Deconstructing the myth of genocide in Darfur

Activists across college campuses remain ignorant to the reality of the situation in Darfur.

Ramla Bile

The myth of a government-sponsored genocide in Sudan against African-Christians is another attempt by the right-wing and Zionist lobbyist in congress to peversify Islam.

It seems to be on the tip of everyone’s tongue that the United Nations declared the situation in Darfur a genocide – a claim that is entirely false. Mass media and uninformed activists need to meet reality: The International Commission of Inquiry on Darfur actually concluded that the situation in Darfur does not constitute genocide.

Genocide is based on the intent to kill based on race, ethnicity, religion or national group. One thing is clear, atrocities on a massive scale are taking place in Darfur, but that’s not to say these atrocities are acts of genocide.

There is no general desire to annihilate or systematically kill based on the characteristics of genocide, the conflict in Sudan is based on rebel warfare intended to push people out of homes for material wealth.

The United Nations, African Union and European Union all reject the use of the term genocide to describe the situation in Sudan. Alone in their bold declaration, the U.S. Congress, along with Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice, have labeled the situation genocide.

Much of the media has echoed that the United Nations classified the situation as genocide, many coming to this conclusion simply because media tend to reduce things to simple answers while not delving in, and taking into account the various complexities involved in these situations. The United Nations report conveyed that the conflict in Sudan presents a serious human rights concern, but nothing that can be classified as genocide. This is not, in any way, aimed to undermine the gravity of the conflict, but it does change the nature of the conflict and how help is constructed.

Militias in the region have established their own power and are attacking one another jointly; they are not acting on a politically or legally established rule backed by the Sudanese government. The government of Sudan is not responsible for the “cleansing” of one group over the other. On the contrary, the state, in many ways, clearly is allied with the Janjiweed militias, but when Sudanese military personnel in decorated uniform take arms and fight alongside one group against another, the conflict then can be directly attributed to the government.

It isn’t diplomatic or appropriate to point fingers when, in the end, the most important thing is to save people and punish those accountable. The current blame game distracts from the actual problems – the mass killings in the conflict.

Moreover, the transethinic identity of Sudanese people is rarely discussed. People in Sudan are largely Muslim and years of intermarriage have resulted in fluid identities. The fluid nature of ethnicity, and Islam being the primary faith in the region dismiss the Arab-Muslims vs. African-Christians myth. How are people able to help those whom they cannot even identify correctly?

Fascinating how the “Muslim threat” seems to everywhere nowadays. What will these lobbyists do when they discover their dramatic crusade in congress to stop those evil Arab, Janjaweed Muslims from persecuting Christians in Sudan is based on a myth?

And while its particularly noble of the Bush administration to have been generously consistent and persistent on Darfur, putting in money to support aid, mainly on the lobby of the right wing, the intentions cannot be masked. It’s all very peachy that members of Congress feel pressed to get involved, but the mislabeling of the conflict in Sudan poses some serious threats.

Given the poor coverage of the caricature debate, the biased representation of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and now, finally, the echoing press that publishes stupefied information on the conflict in Darfur, its no wonder negative perceptions of Muslims continue to grow. The recent polls by Washington-Post/ABC News and the Council of American-Islamic Relations highlight that almost half of Americans have negative views of Muslims, and a forth of the population harbor extreme anti-Muslim views. Undoubtedly, the media largely shape the sociopolitical atmosphere we live in.

Finally, do we really need genocide to occur in order to help people? There is a stigma with the word genocide; something about it haunts the present, but have we been so desensitized that mass killing does not suffice as a heinous act that haunts?

Ramla Bile is a member of the Minnesota Daily editorial board. Please send comments to [email protected]