Tuesday, August 10, 2004

Darfur/Europe: see no evil...

The New York Times was one of many news outlets to report on the European Union's announcement on Sudan. The EU said that it had found no evidence of genocide in the Sudanese region of Darfur despite widespread killings, but that there were few indications of government efforts to protect civilians.

This is in contrast to the US Congress, which recently passed a resolution declaring Darfur to be genocide.

An EU spokesman was quoted, ""We are not in the situation of genocide there. But it is clear there is widespread, silent and slow killing going on, and village burning on a fairly large scale."

Whew! Only silent, slow killings and villages burning (and the "worst humanitarian situation in the world", according to the UN). But not genocide. That's a relief! I thought it was serious.

So the question is this: why is the EU wasting its time and resources investigating whether or not Darfur is technically genocide? Is this really the most appropriate thing to be doing right now, while the killings continue unabated, the Khartoum government sits by disinterested (or perhaps worse) and over a million people are at risk of dying of starvation or disease?

The Sudanese regime has promised to send in security forces to Darfur allegedly to control the situation. Though few objective observers would be reassured by such a promise/threat, the BBC explains why. "The government of the Sudan is responsible for... summary executions of large numbers of people," UN investigator Asma Jahangir said in a report.

Jahangir said it was frequently impossible to distinguish between the army, the Popular Defence Force and the Janjaweed militia which has been widely blamed for massacres.
The report says the Sudanese government appears oblivious to the humanitarian crisis in Darfur and described the persistent denial of the disaster by most government officials as "shocking".

"Such a reaction despite the huge international outcry would appear to indicate either complete disrespect for the right to life of the population of Darfur, or, at worst, complicity in the events," she wrote.

To show their good faith, Khartoum is now reportedly arresting or harassing civilians who talk to foreigners.

Amnesty International said in a report Sudan had rounded up scores of people who spoke to journalists and foreign leaders, including Secretary of State Colin Powell, on recent visits to Darfur.

One woman from Western Darfur state told Reuters she was imprisoned several times and routinely harassed after she translated for a recent visiting group of foreign diplomats.

"Nineteen security officers jumped down from two trucks and threatened me with weapons," said the woman, who was too frightened to give her name.

"They took me back to the headquarters and threatened me saying that they had scorpions and snakes and accusing me of mistranslating for the diplomats," she said.

Another woman, who works in development and declined to be identified, said authorities threatened to make her disappear one day after U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan visited Darfur.

Security officials told Reuters people were being questioned and some had been detained but that it was a matter of security and not a reprisal for speaking to foreigners.

For their own good [wink]

In a related, and hardly surprising, development, the Arab League has announced it opposes sanctions in the Sudanese regime even if it refused to disarm the Janjaweed militias who are carrying out the genocide. The hypocrites pointed out that sanctions "would only result in negative effects for the whole Sudanese people and complicate the crisis in Darfur." I'd be curious to know what's more negative than mass murder.

In that light, it's hardly surprising that the old 'when it doubt, blame Israel' card has been played. Haaretz reports that the Sudanese regime has accused leaders of a rebel group in its western Darfur region were making regular visits to Israel and ties with the Jewish state had caused a split in rebel ranks. A rebel spokesman denied any link with Israel and said the charge was an attempt to stir up Muslim public opinion.

[World Press Review has a good essay entitled Why the Darfur Crisis Is Likely to Happen Again. Of course it is. The Darfur genocide heated up at the same time as the world was saying piously 'Never Again' at 10th anniversary commemerations for the Rwandan genocide. The Rwandan genocide itself started less than a year after the Holocaust Museum opened in Washington, to similiar platitudes of 'Never Again.']


At 8:17 AM, Blogger Abiola said...

Perhaps a more accurate way of putting things would be "never again will we let *this* particular massacre happen in *this* particular region at *this* particular time." Rephrased in that manner, it makes a whole lot more sense, doesn't it?

As for the EU's priorities, things have come to a pretty pass when one's foremost object is to cast about for an excuse *not* to act, isn't it? Instead of engaging in serious arm-twisting of the Sudanese government, the EU leadership is essentially giving them carte blanche to keep on killing, for that is precisely what this "no evidence" assertion means.

In that news article you pointed out to me, the death toll had climbed from 30,000 to 50,000, and this in the space of about a month, while another news report today indicates that a mass outbreak of Hepatitis E is underway amongst the refugees. All this leaves me scratching my head wondering exactly how many deaths it takes for something to qualify as "genocide" nowadays, and whether deaths have to be at gunpoint or simply by starvation and disease to fall under that rubric.


Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home