Is Genocide Still a Scary Label?

This month’s contribution is by Fata Acquoi, who recently graduated with a double major in Sociology and Political Science at the UMN. She intends on pursuing a graduate degree in Human Rights. Her contribution is a snippet of a class assignment that focused on the role of the international community in dealing with alleged perpetrators of genocide and mass atrocity.

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Ugandan President Museveni (right) greets Omar al-Bashir at the former’s inauguration in Kampala. Photo by PPU, courtesy the Daily Monitor

The conflict in Darfur has widely been recognized as the first “genocide” of the twenty-first century. Though this recognition is well-known, the 2008 joint United Nations and African Union peacekeeping mission to Darfur failed to stop the genocide, and more specifically the ethnic-cleansing program enacted by the current regime in Darfur. This included rape and torture of women and children. According to the Sudan Democracy First Group, a coalition of civil society organizations, there are about two million Internally Displaced Persons in Darfur, of which over 200,000 were displaced in 2015 alone. This suffering is widely felt throughout Darfur, and has not diminished, though it seems that concern for these people by the international community certainly has diminished.

The International Criminal Court (ICC) has issued warrants for Omar Hassan al-Bashir, the head of the Sudanese regime for more than twenty-five years. These warrants are for crimes against humanity and multiple counts of genocide. Though nations have been notified about the warrants for al-Bashir’s arrest, it is unlikely that we will see his prosecution.

In June of last year, al-Bashir attended the Africa Union summit in Johannesburg, South Africa. In May of 2016, al-Bashir attended the swearing in of Yoweri Museveni in Kampala, Uganda. In March he attended the 5th Extraordinary meeting of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) Summit in Indonesia. The Indonesian government defended its decision to invite al-Bashir to attend the Summit, despite the ICC warrants for alleged war crimes. President Widodo of Indonesia further held a bilateral meeting with al-Bashir, noting the intention of some Indonesian companies to invest in the oil sector in Sudan. The Indonesian Foreign Ministry Spokesperson, Arrmanatha Nasir, is quoted as saying, “We’re not allowed to cherry-pick which countries we want to invite like on an à la carte menu at a restaurant.”

Meanwhile, the US expressed concern over al-Bashir’s travel to Jakarta to attend the OIC Summit. While the US is not party to the Rome Statute, the treaty that established the ICC, Washington has claimed that it strongly supports the ICC’s efforts to hold accountable those responsible for genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes in Darfur. The international community has tried to defeat al-Bashir through economic sanctions, but these have been too partial to bring any real results.

As things continue to get worse in Darfur, the only thing that can help end the genocide is full international intervention.

The United Nations secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, must do more in his position of power to address the crisis in Darfur. There is the uncomfortable fact that UN peacekeepers have been accused of sexually molesting young children in countries such as Central African Republic. This casts suspicion on their involvement in any conflict one that is fraught. The African Union, despite having a peacekeeping mission in Darfur, needs to be more strict with al-Bashir’s regime.

Some have called for a continent-wide ban on al-Bashir traveling, which might begin to end his regime. The US needs to practice what it preached and send tanks and machinery to African nations, like Rwanda, that have been on the ground trying to help civilians affected by this conflict. As an international community, we cannot sit back a let this crisis continue after we have acknowledged the pain and suffering of the people of Darfur.

Some Sudanese leaders have called the lack of international intervention a form of International racism. First the international community waited too long to interfere in Rwanda, and over 800,000 people died. Now we have another conflict on the African continent that undermines all of the Western establishments that have been put in place to seek justice. What will this mean for the ICC in future prosecutions of genocidal heads of state? Why call something a “genocide” when they weren’t going to do anything about it in the first place? Why acknowledge the wrongs of a perpetrator that has not been brought to justice? What is the point of acknowledgement in the case of Darfur when it doesn’t bring justice or peace? These are many of the unanswered questions that the international community needs to grapple with, not only in Darfur, but for other on-going atrocities and any we might encounter in the future.

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