Mzansi Afrika

From Johannesburg South Africa, a window on the world

Friday, August 13, 2004

Taking Action in Darfur

Chris makes an interesting comment on the United Nations and use of the term genocide. As my comments section tells me that my answer is too long for non-upgraded accounts I will have to answer here. Chris says:

"I believe that the US tried to get a resolution passed at the UN which declared the situation in Dafur as a genocide. They were not able to get it passed, which means that the UN can now sit on their backsides and do nothing. If it had been declared a genocide the UN would have been legally bound to start some kind of action, even if it was only sanctions. Is the above correct? Is there any organisation more useless than the UN?"

Well, as far as my understanding goes, the US did not try to get a UN genocide resolution passed, first UN experts have to declare genocide, and then any state that has signed the UN Convention Against Genocide can call upon the UN to act. I suppose you can blame the UN, but the UN is after all a sum of its parts or its member nations. If the UN declared genocide, wouldn't the member states of the relevant UN organ have to vote on a resolution passing whatever action then gets decided upon? I'm not exactly too clear on how the UN would operate in this case.

So far the EU has declined to use the "G" word opting instead for "atrocities being committed on a large scale." And while the U.S. Congress has accused the Sudanese government of genocide, the Bush administration has held off on making a judgment. The State Department (the lead federal agency responsible for U.S. foreign affairs) has told congress that it's difficult to establish whether genocide is in fact taking place. Even if Colin Powell as Secretary of State were to declare genocide the Bush administration would not be required to take legal action.
To my knowlege the only UN resolution voted on so far in recent months on this issue is whether sanctions should be imposed on Sudan. The US pushed for international sanctions, but as they already have sanctions against Sudan, they personally had nothing to lose. The US didn't stand around waiting for the UN when they went to war on Iraq, but in terms of their point of view I would imagine that it would be politically insane for them to get involved militarily in Sudan at this point in time and history. I don't think the UN is solely to blame, there's a global lack of political will to take action - and that includes the AU.

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