Watching Genocide, Doing Nothing: The Final Betrayal of Darfur

Watching Genocide, Doing Nothing: The Final Betrayal of Darfur

As the fourth year of genocidal destruction in the Darfur region of Sudan grinds on, with ever greater numbers of civilians affected by increasingly chaotic conflict, one feature in this obscene episode of mass human destruction is clear: never before in history has genocide been so reliably, fully, and consistently reported as it unfolds. This is not to say that the news media have done their job in Darfur. Indeed, with the exception of a few U.S. reporters who have dispatched—at times—superb work and the Reuters newswire (in particular the extraordinarily insightful and intrepid Opheera McDoom), coverage has been poor in larger circulation newspapers and worse in news magazines. Exceptions must be made for the compelling op-ed work of Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times, who has made a number of trips to Darfur and eastern Chad, and the superbly informed editorial writing on Darfur by the Washington Post.

But most of what can be known about the character of human suffering and destruction in Darfur—the dynamics within Khartoum’s genocidal campaign, the regime’s deliberate impeding of humanitarian delivery, the obstruction of African Union forces on the ground, the failure of the Abuja peace agreement, the increasingly large areas inaccessible to all aid assistance, the fracturing of the rebel movements—comes from what must be called “specialist literature.” The evolving features of the National Islamic Front’s genocide must be gleaned from fitful UN “sit reps” (situation reports); press releases from humanitarian organizations that have endured hijackings, kidnappings, and in far too many cases the killings of workers; the chronically belated Darfur Humanitarian Profiles from the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs; and reports from the immensely courageous indigenous human rights organization SOAT (Sudanese Organization Against Torture). Additionally, the UN’s Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN) serves as an intelligent and expansive clearinghouse for UN-garnered intelligence about realities on the ground in Darfur, and issues frequent dispatches. But it is not widely read; I have never seen an IRIN dispatch carried in an American newspaper or news magazine.

Periodically, reports from human rights, humanitarian, and policy organizations bring information to light. On-the-ground and regional research by the International Crisis Group, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, Refugees International, and Physicians for Human Rights has been the basis for critical work going back to February 2003, when major conflict in Darfur broke out and subsequently provoked Khartoum to engage again in its favored domestic security policy: genocidal counter-insurgency warfare (a pattern that goes back to genocide in the Nuba Mountains and southern Sudan’s oil regions). Although these reports frequently generate a brief wire item, they have a limited number of readers.<...


Duggan | University of California Press Gardels