On Our Watch

Transcript

On Our Watch

WRITTEN, PRODUCED AND DIRECTED BY
Neil Docherty

ANNOUNCER: Tonight on FRONTLINE-

ERIC REEVES, Darfur Activist: The Janjaweed will sweep in, killing all the men, raping women.

ANNOUNCER: -the tragedy in Darfur.

ERIC REEVES: We have many reports of babies being killed. The brutal barbarism is almost beyond description.

ANNOUNCER: For years, despite old declarations-

COLIN POWELL, Secretary of State: Genocide has been committed in Darfur.

ANNOUNCER: -the world's great powers failed to stop the killing.

ERIC REEVES: The U.N. as a means of preventing genocide cannot do the job.

JAMES TRAUB, The New York Times Magazine: Darfur just isn't important enough to anybody.

ANNOUNCER: But some said "Never again."

SAMANTHA POWER, Author, A Problem From Hell: There is a movement in the United States now that is unprecedented historically.

MIA FARROW, Actress/Activist: THere are things we all can and must do to stop it. "Never again" we once promised, yet it is happening again as the world stands by.

ANNOUNCER: Tonight, what happened to Darfur On Our Watch?

NARRATOR: It is an unforgiving landscape now pockmarked with refugee camps. And still they come, victims of what has been called the first genocide of the 21st century. They wait under a straw shelter or a sparse tree to see if there's room at the camp. The wait can be three weeks.

This woman is from the Darfur region of Sudan. She has crossed into neighboring Chad in search of safety.

WOMAN: [through interpreter] Twenty men on horses. They come with their guns and they attack the village and they start killing people randomly. And they took all the cows, the sheep and the goats, and they killed many people.

INTERVIEWER: How many?

INTERPRETER: Ten people died, including her husband.

NARRATOR: The world has been hearing her story for fours years now, and hearing the devastating numbers. The most conservative estimate reads 200,000 dead, 2.5 million forced from their homes, too many rapes to be counted. And the world's response? One writer has said, "If the United Nations could die of shame, it would have been dead years ago."

PRESIDING OFFICER, U.N. SECURITY COUNCIL: The 4,988th meeting of the Security Council is called to order.

NARRATOR: This is the paper trail of the world's failure- hundreds of memos, investigations and reports, 21 Security Council resolutions calling for action.

JAN PRONK, U.N. Special Envoy to Sudan: The international community said that it should happen never again.

NARRATOR: The world had promised over and over "Never again," but when Darfur came, those promises proved empty.

PRESIDING OFFICER, UNSC: The result of the voting is as follows. The draft resolution received 15 votes-

ERIC REEVES, Darfur Activist: The people of Darfur feel that they've been abandoned. Where is the international community? Can it be that they don't know? And if they do know, why aren't they here? Why aren't we being protected?

NARRATOR: If anyone has turned the promise of "Never again" into a relentless tapping at the world's conscience, it is Eric Reeves, an English professor at Smith College in Massachusetts.

ERIC REEVES: It's almost impossible for me to describe the scale of the international failure and how dismaying it is, and how obvious it is we've learned nothing.

NARRATOR: For nearly a decade, Reeves has obsessively tracked atrocities in Sudan, publishing his detailed analysis of the growing tragedy on his Web site, Sudanreeves.org. He has used that knowledge to pressure governments and the international community to act.

ERIC REEVES: Never thought I'd have this much influence. And it feels like a real burden. I've looked out my office window at times, and a beautiful day, I know I'm going to be there for another 10 hours. There are only so many beautiful sunny days you get in your life.

NARRATOR: Eric Reeves has leukemia. He has gone part-time with his teaching and re-mortgaged his home to pursue his cause. And he has been one of the most influential voices in a growing private army of Darfur activists sounding the alarm about unspeakable assaults on a far-off continent.

ERIC REEVES: Typically, they begin very early in the morning, before people are awake. Often an Antonov, a cargo plane that's been retrofitted as a bomber flying at high altitudes, will push out, without any bombing coordination, crude barrel bombs designed to terrorize and kill civilians. As the civilians flee from their huts, the Janjaweed will sweep in, killing all the men, raping women.

We have many reports of babies, male babies being killed, sometimes having their penises sliced off so that they would bleed to death in their mother's arms. The savagery, the brutal barbarism is almost beyond description.

PRESIDING OFFICER, UNSC: The 4,988th meeting of the Security Council is called to order.

NARRATOR: The U.N. first got word of a burgeoning crisis in Sudan in reports written in 2003. They came from a British doctor, Mukesh Kapila, who arrived in Khartoum that year to settle into a promotion.

MUKESH KAPILA, M.D., U.N. Coordinator, Sudan, 2003-04: For me, this was my very first big job in the international community. I was the head of the biggest United Nations country program in the world.

NARRATOR: Sudan is Africa's largest country. And when Kapila arrived, his focus was not on the west of the country, Darfur, but on the south, which had endured a 21-year civil war between the Islamic government in Khartoum and largely Christian Sudanese in the south. It had been a bloody war that attracted the attention of evangelical Christians in the U.S., who pressured the Bush administration to push the Sudanese government to end the fighting.

JAMES TRAUB, The New York Times Magazine: For the Christian community, this civil war has been a big concern for a long time because these are Christians being persecuted by non-Christians. And so this actually was an issue from the time President Bush came into office.

