boston.com News your connection to The Boston Globe
ANTHONY LAKE AND JOHN PRENDERGAST

Stopping Sudan's slow-motion genocide

TEN YEARS AGO, Rwanda was a month into its genocide. It is right that there should now be so much attention to what should or could have been done during that 90-day slaughter of 800,000 Rwandans. But it is wrong that so little attention is paid to the lessons we should have learned. The first lesson: Pay attention when hundreds of thousands are at risk.

Three times more people have died over the last 20 years of war in Sudan than were murdered in Rwanda. Most of those deaths have occurred in the south, where populations of African descent follow Christianity and traditional religions. And 400,000 more African Muslim Sudanese from the west of the country may well die by December in a famine created by the Khartoum government's military tactics and obstruction of aid.

Sudan is Rwanda in slow motion.

The government in Khartoum and the murderous militias it sponsors are responsible for creating the worst humanitarian crisis in the world (well over a million displaced in the western region of Darfur during the last six months), the second-largest death toll since World War II in southern Sudan, and the world's largest forgotten emergency (thousands of children abducted in northern Uganda by the Khartoum-supported Lord's Resistance Army). If we do not act now, in 2014 we will have to face another 10-year anniversary of shame.

In eerie similarity to 1994 Rwanda, the United Nations Security Council, not wanting to disrupt ongoing peace efforts, cannot even muster a statement of condemnation while the Sudanese government flouts the already agreed cease-fire, delays at the negotiating table, starves the displaced, and continues to support its killer militias.

The situation is dire. There is not enough food in Darfur nor enough government-approved access to have an appreciable impact on the humanitarian situation. While aid agencies have access to perhaps half of the internal refugees, they don't have nearly enough resources even for those people to whom they do have access. The rainy season is fast approaching; malnutrition and water-borne diseases are a clear and present danger.

The international community needs to demand the government's consent for humanitarian access -- unimpeded and monitored -- via the rail line and road routes. Given the unlikelihood of that consent being granted, the United States and the European Union or NATO need at the same time to commence planning -- in coordination with the UN Security Council -- for the use of military assets to create safe havens that would protect the internal refugees and create corridors to deliver aid to them. In response to concerted diplomacy, neighboring countries should provide logistical support for such an endeavor.

On the diplomatic front, the Security Council must become more directly engaged, pursuing the equally important tasks of dealing with the Darfur crisis and simultaneously finalizing a peace deal between the government and the southern-based rebels. To do this, the international community must threaten strong measures against the Sudanese government if it persists in holding the prospect of a deal in the south hostage so it can get such a free hand in Darfur. The lives of so many in Darfur must not be lost out of a fear of losing a nascent peace agreement in the south. It is time to insist -- clearly and forcefully -- on peace in both. If the government in Khartoum fails now to move forward on both issues, a number of steps should be taken.

The UN Security Council should press for the deployment of human rights monitors to accompany the displaced and ensure their safety, impose an arms embargo on the country with appropriate enforcement measures, and lay the groundwork for eventual accountability by developing the case for war crimes abuses perpetrated by Sudanese government officials and the killer militias they have sponsored. In addition, the United States and EU should impose sanctions against the Sudanese officials most directly responsible for war crimes in Darfur.

To promote an end to war throughout Sudan, we must understand that coddling the Khartoum regime over Darfur makes a successful final settlement between the government and southern-based rebels less likely, not more. All the substantive issues in those talks have effectively been settled for some time now, but there have been endless delays in getting to a final peace. It is time to force Khartoum to make a political decision as to whether it will accept that peace or not -- while putting a stop to the rape of Darfur.

Let us remember Rwanda by acting now on behalf of the victims of this new nightmare.

Anthony Lake, professor at Georgetown University's School of Foreign Service, was President Clinton's national security adviser from 1993 to 1997. John Prendergast is special adviser to the president of the International Crisis Group. 

SEARCH GLOBE ARCHIVES
   
Globe Archives
Today (free)
Yesterday (free)
Past 30 days
Last 12 months