Genocide Without End? The Destruction of Darfur

Genocide Without End? The Destruction of Darfur

AS GENOCIDAL destruction in the Darfur region of western Sudan enters its fifth year, we must accept not only the overwhelming disgrace of such prolonged human agony but register important shifts in the nature of the destruction—the appearance of new and different threats to the existence of both Arab and non-Arab populations in Darfur. Genocide is evolving in Darfur, mutating, and perhaps only now reaching the point of greatest human destruction.

Security on the ground has continued to deteriorate since the signing of the ill-conceived and ill-fated “Darfur Peace Agreement” (Abuja, May 2006). Violence is more chaotic, more unpredictable, and more deeply threatening to humanitarian operations. Arab tribal groups that had attempted to stay outside the conflict have been drawn into it. Almost inconceivably, the number of conflict-affected human beings continues to grow, and now stands at approximately 4.5 million people in Darfur and eastern Chad together. These are people the United Nations has assessed as in need of humanitarian assistance because of the conflict; a terrifyingly large percentage of them are totally dependent on the provision of food, medicine, and resources for clean water.

At the same time, the threats to humanitarian workers have never been greater, and all the aid organizations—both UN and nongovernmental—are on the verge of withdrawal. In two extraordinary open letters in January 2007, all fourteen UN organizations and six private organizations made clear that they would be forced to end their work if security deteriorated further. The letter from the UN organizations, including the World Food Program, was without precedent, and came more than four months after passage of UN Security Council Resolution 1706, which authorized deployment to Darfur of 22,500 peace support personnel and civilian police under Chapter VII of the UN Charter, which confers enforcement authority. This was an unambiguous, robust mandate for civilian and humanitarian protection that also spelled out the role of this force in helping to prevent ethnic violence from spilling further into eastern Chad, as well as the Central African Republic.

As I write in early May, eight months after passage of Resolution 1706, only about two hundred UN technical personnel have been deployed to Darfur. The prospects for greater UN deployments to support a crumbling and badly demoralized African Union force appear bleak. And humanitarian organizations make clear in confidential conversations that because of insecurity they remain poised to withdraw or substantially decrease their operations, leaving millions of human beings without necessary resources. When, in December 2004, the number of conflict-affected persons stood at 2.5 million, then-UN undersecretary for humanitarian affairs, Jan Egeland, warned that in the event of humanitarian collapse, as many as a hundred thousand people could die every month. By the end of this year’s “...