Taking Action on Genocide
For the past three years, Sudan’s Western Darfur region has been undergoing "slow motion genocide.” In the "world's greatest humanitarian crisis," 2.5 million have been driven from their homes and up to 400,000 have died. Some groups put that death toll much higher. At a conference on freedom in Africa yesterday, President Bush said some of his most forceful words on genocide, saying "when we say, genocide, we mean that the genocide needs to be stopped." The problem is his words do not match the actions his administration has taken over the last three years. Sudan's government knows that there is no price to pay for inaction, that there is "no connection between the U.S. bark and its bite." So while the Bush administration struggles to find its voice on genocide, everyday Americans are standing up to make a difference. One hopes that the government will follow.
- The situation on the ground in Darfur is getting worse. Jan Egeland, the U.N.’s humanitarian chief, said that he fears that Darfur is returning to "the abyss" of early 2004 when Darfur was described as "the killing fields of this world." Security in Darfur has gotten so bad that humanitarian workers are being forced out, allowing for the return of disease, malnutrition, and starvation. In the absence of an extensive humanitarian aid program, a senior U.N. official recently predicted "massively increased mortality." Hundreds of thousands of civilians in Darfur face imminent death.
- The Bush administration has been too slow to act. After months of calls from international groups, the Bush administration finally began to press the U.N to lead the peacekeeping effort in Darfur. While it is the right approach, it comes a year too late. For months human rights groups have pointed out that the African Union force was under-equipped and inadequate to deal with the conflict. So while the Bush administration sat on the sideline, tens of thousands of lives were lost as a result of that delay.
- Activists across the country are not waiting for the Bush administration to take strong action against the genocide. Universities and state legislatures around the country are waging a successful effort to divest their financial holdings in corporations doing business with Sudan's government. This month the University of California became the "first major public university system" to divest from companies with financial holdings in Sudan, and colleges around the country are set to follow its path. "To date, Harvard, Stanford, Dartmouth, Samford, Yale, Amherst and Brown have all divested from some of the 30-odd multinational companies currently doing business in Sudan," writes Daniel Millenson of the Sudan Divestment Task Force. They have been joined by a number of state legislatures, including those in Illinois, New Jersey and Oregon, and at least eight other states are considering similar legislation.
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