Looming Catastrophe

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Looming Catastrophe

The latest post from the CFD:

In the last few weeks, there have been a series of warning signs that the situation in Darfur, already horrific, is rapidly deteriorating.

Two weeks ago, Juan Mendez, the UN's Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide, returned from Darfur and warned that the situation was worsening, stating frankly that "the situation much more dangerous and worrisome than I expected it to be." Shortly thereafter, the UN declared that, due to insecurity, large portions of the region were deemed "no go" areas, which in turn cut off aid access to at least 650,000 people. The UN also evacuated all non-essential personel from West Darfur.

All the while, attacks on the displaced continued and seven AU monitors were killed in an ambush. Not long after that, the New York Times reported that the Janjaweed militias, equipped and supported by the Sudanese government, were acting with complete impunity and were "now emboldened enough to turn their guns on the government."

That was followed by a frantic statement from Antonio Guterres, the UN's High Commissioner for Refugees, that "everything is getting out of control" and that the international community had just weeks to attempt to restore order in Darfur or risk "a very serious degeneration of the situation."

That, in turn, was followed by a report that "more than 100,000 people are now believed to have died in the Darfur region of Sudan since the United Nations Security Council set a 30-day deadline last year for the Khartoum regime to begin to resolve the crisis in the area." That is on top of the several hundred thousand who had died prior to UN-issued deadline.

Amid all of this, and mostly ignored by the press, former Secretary of State Colin Powell told an audience that the world had failed to "fully face" the genocide in Darfur. That is something of an understatement, but considering that it was Powell himself who first declared that what was happening in Darfur was indeed genocide - more than one year ago - it is certainly worth noting.

One year ago, the world knew it was genocide and did nothing. One year later, UN officials are warning that "everything is getting out of control" and that Darfur risks descending into utter anarchy, bringing with it an untold loss of life ... and still the world does nothing.

Philippe Gaillard was head of the International Committee of the Red Cross mission in Rwanda during the 1994 genocide - and though the following quote refers to international community's failure to respond to the atrocities in Rwanda, it could just as well apply to the failure to respond to Darfur
In such circumstances, if you don't at least speak out clearly, you are participating in the genocide. If you just shut up when you see what you see -- morally, ethically you cannot shut up. It's a responsibility to speak out. It did not change anything, and it …[did not] move the international community. I just can say that they cannot tell us or tell me that they didn't know. They were told every day what was happening there. So don't come back to me and tell me, "Sorry, we didn't know." No. Everybody knew.

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