NARRATOR: By 2003, with help from the U.S., the rebels in the south and the Sudanese government were talking peace. At the same time, a new prosperity was coming to the capital in Khartoum. Oil had been discovered, but it had largely been unexploited, partly because the U.S. had imposed sanctions during the civil war. But Sudan had found a new partner, China.

ERIC REEVES: Sudan is China's premier source of offshore oil production. Even as the Chinese economy consumes petroleum at an ever greater rate, over 10 percent growth per year, they want as muchoff shore oil production as they can get and Sudan is their premier source of that production, without a close second.

NARRATOR: But that oil wealth in Khartoum would set the stage for a new Sudanese civil war.

ALEX DE WAAL, Co-Author, Darfur: A Short History of a Long War: Sudan is one of the most unequal countries in the world. If you go to Khartoum, you see a middle-income city. You see a city that would not be out of place in many parts of the Middle East, surrounded by a hinterland that is not only developing, it's actually pre-developing as some of the poorest parts of the world, and Darfur is among those. And that fuelled a huge amount of resentment.

NARRATOR: Darfur is an area the size of France, home to six million Muslims. For centuries, many African tribes farmed the land and shared scarce water and grazing land with nomadic Arab herdsmen.

By 2003, as Khartoum prospered, Darfur seethed and then exploded. Rebel groups emerged to claim a share of the country's new-found wealth, and they would score some early victories against the government.

ALEX DE WAAL: The government responded to that insurrection in an extremely heavy-handed way, by doing what it has done over the previous 20 years of war in the south and other parts of Sudan, which is to arm a proxy militia, in this case, the Janjaweed.

NARRATOR: The Janjaweed - which translates as "devils on horseback" - were militias drawn from the nomadic Arab tribes in the region.

JAMES TRAUB: Janjaweed are, in effect, camel-borne Cossacks. These are young men who are very happy to be used as warriors. Many of them are bandits, in any case, and so what they are doing now is becoming government-sanctioned and controlled bandits.

NARRATOR: The Khartoum government armed the Janjaweed, provided them air support and unleashed them on the rebels and black civilian farmers in Darfur in a stampede of brutality.

ALEX DE WAAL: It's a way of fighting a war on the cheap. You don't need to pay them. They support themselves by looting. And in the case of Darfur, seizing land was one of the main motivations of the local militia, in this case the Janjaweed. And the Sudan government has done this repeatedly. And I call this genocide by force of habit.

NARRATOR: In the refugee camps that now dot the region, stories of rapes and killings by the Janjaweed can be found by the thousands. The attack on Khadeiga Abdullah's village had an especially macabre element. Astride one of the Janjaweed camels rode a woman dressed all in black.

KHADEIGA ABDULLAH: [through interpreter] She had a bowl and put it on top of a sack and was drumming on it and singing, "Let's burn the property of the blacks so they find nothing to eat or drink." And she was calling on Allah, "Please provide more bullets." While she was singing, a helicopter was shooting at us from above. Some people were killed, while others fled. I was carrying my little baby on my back, and they shot him dead. After the child died, they pulled him away and they raped me. Then they went away.

NARRATOR: The stories of Janjaweed atrocities in Darfur soon reached the U.N. offices in Khartoum.

MUKESH KAPILA: One day, I was sitting in my office in Khartoum, and this was a young woman in her late 20s, perhaps, who had trekked all the way from Darfur. And she told me her personal story of how not only had she herself been multiply raped, but also that her sisters and her family had also been maltreated in that way, and that this had actually been done by soldiers and people dressed in military and para-military uniforms.

PRESIDING OFFICER, UNSC: -according to Rule 39 of the Security Council's provisional rules of procedure-

NARRATOR: By 2004, the situation in Darfur was becoming starkly apparent to Mukesh Kapila. He would report that aerial photographs now showed villages burning across the region and that a staff member had seen Janjaweed fighters rape 120 women one by one. When Kapila confronted the government in Khartoum, he was met only with denials.

Abdalmahmood Abdalhaleem is Sudan's ambassador to the U.N.

ABDELMAHMOOD ABDELHALEEM, Sudan U.N. Ambassador: We have big question marks on those who are doing these investigations, and many organs in this United Nations and other NGOs would like only to sing a song that will be good in the ears of Washington and London.

INTERVIEWER: So are you accusing, for example, Mukesh Kapila, who is a U.N. employee in Sudan- are you accusing him of making this up?

ABDELMAHMOOD ABDELHALEEM: Yeah. Yeah. We said it during that time, that he's blowing this out of proportion.

NARRATOR: When Khartoum refused to act, Kapila flew to Western capitals - London, Brussels, Washington - to plead with foreign ministers to put political pressure on the Sudanese government to stop the Janjaweed.

MUKESH KAPILA: Excuses were ranging from, "Why does it have to be us," through to, "It's not as bad as this," through to, "We will discuss this matter in this council, that parliament, and get back." So virtually everywhere, they were from cynicism to skepticism, through to disbelief through to actually the opposite. We know exactly what's going on. But actually, what do you expect? This is a country where nasty things happen.

NARRATOR: Kapila was also having difficulty getting action from leaders at the U.N. Sir Kieren Prendergast was the undersecretary general for political affairs, second in command to Kofi Annan. He was hesitant about raising the profile of Darfur for fear of upsetting the peace process in the south.

