Home | Comment & Analysis    Monday 12 July 2004

Once again, in Darfur


Editorial, The Washington Times

July 12, 2004 — The U.N. Security Council appears ready to turn a blind eye toward the certain death of hundreds of thousands of Sudanese. The international community has not only lost what Secretary of State Colin Powell has called a "race against death" in Sudan’s western Darfur region, but it also has been unwilling to take steps to try to salvage what lives can still be rescued.

A U.S.-sponsored resolution that would place a travel ban and arms embargo on murderous militias in Sudan is not being supported by enough countries, Reuters reported on Friday. The resolution also would give the Arab-dominated Sundanese government 30 days to implement the promises it has already committed to. European countries — including Britain, France, Germany, Spain and Romania — are backing the resolution at the 15-member council. But China, Russia, Pakistan, Algeria, Brazil and others have withheld support. Given the duration of the crisis, the concerted diplomatic efforts already expended trying to spur the government into action and the scale of the humanitarian catastrophe in Darfur, the unwillingness of those countries to back what is already an accommodating resolution is akin to tolerating ethnic cleansing, at best, and genocide, at worst.

A general willingness to grant the Sudanese government a chance to deal with the humanitarian crisis is, of course, understandable. But this space already has been granted. The Bush administration has estimated that as many as 300,000 displaced Sudanese will die by year’s end despite major infusions of American and other foreign aid. About 30,000 people have died since early 2003, and more than 1 million have been driven from their homes. "Despite the promises that have been made, we have yet to see these dramatic improvements," Mr. Powell said Thursday. "Only actions, not words, can win the race against death in Darfur. And we will not rest. We will continue to apply pressure."

The response from African nations to the crisis — which stems from years of fighting over scarce arable land and water, and the government favoring Arab communities — has been underwhelming. At a meeting of the African Union last week, leaders pledged to deploy 300 troops to protect a mission of monitors who have been observing a cease-fire. The deployment may help assuage the consciences of African leaders, but it is difficult to imagine how such a small force can stop the killing. The phrase "never again" seems destined to be constantly repeated.

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