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Wednesday, June 02, 2004

The situation in Darfur in western Sudan is serious and deteriorating. Janjaweed Arab militia, financed by the Sudanese government in Khartoun have killed thousands of Darfur people, displaced 1 million within Sudan and forced 20,000 to flee to neighbouring Chad. Many of those who remain are stuck in settlements described by Nicholas D. Kristof as being "like concentration camps". He describes the conditions in one such camp in the town of Kailek:
Eighty percent of the children are malnourished, there are no toilets, and girls are taken away each night by the guards to be raped. As inmates starve, food aid is diverted by guards to feed their camels.
He continues, quoting a UN report on the situation:
The standard threshold for an "emergency" is one death per 10,000 people per day, but people in Kailek are dying at a staggering 41 per 10,000 per day - and for children under 5, the rate is 147 per 10,000 per day. "Children suffering from malnutrition, diarrhea, dehydration and other symptoms of the conditions under which they are being held live in filth, directly exposed to the sun," the report says.
He continues to detail the "strategy of systematic and deliberate starvation" enforced by the government and its proxies on the ground. Which will contribute to deaths from malnutrition in the region which the US Agency for International Development calculates will this year number anywhere between 10,000 and half a million.

Kristof argues that this policy, pursued so Arabs can take the land, constitutes genocide under the Genocide Convention which obliges nations to act to stop it. This of course has not happened. Our Glorious Leaders who only a year ago were so concerned about the suffering of the Iraqi people have said little on the matter and done less.

A cursory perusal of my thoughts on the Iraq war should make it clear that I am not a big fan of military intervention. It is typically pursued in the interests not of the supposed beneficiaries, but those carrying it out and often worsens the situation. This does not mean I reject it out of hand, I am not an absolute pacifist. Instead anyone professing to be engaging in "humanitarian intervention" must demonstrate that they have considered thoroughly the likely consequences of their actions. It must be likely that the situation in the aftermath of intervention will be substantially better (as opposed to superficially as in Iraq with the removal of Saddam, but the emergence of various new problems or the exacerbation of old ones) than would be the case if that action was not carried out. Furthermore all non-military options should be attempted before military force is resorted to.

Fortunately in Sudan there is chance that non-military intervention could go a long way to mitigating the situation. Kristof argues,
If Bush would step up to the cameras and denounce this genocide, if he would send Secretary of State Colin Powell to the Chad-Sudan border, if he would telephone Sudan's president again to demand humanitarian access to the concentration camps, he might save hundreds of thousands of lives.
Recent, and apparently successful, American intervention in peace talks in Sudan suggest this is not an unrealistic hope. While the Bush Administration has yet to take these elementary steps it has still gone further than just about any other government or the UN has done, which should give them pause. After all the rhetoric during the anniversary of the Rwandan genocide about ensuring it never happened again it would be tragic if that was exactly what occurred. History may not be so forgiving the second time...

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