Sudan: The Tragedy of SUDAN

Fifty thousand are dead, thousands more will die, and more than 1 million have lost their homes. Simon Robinson visits Darfur and witnesses what is happening while the world dithers

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But professions of outrage have done nothing to stop the killing. Immediately after labeling the Janjaweed's slaughter genocide, Powell told lawmakers, "No new action is dictated by this determination"--despite the fact that the international Genocide Convention, signed by the U.S. and 134 other countries, obligates signatories to "prevent and to punish" genocide where it is occurring. Already stretched thin in Afghanistan and Iraq and wary of intervening in another Muslim state, the U.S. has ruled out sending troops to Africa's largest country, throwing its support instead behind a proposal to deploy several thousand African observers, not to halt the violence but to monitor it.

The rest of the world, meanwhile, seems inclined to do even less. Despite the Sudanese government's unwillingness to rein in the Janjaweed, the Bush Administration has so far failed to persuade the U.N. Security Council to impose sanctions on Khartoum. After 18 months of atrocities in Sudan, the international community has yet to take a single punitive action against the Sudanese government. Opposition to sanctions has come from Arab countries that are sympathetic to Khartoum and from Security Council members, such as Pakistan and China, that are heavily invested in Sudan's emerging oil industry. That has forced the U.S. to scale back a resolution that would punish Khartoum should it fail to halt the killing. The new resolution--passed on Sept. 18 by a vote of 11 to 0, with China, Russia, Pakistan and Algeria abstaining--commits the Security Council to do little more than think about penalties: if the Sudanese government does not act to stop the violence, the council will meet again to "consider" imposing sanctions.

Global paralysis in the face of large-scale ethnic cleansing in Africa is nothing new. It's how the U.S. and the U.N. responded to the Rwandan genocide a decade ago, in which 800,000 people died. Advocacy groups like the International Crisis Group are urging action "if Darfur 2004 is not to join Rwanda 1994 as shorthand for international shame." Ten years later, "Never Again" is proving a hard promise to keep.

The killing fields of western Sudan stretch across an area almost as big as Texas. The Janjaweed roam the windswept plains and parts of the central range of jagged, extinct volcanoes on camels and horses or in pickup trucks mounted with machine guns. Bands of 10 or 12 men swoop into a village, shoot the men and boys, rape the women, loot and burn huts and mosques, rip up crops and slaughter or steal livestock. Halima, 30, was working in her family's field in the village of Gadarra when she heard "the voice of guns" last July. "The attackers were on foot and running and shooting. They wanted to kill us," she says. Scooping up her daughter Amna, 2, she fled. "They chased us, and we had to hide and walk at night," says Halima, who declines to give her full name for fear of reprisals. "We had nothing to eat."

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