Sunday, January 29, 2006

A disgrace postponed

A disgrace postponed - The Boston Globe: "LEADERS OF the African Union meeting in Khartoum stopped just short of disgracing themselves utterly when they decided yesterday to reject the bid of Sudan's National Islamic Front regime to assume the presidency of their regional organization. Had President Omar al-Bashir of Sudan succeeded in his quest to become president of the African Union for 2006, the other members would have fallen into the trap of legitimizing the perpetrator of a genocide in Darfur that 7,000 African Union peacekeepers are supposed to be halting and that the International Criminal Court is currently investigating.

In a compromise that casts doubt on the AU leaders' grasp of the humiliation they avoided, they promised Bashir, who seized power in a 1989 military coup, that he can be AU president in 2007. This diplomatic balancing act amounted to an obtuse rejection of a recent letter from more than 50 African civil society organizations petitioning the AU leaders not to ''deeply undermine and erode the credibility of the AU" by allowing Bashir to become the icon of the African Union.

That letter was an admirable example of civil society speaking truth to political power. It told African heads of state what they evidently prefer not to acknowledge -- that Bashir's National Islamic Front is ''responsible for this situation," in Darfur ''where an estimated 300,000 people have been killed and 2 million others, mainly women and children, deliberately uprooted from their homes since February 2003." The petitioners reminded AU leaders that Bashir had defied the AU's efforts to end Sudan's military actions in Darfur. The letter also warned, cogently, that having Bashir as president would contradict the core principles of the African Union, which include the promotion of peace on the continent and protection of human rights.

A more detailed account of the Darfur genocide was contained in a recent report by Physicians for Human Rights. This report documents the ways in which the Sudanese regime and its allies, Arab bandits known as Janjaweed, have systematically destroyed the sources of livelihood of the non-Arab farming peoples of Darfur, burning and razing villages, poisoning wells, killing livestock, driving survivors out into the desert, and then thwarting relief efforts.

The report argues convincingly that these acts are precisely what the UN Genocide Convention intended when it defined genocide as including infliction on a group of ''conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part."

The people of Darfur need a humanitarian intervention force with a UN mandate to rescue them from annihilation. They do not need the African Union to condone genocide by making Bashir its president in 2007."

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