Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Darfur genocide: talk, talk, talk

Yesterday, President Bush announced a ratcheting up of sanctions against Sudan for its role in the ongoing conflict in the Darfur region of Sudan. The Sudanese actions have been directed not only at rebel groups but the civilian population at large.

Following the rebellion by Darfur's ethnic African tribes against what they considered decades of neglect by the Arab-dominated Khartoum government, Sudanese leaders retaliated by unleashing the janjaweed militia to put down the rebels using a campaign of murder, rape, mutilation and plunder. The result has been at least 200,000 killed, approximately 2.5 million displaced and the possibility of millions dying from starvation and war-related causes.

There has been an international outcry against the actions directed against Darfur’s population for years including from the United States. However, the timeliness and likely effectiveness of the President’s proposals yesterday call into question how seriously committed this administration is to stopping this crime against humanity.

This is an analysis by Deb Riechmann of the Associated Press:
It has taken President Bush nearly three years to match his impassioned rhetoric about what he decries as genocide in Darfur with tougher U.S. action against some of those blamed for the suffering.

When Bush announced sanctions on Tuesday, advocacy groups and lawmakers wished the president had been harsher and wondered whether it was a case of too little, too late for Darfur. The violence has killed 200,000 people and forced 2.5 million more from their homes since it began in February 2003.

The sanctions target three people with suspected links to the violence as well as about 30 companies in Sudan.

"Three people? After four years? And not one of them the real ringleader of the policy to divide and destroy Darfur?" asked John Prendergast, policy adviser to ENOUGH Project, an advocacy group to prevent genocide and mass atrocities. "This will not build multilateral pressure, and this will not end the crisis in Darfur."

Rep. Tom Lantos, D-Calif., chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, also faulted Bush. "They could have sent a stronger message months ago and saved many lives from being disrupted or lost," he said.

It's not as if the Bush administration has been unaware of the bloodshed in Darfur.

The United States has been working on the issue at the U.N. Security Council and Bush has appointed special envoys to the region. The U.S. is the world's largest single donor to the people of Darfur, providing more than $1.7 billion in humanitarian and peacekeeping assistance. Still, the administration's steps have not been sufficient to halt the violence in Darfur, an arid region in eastern Africa about the size of Texas.

Bush sees a possible opening on the diplomatic front. The president is headed to Europe next week where Darfur will be on the agenda of the annual summit of industrialized nations. And at the United Nations, China, which has veto power on the Security Council, may no longer be in the mood to block U.N. sanctions against the Sudanese government.

China, the biggest buyer of Sudanese oil and a major investor in Sudan's economy, has been pilloried for not doing enough to pressure Khartoum to end the violence. Worried that Darfur activist groups will call for boycotts of the 2008 Beijing Olympics, China recently appointed a new envoy to the region.

It's unclear whether the new U.S. sanctions will help or hinder efforts to pass a U.N. resolution.

When the U.S. and Britain threatened sanctions against Sudan in mid-April, three Security Council members - China, Russia and South Africa - said it was the wrong time.

The time's up for Sudan's hardline President Omar al-Bashir, said Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte.

"President Bashir has failed on all counts," Negroponte said, reeling off a list of unfulfilled commitments by the government, including ongoing support for the janjaweed, air raids and ground attacks and the obstruction of relief supplies.

"The Bashir government must see that its actions will choke off international investments that are very important to Sudan," he said. "There is no good argument for giving the Sudanese more time."

The Bush administration has said this before.

After signing an accord to end a long-running civil war in Sudan's south in January 2005, former Secretary of State Colin Powell said the atrocities in Darfur must end immediately "not next month ... but right away, starting today."

That was nearly 2 1/2 years ago.
China is the key to dealing with Sudan and unless (or until) the international community is willing to put troops in Darfur, pressure must be put on the Chinese.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Tyrant of the Month

President Omar al-Bashir