Confronting Sudan

Monday, August 30, 2004

Tens of thousands of black Sufi Muslims have died in government-backed atrocities in western Sudan. One million more are on the brink of death by starvation, as the nation deals with the aftermath of the 20-year long North-South war that killed 2 million people, largely a result of governmental genocide. A recent visit to Sudan by U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan and U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell confirms the humanitarian crisis. Annan stated that the condition in Sudan could potentially destabilize the region. But Annan, who later called the situation “borderline ethnic cleansing,” is dancing around the organization’s definition of genocide and shirking a much-needed fast response to the country. The African Union, a continental organization composed of the heads of 51 African nations devoted to regional progress in economic, government and social aspects of life, met last week in Ethiopia under the auspices of addressing the circumstances in Sudan. In response to the mass killings, however, the African Union planned to send a measly 300 peacekeeping troops into the region. This number pales when compared to the 15,000 U.N.-authorized troops that were deployed into nearby Liberia last summer, a country with only half the population of the Darfur region of Sudan. When it comes to the latest African affairs, the United States has been as disinterested as the United Nations, with a few exceptions. The Bush administration recently granted only 2.3 percent of the $15 billion to fight AIDS promised by 2008 in Bush’s 2003 State of the Union address, and besides falsely blaming Niger for dealing uranium and disarming Libya’s weapons program, the U.S. presence on the continent has been more or less nil. So why is the Bush administration now deciding to focus on this region’s problems? The answer goes beyond the coveted oil Sudan produces. The administration has lost the trust and support of many Americans, after duping them into believing that the invasion and occupation of Iraq was a response to alleged weapons of mass destruction that, according to a government dossier, were supposedly capable of being activated in 45 minutes, an assertion that has yet to be verified. As American soldiers struggle to quell the insurgencies of Saddam loyalists, the Bush administration now clings onto a single justification for the actions against Iraq – the gross crimes against humanity that were committed under Saddam Hussein’s regime. In order to maintain some credibility, the Bush administration must act on the events that plague the Saharan nation. Africa is a rapidly growing site of terrorism that can no longer be ignored, especially by a government that trumpets its efforts in combating terrorist activities. Add that factor to the steadily climbing death tolls in the Darfur region and likelihood of the Sudanese governmental support, and what we have are the circumstances that existed before the U.S-led invasion of Iraq. The Bush government cannot afford to remain idle. In fact, the Bush doctrine of military preemption should call for an invasion of that sovereign nation.Sudan’s Islamic government has blamed the atrocities on the fundamentalist militia called Janjaweed, but also claimed that the conflict is not one of ethnic cleansing but one that concerns long-term land and resource disputes. Even if this highly unlikely account is true, the fact still remains that the Sudanese government has done nothing as the crimes continue to occur. The Sudanese government, in order to maintain the least bit of legitimacy, must stifle these crimes. The African Union also needs to do its part as well. If the African Union has hopes of seeing a quick end to this mass-scale annihilation it must to put in much more effort than a measly three hundred troops. The United Nations ought to purchase a dictionary so that it can stop mulling over semantics and act on the genocide that is rampant in Sudan. With all of its resources, the United Nations has no excuse to permit this type of situation to persist. As a world power, the United States has an obligation to mobilize and see to it that there is a cessation to the violence. Let’s hope that this time the violence will be quashed with little military force and the support of a multinational coalition. When the four parties take up the responsibilities that they have assumed, only then will these crimes against humanity conclude.

Wilfred Codrington ’05 is a philosophy and Africana studies concentrator.

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