Total Pageviews

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Darfur: The First Paper

In my first year of college, I had to pick a controversial topic to discuss for my English class. Everyone else chose same-sex marriage, abortion, or something along those lines. From the time I first heard the word "Darfur", I always wanted to learn more about what was going on there. I guess I just needed an excuse. I'm posting the first paper I wrote, an argumentative piece. I'll follow up with my causal analysis of why Darfur occurred/is occurring at a later date. Criticism, questions, and comments, are all, of course, welcomed :)

The Unspoken Genocide: Darfur

For only being eighteen days later, Cornelia Yekpalile is recovering well after having her lips slashed off and one ear removed (Faul). The mother of four was attacked while searching for food, her face now mutilated. One might wonder if her children have difficulty recognizing their mother with all of her stitches and wounds. Zakaria Arbab recounts the night his village, Jebel Si, was invaded: “They killed many people — my father, two of my aunts, my sister and all her little children. They killed 200 in a few hours, including many children. Then they raped the girls who were left. They threw some bodies on the fire, others into the well” (Graeme). Cecelia Nendu, a woman who belonged to a village that was looted and destroyed tells Mia Farrow about how she watched her sons be led away from her, their appendages bound. Nendu says, “I think they are dead” (Farrow “Omer”).
These stories are only a few that can be heard from the people of Darfur, the western region of Sudan. It is estimated that four-hundred thousand members of African tribes have been slaughtered in the massacres occurring in Darfur since 2003 (Docherty). Growing up in the United States, such acts of violence feel remote, if not fake as they occur in third world countries, far from having the impact directly influence any Americans. Africa has always been entwined with government uprisings and tribal disputes, mainly due to the corruption of the authoritative position.
A chilling moment in history that struck the hearts of many took place in Africa only over a decade ago: The Genocide of Rwanda. For numerous years, the two distinct groups in Rwanda, the Hutus and the Tutsis, were in constant ethnic clashes. According to the BBC News, this tension stemmed from the Belgian colonists who considered the Tutsi group more superior than that of the Hutus. Always oppressed, the Hutus grew increasingly infuriated by not being given the same opportunities as Tutsis, such as higher employment and standard of living (BBC). Contributing to the Rwandan tension between the two groups was that of the severe economic crisis in Rwanda. President Habyarimana’s death, a Hutu, caused by an unknown group who shot down his plane, was the match that started an untamable fire, resulting in full blown war between the two groups in 1994 (Jones 238).
Enraged by the murder of their president, numerous Hutus banded together to serve what they considered a long overdue payback for the pain and oppression the Tutsis had caused for decades. According to Adam Jones, author of Genocide: A Comprehensive Introduction, “army and militia forces went street to street, block by block, and house to house, in Kigail…Tutsis were dragged out of homes and hiding places and murdered, often after torture and rape (238). The killers were indiscriminate in their targets; men, women, and children were all slaughtered in the carnage of Rwanda. The killings lasted for approximately one hundred days, during which over 950,000 victims were accounted for, resulting in the actual death toll residing above one million people (Jones 245).
During this time, the United Nations and the United States, as well as other advanced countries, sat idle, contemplating whether genocide was occurring in Rwanda. Although the public had little information supplied to them through the media, mainly because the news focused on the upcoming elections in South Africa, the governments of countries and groups like the United Nations were well informed of the carnage (Jones 238). And Carnage it was: Adam Jones states that witnesses of the genocide came forward after the violence quieted to attest that the killers would slice their victim’s Achilles’ tendons, which would immobilize them. Leaving their victims to writhe in excruciating pain, the militia would leave, perhaps get drunk, only later to return to kill the victims if they had not already bled to death. Also, it is documented that the killing methods were so barbaric that if a Tutsi were captured, he or she would attempt to bribe or pay off the perpetrator to kill them with guns rather than hack him or her to death in an agonizing fashion (238).
There is no question that groups such as the United Nations and UNAMIR knew that mass killings were taking place in Rwanda. By April 6th, the day President Habyarimana died, reports were already coming into the United Nations informing them of the uprising of violence (Jones 239). Even so, genocidal killing continued: On April 20th, 1994 alone, “between thirty-five and forty-three thousand people died in less than six hours (Melvern 182). Many of the Tutsis being hunted thought that the United Nations, United States, or someone, anyone, would come for them and help them. Unfortunately, the death toll rose by the thousands every day while no one came to aid the helpless Rwandans.
After the massacres in Rwanda occurred, the United States President at the time, William Clinton, spoke of his deep remorse for never having done anything to stop the acts committed in Rwanda (Corn). His “Never Again” rallying point, which stuck in the minds of thousands, told the global community as a whole that never would such destruction and devastation be committed against any member of the human race while knowing powers did nothing to stop it (Corn). But when present events in Darfur are analyzed, is the statement “Never Again” actually being upheld by the international community? For the three people at the beginning of this paper who recounted their stories of horror, one would certainly think that “Never Again” has fallen short of its mark.
