The Star: Jul. 9, 2004
Troops, not words, needed to end humanitarian mess!
Threats by world leaders have yet to stem killings and bring real action in Darfur region, says Frida Ghitis
More than a week has passed since Kofi Annan presented Sudan with a 48-hour ultimatum. The United Nations secretary-general unfortunately failed to mention what, exactly, the world would do if the government did not stop the killings in the western Sudan region of Darfur.
The warning from the U.N. leader came a day after America's secretary of state, Colin Powell, delivered yet another stern admonition to the government in Khartoum. The government of Sudan, an accomplice of the catastrophe befalling the people of Darfur does not look scared.
The U.S. now says the country could face U.N. sanctions soon. But there are no details.
Tens of thousands have already died. More than a million people have already lost everything and now try to survive in camps where humanitarian aid is inexcusably inadequate. The time has come to stop the speeches and take forceful action in Sudan. If we do not stop the slaughter when we have the ability to do it, we all share in the guilt.
Western leaders have become good at giving heartfelt speeches about the need to protect the weak and vulnerable.
While world capitals brim with stirring words, the killing, burning, looting and raping continue. Sudan has proved what many suspected: The U.N.'s threats to stop genocide resemble the growls of an aging, toothless dog; not very scary.
But what about the United States? What about France and Germany? What about the rest of the Muslim world? Or the Arab world, or simply, the rest of the world? If this is a crime against humanity, then when is humanity going to put a stop to it?
If Washington believed stopping Saddam Hussein was reason to send troops to Iraq, why isn't the crisis in Darfur cause for military action?
If European nations like France and Germany thought it so immoral for America to let civilians die in Iraq, why are they doing nothing to stop the indiscriminate killing of civilians in Darfur? If Muslim countries claim to worry so much about the fate of Muslims in other places, why do they do absolutely nothing when the black Muslims of Darfur die at the hand of Arab Muslims?
But the world is taking action, they say. Indeed, the U.N. Security Council now debates a resolution to punish the perpetrators. If they approve it, the Janjaweed, the militias armed by Sudan's government to gain Arab control of non-Arab Darfur, will face travel restrictions.
Really. The Janjaweed tear through the villages riding horses and camels, they set fire to the humble huts, and kill without mercy. They slaughter people and livestock, and poison wells to make life there impossible. The world threatens to keep them from travelling.
Instead of empty speeches and useless threats, the world must present Khartoum with a clear and inescapable choice. If the attacks do not stop immediately, the U.N., the United States and Europe will fund and organize a rapid military deployment with thousands of troops to protect the people of Darfur.
The soldiers can come from Africa or Asia or from Muslim nations or from a combination of U.N. member countries. Sudan's government claims the Janjaweed are acting on their own, even though refugees and aid workers consistently report government soldiers fight side by side with the militias.
Even if the government were not carrying out or directing the ethnic cleansing in Darfur, it has the responsibility to protect its citizens. Just as the world has a responsibility to stop the slaughter. The African Union now plans to send 300 soldiers to protect 40 ceasefire observers in Darfur. That plan is another useless growl.
The crisis in Darfur should never have reached this point. By some accounts, hundreds of thousands may die even if all the right actions are taken today.
Sudan's government has shown it can yield to international pressure. The two sides in the dispute between Khartoum and the rebels and Darfur, which has now spiralled out of control, must sit down and negotiate. But Darfur's civilians cannot wait for a protracted process. Every day they die. First must come a stop to the violence, then an emergency humanitarian program to supplement the U.N.'s sloppy work in the region. The negotiations can take centre stage. But first, the killing must stop.
Frida Ghitis writes about world affairs. She is the author of The End of Revolution: A Changing World In The Age Of Live Television.
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Troops, not words, needed to end humanitarian mess
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