After months of warning and caution, the houses of the U.S. Congress finally declared a joint resolution recognizing the genocide that is taking place in Sudan, July 22. Although Sudanese authorities rejected the charge, Christian aid groups have long-since noted the “disappearances” and massive movements of refugees in the Dafur region of Sudan.
The July 22 resolution declares, “the atrocities unfolding in Dafur, Sudan, are genocide” in violation of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide – an international bill signed in Paris on Dec. 9, 1948.
“Genocide, whether committed in time of peace or in time of war, is a crime under international law....” the joint resolution states.
The resolution also recognized that “an estimated 30,000 innocent civilians have been brutally murdered, more than 130,000 people have been forced from their homes and have fled to neighboring Chad, and more than 1,000,000 people have been internally displaced” in Dafur.
In lieu of the serious situation, the Senate declared through Resolution 133 that it:
“deplores the failure of the United Nations Human Rights Commission to take appropriate action with respect to the crisis ... particularly the failure by the Commission to support United States-sponsored efforts to strongly condemn gross human rights violations committed in Darfur.”
-- “calls upon the United Nations and the United Nations Secretary General to assert leadership by calling the atrocities being committed in Darfur by their rightful name: genocide.”
-- “calls on the member states of the United Nations, particularly member states from the African Union, the Arab League, and the Organization of the Islamic Conference, to undertake measures to prevent the genocide ... from escalating further, including the imposition of targeted means against those responsible for the atrocities.”
-- “commends the [Bush] Administration's leadership in seeking a peaceful resolution to the conflict ... and in addressing the ensuing humanitarian crisis, including the visit of Secretary of State Colin Powell to Darfur in June 2004 to engage directly in efforts to end the genocide and the provision of nearly $140,000,000 to date in bilateral humanitarian assistance through the United States Agency for International Development.”
-- “commends the President for appointing former Senator John Danforth as Envoy for Peace in Sudan on September 6, 2001, and further commends the appointment of Senator Danforth as United States Ambassador to the United Nations.”
-- “calls on the Administration to continue to lead an international effort to stop [the] genocide.”
-- “calls on the Administration to impose targeted means, including visa bans and the freezing of assets, against officials and other individuals of the government of Sudan, as well as Janjaweed militia commanders, who are responsible for war crimes and crimes against humanity.”
-- “calls on the United States Agency for International Development to establish a Darfur Resettlement, Rehabilitation, and Reconstruction Fund so that those individuals driven off their land may return and begin to rebuild their communities.”
Human rights groups expressed their hopes that these resolutions would lead to international action in stopping the violence.
"There have clearly been massive atrocities committed against civilians, but genocide requires a particular intent that's not easy to prove," Leslie Lefkow, an Amsterdam-based researcher with Human Rights Watch, told the Associated Press on July 22.
The Human Rights Watch, like many other humanitarian organizations, have dubbed the crises as “ethnic cleansing” but not “genocide.”
"Whatever you call it... this is just an appalling human rights situation that needs to be addressed," Lefkow said. "The international community should be responding to it and putting the absolute maximum pressure to see some improvement."
Amnesty International, another human rights group, has also declined to use the term “genocide” but welcomed the congressional resolutions as a way to raise awareness and persuade other governments to place pressure on the situation.
"There is a potential for it to be genocide, but to date we don't have enough access or information to confirm that," Amnesty spokesman Adotei Akwei said.
Christian-based humanitarian groups that have been working in the region since June, including the Church World Service and World Relief, have yet to release a statement on the Congressional legislations.
Meanwhile, the Secretary of State Colin Powell called the situation in Sudan a “humanitarian catastrophe” and urged the Sudanese government to disarm the Arab militia known as the Janjaweed, during a news conference at the U.N. headquarters in New York.
Powell, who visited Sudan last month, said “... we've seen some modest improvement in access, opening the lines of communication. It's now important for the international community, the NGOs [non-governmental organizations] and humanitarian organizations of the world to provide the supplies necessary and to take advantage of this modestly increased access.”
Nevertheless, Powell added, “the security situation. It will do us no good to get the humanitarian situation on the mend but to find it comes a cropper because it is not a secure area, either for the people to return to their homes or for the camps to be kept safe or for the humanitarian workers to be safe.
“And the burden for this, for providing security, rests fully on the Sudanese government. They have the responsibility,” Powell said.
The Sudanese government, he said, has been “supporting and sustaining some of these janjaweed elements. This has to end. We have made this clear to the Sudanese leadership. We still know that there are bombings that take place, there are helicopter gunships in Darfur region. I don't know why Darfur region needs helicopter gunships and believe they should be removed in order to help remove the specter of fear, of danger from the skies that affects the people in Darfur.”
Powell also chided the Sudanese government for refusing entry to healthcare workers into the region – people that are important as “those who can deliver food and build camps and dig wells.”
U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan, who also visited Sudan last month, explained that while the U.N. Security Council has passed no resolution on the crisis, it will continue to place pressure on the African government to take more action.
“We will continue to insist that the [Sudanese] government performs. The [Security] Council is fully seized of the matter, and, as you know, a resolution has been tabled, which the members are discussing very seriously,” said Annan.
In response to the U.N. news conference and senate resolutions, the foreign minister of Sudan, Mustafa Osman Ismail, insisted his government was doing all it can to end the conflict.
"Congress is always biased," Ismail told The Associated Press at the Brussels headquarters for the European Union.
"I would rather say what the Africans who are concerned with this case (are saying),” he continued, siding with the African Union’s caution to call the conflict genocide. "We are cooperating with the U.N.”
The U.N. has yet to decide on taking any direct actions.