The world may be two weeks away from another Rwanda.
On Sept. 30, the under-manned and under-funded African Union (AU) peacekeeping force in Darfur is set to leave the country. Those 7,000 A.U. troops — dispatched over a region the size of Texas — are the only thing moderating the genocidal violence in Darfur, in which “civilians are usually killed, injured, raped, abducted or forcibly displaced.”
Over the last two weeks, the Sudanese government has “dramatically intensified” its air strikes and worked “to drain the region of witnesses,” including aid workers and foreign journalists. If the AU forces leave on Sept. 30 as scheduled, “this is a genocidal black box.”
Today, George Clooney spoke at a press conference at the United Nations, reminding the international community: “[T]his genocide will be on your watch. How you deal with it will be your legacy — your Rwanda, your Cambodia, your Auschwitz.” Watch it:
The United States has called it genocide. For you, it’s called ethnic cleansing. But make no mistake, it is the first genocide of the 21st century, and if it continues unchecked it will not be the last.
Now, my job is to come here today and to beg you, on behalf of the millions of people who will die — and make no mistake they will die — for you to take real and effective measures to put an end to this. Of course it’s complex, but when you see entire villages raped and killed, wells poisoned and then filled with the bodies of its villagers, then all complexities disappear and it comes down to simply right and wrong.
It’s not getting better. It’s getting much, much worse, and it is only the international community that can help us. Now, I know there are members of you here that, for what I’m sure are sensible reasons, have failed to use leverage at times to keep the — to get the peacekeepers on the ground. Well, we now have a date. The date is September 30th. The 1st of October we’ll leave these people will nothing. Whatever the reason, it’s not good enough. On October 1, it won’t just be the Janjaweed murdering and raping with impunity or the SLA slaughtering the tribes. With no protection, all the aid workers will leave immediately and the two and a half million refugees who depend on that aid will die. Jan Egeland estimates 100,000 a month. So after September 30th, you won’t need the U.N. You will simply need men with shovels and bleached white linen and head stones.
In many ways it’s unfair, but it is nevertheless true, that this genocide will be on your watch. How you deal with it will be your legacy — your Rwanda, your Cambodia, your Auschwitz. We were brought up to believe that the Holocaust could never happen again. We believe in you so strongly. We need you so badly. We have come so far. We are one “yes” away from ending this. And if not the U.N., then who? And time is of the essence.