At 8 am eastern standard time, the International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant for Sudanese president Omar al Bashir for alleged war crimes in Darfur. This was not exactly an unexpected development. We have known for at least a week that today was the day that the shoe was to drop.
TEN YEARS AGO, Rwanda was a month into its genocide. It is right that there should now be so much attention to what should or could have been done during that 90-day slaughter of 800,000 Rwandans. But it is wrong that so little attention is paid to the lessons we should have learned. The first lesson: Pay attention when hundreds of thousands are at risk.
Three times more people have died over the last 20 years of war in Sudan than were murdered in Rwanda. Most of those deaths have occurred in the south, where populations of African descent follow Christianity and traditional religions. And 400,000 more African Muslim Sudanese from the west of the country may well die by December in a famine created by the Khartoum government's military tactics and obstruction of aid.
Catholics now have a study guide specifically developed to help them address the genocide occurring in the Darfur region in western Sudan.
The Catholic Companion and Discussion Guide was written to be used alongside the best-selling “Not on Our Watch Christian Companion: Biblical Reflections on the Movement to End Genocide in Darfur and Beyond,” published by the Enough Project, a program of the Center for American Progress.
A year ago, we went to Darfur to document the horrors that were occurring there and to try to determine why so little was being done in response.
The African Union troops deployed there told us that they were too small a force with too weak a mandate to make any real difference. Homeless Darfurians told us they would hear strong comments by American officials on the radio but weren't being protected from continuing attacks.
Hard though it is to believe, the horrific humanitarian situation in Darfur is getting worse. There are more clashes now than a year ago, the number of rapes has steadily climbed and humanitarian workers are being attacked. The Darfur Peace Agreement, signed in May, is on the verge of collapse, and more than two million people continue to languish in refugee camps.
Meanwhile the United Nations and its member states fiddle, gently trying to persuade the government of Sudan to accept a UN peacekeeping force in Darfur, but getting nowhere. That's not surprising, as, over the last 15 years, constructive engagement with Khartoum has rarely produced results.
ONCE AGAIN, the drumbeat is intensifying for stronger action to end the untold human suffering in Darfur, Sudan.
Senator Hillary Clinton recently sent a letter to President Bush, warning that ''our continued inaction will enable the killings to continue." A senior UN official told us that the international community is ''keeping people alive with our humanitarian assistance until they are massacred." After leading a bipartisan congressional delegation to Darfur recently, House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi stated, ''We all went to Darfur with a sense of deep concern, and we all left with a sense of outrage and urgency." The question now is whether all this noise will translate into concrete measures to protect the people of Darfur.
There is plenty of blame to go around in the continuing crisis in Darfur. But the stalemate over the deployment of a U.N. peacekeeping operation to the ravaged region in Sudan can be traced directly to the international community's failure to apply strong diplomatic and economic pressure on senior officials of the ruling National Congress Party to end the killing, negotiate amendments to the flawed Darfur Peace Agreement and accept U.N. troops.
Until and unless the international community takes collective, punitive action against the NCP, it is foolish to believe that Khartoum will stop its increasingly clamorous public posturing and its escalating war strategy, or do any more than pay continued lip-service to its numerous unfulfilled promises, most notably the disarmament of its allied Janjaweed militias.
The historic peace agreement currently being completed between the government of Sudan and the country’s main rebel group, the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA), will mark the end of a long and bloody chapter of Sudanese history. Negotiated by the regional Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), the resolution of the conflict under regional supervision should bring a fitting conclusion to a war that was consistently supported and fuelled by the interventions of the same neighboring states that are today pushing for peace.
The SPLA’s revolt against the central government of President Gaafar Nimeiri began in 1983. Those leading the revolt opposed the government’s abandonment of the 1972 Addis Ababa peace agreement, which ended the first civil war, the government’s attempt to move forward on oil and water projects with little southern Sudanese input and benefit, Nimeiri’s manipulation of the South and southern interests for political gain, and Nimeiri’s decision to implement Islamic shari’a laws throughout Sudan in September 1983.