Sir KIERAN PRENDERGAST, U.N. Political Affairs, 1997-05: I took advice from those who understood the situation there better than I did, and the argument was always that if you could conclude the comprehensive peace agreement, then that would provide a model which would enable you to settle the political side of the Darfur problem, which of course, was only part of the problem.

NARRATOR: But the peace negotiations would go on for another year. By then, the worst of the killing would be over in Darfur. The timing was no accident, according to Kapila.

MUKESH KAPILA: When I spoke to my friendly contacts in the Sudan government in Khartoum, they told me that, yes, they were also delaying the north\south peace agreement because they wanted to, and I quote, "have a lasting solution in Darfur" before they signed the north\south peace agreement and the international community forced them to stop.

NARRATOR: At another refugee camp, one man knows exactly what the Sudan government's "lasting solution" looked like. Back home in Darfur, Fatih Younnis was the elected leader, the omda, for the district of Mukjar. He led 4,500 of his people into hiding, hunkered down in the long grass by day, moving by night, stalked by the Janjaweed.

OMDA FATIH YOUNNIS HANNON TARBUSH: And then we order them to go without speaking, without crying, even for the- even we cup the mouths of the children to do not make any noise. So like that, we walk all the night until before the morning, by the short hours, we arrive to the border of the Chad.

NARRATOR: The wounded had to be left to die, and now U.N. officials and aid workers report that there are three dozen mass graves around the town.

OMDA FATIH YOUNNIS HANNON TARBUSH: They fired all the village and they killed many more other people- children, women and venerables, everybody.

NARRATOR: Mukjar has been described as ground zero in the Darfur killings. How many died there is unknown, but the brutality is well documented. How many have died in the whole crisis is debated. The estimates range from 200,000 to 500,000. But whatever the figure, it would add up to the greatest U.N. failure since Rwanda.

In 1994, in Rwanda, a U.N. peacekeeping force was on the ground, enforcing a fragile ceasefire in a civil war. The U.N. commander, General Romeo Dallaire, like Mukesh Kapila, had warned his bosses that a cataclysm was coming. Three months before the killing began, Dallaire discovered an extremist weapons cache and wanted to take it out. But Kofi Annan, then head of peacekeeping at the U.N., said no.

ROMEO DALLAIRE, U.N. Force Commander, Rwanda, 1993-94: Well, the U.N. response was, of course, not, because it's not in my mandate. I was a peacekeeping mission. My mission is to use force only in self-defense because there was no history of prevention. There was none. We've always gone in after somebody's blown the place up and tried to pick up the pieces, and so on.

NARRATOR: In April, just as Dallaire had feared, the slaughter began- 800,000 Rwandans would be killed in just a hundred days.

ROMEO DALLAIRE: Where we failed was that once we recognized the damn thing as being genocide, we still didn't send anybody in. We still waited two months after the genocide was over to send in the first troops, which were Ethiopian. And that's the major failing.

NARRATOR: When the killing started, the U.S. and other Western powers called for most of the U.N. forces to be withdrawn from Rwanda. And as the genocide continued, President Clinton took no action to intervene.

ROMEO DALLAIRE: Now, you must remember one significant factor at that time. In October of ‘93, the Americans ran into a problem in Mogadishu. They had 18 white soldiers killed, their bodies dragged through the streets of Mogadishu, and Bill Clinton turns tail because he's got a bloody nose. And he argues that he can't handle casualties on a humanitarian mission because there's no self-interest.

NARRATOR: In her Pulitzer Prize-winning study of genocide, Samantha Power outlined how U.S. administrations throughout the 20th century had shied away from action.

SAMANTHA POWER, Author, A Problem From Hell: U.S. leaders wanted genocide stopped, sure. Everyone wants that. But U.S. leaders didn't want to do what was required, didn't want to take the risks necessary to ensure that genocide got stopped. And those are two very different things. So "Never again would we like genocide to happen" is very different than "Never again will we stand idly by and let genocide happen."

NARRATOR: A year after Rwanda, there would be another test and another failure, Srebrenica in Bosnia, a U.N. safe haven abandoned, 8,000 husbands and sons slaughtered. It would be the largest massacre on European soil since the Holocaust.

Years later, Kofi Annan, head of U.N. peacekeeping in Rwanda and in Bosnia, would be promoted to become secretary general. His early years in office would be spent in contrition. One of his first official visits would be to Rwanda. He would commission reports. They would be filled with a great deal of remorse, much resolve, a long list of lessons learned- "Never again" this time etched onto the bones of Bosnia and Rwanda.

ERIC REEVES, Darfur Activist: I'm given to saying that in the wake of Rwanda, it's as though the gods of history looked down on us and said, "Your failure was so appalling, so appalling, we're going to give you another chance, and this time so there are no excuses." The Rwandan carnage was largely over in a matter of 100 days. The gods of history looked down and said, "This time we'll give you another chance and we'll give you a lot of time. And we'll call it Darfur."

NARRATOR: When the United Nations' humanitarian coordinator in Sudan started filing reports about ethnic cleansing in Darfur, he had reason to believe the U.N. had learned from past mistakes.

