By Jono Kinkade
The African Union (AU) has recently extended its deadline for withdrawal from the Darfur province of Sudan until the end of the year. The decision came as members of the United Nations Security Council debated sending UN peacekeepers into Darfur in order to quell the violence that the AU admits it cannot address alone.
President Oman Hassan al-Bashirhas of Sudan vehemently refused to let UN peacekeeping forces into Darfur, a move that raises questions on how the UN and certain nations will address the long-standing humanitarian crisis.
Gail Chadwin, a leader of campus activist group Students Together Opposing Poverty (STOP), believes that the United States and the UN Security Council need to have a stronger peace-keeping presence in the region.
"The government of Sudan is not going to stop because they have seen that the U.S. and the UN are not going to do anything," Chadwin said.
Molly Porzig, also a leader of STOP, said that students and community organizations have spurred Congress and the current administration to take a bolder stance against the conflict.
"The only reason that the U.S. is taking action is because of the students," Porzig said.
But the complexity of the situation has made intervention by the international community difficult, according to UC Santa Cruz Professor of Politics Isebill Gruhn.
"Yes, there is much loss of life in the various conflicts of Sudan, but not all of it would qualify as genocide," Gruhn said.
The Darfur conflict comprises a politically befuddling combination of war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide, which make intervention on the basis of genocide alone difficult.Still, many lawmakers in the United States and elsewhere have called for action.
The Darfur Accountability Act, co-authored by Santa Cruz County District Representative Sam Farr, would have required the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to disclose reports of all business conducted with Sudan on the New York Stock Exchange. According to STOP, this bill was not passed because it was too radical.
Organizations including the UC Regents have called for U.S. divestment from Sudan, but the United States has little investment in Sudan.
China and Russia, both permanent members of the Security Council, are resistant to allowing the deployment of UN peacekeeping forces, a position which some feel stems from these countries’ economic relationships with Sudan, particularly regarding oil.
"China is financing this genocide," Porzig said. "Without China, the Sudanese government could not kill 200,000 men, women and children in Darfur."
According to Gruhn, issues of sovereignty make UN members reluctant to interfere in Sudan. She said China is reluctant to allow UN intervention in Darfur because it might prompt intervention in Tibet. Russia takes a similar line regarding UN involvement in Chechnya.
The decision to intervene in Darfur may come down to a single country or group of countries acting independent of the UN. Among other various efforts to bring peace to Darfur, the United States may be sending a special envoy to begin talks with the Sudanese government.
In addition, some countries are asking Egypt, part of the League of Arab Nations, to begin applying pressure to the Sudanese government. However, current global politics have made countries weary to become involved with yet another intervention.
"[President Bush] is afraid it will become another Iraq," Chadwin said of hesitation in the U.S. government, whose clout to resolve humanitarian disasters has significantly been decreased since the occupation in Iraq.
Setting aside the complexities of political decisions, most recognize the gravity of the situation. According to Porzig, "Unless intervention occurs successfully, people will keep dying." This quarter, Students Together Opposing Poverty (STOP), a UC Santa Cruz activist organization, will host numerous events to raise awareness about the crisis in Darfur, which they say has taken 400,000 lives and displaced 2 million people. On Oct. 5, STOP will be participating in the National Day for Darfur, where participants are invited to fast by giving up one luxury item they can do without, and donating the money saved to http://www.savedarfur.org