(/sites/default/files/uploads/2012/08/darfur.gif)“Genocide is underway in Darfur, Sudan. Already 50,000 African Muslims have been killed and 1.2 million displaced by the Sudanese Government militias and encouraged by Khartoum…We cannot, in good conscience, stand by and let this genocide continue.”
– Senator Barack Obama, 2004.
“The United States has a moral obligation anytime you see humanitarian catastrophes. When you see a genocide in Rwanda, Bosnia or in Darfur, that is a stain on all of us, that’s a stain on our souls…We can’t say ‘never again’ and then allow it to happen again, and as a president of the United States I don’t intend to abandon people or turn a blind eye to slaughter.”
– Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama, 2007.
“The Government of Sudan has pursued a policy of genocide in Darfur. Hundreds of thousands of men, women, and children have been killed in Darfur, and the killing continues to this very day…The Bush Administration and Congress have imposed sanctions in an effort to change Khartoum’s behaviour; to suddenly offer to normalize relations before that change takes place, particularly without close consultation with Congress, makes no sense.Washington must respond to the ongoing genocide and the ongoing failure to implement the CPA with consistency and strong consequences.
– Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama, 2008.
“The genocide in Darfur has claimed the lives of hundreds of thousands of people and left millions more displaced…Our conscience and our interests in peace and security call upon the United States and the international community to act with a sense of urgency and purpose.”
– President Barack Obama, 2009.
Oh, what a difference winning an election can make! As a Democratic presidential candidate, Barack Obama described Darfur, a rebellious region in Sudan, as one of his top priorities, gaining support from voters by doing so. But in contrast, in the 2012 electoral contest, the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Darfurhas so far barely rated a mention. And it is easy to understand why.
Despite Obama’s stirring, call-to-arms verbiage in 2008, the slaughter still continues in Darfur, about which he promised he would “not turn a blind eye” as president. The most recent instance of murder by Sudanese government forces of indicted International Criminal Court (ICC) fugitive President Omar al-Bashir concerns the killing of 12 demonstrators last Tuesday in Nyala, the capital ofSouth Darfur State. Since Obama’s election, government attacks against Darfuri civilians have resulted in additional hundreds of deaths, thousands of refugees and the destruction of homes and villages as well as the continued use of rape as a weapon of war.
The situation also has not changed for the three million Darfuri civilians displaced by the conflict that began in 2003 between the government and Darfuri rebel forces over black African Dafur’s marginalisation and discrimination by the central Arab government in Khartoum. These homeless Darfuris are still living in refugee camps both in Darfur and neighbouring Chad, to which they fled to escape death from air raids and from the brutal, government-armed Arab horse militias, the dreaded janjaweeds. Murder, rape and the destruction of villages was the janjaweed’s specialty – and still is. From the refugee camps, the Darfuris have also had to look on helplessly as their lands were taken over by Arab colonists, while the Obama administration looked the other way and complained about Israeli settlements on the West Bank.
And instead of getting quieter with an American president who stated several times he was adamantly opposed to such killing and Rwanda-like slaughter, the sounds of genocide in Sudan just keep getting louder. The Khartoum government is again engaged in genocide, its third one to date, in the Nuba Mountains inSouth Kordofan state.
Before Darfur and South Kordofan, the first Khartoum-backed genocide occurred in southern Sudan, now the country of South Sudan, between 1983 and 2005, a conflict in which two million people, mostly black African southern Sudanese, died, four million were displaced and tens of thousands captured and sent to Arab northern Sudan as slaves. One of them, Francis Bok, a Dinka tribesman, told his story here in FrontPage Magazine of his ten years working as a child slave, from age seven to seventeen, for a cruel Arab master and his escape to freedom in America.
In South Kordofan, it is again, like in Darfur and in the former southern Sudan, a black African population that is being savagely attacked. Reports indicate the Sudanese military is waging a campaign of extermination there along with a military one. Like in Darfur, government warplanes are bombing Nuba villages unopposed, while witnesses state government troops “were shooting ‘the black people’.”
“Nuba were often just shot on sight by Khartoum forces, no questions asked,”testified former State Department Special Representative on Sudan, Roger Winter, before a congressional hearing. “Today, again, Nuba are positioned for liquidation by Khartoum forces.”
Perhaps nothing better indicates post-election Obama’s having gone “soft on genocide” and his failed policy to end the violence than Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s visit to Khartoum last Wednesday to start an 11-day African tour. With the continuing slaughter of black African peoples in Sudan, one would think an African-American president would have his top foreign affairs official breathing fire in talks with the Sudanese. But nothing of the kind seems to have occurred.
According to a Sudan Tribune report of her meeting with Sudanese Foreign Minister Ali Katri, it appears Clinton’s main focus was getting talks back on track between Khartoum and the government of South Sudan over the implementation of the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) that ended the North-South civil war and resulted in South Sudan becoming an independent country in 2011. Darfur was not even mentioned in the story, indicating its importance in the discussions, while the war in South Kordofan was brought up in the context of Clinton asking Katri to allow humanitarian aid, which Khartoum had cut off on July 25, to flow back into the devastated region.
But such lack of firmness on the part of the Obama administration towards the Bashir government’s genocidal behaviour is not surprising. Retired Air Force General Scott Gration, Obama’s special envoy to Sudan between 2009 and 2011, once said there were only “remnants of genocide” in Darfur and followed Obama’s naïve policy of offering incentives to get the criminal regime in Khartoum to change its barbaric ways. Gration once famously stated: “We’ve got to think about giving out cookies. Kids, countries – they react to gold stars, smiley faces, handshakes, agreements, talk, engagement.”
One critic, Eric Reeves, author of the book A Long Day’s Dying: Critical Moment’s in the Darfur Genocide, said Gration had “…no significant diplomatic experience or knowledge of Sudan…” and followed a “notorious policy of appeasement” with the ICC-wanted criminal Bashir.
But this soft approach would just have been a reflection of what Gration’s political superiors in Washington wanted.
“Gration’s record in Darfur has been one of complete failure,” Reeves stated in 2011.
To show what a low priority the Dafur crisis appears to have become for Obama, in 2010 at a State Department background briefing an official said the Department “would…be decoupling the state sponsor of terrorism from Darfur and the Darfur issue” in order to get Khartoum’s co-operation on the upcoming independence referendum in southern Sudan. Sudan was on the State Department’s list of countries that sponsor terrorism.
“The ‘Darfur issue’: what fantastically euphemistic language for what had previously been ‘genocide’, Reeves wrote scathingly. “…But the message here has not been lost on the brutally calculating men in Khartoum: in extremis, the USwill choose the southern CPA over ending genocidal violence and attrition inDarfur.”
Hilary Clinton’s visit to Khartoum this week appears to confirm Reeves’s analysis.
So having gone the full circle from roaring lion in 2004 to quiet lamb in 2012 about Darfur, the question remains as to why the dramatic change? Of all the reasons proffered, Winter probably stated the most likely one before the congressional committee when commenting on the “eccentricities” of Gration’s approach to the Khartoum regime, saying they “are related to the Administration’s commitment to ‘reach out’ to the Arab and Islamic world.” In other words, don’t treat an Arab regime, even a genocidal one, harshly or the other Arab countries won’t be your friend.
But this weak, naïve and less than insightful approach by Obama to Sudan will not produce the desired peace but only encourage Khartoum to continue its hard-line stance and murderous aggression. And this, in turn, will only produce more of the same for Sudan’s long-suffering, black African people in South Kordofanand Darfur, for whom Obama once used to express such great concern: war, death and enslavement.
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