Features

Slow-motion genocide

International

Issue: "Year in Review 2004," Jan. 1, 2005

Long-suffering Sudan earned its way into the U.S. election campaign lexicon, onto magazine covers, and into headlines around the world after Secretary of State Colin Powell in September branded the methodic attacks in the country's western Darfur region "genocide." The UN and European Union followed suit. But Khartoum's Islamist regime wasn't persuaded by wholesale condemnation. It broadened the campaign, currently the world's worst humanitarian crisis. The Muslim-on-Muslim attacks by government-backed Arab militias on African tribes further stalled peace negotiations between government leaders and rebels in the south who have fought on behalf of south Sudan's Christians for over 20 years.

The militias in Darfur burned villages and crops, raped women, and stole livestock. The violence has displaced 2 million Darfuris and killed at least 70,000. Sudan experts who closely watch mortality figures estimate the true death toll from attacks and ensuing disease and malnutrition may be as high as 300,000.

The UN Security Council has so far dithered in putting any real pressure on Khartoum. The primary roadblock has been permanent member China, with veto power and deep oil interests in Sudan. The council even compounded the killing by placing an arms embargo on the two Darfuri rebel groups but not on the Sudanese government.

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In November U.S. ambassador to the UN John Danforth succeeded in hauling the Security Council to Kenya for a special session on Sudan, only the fourth time in 50 years the council held session outside New York. But the Nov. 19 resolution it passed appears toothless. Worse, Darfuris lost their most skilled Sudan negotiator when Mr. Danforth resigned just a few days later.

"He has not succeeded despite his best efforts," said Nina Shea, director of Freedom House's Center for Religious Freedom. "It's hard to say what more he can do in his role at the UN-he's given speeches, ultimatums and resolutions, and he knows the [Sudanese] government better than anyone." The UN's failure in Darfur is heightened only by the irony of it, coming on the 10th anniversary of failed efforts to stop genocide in Rwanda.

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