A Call to Action in Darfur
There is no end in sight to the killings and expulsions in Darfurthat afflicted western part of Sudan where more than 200,000 people have died and 2.5 million have been pushed out of their homes in a brutal, complicated conflict. The Bush administration has declared the killings a "genocide," but U.S. and international efforts to rein in the violence have, so far, failed. The government in Khartoum is seen as the central driver of the violence. Sudan recently agreed to allow 3,000 United Nations peacekeepers into Darfur to bolster an existing force of African Union soldiers that has been unable to stop four years of war. But few observers believe that the moves mark a decisive turn in ending an ongoing humanitarian disaster.
Last week U.S. News interviewed John Prendergast, a former Clinton administration official now with the International Crisis Group and the coauthor of a new book, Not on Our Watch: The Mission to End Genocide in Darfur and Beyond. His colleague in that project is actor Don Cheadle, an activist and star of the film Hotel Rwanda, the story of another African genocide.
Why hasn't the killing been stopped?
The Sudan government early on realized that the United States, the European Union, and by extension the U.N. Security Council were all bark and no bite. The international community specialized during the last four years in issuing press statements, in warning the government of Sudan to alter its behavior or else. Then there was never an "or else."
What of the Bush administration's role?
President Bush ... goes to the Holocaust Museum and actually spells out what he's going to do and still a month later ... nothing... . They're starting to turn the ship in the right direction, away from accommodation towards a more punitive policy. Plan B ... applies targeted sanctions against senior [Sudanese] officials, it talks about freezing the assets and going after some of the companies that are associated with the regimeunilaterallyand it sort of accelerates planning for a "no fly" zone [to bar Sudanese airstrikes against civilians].
Is the Sudanese government vulnerable?
There's a track record over 18 years of the life of this regime. When they are actually hit multilaterally, when the pressure is high enough, they actually do change their policies, and they've done it with respect to terrorism, slavery, and the North-South war [in Sudan].
Is the Bush administration committed to ending the violence?
When it comes to action, and they sit around the table in the Situation Room ... everybody has a reason not to do anything more. The CIA tamps down any action because we're getting the material and information from Khartoum. The Defense Department doesn't want to do anything because they want to save it all for Iraq and Afghanistan. The State Department doesn't want to do anything because they want to pursue this policy of "constructive engagement." In the background ... is this quite extensive relationship that Washington and Khartoum have developed. The Khartoum regime cast its lot after September 11 with the United States in support of a counterterrorism agenda.