The genocide in Darfur could have been stopped five years ago, yet the killing; the rapes; the displacement of hundreds of thousands of men, women, and children continues. The missing element has been grassroots education and advocacy.
Help High Road for Human Rights organize in communities in every state to help end the genocide by raising awareness about the challenges and, perhaps most importantly, the solutions we demand be pursued by our elected officials.
During the early stages of the genocide in Rwanda, a human rights activist urged President Clinton’s National Security Advisor to take urgent action. He said that people were not calling to express their concerns and that no action would be taken unless people made “more noise”.
Senator Paul Simon said 100 letters to each US Senator should have spurred the action necessary to stop the genocide.
The American people were silent, letters were not sent, phone calls were not made – and 800,000 men, women, and children were brutally butchered. The United States and the international community did nothing to stop the atrocities! Because the American people remained silent.
Let us never be silent again. Organizing together, we can make more noise. We can call for humane action. We can make a real, positive difference. And we can live our lives knowing we did what we could.
High Road for Human Rights is dedicated to real change. Please join High Road in its unique, vital work to make the world a safer, more peaceful, just place for all.
Don’t remain silent. Don’t sit back, leaving it for others to do. Join in the mass mobilization organized by High Road for Human Rights and contribute toward compassionate change to help our brothers and sisters throughout the world.
When we know that others are suffering and we have the means to help, our moral instincts, as well as our religious and humanitarian traditions, lead us to do what we can to stop the suffering and to promote healing and happiness.
“Compassion is one of the principal things that make our lives meaningful. It is the source of all lasting happiness and joy. And it is the foundation of a good heart, the heart of one who acts out of a desire to help others. . . . Love for others and respect for their rights and dignity; no matter who or what they are: ultimately these are all we need.” -His Holiness the Dalai Lama – Ethics for the New Millenium.
During the Holocaust, the American public expressed pity, but almost nothing was heard from the grassroots levelregarding a change in US national policy. As a result, our nation abandoned millions of people to their horrific fate at the hands of the Nazis.
After the Holocaust, The world agreed: “Never Again” … Never Again would we fail to act to prevent such atrocities to men, women, and children, anywhere in the world.
Romeo Dallaire knew he could have stopped the 1994 slaughter in Rwanda. As the United Nations Military Commander in Rwanda at the time, he said he needed only 5,500 United Nations troops to stop the horrendous violence and nationwide terror. The United States could have made the difference, working with the UN to do exactly what the UN was intended to do, rather than pull UN peacekeepers out, thereby abandoning 800,000 Rwandans and their loved ones to their tragic, brutal deaths, maiming, and unspeakable horror.
“[T]he international community, through an inept UN mandate and what can only be described as indifference, self-interest and racism, aided and abetted these crimes against humanity.” – Roméo Dallaire
Dallaire is clear: the genocide could have been prevented if the UN operation had received the modest increase of troops and capabilities he requested. Could we have stopped the killings? Dallaire answers, “Yes, absolutely.”
“Could we have prevented the resumption of the civil war and the genocide? The short answer is yes. If UNAMIR had received the modest increase of troops and capabilities we requested in the first week, could we have stopped the killings? Yes, absolutely.” – Roméo Dallaire
As Dallaire explains, “There is no doubt that [the United States and France] possessed the solution to the Rwandan crisis.
It happened again in Bosnia, where, for several years, neither the United States nor the international community did anything to stop the brutal “ethnic cleansing” campaign of Serb nationalists. Some 200,000 Bosnians were killed and more than two million were forced to leave their homes.
Among the many long-time foreign policy experts who resigned from the State Department in protest of US complacency in the face of mass atrocities in Bosnia was Marshall Harris, the Bosnia desk officer…
“I can no longer serve in a Department of State that . . . will not act against genocide and the Serbian officials who perpetrate it.” –Marshall Harris, Bosnia Desk Officer, US State Department
Let us learn from earlier, tragic lessons. Two weeks after the beginning of the genocide in Rwanda: National Security Advisor Anthony Lake stated that if United States officials were to support effective action to stop the mass atrocities, Americans must make it clear that’s what they want. He urged human rights advocates to “make more noise” and to change public opinion.
“If you want to make this move, you will have to change public opinion. You must make more noise.” –Anthony Lake, Former National Security Advisor
But hardly any noise was made, and the US stood by while the massacres continued. The American public expressed no interest in Rwanda. That failure on the part of the American people led US officials to inaction. Had there been a nation-wide organization like the one High Road for Human Rights will build, with thousands of people organized to demand action, the Rwandan genocide could have been stopped.
