WASHINGTON, June 23 - A range of U.S.-based advocacy groups, such as Africa Action and Human Rights Watch, as well as the United Nations, are calling for international intervention to stop ‰ethnic cleansing‰ in western Sudan. U.S. groups are calling for the Bush administration to demonstrate leadership on the issue.
"The failure of the U.S. and the international community to act in Rwanda a decade ago cost 800,000 lives," said Africa Action Director Salih Booker. "Now, up to one million people face a similar fate in Darfur. Unless there is an immediate military intervention to stop the killing and facilitate a massive humanitarian operation, the loss of life in Darfur may even dwarf the horrific toll we saw in Rwanda."
Booker said Washington could easily mobilize a multinational force to secure the region and facilitate the flow of humanitarian assistance to needy people until UN peacekeepers can be assembled or the government-backed militias known as Janjaweed are disarmed. He noted that almost 2,000 U.S. troops are stationed in nearby Djibouti.
According to Secretary of State Colin Powell, the administration of President George W. Bush is considering a declaration that the repression of African peoples in Darfur by the ethnic Arab Janjaweed is "genocide." He told the New York Times on June 18th that government lawyers were considering the question. If so, the United States could be under a legal obligation under the 1948 Genocide Convention to intervene in the country with military force, an option that has been urged for several weeks by a number of human rights and activist groups.
Jim Lobe is a political analyst with Foreign Policy In Focus