Continuing Genocide in Darfur
Date: July 8, 2004 8:52:32 AM EDT

Dear All,

It is likely that close to 1,000 people died today in Darfur, the western region of Sudan where genocide is underway. A similar number will likely die tomorrow, and the day after tomorrow. These figures are based on estimates by the US Agency for International Development (USAID) that over an affected population of 2.2 million people, 4 in 10,000 die every day of malnutrition and disease. The mortality rate from malnutrition and disease has been growing steadily worse over the past several months; it was 1 in 10,000 in early May. (See Genocide Watch.)

You have probably heard by now of the genocide in Darfur, though perhaps you have not heard it called genocide. For analysis of why it indeed appears that this most awful crime is what is happening, you might see PHRUSA report and SEPNet. Arab militia, supported by the Sudanese government, are systematically destroying the black African people of Darfur, telling them such things as it was "time to get rid of all blacks in Darfur" and calling them "slaves." (PHRUSA report) Sudanese government aircraft bomb their villages, and militia burn them down, killing many of the men and raping many of the women and girls. By destroying fields and livestock and poisoning the villages' wells, the militia make the villages uninhabitable.

Using its surveillance equipment, the US government estimated in mid-June that 301 villages had been completely destroyed, and another 76 partially destroyed. (PHRUSA report) The destruction is so complete that death from large scale violence is now subsiding because there are few villages left to target. (Free World Now)

The results of this horrific campaign are literally more deadly than commonly reported. The media now typically uses the figure that about 30,000 have been killed. It appears, however, that this figure has not kept pace with the fast-unfolding reality. A scholar of Sudan and keen observer of the conflict and advocate for action uses the USAID data referenced above and other information to estimate that by early July, 120,000 people in Darfur have died. This includes about 80,000 from direct violence and another 40,000 from disease and malnutrition. As death from militia attacks ebbs (but does not end), death from disease and malnutrition increase. Whereas USAID estimates that about 4 in 10,000 people die every day now, that number could reach 10 in 10,000 in a few months, and continue to grow beyond that absent an enormous humanitarian relief effort. (USAID) A month ago, USAID estimated that even if relief began immediately, more than 300,000 people were likely to die. Delayed relief could push this figure up to the 1 million mark. (Genocide Watch)

Since I wrote on this subject in early April, governments and media have paid increasing attention to Darfur. To its credit, the US government has spoken forcefully. The United States also pledged not to lift sanctions against Sudan or otherwise reward the Sudanese government for progress towards peace with South Sudan until the Darfur situation is resolved. As a result of increased pressure, humanitarian access has improved slightly, and visa delays - a long-standing tactic of the Sudanese government to impede access - are being reduced under a new process of expedited visas.

Yet as the rising death toll from disease and malnutrition make clear, improvements have been marginal; mass death continues apace. In the end of June, the World Food Programme reported that 500,000 people in Darfur were still beyond its reach. (Free World Now) Several months after the Sudanese government promised to disarm them, the militia continue to operate freely. When UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan visited Darfur in the end of June, the Sudanese emptied an entire camp of internally displaced persons the night before he arrived at the camp so that he would not see the awful conditions of the camp or listen to people's stories. Meanwhile, Sudan's foreign minister told the visiting Secretary of State Colin Powell that "there is no famine, no malnutrition and no disease [in Darfur]," making clear that the Sudanese government continues to deny the scale of what is happening in Darfur and its role in it. (Free World Now)

Weak responses from governments, including our own, have allowed this to happen. The Sudanese government has responded with only token actions and thus far empty promises. In his recent trip to the region, Kofi Annan and Sudan's president reached an agreement on Darfur that, ironically, included the Sudanese government's promise to send soldiers and police to protect the displaced people in Darfur. Yet Sudanese forces have been involved in the atrocities.

The United States is currently circulating a draft resolution in the UN Security Council that would establish an arms and travel embargo on the Arab militia operating in Darfur, with further sanctions to be discussed in 30 days if the Sudanese government does not disarm the militia and allow unfettered access to humanitarian aid. Since there is no reason to believe the militia have a great desire to travel abroad, and they receive their arms from the Sudanese government, this resolution is unlikely to have much impact. And using the USAID mortality estimates, well over 20,000 more people will have died of malnutrition and disease by the time the 30 days elapse. Providing a glimmer of hope, the new US ambassador to the United Nations, John Danforth, has stated, "We're talking about days. We're talking about this week" in terms of an end to militia attacks and unimpeded humanitarian access. (New York Times, July 8, 2004). I hope that he means it.

What to do? As I often do, I encourage you to write to (or call) those in power. You can write to Secretary of State Powell through PHRUSA, sign a petition at Africa Action (which will email Secretary Powell and several others), e-mail President Bush at, call the While House comment line at (202) 456-1111, or fax the White House at (202) 456-2461. You can reach you members of Congress through this on-line directory. If you have connections to any other government, especially a current member of the UN Security Council, I would suggest that now is the time to use those connections.

You could let them know that credible estimates place the number already dead at 120,000, some four times the number that is now commonly reported. Perhaps this will help generate action. Even more importantly, I hope that you will urge them to support an urgent humanitarian intervention/peacekeeping mission to Darfur to provide security to the approximately 1.2 million people who have been displaced within Darfur and to enable humanitarian aid to reach them. The intervention should be under the mandate of the UN Security Council if possible. Or if that body continues to fail to meet its responsibilities, intervening nations would still be acting under the authority of law, namely the Genocide Convention, which requires nations to respond to genocide. For further recommendations, please see PHRUSA letter and PHRUSA report. You can also contribute financially to the relief effort. Several humanitarian agencies operating in Darfur can be found at NY Times Forum.

When an issue has come to the world stage - as Darfur now has - when strong action is required - such as the deployment of troops - and that action likely requires the support of many nations - support that remains missing for Darfur - it is very difficult for ordinary citizens to make our voices heard through the thunder of power. But we know for certain that if we do not speak, we will not be heard. And there is only one way that we have any hope - small though it may be - that we will be heard, and that is by speaking out with vigor, and by urging enough people to join so that together, our voices can pierce the thunder.

Every day the status quo continues in Darfur, disease and starvation borne of genocide claim hundreds more lives. The sacred pledge "never again" continues to be violated. For many in Darfur, it is already too late. But hundreds of thousands more lives hang in the balance. And perhaps if the outrage at the worldıs inaction is great enough, "never again" will come to mean something again. As humanitarian intervention in Kosovo in 1999 followed three horrifying months of inaction during the Rwandan genocide in 1994, so might the anger at the world's failure to have prevented the genocide in Darfur - or to stop it once it was underway - create a new, and lasting demand that "never again" finally becomes a global imperative rather than a battered slogan.

As always, thank you,


"I have only dreams: to build a better world, a world of harmony and understanding, a world in which it is a joy to live. This is not asking for too much." -- Yitzhak Rabin

Back to Better World.