MUKESH KAPILA, M.D., U.N. Coordinator, Sudan, 2003-04: I had been to Bosnia and had seen some of the aftereffects of Srebrenica, but also been in Rwanda within hours of the liberation of Kigali. I could smell the dead bodies, which were still fresh when I had got to them. And I had resolved at this time that if ever I was in a position of responsibility, this would not happen on my patch, and yet it was beginning to happen on my patch.

NARRATOR: Through 2003 and 2004, Kapila wrote dozens of memos to Jan Egeland, the U.N.'s head of humanitarian affairs, outlining the situation in Darfur and calling for action by the U.N.'s Department of Political Affairs.

Sir KIERAN PRENDERGAST, U.N. Political Affairs, 1997-05: Well, I don't accept that I or my department were tardy in that respect. And I think that if the humanitarians had felt as strongly as they appear to now that this was a political crisis requiring political action, they would actually have taken some form of bureaucratic action to act on that.

INTERVIEWER: He claims he was writing memos to Jan Egeland and others throughout this period.

Sir KIERAN PRENDERGAST: Sure. But again, I come- I've got no idea of what memos he was writing to Jan Egeland because I didn't receive them.

NARRATOR: It may be that Sir Kieren Prendergast never saw them, but since that interview, we discovered this report written by Kapila in December 2003, a political and security update addressed to his direct boss, Jan Egeland, and Mr. Prendergast, and this note from March 2004 entitled "Ethnic cleansing in Darfur," again written by Kapila and copied to, among others, Mr. Prendergast.

Kieren Prendergast did not reply to our inquiries about these memos that were addressed directly to him.

[www.pbs.org: Read the memos]

In the spring of 2004, frustrated by the lack of U.N. action, Mukesh Kapila sent his bosses a message they couldn't ignore.

MUKESH KAPILA: I'm totally shocked about what is going on in Darfur.

NARRATOR: He went public in a BBC radio interview.

MUKESH KAPILA: This is ethnic cleansing. This is the world's greatest humanitarian crisis, and I don't know why the world is not doing more about it.

The reaction from my bosses was silence. No one said anything at all. And of course, you know, there were threats against my personal security, and my days in Sudan were numbered anyway for a number of reasons, not just for Darfur. I had made myself quite unpopular in many different ways.

NARRATOR: Kapila had also angered the Sudanese government, and he was withdrawn from Khartoum. It was clear to him his career in the mainstream of the U.N. was over.

[www.pbs.org: Read Kapila's interview]

MUKESH KAPILA: Having witnessed the last few genocides of the 20th century and having presided over the first genocide of the 21st century, it doesn't make you feel good about yourself. So I have to be quite honest about that. And sometimes it's difficult to sleep. But by and large, you know, I have no doubt that, you know, I did my best and I would do the same thing- same thing again.

PRESIDING OFFICER: Ladies and gentlemen, I ask you all to rise for two minutes silence.

NARRATOR: Kapila had gone public just two weeks before the 10th anniversary of Rwanda. His actions and the media attention heightened the stakes for the U.N.'s secretary general.

PRESIDING OFFICER: Please, ladies and gentlemen, take your seats.

NARRATOR: Kofi Annan used the commemoration to threaten Sudan if it continued to thwart humanitarian access to Darfur.

KOFI ANNAN, United Nations Secretary General: If that is denied, the international community must be prepared to take swift and appropriate action.

NARRATOR: But at the U.N., political realities can often stand in the way of "swift and appropriate action." And when Darfur reached the Security Council in 2004, the political interests of the world's great powers came into play.

Sudan had powerful allies. Russia, for example, which has been accused of committing atrocities in Chechnya, was in a difficult spot when it came to criticizing a member for brutally suppressing an insurgency. And then crucially, there was China, which had a particularly close relationship with Sudan.

JAMES TRAUB, The New York Times Magazine: China actually has quite a large population in Sudan. It has security officials at oil installations everywhere. It has oil industry officials. It has private companies, and so on. There's a big Chinese presence there. It supplies weapons to Sudan, as well. So China is Sudan's key supplier. Sudan, for China, is one of a growing network of resource suppliers, and so they're not going to do anything to jeopardize that relationship.

NARRATOR: The Chinese government declined to be interviewed for this program.

CHINESE REPRESENTATIVE: [through interpreter] The Chinese delegation has serious reservations on the draft resolution. We are concerned that it will not help contribute to the solution of the problem.

NARRATOR: And so would begin a sorry list- four Security Council resolutions in 2004, including the demand the government of Sudan disarm the Janjaweed. Sudan would ignore them all and suffer no consequences.

JAMES TRAUB: What has enabled Sudan to be as truculent as it has been is knowing that they have either the support, or at least the willingness not to act against them, of neighboring African countries, of Islamic countries generally, and of Russia and China, and above all, of China. So that support is critical for them.

NARRATOR: More than any other power, the United States pushed for meaningful action against Sudan, but its standing had been weakened in the eyes of many members by its show of force in Iraq.

Sir KIERAN PRENDERGAST, U.N. Political Affairs, 1997-05: You know that most of the third world regard non-interference in internal affairs as holy writ. And partly that's because they think, "Who next?" And partly it's because the actions in Iraq have agitated them in that respect and made them feel that the question of "Who next" is a live and vivid one, where they either hang together or they'll be hanged separately.

NARRATOR: And so the Security Council ignored the United States and the continued pleas from Kofi Annan.

