TCS Daily


The Rainy Season's Over; Killing Can Commence

By J. Peter Pham & Michael I. Krauss - November 8, 2006 12:00 AM

The rainy season has just ended in northwestern Sudan—now killing can recommence in earnest. Two months ago, we warned that inaction in Darfur was tantamount to a "countdown to genocide" with the impending termination at the end of September of the mandate for the relatively ineffectual peacekeepers of the African Union Mission in Sudan (AMIS). Fortunately for the more then two surviving million Darfuris who have been displaced in the now three-year-old conflict, a slight reprieve was won when, at the eleventh hour, the African Peace and Security Council agreed to extend authorization for AMIS through the end of the year. Although incidents of violence continue—in early October, for example, government-backed janjaweed militiamen (janjaweed loosely translates to "devils on horseback") attacked a dozen villages in eastern Chad near refugee camps housing Sudanese refugees, while just last week the militias hit a camp for displaced persons at Jebel Moon in western Darfur, killing 63 people, including 27 children—massive killings are likely to be deferred as long as foreign observers are around to bear witness to them.

In the make-believe world inhabited by denizens of the United Nations bureaucracy, this respite counts as a success for which they congratulate themselves. So on September 29, the Security Council passed Resolution 1713 to commend "the efforts of...the Secretary-General and leaders in the region to promote peace and stability in Darfur" and to extend the mandate of its "panel of experts," whose membership was increased with the appointment of "a fifth member to enable the panel to better carry out its mission." The panel was now instructed to report back in ninety days and then again thirty days before its mandate expires on March 29, 2007.

What will these "experts" report? That the UN has been unable to implement is August 29, 2006, Resolution 1706, which held out the illusory hope of a 17,300-strong military personnel international peacekeeping force (to be dubbed "UNMIS") seconded by 3,300 civilian personnel. For want of requisite consent by the genocidal Islamist regime in Khartoum—a condition of this resolution—this force is likely never to be forthcoming. To carry the farce to the hilt, the Security Council then passed, one month ago, yet another document, Resolution 1714, purporting to extend the mandate of the phantom UNMIS until April 30, 2007, "with the intention to renew it for further periods," while "encouraging the efforts of the Secretary-General" to deploy the force and ordering him to "report to the Council every three months on the implementation of the mandate of UNMIS."

In the real world where Darfuris—those who have not yet joined their 400,000 slain brothers and sisters—live, the situation continues to go from bad to worse, as Secretary-General Kofi Annan's most recent report to the Security Council documents. In fact, the UN admits that its relief agencies have even less access to those in need than at almost any other point since the crisis began—and this while the crisis worsens with the end of the rainy season expected to bring a fresh round of attacks by Sudanese government forces as well as janjaweed in the coming weeks.

It has been more than two years since a (unanimous) resolution of the Congress of the United States, then Secretary of State Colin Powell, and, finally, President George W. Bush all branded the humanitarian catastrophe in Darfur "genocide"—the systematic destruction of "black" African Muslim Sudanese by Arab Muslim Sudanese. But America has been virtually alone in the international community. The European Parliament, in an action reminiscent of journalist Alan Elsner's question to State Department spokesperson Christine Shelly during the Rwandan genocide ("How many acts of genocide does it take to make a genocide?"), resolved that the events in Darfur were "tantamount to genocide" but somehow not quite constituting genocide.

The 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide stipulates that a finding of genocide entitles parties to "call upon the competent organs of the United Nations to take such action under the Charter of the United Nations as they consider appropriate for the prevention and suppression of acts of genocide or any of the other acts enumerated" therein (article 8).

We now see what that august multilateral institution deems appropriate to prevent and suppress the killings. On October 9, for example, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees issued a report detailing the findings of its own investigators into a series of recent attacks on 45 villages in the southern Darfur district of Buram. According to the report, janjaweed militiamen killed hundreds of black villagers and displaced 10,000 others belonging to the Zaghawa, Massalit, and Misserya ethnic groups. How did High Commissioner Louise Arbour react? Incredibly Ms. Arbour, former chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda and thus someone who should know better, posted an internet press release "urging the Government of Sudan to order an independent investigation into recent militia attacks that may have left hundreds of civilians dead in South Darfur." This milquetoast response was itself too strong for the Sudan: on October 24 Khartoum's Arab-led government ordered UN special representative Jan Pronk expelled from the country. Pronk had been the chief champion of UN peacekeeping troops for Darfur, to replace the African Union force. He had publicly accused Sudan's army of violating the UN resolutions by mobilizing janjaweed, and had pointed out that Darfuri rebels were easily a match for Sudanese government forces themselves. While his public statements got him declared persona non grata, Pronk's real sin was to actually care about Africa.

More than three years after the killings started in Darfur, the international community faces a choice. It can continue to wander the corridors of never-never land in Turtle Bay, pretending to act while thousands die and congratulating itself on "genuine progress" (the description of EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana) of its nonmeasures. Or it can gather a "coalition of the willing" to use the modest amount of force necessary—enforcement of a no-fly zone over Darfur and selective degradation of Sudanese military assets used in the genocide—to justly and effectively halt Khartoum's killing machine in its tracks.

J. Peter Pham is director of the Nelson Institute for International and Public Affairs at James Madison University. Michael I. Krauss is professor of law at George Mason University School of Law. Both are adjunct fellows of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies.

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