Article

Darfur

A Forgotten Genocide

U.S. Special Envoy claims that there is no genocide in Darfur, yet atrocities are occurring daily and escalating.

“The term genocide is counter to the facts of what is really occurring in Darfur,” U.S. Special Envoy to Sudan Andrew Natsios told a group of Georgetown students last week. It’s unclear what “facts” Natsios is looking at, but here is an accounting of what is truly happening on the ground. “Atrocities are occurring daily in Sudan’s Darfur region and rape and pillage directed against civilians are at ‘a horrific level'” in a crisis that is “growing worse by the day.” For over two years, the administration recognized the conflict for what it is–a genocide. The rhetorical shift–as well as slow movement on economic sanctions–shows that the administration does not grasp urgent need for action. The ENOUGH! campaign, a new initiative co-sponsored by the Center for American Progress and International Crisis Group, last week called on the U.S. and international community to support the “3 Ps” of stopping genocide: “promoting the peace, protecting the people, and punishing the perpetrators.” The Sudan Divestment Task Force is urging states and universities to use targeted divestment to change Sudanese behavior. (Learn what you can do to push for divestment here.)

  • The Darfur region is teetering on the “brink of collapse.” Since 2003, the Sudanese government and the “government-sponsored Janjaweed militia have used rape, displacement, organized starvation, and mass murder to kill more than 400,000 and displace 2.5 million.” Contrary to Natsios’ assessment, the genocide continues as Darfur teeters on the “brink of collapse.” U.N. Emergency Relief Coordinator Margareta Wahlstrom said “500,000 people were displaced by the violence in 2006, followed by another 25,000 during January.” “She said the assaults on internally displaced people had risen to 414 in 2006 from 106 in 2005.” Frequent attacks on aid workers have made it much more difficult to deliver aid to the victims. Last month, 14 U.N. aid agencies working in Darfur “warned that their relief operations will collapse unless security improves.”

  • There has been enough of genocide in the Darfur region, it is time for action. The Center for American Progress and the International Crisis Group have formed ENOUGH!, an ongoing campaign meant to “tap into the grass-roots awareness and sense of rage generated by the Darfur crisis and create a social and political network that can identify potential wide-scale atrocities, particularly in Africa, and stop them before they occur.” At the group’s launch, the ICG’s John Prendergast called for an end to the “part-time diplomacy” practice by the Bush administration in the region. “We have envoys that are part-time, staff that gets rotated regularly, we have no full-time,” Prendergast said. “You have to have dedicated staff working this stuff if it’s gonna happen.” Sixty-two percent of Americans think Darfur should be a priority, and 51 percent think the U.S. has a responsibility to act to end the violence there.

  • Divestment from Sudan and its supporters is one of the best ways individuals and organizations can help to stop the genocide. “So is your Fidelity account underwriting genocide in Sudan? Is your pension fund helping finance the janjaweed militias that throw babies into bonfires in Darfur and Chad?” New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof asked. “The answer to both questions is complicated but may be yes, and that’s one reason a divestment campaign is gaining strength around America and abroad.” Six states–including California–and over 30 universities have sold investments related to Sudan. Reps. Barbara Lee (D-CA) and Charlie Rangel (D-NY) “have introduced legislation that looks to use Congress’s budgetary powers” to halt the crisis. (Lee’s bill would “secure the ability of states” to divest from the Sudan.) Durbin has said he would prepare legislation in the Senate to examine how divestment could work as it did against South African apartheid. Yesterday, Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-CO) attended a rally in support of a Colorado bill to divest the state’s pension funds out of companies that deal with Sudan. (“If you want to get to the heart of a problem, find a way to stop the dollars from flowing,” Tancredo said.) Targeted divestment can work to stop the genocide in Sudan for two reasons. First, Sudan “relies heavily on foreign investment to fund its military and the brutal militias seeking to eliminate the non-Arab population of Darfur. For example, it is estimated that 70-80 percent of oil revenue in Sudan, fueled by foreign direct investment, goes to the country’s military.” Second, the “Sudanese government has shown an historic responsiveness to economic pressure.” Learn more about divestment at SudanDivestment.org, or call their divestment hotline at 1-800-GENOCIDE.