I’m posting this on behald of AID Senior Political Analyst Kathryn Bach:

Background

In February 2003, black African insurgents in the Darfur region of Sudan began a rebellion against the Arab-led Sudanese government, citing a number of grievances. In an attempt to crush the uprising, the government responded by arming an Arab militia, the Janjaweed, and instructing it to kill and terrorize black civilians. (Note that the Sudanese government, led by President Omar Hassan al-Bashir, has denied arming and supporting the militia, despite reliable evidence to the contrary.) Since that time, up to 50,000 black Africans from the region have died, and the violence has driven an additional 1.4 million from their homes and into refugee camps in Darfur and neighboring Chad. The United Nations has identified the situation in Darfur as the world’s worst humanitarian crisis. USAID has predicted that a million people could die if the violence continued, and that 300,000 more people almost definitely will, regardless of international involvement.

The chaos in Darfur also threatens the power-sharing accord that the Sudanese government signed with rebels from southern Sudan in May 2004. The government’s war with the southern rebels had gone on for nearly fifty years and produced two million casualties when the deal was signed, and the government hopes to forge a permanent peace settlement. Continued violence in Darfur might endanger the accord.

International Involvement

In August 2004, the African Union (AU) sent 80 ceasefire monitors to Darfur, along with 300 soldiers to protect them – 150 soldiers from Rwanda and another 150 from Nigeria. In addition, the AU has been sponsoring peace talks between the Sudanese government and the rebels from Darfur: after breaking down in July when the rebels accused the government of breaking the ceasefire, the talks resumed on 23 August. Olusegun Obasanjo, Nigeria’s president and chairman of the AU, suggested that the AU’s troops play a larger role in the conflict, proposing that the AU disarm the rebels from Darfur while the government in Sudan works to disarm the janjaweed. After initially rejecting the proposal, the Sudanese government said on 25 August that it would not object to AU forces working to move rebels off the battlefield and into their barracks. The rebels, however, refused the plan, insisting that a political settlement precede any disarmament. On 28 August the rebels staged a 24 hour boycott of the talks in response to janjaweed attacks of 26 August that left 75 dead.

The United Nations (UN) passed a resolution on 30 July 2004 that gave Sudan 30 days to prove to the Security Council that it could disarm the janjaweed. The resolution, though it does not specifically use the word ‘sanctions’, threatens that if Sudan’s government does not comply it will face action under article 41 of the UN charter – the article that deals with economic and diplomatic embargoes. On 26 August, the United Nations sent two teams into Darfur to assess the government’s efforts to rein in the janjaweed, and the Security Council will hear the reports on 2 September. The reports will probably conclude that Sudan has not restrained the Arab militia, even while it has cooperated in dealing with the humanitarian crisis. Though sanctions are still an option, it is not clear that the Security Council will vote to impose them.

Genocide?

There has been some dispute as to whether the crisis in Darfur counts as genocide. The US congress voted that it does, but neither President Bush nor the United Nations have classified it as such.

The UN Convention on Genocide of 1948, which defines genocide as “acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial or religious group”, states that “[p]ersons committing genocide…shall be punished, whether they are constitutionally responsible rulers, public officials or private individuals.” However, according to The Economist, “under international law, there is no inherent right of armed humanitarian intervention, even to stop genocide.” The United Nations has intervened to stop human rights abuses in the past, but always with reference to Chapter VII of the UN Charter, which states that the Security Council can authorize the use of force when faced with “the existence of any threat to the peace.” Thus even the label ‘genocide’ does not guarantee international intervention.

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