Sunday, May 23, 2004

Only 10 years after the genocide in Rwanda — a horror that Bill Clinton and Kofi Annan, the head peacekeeper at the United Nations, could have stopped — Human Rights Watch, at the beginning of May, delivered to the U.N. General Assembly a detailed report from the killing grounds in Darfur, a province of Sudan that is becoming thenew Rwanda.

The grim list of atrocities documented “how Sudanese government forces have overseen anddirectly participated in massacres, summary executions of civilians, burnings of towns and villages, and the forcible depopulation of wide swathes of land” inhabited for generations by black African tribes.

The black victims are Muslims, as are the Sudanese government’s accomplices in this genocide — the Arab Janjaweed militias. Moreover, Bertrand Ramcharan, the United Nations’ own high commissioner for human rights, told the Security Council that “some senior Sudanese officials privately admitted for the first time that Sudan had ‘recruited, uniformed, armed, supported and sponsored’ the (Arab) militias that have carried out the worst excesses in Darfur.”

So what did the august U.N. Security Council do to stop this genocide — as it utterly failed to do in 1994 when 800,000 Rwandan citizens were massacred?


On May 7, the 15 nations on that feckless body said, after reading the report, that they would “discuss” the matter again in June.

A week later, from the busy killing fields, Zenaib Jabir, mother of a 3-year-old girl and 5-year-old boy, told Jonathan Clayton of the Times of London of how the Janjaweed, attacking her village in Darfur late one night, killed her husband and the other men, all unarmed, who were trying to defend the village.

She was gang raped. “I fought, but was not strong enough,” she said. When she broke free, her children were gone. “I have no idea what happened — if they are dead or alive. I have not seen them since. I think about them all the time.” If they are alive, like other children kidnapped by the Janjaweed in these raids, her son and daughter have been sold into slavery.

On April 7, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan had said of the massacres and rapes in Darfur that “the international community cannot stand idle.” On the same day, President Bush declared, “I condemn these atrocities.”

As a result of this pressure, including the horrific reports from Human Rights Watch, a 45-day cease-fire was supposed to start on April 11 between the government of Sudan and two groups — the Sudan Liberation Movement and the Justice and Equality Movement. Those forces are trying to protect the black African farmers being killed on the ground and bombed from the air by the Sudanese government.

The cease-fire didn’t even last a day.

Further evidence of U.N. uselessness surfaced on April 23, when its Human Rights Commission refused to denounce the government of Sudan. It merely mumbled “concern” about blood-soaked Darfur.

Then, to compound the shame of the United Nations, on May 4, guess who was re-elected to a three-year term on the U.N. Human Rights Commission? The newly re-approved member, seated while the killings continued, is the Sudanese government in Khartoum. Walking out in disgust on that day, Sichan Siv, the American ambassador to the council, said that “the United States is perplexed and dismayed by the decision to put forward Sudan — a country that massacres its own African citizens.”

And what did Mr. Annan say about the election of Sudan, and then about the Security Council’s May 7 silence on the genocide? Not a word. This happened even though after Rwanda he piously had said, “Never again!”

What about the African governments on the Security Council? Surely they were more concerned about the killings and rapes of black Africans in Darfur?

In The Washington Post on May 8, Colum Lynch reported, “Council diplomats said the council’s African governments — Angola, Algeria and Benin — opposed action (against the government of Sudan), arguing (with extraordinary irresponsibility) that it would constitute interference in a member state’s internal affairs.”

While the United Nations again disgraces itself, the Times of London reports that it’s “hard to think that the misery could get any greater but the rains are on the way, and the few aid workers in the area say that will bring more disease, more suffering.”

And starvation.

I do think Mr. Bush cares, as he did in trying to push Sudan into a peace treaty with the black Christians and animists in the South, who were, for so long, killed and enslaved by government forces. But, given the complete failure of the United Nations in this case, what is Mr. Bush going to do now to prevent another chorus, a decade from now, from keening “never again”?

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