Samantha Power notes that “No group or groups in the United States made Clinton administration decisionmakers feel or fear that they would pay a political price for doing nothing to save Rwandans.”
“[A]s was true with previous genocides, these U.S. officials were making potent political calculations about what the U.S. public would abide. . . . [T]hey looked to op-ed pages of elite journals, popular protest, and congressional noise to gauge public interest. No group or groups in the United States made Clinton administration decisionmakers feel or fear that they would pay a political price for doing nothing to save Rwandans.”-Samantha Power, author of “ A Problem From Hell”
The missing link in achieving effective action to stop the atrocities was a grassroots organizing effort, like the one High Road for Human Rights is working to create.
No organization was in place to elicit a public call for support to stop the massacres. Power notes that “Although Human Rights Watch supplied exemplary intelligence to the U.S. government and lobbied in one-on-one meetings, it lacked the grassroots base from which it might have mobilized the crucial domestic pressure everyone agreed was missing.”
As you read this, a genocide is in its seventh year in the Darfur region of Sudan. Once again, the United States and the international community have failed to take effective action to stop the killing, raping, and maiming of hundreds of thousands of people, and the displacement of approximately two-and-a-half-million men, women, and children.
No one in Congress or in the White House should ever again be able to say that the people back home don’t care. Let us do all we can to assure that mass atrocities are never again condoned because of a perception of public apathy in the United States – and to do all we can, consistent with our moral values, to express our concern, compassion, and insistence on constructive action in the clearest, most powerful possible terms. Together, through High Road for Human Rights, we can change the wind. We can increase awareness about preventable suffering and work together, through focused organizing, to effectively push for change that will bring about a safer, kinder, more just world.
Genocide in Darfur and What We Can Do
By Charles Ashley Anderson
High Road Volunteer
First things first: Do not despair!
It is hard to look at genocide. It is overwhelming and disheartening. You probably know that there is genocide underway in Darfur right now. It is natural to ask, “I know it’s bad. But, seriously, what can I do?” That’s a valid question. The usual response is “tell your representatives to do something about it.” Something? The truth is, your elected officials need ideas a whole lot more concrete than that–and they are very unlikely to take the time to figure them out on their own. That’s what this paper is all about. We have compiled a list of specific, detailed actions that need to be taken by our elected and other governmental officials if we are actually going to end this catastrophe. Before we go into those things, it is important that we look at a short history of genocide and international responses, followed by the events leading up to the current crisis in Darfur. That way, when you talk to your friends or representatives about it, you will sound like a pro.
A BRIEF GENOCIDE HISTORY
In 1941, the Nazis began killing European Jews. The Holocaust, as it came to be known, had caught the world largely off-guard. By the time theAllied Forces stopped the killing, over ten million human beings had been systematically murdered. Humanity was in shock. It was obvious that something must be done so that this never happened again. First, there needed to be a word that would define an atrocity of this magnitude. Raphael Lemkin, who lost 49 relatives in the Holocaust, coined the word “genocide” and convinced the U.N. that it should make certain that atrocities like the Holocaust should never again be permitted to occur.
There needed to be agreement that there are some things so horrible that no longer could the rest of the world take the attitude that whatever goes on within a nation’s borders is no one else’s business. The United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide was adopted in 1948. It declared genocide a crime under international law. In short, it states that no matter where it happens, or under what circumstances, member nations are obliged to use all the means at their collective disposal to end incidences of genocide should they occur. That should do it, right?
Unfortunately, that did not do it. Since the end of World War II, repeated humanitarian catastrophes have tested the resolve of the world. In the Cambodian genocide, between 1975 and 1979, over 1.7 million people, or at least 21% of the nation’s population, died as a result of the brutality of the Khmer Rouge regime. For 100 days in 1994, Hutu militias in Rwanda savagely attacked members of the Tutsi tribe and moderate Hutus. The Hutus, using mainly clubs, machetes and farm implements, murdered as many as 800,000 people. During the early 1990s, 200,000 men, women, and children in Bosnia were killed and more than two million were forced to leave their homes in an effort by Serbs to “ethnically cleanse” the area…
How could this happen again and again? And who is responsible?
To answer this question, we can take an example from the Rwandan genocide. Romeo Dallaire was the United Nations Military Commander in Rwanda at the time. He said he needed only 5,500 United Nations troops to stop the horrendous violence and nationwide terror. Without pressure from the United States to heed this request, the UN instead opted to pull its peacekeepers out, thereby abandoning hundreds of thousands of genocide victims to their horrific deaths.
