Smokin' Mirrors: Disaster in Dafur
Tuesday 12 September, the ABC's 'The World Today' program's Eleanor
Hall spoke with US-based genocide scholar, Dr Sam Totten about the
escalating violence in Dafur. A podcast is available also on http://www.abc.net.au.
ELEANOR HALL: In
the past few hours the United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan has
told the Security Council that the situation in Sudan is now a
catastrophe in the making, saying aerial bombing and troop movements
are both escalating in Darfur.
a peace deal being signed in May this year, there are dire warnings
that millions of people in the Darfur region are facing an imminent
threat of genocide from their own government.
the last three years, the ethnically driven conflict in Darfur, which
the US Government described as genocide, has killed hundreds of
thousands of people and displaced millions more from their homes.
African Union peacekeepers have been largely ineffective in trying to contain the continuing violence in the region. And
now the Sudanese Government is refusing to allow a United Nations
peacekeeping force into the region to replace the African Union force.
Sam Totten, a US-based genocide scholar who has visited the region and
who was on the committee, which advised the Bush administration, says
the international community needs to take urgent action to prevent an
atrocity that could dwarf the genocide in Rwanda.
Dr Totten is in Australia this week and spoke to me from Bendigo. I began by asking him whether the situation in Darfur has at least improved since the signing of the peace deal this year.
SAM TOTTEN: No,
it's not. In fact, the situation is degenerating right now and actually
the situation in Darfur, within the next two to three weeks could erupt
into a greater crisis than ever. And as to the fact that the African
Union troops, it sounds as if the African Union troops are going to be
pulling out at the end of this month.
it sounds as if the President of Sudan is going to refuse the entrance
to UN troops. And that can be an absolute, that could result in an
absolute disaster for the black Africans, both who are internally
displaced in Darfur, as well as those refugees in Chad.
ELEANOR HALL: And
now the UN has authorised a peacekeeping force to replace the AU force,
it's the Sudanese Government that's refusing to allow that force in, so
you're calling for action from the international community, but what do
want the international community to do?
SAM TOTTEN: Personally I think that the international community needs to push the al-Beshir Government
to let the UN troops in, because genocide has, as you know, genocide
has been declared by the United States, the UN carried out its own
investigation, did not find that is was genocide, but found that crimes
against humanity had been perpetrated. And anybody in their right mind
would not wait until genocide is declared, but if crimes against
humanity are being perpetrated, that's the time to get in to save the
people. So, this could, in effect, if the UN does not push this matter,
we could see another Rwanda on our hands.
ELEANOR HALL: What are the similarities with Rwanda prior to the genocide there?
SAM TOTTEN: Well,
there are certain similarities, there are many differences, but my fear
is this. As you probably know, the Rwandan genocide took place over the
course of one hundred short days in April, May, June and July, and
during the one hundred days, between 80,000 and one million people were
murdered though the use of machetes largely.
if the African Union troops are removed and the UN does not go in, the
Sudanese Government could certainly that many people and more, because
they have much more fire power than the Hutu government ever had. And
the other thing is that most the people, meaning the black Africans,
are in a contained area.
ELEANOR HALL: So,
what can the international community do to put pressure on the Sudanese
Government to make it accept the UN peacekeeping force?
SAM TOTTEN: Well,
the UN has made approximately a dozen, to 18, a dozen and a half
resolutions over the past two and a half years, threatening sanctions.
And the UN has never followed through on those sanctions. One of the
first sanctions that they could implement right away is establish a
no-fly zone over Darfur. And military experts have said that it would
not take all that many jets, either from the UN, or NATO, to secure
that area. That would be the first thing.
second thing of course is, that I think the UN Security Council needs
to immediately agree among themselves that this is a dire humanitarian
crisis, that it could erupt within a number of weeks, and they need to
move from their exercise of Realpolitik and decide once and for all
that they truly are going to honour the UN convention that they've all
rectified and act immediately.
ELEANOR HALL: What confidence do you have that the international community will respond in time?
SAM TOTTEN: Little
to nothing. And I tell you why. It's based on their record at, in
regard to Rwanda, virtually the United Nations knew what was taking
place in '92/'93, leading up to 1994. The United States definitely
knew, and other major nations knew as well, and little to nothing was
in light of the resolution, after resolution, after resolution has been
made at the UN and no action, I really do not have much confidence and
I truly fear that in several weeks we could see a major crisis. I just,
my heart truly breaks for the grave situation that the people face.
They have already faced such horrific injustice and atrocities, and for
them to be sitting there helpless, it truly breaks my heart.
ELEANOR HALL: And
that's Dr. Sam Totten, a genocide scholar who was on the committee
advising the Bush administration on Darfur and who is heading back to
the region this month.
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