15 February 2007

Darfur: To Keep or break the promise

"Never again", the International Community – lead by the United States - said after World War II. "Never again", the International Community pledged in 1994, as a reaction to the Rwandan genocide which claimed 800 000 lives in a period of a 100 days. And again, the international community is breaking this promise her promise as for the last three years Darfur has been subjected to a cruel genocide which claimed at least 200 000 lives.

Twelve years have passed, since Rwanda was drenched in blood, gore and hatred after the signal was given for one of the bloodiest and horrific events in history: the genocide of 1994. While eight hundred thousand people were massacred, the international community closed its eyes to the atrocities and turned its back to Rwanda. It took a few months after the first Rwandan was hacked to death for the International Community to pledge to prevent future “Rwandas”.

The atrocities in Darfur province of Sudan started in 2003, and despite the horrific images and heartbreaking testimonies, the west seemed and seems little or not interested in helping the Darfurians. And like when Rwandanns were subjected to genocide, lots of discussions revolve around Africa’s newest genocide but no action has been taken.

Who cares?

According to Romeo Dallaire, former commander in chief of the peacekeeping operation UNAMIR in Rwanda, the explanation is simple. "They're like Rwandans. There's no self-interest. Who cares about Darfurians? They're only sub-Saharan Africans," he said a Senate subcommittee.

Romeo Dallaire led UNAMIR from Late 1993 until after the genocide. Knowing that something bad was about to happen in Rwanda, he received no backing from the United Nations to prevent events which eventually lead to one of the bloodiest genocides in human history. Also during the genocide, Dallaire’s appeal to enforce UNAMIR were rejected as well as his pleads to change UNAMIR’s mandate and to get more equipment.

"Now that we have acknowledged for more than four years that this horror is happening on our watch, we must summon the courage and act to stop this carnage,” said Dallaire, since 2005 part of the Canadian Senate. Last year he was appointed as a panel member of the UN Committee for the Prevention of Genocide.

Shake hands with the devil

The Rwandan genocide has left a deep scar on Dallaire’s soul, a scar that hasn’t healed properly yet. A few years after the genocide and after recovering from alcoholism and psychological problems which led to various suicide attempts, Dallaire wrote one of the best and honest books about the Rwandan Genocide: Shake Hands with the Devil. IN Shake Hands with the Devil, Dallaire writes about his experiences, feelings, thoughts, and frustrations regarding the events as well as his love for Rwanda.

With Rwanda close at heart, Dallaire often tried to persuade the international community to take action in Darfur. In Looking at Darfur, Seeing Rwanda – published in the New York Times in 2004 – Dallaire reminds the west of what it promised twelve years ago, to prevent a second Rwanda. “What is happening in Darfur genocide and having vowed to stop it, it is time for the West to keep its word as well.”

Miriam Mannak - Africa in the News / Cape Town South Africa


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