Early in his first term, President Bush received a National Security Council memo outlining the world's inaction regarding the genocide in Rwanda. In what may have been a burst of indignation and bravado, the president wrote in the margin of the memo, "Not on my watch."
Five years later, and nearly four years into what Bush himself has repeatedly called genocide, the crisis in Sudan's Darfur region is intensifying without a meaningful response from the White House. Perhaps Harvard professor Samantha Power's tongue-in-cheek theory is correct: The memo was inadvertently placed on top of the president's wristwatch, and he didn't want it to happen again. But if Bush's expressions of concern for the victims in Darfur are genuine, then why isn't his administration taking real action?
Washington, D.C. - For the past two and a half years, the world has watched in horror as the Sudanese government and its proxy Janjaweed militias have laid waste to Darfur. At least 200,000 people have died as a result of Khartoum's scorched-earth counterinsurgency tactics. Systematic assaults on civilians and their livelihoods have driven more than 2 million people off their lands and into squalid camps for the internally displaced. Today, security is fleeting at best, and recent evidence suggests that violence against women, including rape, savage beatings, and forced humiliation is actually getting worse in and around the camps.
Sudan's peace process is in trouble. The latest in our regular online series on under-reported conflicts, in association with the International Crisis Group, sets out a new agenda to end Africa's longest-running war.
Until recently there was hope across Sudan that a peace deal could be reached to end one of the world's longest and most brutal wars - the conflict between the Muslim-dominated government in Khartoum and rebel forces of the Sudan Peoples Liberation Movement (SPLM). But last month President Omar al-Beshir told the Kenyan-based mediation team to "go to hell", refusing to accept their draft peace settlement. If the mediators didn't come up with a "reasonable alternative", he said, "they will have to dissolve the document in water and drink it."
Today, the International Criminal Court indicted Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir for a number of war crimes and crimes against humanity, marking the first time a sitting head of state has been subject to an ICC indictment. On a conference call this morning, staff from the Enough Project to End Genocide, including co-founder John Prendergast and executive director John Norris, celebrated the decision. The two analysts argued that the indictment begins a political process that undermines al-Bashir's legitimacy and could empower more moderate members of his governing party to push him into retirement and seek accommodation with the internationally-driven peace process.
STATEMENT: ICC Arrest Warrant for Omar al-Bashir, President of Sudan
March 4, 2009
WASHINGTON, DC – The International Criminal Court in The Hague has issued an arrest warrant for President Omar al-Bashir, a historic action that marks the first time the tribunal has acted against a sitting head of state. The charges stem from a July 2008 request by ICC Chief Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo and include crimes against humanity and war crimes.
The warrant specifically did not include the charges of genocide requested by the Chief Prosecutor last July.
The Enough Project issued the following statement in response:
"The International Criminal Court arrest warrant for President Omer al-Bashir provides an unprecedented opening, making Sudan's prospects for peace riper than they have been in memory,” said John Prendergast, co-founder of the Enough Project. “How the Obama administration handles this immediate foreign policy challenge will have a major impact on the outcome. It is crucial for the new president's team to clarify to Arab states, China and others that the U.S. policy objective is a just and durable peace for Sudan.”
John Norris, The Enough Project’s Executive Director, added, “This message should be heard loudly and clearly around the globe: If you kill, maim, and rape your own citizens, there will be a cost for your actions. I hope other tyrants and warlords around the globe are taking note. Slobodan Milosevic, Charles Taylor, and now, President Bashir were only willing to learn the hard way. There are now millions of activists around the United States that expect the Obama Administration to make both peace and justice a priority in Sudan.”
The issuance of an arrest warrant for Sudan’s sitting head of state for crimes against humanity offers the Obama administration a chance to catalyze multilateral efforts to bring about a solution to Sudan’s decades-long cycle of warfare. One of the crucial missing ingredients to conflict resolution efforts has been some form of accountability for the horrific crimes against humanity that have been perpetrated by the warring parties in Sudan, primarily the Khartoum regime.
President Obama should now take a number of key steps, including:
· Working with the U.N. Security Council to support targeted sanctions against those most responsible for violence in Sudan and imposing a comprehensive arms embargo against the Government of Sudan;
· Making the United Nations Mission in Darfur effective, with a robust force on the ground in Darfur with a competent lead nation and a clear command-and-control structure;
· Working closely with interested parties with leverage in Sudan and the region, especially China, the United Kingdom, France, and key African countries, to coordinate efforts on peace efforts, the protection of civilians, and accountability;
· Countering continued violations by Sudan on the UN ban on offensive military flights in Darfur; and
· Appointing a senior Special Envoy to not only address the situation in Darfur, but Sudan’s multiple conflicts and their regional dimensions.
Visit the Enough Project’s blog, Enough Said, for updates on this issue.
The Center for American Progress is a nonpartisan research and educational institute dedicated to promoting a strong, just and free America that ensures opportunity for all. Enough is a project of the Center for American Progress to end genocide and crimes against humanity. Founded in 2007, Enough focuses on crises in Sudan, Chad, eastern Congo, northern Uganda, Somalia, and Zimbabwe. To learn more about Enough and what you can do to help, go to www.enoughproject.org.
For the past year, the international community has shamefully acquiesced to the crimes against humanity occurring daily in the Sudanese province of Darfur.
"Janjaweed" militias, Arabs backed by the Sudanese government, are continuing to conduct mop-up operations against non-Arab villagers in a massive ethnic-cleansing campaign in the region. The current conflict flared early last year when two rebel groups in Darfur attacked government forces. The swelling crisis could leave hundreds of thousands dead in the coming months.
It is still happening. Nearly a year after all the usual alarms were sounded heralding the inferno engulfing Darfur, the fire is still raging. Last week, the day after we left Darfur, the killer Janjaweed militias, supported by the Sudanese government, launched an attack on a nearby village, reportedly killing more than 100 people.
Attacks like this are just the tip of the Darfurian volcano. Despite all the noise made by the United Nations Security Council and the Bush administration, and despite the recently signed deal between the Khartoum regime and south-based rebels, the trend lines for Darfur are getting uglier. The international response remains confused, inadequate, timid and criminally negligent.
The announcement from the International Criminal Court on the indictment of Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir on 10 counts of war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide is just over an hour away. While many are bracing for a violent backlash from Khartoum, and the possible expulsion of international aid workers from the country, others are expecting a more measured response. Nick Wadhams of Time Magazine writes of mixed messages from Khartoum.