Politics Mondays: Darfur, Sudan by Senator John Kerry, Democratic Presidential Candidate
Editor's Note:The following opinion editorial dated September 5, 2004 was submitted to BlackElectorate.com on September 7, 2004, by the Campaign of Democratic Presidential Nominee, John Kerry
The U.S. and the UN Security Council now face a rare moment of truth – a crucial test of our collective international character. The Security Council is considering the report of the UN Secretary General Kofi Annan on Sudan. This report will inform the fateful decision the Council must make: take effective action to halt the killing in Darfur, Sudan, or remain idle in the face of the second African genocide in 10 years.
The choice is whether to give Sudan another pass or, finally, to punish the real perpetrators of the violence. Many governments want to evade the issue yet again. I hope ours will not be one of them.
History and our conscience tell us this should be a swift and clear-cut decision. Unfortunately, it is likely to be neither. Now is the time for President Bush and other heads of state to reflect on what is at stake in Darfur. Now is the time to insist on the triumph of our common humanity over least common denominator diplomatic compromises.
Here’s what’s at stake. At least fifty thousand African Muslims have already died at the hands of the Sudanese government and the janjaweed Arab militia it arms and backs. Thousands of other innocent civilians have been raped and branded, their villages burned. At least 1.3 million civilians are displaced, many living in squalid, disease-ridden camps. 200,000 have fled as refugees to neighboring Chad. Thousands face starvation.
The U.S. government estimated in June that up to one million civilians could die, if the marauding militia are not disarmed and crucial humanitarian assistance fails to reach the vulnerable 1,000,000 civilians.
Despite the human stakes, our government and the international community have not done nearly enough. They have allowed the Sudanese Government – a state sponsor of terror – to delay for months and evade their responsibilities to disarm the militia and allow full humanitarian access. They have allowed the Khartoum government to continue attacking civilians, even as it claims to be cooperating.
In July, the U.S. sponsored and the Security Council passed a toothless resolution, giving the Sudanese thirty more days to stop the killing or face potential sanctions. That deadline expired on Monday, [editor's note: August 30, 2004].
President Bush has an opportunity and a responsibility to lead the UN to do the right thing and to put the full weight of the U.S. behind halting the genocide in Darfur. I hope he will not just talk about the crisis, but take the following urgent steps:
First, President Bush should stop equivocating and join the U.S. Congress in calling the catastrophe in Darfur by its rightful name: genocide. He should also release immediately the powerful findings of the State Department’s own investigation into the horrors in Darfur.
Second, he should lead the UN Security Council to impose tough sanctions on the Khartoum Government – now. These sanctions should freeze the assets of the Sudanese Government, its leaders and business affiliates, outlaw arms sales or transfers to Sudan, and prohibit the purchase of Sudanese oil.
Third, the president should raise the funds to provide life-saving humanitarian assistance to those in dire need. The UN says it needs $531 million. If others won’t commit these funds, the U.S. should.
Fourth, and very importantly, the U.S. should ensure the immediate deployment of an effective international force to disarm militia, protect civilians and facilitate delivery of humanitarian assistance in Darfur. The African Union has offered 3,000 troops. More will be needed. The UK has hinted that it too could offer some forces. We should contribute sufficient funds and the logistical support the African Union needs to accomplish this mission. The Sudanese Government has thus far rejected such a force. The UN should authorize this force under Chapter VII of the UN Charter, and the U.S. should make plain we will not accept Khartoum continuing to block its deployment.
Fifth, the U.S. should take urgent steps to resolve the underlying political conflicts in Sudan. The African Union, under Nigeria’s leadership, is trying to broker a settlement between the rebel groups in Darfur and the Khartoum government. We should encourage these efforts but not allow diplomacy to remain an excuse for inaction by the international community. President Bush should also reinvigorate U.S. efforts to end Sudan’s long-running North-South conflict. This near-final peace agreement is at risk of collapse.
Finally, President Bush should insist that the perpetrators of genocide be held fully accountable. He should press the UN to authorize an international commission of inquiry into war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide.
In April, I first called upon President Bush to show the compassion and moral leadership that is our nation’s hallmark by taking urgent action to end the genocide in Darfur. Since then, I have repeatedly made the same plea. In the intervening months, thousands more innocents have died. This is a crucial moment of reckoning. This time, let’s place the U.S. on the right side of history.
Senator John Kerry is the Democratic Party's Presidential Nominee . He can be contacted through his campaign website johnkerry.com
Monday, September 13, 2004