Just as in Rwanda’s case, Darfur had symptoms of being a time bomb contemplating its moment of detonation. In 2003 the United Nations Security Council received numerous reports documenting small uprisings of civilians who were displeased with the government corruption (Docherty). What most people fail to realize is that, according to Nobel Peace Prize winner Wangari Maathai, the conflict does not stem from simple tribal confrontation, but from the government corruption; politicians and leaders in Darfur use their position to purchase scarce resources which increase personal wealth but not national. This results in politicians becoming richer, while the poor of Darfur cannot sustain themselves (Maathai). Mukesh Kapila, former United Nations council member, wrote several of these reports that called for action in Darfur. Becoming increasingly aggravated with the fact that the United States was blocking him from speaking to the media, he decided to go to the British Broadcasting Corporation, well-known as the BBC, to help inform the public of the genocide in Darfur (Docherty). During his interview, he openly criticized the United Nations for not stepping in to do the job that they promised to do when they signed the “Responsibility to Protect” act (Jones 394).
Under the “Resolution 260”, also known as the “Responsibility to Protect”, the United Nations defined what the term ‘genocide’ actually constitutes, thus drawing a line of when aid is necessary or not. Resolution 260 states that:
“Genocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:
• (a) Killing members of the group;
• (b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
• (c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
• (d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
• (e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.”
According to John Heidenrich, “by signing the UN Charter, every member has obligated itself to adhere to the most basic norms of civilized conduct, which means that only through outright hypocrisy can a government commit a crime as grievous as genocide” (61). When a country joins the United Nations, it is sending a signal to the international community that it will uphold the ideals of the committee. According to Heidenrich, the United Nations is “the only international body with the global legal right to compel countries to adhere to international humanitarian treaties and customs, by force if necessary”, which is why the United Nations has the Security Council (61). By being the only international group that has authority over countries in human rights, the United Nations has an even larger obligation to step up and take action when necessary.
As is evident, though, as the United Nations skirted around avoiding labeling Darfur as genocide, hundreds of thousands of African tribes were being slaughtered. Most of the violence in Darfur stems from the greed of the governmental powers who are attempting to hoard all of the scarce resources for themselves. Also, there have always been clashes between the Arab groups and African tribes of the Sudan region. With most ruling linked to the Arab culture, a superior view of Arabs has been imposed, resulting in the oppression of many African tribes (Docherty). Tensions increased with the surmounting drought, which led to Arabs in the north to invade the central part of Sudan (Jones 253). Just like Rwanda, Darfur’s breaking point was reached in 2003. Enraged by the unwelcomed intrusion, the African people formed the Sudan Liberation Army to help protect their homelands (Jones 253).
Along with the tension on the civilian level, there was and still is governmental corruption taking place, mostly instigated by the President Omer Al-Bashir, a general who overthrew the reigning president in 1989 (Jones 253). In his crusade to cleanse Sudan of non-Arabs, Al-Bashir allied many men of Arab descent into a militia known as the Janjaweed, which translates to “devil on horseback”. According to Adam Jones, the Janjaweed attacked males first, normally slaughtering them in large massacres. Then the Janjaweed would attack and rape women, but would not kill them normally; the militia wanted the women to live so they could bear children of Arab lineage (254). The corruptness of the government is evident in this quote made by President Al-Bashir on his opinion of the rape of women protected under his government: “When a Ja’ali [ Al-Bashirs tribe-which is the dominant Arab tribe] man humps her, is this an honor or rape?” (Farrow, “Honor or Rape”).
Fran├žois-Marie Arouet, better recognized by his pen name, Voltaire, is credited with saying, “History never repeats itself; man always does” (Voltaire). In the case of the United Nations inability to properly label genocide when it is occurring, Arouet’s words are most accurate. Genocide did occur in Darfur. Numerous reports bore the calling card of genocide. Political leaders around the world and members of the United Nations even stated that the acts occurring in Darfur were of genocidal nature. Mukesh Kapila filed numerous reports in effort to inform the committee, and yet he was ignored. According to Docherty, producer of On Our Watch, Kapila addressed several to the Under-Secretary General of Political Affairs, Kieran Prendergast, but when questioned by the media, Prendergast claimed he had never seen such memos. Upon more inquiry, he did not reply (Docherty). Prendergast was also the one who was quoted as saying that “the evidence of all of these crimes (committed in Darfur) will be washed away in the sand of the Sahara (Sharma). The blissful ignorance of having evidence just disappear is a selfish outlook on events that have ripped families apart. If it is not known if genocide is happening or not happening, investigation should be done to prove or disprove it. Sitting idle while it is known that thousands of people are dying is the selfish approach with an out of sight, out of mind mentality.
