Darfur: Shame and Responsibility

Darfur: Shame and Responsibility

Two and a half years after major conflict began in the Darfur province of far western Sudan, it is perversely clear how the future history of this tortured region will be written. Any meaningful account will be guided by a chronology that includes readily discernible signposts of genocidal destruction, beginning in spring 2003; various occasions for empty international condemnation of accelerating ethnically targeted destruction of non-Arab, or “African,” tribal populations throughout Darfur; the numerous, belated stages in an inadequate humanitarian response to rapidly growing concentrations of vulnerable civilian victims; serial failures by the UN and Western democracies to confront Khartoum’s génocidaires; and desperately expedient reliance upon a glib notion of “African solutions for African problems.”

The protagonists in this history will be many, but are again readily identified: Khartoum’s National Islamic Front regime, which continues to dominate Sudan’s new “government of national unity,” formed in July 2005; the Janjaweed, Khartoum’s savagely destructive Arab militia force in Darfur; both of the main insurgency groups in Darfur, which emerged from decades of political and economic marginalization, as well as in response to more recent Arab militia raiding, only to become blind to the massive civilian suffering their increasingly callous actions occasioned; and the African Union (AU), particularly those countries such as Nigeria, Libya, and Egypt that so adamantly refused to acknowledge either the scale of Darfur’s security requirements or the desperate need for non-African humanitarian intervention.

The UN is also culpable, with the manifest failures of both its humanitarian and political organizations—China in particular has paralyzed the UN Security Council, ensuring that no effective actions have been taken against a regime that has allowed Chinese oil companies to become dominant in Sudan’s burgeoning petroleum industry; blame also falls on the United States, the United Kingdom, and Denmark—all of which muted their criticism of Khartoum’s genocide in Darfur for much of 2003–2004 in the interest of securing a north/south Sudanese peace agreement; and particular disgrace falls to those wealthy nations—such as Germany, France, Italy, Japan, and the oil-rich Arab countries—that failed to respond meaningfully to desperate funding appeals for starving and acutely vulnerable civilians.

It is a history that will flatter none, shame all, and take its grim place within the ongoing debate about the criteria and threshold for international humanitarian intervention. Even as all this is painfully clear, as of August 2005, only one significant international organization, the Brussels-based International Crisis Group, has called for humanitarian intervention in Darfur involving non-AU forces. The ICG’s July 2005 report on the Darfur crisis (“The AU’s Mission in Darfur: Bridging the...