Friday, January 06, 2006

Unite against Darfur genocide

Article Last Updated: 1/06/2006


Despite hollow assurances from Sudanese President Omar El Bashir, both Human Rights Watch and United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan report the horrific slaughter of black Africans continues unabated in Darfur.

The United States has its hands full in Afghanistan and Iraq, but President Bush and Congress must speak with one voice against the genocidal bloodletting before Darfur becomes another Rwanda.

"Regrettably, we have to acknowledge that the most urgent needs of millions affected by the (Sudanese) war remain largely unmet," Annan wrote. "Large-scale attacks against civilians continue, women and girls are being raped by armed groups, yet more villages are being burned and thousands more driven from their homes."

A Human Rights Watch report, "Entrenching Impunity: Government Responsibility for International Crimes," issued in mid-December enumerates acts of depravity that should shock the conscience of the world, which, sadly, has done little to stop it. Janjaweed Arab tribal militias systematically destroy villages at the direction of the Khartoum government, which the report says repeatedly has provided combat support including troops, aircraft and helicopter gunships, and arms and equipment.

About 400,000 non-Arabs have been killed, and an estimated 2.5 million have been forced from their villages. Torture and rape are routine; homes are looted and burned; and cattle and other livestock are driven into fields to destroy crops so if refugees return, they will have no sustenance.

This time, the Muslim government is targeting fellow Muslims, unlike its genocidal campaign against southern Sudan Christians during the 1990s.

The Sudanese Liberation Movement/ Army's rebellion against the government provided the pretense for El Bashir's thugs to begin a campaign of ethnic cleansing in Darfur in February 2003. The 5,000 African Union troops sent to oversee the so-called peace reached last spring lack sufficient vehicles and other equipment to be effective. Human Rights Watch details how the African Union troops repeatedly are stopped at roadblocks outside towns under attack. The Janjaweed militias also have thwarted delivery of humanitarian aid.

In a ploy to skirt the authority of the International Criminal Court, El Bashir's regime cynically charged a few low-ranking soldiers with crimes - then issued a presidential decree of immunity.

Annan says some progress has been made but that a larger international presence is needed to augment the African Union contingent to protect the civilian population.

If the U.N. continues to do little more than wring its hands, other nations must band together to act. President Bush should ask Congress to restore funds for humanitarian aid and support of the African Union presence and also pressure the European Union to pitch in with money and troops.

It is past time to act against this genocide.


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