A recent survey showed that 59 percent of all Americans know “a lot” or “some” about the conflict in Darfur, compared to levels reported in 2004, when only 14 percent said they were familiar with the conflict. This shift has been caused in large part due to a growing movement of public education, vigils, paid media ads, lobbying, and rallies all across the country. We now face the challenge of increasing this momentum and translating this growing awareness into intensified public pressure.
After four years of protracted bloodshed and unbearable suffering, a degree of cynicism is justified in reaction to the recent promise by the Khartoum government to allow 3,000 U.N. military personnel to enter Darfur. This critical action would complete phase two of a desperately needed – and long overdue – three-phase process toward deploying a more robust, hybrid United Nations and African Union peacekeeping force to prevent further killing and restore security to the beleaguered region. This concession repeats an all too familiar cycle, in which President Bashir plays a manipulative game of deterrence with the international community, making new promises as soon as the world’s patience starts running out or the United States and other nations reach the brink of taking punitive action. There will be no quick fixes or easy solutions. But where the politics of delay have failed, the power of our movement calling for bold leadership will succeed.
On Wednesday, with the Holocaust museum as his backdrop, President Bush gave what was arguably his strongest speech to date about the moral imperative to end the genocide in Darfur, saying:
Just this week, Sudan’s government reached an agreement with the United Nations to allow 3,000 U.N. troops and their equipment into the country to support the A.U. force. The world has heard these promises from Sudan before. President Bashir’s record has been to promise cooperation while finding new ways to subvert and obstruct the U.N.’s efforts to bring peace to his country. The time for promises is over – President Bashir must act.
In deference to recently appointed United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s diplomatic effort to secure an agreement from Khartoum, President Bush agreed to hold off on imposing a series of stringent economic sanctions on Sudanese companies and individuals, and postponed pursuing a new Security Council resolution against Sudan. These sanctions have been under discussion for months as a part of the so-far-empty threat of engaging in a set of coercive actions under what has been termed “Plan B.” After meetings with State Department officials and with the special envoy to Darfur, Andrew Natsios, I’m convinced that there are many people with the administration that are working diligently to end this genocide. However, they have faced competing foreign policy priorities, a reticence to take costly action, and bureaucratic inertia.
History shows that moving the Sudanese government requires both real carrots and real sticks. So far the U.S. approach has been unable to muster enough of either. We have been engaged in a protracted chess game with a regime that has brutalized the Darfuri region. In a recent strategy paper, John Prendergast argues that:
[T]he central paradigm must be to move away from the current policy of constructive engagement without any leverage … to a more muscular policy focused on walking softly and carrying – and using – a bigger stick.
A robust U.N./A.U. force is necessary to stop the killing and create an enabling environment for renewing a peace process that can addresses the underlying causes of this crisis.
As Christians called to be peacemakers, we should support aggressive diplomacy, choosing military action through a no-fly zone, blockade, etc., only as a last resort. In the case of Sudan we haven’t used all of the economic and political tools at our disposal. Broader economic sanctions will send a strong signal to government in Khartoum that we are unwilling to play politics with the lives of our brothers and sisters in Darfur. We must also continue to pressure European countries, China, Russia, and the Arab League to follow our lead in imposing stricter sanctions. Bush’s promise of sanctions with greater teeth on companies and individuals, as well as his promise to initiate a new Security Council resolution, should be applauded. The devil lies in the details of Bush’s promise to act within a short timeframe. After four horrific years of this genocide we cannot bear much patience for the word “short.” Short timeframes have too often resulted in empty threats, broken promises, and empty rhetoric. We are far beyond a short timeframe.
We must remember Dr. Martin Luther King’s words from a speech at Riverside church, exactly 40 years ago to the month, when he said:
We are now faced with the fact that tomorrow is today. We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now. In this unfolding conundrum of life and history there is such a thing as being too late. Procrastination is the thief of time … Over the bleached bones and jumbled residue of numerous civilizations are written the pathetic words: “Too late.”
Sojourners/Call to Renewal is partnering with the Save Darfur Coalition during the 3rd Annual “Global Days for Darfur,” April 23 to April 30, 2007. This week of rallies, marches, and vigils will call attention to the escalating violence and the continued failure of the international community to adequately respond to this crisis. Our unified message is that “time is running out” for the people of Darfur. “Global Days for Darfur” currently consists of 273 events in 175 cities and 42 states (and D.C.) across the country, as well as events in 20 countries, and the number is growing daily. I pray that you will join us in proclaiming the message that it is not too late for Darfur. For God’s sake, save Darfur!
Adam Taylor is Director of Campaigns and Organizing for Sojourners/Call to Renewal.