Along with Kapila’s view, the Prime Minister of Canada, Paul Martin, while addressing the Madam Deputy of the United Nations, stated the following: “Too often, permanent members have used the veto, real or threatened, to prevent effective action. Too often we have debated the finer points of language while innocent people continued to die. Darfur is only the latest example” (Docherty). Even the United States Secretary of State at the time, Colin Powell, came forward about the genocide occurring in Darfur. In a press conference, he stated, “We concluded- I concluded- that genocide has been committed in Darfur, and that the government of Sudan and the Janjaweed bear responsibility” (Jones 254). Even the Bush Administration called the situation in Darfur genocide (Docherty).
Even with all of this evidence, the United Nations still states that the happenings in Darfur did not comply with the definition of genocide in Resolution 260. Previously stated, the “Responsibility to Protect” act requires the United Nations to intervene if the intent to harm or eliminate a group or part of a group is evident (Resolution 260). According to Thu Thi Quach, the Arab militia powered by the government had every intention of wiping out the African tribes. The Janjaweed, when attacking villages could be heard shouting, “Kill all the blacks!” (Quach 1). Over four hundred thousand Darfuris have been killed and over 2.5 million displaced by the violence in their villages (Docherty). Certainly when most review the facts and listen to governmental figures who have been briefed more so than the public on the issue, it is evident that genocidal intent was occurring in Darfur. Through all of these killings, rapes, and torture, why was nothing done to stop it?
Docherty states in his documentary On Our Watch that the United Nations main reason for not intervening was China and the United States. China was extremely reluctant to vote for deploying peace-keeping troops in Sudan due to the economic benefits it reaped made with the government. Sudan has oil, although not in extremely large amounts, enough to export. China has a deal with Darfur that keeps oil prices low. Also, China negotiated a large firearms deal with the government of Sudan, which increases China’s revenue. The Sudanese government is obviously satisfied with this deal since they need arms and ammunition to keep the government-run militia afloat. With the moral compass of China in shambles, the Sudanese government increased its wealth while keeping the Janjaweed active. Had China voted to send forces to Darfur, they would have lost a profit from the government of Sudan. China was not the only country who was morally wrong in this situation; the United States, with most of its imports stemming from China, was very hesitant to vote to send peace-keeping forces into Sudan. With an already large national debt, the United States forwent the morally right obligation to keep its gross domestic product up (Docherty).
Countries apart from Africa were not the only ones with ulterior motives of the genocide; Sudan itself supported the genocide for several reasons. Firstly, Omer Al-Bashir, the current president, is descended from the Arab elites. Because of this, Al-Bashir considers Arabs superior to the African tribes, which is one reason why he supports the ethnic cleansing occurring in Darfur. The Aegis Trust in Britain even admitted that the militia formed by Al-Bashir, the Janjaweed, was systematically and intentionally killing the people of Darfur (Jones 253). The Sudan government also had economic reasons to continue the genocide in Darfur. According to Gregory Mankiw, in the following equation, Y is total economic output (gross domestic product), C is consumption of country as a whole, I is investment of the country as a whole, and G is spending by government:
Y = C + I + G
In this case gross domestic product is a factor of all three contributing variables. Due to the fact much of the population is very poor, government spends much of its money on the welfare of select groups of people in Sudan. The government can afford to do so due to the large gross domestic product created by trading negotiations with China and its resource of oil. One could argue that if government did not have to spend so much on the welfare of its poor, it could allocate its money towards industries that yield higher profits, such as mining and oil in Darfur. Theoretically, the Sudanese government could run a surplus and the depreciation of physical capital would decrease because of the diminishing population, a result of the genocide. With the lower population, there is lower pressure on the inflation of the currency, therefore better monetary control can be achieved. This results in more imports of foreign capital and goods, resulting in a higher standard of living for the country (Mankiw 194). In more simple terminology, if the government was not required to aid the poor of Sudan, it would have a greater wealth, which is the goal of Al-Bashir. Even though the driving reason of the genocide is to cleanse the African tribes from Darfur, the government benefits from less population.
And so the crisis in Darfur continues to be allowed to continue. Men are slaughtered day in and day out, women raped in front of their children, their young sons killed and led away, bound in rope, never to be seen again. The United Nations turns its eye away from the atrocities, pretending that if it acts as if no violence is occurring, the massacres will subside. Genocide is happening in Darfur in the worst way. As Eric Reeves puts it in the documentary On Our Watch, Rwanda happened and nothing was done about it. With only one hundred days of massacre, perhaps the United Nations did not have enough time to plan its aid. Reeves states, “it's as though the gods of history looked down on us and said, "Your failure was so appalling, so appalling, we're going to give you another chance, and this time so there are no excuses…and we’ll call it Darfur” (Docherty).
With the genocide progressing even into 2010, the United Nations still has yet to address this looming cloud that will persist if not stopped. The people of Darfur thought that hope was on the horizon when Barack Obama was elected as president, considering he called Darfur “a stain on our souls” (Farrow, “Sudan’s Sham”). After a year, Mia Farrow states that with the upcoming elections in Darfur, the United States is supporting the rigged elections that will ultimately result in Omer Al-Bashir maintaining his dictatorship over Darfur (“Sudan’s Sham”). And so the world will continue questioning: when will it stop?

