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Colin Powell Calls the Murder of Black Africans in Sudan Genocide

Secretary of State Colin Powell used the term genocide for the first time today to describe the murder of tens of thousands of African Sudanese in the Darfur region of western Sudan. Terence Smith looks at the evolving U.S. response to the humanitarian and refugee crisis in Sudan and Chad.

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  • TERENCE SMITH:

    The killings of tens of thousands and the mass migration of thousands more in the Darfur region of Sudan have often been described as one of the world's worst humanitarian crisis. Today, before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Secretary of State Colin Powell used a far harsher, and legally more punishing word– genocide– to describe the killing of African Sudanese by Arab Sudanese.

    It was the strongest official statement by the Bush administration on Darfur, though Congress accused Sudan of genocide in a recent resolution. Powell explained to the committee why he used the word to describe the abuses committed by Arab militias, called the Janjaweed, and who are supported by the Sudanese government.

  • COLIN POWELL:

    Sudan is a contracting party to the genocide convention, and is obliged under the convention to prevent and to punish acts of genocide. The evidence leads us to the conclusion… the United States to the conclusion that genocide has occurred and may still be occurring in Darfur. We believe the evidence corroborates the specific intent of the perpetrators to destroy a group "in whole or in part"– the words of the convention. This intent may be inferred from their deliberate conduct. We believe other elements of the convention have been met as well.

  • TERENCE SMITH:

    The secretary also provided details of a State Department investigation into the crisis. He said investigators talked to more than 1,100 refugees in Darfur and neighboring Chad.

  • COLIN POWELL:

    The totality of evidence from the interviews we conducted in July and August and from the other sources available to us show that the Janjaweed and Sudanese military forces have committed large-scale acts of violence, including murders, rape, and physical assaults on non-Arab individuals. Second, the Janjaweed and Sudanese military forces destroyed villages, foodstuffs, and other means of survival. Third, the Sudan government and its military forces obstructed food, water, medicine, and other humanitarian aid from reaching affected populations, thereby leading to further deaths and suffering. And finally, despite having been put on notice multiple times, Khartoum has failed to stop the violence.

  • TERENCE SMITH:

    Secretary Powell made his comments as the U.S. circulated a new draft resolution at the United Nations Security Council calling for a stronger international monitoring force in the region. For a year-and-a-half, the conflict has raged in Darfur, an area of western Sudan roughly the size of Texas.

    In February 2003, two rebel groups– the Sudan Liberation Movement, and the Justice and Equality Movement– declared open rebellion against the Sudanese government. The government struck back, enlisting the Janjaweed Arab militias to help quash the rebellion. Most committee members pressed for more international action. But committee chairman Richard Lugar questioned the effectiveness of another U.N. resolution.

  • SEN. RICHARD LUGAR:

    Does anybody, including the government of Sudan, pay any attention to the U.N., when it comes down to it, if gut reactions within the country, the domestic politics, have brought about something akin to civil war, if not genocide?

  • COLIN POWELL:

    Well, I can assure you that the leaders in Khartoum are watching this hearing very, very carefully. And they are not completely indifferent or invulnerable to the fact of international pressure. And they are not immune from diplomatic pressure, as we have seen. But we have to increase the pressure. We also have to do it in a calibrated way, because there are political challenges inside of Khartoum, within the government, between hard-liners who resent any kind of pressure, and those who believe that they have to respond to the concern and pressure applied by the international community.

    So what we have to do is calibrate the pressure. There is nobody prepared to send troops in there from the United States or the European Union or elsewhere to put it down in the sense of an imposition force. What we do have is a willingness on the part of the African Union– and I'm very pleased that they have shown this willingness– to send in thousands of monitors and protection forces for those monitors.

  • TERENCE SMITH:

    Democratic Sen. Paul Sarbanes of Maryland asked why the conditions at the refugee camps run by the United Nations and other groups in Darfur and neighboring Chad were so deplorable.

  • SEN. PAUL SARBANES:

    If the jurisdiction is in the hands of those who are trying to alleviate the crisis, then why should the positions in the … conditions in the camps be such that they constitute a real threat, human threat?

  • COLIN POWELL:

    Because the camps are crowded. Not all of the assistance is there yet. Not all of the necessary humanitarian or NGO workers are there to fully take care of these populations. And in some instances, malnutrition and illness already affecting these individuals may cause death in the months to come.

  • SEN. PAUL SARBANES:

    Well…

  • COLIN POWELL:

    But this is what the United Nations and its agencies and the NGO's have been doing for the last couple of months, and that is rapidly scaling up their capacity to deal with the populations in these camps. And then, of course, there are new populations being found that are being brought into camps so that they can be taken care of.

  • TERENCE SMITH:

    After the hearing, Sen. Lugar called on Congress to immediately appropriate $300 million to assist the refugees in Darfur.