So here’s the crucial question: Why was there a lack of political will on the part of government officials in the United States to do something to save people from being slaughtered in Rwanda? Because political will comes from people putting pressure on elected officials. The politicians looked around, checked their mailboxes . . . and– nothing. So that’s what they did. Nothing.
National Security Advisor Anthony Lake stated that if United States officials were to support effective action to stop the mass atrocities, Americans must make it clear that’s what they want. He urged human rights advocates to “make more noise” and to change public opinion. Since the American public failed to make more noise, 800,000 people were slaughtered. The U.S. government turned a blind eye to the atrocities that it could have stopped.
For us to act compassionately, in accordance with our religious and humanitarian values, and to fulfill the promise of “Never Again,” we must all make more noise, together. We must apply pressure. We must do our part in stopping or preventing human rights atrocities. That’s our part of fulfilling the promise of “Never Again.”
Sudan is made up of three basic regions: North, South and West. Sudan’s capital city, Khartoum, is in the North, along with the majority of the country’s wealth and only seaport. Its population is mainly Arabic and Muslim. Until recently, it has been engaged in civil war with the South, where the population of African Christians have long complained of being excluded from reaping the benefits of oil wealth–oil which comes from the South. That long, bloody civil war ended recently with an agreement that oil revenue would be shared with the South. The “rebels” sort of got what they wanted.
Darfur is the name of the Western region of Sudan. It is about the size of Texas. Its population consists mainly of two groups: African, or traditional farming tribes, and nomadic Arabs.
The African population in Darfur, (about 40%) had long felt that the Sudanese government had neglected them and unfairly favored the Arabs in the region. They also saw that the South had obtained its objectives through war and insurrection. So, in 2003, two African rebel groups, the Justice and Equality Movement, (JEM), and the Sudan Liberation Movement Army (SLA), rose up against the government. They did not have to wait long for a response. The government in Khartoum decided that the best way to make sure another civil war wouldn’t happen was to wipe out the Africans in Darfur once and for all. Men, women, and children.
To do this cheaply, Khartoum has given some of the Arab militias in Darfur (the Janjaweed) a bunch of automatic weapons and tactical support. The Janjaweed will surround an African village while government military planes and helicopters fly over, dropping bombs targeted at civilians gathering in terror. When sufficient demoralization and chaos is achieved, the foot soldiers move in, kill all the men they can find, kidnap and rape the women and girls, slaughter the livestock, poison the wells, and burn all the structures. Children are tossed back into burning buildings. Then on to the next village, letting the displaced survivors die slowly of starvation and disease. This is orchestrated policy. This is genocide.
Six years and over 400,000 deaths later, the UN has failed to even admit this is genocide, let alone deploy all of the troops that it has promised in Security Council Resolutions. What the U.S. and the international community have been doing has not been working:
The administration’s press statements and offers of incentives, and U.N. Security Council resolutions without real punitive actions have left the impression in Khartoum that Washington and the rest of the international community are all bark and no bite. “Constructive engagement” sometimes works, but it is making no impact here. Until the international stance, led by the United States, becomes much tougher, Khartoum can be expected to go on relentlessly targeting the civilian population in Darfur.
John Prendergast, Senior Adviser for the International Crisis Group in Washington, “U.S.’s Deadly Errors in Darfur,” The Philadelphia Inquirer (Sept. 14, 2006).
We cannot rely on lofty statements by our leaders to translate into real action. For example, Barak Obama had this to say four years ago: “The UN is failing in its mission by allowing politics to get in the way of needed action. American leadership is needed to mobilize European support and force action. On the 10th anniversary of Rwandan atrocities, we must not let history repeat itself.” That same year, Congress and President Bush conceded the situation in Darfur was a genocide, saying: “My [Bush’s] administration has called this genocide. Once you label it genocide, you obviously have to do something about it.”
The point here is to be wary of promises…until you see the situation actually getting better, words are never enough.
Whew! What, then? What exactly should we be doing?
Advocate for these solutions to help end the genocide in Darfur:
1. We need to get those UN troops in there! In 2007, the UN Security Council passed Resolution 1769,which promised to deploy 26,000 UN troops. Among other things, they are to protect the refugees in the camps from further attack and help secure supply routes for food and other basic necessities. As of January 2010, these troops have been deployed. However, the security situation in parts of Darfur has deteriorated, causing relief organizations to pull out. The UN needs to reassess troop needs and create an environment in which these organizations can resume their work.
