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In Sudan, a genocide unfolds and the world does little

('opinion' By the Editorial Board, The Washington Post)

People wait to board a bus near the border crossing between Sudan and Ethiopia on July 31. (AFP/Getty Images)


Populated villages razed. Satellite images of mass graves. Millions of innocent civilians displaced. People massacred while trying to flee for their lives. Women and girls subjected to horrific sexual violence, including rape.


This was Sudan’s Darfur region 20 years ago, when government-backed Arab “janjaweed” militiamen — “devils on horseback,” as some translate the name — embarked on a campaign of ethnic cleansing that killed 300,000 people and drove millions from their homes.


And this is Sudan today, where a new campaign of ethnic cleansing is underway. Comment: Genocide Watch rejects the term "ethnic cleansing" which is a euphemism invented by Slobodan Milošević to deny genocide. Ethnic cleansing is not prohibited by any treaty or other international law. What is underway is genocide and forced displacement.]


The devils are now riding in trucks instead of on horses. They now call themselves the Rapid Support Forces. But their atrocities are an ominous echo of the past. Their victims, too, are the same: members of the African Masalit tribe, mostly subsistence farmers who populate the Western Darfur region. In one atrocity, more than 1,000 people were reportedly massacred in June, simply for plotting to flee the besieged city of El Geneina.


Make no mistake: This is systemic ethnic cleansing [see comment above] of the Darfur region. The world is once again witnessing the beginnings of yet another genocide, unfolding in real time. Yet the international response has been muted.


Perhaps world capitals have crisis fatigue. Russia’s war in Ukraine grinds on, with fears of a bloody stalemate after a long-awaited Ukrainian counteroffensive has so far failed to make major territorial gains. In Africa, the coup in Niger risks heightening instability in the troubled Sahel region, where al-Qaeda and Islamic State offshoots are battling for territory. A growing conflict in Ethiopia between the military and a local Amhara militia threatens to spiral into a new civil war in the Horn of Africa.


But the existence of myriad crises and conflicts does not excuse failing to stem a new genocide.


At its convention in 1948, the United Nations called genocide “an odious scourge” to be eradicated, defining it as “acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group.” The proscribed acts defining genocide include killing members of a targeted group, forcing the group’s displacement and trying to bring about its destruction. In other words, precisely what is happening in Sudan’s Darfur region right now.


After the Holocaust and the extermination of 6 million Jews in Europe in the middle of the 20th century, the world vowed to never again allow such a preventable tragedy to unfold when there was ample evidence and warning signs. But genocides and outrageous episodes of ethnic cleansing [See comment above.have continued to take place — in Cambodia in the 1970s, in Rwanda in the 1990s, with the Rohingya in Myanmar in the 2000s. The U.S. government and human rights groups and activists have accused China of carrying out a campaign of genocide through its widespread repression of ethnic Uyghurs in its western Xinjiang region, including using mass detention, forced labor, surveillance, and forced sterilization and birth control.


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