Thursday, May 25, 2006

The Human Stain

This week, Lakhdar Brahimi, a UN official, went to Sudan to try to persuade the government in Khartoum to let a UN peacekeeping force into its western Darfur region. Violence has persisted there since a peace deal between the main rebel group and the government was signed three weeks ago.

It is sad that such news once more has been heard, read, digested by the concerned world and forgotten. There is ambivalence to be sure about Sudan not only geographically speaking for many Americans but also psychologically and financially. A relative of mine bluntly informed me a couple of years ago (unfortunately, Sudan has been in the news for almost a decade) when we were discussing Sudan, the trouble in Darfur, and the massive humanitarian aid issue throughout the country that he did not care. My face must have registered my initial shock and confusion and he explained that he was more concerned with domestic issues and could not understand a problem overseas when the problems in this country were not being addressed first. I sympathized with him, took a sip of my beer and we moved onto another topic. Rest assured I was not weak nor was I a coward. I have for the better part of four years been stressing the need for action, ANY action to be taken in Sudan. This particular relative had heard my comments before and so I decided to spare him a rebuttal.

The very basic issues that form the core of the problems facing the people of Sudan, the refugees of Darfur, and the citizens of Sudanese border nations should not be brushed aside. Water IS important. Food IS important. Shelter AND protection against the hot African sun and the rape gangs and militia ARE important. Diplomacy can be a force for good and it can also be used for unsavory purposes--stalling decisions, gaining additional time for military preparation, etc. The diplomacy that has occurred at the United Nations, including the varying degrees of engagement between the Warring factions within the country that has produced muddled language praised in the International press, but that does not do anything for the Sudanese people, that very language is supposed to protect. Hence, the continued violence. A peace deal is only effective if it can be enforced. The African peace keeping force has shown that its size and ambiguity of its mission perimeters can not be the enforcing instrument that powerful countries like America and the EU had hoped.

Intervention from both the EU and the United States is needed! I can not stress this enough. A problem initially thought of and equally dismissed as an "African" problem has become a "humanity" issue. Our actions in Sudan will long be remembered on the scale of our actions after World War Two with the discovery of the Holocaust. The longer we wait the greater the stain upon those who were in positions of power and influence to act as well as those of us who cared.

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