KOFI ANNAN: I have urged the Security Council to be as united as possible in face of this crisis. It is urgent to take action now, and it seems to me inconceivable that we should fail to respond.

NARRATOR: In 2004, every month of an "inconceivable failure to respond" would come with 6,000 deaths, according to the most conservative U.N. estimates. In that year alone, another one million people would be forced from their homes, many fleeing to refugee camps in neighboring Chad.

That summer, the U.S. government launched an inquiry into the violence in Darfur. One of the investigators was Sgt. Debbie Bodkin, a veteran Canadian police officer who volunteered to travel to the refugee camps in Chad as a member of the atrocities documentation team. She recalls her first interview.

Sgt. DEBBIE BODKIN: We'd gotten there so late, we didn't have food yet, so I was feeling a little bit- you know, whining because I was hungry, I was uncomfortable, it was hot, it was dark.

And then I did my first interview with this man who had just crossed the border three hours before and started telling me how his- he watched his son, his wife and his parents be slaughtered. And then I realized - I think it was, like, a sudden realized - what I was going to be listening to and that all my little uncomfortable feelings weren't going to matter anymore. And then it turned out that every day, the stories were the same, killing upon killing and rapes.

NARRATOR: Bodkin and her colleagues interviewed 1,136 victims, and their testimony would have a dramatic effect. On September 9, 2004, speaking before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Secretary of State Colin Powell brandished the report and declared-

COLIN POWELL, Secretary of State: -that genocide has been committed in Darfur and that the government of Sudan and the Janjaweed bear responsibility and that genocide may still be occurring.

Sgt. DEBBIE BODKIN: I guess I was naive, and in my mind, I thought when the report came out saying it was genocide, I was relieved, thinking, "Good, they're going to go in and stop it." But that was August 2004, and I know now that doesn't happen.

NARRATOR: Undaunted, Sgt. Bodkin took a leave of absence in November 2004 to join another investigation team, this one authorized by the U.N. That inquiry concluded that massive crimes against humanity and war crimes had been perpetrated in Darfur, but did not call it a genocide, as the U.S. had done.

Khadeiga Abdullah was one victim of those war crimes. Now confined to a refugee camp in Chad, she lives with the memory of her murdered child and a deep longing for home.

KHADEIGA ABDULLAH: _[through interpreter] _ In Sudan, we worked hard. Everything was valuable to us. And we had enough food. But now we don't have enough, and even the food we do get is not worth eating. I have seven kids, and we sleep on the floor, without anything.

NARRATOR: And perhaps worst of all, Khadeiga Abdullah still lives in fear.

KHADEIGA ABDULLAH: [through interpreter] It is not safe to go beyond this hill. Those camel men you see there will rape any woman who dares to go that way.

NARRATOR: The women in the camps in Chad and Darfur risk rape every day. They need wood to cook, and every day they have to travel farther to get it. The police officer who investigated these war crimes is still haunted by the testimony she collected.

Sgt. DEBBIE BODKIN: [reading] "I know 19 of the women who were raped, but there were many more, I think about 50 in total. First they raped the young girls and then us. I was raped by nine men. Every woman was raped by many men. Five of the young girls who were raped went to the hospital for six months, and then they died. I went to the hospital in the morning and was there for 28 days." I think she had a hysterectomy.

And then at the end, I asked, because she sat in the front of everyone while she waited to be interviewed, if she was not concerned about her safety now. And she basically said it didn't matter because she wanted to die. [weeps]

JAN PRONK, U.N. Special Envoy to Sudan: The number of civilians affected by conflict has continued to grow at a rate that has outpaced the ability of humanitarian aid to-

NARRATOR: The Sudanese delegation seemed unmoved by the February 2005 report from the U.N.'s special envoy to Sudan, Jan Pronk.

JAN PRONK: This is a dismal picture.

ABDELMAHMOOD ABDELHALEEM, Sudan U.N. Ambassador: We are a developing country. We have our shortcomings. But we are unfairly treated and the issue of Darfur has been blown out of proportion, out of proportion.

NARRATOR: There would be seven more resolutions in 2005, an arms embargo, a referral to the International Criminal Court and an attempt to get troops on the ground. A small contingent of African Union troops had entered Darfur in 2004 to monitor a peace deal that fell apart. Every maneuver at the U.N. to bolster their numbers would fail. Everyone knew the force was underfunded, underequipped and unprepared, but it was all that Sudan would allow. It was another parade of U.N. weakness.

[www.pbs.org: Timeline of world's failure to act]

ERIC REEVES, Darfur Activist: And they know full well that the African Union cannot find the resources, the military resources, to change the security dynamic on the ground. A grim genocide by attrition will proceed indefinitely.

NARRATOR: But 2005 also brought a bold move to change the dynamics at the U.N. The Canadian government had led a five-year effort to establish a new principle called the "responsibility to protect." Before the U.N.'s world summit, Canadian prime minister Paul Martin made the argument.

PAUL MARTIN, Prime Minister, Canada: Madam Deputy, too often, permanent members have used the veto, real or threatened, to prevent effective action. Too often we have debated the finer points of language while innocent people continued to die. Darfur is only the latest example.

ROMEO DALLAIRE, U.N. Force Commander, Rwanda, 1993-94: They essentially came to the conclusion that sovereignty is no more an absolute. You cannot hide behind sovereignty when you are massively abusing people in your country through as extend to genocide or through simply massive crimes against humanity. You cannot let countries say, "I'm a sovereign state. Tough."

