'Never Again' Again. What is the United Nations going to do about the genocide in Darfur?

por Daniel C. Twining, 28 de febrero de 2005

(Published in Daily Standard, February 17, 2005)
SPEAKING OF THE ONGOING BRUTALITY in Darfur, Senator Hillary Clinton recently told an audience at the Munich Conference on Security Policy that 'We cannot say, 'Never again,' as it happens before our eyes.' Since the 1994 Rwandan genocide where close to a million people were shot, hacked, and clubbed to death while U.N. member states did virtually nothing to stop it, the phrase 'Never again' has been invoked thousands of times by politicians, editorialists, and U.N. officials as a call to action to prevent more ethnically targeted mass murder.
On April 7, 2004, 10 years to the day after the genocide began in Rwanda, U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan spoke before the U.N. Commission on Human Rights to unveil a 'five-point plan for the United Nations to prevent future genocides.' He pointed to Darfur as the place for the United Nations to take a stand: 'Whatever terms it uses to describe the situation [in Darfur, Sudan], the international community cannot stand idle. . . . Wherever civilians are deliberately targeted because they belong to a particular community, we are in the presence of potential, if not actual, genocide.' Annan continued: 'Humanity must respond by taking action in its own defense. Humanity's instrument for that purpose must be the United Nations, and specifically the Security Council.'
And as Senator Clinton suggested, everyone knows what is going on in Darfur. On January 5, 2005, the Secretary-General stated that it has been established 'that the government of Sudan and the Janjaweed are responsible for crimes under international law [and] . . . that attacks on villages, killing of civilians, rape, pillaging and forced displacement have continued.' On February 4, he issued a 176-page report to the Security Council on the status of Khartoum's compliance with U.N. resolutions and its other international obligations. Its findings:

* 'On 7 December, the Government began a series of offense operations it termed 'road clearing,' in particular in Southern Darfur. In fact, these operations, which included de facto coordination with militia, involved not only clearing the roads, but ground up to 20 km on each side. The 'clearing' involved the burning of villages and looting, causing additional displacement.'

* 'The attack on Hamada village on 13 January 2005 represented a particularly severe case, with large numbers of women and children killed.'

* 'In its resolution 1564 (2004), the Security Council urged . . . the government to refrain from conducting military flights in and over the Darfur region. . . . Since the adoption of the resolution, helicopters and other aircraft previously used for bombing have continued to be utilized in support of operations up to the present month.'

* 'January 2005 saw large-scale killings of civilians in villages in Southern Darfur, accompanied by reports of abduction and rape. Frequent rape continues to be reported by internally displaced persons when women venture out of camps.'

* 'The total number of conflict-related persons known to the humanitarian community has now reached approximately 2.5 million.'

* 'The [Khartoum] Government has shown willingness to make progress in the political talks in Darfur. However, fighting on the ground continues and those responsible for atrocious crimes on a massive scale go unpunished. Militias continue to attack, claiming they are not part of any agreement. The Government has not stopped them.'
Furthermore, a month before the U.N. report, Human Rights Watch issued its own report, 'Darfur in Flames: Atrocities in Western Sudan,' detailing the Khartoum's 'government scorched-earth campaign.' According to the report:

* 'Militias backed by the government of Sudan are committing crimes against humanity in Darfur, western Sudan, in response to a year-long insurgency. The past three months of escalating violence threaten to turn the current human rights and humanitarian crisis into a man-made famine and humanitarian catastrophe.'

* 'Using indiscriminate aerial bombardment, militia and army raiding, and denial of humanitarian assistance the government of Sudan and allied Arab militia, called janjaweed, are implementing a strategy of ethnic-based murder, rape and forcible displacement of civilians in Darfur.'
Yet, as all this is revealed 'before our eyes,' the U.N. Security Council has proven institutionally incapable of acting in any meaningful way to stop Khartoum's brutal campaign in Darfur. As was the case with Rwanda, a modest force on the ground in Darfur could have saved many thousands of lives by now and still could save many lives in the weeks ahead. But while the United States has been pushing for just such a force--in addition to sanctions against Khartoum--Russia and China remain opposed because both governments do not want to jeopardize their commercial relations with the Sudanese government. Thus, we're left with toothless Security Council resolutions and vows of tribunals for those committing war crimes, but nothing to stop the crimes in progress.
One suspects that the Council's inaction is the reason Senator Clinton told the same audience in Munich that NATO should play a direct logistical role in ending the genocidal campaign in Darfur. According to the New York Times, the senator also suggested the possibility of 'creative cooperation of NATO with countries like Russia and China.' But such a prospect is not off to a good start if the reaction of Moscow and Beijing to the atrocities in Darfur is any indication of what 'creative cooperation' we can expect.
Daniel McKivergan is deputy director of the Project for the New American Century.