Friday, April 25, 2008

Sudan: 60,000 Refugees Can't Be Wrong

Despite Khartoum's denials, carnage in Darfur very real

Despite denials by the Khartoum government regarding the breadth and depth of the atrocities being committed in Darfur, more and more details keep emerging about the crisis.

This past week, the Sudanese government insisted that only 10,000 have died during the past five years of fighting in Darfur.

United Nations humanitarian affairs disagrees. In a statement this past week, UN humanitarian affairs chief John Holmes estimated that 300,000 have died in the course of the conflict -- an increase of 50% since the last time a count was taken.

The Khartoum regime's recent denial is only the most recent in a long litany of denial.

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, however, recently received something that should more or less force him to take the Sudanese ambassador's categorical denials with a grain of salt: a survey compiled from among 60,000 Sudanese refugees in Chad.

Among the varying atrocities being perpetrated in Darfur are the largely indiscriminates bombing of rebel areas by Sudanese Antonov bombers. The Sudanese army resumed using the bombers in February of this year.

Despite the presence of African Union peacekeepers in the region, the slaughter by government forces and janjaweed militia has continued. But some activists are looking to the sources of the conflict for opportunities to spread the word on an olympic scale -- via the Olympics.

Dream for Darfur has taken the 2008 Beijing Olympics as an opportunity to go after China for its investment in the Darfur oilfields by going after its sponsors, who organizer Mia Farrow insists "have been frozen into silence on Darfur."

"If the summer Games (in Beijing) go down in history as the 'Genocide Olympics,' it will be because of the Chinese government's support of the regime in Sudan, abetted by the moral cowardice of the sponsors who would not speak out publicly about the genocide in Darfur," Farrow ads.

Hopefully, the survey sent to Gordon Brown will give him a little extra incentive to bring up the Darfur issue with the Sudanese ambassador to Ottawa, while it spurs the Summer Olympics' sponsors to pressure the Chinese government to "deal with this whole Darfur thing".

If not, it may be time for the UN to finally send a peacekeeping mission into the region.

And although we may not necessarily trust them -- with incidents like Tienanmen Square permanently at the front of the international community's mind -- China certainly has the troops to make such a mission possible -- provided that they are willing to submit to foreign command (trusting a Chinese general would be a bit of a stretch).

The attention being directed toward them during the Olympics should certainly give them an incentive to be on their best behaviour -- and the possibility of 60,000 Sudanese refugees casting a pall over the proceedings should give them an incentive to get involved.

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