Why Darfur is not genocide

Bush is at it again, I see. Bumbling his way through Africa, pronouncing from on high his verdict about the situation in particular nations. Most of his comments wash over me, because I simply don’t have the in-depth knowledge to challenge them, but one really grates with me. And that is, of course, the constant insistence from the White House that Darfur is a genocide.I agree that this is a pretty unoriginal thing to opine about, and so I’ll keep this post short, but Darfur is quite categorically not a genocide, despite the clear wishes of certain persons in America that it was. And here is why.

The statistic that is most often branded about, when it comes to Darfur, is that 200,000 people have died as a result of the fighting in the region since 2005. If you grammatically analyze this statement, this is probably true, given the way that it is measured. The statistic comes originally from some field researchers in the UN, and looks at how many people in Darfur have died over and above the number that would have died had there not been a war going on. Leaving aside the fact that this number is almost impossible to get right for a region as large and as inaccessible as Darfur, the figure of course takes into account refugees that have died of hunger, malnutrition and disease that are consequences of war. It does not mean – despite what I have frequently read in some papers – that 200,000 people have been killed in the fighting. An internal UN paper, which has not been publicly released, actually puts the number of people that have been directly killed because of the fighting at less than ten thousand.

Seeing as the US refused to ever call Rwanda a genocide, how can they possibly continue to insist that Darfur is one?

Why does any of this matter? Surely people are dying in Darfur, and calling the crisis a genocide at least keeps the pitiful region on the map.

True, and this was my gut feeling when I first came to Sudan. Until some governmental adviser pointed out to me the flip side of the coin. That other side is that one must be extremely careful about distorting the truth, which unfortunately the Bush administration is not being. Sure, it keeps Darfur on the map, but that is not good enough. What would be much better is if a solution could be found for Darfur and, incorrectly labeling the crisis with the genocidal tag is unhelpful in that it stops a proper solution being found. It antagonizes the government and provokes the world into a shock-horror knee-jerk reaction, rather than inspiring a carefully thought-out strategy.

I wish my metaphorical coin had three sides. If it did, I would add another point. If we are going to label Darfur as a genocide, where far fewer people have died than in other non-genocidal conflicts, what are we going to call crises that really get out of hand. Major genocides? Mega genocides? Serious genocides? Or we could have a ranking scale, based on colours. Red for really serious genocides, yellow for ones that can wait a few years before needing a solution and blue for ones that the international community can look at when they get off the golf course.

In this writer’s view, any amount of killing (even one person) is inherently wrong. But “genocide” is a dangerous term that should be used with extreme caution.

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3 Responses to “Why Darfur is not genocide”

  1. shambat Says:

    Dear Blake,

    I highly appreciate your blog on the socalled genocide in Darfur. It has been in the air for some time that something is wrong concerning the official figures coming out of official organizations dealing with the Darfur crisis. I have seen figures of up to 450.000 dead, a figure which is being used to put pressure on the Sudanese government. I see it as a fair objective to try to stop the fighting in Darfur. But to give such a distorted picture of the reality there harms Sudan as a country. “Arabs killing Africans” is a way of putting fuel on the fire. The reality is much more complicated if one reads the reseachers’ analysis into the situation in Darfur.

    One can get the suspicion that some Western governments are trying to create a crisis in Darfur. This point of view is being underlined by the present crisis in Chad, where it is obvious now that Western security agencies have been operating for years giving support to Darfur rebels. And.. that Sudan is supporting Chad rebels with bases in Darfur in order to overthrow the Deby government in N’Djamena. There is a minor war going on between the Sudanese and Western governments with both sides engaging themselves in proxy wars in the area.

    So, the Darfur crisis is not what it appears to be in the Western press. From one point of view one can see it as a Western way of squeezing the Sudanese government. I my opinion first of all in order to get to the Chinese dominated oil fields, which the US had to leave in the late 80s. And of course in order to make the difficult Islamic government change its mind or have a regime change.

    Is it possible to get hold of the internal UN-report you refer to?

    But to put it straight: I am not a lover of the present government of Sudan. But I love my country!

  2. That G-word again « Blake Evans-Pritchard’s Weblog Says:

    […] might, at this point, like to refer to two of my previous posts: why Darfur is not genocide and why Darfur might just be […]

  3. Remembering the truth about Sudan « Blake Evans-Pritchard’s Weblog Says:

    […] that throw everything into a black-and-white silhoette of reality. I was more-or-less repeating this blog post that I wrote many years […]

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