US Declares 'Genocide'
Secretary of State Colin Powell Thursday declared that the past
18 months of attacks by government forces and Arab militias on black
African farmers in the western region of Darfur amounted to "genocide"
and pledged to push hard at the U.N. Security Council for tough
measures against Khartoum to stop it.
a two-month review of the situation in Darfur, Powell told members
of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, "we concluded
I concluded that genocide has been committed in Darfur, and
that the government of Sudan and the Janjaweed (militias) bear responsibility,
and that genocide may still be occurring."
believe in order to confirm the true nature, scope and totality
of the crimes our evidence reveals, a full-blown and unfettered
investigation needs to occur," he said, adding that the provision
for such an investigation was included in a draft resolution submitted
by Washington to the Security Council Wednesday.
the designation, Powell, however, insisted that the unprecedented
US finding of genocide, which had been urged by Africa and Christian
Right activists since the tenth anniversary of the Rwanda genocide
last April, did not carry with it any legal obligation to intervene
militarily in Sudan or take any other act unilaterally.
he said Washington would continue working for passage of a resolution
that, in addition to establishing an international investigation
of the situation in Darfur, would expand the tiny Africa Union (AU)
monitoring force that was deployed to the region over the past two
months and threaten sanctions in the event that Khartoum failed
to comply with the Security Council's demands.
long-awaited testimony provoked a range of reactions.
Nigeria, which is hosting on-again, off-again peace talks between
the Sudanese government and two African rebel groups from Darfur,
Khartoum's deputy foreign minister, Najeeb al-Khair Abel-Wahab,
rejected the finding of "genocide" and suggested that
Powell's words might inflame the situation in the region.
don't think this kind of attitude can help the situation in Darfur,"
he told reporters. "We expect the international community to
assist the process that is taking place in Abuja (Nigeria), and
not put oil on the fire."
in Washington, however, activist groups that have been campaigning
for a much stronger US position against Khartoum welcomed the "genocide"
label but expressed disappointment that Powell was not yet prepared
to more than press for the adoption of its draft resolution.
don't declare genocide and then fail to act," said Salih Booker,
executive director of Africa Action, a two-year-old grassroots coalition
whose antecedents led the anti-apartheid movement in the US in the
1970s and 1980s.
multinational force must be mobilized immediately to protect the
people of Darfur from a government intent upon genocide," he
said. "What the US is calling for this week at the UN is not
consistent with its determination that a genocide is taking place."
point was echoed by John Prendergast, a Sudan specialist at the
International Crisis Group (ICG) here, although he was more hopeful
that Powell's public declaration will signal a firmer US stance.
existing cleavage between rhetoric and action will hopefully be
diminished as the administration takes this first step down the
road to a more aggressive policy," he told IPS. "But finding
(by the State Department) of genocide will only be meaningful if
it's backed up by more assertive action at the UN Security Council."
particular, Prendergast, who served as a top Africa advisor on the
National Security Council under former President Bill Clinton, stressed
that any resolution must include an expanded peace force with a
mandate to protect civilians, some 50,000 of whom are believed to
have perished as a result of hostilities that began in Feb. 2003.
it's clearly spelled out that an expanded African Union force has
a mandate to protect civilians, the resolution will be irrelevant,"
he said, adding that Washington will have a hard time persuading
even Britain and France, let alone China and Russia, on the Security
Council to go along.
violence in Darfur has its roots in the competition for land, water
and other resources between predominantly Arab herders, from whom
the Janjaweed militias are recruited, and pastoralists and the mainly
African farmers who are settled in villages and towns. Both groups
competition has intensified in recent years due to a series of droughts.
In 2002, the Janjaweed stepped up raids on the African population,
spurring the creation of two African rebel groups with the reported
backing of neighboring Eritrea. In early 2003, one of them attacked
a government garrison, killing more than 70 soldiers.
National Islamic Front (NIF) government in Khartoum launched a counterinsurgency
many observers have referred to it as a "scorched-earth"
campaign, much of which was carried out on the ground by
the newly supplied Janjaweed, who were also backed by government
forces and warplanes.
then, well over one million people virtually all Africans
were forced to flee their homes. More than 200,000 crossed
into Chad, where they are living in refugee camps, while the rest
were internally displaced and have since been herded into overcrowded
and unsanitary camps that lacked medical care, food supplies and
last spring, the UN was referring to the situation as the "world's
worst humanitarian crisis," while the US Agency for International
Development (USAID) warned that at least 300,000 would die by the
end of the year given the high incidence of malnutrition and disease.
pressure from Africa and refugee advocates and Christian Right activists,
both houses of the US Congress approved resolutions designating
the government's campaign as "genocide" in July.
personal visits to Darfur by Powell and UN Secretary-General Kofi
Annan in the same month, the Security Council approved by a 13-0
vote a watered-down US resolution that urged Khartoum to cooperate
with international relief efforts and disarm the Janjaweed.
resolution also authorized the deployment of a small AU observer
group protected by some 300 peacekeepers, and suggested that sanctions
might be imposed if the government did not comply by the end of
August. China and Pakistan abstained on the measure.
analysts, including UN and US officials, have said Sudan has made
some progress in complying with the U.N.'s terms by permitting a
greater flow of humanitarian relief and deploying some 10,000 police
officers to the region, most observers say the Janjaweed have not
yet been reined in, let alone disarmed.
latest draft, which was tabled Thursday, calls on Khartoum to accept
an expanded force that would probably consist of about 1,000 AU
police officers and 3,000 troops, and alludes to the threat of sanctions
without setting a firm deadline for compliance.
pending resolution has been attacked by the activist community as
weak, particularly given the US finding that "genocide"
is taking place.
irony of Powell in Washington D.C. declaring to the Senate Foreign
Relations Committee that genocide is taking place at the same time
that UN Amb. John Danforth is laying down a draft resolution at
the UN that treats the situation like a minor human rights crisis
cannot be missed," said Prendergast, whose ICG, like Amnesty
International and Human Rights Watch, has not yet determined the
violence to constitute "genocide."
observers believe that Khartoum, which has generally cooperated
with Washington and the West on counter-terrorism issues over the
past three years, is more likely to respond to stronger threats,
particularly the possible imposition of an embargo against its oil
Lobe is Inter Press Service's correspondent in Washington, DC.
© 2004 Inter Press Service