Powell: Sudan Killings ‘Genocide’

Powell, in Senate Testimony, Calls Sudan Killings Genocide (NYT)

Secretary of State Colin L. Powell went one step further today than he has before by declaring that the killings by militia forces terrorizing the Darfur region of Sudan amount to genocide. In testimony to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee he painted a grim picture of rapes, burning of villages and other atrocities committed against black Africans in Darfur by the Arab forces known as Janjaweed. He also laid the blame squarely with the government in Khartoum. “We concluded — I concluded — that genocide has been committed in Darfur, and that the government of Sudan and the Janjaweed bear responsibility, and that genocide may still be occurring,” Mr. Powell said. He added that interviews with more than a thousand of the estimated 2.2 million people who have fled to neighboring Chad, indicated “a consistent and widespread pattern of atrocities,” with three-fourths of those interviewed reporting that the Sudanese military forces “were involved in the attacks.” “This was a coordinated effort, not just random violence,” he said.

Some 50,000 black Africans have been killed by marauding Arab Janjaweed militias armed and encouraged by the government in Khartoum in a campaign of razing villages, destroying crops and poisoning water supplies that the United Nations has characterized as ethnic cleansing. The killings were declared to be genocide by the United States Congress on July 22. Last week the Democratic presidential nominee, Senator John Kerry, called on the the Bush administration to declare the killings genocide.

Mr. Powell pointed out that Sudan “is a contracting party to the Genocide Convention and is obliged under the convention to prevent and to punish acts of genocide.” He added, “To us at this time, it appears that Sudan has failed to do so.” On Wednesday the United States circulated a draft Security Council resolution on Sudan threatening penalties on its oil industry and expanding an African Union force monitoring violence in the Darfur region. The measure will be formally introduced today.

Powell Says Genocide Has Occurred in Darfur (WaPo)

In the strongest U.S. statement to date on the humanitarian crisis in Sudan, Secretary of State Colin L. Powell today said for the first time that “genocide” has been committed there and that the government of Sudan and Arab militias “bear responsibility.” “Genocide may still be occurring,” Powell said in a statement submitted to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

As a party to an international genocide convention, he said, Sudan is obligated to prevent genocide and punish perpetrators. “To us, at this time, it appears that Sudan has failed to do so,” Powell said. Powell cited a State Department report formally released today based on interviews of Sudanese refugees in Chad. The report found “a consistent and widespread pattern of atrocities committed against non-Arab villagers in the Darfur region of Western Sudan.”

Interesting. The problem, it seems to me, is that terming the killings “genocide” would seem to require that we actually do something to stop them. That’s incredibly unlikely, unless one counts calling for UN sanctions as “something.”

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. dw says:

    I believe that’s why there was no formal declaration of genocide in Rwanda — it would have obligated the US and the UN to intervene. I would think the same rules count here, but who will do the intervening?

  2. jen says:

    I was going to ask about Rwanda. Interesting.

    Can our military really afford the personnel to be sent to a third war zone? Can you imagine the hue and cry on that one? And I think that Sudan may be deadlier for our troops than Afghanistan and Iraq combined.

  3. Attila Girl says:

    I wonder if this is a way of calling the internationalists’ bluff. If the U.N. doesn’t take effective action, this could be another demonstration of its impotence.

  4. dw says:

    Except that Powell is pretty firmly in the internationalist camp.

    On Rwanda, I recommend reading the long-titled We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will be Killed With Our Families by Philip Gourevitch. The UN sat on its hands, primarily because the US (jarred by Somalia a year before) and France made them.

    I recommend that Attila Girl read up on Rwanda before she starts talking about internationalists. The people who are pushing the Sudanese genocide declaration are evangelical Christians who are deeply connected with the Bush administration and are believers in American unilateralism.

  5. Meezer says:

    If they are “pushing” Bush’s administration, they haven’t been very effective. They’ve been calling for help in the Sudan for over 10 years. They finally gave up and started buying slaves their freedom on their own, with donated money. Rotten Christians! If only they would let the UN handle it.

  6. Boyd says:

    Of interest, my son the Marine has been told that the possibility exists that he could go to Sudan instead of Iraq early next year.

    Not that I put much stock into Marine scuttlebutt, but at least it shows that the guys at the pointy end of the spear are talking about it.

  7. dw says:

    Meezer, au contraire. The issues in the Sudan have been known for years, but there has never been a sustained move to end the atrocities there until Dubya got elected. Christian groups working with the Sudanese and the “Lost Children” finally had a White House that would listen to them.

    Ditto AIDS. 10 years ago, to most evangelicals, AIDS was something that gays got. Now, AIDS is a front-and-center issue with Christian missionary groups and NGOs, and they’re getting a strong response from the faithful. Remember the $15B Dubya dedicated to AIDS? That was a direct result of pressure from several major Christian groups and figures. Yes, he has shorted his financial commitment to fighting AIDS considerably (thanks to the Iraq idiocy), and there seem to be hangups over the use and distribution of birth control using federal funds, but it’s still a major step forward. Pat Robertson, of all people, has thrown resources behind combatting AIDS. Think about that. Pat Robertson.

    BTW, I was reminded by someone in the NGO community why using the word “genocide” is such a huge issue — it invokes the Geneva Convention and its requirement that signatories stop genocide from happening using their resources. If the US says it’s genocide, the US must stop the genocide, because the US signed the Geneva Convention. We can either commit resources to stop the atrocities, or we can abandon the whole of the Geneva Convention.