It is still happening. Nearly a year after all the usual alarms were sounded heralding the inferno engulfing Darfur, the fire is still raging. Last week, the day after we left Darfur, the killer Janjaweed militias, supported by the Sudanese government, launched an attack on a nearby village, reportedly killing more than 100 people.
Attacks like this are just the tip of the Darfurian volcano. Despite all the noise made by the United Nations Security Council and the Bush administration, and despite the recently signed deal between the Khartoum regime and south-based rebels, the trend lines for Darfur are getting uglier. The international response remains confused, inadequate, timid and criminally negligent.
The announcement from the International Criminal Court on the indictment of Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir on 10 counts of war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide is just over an hour away. While many are bracing for a violent backlash from Khartoum, and the possible expulsion of international aid workers from the country, others are expecting a more measured response. Nick Wadhams of Time Magazine writes of mixed messages from Khartoum.
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.