On Genocide in Darfur:
Eric Reeves, 30 December 2003
from Africa InfoServe (Sudan publications of AfricaFiles.org)
It is intolerable that the international community continues to allow what all evidence suggests is genocide. For surely if we are honest with ourselves we will accept that the term “ethnic cleansing” is no more than a dangerous euphemism for genocide, a way to make the ultimate crime somehow less awful. As Samantha Power has cogently observed, the phrase “ethnic cleansing” gained currency in the early 1990s as a way of speaking about the atrocities in the Balkans—“as a kind of euphemistic halfway house between crimes against humanity and genocide” (page 483, “‘A Problem from Hell’: America and the Age of Genocide”). But linguistic half-measures are not enough when the question is whether an “ethnical [or] racial group” is being destroyed “in whole or in part”—“as such” (from the 1948 UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide).
The present realities in Darfur must urgently be rendered for the world to see and understand—fully, honestly, and on the basis of much greater information than is presently available. In turn, these realities must guide a humanitarian effort that will not allow Khartoum’s claim of “national sovereignty” to trump the desperate plight of hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians caught up in a maelstrom of destruction and displacement. That no such efforts are presently being undertaken—Ambassador Vraalsen declared (December 8, 2003) that humanitarian operations in Darfur have “practically come to a standstill”—is of the gravest concern.
Indeed, the logic of the situation is so compelling that one can only surmise that the failure of the international community even to speak of the possibility of a humanitarian intervention in Darfur derives from some morally appalling failure of nerve, and an unwillingness to roil the diplomatic waters with a peace agreement so close between Khartoum and the SPLM/A. But this latter concern represents exactly the wrong way to view both Darfur and its relation to the last major issue outstanding in the present peace negotiations between Khartoum and the south, viz. the status of the three contested areas of Abyei, the Nuba Mountains, and Southern Blue Nile. For unless the international community shows its concern for the various marginalized peoples of Sudan, peace will be only very partial and ultimately unsustainable.