In Darfur, destruction moves quickly across the African Sahel, marauders terrorizing defenseless villages too far from anywhere to expect help. With hundreds of thousands dead and almost two million people now squatters in refugee camps in neighboring Chad, hope moves with alarming reticence, the world too busy to scare away this apocalypse of darkness that’s descended on the Christian and other non-Arab peoples of western Sudan.

Prior to the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake, the UN called the Darfur conflict the world’s worst current humanitarian crisis. When the tsunami devastated Asia, the focus of the humanitarian community necessarily shifted to the East.

It is time for the United States to stop the genocide in Darfur. How many times are we going to look the other way as hundreds of thousands of African families are decimated. Did we learn nothing from Rwanda?

This should be a job for the United Nations (yeah, right). Darfur is a failure of the international community, but its doubtful that anyone but the United States has the moral will and the ability to do anything.

Potential Progress Thwarted by France?
It is time to accelerate the diplomatic, and if necessary, the military, action. Even the slightest progress has us pitted once again against France, which wants to do nothing on its own.

This is the latest news:

The latest piece of a solution is a decision last week by the African Union (AU) to triple its troops in Darfur to 7,700 and ask NATO for logistical support. Even that additional foreign presence in a region the size of France wouldn’t be enough, but it shows confidence is growing that outside intervention can be effective.

Sudan’s government tacitly approves NATO’s potential role in Darfur, but France, which has preferred a strictly European role in Africa’s crises, may be ready to shoot down this request of NATO by African nations.

So far, France has preferred to deal with Darfur by weaker measures, such as UN Security Council steps to impose sanctions on Sudan and put Darfur’s attackers on trial (if they can be caught). These have been inadequate. Only by backing AU troops with essential NATO planes and other equipment can the Arab militia, known as Janjaweed, be intimidated to give up for good.

NATO’s post-cold-war role has yet to be defined. It wasn’t included in the antiterrorism invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq. Now it has a chance for a limited role in an African conflict. The US would like more NATO intervention on the continent – perhaps with the AU leading – to keep failing states from becoming home to terrorist groups. If France again fails to back the US in such ventures, NATO itself may wither and bilateral ties worsen.

The Coalition for Darfur maintains a daily blog kof actions on Darfur.

Mark Daniels points us to a strong column on Darfur by Nicholas Kristoff.

From the Financial Times:

The failure of the international community to halt the ethnic cleansing, mass rape and killings in Darfur in western Sudan is a disgrace to our time. For two years the world stood by while Darfur burned. In place of action there was a grotesque debate over whether we should call it genocide.

A little over a month ago the United Nations Security Council finally agreed to refer Darfur to the International Criminal Court. This was an important breakthrough. But the promise of justice in the future is not enough. The people of Darfur need protection now.

If we cannot move NATO, we need to support the AU on our own. We didn’t overcome the failures of Somalia by invading Iraq. We’d accomplish that by intervening with what would be a relatively small contingent of U.S. military.

Of course there isn’t much oil in Darfur. Saving the lives of African villagers probably doesn’t advance the war on terror. But there weren’t many good reasons for intervening in Kosovo, either,except to stop genocide. Why not now, in Darfur?

Another blog resource.

The Darfur Conflict
Here’s a summary of what’s happened:

The Darfur conflict is an ongoing conflict in the Darfur region of western Sudan, mainly between the Janjaweed, a government-supported militia recruited from local Arab tribes, and the non-Arab peoples of the region. Note that both sides are largely black in skin tone, and the distinction between “Arab” and “non-Arab” common in western media is heavily disputed by many people, including the Sudanese government. The conflict has been widely described as “ethnic cleansing”, and frequently as “genocide”. In September 2004, the World Health Organization (WHO) estimated 50,000 deaths in Darfur since the conflict’s beginning, mostly by starvation; in October, its head gave an estimate of 71,000 deaths by starvation and disease alone between March and October 2004. While a recent British Parliamentary Report estimates that over 300,000 people have already died[1] (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/africa/4268733.stm), the United Nations estimates that 180,000 have died in the 18 months of the conflict [2] (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/4349063.stm). More than 1.8 million people had been displaced from their homes. 200,000 have fled to neighboring Chad. The refugees include non-Arab victims of non-Arabs, Arab victims of non-Arabs, and Arab victims of Arabs; however, the large majority are non-Arab black Africans fleeing Janjaweed attacks [3]

Last month, a U.S. envoy received assurances from the government of Sudan that they would step in and stop the slaughter. No one believes them. Or about as much as the fox in the henhouse.

So Who Will Stop the Killing?
From the Los Angeles Times:

So who will stop the killing? That question should trouble any tender soul who has ever mindlessly muttered, “Never again.” That incantation is repeated after every genocide — after the Holocaust, after the Cambodian killing fields, after Rwanda — and yet the next time mass slaughter breaks out, the world conveniently averts its gaze. The major exceptions in recent years have been Kosovo and Bosnia, which had the good fortune to be on Western Europe’s doorstep. The rest of the world is treated to high-minded cluck-clucking and, maybe, ex post facto prosecutions.

The only way to save Darfur is to dispatch a large and capable military expedition. But Security Council members France, China and Russia have blocked a U.N. decision on armed intervention because they covet trade ties with Sudan.

That still leaves the possibility of civilized states acting independently of the U.N., as they did in Kosovo. But the only nation with a serious military capacity, the United States, is overstretched in Afghanistan and Iraq.

The European Union should step into the breach. Its economy is as big as the United States’ and its population is even bigger. But it has chosen to spend its euros on extravagant handouts for its own citizens rather than on the kind of armed forces that might bring a ray of hope to the “heart of darkness.” Although the European members of NATO actually have more ground troops than the U.S. — about 1.5 million soldiers — only about 6% are readily deployable abroad. The Europeans could still scrape together the 25,000 to 50,000 soldiers it would take to pacify Darfur, but it would be a stretch for them given their existing commitments, and not one they’re willing to make.

As a last resort, even if they’re not willing to send their own troops, the U.S. and the EU could offer to provide much more logistical support to allow the African Union to dispatch more of its own peacekeepers to Sudan. That’s not asking a lot, yet it’s more than anyone has been willing to do so far.

Aside from a handful of journalists and human rights activists, the only Westerners who have shown any sustained interest in the Sudan are evangelical Christians, who’ve been exercised primarily about the fate of their coreligionists in the south.

Little solace to hundreds of thousands of people still suffering. We have the might to stop genocide in Africa at the same time we establish democracy in Iraq and Afghanistan. We must see to it that it is done.

–James Jewell

About Jim Jewell

I am a writer and consultant on faith and public life, active for many years in management and communications in the evangelical community. I now work as the director of the nonprofit practice at The Valcort Group (www.valcort.com). Everything on this blog, however, is my personal opinion and is not read or approved before it is posted. Opinions, conclusions and other information expressed here do not necessarily reflect the views of Valcort.
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