Works Cited
Be a Witness. “Darfur and the Media”. 27 July 2005. 6 April, 2010. .

Corn, David. “Lying AboutRwanda’s Genocide”. The Nation. 2 April 2004. 18 April 2010. .

Farrow, Mia. “Omer Al-Bashir on the Rape of Darfuri Women by Arab Tribesman. ‘Is this an Honor or a Rape?’” 31 March 2010. 25 April 2010. <>.

Farrow, Mia. “Sudan’s Sham Election Has U.S Support”. The Wall Street Journal. 7 April 2010.

Faul, Michelle. “Another LRA Massacre. ThisTime 100 Villagers Slaughtered, More Mutilated in Congo”. 2 May 2010. 2 May 2010. <>.

Heidenrich, John G. How to Prevent Genocide: A Guide for Policymakers, Scholars, and the Concerned Citizen. Westport, Connecticut: Praeger, 2001.

Hoagland, Jim. “Seeds of Hope in Africa”. The Washington Post. 12 May 2005. 2 May 2010.

Jones, Adams. Genocide: A Comprehensive Introduction. New York: Routledge, 2006. Print.

Maniw, Gregory. Macroeconomics. “Economic Growth 1: Capital Accumulation and Population Growth”. New York: Worth Publishers, 2010.

Melvern, Linda. Conspiracy to Murder: The Rwanda Genocide. London: Verso, 2004. Print.

On Our Watch. Dir. Neil Docherty. PBS Home Video, 2007. DVD.

Quach, Thu Thi. The Crisis in Darfur: An Analysis of Its Origins and Storylines. 7 December, 2004.

“Rwanda: How the Genocide Happened”. BBC News. 18 December, 2008.

Sharma, Betwa. “Is Darfur Genocide?” Huffington Post: The Internet Newspaper. 18 May, 2009.

“Timeline of Crisis in Darfur”. Humanitarian and Activist Information. .

United Nations. “Resolution 260 (III). 9 December 1948.


Wilson, Graeme. “Darfur Horror Stories Leave Cameron Shaken.” 22 November 2006. 18 April 2010. .

1 comment:

  1. My apologies for the formatting... blogs aren't as nice as Word sometimes. :)