View from UMW: More muscle needed to fight genocide in Sudan
May 12, 2006 12:50 am
THE GENOCIDAL regime of Sudan- ese dictator Omar al-Bashir, bene- fiting from the refusal of Western governments to provide sufficient support to the 6,700 strong African Union peacekeeping forces, has stepped up its campaign to murder and displace Darfur's indigenous black inhabitants. In the 18 months since the Bush administration first recognized that the Sudanese government was perpetrating genocide against Darfur's Fur, Massalit, and Zhagawa peoples, as many as 400,000 men, women, and children have been murdered and approximately 2 million have been displaced, many fleeing into the neighboring country of Chad.
When the AU's peacekeeping mandate was set to expire at the end of March, the janjaweed, an Arab militia affiliated with the Sudanese regime, attacked the towns of Mershing and Shearia, forcing 70,000 Darfuri, many of them already refugees, to flee. During the attacks and the ensuing flight, 13 infants were killed while another 220 children disappeared.
While the AU has since been extended to Sept. 30, this has not deterred the janjaweed. They have become even more ambitious, attacking the 200,000 refugees encamped across the Chadian border. More ominously, the Sudanese government is actively promoting the overthrow of Chadian President Idriss Deby hoping to install a new dictator friendlier to its genocidal ambitions. On April 13, elements of the janjaweed militia joined Chadian rebels in an unsuccessful assault on Chad's capital, N'Djamena.
The attacks into Chad are but the latest crimes of the janjaweed and the Sudanese regime. Over the last two years, the janjaweed, riding on camel and horseback, have attacked villages and towns throughout Darfur, supported by government jet planes and helicopter gun-ships. After the Sudanese air force bomb the villages, the janjaweed enter, killing and looting as they go. Women and girls are raped, the villages burned, and the bodies of the dead dumped into wells to poison the water supply.
The goal is to clear Darfur of its indigenous African inhabitants and give their land to Arab pastoralists, who are favored by the regime's Arab leadership. To increase the death toll, aid shipments to refugee camps have been blocked, causing famine and disease among those who have already survived the horrors of the janjaweed.
Sadly, the continuing Darfur genocide is but the latest evil committed by the Sudanese regime, which since 1983 has pursued similar policies in South Sudan. The people of the South, like those of Darfur, are black, specifically of the Dinka, Nuban, and Neur peoples. Unlike the Darfuri, they follow Animist and Christian beliefs rather than Islam. This has added a religious dimension to the conflict.
The Sudanese regime has attempted to impose Sharia law on the South and has forcibly converted many to Islam, withholding food from some who refused. They have promoted slavery, using secret police to take hundreds of thousands of women and children into bondage in Arab North Sudan and have exported others to Yemen, Saudi Arabia, and the Gulf States. In 22 years of genocide, conflict, slavery, famine, and disease, an estimated 2 million people have died. A June 2004 peace deal between South Sudanese rebels and the Sudanese regime, which provides for a 2010 referendum on Southern independence, has brought some hope that the Southern conflict might end, but this truce remains fragile. Meanwhile, the Bashir regime has profited from the development of South Sudanese oil fields and is using its oil revenues to buy modern aircraft and helicopters to support the janjaweed in Darfur and Chad.
The ongoing genocide in Darfur suggests that Omar al-Bashir's regime will never abandon racism and genocide as a tool of everyday policy. It is therefore a threat that the international community cannot rightly ignore. Sudan has become a totalitarian Islamic theocracy and is known to support terrorist groups throughout the Middle East. Like Afghanistan under the Taliban, Sudan has hosted Osama bin Laden and numerous al-Qaida training camps. For this reason, President Clinton ordered a missile strike on the Sudanese capital, Khartoum, following the 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. In addition to al-Qaida, the Sudanese regime has played host to other terrorist groups including Hezbollah and Hamas.
While acknowledging the reality of genocide in Darfur, the Bush administration's response has proven totally inadequate. With the mandate for the AU's peacekeeping mission set to expire, the administration is pushing for a United Nations mission to take its place. While international peacekeepers are needed in Darfur, the UN's abysmal record on human rights (as demonstrated in Rwanda) requires that they be put under the aegis of some other international organization. Until recently Sudan actually chaired the UN's Human Rights Commission, and continues to retain a seat on the council!
Instead, peacekeepers should be deployed under the auspices of NATO and an expanded AU mission. To prevent further attacks against civilians by the Sudanese air force, a no-fly zone should be imposed. In addition, Khartoum can be financially bankrupted by blocking its oil exports. This can be accomplished through sanctions and a naval blockade of the Sudanese coast. However, for these or any other efforts to succeed, the United States must take the lead role. Only by a strong American commitment can the genocide in Darfur be halted, South Sudan's right of independence ensured, and Omar al-Bashir's murderous regime undermined.
AVI B. EFREOM is a graduating senior at the University of Mary Washington.