NARRATOR: At the summit, world leaders toasted a final agreement that covered a great deal of ground. Within it was a section on the responsibility to protect. It was an endorsement of an emerging legal norm that gave the U.N. authority to intervene, and if necessary, even invade a country to protect the civilian population.

It seemed to offer hope. But once again, principles the U.N. put on paper would not translate into concrete action to save the people of Darfur. Veteran U.N. officials were candid in their skepticism.

Sir KIERAN PRENDERGAST: We don't mean it when we say that we're not going to accept other Rwandas, further Rwandas. But I never thought we did mean it. And that's a very- it's a very sad conclusion, but I don't think there's any evidence to sustain the view that we did mean it. We may have meant it as a kind of, you know, a level of generalized indignation. But when it comes to accepting the consequences of that, we don't.

PRESIDING OFFICER: Would those who support the draft resolution concerning document S-2006-699 please raise their hand.

NARRATOR: There were eight resolutions passed in 2006. The most important was this one, 1706. It was one more attempt to boost the African Union troops in Darfur from 7,000 to over 20,000.

PRESIDING OFFICER: Abstentions? The draft resolution received 12 votes in favor, no votes against and 3 abstentions. The draft resolution has been adopted as Resolution 1706.

NARRATOR: Even though it passed, there was a snag. China had agreed not to veto the resolution as long as it included a key clause: The troops could go in only if Sudan agreed. And in the end, Sudan declined.

ERIC REEVES: But this is well over three years into a genocide. What does it say that it takes three years for a resolution, which the Chinese insist on weakening by putting in this language about inviting the consent of Khartoum, which consent they knew would be denied?

China didn't vote for this. They abstained. Well, Chinese abstention was all the signal Khartoum needed to know that all they had to do was hang tough and nothing would happen. They've hung tough. Nothing has happened.

NARRATOR: But by now, Eric Reeves was no longer a lonely voice. A growing grass roots movement to stop the atrocities in Darfur had attracted some high-profile advocates, most prominently actress Mia Farrow.

A UNICEF ambassador, she began coming to the refugee camps in 2004. In June of 2007, she made her seventh trip to the region, this time to Goz Beida in eastern Chad, an outpost of 10,000 inhabitants encircled by refugee camps that hold more 50,000 people.

MIA FARROW, Darfur Activist: Hello! It's me!

NARRATOR: At Djabal refugee camp, Mia Farrow reconnected with some of the victims of those early attacks in Darfur, including Khadeiga Abdullah.

MIA FARROW: Here it is 2007, and despite a lot of talk and some pretty powerful words being used by world leaders, among them "genocide," nothing has brought any real protection to Darfur's people. And a sort of despair really had settled into the camps that was- in 2004, when the U.N. vehicles came, everybody would gather and shout, "U.N.! U.N.! U.N.!" We had to calm them down because they had heard the U.N. was coming. And by 2006, it was- the women were saying, "No one is coming, are they."

NARRATOR: Without meaningful action by the U.N., the inevitable had happened. The terror in Darfur crossed into neighboring Chad and the camps along the border became a danger zone for everyone, including the aid workers struggling to deliver relief.

ROLAND HAUWERMEIREN, OXFAM, Eastern Chad: And then next day, it was, like, "Oh, they will attack," you know, because-

NARRATOR: At breakfast, Mia Farrow got a firsthand account. Roland van Hauwermeiren, head of the Oxfam operations in the region, was awakened by radio traffic about a robbery last night in a nearby U.N. compound. An aid worker had been beaten and a guard was dead.

ROLAND HAUWERMEIREN: -next to the airport, the so-called most protected area of town- so-called. There's no protection here.

NARRATOR: This is what the years of inaction at the U.N. looked like on the ground in Chad- no protection for aid workers, no protection for refugees. And it was only getting worse.

ROLAND HAUWERMEIREN: For years and years, there were ethnic clashes in this country, but there weren't so much weapons. Eventually, the weapons came in, due to the spillover of Darfur. And now Darfur for the moment- if you ask somebody here, the population, about the Darfur crisis, it's not more their crisis. They have their own crisis here in country. It became a Chadian crisis.

NARRATOR: Chad's border with Sudan is just an imaginary line. In November 2006, the Janjaweed, emboldened by their weapons and success in Sudan, had rampaged across that line and turned these badlands into killing fields. As many as 60 villages were ravaged in that month alone.

MIA FARROW: This attack was in 2006. The eruption in Darfur was 2003. What does it say that we did nothing to stop it before it came here? Everybody knew it was going to spread into Chad. And there's so much that could have been done. It's really hard to see this and reconcile that.

NARRATOR: Back home, Mia Farrow has become a prominent public voice in the movement to save Darfur.

MIA FARROW: I, who had shirked interviews my entire life, began to give interviews. I've given thousands now. It never even crossed my mind that I would write an op-ed. Now I'm writing op-eds. I've got my eighth now in the process of submission. And I, who would have never spoken in public, now go from campus to campus and event to event.

And I have recently returned from my fifth visit to the Darfur region. the world's most shameful crisis. It is the very crucible of human suffering. "Never again," we once promised, yet it is happening again as the world stands by. Thank you so much.

