Home | Comment & Analysis    Tuesday 30 March 2004

Sudan’s tragedy: U.S. can’t ignore another genocide



DALLAS, March 29, 2004 (The Dallas Morning News) — Ten years ago, the world stood by while the Hutu government of Rwanda and its extremist allies tried to exterminate the country’s Tutsi minority. About 800,000 Tutsis and politically moderate Hutus died in what author Samantha Power called "the fastest, most efficient killing spree of the 20th century." Once the extent of the pogrom became clear, world leaders regretted their failure to respond. During his 1998 visit to Rwanda, President Bill Clinton even went so far as to apologize.

In Sudan, the warning signs of a similar tragedy are evident.

The crisis has nothing to do with the long-simmering civil war in southern Sudan, which pits the mostly Arab and Muslim central government against Christian and animist blacks. That war is winding down, thanks in large measure to U.S. diplomacy. Rather, the crisis emanates from the western province of Darfur, where government-backed Arab Muslim militiamen are carrying out a scorched-earth campaign against the region’s Muslim blacks. Roger Winter of the U.S. Agency for International Development recently told Congress that the war there is "arguably the most serious humanitarian crisis on the African continent."

Half of Darfur’s 6 million people have been affected, and a sixth of them are on the run. The militiamen’s method of operating, Mr. Winter testified, "is to rape, loot and burn villages with total impunity." Humanitarian organizations have difficulty getting through with food and medicine. Even when they do get through, the militiamen steal their supplies.

The central government has a right to attack Darfur’s rebels. It doesn’t have a right to murder and chase out civilians.

There’s oil in Sudan, but that isn’t why the United States should involve itself. No, the United States should involve itself so that another president won’t feel obliged to apologize for having ignored genocide. As a presidential candidate, George W. Bush said he agreed with the decision not to intervene in Rwanda. As president, he should realize that the United States and the rest of the world have a duty to mankind that transcends self-interest.

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