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World Opinion Roundup by Jefferson Morley

The Darfur Delay: Who's Responsible?

By Jefferson Morley
washingtonpost.com Staff Writer
Thursday, July 1, 2004; 9:24 AM

What took so long?

That's what many in the international online media are asking. With the arrival of U.S. Secretary of State Colin L. Powell in the Darfur region of Sudan, the world's attention has finally been focused on an epic humanitarian catastrophe. But it didn't happen until after Arab militiamen, backed by the Sudanese army, had killed or raped tens of thousands of African farmers and driven many more from their homes, as Emily Wax reported Wednesday in The Washington Post.

And as the rainy season engulfs refugee camps, malaria and malnutrition could claim the lives of another 1 million people in the western region of the country.

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The less-than-urgent reaction of the international community, coming exactly 10 years after the world's failure to prevent genocide in Rwanda, has stirred indignation in the international online press. Commentators searching for culprits have found plenty of plausible suspects.

Sudan's Rulers

"Sudan is run by a powerful class of Arab plantation owners, almost entirely from two tribes in the north-east," reported South Africa's Mail & Guardian in May.

"Residents throughout Darfur, including many local Arabs, say the government is attempting to divide the country along religious and racial lines so as to maintain power," the paper said. After a 21-year civil war, the government has entered into a peace agreement with rebels from the mostly black and Christian south. This power-sharing arrangement may be threatened by the situation in Darfur.

The Sudan Tribune says the "government resorts to official lies to support the hypocritical policy of publicly negating the army/militias' repression of Darfur."

The Paris-based news site is especially critical of the state-controlled television channel and its "Islamized war propaganda."

"Sudan TV stands alone when every other media station in the whole world repeatedly condemns the unprecedented acts of genocide, ethnic cleansing, and dehumanization of the DarFur innocent citizens, especially the powerless women, children and elderly by the government's air raids and the Arab militias' attacks."

Arab Governments

"What are the Arabs doing about this atrocity in their own back yard?" ask the editors of the Daily Star in Beirut, Lebanon.

"The answer, of course -- as usual -- is nothing. At the conclusion of this year's annual Arab League summit just a few short weeks ago, a statement was issued. On Sudan, the statement 'reaffirm(ed) ... the Arab states' solidarity with the sisterly Republic of Sudan and their keenness to preserve its territorial integrity and sovereignty and reinforce all peace initiatives started by the Sudanese government with the international and regional parties.' "

"We are sick of vacuous statements," the Daily Star editors concluded. "The time for action is now. In fact, the time for action was yesterday, last week, last month, last year, last decade."

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