This is it for me. This is- this is my- it's- it's- it has eclipsed everything else in my life.

NARRATOR: Farrow's efforts are part of a larger movement that includes the U.S.-based Save Darfur Coalition. It was founded by Jewish groups and now includes evangelicals and Muslims, as well as anti-genocide and humanitarian organizations.

SAMANTHA POWER, Author, A Problem From Hell: There is a movement in the United States now that is unprecedented historically. The largest anti-genocide rally in history occurred in May of 2006, and their estimates range from 70,000 to 90,000 people gathered on the Mall in Washington.

GEORGE CLOONEY, Actor/Director: This is, in fact, the first genocide of the 21st century, but there is hope. There is you.

NARRATOR: The coalition focuses its $15 million budget not on humanitarian aid but on its strategy of publicizing the crisis and lobbying for political change.

SPEAKER: There is good news on Darfur. This genocide can be ended immediately.

NARRATOR: And the movement has had results, persuading 54 universities, 20 states and 9 cities to restrict their investments in Sudan and in the Chinese oil companies that work there.

[www.pbs.org: More on the grassroots movement]

ROMEO DALLAIRE: We are advancing. I believe that the debate that goes on now for Darfur is significant, maybe not as effective as one would be, but it's significant. There was nothing of that in Rwanda. Absolutely nothing.

LUIS MORENO-OCAMPO, International Criminal Court: I present evidence to the judges of the International Criminal Court on the 27th of February, 2007.

NARRATOR: The public pressure is given credit for another surprising development. The Security Council had referred the situation in Darfur to the chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court to bring charges against those responsible for crimes against humanity.

Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo never thought he would be in this position. He expected Sudan's loyal ally, China, to block him, and if not China, then the U.S., which harbors great suspicion towards the court.

LUIS MORENO-OCAMPO: When I took office, the idea to have a Security Council referral was impossible because many states inside Security Council will be just [unintelligible] against the court. But because of the activism of people in different countries, no one vetoed the Security Council resolution, and then the case was referred to us. That's a good example of how people can mobilize institutions.

NARRATOR: Ocampo has already brought indictments, against a Sudanese government minister and a Janjaweed miltia leader, although Sudan has refused to hand the men over to the court.

LUIS MORENO-OCAMPO: People say, "No, not possible." Look, I'm Argentinian. In 1976, General Bidella, all the power, he was the president of the country. In 1985 I was the prosecutor, he was in the dock. Pinochet the same. So International Criminal Court issue an indictment, the destiny is the dock. They will be in the dock in two months- in two years, in five years, but they will end in the dock in the International Criminal Court.

NARRATOR: In 2007, the pressure on the international community to take more decisive action on Darfur was building. In May, President Bush announced new economic sanctions against Sudan and called for an international arms embargo to end the killing.

Pres. GEORGE W. BUSH: For too long, the people of Darfur have suffered at the hands of a government that is complicit in the bombing, murder and rape of innocent civilians. My administration has called these actions by their rightful name, genocide.

NARRATOR: But the U.S. was still isolated. China and other Security Council members criticized the sanctions and refused to go along.

JAMES TRAUB: The United States pushed harder than any of the other countries in order to get action. But the United States does a lot of business with China. So how important is Darfur? It's a- it's a misbegotten province on the other side of the world of no strategic importance to us. How much are we willing to jeopardize our relations with China? And so I think one reason why action has been so slow is that it just isn't important enough to anybody.

ANNOUNCER: Dear friends from the world to the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games, we salute you!

NARRATOR: But Darfur activists would finally find a way to get China's attention, by targeting the Beijing Olympic games.

ERIC REEVES: We need to convince China that there will be an enormous price to pay if they don't change their diplomatic posture. This is China's post-Tiananmen Square coming-out party. China looks at this as an opportunity to reassert itself on the international stage as a legitimate world power.

NARRATOR: And so Reeves launched a campaign to shame the Chinese government.

ERIC REEVES: The message to China is clear: We will ensure that your hosting of the Olympics will go down in history along with the 1936 Olympics in Berlin as an occasion of international infamy.

NARRATOR: He gave the campaign a slogan, the "Genocide Olympics." Mia Farrow took up the call with an op-ed piece in "The Wall Street Journal." And then she was everywhere, chastising the Chinese.

MIA FARROW: China is hosting the 2008 Olympic games. China pours billions of dollars into Sudan every year, but we've got to do is link China to this genocide, the Genocide Olympics. Thank you so much.

[www.pbs.org: The ‘Genocide Olympics' campaign]

What we couldn't have anticipated was the response, especially from Beijing, was just a tsunami of a response. The Chinese ambassador wrote a letter to The Wall Street Journal, a letter of outrage that the games should be besmirched in this way.

JAMES TRAUB: The Chinese sent a high-level diplomatic delegation to Khartoum and actually made it clear- they wanted to make it clear that they were putting pressure on the regime, something they had never really done before.

ALEX DE WAAL, Co-Author, Darfur: A Short History of a Long War: I think the Genocide Olympics campaign has been extraordinarily successful in getting China to take notice. The U.S. administration had already made some progress in that regard, but this campaign has gone much, much further and much, much faster than anyone would have anticipated.

SECURITY COUNCIL PRESIDING OFFICER: Will those in favor of the draft resolution contained in document S-2007-468 please raise their hands.

