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The world must stop the genocide in Sudan

The ProfessorBy Steven Martinovich

(June 7, 2004) As you're reading these words hundreds of men, women and children in a remote part of the world are being slaughtered or dying of starvation. Tragically that in of itself isn't rare today. The latest victims are black Muslims in Sudan's Darfur region. The perpetrators are a camel riding Arab Muslim militia called the Janjaweed, financed by the Sudanese government to ethnically cleanse the region. In violation of every human norm, the government is attempting to exterminate three tribes so that Arabs can take their land.

One million people from Darfur have been displaced within Sudan while another 200 000 have fled to neighbouring Chad. The Sudanese government is preventing aid from reaching these people and some experts believe that up to 350 000 people could die in the next few months. As a Nicholas Kristoff pointed out in a recent essay, the numbers are barely comprehensible. "The standard threshold for an 'emergency' is one death per 10,000 people per day, but people in [the Sudanese town of] Kailek are dying at a staggering 41 per 10,000 per day - and for children under 5, the rate is 147 per 10,000 per day."

The international response to this has been disheartening. The media has left the slaughter largely unreported and the major nations of the world -- as the battle over the war in Iraq has shown -- seem prefer to let the situation sort itself out. If that means hundreds of thousands of dead, so be it. Only the Bush administration has been brave enough to take a role.

Last month the administration was instrumental in reaching an accord that could end the 20-year civil war between the north and south, a wider conflict that has taken two million lives. Although it's no guarantee that hostilities will cease, it's an important first step in stabilizing the situation. Unfortunately the accord does not cover the Darfur region, allowing the genocide to continue.

And if the world has its way, it will continue unabated. Last week the British government rejected military intervention in the Sudan after the International Crisis Group suggested the UN Security Council consider authorizing force to disarm militias so food aid could reach refugees. The British government also rejected an American suggestion for sanctions against the Sudanese government.

"In the long term, threats of sanctions don't seem likely to produce immediate action and immediate action is what we need," stated Alan Goulty, British Prime Minister Tony Blair's special envoy to Sudan.

A wag might be tempted to respond that this must be that famous European nuanced approach to international issues. As hundreds die every day Britain is weighing a response that is more immediate than sanctions but less immediate than military action. Regardless of how you parse Goulty's words and the behavior of the international community -- particularly the world's Muslim political leaders who stand by the Sudanese government, the end result seems to be that not much is going to get done unless it's unilaterally.

In one sense Goulty is right, direct military intervention isn't the only solution. The Bush administration's initial forays into diplomacy have born fruit, as last week's peace accord shows. It's doubtless that if a major world leader publicly called on the Sudanese government to halt their genocidal campaign and demand unfettered access to refugee camps that there would be pressure on Khartoum to comply. If that eventually means military action -- whether unilateral or under UN auspices -- then it's something that the world shouldn't be afraid of.

Some may decry this as neo-conservative adventurism but the fact is that the genocide in Sudan must be dealt with and the people of Darfur protected. This should be done in partnership with other African nations who must be just as concerned about having a highly unpredictable situation on their borders and a concerned international community, but alone if necessary. The world failed Rwanda in the early 1990s and the result was 800 000 dead. If we fail once again, what explanation will we have for future generations, that we couldn't figure out the right approach to take?

Thanks for reading,

Steven Martinovich


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