Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Remember Darfur ?

After several years of empty talk and minimal action, the campaign of mass murder, mass rape, and ethnic cleansing in western Sudan continues largely unchecked ("Rwanda in slow motion," in Eric Reeves's formulation), and no one is doing anything serious to stop it.

As the Washington Post correctly argued in a recent editorial:

In a better world, the United States would not have to lead on Darfur. Russia and China would support sanctions without being pressured; the African Union would be less prickly. American allies would show more interest in preventing genocide than in haggling over which court should try its perpetrators, as European supporters of the International Criminal Court have done recently. France, in particular, would use its military clout in the region to support the AU peacekeepers. Instead, when NATO's secretary general suggested using his organization's assets to support the AU mission, France resisted, apparently out of a desire to preserve its own status as chief military intervener in Africa.

You face genocide in Sudan with the international partners you have, not the ones you might wish to have. If the United States does not lead on Darfur, nobody else is going to. Leadership means getting a much larger peacekeeping force into Darfur, so that attacks on civilians cease and humanitarian workers can reach all parts of the territory. To achieve that objective, Mr. Zoellick needs to break the collective paralysis by changing the way the Chinese, Russians, Europeans and Africans think; his most important mission is not this week's visit to Khartoum but future trips to Beijing, Moscow and so on. Mr. Zoellick must argue that nations calling themselves civilized cannot stand by while hundreds of thousands are massacred. He must ask America's partners to judge themselves not by whether they have made sympathetic gestures, nor even whether they have done "their share," but rather by the one standard that matters: Is the genocide continuing?

This is right. At the same time, pressing for stronger initiatives by the US government, however necessary, can't possibly be enough. I also want to re-emphasize some things that I said almost a year ago (July 2, 2004) ... including the bolded passage in the third paragraph below:

The appalling fact is that practically no one with any clout in the so-called "international community" is doing anything serious to stop this. To their credit, UN officials from Kofi Annan on down have sounded the alarm (and Annan has even publicly raised the possibility of outside intervention). But in practice, the UN is powerless to act except on the initiative of member states, particularly the most powerful member states, which has not been forthcoming. In fact, this unpleasantness in Darfur did not prevent Sudan from being re-appointed to its seat on the UN Human Rights Commission (on the nomination, believe it or not, of the African regional bloc, apparently untroubled by the Sudanese government's mass murders of black Africans over the years in the southern and now western Sudan). (This is also, by far, the largest mass atrocity being committed against Muslims anywhere in the world--though by other Muslims--but I am not aware of any serious responses from the wider Islamic world, governmental or otherwise. The lack of even verbal condemnation by the Arab League is, of course, not surprising.)

Again, to give credit where credit is due: The US government (for complex reasons of US domestic politics and long-term diplomatic involvement in Sudan) has begun to play a significant constructive role. The mobilization of an unusual coalition linking African-American groups, Christian groups from right and left, and Jewish groups opposed to the genocidal mass murder of ethnic minorities, has had a significant impact in this respect. The US government has openly condemned the campaign of ethnic cleansing and ethnic cleansing in Darfur, explicitly recognizing that it is not only a humanitarian crisis requiring massive relief aid, but also--and fundamentally--a deliberate crime requiring a political solution. The US delegation at the UN strongly protested Sudan's reappointment to the UN Human Rights Commission . The US sent the Secretary of State to Darfur, a significant gesture, and while Powell was in Sudan he said forthrightly to the Sudanese government that the Janjaweed (the government-backed Arab militias who play the main role in this atrocity) "must be broken." And the US is attempting to coordinate more international pressure on the Sudanese government (so far without many visible results).

The US government should be pressed to do more [....] But the larger situation is that, as far as I know, at this point the US government is the ONLY one that has undertaken ANY serious initiatives to stop this atrocity and to prevent a gigantic, entirely foreseeable, humanitarian catastrophe in the coming months. This is a scandal. Those of you who are citizens of European countries, in particular, should do what you can to urge your governments to do something serious (in terms of diplomacy, political pressure, and urgent humanitarian relief, at the very least) ... or, at the minimum, not to obstruct a serious response. Obviously, only a JOINT response by some significant segment of the "international community" can address this crisis in any constructive way.

