Saturday, October 22, 2005

Cary Clack: Darfur waits for world governments to live up to 'never again'

10/22/2005 San Antonio Express-News

Few combinations of two words are as powerful and unambiguous as "never again."

Born out of the ovens, concentration camps and slaughter of the Holocaust, "never again" became a vow and a commitment that never again would the world tolerate genocide, that never again would people do nothing while other people were being murdered.

The phrase became a promise that the evil of tyrants would be challenged and stopped.

Like so many promises, that of "never again" has been broken. It wasn't kept in Bosnia, in Rwanda, in Srebrenica, in Kosovo. And, today, it's not being kept in Darfur, the region of Sudan where in 21/2 years the government and its janjaweed militias are responsible for the deaths of nearly 400,000 people and for transforming 2 million others into refugees. Women and girls are routinely raped and children are thrown into fires.

The United Nations and human rights organizations have called what's happening in Darfur the greatest humanitarian crisis of our times. Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice have called it genocide. This week, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said the international community must apply pressure on the Sudanese government.

To be a Darfurian, terrorized by madmen and isolated from the rest of the world, is to continue to wait for some faint sliver of hope that they aren't forgotten and that the promise of "never again" will save them.

As with Bosnia, Rwanda, Srebrenica, and Kosovo, the United Nations and the United States and the rest of the world have been woefully slow and ineffective in responding to their plight.

The media's coverage of the tragedy there has been inadequate. The Genocide Intervention Fund released a study in July that found that the Michael Jackson child molestation trial received more than 50 times the coverage from U.S. network and cable-news television stations than the genocide in Darfur.

That's why programs like the ones that will be held next week on two local campuses are so important in not allowing the story of Darfur to be forgotten. On Monday night at 7, Darfurian refugees will speak in the University of Texas Health Science Center's MS1 Lecture Hall. The next night at the same time, Trinity University's Northup Lecture Hall will be the site of another discussion on the International Criminal Court.

There is a growing nonpartisan and nonideological movement in the United States to stop the genocide in Darfur. College students, liberal activists, Christian and political conservatives have been admirable in persistently publicizing what's happening and providing resources to Darfur. Few American journalists have been as passionate and relentless on this issue as my colleague, Jonathan Gurwitz.

Ismail Ibrahim, who left Darfur in 1994 and now lives in Dallas, will be one of the speakers Monday night. He has more faith in the American people to do right by his country than he does the American government.

"I see something different," he says of the Americans he's met. "I see in their eyes and feelings they're trying to do everything to help Darfurians in Darfur."

He remains frustrated with the response of world governments.

"After two years, it's going to be too late," says Ibrahim. "And we're still going to be saying 'never again.'"

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