Post Date: November 30, 2005

The following op-ed co-written by HLS student Rebecca Hamilton, Darfur needs follow-through, originally appeared in The Boston Herald on November 29, 2005.

Fourteen months ago, President Bush used the word “genocide” to describe the slaughter in Darfur. In the ensuing year, the United States took no action as countless women were raped and hundreds of thousands of civilians died at the hands of the government of Sudan. But this month, fragments of a more active relationship with Sudan are taking shape, begging a new question: Is our complacency turning into complicity?

The U.S. House-Senate Appropriations Committee quietly cut funding for the sole peacekeepers in Darfur, a small force of African Union soldiers. Already underfunded and undermanned, some 6,500 A.U. soldiers are struggling to protect an area the size of France. The $50 million in emergency support unanimously approved by the Senate would have allowed the A.U. to expand its presence in Darfur by more than 1,000 troops. But on Nov. 1, the funds were excised without explanation. In 1997 President Clinton determined that the policies and actions of the government of Sudan, including continued support for international terrorism and the prevalence of human rights violations, including slavery and the denial of religious freedom, constitute an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States. He issued Executive Order 13067, banning U.S. companies and individuals from doing business with Sudan.

But, recently, an exception was made. Robert Cabelly of C/R International has made a career of lobbying for corrupt African governments, using contacts acquired during his decade-long tenure at the State Department. Angola, notorious for embezzling billions, paid his firm $6 million to lobby against oil embargoes. When Cabelly chose to strike a deal with Sudan’s government – $530,000 a year to represent their interests and improve their image in Washington – he needed a special exemption from Order 13067. Inexplicably, the U.S. State Department granted that exemption and Cabelly added Sudan to his list of clients. It was equally bewildering last month when U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton stood with Russia, China and Algeria to block Juan Mendez, U.N. special adviser on the prevention of genocide, from briefing the Security Council about the alarming deterioration of the situation in Darfur.

Chaos grips the region. Attacks on villages, refugee camps and aid workers are intensifying. And now African Union peacekeepers are themselves being assaulted. On Oct. 9, 38 were taken hostage. Brig. Gen. Festus Okonkwo, the affable commander of the African Union mission, said last November that his men desperately needed vehicles and equipment. “Tell them to send walkie-talkies,” he pleaded. “And trucks. We need trucks.”

Last June, Canada donated 105 armored personal carriers, but they sat waiting at a dock in Senegal for four months as the Sudanese government refused to process the paperwork. Only last week, following a visit by the Canadian ambassador, were the first six vehicles given over to the African Union forces in Darfur.

This month, government-backed militia in tandem with helicopter gunships attacked three more villages in West Darfur. With more than half of the villages incinerated and some 300,000 dead, the government of Sudan’s mission to obliterate the civilian population of Darfur is nearly accomplished.

Last week, the U.S. Senate voted unanimously in favor of the Darfur Peace and Accountability Act. The act calls for stricter sanctions and urges that Washington work with others, including NATO, to support the African Union forces. The House should follow suit.

These actions are the kind that the U.S. government can and must take. If they fail, we must ask ourselves: Is this our answer to a genocide? To make nice with its perpetrators?

This op-ed was co-written by Ronan Farrow and Rebecca Hamilton. Hamilton is at Harvard Law School and the John F. Kennedy School of Government. She worked in Sudan last year. Both are representatives of the Genocide Intervention Network.