Sunday, September 17, 2006

Darfur: a coming genocide?

I understand that today was 'Darfur Awareness Day', with a demo outside the Sudanese embassy and a march on Downing Street (which Blair said he welcomed). There was also a concert and other events, supported by the Aegis Trust, the Darfur Union, Amnesty International, Service for peace, and a number of other organisations. I hope the day went well and will succeed, at least, in its aim of focusing attention upon what is going on there. Already, 300,000 people have died and 2 million are homeless.

I find it very difficult to know what to say about Darfur: the population there face a full-scale assault from the Janjaweed and also from the Sudanese regulars, once the African Union's 7,000 peacekeepers pull out in two weeks' time. It looks like being a terrible massacre -or even a genocide.

The best solution would be for a UN force to move in: but Sudan's leader, President Omar al Bashir, is refusing to accept the 20,000 replacement force mandated by the UN. He is backed in this by Russia and China (with the argument that "national sovereignty" must takes precedence over peoples' lives).

I generally oppose unilateral Western intervention - even when it's billed as "humanitarian". But I'm more concerned about preventing genocide, than about "anti-imperialist" posturing. If ever there was a case for unilateral humanitarian intervention, it's Darfur now. But it won't happen. And why not? Eustonites and other supporters of the war in Iraq (and the war in Afghanistan - though that's not as clear cut), may like to consider the words of Mary Riddell, writing in today's Observer:

"Blair wants, commendably, to be the custodian of hope. As plan A, he will urge world leaders to force Bashirto step back from the brink of genocide. Any Plan B got shredded and cast to the winds somewhere between Baghdad and Helmand province. What bitter irony it would be if the consequence of Bush and Blair's adventurism was an inability to mount a wholly legitimate war on terror".


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