Because international news coverage in the United States tends to focus primarily on higher ratings and media interests, numerous events and conflicts are largely overlooked, especially when they do not directly impact the American people.
However, atrocities all around the world impact more lives than other more recognizable global events, such as the war in Iraq.
For some time now, Sudan has been in the midst of a horrendous conflict in which crimes are committed against the people of Sudan while its government encourages and partakes in the behavior. As members of the United Nations argued back and forth for months as to whether the situation in Darfur can be deemed a ‘genocide,’ thousands of civilians were being killed.
The conflict began in 2003 when a rebellion began forming in Darfur, located in Western Sudan, claiming that the government was neglecting the region.
While both the government and rebel forces have been responsible for violence, a great majority of the atrocities are caused by the Arab militias, known as Janjaweed, which are allied with the government.
These militias are completely unregulated, killing, stealing and raping. In addition, many people have fled from their homes and starvation is now another cause of death for these refugees.
The United Nations has barely attempted to solve the conflict. When it was agreed that genocide was taking place in the region, 10,000 ‘peacekeeping’ troops were sent there, although they have not stopped the continuing violence.
More recently, the United Nations demanded that certain suspects involved in the conflict be tried in the International Criminal Court in the Hague but, of course, Sudan refuses to acknowledge a problem, let alone turn over suspects to be tried.
In fact, the United States only supported trying the suspects for human rights violations after the Security Council adjusted the resolution to ensure that Americans would not be prosecuted in the court.
The recent atrocities being committed in the Darfur region of Sudan are eerily reminiscent of the genocide that took the lives of hundreds of thousands of people in Rwanda in 1994.
The familiar tendency toward inaction was the main reason why over 800,000 were slaughtered in that crisis, which leaves many fearing how high the death toll will rise in Sudan before the rest of the world intervenes with adequate force to stop the killings.
Currently, according to foreign governments’ estimates, over 300,000 people have perished in Darfur at the hands of the Janjaweed. The United Nations recently passed a resolution authorizing ‘peacekeeping’ troops into Sudan. And just like in Rwanda these troops would be largely unable to engage the Janjaweed in combat in order to keep the peace, thus allowing the killing to continue.
The alarming situation in Sudan has made it clear that a different approach is needed by the rest of the world if it wants to avoid a death toll that approaches a million.
Although this is a grim realization, the international community’s delayed response has allowed the genocide in Darfur to become full blown.
The world should have stood up long ago and demanded that the killings stop, but instead a sense of complacency has been projected. A peace pact signed recently provides hope that the bloodshed may be over, although accounts coming from Darfur contradict this. A larger and more proactive United Nations and African force, with support from the United States, is desperately needed to uphold and institute peace.
There is also bilateral legislation currently being sent through the United States Congress called the Darfur Accountability Act that would pressure the Sudanese government to stop the killings, yet the Bush administration has yet to take a firm position on the act.
Global indifference toward these horrendous killings in Africa have already allowed genocide to occur once in the 1990s. It is inexcusable to allow the same thing to happen again.
Bryce Plank and Maya Debbaneh are third-year political science majors.