NARRATOR: It had taken four years, but on July 31, 2007, finally, all the hands went up and there was agreement to send 26,000 U.N. troops to Darfur by the end of the year, with a mandate to protect civilians. Sudan had finally agreed to accept a substantial peacekeeping force, but demanded that the all the troops be African. And they have no mandate to disarm the Janjaweed. But it appeared to be progress.

Political progress at the U.N. has come years too late for the hundreds of thousands who died in Darfur and the millions driven from their homes, and too late, too, for the refugees in Chad, too late for the woman who lost her leg to a bullet wound, or her neighbor who had his eyes gouged out by the Janjaweed.

ABDULLAH IDRIS ZAID: [through interpreter] I am living like a dead man. In the past, I was an able person. Our suffering will continue. The Janjaweed will not stop their attacks. This place is not safe.

NARRATOR: And despite the successes of the Darfur movement, some activists, too, are left with a sense of despair.

ERIC REEVES: I think if we look to the U.N. in its present form as a mechanism, as an international means of preventing genocide, I think Darfur presents overwhelming evidence that this is not- this is not possible. This institution cannot do the job.

NARRATOR: And so it goes. In another of hell's waiting rooms, a blind man, unprotected in a lawless land, waits for the world to finally live up to its promises.

On Our Watch

WRITTEN, PRODUCED AND DIRECTED BY
Neil Docherty

PRODUCER
Lisa Ellenwood

ASSOCIATE PRODUCER
Hanadi Abu Nemeh

EDITORS
Murray Green
Liz Rosch

DIRECTOR OF PHOTOGRAPHY
Michael Sweeney csc

SOUND
Joe Passaretti

NARRATOR
Will Lyman

ORIGINAL MUSIC
Andy McNeill

MUSIC CONSULTANT
Patrick Russell

ONLINE EDITOR
Jim Ferguson

SOUND MIX
Jim Sullivan
SOUND DESIGN
Steve Cupani

UNIT MANAGER
Beverley Haffner

VISUAL RESEARCH
Sonja Carr

BUSINESS MANAGER
Wilma Alexander

PRODUCTION MANAGER
David Wilson

RESOURCE COORDINATOR
Analisa Amoroso

CHAD LOCATION ASSISTANCE
Mubarak

TRANSLATOR
Mohamed Elfaki

RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT
Peter Puxley

GRAPHIC DESIGN
Isabelle Hemard
Sang-Mi Jeon
Jaime Maldonado

FRONTLINE ASSOCIATE PRODUCER
Catherine Wright

ADDITIONAL EDITING
Steve Audette

ADDITIONAL CAMERA
Joe Passaretti
Hans Vanderzande

ADDITIONAL VOICE OVER
Peter Berkrot
Karen MacDonald

ARCHIVAL MATERIALS
AP Archive
AP Images
Isabelle Balot
BBC Worldwide
Debbie Bodkin
Brian Steidle/Polaris/Klixpix
Camerapix
CBC Archives
CNN
Mia Farrow
Getty Images
Human Rights Watch/WITNESS
International Criminal Court
ITN Source/Canamedia
Eric Markusen
Native Voice Films
The National Film Board of Canada
NHK
Reuters
Rwandan TV
Alexandre Spalaikovitch
Save Darfur
United Nations

THANKS
Stand Canada
Stephanie Hancock
Genocide Intervention Network
CBC United Nations Bureau, NY
Doctors Without Borders
Sonia Rolley
Darfur/Darfur
OXFAM/Chad
UNHCR/Chad
UNICEF/Chad
Lyn and Nigel Whitehouse, Chad

SENIOR PRODUCER
Kelly Crichton

PROJECT MANAGER
Anne Emin

EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR,
DOCUMENTARY PROGRAMMING
Mark Starowicz

AREA EXECUTIVE PRODUCER
Susan Dando

FOR FRONTLINE

DIRECTOR OF BROADCAST
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POST PRODUCTION
DIRECTOR
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ON AIR PROMOTION
PRODUCER
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POST PRODUCTION
ASSISTANT
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PUBLICIST
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OUTREACH MANAGER
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INTERACTIVE MARKETER
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PROMOTION DESIGNER
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ASSOCIATE PUBLICIST
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MARKETING CONSULTANT
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SECRETARY
Nina Hazen

ADMINISTRATIVE ASSISTANT
Susanna Thompson

COMPLIANCE MANAGER
Lisa Palone

LEGAL
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Janice Flood
Scott Kardel

CONTRACTS MANAGER
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UNIT MANAGER
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BUSINESS MANAGER
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WEBSITE ASSOCIATE DEVELOPER
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WEBSITE RESEARCH ASSISTANT
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WEBSITE PRODUCER
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WEBSITE COORDINATING
PRODUCER
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DIRECTOR OF NEW MEDIA
AND TECHNOLOGY
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COORDINATING PRODUCER
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STORY EDITOR
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SENIOR PRODUCER
SPECIAL PROJECTS
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SENIOR EDITOR
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SENIOR PRODUCER
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EDITORIAL DIRECTOR
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EXECUTIVE EDITOR
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EXECUTIVE PRODUCER
SPECIAL PROJECTS
Michael Sullivan

EXECUTIVE PRODUCER
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A Canadian Broadcasting Corporation production for WGBH/FRONTLINE

© 2007
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