Monday, May 1, 2006

Darfur - again

by Andrew Swift, DI editorial writer

Thousands joined Save Darfur rallies on Sunday in Washington and other cities across the country. Today, the news is more sober. Major Darfur rebel groups, including the Sudanese Liberation Movement, have rejected a proposed African Union backed peace plan, with good reason. Questions remain over the Sudanese government's willingness to disband the janjaweed, Arab militias largely responsible for the genocide in the western Sudanese region, as well as the integration of rebel forces into the national army. The AU has agreed to a 48-hour extension of negotiations.

Upwards of 200,000 civilians are estimated to have been killed in ethnic cleansings, with thousands more displaced. With or without a peace deal, the situation will not be resolved, barring several important changes.

The African Union has a 7,000 strong force in Darfur. Darfur's size is comparable to France, and 7,000 peacekeepers, lacking strong orders to protect civilians, are simply not enough. A proposed United Nations' peacekeeping force of approximately 15,000 is unlikely to be on the ground for at least another year, if ever. Unsurprisingly, the willingness of member states to supply troops has not been forthcoming, and Sudan's government opposes such a force.

"Never again" has been the rallying cry of international activists aiming to stop genocides of the 20th and 21st centuries. Sadly, first world governments have time and time again neglected these calls, leading to catastrophic amounts of civilian deaths. Politicians, trying to wipe their hands of responsibility, argue that projects such as saving Darfur may not be in their countries "national interests." I heartily disagree. Protecting civilians from slaughter and rape may not generate exciting headlines, but it is the moral course of action. In a world so often full of tragedy, opportunity exists to do good. It is high time the rest of the world take action.

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