Friday, July 20, 2007

Darfur – Genocide or Conflict?

According to the United Nations, genocide is defined as "any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, 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.

Former U.S. President Clinton, chose to define the genocide in Kosovo with the euphemistic term "ethnic cleansing," since the term "genocide" might have implied an obligation for the United States to intervene. Perhaps, it is high time African should coined out another word to denote “Genocide” so that the crisis in Darfur be taken more seriously, if ‘Genocide’ is the only word recognized before action needs to be taken. An appropriate word like; Mini-genocide’ or ‘Multi-Genocide’ may be appropriate here.

The insurgency and counter-insurgency in Darfur began in 2003 which were driven by domestic tensions. On the one hand, there was a struggle for power within the political class in Sudan, with more marginal interests in the west (following those in the south and in the east) calling for reform at the centre. On the other, there was a community-level split inside Darfur, between nomads and settled farmers, who had earlier forged a way of sharing the use of semi-arid land in the dry season. With the drought that set in towards the late 1970s, co-operation turned into an intense struggle over diminishing resources.

As the insurgency took root among the prospering peasant tribes of Darfur, the government trained and armed the poorer nomads and formed a militia – the Janjawiid – that became the vanguard of the unfolding counter-insurgency. The worst violence came from the Janjawiid, but the insurgent movements were also accused of gross violations.

Since its onset, two official verdicts have been delivered on the violence, the first from the US, the second from the UN. The American verdict was unambiguous, that is a clear case of Genocide, but some people believe that since the US has no national interest in Sudan crisis, it can quickly rush to call the crisis a Genocide. The UN. found out that government forces and militias in Sudan conducted indiscriminate attacks, including killing of civilians, torture, enforced disappearances, destruction of villages, rape and other forms of sexual violence, pillaging and forced displacement, throughout Darfur, but that these acts were conducted on a widespread and systematic basis, and therefore may amount to crimes against humanity, but it believed the atrocities committed does not amount to a policy of genocide, as the United States has alleged.

In September 2004, what could be termed the African Union definition of Genocide was made known when the Nigerian former President Olusegun Obasanjo, then the chair of the African Union, pronounce as to whether the crisis in Darfur was a Genocide. Hear him:
"Before you can say that this is genocide or ethnic cleansing, we will have to have a definite decision and plan and programme of a government to wipe out a particular group of people, then we will be talking about genocide, ethnic cleansing. What we know is not that. What we know is that there was an uprising, rebellion, and the government armed another group of people to stop that rebellion. That’s what we know. That does not amount to genocide from our own reckoning. It amounts to of course conflict. It amounts to violence."

The truth is Genocide is just a bigger term to entails the above definitions, isn’t it the right time that those responsible for legal definitions of Genocide re-emerge with another befitting one that befit the crisis in Darfur if “Genocide” is the only magic word that will spur the world to solve the crisis.

Please read more about the world opinion on whether the Crisis in Darfur is a Genocide or a mere conflicts?

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