Sudan shadow over Rwanda genocide anniversary
afrol News, 6 April –
This week, the tenth anniversary of the Rwandan 1994 genocide, killing almost one million civilians, is marked. At the same time, genocide warnings in Darfur, Western Sudan, are increasingly issued. The international community is criticised for not having done anything to prevent the Rwandan genocide and of being equally passive regarding the possible genocide in Darfur. While the international community is commemorating the genocide in Rwanda and regrets not have done anything to save the Tutsi minority, the genocide in Western Sudan is reaching its climax, today warns Tilman Zülch, Secretary-General of the Society for Threatened Peoples, one of Germany's leading human rights groups. The group is only the last of a growing number of organisations and institutions comparing the situation in Darfur with the events leading to the Rwandan genocide ten years ago. Even UN sources warn of a potential genocide in Darfur. In March, the UN coordinator in Sudan, Mukesh Kapila, told the press that "an ethnic cleansing campaign" was taking place in Darfur that was "comparable in character, if not scale," to the Rwandan genocide. Last week, the US-based group Human Rights Watch presented a report documenting "brutal raids" against several ethnic groups in Darfur and accusing the Sudanese government of committing "crimes against humanity." Especially the Fur, Masaalit and Zaghawa peoples had been singled out by the so-called "Arab" militia groups supported by the government. Mr Zülch today added to the genocide warnings issued for Darfur, saying that "also here, as in Rwanda, the most terrible disaster could happen." The German group holds that "one million people are threatened with starvation because the Sudanese government disregards humanitarian international rights and uses hunger as a weapon" in the Darfur conflict. According to the Society for Threatened Peoples, there are now many classic signs of genocide in Darfur. These include the forced migration of at least 800,000 people, mass killings, bombing of civilian targets including refugee hideouts, organised mass rape of women and girls, children taken hostage, looting of properties and cattle, systematic destruction of settlements and fresh water sources, burning of crops and seeds and the obstruction of humanitarian and medical aid. Also in the United States, the genocide warnings are becoming more articulated. The US Committee on Conscience - a project of the US Holocaust Museum - has warned that "organised violence is underway that threatens to become genocide or related crimes against humanity." Organisations working on Sudan further agree that another major concern is the very limited focus in the world press on the potential Darfur genocide. "Again, and to be seen by
anybody, monstrous crimes are committed, against which only a few human rights activists and journalists are getting engaged." Ten years after Rwanda, what have we learned, is the question repeatedly asked. The UN and its Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, only recently apologised for their failure to prevent the Rwandan genocide. Mr Annan confessed he personally could have done more to prevent the 1994 genocide, but he had not taken the warnings seriously enough. Tomorrow, African leaders and US and European officials are meeting in Kigali to mark the tenth anniversary of the Rwandan genocide, which began on 7 April 1994. As the slaughter began, there were about 2,500 UN peacekeepers in Rwanda, but these troops were never given a mandate to intervene. On the contrary, two weeks after the UN troops were reduced to a small observer group of 270 troops. Romeo Dallaire, the Canadian general who led the UN force, today at a genocide conference in Kigali said that the international community indeed was "criminally responsible for the genocide" because of its failure to intervene. "The Rwandan genocide happened because the international community ... did not give one damn for Rwandans," Mr Dallaire said at the conference. According to human rights groups, the same indifference is noted today regarding the many signs of genocide in Darfur. Mr Zülch demands "an immediate intervention of international peacekeepers" in Sudan to "end the genocide" against the Fur, Masaalit and Zaghawa peoples. "If an external intervention is not carried out, [the Khartoum government] will finalise the genocide and forced migrations in the West of the country," Mr Zülch warns. - Ten years [after the genocide], Rwanda has made remarkable progress, today comments Gayle Smith of the US Centre for American Progress. However, "the world has learned few lessons," she adds, referring to the situation in Darfur.
By Rainer Chr. Hennig