2. Those peacekeepers need helicopters! The peacekeepers in Sudan have needed helicopters for a long time. Darfur is a huge area with few airports. Relatively inexpensive and versatile air transport is essential to the relief effort. People are dying simply because supplies cannot reach them. So far, no one has been willing to donate or pay for the 24 requested helicopters. This is an outrage. There are no excuses. Tell your Senators and Representative, and President Obama, to implement the Congress’s Helicopters for Darfur Resolution right away. Tell them you want to see helicopters in the air in Darfur without any further delay.
3. Implement the Darfur Peace and Accountability Act. The DPAA was passed in October 2006. Your Senators and Representative have the means at their disposal to make sure that this important Act is faithfully carried out. This Act is just words unless someone feels like their job is in jeopardy if it isn’t implemented. If your Senators and Representative need a friendly refresher course on the DPAA, tell them to make sure that:
- Authorities in the Obama administration learn of the names of individuals who are complicit in the Darfur atrocities, and that they freeze their assets and impose travel restrictions on them.
- President Obama advocates greater participation by NATO troops to the United Nations/African Union Mission in Darfur (UNAMID).
- No oil tankers transporting Sudanese oil are granted access to U.S. ports.
- Benchmarks are in place that the government of Sudan must meet before any sanctions can be lifted.
4. Impose tougher sanctions on the government of Sudan. There are some sanctions in effect, but those need to be stronger and we need to implement more. Tell your Senators and Representative that the list of sanctions against the government of Sudan needs to be longer and more effective. Why have sanctions if they aren’t effective in stopping the atrocities? Ineffective sanctions are simply pretense – making people think that something is being done about the genocide while the killing continues.
5. Pressure China to help end the genocide. Representative Steny Hoyer sums it up well: “Next to the United States, no country has greater power to stop the genocide than China, whose $8 billion investment in Sudan’s oil industry gives it both an economic interest in stability and the leverage to bring it about. The issue of China’s responsibility must be raised at the highest diplomatic levels. President Obama could make no better investment of political capital than building a coalition against genocide.” Push your Senators and Representative, as well as the Obama administration, to support effective engagement with China to stop the genocide in Darfur. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton recently made clear that she intends to place human rights on the back burner while the U.S. and China attend to other matters, including the economy and security. Although the U.S. and China have many areas in which mutual cooperation is required, the genocide in Darfur should no longer be ignored in the context of U.S.-China diplomatic relations. The U.S. must do all it can to stop the genocide – and that includes working effectively with China to stop funding the government responsible for the atrocities.
6. Continue efforts to divest in companies that profit from genocide. Evil regimes need money to exist. Take away their sources of income and they begin to listen. Every individual, company, and governmental entity should divest any holdings in companies profiting the Khartoum government, so long as divestment will not harm the people of Darfur. Desmond Tutu wrote, “There is no greater testament to the basic dignity of ordinary people everywhere than the divestment movement of the 1980s.” He was referring to the ending of apartheid, which is widely credited to international divestment efforts against the South African government. (For more information about divestment to help bring an end to the genocide in Darfur, see http://www.darfurdivestment.org/What_is_Targeted_Divestment?/.)
7. Pay our debt to the United Nations. The US owes over $2.4 billion to the UN. We have openly criticized the UN on its response to the Darfur crisis, but we aren’t willing to pay our share of the cost to respond. We have a treaty obligation to contribute a specific amount of money to the UN for missions like this, and, strange as it may seem, we haven’t been following through. The US needs to lead the world in pressuring the UN on this issue and doing so is difficult if we aren’t paying our bills.
8. Continue to support the 2005 peace treaty between Sudan’s North and South. Let it be known that you want a strong diplomatic effort to remain a priority in Sudan. Not to appease Khartoum, but simply to keep the country from falling apart. The Sudanese Peace Agreement “is fragile but it is fundamental; it is absolutely vital to get it right because if the north-south agreement fails, everything else will also fall apart,” said John Holmes, the emergency relief coordinator for the United Nations, “If that goes, you can forget about Darfur; it is just a side show.”
9. Support the International Criminal Court and the prosecution of genocide leaders. The United States was instrumental in the creation of the ICC in 1998. The aim of the ICC is to hold accountable and bring to justice individuals responsible for the worst crimes, namely genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity. President Clinton felt that the Court was essential in addressing US concerns and achieving US objectives. However, during the last eight years, the Bush administration’s isolationist stance and rogue international policy have resulted in a dangerous weakening of the efficacy of the ICC. The new Congress and administration need to reestablish the US’s commitment to international justice as the ICC pursues criminal charges against Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir.