--Jeff Weintraub

=========================

Washington Post
April 10, 2005

EDITORIAL

Doing Better by Darfur

Monday, April 11, 2005; Page A18


Last June Secretary of State Colin L. Powell visited Sudan in an attempt to stop the Darfur genocide. Sudan's government rewarded him with promises to rein in its allies in the Janjaweed death squads; to stop impeding humanitarian access to Darfur; and to open political talks with Darfur's rebels. None of these concessions worked. The promise to rein in the Janjaweed turned out to be hollow. The improvement in humanitarian access was real but incomplete and impermanent. Negotiations between the government and rebels have gone nowhere. The upshot of Mr. Powell's visit was that mass killing continued, and Darfur's death toll is likely to be even more appalling this year than last.

This week it is the turn of Robert B. Zoellick, the new deputy at the State Department, to journey to Sudan. Mr. Zoellick is a forceful diplomat. In his previous job as President Bush's trade representative, he made progress that eluded his predecessors. He may therefore be tempted to believe that he can continue Mr. Powell's approach of extracting promises from Sudan's government and yet somehow succeed. But success is unlikely unless the administration absorbs the lessons of the past year and changes its strategy. Diplomatic pressure, which should be aimed primarily at getting a large peacekeeping force into Darfur, won't work unless it's supported by the threat of sanctions. And neither the sanctions threat nor the peacekeeping deployment will be credible unless the United States invests more political capital in Darfur than it has so far.

After Mr. Powell's visit last year, the United Nations Security Council passed two resolutions threatening sanctions but then never followed through; this gave Sudan's rulers a green light to kill more people. The reason for the lack of follow-through was that the Bush administration made a conscious decision not to elevate Darfur's genocide to the top of its agenda. Mr. Bush did not place phone calls to the leaders of China and Russia to insist that they back tougher action, so both countries followed their commercial interests -- for China, Sudan is a source of oil; for Russia, it is an arms market. Partly at Mr. Zoellick's urging, Mr. Bush did recently phone Japan's prime minister to complain about beef regulation. Perhaps the president can also be persuaded to call members of the Security Council who resist sanctions on Sudan that might bring an end to genocide.

After Mr. Powell's visit, too, ground was prepared for a small peace-monitoring deployment under the umbrella of the African Union. The presence of AU forces helped to reduce violence but only to a limited extent; 2,000 or so troops cannot monitor an area the size of France. As a result, villages have continued to be burned and their inhabitants forced into unsanitary and undersupplied camps for displaced people. A much bigger peacekeeping force is needed, but none has materialized -- again because the Bush administration has not invested the necessary effort in corralling other countries. The AU's leaders, notably the South Africans and the Nigerians, have been more interested in retaining a lead role in Darfur than in preventing genocide; they see their deployment as a sign that Africa can be responsible for its own problems, and they are reluctant to admit that a bigger deployment is needed, because that would imply accepting extra help from rich countries.

In a better world, the United States would not have to lead on Darfur. Russia and China would support sanctions without being pressured; the African Union would be less prickly. American allies would show more interest in preventing genocide than in haggling over which court should try its perpetrators, as European supporters of the International Criminal Court have done recently. France, in particular, would use its military clout in the region to support the AU peacekeepers. Instead, when NATO's secretary general suggested using his organization's assets to support the AU mission, France resisted, apparently out of a desire to preserve its own status as chief military intervener in Africa.

