dimanche, janvier 27, 2008

looking beyond our own borders

I had dinner with some girlfriends recently when my friend Yvonne asked everyone at the table if we were aware of the genocide taking place in Darfur. She got blank looks from half of the college-educated, current events-informed table. It hardly surprised me, given the lack of attention our mainstream media is giving the issue. So I was glad to see this op-ed piece in the Times today, asking the world to sit up and pay attention to the humanitarian crisis in Darfur, already.
Unkept Promises in Darfur
Published: January 27, 2008

The new United Nations-African Union peacekeeping force in Darfur is not off to an encouraging start. The five-year-long genocide has already killed some 200,000 people and driven two and a half million more from their homes. What is urgently needed to save those who remain are more peacekeepers, better equipment and a lot less obstruction from Sudan.

The joint force took over this month from an earlier African Union force of 7,000 that was too small and too poorly equipped. The new one was supposed to be the largest international peacekeeping force ever authorized, with nearly 20,000 more soldiers and police officers, modern helicopters and other advanced equipment.

By the start of this year, barely a tenth of those additional forces were in place, and much of the needed new equipment had not arrived. When the peacekeepers were quickly attacked by Sudanese forces, they had to withdraw without returning fire.

While claiming that it will cooperate, Khartoum has repeatedly tried to hobble the force: refusing to accept some non-African peacekeepers, trying to limit the peacekeepers’ use of helicopters and demanding other untenable restrictions. Last week, Sudan’s president, Omar Hassan al-Bashir, chose a notorious leader of the janjaweed, the militias that have carried out most of the killing, to be a senior government adviser.

Nobody pretends that bringing a stable peace to Darfur will be easy. The conflict involves not just the janjaweed and the Sudanese Army but also rival Darfur rebels and militias. Underlying it all is a desperate competition between nomads and farmers for land and water in a parched region. There is no hope at all until a credible and credibly armed peacekeeping force is deployed.

The world’s leaders say they care desperately about Darfur’s suffering. But caring is not enough. What is needed is troops, equipment and a lot more diplomatic pressure on Sudan. The word of the United Nations is on the line, and so are the lives of Darfur’s people.

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