10. Create a No-Fly Zone Over Darfur. The Sudanese government uses airplanes and helicopters to attack villages from the air, as well as keep the Janjaweed supplied in their ongoing campaign of terror. The international community used a no-fly zone approach to resolving the Kosovo crisis and in protecting Iraqi Kurds, with very effective results. While the sheer size of Darfur presents a great challenge to successful enforcement, the vast majority of experienced military personnel agree that keeping hostile aircraft out of the sky is an essential step toward resolving this crisis.
The above nine steps can be achieved – with your help. As you add your voice and efforts to those of others like you throughout the country, Congress and the Obama administration will have to listen – and act. What can you do to help make this a reality? It’s quite simple actually. You just have to use the tools available in a democracy:
1. Talk to your Senators and Representative.
Electing the right men and women to office is never enough. If we want change that will benefit people who have suffered from human rights abuses, the responsibility to act is ours. It’s is not as hard as you might think. You can meet your Senators and Representative in person if you make an appointment or you can simply figure out where they are going to be and show up. Sending them an email or letter might be effective, too. Your letters and emails should be read and acknowledged. If they are ignored, make a big deal about it. Representatives sometimes need to be reminded that they work for you. Therefore, it is your prerogative (even your responsibility) to let them know what you would like them to do. Just go to www.congress.org and type in your zip code to get their information or to link to their official website. Also, look up their voting “grade” on www.darfurscores.org . This nifty site has kept track of your Senators’ and Representative’s voting record on issues relating to the genocide in Darfur. Use that information in communicating with them. When you do get their ear, they will likely say, “What exactly would you like me to do about this terrible problem?” To which you can respond with the solutions listed above. After you meet with them, let High Road know and we will post the information on our website.
2. Write a letter to the editorial board to be published in your local newspaper.
Say how you feel in as few words as possible, stick to a specific subject, make it personable and courteous, give some concrete suggestions for solutions, and let at least one person proofread it. This is an almost free way to make a whole lot of noise. Most Senators and Representatives keep an eye on the editorial page to gauge the priorities of the voting public. Politely call them to action in front of everyone! Use the media! Again, please send High Road your published letters and we will post them for the world to see.
3. Meet with the editorial boards of your local newspapers and television stations.
Join with others in your community and meet personally with editorial boards, letting them know that you want to see more published, conspicuously, about the genocide in Darfur and about what is being done, and not being done, about it. Let them know that the public has a right to be well informed and that the news media is our crucial link to obtaining an accurate, up-to-date view of what’s really going on. Urge them to publicly analyze the records of elected officials regarding effective measures to stop the genocide. Let High Road know of their response and we will help you get the word out.
4. Speak to classes, faith groups, civic organizations about the genocide and about the importance of grassroots involvement to put an end to the atrocities.
As you learn about the genocide in Darfur, you can help elevate the understanding of others in your community to help bring about change. Arrange to speak to classes, church groups, civic organizations (e.g. Rotary, Lions, and Kawanis Clubs), and to other groups about the genocide, and the concrete steps that can be taken by the U.S. to help bring an end to this tragedy. High Road can provide materials, including a multi-media presentation, about genocides and the value of grassroots advocacy to stop them. (You can view a presentation by visiting our Video and Multimedia page.)
5. Organize others in your community to speak out, to write letters and op-ed pieces, and to meet with members of your Congressional delegation.
Organizing people to speak with a powerful, unified voice, and to take effective grassroots actions for change, is at the core of the mission of High Road for Human Rights. Have people sign up with High Road on our Take Action page and we will help equip them to become effective citizen activists.
Thank you for reading this. Feel free to distribute or reproduce this material. “Spreading the word” is the essential cornerstone of effective change.
Darfur, A 21st Century Genocide by Gérard Prunier
Not on Our Watch: The Mission to End Genocide in Darfur and Beyond by Don Cheadle and John Prendergast
War in Darfur and the Search For Peace by Alexander De Waal
The Translator by Daoud Hari, a native Darfurian
Websites concerning Darfur:
Contact your Senators and representatives:
Call 1-800-GENOCIDE (Genocide Intervention Network)
HIGH ROAD ACTIONS
ARTICLES, VIDEOS & ORIGINAL SOURCE DOCUMENTS
- 01.18.11 Germany Opens First Rwanda Genocide Trial, Voice of America News
- 12.29.10 Ivory Coast UN Ambassador Warns of Risk of Genocide, BBC News
- 04.2007 “If I Look at the Mass I will Never Act”: Psychic Numbing and Genocide, Judgment and Decision Making, Vol. 2, No. 2
HRHR Video: Louis Gakumba’s Story
HRHR Video: Genocide and High Road for Human Rights