Genocides in Rwanda and Darfur

Frances financial interests were reliant upon Hutu victory. As a result, France did intervene, even after the UN pulled out of Rwanda. However, the French intervention was not aimed at helping Tutsis. The Hutu greeted the French like allies, and the French did nothing meaningful to prevent further massacres. The fact that France is considered a powerful country, especially in the setting of the UN, made the rest of the world reluctant to meaningfully intervene, with the result that genocide was permitted to protect the financial interests of a powerful country.

As much as the world promised “never again,” after the genocide in Rwanda, the genocide in Darfur in 2003 bears such similarities the situation in Rwanda that it is inconceivable to pretend that the genocide was not foreseeable, and, being foreseeable, the UN forces could not have done something to intervene. As in Rwanda, there had been historic fighting between the two sides in a civil war. The two sides were represented by the Muslim Khartoum government in the north and the Christian population in the south. The sides were close to peace when new fighting began in Darfur, which is in the western part of Sudan, because of fighting over oil. Rebels attacked the government, and the Sudanese government began the Janjaweed, a militia. The Janjaweed began attacking civilians in a series of brutal attacks. Many civilians fled to Chad, telling stories of rapes and killing by the Janjaweed. The UNs humanitarian coordinator in Khartoum begins reporting the atrocities to the UN, but the UN fails to act. By July of 2004, the UN and major officials from many governments, including the United States, recognize that genocide is occurring in Darfur. However, Pakistan and China abstain from Security Council Resolution 1556, passed in July of 2004, which introduces the possibility of sanctions. The Sudanese president promises to disarm the Janjaweed and grant human rights workers access to the country, but does not honor that promise. By September, the Security Council passes Resolution 1564, which explicitly threatens sanctions, but China, Russia, Algeria, and Pakistan abstain from that vote. Sudan remains defiant.

Throughout 2004, 1 million people in Darfur were displaced, and at least 72,000 people killed, but the UN still refused to take any meaningful action, or even to impose the threatened sanctions. In 2006, China makes a resolution that would increase peacekeeping troops in Sudan meaningless by requiring that Sudan invite them before they could enter Sudan. By the end of 2006, the violence has spilled over the border into Chad. By November 2007, over 200,000 people had been killed, 2.5 million people displaced, and an untold number of people raped as a result of government-sponsored Janjaweed violence. Chinas support of Sudan does not mean that it supports or endorses genocide, but the reality is that Chinas huge population and expected growth mean that it is going to need to consume a tremendous amount of resources over the next several years. To ensure resource availability, China has brokered agreements with governments to ensure such access, and the Sudanese government is one of its suppliers of oil.

What the book and the documentary made clear is that genocide is not a simple issue and does not have a simple solution outside of violence. Of course, violence increases the risk of more deaths, including civilian deaths, inside and outside of the region of genocide. That means that many countries are unwilling to intervene in genocides, if they pose no threat outside of that country. While that seems both horrific and callous, it probably should not be so surprising. After all, there is substantial evidence suggesting that the United States was aware of Nazi genocide schemes years before U.S. involvement in the war, but refused to get involved because of its isolationist foreign policy. While the world may repeatedly say, “never again,” when confronted with genocide, the reality is that it continues to happen and will continue to happen unless there is a major change in the world political climate.


Frontline. 2008. On our watch. Retrieved October 28, 2009 from

Web site:

Gourevitch, P. 1999. We wish to inform you that tomorrow we will be.

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