Home | Comment & Analysis    Tuesday 18 May 2004

See No Evil in Sudan


Editorial, The Walla Street Journal

May 18, 200 — After the genocide in Rwanda a decade ago, the world’s moralists said "never again." Well, it is happening again, this time in Sudan, but once more the United Nations, the Arab world and Europe are failing to speak up, much less to act.

As the rainy season starts again in that East African nation, the U.S. Agency for International Development — the largest food donor to Sudan — fears hundreds of thousands of people will die over the next nine months. This is no ordinary famine but part of the Sudanese regime’s campaign against the African tribes in Darfur, a "strategy of systematic and deliberate starvation," according to a U.N. report that was initially suppressed so as not to offend Khartoum. Already some 30,000 people have been killed by Sudanese troops and Arab militias known as the Jingaweit.

The attacks often start with air bombardments, followed by ground troops and the Jingaweit. Women and even little girls are routinely raped. The attackers burn villages and destroy water supplies and food stocks. The result is the depopulation of wide swathes of land, which the Arab tribesmen then take over. Already one-fifth of the population in an area the size of France is on the run.

Some 120,000 have escaped to neighboring Chad, where aid agencies are at least allowed to feed the hungry, though the rain will make this a logistical nightmare. Especially worrisome is the fate of about one million refugees displaced inside Sudan. Aid workers are begging Khartoum for access to the region, but even those few supplies allowed into Darfur are often looted by the militia.

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan has raised the alarm about Sudan, but once again the "international community" is proving to be feckless, and the Bush Administration has been isolated in its attempts to raise international pressure on Khartoum. The U.N. Commission on Human Rights has refused to condemn the Sudanese regime. But what can you expect from a body that includes Cuba, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia and, yes, Sudan? When Sudan was re-elected to the Commission on May 4, the American envoy was alone in walking out on what he called this "absurdity."

Meanwhile, Sudan is protected at the morally alert Security Council by China, which supplies the regime with arms and has oil interests there. Fellow Muslim nations Pakistan and Algeria are also loudly silent. Even the Europeans display little interest, arguing that "politicizing" Darfur could threaten a peace deal to end a separate conflict between the regime and rebels in the south.

Given how much time and political capital the U.S. has invested in those peace talks, this is laughable. The U.S. wants tougher action precisely because of its concerns for the peace talks. If Khartoum can get away with ethnic cleansing in Darfur, what hope is there for any peace deal with the south? Whether the issue is Iran, Syria, Iraq or now Sudan, Europe always favors the softer approach, preaching "constructive dialogue" while the killing continues.

The depredations at Darfur are the same ones Khartoum practiced in its 20-year war against the south. An estimated two million people died there as Africans were butchered and enslaved. Khartoum entered into peace negotiations only because the southern rebels had become too strong. That conflict pitted Muslim Arabs in Khartoum against black Christians and Animists, but in Darfur the black Africans are also Muslims, though mostly belonging to the Sufi sect. Yet the Muslim world and Arab League remain silent about this slaughter of their co-religionists.

The Khartoum regime knows that an America already tied down by two wars cannot intervene militarily in Darfur. So it kills with impunity as the rest of the world turns away, saving its outrage for the abuses by a few Americans at Abu Ghraib.

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