You face genocide in Sudan with the international partners you have, not the ones you might wish to have. If the United States does not lead on Darfur, nobody else is going to. Leadership means getting a much larger peacekeeping force into Darfur, so that attacks on civilians cease and humanitarian workers can reach all parts of the territory. To achieve that objective, Mr. Zoellick needs to break the collective paralysis by changing the way the Chinese, Russians, Europeans and Africans think; his most important mission is not this week's visit to Khartoum but future trips to Beijing, Moscow and so on. Mr. Zoellick must argue that nations calling themselves civilized cannot stand by while hundreds of thousands are massacred. He must ask America's partners to judge themselves not by whether they have made sympathetic gestures, nor even whether they have done "their share," but rather by the one standard that matters: Is the genocide continuing?

==================

Human Rights Watch
April 12, 2005

From YubaNet.com
World

Darfur: Women Raped Even After Seeking Refuge
Author: Human Rights Watch
Published on Tue, 12 Apr 2005, 07:34

Women and girls who have fled ethnic cleansing in Darfur are being raped and subjected to sexual violence around the camps where they have sought refuge, Human Rights Watch said in a briefing paper released today.

Donors meeting in Oslo on April 11-12 to discuss aid for Sudan must provide more support to protect victims of sexual violence in Darfur and the refugee camps in Chad.

"Rape and sexual violence have been used to terrorize and uproot rural communities in Darfur," said Peter Takirambudde, Africa director of Human Rights Watch. "Donors urgently need to set up programs to protect women and girls from sexual violence and address the needs of those who have been raped."

The Human Rights Watch briefing paper documents how the Sudanese security forces, including police deployed to protect displaced persons, and allied Janjaweed militias continue to commit rape and sexual violence on daily basis. Even as refugees in Chad, women and girls fleeing the violence in Darfur continued to face the risk of rape and assault by civilians or militia members when collecting water, fuel or animal fodder near the border. Human Rights Watch interviewed many victims of sexual violence in camps in Chad and Darfur during two research missions to these areas in February.

Some women living in the refugee camps in Chad had been imprisoned by the Chadian authorities for trying to collect firewood outside the camps, only to be raped by Chadian inmates while in jail. Human Rights Watch documented 10 cases of women and girls from Farchana camp who were imprisoned in such circumstances in January.

Rape and sexual violence against women and girls has been a prominent feature of the "ethnic cleansing" campaign carried out by government forces and its Janjaweed militias, both during and following the displacement of civilians from Darfur. As recently as last month, Human Rights Watch has documented scores of cases of rape of women and girls while traveling along rural roads in Darfur.

The response of Sudanese authorities has exacerbated an already appalling situation. Human Rights Watch documented how authorities in Bindisi, West Darfur, harassed and detained pregnant girls and women, many of whom who had become pregnant as a result of rape. The authorities threatened them with charges of fornication if they did not pay a fine. In some refugee camps in Chad, police and male residents have coerced women and girls to provide "sexual services" in exchange for "protection," Human Rights Watch said.

Donors and humanitarian agencies must give much greater emphasis—and more resources—to preventing sexual and gender-based violence. They also must take urgent steps to respond to its medical, psychological, social and economic consequences. The high levels of sexual violence and displacement in Darfur create a risk of increased transmission of sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV/AIDS.

Despite the existence of clear standards for responding to sexual and gender-based violence, including in the context of conflict, Human Rights Watch's research suggests that humanitarian agencies are not implementing these guidelines on a systematic basis in Darfur and Chad.

"The U.N. and humanitarian agencies should address the specific needs of women and girls who continue to suffer the consequences of sexual violence," said Takirambudde.

As of February, only one in six of the agencies that were providing health services in the refugee camps in Chad had a protocol for rape that included the provision of emergency contraception, comprehensive treatment of sexually transmissible disease and post-exposure prophylaxis of HIV/AIDS.

Sexual violence is a fundamental violation of human rights and has a profound impact on physical, mental, social and economic well-being of women and girls, both immediately and in the long term. Acts of sexual violence committed as part of widespread or systematic attacks against a civilian population in Darfur can be classified as crimes against humanity and prosecuted as such.

The Human Rights Watch briefing paper entitled Sexual Violence and its Consequences among Displaced Persons in Darfur and Chad is available online at: http://hrw.org/backgrounder/africa/darfur0505/

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