October 20, 2004

Documentary Reveals Crisis

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Violence and human rights violations taking place in Sudan continued to spark discussion yesterday thanks to a number of education and awareness-oriented events.

In the past year and a half, Sudan’s Darfur region has hosted a brutal civil war between the Sudanese government and rebel groups.

Specifically targeting ethnicities with members in either of these rebel groups, the Sudanese government’s militias have committed war crimes, erratically bombed areas of Darfur, and conducted acts of ethnic cleansing. In addition to hundreds of thousands of deaths, many agencies and scholars estimate that 1.5 million civilians have been displaced as a result of the chaos.

Yesterday afternoon, STARS, a genocide and Holocaust awareness campus group, hosted a screening of Prof. John Weiss’, history, documentary, “Genocide in Darfur and the Crisis in Sudan.” According to the film, the Sudanese government, with help from militias, has raped, murdered and displaced over a million of its own civilians in an effort to totally remove all non-Arabs from Sudan.

While a number of nations, including the United States, and the United Nations have condemned the violence as catastrophic, and have furthermore pledged aid, human rights agencies criticize them for not specifically referring to the situation as “genocide.”

According to the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, “acts committed with [the] intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial or religious group,” constitute genocide.

Furthermore, if a situation constitutes genocide, the U.N. must take specific actions and is obligated to commit the necessary manpower and resources to effectively suppress it. Similarly, if any nation specifically declares the situation “genocide,” it assumes the pressure of rallying the U.N. to take action.

While President George W. Bush and his administration have publicly condemned the situation as a “catastrophe” and while Secretary of State Colin Powell referred to the violence as a “humanitarian crisis” after making a trip to Sudan over the summer, the White House has not yet classified the situation as genocide.

Weiss’ film argued that the situation in Darfur did, indeed, constitute genocide, specifically quoting a refugee who said, “The government wants to kill blacks and replace them with Arabs.” At the end of the film, he suggested writing to the president and the U.S. ambassadors to the U.N., urging them to classify the violence as genocide.

In addition to promoting the film, STARS has displayed photographs on the Arts Quad, detailing Sudan’s state of violence and displacement, since Monday. Today will be the final day of the exhibit.

The Africana Studies and Research Center also sponsored an education and awareness event yesterday, hosting a panel discussion in Goldwin Smith D, entitled “Genocide in Darfur and the Crisis of Governance in Sudan.” The keynote speaker, Ali B. Ali-Dinar, from the African Studies Center at the University of Pennsylvania, discussed the roots of the conflict in Darfur, including political, economic, geographic, and even climate-related causes for violent confrontation.

“This is not simply an ethnic conflict,” he argued, implying that there were also practical matters at stake.

In addition to Ali-Dinar, Prof. Muna Ndulo, law, of Cornell’s Institute for African Development and Sulah M. Hassan from the Africana Studies and Research Center, offered their socio-political analyses of the situation.

This event was co-sponsored by the Center for Religion, Ethics and Social Policy, Theatre of Ideas, the history department., the Einaudi Center for International Studies, and the Near Eastern Studies department.

Archived article by Ellen Miller
Sun Senior Writer