Genocide, Not War, Is the Problem in Darfur

By Elizabeth Palmberg 8-31-2009

The outgoing commander of the U.N./African Union peacekeeping force in Darfur has garnered much press by saying, on his way out of the door, that "I would not say there is a war going on in Darfur.''

The problem with this statement is that the primary problem in Darfur is not war, but rather government-incited genocide against civilians. Millions of those civilians, driven from their homes and land, are stuck in unsafe refugee camps, subject to the daily threat of violence and to the regime in Khartoum's arbitrary interference with international humanitarian aid.

(The regime in Khartoum adopted its genocidal policies against civilians partly in response to a rebellion, because the regime didn't want to fight the actual rebel combatants or to address their underlying grievances. Neither this, nor anything else, excuses mass murder, rape, and displacement of civilian populations.)

As John Norris put it on the Enough Project blog,

What Agwai and others conveniently fail to mention: the three million Darfuris stuck in refugee and displaced camps unable to return to their homes because of insecurity and violence. Having driven three million people from their homes, President Bashir and his janjaweed allies do not need to engage in daily military clashes anymore because they have achieved their objectives. Instead of offering self-congratulatory remarks, the outgoing commander and the entire international community should simply note that it is appalling that after more than six years they have still failed to create the conditions on the ground that would allow displaced people to return home by disarming the janjaweed, holding perpetrators of earlier war crimes accountable, securing a viable peace deal, and putting a credible peacekeeping force in place.

Elizabeth Palmberg is an assistant editor of Sojourners.

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