Darfur genocide over because there's no one left to killThis essay is part of a weekly feature on my blog that presents interesting stories from elsewhere in the world, particularly Africa, that are little reported in the American media. It's part of my campaign to get people to realize there is a lot going on in the world outside the US, Israel and Iraq.
South Africa's News24 carries a foreboding piece on the economic difficulties of the African Union peacekeeping operation in Darfur, Sudan. Apparently, the AU mission there will run out of money within four months unless more funding is found.
On Friday, the European Union donated some 70 million Euros (US$84 million) but the mission still has a shortfall of some $50 million. The AU's peace and security commissioner noted that in May, donors pledged $200 million to the mission, but obviously much of that has not been received.
For his part, Christopher Hitchens denounces the failure of the international community to adequately respond to the genocide in Darfur (though beware: the piece is filled with the distraction of not-so-subtle jibes at the anti-Iraq war arguments). He chillingly claims that the genocide is basically over... because there's no one left to kill.
As I've mentioned before, Darfur was the perfect opportunity to combine two oft-mentioned calls: for American multilateralism and for African solutions to African problems. I firmly believe that an American or western military intervention in Darfur would've been a disaster and would've resulted in much the same problems as are seen in Iraq. However, an African Union intervention might've avoided many of those problems. Of course, an AU intervention would've required logistical and financial support from the United States and European Union. (The Arab League could've been another candidate, but it serves no other purpose than to bash Israel)
I'm not a big fan of military interventionism but cases of genocide are one exception I unambiguously and unapologetically make.
The fledgling AU, the US and the Europeans all dropped the ball. None of this is surprising. Those who dared hope the AU would be different than its talking shop predecessor the Organization for African Unity have been bitterly disappointed. As with Zimbabwe, Ethiopia and other crises, the AU has been largely silent for fear of offending anybody. The Bush administration ignored the Darfur genocide for a long time, focusing on helping resolve the southern Sudanese civil war; this was admittedly an admirable effort and one that pleased Bush's religious conservative base but those in Darfur got short shaft. The silence was deafening until then Secretary of State Colin Powell called the situation there genocide, the first time an American administration had ever used the word. Then Powell resigned and normal service (silence) was resumed. The EU had other internal issues at the time, such as the absorption of a bunch of new members into the Union and the drafting of a new (and ultimately rejected) constitution.
The usual international response to genocide is this
1) ignore it while it's going on except for a few empty threats
2) try assuage international guilt by prosecuting a few people after the fact.
3) hold hand over heart and proclaim 'Never again' with enough fake solemnity so people think you mean it
4) when the next genocide occurs, return to step 1
Sadly, Darfur seems to be no exception.