|The Guardian , 28 Janvier 2006|
The risk still exists that we may eventually look back on the present decade and conclude to our shame that its greatest scandal was not who did what to whom in Iraq, or even in Palestine, but the way the world ignored genocide in the Darfur region of western Sudan. Perhaps, but signs are now brighter for effective international action. It is not as if world public opinion was ignorant of what began developing in the mid-90s when a forerunner of the Janjaweed militia, acting at the instigation of the government of Sudan, first started killing what it regards as inferior "black" Africans in this long-neglected land. Sudan's British rulers neglected Darfur too. So do the global media, governments and even sections of the left today. If the outside power with important oil interests in Sudan was the United States, not China, there might be greater outrage. As things stand it was the US Christian Right which stoked concern in Washington about the separate murderous conflict, now hopefully receding, in Christian southern Sudan and even focused White House attention on Darfur.
But only for a while. So the current struggle between the Khartoum regime of President Omar el-Bashir and what has developed into myriad resistance groups threatens to join the list of other avoidable genocides of the modern era, Armenia, Bosnia, Rwanda and, of course, the Nazi Holocaust, commemorated yesterday. The fault is not all on one side, but those who quibble over definitions merely repeat past errors.
So it is encouraging then that the international community is back on the case where, on some estimates, fatalities could reach 100,000 a month if nothing is done. This week the Commons select committee on international development, now under energetic chairmanship, urged a series of stronger western and UN responses. It suggests "credible sanctions" against Khartoum until it complies with past promises to desist and a reinforced mandate, plus money and material (some of it blocked by Khartoum), for the African Union (AU) military force of 6,700 soldiers and administrators who are trying to provide what the committee called "African solutions to African problems". Sir Menzies Campbell also raised the issue with Tony Blair. Better still, as the Guardian reported yesterday, Kofi Annan now accepts that those AU troops will have to wear the UN's blue helmets and be reinforced from outside. This dreadful war can and must be stopped.