Sat 12 Apr 2008
Section: Issues & Ideas
Byline: Irwin Cotler
The fifth anniversary of the genocide by attrition in Darfur — where over 400,000 have died, 3 million have been displaced, and 4.5 million are on a life support system — has received only passing mention in the international community, thereby lending credence to the notion of the banality of evil.
Indeed, it is the young people, in concert with Save Darfur NGOs and advocates, who continue to sound the alarm–as in the organization of the Global Day for Darfur this Sunday.
This Day for Darfur is particularly warranted given the recent ominous developments in what is commonly called — though not acted upon — "the greatest humanitarian catastrophe of the 21st century."
First, the Khartoum government has begun its sixth year of genocidal warfare in west Darfur by launching ferocious ground and air assaults on African civilian populations, reminiscent of the scorched earth destruction of villages in the onset of the genocide in 2003 and 2004.
Second, Sudan continues to impede the deployment of the hybrid peacekeeping force — UNAMID — by refusing to accept key contingents from non-African countries, such that only a fraction of the 26,000 proposed force to be deployed by the end of 2007 is in place. Moreover, Khartoum is obstructing effective deployment of this already highly limited force by forbidding travel in Darfur without approval, wholly controlling its operations, and unleashing — rather than disarming — the brutal Janjiweed militia.
Third, a large majority of people in desperate need of humanitarian assistance are in areas with little or no humanitarian access, as aid organizations that would provide necessary food, water, shelter and primary care are themselves the object of obstruction, abuse and assault.
Fourth, Khartoum continues to defy the International Criminal Court’s arrest warrants for Sudanese Government Minister Ahmad Harun and Janjiweed militia leaders for their planning and perpetration of war crimes and crimes against humanity in Darfur. Indeed, Khartoum not only refuses to surrender the accused, but it has promoted the genocidaires to higher Government positions, with Ahmad Harun, for example, now responsible for hearing humanrights complaints against the various atrocities he committed, a painful and scandalous mockery of Sudanese obligations to protect the population and prosecute human rights violators.
Fifth, China continues to enable the Darfur genocide through a vicious cycle: China buys Sudan’s oil; Sudan buys China’s arms; and the arms are then used by the Sudanese government to massacre Darfuris.
Sixth, the 2006 Darfur Peace Agreement between Sudan and the main rebel groups, described over a year ago as being in a "coma," is at risk of unravelling. Moreover, the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement between Khartoum and southern rebel groups, ending Africa’s longest-running civil war, is now itself at risk of morphing into the second Sudanese genocide of the 21st Century, perpetrated by the same Khartoum government.
Finally, in Eastern Chad, an ignored humanitarian crisis has put a half-million Darfuri refugees and Chadian displaced persons at acute risk, with the Darfur genocide by attrition increasingly threatening the region as a whole.
Darfur is now at a critical moment of truth, with upcoming and paralyzing seasonal rains threatening to halt delivery of humanitarian aid. Simply put, if Khartoum is not stopped now from its simultaneous blocking of both the UNAMID protection force and the necessary humanitarian assistance, the number of deaths in the coming months may increase dramatically.
What is desperately needed now is a "Darfur Summit" convening the leadership of the African Union, the European Union, the UN, the Arab League, NATO and the Sudanese government, to implement a "Save Darfur/Sudan" action plan. This would include the urgent and effective deployment of security forces — including 10,000 South Sudan volunteer peacekeepers — to protect civilians and humanitarian workers under assault; the rescue of both the Darfur Peace Process and the North-South Comprehensive Peace Agreement; the leveraging of China to end its arms sales to Darfur; and a no-fly zone to stop the indiscriminate bombing of civilian villages. The time to act is now. – Irwin Cotler is the Opposition Critic for Human Rights and the founder of the Save Darfur Parliamentary Coalition.