A little over a decade ago, the United Nations, the United States and the great powers of Europe, Asia and the Americas watched passively as a genocide that claimed close to a million lives swept the Central African nation of Rwanda in a few short weeks. There was one exception to that inaction – France – which intervened in a way that did nothing to end the genocide, but rather aided the escape of many of those who had perpetrated it. When the killing was going on, no one in a position of governmental responsibility, here in the United States or elsewhere, would even call it by its proper name, genocide. Under international law, the nations of the world have a legal responsibility to intervene in a nation where genocide is taking place in order to bring it to a halt, so speaking the simple truth would have been an act of self-condemnation, an admission of governmental complicity by inaction in the face of genocide. It was only when the genocide was finished, and the authors of the genocide driven from power by Rwandan rebels, that the government of the United States finally acknowledged that genocide had taken place. Contrite, the United Nations and the government of the United States declared that they would never again allow genocide to go unchecked.
Yet as you read these words, an ongoing genocide is taking place against people of African descent in the western Darfur region of the North African nation, the Sudan. For the better part of the last three years, the National Islamic Front regime of the Sudan has waged a campaign of mass murder, mass rape, mass destruction and mass pillaging against the Fur, the Masseleit, the Zaghawa, the Birgid, the Tunjur, the Dajo and other African ethnic groups in Darfur. It is estimated that 80% to 90% of the African villages in the region have been destroyed, and that over 400,000 Darfuri Sudanese have been killed. If the current campaign continues unchecked, it is thought that untold hundreds of thousands more could die in the next months. Detailed reports documenting the atrocities and crimes in Darfur have been produced by Amnesty International, Coalition for International Justice, Human Rights Watch, the International Crisis Group, Physicians for Human Rights, a Parliamentary Brief in the United Kingdom, and the World Health Organization. Even the US Department of State under Secretary Colin Powell is on the record.
The Sudan regime is among the greatest violators of human rights in the world today. For two decades, Sudan has fought a genocidal war, with as many as three million victims, against the African peoples in the south of the country. It is one of the few nations which still has a thriving slave trade, and which has widespread forced conscription of children into armed forces. Human rights group have documented the use of torture against children, and the practice of crucifixions.
And yet the United Nations Security Council, the United States government and the governments of other great powers remain inactive in the face of the genocide in Darfur. Indeed, American foreign policy on the Sudan has changed for the worse, toward a policy of appeasement of the NIF regime, an article in the current issue of the New Republic reports. [Registration required.] It is remarkable how quickly governments can break their promises, even vows as solemn as declaring that they would never again be complicit in genocide through silence and inaction.
Read the words of Eric Reeves, in his essay Darfur in the Deepening Shadow of Auschwitz, Bosnia, Cambodia, Rwanda:
A series of extraordinarily dire warnings have recently been issued by various UN officials, a last desperate attempt to force the international community to take urgent cognizance of Darfur’s deepening crisis. Full-scale catastrophe and a massive increase in genocidal destruction are imminent, and there is as yet no evidence that the world is listening seriously. The US in particular seems intent on taking an expediently blinkered view of the crisis. But European countries and other international actors with the power to speak the truth are little better; the absence of an effective voice emerging from the Blair government is especially dismaying in light of British willingness to intervene in Iraq.
Even so, there is no possible escape from the most basic truth in Darfur: Khartoum’s National Islamic Front, ever more dominant in the new “Government of National Unity,” is deliberately escalating the level of violence and insecurity as a form of “counter-insurgency” warfare, with the clear goal of accelerating human destruction among the African tribal populations of the region.
In failing to respond to this conspicuous and now fully articulated truth, the world is yet again knowingly acquiescing in genocide. But as the shadows of Auschwitz and Treblinka, Bosnia, Cambodia, and Rwanda fall more heavily over Darfur, we cannot evade this most shameful truth: we know – as events steadily, remorselessly unfold – more about the realities of ethnically-targeted human destruction in Darfur than on any other previous such occasion in history. So much the greater is our moral disgrace.
When the history of the genocide in Darfur is finally written, Eric Reeves will be one of its heros. A Professor of English Literature at Smith College in Massachusetts, Reeves has taken leave after leave to dedicate himself to full-time work as an advocate for the peoples of Darfur. His web site is the most complete and thorough collection of documents and materials on the genocide in Darfur, and you should read his latest analysis of the conditions in Darfur in the Winter 2005 issue of Dissent. [He is also the author of the New Republic piece cited above.]
The UFT’s national affiliate, the American Federation of Teachers, has passed a convention resolution condemning the human rights violations in Darfur.
As citizens, we must do what our government has so far failed to do – say ‘NO MORE,’ in word and in deed, to the genocide in Darfur. Here are two concrete steps you can take…
Africa Action has organized a major Internet petition to President George W. Bush and Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice urging the US government to work through the United Nations Security Council to end the genocide in the Sudan  by mandating an armed international intervention force, and  by deploying that force in support of the efforts of African Union in the Sudan. You can sign this petition, and sign up for future action notices here. Note that this petition does not ask for the use of American troops, but for American financial and material support for an international force convened under the auspices of the United Nations and the African Union.
A major corporate divestment campaign has begun, and you can find a great deal of information on it at Sudan Divestment Campaign website. It is important to put mass pressure on corporations and countries [most notably China] which continue to do business with the NIF regime in the Sudan. We can work to pass state laws requiring divestment of state funds, and work to have our own pension funds divest.