Sudan began a genocide against tribes of small farmers in its Darfur region three years ago. Militia groups backed by the Sudanese government have slaughtered an estimated 400,000 people and driven 2.5 million people from their homes. U.N. troops are on their way, but will take at least five more months to arrive in Darfur.And today, George Clooney said that the U.N. must act or it would be faced with “the first genocide of the 21st century” (Clooney has visited the region, and he spoke with Elie Wiesel on this urgent matter).
The people of Darfur cannot wait five more months for U.N. troops to arrive. At the current rate of violence and destruction, another 30,000 civilians will die and another 300,000 people will become refugees over the next five months. In addition, as the international community stands by, violence and chaos is spreading to neighboring Chad and the Central African Republic. More than 100 Chadians were hacked to death in a single incident earlier this year.
I admire the African Union troops stationed in Darfur. They have done their jobs courageously and deserve the world's gratitude. But they need help. The African Union peacekeeping troops, which number just 7,000, have been unable to protect civilians or enforce a 2004 ceasefire. In the meantime, security has deteriorated dramatically.
I provide this as background because I read an excellent column yesterday in the Inquirer on what the Bush Administration has done wrong on Darfur written by a man named John Prendergast, who is senior adviser for the International Crisis Group in Washington.
I just returned from rebel-held areas of Darfur on a trip with Scott Pelley of CBS's 60 Minutes, and I found that the crisis is spiraling out of control: Violence is increasing, malnutrition is soaring, and access to life-saving aid is shrinking. The Bush administration has made some noise about Darfur over the last two years, but it has made a series of deadly mistakes that have served only to make matters worse.The U.S. negotiator was Robert Zoellick, by the way.
The administration's first deadly mistake is that while it helped broker a peace agreement in May, its negotiator left after only one rebel group signed, leaving at least two other rebel groups wanting more detail in the deal. The Khartoum regime is now partnering with the signatory group to launch a major offensive against the nonsignatories, thus deepening the divisions in Darfur.
Second, the United States and its partners did not make explicit in the peace deal the deployment of a U.N. peacekeeping operation to oversee implementation. U.S. officials took verbal promises from Khartoum as sufficient, which the regime has since renounced. Without a U.N. force, Darfurian displaced and refugee populations have no prospect of protection.I’ll save the snark since this is a humanitarian crisis as opposed to political nonsense (though that played a part here to be sure). I’ll only add that you can click here to access the Save Darfur coalition and help however you can.
The third mistake was not ensuring sufficient international involvement in the dismantling of the deadly Janjaweed militia structures. The task was left to the very entity that arms the Janjaweed, the Khartoum regime. Without real international participation in the dismantling, no displaced Darfurian will ever go home.
Fourth, the United States has politically supported the rebel group that signed the peace deal, including having President Bush meet the group's leader. This faction has since effectively become a government militia that has been responsible for gross human-rights violations.
Fifth, after the senior U.S. official who helped negotiate the partial peace took a job on Wall Street, almost his entire team departed. For these last four critical months, State Department officials have opposed the naming of a presidential envoy to clean up the mess and make Darfur a genuine priority.
Sixth, the United States and Europeans have left the African Union force in Darfur in a state of limbo, not giving it the requisite resources and political support needed to protect the people of Darfur.
Seventh, the United States crafted a U.N. Security Council resolution that authorized targeted sanctions in early 2005, but has since imposed sanctions on only one regime official, a retired air force commander. This leaves Khartoum with the correct impression that there will be no accountability.
Eighth, the United States has not provided information and intelligence to the International Criminal Court as the latter conducts its investigation of the war crimes committed in Darfur. Sharing such material could be a critical part of leverage on Khartoum as it would face the prospect of accelerated indictments of senior officials.
Ninth, the United States invited the security chief of the regime to CIA headquarters in Virginia, thus cementing the relationship with a man believed to be the architect of the ethnic-cleansing campaign in Darfur. This tells Khartoum that as long as they are "with us" in the war on terror, they can continue to pursue what the U.S. president himself has labeled genocide in Darfur.
Tenth, and most recently, the United States continues to offer incentives rather than pressures in its bid to change Khartoum's behavior and induce it to support a U.N. force. An administration official went to Khartoum recently and offered President Omar Hassan Ahmed al-Bashir a meeting with Bush and discussed the possibility of removing some of the U.S.-imposed sanctions. If we have learned anything over the last 15 years, it is this: Being soft on perpetrators of crimes against humanity does little to alter their behavior.
The administration's press statements and offers of incentives, and U.N. Security Council resolutions without real punitive actions have left the impression in Khartoum that Washington and the rest of the international community are all bark and no bite. "Constructive engagement" sometimes works, but it is making no impact here. Until the international stance, led by the United States, becomes much tougher, Khartoum can be expected to go on relentlessly targeting the civilian population in Darfur.