Debating Genocide


Is Darfur a Genocide?

"We concluded that genocide has been committed in Darfur and that the government of Sudan and the Janjaweed bear responsibility, and that genocide may still be occurring. We believe that the evidence corroborates a specific intent to destroy a group in whole or in part."

Colin Powell, September 2004

Sudan's government and pro-government Arab militias have been accused of carrying out genocide against black African residents of the Darfur region of Sudan. The militia groups, known as the Janjaweed, are said to be receiving support from the government of Sudan and are accused of forcing some two million people from their homes and killing thousands. Rape is being widely used as a weapon of war. Violence has continued to escalate in Darfur since 2003 and is spreading into neighbouring Chad. The violence is hampering international efforts for emergency support and a hybrid UN peacekeeping force has been negotiated with the Sudanese government, yet is still not in place in Darfur. In 2004, US Secretary of State Colin Powell used the term'genocide' to describe the conflict in Darfur. So far, the US is the only power to publicly name the war genocide. Using the term genocide under the Convention carries a legal obligation to act but, so far, no-one has. The UN has claimed that the violence is 'tantamount' to genocide while the Sudanese government strongly denies a campaign of genocide in the region.


The Debate:

According to Amnesty International, tens of thousands of people are estimated to have been killed in Darfur, Western Sudan since the conflict erupted there in February 2003, with some 2.5 million people displaced from their homes. Whether the killings in Darfur are considered genocide is a highly charged political debate. There are many who believe genocide is occurring in Darfur, while at the same time, others who hotly contest this claim - along with some who remain on the bench. Whatever the view, there has been a wholly inadequate response to the wave of killings and mass rape in the region.We have captured a little of that debate below - remember, those who argue against it being genocide may be doing so for very specific reasons - not necessarily negative reasons!


The arguments for . . .

The horrors in Darfur are just what Lemkin had in mind. Sudan's government and its Janjaweed militias are systematically expelling Darfur's non-Arab population, murdering tens of thousands and permitting widespread gang rape—to make what they say will be lighter-skinned babies and ensure that the non-Arab tribes will be too degraded to return to their homes

Samantha Power in Time magazine

...[in Darfur] there is definitely an expansionist territorial process going on, which is spreading the genocide from Darfur into neighbouring countries like Chad and the Central African Republic. Which, I think, is very important alongside the rather-important sense of ethnic complaint phrased in a historical way by the Arab gathering document of 1987, which makes it very clear that the perpetrators who claim to represent the Arab populations of Darfur were out to restore the long-lost position of dominance that, they think,Arabs had and should have in Darfur

Ben Kiernan in www.passionofthepresent.org

Large numbers of non-combatant civilians are either suffering or dying as the result of large-scale, intentional violence committed by the Government of Sudan or their proxy militias. The methods of destructions used can be characterised by attempts to eliminate the livelihoods of targeted populations of ethnic groups.

Physicians for Human Rights report, Assault on Survival: A Call for Security, Justice, and Restitution

Many say that what is happening in Darfur is genocide. I do not quarrel with that assessment. There is a strong case to be made—especially based on the contention that the Sudanese government and its janjaweed allies are, in the words of the Genocide Convention, "deliberately inflicting on [a] group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part."

Jerry Fowler, "Death by Designation" The Globe and Mail.


The arguments against . . .

The United Nations and European Union have fallen short of labelling the atrocities in Darfur genocide. It is felt that there is 'insufficient evidence' to call it genocide, rather that it is 'tantamount to genocide'. Former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, said that it could not be called genocide "yet." In 2004 the UN Security Council established a Commission of Inquiry to determine whether or not acts of genocide had occurred. The Commission concluded that while the Government of Sudan 'has not pursued a policy of genocide', it was implicated in numerous war crimes and crimes against humanity. It suggested that 'in some instances individuals, including government officials, may commit acts with genocidal intent.'

genocidewatch.org/SudanUnmistakableEvidenceofGenocidalIntent.htm

Genocide's not a word that I think should be bandied around lightly, for fear of devaluing the term. No-one doubts that there've been massive human rights violations, certainly crimes against humanity, committed in Darfur

Chris Mullin, Foreign minister

Our position is clear, that what has been going on is not a genocide, this is an American attempt to use a humanitarian situation for a political agenda.

Dr Mustafa Osman Ismail, Sudanese foreign minister

To label the crisis something that it is not will only add fuel to an already volatile situation. The United Nations for example, has classified the situation in Darfur as "the world's worst humanitarian crisis" while the African Union - the only institution that presently has a permanent Observer Mission in Darfur - stated through the Peace and Security Council (25 May 2004) that it continued to be concerned about the prevailing situation in Darfur, "particularly the continued humanitarian crisis and the reported human rights violations". The present chair of the African Union's PSC (Cameroon) placed issues in perspective when he stated earlier this month that, "abuses are taking place. There is mass suffering, but it is not genocide"

Minister of Foreign Affairs Republic of South Africa response to Mr Ko Bapela (ANC) on www.dfa.gov.za/docs/2004pq/pq99.htm


Learn More: