imperatives as the crisis evolved.There does appear to still be a concept within the leading actors inthe international community that they should be led by moralincentives. There challenge, as it remains in Darfur is to translatethese moral incentives into a realistic coordinated approach that willachieve its purpose.
Chapter Five – Conclusion
Whilst conclusions following a humanitarian crisis on the scale ofDarfur are easy to make with hindsight there are clearly some stepsthat should have been taken earlier by the international community. Thepeace talks regarding other areas of Sudan should have been treated asa separate issue and from when it became apparent what was happening inDarfur, regardless on peace initiatives elsewhere, serious andcoordinated political pressure should have been placed upon theSudanese Government to cease the campaign of ethnic cleansing and putan end to Janjaweed militia attacks on civilians and civilian property.The Government should have been instructed to disarm and disband theJanjaweed and withdraw from occupied areas of Darfur. There should havebeen impartial and thorough investigations into abuses by militia withprosecution of alleged perpetrators.
Both the Sudanese Government and rebel forces should have beeninstructed to facilitate full and unimpeded access to Darfur forhumanitarian personnel, measures should have been put in place to allowthe voluntary return of displaced persons and refugees and a UN humanrights commission should have, from an early stage, been put in placeto investigate crimes against humanity.
The African Union should have added stronger action to go along withsome of its fine diplomacy and negotiation and been quicker indeploying ceasefire observers to the region. It should have taken amore active role in monitoring and providing humanitarian assistance toaffected civilians. Other UN member states should also have been moreforthcoming in contributing personnel, equipment, other resources andfunding to aid AU operations. There should have been greater andquicker financial contributions to the social and economicreconstruction of Darfur and to efforts to provide humanitarianassistance and human rights monitoring.
Recent reports show that for all the efforts on 2003-04, situation inDarfur is still one of crisis. Security has deteriorated since the endof 2004, there remains a credible threat of famine, and a falteringceasefire has led to further civilian casualties. Chaos and a cultureof impunity are taking root in the region. The humanitarian situationis still extremely worrying – state-sponsored violence continues, asdoes obstruction to aid. Refugees and displaced civilians are weak,they do not have enough food, they do not have adequate shelter and aresubject to sexual abuse and attack. Infection diseases and dysenteryare rife.
The international community has made attempts to meet itsresponsibilities but in practice has failed. On the whole it has movedaway from a self-interested realist approach and shown some realisationas to the intrinsic value of human life, but its response has not beeneffective enough. The response was too slow, and, as Slim concludes:“this was not a problem of knowledge or denial but a failure toconfront the Sudanese Government forcefully, effectively andimmediately” A decade after Rwanda, some lessons had been learned andthere was a more positive response from the international community,yet the displaced populations, hungry civilians and those who have beenkilled are testament to the fact that action rather than a moralconcern from the rest of the world is what is needed in time of crisis.
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