How to Stop the Sudanese Genocide (and How Not To)

How to Stop the Sudanese Genocide (and How Not To)

On January 9, the Sudanese government inked a deal with southern rebels to end the country's 21 year-long civil war.

On January 9, the Sudanese government inked a deal with southern rebels to end the country's 21 year-long civil war.  While the agreement gives hope to a region that has not experienced a shred of development in ten years, it does not cover the 22-month conflict in Sudan's western Darfur region, where approximately 70,000 people have died and more than 1.8 million others have been displaced from their homes.  According to Human Rights Watch, the Sudanese government continues to attack civilians in Darfur and has failed to take any steps to "neutralize and disarm the Janjaweed/armed militias."  Meanwhile, rebels have launched several small-scale offensives, in blatant violation of cease-fire accords signed with the government last November.  Given the threat of ongoing calamity in the region, President Bush must bolster the African Union (AU), which negotiated the most recent peace accords, in order to arrive at a political, and, if necessary, military resolution to the crisis.

For too long, efforts to stem the bleeding in Darfur reflected a 1990's mindset.  During the nineties, international crisis resolution revolved around a toolkit comprising international law, institutions, and commerce.  This toolkit first emerged after the fall of the Berlin Wall, when theorists of international politics from across the political spectrum waxed lyrical about the "End of History" and the "new paradigm" of international cooperation.  As described by Robert Kagan, the hallmarks of global politics would place "emphasis on negotiation, diplomacy, and commercial ties, on international law over the use of force." International law, supported by multilateral institutions and global commerce, would emerge as the defining regime for global affairs. 

Sadly, however, these tools have grown corroded from misuse and desperately need reforging. 

First, international law has been reduced to a porridge of diplomatic double-speak. During the debate over the invasion of Iraq, numerous EU members spoke of law as a hallowed arbiter of conflict; yet the EU has failed to acknowledge that genocide is occurring in Sudan despite overwhelming evidence. At the UN, diplomats who recently used broad legal strokes to describe the U.S. as a violator of international law, now wriggle out of defining Darfur as genocide, all while thousands face slaughter.

Second, multilateral institutions like the UN, EU and the Arab League have turned a blind eye. All three allude to the "humanitarian crisis" - not the genocide - in Darfur but none has taken significant action in response. The Security Council passed toothless resolutions calling on Khartoum to rein in the Janjaweed and is "considering" imposing sanctions. The EU sent humanitarian aid. And an Arab League fact-finding mission went so far as to blame the "conflict" on drought and under-development in Darfur.

Finally, international commerce has, if anything, compounded the crisis. Economics, according to the post-Cold War paradigm, were supposed to offer both carrot - free trade and export markets - and stick - sanctions - to ensure good international citizenship. Instead, the economic ties of Security Council members like France, Russia, and China to the Khartoum regime and its oil spigots have hampered forceful action or even sanctions.

But if these three tools have failed miserably, unilateral American force will not save the day either. The U.S., stretched thin by the war on terror, can ill-afford to open a new front, let alone in another oil-producing Muslim country.

How, then, can the tragedy be stopped?

Fortunately, a solution is in reach.  The U.S. should strengthen the efforts of the most important regional multilateral institution - the African Union. The U.S. should empower the AU to offer incentives to both sides, including recognizing Darfur's autonomy within a unified Sudan. Without such incentives, there's little reason for the rebels to endorse the cease-fire -- much to the detriment of civilians -- or for the government to rein in the Janjaweed.

Simultaneously, the U.S. must militarily reinforce the AU if an invasion of Sudan is deemed necessary. Currently, the African Union lacks both the will and the resources to invade a sovereign state.  The AU has deployed 900 troops of a possible 3,500 designated for peacekeeping duties, and none of these soldiers is armed.  The U.S. and its allies must immediately provide assistance to deploy the remaining peacekeepers, then offer substantial aid, including arms shipments and special operations training, to the AU.  Both President Bush and John Kerry voiced support for exactly this plan during the campaign and recently our outgoing UN ambassador, John Danforth, suggested beefing up the AU force with more troops and international monitors.  President Bush must now act on these recommendations. 

If we successfully fortify the AU, we can place our own power and prestige behind a retooling of international law, institutions and commerce - for the betterment of Sudan and the world.

Michael M. Rosen is an attorney in San Diego. Daniel I. Silverberg is an attorney in San Francisco. 


Updated 1/24/05